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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 SAMUEL 9

GOD DESIGNATES THE FUTURE KING OF ISRAEL; THE GENEALOGY OF SAUL


 
Verses 1, 2
Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a young man and a goodly: and 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.

The appearance of this genealogy at this point in the narrative is the clear signal that Saul the son of Kish was God's choice to be the king of Israel.

What a marvel is this! God used a search for lost donkeys to bring the Divine designate face-to-face with the prophet Samuel even BEFORE Samuel had ever met him. The narrative here is very skillfully presented.

Three valid reasons why the heavenly choice fell upon Saul are discernible, as pointed out by Philbeck.F1 (1) Saul came from a very wealthy and powerful family; (2) the tribe of Benjamin was centrally located between the rival tribes of Judah and Benjamin and thus strategically located to achieve the unity of the northern and southern tribes. (3) Furthermore, Saul certainly looked like a king. His being head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people is mentioned again in 1 Sam. 10:23.

"A king chosen from either Judah or Ephraim, the two largest tribes, would have aroused the bitterest feelings in the other."F2

Students who are particularly interested in genealogies will discern that the genealogies of Saul as given here and in 1 Chr. 8:33 and 1 Chr. 9:39 do not agree, and Willis has a thorough discussion of this.F3 The variations are meaningless, because the Hebrew word for father also means grandfather, or simply ancestor. For example, Jesus Christ is called the son of David the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). Thus, there are all kinds of skips in genealogical tables.

The allegations of some critics that we have different sources for this narrative, "rest upon no tenable ground";F4 and we shall omit any discussion of them.

A handsome young man (1 Samuel 9:2) "The word in Hebrew rendered `young man' means a man in the prime of life. Saul was not a teenager, for he had a son (Jonathan) at the time of this narrative."F5

SAUL'S SEARCH FOR THE LOST DONKEYS


 
Verses 3, 4
And the asses of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. And he passed through the hill-country of Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not.

There are a great many "chances" or "accidents," as we might call them, in this narrative, but none of them could be anything other than the providential intervention of God in human affairs in order to achieve the divine purpose. The straying away of Kish's donkeys, Saul's futile search for them, and his "accidental" arrival at the city where Samuel was -- who can believe that any of these occurrences was "by chance"?

Shalishah. and Shaalim
(1 Samuel 9:4). These names are unknown;F6 and it is impossible to trace exactly the course of Saul's journey hunting for the lost animals.

SAUL DECIDES TO CONSULT THE MAN OF GOD


 
Verses 5-10
When they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return, lest my father leave off caring for the asses, and be anxious for us. And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is a man that is held in honor; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can tell us concerning our journey whereon we go. Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have in my hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he said, Come, and let us go to the seer; for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.

When they came to the land of Zuph
(1 Samuel 9:5). This was the territory in which Ramah was located.F7 It is assumed by most commentators that Samuel's home town of Ramah was the city to which Saul and his servant came on this journey; however, Keil denied this, pointing out that the text nowhere mentions `Ramah,' also writing that, What town it really was cannot be determined.F8 Keil based his opinion upon the failure of the text specifically to mention the town's name; but Payne gives an adequate reason for that omission. He stressed the artistry of the narrator here and stated that, The name `Ramah' was deliberately avoided, because the narrator did not wish to give it away too soon that a meeting with Samuel was about to take place.F9

All that he says comes true
(1 Samuel 9:6). This was one of the two tests of a true prophet; the other was that the teaching of the prophet must be in keeping with the faith of Israel (Deut. 18:21-22; 13:1-3).F10

The fourth part of a shekel of silver
(1 Samuel 9:8). The silver shekels were sometimes cut into halves or quarters; and a quarter of this coin, much more valuable then than now, Weighed approximately 2.5 grams, or one-tenth of an ounce,F11 of pure silver.

He who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer
(1 Samuel 9:9). This has nothing whatever to do with a late date for this narrative, because 1 Sam. 9:9 is freely admitted by all scholars to be a gloss, once a marginal comment that was accidentally included in the text. The word `prophet' is the older and established word from the beginning of the O.T. to the end of it.F12

Some writers have marveled that Saul's servant knew that a `man of God' was available in that city, whereas Saul seemed to be totally ignorant of it. This is easily explained. Saul and his servant were searching for lost animals, and there is no way that they would have remained side by side walking together in such a search. They would have separated in order to cover more area in their search.

Evidently, the servant had already encountered some of the citizens of that town (very probably Ramah), who had told him of Samuel's recent arrival in Ramah. He could hardly have known of `a man of God's' being there unless that had indeed happened. Of course, Saul did not know that, so his servant told him. It is amazing how often writers forget the abbreviated nature of such narratives as this.

