Bridgeman/Art Resource, NY

“The Lord herewith anoints you ruler over his own people” (1 Samuel 10:1), the prophet Samuel pronounces as he pours oil over Saul’s head, as depicted in this late-15th-century woodcut from the Nuremberg Bible.

The Israelites’ clamoring for a king initially displeases Yahweh, and Samuel warns the people that when a king’s tyranny makes them cry out, Yahweh will not answer (1 Samuel 8:18). But when the Israelites admit they have sinned by asking for a king, Samuel assures them: “Do not fear…Yahweh will never abandon his people” (1 Samuel 12:18–22). Yahweh’s anger, suggests author Hawk, is dispersed through the sacrificial figure of Saul. As Saul’s earlier sacrifice assuages Yahweh when the Israelite troops sinned against him (1 Samuel 14:33–35), so his self-immolation appeases God.