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Poole on 1 Samuel 9:18-21: Saul's First Encounter with Samuel

Verse 18:[1] Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is.

[Saul drew near to Samuel in the midst of the gate[2]] That is, he met Samuel immediately upon passing the very gate (Vatablus). Here, אֶת[3] is put in the place of אֶל/to; as, on the other hand, אֶל is put in the place of אֶת in Psalm 2[4] (Drusius). Understand the gate (not of his house, out of which Samuel had come, as Tostatus maintains, but) of the city (Mendoza, similarly Calvin).

In the gate; the gate, either, first, Of Samuel’s house. But he was come out thence before, verse 14. Or rather, secondly, Of the city; for the word gate being put by itself, according to reason and common use, must be understood of the most eminent in its kind, which the gate of the city is. And through this gate Samuel seems now to have been passing to go to the high place, which probably was without the city; and there he makes a stand, to hear what these persons now approaching to him were about to speak.

[And he says, Tell, etc.] Note that Samuel, although the judge, went forth without any fanfare, and lived among the common people as one equal to them (Mendoza, similarly Calvin).

[Where is the house of the seer?] He wanted to meet Samuel at his house, so that he might speak with the Prophet, not only in passing, but at length (Mendoza).

Verse 19:[5] And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart.

[I am the seer] He is not boasting, but testifying to the truth (Calvin).

[Go up before me] He did not say, follow me, or proceed with me, but go up before me (Carthusianus in Lapide). 1. For an example: both of humility, because he yields the better part to Saul, following behind him: and of obedience, and reverence toward the King, although yet to be chosen (Mendoza). 2. Samuel was old, and was not able to ascend that hill with equal swiftness (Carthusianus in Lapide).

[And I will dismiss thee in the morning] It is to be observed here, that it was the custom of that time and people to take food towards evening; for midday meals were not ordinary and customary (Calvin).

[And all things that are in thine heart] Whatever thou thinkest to ask of me; as the following verse explains (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda).

Will tell thee all that is in thine heart: Either all that thou desirest to know, as concerning the asses; or rather, the secret thoughts of thy heart, or such actions as none know but God and thy own heart; that so thou mayst be assured of the truth and certainty of that which I am to acquaint thee with. And this might be done, though it be not here particularly related.

Verse 20:[6] And as for (1 Sam. 9:3) thine asses that were lost three days ago (Heb. to day three days[7]), set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom (1 Sam. 8:5, 19; 12:13) is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?

[And concerning the asses that the day before yesterday thou didst lose,וְלָאֲתֹנ֞וֹת הָאֹבְד֣וֹת לְךָ֗ הַיּוֹם֙ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת הַיָּמִ֔ים] But concerning the asses lost to thee three days ago (Tigurinus, similarly Munster, Junius and Tremellius, Syriac, Arabic, Septuagint in Drusius, Vatablus). Others: today are three days (Pagnine, Drusius, similarly Jonathan in Druius); it is a triad of days (Piscator); today is the third of those days (Junius). It denotes the time, not from which they were lost, but from which they were sought (Drusius out of Kimchi and Jonathan).

Set not thy mind on them; trouble not thy mind about them.

[And whose shall be all the best things of Israel? וּלְמִי֙ כָּל־חֶמְדַּ֣ת יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל] [They render it variously:] Now, to whom belongs whatever is desirable in Israel? (Syriac, similarly Tigurinus, Montanus, Pagnine, Arabic, Mariana, Martyr). Whose is the desire, etc.? that is, all the best things: that is to say, they are thine, for thou art going to be King (Vatablus). But towards whom is (to/on whom is fixed [Munster]) the whole desire of Israel? (Junius and Tremellius), or, the desire of all Israel? (Munster). I think that the words are transposed, in the place ofחֶמְדַּת כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל, the desire of all Israel, which sort of transpositions are common. The translation of Junius and Tremellius argues with the matter, and with the usage of the language. For the desire of Israel was not toward Saul; next, לְמִי does not signify towards whom, but to whom or whose. Thus, לִי, to me, is gold and silver, etc.,[8] that is, it is mine. Salvation is to the Lord,[9] that is, of the Lord. For ל/Lamed sometimes denotes a possessive genitive (Drusius). To/on whom is fixed the desire, etc.; that is to say, All Israel desires to have a King; and thou art the one upon whom the votes of all come by the divine will (Munster, similarly Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). Whose is all the desire? He appears to indicate the Kingdom. For, there was no one in Israel that would not desire this. Thus Christ is Haggai is called the desire of nations,[10] because He is vehemently desired by them. In the book of Hebrew Prayers 130:2, the Sabbath is calledחֶמְדַּת יָמִים, ye called it the desire of days (Drusius). Thus Daniel is called a man of desires,[11] that is, especially desirable (Piscator out of Martyr). And whose are the fair things of Israel? (Septuagint). Suitably for the nature of kingdoms, which contain within mere vanity; but without they show a certain painted beauty. Thus Œdipus had experience of this in Seneca’s Œdipus 1: Does everyone rejoice in a kingdom? O deceitful good! What quantity of evils dost thou cover with a forehead as attractive as possible? Moreover, this question here implies certainty, as in Genesis 4:7; 2 Kings 5:7; Luke 24:32 (Mendoza).

