First there was Sarah who was in the Book of Genesis as the wife of Abraham…who wasn’t technically a king…more the father of the nation with Sarah as its mother.
How to Choose your First King
But remember that the political nation of Israel had been run by Aaron and the priests making the laws and a military commander fighting the wars after Moses died. Eventually, though, the people demand a king to be like the other nations. The priests were immediately against it. Having an actual king meant there would be queens, foreign and domestic, and daughters of kings, sons with queen mothers, and royal arrogant women with no end of evil doings.
Even though the Priests pointed out all these problems repeatedly, the people still demand a king…perhaps hoping to get out from under the thumb of such a strong priesthood. Eventually, though, the priests agreed to do it while making sure that they could control the process. A king approved of by God, i.e., the priests, would have to be chosen and anointed by a High Priest.
But how do you choose a king without an established royal bloodline? The answer seemed to have been that you have a pure-blooded priest who was known to communicate with God choose the king. In order to have a priest pure enough, he must have a pure (blooded) mother. The priest who chose the first king was Samuel…so, reading backwards, Samuel was given a birth story with a mother who would represent the best/purest that a woman could be at the time. She would be a married Hebrew woman with a good genealogy who desperately wanted a son enough to agree to turn him over to the priests as a child. The lucky woman was named Hannah, we are told, and she has the first official special birth story. Parts of it should look familiar.
Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. The gold standard for women was to have a son for her survival and her husband’s futurity. Hannah’s sister-wife already had a son and made Hannah’s life miserable because she did not. So, Hannah went to the Tabernacle in Shiloh to pray for a son…
Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. (First Book of Samuel I:6-11)
Samuel Reluctantly Anoints the First King
Hannah did have a son and she turned him over to the Tabernacle to be raised by Eli the Priest as she promised when he was weaned. When Eli died, Samuel became the High Priest and lived a long life totally unaware of his reason for being…
…Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel…And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in the ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel…and the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people…for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should reign over them.” I Samuel 1-6)
So, the priests made rules about who could be king…a Hebrew, of course, but also, he cannot multiply horses, wives or silver and gold. (Deut. 17:14-17) Then God sent Samuel to Saul son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin and poured a “vial of oil upon his head and kissed him” and told him he was their new king. (I Samuel 10:1)
Saul seems to have obeyed the law and had only one non-strange wife. (Though there may have been a concubine or two.) Saul’s wife would have been the first actual Queen of Israel:
And the name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz… (I Samuel 14:50).
We only know the name and rank (daughter of) for Ahinoam except for one unusual passage. Saul was angry at their son Jonathan and heatedly said:
“Thou son of a perverse rebellious woman!” (I Samuel 20:30)
But if it had been the priest’s plan to pick someone to be king who couldn’t handle being a king, to prove their point against kings—it worked. The “Lord thy God” made so many rules for him to follow that eventually he did mess up and Samuel and the Lord rejected Saul “from being king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:26)
As I will mention from time to time, there is more than one version of most stories within the Torah/Old Testament. We have just read the priest’s version of how the Hebrews got their first king but in the next post we will look at another version side by side with the priest’s version that involves the daughters of Saul and the role they played in the naming of the second king…the most famous king on earth…David.