I Samuel 10





                                                (vs. 1-16).


1 “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him,

and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over His

inheritance?”  A vial of oil. Hebrew, “the vial of oil,” because it was that same

holy oil with which the priests were anointed (Exodus 29:7).

Throughout Holy Scripture the office of king appears as one most sacred,

and it is the king, and not the priest, who is especially called Messiah,

Jehovah s anointed (ch.  2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 16:6, etc.), because he

represented the authority and power of God. And kissed him. I.e. did

homage to him, and gave him the symbol and token of allegiance (see

Psalm 2:12). Is it not?.... A strong affirmation often takes the form of

a question, especially when, as probably was the case here, surprise is

manifested. Saul, on whom the occurrences of the previous day must have

come as strange and unintelligible marvels, was no doubt still more

embarrassed when one so old and venerable, both in person and office, as

Samuel solemnly consecrated him to be Israel’s prince (see ch. 9:16), and gave

him the kiss of fealty and allegiance. Samuel, therefore, answers Saul’s inquiring

looks with this question, and, further, gives him three signs to quiet his doubts,

and convince him that his appointment is from God.


2 “When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two

men by Rachel’s sepulcher in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah;

and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek

are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and

sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?”


  • The first sign — Thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s

sepulcher. In Jeremiah 31:15 (quoted in Matthew 2:18) Rachel’s

sepulcher is connected with Ramah, but in Genesis 35:19 it is placed

near Bethlehem. The whole of the geography of Saul’s wanderings is very

obscure, but Wilson (‘Lands of the Bible,’ 1:401) places Zelzah at Beitjala,

to the west of Bethlehem, in the neighborhood of the Kabhet Rahil,

or Tomb of Rachel, Though both are now in the tribe of Judah, yet by a

slight rectification of the frontier, in conformity with Joshua 18:11-28,

Zelzah would be on the border of Benjamin, and there may have been local

reasons for Saul and his companion not taking the most direct route for

Gibeah. The news given by these men, that the asses were found, would set

Saul’s mind at rest, and, freed from lower cares, he would be able to give

his thoughts entirely to preparation for the higher duties that were before



3 “Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to

the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to

God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three

loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:”


  • The second sign was to be the presenting of an offering to him out

of their sacrificial gifts by three men going on a pilgrimage to Bethel. He

would meet them not in the plain of Tabor, but at the oak, elon, of

Tabor. Many attempt to connect this elon-Tabor with the allon, or oak,

under which Deborah, Rachel’s nurse, was buried (Genesis 35:8), and

suppose that Tabor is a corruption of the name Deborah. This is scarcely

possible, and it is better to acknowledge that we know nothing of the site

of this tree, except that it was on the road to Bethel. This was one of the

places which Samuel used to visit as judge (ch. 7:16); but these

men were on a pilgrimage thither because since the days of Jacob it had

been a sacred spot, and a chief seat of the old patriarchal worship, for

which see ch. 9:12.


4 “And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which

thou shalt receive of their hands.”  These pilgrims would salute Saul, i.e. give

him the usual friendly greeting of travelers, and would then present to him, a

stranger, two loaves of the bread intended for their offering at Bethel. By so

doing, in the first place, they acknowledged him as their lord (see ch. 9:7;

16:20), and, secondly, they indicated that the king would henceforth

share with the sanctuary the offerings of the people. And Saul was to

receive of their hands the present, as being now his due, for by anointing

him Samuel had designated him as king.


5 “After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison

of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come

thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets

coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and

a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:”


  • The third sign was to be his taking part with the prophets in

their religious exercises in the hill of God — really Gibeah, his own home.

Gibeah is strictly a rounded hill, while Ramah is a height. This Gibeah ha-

Elohim was probably that part of the hill on which the “high place” was

situated, and which was evidently outside the city; for Saul, on his route

homeward, met the troop of prophets descending from it. For Gibeah of

Saul” see ch. 9:1; this name was given to a district as well as to a town,

inasmuch as Ramah is described as situated within it — ch. 22:6. The

garrison of the Philistines was probably on some height in this district,

and, coupled with the mention of similar military posts elsewhere

(ch. 13:3; 14:4), shows that most of the tribe of Benjamin was subject

to that nation, and disarmed (ibid. ch. 13:19); but probably, as long as

the tribute was paid, its internal administration was not interfered with. 

A company of the prophets. At Gibeah Samuel had established one of his

“schools of the prophets,” by means of which he did so much to elevate the

whole mental and moral state of the Israelites. The word rendered

company literally means a cord or line, and so a band of people. These

prophets were descending from the Bamah (see on ch. 9:12), where they

had been engaged in some religious exercise, and were chanting

a psalm or hymn to the music of various instruments. Music was one of the

great means employed by Samuel in training his young men; and not only is

its effect at all times elevating and refining, but in semi-barbarous times,

united, as it is sure to be, with poetry, it is the chief educational lever for

raising men’s minds, and giving them a taste for culture and intellectual

pleasures. The musical instruments mentioned are the psaltery, Hebrew,

nebel, a sort of harp with ten strings stretched across a triangle, the longest

string being at its base, and the shortest towards its apex; the tabret,

Hebrew toph, a tambourine struck by the hand; the pipe, Hebrew, chalil,

i.e. “bored” or “pierced,” so called from the holes bored in it to make the

notes, and being probably a sort of flute; and, lastly, the harp, Hebrew,

cinnor, a sort of guitar, chiefly used for accompanying the voice, and

sometimes played with the fingers, and sometimes with a plectrum or quill.

There is nothing to indicate that there was only one of each of these

instruments, so that the articles would be better omitted. No doubt every

prophet was playing some one or other of them. And they shall prophesy.

The conjugation used here is not that employed for the prediction of future

events, but means, literally, and they will be acting the prophet, the right

word for men who were in training for the prophetic office. They were really

engaged in chanting God’s praises with fervor, and this was no doubt one of

the methods employed by Samuel to refine and spiritualize their minds.

Years afterwards David was thus educated, and learned at one of Samuel’s

schools that skill in meter and psalmody which, added to his natural gifts,

made him “the sweet singer of Israel.” For prophesying, in the sense of

playing instruments of music see I Chronicles 25:1-3, and in the sense

of chanting, I Kings 18:29.


6 “And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt

prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.”

The spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee. The Hebrew

means, will come mightily upon thee, will come upon thee so as to

overpower thee. And thou shalt prophesy. Shalt act as a prophet (see

above). Albeit untrained, thou shalt be carried away by religious fervor,

and join in their singing and psalmody. And be turned into another man.

New thoughts, new emotions shall take possession of thee, and in addition

to the bodily strength for which hitherto thou hast been famous, thou shalt

be filled with mental power, making thee eager for action and capable of

taking the lead among all men, and in all emergencies. We have an instance

of this enlarged capacity in the vigor with which Saul acted against the




Another Man (v. 6)


The mind of Saul was evidently overcharged with the great things which

had so unexpectedly been brought before his attention. His imagination

must have been filled with those pictures of royal state and lofty duties

which are over in Eastern minds associated with kingship. But he was

scarcely able to frame an adequate conception of what Samuel meant by

saying, “Thou shalt be turned into another man.” There are several grades

of transformation brought before us by ordinary life and by Scripture.



OF CIRCUMSTANCES. We all are partly subject to our surroundings; but

some natures happen to be in circumstances which appear to be quite alien

to the development of what is in them. They are repressed; the strong

forces of their life refuse to come forth; they are comparative nonentities; if

no change occurs in their relative position they will pass away from life

unknown and almost useless. There are in some persons mental faculties

which, being predominant, but not drawn out by appropriate nutriment and

exercise, give to the individual an appearance of stupidity and vacuity. A

poet’s soul encompassed by everything antagonistic to its development will

be miserable as a lark that cannot rise. But when the unnatural restraints

are removed, and the dispositions and faculties of individuals are placed

amidst circumstances favorable to their proper development, there comes

a change as rapid, as fresh, and striking as when the light and rain of spring

call forth the bulb from under the dull earth into a form of beauty and

sweetness. An observer of life cannot but have met with many cases of this.



ENDOWMENTS FOR OFFICIAL DUTIES. This was the case with Saul.

It is the teaching of Scripture that “every good and perfect gift” cometh

from God. (James 1:17)  He gave wisdom and cunning to the men who framed

the choice work of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-6). Reason is His gift, though

too often used against Him. The Old Testament speaks of special gifts for men

called to lead on the people of God. The endowment of Saul was in

harmony with that of Moses and Joshua. The contrast of the men as not

endowed and endowed is striking. The figure of Moses after he went forth

in the name of Jehovah dwarfs the Moses feeding Jethro’s sheep. The

timid, questioning, spiritually ignorant men who followed Christ as long as

they dared, and “thought” that He “would have redeemed Israel (Luke
24:21), can scarcely be recognized as the men who,
when endowed with

power from on high, stood forth on the day of Pentecost, and, with calmness

and fearlessness, expounded the spiritual nature of His kingdom who was

crucified. Spiritual power works marvels in men.



BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. This is the most radical of all changes; it is

more than an enlargement of the ordinary powers, more than the gift of

discrimination by which ordinary duties can be discharged; it is the

renovation of that deep, subtle spring of feeling and will which

determines the character of the entire life. The will of a man is supposed to

be the key to his destiny; but the change wrought by the Holy Spirit seems

even to penetrate into the mysterious rear of the will, and insure that it

shall issue in acts of repentance; of faith in Christ, of supreme love for

God, of delight in holiness. The reality of the transformation is seen in the

new aims, the new joys, the new acts of the soul, the new outward form of

life, the new spiritual discernment of the spiritual and unseen, the new

hidden secret which no words can reveal, the new absorption in Christ.




a life of sin, the regenerate life of the Christian on earth is a new creation

(II Corinthians 5:17), he is “another man;” and likewise, relatively to the

imperfect, struggling life we spend on earth, that which awaits us beyond

is a new creation.  “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth:  and

the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind.”  (Isaiah 65:17)

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of

man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

(I Corinthians 2:9)  When the full stature of a man in Christ is attained, and

becomes clothed upon with a body “like unto His own glorious body,” then

may it be most truly said of each, he is “turned into a new man.” How unlike

our former selves will be that perfectly holy, tearless, strong, joyous, unwearied

life, exercised in a “spiritual body,” created in special adaptation for the new

activities and joys of the kingdom of heaven.





Ø      Reflect on what the world may lose by careless disregard in our social

life of the adaptation of circumstances to aptitudes and abilities.


Ø      With so lofty a destiny before us as Christians, the inquiry should arise,

how it is that we are so little affected by the prospect, and by what means

we can more fully live under the inspiring “powers of the world to



7 “And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as

occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.”  Do as occasion serve thee.

