34. The search for Israel’s new King


Saul had heard and also accepted Samuel’s prophecy with a composed mind and had decided to continue performing his duties faithfully till his ultimate day at office.

Accordingly, Saul had now turned his focus at the Amalekite, Moabite, Edomite and other enemy tribes which had not only occupied the Canaanite territory but were also perpetually troubling the Israelites thereby depriving them of peace.

Saul received a ‘divine command’ to completely destroy the Amalekite tribe to start with. It was this very tribe that had, for no reason whatsoever, attacked the Israelites during the period that they wandered in the desert. It was the very first battle that the Israelites had fought after being freed from Egyptian slavery.

The story goes on to say that God commanded in no uncertain terms to Saul, to not show any mercy to the Amalekite tribesmen and to destroy them completely along with their belongings and animal herds. For should any of them be allowed to go alive and unpunished, they would definitely provoke into conflict, the Israelites settled in Canaan and so prove a major headache for them.

Hence, armed with an army of 200 thousand, Saul fought a bitter battle and succeeded in slaying each and every member of the Amalekite tribe.

Brave as he may have been, Saul was but a human and thus could not have been void of drawbacks and shortcomings. He was of an extremely suspicious nature and always nursed a paranoid fear of conspiracies targeting him. Besides, the opinion of others about him was what pre-occupied his mind so much that it led to excessive and undue courteousness on his part.

It was due to this unwarranted courteousness that inspite of laying hands on Agag, the King of the Amalekite tribe, Saul decided not to kill him although he jailed him. Saul did not slaughter all the Amalekite animal herds either. He, in fact, retained the best of lot for the Israelites and this despite a clear-cut command from God that ordered total destruction of the Amalekite tribe along with all their possessions.

God, very obviously did not like this disobedience of Saul and told Samuel about it. Enraged, Samuel came to Saul to deliver God’s word and question him. At that Saul made an unsuccessful attempt at justifying the fact that he had kept the best of the Amalekite animals by saying that they were meant for sacrificing before God. Samuel sharply rebuked Saul saying that God’s command was much more important than the sacrifices.

But then there was this one question that persisted – the Amalekite King Agag was still alive. Saul had not killed him. Samuel ordered Saul to bring Agag before him. The moment Agag was brought before Samuel he killed him.

By now Saul had realized and accepted his blunders and so requested Samuel to seek pardon for him and put in a good word for him with God. But Samuel hardened his heart and they both parted ways… not to meet again. Samuel had been witness to Saul’s journey from commoner to first King of Israel and regretted very much, his downfall.

It was during this time that God appeared to Samuel in a vision and told him that it would be inappropriate to let Saul continue as King as he constantly failed to follow His commands. God also commanded Samuel to visit the city of Bethlehem and meet an Israelite named ‘Jesse’ from the tribe of Judah. God even foretold that one of the eight sons of Jesse would be the future King of Israel.

Samuel reached Jesse’s place in Bethlehem under the pretext of performing some religious rituals. However, that Samuel himself should pay a visit to Jesse’s home was sufficient cause for concern. Jesse wondered if he had committed an offense which had led to Samuel’s visit. But Samuel pacified him saying that he had only come to perform some sacrifice and other religious rituals, and asked Jesse’s entire family to assemble for the same.

One by one Jesse’s seven sons appeared before Samuel but with every son Samuel had a divine intuition that the person appearing before him was not the one he was looking for. It was then that it occurred to Samuel that Jesse in fact had eight and not seven sons. He accordingly enquired with Jesse about his eighth son. ‘David’, the eighth and the youngest of the sons of Jesse had gone to graze their herd. On coming face to face with David, Samuel through a divine indication felt assured that he had indeed found the ‘one’ he was looking for. Taking Jesse into confidence, he told him about the divine plan and anointed David with scented oil and other sacred material as the King-designate of Israel. Not sure about how Saul would react to the change, Samuel asked Jesse to keep the news under wraps for the moment.

No sooner was David anointed as the future King of Israel, than the divine spirit that had empowered Saul, left him to empower David and an evil power began troubling Saul, so says the story.

As a result, Saul was seized by deep despair and melancholy. All efforts to lift him up proved in vain. All his ministers were worried. Finally someone suggested that divine music be tried as a remedy. A few from Saul’s cabinet knew a particular youth from Bethlehem who composed wonderful songs on God and was also famous for his great music. This was indeed part of the divine plan as the youth in question was none other than ‘David’ himself (Later David’s many compositions found their way to the Bible. The famous prayer from the Bible – ‘Lord is my shepherd….’ is authored by David).

This was how David got entry into to the royal palace. Of course, Saul was completely in the dark that the person standing before him was none other than the next King of Israel. Very calm, thoughtful, unassuming and devout, David bore no hate or jealousy for Saul but in fact performed his task, the task of elevating Saul out of depression with utmost sincerity. David was very good at playing the ‘harp’, a stringed musical instrument. David’s harp worked like magic on Saul and within no time he was elevated out of depression which made David, Saul’s blue-eyed boy. (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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