Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:1
When the Lord had instructed Samuel to appoint a king over the nation, in accordance with its own desire, He very speedily proceeded to show him the man whom He had chosen. Saul the Benjaminite came to Samuel, to consult him as a seer about his father's she-asses, which had been lost, and for which he had been seeking in all directions in vain (Sa1 9:1-14). And the Lord had already revealed to the prophet the day before, that He would send him the man who had been set apart by Him as the king of Israel; and when Samuel met with Saul, He pointed him out as the man to whom He had referred (Sa1 9:15-17). Accordingly, Samuel invited Saul to be his guest at a sacrificial meal, which he was about to celebrate (Sa1 9:18-24). After the meal he made known to him the purpose of God, anointed him as king (Sa1 9:25-27; Sa1 10:1), and sent him away, with an announcement of three signs, which would serve to confirm his election on the part of God (Sa1 10:2-16). This occurrence is related very circumstantially, to bring out distinctly the miraculous interposition of God, and to show that Saul did not aspire to the throne; and also that Samuel did not appoint of his own accord the man whom he was afterwards obliged to reject, but that Saul was elected by God to be king over His people, without any interference on the part of either Samuel or himself.
(Note: There is no tenable ground for the assumption of Thenius and others, that this account was derived from a different source from 1 Samuel 8, Sa1 10:17-27, and Sa1 10:11.; for the assertion that Sa1 10:17-27 connects itself in the most natural way with 1 Samuel 8 is neither well-founded nor correct. In the first place, it was certainly more natural that Samuel, who was to place a king over the nation according to the appointment of God, should be made acquainted with the man whom God had appointed, before the people elected him by lot. And secondly, Saul's behaviour in hiding himself when the lots were cast (Sa1 10:21.), can only be explained on the supposition that Samuel had already informed him that he was the appointed king; whereas, if this had not been the case, it would be altogether incomprehensible.)
Saul searches for his father's asses. - Sa1 9:1, Sa1 9:2. The elaborate genealogy of the Benjaminite Kish, and the minute description of the figure of his son Saul, are intended to indicate at the very outset the importance to which Saul attained in relation to the people of Israel, Kish was the son of Abiel: this is in harmony with Sa1 14:51. But when, on the other hand, it is stated in Ch1 8:33; Ch1 9:39, that Ner begat Kish, the difference may be reconciled in the simplest manner, on the assumption that the Ner mentioned there is not the father, but the grandfather, or a still more remote ancestor of Kish, as the intervening members are frequently passed over in the genealogies. The other ancestors of Kish are never mentioned again. חיל גּבּור refers to Kish, and signifies not a brave man, but a man of property, as in Rut 2:1. This son Saul (i.e., "prayed for:" for this meaning of the word, comp. Sa1 1:17, Sa1 1:27) was "young and beautiful." It is true that even at that time Saul had a son grown up (viz., Jonathan), according to Sa1 13:2; but still, in contrast with his father, he was "a young man," i.e., in the full vigour of youth, probably about forty or forty-five years old. There is no necessity, therefore, to follow the Vulgate rendering electus. No one equalled him in beauty. "From his shoulder upwards he was higher than any of the people." Such a figure as this was well adapted to commend him to the people as their king (cf. Sa1 10:24), since size and beauty were highly valued in rulers, as signs of manly strength (see Herod. iii. 20, vii. 187; Aristot. Polit. iv. c. 24).
Having been sent out by his father to search for his she-asses which had strayed, Saul went with his servant through the mountains of Ephraim, which ran southwards into the tribe-territory of Benjamin (see at Sa1 1:1), then through the land of Shalishah and the land of Shaalim, and after that through the land of Benjamin, without finding the asses; and at length, when he had reached the land of Zuph, he determined to return, because he was afraid that his father might turn his mind from the asses, and trouble himself about them (the son and servant). מן חדל, to desist from a thing, to give it up or renounce it.
