1 Samuel 9


Saul Becomes an Effective King (9:1-12:25)

Samuel Anoints Saul

        • There was a very wealthy, influential man named Kish from Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite. He had a son named Saul who was the most handsome young man in Israel and a head taller than anyone else.

        • Once again, it appears that there is an issue with the genealogy listed here and the same listed elsewhere. The following commentaries discuss the issue:

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “On comparison with the genealogical summaries given in Genesis 46:21; 1Samuel 9:1; 1Samuel 14:51; 1Chronicles 7:6-8, &c, the line of Samuel appears as follows:—BENJAMIN BECHER, APHIAH (qu. ABIAH), BECHORAH, ZEROR (qu. ZUR), ABIEL, NER, KISH, SAUL. Yet even here certain links are omitted, for we hear of one Matri in 1Samuel 10:21, and Jehiel in 1Chronicles 9:35. The truth is that in each of the genealogical summaries the transcriber of the original family document left out certain names not needed for his special purpose. The names omitted are not always the same; hence, often in these tables, the apparent discrepancies. Dean Payne Smith, too, suggests, that the hopeless entanglement in the Benjamite genealogies is in a measure due to the terrible civil war which resulted from the crime related in Judges 20. In the confusion which naturally resulted from the massacres and ceaseless wars of this early period, many of the older records of the tribes must have perished.”

          • Pulpit Commentary, referencing the revised genealogy theorized above writes, “Very many links, however, are omitted, among whom must be placed Matri, mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:21; and Jehiel, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:35 (and see ibid. 8:29). He is described as the first settler and coloniser of Gibeon, and as husband of Maachah, a daughter or granddaughter of Caleb. The spelling of his name with an ain forbids our confounding him with Abiel, as is done by Schaff and most commentators, and whom, apparently, he preceded by many generations. In the two places referred to above a large family of sons is ascribed to him; but as, first of all, the lists do not agree, as, moreover, they are said to dwell with their brethren in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 8:32), and as Ner, the father of Kish, is mentioned in the second list, it is pretty certain that we are not to regard, them as his actual children, but as the leading names among his posterity. The fearful cruelty recorded in Judges 20:48 may well account for the hopeless entanglement of Benjamite genealogies. An ancestor of Saul must, of course, have been among the 600 who escaped to the rock Rimmon, but he could have saved only his own life.”

        • One day Kish’s donkeys wandered off and he said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go look for the donkeys.” So he traveled through the hill country of Ephraim and the region of Shalishah, but they didn’t find them. They traveled through the region of Shaalim, and through the Benjaminite territory but still didn’t find them. When they came to the region of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Let’s go back home before my father stops being concerned about the donkeys and starts worrying about us.” But the servant replied, “There is a highly respected man of God in this city. Everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Maybe he’ll tell us which way to go.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Zuph, which was probably located in Ephraim, was Samuel’s home region (1:1). God’s providence led Saul there… The phrase man of God was used to describe a prophet (2:27; also Deut 33:1; Josh 14:6; 1 Kgs 13:1-32).”

        • Saul said, “But if we go, what will we bring him? The bread in our packs is gone and we don’t have a gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered, “Here, I have a quarter of a shekel. I’ll give it to the man of God so that he’ll tell us which way to go.” (Now, it used to be in Israel, that when a man went to inquire of God he would say, ‘let’s go to the seer,’ because prophets used to be called seers.)

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Evidently, it was customary to take a gift when one sought the help of a prophet (cp. 1 Kgs 14:2-3; 2 Kgs 5:5, 15; 8:8). Some false prophets demanded gifts in return for their services (Mic 3:11). Saul’s concern might reflect spiritual ignorance of thinking that advice from a prophet of God could be purchased (Acts 8:20).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “…A quarter shekel would have weighed about one-tenth ounce (three grams) and would likely have represented several days’ wage for any ordinary worker…”

        • The following two sources comment on the parenthetical inclusion:

          • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “This verse is clearly an addition to the original narrative to explain the term ‘seer’ which had become obsolete when the book was compiled in its present form, It is inserted here and not after 1 Samuel 9:11 where the term first occurs, to avoid interrupting the narrative.”

          • Pulpit Commentary: “…Prophet, nabi, is really the older and established word from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end. The word roeh, used in this place for seer, is comparatively rare, as a popular word would be in written compositions. It refers to that which is seen by the ordinary sight, to waking vision (see on 1 Samuel 3:1, 10), whereas the other word for seer, chozeh, refers to ecstatic vision. Roeh is used by Isaiah, ch. Isaiah 30:10, apparently in much the same sense as here, of those whom the people consulted in their difficulties, and they might be true prophets as Samuel was, or mere pretenders to occult powers. The present narrative makes it plain that roeh was used in a good sense in Samuel’s days; but gradually it became degraded, and while chozeh became the respectful word for a prophet, roeh became the contrary. Another conclusion also follows. We have seen that there are various indications that the Books of Samuel in their present state are later than his days. Here, on the contrary, we have a narrative couched in the very language of his times; for the writer of the gloss contained in this verse was displeased at Samuel being called a roeh, but did not dare to alter it, though taking care to note that it was equivalent in those days to calling him a nabi.”

        • Good,” Saul replied, “Let’s go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was. As they were going up the hill to the city, they met some young women who were coming out to draw water and asked, “Is the seer here?” The women answered, “Yes, he is just ahead. But hurry because he came to town today and the people are making a sacrifice at the high place. When you go into the town you can find him before he goes to eat at the high place. The people won’t eat until he gets there because he must bless the sacrifice. Afterward, those who’ve been invited will eat. Go on up, you can find him now.” So they went up to the city.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “At least until underground water systems were developed… village dwellers had to make periodic trips to draw water from the nearest source, often near the base of the hills on which most towns were situated. Wells or springs, located on the outskirts of towns, were often places where newcomers to town first met townspeople, often women, who typically bore the responsibility of porting water.”