Literally, “do for thyself as thy hand shall find,” i.e. follow the lead of

circumstances, and do thy best. This is the flood time of thy fortunes;

press onward, and the kingdom is thine own, for God is with thee, and

success is sure.



Limitations of Prerogative (v. 7)


Saul was told that when the promised “signs” came upon him he might do

as occasion required, and for the assigned reason that God was with him

(v. 7). This great freedom immediately receives a limitation in the

command to wait at Gilgal till Samuel came and offered sacrifice, and gave

further instructions. The royal prerogative was to be exercised under

limitations. Here the question of civil and spiritual power is brought into

distinct concrete form as the natural outcome of Israel’s history. The

analogy between Israel and all other nations cannot be established in detail

with respect to this question; but, nevertheless, there are a few truths of

general application illustrated in the restrictions put by the prophet of God

on the actions of Israel’s king.



SPIRITUAL. There is a difference between the immediate concern of a

government — namely, with protection of life and property, the repression

of crime; scope for the free action of citizens, and for the development of

national resources — and the ultimate end for which Providence designs it

and all other institutions. Man’s body exists for his spirit. Society, in the

mind of God, exists for the spiritual welfare of individuals. There is an

evolution progressing towards A WORLDWIDE RIGHTEOUSNESS and

governments are one of the agencies which are to subserve this issue.

Attention to the material and intellectual interests of a people may be to

rulers an end in itself, but not to God. Governments may subserve this

spiritual end without consciously entering into questions pertaining to its

nature and varied means for securing it. A faithful discharge of definite

functions, on approved principles, cannot but help on the purpose for

which GOD IS HIMSELF governing mankind.




Samuel was the representative of the spiritual power. He had authority to

assert the Messianic truth, to educate the people in harmony with that

truth, and to demand that the king should govern in such a way as to allow

free scope to the spiritual work. He and the religious community were one

in this respect. And the living Church of Christ is the assertor of Messianic

truth — claiming to hold what Christ has given, pointing to the spiritual

reign of Christ over every heart and home as the goal of all effort and the

hope of the world; and the witness bearer, calling upon rulers to observe in

their administration the principles of righteousness, truth, and benevolent

regard, which God alone will honor with His blessing.



THE WITNESS BEARING OF THE CHURCH. Saul was bound, morally,

and as a condition of stability to his throne, to recognize Samuel in his

capacity as prophet of God, working, with all the devout, for Messianic

purposes. He must not ignore the spiritual power, and thus dishonor God

(v. 8; compare ch. 13:8-10); nor must he claim its functions. His

duty lay in administering government on the principles of righteousness,

and so as not to bar the way to the realization of the Messianic purpose.

And knowing as we do that in the truth given by Christ, and borne witness

to by the living Church, there are all the sound principles of human

progress as well as of personal salvation, every government is morally

bound to act on them, and is guilty of fearful presumption if it professes to

supplant them by creations of its own. As surely as decay at the root of a

tree will issue in its fall, so surely will every government perish which acts

on other principles than those asserted by the living Church of God. No

government can successfully wage war with the one living Church, which,

by example, word, and deed, preaches righteousness, and claims the right

to do so.



OWN PROPER FUNCTIONS. Samuel left Saul to “do as occasion” might

“serve” (v. 7). He simply claimed that there was another power in the

development of Israel’s life beside the civil, and that Saul must recognize

this. The exercise of the power had reference to general principles of

conduct, and the securing of Messianic purposes. The Church of Christ is

bound to avoid everything that would be inharmonious with her spiritual

nature and uses.


Ø      To be the educator of the state conscience, and

Ø      to assert her own independence as a spiritual community for spiritual



            are the functions of the Church in relation to the civil power, as illustrated in

the conduct of Samuel, involved in the spiritual nature of Christ’s body, and

confirmed by the adversities and prosperities of history.  An earnest Church,

solely bent on preaching the gospel, and enforcing it by example, exercises

real power over the destinies of nations,


8 “And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will

come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice

sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come

to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.”  Thou shalt go down before me to

Gilgal. We find in ch. 13:8-13 a meeting at Gilgal so exactly parallel to what is

arranged here that we cannot help looking upon this, again, as a sort of sign to

be fulfilled at a later period. It is no argument against it that Gilgal was the

place where in the meanwhile Saul was solemnly inaugurated king; for he

was appointed in order that he might deliver Israel from the Philistines

(ch. 9:16), and we may feel sure that this grand purpose would

form the subject of conversation between the prophet and the soldier,

either on the house-top or the next morning. In this conversation Gilgal

would be selected as the place where Saul would assemble Israel for the

war of independence (so Rashi and other Jewish interpreters); and so great

an enterprise must necessarily be begun with religious rites, and Saul was

to wait a full week for the prophet’s coming, both to try his faith, which

ought to have been confirmed by the fulfillment of the three appointed

signs, and in order that the war might be undertaken under the same holy

auspices as his own election to the kingdom. The two years’ interval, were

it really so long, would give time for Saul’s character to develop under the

forcing influences of royalty, and it would then be proved, when he felt

himself every inch a king, whether he was still as amenable to the Divine

authority as when he was first summoned from obscurity to mount a kingly

throne. But, really, the words in ch. 13:1 do not justify this conclusion, and

most probably the occurrences mentioned in that chapter followed immediately

upon Saul’s confirmation as king.



Saul Privately Anointed King (ch. 9:26-27- ch. 10:1-8)


“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” (ch. 9:25). “And a bed was spread for Saul on

the roof, and he lay down” (Septuagint, Vulgate). “The roofs in Judaea were flat,

with a parapet around them. To be lodged there was considered an honor.

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:




Ø      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; Leviticus 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:


o        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.

o        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:


o        First, because, of all other, it signifies the greatest glory and excellency.

o        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).


Ø      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

(I Kings 18:19; Psalm 2:12; Hosea 13:3).


Ø      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 (ch. 9:21).

When God has work for a man to do, He has power to dispose and prepare

him to do it.


  • ASSURED OF CONFIRMATORY SIGNS (vs. 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.


Ø      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 (ch. 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.”


Ø      Second sign his royalty was an honor shared with God, and held in

subordination to Him (vs. 3-4). 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” (I Peter 2:17), but the honor which is due to

Himself may not be usurped by man (Matthew 22:21; Acts 12:23).


Ø      Third signhis 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 (speaking

and singing in ecstatic utterances the praises of Jehovah, declaring His

greatness, and His victory over His adversaries), and:


o        He would be imbued with a Divine power. “The Spirit of Jehovah

will come upon thee.”

o        He would catch the spirit of the prophets, and join them in their

ecstatic utterances. “Thou wilt prophesy with them.”

o        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” (v. 9), but the prediction of the prophet

was more completely fulfilled afterwards (v. 10). The fulfillment 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.”


  • ADMONISHED OF FUTURE DUTY (vs. 7-8). In relation to:


Ø      Circumstances. “Do thou what thy hand findeth,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

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.


Ø      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.


Ø      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 center 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

(ch. 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.



Supports to Faith and Duty (vs. 1-8)


The facts are:


1. Samuel privately anoints Saul as the chosen of God.


2. He gives him four signs of the Divine sanction of the act of anointing.


  1. The safety of the asses, and his father’s sorrow.
  2. The spontaneous gift of sacrificial bread near Bethel.
  3. A welcome by the prophets at Gibeah.
  4. An inspiration from God to prophesy.


3. He instructs him on the completion of the signs to act on his own

judgment, with the assurance that God is his helper.


4. He finally directs him to wait at Gilgal for himself, there to receive

further guidance.


The course taken by Samuel was the natural completion of his protracted

interaction  with Saul. The hour had come in which the

symbolism of the recent feast and the foreshadowing of suggestive

language must receive definite form in word and deed. As one chosen of

God to high office in His government of Israel, Saul is anointed with oil;

and Samuel voluntarily gives him what he must have valued above all price,

the kiss of homage and of congratulation, thus indicating his perfect

readiness to fall in with the new order, and his tender interest in the king s

prosperity. A new era of responsibility opened up to Saul. He had to go

forth, believing himself to be God’s chosen servant, ready for the onerous

duties attaching to great honors. But a man could not thus have his faith

taxed without craving for encouragement. There were, in the

circumstances of Israel and of Saul, obvious reasons for this private

announcement and anointing. The deliberate act of such a man as Samuel

must go far to banish doubt. But still human nature needs many supports,

and God is very considerate of our frame. The day might come when

difficulties and disappointments would recall the primary misgivings of the

reality of the Divine call. Hence the provision made by Samuel for the

encouragement of Saul.



TO FAITH AND DUTY. Others have been summoned to a life requiring

strong faith and unfailing courage in duty.


Ø      There is a call to special service. Abraham was called to be a pilgrim in

a strange land, and to thereby secure a seed in whom all should be blessed.

Moses was called to surrender the wealth of Egypt, and to lead God’s

people to freedom. The apostles were bidden to leave house and business

for Christ’s sake. Every true pastor and Christian worker recognizes a

voice which, in commanding separation to his service, puts honor on the

servant. The instrument by which each is called may be human, as truly as

it was a human hand and voice that set apart Saul. The evidence of the call

may be clear. But tedious toils have to be borne. Events will not realize the

expectations of a too sanguine temperament. Abraham needed the support

of occasional manifestations, as well as of fulfilled predictions. Moses

could not go without “signs.” Christ promised proofs that He was sending

forth His disciples.


Ø      There is a call to Christian life. This is the most blessed summons to

privilege, honor, and obligation. The call to Christian life is endless in its

form and manner and seasons. It may come in infancy, when we are

unconsciously made new creatures in Christ; or in mature years, by the

preacher’s voice, the written word, the loss of friends, and the adversities

of life, or the still small voice in the heart. There may be instances in which

it is as clear as was Samuel’s voice and hand to Saul; and a wonder and

sense of unworthiness may arise as sincere and deep as was his. But times

will come when a horror of great darkness falls on the spirit; the difficulties

of one’s path will raise the question as to the reality of that call which once

seemed so clear, and the possibility of maintaining the distinct line of duty

once entered on. A man cannot find support simply in retrospect of what

was a marked change in his life; he needs something else to convince him

that all is right, that the past change was not an illusion.



