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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
1 Samuel 9

 

 

Verse 1

1. A man of Benjamin — The smallest of the tribes, and the one lately devastated by civil war, (Judges 20,) has the honour of giving the first king to Israel; but the subsequent conduct and tragic death of Saul made that honour a reproach.

Kish, the son of Abiel — On this genealogy, see 1 Samuel 14:50, and 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39. Zeror, Bechorath, and Aphiah are not mentioned elsewhere.

A mighty man of power — A man of wealth, as Boaz, (Judges 2:1,) and also, probably, a man of great physical strength. This latter quality would account for the strength and size of his son Saul.

“When Saul speaks of his family as least of all the families of Benjamin, (1 Samuel 9:21,) it does not follow that Kish was not a powerful chieftain — Gibeah apparently belonged to him — but that as Benjamin was but a small tribe, so the division of it to which Saul belonged was not that which held the foremost rank. In Saul’s history we find an un-designed corroboration of the narrative in Judges 20:21. Benjamin, according to Numbers 26:38-40, was divided into six or seven families — probably the latter number. But Saul’s family, that of Matri, (1 Samuel 10:21,) is not one of them. Doubtless when the tribe was reduced to six hundred men several of the old families were obliterated, and in course of time new ones took their place.” — R.P. Smith’s Bampton Lecture for 1869.


Verses 1-16

THE ANOINTING OF SAUL, 1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:16.

In this chapter we are introduced to him who figures in the following history as the first king of Israel. But Samuel is yet the chief ruler, and Saul does not appear as reigning and exercising all his regal prerogatives until in chap. 13, after the prophet Samuel has given his last public counsel and exhortation to the assembled nation.


Verse 2

2. A choice young man, and a goodly — In the vigour and prime of early manhood, and of a beautiful countenance.

Higher than any of the people — Great respect was paid by the ancients to a noble presence. Herodotus (iii, 20) says of the Ethiopians: “They confer the sovereignty upon the man whom they consider to be of the largest stature, and to possess strength proportionable to his size.”


Verse 3

3. One of the servants — Traditionally believed to have been Doeg the Edomite, afterwards chief herdsman of Saul. 1 Samuel 21:7. His being “detained before the Lord” at Nob shows him to have been religiously disposed, and this may account for his knowledge of the seer Samuel. See on 1 Samuel 9:6.

Go seek the asses — “Among cattle in the East at all times, and especially in times ere horses were in use for riding, asses were of very much importance; and when, therefore, it was found one morning that some of Kish’s asses were missing, Saul himself, accompanied by a servant, at once set out in search of them. If such an incident now happened in Palestine, it would be at once concluded that the animals had been stolen; and it speaks well for the state of society in the time of Samuel that this suspicion never crossed the mind of Saul or his father. It was simply concluded that the asses had strayed.” — Kitto.


Verse 4

4. Mount Ephraim — See note on Judges 17:1. There is great uncertainty in respect to this route of Saul after his father’s asses. He undoubtedly started from Gibeah, where was his home, (1 Samuel 10:26,) and, passing through or over ( עבר) mount Ephraim, he must have gone in a northwesterly direction. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we naturally understand the land of Shalisha to be the country around Baal-shalisha, mentioned 2 Kings 4:42, and which, according to Eusebius and Jerome, was situated fifteen Roman miles north of Lydda, or Diospolis — the modern Ludd. Near this spot three water-courses unite in one large stream known as the Wady Kurawa, and hence, perhaps, the name Shalisha — land of three. From this point we can trace their course only by conjecture, for the land of Shalim is unknown, and the land of the Benjamites is literally the land of Yemini, and may, perhaps, have lain outside of the territory of Benjamin. If, however, the land of Yemini here means the territory of Benjamin, then the most probable conjecture is, that from the neighbourhood of Ludd they fetched a circuitous course, first easterly and then south, passing through the land of Benjamin somewhere east of Gibeah.


