1 Samuel 10 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

1 Samuel 10
Pulpit Commentary
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
Verse 1. - A vial of oil. Hebrew, "the vial of oil," because it was that same holy oil with which the priests were anointed (Exodus 29:7). Throughout Holy Scripture the office of king appears as one most sacred, and it is the king, and not the priest, who is especially called Messiah, Jehovah s anointed (1 Samuel 2:10, 35; 1 Samuel 12:3, 5; 1 Samuel 16:6, etc.), because he represented the authority and power of God. And kissed him. I.e. did homage to him, and gave him the symbol and token of allegiance (see Psalm 2:12). Is it not?.... A strong affirmation often takes the form of a question, especially when, as probably was the case here, surprise is manifested. Saul, on whom the occurrences of the previous day must have come as strange and unintelligible marvels, was no doubt still more embarrassed when one so old and venerable, both in person and office, as Samuel solemnly consecrated him to be Israel's prince (see 1 Samuel 9:16), and gave him the kiss of fealty and allegiance. Samuel, therefore, answers Saul's inquiring looks with this question, and, further, gives him three signs to quiet his doubts, and convince him that his appointment is from God.
When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?
Verse 2. - The first sign - Thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre. In Jeremiah 31:15 (quoted in Matthew 2:18) Rachel's sepulchre is connected with Ramah, but in Genesis 35:19 it is placed near Bethlehem. The whole of the geography of Saul's wanderings is very obscure, but Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' 1:401) places Zelzah at Beit-jala, to the west of Bethlehem, in the neighbourhood of the Kabhet Rahil, or Tomb of Rachel, Though both are now in the tribe of Judah, yet by a slight rectification of the frontier, in conformity with Joshua 18:11-28, Zelzah would be on the border of Benjamin, and there may have been local reasons for Saul and his companion not taking the most direct route for Gibeah. The news given by these men, that the asses were found, would set Saul's mind at rest, and, freed from lower cares, he would be able to give his thoughts entirely to preparation for the higher duties that were before him. For an interesting note upon the journey of Saul home see Wilson, 2:36.
Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:
Verse 3. The second sign was to be the presenting of an offering to him out of their sacrificial gifts by three men going on a pilgrimage to Bethel. He would meet them not in the plain of Tabor, but at the oak, elon, of Tabor. Many attempt to connect this elon-Tabor with the allon, or oak, under which Deborah, Rachel's nurse, was buried (Genesis 35:8), and suppose that Tabor is a corruption of the name Deborah. This is scarcely possible, and it is better to acknowledge that we know nothing of the site of this tree, except that it was on the road to Bethel. This was one of the places which Samuel used to visit as judge (1 Samuel 7:16); but these men were on a pilgrimage thither because since the days of Jacob it had been a sacred spot, and a chief seat of the old patriarchal worship, for which see 1 Samuel 9:12.
And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands.
Verse 4. - These pilgrims would salute Saul, i.e. give him the usual friendly greeting of travellers, and would then present to him, a stranger, two loaves of the bread intended for their offering at Bethel. By so doing, in the first place, they acknowledged him as their lord (see 1 Samuel 9:7; 1 Samuel 16:20), and, secondly, they indicated that the king would henceforth share with the sanctuary the offerings of the people. And Saul was to receive of their hands the present, as being now his due, for by anointing him Samuel had designated him as king.
