Samuel anoints Saul as Israel’s king and then confirms and authenticates this anointing with three signs:
- Saul’s first positive sign would authenticate Samuel’s word concerning the issue that had motivated Saul to seek the prophet in the first place; lost donkeys. Two men near Rachel’s tomb would inform him of the return of the donkeys and the growing anxiety for Saul’s safety back in his father’s household.
- The second sign would confirm the authenticity and legitimacy of Samuel’s act of anointing Saul. Three men on their way to worship God in Bethel would present Saul with food designated for use by one who was anointed. Though “the two loaves of bread” (1 Samuel 10:4) were originally intended by the pilgrims as a gift for an anointed Hebrew priest, Saul’s acceptance of the food would require him to accept the legitimacy of his own anointing.
- The third sign would confirm Samuel’s assertion that the Lord had also anointed Saul (v. 1). In the presence of a group of prophets, “the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power and you will prophesy with them” (1 Samuel 10:6).
In addition to the three prophetic signs, Samuel also gave Saul his first lesson about the relationship that was to exist between Israel’s king and God’s prophet. Under the Lord’s inspiration, Samuel and the later prophets had the right to prescribe royal behavior (1 Kings 20:13, 22). Additionally, the plans of Saul (and all Israelite kings who would come after him) were to be subordinate to the prophetic word: “You must wait … until I come to you and tell you what you are to do” (1 Samuel 10:8). In Israel, the king was always to be under the Lord’s authority. God’s true prophets were conduits through which the divine word came to kings.
Royal power would have divinely set limits, and the Lord’s prophets would define those limits. Samuel’s words to Saul were thus the opening volley in an enduring struggle between human political will and divinely inspired religious conscience.