As Saul started in any case from Gibeah of Benjamin, his own home (Sa1 10:10., Sa1 10:26, Sa1 11:4; Sa1 15:34; Sa1 23:19; Sa1 26:1), i.e., the present Tuleil el Phul, which was an hour or an hour and a half to the north of Jerusalem (see at Jos 18:28), and went thence into the mountains of Ephraim, he no doubt took a north-westerly direction, so that he crossed the boundary of Benjamin somewhere between Bireh and Atarah, and passing through the crest of the mountains of Ephraim, on the west of Gophnah (Jifna), came out into the land of Shalishah. Shalishah is unquestionably the country round (or of) Baal-shalishah (Kg2 4:42), which was situated, according to Eusebius (Onom. s.v. Βαιθσαρισάθ: Beth-sarisa or Beth-salisa), in regione Thamnitica, fifteen Roman miles to the north of Diospolis (Lydda), and was therefore probably the country to the west of Jiljilia, where three different wadys run into one large wady, called Kurawa; and according to the probable conjecture of Thenius, it was from this fact that the district received the name of Shalishah, or Three-land. They proceeded thence in their search to the land of Shaalim: according to the Onom. (s.v.), "a village seven miles off, in finibus Eleutheropoleos contra occidentem." But this is hardly correct, and is most likely connected with the mistake made in transposing the town of Samuel to the neighbourhood of Diospolis (see at Sa1 1:1). For since they went on from Shaalim into the land of Benjamin, and then still further into the land of Zuph, on the south-west of Benjamin, they probably turned eastwards from Shalishah, into the country where we find Beni Mussah and Beni Salem marked upon Robinson's and v. de Velde's maps, and where we must therefore look for the land of Shaalim, that they might proceed thence to explore the land of Benjamin from the north-east to the south-west. If, on the contrary, they had gone from Shaalim in a southerly or south-westerly direction, to the district of Eleutheropolis, they would only have entered the land of Benjamin at the south-west corner, and would have had to go all the way back again in order to go thence to the land of Zuph. For we may infer with certainty that the land of Zuph was on the south-west of the tribe-territory of Benjamin, from the fact that, according to Sa1 10:2, Saul and his companion passed Rachel's tomb on their return thence to their own home, and then came to the border of Benjamin. On the name Zuph, see at Sa1 1:1.
When Saul proposed to return home from the land of Zuph, his servant said to him, "Behold, in this city ('this,' referring to the town which stood in front of them upon a hill) is a man of God, much honoured; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now we will go thither; perhaps he will tell us our way that we have to go" (lit. have gone, and still go, sc., to attain the object of our journey, viz., to find the asses). The name of this town is not mentioned either here or in the further course of this history. Nearly all the commentators suppose it to have been Ramah, Samuel's home. But this assumption has no foundation at all in the text, and is irreconcilable with the statements respecting the return in Sa1 10:2-5. The servant did not say there dwells in this city, but there is in this city (Sa1 9:6; comp. with this Sa1 9:10, "They went into the city where the man of God was," not "dwelt"). It is still more evident, from the answer given by the drawers of water, when Saul asked them, "Is the seer here?" (Sa1 9:11), - viz., "He came to-day to the city, for the people have a great sacrifice upon the high place" (Sa1 9:12), - that the seer (Samuel) did not live in the town, but had only come thither to a sacrificial festival. Moreover, "every impartial man will admit, that the fact of Samuel's having honoured Saul as his guest at the sacrificial meal of those who participated in the sacrifice, and of their having slept under the same roof, cannot possibly weaken the impression that Samuel was only there in his peculiar and official capacity. It could not be otherwise than that the presidency should be assigned to him at the feast itself as priest and prophet, and therefore that the appointments mentioned should proceed from him. And it is but natural to assume that he had a house at his command for any repetition of such sacrifices, which we find from 2 Kings 4 to have been the case in the history of Elisha" (Valentiner). And lastly, the sacrificial festival itself does not point to Ramah; for although Samuel had built an altar to the Lord at Ramah (Sa1 7:17), this was by no means the only place of sacrifice in the nation. If Samuel offered sacrifice at Mizpeh and Gilgal (Sa1 7:9; Sa1 10:8; Sa1 13:8.), he could also do the same at other places. What the town really was in which Saul met with him, cannot indeed be determined, since all that we can gather from Sa1 10:2, is, that it was situated on the south-west of Bethlehem.
