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SELECTION OF SAUL AS KING BY THE VOICE OF PROPHECY. GENEALOGY OF SAUL (1 Samuel 9:1-27).
1 Samuel 9:1
A man … whose name was Kish. The genealogy of Saul is rendered obscure by the Hebrew custom of abbreviating such records by the omission of names. The family documents were no doubt kept in full, but when transcribed, as here and in the First Book of Chronicles, only a summary is given, and as the omitted links are not always the same, great difficulty is necessarily the result. The most satisfactory genealogy is that given by Schaff from a comparison of Genesis 46:21; 1 Samuel 9:1; 1Sa 14:51; 1 Chronicles 7:6-8; 1 Chronicles 8:29-33; 1 Chronicles 9:35-39, and is as follows:
3. Aphish, perhaps same as Abiah;
5. Zeror, or Zur;
Very many links, however, are omitted, among whom must be placed Matri, mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:21; and Jehiel, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:35 (and see ibid. 1 Chronicles 8:29). He is described as the first settler and coloniser of Gibeon, and as husband of Maachah, a daughter or granddaughter of Caleb. The spelling of his name with an 'ain forbids our confounding him with Abiel, as is done by Schaff and most commentators, and whom, apparently, he preceded by many generations. In the two places referred to above a large family of sons is ascribed to him; but as, first of all, the lists do not agree, as, moreover, they are said to dwell with their brethren in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 8:32), and as Ner, the father of Kish, is mentioned in the second list, it is pretty certain that we are not to regard, them as his actual children, but as the leading names among his posterity. The fearful cruelty recorded in Judges 20:48 may well account for the hopeless entanglement of Benjamite genealogies. An ancestor of Saul must, of course, have been among the 600 who escaped to the rock Rimmon, but he could have saved only his own life. A mighty man of power. Really, "of wealth." Saul, like David afterwards, was sprung from an affluent family, whose landed property was situated at Gibeah, about four miles north of Jerusalem, afterwards known as Gibeah of Saul.
1 Samuel 9:2
He had a son, whose name was Saul. I.e. asked, a name usually given to a firstborn son. A choice young man. This is a double translation of the Hebrew word, and consequently one half or other must be wrong. It may either be a participle, elect or choice, and is so rendered by the Syriac and Vulgate; or an adjective, young, the rendering of the Chaldee, and virtually of the Septuagint, which gives well grown. This is the preferable translation; for the word constantly occurs coupled with virgin (Deuteronomy 32:25; Isaiah 62:5, etc.), for one in the full flower of manhood. Saul could not, therefore, have been the runner of 1 Samuel 5:12, though, as we read that Jonathan his son was a grown man two or three years afterwards (1 Samuel 13:2), he must have been at least thirty-five years of age, after making allowance for the early period at which the Jews married. His noble appearance and gigantic stature were well fitted to impress and overawe a semi-barbarous people, who were better able to form an estimate of his physical qualities than of the high mental and moral gifts possessed by Samuel.
1 Samuel 9:3
The asses of Kish...were lost. So strangely is the trivial ever united with events most solemn and weighty, that Saul set out upon this journey, in which he was to find a kingdom, with no other object than to look for some lost asses—Hebrew, "she-asses." As used for riding (Judges 10:4), the ass was valuable, and as these were probably kept for breeding, they were allowed more liberty than the males, and so strayed away.
1 Samuel 9:4
Mount Ephraim. Though Gibeah, Saul's home, was in Benjamin, it was situated on this long mountain range (1 Samuel 1:1). The land of Shalisha. I.e. Three-land, and probably, therefore, the region round Baal-shalisha. It takes its name from the three valleys which there converge in the great Wady Kurawa, The land of Shalim. I.e. of jackals; probably the same as the land of Shual, also = jackal-land (1 Samuel 13:17). The very name shows that it was a wild, uninhabited region. The derivation hollow-land is untenable.
1 Samuel 9:5
The land of Zuph. See on 1 Samuel 1:1. This Levite ancestor of Samuel had probably occupied and colonised this district after the disasters recorded in the last chapters of the Book of Judges. Lest my father, etc. A mark of good feeling on Saul's part, and a proof of the affectionate terms on which Kish and his family lived.
1 Samuel 9:6
In this city. Probably Ramathaim-zophim, i.e. Ramah, Samuel's dwelling place and property. Confessedly, however, Saul's route hither and thither in search of lost cattle is very obscure, and it is difficult to reconcile this identification with the statement in 1 Samuel 10:2, that Rachel's sepulchre lay on the route between this city and Gibeah of Saul. Nevertheless, Ramah was certainly in the land of Zuph, whence too it took its longer name (see on 1 Samuel 1:1); and it is remarkable that Jeremiah (1Sa 31:1-13 :15) describes Rachel's weeping as being heard in Ramah. It seems extraordinary that Saul should have known nothing of Israel's chief ruler, and that his servant was acquainted with him only in his lower capacity as a person to be consulted in private difficulties. He describes him, nevertheless, as an honourable man, or, more literally, an honoured man, one held in honour.
1 Samuel 9:7
The bread is spent in our vessels. In the East a great man is always approached with a present, and offerings of food were no doubt the most usual gifts (1 Samuel 16:20). Those made to the false prophets are contemptuously described in Ezekiel 13:19 as "handfuls of barley and pieces of bread." A present. The word is rare, and apparently is the technical name for a fee of this kind, half payment and half gift.
1 Samuel 9:8
The fourth part of a shekel. Apparently the shekel, roughly stamped, was divided into four quarters by a cross, and broken when needed. What was its proportionate value in Samuel's days we cannot tell, for silver was rare; but in size it would be somewhat bigger than a sixpence, and would be a very large fee, while the bread would have been a small one. It very well marks the eagerness of the servant that he is ready to part with the considerable sum of money in his possession in order to consult the seer. The whole conversation is given in a very lively and natural manner.
1 Samuel 9:9
Beforetime, etc. This verse is evidently a gloss, written originally by some later hand in the margin, in order to explain the word used for seer in 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18, 1 Samuel 9:19. Inserted here in the text it interrupts the narrative, and is itself somewhat incomprehensible. The Septuagint offers a very probable reading, namely, "for the people in old time used to call the prophet a seer," i.e. it was a word used chiefly by the common people. Prophet, nabi, is really the older and established word from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end. The word roeh, used in this place for seer, is comparatively rare, as a popular word would be in written compositions. It refers to that which is seen by the ordinary sight, to waking vision (see on 1 Samuel 3:1, 1 Samuel 3:10), whereas the other word for seer, chozeh, refers to ecstatic vision. Roeh is used by Isaiah, 1 Samuel 30:10, apparently in much the same sense as here, of those whom the people consulted in their difficulties, and they might be true prophets as Samuel was, or mere pretenders to occult powers. The present narrative makes it plain that roeh was used in a good sense in Samuel's days; but gradually it became degraded, and while chozeh became the respectful word for a prophet, roeh became the contrary. Another conclusion also follows. We have seen that there are various indications that the Books of Samuel in their present state are later than his days. Here, on the contrary, we have a narrative couched in the very language of his times; for the writer of the gloss contained in this verse was displeased at Samuel being called a roeh, but did not dare to alter it, though taking care to note that it was equivalent in those days to calling him a nabi.
1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:12
As they went up. Ramah was situated on a double hill, whence its name Ramathaim (1 Samuel 1:1). As, then, they go up the ascent—so the Hebrew, literally—they meet maidens on the way to the well, and ask them, Is the seer—the roeh—here? They answer, Yes; behold, he is before you. I.e. they are to go straightforward, and farther on in the town they will find him. He came today to the city. As Saul's servant knew that this city was Samuel's abode, the words must mean that he had just returned from visiting one of those places, probably, to which he was in the habit of going as judge. From 1 Samuel 16:2 we learn that Samuel went occasionally even to distant places to perform priestly duties. In the high place. Hebrew, Bamah. Samuel, we read, had built an altar at Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17), and probably the present sacrifice was to be offered upon it. Such altars, and the worship of the true God upon high places, were at this time recognised as right, and were, in fact, in accordance with, and were even the remains of, the old patriarchal religion. But gradually they were condemned, partly because of the glowing sanctity of the temple, but chiefly because of the tendency of religious rites celebrated in such places to degenerate into nature-worship, and orgies such as the heathen were in the habit of holding on the tops of mountains and hills. We thus find in the Bible an illustration of the principle that rites and ceremonies (as not being of the essentials of religion) may be changed, or even abolished, if they are abused, or lead on to evil consequences.