        • The same source adds, “’High places’ (Hebrew bamot; singular bamah) are mentioned over a hundred times in the OT. The word is used in the OT in a mundane sense to mean ‘hill,’ ‘height,’ ‘ridge,’ and in a religious sense to mean a sacred ‘high place,’ either a worship site on a natural elevation or a raised platform. Often sites of Canaanite worship, ‘high places,’ are viewed in the OT as endangering the purity of Israelite worship…Nevertheless, in the period between the destruction of the sanctuary at Shiloh and the building of the temple in Jerusalem, worship of Yahweh at ‘high places’ was sometimes conducted without explicit censure, as in the present passage. After the division of the kingdom, worship at ‘high places’ constituted a severe problem both in the north (1 Ki 12:31-32; 13:32-34) and in the south (1 Ki 14:22-24)…With Shiloh destroyed and the ark in exile, this might be serving as the central sanctuary.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Part of a sacrifice made during worship was burned on the altar, while the remainder was eaten in a ceremonial feast by the guests (see also 1:4). As a Levite, Samuel’s priestly role included offering blessings (see Deut 10:8; 21:5).”

        • As Saul and his servant were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming toward them on his way to the high place. Now, the day before Saul came, Yahweh had revealed to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over My people Israel. He will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. I have seen the affliction of My people, for I have heard their cries.” When Samuel saw Saul, Yahweh told him, “Here is the man I told you about; he will rule My people.”

        • We can save ourselves a little confusion in the following chapters if we include this note the HCSB includes here regarding the events of chapters 9-11:

          • The narrative of 1 Sm includes three complementary accounts of Saul’s being chosen first king of Israel. The first (9:17-10:8) describes a private meeting between Saul and the prophet Samuel on the outskirts of the village of Ramah. There Samuel first informed Saul of God’s decision to make him Israel’s leader, ceremonially anointing him and confirming his action with prophetic signs. This first meeting was preparatory, helping to ready Saul both psychologically and spiritually for the public event that would soon change his life so radically. The second account (10:17-25) focuses on the public identification of Saul as the Lord’s chosen. This event was primarily for the people of Israel, confirming that God had fulfilled their request (8:5) for a king. The final account (11:14-15) describes Saul’s formal public installation as king over the land, at Gilgal. These two public occasions are roughly equivalent to American political events: an election night victory celebration followed by the official inauguration of a person into the office to which they have been elected…”

          • HCSB addresses a common question, “Why did the Lord choose Saul in the first place, if he would later regret the choice (15:11, 35)? Matters of both divine will and human freedom need to be considered in addressing this question. God’s intention, in making Saul king, was to use him to lead Israel to victory against the Philistines (10:1, 24), which he did (14:31, 47). But when it came to submitting his life wholeheartedly to the Lord’s will, Saul was still free to make a choice. Sadly, in two key matters he gravely disappointed God by going his own way: he disobeyed direct military orders (15:18-24) and consulted a medium for guidance (1 Ch 10:13). God knows the end from the beginning (Is 46:10), and was not surprised at Saul’s actions. For reasons known only to God, He has chosen to work His divine will through sinful human beings. While the Lord’s purposes can never be broken, His heart can be.”

        • Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you tell me where the seer’s house is?” Samuel answered, “I am the seer. Go up to the high place ahead of me. Eat with me today and I’ll tell you everything you’re thinking and in the morning I’ll send you on your way. As for your donkeys that you lost three days ago, don’t worry about them. They have been found. Who is it that all of Israel desires? Isn’t it you and all your father’s family?”

          • Guzik writes, “Saul must have been amazed. He looked for a noted prophet, and the first man he asked about the prophet was the prophet. Then, the man of God invited Saul to dinner. Finally, he heard the words many fear to hear from a prophet: tomorrow I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart…With this Samuel proved to Saul that he was a true prophet from God. He showed Saul he knew things that he probably could not have known unless it was revealed to him supernaturally…With this, Samuel hinted at Saul’s destiny. All Israel desired a king, and Saul will become the answer to that desire.”

        • Saul replied, “Am I not a Benjaminite, the smallest of Israel’s tribes, and isn’t my family clan the smallest of all the clans in the tribe of Benjamin? Why have you spoken to me this way?”

        • Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and gave them a place at the head of the 30 or so people that had been invited. Then Samuel told the cook, “Bring the portion I gave to you, the one I told you to put aside.” So the cook took the thigh and what was attached to it and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, “Look, the reserved portion is set before you. Eat because it has been reserved for you, for this appointed time, since the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.’” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “Having instructed the cook to set aside a special cut of meat (v. 23)…Samuel has it placed before Saul. Special portions of meat were often reserved for important personages, as in the case of an officiating priest, who was to receive the right shank of the sacrificial animal (Lev 7:32-34). That special portion had been set aside for Saul in advance of his arrival suggests both the momentousness of the occasion and its providential direction.”

        • When they came down from the high place and returned to the city, a bed was made for Saul on the roof and he lay down to sleep. They got up at daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready and I will send you on your way.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “The flat roof of an Iron Age Israelite house functioned as an extension of the home’s living space. During warm weather, occupants could sleep overnight on the roof-top to take advantage of cooler temperatures and evening breezes.”

        • Saul got up and both he and Samuel went outside. As they were going down to the edge of the city Samuel told Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us, but you stay for a while so that I can reveal the word of God to you.”

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