Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 10

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-16



1 Samuel 10:1

A vial of oil. Hebrew, "the vial of oil," because it was that same holy oil with which the priests were anointed (Exodus 29:7). Throughout Holy Scripture the office of king appears as one most sacred, and it is the king, and not the priest, who is especially called Messiah, Jehovah s anointed (1 Samuel 2:10, 1Sa 2:35; 1 Samuel 12:3, 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 16:6, etc.), because he represented the authority and power of God. And kissed him. I.e. did homage to him, and gave him the symbol and token of allegiance (see Psalms 2:12). Is it not?.... A strong affirmation often takes the form of a question, especially when, as probably was the case here, surprise is manifested. Saul, on whom the occurrences of the previous day must have come as strange and unintelligible marvels, was no doubt still more embarrassed when one so old and venerable, both in person and office, as Samuel solemnly consecrated him to be Israel's prince (see 1 Samuel 9:16), and gave him the kiss of fealty and allegiance. Samuel, therefore, answers Saul's inquiring looks with this question, and, further, gives him three signs to quiet his doubts, and convince him that his appointment is from God.

1 Samuel 10:2

The first sign—Thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre. In Jeremiah 31:15 (quoted in Matthew 2:18) Rachel's sepulchre is connected with Ramah, but in Genesis 35:19 it is placed near Bethlehem. The whole of the geography of Saul's wanderings is very obscure, but Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' 1:401) places Zelzah at Beit-jala, to the west of Bethlehem, in the neighbourhood of the Kabhet Rahil, or Tomb of Rachel, Though both are now in the tribe of Judah, yet by a slight rectification of the frontier, in conformity with Joshua 18:11-28, Zelzah would be on the border of Benjamin, and there may have been local reasons for Saul and his companion not taking the most direct route for Gibeah. The news given by these men, that the asses were found, would set Saul's mind at rest, and, freed from lower cares, he would be able to give his thoughts entirely to preparation for the higher duties that were before him. For an interesting note upon the journey of Saul home see Wilson, 2:36.

1 Samuel 10:3

The second sign was to be the presenting of an offering to him out of their sacrificial gifts by three men going on a pilgrimage to Bethel. He would meet them not in the plain of Tabor, but at the oak, elon, of Tabor. Many attempt to connect this elon-Tabor with the allon, or oak, under which Deborah, Rachel's nurse, was buried (Genesis 35:8), and suppose that Tabor is a corruption of the name Deborah. This is scarcely possible, and it is better to acknowledge that we know nothing of the site of this tree, except that it was on the road to Bethel. This was one of the places which Samuel used to visit as judge (1 Samuel 7:16); but these men were on a pilgrimage thither because since the days of Jacob it had been a sacred spot, and a chief seat of the old patriarchal worship, for which see 1 Samuel 9:12.

1 Samuel 10:4

These pilgrims would salute Saul, i.e. give him the usual friendly greeting of travellers, and would then present to him, a stranger, two loaves of the bread intended for their offering at Bethel. By so doing, in the first place, they acknowledged him as their lord (see 1 Samuel 9:7; 1 Samuel 16:20), and, secondly, they indicated that the king would henceforth share with the sanctuary the offerings of the people. And Saul was to receive of their hands the present, as being now his due, for by anointing him Samuel had designated him as king.

1 Samuel 10:5

The third sign was to be his taking part with the prophets in their religious exercises in the hill of God—really Gibeah, his own home. Gibeah is strictly a rounded hill, while Ramah is a height. This Gibeah ha-Elohim was probably that part of the hill on which the "high place" was situated, and which was evidently outside the city; for Saul, on his route homeward, met the troop of prophets descending from it. For "Gibeah of Saul" see 1 Samuel 9:1; but, as Conder remarks, this name was given to a district as well as to a town, inasmuch as Ramah is described as situated within it—1 Samuel 22:6 ('Tent Work,' 2:111). The garrison of the Philistines was probably on some height in this district, and, coupled with the mention of similar military posts elsewhere (1 Samuel 13:3; 1 Samuel 14:4), shows that most of the tribe of Benjamin was subject to that nation, and disarmed (1 Samuel 13:19); but probably, as long as the tribute was paid, its internal administration was not interfered with A company of the prophets. At Gibeah Samuel had established one of his "schools of the prophets," by means of which he did so much to elevate the whole mental and moral state of the Israelites. The word rendered company literally means a cord or line, and so a band of people. These prophets were descending from the Bamah (see on 1 Samuel 9:12), where they had been engaged in some religious exercise, and were chanting a psalm or hymn to the music of various instruments. Music was one of the great means employed by Samuel in training his young men; and not only is its effect at all times elevating and refining, but in semi-barbarous times, united, as it is sure to be, with poetry, it is the chief educational lever for raising men's minds, and giving them a taste for culture and intellectual pleasures. The musical instruments mentioned are the psaltery, Hebrew, nebel, a sort of harp with ten strings stretched across a triangle, the longest string being at its base, and the shortest towards its apex; the tabret, Hebrew toph, a tambourine struck by the hand; the pipe, Hebrew, chalil, i.e. "bored" or "pierced," so called from the holes bored in it to make the notes, and being probably a sort of flute; and, lastly, the harp, Hebrew, cinnor, a sort of guitar, chiefly used for accompanying the voice, and sometimes played with the fingers, and sometimes with a plectrum or quill. There is nothing to indicate that there was only one of each of these instruments, so that the articles would be better omitted. No doubt every prophet was playing some one or other of them. And they shall prophesy. The conjugation used here is not that employed for the prediction of future events, but means, literally, and they will be acting the prophet, the right word for men who were in training for the prophetic office. They were really engaged in chanting God's praises with fervour, and this was no doubt one of the methods employed by Samuel to refine and spiritualise their minds. Years afterwards David was thus educated, and learned at one of Samuel's schools that skill in metre and psalmody which, added to his natural gifts, made him "the sweet singer of Israel." For prophesying, in the sense of playing instruments of music see 1 Chronicles 25:1-3, and in the sense of chanting, 1 Kings 18:29.

1 Samuel 10:6

The spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee. The Hebrew means, will come mightily upon thee, will come upon thee so as to overpower thee. And thou shalt prophesy. Shalt act as a prophet (see above). Albeit untrained, thou shalt be carried away by religious fervour, and join in their singing and psalmody. And be turned into another man. New thoughts, new emotions shall take possession of thee, and in addition to the bodily strength for which hitherto thou hast been famous, thou shalt be filled with mental power, making thee eager for action and capable of taking the lead among all men, and in all emergencies. We have an instance of this enlarged capacity in the vigour with which Saul acted against the Ammonites.

1 Samuel 10:7

Do as occasion serve thee. Literally, "do for thyself as thy hand shall find," i.e. follow the lead of circumstances, and do thy best. This is the flood time of thy fortunes; press onward, and the kingdom is thine own, for God is with thee, and success is sure.

1 Samuel 10:8

Thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal. We find in 1 Samuel 13:8-13 a meeting at Gilgal so exactly parallel to what is arranged here that we cannot help looking upon this, again, as a sort of sign to be fulfilled at a later period. It is no argument against it that Gilgal was the place where in the mean while Saul was solemnly inaugurated king; for he was appointed in order that he might deliver Israel from the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16), and we may feel sure that this grand purpose would form the subject of conversation between the prophet and the soldier, either on the house-top or the next morning. In this conversation Gilgal would be selected as the place where Saul would assemble Israel for the war of independence (so Rashi and other Jewish interpreters); and so great an enterprise must necessarily be begun with religious rites, and Saul was to wait a full week for the prophet's coming, both to try his faith, which ought to have been confirmed by the fulfilment of the three appointed signs, and in order that the war might be undertaken under the same holy auspices as his own election to the kingdom. The two years' interval, were it really so long, would give time for Saul's character to develop under the forcing influences of royalty, and it would then be proved, when he felt himself every inch a king, whether he was still as amenable to the Divine authority as when he was first summoned from obscurity to mount a kingly throne. But, really, the words in 1 Samuel 13:1 do not justify this conclusion, and most probably the occurrences mentioned in that chapter followed immediately upon Saul's confirmation as king.

1 Samuel 10:9

God gave him another heart. The Hebrew is remarkable: "When he turned his shoulder to go from Samuel, God also turned for him another heart," i.e. God turned him round by giving him a changed heart. He grew internally up to the level of his changed circumstances. No longer had he the feelings of a husbandman, concerned only about corn and cattle; he had become a statesman, a general, and a prince. No man could have gone through such marvellous events, and experienced such varied emotions, without a vast inward change. But it might have been only to vanity and self-complacency. Saul's change was into a hero.

1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 10:11

To the hill. Hebrew, "to Gibeah," his home. He prophesied. Took part in prophetic exercises (see on 1 Samuel 10:5). On seeing this, the people of Gibeah, who knew him beforetime,—Hebrew, "from yesterday and the day before," but equivalent to our phrase "for years,"—asked in surprise, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? What makes him thus act in a manner unlike all our long past experience of him? Is Saul also among the prophets? From this question two things are evident: the first, that the schools founded by Samuel already held a high place in the estimation of the Israelites; the second, that Saul had not shared in that education which so raised the prophets as a class above, the mass of the people. Probably also Saul s character was not such as would have made him care for education. A young man who, while living in his neighbourhood, knew so little about Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6), could not have had a very inquiring or intellectual frame of mind. Of course Samuel could not, by gathering young men together, and giving them the best education the times afforded, gain for them also the highest and rarest of gifts, that of direct inspiration. Even when Elisha, the friend and attendant upon Elijah, asked his master for an elder son's portion of the Divine spirit, Elijah told him that he had asked a hard thing (2 Kings 2:10). The disparity then that the people remarked between Saul and the prophets was that between a rich young farmer's son, who had been brought up at home, and cared only for rustic things, and these young collegians, who were enjoying a careful education (comp. John 7:15). How good that education was is proved by the fact that at David's court all posts which required literary skill were held by prophets. No man could found schools of inspired men; but Samuel founded great educational institutions, which ended by making the Israelites a highly trained and literary people. Saul's prophesying was not the result of training, but came to him by a Divine influence, rousing the slumbering enthusiasm of an energetic but fitful nature.

