Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.The genealogy of Kish, 1 Samuel 9:1. Saul’s person, 1 Samuel 9:2. He is sent to seek his father’s asses, 1 Samuel 9:3. He travels through the country, and finds them not, 1 Samuel 9:4,5. By the counsel of his servant, 1 Samuel 9:6-10, and the direction of young maidens, 1 Samuel 9:11-14, according to God’s revelation, 1 Samuel 9:15-17, he cometh to Samuel, who meets him; entertaineth him at the feast; telleth him the asses were found, and he should be king, 1 Samuel 9:18-20. Saul’s amazement, 1 Samuel 9:21. Samuel gives him the highest place, and a peculiar dish; eats with him, 1 Samuel 9:22-24. After secret communication leadeth him on the way; the servant goes before; Saul stands still with Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:25-27.
Whose name was Kish.
Object. His name was Ner, 1 Chronicles 8:33 9:39.
Answ. Either his father had two names, as was usual among the Hebrews; or Kish was really his father that begot him; and Ner, the brother of Kish, 1 Samuel 14:51 1 Chronicles 9:36, is called his father, because, upon the death of Kish, he took the care of his education, and brought him up as his own son.
A Benjamite, Heb. the son of a man of Jemini, i.e. either of Benjamin, or of a place, or of a man, called Jemini.
A mighty man of power, i.e. a man of great courage and strength; which tends to Saul’s commendation: otherwise, a man of great wealth. But that seems confuted by Saul’s words below, 1 Samuel 9:21, and the people’s contempt of him, 1 Samuel 10:27.
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 a goodly, Heb. good, i.e. comely and personable, as that word is used, Genesis 6:2; as evil is put for deformed, Genesis 41:19.
He was higher than any of the people: a tall stature was much valued in a king in ancient times, and in the eastern countries.
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.Which were there of great price and use, Judges 10:4 Judges 12:14, because of the scarcity of horses, Deu 17:16, and therefore not held unworthy of Saul’s seeking, at least in those 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.Mount Ephraim; a part of the tribe of Ephraim, which bordered upon Benjamin; and therefore they could soon pass out of the one into the other, and back again, as they saw cause.
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.The land of Ziph; in which was Ramah, called also
Ramah, or Ramathaim-zephim, the place of Samuel’s birth and habitation, 1 Samuel 1:1 7:17.
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.A man of God; a prophet, as that phrase is used, 1 Samuel 2:27 Joshua 14:6 Judges 13:6.
An honourable man; one of great reputation for his skill and faithfulness.
All that he saith cometh surely to pass; his declaration of things secret or future are always certain, and confirmed by the event.
Our way that we should go; the course we should take to find the asses. He saith
peradventure, because be 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 seeking to witches or heathenish divination. See 1 Kings 14:2 2 Kings 1:3.
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?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.
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.The fourth part of a shekel of silver was near a groat; which, though now it may seem a contemptible gift, yet in those ancient times it was certainly of far more worth, and better accepted than now it would be, when the covetousness, and pride, and luxury of men have raised their expectations and desires to far greater things.
(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.)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.
Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?Going out, i.e. out of the city, and down to the bottom of the hill, where the fountain or river was.
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:He came today to the city: she so speaks, though this was his own constant habitation, because he had been travelling abroad, possibly in his circuit, described 1 Samuel 7:16,17, and was now returned to his own house in Ramah, as he used to do, and so she implies they come in a good and seasonable time to meet with him.
There is a sacrifice, otherwise feast; but it seems to be understood of a sacrifice. First, Because so the Hebrew word signifies most properly, and most frequently. Secondly, Because this eating was in the high place, which was the common place for sacrifices, but not for private feasts. Thirdly, The prophet’s presence was not so necessary for a feast as for a sacrifice. Of the people; so this sacrifice is called, because this was a public solemnity, and possibly the new moon, when the people brought several sacrifices, to wit, peace-offerings, whereof part fell to the offerer’s share; and of those parts united together, they here made a common feast; not without Samuel’s direction, who being forewarned the day before by God, of Saul’s coming, made this feast more solemn for his entertainment, 1 Samuel 9:22-24.
In the high place; upon the hill mentioned 1 Samuel 9:11, and near the altar which Samuel built for this kind of use, 1 Samuel 7:17, by Divine dispensation, as was there noted; otherwise to sacrifice in high places was forbidden by the law, after the building of the tabernacle.
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.Ye shall straightway find him, at home and at leisure. To eat the relics of the sacrifices, according to the manner.
He doth bless the sacrifice, i.e. either, first, The meat left of the sacrifice, which is the matter of the following feast; as this is commonly understood. Or rather, secondly, The sacrifice itself. For what reason is there to depart from the proper signification of the word? For that the sacrifices under the law were accompanied with confession, or petition, or thanksgiving, may be gathered from divers places of Scripture, as Leviticus 5:5 16:21 Numbers 5:7 Luke 1:10. And who so proper to perform this work as Samuel, an eminent prophet? And the blessing of this sacrifice seems to have consisted both of thanksgiving, this being a thank-offering, and of prayer to God for his acceptance, Psalm 20:3.
Now therefore get you up with speed, lest he be set down before you come.
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.Samuel came out; out of his own house, just as they passed by.
Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,In his ear, i.e. secretly. A day before Saul came, that he might prepare himself for Saul’s reception.