1 Samuel 9:13
As soon as … straightway. This is too forcible a rendering of the Hebrew particles, and makes the talk of these water-carriers even more garrulous than it is in the original. The latter word should be omitted, as they simply say that on entering the city Saul and his servant would easily find Samuel; for he would not go up to the feast till all was ready, nor would the people begin till he had arrived, because it was his office to bless the sacrificial banquet. The pious custom of asking a blessing on meals, our Lord's "giving of thanks," is inherited by us from the Jews.
1 Samuel 9:14
When they were come into. More correctly, "As they were going into the city." This agrees with what is said in 1 Samuel 9:18, that Saul and Samuel met in the gateway. As Ramah occupied two hills, the Bamah would be on the summit of one, while the city probably nestled between them.
1 Samuel 9:15
Now Jehovah had told Samuel in his ear. Literally, "had uncovered his ear," as in Ruth 4:4; 2 Samuel 7:27. The phrase is taken from the pushing aside of the headdress in order to whisper, and therefore means that Jehovah had secretly told Samuel.
1 Samuel 9:16
That he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines. Though Samuel had lightened the yoke of the Philistines by his victory at Mizpah, yet he had by no means altogether broken their power. It is so constantly the habit of the historical books of the Bible to include the distant and ultimate results of an act in their account of it, that we must not conclude that what is said in 1 Samuel 7:13-15 was the immediate consequence of Samuel's victory. Especially, when it said that "the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel," it is plain that Soul's successful wars are included in the writer's summary of events, inasmuch as Samuel's life was prolonged until nearly the close of that monarch's reign. The words further show that Soul's office was essentially military, though this is too much emphasised in the A.V; which renders by captain a word which really means prince, chief. Saul, as a Benjamite, belonged to the bravest and most warlike tribe of Israel, and one whose country was the seat of perpetual combat with the Philistines. Their cry is come unto me. Plainly, therefore, Israel was again suffering from Philistine domination.
1 Samuel 9:17
Jehovah said unto him. Literally, "Jehovah answered him." When Samuel saw the young stranger, struck by his towering height, he wondered within himself whether this were the destined hero who was to win freedom for Israel. The affirmation, therefore, came in answer to the question asked by his heart. The same shall reign over my people. More literally, the margin, "restrain in," i.e. coerce, control. The A.V; preferring as usual a general to an exact rendering, loses this plain indication that Soul's would be a strict and stern rule.
1 Samuel 9:18
In the gate. The same preposition is used here as that translated "into the city" in 1 Samuel 9:14. The contradiction which many commentators suppose that they find between the two verses arises from their not remembering that prepositions constantly lose their original meaning. Literally the preposition means in the middle, but its common meaning is simply within. So with us immediately has lost all reference to the middle, though derived from that word, and signifies directly, at once. Saul, then, and his servant were just going (it is a present participle) within the city when they meet Samuel coming out, and accost him in the very portal.
1 Samuel 9:19, 1 Samuel 9:20
Go up before me. Addressed in the singular to Saul, to whom, as the future king, Samuel pays every mark of honour. The next words, Ye shall eat, include Soul's servant. I will tell thee all, etc. Intended not merely to set Soul's mind at rest, but also to prepare him for the great news he was to hear. So, too, the information that the asses were found, given to him before he had even hinted at the object of his visit, would convince him of the reality of Samuel's prophetic powers. On whom is all the desire of Israel? Rather, "To whom belongs all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee, and for thy father's house?" The words were intended to indicate to Saul, though in an obscure manner, that the supreme power in Israel would be his. Why trouble about she-asses? They might be beautiful, and a valuable property for a husbandman;but he was about to become a king, to whom would belong everything that was best and most precious.
1 Samuel 9:21
Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? Though Samuel's words contained the promise of supreme power,—for to whom less than a king could all that was desirable in Israel belong?—yet Saul probably regarded them as a high-flown compliment, such as Orientals love to use, and gave a modest and proper answer. Benjamin, already the smallest tribe, had been so crushed that its power must have been very small, and Soul's house, though opulent, was not a leading one; how then could one of its members expect so high a dignity? For families of the tribe of Benjamin the Hebrew has "tribes," probably owing to some confusion with the words "tribes of Israel" just before.
1 Samuel 9:22, 1 Samuel 9:23.
Into the parlour. Strictly the cell or room attached to the chapel of the high place, now used as the guest chamber, wherein the thirty chief men, who came as invited guests, were to dine. The rest of the people would be in the open air. There Samuel not only placed Saul in the seat of honour, but also his servant, as representing the king's officers of state, and commanded the cook to set before him a portion that had been reserved. This was the shoulder; but whether it was the left shoulder, of which the laity might eat, or the right shoulder, which was sacred, as belonging to the priest (Leviticus 7:32), is not mentioned. If the latter, it was Samuel s own share, and he may by his prophetic authority have assigned it to Saul, in token that the priesthood would be subject to the royal power. Be this, however, as it may, it was the portion of honour, and it seems that Samuel, on receiving intimation the previous day of Saul's visit (1 Samuel 9:6), had given orders that it should be carefully reserved for him (1 Samuel 9:24). He now orders it to be set before Saul, with that which was upon it, i.e. all the flesh and the fat not appointed to be burnt upon the altar.
1 Samuel 9:24
And Samuel said. Samuel's name is not given in the Hebrew, and though inserted by the Septuagint and Vulgate, it is so only by a manifest error. The Syriac and Chaldee, like the Hebrew, make the cook the speaker. The right translation is, "And the cook lifted up the shoulder with that which was upon it, and set it before Saul, and said, 'Behold, that which hath been reserved is set (a participle, and not the imperative) before thee; eat, for it hath been kept for thee unto the appointed time of which he (i.e. Samuel) spake, saying, I have invited the people. The word translated in the A.V. since I said is one which means saying, and nothing else; and as what goes before contains no verb to which saying can refer, it is plain that there is an ellipse. But if the cook be the speaker, the meaning is plain, as follows:—When on the previous day the revelation was made to Samuel that Israel's future king would present himself on the morrow, the prophet at once made preparations to receive him with due solemnity, and for this purpose arranged a sacrifice, and invited thirty of the chief citizens of Ramah to assemble at the high place, and sit at the banquet with him. And then it was, when telling the cook of his invitation, that he gave orders that the portion of honour should be carefully reserved, to be set at the fittingtime before the stranger. The chat of the cook is entirely after the manner of ancient times, and would show Saul how completely his coming had been foreseen and provided for.
1 Samuel 9:25
When the feast was over they went down from the high place, and, having entered the city, proceeded to Samuel's dwelling, where he communed with Saul upon the top of the house. The Septuagint has a very probable reading, namely, "And they spread a bed for Saul upon the roof, and he lay down;" but the Syriac and Chaldee agree with the Hebrew. Without communicating to Saul that he was to be king, which was not revealed to him till the next day (1 Samuel 10:1), Samuel might be anxious to impress on Saul's mind the great principles of the theocratic government, and also the nature of the remedies necessary for Israel's recovery from its present misery.
1 Samuel 9:26, 1 Samuel 9:27
It came to pass about the spring of the day. This is not a separate act from they arose early; for the A.V. is wrong in translating the next clause, "Samuel called Saul to the top of the house." Saul had slept there, and, wearied out with his long wanderings and the excitement of the previous day, was fast asleep when Samuel came to him. The Hebrew is, "And they rose early; for at the spring of the day Samuel called to Saul upon the house top, saying," etc. And no sooner had Saul risen than they started upon his journey home, and as soon as they had left the city, at some fitting spot, Samuel bade the servant go forward, and as soon as he and Saul were alone he spake unto him the word of God. And by that Divine word he who had left his father's house in search of lost asses was summoned to a post which, if one of the greatest dignity, was full also of danger, and burdened with solemn responsibility. And while on the human side Saul proved not unworthy of a royal crown, in his relation towards God he failed, because he let self-will and earthly policy prevail in his heart over obedience and trust in God.