1 Samuel 10:12

One of the same placei.e. Gibeah—answered and said, But who is their father? The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read, But who is his father? But this would be a foolish reply to the question, "What has happened to the son of Kish?" The meaning rather must be, You ask about the son of Kish; but what has birth to do with prophecy? None of these young men have inherited these gifts, and if Saul can take part in their prophesyings, why should he not? Kish, his father, is no worse than theirs. Is Saul also among the prophets? Under very different circumstances Saul once again took part in the exercises of these youthful prophets (1 Samuel 19:24), and evidently on both occasions with such skill and success as prove the readiness of his genius; and so struck were the people at the strange power which he thus evinced, that their expression of wonder became fixed in the national mind as a proverb. Saul was a man of great natural ability, and yet not the sort of person whom the people expected would be made king. He probably could neither read nor write, and from his extreme height was perhaps awkward and bashful; as he suffered afterwards from fits of insanity (1 Samuel 16:14), he may always have been flighty and wilful; and altogether, though possessed of marvellous gifts, was certainly the very opposite of Samuel's well trained and orderly scholars.

1 Samuel 10:13

He came to the high place. Saul had met the prophets coming down from the Bamah; but the same religious fervor, which had made him take so earnest a part in the prophesyings of the young men, urged him now, after parting from their company, himself to go up to the high place, there to offer his prayers and praises to God.

1 Samuel 10:14-16

Saul's uncle. According to 1 Samuel 14:50, 1Sa 14:51; 1 Chronicles 8:33, this would be Abner. The conversation probably took place after Saul had returned from the Bamah and gone to his own home, for in so brief a summary much necessarily is omitted. It is curious that the conversation should have taken place with the uncle, and not with the father; but possibly the latter was too well pleased to have his son back again to be very particular in his inquiries. Not so Abner. He was evidently excited by his nephew s visit to the prophet, and struck perhaps by the change in Saul himself, and would gladly have heard more. But Saul does not gratify his curiosity. Of the matter of the kingdom … he told him not. It was not merely prudent, but right to keep the matter secret. An able man like Abner would probably have begun to scheme for so great an end. Saul s silence left the fulfilment of the prophet's words entirely to God.


1 Samuel 10:1-8

Supports to faith and duty.

The facts are—

1. Samuel privately anoints Saul as the chosen of God.

2. He gives him four signs of the Divine sanction of the act of anointing.

(1) The safety of the asses, and his father's sorrow.

(2) The spontaneous gift of sacrificial bread near Bethel.

(3) A welcome by the prophets at Gibeah.

(4) An inspiration from God to prophesy.

3. He instructs him on the completion of the signs to act on his own judgment, with the assurance that God is his helper.

4. He finally directs him to wait at Gilgal for himself, there to receive further guidance. The course taken by Samuel was the natural completion of his protracted intercourse with Saul. The hour had come in which the symbolism of the recent feast and the foreshadowings of suggestive language must receive definite form in word and deed. As one chosen of God to high office in his government of Israel, Saul is anointed with oil; and Samuel voluntarily gives him what he must have valued above all price, the kiss of homage and of congratulation, thus indicating his perfect readiness to fall in with the new order, and his tender interest in the king s prosperity. A new era of responsibility opened up to Saul. He had to go forth, believing himself to be God's chosen servant, ready for the onerous duties attaching to great honours. But a man could not thus have his faith taxed without craving for encouragement. There were, in the circumstances of Israel and of Saul, obvious reasons for this private announcement and anointing. The deliberate act of such a man as Samuel must go far to banish doubt. But still human nature needs many supports, and God is very considerate of our frame. The day might come when difficulties and disappointments would recall the primary misgivings of the reality of the Divine call. Hence the provision made by Samuel for the encouragement of Saul.

I. THERE IS ALWAYS IN GOD'S SERVICE A NEED OF SUPPORT TO FAITH AND DUTY. Others have been summoned to a life requiring strong faith and unfailing courage in duty.

1. There is a call to special service. Abraham was called to be a pilgrim in a strange land, and to thereby secure a seed in whom all should be blessed. Moses was called to surrender the wealth of Egypt, and to lead God's people to freedom. The apostles were bidden to leave house and business for Christ's sake. Every true pastor and Christian worker recognises a voice which, in commanding separation to his service, puts honour on the servant. The instrument by which each is called may be human, as truly as it was a human hand and voice that set apart Saul. The evidence of the call may be clear. But tedious toils have to be borne. Events will not realise the expectations of a too sanguine temperament. Abraham needed the support of occasional manifestations, as well as of fulfilled predictions. Moses could not go without "signs." Christ promised proofs that he was sending forth his disciples.

2. There is a call to Christian life. This is the most blessed summons to privilege, honour, and obligation. The call to Christian life is endless in its form and manner and seasons. It may come in infancy, when we are unconsciously made new creatures in Christ; or in mature years, by the preacher's voice, the written word, the loss of friends, and the adversities of life, or the still small voice in the heart. There may be instances in which it is as clear as was Samuel's voice and hand to Saul; and a wonder and sense of unworthiness may arise as sincere and deep as was his. But times will come when a horror of great darkness falls on the spirit; the difficulties of one's path will raise the question as to the reality of that call which once seemed so clear, and the possibility of maintaining the distinct line of duty once entered on. A man cannot find support simply in retrospect of what was a marked change in his life; he needs something else to convince him that all is right, that the past change was not an illusion.

II. The SUPPORT GIVEN IS VARIEDADAPTED TO THE ENTIRE NEED. Saul needed to be assured of the fact that it was God, and not merely man, who appointed him; he had it in the fourfold fulfilled prediction (1 Samuel 10:2, 1Sa 10:3, 1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:6). He needed the sympathy and concurrence of the religious portion of Israel; he was assured of it symbolically by the worshippers spontaneously offering him nourishment. He needed the cooperation of the most important educators of the age; he was assured of it in the symbolical welcome given to him by the company of prophets, the then rising power, which in years hence was to exert so great an influence on the national life. He needed, moreover, a power and wisdom in excess of that inherited from his father, and acquired during years of private life; he had it given when the spirit of the Lord made him another man. Wisely, therefore, were these arrangements made for the servant of God. They are beautifully congruous with the position of Saul, and the age in which he was called to act. An examination of the lives of Abraham, Moses, and the apostles will show that an equally wise arrangement was made for the support of their faith and duty. So modern servants of God can point to promises fulfilled, in a blessing on their toil, as evidence that they were not mistaken in the call to work; and their once distrustful heart becomes strong in the consciousness of a power not their own. In a different, though not less real, way the individual Christian finds varied support to his belief that God has called him into the kingdom, and made him a "king and a priest;" as also to his discharge of the duties appropriate to his high and holy calling.

III. The REALISATION OF THE PROVIDED SUPPORT ENSUES ON THE EFFORT TO EXERCISE THE FAITH AND TO DISCHARGE THE DUTY. When Saul acted on the belief that Samuel was a true prophet speaking and acting for God, he found all to turn out as he had been promised. The exercise of such faith as he had, in the first instance, put him in possession of the supports to faith for future times; and the discharge of duty, so far as made clear, led to a discovery of the supports to duty that would be his in the more conspicuous acts of life. So was it with Abraham, and Moses, and the apostles. Every true servant gets encouragement, not by waiting, but while "going on his way," and doing the deeds appointed. The Saviour said to the palsied, "Put forth thy hand." In the attempting of the impossible act the faith came and grew. Faith finds nourishment for itself, and waxes strong in proportion as it is exercised.

General lessons:

1. We may render valuable service by timely sympathy and cooperation with those called to occupy difficult positions.

2. The most unassailable Christian evidence is that to be gained in a life of entire devotion to Christ.

3. Full confirmation of our hopes and beliefs will come in so far as we are faithful to carry into action what confidence we already have.

Another man.

The mind of Saul was evidently overcharged with the great things which had so unexpectedly been brought before his attention. His imagination must have been filled with those pictures of royal state and lofty duties which are over in Eastern minds associated with kingship. But he was scarcely able to frame an adequate conception of what Samuel meant by saying, "Thou shalt be turned into another man." There are several grades of transformation brought before us by ordinary life and by Scripture.

I. "ANOTHER MAN" IS SOMETIMES MADE BY TOTAL CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES. We all are partly subject to our surroundings; but some natures happen to be in circumstances which appear to be quite alien to the development of what is in them. They are repressed; the strong forces of their life refuse to come forth; they are comparative nonentities; if no change occurs in their relative position they will pass away from life unknown and almost useless. There are in some persons mental faculties which, being predominant, but not drawn out by appropriate nutriment and exercise, give to the individual an appearance of stupidity and vacuity. A poet's soul encompassed by everything antagonistic to its development will be miserable as a lark that cannot rise. But when the unnatural restraints are removed, and the dispositions and faculties of individuals are placed amidst circumstances favourable to their proper development, there comes a change as rapid, as fresh, and striking as when the light and rain of spring call forth the bulb from under the dull earth into a form of beauty and sweetness. An observer of life cannot but have met with many cases of this.

II. "ANOTHER MAN" IS SOMETIMES MADE BY SPECIAL ENDOWMENTS FOR OFFICIAL DUTIES. This was the case with Saul. It is the teaching of Scripture that "every good and perfect gift" cometh from God. He gave wisdom and cunning to the men who framed the choice work of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-6). Reason is his gift, though too often used against him. The Old Testament speaks of special gifts for men called to lead on the people of God. The endowment of Saul was in harmony with that of Moses and Joshua. The contrast of the men as not endowed and endowed is striking. The figure of Moses after he went forth in the name of Jehovah dwarfs the Moses feeding Jethro's sheep. The timid, questioning, spiritually ignorant men who followed Christ as long as they dared, and "thought" that he "would have redeemed Israel," can scarcely be recognised as the men who, when endowed with power from on high, stood forth on the day of Pentecost, and, with calmness and fearlessness, expounded the spiritual nature of his kingdom who was crucified. Spiritual power works marvels in men.

III. "ANOTHER MAN" IS MADE WHEN THE SOUL IS RENEWED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. This is the most radical of all changes; it is more than an enlargement of the ordinary powers, more than the gift of discrimination by which ordinary duties can be discharged; it is the renovation of that deep, subtle spring of feeling and willing which determines the character of the entire life. The will of a man is supposed to be the key to his destiny; but the change wrought by the Holy Spirit seems even to penetrate into the mysterious rear of the will, and insure that it shall issue in acts of repentance; of faith in Christ, of supreme love for God, of delight in holiness. The reality of the transformation is seen in the new aims, the new joys, the new acts of the soul, the new outward form of life, the new spiritual discernment of the spiritual and unseen, the new hidden secret which no words can reveal, the new absorption in Christ.

