I Samuel 9

The Word Made Fresh

1There was a man named Kish, the son of Abiel (who was the son of Zeror, who was the son of Becorath, who was the son of Aphiah), a wealthy man from the tribe of Benjamin. 2He, in turn, had a son named Saul. Saul was an impressive and handsome young man who was head and shoulders above the others.

3His father Kish had donkeys that had gotten lost. He said to Saul, “Take one of the young servants and go look for them.” 4Saul and the boy looked through the hill country of Ephraim and across the land of Shalishah, but with no luck. They even went through Shaalim, but no luck there. They searched through the territory of Benjamin, but did not find them.

5When they came to Zuph, Saul said to the boy, “Let’s go home. My father will stop worrying about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

6But the boy said, “I know about a man of God here. He is well thought of, and if he says something, you can count on it. Let’s go there, and maybe he’ll help us out.”

7“But, what can we give the man?” asked Saul. “The bread is gone. We have nothing left.”

8“Well,” said the boy, “I have a silver coin. I’ll give it to the man of God if he can tell us where to search.” 9In those days a person who is now called a prophet was called a seer.

10Saul agreed, and they went to the town where the man of God lived. 11As they were approaching the town some girls were coming out to go draw some water. They asked the girls, “Is the seer here?”

12“Yes,” they said. “He’s just ahead of you, but hurry. He has come to the town today because the people are making a sacrifice at the shrine. 13When you enter the town you will see him before he goes up to the shrine to eat. But hurry, because the people at the shrine won’t eat until he gets there. He has to bless the sacrifice, and then the ones who are invited may eat. Hurry and you will see him in time.” 14They went up to the town, and as they entered it, they saw Samuel coming out to go to the shrine.

15It happened that the day before Saul and the boy arrived, the LORD had said to Samuel, 16“About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin, and you will anoint him ruler over Israel. He will rescue my people from the Philistines. I know they are suffering because they have cried out to me.”

17When Samuel spotted Saul, the LORD said, “That is the man whom I have chosen to rule Israel.”

18Just inside the gate, Saul approached Samuel and asked, “Tell me, sir, where is the house of the seer?”

19Samuel said, “I am the seer. Go on up to the shrine. You shall eat with me today. Tomorrow I will tell you everything you need to know. 20As for the donkeys you’ve been looking for the last three days, don’t worry about them. They’ve been found. All Israel’s hopes are now turned to you and the family of your ancestors.”

21“Why do you say that?” said Saul. “Benjamin, my tribe, is the least among all the tribes of Israel, and my family is the smallest of the families of Benjamin. What do you mean?”

22Then Samuel led Saul and the boy to the shrine building and put them at the head of the table, above the others who were invited, about thirty of them. 23He told the cook, “Bring the part I told you to set aside.” 24The cook brought the thigh and the other food prepared with it and placed it before Saul. Then Samuel said, “This has been set apart for you. Eat it. This has been planned. You are to eat it with the invited guests who are here.” So, Saul dined with Samuel that day.

25After the meal they came down from the shrine back to the town, and Samuel had spread a blanket for Saul on his roof, so Saul slept there. 26When dawn arrived Samuel called up to Saul, “Get up, so I can send you on your way.” Saul arose, and he and Samuel walked out into the street together.

27As they were leaving the town Samuel said, “Tell the boy to go ahead, and then I will tell you God’s plans for you.”

Commentary

1-2: Saul, son of Kish, is introduced. He has a few things going for him. For one, he seems to be impressively tall. He is also the son of a wealthy man.

3-4: Saul is sent by his father to find some stray donkeys. He and a young helper practically search the whole country without success.

5-10: Saul finally gives up the search, but his young helper has a suggestion: there is a holy man who lives nearby who might be able to help them in their quest. Saul frets that they have no offering to give, but the young man has some cash, so off they go to find the holy man (we already know who that will be).

11-14: They stop some girls coming out of the town and inquire of the holy man. The girls explain that some sort of festival is going on and the holy man is to appear to bless the sacrifice so they can enjoy the feast – sort of like people today at a potluck dinner waiting for the preacher or the local politician to arrive and say the blessing. As they enter the town, the holy man is coming out. It’s Samuel, of course.

15-21: The encounter between Saul and Samuel is revealing. God has revealed to Samuel that he will meet Israel’s king-to-be that day, a man from Benjamin. Samuel immediately knows Saul is the one – he’s so tall, you know. Saul asks him about the seer; Samuel identifies himself as the same and bids Saul to go up to the shrine and join him in the feast and spend the night. His donkeys have already been found, says Samuel, a bit of information we have no idea how he’s come by. Or maybe we do have an idea. Then he uses a rather striking expression; “on whom is all Israel’s desire fixed, if not on you and your house?” (NRSV).  Saul offers some false humility in return. Yes, Benjamin is the smallest tribe: they were almost wiped out entirely at the battle of Gibeah; only 600 were left. But Saul’s family is nowhere near the humblest of all the families of Benjamin; we were told in verse 1 that Saul comes from a wealthy family.

22-24: The feast is by invitation only, but Samuel is forearmed with the knowledge that Israel’s future king will be there, so the extra cut of meat has been set aside. Samuel tells the cook to bring it and set it before Saul.

25-27: A bed is prepared for Saul and his young helper. The next day Samuel calls them at daybreak, and as they are leaving Samuel tells Saul to send the young man on ahead. “I will make known to you the word of God,” he says.

Takeaway

God is often dissatisfied with Israel, but never gives up on them completely. That is true of us as well; a comforting thought. There may also be a lesson here in the fact that God chooses Israel’s first king from among the smallest tribe, Benjamin. Benjamin was almost wiped out because of the disgusting behavior of the people in Gibeah (see Judges 19:22 – 20:48). But God often chooses someone others would never have considered.