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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 9
“Kish.” Kish, the father of Saul, was the man described at the end of the verse as “a mighty man of valor.” So Saul had good breeding and likely some good training to be the king of Israel and do what the people wanted: “govern us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:20)(top)
“a handsome young man.” This section of Scripture is describing Saul’s outward characteristics.(top)
“were lost.” This was not uncommon. Donkeys would wander off if left untethered, this was common enough to be written about in the Law of Moses (Exod. 23:4).(top)
“but they were not found.” The switch from the singular pronoun “he” in the opening of the verse to the plural pronoun “they,” shows that the “they” refers to the donkeys.a It is not that the pronouns are confusing, as some commentators claim.
|1Sm 9:5||- (top)|
“But he said to him.” But he [the servant] said to him [to Saul].
“Look, there is a man of God in this city.” The city that Samuel lived in was Ramah, so the city here in the record must be Ramah, also known as Ramathaim-zophim (1 Sam. 1:1).
“comes, yes, comes to pass.” The Hebrew doubles the word “come” for emphasis, thus using the figure of speech polyptoton.
[For more on polyptoton and this way of translating it, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.](top)
“But look, if we go, what can we bring the man?” In this early section that introduces Saul, we are shown that Saul is not very spiritually sensitive or really cares about it. He lives in Gibeah, which is only two miles from Ramah, the hometown of Samuel, the Judge of Israel, yet Saul seems to know little or nothing about him. A spiritually astute or caring man would have known a lot about him.
“gift.” The Hebrew word occurs only here and the meaning is not exactly known, but it seems to be related to a gift that opened the door for one to be able to see the prophet.(top)
“Look, I happen to have in my hand.” The servant takes the focus on himself; the Hebrew text reads more literally, “Look, there is found in my hand...” as if the silver somehow was just discovered in his hand without any explanation about how it got there. There is a lot in that phraseology. The servant did not want to make Saul look bad as if the servant was prepared for the journey and Saul wasn’t, but it is interesting that the servant is more prepared for the journey than Saul is. This theme will come up later in Saul’s kingship, where those who serve him are more godly or better prepared than he is. Also, because the wording is such that the silver seems to have just miraculously appeared in the servant’s hand and was “found” there, we see the hand of God behind the scenes as if He wants Saul to meet Samuel and is providing the means for that to happen.
“one-fourth of a shekel.” One-fourth of a shekel is roughly one-tenth of an ounce (2.8 grams). A shekel was roughly .4 ounces (11 or 11.5 grams).
[See commentary on Genesis 24:22, “shekel.”](top)
|1Sm 9:9||- (top)|
“Good idea.” The Hebrew is more literally, “Your word is good.”(top)
“the city.” The city where Samuel lived was Ramah, which means “height,” so it would have been on the top of a hill.
“young women going out to draw water.” It was culturally the job of women, particularly young women, to draw water (see commentary on Gen. 24:11).(top)
“for he has just come into the city today.” If Saul and his servant had been one day earlier they would have missed Samuel. As with so many records in the Bible, we see God’s invisible hand arranging the time and getting Saul to a feast that he did not know about even though God scheduled him to be the guest of honor.(top)
“before he goes up to the high place to eat.” Many of the “high places” were used in the worship of pagan gods, and it is even possible that originally this one was too, but at this time it was used in the worship of Yahweh, although exactly how that fits into the Mosaic Law is unclear; it may have been a case where God simply accepted human weakness and was thankful that people want to sacrifice to Him. In any case, Samuel would never have had a part in pagan practices.
“because he has to bless the sacrifice.” In this context, the people wait for Samuel to bless the sacrifice. This is an ominous foreshadow against Saul, who did not wait for Samuel (1 Sam. 13:8-13, cp. 1 Sam. 10:8). We can tell from the context that this sacrifice was not a burnt offering, because the burnt offering was entirely burned up. But with most sacrifices, at least part of the animal was eaten, and that is certainly the case here. Thirty people besides Samuel, Saul, and Saul’s servant were invited to eat.(top)
“behold.” In this word we see the invisible hand of God making sure that the meeting between Samuel and Saul happened at the right time.
“Samuel came out.” The Bible does not tell us what Samuel came out of, but it could have been a street in the city, or a house, or something else. But it was not “out of the city,” because Samuel met Saul and his servant while they were “in the midst” of the city.(top)
“told Samuel in his ear.” The Hebrew is more literally “Yahweh uncovered the ear of Samuel.” This idiom is used several times in Scripture (cp. 1 Sam. 20:13, “make known” is “uncover the ear.” Also, 1 Chron. 17:25). This is a phrase that indicates a level of intimacy and personal attention. That Yahweh spoke into Samuel’s ear is different from Yahweh speaking to a group of people. This was literally, “for your ears only” from God to Samuel.