IV. "ANOTHER MAN" IS MADE WHEN WE ATTAIN TO THE COMPLETE REDEMPTION FOR WHICH CHRIST DIED. Relatively to a life of sin, the regenerate life of the Christian on earth is a new creation, he is "another man;" and likewise, relatively to the imperfect, struggling life we spend on earth, that which awaits us beyond is a new creation. When the full stature of a man in Christ is attained, and becomes clothed upon with a body "like unto his own glorious body," then may it be most truly said of each, he is "turned into a new man." How unlike our former selves will be that perfectly holy, tearless, strong, joyous, unwearied life, exercised in a "spiritual body," created in special adaptation for the new activities and joys of the kingdom of heaven.

General considerations:

1. Reflect on what the world may lose by careless disregard in our social life of the adaptation of circumstances to aptitudes and abilities.

2. There is room forevery man to examine himself and see whether his religion is really the product of a radical renewal by the Holy Spirit.

3. With so lofty a destiny before us as Christians, the inquiry should arise, how it is that we are so little affected by the prospect, and by what means we can more fully live under the inspiring "powers of the world to come."

Limitations of prerogative.

Saul was told that when the promised "signs" came upon him he might do as occasion required, and for the assigned reason that God was with him (verse 7). This great freedom immediately receives a limitation in the command to wait at Gilgal till Samuel came and offered sacrifice, and gave further instructions. The royal prerogative was to be exercised under limitations. Here the question of civil and spiritual power is brought into distinct concrete form as the natural outcome of Israel's history. The analogy between Israel and all other nations cannot be established in detail with respect to this question; but, nevertheless, there are a few truths of general application illustrated in the restrictions put by the prophet of God on the actions of Israel's king.

I. The ULTIMATE ENDS FOR WHICH GOVERNMENTS EXIST ARE SPIRITUAL. There is a difference between the immediate concern of a government—namely, with protection of life and property, the repression of crime; scope for the free action of citizens, and for the development of national resources—and the ultimate end for which Providence designs it and all other institutions. Man's body exists for his spirit. Society, in the mind of God, exists for the spiritual welfare of individuals. There is an evolution progressing towards a worldwide righteousness, and governments are one of the agencies which are to subserve this issue. Attention to the material and intellectual interests of a people may be to rulers an end in itself, but not to God. Governments may subserve this spiritual end without consciously entering into questions pertaining to its nature and varied means for securing it. A faithful discharge of definite functions, on approved principles, cannot but help on the purpose for which God is himself governing mankind.

II. The CHURCH OF GOD IS THE TRUE WITNESS BEARER AND THE MEANS OF ACCOMPLISHING THESE SPIRITUAL ENDS. Samuel was the representative of the spiritual power. He had authority to assert the Messianic truth, to educate the people in harmony with that truth, and to demand that the king should govern in such a way as to allow free scope to the spiritual work. He and the religious community were one in this respect. And the living Church of Christ is the assertor of Messianic truth—claiming to hold what Christ has given, pointing to the spiritual reign of Christ over every heart and home as the goal of all effort and the hope of the world; and the witness bearer, calling upon rulers to observe in their administration the principles of righteousness, truth, and benevolent regard, which God alone will honour with his blessing.

III. CIVIL RULERS ARE BOUND TO ACT IN HARMONY WITH THE WITNESS BEARING OF THE CHURCH. Saul was bound, morally, and as a condition of stability to his throne, to recognise Samuel in his capacity as prophet of God, working, with all the devout, for Messianic purposes. He must not ignore the spiritual power, and thus dishonour God (verse 8; cf. 1 Samuel 13:8-10); nor must be arrogate its functions. His duty lay in administering government on the principles of righteousness, and so as not to bar the way to the realisation of the Messianic purpose. And knowing as we do that in the truth given by Christ, and borne witness to by the living Church, there are all the sound principles of human progress as well as of personal salvation, every government is morally bound to act on them, and is guilty of fearful presumption if it professes to supplant them by creations of its own. As surely as decay at the root of a tree will issue in its fall, so surely will every government perish which acts on other principles than those asserted by the living Church of God. No government can successfully wage war with the one living Church, which, by example, word, and deed, preaches righteousness, and claims the right to do so.

IV. The CHURCH IS BOUND TO CONFINE ATTENTION TO HER OWN PROPER FUNCTIONS. Samuel left Saul to "do as occasion" might "serve" (verse 7). He simply claimed that there was another power in the development of Israel's life beside the civil, and that Saul must recognise this. The exercise of the power had reference to general principles of conduct, and the securing of Messianic purposes. The Church of Christ is bound to avoid everything that would be inharmonious with her spiritual nature and uses. To be the educator of the state conscience, to assert her own independence as a spiritual community for spiritual purposes, this is the function of the Church in relation to the civil power, as illustrated in the conduct of Samuel, involved in the spiritual nature of Christ's body, and confirmed by the adversities and prosperities of history.

General considerations:

1. How far the controversies connected with spiritual supremacy are the result of a deviation from the simplicity of purpose characteristic of apostolic times.

2. To what extent calamities have befallen the world by the professing Church being more concerned for the assertion of power than for the preaching and practising of righteousness.

3. Whether history does not show that an earnest Church, solely bent on preaching the gospel, and enforcing it by example, exercises more real power over the destinies of nations than a Church ever watchful to limit the powers of civil rulers.

1 Samuel 10:9-17

The reasonableness of incongruities.

The facts are—

1. Saul experiences the truth of all that Samuel had told him.

2. Being met by a company of prophets, Saul, under an inspiration from God, also prophesies.

3. The people remark on the incongruity of Saul's being among the prophets.

4. Saul's uncle, being too inquisitive in the matter of Samuel's intercourse with him, is not gratified. The general reader of the Bible is struck with the incongruity between Saul's antecedents and his sudden participation in the gifts of prophecy; and men generally have sympathised with the surprise which expressed itself in the proverb, "Is Saul among the prophets?" Too frequently the event here recorded is left as one of the strange, unaccountable things scattered ever the page of sacred history, furnishing to the mind more of perplexity and embarrassment than of instruction and aid to faith. It will, however, be found that in the course of Providence the seeming incongruities play an important part, that they are not essentially unreasonable, and are all reducible to a common principle.

I. The COURSE OF PROVIDENCE PRESENTS NUMEROUS INSTANCES OF STRIKING INCONGRUITY. Whatever the precise definition of incongruity, the thing itself may be found in the form of conduct, association, relation, and means. Leaving out all instances resulting from human folly and eccentricity; we may notice a few in the order of

Providence as seen in—

1. Conduct. Saul's is a case in point. He was an instrument in the hand of God of producing the strange impression indicated by the familiar proverb. To the Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost there was an unaccountable incongruity in the speech and bearing of men who, up to that time, had been timid, obscure followers of the Crucified. Considering the reputed character of Peter as a rash, impulsive man, it was, in the judgment of his companions and in the light of his denial, scarcely congruous to commit to him the "key" of the kingdom. And the joyful songs which rose from the apostles when in the stocks were strange music to their warders. Modern history is not without its notable instances.

2. Associations. For Saul to be associated with a prophetic order was a marvel. That a glorious star should lead wise men from afar only to a babe in a manger, and that the hosts of heaven should sing on the birth of a helpless child, was an association rare and astonishing. The most perplexing incongruity to many is that the Eternal One should for a term of years be in association with a frail body, with all the sorrowful incidents inseparable therefrom.

3. Relations. We find this in Saul's case; for men can see no congruity between his ecstatic excitement as prophet and the office of king to which he was being called. The relation of John the Baptist, an austere, unsociable ascetic, as forerunner to the mild, approachable Christ, struck men as remarkable, and needed the vindication that "wisdom is justified of her children" (Matthew 11:16-19). It also occurred to John as a most incongruous thing that he should have to baptize the holy Saviour (Matthew 3:13-15).

4. Means. As a means of qualifying Saul for the discharge of kingly functions this prophetic excitement seemed to be most unsuitable. So, likewise, to many there is no propriety in the uplifting of a brazen serpent as a means of restoring health to the poisoned. Naaman could not think the Jordan better than the rivers of his own country. The cross of Christ was despised by the Greeks as foolishness—a most incongruous means for the subjugation of the world to him who died thereon.

II. The SEEMING INCONGRUITIES IN THE COURSE OF PROVIDENCE ARE RELATIVE TO OUR IGNORANCE. That is incongruous only which is not understood. "Things are not what they seem." Our surprises and astonishments are often the index of our lack of knowledge. It may not be possible in every instance to find a complete solution, but some clue may be found if we will consider all the events of Providence as interrelated, and throwing light on one another. The reasonableness of incongruities may be illustrated by taking as a typical instance the conduct of Saul. The appearance of a prophetic order at that juncture, under the direction of Samuel, was a necessary feature in the moral elevation of the people. The stagnant indifference of men could be best aroused by urgent zeal. The reasonableness of Saul's excitement resolves itself into that of the order. We are to remember that a coming good in Messiah's reign was the hope of the true Israel. In so far as their conviction was deep, and was attended by a corresponding pity for present degradation, it, when full on the spirit, would not unnaturally produce an excitement proportionate to the susceptibility of the temperament and the external occasion, and the utterance of the truth would be measured by the degree of excitement. Therefore the educational value of these men was great, and they were obedient, in their extravagance, to the laws of mind and the urgency of religions conviction. Now it was reasonable for Saul to share in this gift

1. For the people. It would call their attention to him, and prepare them for the subsequent action of Samuel.

2. For Saul himself. He was to be king, and the people imagined that their king would be after the pattern of other kings. But Israel's king must rule in harmony with the spiritual destiny of the nation. He must be in sympathy with prophets.

3. For the order of prophets. This order was one of the great powers in fashioning the future of the people of God. It therefore was interested in the character and aspirations of whatever king might be chosen. Saul's endowment with their own gift would assure them that he was worthy of their support, and would not be as the kings of the nations. The incongruity was most reasonable.

III. The TRUE SOLUTION OF ANY INCONGRUITY IN THE COURSE OF PROVIDENCE IS TO BE FOUND IN THE SERIES OF WHICH THE EVENT IS BUT ONE. Saul's conduct, regarded in relation to the antecedents of Israel's life, and the gradual preparation of the world for Christ, stands out as most fit and useful; therefore, natural. No one can rightly judge of Scripture events who does not consider the course of Providence as a development from the imperfect to the more perfect. The place and power of every molecule in the universe are relative to the antecedent and subsequent movements of the whole. Astronomers have met with perturbations and irregularities which seemed incongruous with all they knew, but in time they discovered the place of these so called irregularities in the mechanism of the heavens, and they became at once beautiful regularities. The issue of redemptive methods will throw light on the process.

