Acts 13:21

21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.

Read Acts 13:21 Using Other Translations

And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years.

What does Acts 13:21 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Acts 13:21

And afterward they desired a king
( 1 Samuel 8:5 ) which the Jews F23 say, was in the tenth year of Samuel; that is, of his government over Israel, or of his judging them:

and God gave unto them Saul;
whose name signifies one that is asked; he was

the son of Cis;
so the Septuagint read and pronounce the word "Kish", the name of Saul's father, ( 1 Samuel 9:1 ) a man of the tribe of Benjamin; not of Judah, from whence the sceptre was not to depart till Shiloh came; the business of their asking a king being resented by God, he gives them their first king of another tribe:

by the space of forty years.
The Jews are very much divided about the years of Saul's reign, some allow him but two years F24, and others three, one year that he reigned with Samuel, and two by himself F25, which they conclude from ( 1 Samuel 13:1 ) but others F26 think this too short a time for the things done by him, the wars he fought with many nations, and his persecution of David from place to place; wherefore others F1 allow him, some seventeen, and others twenty years; but our apostle ascribes forty years to him, which must be understood both of him and Samuel; with which Josephus F2 agrees, who says that he reigned eighteen years, during Samuel's life, and twenty two years after his death, which make the space of forty years fixed by the apostle; though the clause, "by the space of forty years", may be read in construction with the latter end of the preceding verse, until Samuel the prophet; who, the Jews F3 own, judged so many years: wherefore the apostle is not to be charged with an error, as he is by a Jewish F4 objector; who observes, that from the beginning of Saul's kingdom, or from the time that he was anointed by Samuel the prophet, until the kingdom was renewed to him by all Israel, was one year, and then Saul chose three thousand men out of Israel after that he reigned two years by the consent of all Israel, until he sinned in the business of the Amalekites, and then he was accounted as a dead man, and the years of his reign were not numbered; at which time David was anointed, who must be about twenty years of age, ( 1 Samuel 16:18 ) and yet when he came to the kingdom after the death of Saul, he was but thirty years of age, ( 2 Samuel 5:4 ) from whence he thinks it follows that Saul reigned but ten years: in all which he is guilty of several mistakes, and advances things he cannot prove; it was not after Saul had reigned one year, but after he had reigned two years, that he chose three thousand men out of Israel, as is expressly said, ( 1 Samuel 13:1 1 Samuel 13:2 ) and that he had reigned but two years when he sinned in the case of the Amalekites, wants proof; nor is it evident that David was twenty years of age when he was anointed, for it was after his unction that he is said to be a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, ( 1 Samuel 16:18 ) nor indeed can it be said in what year of Saul's reign he was anointed; so that nothing can be concluded from the age David was at when he began to reign, concerning the years of the reign of Saul his predecessor; and even according to this man's own reckoning, he must reign thirteen years, one before the consent of all Israel, two after, and before his sin about the Amalekites, and ten from the time of David's unction: but that Saul must reign more years than these, and even as many as the apostle assigns to him, may be concluded, not only from his wars with many nations, and his long persecution of David before observed; but from the number of high priests which were in his time, and who were no less than three, Ahiah, Abimelech, and Abiathar, ( 1 Samuel 14:3 ) ( 22:20 ) ( 23:9 ) and from his being a young man when he began to reign, ( 1 Samuel 9:2 ) and yet at the end of his reign, or at his death, he had a son, Ishbosheth, that was forty years of age, ( 2 Samuel 2:10 ) .


FOOTNOTES:

F23 T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 5. 1. & Temura, fol. 14. 2.
F24 Seder Olam Rabba, c. 13. p. 37. Juchasin, fol. 11. 1. Kabbala, R. Abraham
F25 T. Bab. Temura, fol. 15. 1.
F26 R. Levi ben Gersom & R. Isaiah in I Sam. xiii. 1.
F1 Shalsheleth Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.
F2 Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 9.
F3 Midrash Tillim apud Broughton's Works, p. 599. Vid. Viccarsium, in Psal xcix. 6.
F4 R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 67. p. 453, 454.
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