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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 9

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Verses 1-2

Saul, His Origin and His Stature

Saul comes from the tribe of Benjamin. From this tribe also comes the New Testament Saul or Paul (Philippians 3:5). They bear the same name but are further in many things the opposite of each other. The first Saul is the choice of the people, the second Saul is God’s choice. The name Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’. The exercise of judgement is associated with that name (Genesis 49:27). Benjamin is by birth from the same mother connected to Joseph, the suffering son. However, Saul does not know about Joseph. Like a hard Benjamite he only knows the judgment.

Saul’s ancestry is given in five generations. “Saul” means ‘asked’ or ‘coveted ‘. He represents the desire of the people for a king and is the ideal of it. “Kish” means ‘entangling’, that is what the nature of a human being does. “Abiel” means ‘my father is God’, this is a confession, which in the case of Saul is only a lip confession.

His origin is impressive. His father is a wealthy man. Saul himself also makes great impression: choice, handsome, strong. God’s Spirit notes that no one among the Israelites is more handsome than he. God knows exactly what corresponds to the taste of the people. If there had been other candidates and an election had been held, the whole people would have elected him.

In his work, we also see non-external characteristics come forward at the beginning of his performance, which appear sympathetic to the human eye. Thus he speaks modestly and there is affection for his father. His father also cares about him, as appears from 1 Samuel 9:5. It shows that the family relationship is good. We also see that he treats his servant with respect.

If we compare Saul with Samuel and we do so with the eyes of the people, we can conclude that Saul is the right choice. The appearance of Samuel will have been will scantily in the light of the great shape of Saul. Nor are the relationships in Samuel’s family the same as they seem to be at Saul’s home. Samuel is old, at least in the eyes of the people, and Saul is young. For those who only look at the appearance, there is no need to think long about who they will choose. In the whole appearance of Saul there is everything that meets the taste of man.

Let us not be too harsh on the people. If we are honest, it is often difficult for us not to look at people. Even Samuel falls a little later in that error and must be corrected by the LORD (1 Samuel 16:6-Judges :).

Verses 3-5

Saul Seeks Donkeys

The history of Saul begins with donkeys. Later we see that David’s history starts with sheep. Saul does not feed the donkeys; he has lost them, and he cannot find them after his search. David goes after the lost sheep, finds it, and brings it back. He also delivers it from the mouth of the lion and the bear at the risk of his own life. Here we immediately see the distinction between the ruler according to the wishes of man and the one according to God’s heart.

The donkey is an unclean animal. A person is compared with an unclean donkey (Exodus 13:13). Man and donkey are on the same level (cf. Job 11:12). Man is a wild donkey that has run away from God. Who could think that a search for lost donkeys would bring Saul into connection with Samuel, yes, with the throne of Israel?

Verses 6-8

Proposal to Ask Samuel for Advice

This chapter is full of details about Saul. In his long and fruitless search, the Holy Spirit shows what kind of a man Saul is. He is a man full of inability, but also full of unfamiliarity with the things of God. Not Saul, but his servant noticed that they are near a man of God and suggests the idea of visiting him. The servant takes the initiative. He knows of the man of God and gives a good testimony of him, of his honor among the people and of the trustworthiness of his words. Samuel is really a “letter, … known and read by all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2), but apparently not by Saul.

Saul does not seem to know about Samuel’s existence. That sheds a questionable light on his mindset. It seems that he has never heard of Samuel, or at least has shown no interest at all. Saul does not know the universally known prophet, while Samuel lives not far from him, about forty kilometers.

On all his tours Samuel never visited the estate of Saul’s father and never enjoyed hospitality there. Saul will not have left the farm for the first time but will have had contacts somewhere more often. The subject of conversation may have been Samuel. His servant knows quite a bit about it. But in the whole history of Saul we see nowhere that he has a personal relationship with the LORD.

Saul also depends on his servant for the development of the proposal, while he should lead his servant. He does not lead but is led. He believes that a service of the prophet of God should be paid for. The poor, ignorant man is not able to rise above the idea of payment. An appeal to mercy is unknown to him. The flesh has no understanding of God as Giver.

Verse 9

Prophet and Seer

Suddenly, as it seems, the writer says something about the difference between a prophet and a seer. The word “seer” appears here for the first time in the Bible. The difference between a prophet and a seer is that a prophet sends a message from God to the people, while a seer sees what other people do not see. A seer has insight into God’s thoughts, he receives revelations, even in cases as earthly as lost donkeys. A seer communicates what he sees (cf. Ezekiel 13:3).

A seer is always a prophet, but a prophet is not always a seer. With “seer” the emphasis is more on the result, with “prophet” more on the source. Samuel is both. Saul and his servant ask for the seer (1 Samuel 9:11). They are more interested in the result than in what God thinks of it.

Opposite the seer is the blind Saul. When we see the Lord Jesus in glory (Hebrews 2:9), we have something to communicate. If we are “seers” in this respect, we can also be “prophets”. If we are blind to the glory of the Lord Jesus, we cannot pass on anything about Him.

Verses 10-14

Girls Show Saul the Way

Saul is convinced by his servant. They go on their way to the city where Samuel is. To get to the city they must climb a hill. We can see in it the symbol that Saul must reach a certain spiritual height to receive certain revelations.

