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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
1 Samuel 9

 

 

Verses 1-14

CHAPTER XI.

SAUL BROUGHT TO SAMUEL.

1 Samuel 9:1-14.

GOD'S providence is a wonderful scheme; a web of many threads, woven with marvelous skill; a network composed of all kinds of materials, great and small, but so arranged that the very smallest of them is as essential as the largest to the completeness of the fabric.

One would suppose that many of the dramas of the Old Testament were planned on very purpose to show how intimately things secular and things sacred, as we call them, are connected together; how entirely the minutest events are controlled by God, and at the same time how thoroughly the freedom of man is preserved. The meeting of two convicts in an Egyptian prison is a vital link in the chain of events that makes Joseph governor of Egypt; a young lady coming to bathe in the river preserves the life of Moses, and secures the escape of the Israelites; the thoughtful regard of a father for the comfort of his sons in the army brings David into contact with Goliath, and prepares the way for his elevation to the throne; the beauty of a Hebrew girl fascinating a Persian king saves the whole Hebrew race from massacre and extermination.

So in the passage now before us. The straying of some asses from the pastures of a Hebrew farmer brings together the two men, of whom the one was the old ruler, and the other was to be the new ruler of Israel. That these two should meet, and that the older of them should have the opportunity of instructing and influencing the younger, was of the greatest consequence for the future welfare of the nation. And the meeting is brought about in that casual way that at first sight seems to indicate that all things happen without plan or purpose. Yet we find, on more careful examination, that every event has been planned to fit in to every other, as carefully as the pieces of a dissected map, or the fragments of a fine mosaic. But of all the actors in the drama, not one ever feels that his freedom is in any way interfered with. All of them are at perfect liberty to follow the course that commends itself to their own minds.

Thus wonderfully do the two things go together - Divine ordination and human freedom. How it should be so, it baffles us to explain. But that it is so, must be obvious to every thoughtful mind. And it is because we see the two things so harmonious in the common affairs of life, that we can believe them to act harmoniously in the higher plane of redemption and salvation. For in that sphere, too, all things fall out in accordance with the Divine plan. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." Yet this universal predestination in no degree interferes with the liberty of man. If men reject God's offers, it is because they are personally unwilling to accept of them. If they receive His offers, it is because they have been made willing to do so. "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life," said our Lord to the Jews. And yet it is ever true that "it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

God having given the people permission to appoint a king, that king has now to be found. What kind of person must the first king be- the first to supersede the old rule of the Divinely-inspired judges, the first to fulfill the cravings of the people, the first to guide the nation which had been appointed by God to stand in so close a relation to Himself?

It seemed desirable, that in the first king of Israel, two classes of qualities should be united, in some degree contradictory to one another. First, he must possess some of the qualities for which the people desire to have a king; while at the same time, from God's point of view, it is desirable that under him the people should have some taste of the evils which Samuel had said would follow from their choice.

To an Oriental people, a stately and commanding personality was essential to an ideal king. They liked a king that would look well on great occasions, that would be a commanding figure at the head of an army, or in the centre of a procession; that would arrest the eye of strangers, and inspire at first sight an involuntary respect for the nation that had such a ruler at its head. Nor could anyone have more fully realized the wishes of the people in this respect than Saul. "A choice young man and a goodly; there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he; from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people."

Further, though his tribe was small in number, it was not small in influence. And his family was of a superior caste, for Kish was "a mighty man of power." And Saul's personal qualities were prepossessing and promising. He showed himself ready to comply with his father's order about the asses that had strayed, and to undertake a laborious journey to look for them. He was interested in his father's business, and ready to help him in his time of need. And the business which he undertook he seems to have executed with great patience and thoroughness. A foot journey over a great part of the territory of Benjamin was no easy task. Altogether, he shows himself, as we say, a capable man. He is not afraid to face the irksome; he does not consult merely for his ease and pleasure; labour does not distress him, and difficulties do not daunt him.

