First Mention of the Kingdom of Heaven?

The wife and I were studying 1 Samuel tonight and came across something that I hadn’t noticed before in the story of King Saul. In 1Sa. 10:16, after Saul eats with Samuel, is anointed king, walks a rather strange road exactly as Samuel prophesied, and receives the Holy Spirit with such strength that he becomes a whole new man, we read, “So Saul said to his uncle, ‘He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.’ But he did not tell him about the matter of the kingdom which Samuel had mentioned.”

Here’s the funny thing: Never once before this in 1 Samuel is the word “kingdom” mentioned. It doesn’t come up in any of the recorded conversations between Samuel and Saul. This “matter of the kingdom” just pops up out of nowhere and leaves us scratching our heads.

Now, as a matter of plain-sense interpretation, this almost certainly means that Samuel spoke to Saul about the fact that Israel was about to transform from a theocracy to a kingdom.  He may have even told Saul that he would become the king; if not, then Saul was told this at his anointing (v. 1).  But let us consider a deeper meaning, a remez hinted at by the strange and sudden appearance of a new term in an odd place.

The message of John the Immerser, when he came to announce the coming Messiah, was consistently, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”  He further said, “I indeed immerse you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 3:11).

Sha’ul, like the disciple of Yeshua, was immersed in the Spirit.  He became another man (1Sa. 10:6) and was given a new heart (v. 9), as we too must become new men in the Spirit (John 3:7, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) and be given a new heart (Col. 3:12, Psa. 51:10).  Before Saul could become ruler of an earthly kingdom, he had to be brought under the rule (or kingdom) of Heaven.

Was it the kingdom of Israel that Samuel instructed Sha’ul in, or the Kingdom of Heaven?  Or could it be, as it so often is in Scripture, both?  “He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Rev. 2:26).

Shalom.

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