Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 10

Introduction

Here is an unfortunate division of chapters, harshly breaking in upon a deeply interesting narrative.

Verse 1

1.A vial of oil — The Hebrew is emphatic — the flask of the oil; probably the holy anointing oil described Exodus 30:23-33, which Samuel had prepared for this express purpose.

Poured it upon his head — Among the Hebrews this solemn ceremony had hitherto been used only on the priests, and the holy places and vessels of the sanctuary. Its application to the king would, therefore, serve to show that he was a sacred personage, and that the monarchy, like the priesthood, was a divine institution. Hence “the Lord’s anointed” became the common designation of the kings of Israel. Chap. 1 Samuel 12:3; 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 1:16; Psalms 105:15. From

Psalms 133:2. we would naturally infer that the precious ointment was very copiously poured out.

Kissed him — In token both of friendly congratulation and of homage. Compare Psalms 2:12.

Captain over his inheritance נגיד, prefect; overseer; prince. Solemn and responsible office. Compare the term משׁיח נגיב, Messiah Prince, or, the Anointed Prince. Daniel 9:25.

Verse 2

2.When thou art departed from me — Samuel proceeds, 1 Samuel 10:2-7, to give Saul three signs by which he shall know that God had chosen him king.

Rachel’s sepulchre — See Genesis 35:19-20. There is no sufficient reason to question the traditional site of this place, which is at the modern Kubbet Rahil, a little to the northwest of Beth-lehem.

In the border of Benjamin — This ran through the valley of Hinnom, just south of Jerusalem. Joshua 18:16.

Zelzah — Some identify this place with the modern Beit-jala; but this passage would rather imply that it was situated north of Rachel’s tomb, and nearer to the border of Benjamin. It is nowhere mentioned again.

Left the care of the asses — Literally, the words of the asses; he has left off talking about them, and says more words about his absent son.

Verse 3

3.The plain of Tabor — Rather, the oak of Tabor, a spot apparently well known to Saul and Samuel, but now lost from our knowledge. Thenius’s conjecture that the oak of Deborah (Genesis 35:8) is meant cannot be correct, for that was at Beth-el, far to the north of Saul’s home.

Three men going up to God to Beth-el — That is, going up to worship and sacrifice unto God at Beth-el. This “shows that there was still a place of sacrifice consecrated to the Lord at Beth-el, where Abraham and Jacob had erected altars to the Lord, who had appeared to them there, (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3-4; Genesis 28:18-19; Genesis 35:7;) for the kids and loaves and wine were sacrificial gifts which they were about to offer.” — Keil. Beth-el was one of the places regularly visited by Samuel in his yearly circuit, (1 Samuel 7:16,) and here were doubtless priests, and at this time, when the tabernacle was desolate, (see note on 1 Samuel 9:12,) these three devoted men knew no more appropriate place to sacrifice unto God. Perhaps, too, the tabernacle was at Beth-el at this time, for after the desolation of Shiloh it seems to have become again a movable sanctuary, and appears in later history at Nob and Gibeon. 1 Samuel 21:1-6; 1 Chronicles 16:39; comp. Judges 20:27.

Verse 5

5.The hill of God — Hebrew, Gibeath ha-Elohim. This seems to have been the name of a sacrificial height near the home of Saul. It perhaps took its name from being the chief seat of the company of prophets here referred to. Without doubt the height Tuleil-el-Ful is meant, which marks the site of the ancient Gibeah of Saul. The city itself, as we learn from this same verse, lay close by, probably at the base of the hill on the east or northeast. See Robinson’s “Biblical Researches,” vol. iii, p. 287.

Garrison of the Philistines — On this height those vigilant enemies had intrenched themselves; for, though subdued, and unable to make successful invasions in the land of Israel, (see on 1 Samuel 7:13,) they still annoyed Israel by occasionally throwing a garrison into such places as this and Geba. 1 Samuel 13:3. Some render the word, less properly, columns or pillars of the Philistines, meaning monumental pillars which these invaders had erected as signs of their supremacy, or else of former victories.

