Verse 17: And Samuel called the people together (Judg. 11:11; 20:1; 1 Sam. 11:15) unto the LORD (1 Sam. 7:5, 6) to Mizpeh…
[And he assembled the people] Although it had already been ascertained, what had pleased the Lord in the designation of a King (Sanchez, Menochius). Question: But why is Saul chosen as King both secretly and publicly, since the latter would suffice? Response: The secret election was necessary: 1. to certify Samuel concerning the King; 2. so that he might teach Saul to bring a becoming habit and royal air to the public assembly; 3. so that the people, hearing him prophesy, and receiving him, although retiring at home, as made manifest by divine oracle, might not doubt concerning him as their future King. But the public election was necessary; lest the people, if only Samuel bear witness, should distrust him; as was formerly done in the case of Moses choosing Aaron unto the high priesthood, Numbers 16; especially since every one was ambitious, and Benjamin was the least tribe, and the scepter appeared to have been bestowed upon Judah, out of Genesis 49:10 (Mendoza generally out of Tostatus). God was unwilling to have Samuel held suspect in any way, as if he had anointed Saul in human zeal (Serarius, Lapide). He assembled them to restrain the murmuring and indignation of those that were in nobler tribes (Lyra).
[Unto the Lord in Mizpeh] Whither he commanded the ark to be carried, and the high priest to come with the Urim and Thummim, to cast lots and consult the God, verse 22. See on 1 Samuel 12:2 (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). Unto the Lord, that is, unto the Ark, the symbol of Jehovah’s presence. A Metonymy of subject (Piscator). This does not satisfy; for, 1. the Ark was continually at Jearim, as previously mentioned. 2. The people had been assembled to the Lord in Mizpeh, Judges 20:1, and yet the Ark and the Tabernacle where at Shiloh, Joshua 18:1. 3. Abiathar consults the Lord at Keilah, 1 Samuel 23:9, and at Ziklah, 1 Samuel 30:7, although neither the Ark nor the Tabernacle were in either place (Mendoza). He is said to have assembled the people unto the Lord, not because the Ark was there; but because every place, in which any special worship is exhibited to God, or to which any were approaching for the sake of religion, was said to be before the Lord (Menochius out of Tostatus). Unto the Lord, that is, to the assembly, church, or meeting of the Lord; for, where the Church of God is, there God Himself is and is present. Again, unto the Lord, that is, unto the Lord’s lots and judgment (Lapide). Moreover, this Mizpeh was a city of Benjamin, Joshua 13:26. Unto this city the people were gathered, because it was either closer, or more capacious, or better known. See on 1 Samuel 7:5, 16 (Mendoza); and so it was suitable for holding assemblies. Hence Gedaliah chose it as the seat of his prefecture, Jeremiah 40; 41, and because a house of prayer was there (Sanchez). At Mizpeh there was an altar, and a house of prayer (Munster). Now, the place of prayer is well chosen for conducting assemblies, which need the direction of the divine Spirit (Menochius).
Unto the Lord; to appear before the Lord. So he speaks, either, 1. Because the ark was carried thither upon this occasion. Or, 2. Because God is present in all the assemblies of his people, whereof this was an eminent one: see 2 Chronicles 19:6; Psalm 82:1. Or, 3. Because they did in a manner erect a tribunal for God; and entreated, and consequently obtained, his presence there to supervise and direct the whole business by his sentence, which also he did, 1 Samuel 10:19, etc. See of this phrase Judges 11:11; 20:1. To Mizpeh; a city of Benjamin, Joshua 13:26, where all Israel had met before upon a public and solemn occasion, 1 Samuel 7:5.
Verse 18: And said unto the children of Israel, (Judg. 6:8, 9) Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you…
[I brought out, etc.] He commemorates His blessings, so that He might make a great display of their fault (Mendoza).
[And from the hand of all the kings that were afflicting you,וּמִיַּד֙ כָּל־הַמַּמְלָכ֔וֹת הַלֹּחֲצִ֖ים אֶתְכֶֽם׃] And from the hand of all kingdoms oppressing you (Montanus, Piscator, similarly the Septuagint, Syriac, Pagnine). Thus there is an anomaly of gender in the Hebrew; and by kingdoms are understood the peoples themselves (Piscator). And from the hand of all kingdoms, (understanding, from, or and from [English]) those oppressing you (Junius and Tremellius). From the hand of all kingdoms, (understanding, men [Tigurinus Notes]) that have vexed you (Tigurinus, Munster).
