The Strange Selection of Saul

March 26, 2012 - 5:00 am

“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” — 1 Samuel 9:1–2

From the onset, King Saul’s monarchy was doomed to fail. For centuries, the Jewish people had a clear tradition that its king must be from the family of Judah based on Jacob’s blessing to his children:  “The scepter will not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10). It’s therefore no big surprise when Samuel breaks the news to Saul that his days on the throne are numbered, “But now your kingdom will not endure” (1 Samuel 13:14), but would soon pass to David son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah.

But if Saul wasn’t from the right family, how was Saul chosen in the first place to be the first king of Israel? While he might have been tall and handsome, that doesn’t make up for the fact that he is still a descendant of Benjamin – a disqualification mentioned in the same verse, not once, but twice! This was not simply an oversight on the part of God.

Out of all the sons of Jacob, Benjamin had a unique distinction. He was not only the youngest son, but the only one born in the land of Israel. Whereas his 11 older brothers were born while Jacob lived in Laban’s home in Padan Aram, Benjamin was born in Bethlehem, after the family moved back to Israel (see Genesis 35:18–19).

Because Benjamin is born in Israel, the holiness of the land grants him an extra degree of privilege and merit which is why the Temple would later be built in his territory. His unique connection to Israel can also explain why his descendant Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel.

Anyone who has ever traveled to Israel can appreciate the special qualities of the Holy Land. Being in God’s Promised Land infuses our lives with holiness in ways that we don’t always recognize or feel right away. As we see from the selection of Saul as the first Israelite king, connecting with Israel can make a lasting impression not only in our own lives, but also can create a blessing for our families and our future as well.


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