General lessons:

1. The most unlikely of men may be called to do God's will in forms unlocked for.

2. The varied gifts requisite to an office will be forthcoming to all whom God calls to the office.

3. We should be careful to keep our mind free from prejudice against methods which, though unusual, may be of God.

4. A deep and patient study of the Bible as a whole is the only means of learning the beauty and harmony of his ways.

5. A true philosophy will induce us to suspend our judgment on some subjects until we can see more clearly the relation of the past to the future.

Wise reticence.

The notice taken of an inquiry by Saul's uncle is evidently for the purpose of bringing in bold relief Saul's wisdom in being reticent on the important matters concerning the kingdom. It is probable that the bearing of Saul indicated that something unusual had transpired, and the prophesying would only confirm the suspicion. Saul's replies do not make clear whether the uncle was designedly prying into what he knew were secrets, or was simply seeking general information. But in either case Saul formed a proper estimate of his own position, and manifested a proper reserve.

I. A DEGREE OF RETICENCE IS ESSENTIAL TO A WISE LIFE. "There is a time to speak, and a time to be silent." Reticence, however, is more than silence; it is deliberate silence where speech is possible and sought. It may be considered with reference to—

1. Its source. In every case its source is in the will acting freely in the form of a negative judgment. But still this judgment may in some persons be connected more with temperament than with an enlightened estimate of what is proper. The wise reticence is that which comes from a just estimate of what is due to the occasion and the subject matter.

2. Its proper subject matter. This must be determined by a calm judgment on the right of others to know what we know, and the utility of unveiling our knowledge. But taking a general view of human life, we may say that reticence is due to—

(1) Our deepest religious experience. There are depths in the soul which no eye but God's can penetrate, and there are experiences there so sacred, tender, and awful that it would be a species of profanity to endeavour to unfold them in form of speech. If, for purpose of seeking assistance, reference is made to secret experiences, the surface only is to be touched. No one who reveres the sacredness of religious life will attempt to pry into what is secret between the soul and God, or to probe wounds which "shame would hide."

(2) Private and domestic affairs. There are in every life interests which belong to no one else; and in home there are solemn secrets on which the cold, critical eye of the world must not be allowed to gaze. Much of the sweet, binding influence of home lies in the unforced reticence of its members.

(3) Secrets pertaining to office. Office in Church, State, or commerce implies know]edge to be used only for specific purposes in relation thereto. No one is fit for office who cannot control his tongue and resist temptation to speak.

3. Its value. As a habit of mind, when distinguished from sullen reserve, the result of mere temperament, it gives power to the possessor. It reveals a sober, discriminating judgment, a strength of purpose that can resist inducement, and a profound regard for the sanctities of life. In society it, wisely exercised, insures confidence, renders transaction of affairs easy, and promotes respectful, courteous bearing. In religious associations it tends to reverence, devoutness of spirit, and sincerity.

4. Its dangers. It is, if not carefully guarded, likely to degenerate into a love of secrecy, an unnaturally close, reserved habit of mind. In religious life its excess may put a check on the free utterance of life's sorrows and cares even to God, and also deprive the Church of the benefits of a rich experience.

II. WISE RETICENCE WILL ALWAYS BE CONSISTENT WITH TRUTHFULNESS. It is possible to state partial truth in such a way as virtually to lie, and to be silent when silence may be designed to convey a false impression. Saul was truthful in his reticence. He answered questions; he did not volunteer information. Had he been pressed he most likely would have declined to answer. Christ was reticent when pressed on the question of John's baptism, and when examined by Pilate, but no false impression was conveyed. In cases of difficulty it is better point blank to refuse information than incur the risk of suspected prevarication. Inquisitive men should be plainly rebuked rather than put off with questionable answers.


1 Samuel 10:10. (GIBEAH.)

A company of prophets.

This is the first mention of "a company (cord, chain, or band) of prophets" (Nabhis). There were previously individual prophets. And on one occasion the seventy elders prophesied (Numbers 11:25), and Moses said, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them." But until the time of Samuel there was no association or community, college or school, of prophets.

1. His language shows his intimate relation to this "company," of which he was doubtless the founder, and appears subsequently as president (1 Samuel 19:20); for it is not likely that there were now several such "companies," as in later times (1 Kings 20:35; 2Ki 2:3, 2 Kings 2:16; 2 Kings 4:38).

2. Its formation was due to a newly awakened religious life among the people, and intended as a means of deepening and extending it.

3. It arose about the same time as the establishment of the monarchy, and furnished a regular succession of prophets, by whom the word of the Lord was spoken for the guidance and restraint of the king. "Samuel saw the need of providing a new system of training for those who should be his successors in the prophetic office, and formed into fixed societies the sharers of the mystic gift, which was plainly capable of cultivation and enlargement. As it was a leading crisis of the dealings of God with men, unusual operations of the Spirit marked the time of Samuel; but they were not confined to him, though he is far the most conspicuous figure" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). Notice their—

I. SPIRITUAL CALLING. They are called prophets with reference to their vocation or profession. But this was founded upon an individual and inner call by the Divine Spirit. Dwelling on the high ground of Divine contemplation, they were often visited by breezes of spiritual influence to which others were strangers, borne along in an ecstasy beyond their own control, and impelled to give utterance to the overflowing feeling of their hearts; and some of their number were chosen by God to be the recipients of the gift of prophecy in the highest sense. Their calling represents that of the Christian ministry, and more generally the vocation of all Christians (Acts 2:17; Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19).

II. FRATERNAL UNION. They formed a "company," a voluntary, organised society, apparently dwelling together in the same place, and pursuing the same mode of life. The bond of their union was the common spirit they possessed; and their association contributed to their preservation and prosperity, and their power over others. "They presented the unifying, associative power of the prophetic spirit over against the disruption of the theocratic life, which was a legacy of the time of the judges" (Erdmann). Of Christian union the like, and much more, may be said (John 17:21; Acts 2:46; Acts 4:23).

III. MUSICAL SKILL. "And before them a psaltery (cithara), and a tabret (tambourine), and a pipe (flute), and a harp (guitar);" stringed, percussion, and wind instruments of music (1 Samuel 10:5; Genesis 4:21; Genesis 31:27; Exodus 15:20). They made a religious use of music, and cultivated it with great care. It prepared them for high and holy emotion (2 Kings 3:15), and gave appropriate expression to it. It strengthened the feeling to which it gave expression, regulated it, and stirred in others a similar feeling. Their sacred music was the germ of the splendid choral service of the temple in subsequent time.

"What passion cannot music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,

His listening brethren stood around,

And wonder on their faces fell,

To worship that celestial sound;

Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell?" (Dryden)

IV. PROPHETIC UTTERANCE. "And they shall prophesy." Poetry, like music, is the natural vehicle of strong emotion. And in it they recited and sang in an impassioned manner the praises of God, and the wonders which be had wrought on behalf of his people (1 Chronicles 25:1, 1 Chronicles 25:3).

V. POPULAR REPUTATION. The manner in which they were spoken of by the people generally (1 Samuel 10:11) shows the important position they occupied, and the high estimation in which they were held. When the professed servants of God are so regarded—

1. It is an evidence of their worth and consistency. They commend themselves to "every man's conscience." If, being faithful to their vocation, they are despised, it only reveals the evil character of their despisers; and it is not honour, but shame, to be commended by foolish and wicked men (Luke 6:26).

2. It indicates the prevalence of a right sentiment in society.

3. It affords a favourable condition of bearing witness for God and successful spiritual labour.—D.

1 Samuel 10:11-13. (GIBEAH.)

Saul among the prophets.

"Is Saul also among the prophets?" Of the three signs of which Saul was assured, the occurrence of the last alone is particularly described. "And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them." "Turned into another man" (1 Samuel 10:6). It was "the most important for his inner life." "Through this sign his anointing as king was to be inwardly sealed." In what is here recorded we see an instance of—

I. SURPRISING TRANSFORMATION. The question was mainly one of surprise. The change was—

1. Sudden. In what are called "sudden conversions," indeed, there is often a secret preparation of mind and heart. Even in the case of Saul the surprise would not have been so great if his recent interview with Samuel and its effect upon him had been known.

2. In extraordinary contrast to his previous life, wherein he had exhibited little interest in or aptitude for spiritual exercises. Four or five days ago among them wholly occupied with the care of oxen and asses—dull, moody, and silent; now in a transport of religious emotion, and "speaking in a new tongue!"

3. Supernatural. It was plainly due to the "Spirit of God," i.e. (in the Hebrew conception) the direct, invisible, operative energy of God, whether put forth in nature or in man, in imparting mental or physical force for great enterprises, in promoting moral improvement, in producing exalted states of feeling, or in acts of the highest inspiration (Genesis 1:2; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges 13:25; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 11:2); and (according to the fuller revelation of the New Testament) the holy, personal, Divine Spirit of God and of Christ. The expression (here used in this book for the first time) is not employed with respect to Samuel, whose intercourse with God is represented as more voluntary, self conscious, intimate, and continuous than that which it here denotes.

II. SYMPATHETIC ENTHUSIASM. Saul was drawn into sympathy with the Divine enthusiasm of the "company of prophets."

1. The links which unite men are secret, subtle, and mysterious, and the influence which some men exert over others is extraordinary.

2. Human influence is a common condition of Divine.

3. The contagious power of strong emotion is often seen in religious revivals, and to some extent also in other public movements. "Ecstatic states have something infectious about them. The excitement spreads involuntarily, as in the American revivals and the preaching mania in Sweden, even to persons in whose state of mind there is no affinity to anything of the kind" (Tholuck). "As one coal kindles another, so it happens that where good is taught and heard hearts do not remain unmoved—Acts 16:13, Acts 16:14" (Hall).

III. SPIRITUAL ENDOWMENT. "And one of the same place answered," in reply to the question (asked somewhat contemptuously and sceptically), "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also" (whose relationship and antecedents are so different) "among the prophets? and said, But who is their father?" "Who is he that teacheth these prophets, and causeth the spirit of prophecy to rest on them? Nor is there any cause for astonishment in this; for the same holy, blessed One who teacheth these prophets teacheth also this one" (Kimchi). "Prophetical perfection is not a matter that is conveyed from father to son. Under these circumstances the son may be a prophet, though the father is not so" (R. Levi Ben Gersom, quoted by Ed. of Smith's 'Sel. Dis.').