Of all kingdoms, to wit, the neighbouring kingdoms, which molested you from time to time.
Verse 19: (1 Sam. 8:7, 19; 12:12) And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.
Ye have this day rejected your God; you this day declare that you persist in your former act of rejecting God’s government: see on 1 Samuel 8:7.
[Who alone saved you] Alone without the partnership of the other (Mendoza).
Who himself saved you; who by his own special providence took care to raise up judges and saviours for you, and to deliver you at all times, when you needed his help, and did not by your sins obstruct it.
[Ye have said, Nay, but set a King over us, וַתֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֔וֹ כִּי־מֶ֖לֶךְ תָּשִׂ֣ים עָלֵ֑ינוּ] In the place of לוֹ/lo, to Him, some read לֺא/lo/not (thus the Septuagint, Syriac). Nay, but because thou shalt set a king, etc. (Septuagint); ye have said, Not so, but set a king, etc. (Syriac); ye have said, We refuse this, but place a king in charge of us (Arabic). Either the כִּי/but is superfluous; or something is to be understood in this manner, and ye have said to Him, Not will we acquiesce to thy words, but set a King over us. The Chaldean Paraphrase less correctly has, We will not be able to resist our enemies, unless thou set a King (Vatablus). But לוֹ, to Him, is the true reading (Kimchi in Buxtorf). And ye said to him, because (or, but [Pagnine]) thou shalt set a king over us (Montanus, Pagnine, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Munster, Buxtorf). To Him, that is, to God, and to me as His prophet, 1 Samuel 8:7 (Junius). For whatever Samuel had said to the people, he had said in God’s name and at His behest; whence, what they answered to they former, they said, not so much to Samuel, as to God Himself. But the Chaldean not incorrectly understands לוֹא/not (and ye said before Him, We have not been saved, but a king, etc. [Jonathan]), because it is found in 1 Samuel 8:19, unto which passage Samuel here has regard; and because of the subsequent כִּי, with which also in other places in replications of this sort לוֹא/not is conjoined, as in Genesis 19:2. But Samuel omitted in this place, that he left this barb fixed in their hearts, that in this matter they resisted not him, but God (Buxtorf’s Vindication 2:13:975).
Ye have said unto him, that is, unto me his prophet and ambassador; and consequently unto the Lord, whom I represented, and in whose name I spake and acted.
[And by your families, וּלְאַלְפֵיכֶם] And by, or secundum, according to (ad, according to [Montanus]) your thousands (Jonathan, Pagnine, Munster, Piscator, similarly Tigurinus). For their tribes were distributed into thousands, over each of which a captain was put in charge. Thus in Judges 6:15. Compare Joshua 7:14 and following (Piscator). Others: by your captains (Junius and Tremellius). Understanding, of the individual families, which were many in the individual tribes (Junius). I know that a captain is called אַלּוּף, who is a leader in friendship, in law, in rule: but here it is אֶלֶף/thousand. Mercerus looses this knot, Genesis 36:16. אֶלֶף is sometimes taken for a family, as if a chiliarchy (Drusius).
By your tribes, and by your thousands; for each tribe was divided into thousands, Numbers 10:36; Deuteronomy 33:17; Joshua 22:14, 21; Micah 5:2, as in England counties are into hundreds.
Verse 20: And when Samuel had (Josh. 7:14, 16, 17; Acts 1:24, 26) caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
[And he brought all the tribes near] Now, this bringing near of the families was not local (as if the individual tribes were set in place separately), but descriptive, whereby the names of the families were cast into an urn (Mendoza). וַיַּקְרֵב, and when he had brought near (Pagnine). And when he had caused to approach, understanding, by lots, that is, when he had cast the lots (Vatablus). Question: Whether this was done rightly? For the lot was able to fall upon one unworthy. Response: Samuel was moved by the Divine Spirit to cast lots, and he knew them to be directed by the Lord, in accordance with Proverbs 16:33 (Mendoza). This lot was divinatory, but suggested by God, and so lawful. This was done prudently, lest it should appear that he was elected by Samuel, and not by God (Lapide). Aristotle, Politics 6:11, says that it is a popular arrangement, to choose magistrates by lot; the ancient custom of certain peoples received that even in the case of priests. Virgil’s Æneid 2: Laocoon was chosen priest of Neptune by lot. See Acts 1:26 (Mendoza).
