1 Samuel 10
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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?
1 Samuel 10:1. a vial of oil] Rather, “the vial of oil.” The word rendered vial (i.e. phial or flask) occurs again only in the account of the coronation of Jehu, in 2 Kings 9:1; 2 Kings 9:3 (E. V. box). The definite article in the original may perhaps indicate the holy anointing oil used for the consecration of priests (Exodus 30:23-33).

and kissed him] In token of reverence and homage to his royal dignity. Cp. Psalm 2:12.

Is it not because the Lord] Lit., “Is it not the case that Jehovah” = Surely Jehovah, &c.

hath anointed thee] The rite of anointing (a) signified the consecration of the king to the service of God; (b) was the outward sign of the gift of the Spirit to qualify him for his office (1 Samuel 10:9-10, 1 Samuel 16:13, cp. Acts 10:38); (c) marked his person as sacred and inviolable (ch. 1 Samuel 26:9; 2 Samuel 1:14).

The title “the Lord’s anointed” (Sept. Χριστὸς Κυρίου, cp. Luke 2:26), designating the theocratic King as the Vicegerent of Jehovah, is characteristic of the books of Samuel and the Psalms. It never occurs in Kings, when the true idea of the kingdom had been lost.

Priests (Exodus 40:15; Leviticus 8:12), prophets in some cases (1 Kings 19:16), and kings, were consecrated by anointing, and formed partial types and foreshadowings of The Messiah (derived from the Hebrew word Mâshîach = anointed, through the Greek form Μεσσίας), i.e. the Anointed one, the Christ, who united in Himself all three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.

According to Jewish tradition, anointing was only necessary when a new dynasty came to the throne or the succession was disputed. Hence we only find mention of it in the case of Saul; David (ch. 1 Samuel 16:3; 2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3); Absalom (2 Samuel 19:10); Solomon (1 Kings 1:39); Joash (2 Kings 11:12); Jehoahaz, who was not the eldest son of Josiah (2 Kings 23:30); Jehu (2 Kings 9:3).

The ceremonies of this first recorded coronation are still observed in England. The anointing is performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the kiss of homage is given by the Archbishop, bishops, and premier peer of each rank for the rest of his order.

The Sept. reads “Hath not the Lord anointed thee to be ruler over his people Israel? And thou shalt rule the people of the Lord, and thou shalt save them out of the hand of their enemies. And this shall be the sign unto thee that the Lord hath anointed thee to be ruler over his inheritance. When, &c.” The Vulgate also contains the greater part of this addition, which seems to be required to connect 1 Samuel 10:1-2. Its omission in the Hebrew may be accounted for by what is called Homoeoteleuton. When two sentences end with the same words, the scribe’s eye is liable to catch the second instead of the first, so that he omits the intervening words.

his inheritance] Cp. Deuteronomy 32:9; Psalm 78:71, &c.

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?
2. Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah] In Genesis 35:16-20; Genesis 48:7, Rachel’s grave is described as on the road from Bethel to Ephrath which is Bethlehem, a little way from Ephrath. This agrees with the site now marked by a tomb called Kubbet Rahil (dome of Rachel) a mile N. of Bethlehem. But if this is the true site of Rachel’s sepulchre, it is not easy to reconcile it with the notice here. (a) It is at least 4 miles S. of the southern border of Benjamin. (b) Supposing “the city” to be Ramah (see note on 1 Samuel 9:4-5), it is hard to see why Saul should be sent so far out of his way home. Various attempts have been made to explain the difficulty. (1) Thenius thinks that the Ephrath mentioned in Genesis was not Bethlehem, but a town in the neighbourhood of Ramah and Gibeah, so that Rachel’s sepulchre would be on the northern frontier of Benjamin. This involves rejecting (a) the statement in Genesis that Ephrath was Bethlehem, as a mistaken gloss, (b) the modern site of the tomb. (2) Keil supposes that the city from which Saul started was not Ramah, but some unknown city in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem. But the general impression given by the whole chapter is that the city was the seer’s usual residence. (3) The most plausible explanation seems to be that Samuel purposely sent Saul out of his way in order that he might meet the two men; and that the expressions “near Rachel’s sepulchre” and “in the border of Benjamin” must be understood as applied to Zelzah, which lay between the two, with considerable latitude.