After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:
Verse 5. - The third sign was to be his taking part with the prophets in their religious exercises in the hill of God - really Gibeah, his own home. Gibeah is strictly a rounded hill, while Ramah is a height. This Gibeah ha-Elohim was probably that part of the hill on which the "high place" was situated, and which was evidently outside the city; for Saul, on his route homeward, met the troop of prophets descending from it. For "Gibeah of Saul" see 1 Samuel 9:1; but, as Conder remarks, this name was given to a district as well as to a town, inasmuch as Ramah is described as situated within it - 1 Samuel 22:6 ('Tent Work,' 2:111). The garrison of the Philistines was probably on some height in this district, and, coupled with the mention of similar military posts elsewhere (1 Samuel 13:3; 1 Samuel 14:4), shows that most of the tribe of Benjamin was subject to that nation, and disarmed (1 Samuel 13:19); but probably, as long as the tribute was paid, its internal administration was not interfered with A company of the prophets. At Gibeah Samuel had established one of his "schools of the prophets," by means of which he did so much to elevate the whole mental and moral state of the Israelites. The word rendered company literally means a cord or line, and so a band of people. These prophets were descending from the Bamah (see on 1 Samuel 9:12), where they had been engaged in some religious exercise, and were chanting a psalm or hymn to the music of various instruments. Music was one of the great means employed by Samuel in training his young men; and not only is its effect at all times elevating and refining, but in semi-barbarous times, united, as it is sure to be, with poetry, it is the chief educational lever for raising men's minds, and giving them a taste for culture and intellectual pleasures. The musical instruments mentioned are the psaltery, Hebrew, nebel, a sort of harp with ten strings stretched across a triangle, the longest string being at its base, and the shortest towards its apex; the tabret, Hebrew toph, a tambourine struck by the hand; the pipe, Hebrew, chalil, i.e. "bored" or "pierced," so called from the holes bored in it to make the notes, and being probably a sort of flute; and, lastly, the harp, Hebrew, cinnor, a sort of guitar, chiefly used for accompanying the voice, and sometimes played with the fingers, and sometimes with a plectrum or quill. There is nothing to indicate that there was only one of each of these instruments, so that the articles would be better omitted. No doubt every prophet was playing some one or other of them. And they shall prophesy. The conjugation used here is not that employed for the prediction of future events, but means, literally, and they will be acting the prophet, the right word for men who were in training for the prophetic office (see 'Prophecy a Preparation for Christ,' 2nd ed. p. 50). They were really engaged in chanting God's praises with fervour, and this was no doubt one of the methods employed by Samuel to refine and spiritualise their minds. Years afterwards David was thus educated, and learned at one of Samuel's schools that skill in metre and psalmody which, added to his natural gifts, made him "the sweet singer of Israel." For prophesying, in the sense of playing instruments of music see 1 Chronicles 25:1-3, and in the sense of chanting, 1 Kings 18:29.
And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
Verse 6. - The spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee. The Hebrew means, will come mightily upon thee, will come upon thee so as to overpower thee. And thou shalt prophesy. Shalt act as a prophet (see above). Albeit untrained, thou shalt be carried away by religious fervour, and join in their singing and psalmody. And be turned into another man. New thoughts, new emotions shall take possession of thee, and in addition to the bodily strength for which hitherto thou hast been famous, thou shalt be filled with mental power, making thee eager for action and capable of taking the lead among all men, and in all emergencies. We have an instance of this enlarged capacity in the vigour with which Saul acted against the Ammonites.
And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.
Verse 7. - Do as occasion serve thee. Literally, "do for thyself as thy hand shall find," i.e. follow the lead of circumstances, and do thy best. This is the flood time of thy fortunes; press onward, and the kingdom is thine own, for God is with thee, and success is sure.
And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.
Verse 8. - Thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal. We find in 1 Samuel 13:8-13 a meeting at Gilgal so exactly parallel to what is arranged here that we cannot help looking upon this, again, as a sort of sign to be fulfilled at a later period. It is no argument against it that Gilgal was the place where in the mean while Saul was solemnly inaugurated king; for he was appointed in order that he might deliver Israel from the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16), and we may feel sure that this grand purpose would form the subject of conversation between the prophet and the soldier, either on the house-top or the next morning. In this conversation Gilgal would be selected as the place where Saul would assemble Israel for the war of independence (so Rashi and other Jewish interpreters); and so great an enterprise must necessarily be begun with religious rites, and Saul was to wait a full week for the prophet's coming, both to try his faith, which ought to have been confirmed by the fulfilment of the three appointed signs, and in order that the war might be undertaken under the same holy auspices as his own election to the kingdom. The two years' interval, were it really so long, would give time for Saul's character to develop under the forcing influences of royalty, and it would then be proved, when he felt himself every inch a king, whether he was still as amenable to the Divine authority as when he was first summoned from obscurity to mount a kingly throne. But, really, the words in 1 Samuel 13:1 do not justify this conclusion, and most probably the occurrences mentioned in that chapter followed immediately upon Saul's confirmation as king.
