1 Samuel 9
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.
Ch. 1 Samuel 9:1-2. Saul’s genealogy

1. Now there was a man] “The sacred historian now tracks as it were another stream of events which were to concur in working out God’s providential purpose of giving a king to Israel.” Speaker’s Commentary.

Kish, the son of Abiel] See note on 1 Samuel 14:50.

a mighty man of power] The Heb. may mean either (a) a valiant man, as in ch. 1 Samuel 16:18, or (b) a wealthy man as in Ruth 2:1. Perhaps the ideas of personal valour and family importance are both included here, as in the Sept. rendering ἀνὴρ δυνατός, ‘a powerful man.’

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.
2. whose name was Saul] Heb. Shâûl = “asked.” It occurs as the name (a) of an Edomite prince (Genesis 36:37-38); (b) of a son of Simeon (Genesis 46:10); (c) of a Kohathite in the genealogy of Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:24); (d) of Saul of Tarsus, “who is also called Paul” (Acts 7:58, &c.); and thus it became “the most distinguished name in the genealogies of the tribe of Benjamin,” in the N.T. as well as in the O.T. (Php 3:5).

a choice young man, and a goodly] Choice and goodly. Cp. 1 Samuel 10:24. Physical qualifications of stature, strength and beauty are a natural commendation for the dignity of a king, especially in warlike ages. Euripides speaks of εῖδος ἄξιον τυραννίδος, ‘form worthy to rule.’

Ajax appears in Homer (Il. III. 227) as

“Towering o’er all with head and shoulders broads;”

and Turnus, in Virgil (Aen. VII. 784),

“Out-tops the foremost chieftains by a head.”

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.
3–10. Saul’s search for his Father’s Asses

3. the asses] In the East asses are valuable property, indispensable for farm-work and travelling. The possession of a drove of asses, and several servants, indicates that Kish was a man of some substance.

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.
4, 5. Saul’s route cannot be traced with any certainty. He started from his home at Gibeah apparently in a N.W. direction (1) through “Mount Ephraim” (see 1 Samuel 1:1, note); (2) through “the land of Shalisha,” perhaps the district round Baal-shalisha (2 Kings 4:42), which lay about 12 miles N. of Lydda; (3) then turning S. he traversed “the land of Shalim” (= foxes), perhaps in the neighbourhood of Shaalabbin (Joshua 19:42) in Dan; (4) then striking E. he searched the western part of the “land of Benjamin,” till he reached (5) “the land of Zuph,” in which lay Samuel’s city Ramah. The search occupied parts of three days (1 Samuel 9:20). It seems best to suppose that the unnamed city of 1 Samuel 9:6 ff. is Ramah, for (a) the servant speaks of it as the prophet’s regular residence (1 Samuel 9:6); (b) it is natural to connect “the land of Zuph,” in which it was situated, with the name Ramathaim-Zophim (1 Samuel 1:1, note); (c) the difficulty raised by the description of Saul’s return in ch. 1 Samuel 10:2 (see note) may be solved by supposing that he did not go straight home, but was sent by the prophet out of his way in order to meet the men who were looking for him.

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.
5. take thought for us] i.e. “be anxious,” as in Matthew 6:25. Cp. 1 Samuel 10:2.

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.
6. in this city] Pointing to the town on a hill in front of them.

a man of God] See note on 1 Samuel 2:27.

he is an honourable man] Lit., the man is highly esteemed.

all that he saith, &c.] Cp. 1 Samuel 3:19.

peradventure] Derived from per, “by,” and adventura, late Latin for “that which is about to happen,” “chance,” = “perchance,” “perhaps.”

our way that we should go] Rather, our way upon which we have come: i.e. shew us which way to go to attain the object of our journey. Cp. Genesis 24:42.

It seems strange that Saul apparently knows nothing about Samuel. But the days of Samuel’s greatest activity were long past, and he had for some time been living in comparative retirement: while “up to this point Saul had been only the shy and retiring youth of the family, employed in the common work of the farm,” and knowing little of the political or religious movements of the time.

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?
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.

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.
8. the fourth part of a shekel of silver] Worth rather more than sixpence according to the present price of silver: but we have no clue to its real value in the time of Samuel.

that will I give] Sept. “And thou Shalt give it;” certainly a more natural reading, as the present would be made by the master.

(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.)
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.

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?
11–14. Inquiry for the seer

11. as they went up] As they were ascending by the ascent to the city. The Hebrew has a peculiar construction, the repetition of which is characteristic of this chapter. Cp. 1 Samuel 9:5; 1 Samuel 9:14; 1 Samuel 9:17; 1 Samuel 9:27.

young maidens going out to draw water] Cp. Genesis 24:15; Genesis 29:9 ff.; Exodus 2:16; John 4:7. The well was in the lower ground outside the city wall.

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:
12. he is before you] Before thee, addressing the speaker. It is a direction to go straight forward.

he came to day to the city] If “the city” was Ramah, Samuel may have been absent from home on one of his official circuits.

a sacrifice of the people] Possibly at the New Moon (Numbers 28:11-15) or upon some special occasion of thanksgiving.

in the high place] Here probably was the altar which Samuel had built (1 Samuel 7:17). A natural instinct among all nations chooses hill-tops as fitting places of worship. Such “high places” were frequently consecrated to the worship of Jehovah in spite of the prohibition implied in the command that there should be only one sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:11-14). That this was the case in the unsettled period of the Judges is not surprising, but even after the building of the temple the high-place worship continued, though it is condemned in the books of Kings as a blot on the character of otherwise good monarchs.

