And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? why then speak you so to me?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)1 Samuel 9:21. Of the smallest of the tribes of Israel — Such indeed the tribe of Benjamin was, having been all cut off except six hundred, (Judges 20.,) which blow they never recovered, and therefore they were scarce reckoned as an entire tribe, but as a remnant of a tribe; and being ingrafted into Judah, in the division between the ten tribes and the two, they in some sort lost their name, and together with Judah were accounted but one tribe.Numbers 1:36, if Ephraim and Manasseh are reckoned as one tribe, had been nearly annihilated by the civil war recorded in Judges 20. It had of course not recovered from that terrible calamity in the time of Saul, and was doubtless literally much the smallest tribe at that time. Nothing could be more improbable, humanly speaking, than that this weak tribe should give a ruler to the mighty tribes of Joseph and Judah. Jud 20, which blow they never recovered, and therefore they were scarce reckoned as an entire tribe, but only as a remnant or fragment of a tribe; and being ingrafted into Judah, in the division between the ten tribes and the two, they in some sort lost their name, and they, together with Judah, were accounted but one tribe, as 1 Kings 11:32, &c.
The least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin, i.e. one of the least; obscure and inconsiderable, in comparison of divers others; whence it may seem that Saul’s family was not so noble and wealthy as some imagine: See Poole "1 Samuel 9:1".
Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? why dost thou feed me with vain hopes of the kingdom? 1 Samuel 9:1 or rather, as the Targum, a son of the tribe of Benjamin:
of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? having been greatly reduced, even to the number of six hundred men, by the fatal war between that tribe and the rest, on account of the Levite's concubine, and is called little Benjamin, Psalm 68:27.
and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? the smallest in number, had the least share of authority in the tribe, and of land and cattle, wealth and substance:
wherefore then speakest thou so to me? Saul presently understood Samuel's meaning, that he should be chosen king of Israel, the affair of a king being at this time in everyone's mind and mouth; but could not believe that one of so small a tribe, and which sprung from the youngest son of Jacob, and of so mean a family, would be raised to such dignity, but that a person of great figure and character would be settled upon; and, therefore he took Samuel to be in joke, as Josephus (m) says, and not in earnest.And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. the smallest of the tribes of Israel] The warlike tribe of Benjamin, the smallest except Manasseh at the time of the numbering in the wilderness (Numbers 1:37), was reduced to insignificance by the terrible slaughter recorded in Jdg 20:46.
of the tribe of Benjamin] Heb. the tribes, If this reading is right, tribe here = clan or subdivision of a tribe, as in Numbers 4:18; Jdg 20:12 (Heb. tribes of B.). But the Sept. and all ancient versions read “tribe” in the singular.Verse 21. - Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? Though Samuel's words contained the promise of supreme power, - for to whom less than a king could all that was desirable in Israel belong? - yet Saul probably regarded them as a high-flown compliment, such as Orientals love to use, and gave a modest and proper answer. Benjamin, already the smallest tribe, had been so crushed that its power must have been very small, and Soul's house, though opulent, was not a leading one; how then could one of its members expect so high a dignity? For families of the tribe of Benjamin the Hebrew has "tribes," probably owing to some confusion with the words "tribes of Israel" just before. 1 Samuel 9:15-17, that the day before Jehovah had foretold to Samuel that the man was coming to him whom he was to anoint as captain over his people. אזן גּלה, to open any one's ear, equivalent to reveal something to him (1 Samuel 20:12; 2 Samuel 7:27, etc.). אשׁלח, I will send thee, i.e., "I will so direct his way in my overruling providence, that he shall come to thee" (J. H. Mich. ). The words, "that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon my people, for their cry is come unto me," are not at all at variance with 1 Samuel 7:13. In that passage there is simply the assertion, that there was no more any permanent oppression on the part of the Philistines in the days of Samuel, such as had taken place before; but an attempt to recover their supremacy over Israel is not only not precluded, but is even indirectly affirmed (see the comm. on 1 Samuel 7:13). The words before us simply show that the Philistines had then begun to make a fresh attempt to contend for dominion over the Israelites. "I have looked upon my people:" this is to be explained like the similar passage in Exodus 2:25, "God looked upon the children of Israel," and Exodus 3:7, "I have looked upon the misery of my people." God's looking was not a quiet, inactive looking on, but an energetic look, which brought help in trouble. "Their cry is come unto me:" this is word for word the same as in Exodus 3:9. As the Philistines wanted to tread in the footsteps of the Egyptians, it was necessary that Jehovah should also send His people a deliverer from these new oppressors, by giving them a king. The reason here assigned for the establishment of a monarchy is by no means at variance with the displeasure which God had expressed to Samuel at the desire of the people for a king (1 Samuel 8:7.); since this displeasure had reference to the state of heart from which the desire had sprung.
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