Already, Saul was acting in a very cruel and evil manner. The Bible does not record what he was doing. It could perhaps be the murder of the people in Gibeon (2 Samuel 21:1), but that could have happened later. However, the fact of Saul’s evil behaviour is already clear from Samuel’s desperate prayer (16:2). It also probably explains the fearful reaction of the leaders of Bethlehem (16:4).
Saul would continue to rule Israel for several more years. Clearly it would be much too dangerous for Samuel to appoint another king in public. Samuel asked God what he should do. God’s answer was that Samuel should make a private visit to Bethlehem. Samuel would appoint the new king privately, even as he had appointed Saul privately (10:1).
For that reason, God told Samuel to take a young cow with him. When Samuel reached Bethlehem, he would invite a few guests for a special meal. The meat for the meal would come from the cow, after Samuel had first offered it to God as a fellowship offering. A fellowship offering was a kind of sacrifice (gift to God). Its purpose was to express friendship between people and God. The Book of 1 Samuel often refers to fellowship offerings (for example 1 Samuel 1:3-5; 1 Samuel 9:12-13 and 1 Samuel 9:22-24).
The guests at Samuel’s meal would be the elders of Bethlehem (in other words, the old men who acted as local leaders and judges). Samuel would also invite Jesse and his sons to the meal. None of them would know the main purpose of Samuel’s visit until Samuel appointed the new king.
Next part: Ancient Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:4)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.