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day.
Verse 9. - God gave him another heart. The Hebrew is remarkable: "When he turned his shoulder to go from Samuel, God also turned for him another heart," i.e. God turned him round by giving him a changed heart. He grew internally up to the level of his changed circumstances. No longer had he the feelings of a husbandman, concerned only about corn and cattle; he had become a statesman, a general, and a prince. No man could have gone through such marvellous events, and experienced such varied emotions, without a vast inward change. But it might have been only to vanity and self-complacency. Saul's change was into a hero.
And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
Verses 10, 11. - To the hill. Hebrew, "to Gibeah," his home. He prophesied. Took part in prophetic exercises (see on Ver. 5). On seeing this, the people of Gibeah, who knew him beforetime, - Hebrew, "from yesterday and the day before," but equivalent to our phrase "for years," - asked in surprise, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? What makes him thus act in a manner unlike all our long past experience of him? Is Saul also among the prophets? From this question two things are evident: the first, that the schools founded by Samuel already held a high place in the estimation of the Israelites; the second, that Saul had not shared in that education which so raised the prophets as a class above, the mass of the people. Probably also Saul s character was not such as would have made him care for education. A young man who, while living in his neighbourhood, knew so little about Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6), could not have had a very inquiring or intellectual frame of mind. Of course Samuel could not, by gathering young men together, and giving them the best education the times afforded, gain for them also the highest and rarest of gifts, that of direct inspiration. Even when Elisha, the friend and attendant upon Elijah, asked his master for an elder son's portion of the Divine spirit, Elijah told him that he had asked a hard thing (2 Kings 2:10). The disparity then that the people remarked between Saul and the prophets was that between a rich young farmer's son, who had been brought up at home, and cared only for rustic things, and these young collegians, who were enjoying a careful education (comp. John 7:15). How good that education was is proved by the fact that at David's court all posts which required literary skill were held by prophets. No man could found schools of inspired men; but Samuel founded great educational institutions, which ended by making the Israelites a highly trained and literary people. Saul's prophesying was not the result of training, but came to him by a Divine influence, rousing the slumbering enthusiasm of an energetic but fitful nature.
And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?
And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?
Verse 12. - One of the same place - i.e. Gibeah - answered and said, But who is their father? The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read, But who is his father? But this would be a foolish reply to the question, "What has happened to the son of Kish?" The meaning rather must be, You ask about the son of Kish; but what has birth to do with prophecy? None of these young men have inherited these gifts, and if Saul can take part in their prophesyings, why should he not? Kish, his father, is no worse than theirs. Is Saul also among the prophets? Under very different circumstances Saul once again took part in the exercises of these youthful prophets (1 Samuel 19:24), and evidently on both occasions with such skill and success as prove the readiness of his genius; and so struck were the people at the strange power which he thus evinced, that their expression of wonder became fixed in the national mind as a proverb. Saul was a man of great natural ability, and yet not the sort of person whom the people expected would be made king. He probably could neither read nor write, and from his extreme height was perhaps awkward and bashful; as he suffered afterwards from fits of insanity (1 Samuel 16:14), he may always have been flighty and wilful; and altogether, though possessed of marvellous gifts, was certainly the very opposite of Samuel's well trained and orderly scholars.
And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.
Verse 13. - He came to the high place. Saul had met the prophets coming down from the Bamah; but the same religious fervor, which had made him take so earnest a part in the prophesyings of the young men, urged him now, after parting from their company, himself to go up to the high place, there to offer his prayers and praises to God.