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.
13. he doth bless the sacrifice] Pronounces a blessing or thanksgiving over the sacrificial feast. Cp. Luke 9:16 with John 6:11; Matthew 26:26.

for about this time] Lit. “For as for him—now shall ye find him.” The pronoun is repeated for emphasis.

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.
14. and when they were come into the city] Rather, as they were coming into the midst of the city, behold Samuel was coming out to meet them. In the E. V. this verse apparently disagrees with 1 Samuel 9:18. The correct translation makes all clear. Saul and his servant ascend the hill. As they enter the city they meet Samuel “in the gate” (1 Samuel 9:18).

The Sept. reads “gate” here, and “city” in 1 Samuel 9:18, but the change is unnecessary.

The high place was either on the top of the hill on the slope of which the city stood, or on the adjacent hill from which the city had its name Ramathaim (“the two heights”). See note on 1 Samuel 1:1.

Against’ here = ‘opposite to,’ as in Genesis 15:10. So Tyndale in Genesis 32:1 has “Jacob saw the angels of God come against him.”

Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,
15–24. Saul entertained by Samuel

15. Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear] Lit. “had uncovered Samuel’s ear,” a figure of speech said to be derived from the practice of removing the hair or a corner of the turban from another’s ear in order to whisper a secret into it.

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.
16. out of the hand of the Philistines] See note on 1 Samuel 7:13.

I have looked upon my people] Sept. “I have looked upon the affliction, of my people.” The word might easily have fallen out of the Hebrew text. Cp. Exodus 3:7; Exodus 3:9.

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.
17. the Lord said unto him] Lit. Jehovah answered him; answered his mental question. Is this the man? 1 Samuel 9:17 is in close connexion with 1 Samuel 9:14, 1 Samuel 9:15-16 forming a parenthesis.

shall reign over my people] Lit. “shall restrain my people.” A peculiar word, contrasting the restraints of a settled government with the license of the time in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21:25).

Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
18. in the gate] Heb. “In the midst of the gate,” i.e. the gateway, where they would naturally halt to inquire for the Seer’s house.

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.
19. go up before me] Addressed to Saul only. The verb is in the singular. Saul is to precede Samuel as a mark of honour.

all that is in thine heart] Thine inmost thoughts and aspirations; not merely about the asses, which Samuel tells him at once. May we not suppose that Saul at his plough like Joan of Arc with her flock had been brooding over the oppression of his country, and cherishing a vague desire to liberate it?

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?
20. three days ago] Heb. “to-day three days” = “the day before yesterday,” according to the inclusive Hebrew reckoning.

set not thy mind on them] “Set not thy heart on them.” Be not anxious for them.

on whom is all the desire of Israel] Rather, For whom are all the desirable things of Israel? are they not for thee and for all thy father’s house? i.e. ‘Care not for these asses for they are found: and even if they were lost, what matter? is not the best that Israel has to give at thy service?’

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?
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.

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.
22. the parlour] Or, the chamber, a room at the high place specially used for sacrificial feasts. In later times the word was applied to the “chambers” in the precincts of the temple used for the residence of priests and Levites, and for sacred purposes in general.

made them sit in the chiefest place] Lit. “gave them a place at the head of those who were invited.” “Chiefest” is an instance of the double superlatives common in the E. V. Cp. “most highest.” See the Bible Word Book.

about thirty persons] Only the more distinguished citizens would be specially invited to the chamber. The rest would feast in the open air outside.

And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee.
23. the portion] Cp. 1 Samuel 1:4.

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.
24. And the cook took up the shoulder] Rather, And the cook heaved the leg. The right leg was the priest’s portion (Leviticus 7:32), which Samuel had received. Its dedication to God was indicated by a solemn “heaving” or elevation “before the Lord,” to which allusion is here made. Cp. Numbers 18:26 ff. The reservation of the leg for Saul was a mark of honour. Josephus calls it “a royal portion.”

And [Samuel] said] The E. V. fellows the Sept. and Vulg. in supplying Samuel which is not in the Heb. But the words may possibly be the cook’s. See below.

Behold that which is left, &c.] Or, Behold that which was reserved is set before thee, eat.

for unto this time, &c.] The Heb. text cannot be thus translated and is most likely corrupt, but the sense intended appears to be “For against the set time hath it been kept for thee of which I said, I have invited the people:” or, if the words are the cook’s, “of which Samuel said.” In either case the point is that Saul’s arrival was expected and provision made for it beforehand.

The Sept. renders “Because for a testimony (this is a common mistranslation of the word meaning “set time”) hath it been reserved for thee apart from the rest; cut it up.” The Vulg. “Because it was kept on purpose for thee when I invited the people.”

And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.
25–10:8. Saul anointed by Samuel and promised three signs in confirmation of his call

25, 26. Samuel communed with Saul] Preparing him for the announcement which he was going to make next morning. On the housetop they would be open to the public view so that all could see the honour Samuel shewed his guest, while they would have opportunity for undisturbed conversation. The Sept. however reads, “And he came down from the high place into the city: and they prepared a bed for Saul on the housetop and he slept. And it came to pass, &c.” This may perhaps represent the original text, for it seems strange to say first “they arose early,” and then proceed to describe Samuel’s calling Saul. The flat roof of an oriental house is still “resorted to for business, relaxation, or for sleeping … During a large part of he year it is the most agreeable place about the establishment, especially in the morning and evening.” See Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 39 ff.

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.
26. about the spring of the day] “spring,” i.e. “rising” of the day = dawn. Cp. “dayspring,” Luke 1:78.

called Saul] Rather, “called to Saul.” Samuel had slept in the house, Saul on the roof.

abroad] In the language of the E. V. ‘abroad’ means simply ‘out of the house.’

27 a while] Now. The E. V. follows the Vulg. paulisper.

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.
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