Was Saul chosen by God, by the people, or by casting a lot? 1 Samuel 8:19; 9:17; 10:20-21, 24


Was Saul chosen by the Lord (1 Sam. 9:17; 10:24), by the people (1 Sam. 8:19), or by casting a lot? (1 Sam. 10:20-21)


1 Samuel 8:19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No! they said. We want a king over us."

1 Samuel 9:17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."

1 Samuel 10:20-21, 24 When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matris clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. ... Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people." Then the people shouted, "Long live the king!"

All three are correct. God can use any means to accomplish his purposes. The people demanded a king. It was with an omniscient, sovereign warning that God granted "their" choice (1 Sam. 8:7-21), which he foreordained and thus foreknew (cf. Deut. 17:14-15).

God is sovereign (Psa. 103:19; Isa. 45:9; Col. 1:16; Rom. 9:16-24; 11:33; Rev. 19:16). He controls everything, even kings and kingdoms:

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10).

The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases (Prov. 21:1; cf. Ezra 7:27).

He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning (Dan. 2:21).

The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes (Dan. 4:25).

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God (Isa. 45:5).

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Dan. 4:35; cf. Psa. 66:7).

In his heart a man plans his course, the Lord determines his steps (Prov. 16:9).

The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts" (1 Sam. 2:6-7).

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psa. 75:6-7).

God sovereignly controlled the selection of Saul - a rejected king and one never referred to as a "man after God's own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14). This likely was by means of casting a lot (Lev. 16:8-10; Num. 26:55). Proverbs 16:33 states, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." We see God controlling the casting of the lot again in the New Testament (Acts 1:26). However, the choice may have also been sovereignly controlled using the Urim and the Thummin (1 Sam. 2:28; cf. Exod. 28:30; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8).

Related Answer:

Things God Can't Do? (see part on Judges 1:19 and God's discipline of Israel)

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).