All this was so far promising, and it seems to have been exactly what the people desired. But on the other hand, there seems to have been, from the very beginning, a great want in Saul. He appears from the very first to have wanted all that was most conspicuous and most valuable in Samuel. It is a circumstance not without its significance, that the very name and work of Samuel do not seem to have been familiar or even known to him. It was his servant that knew about Samuel, and that told Saul of his being in the city, in the land of Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5-6). This cannot but strike us as very strange. We should have thought that the name of Samuel would have been as familiar to all the people of Israel as that of Queen Victoria to the people of Great Britain. But Saul does not appear to have heard it, as in any way remarkable. Does not this indicate a family living entirely outside of all religious connections, entirely immersed in secular things, caring nothing about godly people, and hardly ever even pronouncing their name? It is singular how utterly ignorant worldly men are of what passes in religious circles, if they happen to have no near relative, or familiar acquaintance in the religious world to carry the news to them from time to time. And as Saul thus lived outside of all religious circles, so he seems to have been entirely wanting in that great quality which was needed for a king of Israel - loyalty to the Heavenly King. Here it was that the difference between him and Samuel was so great. Loyalty to God and to God's nation was the very foundation of Samuel's life. Anything like self-seeking was unknown to him. He had early undergone that momentous change, when God is substituted for self as the pivot of one's life. The claims of the great King were ever paramount in his eyes. What would please God and be honouring to Him, was the first question that rose to his mind. And as Israel was God's people, so the interest and the welfare of Israel were ever dear to him. And thus it was that Samuel might be relied on not to think of himself, not to think of his own wishes or interests, except as utterly subordinate to the wishes and interests of his God and his nation. It was this that gave such solidity to Samuel's character, and made him so invaluable to his people. In every sphere of life it is a precious quality. Whether as domestic servants, or clerks, or managers, dependent on others, those persons are ever of priceless worth whose hearts are thus set on objects outside themselves, and who are proof against the common temptations of selfishness and worldliness. And when they are the rulers of a nation, and are able to disregard their personal welfare in their burning desire to benefit the whole people, they rise to the rank of heroes, and after their death, their names are enshrined in the memories of a grateful and admiring people.

But in these high qualities, Saul seems to have been altogether wanting. For though he was not selfish and self-indulgent at first, though he readily obeyed his father in going to search for the strayed asses, he had no deep root of unselfishness in his nature, and by-and-bye, in the hour of temptation, the cloven foot unhappily appeared. And ere long the people would learn, that as Saul had in him no profound reverence for the will of God, so he had in him no profound and indefeasible regard for the welfare of God's people. The people would come to see what a fatal mistake they had made in selecting a king merely for superficial qualities, and passing by all that would have allied him, as Samuel was allied, to God himself. Now it seems to have been God's purpose that the first king of Israel should be a man of this kind. Through him the people were to learn that the king who simply fulfilled their notions, was capable, when his self-will was developed, of dragging the nation to ruin. No! it was not the superficial qualities of Saul that would be a blessing to the nation. It was not a man out of all spiritual sympathy with the living God that would raise the standing of Israel among the kingdoms around, and bring them the submission and respect of foreign kings. The intense and consistent godliness of Samuel was probably the quality that was not popular among the people. In the worldliness of his spirit, Saul was probably more to their liking. Yet it was this unworldly but godly Samuel that had delivered them from the bitter yoke of the Philistines, and it was this handsome but unspiritual Saul that was to bring them again into bondage to their ancient foes. This was the sad lesson to be learned from the reign of Saul.

But God did not design altogether to abandon His people. When the lesson should be learnt from Saul's history, He would guide them to a king of a different stamp. He would give them a king after His own heart - one that would make the will of God the great rule, and the welfare of the people the great end of his government. David would engrave in the history of the nation in deeper letters than even Samuel, the all-important lesson, that for kings and countries as much as for individuals, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;" that God honours them that honour Him, while they that despise Him shall indeed be lightly esteemed.

