There was a rich Benjamite named Kish, who lived at Gibeah. He had a son named Saul, a man full grown and handsome; no one among the Israelites was more handsome than he. From his shoulders and upward he was taller than any of the people.
Now the asses of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul, "Take one of the servants with you and go, look for the asses." They went through the highlands of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but did not find them. Then they crossed into the land of Shaalim, but the asses were not there. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.
They had come into the land of Zuph when Saul said to his servant who was with him, "Come, let us go back, that my father may not stop thinking of the asses and be anxious about us." The servant answered him, "There is a man of God in this town who is held in honor; all that he says is sure to come true. Now let us go there; perhaps he can tell us the way we should go."
Saul said to his servant, "But, suppose we go, what shall we take to the man, for the bread is gone from our sacks, and there is no present to take to the man of God? What have we?" The servant answered Saul again and said, "See, I have with me a quarter of a silver shekel. Give it to the man of God that he may tell us our way." Then Saul said to his servant, "Your advice is good; come, let us go." So they went to the town where the man of God was.
As they were going up to the town, they met young women going out to draw water and said to them, "Is the seer here?" They answered them, "He is there; he is before you. Make haste, for he has just come into the town, for the people have a sacrificial feast to-day at the sacred place on the hilltop. As soon as you come to the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat, for the people will not eat until he comes, for he blesses the sacrifice, and then the guests eat. Therefore go up now, for at this time you will find him."
So they went up to the town, and when they came inside the gate, Samuel was just coming out toward them to go up to the high place. Now the LORD had told Samuel the day before Saul came, "About this time to-morrow I will send you a man out of the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be a prince over my people Israel. He shall deliver my people from the power of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their cry has come to me."
When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, "This is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall rule over my people." So when Saul met Samuel in the gate, and said, "Tell me, if you will, where the seer's house is," Samuel answered Saul, "I am the seer; go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me to-day; and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your mind. As for your asses that were lost three days ago, do not trouble yourself about them for they have been found. And to whom belongs all that is best in Israel? Does it not belong to you and to your father's house?" Saul answered and said, "Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and is not my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?"
But Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall and made them sit at the head of the guests (who were about thirty in number). Samuel also said to the cook, "Bring the part which I gave you and told you to put aside." So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and placed them before Saul. Then Samuel said, "See what has been kept for you! Set it before you and eat, for it was kept for you until the appointed time, that you might eat with the people whom I have invited." So Saul ate with Samuel that day.
After they came down from the high place into the town, they spread a bed for Saul on the roof, and he lay down. Then at daybreak Samuel called to Saul on the roof, saying, "Rise, that I may send you away." So Saul rose, and he and Samuel went out into the street. As they were going out of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on before us, but you stand here that I may tell you the message from God."
Then Samuel took the flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head, and kissed him and said, "Has not the LORD anointed you to be a prince over his people Israel? You shall rule over the LORD's people and deliver them from the power of their enemies on every side. This is the sign that the LORD has anointed you to be a prince over his own people: when you go from me to-day you shall find two men at Rachel's tomb; and they will say to you, 'The asses that you went to seek are found, and now your father is thinking no more about the asses but is worrying about you, saying, "What shall I do for my son?"' Then you shall go on from there and come to the oak of Tabor. There three men going up to God at bethel will meet you, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread which you shall take from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeah. As you come to the city you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a lyre, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them, while they prophesy. Then the spirit of the LORD will come suddenly upon you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be changed into another man. When these signs come to you, do whatever you can, for God is with you." So when Saul turned away from Samuel, God gave him a new heart, and all those signs came to pass that day.
Saul's uncle also said to him and to his servant, "Where did you go?" He said, "To seek the asses; and when we saw that they were not to be found, we went to Samuel." Saul's uncle said, "Tell me what Samuel said to you." Saul replied, "He told us that the asses were surely found." But Saul did not tell him that Samuel had said he should become the ruler.
After about a month, Nahash, the Ammonite, came up and besieged Jabesh in Gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make terms with us and we will serve you." But Nahash, the Ammonite, said to them. "On this condition will I make terms with you: that I bore out the right eye of each of you, and so bring disgrace upon all Israel." The elders of Jabesh said to him, "Let us have seven days in which to send messengers through all the land of Israel. Then, if there are none to save us, we will come to you."
So the messengers came to gibeah where Saul lived and told the facts in the hearing of the people, and they all set up a loud wail. Just then Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen, and he said, "What is the trouble with the people that they are wailing?" Then they told him what the men of Jabesh had said. When he heard it, the spirit of the LORD came suddenly upon him and he became very indignant. He took a pair of oxen, cut them in pieces, and sent them through all the land of Israel by messengers, who said, "Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, the same shall be done to his oxen!"
Then a terror from the LORD fell upon the people, and they all gathered together. And Saul said to the messengers who came, "Say to the men of Jabesh in Gilead, 'To-morrow by the time the sun grows hot help shall come to you.'"
So the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh, and they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said to the Ammonites, "To-morrow we will come out to you, and you shall do to us whatever you please." So on the following day, Saul divided the people into three divisions; and they went into the midst of the camp early in the morning, and fought against the Ammonites until noon. The Ammonites who stayed behind were so scattered that not two of them were left together.
Then all the people went to Gilgal and there in the presence of the LORD made Saul their ruler, and they offered sacrifices there to the LORD; and Saul and all the men of Israel were very happy.