Acts 13:21
And afterward they desired a king: and God gave to them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin.—It is natural to think of the Apostle as dwelling on the memory of the hero-king of the tribe to which he himself belonged. (Comp. Philippians 3:5.) The very fact that he had so recently renounced the name, would bring the associations connected with it more vividly to his recollection.

Forty years.—The duration of Saul’s reign is not given in the Old Testament, but Ish-bosheth, his youngest son (1Chronicles 8:33), was forty years old at the time of Saul’s death (2Samuel 2:10), and Saul himself was a “young man” when chosen as king (1Samuel 9:2). A more definite corroboration of St. Paul’s statement is given by Josephus (Ant. vi. 14, § 9), who states that he reigned eighteen years before Samuel’s death and twenty-two after it.

Acts 13:21-22. Afterward they desired a king — Being foolishly desirous of being like the neighbouring nations in that respect, and insensible of the favour which God had done them in assuming the character and relation of a king to them. And God gave them Saul — Whose government, with that of Samuel the prophet, lasted for the space of forty years — So Beza, Grotius, Limborch, and many other eminent critics. And when he had removed him — In his righteous displeasure, from reigning over Israel; he raised up unto them David — Hence they might understand that the dispensations of God admitted of various changes; to whom he gave a more glorious testimony — Than to Saul. See 1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 89:20. And said, I have found David, &c., a man after my own heart — “This expression is to be taken in a limited sense. David was such at that time, but not at all times. And he was so in the respect here mentioned: he performed all God’s will — In the particulars there spoken of. But he was not a man after God’s own heart in other respects, wherein he performed his own will. In the matter of Uriah, for instance, he was as far from being a man after God’s own heart, as Saul himself was. It is, therefore, a very gross, as well as dangerous mistake, to suppose this is the character of David in every part of his behaviour. We must beware of this, unless we would recommend adultery and murder as things after God’s own heart.” So Mr. Wesley: and in the same sense Dr. Benson understands the words, observing, “when it is said that King David was a man after God’s own heart, it ought to be understood of his public, not of his private character. He was a man after God’s own heart, because he ruled his people Israel according to the divine will. He did not allow of idolatry; he did not set up for absolute power; he was guided in the government of the nation by the law of Moses, as the standing rule of government, and by the prophet, or the divine oracle, whereby God gave directions upon particular emergencies. That this was the meaning of David’s being a man after God’s own heart, will easily appear by comparing 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 28:17-18; 1 Chronicles 9:13-14; Psalm 78:70, &c.; Psalm 89:20, &c.”13:14-31 When we come together to worship God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The bare reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is helping people in doing that which is necessary to make the word profitable, to apply it to themselves. Every thing is touched upon in this sermon, which might best prevail with Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. And every view, however short or faint, of the Lord's dealings with his church, reminds us of his mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and perverseness. Paul passes from David to the Son of David, and shows that this Jesus is his promised Seed; a Saviour to do that for them, which the judges of old could not do, to save them from their sins, their worst enemies. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they were so far from concealing his death, that they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But he rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached.And afterward they desired a king - See 1 Samuel 8:5; Hosea 13:10. It was predicted that they would have a king, Deuteronomy 17:14-15.

Saul, the son of Cis - is the Greek mode of writing the Hebrew name Kish. In the Old Testament it is uniformly written as "Kish," and it is to be regretted that this has not been retained in the New Testament. See 1 Samuel 9:1.

By the space of forty years - During forty years. The Old Testament has not mentioned the time during which Saul reigned. Josephus says (Antiq., book 6, chapter 14, section 9) that he reigned for 18 years while Samuel was alive, and 22 years after his death. But Dr. Doddridge (note in loco) has shown that this cannot be correct, and that he probably reigned, as some copies of Josephus have it, but two years after the death of Samuel. Many critics suppose that the term of 40 years mentioned here includes also the time in which Samuel judged the people. This supposition does not violate the text in this place, and may be probable. See Doddridge and Grotius on the place.

