The question – is Saul among the prophets? – must have been a big deal in Israel in the 11th Century BCE, which is when King Saul lived according to the biblical timeline. It was such a big deal it became known as a proverb. (1 Samuel 10:12)
What is it with this question? How and why did it become a “proverb”? What is the back story?
Twice Saul prophesied with the prophets, but the question that became a proverb was not a compliment. It was a puzzlement, because Saul was an unlikely prophet. He also was an unlikely king. In fact, he was pretty much a failure as king.
Saul, of course, was the first king of Israel, but he wasn’t known for his leadership or his spirituality. He was just the kind of person God often chooses – an unlikely candidate – but Saul didn’t rise to the challenge.
Saul’s story begins while he is searching for his father’s lost sheep. His path leads him to the prophet, Samuel. Before they meet, God tells Samuel He is choosing Saul as Israel’s king. Samuel orchestrates a big dinner and anoints Saul to be the future king in a small group of people. (You can read a good summary of the details here.)
Saul was just looking for some lost donkeys, so the turn of events was likely a bit unsettling. Saul wasn’t ready to be a king. Even after Samuel predicts three signs meant to convince Saul of the authenticity of the kingly anointing, Saul is not willing to embrace it.
Two of the signs Samuel gave him come true, but Saul doesn’t grasp what he is supposed to do. The third sign comes true when Saul encounters some prophets: “[T]he Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them”. (1 Samuel 10:11)
Saul still seems clueless, though. When he gets back home, he doesn’t tell his uncle that Samuel said he would be king or about the anointing. He doesn’t talk about signs, all of which came true on his way home.
When Samuel finally comes to “seal the deal, to declare Saul publicly the King of Israel, Saul is nowhere to be found. Saul is hiding among some baggage!
Given Saul’s less than hardy reaction to the declaration that he would be king, we know that Saul didn’t “playing along” or fake it when he prophesied. At best, he was a reluctant participant. He might have even been an unwilling vessel!
Thus, the question – Is Saul among the prophets? Saul was not known to be a prophet. Saul wasn’t a particularly spiritual man.
This wasn’t the only time, though, that Saul prophesied with the prophets. The second time was even more “out of character”. I have been puzzling on these things in light of more current events – the prophesies about Donald Trump and a certain emphasis on prophecy in a segment of the church today.Continue reading “Is Saul Among the Prophets? On Prophecy and a Heart for God”