SAUL AND HIS SERVANT APPROACH RAMAH


 
Verses 11-14
As they went up the ascent to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, [he is] before thee: make haste now, for he is come to-day into the city; for the people have a sacrifice to-day in the high place: as soon as ye are come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he goeth up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; [and] afterwards they eat that are bidden. Now therefore get you up; for at this time ye shall find him. And they went up to the city; [and] as they came within the city, behold, Samuel came out toward them, to go up to the high place.

Maidens coming out to draw water
(1 Samuel 9:11). It was the custom in cities of that day that the young women supplied the various households with water from a common source. Jacob met Rachel when she was performing such a task (Genesis 24:15).

He must bless the sacrifice
(1 Samuel 9:13). Such a blessing of the food at mealtime is not mentioned elsewhere in the O.T. The priestly blessing of the meal is seen in the Qumran literature and in the Lord's Supper.F13

In this connection, Willis pointed out that, "To bless the sacrifice is the same as giving thanks for it, because Luke 9:16 says, `Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes,' and John 6:11 says that, `He gave thanks for them.'"F14

WHAT GOD HAD ALREADY TOLD SAMUEL


 
Verses 15-17
Now Jehovah had revealed unto Samuel a day before Saul came, saying, To-morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be prince over my people Israel; and he shall save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. And when Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah said unto him, Behold, the man of whom I spake to thee! this same shall have authority over my people.

So there was nothing whatever "accidental" about Saul's arrival before Samuel. The providence of God foretold it and then brought it to pass.

The Lord told Samuel
(1 Samuel 9:15). God, having created the universe and everything within it, might have communicated this information to Samuel in several different ways; but exactly how he did so is not revealed. As DeHoff said, In view of the fact that men have almost unlimited means of communication, it is a little ridiculous for critics to argue about how God communicated with Samuel.F15

The Lord revealed to Samuel
(1 Samuel 9:15). The Hebrew words from which this statement comes is literally, had uncovered his ear, a figure of speech said to be derived from the practice of one's pushing aside another's hair or the corner of his turban to whisper something in his ear.F16

And he shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines
(1 Samuel 9:16). H. P. Smith wrote that, This sentence is a direct contradiction of 1 Sam. 7:11ff;F17 but such an error should be rejected. (See our comment on 1 Sam. 7:11ff, above.)

Anoint him to be prince over my people Israel
(1 Samuel 9:16). The word `prince' as used here has the same meaning as `king.'

SAUL MEETS SAMUEL WHO WELCOMES HIM


 
Verses 18-21
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is. And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer; go up before me unto the high place, for ye shall eat with me to-day: and in the morning I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thy heart. And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not they mind on them; for they are found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee, and for all thy father's house? And Saul answered and said, 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 to me after this manner?

Go up before me to the high place
(1 Samuel 9:19). This was Samuel's way of showing respect and honor to Saul.

All that is on your mind
(1 Samuel 9:19). This indicates that Saul might have been contemplating the deplorable state of the people of Israel and pondering the possibility of his being able to do something about it. Certainly, he had something on his mind except finding the lost donkeys.

And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel
(1 Samuel 9:20). Porter commented that Saul's immediate disclaimer of any worthiness and his stressing the small size of the tribe of Benjamin and the relative insignificance of his father's house have the meaning that, Saul evidently understood this as a promise of the kingship.F18 It will be recalled that Gideon also made similar remarks to the Angel of Jehovah (Judges 6:15).

SAUL WAS HONORED AT THE DINNER WITH SAMUEL


 
Verses 22-24
And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the guest-chamber, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee. And the cook took up the thigh, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And [Samuel] said, Behold, that which hath been reserved! set it before thee and eat; because unto the appointed time hath it been kept for thee, for I said, I have invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day.

The portion of meat reserved for Saul was the shoulder, which was usually the priests portion of the sacrifice, and the meaning of this might be either one of two things: (1) Samuel, to whom the shoulder properly belonged, gave it to Saul as a compliment; or (2) there was a symbolical meaning that Saul would have some kind of superiority over the priests of Israel in the future. It seems to this writer that the first of these is the more probable.

SAUL SPENDS THE NIGHT WITH SAMUEL


 
Verses 25-27
And when they were come down from the high place into the city, he communed with Saul upon the housetop. And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called to Saul on the housetop, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. As they were going down at the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us (and he passed on), but stand thou still first, that I may cause thee to hear the word of God.

The anointing of Saul would take place on the next day, and this is covered in the next chapter.


Footnotes for 1 Samuel 9
1: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 168.
2: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 390.
3: John T. Willis, pp. 103, 104.
4: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 2b, p. 86.
5: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, Samuel, p. 281.
6: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol 2, p. 924.
7: John T. Willis, p. 104.
8: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 89.
9: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 291.
10: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 281.
11: John T. Willis, p. 105.
12: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 4b, p. 159.
13: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 281.
14: John T. Willis p. 106.
15: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 136.
16: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 281.
17: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 62.
18: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 390.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1sa&chapter=009>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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