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Since Jacob had blessed Judah and prophesied that (Genesis 49:10):

The scepter will not turn aside from Judah until Shiloh comes, and to him the obedience of the people will belong

why was King Saul from the tribe of Benjamin chosen as Israel's first king when Judah was to be the ruling tribe all along, as related in I Samuel 8-10?

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    Please indicate which translation you are using. Note that the translation of the words עד כי יבא שילה in Genesis 49:10 is a guess. The other likely translation, which fits your question better is like the Christian Standard Bible: The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him". See also NET, Holman Christian Standard, Brenton Septuagint, Douay-Rheims Bible, World English Bible and Young's Literal Translation among others. The MT Hebrew of this verse is not so clear. Apr 17 '19 at 11:36
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I do not think it is possible to give an exegetical answer to this question, but only an Eisegetical one and that based on conjecture, beside the simplicity of 1 Samuel 10: 1 Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because Yhwh hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?

And

24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom Yhwh hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.

Nevertheless, a prophetic answer could exist in the prophecy concerning Benjamin from Jacob and Moses:

Jacob- Gen 49:27 Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.

Moses- Deuteronomy 32:12 And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of YHWH shall dwell in safety by him; and Yhwh shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.

Perhaps the meaning was understood that Benjamin's King was never meant to continue as it is said:

  1. A wolf not a lion the biblical royal ensign

  2. In the morning he devours

  3. In the evening he divides or shares his spoil or gain (the kingdom of Israel)

  4. Benjamin is not the beloved

  5. The beloved dwell in safety by Benjamin (David of Judah?)

  6. Seemingly Benjamin will be covered with the beloved

  7. The beloved will bear Benjamin between of with his shoulders

All in all this is prophetically the relationship between the everlasting royal house of David via Judah as the beloved in relationship as it happened with Benjamin as a tribe. The house of David bonded with Benjamin -1Sam 3

In the civil wars of the kingdom of Israel, Benjamin and Judah banded together -1Ki 12:16

In the captivity under Ezrah and Nehemiah it was only Benjamin and Judah that tribally returned to rebuild the kingdom.

In the New testament Paul claims Benjamite descent and is proclaiming the Kingship of Jesus as Christ of the seed of David- Rom 1:3

While We can not explain why this was done by Yhwh, it is obvious that it was part of the Scriptural narrative to bond these two king's respective tribes together to divite the spoil, dwell together and show the mighty hand of YHWH working according to the Council of his own Will!

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  • Excellent and well-grounded response. I would add that 1 Samuel 8 -- specifically the exchange between Samuel, God, and the people in verses 6-22 -- provides a reasonable explanation. It's pretty clear from the exchange that the people's demand for a king was a sinful rejection of God's rule, and that He intended to deal with that sin by giving them a very undesirable king in response. As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for; you might get it."
    – JDM-GBG
    Apr 19 '19 at 22:15
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It is a good question, and I do not know the answer. One could also ask, why did not God choose David to start with, since God had already decided that the Messiah would be a son of David (i.e. Isa 11:1-10)?

I think the prophecy in Gen 49:10 does not require that all kings would be of Judah, but that eventually the kingship would be of Judah.

When the people asked for a king, David was not born yet, so God gave them the best man available at the time. That was not God's timing, but the people's. If God had initiated the kingship, I think He would have started with David.

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The Hebrew text of the Bible passage (Gen 49:10) you try to understand implies that:

1) the tribe of Judah, starting from a crucial moment, would receive (from God) the honor to have kings on the throne of Jerusalem (until the latter existed!);

2) in another (subsequent) crucial moment, a special individual would receive this honor (that the tribe of Judah received for a previous period).

This understanding does not rule out the possibility that before the entrusting of the assignment to Judah as kingly tribe, another tribe could receive this honor. In fact, God chose the Benjaminite Saul as first king of Israel.

In the same chapter, to the verse 27, God (through Jacob) prophecied about the remarkable actions – related to the people of Israel – characterizing the tribe of Benjamin. Referring to the start (‘morning’) and the end (‘evening’) of the state-history of Israel, we read there: “Benjamin— as a wolf will he tear to pieces; In the morning he will devour the prey, And in the evening he will divide the booty.” (Darby)

It is very interesting the comment of John Gill (bold is mine): “Some apply this to particular persons of this tribe, as to Saul the first king of Israel, who was of Benjamin; and who as soon as he took the kingdom of Israel, in the morning, in the beginning of that state, fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines, and the Amalekites, 1Sa 14:47 and to Mordecai and Esther, who were of the same tribe, who after the captivity, and in the evening of that state, divided the spoil of Haman, Est 8:1 this is observed by Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Gersom.” (John Gill, Exposition of the Bible; on Gen 49:27).

Far from trigger a contradiction, these passages harmonize themselves and confirm us for the nth time that the Bible is fully trustworthy.

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This arrangement could also set up a scenario wherein the chosen Judean King could be united with the princess he takes as a wife in Psalm 45 vs. 10-15 (NIV).

10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. 11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 12 The city of Tyre will come with a gift,[d] people of wealth will seek your favor. 13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. 14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her— those brought to be with her. 15 Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king.

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In Genesis 38, Tamar tricks Judah into sleeping with her. Twins were born, one being Perez. Deuteronomy 23:2 says no one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation. I believe the NIV includes illegitimate births also.

Ruth 4:18 lists descendants of Judah as Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminidab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David (the tenth). Jesse should have been king being a descendant of Judah but Deut. 23:2 prevented it. David was too young. So because the people demanded a king God gave them what they asked for and all the problems that went along with it. Had they waited till David was 17 he would have been king. I'm just a layman but this is my analysis.

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    – agarza
    Aug 31 at 3:15
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There are three reasons to justify giving the tribe of Benjamin the first opportunity to rule:

  1. The elder will serve the younger
  2. Benjamin's birthplace
  3. The name Jacob gives

The Elder-Younger Relationship
Before Jacob and Esau were born, the LORD told Rebekah the older son would serve the younger:

And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) [ESV]

The elder serving the younger carries the sense of being ruled. Jacob follows a similar pattern when blessing Joseph's sons when he placed his right hand on Ephraim instead of Manasseh (Genesis 48:14). Since Benjamin is the youngest, his tribe should be given the first opportunity to rule.

Birthplace
Benjamin was the only son born in Canaan and choosing the first king from Benjamin is a way to recognize that distinction.

Jacob's Naming
When he was born, Rachel gave him the name of Ben-oni:

Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:16-18)

Ben-oni, means "son of my sorrow." Benjamin means "son of the right hand." The "right hand" means prosperity and is associated with authority or power. For example:

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. (Exodus 15:6)

Giving Benjamin the first opportunity to rule fulfills the meaning of the new name given by Jacob.

Conclusion
As Saro Fedele notes in this answer, Jacob's prophecy to Judah does not rule out another tribe from being chosen to rule first:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet; so that tribute shall come to him and the homage of the people be his. (Genesis 49:10 JPS 1985)

Historically the fulfillment is: "(when) the scepter is (finally given), it will not depart from Judah..." Once it is taken from Benjamin and given to Judah, it will remain.

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