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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Saul's lineage and description; he is sent by his father to seek some lost asses, 1 Samuel 9:1-5. Not finding them, he purposes to go and consult Samuel concerning the proper method of proceeding, 1 Samuel 9:6-14. The Lord informs Samuel that he should anoint Saul king, 1 Samuel 9:15, 1 Samuel 9:16. Samuel invites Saul to dine with him, and informs him that the asses are found; and gives him an intimation that he is to be king, 1 Samuel 9:17-21. Saul dines with Samuel, and afterwards he is taken to the house-top, where both commune together, 1 Samuel 9:22-27.
1Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.
A mighty man of power - Literally, a strong man; this appears to be the only power he possessed; and the physical strength of the father may account for the extraordinary size of the son. See 1 Samuel 9:2.
2And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice 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.
From his shoulders and upwards - It was probably from this very circumstance that he was chosen for king; for, where kings were elective, in all ancient times great respect was paid to personal appearance.
3And 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.
The asses of Kish - were lost - What a wonderful train of occurrences were connected in order to bring Saul to the throne of Israel! Every thing seems to go on according to the common course of events, and yet all conspired to favor the election of a man to the kingdom who certainly did not come there by the approbation of God.
Asses grow to great perfection in the East; and at this time, as there were no horses in Judea, they were very useful; and on them kings and princes rode.
4And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not.
5And 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 caring for the asses, and take thought for us.
Were come to the land of Zuph - Calmet supposes that Saul and his servant went from Gibeah to Shalisha, in the tribe of Dan; from thence to Shalim, near to Jerusalem; and thence, traversing the tribe of Benjamin, they purposed to return to Gibeah; but passing through the land of Zuph, in which Ramatha, the country of Samuel, was situated, they determined to call on this prophet to gain some directions from him; the whole of this circuit he supposes to have amounted to no more than about twenty-five leagues, or three days' journey. We do not know where the places were situated which are here mentioned: the Targum translates thus: "And he passed through the mount of the house of Ephraim, and went into the southern land, but did not meet with them. And he passed through the land of Mathbera, but they were not there; and he passed through the land of the tribe of Benjamin, but did not find them; then they came into the land where the prophet of the Lord dwelt. And Saul said to his servant," etc.
6And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.
7Then 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?
There is not a present to bring to the man of God - We are not to suppose from this that the prophets took money to predict future events: Saul only refers to an invariable custom, that no man approached a superior without a present of some kind or other. We have often seen this before; even God, who needs nothing, would not that his people should approach him with empty hands. "It is very common in Bengal for a person, who is desirous of asking a favor from a superior, to take a present of fruits or sweetmeats in his hand. If not accepted, the feelings of the offerer are greatly wounded. The making of presents to appease a superior is also very common in Bengal." - Ward's Customs.
8And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.
The fourth part of a shekel of silver - We find from the preceding verse, that the bread or provisions which they had brought with them for their journey was expended, else a part of that would have been thought a suitable present; and here the fourth part of a shekel of silver, about ninepence of our money, was deemed sufficient: therefore the present was intended more as a token of respect than as an emolument.
9(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)
Beforetime in Israel - This passage could not have been a part of this book originally: but we have already conjectured that Samuel, or some contemporary author, wrote the memoranda, out of which a later author compiled this book. This hypothesis, sufficiently reasonable in itself, solves all difficulties of this kind.
Was beforetime called a seer - The word seer, ראה roeh, occurs for the first time in this place; it literally signifies a person who Sees; particularly preternatural sights. A seer and a prophet were the same in most cases; only with this difference, the seer was always a prophet, but the prophet was not always a seer. A seer seems to imply one who frequently met with, and saw, some symbolical representation of God. The term prophet was used a long time before this; Abraham is called a prophet, Genesis 20:7, and the term frequently occurs in the law. Besides, the word seer does not occur before this time; but often occurs afterwards down through the prophets, for more than three hundred years. See Amos 7:12; Micah 3:7.
All prophets, false and true, profess to see God; see the case of Balaam, Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16, and Jeremiah 14:14. All diviners, in their enthusiastic flights, boasted that they had those things exhibited to their sight which should come to pass. There is a remarkable account in Virgil which may serve as a specimen of the whole; the Sibyl professes to be a seer: -
- Bella, horrida bella,
Et Tyberim molto spumantem sanguine
Cerno. Aen. lib. vi., ver. 86.
