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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 9

Verse 1

1 Samuel 9:1. A mighty man of power A strong man. Houb. This seems to be the true interpretation, as Saul's family was not considerable for its wealth or dignity. See 1Sa 9:21 and chap. 1 Samuel 10:27.

Verse 2

1 Samuel 9:2. A choice young man, and a goodly Almost all ancient writers supply us with proofs of the singular regard which, in early days, was had to appearance and person in the choice of monarchs. See Doughty's Annal. Sacr. Excurs. 76.

Verse 3

1 Samuel 9:3. Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee This commission was but mean, if we are to judge of it by our manners; but in ancient times every thing which pertained to rural life was honourable. We see in Homer, gods, heroes, and princes keeping flocks: such was the occupation of the patriarchs. The Scripture speaks of a prince descended from Esau, who kept the asses of his father. Genesis 36:24. Asses were a considerable part of their substance in Judaea, and persons of the first distinction there commonly rode upon them till the time of Solomon. See Judges 10:4.

Verse 5

1 Samuel 9:5. When they were come to the land of Zuph See chap. 1 Samuel 1:1. Zuph was a territory in the tribe of Ephraim, where some of Samuel's ancestors had lived; and Ramah, where Samuel now dwelt, must have been in it, as we collect from the new verse.

Verse 7

1 Samuel 9:7. But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? Such as are prejudiced against the sacred history, and unacquainted with eastern customs, may be ready, from the donations to the prophets, to imagine that they were a mercenary set of people, and rudely to rank them with cunning men and fortune-tellers, who will not from principles of benevolence reveal those secrets, or foretel those future events, of the perfect knowledge of which they are supposed to be possessed, without demanding of the anxious inquirer a large reward. This, however, will make impressions on none but those who know not the Oriental usages, which Maundrell long since applied with such clearness and force to the present passage, that he has sufficiently satisfied my mind upon this point. I shall first give Maundrell's words, and then add a few remarks of my own. "Thursday, March 11. This day we all dined at Consul Hastings' house, and after dinner went to wait upon Ostan, the bassa of Tripoli, having first sent our present, as the manner is among the Turks, to procure a propitious reception. It is counted uncivil to visit in this country without an offering in hand. All great men expect it as a kind of tribute due to their character and authority, and look upon themselves as affronted, and even defrauded, when this compliment is omitted. Even in familiar visits amongst inferior people, you shall seldom have them come without bringing a flower, or an orange, or some other such token of their respect to the person visited; the Turks in this point keeping up to the ancient Oriental custom, hinted 1 Samuel 9:7. If we go (says Saul), what shall we bring the man of God? there is not a present, &c. which words are questionless to be understood in conformity to this eastern custom, as relating to a token of respect, and not a price of Divination." See Journey from Aleppo, p. 26. Maundrell does not tell us what the present was which they made Ostan. It will be more entirely satisfying then to the mind to observe, that in the East they not only universally send before them a present, or carry one with them, especially when they visit superiors, either civil or ecclesiastical; but that this present is frequently a piece of money, and that of no very great value. So Bishop Pococke tells us, that he presented an Arab sheik of an illustrious descent, on whom he waited, and who attended him to the ancient Hierapolis, with a piece of money which he was told he expected; and that in Egypt an aga being dissatisfied with the present he made him, he sent for the bishop's servant, and told him, that he ought to have given him a piece of cloth; and if he had none, two sequins, worth about a guinea, must be brought to him, otherwise he should see him no more: with which demand he complied. In the one case a piece of money was expected, in the other two sequins demanded. A trifling present of money to a person of distinction among us would be an affront: it is not so, it seems, in the East. Agreeably to these accounts of Dr. Pococke, we are told in the Travels of Egmont and Heyman, that the well of Joseph in the castle of Cairo was not to be seen without leave from the commandant; which having obtained, they in return presented him with a sequin. See Observations, p. 233.

Verse 12

1 Samuel 9:12. In the high place Though the word במה bamah, says Mr. Locke, properly signifies a high place, or place of sacrifice; yet it is here rendered by the Targum, as it is often elsewhere, domus accubitus, an house of feasting, because feasting and sacrifice were generally concomitants of one another. See Cudworth on the Sacrament. Mr. Locke goes on to observe, that the phrase in the next verse, he doth bless the sacrifice, alludes to the custom among the Hebrews of giving thanks before their meals. It was usual also for him who gave thanks to break and distribute the food. The Chaldee paraphrase therefore has it, for he is to divide the victim. Luk 24:30 seems to allude to this.

Verse 14

1 Samuel 9:14. Behold, Samuel came out against them, &c.— Samuel met them, as he was about to ascend the high place. Houb. God told Samuel in his ear, in the next verse, signifies that he privately revealed to him.

REFLECTIONS.—Few would have looked for a king chosen from such an employment as that of Saul; but God's choice is often marvellous in our eyes. We have here.

