Saul, the tall, handsome Benjaminite, was God’s choice to be the first king of Israel. It is not clear why Saul was chosen out of all the men of Israel. He was clearly not a natural leader, and neither was he particularly godly. Saul was going to need a radical change of heart and a special work of God in his life before he would be ready to ascend the throne. God was about to give him three heart-altering (v.9) experiences that would have a profound (though not a lasting) effect on Saul.
First, Samuel opened a flask of oil and poured it over Saul’s head, a sign that he was being set apart for the Lord’s exclusive service as king. Second, the prophet predicted a series of “signs” (confirmations) that Saul would encounter that day. It all happened just as the prophet said: he met two men near Zelzah who had news about the lost donkeys, he met three pilgrims on their way to worship at Bethel, and he met a band of prophets in Gibeah. As soon as Saul saw the prophets, he had a spiritual experience unlike any in his past. He was suddenly overpowered by the Holy Spirit and began to “prophesy”, most likely in the form of an inspired, spontaneous song of praise (given the musical nature of this particular group of prophets, v.5). Saul’s uncharacteristic spirituality surprised those who knew him, and it surely took Saul by surprise, too. When he met his uncle at the place of worship in Gibeah, he did not even mention it.
Samuel called the nation together for Saul’s introduction and coronation. The old prophet had a flair for the dramatic, allowing the suspense to build through a series of casting lots. When Saul was announced as the chosen king, he was hiding among the supplies — perhaps he was still in shock from his prophetic experience, or maybe the enormity of the situation had hit him hard. When he was brought before the people of Israel, they could not contain their excitement. They shouted their blessings to their first king — but the approval was not unanimous (v.27).
Saul returned home with shouts of “Long live the king!” ringing in his ears and a group of brave men “whose hearts God had touched” following him, perhaps the beginnings of a royal military unit (v.26). The tide had turned in Israel. The people had gotten their way, they had rejected God as their King (v.19), and they would have to live with their choices.