But let us now come to the circumstances that led to the meeting of Saul and Samuel. The asses of Kish had strayed. Very probably they had strayed at a time when they were specially needed. The operations of the farm had to be suspended for want of them, perhaps at a season when any delay would be especially inconvenient. In all ranks of life, men are subject to these vexations, and he is a happy man who does not fret under them, but keeps his temper calm, in spite of all the worry. Especially is he a happy man who retains his equanimity under the conviction that the thing is appointed by God, and that He who overruled the loss of Kish's asses to such high events in the history of his son, is able so to order all their troubles and worries that they shall be found conducive to their highest good. At Kish's order, Saul and one of the servants go forth to seek the asses. With the precise localities through which they passed, we are not accurately acquainted, such places as Shalim or Zuph not having yet been identified. But the tour must have been an extensive one, extending over most of the territory of Benjamin; and as it must have been necessary to make many a detour, uphill and down dale, to this farm and to that, the labour involved must have been very great. It was not a superficial but a thorough search.

At last, when they came to the land of Zuph, they had been away so long that Saul thought it necessary to return, lest his father should think that some evil had befallen them. But the servant had another string to his bow. Though Saul was not familiar with the name or the character of Samuel, his servant was What God hides from the wise and prudent, He sometimes reveals to babes. It is an interesting thing in the history of the Church, how often great people have been indebted to servants for important guidance, perhaps even for their first acquaintance with saving truth. The little captive maid that ministered in the house of Naaman the Syrian was the channel through whom he came to know of the prophet of Israel who was able to heal him. Many a distinguished Christian has acknowledged, like the Earl of Shaftesbury, his obligations to some pious nurse that when he was a child told him Bible stories and pressed on his heart the claims of God. Happy those servants who are faithful in these circumstances, and of whom it can be said, ''They have done what they could!" Of this servant of Saul's we know nothing whatever, save that, in his master's dilemma, he told him of the Lord's servant, and induced him to apply to him to extricate him from his difficulty.

It does not appear that the city was Samuel's usual place of abode. It was a place to which he had come to hold a religious service, and the occasion was evidently one of much importance. It is interesting to observe how the difficulty was got over, of their having no present to offer to the man of God, in accordance with the custom of the country. Saul, though in comfortable circumstances, had absolutely no particle of money with him. His servant had but a quarter of a shekel, not designed apparently for spending purposes, but perhaps a little keepsake or kind of amulet he carried about with him. But there was such hospitality in those days that people going about the country had no need for money. So it was when our Lord instructed the disciples when sending them out on their missionary tour - "Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves, for the labourer is worthy of his meat." Those who have presumed on these instructions, holding that the modern missionary does not need any sustenance to be provided for him, but may safely trust to the hospitality of the heathen, forget how different was the case and the custom among the Hebrew people.

But now, as Saul and his servant came to the city, another providential meeting takes place to help them to their object. "As they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water." The city was up the hill, and the water supply would naturally be at the bottom. From the maidens that were going down to the fountain, they obtained information fitted to quicken their movements. They learned that the prophet had already arrived. The preparations for the sacrifice which he was to offer were now going on. It was just the time to get a word with him, if they had business to transact. Very soon he would be going up to the high place, and then the solemn rites would begin, and be followed by the feast, which would engross his whole attention. If they would catch him at the proper moment they must "make haste." That they did quicken their pace, we cannot doubt. And it was necessary; for just as they reached the city Samuel made his appearance, about to go up to the high place. If they had lost that moment, they would probably have had no opportunity during the whole day. Nor is it likely that Saul, who had no great desire for the company of the prophet, would have waited till the sacrifice and the feast were over. The two men were brought together just in the nick of time. And thus another essential link of God's chain, bringing the old and the new ruler of Israel into contact with each other, was happily adjusted, all through means to us apparently accidental, but forming parts of the great scheme of God.

From this part of the narrative we may derive two great lessons, the one with reference to God, and the other with reference to man.

