1 Samuel 9

Samuel had promised Israel, from God, that they should have a king; it is strange that the next news is not of candidates setting up for the government, making an interest in the people, or recommending themselves to Samuel, and, by him, to God, to be put in nomination. Why does not the prince of the tribe of Judah, whoever he is, look about him now, remembering Jacob's entail of the sceptre on that tribe? Is there never a bold aspiring man in Israel, to say,

"I will be king, if God will choose me?"

No, none appears, whether it is owing to a culpable mean spiritedness or a laudable humility I know not; but surely it is what can scarcely be paralleled in the history of any kingdom; a crown, such a crown, set up, and nobody bids for it. Most governments began in the ambition of the prince to rule, but Israel's in the ambition of the people to be ruled. Had any of those elders who petitioned for a king afterwards petitioned to be king, I should have suspected that person's ambition to have been at the bottom of the motion; but now (let them have the praise of what was good in them) it was not so. God having, in the law, undertaken to choose their king (#De 17:15), they all sit still, till they hear from heaven, and that they do in this chapter, which begins the story of Saul, their first king, and, by strange steps of Providence, brings him to Samuel to be anointed privately, and so to be prepared for an election by lot, and a public commendation to the people, which follows in the next chapter. (MH)

Note that no one bid for the rule over this nation up until the time of David's death. From then on, it was many times a bloody war over who would be king, as more than one man sought is post.

Vv. 1, 2

V. 1, Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, as was the New Testament Saul.

Kish, Saul's father, was a mighty man of power, i.e., great wealth and power. (JFB) Evidently, he was well known as a powerful man among men. We do see that Saul's primary qualification was that he stood out above others in the sight of men. Far too many times this is the qualification for leadership in America ("democracies") – convince everyone that you are better than everyone else.

V. 2, Saul, a choice young man, with none like him among the children of Israel. According to appearances, he was the best. Saul was goodly, i.e., pleasant to the eye, appealing to others; it does not say godly, and there is a big difference. Saul was tall, maybe a little under seven feet tall, and looked like a well shaped athlete. Sadly, Saul's description describes the popular boys in school as well as in society. However, the electronic age is changing that to where the "nerd" is gaining control.

There is no mention of his Scriptural qualifications. It was his physical appearance that made him stand out and appealing to the people..

Notice the contrast here between Saul and David:

Saul was provided after the will of the people; David was provided after the will of God, I have provided me..., 16:1.
Saul was chosen because of his height of his stature; David was not, 16:7.
David was a goodly person, but that qualification was secondary – he was godly first, 16:7.
Saul drew attention because of his outward appearances. David drew God's attention because of his inward attitude, 16:7, 12.
Saul was tall, and easily seen; he stood out among men. David was hidden, and no one could see him, 16:11.
Saul was out in public. David was out in the field watching sheep, 16:11.
Saul had people around him before he was called, 9:3. David spent much time alone with the Lord, and people ignored him, 16:11.

Vv. 3-10

Evidently, Saul's dad was a man of some means, for he had servants. I don't recall there being servants in David's dad's household.

Saul was looking for some lost assess, but never founded them. David was tending a few sheep, and never lost one. It was custom to allow ones animals to roam during the grazing season, at the close of which men were sent out to bring them in.

On the good side, Saul:

A) was busy when God called him, as well as subject to the authority over him, his father in this case. Typically, throughout the Old Testament, the men whom God called were hard at work at their occupations. Off hand, I can think of none whom he called "out of the palace," or from a place of ease, or who had a lazy, undisciplined attitude.

B) never complained at having to search for the asses, nor at not finding them.

C) was concerned about his dad worrying about him. He was carful not to grieve or frighten his parents.

V. 3, all circumstances are means of serving God's providence – nothing "just happens," particularly to God's people.

V. 6, notice when Saul had a problem, he had to be urged to seek out the Lord. It was the servant's idea to go to the man of God. All Saul had was excuses of why they could not go – what shall we bring him, which was the the custom at that time.

It is wise for a person to seek business advise from a man of God who is an honourable man... that the might show (advise) the way to go. It seems most would rather be told their future fortune than told of their present duty. And men of God should be known as honourable men, especially among the unsaved.

On the negative side, this passage reads as though Saul was going to a fortune teller rather than going to a man of God. He should have been seeking out the man of God to learn the ways of God.

A) People want to know their fortune rather than their duty. "Prophecy conferences" draw huge crowds, but how many "duty conferences" do we hear of?

B) People want to know how rich they are in Christ, rather than how obligated they are to him. I just mentioned to my wife the other day (February 17, 20000) of the many news letters I receive, uninvited. With few exceptions, they talk about salvation. If they are "Reformed" letters, they speak about doctrines such as Election and Assurance. Regardless of which side of the Calvinistic fence they are on, they, by in large, have one theme: Salvation.

C) If the business of the man of God were to tell people how to find their "lost asses," there would be a line of people seeking his advise. But since his business is telling them how to "find the Lord," few seek him out.

D) People seek out a man of God when the going gets tough, but seldom otherwise. We know from latter records that David sought out the Lord at all times, good and bad.

We do not read of David having to seek out a man of God to tell him the way to go; he sought and found the Lord's way as second nature.

It might seem strange to seek the man of God's advice, such as Samuel, in such a trivial matter as lost animals. But we are to take even the smallest care to the Lord.

V. 7, what shall we bring the man? Vv. 7-10 seems to treat Samuel more as a fortune teller. However, custom required a gift, no matter how trifling, when a lessor went into the presence of a superior. And money was quite acceptable.

Seer... Prophet. A prophet foretold future events, and a seer saw things hidden from mortal sight, e.g., where is the lost coin? Note: My first inclination today is that such activity is not of God, though I have not really studied it out.