A company of prophets חבל, a cord, like the English word band, is used to denote a company or association of persons bound together by common sympathies and aims. This is the first mention we have of those associations in ancient Israel which are commonly called Schools of the Prophets. There is little doubt but that they originated with Samuel, for at the time of his call prophecy was rare in Israel. 1 Samuel 3:1. We have reason to suppose that after the capture of the ark, and the desolation of the sanctuary at Shiloh, this inspired man, anxious to counteract the prevailing tendency to idolatry, gathered around him at his home in Ramah a company of promising youth, and trained them in the true knowledge of Jehovah. During those twenty years of silence in the history of Israel referred to in 1 Samuel 7:2, this work probably occupied much of Samuel’s time. Here, observes Stanley, we have the first historical notice of societies formed for educational purposes. “Long before Plato had gathered his disciples round him in the olive grove, or Zeno in the Portico, these institutions had sprung up in Judea.” These associations of holy men were no doubt powerful agencies for preserving a knowledge of the true God among the people. Jerome regarded them as an order of monks, but they did not seclude themselves from the world and from human society, for some of them were married, (2 Kings 4:1;) and this procession, marching with instruments of music through the streets of Gibeah, and publicly prophesying, presents them rather as travelling revivalists, seeking to scatter their religious spirit and enthusiasm among the people. Besides such public exercises, they probably employed themselves privately with the study of the law of Moses, the history of the chosen nation, and the cultivation of sacred poetry and song. A full account of these schools would supply a most interesting chapter in the history of the Hebrew nation, but we are dependent on a few incidental allusions for all we know of them. We next meet with them at Ramah. 1 Samuel 19:18-24. Here was Samuel’s home, and just out of the city these prophets had probably their first-established settlement, (Naioth. ) Here, for a time, in the days of his persecution, David found an asylum with Samuel; and here, no doubt, that youthful psalmist found a most congenial society, and amidst its happy surroundings composed many of his psalms, and cultivated his taste for music to greater perfection than before. In the days of Ahab the members of these schools must have become very numerous; for, besides those whom the miserable Jezebel succeeded in destroying, (1 Kings 19:10,) a hundred were hidden by Obadiah in a cave, (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:13;) and who shall tell how many of the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18) were saved from idolatry through the influence of these associations of devout men? In the time of Elijah they were called “sons of the prophets,” (1 Kings 20:35,) probably because some distinguished prophet like Elijah or Elisha was their spiritual father, and presided over them as superintendent and teacher. They had schools at Beth-el, Jericho, Gilgal, the Jordan, and perhaps many other places. 2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:2. Asaph the seer (2 Chronicles 29:30) was probably a president of one of these schools, in which special attention was paid to sacred poetry and song. Hence the psalms attributed to him, (Psalms 50, 73-83,) composed by him or some disciple of his school, and used in the temple service. We are not to suppose that all these sons of the prophets received and uttered divine revelations, but rather that in these associations they were trained to be leaders of the public worship, and to serve in divers ways as teachers of the people.

Psaltery’ tabret’ pipe’ harp — These instruments of music often served, as in the case of Elisha, (2 Kings 3:15,) to tranquillize the spirits of the prophets, and induce the proper frame of mind to engage in holy exercises. Instrumental music may ever be an assistant to religious devotion — a fact which the saints of every age have acknowledged by appropriating its use to the worship of God in the sanctuary. It is impossible to determine clearly all the distinguishing qualities of these and other musical instruments of the ancient Hebrews. Those who wish to know the various, and ofttimes conflicting, opinions of antiquaries on this subject should consult the large biblical dictionaries on the several words. On the harp, see at Genesis 4:21. The probable forms of the psaltery, tabret, and pipe are shown in the foregoing cut. The psaltery was a stringed instrument of a triangular form, (a; ) the tabret was an instrument of percussion, something like the modern tambourine, (b; ) and the pipe was a wind instrument like the modern flute, and perforated with holes, (c. c. )

They shall prophesy — Literally, and they prophesying. This exercise seems to have consisted in the ecstatic utterance of prayer and praise to God, as in the case of the elders in the time of Moses. Numbers 11:25. So powerful was the influence exerted by this prophesying that those who came near were affected by the same spirit. Compare 1 Samuel 19:20-24.