1. Spiritual gifts are not the result of natural relationship.

2. They are due to the free and sovereign operation of the Divine Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as he will."

3. When they are bestowed on ourselves they should be received with humility, and when they are observed in others they should be regarded without envy, and with admiration and thankfulness.

IV. PARTIAL CONVERSION. "And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place" (Acts 16:13). His inspiration was transitory, and the change which he had undergone, great as it was, and in the direction of a renewal of his heart in righteousness, did not involve such renewal. "This transformation is not to be regarded as regeneration in the Christian sense, but as a change resembling regeneration which affected the entire disposition of mind, and by which Saul was lifted out of his former modes of thought and feeling, which were confined within a narrow, earthly sphere, into a far higher sphere of his new royal calling, was filled with kingly thoughts in relation to the service of God, and received another heart—Acts 16:9" (Keil).

1. Great spiritual gifts may be possessed without the possession of a new heart (Num 24:1-25 :35; Numbers 31:8; Matthew 7:22; 1 Corinthians 13:2).

2. There may be considerable moral reformation, much spiritual feeling, correct orthodox beliefs, outward profession of piety, and strict observance of religious ordinances, whilst the supreme affection or ruling purpose of the soul remains unchanged (Matthew 13:1-58.).

3. A real renewal of the heart is manifested by its permanent fruits (Matthew 7:20; John 15:16; Hebrews 3:14). "If Samuel is the great example of an ancient saint growing up from childhood to old age without a sudden conversion, Saul is the first direct example of the mixed character often produced by such a conversion He became 'another man,' yet not entirely. He was, as is so often the case, half converted, half roused His religion was never blended with his moral nature" (Stanley)

"Let not the people be too swift to judge;
As one who reckons on the blades in field
Or e'er the crop be ripe. For I have seen
The thorn frown rudely all the winter long,
And after bear the rose upon its top;
And bark, that all her way across the sea
Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last
E'en in the haven's mouth. Seeing one steal,
Another bring his offering to the priest,
Let not Dame Birtha and Sir Martin thence
Into Heaven's counsels deem that they can pry;
For one of these may rise, the other fall" (Dante, Par. 13.).—D.

1 Samuel 10:14-16. (GIBEAH.)


Inquiry after truth is a necessary and invaluable exercise. But inquiry, when it is directed to matters in which we have no proper concern, degenerates into vain curiosity, or mere inquisitiveness. And this often appears both in relation to Divine affairs (Genesis 3:6; Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Samuel 6:19; Luke 13:23; Acts 1:6)and human affairs (John 21:21). Of the latter we have here an illustration. Saul, having reached his home, was asked by his uncle concerning his journey and interview with Samuel. "Whither went ye?" "Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said to you." This man was doubtless acquainted with the popular agitation about a king, but what his precise motives were we are not told. Such inquisitiveness as he displayed—


1. An unrestrained desire of knowledge. There must be self-restraint in this desire, as in every other; else it leads to recklessness, irreverence, and pride.

2. An unjust disregard of the rights of others. The claims of family relationship are sometimes exaggerated so as to ignore or interfere with those rights. It is imagined that they justify the expectation of an answer to any inquiry, however little it affects the inquirer.

3. Uncharitable and suspicious thoughts about the conduct of others, expressed in impertinent and annoying questions, which naturally cause resentment and discord. It may be added, that persons who are "busybodies in other men's matters" (1 Peter 4:15) are seldom so diligent and faithful in their own as they ought to be. The proper province of every man affords plenty of scope for his attention and effort (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13).


1. Out of due regard to higher claims. What Samuel said to Saul was intended for him alone, and to divulge it would be a breach of duty.

2. Lest the information given should be used to the disadvantage of him who gives it. Who knows how Saul's uncle would have employed the knowledge of his having been appointed king by the prophet? He might have done irreparable mischief. Many excellent projects have been frustrated by an untimely disclosure of them.

3. For the good of the inquirer himself. The gratification of his curiosity tends to increase his inquisitiveness, the mortification thereof to its cure. It was for the benefit of the Apostle Peter that the Lord said, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me."

III. SHOULD BE CHECKED IN A RIGHT MANNER. Judiciously, discreetly, and, more particularly—

1. With strict truthfulness. "He told us plainly that the asses were found" (1 Samuel 10:16). Saul spoke the truth, but not the whole truth; nor was he in the circumstances described under any obligation to do so. "A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it till afterwards" (Proverbs 29:11).

2. With due courtesy. By a blunt refusal and rude repulsion Saul might have alienated his uncle, and turned him into an enemy. "Honour all men." "Be courteous."

3. With few words or resolute silence. "But of the matter of the kingdom whereof Samuel spake he told him not." There is a "time to keep silence" (Ecclesiastes 3:7; Amos 5:13). "Then he (Herod) questioned him with many words; but he answered him nothing" (Luke 23:9). Our Lord himself is thus an example of silence to us when addressed with questions which it would not be prudent or beneficial to answer. "Silence is golden."


1. Check the tendency to curiosity in yourselves, so that it may not be checked, disappointed, and reproved by others.

2. In checking it in others seek their improvement rather than your own dignity and honour.—D.

Verses 17-27



1 Samuel 10:17

Samuel called the people together unto Jehovah to Mizpeh. For the reason why Mizpah (so the name should be spelt) was chosen as the place of meeting see 1 Samuel 7:15. Unto Jehovah. Because in some way the Divine presence there was indicated; possibly by the high priest having been summoned thither with the Urim and Thummim.

1 Samuel 10:18

And said... Samuel first points out in his address to the assembled people that Jehovah always had done for them the very thing for which they desired a king. They wished for deliverance from the Philistines, and Jehovah had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms that oppressed them (the A.V. wrongly inserts "and of them"). But their deliverance by Jehovah had been made dependent upon their own conduct; they were required to repent them of their sins, and purge the land from idolatry, before victory could be theirs. What they wanted was national independence freed from this condition, and secured by an organisation of their military resources.

1 Samuel 10:19

Samuel, therefore, protests unto them, Ye have this day rejected your God, because what you want is a divorce of your national well being from religion. Nevertheless, God granted their request, it being a law of his providence to leave men free to choose. The king was, however, to be appointed by him, the selection being by lot. By your thousands. The natural subdivision of a tribe is into families; but when Moses distributed the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:25), the numerical arrangement was probably made to yield as far as possible to the natural, so that about a thousand men more or less of the same kin should be classed as a family. Hence the terms are synonymous here, and in Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14, etc.

1 Samuel 10:21

The family of Matri, or of the Matrites. Matri is not mentioned anywhere else; and numerous as are the omissions in the genealogies, we can scarcely suppose that the name of the head of one of the main subdivisions of a tribe could be passed over. The conjecture, therefore, is probable that Matri is a corruption of Bikri, i.e. a descendant of Becher, for whom see 1 Chronicles 7:8. After the lot had fallen upon this family they would next cast lots upon its smaller subdivisions, as in Joshua 7:17, Joshua 7:18, until at last they came to households, when first Kish, and finally Saul was taken. The latter, foreseeing that this would happen, had concealed himself. For though a noble change had taken place in him (Joshua 7:9), yet no really worthy man was ever promoted to high office without having to overcome his own unwillingness, and no one probably ever worthily discharged solemn duties without having felt oppressed and humbled with the consciousness of his own unfitness to undertake them. As a matter of fact, Saul was now called to a most weighty responsibility, and he failed and was rejected, though not without proving that he was a man of extraordinary genius and power. And it never can be said of him that presumption was the cause of his fall, or that he hastily undertook serious duties in the spirit of light-hearted levity.

1 Samuel 10:22

They inquired of Jehovah further, if the man should yet come thither. More correctly, "Is any one as yet come hither?" The Septuagint and Vulgate translate as if there were an article before "any one" (Hebrew, a man), and give, "Is the man coming hither?" But the Hebrew text is the more satisfactory. For the object of the inquiry, made by the Urim and Thummim, was to find Saul, wherever he might be; and the enigmatical way of putting the question, Is any one as yet come? was regarded as more reverential than asking directly, Is Saul come? Among the stuff. I.e. the baggage, as in 1 Samuel 17:22, where it is translated "carriage." The people, collected from all Israel, would come with wagons and provisions, and such arms as they could procure; for very probably the Philistines would interrupt such a meeting, as they had that convened formerly by Samuel (1 Samuel 7:7). Naturally, therefore, they would follow the regulations of an army, and so arrange their baggage as to form a place of defence in case of attack. See on 1 Samuel 17:20.

1 Samuel 10:23, 1 Samuel 10:24

And when he stood. This rendering spoils the poetic force of the original, where the rapidity of their action is expressed by three preterites following hard upon one another. The Hebrew is, "And they ran, and took him thence, and he stood forth (see 1 Samuel 12:7) among the people, and he was taller," etc. And now Samuel presents him to the multitude as "the chosen of Jehovah," and the people shout their assent by saying, "Let the king live." For this the A.V. puts our English phrase, but the Hebrew exactly answers to the French Vive le roi!


1 Samuel 10:25

The manner. The difficult word already discussed in 1 Samuel 2:13; 1 Samuel 8:11. Here, however, it is not used for rights so exercised as to become wrongs, but in a good sense, for what we should call a constitution. The heathen kings were despots, subject to no higher law, and Samuel, in 1 Samuel 8:11-18, speaks with merited abhorrence of their violation of the natural rights of their subjects; but under the theocracy the king's power was limited by laws which protected, in the enjoyment of their privileges, the people, the priests, and the prophets. The latter class especially, as being the mouthpiece of Jehovah, formed a powerful check upon the development of despotic tendencies. In sketching Saul's kingly rights Samuel would be guided by Deuteronomy 17:14-20, and would give the king his true position as the representative of Jehovah both in all matters of internal administration and of war. And laid it up before Jehovah. Probably by the side of the ark. We are not to suppose that Samuel wrote this at Mizpah. He would fully explain to Saul and the people there what a theocratic king ought to be, and would afterwards draw up a formal document both as a memorial of what had been done, and for the use of future sovereigns, and place it within the sanctuary. It is noteworthy that this is the first notice of writing since the days of the illustrious scribe Eleazar.