Saul's objection, that they had no present to bring to the man of God, as the bread was gone from their vessels, was met by the servant with the remark, that he had a quarter of a shekel which he would give.
Before proceeding with the further progress of the affair, the historian introduces a notice, which was required to throw light upon what follows; namely, that beforetime, if any one wished to inquire of God, i.e., to apply to a prophet for counsel from God upon any matter, it was customary in Israel to say, We will go to the seer, because "he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer." After this parenthetical remark, the account is continued in Sa1 9:10. Saul declared himself satisfied with the answer of the servant; and they both went into the town, to ask the man of God about the asses that were lost.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:11
As they were going up to the high place of the town, they met maidens coming out of the town to draw water; and on asking them whether the seer was there, they received this answer: "Yes; behold, he is before thee: make haste, now, for he has come into the town to-day; for the people have a sacrifice to-day upon the high place." Bamah (in the singular) does not mean the height or hill generally; but throughout it signifies the high place, as a place of sacrifice or prayer.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:13
"When ye come into the city, ye will find him directly before he goes up to the high place to eat." כּן not only introduces the apodosis, but corresponds to כּ, as, so: here, however, it is used with reference to time, in the sense of our "immediately." "For the people are not accustomed to eat till he comes, for he blesses the sacrifice," etc. בּרך, like εὐλογεῖν, refers to the thanksgiving prayer offered before the sacrificial meal. "Go now for him; yet will meet him even to-day." The first אתו is placed at the beginning for the sake of emphasis, and then repeated at the close. כּהיּום, "Even to-day."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:14
When they went into the town, Samuel met them on his way out to go to the high place of sacrifice. Before the meeting itself is described, the statement is introduced in Sa1 9:15-17, that the day before Jehovah had foretold to Samuel that the man was coming to him whom he was to anoint as captain over his people. אזן גּלה, to open any one's ear, equivalent to reveal something to him (Sa1 20:12; Sa2 7:27, etc.). אשׁלח, I will send thee, i.e., "I will so direct his way in my overruling providence, that he shall come to thee" (J. H. Mich. ). The words, "that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon my people, for their cry is come unto me," are not at all at variance with Sa1 7:13. In that passage there is simply the assertion, that there was no more any permanent oppression on the part of the Philistines in the days of Samuel, such as had taken place before; but an attempt to recover their supremacy over Israel is not only not precluded, but is even indirectly affirmed (see the comm. on Sa1 7:13). The words before us simply show that the Philistines had then begun to make a fresh attempt to contend for dominion over the Israelites. "I have looked upon my people:" this is to be explained like the similar passage in Exo 2:25, "God looked upon the children of Israel," and Exo 3:7, "I have looked upon the misery of my people." God's looking was not a quiet, inactive looking on, but an energetic look, which brought help in trouble. "Their cry is come unto me:" this is word for word the same as in Exo 3:9. As the Philistines wanted to tread in the footsteps of the Egyptians, it was necessary that Jehovah should also send His people a deliverer from these new oppressors, by giving them a king. The reason here assigned for the establishment of a monarchy is by no means at variance with the displeasure which God had expressed to Samuel at the desire of the people for a king (Sa1 8:7.); since this displeasure had reference to the state of heart from which the desire had sprung.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:17
When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord answered him, sc., in reply to the tacit inquiry, 'Is this he?' "Behold, this is the man of whom I spake to thee." עצר, coercere imperio.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:18
The thread of the narrative, which was broken off in Sa1 9:15, is resumed in Sa1 9:18. Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and asked him for the seer's house. The expression השּׁער בּתוך is used to define more precisely the general phrase in Sa1 9:14, העיר בּתוך בּאים; and there is no necessity to alter העיר in Sa1 9:14 into השּׁער, as Thenius proposes, for העיר בּתוך כּוא does not mean to go (or be) in the middle of the town, as he imagines, but to go into, or enter, the town; and the entrance to the town was through the gate.
