1 Samuel 9 Study Notes


9:1 The men in Saul’s genealogy are not widely attested or known in Scripture apart from their relationship to Saul. Nonetheless, the careful way the text traces the family tree through five generations suggests Saul came from a prominent family in the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s comment in v. 21 notwithstanding.

9:2 As someone who stood a head taller than anyone else, Saul looked impressive—seemingly good leadership material according to human perception.

9:3 The occasion for Saul to meet Samuel was that Saul’s father’s donkeys wandered off.

9:4 The hill country of Ephraim lay north of Benjamin and boasted fertile ground. Shalishah and Shaalim were districts northeast of Gibeah.

9:5 Zuph lay about five miles north of Gibeah, Saul’s hometown.

9:6 The man of God was Samuel, though the text does not reveal this until v. 14. Saul’s servant described him as highly respected (lit “honored”) and as one whose word consistently proved true. The text may subtly suggest that Saul really did not know about Samuel, whereas his servant and all Israel did. Some interpreters identify the city as Ramah, but this is uncertain.

9:7-8 Saul felt it inappropriate to approach the man of God without a gift. After all, the prophet’s good counsel might result in the discovery of the lost donkeys, leading to his father’s financial gain. Or perhaps Saul thought Samuel might expect a reward. At any rate, the servant offered his own little piece of silver (lit “quarter of a shekel”).

9:9 Seer (Hb ro’eh) describes a person who sees the things of God; prophet (Hb navi’) means “called one” (i.e, by God). The text clarifies that the term prophet eventually replaced seer, but the two terms described the same office.

9:10-11 Social customs restricted the amount of public contact between men and women; however, such a question was appropriate. The meeting of the women as they were coming out to draw water suggests a late afternoon or early evening time.

9:12 The women suggested the men hurry because of the impending sacrifice that Samuel would oversee. (Some interpreters see a connection between the high place and the altar Samuel built in 7:17.) Saul and his servant would want to meet Samuel before the beginning of that ceremony.

9:13 Blessing the sacrifice was part of Samuel’s priestly role.

9:14 The phrase entering the city is literally “coming into the midst of the city.” The language may suggest Saul and his servant were already inside the city rather than at the gate (v. 18) when they saw Samuel coming.

9:15 The word informed is literally “uncovered the ear,” a common idiomatic expression (“tell,” 20:12; “revealed,” 2Sm 7:27).

9:16 Anointing depicted setting someone apart for God’s appointed service, especially kings (10:1; 16:13), priests (Lv 4:3), and prophets (1Kg 19:16). Ruler was an early term used to describe Saul (10:1), David (13:14), and Solomon (1Kg 1:34), though it also denoted others in authority (1Ch 9:11; 2Ch 31:13, “chief official”). The phrases I have seen the affliction of my people and their cry has come to me recall God’s remembrance of Israel in bondage in Egypt, just before he used Moses to free them (Ex 2:25; 3:7). These phrases suggest God was beginning another day of redemption.

9:17 The Hebrew verb behind govern normally means “restrain” or “retain,” and it may hint at the future negative consequences of Saul’s kingship. Others suggest the term may imply Saul would gather a fairly scattered and disjointed group of Israelites into a nation.

9:18 Saul approached Samuel but did not recognize him, as his question reveals. The text may again provide a hint at the negative direction Saul’s kingdom would take. All Israel knew Samuel was a prophet of the Lord (3:20), but Saul did not even recognize him.

9:19 Go up ahead of me was a way of showing honor and respect. Everything that’s in your heart was probably much more than Saul anticipated hearing; he had just wanted to see Samuel to inquire about the lost donkeys.

9:20 Who does all Israel desire but you may also be translated, “For whom is every desired thing in Israel? Is it not for you?” (The Hb word here translated “desire” is translated “treasures” in Hg 2:7.)

9:21 Whichever rendering is best in v. 20, the language was far more affirming than Saul anticipated. Smallest of Israel’s tribes well described Benjamin, which occupied a relatively small territory and furthermore faced potential extinction after war with Israel’s other tribes in the days of the judges (Jdg 21:1-3). Least important also may mean “smallest in size”; this may be the better sense in light of v. 1.

9:22 The banquet hall was probably a room connected with the high place for sacrificial meals.

9:23 At Samuel’s direction, the cook had set aside a choice portion of meat for a guest whom Samuel would designate.

9:24 The Hebrew term behind thigh also means “leg,” and either way it would constitute a large, choice portion of meat.

9:25 Presumably this was the home where Samuel was staying. The roof was typically flat, and it was a place where people could enjoy cool evening breezes. The subject of conversation is not known. The LXX adds the words “they prepared a bed for Saul on the roof, and he slept,” a natural thing for a host to arrange for his guest.

9:26 Samuel would send his guests on their way, probably with a blessing.

9:27 As the three walked together to the edge of the city, Samuel revealed to Saul that he had a particular message for him.