1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 10:27

Saul did not at once enter upon his duties, but went home to Gibeah, and there went with him, not a band of men, but the host, or the force, i.e. those brave men whose hearts God had touched. Whatever was noble and valiant accompanied him, to take counsel for the nation's good; but the children of Belial, i.e. worthless, good for nothing creatures (see 1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Samuel 2:12), despised him. In the A.V. the antithesis between the force, the strength and bravery that went with Saul, and the worthlessness which rejected him, is lost by the mistranslation of both words. The Septuagint, on the contrary, strengthens it by rendering "sons of strength" and "pestilent sons." As there was a garrison in the district of Gibeah, this proceeding was likely to embroil Saul with the Philistines, and probably was so intended. They brought him no presents. Apparently, therefore, the people did bring him presents; and as these would chiefly consist of food, they would be useful only for maintaining a body of men. This, too, would scarcely escape the notice of so watchful an enemy, and yet until Saul smote one of their garrisons they did nothing; but then, forthwith, they invaded Israel so promptly, and with such overwhelming numbers, as seems to prove that they had been busily making preparations meanwhile to maintain their empire. He held his peace. Literally, "was as one that is deaf." Had Saul not controlled his anger, a civil war would have been the result, and the lordly tribes of Ephraim and Judah might have refused a king chosen from the little tribe of Benjamin. In fact, Judah never does seem to have given a hearty allegiance to Saul. The Septuagint, followed by Josephus, offers a not improbable different reading, which involves but a very slight change in the Hebrew. Uniting the words with the next chapter, they translate, "And it came to pass, after about a month, that Nahash the Ammonite," etc. The Vulgate has both readings.


1 Samuel 10:17-25

Casting the lot in life.

The facts are—

1. Samuel, in calling the people together to exercise their choice, reminds them of their sin.

2. Proceeding to a choice by lot, Saul is taken.

3. For reasons secret to himself, Saul is not forthcoming when sought.

4. By acclamation the people recognise him as their king, and thereupon receive from Samuel instructions relating to the new form of government. During the intercourse of Samuel with Saul the people were waiting for the fulfilment of the promise implied in the prophet's words (1 Samuel 8:10). In this section we have the consummation of their desire for change in the form of government. Its details are essentially Hebrew, but its teaching is worldwide.

I. MEN FINALLY COMMITTING THEMSELVES TO A SELF-WILLED COURSE ARE FURNISHED WITH OPPORTUNITY FOR CONSIDERING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. The self-willed character of Israel's conduct had been emphatically marked and denounced by the prophet in the first instance (1 Samuel 8:6-10). Had they received his rebuke in a becoming spirit, they would, during the interim, have repented of their decision, and have entreated that the old order might continue until such time as it might please God to alter it. Sometimes, as here, God takes men at their word, and yet, before an irreversible committal to their choice is made, another chance is given to retreat if they so willed. It was thus that Pharaoh was dealt with when it was in his mind to prefer self-will to the will of God. Nineveh had an opportunity of persisting in sin or turning from it. To erring Christians in Asia a chance of retracing their steps was given (Revelation 2:21). Providence raises up for us all some voice or circumstance which, before a final step is taken, sounds the last warning, and creates a definite consciousness of unfettered responsibility.

II. EVERY REVIEW OF GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE ONLY CONFIRMS THE UNREASONABLENESS OF SELF-WILL. The reference to God's all-sufficing care in the past, and the magnitude of the deliverances effected (1 Samuel 10:18, 1 Samuel 10:19), was both a justification of Samuel's former remonstrance, and a new demonstration of the sinful folly of the resolve to have a king. It was considerate on the part of Samuel to draw their attention to the past before translating their resolve into accomplished fact; for in the impetuosity of life the will is apt to be misled by delusive reasons, which in calmer moments vanish before the light of history. The axiom that God's way and time are best shines in full lustre whenever we consider the works he has wrought. If ever blind self-will urges on to a course agreeable to taste, and apparently sustained by reason, we cannot do better than take a survey of what God has done for us when we were obedient to his will. There are deliverances in the life of every one, and a quiet reflection of these when we are under the .temptation to embark on some questionable career will prove a wholesome check, at least it will vindicate the ways of God when judgment overtakes our folly.

III. MEN IN CARRYING OUT THEIR PURPOSE FALL INTO PERPLEXITY WITH RESPECT TO WHAT IS BEST. To desire a king is one thing, to select one another. In Israel there were diversities of opinion concerning the qualities requisite to their regal representative. As they took their own way in having a monarch, there was a fitness in his being, with respect to culture, morality, patriotism, and religion, an embodiment of the average attainments of the nation. The choice was thrown upon the people as a whole, and they were conscious of the difficulty. Sinners must take the consequences of self-will, as did Balaam when his path was hedged with obstacles, and Jonah when he preferred to go to sea. The difficulty in case of Israel was incidental, and soon removed by the mercy of God; but the principle holds good that the very first step of a self-willed course is attended with embarrassment. All nature is at war with wrong. Sin is a condition of disorganisation.

IV. WHEN GOD PERMITS ACTION TO MEET SELF-CREATED DIFFICULTIES, IT IS WISE TO USE MEANS MOST APPROPRIATE TO THE END IN VIEW. Although the difficulty of finding a king truly representative of the age was self-created, God permitted action in reference to it as truly as though he had originated the resolve for a king; and under such circumstances, guided by Samuel, the wisest means were adopted for overcoming the difficulties of the case. As the nation willed a king, every one had equal choice, and was, theoretically, in the absence of precedents, equally eligible. Abstractedly there was as much reason against one being chosen as against another. The jealousies and envies consequent on a preferential choice might prove a source of perpetual intrigue. The "lot" was believed to meet these requirements of the case, and therefore was adopted. In this particular the conduct of Israel under Samuel's guidance is worthy of imitation in many seasons of difficulty independent of self-will. In every life there are emergencies when men are at their wits' end. Home has to be provided for, business improved, sons placed out in the world, embarrassments in the Church removed. Our wisdom lies in considering all the facts, and then deliberately adopting those means which seem to us to be most suited for the occasion. And if, in a spirit of prayer, we are able to consult the "lively oracles," there is no doubt that in the main the right steps will be taken, as in the case of the disciples (Acts 1:13-26). We in our way "cast the lot" when we take a choice of possible means and commit our way to the Lord.

V. THERE IS REASON TO BELIEVE THAT IN USING THE BEST MEANS AT OUR DISPOSAL IN A RIGHT SPIRIT GOD WILL DIRECT THE MEANS TO THE BEST RESULT. God approved of Israel's use of the "lot" as just to a community where political equality was recognised, and as least likely to engender jealousies and strifes; and because he approved, and because the people believed that, though the lot was "cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33), he graciously so controlled the intricacies of the free actions of men as to insure the result which, in relation to Israel's conduct and aspirations, was best. The deep conviction dwelt even in the heart of imperfect Israel that God exercises complete and constant control over all the subtle and intricate actions and movements of men. When it is said of Christ that he is "Lord of all," the language is not that of courtesy, but of fact. It means power to act, to direct, to control. If there is any sense in Scripture on this subject, and any congruity in our primary notions of the almighty; ever present, free, living God, we must believe that he can and does hold a mastery over every atom, every resolve, in all time and circumstances. Unbelief in his supremacy over will and action and matter and force is most irrational. The real energy of God is the most philosophical of all beliefs; and therefore we see that he can direct the "lot" while allowing fullest, most conscious freedom. Let men but have faith in God. This is the great lack. "O ye of little faith!"

VI. IT BECOMES MEN TO REJOICE IN THE RESULT OF THE USE OF MEANS APPROVED BY GOD IN SO FAR AS IT IS EXPRESSIVE OF HIS WILL. In the shout, "God save the king," the people no doubt expressed their gratification in seeing their self-will realised; but blended with this there was a distinct recognition of God as the Disposer of the lot. Saul's self-concealment seems to indicate that his sense of responsibility, and .perhaps feeling of awkwardness in handling public affairs, may have moderated his joy, yet he must have felt that God's will was being done as well as man's. Realised preference may carry its own chastisement with it; yet in so far as God has enabled us to obtain something better than would have been possible had we been left alone without his kind control, we may heartily rejoice. Leaving out the weakness and sin of man in this transaction, are we not reminded of a time when the true King, the King of the spiritual Israel, shall be welcomed with a joy unspeakable? The "King in his beauty" shall be glorified in all who believe, and by every heart and tongue of the purified, perfected kingdom.

General lessons:

1. It is useful to obtain seasons, free from strong impulse, for calmly considering the wisdom and justice of our main lines of conduct.

2. One of the great helps in battling with sinful propensities lies in occasional studies of the mercies of God.

3. It will add strength to purpose and comfort in trouble to remember that God always works with those who use means approved by him.

4. One of the cures for modern unbelief is to be found in a more frequent and reasonable exposition of what is contained in the primary and necessary beliefs of men.

5. If the heart remains true we need never fear undertaking responsibilities put on us by Providence.

1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 10:27

Sympathy and disparagement.

The facts are—

1. Saul is followed by a band of men brought into sympathy with him by the Spirit of God.

2. He is despised by a depraved section of the people.

3. He takes no notice of the disparagement.

I. The SIMPLE FACTS GIVEN ARE EXCEEDINGLY NATURAL. For in Israel there were men anxious for a king, and pledged to sustain one; and men, as in all communities, corrupt, unreasonable, prone to disapprove of anything not done solely by themselves. Equally natural was it that he who had graciously regulated Israel's self-will should incline some, by voluntary personal attendance, to assure the monarch of sympathy in seeking honourably to discharge the duties of his onerous office. The principal facts here recorded are of constant recurrence. Chosen ones enter on grave responsibilities; they need the support which flows from hearty sympathy; God provides it by his secret action on human hearts; the entrance on duty renders them objects of criticism, and men of depraved natures assail them with reproach and abuse; having confidence in their appointment, they move on, relying on coming events for their self-vindication.

II. The MOST ILLUSTRIOUS INSTANCE ON RECORD OF THE TRUTH HERE EXPRESSED IS THAT OF OUR SAVIOUR. The parallel is remarkable in the most prominent features.

1. He was the true, perfect, anointed One, chosen of God to rule over the true Israel, and introduced into publicity by a control of intricacies more lasting and complicated than those of the lot at Mizpah.

2. His rulership was to be coextensive with the whole of God's people—over a holy nation more complete and united even than was Israel before the dispersion of the ten tribes; and a rulership conducted on principles of righteousness more sweeping in their range and fruitful in consequences than those embodied by Samuel in the book laid up. before the Lord (1 Samuel 10:25).

3. He, as bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, was in need of the sympathy of true, loving hearts in bearing the burdens and cares of his exalted position; and such hearts were drawn to him both from the human and the angelic spheres.