21. God gave … them Saul … of the tribe of Benjamin—That the speaker was himself of the same name and of the same tribe, has often been noticed as in all likelihood present to the apostle's mind while speaking.

forty years—With this length of Saul's reign (not mentioned in the Old Testament), Josephus coincides [Antiquities, 6.14.9].

Their great sin in desiring a king was, because by that desire they rejected God, who had at that very time a prophet (Samuel) by whom he governed them, 1 Samuel 8:7 10:19. They had been under a theocracy ever since they came out of Egypt, their laws and their governors being appointed by God; had their condition been as that of other nations, their desire had not been a provocation. These words,

by the space of forty years, are to be joined with the foregoing verse, and the other foregoing words in the verse read with a parenthesis: and thus they show how long Samuel the prophet (as he is here called) exercised his prophetical office, which was the space here mentioned, partly before Saul was anointed king, and in part afterward; in which, as another Moses, he cared for, and went in and out before, the people of God, the like space of forty years. This computation of St. Paul might also agree more with the Septuagint, and be according to the then current account, which (not being of more consequence) St. Paul would not controvert at this time, having greater matters to speak of unto them. And afterward they desired a king,.... 1 Samuel 8:5 which the Jews (w) say, was in the tenth year of Samuel; that is, of his government over Israel, or of his judging them:

and God gave unto them Saul; whose name signifies one that is asked; he was

the son of Cis; so the Septuagint read and pronounce the word "Kish", the name of Saul's father, 1 Samuel 9:1 a man of the tribe of Benjamin; not of Judah, from whence the sceptre was not to depart till Shiloh came; the business of their asking a king being resented by God, he gives them their first king of another tribe:

by the space of forty years. The Jews are very much divided about the years of Saul's reign, some allow him but two years (x), and others three, one year that he reigned with Samuel, and two by himself (y), which they conclude from 1 Samuel 13:1 but others (z) think this too short a time for the things done by him, the wars he fought with many nations, and his persecution of David from place to place; wherefore others (a) allow him, some seventeen, and others twenty years; but our apostle ascribes forty years to him, which must be understood both of him and Samuel; with which Josephus (b) agrees, who says that he reigned eighteen years, during Samuel's life, and twenty two years after his death, which make the space of forty years fixed by the apostle; though the clause, "by the space of forty years", may be read in construction with the latter end of the preceding verse, until Samuel the prophet; who, the Jews (c) own, judged so many years: wherefore the apostle is not to be charged with an error, as he is by a Jewish (d) objector; who observes, that from the beginning of Saul's kingdom, or from the time that he was anointed by Samuel the prophet, until the kingdom was renewed to him by all Israel, was one year, and then Saul chose three thousand men out of Israel after that he reigned two years by the consent of all Israel, until he sinned in the business of the Amalekites, and then he was accounted as a dead man, and the years of his reign were not numbered; at which time David was anointed, who must be about twenty years of age, 1 Samuel 16:18 and yet when he came to the kingdom after the death of Saul, he was but thirty years of age, 2 Samuel 5:4 from whence he thinks it follows that Saul reigned but ten years: in all which he is guilty of several mistakes, and advances things he cannot prove; it was not after Saul had reigned one year, but after he had reigned two years, that he chose three thousand men out of Israel, as is expressly said, 1 Samuel 13:1 and that he had reigned but two years when he sinned in the case of the Amalekites, wants proof; nor is it evident that David was twenty years of age when he was anointed, for it was after his unction that he is said to be a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, 1 Samuel 16:18 nor indeed can it be said in what year of Saul's reign he was anointed; so that nothing can be concluded from the age David was at when he began to reign, concerning the years of the reign of Saul his predecessor; and even according to this man's own reckoning, he must reign thirteen years, one before the consent of all Israel, two after, and before his sin about the Amalekites, and ten from the time of David's unction: but that Saul must reign more years than these, and even as many as the apostle assigns to him, may be concluded, not only from his wars with many nations, and his long persecution of David before observed; but from the number of high priests which were in his time, and who were no less than three, Ahiah, Abimelech, and Abiathar, 1 Samuel 14:3 and from his being a young man when he began to reign, 1 Samuel 9:2 and yet at the end of his reign, or at his death, he had a son, Ishbosheth, that was forty years of age, 2 Samuel 2:10.