In our uncertainty as to the exact sites, the true solution must remain uncertain.

at Zelzah] This place is mentioned nowhere else and cannot be identified. The Sept. does not regard it as a proper name, but translates it “two men leaping vigorously.” The Vulg. renders “in the south.”

and sorroweth] And is anxious, the same word as in 1 Samuel 9:5.

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:
3. the plain of Tabor] Rather, the oak of Tabor. It has been ingeniously conjectured that this is to be identified with the oak under which Rebekah’s nurse Deborah was buried “under Bethel” (Genesis 35:8), and the palm tree between Ramah and Bethel under which Deborah judged Israel (Jdg 4:5), Tabor being either a corruption or dialectic variation for Deborah; but nothing certain is known about the place.

going up to God to Bethel] On the sanctuary at Bethel see note on 1 Samuel 7:16. As yet the presence of God was only connected with holy places, or the Ark, and the Omnipresence of God scarcely realised. See Genesis 28:16 and 1 Samuel 14:36.

a bottle of wine] i.e. a skin bottle: Sept. ἀσκός. Cp. 1 Samuel 1:24.

And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands.
4. two loaves of bread] An unconscious act of homage to the newly-anointed king. As the representative of God he receives a share of the offerings intended for the sanctuary.

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:
5. the hill of God] Or, Gibeah of God. Gibeah is the term used to denote ‘the bald rounded hills of central Palestine.’ This eminence was distinguished as Gibeah of God, or God’s hill, from the place of worship on its summit. It is probably to be identified with (a) Gibeah of Benjamin, which was a place of considerable importance (Jdg 19:20, compare 1 Samuel 13:2, &c.); and (b) Gibeah of saul, saul’s residence (1 Samuel 10:26, 1 Samuel 11:4). Its site is supposed by Dr Robinson to be the conspicuous hill called Tell el Fûl (hill of the bean), about 3 miles N. of Jerusalem; but Lieut. Conder inclines to the view that Saul’s city was Geba, and that the district round was first called Gibeah of Benjamin, afterwards Gibeah of Saul. Tent Work, II. 111. Geba is no doubt to be identified with Jeba, about 3 miles N. E. of Tell el Fûl.

the garrison of the Philistines] A military post established by the Philistines to maintain their hold upon the Israelites. See note on 1 Samuel 7:14. Cp. 1 Samuel 13:3-4 and 2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:14. The word has been otherwise explained to mean (a) a pillar, set up to mark the Philistine conquest, or (b) an officer for the collection of taxes; but 1 Chronicles 11:16 seems to require the sense “garrison.”

a company of prophets] A band of the organized society of prophets established by Samuel. See Introd. p. 33, and cp. 1 Samuel 19:20.

and they shall prophesy] Better, prophesying. The word has nothing to do with prediction here, but denotes the expression of religious feeling under the influence of inspiration in hymns and otherwise. See the notes on 1 Samuel 9:9 and 1 Samuel 18:10. In 1 Chronicles 25:1-3 the word is used of chanting psalms and set services. Such a procession of prophets was naturally accompanied by musical instruments. Cp. Exodus 15:20; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 2 Kings 3:15. The psaltery (Heb. nebel) and harp (Heb. kinnôr) were stringed instruments, the exact form of which is unknown: the tabret or timbrel (Heb. tôph) was a tambourine or hand drum: the pipe (Heb. châlîl) a kind of flute.

And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
6. the spirit of the Lord will come upon thee] See Numbers 11:25-29; Jdg 14:6; Jdg 14:19; Jdg 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13.

And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.
7. do as occasion serve thee] Lit. “do what thine hand shall find;” undertake boldly whatever presents itself. Cp. Jdg 9:33; Ecclesiastes 9:10.

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.
8. thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal] Better, and when thou goest down before me to Gilgal. This is not to be understood as a direction to meet Samuel at Gilgal at once. The injunction applies to some future occasion whenever it might be, of which they had been talking. Doubtless Samuel and Saul had been discussing the best means of shaking off the Philistine yoke, and had agreed upon a muster of the people at Gilgal, as the national centre furthest from the Philistine power. Samuel’s parting injunction to Saul is to take no step independently. The king must wait for the prophet’s sanction to strike the blow. The fitting opportunity for the muster did not come for several years, and when it came Saul disobeyed Samuel’s command. See 1 Samuel 13:8 ff.

