Israel’s First King

Israel’s First King

Jehovah had given the Israelites judges to lead them, but they wanted a king. They said to Samuel: ‘All the nations around us have kings. We want one too.’ Samuel felt that this was wrong, so he prayed to Jehovah about it. Jehovah said to him: ‘The people are not rejecting you. They are rejecting me. Tell them that they can have a king but that the king will demand many things from them.’ Even so, the people said: ‘We don’t care. We want a king!’

Jehovah told Samuel that a man named Saul would be the first king. When Saul went to visit Samuel in Ramah, Samuel anointed Saul as king by pouring oil over his head.

Later Samuel called the Israelites together to show them their new king. But they could not find Saul anywhere. Do you know why? Because he was hiding among the luggage. When they finally found Saul, they brought him out and stood him in the middle of the people. Saul was taller than everyone else, and he was very handsome. Samuel said: ‘See the one whom Jehovah has chosen.’ The people shouted: ‘Long live the king!’

At first King Saul listened to Samuel and obeyed Jehovah. But then he changed. For example, the king was not supposed to offer sacrifices. On one occasion, Samuel told Saul to wait for him to come, but Samuel did not come immediately. So Saul decided to offer the sacrifices himself. How did Samuel react? He told him: ‘You should not have disobeyed Jehovah.’ Would Saul learn from his mistake?

Later, when Saul went to fight the Amalekites, Samuel told Saul not to keep any of them alive. But Saul decided not to kill King Agag. Jehovah told Samuel: ‘Saul has left me, and he does not listen to me.’ Samuel was very sad, and he told Saul: ‘Because you have stopped obeying Jehovah, he will choose another king.’ As Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed him and the hem of Samuel’s coat ripped. Then Samuel told Saul: ‘Jehovah has ripped the kingdom away from you.’ Jehovah was going to give the kingdom to someone who would love and obey him.

“To obey is better than a sacrifice.”​—1 Samuel 15:22