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.
Verse 1. - A man... whose name was Kish. The genealogy of Saul is rendered obscure by the Hebrew custom of abbreviating such records by the omission of names. The family documents were no doubt kept in full, but when transcribed, as here and in the First Book of Chronicles, only a summary is given, and as the omitted links are not always the same, great difficulty is necessarily the result. The most satisfactory genealogy is that given by Schaff from a comparison of Genesis 46:21; 1 Samuel 9:1; 1 Samuel 14:51; 1 Chronicles 7:6-8; 1 Chronicles 8:29-33; 1 Chronicles 9:35-39, and is as follows:
3. Aphish, perhaps same as Abiah;
5. Zeror, or Zur;
Very many links, however, are omitted, among whom must be placed Matri, mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:21; and Jehiel, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:35 (and see ibid. 8:29). He is described as the first settler and coloniser of Gibeon, and as husband of Maachah, a daughter or granddaughter of Caleb. The spelling of his name with an ain forbids our confounding him with Abiel, as is done by Schaff and most commentators, and whom, apparently, he preceded by many generations. In the two places referred to above a large family of sons is ascribed to him; but as, first of all, the lists do not agree, as, moreover, they are said to dwell with their brethren in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 8:32), and as Ner, the father of Kish, is mentioned in the second list, it is pretty certain that we are not to regard, them as his actual children, but as the leading names among his posterity. The fearful cruelty recorded in Judges 20:48 may well account for the hopeless entanglement of Benjamite genealogies. An ancestor of Saul must, of course, have been among the 600 who escaped to the rock Rimmon, but he could have saved only his own life. A mighty man of power. Really, "of wealth." Saul, like David afterwards, was sprung from an affluent family, whose landed property was situated at Gibeah, about four miles north of Jerusalem, afterwards known as Gibeah of Saul.
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.
Verse 2. - He had a son, whose name was Saul. I.e. asked, a name usually given to a firstborn son. A choice young man. This is a double translation of the Hebrew word, and consequently one half or other must be wrong. It may either be a participle, elect or choice, and is so rendered by the Syriac and Vulgate; or an adjective, young, the rendering of the Chaldee, and virtually of the Septuagint, which gives well grown. This is the preferable translation; for the word constantly occurs coupled with virgin (Deuteronomy 32:25; Isaiah 62:5, etc.), for one in the full flower of manhood. Saul could not, therefore, have been the runner of 1 Samuel 5:12, though, as we read that Jonathan his son was a grown man two or three years afterwards (1 Samuel 13:2), he must have been at least thirty-five years of age, after making allowance for the early period at which the Jews married. His noble appearance and gigantic stature were well fitted to impress and overawe a semi-barbarous people, who were better able to form an estimate of his physical qualities than of the high mental and moral gifts possessed by Samuel.
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.
Verse 3. - The asses of Kish...were lost. So strangely is the trivial ever united with events most solemn and weighty, that Saul set out upon this journey, in which he was to find a kingdom, with no other object than to look for some lost asses - Hebrew, "she-asses." As used for riding (Judges 10:4), the ass was valuable, and as these were probably kept for breeding, they were allowed more liberty than the males, and so strayed away.
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.
Verse 4. - Mount Ephraim. Though Gibeah, Saul's home, was in Benjamin, it was situated on this long mountain range (1 Samuel 1:1). The land of Shalisha. I.e. Three-land, and probably, therefore, the region round Baal-shalisha. It takes its name from the three valleys which there converge in the great Wady Kurawa, The land of Shalim. I.e. of jackals; probably the same as the land of Shual, also = jackal-land (1 Samuel 13:17). The very name shows that it was a wild, uninhabited region. The derivation hollow-land is untenable.
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.
Verse 5. - The land of Zuph. See on 1 Samuel 1:1. This Levite ancestor of Samuel had probably occupied and colonised this district after the disasters recorded in the last chapters of the Book of Judges. Lest my father, etc. A mark of good feeling on Saul's part, and a proof of the affectionate terms on which Kish and his family lived.
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.
Verse 6. - In this city. Probably Ramathaim-zophim, i.e. Ramah, Samuel's dwelling place and property. Confessedly, however, Saul's route hither and thither in search of lost cattle is very obscure, and it is difficult to reconcile this identification with the statement in 1 Samuel 10:2, that Rachel's sepulchre lay on the route between this city and Gibeah of Saul. Nevertheless, Ramah was certainly in the land of Zuph, whence too it took its longer name (see on 1 Samuel 1:1); and it is remarkable that Jeremiah (1 Samuel 31:15) describes Rachel's weeping as being heard in Ramah. It seems extraordinary that Saul should have known nothing of Israel's chief ruler, and that his servant was acquainted with him only in his lower capacity as a person to be consulted in private difficulties. He describes him, nevertheless, as an honourable man, or, more literally, an honoured man, one held in honour.
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?