1 Samuel 9:1-10
The facts are—
1. Saul the son of Kish, a wealthy Benjamite, and remarkable for stature and goodliness, seeks his father's asses.
2. Not finding them, he fears lest his father should be anxious about his own safety, and suggests a return home.
3. His servant advises a recourse to a distinguished man of God then in those parts.
4. Obtaining a small present, Saul resolves to consult the man of God concerning the lost asses. A great crisis has come in which the dangerous elements at work in Israel's heart might lead to much mischief. The chief motive for desiring a king being a craving for outward display, and a corresponding distrust and dislike of God's more unseen and immediate direction of national affairs, it was evidently possible for steps to be taken which would ruin Israel's prosperity. The narrative relates to us a series of Divinely governed events, apparently trivial, which prevented that calamity and insured the national safety.
I. GOD'S REGULATION OF IMPERFECT DESIRES AND DANGEROUS ASPIRATIONS. There is no harm in desire for monarchy per se; but the form it assumed in this instance was defective, and it revealed a moral tendency which, if fed by appropriate nourishment, would lead to a frustration of Israel's true work in the world. The saving feature in their conduct was their deference to Samuel. The instruction conveyed to him to select a king was consistent with the fact that God was displeased with their request (1 Samuel 8:7; cf. Hosea 13:11). The solution of the apparent discrepancy lies in the circumstance that God does not leave his people to the full bent of their own heart. He mercifully regarded their condition, and governed their tendencies in such a way as to make the best of a bad case. This is true, more or less, of all men not yet judicially abandoned. There is a force of evil in men enough to destroy them speedily but for the restraining power of God. The mental operations of sinners are governed by an unseen hand, and often directed to their advantage, when, otherwise, evil would ensue. There have been ages in the history of the Church when conspicuously unhallowed desires and worldly aspirations have not been left to work ruin, but have been chastened, controlled, directed to objects better than they, left to themselves, would have chosen. The age of Constantine would have been more calamitous for religion had hot the Head of the Church governed rising tendencies and provided moderating influences.
II. GOD'S CARE IN MEETING MAN'S WEAKNESS. Not any man would suit Israel as king at that time. There were conditions in the state of the people which needed to be wisely met. The people were impressible by the outward physical aspect of things; they required a leader of social position to command respect; and their own hankering after likeness to other nations rendered it important that their king should have some moral character; at the same time, being their choice, he must be a representative of the weaknesses and wisdom of the age. Hence the care of God in directing Samuel to Saul, a man of commanding appearance (1 Samuel 9:2), of wealthy family (1 Samuel 9:1-3), of quiet, plodding, God fearing disposition,—as seen in occupation, in his concern for his father, and in his deference to the prophet,—and yet of no deep, intelligent piety. This Divine care is no novelty in history.
1. It is constant—coextensive with the history of the race. Even fallen Adam was cared for in temporal things. The order of Providence, the adaptation of his Word to varying exigencies of life, the appointments in his Church for the perfecting of the saints, are only some instances of a care that never faileth.
2. It is secret. Israel little knew, while those asses were wandering from home, that their God was caring so wisely and tenderly for them. Silent as the light is the voice that orders our path; more subtle than either is the hand that guards our spirit. By day and night his hand leads, even to the uttermost parts of the earth.
3. It is beyond all desert. Even when Israel was in spirit rejecting him he cared for them. "How shall I give thee up?" is the feeling of the Father's heart. He rewards us "not according to our iniquities." The daily mercies of God are more than can be numbered, and they come because he delighteth in mercy, not because we earn them by obedience and love.
III. GOD'S LEADING BY UNKNOWN WAYS. While restraining and regulating Israel's tendencies, an unseen hand is leading the son of Kish by a way he knew not. In the straying of asses and in the following their track we first see natural events; but behind and in them all we soon learn to see God gently leading Saul from a quiet, rural life to undertake a great and honourable responsibility, it is not strange for God to lead by unknown paths those whom he chooses for his service. Abraham did not know the full meaning of the secret impulse to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Joseph's imprisonment was not man's sole doing. Egyptians in the court of Pharaoh saw not the hand guiding Moses into a knowledge of their legislation and their learning. Likewise is it true in the bringing of men to a knowledge of Christ. Many a simple circumstance has brought a wanderer to a greater than Samuel. And in the Christian life we are led by circuitous, untrodden paths to duties, privileges, joys, and eternal rest. God is Guide and Counsellor—by monitions of conscience, by word of truth, by voice of friends, by barred pathways of lift by yearnings created within, by events great and small.
1. Let us have faith in God's mastery over all that is in man.
2. Let us believe that he will provide for his people suitably to their need.
3. Let us keep our heart and eye open to the guidance of the unseen Power, and not despise events that seem trifling in themselves.
1 Samuel 9:11-17
Man's accidents God's ordinations.
The facts are—
1. On entering the city Saul inquires for the seer, and is informed that he is present for a special religious service.
2. Following the directions given, he meets Samuel ascending to the high place.
3. Samuel is already instructed by God to expect during the day the man whom he is to anoint as king.
4. On seeing Saul, an intimation is given from God that he is the chosen man. In some respects this narrative of events resembles what is occurring every day in every land, for we have here a set of independent actions converging on a common result. No single meeting of men occurs in society without a variety of acts and movements having directly or indirectly preceded it as links in the chain of causation. But the speciality in this instance is the information that the meeting of Saul and Samuel was preordained of God. Hence the incident is an illustration of the double side of what to men may appear to be only ordinary human occurrences. An uninformed person would have said that it was accidental that the asses went astray, and that maidens directed Saul to their city, where Samuel happened to be. To Saul it so appeared; but, guided by the inspired narrative, we know that the "accident" was "foreordained" without destroying its really accidental character. We may notice what light the record before us throws on the general question of special providences.
I. We SEE HERE THE FREE ACTION OF MANY INDEPENDENT WILLS. In so far as asses exercise will, those were free in straying from home on that day. The action of Kish in selecting Saul rather than any one else to seek them was quite his own. The readiness of Saul to obey his father and not find a substitute in the toil was unconstrained. The mental and emotional antecedents of the citizens prompting their will to arrange for Samuel to visit their city were natural, and operated on wills perfectly independent. The suggestion of the servant that Saul should not return, but go to this very city, arose spontaneously; and Saul's concern for his father was relieved by considerations which he freely yielded to. The action of Samuel, amidst his many public engagements, was free in deciding to offer sacrifice, and, so far as we can see, not exclusively connected with an expectation of meeting the coming king in that particular place. In addition to all these free and independent acts, there were events which tended to turn the free acts in the one direction. Lack of pasture in certain places may have influenced the asses to take the course they did. The distance to be traversed was just such as to bring Saul to the vicinity of Samuel where persons were at hand to answer his questions. The difficulty of approaching the prophet with a proper token of respect was overcome by the casual possession of a small coin. This analysis of fact accords with what may be affirmed of thousands of incidents every day. Independent lines of force converge on one point and issue in an historical resultant. In no case recorded in Scripture does any supreme power take away freedom of action.
II. The FREE ACTION OF MANY IS ATTENDED BY THE UNRECOGNISED ACTION OF GOD. In the instance before us this is obvious, for it was ordained that Samuel should meet with Saul on that very day, though they were so far apart (1 Samuel 9:15, 1 Samuel 9:16). Whether it was "chance" that took Saul to that city or some influence exerted on him is easily answered by the fact that it was God's purpose for Samuel to see and anoint him. God's foreordination does not wait on "chance." The same reasoning would show that even the course taken by the asses, though free, was not without God's action. The inspiration of Samuel's conduct is a primary fact of the prophetic office. It is possible to start difficulties in relation to this subject; but they are difficulties of ignorance, not of knowledge, and therefore lose much of their force. We do not even know what the free act of will is, though we know the fact. We know that our actions are free, and yet that we are influenced by others. The point of junction between the external influence and the free act of our will has never been detected; therefore, any difficulties which men raise against these narratives in the Bible lie equally against all interaction of free natures. The Scripture doctrine is that God does act on mar, without destroying his freedom. God is not a latent energy. He assures us that he is a real Power, working in some "mightily to will and to do," and striving with others. The highest government is only possible on this supposition. The possibility of what are called special providences resolves itself into the free action of a supreme Spirit or, created spirits, so as to secure their free and independent action, and at the same time cause that action to converge on given points. We even can do that in some degree with children and feebler natures. Why do men wish to banish the eternal energy from all participation in human affairs? Do not these events with their issue stand out as a microcosm of the great converging lines which in the far distant future are to issue in one glorious resultant—the realisation of a holy will through the free and independent action of created wills?