First, as it regards God, we cannot but see how silently, secretly, often slowly, yet surely, He accomplishes His purposes. There are certain rivers in nature that flow so gently, that when looking at the water only, the eye of the spectator is unable to discern any movement at all. Often the ways of God resemble such rivers. Looking at what is going on in common life, it is so ordinary, so absolutely quiet, that you can see no trace whatever of any Divine plan. Things seem left to themselves, and God appears to have no connection with them. And yet, all the while, the most insignificant of them is contributing towards the accomplishment of the mighty plans of God. By means of ten thousand times ten thousand agents, conscious and un- conscious, things are moving on towards the grand consummation. Men may be instruments in God's hands without knowing it. When Cyrus was moving his armies towards Babylon, he little knew that he was accomplishing the Divine purpose for the humbling of the oppressor and the deliverance of His oppressed people. And in all the events of common life, men seem to be so completely their own masters, there seems such a want of any influence from without, that God is liable to slip entirely out of sight. And yet, as we see from the chapter before us, God is really at work. Whether men know it or not, they are really fulfilling the purposes of His will. Calmly but steadily, like the stars in the silent heavens, men are bringing to pass the schemes of God. His wildest enemies are really helping to swell His triumphs. Oh, how vain is the attempt to resist His mighty hand! The day cometh, when all the tokens of confusion and defeat shall disappear, when the bearing even of the fall of a sparrow on the plans of God shall be made apparent, and every intelligent creature in earth and heaven shall join in the mighty shout - "Alleluiah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."

But again, there is a useful lesson in this chapter for directing the conduct of men. You see in what direction the mind of Saul's servant moved for guidance in the day of difficulty. It was toward the servant of God. And you see likewise how, when Saul and he had determined to consult the man of God, they were providentially guided to him. To us, the way is open to God Himself, without the intervention of any prophet. Let us in every time of trouble seek access to God. Have we not a thousand examples of it in Bible history, and in other history too? Men say it is not right we should trouble God with trifles. Nay, the living God knows not what trouble is, and in His scheme there are no trifles. There is no limit one way or other in the command, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." "Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your steps." But above all, acknowledge Him with reference to the way of life eternal. Make sure that you are in the way to heaven. Use well the guide book with which you are furnished. Let God's word be a light to your feet and a lamp to your path; and then your path shall itself "be like the shining light, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day."


Verses 15-27

CHAPTER XII.

FIRST MEETING OF SAMUEL AND SAUL.

1 Samuel 9:15-27.

THE meeting between Samuel and Saul was preceded by previous meetings between Samuel and God. God had prepared the prophet for his visit from the future king of Israel, and the first thing brought before us in these verses is the communication on this subject which had been made to the prophet a day before.

It is very interesting to observe how readily Samuel still lends himself for any service he can render on behalf of his people, under the new arrangement that God had permitted for their government. We have seen how mortified Samuel was at first, when the people came to him with their request for a king. He took it as a personal affront, as well as a grave public error. Conscious as he was of having done his duty faithfully, and of having rendered high service to the nation, and reposing calmly, as he probably was, on the expectation that at least for some time to come, Israel would move forward peacefully and happily on the lines which he had drawn for them, it must have been a staggering blow when they came to him and asked him to overturn all that he had done, and make them a king. It must have been one of those bewildering moments when one's whole life appears lost, and all one's dearest hopes and hardest labours lie shattered, like the fragments of a potter's vessel. We have seen how, in that sad moment, Samuel carried his sorrows to the Lord, and learning thus to view the whole matter from God's point of view, how he came to make comparatively little account of his own disappointment, and to think only how he could still serve the cause of God, how he could still help the people, how he could prevent the vessel which he was no longer to steer from dashing against the hidden rocks he saw so clearly ahead. It is impossible not to be struck with the beauty and purity of Samuel's character in this mode of action.

How many a good man takes offence when slighted or superseded by some committee or other body, in connection with a political, social, or religious cause which he has tried to help! If they won't have me, he says, let them do without me. If they won't allow me to carry out the course which I have followed, and which has been undoubtedly highly beneficial, I'll have nothing more to do with them. He sulks in his tent like Achilles, or goes over to the enemy like Coriolanus. Not so Samuel! His love for the people is too deep to allow of such a course. They have behaved badly to him, but notwithstanding he will not leave them. Like an injured but loving wife, who labours with every art of patient affection to reclaim the husband that has abused her and broken her heart; like a long-suffering father, who attends with his own hands to the neglected work of his dissipated son, to save him if possible from the consequences of his folly - Samuel overlooks his personal slight, and bears with the public folly of the people, in the endeavour to be of some use to them in the important stage of their history on which they are entering. He receives Divine communications respecting the man who is to supersede him in the government of the people, and instead of jealousy and dislike, shows every readiness to help him. It is refreshing to find such tokens of magnanimity and disinterestedness. However paltry human nature may be in itself, it can become very noble when rehabilitated by the Spirit of God. Need we ask which is the nobler course? You feel that you have not been treated perhaps by your church with sufficient consideration. You fret, you complain, you stay away from church, you pour your grievance into every open ear. Would Samuel have done so? Is not your conduct the very reverse of his? Side by side with his, must not yours be pronounced poor and paltry? Have you not need to study the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and when you read of the charity that ''beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things," ask yourselves whether it might not be said of you that you have neither part nor lot in this matter?

