Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.1 Samuel 9:1-2. A mighty man of power — This seems not to be meant of his wealth or interest in his country, for Saul himself says he was of a mean family, 1 Samuel 9:21; but of his great strength, courage, and fortitude. A choice young man and goodly — Comely and personable. Higher than any of the people — A tall stature was much valued in a king in ancient times, and in the eastern countries.
And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
And the asses of Kish Saul's father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses.1 Samuel 9:3. The asses of Kish were lost — Asses were there of great price, because of the scarcity of horses, and therefore were not thought unworthy to be sought by Saul, especially in these ancient times, when simplicity, humility, and industry were in fashion among persons of quality.
And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not.
And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us.
And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.1 Samuel 9:6. A man of God and an honourable man — One of great reputation for his skill and faithfulness. Acquaintance with God and serviceableness to the kingdom of God make men truly honourable. He can show us our way — The course we should take to find the asses. He saith peradventure, because he doubted whether so great a prophet would seek, or God would grant him, a revelation concerning such mean matters; although sometimes God was pleased herein to condescend to his people, to cut off all pretence or occasion of their seeking to heathenish divination.
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?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.
And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.
(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)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.
Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here?
And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place:1 Samuel 9:12-13. He came to-day to the city — He had been travelling abroad, and was now returned to his own house in Ramah. High place — Upon the hill mentioned 1 Samuel 9:11, and near the altar which Samuel built for this use. Ye shall straightway find him — At home and at leisure. Before he go up to eat — The relics of the sacrifices. Because he doth bless the sacrifice — This was a peace-offering or a thank-offering, and the blessing of it, no doubt, consisted both of thanksgiving to God for mercies received, and of prayer to him that this sacrifice might be accepted. But perhaps it was not what was offered upon the altar, but what the people ate afterward, that he blessed. We may observe here, that by blessing of victuals in Scripture, is meant, chiefly, the giving thanks to God for the food before it be eaten. Instances of which we have in abundance in the New Testament, our Lord and his apostles being continually said to give thanks before any thing was eaten. And here it is said, He doth bless the sacrifice, and afterward they eat that be bidden — It is probable, however, that Samuel both prayed for God’s blessing on what they ate, and gave thanks that they had it to eat. We see here how ancient the custom has been of praying to God, and giving thanks at our meals, and how blameable they are that neglect it.
As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him.
And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place.1 Samuel 9:14-15. Behold, Samuel came out against them — Met them directly in his way to the sacrifice. For so God, in his providence, had disposed things, as it follows in the next words. The Lord had told Samuel in his ear — That is, secretly, perhaps by a small, still voice. In the Hebrew it is, He revealed, or uncovered the ear of Samuel.
Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,
To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.1 Samuel 9:16. To-morrow I will send thee a man, &c. — This shows still that all was done by God’s direction. Out of the hand of the Philistines — Though driven out of the country by Samuel, they were now ready, as appears by the following history, to invade it again; and being the constant and nearest enemies of the Israelites, they were most dreaded by them. And from these did Saul in some measure save them, and would have saved them much more, if his and the people’s sins had not hindered. For I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me — Though he would not hear their cry to relieve them from the oppressions of their kings, (1 Samuel 8:18,) yet he was so gracious as to make those kings instruments of their deliverance from the oppression of their cruel neighbours.
And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.1 Samuel 9:17. The Lord said unto him — Most probably, by a divine, silent suggestion, or secret notification to his mind, without any voice, 1 Samuel 9:15. This same shall reign over my people — The phraseology in the original is peculiar, the word rendered reign, implying coercion and restraint; יעצר בעמי, jangzor begnammi, He shall rule my people sternly and rigidly, with an absolute, uncontrollable power. So the eastern monarchs ruled.
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart.
And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house?1 Samuel 9:20. As for thine asses that were lost, &c. — This must have satisfied Saul that he was a prophet, as he hereby showed that he knew for what Saul came to him, though he had not told him. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? — That is, all Israel desire a king, and there is no one more fit for such an office than thyself. On all thy father’s house — That honour is designed for thee, and after thy death for thy family and posterity, if by thy sin thou dost not cut off the entail.
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?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.
And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons.1 Samuel 9:22. In the chiefest place — Thereby to raise their expectation, and to prepare them for giving that honour to Saul which his approaching dignity required.
And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee.1 Samuel 9:23-24. Bring the portion — The master of the house was wont to distribute to every one his portion. And Samuel had commanded the cook, before they sat down, not to set one dish upon the table, but to keep it till he called for it. And set it before Saul — As the principal place was given him at the feast, so the principal dish also was set before him, to express still the great regard he had to his person. Behold that which is left — Or rather, reserved. For unto this time it hath been kept, since I said, &c. — That is, when I first signified that I had invited the people to join with me in my sacrifice, and afterward to partake with me of the feast, I then ordered the cook to reserve this part for thy use.
And the cook took up the shoulder, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, Behold that which is left! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I said, I have invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day.
And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.1 Samuel 9:25. Samuel communed with Saul — Concerning the kingdom designed for him by God, and his administration of the government; upon the top of the house — For coolness in the evening, and privacy. The Vulgate adds here, Saul prepared him a bed on the top of the house, and slept, an addition which Houbigant approves, accounting very plausibly for the deficiency of the Hebrew. The Seventy also understood the passage in a similar way, translating it, And they spread a bed for Saul on the top of the house, and he slept.
And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad.
And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.1 Samuel 9:27. Samuel said, Bid the servant pass on before us — That thou and I may speak privately of the matter of the kingdom. Which Samuel hitherto endeavoured to conceal, lest he should be thought now to impose a king upon them, as before he denied one to them: and that it might appear by the lot mentioned in the next chapter, that the kingdom was given to Saul by God’s destination, and not by Samuel’s contrivance. That I may show thee the word of God — That is, a message delivered to me from God, which now I shall impart to thee.