1 Samuel 9:9
(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spoke, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)
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(9) Beforetime in Israel.—This verse was evidently inserted in the original book of memoirs of the days of Samuel by a later hand. Three special words are found in the Divine writings for the inspired messengers or interpreters of the Eternal wilt; of these, the title seer (roeh) was the most ancient. It is the title, evidently, by which Samuel in his lifetime was generally known. “Is the seer here?” we read in this passage; and “Where is the seer’s house?” and “I am the seer.” As time passed on, the term, in the sense of an inspired man of God, became obsolete, and the word chozeh, “a gazer.” on strange visions, seemed to have been the word used for one inspired. The title nabi—prophet—began to come into common use in the time of Samuel, to whom the term is not unfrequently applied. The word nabi, or prophet, is found in nearly all the Old Testament books, from Genesis to Malachi, though rarely in the earlier writings. This note was inserted by some scribe who lived comparatively later (perhaps in the time of Ezra), but who must have been a reviser of the sacred text of very high authority, as this “note” has come down to us as an integral part of the received Hebrew text. The reason of the insertion is obvious. The title roeh—seer—as time passed on, no longer belonged exclusively to “a man of God.” The scribe who put in this expression was desirous of pointing out that when Samuel lived it was the word always used for a prophet of the Lord. In those early days it had not deteriorated in meaning.

1 Samuel 9:9. Come, let us go to the seer — So termed, because he discerned and could discover things secret and unknown to others. And these are the words, either of some later sacred writer, who, after Samuel’s death, inserted this verse, or of Samuel, who, being probably fifty or sixty years old at the time of writing this book, and speaking of the state of things in his first days, might well call it before time.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.This is manifestly a gloss inserted in the older narrative by the later editor of the sacred text, to explain the use of the term in 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18-19. It is one among many instances which prove how the very letter of the contemporary narratives was preserved by those who in later times compiled the histories. We cannot say exactly when the term "seer" became obsolete. See the marginal references. 9. seer … Prophet—The recognized distinction in latter times was, that a seer was one who was favored with visions of God—a view of things invisible to mortal sight; and a prophet foretold future events. Of God; or, a man of God, which signified the same thing.

Was called a seer, because he did discern and could discover things secret and unknown to others. And these are the words, either, first, Of some later sacred writer, which, after Samuel’s death, inserted this verse. Or, secondly, Of Samuel, who, being probably fifty or sixty years old at the writing of this book, and speaking of the state of things in his first days, might well call it

beforetime. Or rather, thirdly, Of Saul’s servant, who might be now stricken in years, and might speak this either by his knowledge of what was in his juvenile years, or upon the information of his father or ancestors. And so it is a fit argument to persuade Saul to go to the man of God, that he might show them their way, and where the asses were, because he was likely to inform them; for the prophets were anciently called seers, because they knew and could reveal hidden things. And the meaning is, that anciently they were not vulgarly called prophets, but seers only; whereas now, and afterwards, they were called seers, yet they were more commonly called prophets. Before time in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God,.... To ask doctrine of him, as the Targum, to be taught by him, to have his mind and will in any affair of moment and importance; which was usually done by applying to some man of God, eminent for grace and piety, and a spirit of prophecy:

thus he spake, come, and let us go to the seer; a man used to say to his friend, when he wanted some instruction or direction, let us go together to such an one, the seer, and ask counsel of him what is proper to be done in such an affair:

for he that is now called a prophet was before called a seer; for though these names are used freely of the same persons, both before and after this time; yet now the more common appellation which obtained was that of a prophet; custom, and the use of language, varied at different times, though the same was meant by the one and the other; such men were called seers, because of the vision of prophecy, because they saw or foresaw things to come; and they were called prophets, because they foretold what they saw, or delivered out their predictions by word of mouth. This verse is put in a parenthesis, and is commonly supposed to be the words of the writer of this book: hence some draw an argument against Samuel being the writer of it, as Abarbinel does, who concludes from hence that it was written by Jeremiah, or some other person long after Samuel, or that this verse was added by Ezra; but as this book might be written by Samuel in the latter part of his life, he might with propriety observe this, that in his younger time, and quite down to the anointing of Saul king, both when there was no open vision, and afterwards when there was scarce any that had it but himself, he was used to be called the seer; but in his latter days, when there were many that had the vision of prophecy, and there were schools set up, it was more common to call them prophets; though perhaps these are the words of Saul's servant, spoken to encourage Saul to go to the man of God, and inquire of him, since in former times, as he could remember, being perhaps an old servant, or he had heard his parents so say, that such men used to be called seers, because they saw what others did not, and declared and made others to see what they did; and therefore there was a probability that this man of God, who was a seer, might show them the way they should go to find the asses.

(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the {f} seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)

(f) So called because he foresaw things to come.

9. Beforetime in Israel] This verse is clearly an addition to the original narrative to explain the term “seer” which had become obsolete when the book was compiled in its present form, It is inserted here and not after 1 Samuel 9:11 where the term first occurs, to avoid interrupting the narrative.

(i) Two Hebrew words are translated “seer” in the E. V.