Saul response to his servant, "Let us go to the man of God" was, "We don't have anything to take to him." One wonders if this was an excuse on Saul's part, so he would not have to go. After the servant said he had something, Saul said, "Let's go."

Most people love a cheap religion, and like it best when they can devolve the expense of it on others. (MH)

Vv. 11-17

V. 11, the maidens quickly pointed Saul to the man of God who could help them. We should be as quick to point people in the right direction.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

V. 12, he came to day to the city... God directed the path of Samuel to the same city at the same time he directed the path of Saul to the city.

V. 14, Samuel, the prophet of God, was not distinguishable from the average person going to the sacrifice. He looked like an ordinary citizen. The warning in chapter 8 was that a king would exalt himself above the average citizen. But they did not care.

V. 15, in his ear... God shows his men things he does not show to the average person.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

We should have a ready ear to hear the word of God, which usually is in a still, small voice, i.e., impression in our inner being from his word.

V. 16, I will send... By ordinary means, Saul is sent by God to Samuel, which is typical of God's work throughout Scripture and history. Saul was looking for the lost asses, but the Lord was sending him to Samuel. We are again confronted with the sovereign purpose of God controlling all things, and the responsibility of the free will of man – that is, God is in control of all things at all times, and they are all fulfilling his divine purpose.

V. 16, he may save my people... God saved his people just a short time ago, but they still wanted a man to lead them. Despite their rebellion against God's order of things under Samuel, he still will save his people from their enemies:

Despite their wickedness, yet God was ever mindful of his inheritance. (Geneva)

V. 16, to be captain, not king. God was their only true King, and Saul was simply lead them in the ways pleasing to the Lord, their King. Moreover, the people wanted someone to lead them in war, so Saul was to be that captain.

Because their cry is come unto me. Saul is given to the people because God got tired of hearing them cry out for a king like the pagans around them. Saul is a man after their hearts' desire – a man pleasing to the eye, a man who satisfies the desire of the flesh. He will be just what they have cried out for, and they will pay the price for their desire for the next 38 years. Saul was a godly king for only 2 years, and for 38 years, he was rotten. He went so far as to turn to witchcraft after the first 2 years. (Rebellion, 15:22.) And he personally went to a witch at the end.

They that lie by the sword will die by the sword – God gave the people just what they desired.

Note the contrast: Their cry in Egypt resulted in God sending Moses to them; their cry here resulted in God sending Saul to them. The difference is that God sent Saul to them in his "wrath," because their cry for a king was in rebellion against God's rule through the prophets.

Vv. 18-27

Saul did not know where to find the man of God's house; he had to ask. And he asked Samuel. In defense a little of Saul, Saul was quite a bit out of his home region. Samuel's "estate" was quite a contrast to what a king's wold be. He fit in with the average person, but a king would be far above them, which is what they wanted.

Note that a man's true character is many times hidden from public view — rulers are many times rotten under the grand exteriors while good men are hidden behind lowly exteriors. Over and over we are warned against judging by outward appearances.

V. 19, high place. There was no established place at this time to sacrifice unto the Lord. The Philistines had destroyed the former resting place of the ark. So these high places were legitimate places to offer sacrifices. However, they were unlawful when the proper place was reestablished.

Samuel knew Saul before Saul knew Samuel. God knew us before we knew him; he knew us from before the foundations of the world. (Gal. 4:9.)

V. 20, As for thine asses... Samuel confirmed that he was the man of God with authority to tell Saul what was going on.

Desire of Israel... Not the desire of God, but of Israel.

On thee... This does not mean that Israel knew Saul by name, and wanted him as their king. It means that what they desired in a king was in Saul – "tall, dark and handsome," with the human qualifications they were crying for. His qualification was his appearance, not his godliness.

V. 21, smallest... and the least... Benjamin had not yet recovered after its costly war with the other tribes. (Judges 20:29-46.)

These are the kind of people God uses; he will use them until they get lifted up with pride, as did Saul. Then he set Saul aside. Pride caused Saul's fall, 15:17.

Note that by taking the king from the smallest and least, all grounds for jealousy was removed from the other tribes. (JFB)

V. 23, though not yet king, Samuel treats him as king. So we should honor those DIVINE PROVIDENCE has exalted to places of civil authority. I did not say obey, but honor.

V. 24, through the word and work of the Lord, Samuel had Saul's arrival planed right down to the smallest detail, even what and when he should eat.

The shoulder belonged to the priest for his family. (Lev. 10:14.) Setting it aside for Saul and calling the people together to the meal showed that he knew he was coming.

The shoulder could have represented the government being upon his shoulders. (Cf. Isa. 9:6.)

V. 27, the things Saul had been told were so out of touch with reality, that Samuel give Saul several signs that would confirm what he had been told about being the captain of the Lord's people, king.

Some other things in this chapter: Though Samuel's kids were rebellious, and had gone to the devil, the Lord still spoke through him, and used him. Samuel still struck fear in the hearts of the people, 16:4. Samuel was still known as an honourable man of God, 9:6.

Evidently, Samuel had done right by his children and the Lord, yet they went bad anyway. I assume this because there is no record of Samuel reaching the same low estate as did Eli because of his children.

It is all of God, and he will not be bound by man's sins and shortcomings; though I can not understand it, history proves it over and over.


This chapter all too well describes the attitude of modern civil leadership, in the West anyway. Leaders are chosen not on godly character (according to God's requirements), but according to their worldly power and influence. Everything is built around how good one can be made to look in public, for the cry is, "Private does not matter."

Sadly, the same attitude has crept into the church in far too many cases.

The results are precisely what are laid out in chapter eight.

God gives leaders after the heart of the people.