Samuel played a critical role in banding together the disjointed twelve tribes of Israel during the time of the Judges. All of the Israelites recognized that YHWH was with Samuel, so he was greatly respected by all of Israel. 1 Samuel 7 states that Samuel “judged Israel” all the days of his life. He literally traveled annually around Israel from Bethel to Gilgal and Mizpah judging Israel. Israel’s judges called Israel to repentance, they delivered messages from God, and often they were military commanders fighting against Israel’s foes, particularly the aggressive and warmongering Philistines. Samuel wasn’t a military guy, but he was a spiritual leader who delivered messages to the Israelites from God. Samuel was a Prophet, and really, the first prophet to the Nation of Israel. There had been other prophets, like Moses, but Samuel was the first person to prophesy to Israel as a single nation.
When Samuel was old, he set about appointing his sons as judges over Israel; however, his sons did not walk in the ways of the Lord and took bribes, dishonest gain, and they perverted justice (1 Samuel 8:3). The elders of Israel got together at Samuel’s home in Ramah and told him that everyone knew his sons were corrupt and then they asked Samuel to appoint them a King to judge Israel. Samuel took this request to the Lord in prayer and the Lord told him to go ahead and appoint Israel a King because clearly they had rejected YHWH as their King. God Almighty is King of Kings, but the Israelites wanted an earthly King similar to other nations. God had Samuel warn the people about the dangers of an earthly king.
Samuel 8:9 Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.” He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to [do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and [fuse them for his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 18 Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
Even though Samuel warned the people about having an earthly King, the people remained adamant that they wanted an earthly King so that they could be like other nations. God chose Saul, the Benjamite, to be King over Israel. The Benjamites were one of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Out of Jacob (aka Israel)’s twelve sons, Benjamin had been the youngest.
Samuel 15 Now a day before Saul’s coming, the Lord had [crevealed this to Samuel saying, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have regarded My people, because their cry has come to Me.”
Under King Saul, God united the twelve Tribes into a single nation, the Nation of Israel. Samuel anointed Saul as King over Israel by pouring oil over his head. The anointing oil was symbolic of God’s hand of favor being upon the King. It was symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit walking with the King. When a King is Divinely chosen by YHWH, he will be anointed with wisdom, and he will demonstrate the Fear of the Lord (Reverence for YHWH).
1 Samuel 10 Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?
After the Private anointing ceremony, Samuel gathered all the Tribes of Israel to Mizpah and presented Saul as King over Israel. Saul was at least a head taller than most of the other Israelites and he was very handsome. Of course, this had nothing to do with why God chose Saul as King over Israel. Man judges by outward appearances, but God judges the heart.
1 Samuel 10: 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”
There were some people in Israel who resisted Saul as King, but Samuel gathered all the people of Israel together and addressed them. Samuel told them that although the people had done evil in the sight of the Lord by rejecting YHWH as King over them, God had listened to their cries and appointed an earthly king over them. Samuel reminded Israel of their past, of Moses and Aaron, and that if the people would repent of their sins of serving the baals (idolatry/spiritual adultery), and serve only YHWH, that God would respond and bless both the chosen King (Saul) and the people, delivering them from their enemies. But, if they rebelled against YHWH, then His Hand would be against them as it was against their fathers (ancestors), and both the Israelites and their king would be “swept away”.
Saul was 30 years old when he became King, and he reigned over Israel for 42 years.