ENTIRE NEED. Saul needed to be assured of the fact that it was God,

and not merely man, who appointed him; he had it in the fourfold fulfilled

prediction (vs. 2, 3, 5, 6). He needed the sympathy and concurrence of

the religious portion of Israel; he was assured of it symbolically by the

worshippers spontaneously offering him nourishment. He needed the

cooperation of the most important educators of the age; he was assured of

it in the symbolical welcome given to him by the company of prophets, the

then rising power, which in years hence was to exert so great an influence

on the national life. He needed, moreover, a power and wisdom in excess

of that inherited from his father, and acquired during years of private life;

he had it given when the spirit of the Lord made him another man. Wisely,

therefore, were these arrangements made for the servant of God. They are

beautifully congruous with the position of Saul, and the age in which he

was called to act. An examination of the lives of Abraham, Moses, and the

apostles will show that an equally wise arrangement was made for the

support of their faith and duty. So modern servants of God can point to

promises fulfilled, in a blessing on their toil, as evidence that they were not

mistaken in the call to work; and their once distrustful heart becomes

strong in the consciousness of A POWER not their own! In a different, though

not less real, way the individual Christian finds varied support to his belief

that God has called him into the kingdom, and made him a “king and a

priest”  (Revelation 1:6), as also to his discharge of the duties appropriate

to his high and holy calling.




THE DUTY. When Saul acted on the belief that Samuel was a true

prophet speaking and acting for God, he found all to turn out as he had

been promised. The exercise of such faith as he had, in the first instance,

put him in possession of the supports to faith for future times; and the

discharge of duty, so far as made clear, led to a discovery of the supports

to duty that would be his in the more conspicuous acts of life. So was it

with Abraham, and Moses, and the apostles. Every true servant gets

encouragement, not by waiting, but while “going on his way,” and doing

the deeds appointed. The Saviour said to the palsied, “Put forth thy hand.”

In the attempting of the impossible act the faith came and grew. Faith finds

nourishment for itself, and waxes strong in proportion as it is exercised.





Ø      We may render valuable service by timely sympathy and cooperation

with those called to occupy difficult positions.


Ø      The most unassailable Christian evidence is that to be gained in a life of

entire devotion to Christ.


Ø      Full confirmation of our hopes and beliefs will come in so far as we are

faithful to carry into action what confidence we already have.


9 “And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from

Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to

pass that day.”  God gave him another heart. The Hebrew is remarkable:

“When he turned his shoulder to go from Samuel, God also turned for him

another heart,” i.e. God turned him round by giving him a changed heart.

He grew internally up to the level of his changed circumstances. No longer

had he the feelings of a husbandman, concerned only about corn and cattle;

he had become a statesman, a general, and a prince. No man could have

gone through such marvelous events, and experienced such varied

emotions, without a vast inward change. But it might have been only to

vanity and self-complacency. Saul’s change was into a hero.


10 “And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of

prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he

prophesied among them.  11 And it came to pass, when all that knew him

beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the

people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish?

Is Saul also among the prophets?”  To the hill. Hebrew, “to Gibeah,” his home.

He prophesied. Took part in prophetic exercises (see on v. 5). On seeing

this, the people of Gibeah, who knew him beforetime, — Hebrew, “from

yesterday and the day before,” but equivalent to our phrase “for years,” —

asked in surprise, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? What

makes him thus act in a manner unlike all our long past experience of him?

Is Saul also among the prophets? From this question two things are

evident: the first, that the schools founded by Samuel already held a high

place in the estimation of the Israelites; the second, that Saul had not

shared in that education which so raised the prophets as a class above, the

mass of the people. Probably also Saul’s character was not such as would

have made him care for education. A young man who, while living in his

neighborhood, knew so little about Samuel (ch. 9:6), could not

have had a very inquiring or intellectual frame of mind. Of course Samuel

could not, by gathering young men together, and giving them the best

education the times afforded, gain for them also the highest and rarest of

gifts, that of direct inspiration. Even when Elisha, the friend and attendant

upon Elijah, asked his master for an elder son’s portion of the Divine spirit,

Elijah told him that he had asked a hard thing (II Kings 2:10). The

disparity then that the people remarked between Saul and the prophets was

that between a rich young farmer’s son, who had been brought up at home,

and cared only for rustic things, and these young collegians, who were

enjoying a careful education (compare John 7:15). How good that

education was is proved by the fact that at David’s court all posts which

required literary skill were held by prophets. No man could found schools

of inspired men; but Samuel founded great educational institutions, which

ended by making the Israelites a highly trained and literary people. Saul’s

prophesying was not the result of training, but came to him by a Divine

influence, rousing the slumbering enthusiasm of an energetic but fitful




A Company of Prophets (v. 10)


This is the first mention of “a company (cord, chain, or band) of prophets.”

There were previously individual prophets. And on one occasion

the seventy elders prophesied (Numbers 11:25), and Moses said,

“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord

would put his Spirit upon them.” But until the time of Samuel there was no

association or community, college or school, of prophets.


1. His language shows his intimate relation to this “company,” of which he

was doubtless the founder, and appears subsequently as president (ch. 19:20);

for it is not likely that there were now several such “companies,” as in later times

(I Kings 20:35; II Kings 2:3, 16; 4:38).


2. Its formation was due to a newly awakened religious life among the

people, and intended as a means of deepening and extending it.


3. It arose about the same time as the establishment of the monarchy, and

furnished a regular succession of prophets, by whom the word of the Lord

was spoken for the guidance and restraint of the king. “Samuel saw the

need of providing a new system of training for those who should be his

successors in the prophetic office, and formed into fixed societies the

sharers of the mystic gift, which was plainly capable of cultivation and

enlargement. As it was a leading crisis of the dealings of God with men,

unusual operations of the Spirit marked the time of Samuel; but they were

not confined to him, though he is far the most conspicuous figure”

(‘Heroes of Hebrews Hist.’). Notice their:


  • SPIRITUAL CALLING. They are called prophets with reference to

their vocation or profession. But this was founded upon an individual and

inner call by the Divine Spirit. Dwelling on the high ground of Divine

contemplation, they were often visited by breezes of spiritual influence to

which others were strangers, borne along in an ecstasy beyond their own

control, and impelled to give utterance to the overflowing feeling of their

hearts; and some of their number were chosen by God to be the recipients

of the gift of prophecy in the highest sense. Their calling represents that of

the Christian ministry, and more generally the vocation of all Christians

(Acts 2:17; Ephesians 5:18-19).


  • FRATERNAL UNION. They formed a “company,” a voluntary,

organised society, apparently dwelling together in the same place, and

pursuing the same mode of life. The bond of their union was the common

spirit they possessed; and their association contributed to their preservation

and prosperity, and their power over others. “They presented the unifying,

associative power of the prophetic spirit over against the disruption of the

theocratic life, which was a legacy of the time of the judges” (Erdmann).

Of Christian union the like, and much more, may be said (John 17:21;

Acts 2:46; 4:23).


  • MUSICAL SKILL. “And before them a psaltery (cithara), and a

tabret (tambourine), and a pipe (flute), and a harp (guitar); stringed,

percussion, and wind instruments of music (v. 5; Genesis 4:21; 31:27;

Exodus 15:20). They made a religious use of music, and cultivated it

with great care. It prepared them for high and holy emotion (II Kings

3:15), and gave appropriate expression to it. It strengthened the feeling to

which it gave expression, regulated it, and stirred in others a similar feeling.

Their sacred music was the germ of the splendid choral service of the

temple in subsequent time.


“What passion cannot music raise and quell?

When Jubal struck the chorded shell,

  His listening brethren stood around,

And wonder on their faces fell,

  To worship that celestial sound;

Less than a god they thought there could not dwell

Within the hollow of that shell,

That spoke so sweetly and so well.

What passion cannot music raise and quell?”



  • PROPHETIC UTTERANCE. “And they shall prophesy.” Poetry, like

music, is the natural vehicle of strong emotion. And in it they recited and

sang in an impassioned manner the praises of God, and the wonders which

He had wrought on behalf of His people (I Chronicles 25:1, 3).


  • POPULAR REPUTATION. The manner in which they were spoken of

by the people generally (v. 11) shows the important position they

occupied, and the high estimation in which they were held. When the

professed servants of God are so regarded:


Ø      It is an evidence of their worth and consistency. They commend

themselves to “every man’s conscience.” If, being faithful to their vocation,

they are despised, it only reveals the evil character of their despisers; and it

is not honor, but shame, to be commended by foolish and wicked men

(Luke 6:26).

Ø      It indicates the prevalence of a right sentiment in society.  (Once upon

a time this was characteristic of American citizenry.  CY – 2016)

Ø      It affords a favorable condition of bearing witness for God and

successful spiritual labor.


12 “And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their

father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the

prophets?”  One of the same place i.e. Gibeahanswered and said,

But who is their father? The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read, But

who is his father? But this would be a foolish reply to the question, “What

has happened to the son of Kish?” The meaning rather must be, You ask

about the son of Kish; but what has birth to do with prophecy? None of

these young men have inherited these gifts, and if Saul can take part in

their prophesyings, why should he not? Kish, his father, is no worse than

theirs. Is Saul also among the prophets? Under very different

circumstances Saul once again took part in the exercises of these youthful

prophets (ch. 19:24), and evidently on both occasions with such

skill and success as prove the readiness of his genius; and so struck were

the people at the strange power which he thus evinced, that their

expression of wonder became fixed in the national mind as a proverb. Saul

was a man of great natural ability, and yet not the sort of person whom the

people expected would be made king. He probably could neither read nor

write, and from his extreme height was perhaps awkward and bashful; as

he suffered afterwards from fits of insanity (ch.16:14), he may

always have been flighty and willful; and altogether, though possessed of

marvelous gifts, was certainly the very opposite of Samuel’s well trained

and orderly scholars.


13 “And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high

place.”  He came to the high place. Saul had met the prophets coming

down from the Bamah; but the same religious fervor, which had made him

take so earnest a part in the prophesyings of the young men, urged him

now, after parting from their company, himself to go up to the high place,

there to offer his prayers and praises to God.



Saul Among the Prophets (vs. 11-13)


“Is Saul also among the prophets?” Of the three signs of which Saul was

assured, the occurrence of the last alone is particularly described. “And the

Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” “Turned

into another man” (v. 6). It was “the most important for his inner life.”

“Through this sign his anointing as king was to be inwardly sealed.” In

what is here recorded we see an instance of:


  • SURPRISING TRANSFORMATION. The question was mainly one of

surprise. The change was:


Ø      Sudden. In what are called “sudden conversions,” indeed, there is often a

secret preparation of mind and heart. Even in the case of Saul the surprise

would not have been so great if his recent interview with Samuel and its

effect upon him had been known.


Ø      In extraordinary contrast to his previous life, wherein he had exhibited

little interest in or aptitude for spiritual exercises. Four or five days ago

among them wholly occupied with the care of oxen and asses — dull,

moody, and silent; now in a transport of religious emotion, and “speaking

in a new tongue!”