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.I will send thee a man; I will by my secret providence so dispose of matters, and of the hearts of Saul and his father, that Saul shall come to thee, though with another design.
That he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines; for though they were now most pressed with the Ammonites, as we read, 1 Samuel 12:12, yet they looked upon these as a land-flood, which they hoped would be soon up, and soon down again; but the Philistines, their constant, inveterate, and nearest enemies, they most dreaded. And from these Saul did in some measure save them, and should have saved them much more, if his and the people’s manifold sins had not hindered it.
I have looked on my people, to wit, with compassion and resolution to help them; a usual synecdoche.
Their cry, i.e. their earnest prayers to me for help.
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.Unto him, in his ear, as before 1 Samuel 9:15, by secret instinct, so as none but he could hear it.
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.In the gate; the gate, either, first, Of Samuel’s house. But he was come out thence before, 1 Samuel 9:14. Or rather, secondly, Of the city; for the word gate being put by itself, according to reason and common use, must be understood of the most eminent in its kind, which the gate of the city is. And through this gate Samuel seems now to have been passing to go to the high place, which probably was without the city; and there he makes a stand, to hear what these persons now approaching to him were about to speak.
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.Either all that thou desirest to know, as concerning the asses; or rather, the secret thoughts of thy heart, or such actions as none know but God and thy own heart; that so thou mayst be assured of the truth and certainty of that which I am to acquaint thee with. And this might be done, though it be not here particularly related.
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?Set not thy mind on them; trouble not thy mind about them.
On whom is all the desire of Israel? who is he that shall be that thing or person which all Israel desire to have, to wit, a king?
Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house? that honour is designed for thee, and, after thy death, for thy family or 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?The smallest of the tribes; for so indeed this was, having been all cut off except six hundred, Jud 20, which blow they never recovered, and therefore they were scarce reckoned as an entire tribe, but only as a remnant or fragment 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 they, together with Judah, were accounted but one tribe, as 1 Kings 11:32, &c.
The least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin, i.e. one of the least; obscure and inconsiderable, in comparison of divers others; whence it may seem that Saul’s family was not so noble and wealthy as some imagine: See Poole "1 Samuel 9:1".
Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? why dost thou feed me with vain hopes of the kingdom?
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.He honoured his servant for Saul’s sake; thereby both giving all the guests occasion to think how great that person was, or should be, whose very servant was advanced above the chief persons of the city, who were doubtless present upon this occasion; and showing how far himself was from envying Saul that honour and power, which was to be translated from him to Saul.
Made them sit in the chiefest place; thereby to raise all 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.Or, which I appointed or disposed to thee, i.e. which I bade the reserve for this 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.The shoulder, to wit, the left shoulder, for the right shoulder was the priest’s, Leviticus 7:32,33. This he gives him, either, first, As the best and noblest part of the remainders of the sacrifice; the best parts being usually given by the master of the feast to such guests as were most honourable, or best beloved, as Genesis 43:34. Or, secondly, As a secret symbol or sign of that burden which was to be laid upon Saul, and of that strength which was necessary for the bearing of it; the shoulder being both the seat of burdens, and the subject of strength.
That which was upon it; something which the cook by Samuel’s order was to put upon it when it was drest, either for ornament, or in the nature of a sauce.
That which is left, to wit, left of the sacrifice; but so all or most of the rest of their provisions were left: or rather, reserved, or laid by, by my order, for thy eating, when the rest of the meat was sent up and disposed of as the cook pleased.
Unto this time; till thou shouldst come hither, and sit down here; whereby thou mayst know that thy coming hither was not unknown to me, and was designed by God for a higher purpose.
Since I said, to wit, to the cook, who was before mentioned, as the person to whose care this was committed.
I have invited the people, i.e. I have invited or designed some persons, for whom I reserve this part. For since the word people is not here taken properly, but for some particular persons of the people, which were not in all above thirty, 1 Samuel 9:22, why may not the same word be understood of two or three persons whom Samuel specially invited, to wit, Saul and his servant? So some learned men understand this word people of three men, 2 Kings 18:36. And they further note, that in the Arabic, and Ethiopic, and Persian languages, (all which are near akin, both to themselves and to the Hebrew, and do ofttimes communicate their signification each to other,) the word that signifies people, is oft used for some few particular persons. Or if the word people be meant of the chief of the people, mentioned above, 1 Samuel 9:22, then Samuel was the principal author of this sacrifice and feast, and it was not a sacrifice of the people, as it is rendered, 1 Samuel 9:12, but a sacrifice and feast made by Samuel for the people, as it should be rendered there; and the sense is, When I first spake or sent to the cook, that I had invited the people, first to join with me in my sacrifice, and then to partake with me of the feast, I then bade him reserve this part for thy use.
And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.Samuel communed with Saul, concerning the kingdom designed to him by God, and his duty to expect it patiently, till God actually called him to it; and to administer it piously, and justly, and valiantly.
The top of the house was flat, after the manner, Deu 22:8; and so fit for walking, and for secret prayers, Daniel 6:10 Acts 10:9, or any private and familiar discourses among friends.
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.Samuel called Saul to the top of the house a second time, to impart something more to him.
That I may send thee away; prepare thyself for thy departure and journey.
He and Samuel, abroad; Samuel accompanying Saul part of his way.
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.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.
The word of God, i.e. a message delivered to me from God, which now I shall impart to thee.