Warrior Poet
interrupted Samuel’s unusually heavy sleep. It was more physical sensation than sound, an inner resonance. Its tones were calm but commanding. It was quite familiar.
    But the message was unexpected.
    “How long are you going to grieve over Saul, when I have cast him aside as king over Israel? Cease your tears, for I have chosen an Israelite to replace him. You are to fill your horn with oil, and I will show you the man of My choice.”
    Pulling himself up with his staff, Samuel stood and looked out at the quiet town through the open window. He spoke out into the still night. “O Lord, now that You have removed Your hand from Saul, why are You appointing another king in his place?”
    He waited, and the Voice responded. “I have found a man after my own heart. I will send you to Bethlehem to a man named Jesse the Ephrathite. I have seen among his sons a king. Him I have chosen.”
    Samuel was suddenly afraid. He had heard the rumors about Saul’s instability, and now the Lord was commanding him to commit treason. Samuel’s hands were shaking as he closed the shutters.
    “Is my service for You at an end? How can I go? Certainly one of Saul’s men will tell him, and he will doubtlessly kill me.”
    The Voice was untroubled. “Take a heifer to Bethlehem and tell the elders that you have come to sacrifice. Invite Jesse, and I will indicate to you the one I have chosen.”
    Not greatly reassured, the old prophet grumbled out his defeat. “When do I go, Lord?”
    “I will tell you when. Now lie down; you are in need of rest.”
    As he drifted back to sleep, a question chilled him: What will Saul do when he finds out I’ve anointed his rival?

Chapter Seven
    His two boys were running after him. Joel, the oldest, was in the lead, followed by Abijah. Their bare feet raised little dust clouds as they tried to catch him. He turned, waved his staff at them, and smiled. Joel was angry, but the expression on his youngest stung Samuel. In those large brimming eyes, he could read desperation and disappointment.
    He waved again, gesturing for them to go back to their mother. He turned and kept walking, his steps light and quick. He was Israel’s judge, heading out on his yearly circuit to visit her major cultic centers. In each, he would mediate disputes, resolve controversies, and reconcile antagonists, while also officiating at sacrifices and ritual feasts. There were also the occasional weddings to bless.
    The first leg was the most arduous: a full day’s journey east to Gilgal. After a week, he would head northwest to the tabernacle in Bethel, where he would stay about a month. This was before Saul had it transferred for his own convenience. Samuel’s visit to Bethel always coincided with the Passover, the largest gathering of the year. That festival gave him the opportunity to remind the thousands of worshippers of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt. He would then go to Mizpah, a half-day’s walk to the south, and one or two weeks later he would be back at Ramah. In all, he would be gone from his family six to ten weeks.
    Leaving his boys and their mother was never pleasant, but it was essential. As God’s prophet, he alone could keep Israel from falling into apostasy. He doted on his boys, but he also loved his role as prophet-judge, and though arbitrating business and family problems could be a headache, there was great satisfaction in the work. This was why he began these tours with an anticipation that overshadowed the twinges of guilt.
    The smell of baking bread and herb tea woke him. On another morning, they would have made his mouth water, but not when they intruded upon this particular dream. The regret was so strong, it made his insides burn.
    “Are you not feeling well?” Ginath asked, looking into the bedchamber from the open door. Samuel was looking at the light pouring through the open window above him. “I let you sleep late. I thought rest would be so good for you.”
    Samuel raised his hand,

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