Ø      Supernatural. It was plainly due to the “Spirit of God,” i.e. (in the

Hebrew conception) the direct, invisible, operative energy of God, whether

put forth in nature or in man, in imparting mental or physical force for

great enterprises, in promoting moral improvement, in producing exalted

states of feeling, or in acts of the highest inspiration (Genesis 1:2;

Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges 13:25; II Samuel 23:2;

Isaiah 11:2); and (according to the fuller revelation of the New

Testament) the holy, personal, Divine Spirit of God and of Christ. The

expression (here used in this book for the first time) is not employed with

respect to Samuel, whose relations with God is represented as more

voluntary, self conscious, intimate, and continuous than that which it here



  • SYMPATHETIC ENTHUSIASM. Saul was drawn into sympathy with

the Divine enthusiasm of the “company of prophets.”


Ø      The links which unite men are secret, subtle, and mysterious, and the

influence which some men exert over others is extraordinary.


Ø      Human influence is a common condition of Divine.


Ø      The contagious power of strong emotion is often seen in religious

revivals, and to some extent also in other public movements. “Ecstatic

states have something infectious about them. The excitement spreads

involuntarily, as in the American revivals and the preaching mania in

Sweden, even to persons in whose state of mind there is no affinity to

anything of the kind” (Tholuck). “As one coal kindles another, so it

happens that where good is taught and heard hearts do not remain

unmoved — Acts 16:13-14” (Hall).


  • SPIRITUAL ENDOWMENT. “And one of the same place

answered,” in reply to the question (asked somewhat contemptuously and

skeptically), “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also” (whose

relationship and antecedents are so different) “among the prophets? and

said, But who is their father?” “Who is he that teacheth these prophets, and

causeth the spirit of prophecy to rest on them? Nor is there any cause for

astonishment in this; for the same holy, blessed One who teacheth these

prophets teacheth also this one” (Kimchi). “Prophetical perfection is not a

matter that is conveyed from father to son. Under these circumstances the

son may be a prophet, though the father is not so” (R. Levi Ben Gersom)


Ø      Spiritual gifts are not the result of natural relationship.


Ø      They are due to the free and sovereign operation of the Divine Spirit,

“dividing to every man severally as He will.”  (I Corinthians 12:11)


Ø      When they are bestowed on ourselves they should be received with

humility, and when they are observed in others they should be regarded

without envy, and with admiration and thankfulness.


·         PARTIAL CONVERSION. “And when he had made an end of

prophesying, he came to the high place” (v. 13). His inspiration was

transitory, and the change which he had undergone, great as it was, and in

the direction of a renewal of his heart in righteousness, did not involve

such renewal. “This transformation is not to be regarded as regeneration in

the Christian sense, but as a change resembling regeneration which affected

the entire disposition of mind, and by which Saul was lifted out of his

former modes of thought and feeling, which were confined within a

narrow, earthly sphere, into a far higher sphere of his new royal calling,

was filled with kingly thoughts in relation to the service of God, and

received another heart — v. 9” (Keil).


Ø      Great spiritual gifts may be possessed without the possession of a new

heart (Numbers 23:35; 31:8; Matthew 7:22; I Corinthians 13:2).


Ø      There may be considerable moral reformation, much spiritual feeling,

correct orthodox beliefs, outward profession of piety, and strict observance

of religious ordinances, whilst the supreme affection or ruling purpose of

the soul remains unchanged (Matthew 13.).


Ø      A real renewal of the heart is manifested by its permanent fruits

(Matthew 7:20; John 15:16; Hebrews 3:14). “If Samuel is the

great example of an ancient saint growing up from childhood to old age

without a sudden conversion, Saul is the first direct example of the mixed

character often produced by such a conversion He became ‘another man,’

yet not entirely. He was, as is so often the case, half converted, half roused

His religion was never blended with his moral nature” (Stanley)


“Let not the people be too swift to judge;

As one who reckons on the blades in field

Or e’er the crop be ripe. For I have seen

The thorn frown rudely all the winter long,

And after bear the rose upon its top;

And bark, that all her way across the sea

Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last

E’en in the haven’s mouth. Seeing one steal,

Another bring his offering to the priest,

Let not Dame Birtha and Sir Martin thence

Into Heaven’s counsels deem that they can pry;

For one of these may rise, the other fall”

(Dante, Par. 13.).


14 “And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went

ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they

were no where, we came to Samuel.  15 And Saul’s uncle said, Tell me,

I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.  16  And Saul said unto his uncle,

He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom,

whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.”  Saul’s uncle. According to ch. 14:50-51;

I Chronicles 8:33, this would be Abner. The conversation probably took

place after Saul had returned from the Bamah and gone to his own home,

for in so brief a summary much necessarily is omitted. It is curious that the

conversation should have taken place with the uncle, and not with the

father; but possibly the latter was too well pleased to have his son back

again to be very particular in his inquiries. Not so Abner. He was evidently

excited by his nephew s visit to the prophet, and struck perhaps by the

change in Saul himself, and would gladly have heard more. But Saul does

not gratify his curiosity. Of the matter of the kingdom… he told him

not. It was not merely prudent, but right to keep the matter secret. An able

man like Abner would probably have begun to scheme for so great an end.

Saul s silence left the fulfillment of the prophet’s words entirely to God.



Wise Reticence (v. 16)


The notice taken of an inquiry by Saul’s uncle is evidently for the purpose

of bringing in bold relief Saul’s wisdom in being reticent on the important

matters concerning the kingdom. It is probable that the bearing of Saul

indicated that something unusual had transpired, and the prophesying

would only confirm the suspicion. Saul’s replies do not make clear whether

the uncle was designedly prying into what he knew were secrets, or was

simply seeking general information. But in either case Saul formed a proper

estimate of his own position, and manifested a proper reserve.



“There is a time to speak, and a time to be silent.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Reticence, however, is more than silence; it is deliberate silence where

speech is possible and sought. It may be considered with reference to:


Ø      Its source. In every case its source is in the will acting freely in the form

of a negative judgment. But still this judgment may in some persons be

connected more with temperament than with an enlightened estimate of

what is proper. The wise reticence is that which comes from a just estimate

of what is due to the occasion and the subject matter.


Ø      Its proper subject matter. This must be determined by a calm judgment

on the right of others to know what we know, and the utility of unveiling

our knowledge. But taking a general view of human life, we may say that

reticence is due to:


o        Our deepest religious experience. There are depths in the soul which

no eye but God’s can penetrate, and there are experiences there so

sacred, tender, and awful that it would be a species of profanity to

endeavor to unfold them in form of speech. If, for purpose of seeking

assistance, reference is made to secret experiences, the surface only is

to be touched.  No one who reveres the sacredness of religious life

will attempt to pry into what is secret between the soul and God,

or to probe wounds which “shame would hide.”


o        Private and domestic affairs. There are in every life interests which

belong to no one else; and in home there are solemn secrets on which

the cold, critical eye of the world must not be allowed to gaze. Much

of the sweet, binding influence of home lies in the unforced reticence

of its members.


o        Secrets pertaining to office. Office in Church, State, or commerce

implies knowledge to be used only for specific purposes in relation

thereto.  No one is fit for office who cannot control his tongue and

resist temptation to speak.


Ø      Its value. As a habit of mind, when distinguished from sullen reserve,

the result of mere temperament, it gives power to the possessor. It reveals

a sober, discriminating judgment, a strength of purpose that can resist

inducement, and a profound regard for the sanctities of life. In society it,

wisely exercised, insures confidence, renders transaction of affairs easy,

and promotes respectful, courteous bearing. In religious associations it

tends to reverence, devoutness of spirit, and sincerity.


Ø      Its dangers. It is, if not carefully guarded, likely to degenerate into a

love of secrecy, an unnaturally close, reserved habit of mind. In religious

life its excess may put a check on the free utterance of life’s sorrows and

cares even to God, and also deprive the Church of the benefits of a rich




TRUTHFULNESS. It is possible to state partial truth in such a way as

virtually to lie, and to be silent when silence may be designed to convey a

false impression. Saul was truthful in his reticence. He answered questions;

he did not volunteer information. Had he been pressed he most likely

would have declined to answer. Christ was reticent when pressed on the

question of John’s baptism, and when examined by Pilate, but no false

impression was conveyed. In cases of difficulty it is better point blank to

refuse information than incur the risk of suspected falsehood.

Inquisitive men should be plainly rebuked rather than put off with

questionable answers.



Inquisitiveness (vs. 14-16)


Inquiry after truth is a necessary and invaluable exercise. But inquiry, when

it is directed to matters in which we have no proper concern, degenerates

into vain curiosity, or mere inquisitiveness. And this often appears both in

relation to Divine affairs (Genesis 3:6; Deuteronomy 29:29; here ch.6:19;

Luke 13:23; Acts 1:6)and human affairs (John 21:21). Of the latter we have

here an illustration. Saul, having reached his home, was asked by his uncle

concerning his journey and interview with Samuel. “Whither went ye?”

“Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said to you.” This man was doubtless

acquainted with the popular agitation about a king, but what his precise

motives were we are not told. Such inquisitiveness as he displayed:




Ø      An unrestrained desire of knowledge. There must be self-restraint in this

desire, as in every other; else it leads to recklessness, irreverence, and

pride.  “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have

familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter, should not

a people seek unto their God?  for the living to the dead?”  (Isaiah 8:19)


Ø      An unjust disregard of the rights of others. The claims of family

relationship are sometimes exaggerated so as to ignore or interfere with

those rights. It is imagined that they justify the expectation of an answer to

any inquiry, however little it affects the inquirer.


Ø      Uncharitable and suspicious thoughts about the conduct of others,

expressed in impertinent and annoying questions, which naturally cause

resentment and discord. It may be added, that persons who are “busybodies

in other men’s matters” (I Peter 4:15) are seldom so diligent and

faithful in their own as they ought to be. The proper province of every man

affords plenty of scope for his attention and effort (II Thessalonians 3:11;

I Timothy 5:13).




Ø      Out of due regard to higher claims. What Samuel said to Saul was

intended for him alone, and to divulge it would be a breach of duty.


Ø      Lest the information given should be used to the disadvantage of him

who gives it. Who knows how Saul’s uncle would have employed the

knowledge of his having been appointed king by the prophet? He might

have done irreparable mischief. Many excellent projects have been

frustrated by an untimely disclosure of them.


Ø      For the good of the inquirer himself. The gratification of his curiosity

tends to increase his inquisitiveness, the mortification thereof to its cure. It

was for the benefit of the Apostle Peter that the Lord said, “What is that to

thee? Follow thou me.”  (John 21:22)



discreetly, and, more particularly:


Ø      With strict truthfulness. He told us plainly that the asses were found”

(v. 16). Saul spoke the truth, but not the whole truth; nor was he in the

circumstances described under any obligation to do so. “A fool uttereth all

his mind; but a wise man keepeth it till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11).