III. The RECOGNITION OF GOD'S ACTION COMES OUT IN THE RESULT. The Divine action is silent, unobserved, often unknown while in process. Samuel saw it as a reality when Saul stood before him. The story of the asses and of the search then had another meaning. Men see not one half of the realities of life. The true, real world is the unseen. The great transactions are wrought in the inner man. We are often led by a hand we do not see, and drawn on by a sweet influence we cannot define. Only the more spiritual, saintly souls discern God. But as Samuel saw what God had been doing, so we at last come to see what God hath wrought. That will be a wondrous recognition of the all-working Spirit when a vast redeemed race shall, in review of life's chequered course, sing the new song, and exclaim with deep significance, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory."
IV. The DIVINE REASON FOR THE EXERCISE OF THIS SILENT POWER. The compassion of God for his wayward people (1 Samuel 9:16) was the spring of the particular direction he gave on this day to the course of Saul and Samuel. Every small series of events affecting individuals and families is, so far as relates to the action of God in them, governed by some Divine reason. Though trouble be brought on, the reason is still one of mercy. The retributions of Providence are in mercy to the universe he governs. And it may certainly be said of the sum total of events, that when the great result shall be attained, it will be known then, if not before, that all was the expression of a compassion which sought to save the erring world from its own miseries.
1. The perfect government of God is secured by his mastery of every detail in the action and willing of his creatures.
2. There is consolation for his people in the fact that he directeth the spirit of man, and can subdue all things to himself.
3. It is blessed to go forth daily with the assurance that God works with us, in us, and for us, and will therefore perfect that which concerneth us.
1 Samuel 9:18-24
Shadows of coming events.
The facts are—
1. Saul, on accosting Samuel, is invited to stay with him, is assured of the safety of the asses, and is caused to know that great honour is in store for him.
2. Saul, taken by surprise, desires to have further explanations of the language used.
3. Samuel entertains Saul with all the honours due to a distinguished guest. The position of Samuel was one of relative advantage, for Saul was ignorant of the Divine intent, while he knew the purpose of God. The course taken by Samuel was as follows:—First he intimated to Saul that it would be well to accept his proffered hospitality, as he had a communication to make which would draw out his interest (1 Samuel 9:19). Then he relieves his care about his father's property, and awakens more curiosity by the further intimation that the choice things of Israel were in reserve for him and his father's house. To prevent hasty explanations, he next induces him to take his place in an entertainment as chief guest; thus by a significant act preparing him and the people for something more definite. And with all the kindliness and courtesy due to distinction, he threw a gleam of light on the strange proceeding by reminding him that though his presence there seemed accidental, it was not quite so, as he was the person for whom the dish of honour had been reserved (1 Samuel 9:24). Thus was the nomination of Saul as the king shadowed forth. In all this the prophet acted in his official capacity as representative of God. May we not see here how God prepares us for disclosures of his will?
I. The FULL TRUTH GOD WOULD HAVE US KNOW IS BROKEN UP AND MADE CLEAR BY DEGREES. The prophet here was slightly opening the veil before the eyes of Saul; he was qualifying his sight for dazzling splendour. And that is just what all the prophets of God have done and are doing for us. They intimate to us that there are great truths in reserve, and so speak to us by the way as to indicate in dim outline what some day will stand out in eternal clearness. The figures, the types, the allusions to the "unspeakable," the reminders that we are but disciples, children—all are foreshadowings of great realities on which the mind will in future gaze. "We know in part." It is true the Bible is all we need for salvation, and contains more spiritual truth than elsewhere to be found; but in one sense it is to men a treasure, and we are only fitted to receive out of it a dim intimation of the truth, as Saul was fitted only to receive from the mind of the prophet a portion of what was there for him. The process by which God's truth was given to the world—by allusion, dim prophecy, type, historical examples foreshadowing the Christ, till at last the full announcement came—is another illustration of the gentleness and wisdom wherewith God has "spoken" to men.
II. The FULL HONOURS GOD HAS IN RESERVE FOR HIS PEOPLE ARE GRADUALLY REVEALED. Saul wondered what distinction was awaiting him. lie felt unworthy of such language as that used by the prophet. His wonder was not satisfied at once. Men have been known to die under the sudden declarations of bliss awaiting them. Equally so God has in reserve for all who are one with Christ a crown, a glory, an honour, which though we know by name, we know not in reality. "We know not what we shall be." There is a joy and glory unspeakable. There are things which an apostle could not utter. Future realities are only dimly shadowed forth by earthly words and symbols. A full vision of coming honours might paralyse the strongest frame.
1. Deep interest in the welfare of the Church of God will suppress all feelings of personal jealousy.
2. A good man will enter heartily into new methods recognised by God, even though at first they were distressing to his own heart.
3. The qualities of gentleness and courtesy towards God's servants have the highest sanction, and do much to facilitate private and public business.
4. The keenest sense of unworthiness is that experienced when God confers on us the choice honours and treasures of his kingdom.
5. The transition to the full glory of the future will be natural and easy in so far as we avail ourselves of the shadowings forth of the reality contained in God's word.
1 Samuel 9:25-27
Interest in public affairs.
The facts are—
1. After the public intimation of Saul s coming distinction Samuel converses with him in private.
2. On sending him away on the next day Samuel will have no one present at the moment of parting. Saul is passive. Samuel is still the most important. As yet all had been public. Enough had been said to call up from Saul's heart feelings and aspirations which in his quiet life had lain dormant (1 Samuel 9:19). He now felt that God had something for him to do in Israel, and his heart revealed sentiments answering to the shadowed honour. It was fit, therefore, to commence privately on topics connected with the condition and prospects of Israel. The invitation to the privacy of the house-top for this purpose was thus in keeping with Samuel's wise procedure, and a good illustration of his deep interest in the public welfare. The most probable explanation of the conduct of Samuel certainly is, that his concern for the welfare of the nation and of the coming king irresistibly prompted him to converse on the wants of the age, and the responsibilities of Saul's new position as a chosen servant.
I. IT IS THE DUTY OF A RELIGIOUS MAN, AND IN KEEPING WITH HIS CHARACTER AND PROFESSION, TO TAKE A DEEP INTEREST IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS. Samuel's interest in affairs was, it is true, official, as head of the state, but the official acts had their root in a deep personal longing for the prosperity of Israel. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." "They shall prosper that love thee," was the feeling which every true descendant of Abraham was supposed to entertain. The best days of Israel's history show that the pious were proud of their country, its institutions, its rulers, its laws, and the order and purity of its administration.
1. The state claims our interest.
(1) The law of benevolence supports this claim. Every man in the state is our neighbour; his comfort and peace and safety depend on the administration of affairs; we can only reach the individuals by doing our part to render affairs useful to all.
(2) The principles of religion are applicable to state affairs. Faith in Christ and repentance toward God are not the whole of practical religion, though they are the spring and support of many other feelings and principles. Righteousness, purity, supreme regard for the Unseen, kindliness and generosity, unselfishness and truth, can find expression in laws, in commercial arrangements, and in foreign and domestic policy. Loyalty to these religious principles requires that we see that they are recognised everywhere.
(3) The adaptation of Christianity to the entire life of man is one of the most commanding evidences of its Divine character. It professes to make all things new. It forms the true, perfect manhood. A religion which is seen practically to enter into every sphere of human activity, as the conserving "salt," carries with it the proof that it comes from the Creator of man and of society. He, then, who loves his Christianity, and would advance its conquests, must show by his interest in the State that it is "profitable unto all things," even to public affairs.