1. Saul sent to seek his father's asses which were strayed. Agreeable to the simplicity of those times, when no man was too great to mind his own affairs, Kish sends his son with a servant in quest of the strayed asses; and his son, forward to obey his parent's orders, and industrious in his business, immediately sets himself to make search after them.
2. Their search was long and fruitless; and Saul, apprehensive that his father would be uneasy at his absence, resolves to give over and return. Dutiful children will always thus tenderly consult their parents' peace.
3. The servant reflecting that they were near Ramah, where Samuel dwelt, suggests whether it might not be worth their while to consult him on the occasion: he gives him a great character as a man of God, and a most respectable person; a seer, whose prophesies always came to pass, and who might be able to inform them of their lost asses. Note; (1.) When we are near a man of God, it is worth while to call upon him, and not to pass by without a word of advice. (2.) People are usually more solicitous about the things of the world than the things of God: and so preposterous in their care, that they who would run to consult a minister of God, could he direct them to the recovery of lost goods, will neither consult nor be directed by him for the recovery of their lost souls.

4. Samuel was just coming from his door when Saul appeared in sight. He had, by a secret whisper from God the preceding day, been informed of his design to send to him the person appointed to be the ruler of his people; and though in anger this king was given, yet God has designs of grace to answer: though they shall smart by their king, they shall be saved by him from their enemies. Their cry God has heard, whether the cry of distress from fear of the Philistines, or their former supplication to Samuel: and now behold the man whom God has appointed to reign over Israel as a king; or as the word signifies, to restrain them from the evil of their ways. Note; When God will punish his people, he will in wrath remember mercy.

Verse 21

1 Samuel 9:21. Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, &c.— Samuel convinced Saul that he was a prophet, by informing him of the business for which he came to consult him; and this done, he acquaints him with God's future designation of him to the throne of Israel: for which Saul replies in terms equally modest and humble with those of Gideon. Judges 6:15.

Verses 23-24

1 Samuel 9:23-24. Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion, &c.— The author of the Observations remarks, that the shoulder of a lamb is thought in the East a great delicacy. "Abdolmelick the caliph," says he, "upon his entering into Cufah, made a splendid entertainment. When he was set down, Amron the son of Hareth, an ancient Mechzumian, came in: he called to him, and placing him by him upon his sofa, asked him, what meat he liked best of all that ever he had eaten; the old Mechzumian answered, 'An ass's neck well seasoned and roasted.'—'You do nothing,' says Abdolmelick; 'what say you to a leg or a shoulder of a sucking lamb, well roasted, and covered over with butter and milk?' The history adds, that while he was at supper, he said, 'How sweetly we should live if a shadow would last!' This prince then thought the shoulder of a sucking lamb one of the most exquisite of dishes: and what he says explains Samuel's ordering it to be reserved for the future king of Israel, as well as what that was which was upon it, the butter and the milk; which circumstance the sacred historian distinctly mentions, and which an European reader is apt to wonder what it should mean, but which added so much to the delicacy of the meat, that an eastern prince, as well as an eastern author, was led distinctly to mention it." See Observations, p. 173. Josephus calls the shoulder, the royal portion.

Verse 25

1 Samuel 9:25. When they were come down from the high place, &c.— The Vulgate adds at the close of this verse, and Saul prepared him a bed on the top of the house and slept; which Houbigant approves. We refer to his note. He renders the whole thus: Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house, and Saul prepared him a bed there and slept; 1 Samuel 9:26. Then about the spring of the day, Samuel called Saul at the top of the house, saying, Arise, &c. Houbigant's criticism is justified by the following remark: At Aleppo, says the author of the Observations, they sleep in the summer on the tops of houses, and they do the same in Judea. Thus Egmont and Heyman inform us, that at Caipha, at the foot of mount Carmel, the houses are small and have flat roofs, where, during the summer, the inhabitants sleep in arbours made of the boughs of trees. They also mention tents of rushes on the terraces of the houses at Tiberias, which are doubtless for the same purpose, though they do not say so. Dr. Pococke in like manner tells us, that when he was at Tiberias in Galilee, he was entertained by the sheik's steward, the sheik himself having much company with him, but sending him provisions from his own kitchen; and that they supped on the top of the house for coolness, according to their custom, and lodged there likewise, in a sort of closet about eight feet square, of wicker-work, plaistered round towards the bottom, but without any door, each person having his cell. In Galilee then, we find, they lodged a stranger whom they treated with respect on the top of the house, and even caused him to sup there. This may, perhaps, lead us to the true explanation of the present passage; which tells us, that Samuel conversed with Saul on the house-top, and that at the spring of the day Samuel called Saul to the house-top, or, as it may be equally well translated, on the house-top (see Noldius); that is, Samuel conversed with him for coolness on the house-top in the evening, and in the morning called Saul, who lodged there all night, and was not stirring; saying, Up, that I may send thee away. The LXX seem to have understood it very much in this light; for they thus translate the passage: and they spread a bed for Saul on the housetop, and he slept; which shews how agreeable this explanation is to those who are acquainted with eastern customs. See Observations, p. 92.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/1-samuel-9.html. 1801-1803.