Ø      With due courtesy. By a blunt refusal and rude repulsion Saul might

have alienated his uncle, and turned him into an enemy. Honour all men.”

“Be courteous.”  (I Peter 2:17; 3:8)


Ø      With few words or resolute silence. “But of the matter of the kingdom

whereof Samuel spake he told him not.” There is a “time to keep silence”

(Ecclesiastes 3:7; Amos 5:13). “Then he (Herod) questioned Him

with many words; but He answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). Our

Lord Himself is thus an example of silence to us when addressed with

questions which it would not be prudent or beneficial to answer. “Silence is





Ø      Check the tendency to curiosity in yourselves, so that it may not be

checked, disappointed, and reproved by others.





17 “And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;”

For the reason why Mizpah (so the name should be spelled) was chosen as the place

of meeting see ch. 7:15. Unto Jehovah.  Because in some way the Divine presence

there was indicated; possibly by the high priest having been summoned thither with

the Urim and Thummim.



The Reasonableness of Incongruities (vs. 9-17)


The facts are:


1. Saul experiences the truth of all that Samuel had told him.

2. Being met by a company of prophets, Saul, under an inspiration from

God, also prophesies.

3. The people remark on the incongruity of Saul’s being among the


4. Saul’s uncle, being too inquisitive in the matter of Samuel’s meeting

with him, is not gratified.


The general reader of the Bible is struck with the incongruity between Saul’s

antecedents and his sudden participation in the gifts of prophecy; and men

generally have sympathized with the surprise which expressed itself in the

proverb, “Is Saul among the prophets?” Too frequently the event here

recorded is left as one of the strange, unaccountable things scattered over

the page of sacred history, furnishing to the mind more of perplexity and

embarrassment than of instruction and aid to faith. It will, however, be found

that in the course of Providence the seeming incongruities play an important

part, that they are not essentially unreasonable, and are all reducible to a

common principle.




definition of incongruity, the thing itself may be found in the form of

conduct, association, relation, and means. Leaving out all instances

resulting from human folly and eccentricity; we may notice a few in the

order of Providence as seen in:


Ø      Conduct. Saul’s is a case in point. He was an instrument in the hand of

God of producing the strange impression indicated by the familiar proverb.

To the Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost there was an

unaccountable incongruity in the speech and bearing of men who, up to

that time, had been timid, obscure followers of the Crucified. Considering

the reputed character of Peter as a rash, impulsive man, it was, in the

judgment of his companions and in the light of his denial, scarcely

congruous to commit to him the “key” of the kingdom. And the joyful

songs which rose from the apostles when in the stocks were strange music

to their warders. Modern history is not without its notable instances.


Ø      Associations. For Saul to be associated with a prophetic order was a

marvel. That a glorious star should lead wise men from afar only to a babe

in a manger, and that the hosts of heaven should sing on the birth of a

helpless child, was an association rare and astonishing. The most

perplexing incongruity to many is that the Eternal One should for a term of

years be in association with a frail body, with all the sorrowful incidents

inseparable therefrom.


Ø      Relations. We find this in Saul’s case; for men can see no congruity

between his ecstatic excitement as prophet and the office of king to which

he was being called. The relation of John the Baptist, an austere,

unsociable ascetic, as forerunner to the mild, approachable Christ, struck

men as remarkable, and needed the vindication that “wisdom is justified of

her children” (Matthew 11:16-19). It also occurred to John as a most

incongruous thing that he should have to baptize the holy Saviour

(ibid. ch. 3:13-15).


Ø      Means. As a means of qualifying Saul for the discharge of kingly

functions this prophetic excitement seemed to be most unsuitable. So,

likewise, to many there is no propriety in the uplifting of a brazen serpent

as a means of restoring health to the poisoned. (I highly recommend


SERPENT – #6 - this web site – CY – 2016)  Naaman could not think the

Jordan better than the rivers of his own country. The cross of Christ was

despised by the Greeks as foolishness — a most incongruous means for the

subjugation of the world to Him who died thereon.




incongruous only which is not understood. “Things are not what they

seem.” Our surprises and astonishments are often the index of our lack of

knowledge. It may not be possible in every instance to find a complete

solution, but some clue may be found if we will consider all the events of

Providence as interrelated, and throwing light on one another. The

reasonableness of incongruities may be illustrated by taking as a typical

instance the conduct of Saul. The appearance of a prophetic order at that

juncture, under the direction of Samuel, was a necessary feature in the

moral elevation of the people. The stagnant indifference of men could be

best aroused by urgent zeal. The reasonableness of Saul’s excitement

resolves itself into that of the order. We are to remember that a coming

good in Messiah’s reign was the hope of the true Israel. In so far as their

conviction was deep, and was attended by a corresponding pity for present

degradation, it, when full of the spirit, would not unnaturally produce an

excitement proportionate to the susceptibility of the temperament and the

external occasion, and the utterance of the truth would be measured by the

degree of excitement. Therefore the educational value of these men was

great, and they were obedient, in their extravagance, to the laws of mind

and the urgency of religions conviction. Now it was reasonable for Saul to

share in this gift:


Ø      For the people. It would call their attention to him, and prepare them for

the subsequent action of Samuel.


Ø      For Saul himself. He was to be king, and the people imagined that their

king would be after the pattern of other kings. But Israel’s king must rule

in harmony with the spiritual destiny of the nation. He must be in

sympathy with prophets.  (There is quite an incongruity here with the

present leadership of the United States  - CY – 2016)


Ø      For the order of prophets. This order was one of the great powers in

fashioning the future of the people of God. It therefore was interested in

the character and aspirations of whatever king might be chosen. Saul’s

endowment with their own gift would assure them that he was worthy of

their support, and would not be as the kings of the nations. The incongruity

was most reasonable.




WHICH THE EVENT IS BUT ONE. Saul’s conduct, regarded in relation

to the antecedents of Israel’s life, and the gradual preparation of the world

for Christ, stands out as most fit and useful; therefore, natural. No one can

rightly judge of Scriptural events who does not consider the course of

Providence as a development from the imperfect to the more perfect. The

place and power of every molecule in the universe are relative to the

antecedent and subsequent movements of the whole. Astronomers have

met with perturbations and irregularities which seemed incongruous with

all they knew, but in time they discovered the place of these so called

irregularities in the mechanism of the heavens, and they became at once

beautiful regularities. The issue of redemptive methods will throw light on

the process.




Ø      The most unlikely of men may be called to do God’s will in forms

unlooked for.


Ø      The varied gifts requisite to an office will be forthcoming to all whom

God calls to the office.


Ø      We should be careful to keep our mind free from prejudice against

methods which, though unusual, may be of God.


Ø      A deep and patient study of the Bible as a whole is the only means of

learning the beauty and harmony of His ways.


Ø      A true philosophy will induce us to suspend our judgment on some

subjects until we can see more clearly the relation of the past to

the future.


18 “And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,

I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the

Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed

you:”  And said... Samuel first points out in his address to the assembled people

that Jehovah  always had done for them the very thing for which they desired a

king. They wished  for deliverance from the Philistines, and Jehovah had delivered

them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms that

oppressed them (the Authorized Version wrongly inserts “and of them”). But their

deliverance by Jehovah had been made dependent upon their own conduct; they

were required to repent them of their sins, and purge the land from idolatry,

before  victory could be theirs. What they wanted was national independence

freed from this condition (just as secular America wants peace without morality

CY – 2016), and secured by an organization of their military resources.


19 “And ye have this day rejected your God, who Himself saved you

out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said

unto Him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present

yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.

20  And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near,

the tribe of Benjamin was taken.”  Samuel, therefore, protests unto them,

Ye have this day rejected your God, because what you want is a divorce of

your national well being from religion. Nevertheless, God granted their request,

it being a law of His providence to leave men free to choose. The king was,

however, to be appointed by him, the selection being by lot. By your

thousands. The natural subdivision of a tribe is into families; but when

Moses distributed the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens

(Exodus 18:25), the numerical arrangement was probably made to yield

as far as possible to the natural, so that about a thousand men more or less

of the same kin should be classed as a family. Hence the terms are

synonymous here, and in Numbers 1:16; 10:4; Joshua 22:14, etc.


21  When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their

families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish

was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.”

The family of Matri, or of the Matrites. Matri is not

mentioned anywhere else; and numerous as are the omissions in the

genealogies, we can scarcely suppose that the name of the head of one of

the main subdivisions of a tribe could be passed over. The conjecture,

therefore, is probable that Matri is a corruption of Bikri, i.e. a descendant

of Becher, for whom see I Chronicles 7:8. After the lot had fallen upon

this family they would next cast lots upon its smaller subdivisions, as in

Joshua 7:17-18, until at last they came to households, when first Kish,

and finally Saul was taken. The latter, foreseeing that this would happen,

had concealed himself. For though a noble change had taken place in him

(v. 9), yet no really worthy man was ever promoted to high office

without having to overcome his own unwillingness, and no one probably

ever worthily discharged solemn duties without having felt oppressed and

humbled with the consciousness of his own unfitness to undertake them.

As a matter of fact, Saul was now called to a most weighty responsibility,

and he failed and was rejected, though not without proving that he was a

man of extraordinary genius and power. And it never can be said of him

that presumption was the cause of his fall, or that he hastily undertook

serious duties in the spirit of light-hearted levity.


22 “Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should

yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold he hath hid himself

among the stuff.” They inquired of Jehovah further, if the man should yet

come thither. More correctly, “Is any one as yet come hither?” The

Septuagint and Vulgate translate as if there were an article before “any

one” (Hebrew, a man), and give, “Is the man coming hither?” But the

Hebrew text is the more satisfactory. For the object of the inquiry, made by

the Urim and Thummim, was to find Saul, wherever he might be; and the

enigmatical way of putting the question, Is any one as yet come? was

regarded as more reverential than asking directly, Is Saul come? Among

the stuff. I.e. the baggage, as in ch.17:22, where it is translated

“carriage.” The people, collected from all Israel, would come with wagons

and provisions, and such arms as they could procure; for very probably the

Philistines would interrupt such a meeting, as they had that convened

formerly by Samuel (ch.7:7). Naturally, therefore, they would

follow the regulations of an army, and so arrange their baggage as to form

a place of defense in case of attack. See on ch. 17:20.


23 “And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among

the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders

and upward.  24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom

the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?

And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.”  And when he stood.

This rendering spoils the poetic force of the original, where the rapidity of their

action is expressed by three preterites following hard upon one another. The

Hebrew is, “And they ran, and took him thence, and he stood forth (see ch. 12:7)

among the people, and he was taller,” etc. And now Samuel presents him to the

multitude as “the chosen of Jehovah,” and the people shout their assent by

saying, “Let the king live.” For this the Authorized Version puts our English

phrase, but the Hebrew exactly answers to the French Vive le roi!  “Long

live the king.”