Wars, horrid wars, I View; a field of blood;
And Tyber rolling with a purple flood.
I think the 9th verse comes more naturally in after the 11th.
10Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
11And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here?
Young maidens going out to draw water - So far is it from being true, that young women were always kept closely shut up at home, that we find them often in the field, drawing and carrying water, as here.
12And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place:
He came to - day to the city - Though Samuel lived chiefly in Ramah, yet he had a dwelling in the country, at a place called Naioth, where it is probable there was a school of the prophets. See 1 Samuel 19:18-24.
A sacrifice of the people - A great feast. The animals used were first sacrificed to the Lord; that is, their blood was poured out before him; and then all the people fed on the flesh. By high place probably Samuel's altar is alone meant; which no doubt was raised on an eminence.
13As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go 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 be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him.
He doth bless the sacrifice - He alone can perform the religious rites which are used on this occasion.
Afterwards they eat that be bidden - Among the Arabs, often a large feast is made of sacrificed camels, etc., and then the people of the vicinity are invited to come and partake of the sacrifice. This is the custom to which allusion is made here.
14And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place.
Come out against them - Met them.
15Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,
Now the Lord had told Samuel - How this communication was made, we cannot tell.
16To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.
Thou shalt anoint him to be captain - Not to be king, but to be נגיד nagid or captain of the Lord's host. But in ancient times no king was esteemed who was not an able warrior. Plutarch informs us that Alexander the Great esteemed the following verse the most correct, as to its sentiment, of any in the whole Iliad of Homer: -
Ουτος γ' Ατρειδης ευρυκρειων Αγαμεμνων,
Αμφοτερον βασιλευς τ' αγαθος, κρατερος τ' αιχμητης.
"The king of kings, Atrides, you survey;
Great in the war, and great in acts of sway."
17And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.
Behold the man whom I spake to thee of - What an intimate communion must Samuel have held with his God! A constant familiarity seems to have existed between them.
18Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
19And 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 to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart.
I am the seer - This declaration would prepare Saul for the communications afterwards made.
20And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house?
As for thine asses - Thus he shows him that he knew what was in his heart, God having previously revealed these things to Samuel.
And on whom is all the desire of Israel? - Saul understood this as implying that he was chosen to be king.
21And 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 so to me?
Am not I a Benjamite - This speech of Saul is exceedingly modest; he was now becomingly humble; but who can bear elevation and prosperity? The tribe of Benjamin had not yet recovered its strength, after the ruinous war it had with the other tribes, Judges 20:29-46.
22And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons.
Brought them into the parlour - It might as well be called kitchen; it was the place where they sat down to feast.
23And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee.
Said unto the cook - טבח tabbach, here rendered cook; the singular of טבחות tabbachoth, female cooks, 1 Samuel 8:13, from the root tabach, to slay or butcher. Probably the butcher is here meant.
24And the cook took up the shoulder, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, Behold that which is left! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I said, I have invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day.
The shoulder, and that which was upon it - Probably the shoulder was covered with a part of the caul, that it might be the better roasted. The Targum has it the shoulder and its thigh; not only the shoulder merely, but the fore-leg bone to the knee; perhaps the whole fore-quarter. Why was the shoulder set before Saul? Not because it was the best part, but because it was an emblem of the government to which he was now called. See Isaiah 9:6 : And the government shall be upon his Shoulder.
25And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.
Upon the top of the house - All the houses in the East were flat-roofed; on these people walked, talked, and frequently slept, for the sake of fresh and cooling air.
26And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad.
Called Saul to the top of the house - Saul had no doubt slept there all night; and now, it being the break of day, "Samuel called to Saul on the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away." There was no calling him to the house-top a second time he was sleeping there, and Samuel called him up.
27And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.
As they were going down - So it appears that Saul arose immediately, and Samuel accompanied him out of the town, and sent the servant on that he might show Saul the word, the counsel or design, of the Lord. What this was we shall see in the following chapter, 1 Samuel 10 (note).