4. His appearance among men was the occasion of the most severe and relentless criticism ever issuing from suspicious, captious minds. His social connections, his habits of life, his requirements of obedience, his claim to save all mankind, were assailed from the first to the last.

5. He "held his peace." He did "not strive nor cry," nor "lift up his voice in the streets." He was "meek and lowly in heart," and bided his time. What though hated and scorned? He knew what was coming. He saw "from the travail of his soul, and was satisfied."

III. WHAT IS TRUE OF CHRIST IS in a measure TRUE OF ALL WHOSE LIVES ARE CONFORMABLE TO THE OBJECT OF HIS SUFFERINGS. Every disciple is a chosen one, sustained by God-created sympathy, laden with responsibilities as well as honours, criticised and despised by "men of Belial," and confident that, in due time, his righteousness will come forth as the light, and his judgment be established as the noonday.

General lessons:

1. Let our concern be that we are among the chosen ones called to be kings and priests unto God.

2. Let us accept and yield sympathy from and to all who are doing God's work in the world.

3. Let not disparagement shake our confidence, as though some strange thing had befallen us.

4. Cherish faith in the slow but sure triumph of all that is Christly.


1 Samuel 10:17-25. (MIZPAH)

Saul publicly chosen.

There are critical days in the history of nations as well as in the life of individuals. One of these days in the history of Israel was that which is here described. What had taken place hitherto was only private and preparatory. The people themselves must now take their part in relation to the choice of a king; yet in such a way as to recognise the fact that he was really chosen by God, "the only difference between God's appointment of the judges and Saul being this, that they were chosen by internal influence; he by lots, or external designation" (Warburton). For this purpose Samuel summoned a national assembly to Mizpah, the site of an altar to Jehovah, and the scene of signal victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:1-17.). Thither the chief men of the tribes repaired in great numbers, and, collecting their travelling baggage in one place (1 Samuel 10:22), presented themselves before him for his instructions. He was desirous of correcting the wrong state of mind which they had exhibited in requesting a king; of showing them that Saul was appointed by the Lord, and not by himself merely (1 Samuel 8:5); of securing their united and hearty acceptance of "him whom the Lord chose," so that the purpose of his appointment might be effected; and of guarding as far as possible against the abuse of the royal power. With these ends in view he spoke and acted on that eventful day. The choice of Saul was -

I. PRECEDED BY A SALUTARY REPROOF OF SIN (1 Samuel 10:18, 1 Samuel 10:19).

1. Based upon the gracious help which their Divine Ruler had afforded them. He brought them out of Egypt, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and his hosts, and saved them from all who afterwards fought against them and oppressed them. Remembrance of the compassion, faithfulness, and aid of God, so great, so long continued, and so effectual, should lead men to cleave to him with all their heart (Joshua 23:11), even more than fear of the consequences of disobedience (1 Samuel 8:11). The goodness of God, as displayed in "his wonderful works to the children of men," is the mightiest incentive to repentance of sin and the practice of righteousness.

2. Consisting of a charge of flagrant disloyalty. "And ye have this day rejected your God," etc. Their conduct was unreasonable, inasmuch as no other could do for them what he had done; ungrateful, viewed in the light of the past; and wilful, because, in spite of expostulation, they had said, "Nay, but a king thou shalt set over us" (1 Samuel 10:19). It was, therefore, inexcusable, and deserving of severest reprobation. And it must be plainly set before them, that they might be convinced of their guilt, humble themselves before the Lord, and seek his pardon. "Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you" (Isaiah 30:18). "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake" (1 Samuel 12:22).

3. Associated with instruction concerning the proper course they should pursue. "And now present yourselves before the Lord," etc; at his altar, where your relation to him may be set right, and his guidance may be afforded. Although sinful requests may be granted by God, yet the spirit in which they are made must be renounced. And the ready submission of the people to the direction of Samuel shows that his reproof was not without effect.


1. He determined, by means of the sacred lot, who should be their king. As the result of the lot was regarded as a Divine decision, not only was Saul to be accredited by this act in the sight of the whole nation as the king appointed by the Lord, but he himself was also to be more fully assured of the certainty of his own election on the part of God" (Keil). "The lot is cast into the lap (bosom of a garment), but from Jehovah is all its decision" (judgment) (Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 14:37; Proverbs 16:33). "A lot is properly a casual event, purposely applied to the determination of some doubtful thing. As all contingencies are comprehended by a certain Divine knowledge, so they are governed by as certain and steady a providence. God's hand is as steady as his eye. Now God may be said to bring the greatest casualties under his providence upon a twofold account:—

(1) That he directs them to a certain end;

(2) oftentimes to very weighty and great ends" (South, 1.61).

2. He indicated, in answer to special inquiry, where he was to be found. Assured beforehand of what the result would be, and out of the same diffidence, modesty, and humility as he had previously exhibited (1 Samuel 9:21), Saul "preferred to be absent when the lots were cast." Hence inquiry was made (apparently by Urim and Thummim) concerning him (1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 23:2), and the response of the oracle was definite and conclusive. God mercifully adapts his modes of communication with men to their common modes of thought, their capacity and need; and those who humbly and sincerely seek his guidance are not long left in uncertainty. His communications to men, moreover, carry in themselves the evidence of their Divine origin to those who truly receive them, and are further verified by the events to which they lead (1 Samuel 10:23).

3. He presented him before them, through his recognised servant, as chosen by himself. "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?" (1 Samuel 10:24). The conduct of Samuel herein was singularly generous and noble. He did not exhibit the slightest trace of jealousy or distrust of the king into whose hands his own power as civil magistrate was just about to be transferred. "No man ever resigned the first power in the state into other hands with so much courtesy, tenderness, dignity, and grace." Having ascertained the will of the Lord concerning his people, he aimed at nothing else but to carry it into effect.

III. CONFIRMED BY THE GENERAL APPROBATION OF THE PEOPLE (1 Samuel 10:23, 1 Samuel 10:24). Although the choice was of God, it was necessary that it should be recognised and accepted by them; and their approbation—

1. Accorded with the commendation of Samuel.

2. Was influenced by Saul's outward appearance: "higher than any of the people from his shoulders upward"—just such a man as they wished "to go out before them and fight their battles. "

3. And was expressed in the acclamation, "God save the king". The people had now the object of their desire; but the Divine providence which had guided Saul guided them to the result. Nations, as well as individuals, are subject to the direction and control of him "who stilleth the noise of the sea and the tumult of the people." "Every act of every man, however it may have been against God in intention, falls exactly into the even rhythm of God's world plan."

IV. FOLLOWED BY PERMANENT REGULATIONS FOR THE MONARCHY (1 Samuel 10:25). "The manner (mishpat) of the kingdom"—"the laws and rules by which the kingly government was to be managed" (Poole), and differs from "the manner (mishpat) of the king" (1 Samuel 8:11); being designed by the wisdom and forethought of Samuel to guard against the evils incident to royalty. "Thus under the Divine sanction, and amidst the despotism of the East, arose the earliest example of a constitutional monarchy" (Kitto). But there was no stipulation or compact between the people and the king. His rights and duties were prescribed by the will of God, whose servant he was. His power was restrained by the living voice of prophecy, and sometimes justly opposed by the people themselves (1 Samuel 14:45). "This much, however, is clear upon the whole, that the king of Israel was not an unlimited monarch, as the defenders of the Divine right of kings and of the passive obedience of subjects are wont to represent him" (Michaelis, 'Laws of Moses,' 1:286). The regulations for the monarchy were—

1. Founded upon the existing law of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), although, doubtless, not entirely confined to it. The king must not be ambitious, occupied in military preparations and aggressive wars, vying with heathen despots, relying on "an arm of flesh" rather than on God. He must not be given to sensual indulgence, forming a large harem and luxurious court; nor to the accumulation of wealth, taxing and oppressing the people for that purpose. But he must make himself familiar with "the law," and humbly obey it like his brethren (2 Kings 11:12). His work was not to make new laws, but to administer those which Jehovah had given, and "do all his pleasure." "Then must he constantly bear in mind that above him there abides another King—the Eternal; and that only in as far as he works together with God, and consequently with all spiritual truth, can any earthly monarch be a king after the heart of the King of kings" (Ewald). O that Saul had borne these things in mind!

2. Expounded in the hearing of the people.

3. Recorded and carefully preserved for future reference. "That the law of the king should not be a dead letter, that royal self-will should be kept within bounds, was to be the care, not of a representative popular assembly, but of prophecy, which stood as theocratic watchman by the side of royalty" (Oehler).—D.

1 Samuel 10:24. (MIZPAH)

God save the king.

For the first time in the history of Israel there now arose the cry of "Long live the king" (Vive le roi), which was to be so often repeated in subsequent ages (2 Samuel 16:16; 2 Kings 1:1-19; 2 Kings 1:1-19; 2 Kings 11:12). The nations of the earth have since undergone vast and varied changes. Great empires have arisen and disappeared. The theocratic kingdom of Israel, in its outward form, has long ago passed away; and the kingdom of Christ, in which its spiritual idea has been realised, has grown up amidst the kingdoms of the world. But the old acclamation is still often heard at the accession of a monarch, and in it Christians as well as others may and ought to join. The acclamation is expressive of—


1. As appointed by Divine providence. The invisible and eternal Ruler of the universe is the Source of all law and order, and is everworking in the world for the purpose of bringing out of the evil and confusion that prevail a state of things in which "righteousness, peace, and joy" shall abound. And in connection with and subserviency to this design he has ordained civil government (Daniel 4:32; John 19:11). "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1), i.e. human government generally is appointed by him, although no judgment is expressed by the apostle concerning the Divine right of any one form of government or particular office beyond others. When a ruler is directly chosen by the people he is still a "minister of God."

2. As representing the supreme authority and power of "the Most High, who ruleth in the kingdom of men." There is in every government an element which is Divine; a reflection, however dim and distorted, of that Divine power which is above all. But that government is most Divine which is the fairest exhibition of wisdom and truth, righteousness and justice, mercy and loving kindness;" "for in these things I delight, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:24). "By me (wisdom) kings reign and princes decree justice" (Proverbs 18:15). Reverence for God should be expressed in giving honour to those who, in their high office, represent God, and "to whom honour is due." "Fear God. Honour the king. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme," etc. (1 Peter 2:13, 1 Peter 2:14)—supreme, i.e; not in all things, but in those over which he has legitimate authority. In a theocracy, where the laws of God were identical with those of the state, the sphere over which that authority extended was larger than that which properly belongs to any existing government.