God Save the King (v. 24)


For the first time in the history of Israel there now arose the cry of “Long

live the king” (Vive le roi), which was to be so often repeated in

subsequent ages (II Samuel 16:16; 11:12). The nations of the earth have since

undergone vast and varied changes. Great empires have arisen and disappeared.

The theocratic kingdom of Israel, in its outward form, has long ago passed away;

and the kingdom of Christ, in which its spiritual idea has been realized, has grown

up amidst the kingdoms of the world. But the old acclamation is still often heard

at the accession of a monarch, and in it Christians as well as others may and

ought to join. The acclamation is expressive of:




Ø      As appointed by Divine providence. The invisible and eternal Ruler of

the universe is the Source of all law and order, and is everworking in the

world for the purpose of bringing out of the evil and confusion that prevail

a state of things in which “righteousness, peace, and joy” shall abound.

And in connection with and subserviency to this design He has ordained

civil government (Daniel 4:32; John 19:11). “The powers that be

are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), i.e. human government generally

is appointed by Him, although no judgment is expressed by the apostle

concerning the Divine right of any one form of government or particular

office beyond others. When a ruler is directly chosen by the people he is

still a “minister of God.”


Ø      As representing the supreme authority and power of “the Most High,

who ruleth in the kingdom of men.” There is in every government an

element which is Divine; a reflection, however dim and distorted, of that

Divine power which is above all. But that government is most Divine

which is the fairest exhibition of wisdom and truth, righteousness and

justice, mercy and loving kindness;” “for in these things I delight, saith the

Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24). “By me (wisdom) kings reign and princes

decree justice” (Proverbs 8:15). Reverence for God should be

expressed in giving honor to those who, in their high office, represent

God, and “to whom honour is due.” “Fear God. Honour the king. Submit

yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to

the king as supreme,” etc. (I Peter 2:13-14, 17) — supreme, i.e., not in all

things, but in those over which he has legitimate authority. In a theocracy,

where the laws of God were identical with those of the state, the sphere

over which that authority extended was larger than that which properly

belongs to any existing government.


Ø      As ministering to human good. Even the absolute rule of a Caesar or a

Czar is unspeakably better than anarchy. “He is a minister of God to thee

for good” (Romans 13:4). He exists for the good of the community;

and although the good which he is able to effect and ought to aim at is

necessarily limited, he “does not bear the sword in vain.” He bears it for

the protection of the good against the bad. And under his sway, when he

uses his power aright, his subjects are able to “lead a peaceable and quiet

life, in all godliness and gravity.” (I Timothy 2:2)


  • FERVENT DESIRE FOR HIS WELFARE. “May the king prosper”



Ø      The preservation of his life, which is of great importance to the well

being of the nation, and is often exposed to imminent danger from the

exalted position he occupies.


Ø      The possession of strength and wisdom, justice and the fear of God

(II Samuel 23:3). Adequate sympathy is not always felt with “kings and

those who are in authority” in their arduous duties and extraordinary



Ø      The prosperity of his reign. The desire thus felt should be expressed in

prayer to the supreme Ruler and the Giver of every good and perfect gift

(I Timothy 2:1-2). “We (Christians) do intercede for all our emperors

without ceasing, that their lives may be prolonged, their government

secured to them, their families preserved in safety, their armies brave, their

senates faithful to them, the people virtuous, and the whole empire at

peace, and for whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish”

(Tertullian, ‘Apology,’ ch. 30.).




Ø      Personal obedience to its laws. “Put them in mind to be subject to

principalities and powers, to obey magistrates” (Titus 3:1). “Ye must

needs be subject.” (Acts 4:19; 5:29; Matthew 22:21.)


Ø      Strenuous opposition to its enemies.


Ø      Faithful endeavour to promote its efficiency and prosperity. This is

plainly our duty as citizens; and whilst, under the protection afforded us,

we also seek as Christians in various ways to extend the kingdom of Christ,

we thereby make the work of good government easier, and secure the

wisest and most just and honorable men for its accomplishment. So far

from being contrary to each other, the Christian religion and civil

government are mutually helpful, and each has its part under Divine

providence, the one more and the other less directly, in bringing about the

time when “the people shall be all righteous.”


“When all men’s good (shall)

Be each man’s rule, and universal peace

Lie likes shaft of light across the land,

And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,

Through all the circle of the Golden Year”






                     UPON SAUL’S ELECTION (vs. 25-27).


25 “Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and

wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel

sent all the people away, every man to his house.”  The manner. The difficult

word already discussed in ch. 2:13; 8:11. Here, however, it is not used for rights

so exercised as to become wrongs, but in a good sense, for what we should call a

constitution. The heathen kings were despots, subject to no higher law, and

Samuel, in ch. 8:11-18, speaks with merited abhorrence of their

violation of the natural rights of their subjects; but under the theocracy the

king’s power was limited by laws which protected, in the enjoyment of

their privileges, the people, the priests, and the prophets. The latter class

especially, as being the mouthpiece of Jehovah, formed a powerful check

upon the development of despotic tendencies. In sketching Saul’s kingly

rights Samuel would be guided by Deuteronomy 17:14-20, and would

give the king his true position as the representative of Jehovah both in all

matters of internal administration and of war. And laid it up before

Jehovah. Probably by the side of the ark. We are not to suppose that

Samuel wrote this at Mizpah. He would fully explain to Saul and the

people there what a theocratic king ought to be, and would afterwards

draw up a formal document both as a memorial of what had been done,

and for the use of future sovereigns, and place it within the sanctuary. It is

noteworthy that this is the first notice of writing since the days of the

illustrious scribe Eleazar.



Casting the Lot in Life (vs. 17-25)


The facts are:


1. Samuel, in calling the people together to exercise their choice, reminds

them of their sin.

2. Proceeding to a choice by lot, Saul is taken.

3. For reasons secret to himself, Saul is not forthcoming when sought.

4. By acclamation the people recognize him as their king, and thereupon

receive from Samuel instructions relating to the new form of government.

During the meetings of Samuel with Saul the people were waiting for the

fulfillment of the promise implied in the prophet’s words  (ch. 8:10).


In this section we have the consummation of their desire for change

in the form of government. Its details are essentially Hebrew, but its

teaching is worldwide.




CONSIDERING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. The self-willed character of

Israel’s conduct had been emphatically marked and denounced by the

prophet in the first instance (ch. 8:6-10). Had they received his

rebuke in a becoming spirit, they would, during the interim, have repented

of their decision, and have entreated that the old order might continue until

such time as it might please God to alter it. Sometimes, as here, God takes

men at their word, and yet, before an irreversible committal to their choice

is made, another chance is given to retreat if they so willed. It was thus that

Pharaoh was dealt with when it was in his mind to prefer self-will to the

will of God. Nineveh had an opportunity of persisting in sin or turning

from it. To erring Christians in Asia a chance of retracing their steps was

given (Revelation 2:21). Providence raises up for us all some voice or

circumstance which, before a final step is taken, sounds the last warning,

and creates a definite consciousness of unfettered responsibility.




The reference to God’s all-sufficing care in the past, and the magnitude of

the deliverances effected (vs. 18-19), was both a justification of

Samuel’s former remonstrance, and a new demonstration of the sinful folly

of the resolve to have a king. It was considerate on the part of Samuel to

draw their attention to the past before translating their resolve into

accomplished fact; for in the impetuosity of life the will is apt to be misled

by delusive reasons, which in calmer moments vanish before the light of

history. The axiom that God’s way and time are best shines in full luster

whenever we consider the works He has wrought. If ever blind self-will

urges on to a course agreeable to taste, and apparently sustained by reason,

we cannot do better than take a survey of what God has done for us when

we were obedient to His will. There are deliverances in the life of every

one, and a quiet reflection of these when we are under the .temptation to

embark on some questionable career will prove a wholesome check, at

least it will vindicate the ways of God when judgment overtakes our folly.




is one thing, to select one another. In Israel there were diversities of

opinion concerning the qualities requisite to their regal representative. As

they took their own way in having a monarch, there was a fitness in his

being, with respect to culture, morality, patriotism, and religion, an

embodiment of the average attainments of the nation. The choice was

thrown upon the people as a whole, and they were conscious of the

difficulty. Sinners must take the consequences of self-will, as did Balaam

when his path was hedged with obstacles, and Jonah when he preferred to

go to sea. The difficulty in the case of Israel was incidental, and soon removed

by the mercy of God; but the principle holds good that the very first step of

a self-willed course is attended with embarrassment. ALL NATURE IS AT

WAR WITH WRONG!   Sin is a condition of DISORGANIZATION!




TO THE END IN VIEW. Although the difficulty of finding a king truly

representative of the age was self-created, God permitted action in

reference to it as truly as though He had originated the resolve for a king;

and under such circumstances, guided by Samuel, the wisest means were

adopted for overcoming the difficulties of the case. As the nation willed a

king, every one had equal choice, and was, theoretically, in the absence of

precedents, equally eligible. Abstractedly there was as much reason against

one being chosen as against another. The jealousies and envies consequent

on a preferential choice might prove a source of perpetual intrigue. The

“lot” was believed to meet these requirements of the case, and therefore

was adopted. In this particular the conduct of Israel under Samuel’s

guidance is worthy of imitation in many seasons of difficulty independent

of self-will. In every life there are emergencies when men are at their

WIT’S END!  Home has to be provided for, business improved, sons placed

out in the world, embarrassments in the Church removed. Our wisdom lies in

considering all the facts, and then deliberately adopting those means which

seem to us to be most suited for the occasion. And if, in a spirit of prayer,

we are able to consult the “lively oracles,” there is no doubt that in the

main the right steps will be taken, as in the case of the disciples (Acts

1:13-26). We in our way “cast the lot” when we take a choice of possible

means and commit our way to the Lord.





Israel’s use of the “lot” as just to a community where political equality was

recognized, and as least likely to engender jealousies and strifes; and

because He approved, and because the people believed that, though the lot

was “cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord”

(Proverbs 16:33), He graciously so controlled the intricacies of the free

actions of men as to insure the result which, in relation to Israel’s conduct

and aspirations, was best. The deep conviction dwelt even in the heart of

imperfect Israel that God exercises complete and constant control over all

the subtle and intricate actions and movements of men. When it is said of

Christ that He is “Lord of all,” the language is not that of courtesy, but of

fact. It means power to act, to direct, to control. If there is any sense in

Scripture on this subject, and any congruity in our primary notions of the

almighty; ever present, free, living God, we must believe that He can and

does hold a mastery over every atom, every resolve, in all time and

circumstances. UNBELIEF in His supremacy over will and action and matter

and force IS MOST IRRATIONAL!   The real energy of God is the most

philosophical of all beliefs; and therefore we see that He can direct the “lot”

while allowing fullest, most conscious freedom. Let men but have faith in

God. This is the great lack. “O ye of little faith!” (Matthew 8:26)




OF HIS WILL. In the shout, “God save the king,” the people no doubt

expressed their gratification in seeing their self-will realized; but blended

with this there was a distinct recognition of God as the Disposer of the lot.