“a day before.” This is literal. Just the day before. The Hebrew text has the word “one,” as in “one day before,” but because “one day” in English idiom sometimes means “someday,” that phrase was avoided to prevent introducing ambiguity into the translation.(top)
“looked upon.” In this context, “looked upon” means to see and to help. The Hebrew word is more literally, “seen.”(top)
“who will restrain my people.” The Hebrew verb translated “restrain” is atsar (# 06113 עָצַר), and it means to restrain, refrain, retain, withhold.” The meaning here in 1 Samuel 9:17 is “restrain,” “hold back.” (cp. ESV: “He it is who shall restrain my people.” YLT: “this one doth restrain my people.” Schocken Bible: “This one shall keep rein on my people”). While the translation “restrain” may seem unusual, that is only because in our modern culture we do not usually think biblically about government and so we do not often express that a primary function of government is to “restrain” the people from lawlessness. We realize from the laws around us such as speed limit laws, hunting and fishing regulations, laws against indecent exposure, etc., that government makes laws that restrain the people, but we do not usually think of a primary role of government as “restraining” people.
During the Judges period, before Israel had a king, every person did that which was right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25), but now the king would “restrain” them. Humans have a sin nature, and it is simply a fact that if there are no laws or no enforcement of the laws, people take advantage of others, hurt and oppress others, steal from others, enslave others, and more. A major role of rulers is to make and enforce laws that restrain the evil behavior of ungodly people, and that point is brought out here in the Hebrew text. It is unfortunate that so many English versions do not use the word “restrain” even though that is the primary meaning of the Hebrew word and is a primary responsibility of government. While it is true that kings “rule” (CEB; CSB; NASB; NET; NLT) and “govern” (CJB; NAB; NIV; TNK), that is not the emphasis of the text here, and it misses the teaching point that a primary responsibility of government is to restrain people’s ungodly behavior.
We should note, however, that the word “restrain” can have either a negative or a positive meaning depending on the ruler. If the ruler is evil, the “restraint” is oppressive and hurtful. If the ruler is godly, then the restraint helps the people stay safe and thrive. The ‘restraint” under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel was ungodly and oppressive. Rulers such as Saul and Solomon did a little of both kinds of restraint: they helped in some ways and were oppressive in others. In the future, when Christ is king over the earth, he will “rule with an iron scepter,” and restrain the people’s evil intents and actions (cp. Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15) and his Millennial Kingdom on earth will be a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity, as many biblical prophecies show.
It is not well-known among Christians that Jesus Christ will conquer and rule the earth for 1,000 years, but it is a very important part of understanding what will happen in the future.
[For more information on Jesus Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth, see Appendix 5: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on how the future will unfold from this present age to the Millennial Kingdom to the Everlasting Kingdom, see commentary on Revelation 21:1.](top)
“in the gate.” This does not seem to be the outer city gate.
“Please tell me where the seer’s house is.” It is astounding that Saul did not know Samuel by face, even if he had never met him in person. Samuel had been the most powerful prophet in Israel for many years, and had been responsible for some notable miracles. For Saul not to know him points to the lack of spirituality in Saul’s life. At this point, we wonder why God would want such a person as king. The most probable answer is that Saul is the kind of king that the people wanted and thus he would be readily accepted by the people.(top)
“everything that you are thinking.” The Hebrew text reads, “all that is in your heart” but this is a case where a literal translation can lead the reader astray because the English phrase “all that is in your heart” does not mean what the phrase meant in Hebrew. The “heart” in Hebrew was the center of thinking, and that is its meaning here.(top)
“do not set your mind on them.” The Hebrew is more literally, “do not set your heart on them.” Here, as in 1 Sam. 9:19, “heart” refers to the mind.
“For on whom is all the desire of Israel.” Israel desired a king, and now all their desire was on that king whom they will soon find out is Saul.
“and on all your father’s house.” The people wanted a king to go out to war and lead them in battle, and the Benjamites were known for being fierce fighters, so even in that sense Saul and his family would make a good royal household.(top)
“Am I not a Benjamite of the smallest of the tribes of Israel.” Saul did not understand how Israel could desire him.(top)
“banquet room.” The Hebrew word refers to a room that is generally associated with the Temple.(top)
|1Sm 9:23||- (top)|
“for I said, ‘I have invited the people.’” To understand this we must see that Samuel said “to the cook” to set aside meat for Saul, because he had invited the people and they would have eaten it if it had not been kept by the cook.(top)
“on the roof.” The roofs of the houses were flat, and people talked and even slept at night on them.(top)
|1Sm 9:26||- (top)|
“make known to you.” The Hebrew is more literally, “cause you to hear.”(top)