(1) That used here (rôĕh) is applied specially to Samuel in this chapter and in 1 Chronicles 9:22; 1 Chronicles 26:28; 1 Chronicles 29:29 : to Hanani, 2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 16:10 : generally, Isaiah 30:10. Apparently it fell out of popular use after Samuel’s time, but was revived as a classical word by the compiler of Chronicles.

(2) Elsewhere in the E. V. “seer” represents the Heb. chôzeh = “gazer,” a term applied first to Gad (2 Samuel 24:11) and used in the historical and prophetical books both of particular individuals and generally.

(ii) The term “prophet” (Heb. nâbî) maintains its ground throughout the O.T. The root of the word seems to denote “bubbling over” and so “ecstatic utterance:” and the passive form of the substantive signifies that the prophet is swayed by a divine afflatus.

The exact difference of meaning of these terms is much debated. Probably nâbî designates the prophet as the inspired interpreter of the will of God: rôeh and chôzeh refer to the method of communication by dream and vision. Cp. Numbers 12:6.Verse 9. - Beforetime, etc. This verse is evidently a gloss, written originally by some later hand in the margin, in order to explain the word used for seer in vers. 11, 18, 19. Inserted here in the text it interrupts the narrative, and is itself somewhat incomprehensible. The Septuagint offers a very probable reading, namely, "for the people in old time used to call the prophet a seer," i.e. it was a word used chiefly by the common people. Prophet, nabi, is really the older and established word from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end. The word roeh, used in this place for seer, is comparatively rare, as a popular word would be in written compositions. It refers to that which is seen by the ordinary sight, to waking vision (see on 1 Samuel 3:1, 10), whereas the other word for seer, chozeh, refers to ecstatic vision. Roeh is used by Isaiah, ch. Isaiah 30:10, apparently in much the same sense as here, of those whom the people consulted in their difficulties, and they might be true prophets as Samuel was, or mere pretenders to occult powers. The present narrative makes it plain that roeh was used in a good sense in Samuel's days; but gradually it became degraded, and while chozeh became the respectful word for a prophet, roeh became the contrary. Another conclusion also follows. We have seen that there are various indications that the Books of Samuel in their present state are later than his days. Here, on the contrary, we have a narrative couched in the very language of his times; for the writer of the gloss contained in this verse was displeased at Samuel being called a roeh, but did not dare to alter it, though taking care to note that it was equivalent in those days to calling him a nabi. Having been sent out by his father to search for his she-asses which had strayed, Saul went with his servant through the mountains of Ephraim, which ran southwards into the tribe-territory of Benjamin (see at 1 Samuel 1:1), then through the land of Shalishah and the land of Shaalim, and after that through the land of Benjamin, without finding the asses; and at length, when he had reached the land of Zuph, he determined to return, because he was afraid that his father might turn his mind from the asses, and trouble himself about them (the son and servant). מן חדל, to desist from a thing, to give it up or renounce it.

As Saul started in any case from Gibeah of Benjamin, his own home (1 Samuel 10:10., 1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 11:4; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1), i.e., the present Tuleil el Phul, which was an hour or an hour and a half to the north of Jerusalem (see at Joshua 18:28), and went thence into the mountains of Ephraim, he no doubt took a north-westerly direction, so that he crossed the boundary of Benjamin somewhere between Bireh and Atarah, and passing through the crest of the mountains of Ephraim, on the west of Gophnah (Jifna), came out into the land of Shalishah. Shalishah is unquestionably the country round (or of) Baal-shalishah (2 Kings 4:42), which was situated, according to Eusebius (Onom. s.v. Βαιθσαρισάθ: Beth-sarisa or Beth-salisa), in regione Thamnitica, fifteen Roman miles to the north of Diospolis (Lydda), and was therefore probably the country to the west of Jiljilia, where three different wadys run into one large wady, called Kurawa; and according to the probable conjecture of Thenius, it was from this fact that the district received the name of Shalishah, or Three-land. They proceeded thence in their search to the land of Shaalim: according to the Onom. (s.v.), "a village seven miles off, in finibus Eleutheropoleos contra occidentem." But this is hardly correct, and is most likely connected with the mistake made in transposing the town of Samuel to the neighbourhood of Diospolis (see at 1 Samuel 1:1). For since they went on from Shaalim into the land of Benjamin, and then still further into the land of Zuph, on the south-west of Benjamin, they probably turned eastwards from Shalishah, into the country where we find Beni Mussah and Beni Salem marked upon Robinson's and v. de Velde's maps, and where we must therefore look for the land of Shaalim, that they might proceed thence to explore the land of Benjamin from the north-east to the south-west. If, on the contrary, they had gone from Shaalim in a southerly or south-westerly direction, to the district of Eleutheropolis, they would only have entered the land of Benjamin at the south-west corner, and would have had to go all the way back again in order to go thence to the land of Zuph. For we may infer with certainty that the land of Zuph was on the south-west of the tribe-territory of Benjamin, from the fact that, according to 1 Samuel 10:2, Saul and his companion passed Rachel's tomb on their return thence to their own home, and then came to the border of Benjamin. On the name Zuph, see at 1 Samuel 1:1.

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