Saul’s self-concealment seems to indicate that his sense of responsibility,

and perhaps feeling of awkwardness in handling public affairs, may have

moderated his joy, yet he must have felt that God’s will was being done as

well as man’s. Realized preference may carry its own chastisement with it;

yet in so far as God has enabled us to obtain something better than would

have been possible had we been left alone without His kind control, we may

heartily rejoice. Leaving out the weakness and sin of man in this

transaction, are we not reminded of a time when the true King, the King of

the spiritual Israel, shall be welcomed with a joy unspeakable? The “King

in his beauty” shall be glorified in all who believe, and by every heart and

tongue of the purified, perfected kingdom.  (Isaiah 33:17)



Saul Publicly Chosen (vs. 17-25)


There are critical days in the history of nations as well as in the life of

individuals. One of these days in the history of Israel was that which is here

described. What had taken place hitherto was only private and preparatory.

The people themselves must now take their part in relation to the choice of

a king; yet in such a way as to recognize the fact that he was really chosen

by God, “the only difference between God’s appointment of the judges and

Saul being this, that they were chosen by internal influence; he by lots, or

external designation” (Warburton). For this purpose Samuel summoned a

national assembly to Mizpah, the site of an altar to Jehovah, and the scene

of signal victory over the Philistines (ch. 7.). Thither the chief men of the

tribes repaired in great numbers, and, collecting their traveling baggage in

one place (v. 22), presented themselves before him for his instructions.

He was desirous of correcting the wrong state of mind which they had

exhibited in requesting a king; of showing them that Saul was appointed by

the Lord, and not by himself merely (ch. 8:5); of securing their

united and hearty acceptance of “him whom the Lord chose,” so that the

purpose of his appointment might be effected; and of guarding as far as

possible against the abuse of the royal power. With these ends in view he

spoke and acted on that eventful day. The choice of Saul was:




Ø      Based upon the gracious help which their Divine Ruler had afforded

them. He brought them out of Egypt, delivered them from the hand of

Pharaoh and his hosts, and saved them from all who afterwards fought

against them and oppressed them. Remembrance of the compassion,

faithfulness, and aid of God, so great, so long continued, and so effectual,

should lead men to cleave to Him with all their heart (Joshua 23:11), even

more than fear of the consequences of disobedience (ch.8:11). The goodness

of God, as displayed in “His wonderful works to the children of men,”

(Psalm 107:8,15,21) is the mightiest incentive to repentance of sin and

the practice of righteousness.


Ø      Consisting of a charge of flagrant disloyalty. “And ye have this day

rejected your God,” etc. Their conduct was unreasonable, inasmuch as no

other could do for them what He had done; ungrateful, viewed in the light

of the past; and willful, because, in spite of expostulation, they had said,

“Nay, but a king thou shalt set over us” (v. 19). It was, therefore,

inexcusable, and deserving of severest reprobation. And it must be plainly

set before them, that they might be convinced of their guilt, humble

themselves before the Lord, and seek His pardon. “Therefore will the Lord

wait, that He may be gracious unto you” (Isaiah 30:18). “The Lord will

not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (ch. 12:22).


Ø      Associated with instruction concerning the proper course they should

pursue. “And now present yourselves before the Lord,” etc., at His altar,

where your relation to Him may be set right, and His guidance may be

afforded. Although sinful requests may be granted by God, yet the spirit in

which they are made must be renounced. And the ready submission of the

people to the direction of Samuel shows that his reproof was not without




(vs. 20-22).


Ø      He determined, by means of the sacred lot, who should be their king. As

the result of the lot was regarded as a Divine decision, not only was Saul to

be accredited by this act in the sight of the whole nation as the king

appointed by the Lord, but he himself was also to be more fully assured of

the certainty of his own election on the part of God” (Keil). “The lot is cast

into the lap (bosom of a garment), but from Jehovah is all its decision”

(judgment) (ch. 14:37; Joshua 7:19; Proverbs 16:33). “A

lot is properly a casual event, purposely applied to the determination of

some doubtful thing. As all contingencies are comprehended by a certain

Divine knowledge, so they are governed by as certain and steady a

providence. God’s hand is as steady as His eye. Now God may be said to

bring the greatest casualties under His providence upon a twofold account:

o        That He directs them to a certain end; and

o        oftentimes to very weighty and great ends” (South, 1:61).


Ø      He indicated, in answer to special inquiry, where he was to be found.

Assured beforehand of what the result would be, and out of the same

diffidence, modesty, and humility as he had previously exhibited (ch. 9:21),

Saul “preferred to be absent when the lots were cast.”  Hence inquiry was

made (apparently by Urim and Thummim) concerning him (ch. 22:10; 23:2),

and the response of the oracle was definite and conclusive. God mercifully

adapts his modes of communication with men to their common modes of

thought, their capacity and need; and those who humbly and sincerely

seek His guidance are not long left in uncertainty. His communications

to men, moreover, carry in themselves the evidence of their Divine origin

to those who truly receive them, and are further verified by the events to

which they lead (v. 23).


Ø      He presented him before them, through His recognized servant, as

chosen by Himself. “See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is

none like him among all the people?” (v. 24). The conduct of Samuel

herein was singularly generous and noble. He did not exhibit the slightest

trace of jealousy or distrust of the king into whose hands his own power as

civil magistrate was just about to be transferred. “No man ever resigned the

first power in the state into other hands with so much courtesy, tenderness,

dignity, and grace.” Having ascertained the will of the Lord concerning His

people, he aimed at nothing else but to carry it into effect.



PEOPLE (vs. 23-24). Although the choice was of God, it was necessary

that it should be recognized and accepted by them; and their approbation

Ø      Accorded with the commendation of Samuel.


Ø      Was influenced by Saul’s outward appearance: “higher than any of the

people from his shoulders upward” — just such a man as they wished “to

go out before them and fight their battles. “


Ø      And was expressed in the acclamation, “God save the king” (literally,

May the king live). The people had now the object of their desire; but the

Divine providence which had guided Saul guided them to the result.

Nations, as well as individuals, are subject to the direction and control of

him “who stilleth the noise of the sea..... and the tumult of the people.”

(Psalm 65:7)  “Every act of every man, however it may have been against

God in intention, falls exactly into the even rhythm of God’s world plan.”



MONARCHY (v. 25). “The manner (mishpat) of the kingdom” — “the

laws and rules by which the kingly government was to be managed”

(Poole), and differs from “the manner (mishpat) of the king” (ch. 8:11);

being designed by the wisdom and forethought of Samuel to guard

against the evils incident to royalty. “Thus under the Divine sanction, and

amidst the despotism of the East, arose the earliest example of a

constitutional monarchy” (Kitto). But there was no stipulation or compact

between the people and the king. His rights and duties were prescribed by

the will of God, whose servant he was. His power was restrained by the

living voice of prophecy, and sometimes justly opposed by the people

themselves (ch. 14:45). “This much, however, is clear upon the

whole, that the king of Israel was not an unlimited monarch, as the

defenders of the Divine right of kings and of the passive obedience of

subjects are wont to represent him” (Michaelis, ‘Laws of Moses,’ 1:286).

The regulations for the monarchy were:


Ø      Founded upon the existing law of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-20),

although, doubtless, not entirely confined to it. The king must not be

ambitious, occupied in military preparations and aggressive wars, vying

with heathen despots, relying on “an arm of flesh” rather than on God. He

must not be given to sensual indulgence, forming a large harem and

luxurious court; nor to the accumulation of wealth, taxing and oppressing

the people for that purpose. But he must make himself familiar with “the

law,” and humbly obey it like his brethren II Kings 11:12). His work

was not to make new laws, but to administer those which Jehovah had

given, and “do all His pleasure.” “Then must he constantly bear in mind that

above him there abides another King — the Eternal; and that only in as far

as he works together with God, and consequently with all spiritual truth,

can any earthly monarch be a king after the heart of the King of kings”

(Ewald). O that Saul had borne these things in mind!


Ø      Expounded in the hearing of the people.


Ø      Recorded and carefully preserved for future reference. “That the law of

the king should not be a dead letter, that royal self-will should be kept

within bounds, was to be the care, not of a representative popular

assembly, but of prophecy, which stood as theocratic watchman by the side

of royalty” (Oehler). —


26 “And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of

men, whose hearts God had touched.  27 But the children of Belial said,

How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought no presents.

But he held his peace.”  Saul did not at once enter upon his duties, but went home

to Gibeah, and there went with him, not a band of men, but the host,

or the force, i.e. those brave men whose hearts God had touched.

Whatever was noble and valiant accompanied him, to take counsel for the

nation’s good; but the children of Belial, i.e. worthless, good for nothing

creatures (see ch. 1:16; 2:12), despised him. In the Authorized Version the

antithesis between the force, the strength and bravery that went with Saul,

and the worthlessness which rejected him, is lost by the mistranslation of

both words. The Septuagint, on the contrary, strengthens it by rendering

“sons of strength” and “pestilent sons.” As there was a garrison in the

district of Gibeah, this proceeding was likely to embroil Saul with the

Philistines, and probably was so intended. They brought him no presents.

Apparently, therefore, the people did bring him presents; and as these

would chiefly consist of food, they would be useful only for maintaining a

body of men. This, too, would scarcely escape the notice of so watchful an

enemy, and yet until Saul smote one of their garrisons they did nothing; but

then, forthwith, they invaded Israel so promptly, and with such

overwhelming numbers, as seems to prove that they had been busily

making preparations meanwhile to maintain their empire. He held his

peace. Literally, “was as one that is deaf.” Had Saul not controlled his

anger, a civil war would have been the result, and the lordly tribes of

Ephraim and Judah might have refused a king chosen from the little tribe of

Benjamin. In fact, Judah never does seem to have given a hearty allegiance

to Saul. The Septuagint, followed by Josephus, offers a not improbable

different reading, which involves but a very slight change in the Hebrew.

Uniting the words with the next chapter, they translate, “And it came to

pass, after about a month, that Nahash the Ammonite,” etc. The Vulgate

has both readings.



Sympathy and Disparagement (vs. 26-27)


The facts are:


1. Saul is followed by a band of men brought into sympathy with him by

the Spirit of God.