Verse 7. - The bread is spent in our vessels. In the East a great man is always approached with a present, and offerings of food were no doubt the most usual gifts (1 Samuel 16:20). Those made to the false prophets are contemptuously described in Ezekiel 13:19 as "handfuls of barley and pieces of bread." A present. The word is rare, and apparently is the technical name for a fee of this kind, half payment and half gift.
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.
Verse 8. - The fourth part of a shekel. Apparently the shekel, roughly stamped, was divided into four quarters by a cross, and broken when needed. What was its proportionate value in Samuel's days we cannot tell, for silver was rare; but in size it would be somewhat bigger than a sixpence, and would be a very large fee, while the bread would have been a small one. It very well marks the eagerness of the servant that he is ready to part with the considerable sum of money in his possession in order to consult the seer. The whole conversation is given in a very lively and natural manner.
(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.)
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.
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?
Verses 11, 12. - As they went up. Ramah was situated on a double hill, whence its name Ramathaim (1 Samuel 1:1). As, then, they go up the ascent - so the Hebrew, literally - they meet maidens on the way to the well, and ask them, Is the seer - the roeh - here? They answer, Yes; behold, he is before you. I.e. they are to go straightforward, and farther on in the town they will find him. He came today to the city. As Saul's servant knew that this city was Samuel's abode, the words must mean that he had just returned from visiting one of those places, probably, to which he was in the habit of going as judge. From 1 Samuel 16:2 we learn that Samuel went occasionally even to distant places to perform priestly duties. In the high place. Hebrew, Bamah. Samuel, we read, had built an altar at Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17), and probably the present sacrifice was to be offered upon it. Such altars, and the worship of the true God upon high places, were at this time recognised as right, and were, in fact, in accordance with, and were even the remains of, the old patriarchal religion. But gradually they were condemned, partly because of the glowing sanctity of the temple, but chiefly because of the tendency of religious rites celebrated in such places to degenerate into nature-worship, and orgies such as the heathen were in the habit of holding on the tops of mountains and hills. We thus find in the Bible an illustration of the principle that rites and ceremonies (as not being of the essentials of religion) may be changed, or even abolished, if they are abused, or lead on to evil consequences.
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:
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.
Verse 13. - As soon as... straightway. This is too forcible a rendering of the Hebrew particles, and makes the talk of these water-carriers even more garrulous than it is in the original. The latter word should be omitted, as they simply say that on entering the city Saul and his servant would easily find Samuel; for he would not go up to the feast till all was ready, nor would the people begin till he had arrived, because it was his office to bless the sacrificial banquet. The pious custom of asking a blessing on meals, our Lord's "giving of thanks," is inherited by us from the Jews.
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.
Verse 14. - When they were come into. More correctly, "As they were going into the city." This agrees with what is said in ver. 18, that Saul and Samuel met in the gateway. As Ramah occupied two hills, the Bamah would be on the summit of one, while the city probably nestled between them.
Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,
Verse 15. - Now Jehovah had told Samuel in his ear. Literally, "had uncovered his ear," as in Ruth 4:4; 2 Samuel 7:27. The phrase is taken from the pushing aside of the headdress in order to whisper, and therefore means that Jehovah had secretly told Samuel.
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.
Verse 16. - That he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines. Though Samuel had lightened the yoke of the Philistines by his victory at Mizpah, yet he had by no means altogether broken their power. It is so constantly the habit of the historical books of the Bible to include the distant and ultimate results of an act in their account of it, that we must not conclude that what is said in 1 Samuel 7:13-15 was the immediate consequence of Samuel's victory. Especially, when it said that "the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel," it is plain that Soul's successful wars are included in the writer's summary of events, inasmuch as Samuel's life was prolonged until nearly the close of that monarch's reign. The words further show that Soul's office was essentially military, though this is too much emphasised in the A.V., which renders by captain a word which really means prince, chief. Saul, as a Benjamite, belonged to the bravest and most warlike tribe of Israel, and one whose country was the seat of perpetual combat with the Philistines. Their cry is come unto me. Plainly, therefore, Israel was again suffering from Philistine domination.
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.
Verse 17. - Jehovah said unto him. Literally, "Jehovah answered him." When Samuel saw the young stranger, struck by his towering height, he wondered within himself whether this were the destined hero who was to win freedom for Israel. The affirmation, therefore, came in answer to the question asked by his heart. The same shall reign over my people. More literally, the margin, "restrain in," i.e. coerce, control. The A.V., preferring as usual a general to an exact rendering, loses this plain indication that Soul's would be a strict and stern rule.
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
Verse 18. - In the gate. The same preposition is used here as that translated "into the city" in ver. 14. The contradiction which many commentators suppose that they find between the two verses arises from their not remembering that prepositions constantly lose their original meaning. Literally the preposition means in the middle, but its common meaning is simply within. So with us immediately has lost all reference to the middle, though derived from that word, and signifies directly, at once. Saul, then, and his servant were just going (it is a present participle) within the city when they meet Samuel coming out, and accost him in the very portal.
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.
