1 Samuel 9:7
Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) What shall we bring?—It would seem at first strange that one like Samuel should be approached by presents, but the custom of offering gifts was in many cases an act of respectful homage to a superior rather than a mere fee. Compare, for instance, the many detailed accounts of presents offered and accepted, chronicled in the varied sacred records—such as the little present of spicery, &c, sent by Jacob to the great minister or vizier of the Pharaoh of Egypt (Genesis 43:11), and the ten cheeses Jesse gave to the captain of the thousand in which his sons were serving, and in the days of the highest civilisation and culture known in Israel, the gifts offered by the Queen of Sheba to the magnificent Solomon (1Kings 10:10).

1 Samuel 9:7-8. Behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man — It was a part of the honour they did great men, in those countries, to make them a present when they had occasion to address themselves to them. Particularly their prophets were thus honoured; being men of God, before whom they judged they ought not to appear empty, but to bring them presents, either as a testimony of respect, or as a grateful acknowledgment, or for the support of the prophets themselves, or of the sons of the prophets, or of other persons in want known to them. Thus, also, it was usual to show their respect to their king, 1 Samuel 10:27. The fourth part of a shekel of silver — A small present, but as acceptable as the widow’s mite, being all they had left on their journey.

9:1-10 Saul readily went to seek his father's asses. His obedience to his father was praise-worthy. His servant proposed, that since they were now at Ramah, they should call on Samuel, and take his advice. Wherever we are, we should use our opportunities of acquainting ourselves with those who are wise and good. Many will consult a man of God, if he comes in their way, that would not go a step out of their way to get wisdom. We sensibly feel worldly losses, and bestow much pains to make them up; but how little do we attempt, and how soon are we weary, in seeking the salvation of our souls! If ministers could tell men how to secure their property, or to get wealth, they would be more consulted and honoured than they now are, though employed in teaching them how to escape eternal misery, and to obtain eternal life. Most people would rather be told their fortune than their duty. Samuel needed not their money, nor would he have denied his advice, if they had not brought it; but they gave it to him as a token of respect, and of the value they put upon his office, and according to the general usage of those times, always to bring a present to those in authority.Presents of bread or meat were as common as presents of money. (Compare Ezekiel 13:19; Hosea 3:2.) 7. Saul said to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?—According to Eastern notions, it would be considered a want of respect for any person to go into the presence of a superior man of rank or of official station without a present of some kind in his hand, however trifling in value.

the bread is spent in our vessels—Shepherds, going in quest of their cattle, put up in a bag as much flour for making bread as will last sometimes for thirty days. It appears that Saul thought of giving the man of God a cake from his travelling bag, and this would have been sufficient to render the indispensable act of civility—the customary tribute to official dignity.

The bread is spent in our vessels: this he saith, because bread was not unusually given by way of present, as we see, 1 Samuel 10:3,4. Or bread is put for all manner of provisions, as is frequent; and among these they might have something not unfit, in these plain times, to make a present of, as clusters of raisins, or cakes of figs, such as Abigail presented to David, 1 Samuel 25:18. See also 1 Kings 14:3 2 Kings 4:42.

There is not a present; such presents were then made to the prophets, 1 Kings 14:2,3 2 Kings 4:42 8:8; either as a testimony of respect to him as their superior; upon which account subjects made presents to their kings, 1 Samuel 10:27; and the Persians never came to their king without some gift: or as a grateful acknowledgment of his favour; or for the support of the prophets themselves; or of the sons of the prophets; or of other persons in want, known to them.

Then Saul said to his servant, but behold, if we go,.... The Targum is,"if he receives money,''which it seems Saul was not clear in; some sort of persons that set up for prophets, and a sort of diviners and fortune tellers, did; but he could not tell whether so eminent and honourable a person as Samuel was, did; in as much he was not better known by him, who had been so many years a judge in Israel:

what shall we bring the man? it being usual, when persons addressed great men for a favour, to carry a present with them; or a man of God, a prophet of the Lord, to inquire of the Lord by him concerning any thing, see 1 Kings 14:2,

for the bread is spent in our vessels; the food they brought with them in their bags or scrips for their journey, this was all exhausted; not that he meant by it, that if they had had any quantity, they might present it to the man of God, though yet sometimes such things were done, as the instances before referred to show; but that since their stock of bread was gone, what money they had, if they had any, must be spent in recruiting themselves, and therefore could have none to spare to give to the man:

and there is not a present to bring to the man of God; neither bread nor money, without which he seems to intimate it would be to no purpose to go to him:

what have we? Saul knew he had none, he had spent what he brought out, with him for the journey, and he put this question to try what his servant had; unless it can be supposed it was the custom now, as afterwards among the Romans (b), for servants to carry the purse, and as it was with the Jews in Christ's time, John 12:6 though this may have respect not to a price of divination, but to the common custom in eastern countries, and which continues to this day with the Turks, who reckon it uncivil to visit any person, whether in authority, or an inferior person, without a present; and even the latter are seldom visited without presenting a flower, or an orange, and some token of respect to the person visited (c).

(b) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 20. c. 1.((c) Maundrell's Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 26, 27.

Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. a present] A word occurring here only, to denote the present with which one approaches a great man. The cognate verb is found in Isaiah 57:9, “Thou wentest to the king with ointment.” For presents offered to prophets compare 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 5:15 ff; 2 Kings 8:8-9 : and for the present of bread which Saul suggests they might have given compare the “handfuls of barley and pieces of bread” received by the false prophetesses in Ezekiel 13:19. See Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, Art. Gifts.

Verse 7. - The bread is spent in our vessels. In the East a great man is always approached with a present, and offerings of food were no doubt the most usual gifts (1 Samuel 16:20). Those made to the false prophets are contemptuously described in Ezekiel 13:19 as "handfuls of barley and pieces of bread." A present. The word is rare, and apparently is the technical name for a fee of this kind, half payment and half gift. 1 Samuel 9:7Saul's objection, that they had no present to bring to the man of God, as the bread was gone from their vessels, was met by the servant with the remark, that he had a quarter of a shekel which he would give.
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