The communication that God had made to Samuel was, that on the following day He would send to him the man whom he was to anoint as captain over Israel, that he might save them from the Philistines; for He had looked upon His people, because their cry was come up to Him. There is an apparent inconsistency here with what is said elsewhere. In chap. 8:13 (1 Samuel 8:13), it is said, that ''the Philistines came no more into the coast of Israel, and that the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel." But probably "all the days of Samuel" mean only the days when he exerted himself actively against them. As long as Samuel watched and checked them, they were kept in restraint; but when he ceased to do so, they resumed their active hostility. The concluding verses of chap. 8 (1 Samuel 8:19-22), show that in Saul's time the Philistine oppression had become so galling that the very smiths had been removed from the land of Israel, and there was no right provision even for sharpening plough-shares, or coulters, or axes, or mattocks. Undoubtedly Saul removed this oppression for a time, and David's elegy shows how beneficial his reign was in some other ways, although the last act of his life was an encounter with the Philistines in which he was utterly defeated. It is evident that before Saul's time the tyranny of their foes had been very galling to the Israelites. The words of God, "their cry is come up to Me," indicate quietly a very terrible state of distress. They carry us back to the words uttered at the burning bush, "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows." God speaks after the manner of men. He needs no cry to come into His ears to tell Him of the woes of the oppressed. Nevertheless He seems to wait till that cry is raised, till the appeal is made to Him, till the consciousness of utter helplessness sends men to His footstool. And a very blessed truth it is, that He sympathizes with the cry of the oppressed. There is much meaning in the simple expression - ''their cry is come up to Me." It denotes a very tender sympathy, a concern for all that they have been suffering, and a resolution to interpose on their behalf. God is never impassive nor indifferent to the sorrows and sufferings of His people. All are designed to serve as chastenings with a view to ultimate good. The eye of God is ever watching to see whether the chastening is sufficient, and when it is so, to stop the suffering. In the Inquisitor's chamber, the eye of God was ever on the boot and the thumbscrew, on the knife and the pincers, on the furnace and all the other instruments of torture. In the sick room. He watches the spent and struggling patient, knows every paroxysm of pain, knows all the restlessness and tossing of the weary night He understands the anguish of the loving heart when one after another of its treasures is torn away. He knows the unutterable distress when a child's misconduct brings down grey heirs with sorrow to the grave. Appearances may be all the other way, but "the Lord God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and of great compassion." The night may be long and weary, but the dawn comes at the appointed time. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy."

But now Samuel and Saul have met. Saul is as unfamiliar with Samuel's appearance as with his name; he goes up to him and asks where the seer's house is. "I am the seer," replies Samuel; but at the moment Samuel was not at liberty, and could not converse with Saul. He invites him to go up with him to the high place, and take part in the religious service. Then he invites him to the feast that was to follow the sacrifice. Next day he is to deal with him as a prophet, making important communications to him. But in regard to the matter which occupies him at the moment, his father's asses, he need trouble himself no more on that head, for the asses are found. Then he gives Saul a hint of what is coming. He makes an announcement to him that he and his father's house are the objects of the whole desire of Israel. It is not very apparent whether or not Saul had any inkling of the meaning of this remark. It may be that he viewed it as a mere expression of politeness, savouring of the customary exaggeration of the East. At all events, his answer was couched in those terms of extravagant humility which was likewise matter of Eastern custom. "Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore then speakest thou so to me?"