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.
9–16. The fulfilment of the signs

9 God gave him another heart] Lit. “turned him another heart.” Cp. 1 Samuel 10:6. The divine inspiration transformed the simple countryman into the King and Deliverer of Israel. The heart in Scripture denotes “the centre of the whole mental and spiritual life of will, desire, thought, perception, and feeling.”

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.
10. to the hill] Rather, to Gibeah. See note on 1 Samuel 10:5. The narrator cursorily mentions the fulfilment of the first and second signs, but relates the fulfilment of the third in detail, because it has an important bearing on Saul’s preparation for his new office.

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?
11. all that knew him beforetime] An indication that Gibeah was Saul’s home. Cp. 1 Samuel 10:14; 1 Samuel 10:26.

11, 12. Saul’s neighbours were astonished that the son of Kish, the plain citizen, undistinguished save by his stalwart form and handsome countenance, should suddenly appear as a prophet in the midst of the trained recipients of divine inspiration. But one of their fellow-townsmen reproved them by asking. But who is their father? Was the parentage of these prophets such as to lead us to expect them to be thus specially gifted? The prophetic inspiration comes from God, and may therefore be bestowed even upon the son of Kish. See Amos 7:14-15. Compare the astonishment of the people of Capernaum at the words and works of Christ (Matthew 13:54-57).

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?
12. it became a proverb] Applied probably to the unexpected appearance of any person in a novel character alien to his former occupation and habits. The proverb received a fresh exemplification in the occurrence related in ch. 1 Samuel 19:24.

And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.
13. he came to the high place] When Saul parted from the company of prophets which he met descending from the high-place, he went up there himself to worship.

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.
14. Saul’s uncle] Possibly Ner. See note on 1 Samuel 14:50. He may have been at the high-place for some public solemnity, at which the prophets also had been present; or the conversation may have occurred on a subsequent occasion.

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.
16. But of the matter &c.] Modesty, humility, caution, have been variously assigned as his motive for silence. But Samuel’s manner had clearly implied that his election was to be a secret for the present, even if he had given no direct injunction to that effect.

And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;
17. Samuel called the people together] He convoked the national assembly or “congregation of Israel,” which had made the request for a king through its representative elders (1 Samuel 8:4). This body was composed of all Israelites of twenty years old and upwards (Numbers 1:3) who had not forfeited their privileges, together with foreigners admitted upon certain conditions. Its political functions were necessarily limited by the nature of the theocracy, and consisted rather in accepting the declared will of Jehovah than in originating measures of its own. Thus:

(1) The Law was solemnly accepted by it (Exodus 19:3-9; Exodus 24:3).

(2) Leaders and kings chosen by divine command were presented to it for approval, as on the present occasion, and in the case of Joshua (Numbers 27:18-23); David (2 Samuel 5:1); Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:22).

(3) In later times some of the kings appear to have been actually elected by it: e.g. Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:20); Joash (2 Kings 11:19); Josiah (2 Kings 21:24); Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:30).

(4) It possessed a national judicial authority (Jdg 20:1).

(5) It claimed some voice in questions of alliance and peace and war (Joshua 9:15; Joshua 9:18).

unto the Lord to Mizpeh] See note on 1 Samuel 10:3; and for Mizpah see note on 1 Samuel 7:5.

17–27. The Public election of Saul as King

The thread of the narrative in ch. 8, which has been temporarily dropped in order to give an account of the circumstances by which Samuel was privately made acquainted with the man whom Jehovah had chosen to rule his people, is now resumed, and Saul’s public election by lot to the regal office described. Since the revelation to Samuel and the choice by lot were equally declarations of Jehovah’s will, there could be no contradiction between them: the latter publicly confirmed the former for the satisfaction of the people.

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:
18. I brought up Israel] It was I who brought up Israel. The pronoun is emphatic, in contrast to and ye with which 1 Samuel 10:19 begins.

out of the hand of all kingdoms, [and of them] that oppressed you] Rather, out of the hand of all the Kingdoms that oppressed you. The reference is to the deliverances recorded in the Book of Judges.

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.
19. And ye have this day rejected your God] Once more the prophet is directed to rebuke the people for their ingratitude and unbelief. See above on 1 Samuel 8:6.

ye have said unto him] The request made to Samuel was virtually addressed to God.

by your tribes, and by your thousands] The natural subdivision of the nation into tribes: of the tribes into families or clans: of the families into houses: of the houses into men (Joshua 7:14): was supplemented by Moses with an artificial organization of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:25). The thousand corresponded to the family, and the terms appear to be used here as synonymous, Cp. ch. 1 Samuel 23:23; Jdg 6:15; Joshua 22:14.

And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
20. We are not told expressly by what process the selection was made, but it was probably by casting lots. Compare Joshua 7:14 ff. The lot was in common use among all nations of antiquity. It is regarded in Scripture not as a chance decision, but as a legitimate method of ascertaining the divine will (Proverbs 16:33). We read of its being used—

(1) To select an attacking force (Jdg 20:9-10).

(2) For the allotment of conquered territory or spoil (Joshua 18:10; cp. Joel 3:3).

(3) To detect criminals (Joshua 7:14; 1 Samuel 14:42).

(4) For the choice of officers, &c. (1 Chronicles 24:5; Luke 1:9; Acts 1:26).

(5) For the selection of the scape-goat (Leviticus 16:8; Leviticus 16:10).

(6) For the settlement of disputes generally (Proverbs 18:18).

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.
21. the family of Matri] The family of the Matrites is nowhere else mentioned. It has therefore been conjectured that we should read Bikrites, or descendants of Becher the son of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 7:6).

Saul the son of Kish was taken] The description of the process of casting lots is abridged. The family taken would be brought by houses, and the house taken then brought by persons. The Sept. inserts “and they bring the family of Mattari man by man,” which must be understood, as in Joshua 7:17, to mean the heads of houses only, not all the individuals of the family, which would be far too long a process. In this way Kish would be taken, and finally, when he brought his household forward man by man, Saul was taken.

he could not be found] Natural feelings of modesty and humility prompted Saul to hide himself. He knew already that he was the object of God’s choice, but he would not appear to court advancement, or in any way put himself forward for the royal dignity.

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.
22. they inquired of the Lord further] The technical phrase for ascertaining God’s will by means of the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate upon the High-priest’s Ephod (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21). See on 1 Samuel 28:6, and cp. ch. 1 Samuel 14:3, 1 Samuel 22:10, 1 Samuel 23:9, 1 Samuel 30:7.

the stuff] The baggage of the people who had come to Mizpah from a distance. Compare

“Therefore away to get our stuff aboard.”

Shakespeare, Com. of Errors, IV. 4.

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.
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.
24. that there is none like him among all the people] Stress is again laid on Saul’s imposing stature as a natural qualification for his office. He was “a princely person and of a majestic aspect.” See note on 1 Samuel 9:2.

God save the king] Lit. “Let the king live.” Vulg. “Vivat Rex:” and so the Fr. “Vive le Roi,” and so Wyclif: “Lyve the kyng.” Cp. 1 Kings 1:25; 1 Kings 1:34; 1 Kings 1:39; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Chronicles 23:11. The familiar phrase of the E. V. appears to occur first in the Genevan Bible (1560). Coverdale (1535) has “God save the new kynge.” It was probably adopted from the liturgical response, “O Lord save the king” (Domine salvum fac regem), which is taken from the Vulgate version of Psalm 20:9.

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.
25. the manner of the kingdom] A charter establishing and defining the position of the king in relation to Jehovah, and to the people. It must be distinguished from the “manner of the king” in 1 Samuel 8:11 ff., which describes the arbitrary exactions of an oriental despot; but it can scarcely be said to be “the first example of a limited constitutional monarchy.” In substance at any rate, it probably resembled the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord] Lit. in the book. Possibly this important charter was added to “the book of the law” kept by the side of the ark “before the Lord” (Deuteronomy 31:26). This book contained not only the record of the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 28:61), but historical narratives (Exodus 17:14), and other records of importance, such as the solemn renewal of the covenant at Shechem under Joshua (Joshua 24:26). See Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, Art. Canon, Vol. 1. p. 251.

And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.
26. there went with him a band of men] Or, the valiant men. Saul was escorted home by those who accepted him as the choice of Jehovah, but

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.
27. the children of Belial said] Certain worthless fellows (see note on 1 Samuel 1:16) spoke disparagingly of him, and despised him.

and brought him no presents] Cp. 1 Kings 10:25; 2 Chronicles 17:5. The refusal of the customary offerings of homage was tantamount to a deliberate and contemptuous rejection of his authority.

But he held his peace] Or, And he was as one deaf, refusing to take notice of this studied insult. See however the note on 1 Samuel 11:1.

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