To find the way to Samuel, Saul again depends on others, this time on girls they meet on the way. In a spiritual sense it appears that he does not know the way to God’s Word, represented in Samuel. The girls know where Samuel is and what he is going to do. They tell about it with enthusiasm.

The girls are on their way to draw water. That speaks of getting refreshment from the Word as the preparation to testify of the man of God. They are familiar with the source and the sacrifice, about which they also tell. Girls represent weakness, humility and dependence, the right characteristics to be able to draw from the source. Thus can young believers, men and women, if they are dependent on the Lord, be used by Him to testify of Him through what they have drawn from God’s Word (2 Kings 5:2-Leviticus :).

Saul and his servant follow the instructions of the girls. Then the meeting takes place between the future king and the prophet. This meeting takes place at the very moment that a public sacrifice is being held. That is no coincidence. It indicates that the basis of government is sacrifice. What is known for the whole city, turns out to be unknown for Saul. It seems as if he is hearing of the sacrifice for the first time.

Verses 15-17

Samuel Is Informed About Saul

The meeting with Saul is no surprise for Samuel. The LORD has informed him of this meeting. He has “revealed to Samuel’s ear”, as it is literally written. So Samuel also spoke “in the LORD’s hearing” (1 Samuel 8:21). The Hebrew expression reads: He discovered Samuel’s ear, that is: He took off the cover. This is the way God reveals Himself to us. He does not speak only, but discovers our ear, He opens our ear. If God wants to reveal Himself to a soul, He discovers the ear by saying: ““Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”” (Mark 7:34).

The LORD always holds the matter in his hand. He directs meetings and determines the path along which they take place (Psalms 139:2). He leads His own in that way and makes clear to them what they should do (Acts 10:19-Proverbs :). He also sends the unbelievers into a way where they encounter His Word, like here Saul.

Samuel had to listen to the voice of the people, but God directs it so that the people will learn from their own choice. He knows His people and therefore knows exactly which man suits them best. God’s hand is in the choice of Saul, whom He also means as the answer to the call of His people for help. He knows the cause of their appeal for help, that it is not because of the need of their sins, but because they want to be like the nations. Yet we read in these verses four times that the LORD speaks of “My people”.

When Samuel sees Saul, the LORD confirms the word that he has spoken. He tells Samuel that this is the man he has spoken about. It may be that the LORD gives this confirmation to Samuel because there is a question in his heart if this is the man he means. The Lord sees all the unspoken questions, and He answers them.

Verses 18-19

Saul Meets Samuel

When Saul stands for Samuel, it turns out that he does not know Samuel. Because Samuel was informed by the LORD of the coming of Saul, he also knows what to say to Saul. He can tell Saul what lives in his mind, what will happen to him, and what he should do. To this end, he invites Saul to go for him to the heights and eat with him. The height is the right place and the meal the right occupation to communicate these things to Saul.

Verses 20-21

The Amazement of Saul

Before Saul can ask his question about the lost donkeys, Samuel tells him they have been found. Samuel knows not only that the donkeys were lost and have been found now, but also how long they have been looking for them. But, Samuel adds, what do some donkeys mean to a future king who will have at his disposal all that is desirable in Israel? As king he will take it, as Samuel told the people in the previous chapter.

“That is desirable in Israel” can also refer to Saul himself. In Saul everything that Israel considers desirable takes shape. He answers to everything they desire. This is the man who provides what they imagine to be a king. Saul is in this a great contrast to the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus comes, there is nothing desirable in Him for the unbelieving people (Isaiah 53:2).

Saul must have noticed something of the special content of what Samuel says. That is clear from his answer. Why these honors to someone like him who comes from the least family of Benjamin? We do not know what he has been thinking in his heart. It is one thing to think small of yourself compared to others, it is something else to take your true place in the presence of God. Humility in comparison with others can be something you are forced to do. Sometimes you can only honestly admit that you are not as big as the other, but that does not prove that you are convinced of your own failure against God.

Verses 22-27

Samuel Eats and Speaks With Saul

To Saul’s question “Why then do you speak to me in this way?”, Samuel answers in the form of a sacrificial meal, with guests also present. Saul and his servant get the places of honor. Samuel has the sacrifice ready. As soon as he has received the communication of Saul’s coming from the LORD, he has prepared for the reception of Saul, a reception based on the sacrifice.

If Saul had known the meaning of the sacrifices, it would have spoken to his heart. The breast of the sacrifice is not mentioned, there is nothing to see of it. There is only leg. The leg speaks of strength, the breast speaks of love. Saul receives what is left of the sacrifice, the remainder, but the most essential is missing. There is power in Saul, but no love.

We do not know the subject of the conversation between Samuel and Saul. The conversation took place on the roof. The flat roofs are used as places to retreat for a conversation. Therefore there must also be a fence on the roof (Deuteronomy 22:8). Saul seems to have spent the night on the roof.

When the night is over, the morning of the anointing has come. A new day, a new period, is dawning for Israel. The question is whether it will be a beautiful day. Samuel orders Saul to get up. He wants to proclaim to Saul the Word of God. It is one of the last acts of Samuel. The time of his stepping back is coming. He does not complain, but faithfully does to the end what the LORD tells him.

Samuel commands Saul to listen to God’s Word. This should prepare Saul for the fact that the meetings Samuel is going to predict are not random encounters, but that they have a meaning. They are signs. The signs are not explained what to Saul means he must turn to the LORD for their meaning.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-9.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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