Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 9

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 2


‘Higher than any of the people.’

1 Samuel 9:2

Already Saul’s character crops out. Big as he was he was not trusted to go alone; the servant carried the money; he soon tired of the search for the asses and showed signs of homesickness, and he seems to have been apt only in finding difficulties where he should have been braver in conquering them. His moral nature was never equal to his physical stature. On the whole Lesson,

I. Note the wonderful goodness of God.—In the previous chapter He says to Samuel, ‘They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.’ In this chapter He says, ‘I will send thee a man … that he may save My people … for I have looked upon My people, because their cry is come unto Me.’ God has always to work with imperfect instruments. Because this is so, He does not therefore throw the instruments aside.

II. Learn something about Providence.—Here are two lines along which God is acting. The first is the natural course of events, the lost asses, the persevering servant, the city of the seer, the feast. These are not out of the common. The second line is supernatural, ‘The Lord had told Samuel in his ear,’ had, as it were, lifted his turban and whispered into his ear of Saul’s coming and destiny. ‘When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of.’ This is how God works. We cannot say but that through our losses, our journeys, our accidental meetings with others, the will of God may not be working out. As Oliver Cromwell said, ‘Do you call these bare events? The Lord pity you!’

III. See what we may learn as to how to get on in life.—The old German proverb runs, ‘Do the next thing.’ ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it.’ The search for the lost drove of asses was not a very noble business, yet it led to the crown. The way to rise is to stoop. The way to rule is to serve. This is a valuable lesson for those starting in life.

IV. Remark the reward of obedience.—There are good traits in Saul here, as well as some that are not good. He was not too proud to do what he was bidden. He was not above being led by a servant, and he was affectionate too. ‘Lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us,’ he says in urging that they had better go home.

V. Here is a little lesson in proportion.—Saul was as yet unable to see which was greater and which less, the asses or the kingdom. He never did quite learn to be a king. To the end he was petty and mean, although, as has been said, he was noble in streaks. What were the asses, lost or found, compared with the fact that he was the desire of Israel and the choice of the Lord? The Christian should not be careful and troubled about many things. He who has given him Christ will surely with Christ freely give him all things.

VI. Learn what a difference there is between true and false greatness.—Saul’s ideal of a king did not resemble himself. It would be well for some people if they could believe how royal they may be. Nor did Saul recognize Samuel. Probably he had never heard much about him. His servant knew better than he to whom to turn. And when they saw Samuel neither servant nor master knew him. They asked him the way to his own house. The best people in the world are not known by the world. God works His will by unrecognized prophets and uncrowned kings. He does so now. Perhaps a prophet or a king is in this congregation!


(1) ‘There is a custom in Spain which allows any one the privilege, when the king passes in his carriage through the streets of Madrid, to run beside it and throw petitions at him. Not long ago an old woman darted towards the king’s carriage, but a policeman, mistaking her motive, seized her roughly and threw her into the crowd. Instantly the king ordered the carriage to be stopped, and, jumping down, ran back to the policeman. “Why did you touch that woman?” he demanded. “You must never lay your hands roughly upon a woman. You have done very ill.” Then he turned to the old lady and, raising his hat, said, “I will take your petition, madam.” And as she handed it to him, he thanked her, and bowed. That is a pretty story, and suggests the lofty courtesy which properly belongs to a king.’

(2) ‘There was another Saul, who could say, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” It had been better for the son of Kish if he had been like the young Pharisee from Tarsus. We, too, have Divine calls in our lives, and alas! we, too, not seldom hide ourselves among the stuff, and try to avoid taking up some heavy duty by absorbing our minds in material good. Few things have greater power of obscuring the heavenly vision, and of rendering us unwilling to obey it, than the clinging to the things of this world, which are in their place as the traveller’s luggage, needful on the road but very much out of their place when they become a hiding place for a man whom God is calling to service.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.