Samuel replied, "I am the seer: go up before me to the high place, and eat with me to-day; and to-morrow I will send thee away, and make known to thee all that is in thy heart." Letting a person go in front was a sign of great esteem. The change from the singular עלה to the plural אכלתּם may be explained on the ground that, whilst Samuel only spoke to Saul, he intended expressly to invite his servant to the meal as well as himself. "All that is in thine heart" does not mean "all that thou hast upon thy heart," i.e., all that troubles thee, for Samuel relieved him of all anxiety about the asses at once by telling him that they were found; but simply the thoughts of thy heart generally. Samuel would make these known to him, to prove to him that he was a prophet. He then first of all satisfied him respecting the asses (Sa1 9:20): "As for the asses that were lost to thee to-day three days (three days ago), do not set thy heart upon them (i.e., do not trouble thyself about them), for they are found." After this quieting announcement, by which he had convinced Saul of his seer's gift, Samuel directed Saul's thoughts to that higher thing which Jehovah had appointed for him: "And to whom does all that is worth desiring of Israel belong? Is it not to thee, and to all thy father's house?" "The desire of Israel" (optima quaeque Israel, Vulg.; "the best in Israel," Luther) is not all that Israel desires, but all that Israel possesses of what is precious or worth desiring (see Hag 2:7). "The antithesis here is between the asses and every desirable thing" (Seb. Schmidt). Notwithstanding the indefinite character of the words, they held up such glorious things as in prospect for Saul, that he replied in amazement (Sa1 9:21), "Am not I a Benjaminite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family is the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin (בן שׁבטי is unquestionably a copyist's error for בן שׁבת); and how speakest thou such a word to me?" Samuel made no reply to this, as he simply wanted first of all to awaken the expectation in Saul's mind of things that he had never dreamt of before.
When they arrived at the high place, he conducted Saul and his servant into the cell (the apartment prepared for the sacrificial meal), and gave them (the servant as well as Saul, according to the simple customs of antiquity, as being also his guest) a place at the upper end among those who had been invited. There were about thirty persons present, no doubt the most distinguished men of the city, whilst the rest of the people probably encamped in the open air.
He then ordered the cook to bring the piece which he had directed him to set aside, and to place it before Saul, namely the leg and העליה (the article in the place of the relative; see Ewald, 331, b.); i.e., not what was over it, viz., the broth poured upon it (Dathe and Maurer), but what was attached to it (Luther). The reference, however, is not to the kidney as the choicest portion (Thenius), for the kidneys were burned upon the altar in the case of all the slain sacrifices (Lev 3:4), and only the flesh of the animals offered in sacrifice was applied to the sacrificial meal. What was attached to the leg, therefore, can only have been such of the fat upon the flesh as was not intended for the altar. Whether the right or left leg, is not stated: the earlier commentators decide in favour of the left, because the right leg fell to the share of the priests (Lev 7:32.). But as Samuel conducted the whole of the sacrificial ceremony, he may also have offered the sacrifice itself by virtue of his prophetic calling, so that the right leg would fall to his share, and he might have it reserved for his guest. In any case, however, the leg, as the largest and best portion, was to be a piece of honour for Saul (see Gen 43:34). There is no reason to seek for any further symbolical meaning in it. The fact that it was Samuel's intention to distinguish and honour Saul above all his other guests, is evident enough from what he said to Saul when the cook had brought the leg: "Behold, that which is reserved is set before thee (שׂים is the passive participle, as in Num 24:21); for unto this time hath it been kept for thee, as I said I have invited the people." למּועד is either "to the appointed time of thy coming," or possibly, "for the (this) meeting together." Samuel mentions this to give Saul his guest to understand that he had foreseen his coming in a supernatural way. לאמר, saying, i.e., as I said (to the cook).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 9:25
When the sacrificial meal was over, Samuel and Saul went down from the high place into the town, and he (Samuel) talked with him upon the roof (of the house into which Samuel had entered). The flat roofs of the East were used as placed of retirement for private conversation (see at Deu 22:8). This conversation did not refer of course to the call of Samuel to the royal dignity, for that was not made known to him as a word of Jehovah till the following day (Sa1 9:27); but it was intended to prepare him for that announcement: so that O. v. Gerlach's conjecture is probably the correct one, viz., that Samuel "talked with Saul concerning the deep religious and political degradation of the people of God, the oppression of the heathen, the causes of the inability of the Israelites to stand against these foes, the necessity for a conversion of the people, and the want of a leader who was entirely devoted to the Lord."