On whom is all the desire of Israel? who is he that shall be that thing or person which all Israel desire to have, to wit, a king?

[Belongeth they not to thee, and to all thy father’s house?[12] (thus Montanus, Jonathan, Syriac)] Or of thy father’s family (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius). That is, either, 1. to thy posterity, to whom the promise was made under a condition, 1 Samuel 13:13 (Menochius out of Sanchez, similarly Lyra, Mendoza). Or, 2. to thy brethren and kinsmen also. For they were also exalted unto honors, like Abner, 1 Samuel 14:50, which is also to be believed equally concerning the others (Mendoza out of Tostatus).

Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house? that honour is designed for thee, and, after thy death, for thy family or posterity, if by thy sin thou dost not cut off the entail.

Verse 21:[13] And Saul answered and said, (1 Sam. 15:17) Am not I a Benjamite, of the (Judg. 20:46-48; Ps. 68:27) smallest of the tribes of Israel? and (see Judg. 6:15) my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so (Heb. according to this word[14]) to me?

[Am I not a son of Jemini?[15]] Jemini here indicates, either, 1. a man, the sixth grandfather of Saul (thus Mendoza) [concerning whom see what things are on verse 1]. Or, 2. a Tribe; a son of Jemini, that is, a Benjamite (thus Vatablus, Drusius, Lyra, Menochius, Tirinus, Lapide, Sanchez). Patronymics generally have this termination, like עִבְרִי, a Hebrew; מִצְרִי, an Egyptian; לְוִי, a Levite; יִשְׂרְאֵלִי, an Israelite. Then, in composite names, often one part of the composition is omitted, and usually the prior. Thus יְרוּשָׁלִַם/Jerusalem is called שָׁלֵם/Salem.[16] And he that is called בֶּן־עַמִּי/Ben-ammi in Genesis 19:38, is elsewhere called עַמּוֹן/Ammon, or עַמִּי/Ammi. He that in 1 Chronicles 20:5 is called a Beth-lehemite, is Hebraically called a Lemite.[17] The Septuagint translates it, the Jeminean man; and the Chaldean, a son of Benjamin (Sanchez).

[Of the smallest tribe, מִקַּטַנֵּי֙ שִׁבְטֵ֣י] Of the lesser tribes (Pagnine), that is, one of the least (Vatablus, Piscator); of the least of the tribes (Munster, Drusius, Piscator). It is an expression like canum degeneres, inferior breeds of dogs;[18] nigræ lanarum, blacks of wools;[19]sapientes mulierum, wise of women[20] (Drusius). The reason for this smallness was that war in Judges 20 (Piscator, thus Lyra, Menochius, Tirinus, Sanchez, Mendoza, Lapide), whereby that tribe was nearly cut off, to such an extent that thereafter it was hardly reckoned by name among the other tribes. For, although two tribes were ever adhering to the house of David, namely, Judah and Benjamin; the sole tribe of Judah is everywhere mentioned as following the house of David, 1 Kings 11;12; 2 Kings 17; and elsewhere; with the Benjamite tribe stripped of its own name, as it were, and grafted in the tribe of Judah (Tirinus out of Sanchez). And hence Mordecai, although he is of the tribe of Benjamin, Esther 2:5, is called a Jew. Therefore, Saul was suspecting that the Royal name was going to be unwelcome to others, if it made its home in that family, which all held to be of no value compared to their own (Sanchez). He points out that his tribe was the smallest and weakest; which hence did not have enough strength to protect the other tribes: and that its reputation was damaged by that shame in Judges 20 (Mendoza); and so it was unworthy of the principate, as was Reuben,[21] etc. (Lapide). But, with that in view, the first King was going to be in less envy (Grotius). It had been possible to consider that the beginning of kingdoms often proceed from the obscure and weak, as it is evident in the case of Romulus,[22] Cyrus,[23] Darius,[24] etc. (Martyr).

The smallest of the tribes; for so indeed this was, having been all cut off except six hundred, Judges 20, which blow they never recovered, and therefore they were scarce reckoned as an entire tribe, but only as a remnant or fragment of a tribe; and being ingrafted into Judah, in the division between the ten tribes and the two, they in some sort lost their name, and they, together with Judah, were accounted but one tribe, as 1 Kings 11:32, etc.