And Saul's uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel.
Verses 14-16. - Saul's uncle. According to 1 Samuel 14:50, 51; 1 Chronicles 8:33, this would be Abner. The conversation probably took place after Saul had returned from the Bamah and gone to his own home, for in so brief a summary much necessarily is omitted. It is curious that the conversation should have taken place with the uncle, and not with the father; but possibly the latter was too well pleased to have his son back again to be very particular in his inquiries. Not so Abner. He was evidently excited by his nephew s visit to the prophet, and struck perhaps by the change in Saul himself, and would gladly have heard more. But Saul does not gratify his curiosity. Of the matter of the kingdom... he told him not. It was not merely prudent, but right to keep the matter secret. An able man like Abner would probably have begun to scheme for so great an end. Saul s silence left the fulfilment of the prophet's words entirely to God.

And Saul's uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.
And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.
And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;
Verse 17. - Samuel called the people together unto Jehovah to Mizpeh. For the reason why Mizpah (so the name should be spelt) was chosen as the place of meeting see 1 Samuel 7:15. Unto Jehovah. Because in some way the Divine presence there was indicated; possibly by the high priest having been summoned thither with the Urim and Thummim.
And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you:
Verse 18. - And said... Samuel first points out in his address to the assembled people that Jehovah always had done for them the very thing for which they desired a king. They wished for deliverance from the Philistines, and Jehovah had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms that oppressed them (the A.V. wrongly inserts "and of them"). But their deliverance by Jehovah had been made dependent upon their own conduct; they were required to repent them of their sins, and purge the land from idolatry, before victory could be theirs. What they wanted was national independence freed from this condition, and secured by an organisation of their military resources.
And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.
Verse 19. - Samuel, therefore, protests unto them, Ye have this day rejected your God, because what you want is a divorce of your national well being from religion. Nevertheless, God granted their request, it being a law of his providence to leave men free to choose. The king was, however, to be appointed by him, the selection being by lot. By your thousands. The natural subdivision of a tribe is into families; but when Moses distributed the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:25), the numerical arrangement was probably made to yield as far as possible to the natural, so that about a thousand men more or less of the same kin should be classed as a family. Hence the terms are synonymous here, and in Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14, etc.
And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
Verse 21. - The family of Matri, or of the Matrites. Matri is not mentioned anywhere else; and numerous as are the omissions in the genealogies, we can scarcely suppose that the name of the head of one of the main subdivisions of a tribe could be passed over. The conjecture, therefore, is probable that Matri is a corruption of Bikri, i.e. a descendant of Becher, for whom see 1 Chronicles 7:8. After the lot had fallen upon this family they would next cast lots upon its smaller subdivisions, as in Joshua 7:17, 18, until at last they came to households, when first Kish, and finally Saul was taken. The latter, foreseeing that this would happen, had concealed himself. For though a noble change had taken place in him (ver. 9), yet no really worthy man was ever promoted to high office without having to overcome his own unwillingness, and no one probably ever worthily discharged solemn duties without having felt oppressed and humbled with the consciousness of his own unfitness to undertake them. As a matter of fact, Saul was now called to a most weighty responsibility, and he failed and was rejected, though not without proving that he was a man of extraordinary genius and power. And it never can be said of him that presumption was the cause of his fall, or that he hastily undertook serious duties in the spirit of light-hearted levity.
Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.
