1 Samuel 16:4
And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?
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(4) Trembled at his coming.—The appearance of the aged seer, with the heifer and the long horn of holy oil, at first terrified the villagers of the quiet, secluded Bethlehem. The name and appearance of the old seer was well known in all the coasts of Israel. Why had he come thus suddenly among them? Had their still remote township then been the scene of some unknown and grave crime? What was happening in Israel, which brought Samuel the seer to little Bethlehem?

16:1-5 It appears that Saul was grown very wicked. Of what would he not be guilty, who durst think to kill Samuel? The elders of Bethlehem trembled at Samuel's coming. It becomes us to stand in awe of God's messengers, and to tremble at his word. His answer was, I come peaceably, for I come to sacrifice. When our Lord Jesus came into the world, though men had reason to fear that his errand was to condemn the world, yet he gave full assurance that he came peaceably, for he came to sacrifice, and he brought his offering with him; A body hast thou prepared me. Let us sanctify ourselves, and depend upon His sacrifice.Trembled - There was evidently something unusual in Samuel's coming to Bethlehem; and the elders, knowing that Samuel was no longer at friendship with Saul, foreboded some evil. 4. the elders of the town trembled at his coming—Beth-lehem was an obscure town, and not within the usual circuit of the judge. The elders were naturally apprehensive, therefore, that his arrival was occasioned by some extraordinary reason, and that it might entail evil upon their town, in consequence of the estrangement between Samuel and the king. The elders of the town trembled at his coming; partly because it was strange and unexpected to them, this being but an obscure town, Micah 5:2, and remote from Samuel, and therefore they justly thought there was some extraordinary reason for it; and their guilty consciences made them fear that he came to denounce some dreadful and particular judgment of God upon them; and partly lest Saul, whose heart was estranged from and incensed against Samuel, should upon this occasion conceive a jealousy of them, and a displeasure against them.

Peaceably, Heb. in or with peace; either, first, To thyself. Comest thou voluntarily, or to flee from the rage of Saul? Or, secondly, To us. Comest thou with no evil tidings to us, either from God or from Saul? The Hebrew phrase, Comest thou in peace? being as much as to say, (in our phrase,) Is all well?

And Samuel did that which the Lord spake,.... He filled a horn of oil, and took an heifer with him:

and came to Bethlehem; where Jesse and his family lived, which, according to Bunting (y), was sixteen miles from Ramah; though it could hardly be so much, since Ramah was six miles from Jerusalem on one side, as Bethlehem lay six miles from it on the other (z):

and the elders of the town trembled at his coming; for he being now an old man, and seldom went abroad, they concluded it must be something very extraordinary that brought him thither; and they might fear that as he was a prophet of the Lord, that he was come to reprove them, or denounce some judgment upon them for their sins. The Targum is,"the elders of the city gathered together to meet him;''out of respect and in honour to him, and to the same sense Jarchi's note is,"they hasted to go out to meet him'';see Hosea 11:11.

and, said comest thou peaceably? the word "said" is singular; one of the elders put this question, the chiefest of them, perhaps Jesse; and the meaning of it is, whether he came with ill news and bad tidings, or as displeased with them himself on some account or another; or with a message from God, as displeased with them; or whether he came there for his own peace and safety, to be sheltered from Saul; and which, if that was the case, might not be for their peace and good; but would draw upon them the wrath and vengeance of Saul; for they doubtless knew that there was a variance, at least a shyness, between Saul and Samuel.

(y) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 125. (z) Vid. Hieron. de loc. Heb. fol. 89. F. & 94. B.

And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town {c} trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?

(c) Afraid, lest some grievous crime had been committed, because the prophet was not wont to come there.

4. Beth-lehem] Beth-lehem (= “house of bread”) was the later name of the ancient town of Ephrath (Genesis 48:7). It was situated about five miles south of Jerusalem, a short distance east of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron. As the scene of the fresh picture of domestic life contained in the book of Ruth it would possess no common interest, but as the “city of David” (Luke 2:4), and the birthplace of Him of Whom David was a type, it is, next to Jerusalem itself, the most sacred spot on earth. Here too, it should be remembered, “beside what he believed to be literally the cradle of the Christian faith … Jerome composed the famous translation of the Scriptures which is still the ‘Biblia Vulgata’ of the Latin Church.” Stanley’s Sin. and Pal., p. 442.

4. the elders of the town, &c.] The elders of the city (see note on 1 Samuel 8:4) came to meet him trembling. Perhaps Samuel’s visits were often made with the view of rebuking sin and correcting abuses, and hence their alarm: or the breach between him and Saul may have made the elders afraid of incurring the royal displeasure by welcoming him.

1 Samuel 16:4When Samuel arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the city came to meet him in a state of the greatest anxiety, and asked him whether his coming was peace, or promised good. The singular ויּאמר may be explained on the ground that one of the elders spoke for the rest. The anxious inquiry of the elders presupposes that even in the time of Saul the prophet Samuel was frequently in the habit of coming unexpectedly to one place and another, for the purpose of reproving and punishing wrong-doing and sin.
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