(4) The great calamities brought on communities have resulted from the predominance in state affairs of irreligious principles. When "rulers of Sodom," men of godless lives, are left to have charge of affairs, when the holy and conscientious leave their country's business to persons with whom they would not leave their own private affairs, disaster has come, and will ever come. There can be nothing in such a line of conduct at variance with Christian character or profession. The enforcement of righteousness all over the world must be right. To love Christ supremely, and to labour that souls may be converted to him, is no more inconsistent with promoting righteousness in state affairs, and watching its progress there with keen interest, than with seeing that our private business is honestly transacted.
II. EMERGENCIES WILL ARISE WHEN INTEREST IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS MAY FIND DISTINCT EXPRESSION. The emergency which developed Samuel's deep interest did not create it. There is a fountain of strong feeling and righteous thought in a truly good man's nature. Crises in a people's history bring out the latent feeling, and shape it into word or deed. There should not be a day on which a Christian does not bear all the interests of his country on his heart, and give them some direct or indirect support. But in the changes of human affairs, and in the incessant struggle between the good and evil forces of society, there arise now and then opportunities forevery righteous man to do his best towards securing a righteousness in the State.
III. The MANNER IN WHICH INTEREST IS SHOWN WILL DEPEND ON POSITION AND OPPORTUNITIES. Samuel showed his interest by discussing with Saul the general question of the people's welfare, and by fitting his mind for coming responsibilities. Every Christian can express his interest intelligently, faithfully, kindly, and prayerfully by seizing the opportunities appropriate to his situation in life. But prayer for kings and rulers, personal observance of the course of events, acquaintance with the real needs of the country, encouragement of a sound, righteous, political literature, support to men of tested character, exercise of powers conferred by law, infusion into controversies of a generous, truth-loving spirit—these are means within reach of most, and cannot but issue in blessing to all. The interest thus due to public state affairs is also due by the Christian to the general affairs of the Church of God. Every one should bear on his heart the welfare of the body of Christ, and do all he can to heal its wounds, cleanse its spirit, and insure its highest happiness and prosperity. Do men sufficiently identify their personal religious interests with those of the one Church? Is the oneness of the body of Christ properly appreciated? Do our prayers and tears flow forth as they ought for the kingdom of God?
1. The causes of so little interest in public affairs by many Christian people.
2. How Christian people can manifest a proper interest apart from the painful contentions to which they are perhaps constitutionally unfitted.
3. The degree of sympathy due to good men who from sense of duty enter into the perils and annoyances of public life, and how it can be expressed.
4. The question of how much of national trouble, sorrow, and poverty is connected with neglect on the part of the morally powerful sections of society.
5. How far Christian men are really making love of righteousness and truth and peace superior to social customs and party ties.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 9:1-25. (GIBEAH, RAMAH.)
The king desired by the people.
1. The choice of the first king of Israel was made by Samuel, prophet and judge, as the highest authority under God in the nation; and it was afterwards confirmed by lot, wherein the Divine will was openly expressed (1 Samuel 10:21). "The history of the world cannot produce another instance in which a public determination was formed to appoint a king, and yet no one proposed either himself or any other person to be king, but referred the determination entirely to God" (Scott).
2. In making choice of Saul, Samuel believed that he would be acceptable to the people, and fulfil the purpose for which they had desired a king, in saving them out of the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:17) and the children of Ammon (1 Samuel 12:12); and he appears to have expected that he would be faithful to the principle of the theocracy, and rule in obedience to the Divine will. He did all that lay in his power that this expectation might be realised; he entertained a strong affection for Saul; and it was only when the latter proved utterly unfaithful to his trust that he reluctantly and sorrowfully abandoned him to his fate.
3. His choice was directed by a higher wisdom than his own, which saw the end from the beginning. Whilst the Divine King of Israel sanctioned what was good in their desire, he fulfilled it in such a manner as to convince them of what was evil in it, and to accomplish far reaching purposes which the prophet himself did not foresee.
"The ken your world is gifted with descends
In the everlasting justice as low down
As eye doth in the sea, which though it mark
The bottom from the shore, in the wide main
Discerns it not; and, nevertheless, it is,
But hidden by its deepness" (Dante, 'Purg.').
"Saul is not selected by them, but given to them; whom they adopt and embrace they know not why; and who, whether or not he is able to guide and govern them, proves to be a faithful representative of their own state of mind, a very type and embodiment of that character and those habits of mind which they themselves are exhibiting" (Maurice). "The theocratic principle was more fully developed in the reaction than could have happened had the king been truly pious, so that we may say that Saul was chosen by God, because in his omniscience he foresaw that he would not turn to him with his whole heart. Saul and David are in necessary connection. On the threshhold of royalty God first shows in Saul what the king of Israel is without him; then in David what the king is with him. Both are types or representatives. The events which befell them are actual prophecies, which first of all passed into fulfilment in the history of the Israelitish monarchy, and then through the whole history of the world." (Hengstenberg). The following chapters record, the development of the successive stages of the Divine method according to which the popular desire was gratified and corrected. The man destined for king was—
I. FITTED BY PECULIAR QUALIFICATIONS (1 Samuel 9:1, 1 Samuel 9:2). Notice—
1. His family relationship. He was the son of Kish, of the family of Matri (1 Samuel 10:21), of the tribe of Benjamin; his cousin (or perhaps uncle—1 Chronicles 8:33) being Abner, afterwards "the captain of his host" (1 Samuel 14:51); his name—Saul = asked—being "an omen of his history." Kish was a man of wealth and good social position, a fact which would gain for his son general respect; he appears to have been an affectionate father (1 Samuel 9:5; 1 Samuel 10:2); and he resided at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:26), "a hill," formerly a place of notorious profligacy (Judges 19:1-30.), and subsequently the seat of Saul's government, but was buried at Zelah (2 Samuel 21:14). Of him nothing more is known. Benjamin was the smallest of the tribes of Israel (1 Samuel 9:21), but the most warlike of them (Genesis 49:27). The selection of a king from it, therefore, would not be likely to excite the jealousy of the other tribes, whilst he would doubtless prove an able leader of their armies. There was in Saul "the strange union of fierceness and of gentleness which rim, as hereditary qualities do often run, through the whole history of that frontier clan" (Stanley).
2. His personal appearance. He was in the prime of manhood, and of lofty stature and great warlike beauty (1Sa 9:2; 1 Samuel 10:23, 1 Samuel 10:24). "Great stress is laid upon this, because his distinguished stature, with the impression of bodily prowess which it conveyed, helped much to recommend him to the choice of the people. When, after a long peace, there was no man of distinguished renown among them, and when in battle much less depended upon the military skill than upon the bodily prowess of the chief in single combats, or in the partial actions with which most battles commenced, it was natural enough that the people should take pride in the gigantic proportions of their leader, as calculated to strike terror into the enemy and to inspire confidence in his followers; besides that, it was no mean advantage that the crest of the leader should, from his tallness, be seen from afar by the people" (Kitto).
3. His mental and moral characteristics. He was possessed of little mental culture. He had not been instructed in the schools of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:11). His life had been spent in retired, rustic occupation, in which he was so absorbed that he was less acquainted with the political and religious movements of his time than his own servant (1 Samuel 9:6). He was obedient to his father (1 Samuel 9:4), tenderly concerned about his feelings (1 Samuel 9:5), persevering in labour and ready to take advice even from one beneath him (1 Samuel 9:10). He exhibited a courteous, modest, and humble bearing (1 Samuel 9:21; 1 Samuel 10:21). He was, in his earlier career, capable of prudent reserve (1 Samuel 10:16, 1 Samuel 10:27); patriotic, zealous, fearless, energetic (1 Samuel 11:6), resolute, and magnanimous (1 Samuel 11:13); and he had a strong sense of the value of religion and religious institutions. But underneath these qualities there lay others of a different nature, which his subsequent course revealed, viz; waywardness, rash and fiery impulses, impatience, the love of display, pride and self-will, and morbid tendencies to distrust and jealousy; and instead of overcoming them by the aid of Divine grace, he yielded to them, until they gained the entire mastery over him, choked the good seed which was sown in his heart (Matthew 13:22), and caused his ruin. God sees the latent as well as the manifest dispositions of men, and adapts his dealings toward them accordingly.