The sacrifice next engages the attention of all. Samuel's first meeting with Saul takes place over the symbol of expiation, over the sacrifice that shows man to be a sinner, and declares that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. No doubt the circumstance was very impressive to Samuel, and would be turned to its proper use in subsequent conversation with Saul, whether Saul entered into the spirit of it or not. If it be asked. How could a sacrifice take place on the height of this city, whereas God had commanded that only in the place which He was to choose should such rites be performed? - the answer is, that at that time Shiloh lay in ruins, and Mount Zion was still in the possession of the Jebusites. The final arrangements had not yet been made for the Hebrew ceremonial, and in the present provisional and unsettled state of things, sacrifices were not limited to a single place.

After the sacrifice, came the feast. It was now that Samuel began to give more explicit hints to Saul of the dignity to which he was to be raised. The feast was held in "the parlour" - a room adjacent to the place of sacrifice, to which Samuel had invited a large company - thirty of the chief inhabitants of the town.

First Saul and his servant are complimented by having the place of honour assigned to them. Then they are honoured by having a portion set before them which had been specially set apart for them the day before. The speech concerning this portion in ver. 24 (1 Samuel 9:24) is somewhat obscure if it be regarded as a speech of Samuel's. It seems more natural to regard it as a speech of the cook's. It will be observed that the word " Samuel ' in the middle of the verse is in italics, showing that it is not in the Hebrew, so that it is more natural to regard the clause as having ''the cook" for its nominative, and indeed this talk about the portion is more suitable for the cook than for Samuel. Servants were not forbidden to speak during entertainments; nor did their masters disdain even to have serious conversation with them (see Nehemiah 2:2-8). There is another correction of the Authorized Version that needs to be made. At the end of ver. 24 (1 Samuel 9:24) the words "Since I said" are not a literal rendering. The original is simply the word which is constantly rendered saying. It has been suggested ("Speaker's Commentary") that a word or two should be supplied to make the sense complete, and the verse would then run: - "unto this time hath it been kept for thee [against the festival of which Samuel spake], saying, I have invited the people." The part thus reserved was the shoulder and its appurtenances. Why this part was regarded as more honourable than any other, we do not know, nor is it of any moment; the point of importance being, first, that by Samuel's express instructions it had been reserved for Saul, and second, that these instructions had been given as soon as Samuel made arrangements for the feast. To honour Saul as the destined king of Israel was Samuel's unhesitating purpose. Some men might have said, It will be time enough to show this mark of respect when the man is actually chosen king. Had there been the slightest feeling of grudge in the mind of Samuel, this is what he would have thought. But instead of grudging Saul his new dignity, he is forward to acknowledge it. There shall be no holding back on his part of honour for the man whom the Lord delighted to honour.

If the words of ver. 24 (1 Samuel 9:24) were really spoken by the cook, they must have added a new element of surprise and impression to Saul. It was apparent that he had been expected to this feast. The cook had been warned that a man of consequence was coming, and had therefore set apart that portion to him. Saul must have felt both that a supernatural power had been at work, and that some strange destiny - possibly the royal dignity - was in reserve for him. To us, pondering the circumstances, what is most striking is, the wonderful way in which the fixed purpose of God is accomplished, while all the agents in the matter remain perfectly free. That Saul and his servant should be present with Samuel at that feast, was the fixed decree of heaven. But it was brought about quite naturally. There was no constraint on the mind of Saul's servant, when, being in the land of Zuph, he proposed that they should go into the city, and try to make inquiry of the man of God. There was no constraint on the damsels when at a certain time they went down to the fountain for water, and on their way met Saul and his servant. There was no constraint on Saul and his servant, save that created by common sense, when they quickened their pace in order to meet Samuel on the way to the sacrifice. Every one of these events fell out freely and naturally. Yet all were necessary links in the chain of God's purposes. From God's point of view they were necessary, from man's point of view they were casual. Thus necessity and freedom harmonized together, as they always do in the plans and operations of God. It is absurd to say that the predestination of God takes away the liberty of man. It is unreasonable to suppose that because God has predestinated all events, we need not take any step in the matter of our salvation. Such an idea is founded on an utter misunderstanding of the relation in which God has placed us to Him. It overlooks the great truth, that God's ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. The relation of the Infinite Will to the wills of finite creatures is a mystery we cannot fathom; but the effect on us should be to impel us to seek that our will may ever be in harmony with God's, and that thus the petition in the Lord's prayer may be fulfilled, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