(w) T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 5. 1. & Temura, fol. 14. 2.((x) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 13. p. 37. Juchasin, fol. 11. 1. Kabbala, R. Abraham, &c. (y) T. Bab. Temura, fol. 15. 1.((z) R. Levi ben Gersom & R. Isaiah in 1 Samuel 13.1.((a) Shalsheleth Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.((b) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 9. (c) Midrash Tillim apud Broughton's Works, p. 599. Vid. Viccarsium, in Psal xcix. 6. (d) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 67. p. 453, 454.

And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of {m} forty years.

(m) In this space of forty years the time of Samuel must be counted and included with the days of Saul, for the kingdom did as it were include his administration.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 13:21. Κἀκεῖθεν] and from thence. ἐκεῖ has only here in the N.T., as also in later Greek, a temporal reference, yet so that the time is conceived as something in space stretching itself out. So, too, in the passages in Bornemann, Schol. in Luc. p. 90 f., but not in Luke 13:28.

ἔτη τεσσαράκ.] ʼΕβασίλευσε Σαοὺλ, Σαμουήλου ζῶντος, ἔτη ὀκτὼ πρὸς τοῖς δέκα· τελευτήσαντος δὲ δύο καὶ εἴκοσι, Joseph. Antt. vi. 14. 9 (according to the usual text, in which, however, καὶ εἴκοσι is spurious; see Bertheau on Judges, p. xx.). In the O.T. there is no express definition of the duration of Saul’s reign. However, the explanation (Erasmus, Beza, Calovius, Wolf, Morus, Rosenmüller, Heinrichs) that ἔτη τεσσαράκ. (which, in fact, contains the duration of ἔδωκενΣαούλ) embraces the time of Samuel and Saul together, is to be rejected as contrary to the text; and instead of it, there is to be assumed a tradition—although improbable in its contents, yet determined by the customary number 40—which Paul followed.Acts 13:21. κἀκεῖθεν: only here of time in N.T. as in later Greek. Weiss even here interprets the expression to mean that they asked for a king from him, i.e., Samuel, in his character as prophet.—ἔτη τεσσαράκοντα: not mentioned in O.T., but cf. Jos., Ant., vi., 14, 9. The period does not seem much too long for Saul’s reign when we remember that Ishbosheth was forty years old at his father’s death, when he was placed on the throne by Abner, 2 Samuel 2:10.—Σαοὺλ κ.τ.λ., cf. Paul’s description of himself in Php 3:5.21. Saul …, a man of the tribe of Benjamin] And to the speaker himself the same words applied. The forty years duration of Saul’s reign is only to be gathered indirectly from Holy Writ, but Josephus (Antiq. vi. 14. 9) expressly states that time as the length of his reign, and as Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, whom Abner set on the throne after his father’s death, was forty years old when he began to reign (2 Samuel 2:10), we may conclude that the length assigned in the text is correct.Acts 13:21. ΣαοὺλΒενιαμὶν, Saul—Benjamin) Paul had been of the same name and tribe.—ἔτη τεσσαράκοντα, forty years) Here the years of Samuel the prophet and Saul the king are brought together into one sum: for between the anointing of king Saul and his death there were not twenty, much less forty years: 1 Samuel 7:2, “While the ark abode in Kirjath Jearim—twenty years” (a considerable part of Samuel’s ministry before the reign of Saul).Verse 21. - Asked for for desired, A.V.; Kish for Cis, A.V.; for for by, A.V. The forty years assigned to Saul may very probably include the seven years and six months (2 Samuel 5:5) which elapsed before David's kingdom was established over all Israel, while the house of Saul was still in power. The first twenty or thirty years of his reign after the rescue of Jabesh-gilead are passed over in absolute silence. The narrative from 1 Samuel 13. to 31. relates only to about the last ten years of his life (for the correction of the A.V. of 1 Samuel 13:1, see 'Speaker's Commentary').
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