To come near unto the place appointed for the casting of lots. This tribe was now preferred before Judah, because the kingdom was freely promised by God to Judah, and was to be given to him in love; but now the kingdom was in a manner forced from God, and given to them in anger, Hosea 13:11, and therefore conferred upon an obscure tribe.
Verse 21: When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
[And fell the kindred of Metri, or Matri, הַמַּטְרִי] [They take it as a proper name.] But in 1 Chronicles 8, the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin are enumerated in a long series, but Matri is never named among them. The ה is denominative, which hence is not prefixed to proper names. Therefore, some maintain that it is appellative (Mendoza). And that it was a certain one of the posterity of Benjamin, who was called Matri, that is, the shooter, because he was excelling in the art of shooting: for in this the Benjamites were eminent, Judges 20:16 (Lapide, thus Lyra, Tostatus, Hebrews in Lapide). מַטָּרָה signifies a mark, or target, at which they are shot, 1 Samuel 20:20; Job 16:12. Hence is the origin of Matri (certain interpreters in Mendoza). But מַטְרִי/Matri is not able to arise thence, since it is the name of a family; if there is no mention of it elsewhere, it does not follow from this that there was no family of that name: indeed, we ought not to doubt of it, since it is expressly called the family of Matri (Drusius).
 Hebrew: וַיַּצְעֵ֤ק שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה הַמִּצְפָּֽה׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אָנֹכִ֛י הֶעֱלֵ֥יתִי אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וָאַצִּ֤יל אֶתְכֶם֙ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֔יִם וּמִיַּד֙ כָּל־הַמַּמְלָכ֔וֹת הַלֹּחֲצִ֖ים אֶתְכֶֽם׃ הַמַּמְלָכוֹת/kingdoms is feminine; הַלֹּחֲצִים/oppressing is masculine.  Hebrew: וְאַתֶּ֙ם הַיּ֜וֹם מְאַסְתֶּ֣ם אֶת־אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא מוֹשִׁ֣יעַ לָכֶם֮ מִכָּל־רָעוֹתֵיכֶ֣ם וְצָרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ וַתֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֔וֹ כִּי־מֶ֖לֶךְ תָּשִׂ֣ים עָלֵ֑ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה הִֽתְיַצְּבוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶ֖ם וּלְאַלְפֵיכֶֽם׃  1 Samuel 8:19: “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us (וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י אִם־מֶ֖לֶךְ יִֽהְיֶ֥ה עָלֵֽינוּ׃)…”  Genesis 19:2: “And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all nightוַיֹּאמְר֣וּ) לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י בָרְח֖וֹב נָלִֽין׃).”  Genesis 36:16: “Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz (אַלּֽוּף־קֹ֛רַח אַלּ֥וּף גַּעְתָּ֖ם אַלּ֣וּף עֲמָלֵ֑ק אֵ֣לֶּה אַלּוּפֵ֤י אֱלִיפַז֙) in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.”  Hebrew: וַיַּקְרֵ֣ב שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד שֵׁ֥בֶט בִּנְיָמִֽן׃  In Greco-Roman mythology, Laocoon was a priest of Neptune, who tried to convince the Trojans to burn the Trojan horse. In anger, Athena sent two giant sea serpents to strangle him and his sons.  Hebrew: וַיַּקְרֵ֞ב אֶת־שֵׁ֤בֶט בִּנְיָמִן֙ לְמִשְׁפַּחְתָּ֔ו וַתִּלָּכֵ֖ד מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת הַמַּטְרִ֑י וַיִּלָּכֵד֙ שָׁא֣וּל בֶּן־קִ֔ישׁ וַיְבַקְשֻׁ֖הוּ וְלֹ֥א נִמְצָֽא׃  The definite article.  1 Samuel 20:20: “And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark (לְמַטָּרָה).”  Job 16:20: “I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark (לְמַטָּרָה).”