II. GUIDED BY SPECIAL PROVIDENCE (1 Samuel 9:3-14). These verses furnish a practical commentary on what was said by Hannah concerning the operations of Providence (1 Samuel 2:7, 1 Samuel 2:8). In leaving his home in Gibeah, at the direction of his father, in search of the lost asses, travelling through the hill country of Ephraim, the land of Shalisha, of Shalim, and of the Benjamites, to the land of Zuph (1 Samuel 1:1), and going in search of the "seer" (roeh), Saul acted freely, and according to his best judgment; but his three days' journey and all connected with it—his lack of success, his desire to return, his servant's advice, his destitution of food, his servant's possession of a coin for a present, his meeting with "young maidens going out to draw water," his presence in the city at a certain time—were ordered by God to the attainment of an end of which he had no conception. "All these incidents and wanderings were only preparations and mediate causes by which God accomplished his design concerning Saul." His providence—
1. Often makes insignificant events productive of important results. It is truly astonishing how the very greatest things depend upon events which are generally regarded at the time of their occurrence as of little account. Of this the lives of individuals and the history of nations afford innumerable illustrations. "What is it that we dare call insignificant? The least of all things may be as a seed cast into the seed field of time, to grow there and bear fruits, which shall be multiplying when time shall be no more. We cannot always trace the connections of things; we do not ponder those we can trace, or we should tremble to call anything beneath the notice of God. It has been eloquently said that where we see a trifle hovering unconnected in space, higher spirits can discern its fibres stretching through the whole expanse of the system of the world, and hanging on the remotest limits of the future and the past" (Kitto, 'Cyc. of Bib. Lit.,' first ed; Art. 'Providence;' Knapp's 'Theology').
2. Makes accidental circumstances subservient to a prearranged plan. "The thread of every life is entangled with other threads beyond all reach of calculation. Those unforeseen accidents which so often control the lot of men constitute a superstratum in the system of human affairs, wherein, peculiarly, the Divine providence holds empire for the accomplishment of its special purposes. It is from this hidden and inexhaustible mine of chances—chances, as we must call them—that the Governor of the world draws, with unfathomable skill, the materials of his dispensations towards each individual of mankind" (Isaac Taylor, 'Nat. Hist. of Enthusiasm').
3. Overrules human plans, in harmony with human freedom, for the fulfilment of Divine purposes (Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 16:33).
III. INDICATED BY DIVINE REVELATION (1 Samuel 9:15-25). Such revelation—
1. Was primarily and directly given to one who lived in closest fellowship with God. Samuel was like the lofty mountain peak, which catches the rays of the morning sun long ere they reach the valleys below. On the day before Saul came to the city (of Ramah), the prophet, ever watching and listening for the indications of the Divine will concerning the future king, was fully instructed therein by "the word of the Lord" (1 Samuel 3:21), which contained
(1) a promise of sending him (1 Samuel 9:16),
(2) a direction to anoint him,
(3) a statement of the purpose of his appointment, and
(4) an expression of commiseration for the need of the people.
Nothwithstanding they had rejected God, he had not rejected them, but still calls them "my people," and in wrath remembers mercy. The long suffering of God toward transgressors should teach his servants forbearance, and incite them to renewed efforts for their welfare. It appears to have been after Samuel had received the Divine message that he invited the people (perhaps the elders who had formerly waited upon him) to a sacrificial feast, and arranged for the worthy entertainment of his chief guest (1 Samuel 9:24). The displeasure which he previously felt at their request (1 Samuel 8:6) has now given place to disinterested and earnest desire for its fulfilment.
2. Harmonised with, and was confirmed by, the operations of Providence. Samuel is expecting the fulfilment of the promise given to him, and already is on the way from his own house in the city to offer sacrifice on the height (the loftier of the two hills on which Ramah was situated), when he sees the towering form of Saul, a stranger to the place, who has come up into the midst of the city according to the direction of the maidens at the foot of the hill, and the inner voice with which he is so familiar says to him, "Behold the man," etc. (1 Samuel 9:17). There is nothing in the simple dress of the prophet to indicate his dignity; and as he passes onward Saul "draws near to him in the gate," and in reply to his inquiry concerning the seer's residence, receives the answer, "I am the seer." Seldom has the meeting of two persons shown more clearly the cooperation of the revealed word with the guiding providence of God or the unity of the purpose by which both are pervaded, or been followed by more momentous results.
3. And its communication required a gradual preparation on the part of him to whom it chiefly pertained, in order that it might be received aright. This Samuel sought to effect—
(1) By awakening in Saul new and elevated thoughts and hopes (1 Samuel 9:19, 1 Samuel 9:20); directing him to go up before him, as a mark of respect, inviting him to be his guest, telling him that he would "reveal to him his innermost thoughts," setting his mind at rest from lower cares, and assuring him of the highest dignity. "For whom is every desirable thing in Israel?" (1 Samuel 9:20).
(2) By giving him honour in the presence of others (1 Samuel 9:22-24); appointing to him the chief place among his thirty guests, appropriating to him the best portion of the meal, and intimating that the honour had been reserved for him in foreknowledge of his arrival.
(3) By holding confidential and prolonged conversation with him (1 Samuel 9:25), pertaining "not to the royal dignity, but surely to the deep religious and political decline of the people of God, the opposition of the heathen, the causes of the impotency to oppose these enemies, the necessity of a religious change in the people, and of a leader thoroughly obedient to the Lord (O. von Gerlach). In this manner Saul was prepared for the more definite indication given on the following morning. A gradual preparation of a somewhat similar kind is often needed by men when about to receive a Divine commission.—D.
1 Samuel 9:9. (RAMAH.)
"Peradventure he can show us our way." Here is a picture of a young man perplexed about his way. Consider—
I. THE OBJECT OF HIS PERPLEXITY. It is a common thing for a young man to be uncertain and anxious with reference to—
1. The ordinary business of life. He knows not, it may be, the particular vocation for which he is most fitted, or which affords the best prospect of success. Leaving his father's house,
"The world is all before him, where to choose
His place of rest, and Providence his guide."
But he is doubtful whither to direct his steps. He meets with disappointment in his endeavours. "The bread is spent" (1 Samuel 9:7), and he has no money in his purse. Under such circumstances many a one has first awoke to a sense of his dependence on God, and his need of his guidance, or has sought him with a fervour he has never displayed before. His loneliness and distress have been the occasion of spiritual thought and high resolve (Genesis 28:16, Genesis 28:20; Luke 15:18).
2. The chief purpose of life. As each vocation has its proper end, so has life generally. It is something higher than the finding of strayed asses, the recovery of lost property, or "buying and selling and getting gain." Even the dullest soul has often a feeling that it was made for a nobler end than the gratification of bodily appetites, or the supply of earthly needs. But "what is the chief end of man?" Alas, how many know not what it is, nor the means of attaining it; miss their way, and wander on "in endless mazes lost!"
3. The true Guide of life. Who shall tell thee "all that is in thine heart" (1 Samuel 9:19)—declare its aspirations, and direct them to their goal? Where is he to be found, and by what means may his favour be obtained? Books and teachers abound, and to them the young man naturally turns for instruction; but how often do they leave him in greater perplexity than ever. "Where shall wisdom be found?" (Job 28:12). "To whom should we go?" "We must wait patiently [said Socrates] until some one, either a god or some inspired man, teach us our moral and religious duties, and, as Pallas in Homer did to Diomede, remove the darkness from our eyes" (Plato). "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things" (John 4:25). "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21).
II. THE METHOD OF HIS PROCEDURE. The course which it behoves him to take is that of—
1. Diligent inquiry concerning the object of his desire. It exists, and a firm belief in its existence is the first condition of such inquiry. There may be healthy doubt about its nature, but absolute scepticism is destruction. Inquiry is the way to truth. It must be pursued with quenchless zeal and ceaseless perseverance. And if so pursued it will not be vain (Proverbs 2:4, Proverbs 2:5).
2. Ready reception of light, from whatever quarter it may come. Truth often comes from unexpected sources. The true inquirer is reverent and humble, and willing to receive information from the most despised (1 Samuel 9:10, 1 Samuel 9:11).