2. He is despised by a depraved section of the people.

3. He takes no notice of the disparagement.



in Israel there were men anxious for a king, and pledged to sustain one;

and men, as in all communities, corrupt, unreasonable, prone to disapprove

of anything not done solely by themselves. Equally natural was it that he

who had graciously regulated Israel’s self-will should incline some, by

voluntary personal attendance, to assure the monarch of sympathy in

seeking honorably to discharge the duties of his onerous office. The

principal facts here recorded are of constant recurrence. Chosen ones enter

on grave responsibilities; they need the support which flows from hearty

sympathy; God provides it by His secret action on human hearts; the

entrance on duty renders them objects of criticism, and men of depraved

natures assail them with reproach and abuse; having confidence in their

appointment, they move on, relying on coming events for their self-vindication.




parallel is remarkable in the most prominent features.


Ø      He was the true, perfect, anointed One, chosen of God to rule over the

true Israel, and introduced into publicity by a control of intricacies more

lasting and complicated than those of the lot at Mizpah.


Ø      His rulership was to be coextensive with the whole of God’s people

over a holy nation more complete and united even than was Israel before

the dispersion of the ten tribes; and a rulership conducted on principles of

righteousness more sweeping in their range and fruitful in consequences

than those embodied by Samuel in the book laid up before the Lord (v. 25).


Ø      He, as bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, was in need of the

sympathy of true, loving hearts in bearing the burdens and cares of His

exalted position; and such hearts were drawn to Him both from the human

and the angelic spheres.


Ø      His appearance among men was the occasion of the most severe and

relentless criticism ever issuing from suspicious, captious minds. His social

connections, His habits of life, His requirements of obedience, His claim to

save all mankind, were assailed from the first to the last.


Ø      He “held His peace.” He did “not strive nor cry,” nor “lift up His voice

in the streets.” (Isaiah 42:2)  He was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew

11:29) and bided His time.  What though hated and scorned? He knew

what was coming. He saw  “from the travail of his soul, and was satisfied.”

          (Isaiah 53:11)




SUFFERINGS.   (Philippians 3:10)  Every disciple is a chosen one, sustained

by God-created sympathy, laden with responsibilities as well as honors,

criticized and despised by “men of Belial,” and confident that, in due time,

his righteousness will come forth as the light, and his judgment be

established as the noonday.  (Psalm 37:6)




Friends and Opponents in Godly Enterprise (vs. 26-27)


It was a saying of Socrates that every man in this life has need of a faithful

friend and a bitter enemy — the one to advise him, the other to make him

look around him. This saying was more than fulfilled in Saul, who, on

being chosen king, was followed by a band of faithful friends, and despised

and opposed by “certain worthless men.” The same thing often happens,

under different circumstances, to other men, and especially to the servants

of God when they enter upon some new enterprise which has for its aim

the furtherance of His kingdom, and deeply affects men’s interests and

passions. In relation to such an enterprise we have here an illustration of:




Ø      Often existing when not suspected, and notwithstanding all that is done

to harmonize them. When the people shouted, “Long live the king,” the

dissatisfaction that lurked in many breasts was little surmised. Samuel did

all that lay in his power to bring about a complete union of the tribes; but

his efforts did not altogether succeed. Reason and persuasion, though they

ought to be employed to the utmost: frequently fail to conciliate men

because of the different disposition of their hearts.


Ø      Commonly manifested by special events. The honor conferred upon the

leader of a new movement, or the decisive action taken by him, serves to

“reveal the thoughts of many hearts.”  (Luke 2:35)  A single

circumstance sometimes, like a flash of lightning in the darkness,

suddenly lays bare to the view what was previously hidden.


Ø      Clearly distinguished as belonging to one or other of two classes: “the

host” (sons of strength, Septuagint) “whose hearts God had touched,” and

“sons of worthlessness.” “He that is not with me is against me”

(Matthew 12:30). The demands of certain enterprises, like those of

Christ Himself, render neutrality impossible.


“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,

Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,

And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light”



  • THE INESTIMABLE WORTH OF FRIENDS. Their worth is always

great; but it is especially so in a time of need, when new and responsible

positions have to be occupied, arduous duties to be performed, numerous

enemies to be encountered. Their counsel and support are indispensable;

their very presence is a mighty encouragement. “Whom when Paul saw, he

thanked God, and took courage” (Acts 28:15). Their worth depends upon:


Ø      Their hearty sympathy in spirit and aim. A merely formal adherence is of

little value; and if there be an inward and ardent devotion, it is “from the

Lord” (Psalm 110:3). And when God impels a man to useful service He

does not leave him without those who sympathize with him.


Ø      Their perfect unanimity in arrangement and method.


Ø      Their practical cooperation in labor and conflict. They “went with

him,” formed his bodyguard, and stood ready to defend and help him. In

this manner their sympathy proved itself to be genuine, and rendered most

effectual service. Would that all who are favorable to noble enterprises,

and all members of Christian Churches, rallied thus around their “leaders!”

(Philippians 1:27).



man save us?” “Shall Saul reign over us?” (ch. 11:12). It is not

improbable that they who thus spoke belonged to the princes of Judah and

Ephraim, and were envious at his election. They were certainly

unbelieving, neither recognizing the hand of God therein, nor looking

further than man for deliverance. They were contemptuous, deeming him

unfit to rule over them. “This man.” And they were disloyal and

disobedient. The law said, “Thou shalt not revile the gods  (God, or the

judges), nor curse the ruler of thy people” (Exodus 22:28); but they

“despised him, and brought him no presents,” like others, as an expression

of their submission. They might, therefore, have been justly punished as

traitors. Yet “he was as though he were deaf;” although he heard them, he

did not retaliate, but went on his way in silence. This is often the best way

of treating opponents, and it displays:


Ø      Great self control.


Ø      Much wisdom and foresight. To attempt at this time to punish these men

might have produced civil war. It is sometimes necessary that gainsayers

should be answered, but in most cases they do least mischief by being let

alone, and are soonest silenced by silence.


Ø      Strong confidence in Divine help, and the success which it insures. In

contending against those whom God calls to do His work men contend

against him, and faith calmly leaves them in His hands, to be dealt with

as He may think fit (Acts 5:39; Romans 12:19).



Illusive Presages (vs. 26-27)


A mild, clear morning may be followed by a stormy day. A prince may

begin to reign with gentleness who afterwards becomes proud, ruthless,

impatient, even harsh and bloodthirsty. There are few instances of this in

history so pathetic as the case of Saul, who began his reign with every

indication of a magnanimous character, yet was soon deteriorated by the

possession of power, and made himself and all around him most unhappy.

In him we see how good impulses may be overcome by evil passion, and

what fair promise may come to naught. In order to catch the lessons of

warning and admonition which come from the tragic story of Saul, it is

necessary to do full justice to the bright beginning of his career.


  • HIS RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY. We know that his prophesying left

little trace behind; but that Saul was quickly susceptible of religious

impressions is plain enough, and this in his early days must have awakened

fond hopes regarding him in the breasts of those who were zealous for the

Lord of hosts.



NATION. We are told, with a sort of naivete, how his height impressed

the people at large, and was pointed to even by Samuel. So the Greeks

gloried in the huge Ajax, and in the towering form of Achilles. It is not said

or implied, however, that Saul himself showed any pride in the admiration

which his grand appearance won. The significant thing is, that he drew

after him “a band of men whose hearts God had touched.” They saw in his

eye, or supposed they saw, the fire of a kindred enthusiasm. Here was one,

they thought, worthy to be king of a holy nation. So they formed a

bodyguard round him as the Lord’s anointed. Their mistake is not at all an

isolated one. Ardent young men often fail in discernment of character, and

attach themselves to questionable leaders. Let no one count it enough that

some good people think well of him, and assume his warmth of spirit as

sufficient evidence of his being “born again.” A man is what be is in the

enduring habits and controlling principles of his character and life. Value

the good opinion of the wise, if they have opportunity to see the unexcited

tenor of your conduct; but do not count it a sure mark of grace that you

have at some time felt a glow of religious ardor, and that others in the

same mood have hailed you as brother, or even leader, in the Church of

God. After all the attraction exerted by Saul over the fervent spirits of his

time, he hardened his own heart, and the Lord departed from him.


  • HIS PATIENCE AND MAGNANIMITY. There were exceptions to

the general approval with which Saul was raised to the throne. Some held

aloof, and scoffed at the confidence which was placed so rashly in the tall

Benjamite. They disliked him all the more that the devout rallied about him;

for they themselves were “sons of Belial,” men whose hearts the Lord had

not touched. It was a serious risk for the young king to have a disloyal

faction, treating his authority with open contempt. Yet Saul bore it quietly.

He held his peace.” Nor was this a mere politic delay till he should be

strong enough to crush the malcontents, for there is no mention of his ever

having called these sons of Belial to account. Surely this was a fine point of

character — to bear obstruction so patiently, and be content to earn public

confidence by his kingly bearing and exploits. It was a virtue beyond the

expectations, and even the wishes, of his people. Who that saw that young

king could have imagined that he who was so patient would grow so

restless as he did; and he who was so magnanimous would become almost

insane with envy, and chase his own son-in-law among the hills of Judaea,

thirsting for his blood? So hard is it for a man to be known! Virtue may

leap to the front, and show itself on some auspicious day; but vice lurks in

the rear, and may prove the stronger. When its day comes it will take the

mastery, and then the fair promise of youth is succeeded by a willful, selfish,

ignoble manhood. You meet a man with bloated face and reckless bearing,

a companion of fools, half a rogue and half a sot. Yet, could you have seen

him twenty years ago, you would have looked on a healthy, happy, kindly

boy, the hope of his father’s house, the pride of his mother’s heart. But

there was a weak point in him, and strong drink found it out. So it has

come to this degradation. Virtue is laughed at; self-respect is gone; the boy

is sunk and lost in this gross and shameless man. Or you see one who is

hard and mercenary, inexorable to those who fall into his power, indifferent

to the works of genius and to the efforts of philanthropy, occupied always

with his own moneyed interest. Yet, could you have seen him thirty years

ago, you would have looked on a young man who loved art, or letters, or

religion, and seemed likely to develop into a cultured and useful citizen.

But in an evil hour the passion of worldly acquisition seized him; or, rather,

that which had long been dormant and unperceived began to rule over him,

as his opportunities for acquisition widened, and so his bright beginning

has resulted in this sordid and ignoble character. Human deterioration, the

disappointment of youthful presages of goodness — it is a painful subject,

but one which moral teachers may not neglect. It is difficult to stop the evil

process once it has begun; and the beginning may be so quiet, so little

suspected! It is difficult to know one’s self, or any one else, and to say

whether it be only a good impulse one has in his youth, or a rooted

principle. Some men certainly turn out much better than they promised, but

some turn out much worse. Let us watch and pray.




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