Verses 19, 20. - Go up before me. Addressed in the singular to Saul, to whom, as the future king, Samuel pays every mark of honour. The next words, Ye shall eat, include Soul's servant. I will tell thee all, etc. Intended not merely to set Soul's mind at rest, but also to prepare him for the great news he was to hear. So, too, the information that the asses were found, given to him before he had even hinted at the object of his visit, would convince him of the reality of Samuel's prophetic powers. On whom is all the desire of Israel? Rather, "To whom belongs all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee, and for thy father's house?" The words were intended to indicate to Saul, though in an obscure manner, that the supreme power in Israel would be his. Why trouble about she-asses? They might be beautiful, and a valuable property for a husbandman;but he was about to become a king, to whom would belong everything that was best and most precious.
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?
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?
Verse 21. - Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? Though Samuel's words contained the promise of supreme power, - for to whom less than a king could all that was desirable in Israel belong? - yet Saul probably regarded them as a high-flown compliment, such as Orientals love to use, and gave a modest and proper answer. Benjamin, already the smallest tribe, had been so crushed that its power must have been very small, and Soul's house, though opulent, was not a leading one; how then could one of its members expect so high a dignity? For families of the tribe of Benjamin the Hebrew has "tribes," probably owing to some confusion with the words "tribes of Israel" just before.
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.
Verses 22, 23. - Into the parlour. Strictly the cell or room attached to the chapel of the high place, now used as the guest chamber, wherein the thirty chief men, who came as invited guests, were to dine. The rest of the people would be in the open air. There Samuel not only placed Saul in the seat of honour, but also his servant, as representing the king's officers of state, and commanded the cook to set before him a portion that had been reserved. This was the shoulder; but whether it was the left shoulder, of which the laity might eat, or the right shoulder, which was sacred, as belonging to the priest (Leviticus 7:32), is not mentioned. If the latter, it was Samuel s own share, and he may by his prophetic authority have assigned it to Saul, in token that the priesthood would be subject to the royal power. Be this, however, as it may, it was the portion of honour, and it seems that Samuel, on receiving intimation the previous day of Saul's visit (ver. 6), had given orders that it should be carefully reserved for him (ver. 24). He now orders it to be set before Saul, with that which was upon it, i.e. all the flesh and the fat not appointed to be burnt upon the altar.
And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee.
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.
Verse 24. - And Samuel said. Samuel's name is not given in the Hebrew, and though inserted by the Septuagint and Vulgate, it is so only by a manifest error. The Syriac and Chaldee, like the Hebrew, make the cook the speaker. The right translation is, "And the cook lifted up the shoulder with that which was upon it, and set it before Saul, and said, 'Behold, that which hath been reserved is set (a participle, and not the imperative) before thee; eat, for it hath been kept for thee unto the appointed time of which he (i.e. Samuel) spake, saying, I have invited the people. The word translated in the A.V. since I said is one which means saying, and nothing else; and as what goes before contains no verb to which saying can refer, it is plain that there is an ellipse. But if the cook be the speaker, the meaning is plain, as follows: - When on the previous day the revelation was made to Samuel that Israel's future king would present himself on the morrow, the prophet at once made preparations to receive him with due solemnity, and for this purpose arranged a sacrifice, and invited thirty of the chief citizens of Ramah to assemble at the high place, and sit at the banquet with him. And then it was, when telling the cook of his invitation, that he gave orders that the portion of honour should be carefully reserved, to be set at the fittingtime before the stranger. The chat of the cook is entirely after the manner of ancient times, and would show Saul how completely his coming had been foreseen and provided for.
And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.
Verse 25. - When the feast was over they went down from the high place, and, having entered the city, proceeded to Samuel's dwelling, where he communed with Saul upon the top of the house. The Septuagint has a very probable reading, namely, "And they spread a bed for Saul upon the roof, and he lay down;" but the Syriac and Chaldee agree with the Hebrew. Without communicating to Saul that he was to be king, which was not revealed to him till the next day (1 Samuel 10:1), Samuel might be anxious to impress on Saul's mind the great principles of the theocratic government, and also the nature of the remedies necessary for Israel's recovery from its present misery.
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.
Verses 26, 27. - It came to pass about the spring of the day. This is not a separate act from they arose early; for the A.V. is wrong in translating the next clause, "Samuel called Saul to the top of the house." Saul had slept there, and, wearied out with his long wanderings and the excitement of the previous day, was fast asleep when Samuel came to him. The Hebrew is, "And they rose early; for at the spring of the day Samuel called to Saul upon the house top, saying," etc. And no sooner had Saul risen than they started upon his journey home, and as soon as they had left the city, at some fitting spot, Samuel bade the servant go forward, and as soon as he and Saul were alone he spake unto him the word of God. And by that Divine word he who had left his father's house in search of lost asses was summoned to a post which, if one of the greatest dignity, was full also of danger, and burdened with solemn responsibility. And while on the human side Saul proved not unworthy of a royal crown, in his relation towards God he failed, because he let self-will and earthly policy prevail in his heart over obedience and trust in God.
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.