(Note: For הגּג על עם־שׁאוּל וידבּר the lxx have καὶ διέστρωσαν τῷ Σαοὺλ ἐπι τῷ δώματι καὶ ἐκοιμήθη, "they prepared Saul a bed upon the house, and he slept," from which Clericus conjectured that these translators had read לשאול וירבדו (וירבּדוּ or ויּרבּדוּ); and Ewald and Thenius propose to alter the Hebrew text in this way. But although וגו ויּשׁכּימוּ (Sa1 9:26) no doubt presupposes that Saul had slept in Samuel's house, and in fact upon the roof, the remark of Thenius, "that the private conversation upon the roof (Sa1 9:25) comes too early, as Saul did not yet know, and was not to learn till the following day, what was about to take place," does not supply any valid objection to the correctness of the Masoretic text, or any argument in favour of the Septuagint rendering or interpretation, since it rests upon an altogether unfounded and erroneous assumption, viz., that Samuel had talked with Saul about his call to the throne. Moreover, "the strangeness" of the statement in Sa1 9:26, "they rose up early," and then "when the morning dawned, Samuel called," etc., cannot possibly throw any suspicion upon the integrity of the Hebrew text, as this "strangeness" vanishes when we take וגו כּעלות ויהי as a more precise definition of ויּשׁכּימוּ. The Septuagint translators evidently held the same opinion as their modern defenders. They took offence at Samuel's private conversation with Saul, because he did not make known to him the word of God concerning his call to the throne till the next morning; and, on the other hand, as their rising the next morning is mentioned in Sa1 9:26, they felt the absence of any allusion to their sleeping, and consequently not only interpreted ידבר by a conjectural emendation as standing for ירבד rof, because מרבדּים רבד is used in Pro 7:16 to signify the spreading of mats or carpets for a bed, but also identified וישׁכמו with ישׁכבו, and rendered it ἐκοιμήθη. At the same time, they did not reflect that the preparation of the bed and their sleeping during the night were both of them matters of course, and there was consequently no necessity to mention them; whereas Samuel's talking with Saul upon the roof was a matter of importance in relation to the whole affair, and one which could not be passed over in silence. Moreover, the correctness of the Hebrew text is confirmed by all the other ancient versions. Not only do the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic follow the Masoretic text, but Jerome does the same in the rendering adopted by him, "Et locutus est cum Saule in solario. Cumque mane surrexissent;" though the words "stravitque Saul in solario et dormivit" have been interpolated probably from the Itala into the text of the Vulgate which has come down to us.)
"And they rose up early in the morning: namely, when the morning dawn arose, Samuel called to Saul upon the roof (i.e., he called from below within the house up to the roof, where Saul was probably sleeping upon the balcony; cf. Kg2 4:10), Get up, I will conduct thee." As soon as Saul had risen, "they both (both Samuel and Saul) went out (into the street)." And when they had gone down to the extremity of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Let the servant pass on before us (and he did so), and do thou remain here for the present; I will show thee a word of God."