The feast is over; Samuel and Saul return to the city, and there, on the housetop, they commune together. The twenty-sixth verse seems to narrate in detail what is summarily contained in the twenty-fifth. After returning from the sacrifice and the feast, they seem to have committed themselves to rest. In the early morning, about daybreak, they had their conversation on the housetop, and thereafter Samuel sent Saul away, convoying him part of the road. What the conversation on the housetop was, we are not told; but we have no difficulty in conjecturing. Samuel could not but communicate to Saul the treasured thoughts of his lifetime regarding the way to govern Israel. He must have recalled to him God's purpose regarding His people, beginning with the call of Abraham, dwelling on the deliverance from Egypt, and touching on the history of the several judges, and the lessons to be derived from each. We may fancy the fervour with which he would urge on Saul, that the one thing most essential for the prosperity of the nation - the one thing which those in power ought continually to watch and aim at, was, loyalty by the people to their heavenly King, and the faithful observance of His law and covenant. He would dwell emphatically on the many instances in which neglect of the covenant had brought disaster and misery, and on the wonderful change in their outward circumstances which had come with every return of fidelity to their King. Granted, they were soon to have a king. They were to change their form of government, and be like the rest of the nations. But if they changed their form of government, they were not to surrender the palladium of their nation, they were not to abandon their "gloria et tutamen." The new king would be tempted like all the kings around him to regard his own will as his only rule of action, and to fall in with the prevalent notion, that kings were above the law, because the king's will was the law, and nothing could be higher than that. What an infinite calamity it would be to himself and to the nation, if the new king of Israel were to fall into such a delusion! Yes, the king was above the law, and the king's will was the law; but it was the King of kings alone who had this prerogative, and woe to the earthly ruler that dared to climb into His throne, and take into his puny hands the sceptre of the Omnipotent!

Such, we may well believe, was the tenor of that first meeting of Samuel and Saul. We cannot but carry forward our thoughts a little, and think what was the last. The last meeting was at Endor, where in darkness and utter despair, the king of Israel had thought of his early friend, had perhaps recalled his gentle kindness on this first occasion of their meeting, and wondered whether he might not be able and willing to throw some light once more upon his path. But alas, the day of merciful visitation was gone. The first conversation was in the brightness of early morning; the last in midnight gloom. The time of day was appropriate for each. On that sepulchral night, the worst evils that he had dreaded, and against which he had doubtless warned him on that housetop, had come to pass. Self-willed and regardless of God, Saul had taken his own course, and brought his people to the very verge of ruin. Differing, toto cælo, from Samuel in his treatment of his successor, he had hunted David like a partridge on the mountains, and stormed against the man who was to bring back to the nation the blessings of which he had robbed it. Brought to bay at last by his recklessness and passion, he could only reap the fruit of what he had sown; "for God is not mocked; they that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, and they that sow to the Spirit shall, of the Spirit, reap life everlasting." Again there was to ring out the great law of the kingdom, - "Them that honour Me, I will honour; while they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."

The good words of Samuel fell not into good ground. He had not in Saul a congenial hearer. Saul was too worldly a man to care for, or appreciate spiritual things. Alas, how often for a similar reason, the best words of the best men fail of their purpose! But how is this ever to be cured? How is the uncongenial heart to become a fit bed for the good seed of the Kingdom? I own, it is a most difficult thing. Those who are afflicted with indifference to spiritual truth will not seek a remedy, because the very essence of their malady is that they do not care. But surely their Christian friends and relatives, and all interested in their welfare, will care very much. Have you such persons - persons whose worldly hearts show no sympathy with Divine truth - among your acquaintances or in your families? Persons so steeped in worldliness that the strongest statements of saving truth are as much lost upon them as grains of the best wheat would be lost if sown in a heap of sand? O how should you be earnest for such in prayer; there is a remedy, and there is a Physician able to apply it; the Spirit of God if appealed to, can repeat the process that was so effectual at Philippi, when "the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the things that were spoken by Paul." "If ye then that are evil know how to give good things unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/1-samuel-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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