Verse 5

5. Land of Zuph — Perhaps so called after one of Samuel’s ancestors who bore this name, 1 Samuel 1:1. It must have been situated south of Jerusalem, for when Saul started for his home in Gibeah he passed by Rachel’s sepulchre. 1 Samuel 10:2. We find a slight trace of the word in the modern Soba, which some regard as the Rama-thaim-Zophim of

1 Samuel 1:1; and probably the land of Zuph extended from this place southwards beyond Bethlehem.


Verse 6

6. In this city — The city here referred to could not have been Ramah, Samuel’s home, as most commentators have assumed, for that lay five miles north of Jerusalem, (see note on 1 Samuel 1:1,) and Saul and his servant were now somewhere in the vicinity of Rachel’s tomb. 1 Samuel 10:2. What city it was we are nowhere told. But if it was not Samuel’s place of residence, how did Saul’s servant know that Samuel was there? This question we can answer only by conjecture, and the most plausible conjecture is, that this servant had heard on their route, or before they left Gibeah, that Samuel was to be at this city at this time. He seems to have had considerable knowledge of Samuel’s history and character, and would, therefore, naturally inform himself of his movements. See note on 1 Samuel 9:3. From 1 Samuel 9:12 we also learn that the prophet’s visit to the place in question was a hasty one, for he had come to the city on that day, and the maidens tell Saul and his servant to hasten if they would see him, implying that if they did not make haste he might depart from the city before they arrived. This place, being not far from Rachel’s tomb, could not have been either of the cities mentioned 1 Samuel 7:16-17, and regularly visited by Samuel in his yearly circuit. His going aside, therefore, from his usual circuit to bless the sacrifice in this more southern city may have caused special notices of it to be spread in that part of the country, and thus Saul’s servant might have gained his information.


Verse 7

7. What shall we bring the man — “Then, as now, in the East, it would have been the height of rudeness and indecorum for any one to present himself before a superior or equal, especially if he had any request to make, without some present, more or less, according to his degree — not by any means as a fee or bribe, but in testimony of his homage, his respect, or his compliments.” — Kitto. See biblical examples of this custom in 1 Samuel 10:27, and the marginal references there.


Verse 8

8. The fourth part of a shekel of silver — About fifteen cents.


Verse 9

9. Beforetime in Israel — A long time before our historian wrote. According to some exegetes, this verse is an interpolation by a later writer; but if the books of Samuel were written, as we have supposed, (see Introduction,) about the time of Rehoboam or of his son Abijam, the historian himself may properly have spoken of a custom of Samuel’s time as prevailing beforetime in Israel, for Rehoboam reigned nearly a century after the death of Samuel.

A Prophet… a Seer — According to the strict etymology of these words a prophet (nabi) is one who announces a divine oracle, a seer (roeh) one who sees some supernatural vision, or sees in some marvellous or supernatural way. The former would thus take his name from the fact of his communicating a divine message to others; the latter from the manner of his receiving a divine revelation. Seer is said to have been the more ancient or archaic name, but Abraham was called a prophet, (Genesis 20:7,) and in the days of Asa, king of Judah, more than a hundred years after Samuel, Hanani was called a seer. 2 Chronicles 16:7. The Septuagint reads: “The prophet the people ( ο λαος) were formerly accustomed to call the seer,” as if seer was the popular as well as the ancient name. Probably the name of seer lingered long after the name of prophet became the more common and popular title, for no common word goes out of use but by slow degrees. Samuel’s honoured ministry seems to have wrought this change of names. When he appeared in Israel the word of God was rare; there was no open vision. Chap. 1 Samuel 3:1. But there were probably plenty of seers — men not endowed with the divine gift of prophecy, nor established as prophets of Jehovah, as Samuel was, but shrewd and practiced observers of men and things, who were skilled in solving many of the doubts and difficulties of the common people. These were not honoured with the lofty title of prophet, which, the people of that time associated only with such saintly personages as Moses and Abraham, for the seers probably pretended to no divine mission or special inspiration from Jehovah. But from Samuel’s time onward the Lord spake often by prophets, and that office and order became an institution in Israel to offset the dangerous tendencies of the monarchy; and so the name seer gradually became obsolete.


Verse 11

11. Young maidens going out to draw water — Like Rebekah (Genesis 24:15) and the daughters of Jethro. Exodus 2:16.


Verse 12

12. Make haste now — For if ye do not see him before he goes up to the high place to bless the sacrifice and eat, ye may not be able to hold any private interview with him at all. See on 1 Samuel 9:6.

Sacrifice… in the high place — The law ordained, (Leviticus 17:3-9; Deuteronomy 12:5-14,) and it was remembered in the days of Joshua, (Joshua 22:29,) that all burnt offerings must be offered upon one common altar. But the tribes of Israel failed both to drive out their heathen foes from the land, and to ascertain that central seat of worship where it would please Jehovah to record his name. And hence the practice of sacrificing in other places sprang up almost of necessity. The acts of Gideon (Judges 6:25-26) and of Elijah (1 Kings 18:30-32) received the divine approval, for they were to serve special purposes in bringing judgments upon the worship of Baal. But in the days of Samuel, Shiloh was desolate, the ark of the covenant was in Kirjath-jearim, and as yet there was no single place where Jehovah had recorded his name, and which he had designated as the one sole place where he would be pleased with sacrifice. Accordingly Samuel and the people are not to be censured for sacrificing in the high place. See 1 Kings 3:2.