"Seize upon truth, where'er tis found,
Amongst your friends, amongst your foes,
On Christian or on heathen ground;
The flower's Divine, where'er it grows."
3. Faithfully acting up to the light he possesses. "Well said; come, let us go." Inquiry alone is insufficient. The duty that lies plainly and immediately before us must be performed.
III. THE SUCCESS OF HIS ENDEAVOUR.
1. He is brought face to face with the best Guide. "I am the seer" (1 Samuel 9:19). The best service that men and books, including the Scriptures themselves (John 5:39, John 5:40), can render is to bring us into direct communion with the Prophet of Nazareth, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Our perplexity ends only when he manifests himself to us and says, "I that speak unto thee am he." "Master, where dwellest thou? Come and see" (John 1:38).
"And what delights can equal those
That stir the spirit's inner deeps,
When one that loves, but knows not, reaps
A truth from one that loves and knows?" (Tennyson).
2. He rises into a higher region of thought and feeling, and receives all the direction that he really needs. His anxiety about earthly affairs is relieved (Matthew 6:32). The true purpose of life is shown him (Matthew 6:33). He has "an unction from the Holy One, and knows all things" (1 John 2:20). He is "turned into another man," and "God is with him" (1 Samuel 10:6, 1 Samuel 10:7).
3. He attains great honour and power. Saul is not the only one who has gone forth in the performance of lowly duty and found a kingdom, or to whom a temporary loss has been an occasion of permanent and invaluable gain. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."—D.
(A SACRAMENTAL ADDRESS.)
1 Samuel 9:13. (RAMAH.)
Guests at a sacred feast.
"For the people will not eat until he come, because he cloth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden." This language refers to a feast provided on the high place of the city where Samuel dwelt.
1. It was a sacrificial feast. The victim (a thank offering) having been slain, and its blood sprinkled about the altar, a portion of it was burnt in the sacred fire, and the rest reserved for food. "The thank or praise offering was the expression of the worshipper's feelings of adoring gratitude on account of having received some spontaneous tokens of the Lord's goodness. This was the highest form (of the peace offering), as here the grace of God shone prominently forth" (Fairbairn, 'Typology').
2. It was attended by numerous guests—thirty persons—distinguished in some way from others, and specially invited by Samuel. "The participation by the offerer and his friends—this family feast upon the sacrifice—may be regarded as the most distinctive characteristic of the peace offering. It denoted that the offerer was admitted to a state of near fellowship and enjoyment with God, shared part and part with Jehovah and his priests, had a standing in his house and a seat at his table. It was, therefore, the symbol of established friendship with God, and near communion with him in the blessings of his kingdom; and was associated in the minds of the worshippers with feelings of peculiar joy and gladness" (Fairbairn).
3. It required the presence of Samuel himself in order that the guests might properly partake thereof. "The blessing of the sacrifice must mean the asking of a blessing upon the food before the meal. This was done at every common meal, and much more at a solemn festival like this. The present, however, is the only recorded example of the custom" (Kitto). "It refers to the thanksgiving and prayer offered before the sacrificial meal" (Keil). Now this feast may be regarded as a foreshadowing of the Lord's Supper. A greater than Samuel is the Master of the feast (Matthew 26:18; John 13:13, John 13:14). Our Lord has provided it by the sacrifice of himself—of which the ancient sacrifices were a type, and the Holy Supper is a memorial. And he himself comes to preside at his own table. As his guests—
I. WE AWAIT HIS PRESENCE. "The people will not eat until he come" His presence is—
1. Necessary to the feast. The bread and wine are not simply memorials, they are also symbols; and in order to partake of them aright we must "discern the Lord's body." "Without me ye can do nothing."
2. Promised by himself. "There am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice" (John 16:22). "Lo, I am with you alway" (Matthew 28:20). The sacred ordinance itself is a permanent assurance of his presence.
3. Realised in the heart. We look not for his real presence in the material emblems, but in the believing heart. "I in them" (John 17:26; John 14:21; Ephesians 3:17). In a different spirit from that in which the words were originally spoken, we ask, "What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?" (John 11:56). We await his coming with reverence and humility, contrition, and faith, and ardent desire. O that he may appear to each of us, saying, "Peace be unto you," and be "known in breaking of bread." "Blessed are they that wait for him" (Isaiah 30:8; John 20:29).
II. WE DESIRE HIS BLESSING. "He doth bless the sacrifice," and in doing so he also doth bless his guests.
1. As of old, when he often gave thanks before the meal.
2. As the ever living Intercessor, representing his people, and rendering their prayers and praises acceptable to God. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praises unto thee" (Hebrews 2:12).
3. As when he went away, still stretc.hing forth his hands in benediction toward his disciples, and enabling them to be "continually praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:51-53). "Stretch forth, O Lord, in blessing toward us thy hands, that were nailed for our redemption to the bitter cross!"
III. WE PARTAKE OF HIS PROVISION. "And afterwards they eat that be bidden." We do not merely look upon the emblems of his body and blood, but we eat and drink, and thereby signify—
1. Our participation in the benefits of his death—forgiveness, peace, and righteousness.
2. Our fellowship with him in his sufferings and death, his spirit and life, his strength and joy (John 6:53). "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
3. And our union and communion with each other, through fellowship with him, in love and gladness. "For we being many are one bread, and one body" (1 Corinthians 10:17). Let us, then, "rejoice before the Lord." The cup is "a cup of blessing" (thanksgiving). The service is intended to be a service of joy—joy in the Lord; in the contemplation of his glorious character, in the reception of his manifold benefits, and in the anticipation of "the marriage supper of the Lamb."—D.
1 Samuel 9:26, 1 Samuel 9:27;- 1 Samuel 10:1-8. (RAMAH.)
Saul privately anointed king.
"And Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head." There is in the life of almost every man some day beyond all others, the events of which serve to determine his future course. Such a day was that which is here described in the life of Saul. On the preceding day he had been guided by Providence to Samuel, and led by means of his conversation to entertain exalted expectations concerning his future destiny. "And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house" (1 Samuel 10:25). "And a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down" (LXX; Vulg.). "The roofs in Judaea were flat, with a parapet around them. To be lodged there was considered an honour. In fine weather it was not unusual to sleep in the open air, but the place might occasionally be covered with a tent" (Geddes). Strange thoughts must have passed through his mind as he rested there under the silent stars. He rose early to prepare for his journey, and watched the morning dawn over the distant hills, ushering in the most eventful day of his life. Then the voice of Samuel called to him from below, saying, "Arise, and I will send thee away." The prophet accompanied him, as a mark of respect, along the street, toward the end of the city (Ramah). But before parting from him be directed him to send his servant forward, that he might communicate to him alone "the word of God." And in this private interview Saul was—
I. APPOINTED TO THE HIGHEST DIGNITY (1 Samuel 10:1).
1. By a rite of consecration. "Taking a vial, he anointed Saul, thus placing the institution of royalty on the same footing as that of the sanctuary and the priesthood (Exodus 30:33; Le Exodus 8:10), as appointed and consecrated by God and to God, and intended to be the medium for receiving and transmitting blessing to the people" (Edersheim). "Anointing with oil was a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God; as the oil itself, by virtue of the strength which it gives to the vital spirits, was a symbol of the Spirit of God as the principle of Divine and spiritual power" (Keil). "Two very good reasons they (the Jews) render why God did command the use of such anointing oil as in respect of the action. First, that it did signify the Divine election of that person and designation to that office; from whence it was necessary that it should be performed by a prophet who understood the will of God. Secondly, that by it the person anointed might be made fit to receive the Divine influx." "In respect to the matter they give two reasons why it was oil, and not any other liquor. First, because, of all other, it signifies the greatest glory and excellency. Secondly, they tell us that oil continueth uncorrupted longer than any other liquor. And, indeed, it hath been observed to preserve not only itself but other things from corruption; hence they conclude it fit their kings and priests, whose succession was to continue forever, should be anointed with oil, the most proper emblem of eternity. Beside, they observe that simple oil without any mixture was sufficient for the candlestick; but that which was designed for unction must be compounded with principal spices, which signify a good name, always to be acquired by those in places of greatest dignity by the most laudable and honourable actions" ('Pearson on the Creed,' Art. 2).