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Verse 6

6.Turned into another man — Not regenerated in the Christian sense, nor suddenly endowed with a divine illumination of soul that completely lifted him out of his previous modes of thought and feeling; but quickened with a divine impulse, and inspired with a loftier ambition and with conceptions of responsibility such as he had not known before. See further on 1 Samuel 10:9.

Verse 7

7.Do as occasion serve thee — Literally, as in the margin, do for thee as thine hand shall find. That is, when thou seest all these signs come to pass, know that the Lord confirms thee as captain over his inheritance, and afterward act as circumstances seem to require. Boldly enter the openings of Providence.

Verse 8

8.Thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal — This is not a command, but a prediction. Samuel’s prophetic eye fastens upon the future turning point in Saul’s career, when, threatened by an attack from the Philistines, and forsaken by many of his soldiers, he shall be called upon to show his faith in God. Perhaps Samuel added other instructions not recorded here; but it was sufficient now for Saul to know that there would come a time when he would be waiting at Gilgal for Samuel’s arrival, and when that occasion came he must wait for special instruction from the Lord. For the manner in which this prophecy was fulfilled, and how Saul failed to observe these instructions, see 1 Samuel 13:8. It was fitting that at this first interview Samuel should drop a word of warning and counsel for Saul’s guidance at that coming time of his greatest danger.

Verse 9

9.When he had turned his back’ God gave him another heart — In 1 Samuel 10:6 he is told that he would be turned into another man when he came in contact with the company of prophets, but here it appears that as soon as he left the company of Samuel God turned to him another heart. And so it doubtless was. The unexpected and impressive disclosures which the prophet had made to him began at once to work a revolution in his inner life. Every successive sign, as it came to pass, deepened the impression, and when he met the band of prophets he was a most proper subject to catch the inspiration of their contagious enthusiasm. So he truly returned to Gibeah another man from what he was when he left that place five days before.

Verse 11

11.All that knew him — An his neighbours and acquaintances at once perceive the change, and, as he prophesies among the prophets, they ask, as in amazement: What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? Nothing of this kind had ever been known of him before, and all at once he seemed to be changed into a man of another heart and another life.

Verse 12

12.Who is their father — Not his father, as the Septuagint and other versions presume to amend the Hebrew text, — for this was not a contemptuous question; and otherwise it would have been meaningless in the mouth of a man of Gibeah, who must have known the father of Saul, — but, Who is the father of them? that is, of the prophets: — who makes prophets? Is it not God? and cannot he make a prophet of the son of Kish as easily as of any other man? The gift of prophecy comes not by natural descent, but by inspiration of the Almighty; and this fact was ever suggested by the proverb, afterwards common in Israel, Is Saul also among the prophets?

Verse 13

13.He came to the high place — Whence the company of prophets had come down, (1 Samuel 10:5,) and where he seems to have met his uncle, or friend.

Verse 14

14.Saul’s uncle — Perhaps Abner, who was afterwards captain of Saul’s host. 1 Samuel 14:50. But the word דוד, here translated uncle, frequently means a beloved friend, and may here refer to some familiar friend of Saul who was not a relative. The earnestness with which he asks what Samuel had said to Saul is another intimation that Saul’s relatives and friends were interested in his case, and had possibly proposed him as a proper person for king. Compare note on 1 Samuel 9:20.

Verse 16

16.The matter of the kingdom — Or, the word of the kingdom; that is, the statements and counsels of Samuel respecting it.

He told him not — With becoming humility and modesty he waited the time when the developments of Providence should make it known, for as yet he was little in his own eyes. 1 Samuel 15:17.

Verse 17

17.Unto the Lord — This expression does not necessarily imply that the ark was present. Compare Judges 11:11, note. Samuel publicly invokes the divine presence and blessing, and has everything done as in the presence of Jehovah. So there was no chance for intrigue. The matter was decided by lot, and Saul was designated as king by a process the same as that by which Achan was convicted of his crime in the days of Joshua. Joshua 7:14-18.

Verses 17-27

SAUL’S PUBLIC ELECTION AT MIZPEH, 1 Samuel 10:17-27.

