From Eternity Past


Chapter 59—Saul, the First King of Israel

This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 8 to 12.

The government of Israel was administered in the name of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given; they had no authority to legislate for the nation. This was the condition of Israel's existence as a nation. EP 437.1

The Lord foresaw that Israel would desire a king, but He did not change the principles on which the state was founded. The king was to be the vicegerent of the Most High. God was the head of the nation. (See Appendix, Note 7.) EP 437.2

When the Israelites first settled in Canaan, the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But intercourse with other nations brought a change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen neighbors and ceased to prize the honor of being God's chosen people. Attracted by the pomp and display of heathen monarchs, they tired of their own simplicity. Jealousy sprang up between the tribes. Internal dissensions made them weak. They were exposed to the invasion of heathen foes, and the people were coming to believe that the tribes must be united under a strong central government. They desired to be freed from the rule of their divine Sovereign. Thus the demand for a monarchy became widespread throughout Israel. EP 437.3

Under Samuel's administration the nation had prospered, order had been restored, godliness promoted, and the spirit of discontent checked for the time. But with advancing years the prophet appointed his two sons to act as his assistants. The young men were stationed at Beersheba to administer justice among the people near the southern border of the land. EP 437.4

They did not prove worthy but “turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.” They had not copied the pure, unselfish life of their father. He had been to some extent too indulgent with his sons, and the result was apparent in their character. EP 438.1

A pretext was thus furnished for urging the change long secretly desired. “All the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” Had the evil course of his sons been known to him, he would have removed them without delay, but this was not what the petitioners desired. Samuel saw that their real motive was discontent and pride. No complaint had been made against Samuel. All acknowledged the integrity and wisdom of his administration. The aged prophet uttered no reproach, but carried the matter to the Lord in prayer and sought counsel from Him alone. EP 438.2