[And my family the last] But the house of Kish, the father of Saul, was noble and affluent (Mendoza). Response: Saul says these things out of humility (Lyra). A sincere humility always seeks something in others, because of which it might reckoned them to be preferred before the self. Saul presents these objections to Samuel, lest he be made King. But why does he not object that Kings were to be made from the tribe of Judah alone according to Genesis 49:10? Response: Either he did not know the law; or rather he believed that God willed to transfer the kingdom from one tribe to another; just as the Priesthood was transferred to another house (Mendoza).

[Among all the families of the tribe of Benjamin, שִׁבְטֵ֣י בִנְיָמִ֑ן] Among the tribes of Benjamin (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), that is, among the families. It is a metonymical Synecdoche of the whole (Piscator). [It was previously observed that Family and Tribe are used interchangeably.] Or in the tribes, in the place of in the tribe. It is an Enallage of number (Piscator, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:5:4:669). Thus in 2 Chronicles 24:25, because of the murders of the sons of Jehoiada the Priest; that is, Zechariah, who was alone slain.[25] In Psalm 132:7, we will go up to His Tabernacles, although there was only one Tabernacle. In Psalm 137:1, by the rivers of Babylone we sat down; that is, at the Euphrates (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:5:4:669). He speaks modestly of his family, by overly disparaging it, although his father was a might man of power[26] (Drusius).

The least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin, that is, one of the least; obscure and inconsiderable, in comparison of divers others; whence it may seem that Saul’s family was not so noble and wealthy as some imagine: see on 1 Samuel 9:1.

[Wherefore speakest thou, etc.] He responds with some annoyance; as if he were not able to endure upon himself, not only the collation of the kingdom, but not even the promise, or even a certain slight indication of it. Although Samuel foretold the kingdom somewhat obscurely, Saul immediately understood the prediction: Naturally, men appear most acute in perceiving their advantages; while they seem blind in acknowledging their disadvantages (Mendoza).

Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? why dost thou feed me with vain hopes of the kingdom?

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ שָׁא֛וּל אֶת־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל בְּת֣וֹךְ הַשָּׁ֑עַר וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ הַגִּֽידָה־נָּ֣א לִ֔י אֵי־זֶ֖ה בֵּ֥ית הָרֹאֶֽה׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ שָׁא֛וּל אֶת־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל בְּת֣וֹךְ הַשָּׁ֑עַר. [3] The Direct Object marker. [4] Psalm 2:7: “I will declare the decree (אֲסַפְּרָ֗ה אֶֽ֫ל חֹ֥ק): the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” [5] Hebrew: וַיַּ֙עַן שְׁמוּאֵ֜ל אֶת־שָׁא֗וּל וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ אָנֹכִ֣י הָרֹאֶ֔ה עֲלֵ֤ה לְפָנַי֙ הַבָּמָ֔ה וַאֲכַלְתֶּ֥ם עִמִּ֖י הַיּ֑וֹם וְשִׁלַּחְתִּ֣יךָ בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּֽלְבָבְךָ֖ אַגִּ֥יד לָֽךְ׃ [6] Hebrew: וְלָאֲתֹנ֞וֹת הָאֹבְד֣וֹת לְךָ֗ הַיּוֹם֙ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת הַיָּמִ֔ים אַל־תָּ֧שֶׂם אֶֽת־לִבְּךָ֛ לָהֶ֖ם כִּ֣י נִמְצָ֑אוּ וּלְמִי֙ כָּל־חֶמְדַּ֣ת יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הֲל֣וֹא לְךָ֔ וּלְכֹ֖ל בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיךָ׃ [7] Hebrew: הַיּוֹם֙ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת הַיָּמִ֔ים. [8] See 1 Chronicles 29:3: “Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver (יֶשׁ־לִ֥י סְגֻלָּ֖ה זָהָ֣ב וָכָ֑סֶף), which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house…” Also, Haggai 2:8: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine (לִ֥י הַכֶּ֖סֶף וְלִ֣י הַזָּהָ֑ב), saith the Lord of hosts.” [9] See, for example, Jonah 2:9: “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lordיְשׁוּעָ֖תָה) לַיהוָֽה׃).” [10] Haggai 2:7. [11] Daniel 10:11a: “And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved (אִישׁ־חֲמֻדוֹת), understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.…” Similarly Daniel 9:23; 10:19. [12] Hebrew: הֲל֣וֹא לְךָ֔ וּלְכֹ֖ל בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיךָ׃ [13] Hebrew: וַיַּ֙עַן שָׁא֜וּל וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הֲל֙וֹא בֶן־יְמִינִ֤י אָ֙נֹכִי֙ מִקַּטַנֵּי֙ שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמִשְׁפַּחְתִּי֙ הַצְּעִרָ֔ה מִכָּֽל־מִשְׁפְּח֖וֹת שִׁבְטