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Saul’s background 9:1-2
Saul ("Asked [of God]," cf. 1 Samuel 8:10) came from good Benjamite stock. His father was a man of property and influence. The same Hebrew expression, gibbor hayil, translated "valor," describes Boaz in Ruth 2:1 and King Jeroboam I in 1 Kings 11:28 (cf. 1 Samuel 16:18). Saul himself was physically impressive, tall, and handsome. At this time he would have been in his late 20s (cf. 1 Samuel 13:1). God gave the people just what they wanted.
2. The anointing of Saul 9:1-10:16
In chapters 9-11 the writer painted Saul as the ideal man to serve as king from the human viewpoint. This pericope (1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:16) sets forth his personal conduct. [Note: See the series of three articles on Saul by W. Lee Humphries listed in the bibliography of these notes. Especially helpful is, "The Tragedy of King Saul: A Study of the Structure of 1 Samuel 9-31."]
Saul’s personal traits 9:3-14
Saul’s concern for his father’s peace of mind was commendable. It shows a sensitivity that would have been an asset in a king (1 Samuel 9:5). Likewise his desire to give Samuel a present for his help was praiseworthy (1 Samuel 9:7; cf. 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 8:8-9). Saul had some appreciation for social propriety. He was also humble enough to ask directions from a woman (1 Samuel 9:11-14). Years later, at the end of the story of Saul’s reign, the king asked directions from another women, but she was a forbidden witch (ch. 28).
The high place (1 Samuel 9:12) was a hilltop on which the people offered sacrifices and may have been Mizpah (lit. watchtower; cf. 1 Samuel 7:9), or a town near Bethlehem (lit. house of bread, i.e., granary). [Note: Wood, Israel’s United . . ., p. 78, n. 12.]
Saul’s introduction to Samuel 9:15-25
Even though God had broken the Philistines’ domination at the Battle of Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:10-11), they still threatened Israel occasionally and did so until David finally subdued them (1 Samuel 9:16).
". . . after the victory of Mizpeh [sic], the Philistines no longer totally controlled Israel and . . . did not again make a full-scale invasion." [Note: G. Coleman Luck, "The First Meeting of Saul and Samuel," Bibliotheca Sacra 124:495 (July-September 1967):259.]
God referred to Saul as a "prince" (Heb. negid, 1 Samuel 9:16), a king-designate. Notwithstanding, Yahweh was Israel’s true "king." Also, in 1 Samuel 9:17, the Hebrew word translated "rule" (asar) usually means "restrain." Saul would not rule as most kings did, but would restrain the people as God’s vice-regent.
Samuel gave preference to Saul by inviting him to go up before him to the high place (1 Samuel 9:19). Samuel promised Saul that not only his lost donkeys but all that was desirable in Israel would soon come into his possession (1 Samuel 9:20). Saul’s humble response to Samuel was admirable (1 Samuel 9:21; cf. Exodus 3:11; Exodus 4:10; Jeremiah 1:6).
"On the one side Saul was a man hunting for donkeys who instead found a kingdom; and on the other side there was Samuel, who was looking for a suitable king and found a young man of remarkable political unawareness." [Note: David Payne, p. 45.]
Saul’s unawareness is evident in that he did not know who Samuel was, even though Samuel was Israel’s leading judge and prophet. Evidently a dining hall stood near the high place (1 Samuel 9:22). It may have been a room in a larger religious building. [Note: Youngblood, pp. 622-23.] Giving the special leg of meat to Saul was a sign of special honor (1 Samuel 9:23-24). Before retiring for the night, Samuel and Saul continued their conversation on the typically flat roof of the house, probably for privacy as well as comfort (1 Samuel 9:25; cf. Acts 10:9).
Saul’s private anointing by Samuel 9:26-10:8
Anointing with oil was a symbolic act in Israel that pictured consecration to service. The only things anointed with oil before this anointing were the priests and the tabernacle. The oil symbolized God’s Spirit, and anointing with oil represented endowment with that Spirit for enablement (cf. 1 John 2:27). In the ancient Near East, a representative of a nation’s god customarily anointed the king, whom the people viewed from then on as the representative of that god on earth. [Note: Roland de Vaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, pp. 152-66.] Thus Saul would have understood that Samuel was setting him apart as God’s vice-regent and endowing him with God’s power to serve effectively. Beginning with Saul, kings were similar to priests in Israel as far as representing God and experiencing divine enablement. Samuel’s kiss was a sign of affection and respect since now Saul was God’s special representative on the earth. Samuel reminded Saul that the Israelites were the Lord’s inheritance, another comment that Saul unfortunately did not take to heart (cf. 1 Samuel 9:13).
Samuel then gave Saul three signs that would verify to the king elect that Samuel had anointed him in harmony with God’s will. The first of these would have strengthened Saul’s confidence in God’s ability to control the people under his authority (1 Samuel 9:2). [Note: On the subject of the location of Rachel’s tomb, see Matitiahu Tsevat, "Studies in the Book of Samuel," Hebrew Union College Annual 33 (1962):107-18.] The second would have helped Saul realize that the people would accept him and make sacrifices for him (1 Samuel 9:3-4). The third would have assured him that he did indeed possess supernatural enablement from God (1 Samuel 9:5-6). The "hill of God" (lit. Gibeath-haelohim, 1 Samuel 9:5) was probably Gibeon. [Note: See Aaron Demsky, "Geba, Gibeah, and Gibeon-An Historico-Geographic Riddle," Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 212 (December 1973):27.]
Since God chose and equipped Saul to rule His people, it seems most likely that he was a genuine believer in Yahweh, though Saul gave evidence of not having a strong commitment to Him. Samuel gave Saul his first orders as God’s vice-regent (1 Samuel 9:8). Unfortunately he disobeyed them (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Perhaps the tabernacle now stood at Gilgal since Samuel planned to offer burnt and peace offerings there. However, Samuel may have sacrificed at places other than the tabernacle (1 Samuel 7:17; cf. 1 Samuel 14:35). Again we can see that the tabernacle was not one of the writer’s main concerns.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20