Verse 22. - They inquired of Jehovah further, if the man should yet come thither. More correctly, "Is any one as yet come hither?" The Septuagint and Vulgate translate as if there were an article before "any one" (Hebrew, a man), and give, "Is the man coming hither?" But the Hebrew text is the more satisfactory. For the object of the inquiry, made by the Urim and Thummim, was to find Saul, wherever he might be; and the enigmatical way of putting the question, Is any one as yet come? was regarded as more reverential than asking directly, Is Saul come? Among the stuff. I.e. the baggage, as in 1 Samuel 17:22, where it is translated "carriage." The people, collected from all Israel, would come with wagons and provisions, and such arms as they could procure; for very probably the Philistines would interrupt such a meeting, as they had that convened formerly by Samuel (1 Samuel 7:7). Naturally, therefore, they would follow the regulations of an army, and so arrange their baggage as to form a place of defence in case of attack. See on 1 Samuel 17:20.
And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.
Verses 23, 24. - And when he stood. This rendering spoils the poetic force of the original, where the rapidity of their action is expressed by three preterites following hard upon one another. The Hebrew is, "And they ran, and took him thence, and he stood forth (see 1 Samuel 12:7) among the people, and he was taller," etc. And now Samuel presents him to the multitude as "the chosen of Jehovah," and the people shout their assent by saying, "Let the king live." For this the A.V. puts our English phrase, but the Hebrew exactly answers to the French Vive le roi! THE EVENTS WHICH FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY UPON SAUL'S ELECTION (vers. 25-27).
And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
Verse 25. - The manner. The difficult word already discussed in 1 Samuel 2:13; 1 Samuel 8:11. Here, however, it is not used for rights so exercised as to become wrongs, but in a good sense, for what we should call a constitution. The heathen kings were despots, subject to no higher law, and Samuel, in 1 Samuel 8:11-18, speaks with merited abhorrence of their violation of the natural rights of their subjects; but under the theocracy the king's power was limited by laws which protected, in the enjoyment of their privileges, the people, the priests, and the prophets. The latter class especially, as being the mouthpiece of Jehovah, formed a powerful check upon the development of despotic tendencies. In sketching Saul's kingly rights Samuel would be guided by Deuteronomy 17:14-20, and would give the king his true position as the representative of Jehovah both in all matters of internal administration and of war. And laid it up before Jehovah. Probably by the side of the ark. We are not to suppose that Samuel wrote this at Mizpah. He would fully explain to Saul and the people there what a theocratic king ought to be, and would afterwards draw up a formal document both as a memorial of what had been done, and for the use of future sovereigns, and place it within the sanctuary. It is noteworthy that this is the first notice of writing since the days of the illustrious scribe Eleazar.
And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.
Verses 26, 27. - Saul did not at once enter upon his duties, but went home to Gibeah, and there went with him, not a band of men, but the host, or the force, i.e. those brave men whose hearts God had touched. Whatever was noble and valiant accompanied him, to take counsel for the nation's good; but the children of Belial, i.e. worthless, good for nothing creatures (see 1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Samuel 2:12), despised him. In the A.V. the antithesis between the force, the strength and bravery that went with Saul, and the worthlessness which rejected him, is lost by the mistranslation of both words. The Septuagint, on the contrary, strengthens it by rendering "sons of strength" and "pestilent sons." As there was a garrison in the district of Gibeah, this proceeding was likely to embroil Saul with the Philistines, and probably was so intended. They brought him no presents. Apparently, therefore, the people did bring him presents; and as these would chiefly consist of food, they would be useful only for maintaining a body of men. This, too, would scarcely escape the notice of so watchful an enemy, and yet until Saul smote one of their garrisons they did nothing; but then, forthwith, they invaded Israel so promptly, and with such overwhelming numbers, as seems to prove that they had been busily making preparations meanwhile to maintain their empire. He held his peace. Literally, "was as one that is deaf." Had Saul not controlled his anger, a civil war would have been the result, and the lordly tribes of Ephraim and Judah might have refused a king chosen from the little tribe of Benjamin. In fact, Judah never does seem to have given a hearty allegiance to Saul. The Septuagint, followed by Josephus, offers a not improbable different reading, which involves but a very slight change in the Hebrew. Uniting the words with the next chapter, they translate, "And it came to pass, after about a month, that Nahash the Ammonite," etc. The Vulgate has both readings.

But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.
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