1 Sam 9:1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin.

Saul’s story is told in 1 Samuel 9 — 1 Samuel 31. He is also mentioned in Acts 13:21.

‘First impressions can be deceiving, especially when the image created by a person’s appearance is contradicted by his or her qualities and abilities. Saul presented the ideal visual image of a king, but the tendencies of his character often went contrary to God’s commands for a king. Saul was God’s chosen leader, but this did not mean he was capable of being king on his own.

During his reign, Saul had his greatest successes when he obeyed God. His greatest failures resulted from acting on his own. Saul had the raw materials to be a good leader — appearance, courage, and action. Even his weaknesses could have been used by God if Saul had recognized them and left them in God’s hands. His own choices cut him off from God and eventually alienated him from his own people.

From Saul we learn that while our strengths and abilities make us useful, it is our weaknesses that make us usable. Our skills and talents make us tools, but our failures and shortcomings remind us that we need a Craftsman in control of our lives. Whatever we accomplish on our own is only a hint of what God could do through our lives. Does he control your life?’ (Life Application)

‘From one point of view, this is a typical rags to riches story. Sauls family were not paupers, and he himself was physically impressive; but the family were not aristocrats, and their tribe, Benjamin, was small and relatively unimportant in Israel (see v 21), overshadowed by Ephraim to the north and Judah to the south. Saul can have had no ambitions or expectations about becoming king. The chief point of this passage may well be Sauls innocence and lack of ambition. He did not set out to gain any fame or power, but merely to retrieve his fathers lost property. He did not seek kingship; but God, so to speak, found him and went on to make him king. Saul did not even know who Samuel was, or recognize him when they met. We can imagine that after the events of ch. 8, some ambitious men may have tried to get access to Samuel, to impress him with their ability, or to win his favour. Saul was not such a man.’ (NBC)

1 Sam 9:2 He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites–a head taller than any of the others.

This is an impressive description, but focussing on outward, rather than inward qualities.

‘No mention is here made of his wisdom or virtue, his learning or piety, or any of the accomplishments of his mind, but that he was a tall, proper, handsome man, that had a good face, a good shape, and a good presence, graceful and well proportioned: Among all the children of Israel there was not a goodlier person than he; and, as if nature had marked him for pre-eminence and superiority, he was taller by the head and shoulders than any of the people, the fitter to be a match for the giants of Gath, the champions of the Philistines. When God chose a king after his own heart he pitched upon one that was not at all remarkable for the height of his stature, nor any thing in his countenance but the innocence and sweetness that appeared there, 1 Sam 16:7, 12. But when he chose a king after the people’s heart, who aimed at nothing so much as stateliness and grandeur, he pitched upon this huge tall man, who, if he had no other good qualities, yet would look great. It does not appear that he excelled in strength so much as he did in stature; Samson did, and him they slighted, bound, and betrayed into the hands of the Philistines; justly therefore are they now put off with one who, though of uncommon height, is weak as other men. They would have a king like the nations, and the nations commonly chose portly men for their kings.’ (MHC)

1 Sam 9:3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.”

1 Sam 9:4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.

1 Sam 9:5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

1 Sam 9:6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

The man of God is Samuel. It may reflect negatively on the character of Saul that he has not thought himself to consult the prophet.

‘All the use they would make of the man of God was to be advised by him whether they should return home, or, if there were any hopes of finding the asses, which way they must go next–a poor business to employ a prophet about! Had they said, “Let us give up the asses for lost, and, now that we are so near the man of God, let us go and learn from him the good knowledge of God, let us consult him how we may order our conversations a right, and enquire the law at his mouth, since we may not have such another opportunity, and then we shall not lose our journey”–the proposal would have been such as became Israelites; but to make prophecy, that glory of Israel, serve so mean a turn as this, discovered too much what manner of spirit they were of.’ (MHC)

1 Sam 9:7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”

‘Josephus (Antiquities 6.4.1) interprets Sauls words as a sign that he was ignorant that a true prophet would accept no reward. Israels writing prophets express disdain for those who prophesy for money (Mic. 3:5, 11), although there are various references to goods being offered in return for prophetic favors (e.g., 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 4:42; 2 Kings 8:8). In two instances payment is explicitly refused (1 Kings 13:7-9; 2 Kings 5:15, 16), and in one instance where goods are accepted, the payment does not benefit the prophet personally but is distributed among the people (2 Kings 4:42).’ (New Geneva)

1 Sam 9:8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.”

1 Sam 9:9 (Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)

1 Sam 9:10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was.

1 Sam 9:11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?”

1 Sam 9:12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place.

1 Sam 9:13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.”

1 Sam 9:14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.

1 Sam 9:15 Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel:

1 Sam 9:16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.”

“Leader” – The title ‘king’ is not used in this passage. The word translated in this verse and 1 Sam 10:1 as ‘leader’ may mean something like ‘king-designate’.

1 Sam 9:17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

According to v16, Saul would deliver God’s people from the hand of the Philistines. Here, his role is described as one of governing them. ‘In this way God was going to provide, through Saul, the two most important political needs of the time. The first was the defeat of the enemy, who could otherwise have crushed Israel out of existence. The other was the internal need of Israel for unity and strong government.’ (NBD)

1 Sam 9:18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

1 Sam 9:19 “I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart.

1 Sam 9:20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?”

1 Sam 9:21 Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

1 Sam 9:22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited–about thirty in number.

1 Sam 9:23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.”

1 Sam 9:24 So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.'” And Saul dined with Samuel that day.

1 Sam 9:25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house.

1 Sam 9:26 They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready, and I will send you on your way.” When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together.

1 Sam 9:27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us”–and the servant did so–” but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.”

In this way, Samuel ensures that it will be a private anointing.

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