It was very important for the interests of Saul, as well as to Samuel and the people, that his advancement to the head of the nation be a matter of public notoriety. Already was it noised abroad that he was among the prophets; but that remarkable fact was no sufficient reason for the people to recognise him as their king. Therefore Samuel, to whom all still looked for judgment, assembled the people at Mizpeh, where Jehovah had on a former occasion signally magnified his name among them, and confounded their enemies, (chap. 7,) and there, by the casting of lots, Saul was publicly designated as the one “whom the Lord had chosen.” Samuel knew before this whom the Lord had chosen, and so did Saul, as is seen in his hiding himself among the stuff. 1 Samuel 10:21-22. So it was not for their sake, but for the people’s sake, that this assembly was convened at Mizpeh. Proper attention to this fact will show how futile is the position of De Wette and other rationalistic critics, who assume that this public election at Mizpeh is inconsistent with the account of Saul’s private anointing in the preceding section. But on occasion of this public election he was not anointed at all. At a previous convention of the people at Ramah they had insisted on having a king, (1 Samuel 8:19,) and the prophet, to whom the matter was intrusted, dismissed them to their homes that he might take the proper measures for accomplishing their desire. Having now, by providential guidance, found the man of Israel’s desire, (1 Samuel 9:20,) he again assembles the people for the purpose of publicly designating whom the Lord had chosen; and, that there may be no appearance of intrigue, he has the election publicly made by lot.

Verse 21

21.Family of Matri — Not mentioned among the families of Benjamin in Numbers 26:38-41; but probably a new family that arose in Benjamin after the tribal war. See note on 1 Samuel 9:1.

He could not be found — Saul knew from his former interview with Samuel, what the result of this casting of lots would be, and probably a feeling of mingled reserve, timidity, and embarrassment led him to hide himself.

Verse 22

22.They inquired of the Lord farther — Either by urim or by the prophet, for in both these ways Jehovah was wont to be inquired of. Compare 1 Samuel 28:6. Very probably on this occasion Samuel himself was the medium, for the seer who could give information concerning the strayed asses might very naturally be expected to tell where Saul was.

Among the stuff הכלים, utensils, vessels; that is, the travelling baggage of the assembled people.

Verse 24

24.None like him — See note on 1 Samuel 9:2.

God save the king — Better, Live the king! Equivalent to the French Vive le roi! The salutation of royalty.

Verse 25

25.Manner of the kingdom — This phrase is not identical with the manner of the king, described 1 Samuel 8:11-18, for that was a description of what oriental despots claimed as their right, while this was probably an expansion of the Mosaic law concerning a monarchy, as recorded Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Hence it appears that the kingdom of Israel was a constitutional, not an absolute monarchy. The king himself was to be governed and guided by law, and ever to understand that government itself was a divine ordinance, not a human invention.

Wrote it in a book — According to the commandment, Deuteronomy 17:18: “He shall write him a copy of this law in a book,” etc.

Laid it up before the Lord — Committed it to the charge of the priests, as Moses did the law. Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:26. The ark and the tabernacle were at this time separate, and it is uncertain in which of them this book of Samuel was placed. Perhaps this disorganized state of the priesthood was a cause of the loss of many ancient books.

Verse 26

26.There went with him a band of men — As an escort of honour and esteem.

Whose hearts God had touched — Who had been peculiarly affected by the scenes of the election they had witnessed at Mizpeh, and who were inwardly drawn by the divine influence to love and admire the new sovereign.

Verse 27

27.Children of Belial — Worthless, envious persons. See on chap. 1 Samuel 1:16.

Brought him no presents — The marginal references here show how uniform a custom it was for persons to show their obedience or respect to one of high position, particularly to a king, by bringing him a present. To neglect such token of honour would be to treat a monarch with contempt.

He held his peace — Literally, he was as being deaf. He maintained a prudent reserve, deeming it inexpedient and unwise to begin his reign by using his royal power to crush a few worthless fellows, who were unworthy, at present, of so much attention. But while, perhaps, only a few were outspoken in their disloyalty, it seems from what followed that there was quite a widespread disaffection; and Saul’s public inauguration and solemn consecration as the Lord’s anointed were reserved for a more suitable occasion. See on 1 Samuel 11:14.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-10.html. 1874-1909.