Verse 5: After that thou shalt come to (1 Sam. 10:10) the hill of God, (1 Sam. 13:3) where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down (1 Sam. 9:12) from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; (Ex. 15:20, 21; 2 Kings 3:15; 1 Cor. 14:1) and they shall prophesy…
[After these things thou shalt come to the hill of God (thus the Septuagint, Syriac, Pagnine, Montanus, Munster, Tigurinus)] Question: What then is this place? Responses: 1. To the hill of the city of Kirjath-jearim, where the Ark of God is at this time (Vatablus, Hebrews in Munster). To the hill on which the Ark of God is (Jonathan). This does not satisfy; for Saul had already departed the borders of Judah, and was in the tribe of Benjamin (Lapide). 2. Others understand Gibeah of Benjamin, which was the hometown of Saul (thus Lapide out of Tostatus, Menochius, Sanchez, Mendoza). For this sign occurs, 1. At the end of his journey; 2. among those that well know Saul and his father; 3. Where a garrison of the Philistines is. But this was in Geba, 1 Samuel 13:3 (Mendoza). The hill of God; that is, a more elevated part of Gibeah, where is a high place, or Synagogue, a place dedicated to sacred worship: it is, therefore, called the hill of God. For hills were commonly used for this matter (Piscator out of Junius). 3. To others the hill of God is the highest hill; like the mountains of God, the cedars of God (Malvenda).
[Where is the outpost of the Philistines, אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם נְצִבֵ֣י וגו״] In which are prefects (governors [Montanus], commanders [Jonathan], outposts [Tigurinus], soldiers of the outpost [Junius and Tremellius, Munster]) Philistines (Pagnine, Munster out of Kimchi). Thus David placed over Edom נְצִבִים/prefects, or men of outposts (Drusius). Where is the garrison of the Philistines (Vatablus). In the conditions of peace recently entered upon by the Hebrews and Philistines, the cities were returned to the Hebrews in such a way that a garrison was left in Geba, and perhaps in other places also (Menochius out of Sanchez, similarly Drusius). The Philistines were better than many of the Christians now. For they were sparing those places in which men, given to divine studies, were living. See Concerning the Law of War and Peace 3:11:10 (Grotius).
To the hill of God; a hill near Geba, or Gibeah of Benjamin, where a garrison of Philistines was, 1 Samuel 13:3, called here the hill of God, because it was a place devoted to the service of God; either for sacrifice, this being a high place, as it here follows; or for a school or college of prophets. To the city, adjoining to that hill.
[A company of Prophets, חֶ֤בֶל נְבִיאִים֙] A band (train [Syriac], chorus [Montanus, Septuagint], crowd [Junius and Tremellius]) of Prophets (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus). Verbatim: a cord of Prophets (Piscator, Drusius), that is, a multitude of men proceeding in a long line. It is a Metaphor (Piscator, thus Waser’s Concerning the Ancient Measurements of the Hebrews 1:8). I translate it as cohort, just as σπεῖρα is taken (Drusius). But who then are these Prophets? Response: There are several sorts of Prophets; or, if you prefer, several ministries. Those that foretell the future are properly called Prophets (Sanchez). But here the Prophets are those that are devoted to the sacred books; or the disciples of the Prophets, who painstakingly apply themselves to the law. See Numbers 11:25 (Vatablus out of the Chaldean, Munster, Martyr). Students, giving painstaking attention to Prophecy: some of which are called sons, that is, disciples, of the Prophets; others, simply Prophets (Junius, Piscator). The Prophets were wont to separate themselves from the multitude, and to educate the youth unto piety (Grotius). Genebrard observes, The Chronicler 1, out of Acts 3:24, that the time of the Prophets began from Samuel: not that there were no Prophets before him; but that he was the first to found colleges of the Prophets (Mendoza). Those that are free to wait upon the celebration of divine praises are here called Prophets (Sanchez, similarly Lapide, Mendoza, Serarius, Menochius, Tirinus, Tostatus, Cajetan in Serarius). The origin [of the title] appears to be, that by certain songs, as it were, the Prophets prophesied; and that all the songs in Scripture are Prophesies: which was also the case with the Sibyls; and with others, even by a demon in the oracles in the works of Herodotus: so that also χρησμολόγοι, those uttering oracles, and χρησμωδοὶ, those chanting oracles, and those, and the poets were called Prophets (Serarius). These Prophets were singing hymns and praises to God, both with their voices, and with musical instruments (Lapide). In Sacred Scripture, Singers are often called Prophets, as it is evident from 1 Chronicles 15:22, 24; 25:1. Now, certain colleges of these Prophets were set up; so that in those they might be trained for singing the praise of God (Menochius out of Sanchez), inasmuch as they were occupied in the musical and harmonic art. Concerning which see 1 Samuel 19:20, and likewise 2 Kings 2:3, and 2 King 6 in its entirety. Moreover, among these there were some that were prophesying by an instinct truly divine; as it is evident from 2 Kings 2:3 (Sanchez).
A company of prophets: by prophets here, and in such-like places, he understands persons that did wholly devote themselves to religious studies and exercises, such as preaching, praying, praising of God, etc. For the term of prophesying is not only given to the most eminent act of it, viz. foretelling things to come; but also to preaching, as Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 14:31, 32; 1 Thessalonians 5:20, and to the making or singing of psalms or songs of praise to God, as 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. And they that wholly attended upon these things are oft called sons of the prophets, which were commonly combined into companies or colleges, as 2 Kings 2:3, 5, that they might more conveniently edify and assist one another in God’s work; which institution God was pleased so far to honour and bless, that sometimes he communicated unto those persons the knowledge of future things, as 2 Kings 2:3, 5.