Verse 13

13. He doth bless the sacrifice — We are not to suppose that Samuel offered the sacrifice himself, for he was not a priest, (see note on 1 Samuel 7:9,) but, as Scott well says, “he poured out fervent prayers to the Lord for acceptance, and for his blessing on the service as a religious ordinance to the good of the souls, as well as on the food for the refreshment of the bodies, of those present.”


Verse 15

15. The Lord had told Samuel — Probably in direct answer to prayer. For after the prophet had dismissed the people at Ramah (1 Samuel 8:22) he undoubtedly prayed God to show him the person to be anointed as the first king of Israel.


Verse 16

16. Save my people out of the hand of the Philistines — This does not imply that Israel was now in subjection to the Philistines, for after the triumph of Mizpeh (chap. 7) the Philistines were not successful in their attempts to invade the land of Israel as long as Samuel lived; but this verse, as well as chap. 1 Samuel 7:13, shows that the Philistines continually harassed Israel by attempts to regain their lost dominion over them.

I have looked upon my people — With an eye of compassion, and with intent to help them.


Verse 18

18. The seer’s house — The house where he abides while in the city; the place he temporarily makes his home.


Verse 20

20. Thine asses… are found — This must have convinced Saul that a true seer looked upon his heart.

All the desire of Israel — Israel’s desire was for a king, and Samuel sees that Saul is the man to meet this desire. It is nowise improbable that Saul, the goodly, broad-shouldered youth of Gibeah, had already been talked of as a proper candidate for king, and many eyes in Israel had turned towards him with special interest. A man of great physical power and tall and commanding presence was the popular ideal of a king. And Saul filled this ideal well.


Verse 21

21. Smallest of the tribes — And once almost annihilated by the tribal war. Judges 20. Saul is now little in his own eyes, but elevation to power developed in him a spirit of insubordinate ambition and pride. 1 Samuel 15:17.


Verse 22

22. Parlour לשׁכה is rendered chamber, 2 Kings 23:11; Nehemiah 13:5; Jeremiah 35:4; Ezekiel 40:45-46. Here it means the dining room set apart for Samuel and the thirty distinguished guests — chief citizens of the place — who were invited to eat with him. The rest of the people probably ate of the sacrifice in the open air.


Verse 23

23. The cook שׂבח, the slaughterer. He who had the whole charge of the preparation, not only of the cooking, but also of the butchering.


Verse 24

24. The shoulder — Or leg, ( שׁוק.) Whether of the fore or hind quarter, or from the right or left side, we are not told. The older interpreters supposed it not to have been the right shoulder, because that was given to the priests. Leviticus 7:32. But it is possible that on this occasion Samuel, as president of the sacrifice, was honoured by receiving the portion usually given to the priests, and had ordered it to be reserved for the distinguished stranger whom the Lord had told him he would send that day.

And that which was upon it — Interpreters have understood this variously, as the broth, (Maurer,) caul, (Clarke,) kidney, (Thenius,) thigh, (Targum.) Harmer understands that the shoulder was covered over with butter and milk — a great delicacy in the East. Luther translates הֶעליה what hung to it; and Keil explains it as such of the fat upon the flesh as was not intended for the altar. This last is, perhaps, the most simple explanation, but there is nothing in the passage or context to decide the precise meaning.


Verse 25

25. From the high place into the city — So the place of this sacrifice was outside of the city, and apparently on a hill overhanging it. Communed with Saul upon the top of the house — The flat roofs of oriental houses were places of evening recreation as well as sleeping places. Otto Von Gerlach supposes that the topics of this conversation upon the roof were “the deep religious and political degradation of the people of God, the oppression by the heathen, the causes of the inability of the Israelites to stand before their foes, the necessity for a conversion of the people, and the want of a leader who was entirely devoted to God.”


Verse 26

26. Called Saul to the top of the house — Rather, called unto Saul on the roof, for Saul had probably slept on the roof, and Samuel below.


Verse 27

27. Bid the servant pass on before us — For he did not wish Saul’s anointing to be yet made public.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-9.html. 1874-1909.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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