3. As ministering to human good. Even the absolute rule of a Caesar or a Czar is unspeakably better than anarchy. "He is a minister of God to thee for good" (Romans 13:4). He exists for the good of the community; and although the good which he is able to effect and ought to aim at is necessarily limited, he "does not bear the sword in vain." He bears it for the protection of the good against the bad. And under his sway, when he uses his power aright, his subjects are able to "lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and gravity."

II. FERVENT DESIRE FOR HIS WELFARE. "May the king prosper" ('Targum').

1. The preservation of his life, which is of great importance to the well being of the nation, and is often exposed to imminent danger from the exalted position he occupies.

2. The possession of strength and wisdom, justice and the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3). Adequate sympathy is not always felt with "kings and those who are in authority" in their arduous duties and extraordinary difficulties.

3. The prosperity of his reign. The desire thus felt should be expressed in prayer to the supreme Ruler and the Given of every good and perfect gift (1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:2). "We (Christians) do intercede for all our emperors without ceasing, that their lives may be prolonged, their government secured to them, their families preserved in safety, their armies brave, their senates faithful to them, the people virtuous, and the whole empire at peace, and for whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish" (Tertullian, 'Apology,' 1 Samuel 30:1-31.).


1. Personal obedience to its laws. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates" (Titus 3:1). "Ye must needs be subject." (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; Matthew 22:21.)

2. Strenuous opposition to its enemies.

3. Faithful endeavour to promote its efficiency and prosperity. This is plainly our duty as citizens; and whilst, under the protection afforded us, we also seek as Christians in various ways to extend the kingdom of Christ, we thereby make the work of good government easier, and secure the wisest and most just and honourable men for its accomplishment. So far from being contrary to each other, the Christian religion and civil government are mutually helpful, and each has its part under Divine providence, the .one more and the other less directly, in bringing about the time when "the people shall be all righteous."

"When all men's good (shall)
Be each man's rule, and universal peace
Lie likes shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Through all the circle of the Golden Year" (Tennyson).—D

1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 10:27. (MIZPAH and GIBEAH.)

Friends and opponents in godly enterprise.

It was a saying of Socrates that every man in this life has need of a faithful friend and a bitter enemy—the one to advise him, the other to make him look around him. This saying was more than fulfilled in Saul, who, on being chosen king, was followed by a band of faithful friends, and despised and opposed by "certain worthless men." The same thing often happens, under different circumstances, to other men, and especially to the servants of God when they enter upon some new enterprise which has for its aim the furtherance of his kingdom, and deeply affects men's interests and passions. In relation to such an enterprise we have here an illustration of—


1. Often existing when not suspected, and notwithstanding all that is done to harmonise them. When the people shouted, "Long live the king," the dissatisfaction that lurked in many breasts was little surmised. Samuel did all that lay in his power to bring about a complete union of the tribes; but his efforts did not altogether succeed. Reason and persuasion, though they ought to be employed to the utmost: frequently fail to conciliate men because of the different disposition of their hearts.

2. Commonly manifested by special events. The honour conferred upon the leader of a new movement, or the decisive action taken by him, serves to "reveal the thoughts of many hearts." A single circumstance sometimes, like a flash of lightning in the darkness, suddenly lays bare to the view what was previously hidden.

3. Clearly distinguished as belonging to one or other of two classes: "the host" (sons of strength, LXX.) "whose hearts God had touched," and "sons of worthlessness." "He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30). The demands of certain enterprises, like those of Christ himself, render neutrality impossible.

"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light" (Lowell).

II. THE INESTIMABLE WORTH OF FRIENDS. Their worth is always great; but it is especially so in a time of need, when new and responsible positions have to be occupied, arduous duties to be performed, numerous enemies to be encountered. Their counsel and support are indispensable; their very presence is a mighty encouragement. "Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage" (Acts 28:15). Their worth depends upon—

1. Their hearty sympathy in spirit and aim. A merely formal adherence is of little value; and if there be an inward and ardent devotion, it is "from the Lord" (Psalms 110:3). And when God impels a man to useful service he does not leave him without those who sympathise with him.

2. Their perfect unanimity in arrangement and method.

3. Their practical cooperation in labour and conflict. They "went with him," formed his bodyguard, and stood ready to defend and help him. In this manner their sympathy proved itself to be genuine, and rendered most effectual service. Would that all who are favourable to noble enterprises, and all members of Christian Churches, rallied thus around their "leaders!" (Philippians 1:27).

III. THE PRUDENT TREATMENT OF OPPONENTS. "How shall this man save us?" "Shall Saul reign over us?" (1 Samuel 11:12). It is not improbable that they who thus spoke belonged to the princes of Judah and Ephraim, and were envious at his election. They were certainly unbelieving, neither recognising the hand of God therein, nor looking further than man for deliverance. They were contemptuous, deeming him unfit to rule over them. "This man." And they were disloyal and disobedient. The law said, "Thou shalt not revile the gods (= God, or the judges), nor curse the ruler of thy people" (Exodus 22:28); but they "despised him, and brought him no presents," like others, as an expression of their submission. They might, therefore, have been justly punished as traitors. Yet "he was as though he were deaf;" although he heard them, he did not retaliate, but went on his way in silence. This is often the best way of treating opponents, and it displays—

1. Great self control.

2. Much wisdom and foresight. To attempt at this time to punish these men might have produced civil war. It is sometimes necessary that gainsayers should be answered, but in most cases they do least mischief by being let alone, and are soonest silenced by silence.

3. Strong confidence in Divine help, and the success which it insures. In contending against those whom God calls to do his work men contend against him, and faith calmly leaves them in his hands, to be dealt with as he may think fit (Acts 5:39; Romans 12:19).


1. Expect to find opposition in the way of duty.

2. Let the forbearance of God toward his enemies teach you forbearance towards yours.

3. Be thankful for the sympathy and help of earthly friends, and still more for the sympathy and help of the Lord.—D.


1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 10:27

Illusive Presages.

A mild, clear morning may be followed by a stormy day. A prince may begin to reign with gentleness who afterwards becomes proud, ruthless, impatient, even harsh and bloodthirsty. There are few instances of this in history so pathetic as the case of Saul, who began his reign with every indication of a magnanimous character, yet was soon deteriorated by the possession of power, and made himself and all around him most unhappy. In him we see how good impulses may be overcome by evil passion, and what fair promise may come to nought. In order to catch the lessons of warning and admonition which come from the tragic story of Saul, it is necessary to do full justice to the bright beginning of his career.

I. HIS RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY. We know that his prophesying left little trace behind; but that Saul was quickly susceptible of religious impressions is plain enough, and this in his early days must have awakened fond hopes regarding him in the breasts of those who were zealous for the Lord of hosts.

II. HIS ATTRACTION FOR THE FERVENT SPIRITS OF THE NATION. We are told, with a sort of naivete, how his height impressed the people at large, and was pointed to even by Samuel. So the Greeks gloried in the huge Ajax, and in the towering form of Achilles. It is not said or implied, however, that Saul himself showed any pride in the admiration which his grand appearance won. The significant thing is, that he drew after him "a band of men whose hearts God had touched." They saw in his eye, or supposed they saw, the fire of a kindred enthusiasm. Here was one, they thought, worthy to be king of a holy nation. So they formed a bodyguard round him as the Lord's anointed. Their mistake is not at all an isolated one. Ardent young men often fail in discernment of character, and attach themselves to questionable leaders. Let no one count it enough that some good people think well of him, and assume his warmth of spirit as sufficient evidence of his being "born again." A man is what be is in the enduring habits and controlling principles of his character and life. Value the good opinion of the wise, if they have opportunity to see the unexcited tenor of your conduct; but do not count it a sure mark of grace that you have at some time felt a glow of religious ardour, and that others in the same mood have hailed you as brother, or even leader, in the Church of God. After all the attraction exerted by Saul over the fervent spirits of his time, he hardened his own heart, and the Lord departed from him.

III. HIS PATIENCE AND MAGNANIMITY. There were exceptions to the general approval with which Saul was raised to the throne. Some held aloof, and scoffed at the confidence which was placed so rashly in the tall Benjamite. They disliked him all the more that the devout rallied about him; for they themselves were "sons of Belial," men whose hearts the Lord had not touched. It was a serious risk for the young king to have a disloyal faction, treating his authority with open contempt. Yet Saul bore it quietly. He "held his peace." Nor was this a mere politic delay till he should be strong enough to crush the malcontents, for there is no mention of his ever having called these sons of Belial to account. Surely this was a fine point of character—to bear obstruction so patiently, and be content to earn public confidence by his kingly bearing and exploits. It was a virtue beyond the expectations, and even the wishes, of his people. Who that saw that young king could have imagined that he who was so patient would grow so restless as he did; and he who was so magnanimous would become almost insane with envy, and chase his own son-in-law among the hills of Judaea, thirsting for his blood? So hard is it for a man to be known! Virtue may leap to the front, and show itself on some auspicious day; but vice lurks in the rear, and may prove the stronger. When its day comes it will take the mastery, and then the fair promise of youth is succeeded by a wilful, selfish, ignoble manhood. You meet a man with bloated face and reckless bearing, a companion of fools, half a rogue and half a sot. Yet, could you have seen him twenty years ago, you would have looked on a healthy, happy, kindly boy, the hope of his father's house, the pride of his mother's heart. But there was a weak point in him, and strong drink found it out. So it has come to this degradation. Virtue is laughed at; self-respect is gone; the boy is sunk and lost in this gross and shameless man. Or you see one who is hard and mercenary, inexorable to those who fall into his power, indifferent to the works of genius and to the efforts of philanthropy, occupied always with his own moneyed interest. Yet, could you have seen him thirty years ago, you would have looked on a young man who loved art, or letters, or religion, and seemed likely to develop into a cultured and useful citizen. But in an evil hour the passion of worldly acquisition seized him; or, rather, that which had long been dormant and unperceived began to rule over him, as his opportunities for acquisition widened, and so his bright beginning has resulted in this sordid and ignoble character. Human deterioration, the disappointment of youthful presages of goodness—it is a painful subject, but one which moral teachers may not neglect. It is difficult to stop the evil process once it has begun; and the beginning may be so quiet, so little suspected! It is difficult to know one's self, or any one else, and to say whether it be only a good impulse one has in his youth, or a rooted principle. Some men certainly turn out much better than they promised, but some turn out much worse. Let us watch and pray.—F.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-samuel-10.html. 1897.
Ads FreeProfile