1 Samuel 9 Commentary: Saul’s Unexpected Journey to Destiny

1 Samuel 9 commentary

1 Samuel 9 Commentary

1 Samuel 9 explores a turn in the life of Saul, a young man from the tribe of Benjamin. This chapter narrates Saul’s simple mission to find his father’s lost donkeys, which unwittingly steers him towards a destiny far greater than he could imagine.

Alongside his servant, Saul’s journey through the hills of Israel becomes a pivotal moment, leading him to a prophetic encounter with Samuel. Here, the ordinary and the divine weave together, setting the stage for Saul’s transformation from a commoner to a key figure in Israel’s history.

1 Samuel 9:1-10, Introduction of Saul and the Search for His Father’s Donkeys

1 Samuel 9 opens with the introduction of Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul’s father, Kish, loses his donkeys, prompting Saul and a servant to go in search of them – setting the stage for significant developments in Israel’s history.

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.”

1 Samuel 9:1-3, ESV

As Saul and his servant wander in search of the lost donkeys, they traverse through several regions, a journey that illustrates not just the physical landscape of Israel but also the socio-political context of the time.

And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.”

1 Samuel 9:4-5, ESV

Despite the search seeming fruitless, it’s crucial to recognize how ordinary events in the Bible often lead to extraordinary outcomes. This search, while mundane, is the catalyst for Saul’s encounter with Samuel, Israel’s prophet.

But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.

1 Samuel 9:6-10, ESV

The servant’s suggestion to consult a “man of God” demonstrates the cultural and religious setting of ancient Israel, where prophets were sought for divine guidance.

This moment is pivotal as it steers them towards Samuel, unbeknownst to them, aligning with God’s greater plan.

1 Samuel 9:11-14, Saul and His Servant Arrive at the Town where Samuel Is

Upon reaching the town, Saul and his servant encounter young women drawing water. They inquire about the seer (prophet), highlighting the community’s role in guiding individuals to spiritual leaders.

As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place.

1 Samuel 9:11-12, ESV

The women’s response, indicating Samuel’s presence in the town for a sacrificial feast, underscores the importance of religious rituals and feasts in Israelite culture. This also subtly introduces the theme of divine providence as Saul arrives just in time for this significant event.

As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.

1 Samuel 9:13-14, ESV

1 Samuel 9:15-17, The Lord Reveals Saul’s Arrival to Samuel

The day before Saul’s arrival, God had revealed to Samuel that a man from Benjamin would come to him. This divine revelation signifies Saul’s importance in God’s plan for Israel.

Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”

1 Samuel 9:15-16, ESV

Samuel is told that this man will be the one to govern Israel and save them from the Philistines. This message from God not only introduces Saul’s future role but also highlights the ongoing conflict with the Philistines, a major threat to Israel.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.”

1 Samuel 9:17, ESV

When Samuel sees Saul, God indicates that he is the one Samuel was told about. This immediate recognition by Samuel emphasizes the certainty and specificity of God’s guidance.

1 Samuel 9:18-24, Saul Meets Samuel and is Treated Honorably

Saul approaches Samuel to ask about the seer’s house, not realizing he is speaking to Samuel himself, showcasing the humility and simplicity of Saul, characteristics important for leadership.

Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind.

1 Samuel 9:18-19, ESV

Samuel’s invitation to Saul for the feast and his assurance that the donkeys have been found demonstrate God’s care for the smallest details in our lives.

As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”

Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.’” So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”

So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

1 Samuel 9:20-24, ESV

Samuel’s treatment of Saul with honor, giving him the best portion at the feast, foreshadows Saul’s future role as king and an act that also reflects the biblical theme of hospitality and honor towards guests.

1 Samuel 9:25-27, Samuel’s Private Conversation with Saul

After the feast, Samuel and Saul have a private conversation on the rooftop. An intimate setting signifies the importance of the message Samuel is about to deliver to Saul.

And when they came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. Then at the break of dawn Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Up, that I may send you on your way.” So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street.

As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”

1 Samuel 9:25-27, ESV

Samuel’s instruction to send the servant ahead the next morning, creating a private moment to speak with Saul, suggests the gravity of the upcoming revelation and sets the stage for Saul’s anointing as king in the next chapter – marking a pivotal point in Israel’s history and Saul’s life.