2. Accompanied with an act of homage. "And kissed him." The kiss was given on the mouth, the hand, the feet, or the garment, and was a token of friendship, affection, and, in the case of princes, of reverence and homage (1 Kings 18:19; Psalms 2:12; Hosea 13:3).
3. And with a statement of its significance. "Is it not?" etc. Hath not the Lord anointed thee to be ruler over his people, over Israel? And thou shalt rule over the people of the Lord, and thou shalt save them out of the hand of their enemies" (LXX.). His appointment was of God, and the purpose of it was the deliverance of his people. The manner in which he received it shows the change which had already taken place in his feelings (1 Samuel 9:21). When God has work for a man to do, he has power to dispose and prepare him to do it.
II. ASSURED OF CONFIRMATORY SIGNS (1 Samuel 10:2-6). The events which Samuel predicted were proofs of the Divine interposition, means of Saul's further preparation, and emblems of his future dignity and power.
1. First sign—his royalty was an appointment made by God. By it he would be convinced that it was not made by Samuel merely, but by God, who fulfilled his words (1 Samuel 9:20); at the same time he would be taught to leave lower cares, and aspire after the highest things. "Inwardly free, and consecrated to the Lord alone, he is to pursue his way upward."
2. Second sign—his royalty was an honour shared with God, and held in subordination to him (1 Samuel 10:3, 1 Samuel 10:4). A part of the offerings that were about to be presented before Jehovah in Bethel would be presented to Saul, but only a part of them; the greater portion would be given to Jehovah as a sign of the supreme homage due to the invisible King of Israel, while he was to accept the lesser portion as a sign of his subordinate position under him. "That this surprising prelude to all future royal gifts is taken from bread of offering points to the fact that in future some of the wealth of the land, which has hitherto gone undivided to the sanctuary, will go to the king" (Ewald). God commands us to "honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17), but the honour which is due to himself may not be usurped by man (Matthew 22:21; Acts 12:23).
3. Third sign—his royalty was an endowment dependent upon God, and effectually administered only through his grace. Coming to the hill (Gibeah) of God, near the city (Gibeah, his home), where there stood a garrison of the Philistines (or perhaps a pillar erected by them as a sign of their authority), which could hardly fail to impress upon him with great force the main purpose for which he had been appointed king, he would meet a band of prophets descending from the high place (of sacrifice), playing instruments of music and prophesying, and—
(1) He would be imbued with a Divine power. "The Spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee."
(2) He would catch the spirit of the prophets, and join them in their ecstatic utterances. "Thou wilt prophesy with them."
(3) He would undergo a surprising transformation. "And will be turned into another man." When he had turned his back to go from Samuel, "God gave him another heart" (1 Samuel 10:9), but the prediction of the prophet was more completely fulfilled afterwards (1 Samuel 10:10). The fulfilment of these predictions shows that apparently accidental events are clearly foreseen by God, human affairs are under his direction and control, and "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1), and that "the teachings of Providence unite with the teachings of revelation and of the Holy Spirit to show men their duty and their destiny."
III. ADMONISHED OF FUTURE DUTY (1 Samuel 10:7, 1 Samuel 10:8). In relation to—
1. Circumstances. "Do thou what thy hand findeth," i.e. what circumstances indicate to be thy duty. His own judgment would have to be exercised, but he would not be left to it alone.
2. God. "For God is with thee," to observe, direct, and aid thee. The firm belief in his presence is a mighty preservative from the neglect of duty, and a powerful incentive and encouragement to its performance.
3. The prophet, through whom he would receive "the word of God," in obedience to which he was bound always to act. "Gilgal, on the southwestern bank of the Jordan, was then, from all indications, one of the most holy places in Israel, and the true centre of the whole people; it had a like importance before, and much more then, because the Philistine control reached so far eastward that the middle point of the kingdom must have been pressed back to the bank of the Jordan. There the people must have assembled for all general political questions, and thence, after offering and consecration, have marched forth armed to war" (Ewald). Thither he was to gather the people; not, indeed: immediately, but when circumstances indicated that it was the proper time to prepare for war with the Philistines, which was the main object of his appointment. Samuel promised to meet him there, offer burnt offerings (dedicatory) and peace offerings (eucharistic), and tell him what to do; and directed him to wait seven days, and to do nothing without him. The direction was explicit, it set a limit to his authority, and its neglect was the first step in his disobedience (1 Samuel 13:13). When God places men in positions of authority, he teaches them the obligations which they involve; and if they fail it is not from want of knowing them.—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 9:17
The man, yet not the man.
I. THE SANCTION GIVEN BY THE LORD TO SAUL'S ELEVATION. Instances may easily be adduced in which the writers of the Old Testament ascribed to the Lord directly what was only indirectly recognised or permitted by him; but in the present case there is obviously more than Divine allowance. Jehovah pointed out Saul to the prophet Samuel, and commanded that he should be anointed captain, or king. We account for this on that principle of Divine government which allows to men that which they most wish for, in order that they may learn wisdom from the result. The people of Israel had not asked the Lord for such a king as he might see fit to choose and appoint. They had asked the prophet for a warlike chief like the kings of the nations and tribes around them, and the Lord saw meet to let them have what they desired; the young giant Saul was just the style of man they sought, cast in the very mould they admired, and one that would teach them some painful lessons through experience. Therefore, though the Lord foresaw the disappointing career of Saul, he authorised Samuel to anoint him privately, and afterwards sanctioned his public selection and elevation to the royal dignity. Here was a leader to suit the fancy of the people—strong, impetuous, valiant. Let them have Saul for their king. Such is the way of the Lord to this day, and in individual as well as national life. He admonishes and corrects us by letting us have our own way and be filled with our own devices. We are apt to complain in our disappointment at the result, that God himself sanctioned our course. No. We did not ask him to show us his way, that we might do his will; but took our own way, did our own pleasure; and he allowed, nay, facilitated our desire. Let the issue teach us to be more wary and more humble in time to come.
II. EARLY PROGNOSTICS OF SAUL'S FAILURE.
1. The manner of his entrance on the page of history. How different from the first mention of David, faithfully keeping the sheep before he was anointed to be the royal shepherd of Israel, is the first appearance of the son of Kish in search of his father's stray asses, and visiting the venerable prophet Samuel with no higher thought in his mind than to learn, if possible, where those asses were! He did not even know Samuel by sight, though he lived but at a short distance. He seems to have been an unreflecting rustic youth, with none of those premonitions of greatness which come early to the wise, and tend to give them seriousness of purpose and elevation of aim.
2. Indications of a fitful mind. We read nothing of Saul's bearing before Samuel when informed of the destiny before hint. Probably he was stunned with surprise. But so soon as he left the prophet new currents of thought and feeling began to flow through his heart. A mood of mind fell on him more grave and earnest than had appeared in him before. The Old Testament way of saying it is, that "God gave him another heart;" for the change which passes on a man under the consciousness of a high vocation suddenly received is none the less of God than it is evidently born of the occasion, he sees things in a new light, feels new responsibilities; new springs of feeling and new capacities of speech and action reveal themselves in him. But Saul took every influence by fits and starts. He quickly gained, and as quickly lost. There was in him no steady growth of conviction or principle. When he fell in with men of religious fervour he was fervent too When he met the prophets chanting Jehovah's praise he caught their rapture, and, joining their procession, lifted up his voice also in the sacred song. But it was a mere fit of piety. Of course Saul had been educated in the religion of his fathers, and in that sense knew the God of Israel; but it seems evident, from the surprise occasioned by his appearance among the prophets, that he had never shown any zeal for the glory and worship of Jehovah; and the sudden ecstasy at Gibeah, having no foundation of spiritual principle, came to nought. Alas! men may sing spiritual songs with emotion who have no enduring spiritual life. Men may catch the infection of religious enthusiasm, yet have no moral health or soundness. Men's faces may glow with a fine ardour, and yet soon after be darkened by wicked passion. Pulses of high feeling and moods of noble desire may visit minds that yet are never moved by Divine grace, and therefore are liable to be mastered, after all, by evil temper and base envy. Occasional impulses are not sufficient. "Ye must be born again."—F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany