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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 10

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



There were three phases in God’s appointment of Saul as king of Israel, each one of them absolutely necessary.

(1) There was the private, even secret, anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 10:1-8).

(2) Then there was a public presentation of Saul as king, confirmed by the casting of lots, which was opposed by some of the people.

(3) The Divinely-inspired victory of Saul over the Ammonites propelled him into the universal acceptance of his kingship by all Israel.

The first of these three phases prepared Saul himself for the assignment, especially by his being supernaturally endowed by an infusion of God’s Spirit, similar to the manner in which Samson was so endowed.

The second of these phases prepared a general assembly of the people to receive him, via the casting of lots and the presentation of Saul publicly.

The third phase prepared all Israel to accept Saul as king; and this was accomplished by the great victory over the Ammonites. We would like to read from any critic just how any one of these phases could possibly have been omitted.

We find no agreement whatever with the critical nonsense about “early and late sources.” “contradictions,” and “interpolations.” As a universally respected critic (Ewald) stated it (as quoted by Keil), “We find that there is nothing but the simple truth in the whole course of this narrative.”(F1)


“Then Samuel took a viol of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord, and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about.”

“Has not the Lord anointed you?” This was essentially an action of God, because Samuel did it in obedience to God’s specific commandment. This was an irrevocable action; and from that time forward, Saul was “the Lord’s anointed,” even after he had been rejected as king of Israel.

“And kissed him” “This is nowhere an act expressive of loyalty to a king, and it should be understood as indicating Samuel’s affection for Saul.”(F2)

“The anointing of kings was not peculiarly an Israelite custom. The Tel el-Amarna Letters indicate that both in Egypt and in Canaan (prior to the Conquest) kings were regularly anointed.”(F3)

Verses 1-8


“And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, `The asses which you went to seek are found, and your father has ceased to care about the asses and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son”’? Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines; and there, as you come to the city, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and shall be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever your hands find to do, for God is with you. And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I am coming to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”


Some speak of these “three signs”; but there are more than that.

(1) He would meet two men near the tomb of Rachel who would give him word that the asses had been found.

(2) He would meet three men at the oak of Tabor going up to worship at Bethel; and they would give him two loaves of bread.

(3) He would meet a band of prophets, playing instruments of music and prophesying.

(4) The Spirit of the Lord would come mightily upon Saul, and

(5) Saul himself would prophesy.

Of course, the most important of these was No. 4. Saul’s possession of the Spirit of God, evidently in the same manner as in the various Judges, was precisely the event that prepared him to be king of Israel.

“You will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb” The exact location of Rachel’s tomb is disputed; but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference where it was. Saul certainly knew where it was, and that is where the two men met him. That is the significant information given here. As R. P. Smith wrote, “The whole geography of Saul’s wanderings is very obscure.”(F4)

“They will give you two loaves of bread” This was a providential supply of provisions for Saul and his servant, because they had already exhausted their food supply (1 Samuel 9:7). There were two things indicated by this gift of bread which evidently had been intended as a sacrifice at Bethel. (1) It was a token of the tribute which all Israel would pay to their king, and (2) it indicated that, “Henceforth Saul would share with the sanctuary the offerings of the people.”(F5)

“You shall come to Gibeath-elohim” “Usually abbreviated as `Gibeah.’“(F6) This was the home town of Saul.

“A garrison of the Philistines” “The word here rendered `garrison’ is thus translated in 1 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 8:6; 1 Chronicles 11:16; 1 Chronicles 18:13; and 2 Chronicles 17:2; it is translated `officer’ in 1 Kings 4:19, and `pillar’ in Genesis 19:26.”(F7) All of these different meanings have found scholarly advocates who would variously render the word in this passage. G. B. Caird makes an excellent argument why it should be translated, “a Philistine officer” in this passage. If this is correct, then the passage in 1 Samuel 13:3 would mean that Jonathan assassinated a Philistine officer and not that he defeated “a garrison.” Of course, with God’s aid, he might have done either.

“You shall be turned into another man” This would follow upon the coming of the Spirit of God mightily upon Saul. Just as Samson was endowed with supernatural strength, so Saul was endowed with all of the qualities that fitted him to be king of Israel, a mighty leader of armies, and a ruler who would rule Israel for forty years. “Thus, Saul would be the true successor of the judges, all of whom were thus directed by God’s Spirit.”(F8)

1 Samuel 10:8 is branded as an outright interpolation having no place whatever in this narrative.(F9) Payne understood the verse as a prophetic reference to 1 Samuel 13:7-14, where “Gilgal is mentioned as Saul’s ultimate destination and the place of his failure.”(F10) This writer does not believe that either of these viewpoints is necessarily correct. There is a genuine possibility that the reference is here made to a trip to Gilgal by Samuel (he went there regularly) and that he set up an appointment here with Saul to further instruct him in the kingship. Of course, we know nothing of any such occasion; but there are a thousand other things that happened at that time of which we are totally uninformed. This account is abbreviated.

Verses 9-13


“When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all these signs came to pass that day. When they came to Gibeah, behold a band of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied among them. And when all who knew him before saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul among the prophets”? And a man of the place answered, And who is their father”? Therefore, it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets”? When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place.”

“Is Saul among the prophets?” Some scholars view the remarks of the citizens of Saul’s home town as complimentary, and they might well have been so intended. However, it seems to this writer that there is pure derision and bitter criticism in what they said. The key to this impression is that question asked by one of the men of that place, “And who is their father”? This is a sneering remark carrying the implication that the band of prophets was a group of nobodies and that Saul, the son of a wealthy and respectable citizen had lowered himself socially by associating with them. Payne received the same impression. “The twin proverbs were plainly discourteous to Saul. What was he, a respectable citizen, doing in the presence of these roaming madmen of unknown and dubious antecedents”?(F11)

“He came to the high place” John Willis recommended that this should be translated, “He went home, as in the New English Bible and in the Jerusalem Bible.”(F12) Certainly the conversation with Saul’s uncle would seem to have taken place in a residence.

Verses 14-16


“Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go”? And he said, “To seek the asses; and when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” And Saul’s uncle said, “Pray tell me what Samuel said to you.” And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the asses had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.”

The manner in which the name of Samuel is mentioned so casually in this passage presupposes that the identity of this great leader was well known in Saul’s family. Therefore what is often alleged regarding Saul’s not ever having heard of him is in error. The thing, of which Saul was ignorant as they approached Ramah was the fact of Samuel’s being in the city on that particular day.

Saul’s refusal to say anything about the kingdom and his anointing by Samuel was probably due to the instructions the prophet had given him.

Verses 17-19


“Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah; and he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, `I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But this day you have rejected your God, who saves you from your calamities, and your distresses; and you have said, `No! but set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”

This general assembly of the people was the occasion chosen by Samuel upon which God would indicate to all the people his choice of the one who would be their king. This procedure was absolutely necessary. God had already made known His choice to Samuel and to Saul, but the people of Israel had no knowledge of it.

“To the Lord at Mizpah” These words indicate that some special presence of God was then manifested at Mizpah. “Possibly the High Priest had been summonsed by Samuel to appear there with the Urim and Thummim.”(F13)

The purpose of this gathering was to confirm in the presence of all Israel the man whom God had selected to be their king.

This event simply runs the critical community wild. “Thenius and DeWette declare this account to be `incompatible’ with the previous chapter, and find here `two different accounts’ of Saul’s selection.”(F14) Some have even accused Samuel of engineering a fraudulent casting of lots in the incident recorded here.

C. F. Keil explains why such charges are made. “Such arguments could only be used by critics who deny not only the inspiration of the prophets, but all influence of the living God upon the free actions of men.”(F15)

“Now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes” This was the procedure for the casting of lots, recalling what Israel did upon another occasion following the battle of Ai when Achan was discovered by lot (Joshua 7:16). Other examples of casting lot are in the Book of Jonah in which the mariners found the guilty Jonah and the example in the Book of Acts, in which the apostles selected a successor to Judas (Acts 1:26).

Verses 20-24


“Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot; finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him he could not be found. So they inquired again of the Lord, “Did the man come hither”? and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” Then they ran and fetched him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted. “Long live the king”!”

There is proof in this narrative of the prior anointing of Saul, otherwise there could have been no motivation whatever for Saul’s hiding himself in the baggage.

That the Lord indeed was responsible for such an action as casting lots is affirmed in the Bible:

The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord

- Proverbs 16:33.

(Note what is said in 1 Samuel 10:22.)

“He has hidden himself among the baggage” An unbelieving comment on this is that of G. B. Caird, “There is no reason why Saul should have hidden himself among the baggage.”(F16) This is exactly the kind of blindness that results from the false theory of “two different sources.” The true explanation of this was given by Keil, “Samuel had already informed Saul that he would be taken by lot.”(F17) The prior anointing of Saul had made his choice by lot a foregone certainty. How did Samuel know? He was inspired of God! Of course, this is incomprehensible to unbelievers.

“They inquired again of the Lord” “The word here translated `inquired’ is a technical term for lot casting by means of the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:20; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 28:6; and 1 Samuel 30:8).”(F18)

The word “again” as used in 1 Samuel 10:22 implies that the casting, of lots on this occasion was, “A religious ceremony implying the use of the Urim and Thummim,”(F19) implying also the ministration of the High Priest. This means that Samuel did not personally supervise the casting of lots. The suggestion that any kind of fraud entered into this is untenable.

Verses 25-27


“Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship; and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts the Lord had touched. But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us”? And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.”

“And he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord” “As Moses had written the Law for the community of Israel, so Samuel now wrote the constitution of the theocratic kingdom.”(F20)

One cannot help wondering why that book on the rights and duties of the king was not preserved. Did some of the reprobate kings of Israel destroy it? That occurs to us as the most likely fate of it.

“Saul went to his home at Gibeah” This town had been destroyed in the civil war against Benjamin (Judges 19:20), but archaeologists have uncovered, “A little fortress there which probably served as Saul’s headquarters during the Philistine wars… It was a square, two-storied building, apparently with a tower at each corner, only one of which has been excavated.”(F21)

“Worthless fellows… despised him. They brought him no present” This means that even after Saul’s being anointed, and after his public proclamation as king following the casting of lots, the whole people of Israel had not received him as king. He went, not to a throne, but he went home. This indicates why phase three of his elevation was yet required.

It was an exceedingly difficult thing which God did in raising up a king for Israel. The tribes were not at all unified. Only recently there had been a savage civil war against Benjamin; and, in the days of Jephthah, the trans-Jordanic tribes fought the tribe of Ephraim with over forty thousand casualties of the Ephraimites.

Nevertheless, God would elevate Saul to the kingship; and that third phase of his so doing is next recorded in 1 Samuel 11.

The extreme humility and modesty of the young Saul as indicated in 1 Samuel 9:21 and also in his hiding in the baggage on this occasion contrast starkly with the pride and arrogance of the man later on in his history. Our feeling is that these original indications of Saul’s humility were genuine; but a contrary opinion by Bennett is of interest. “These early expressions from Saul were merely according to the formula of Oriental etiquette, no more to be taken literally, than `Your obedient servant,’ at the end of a letter.”(F22)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-samuel-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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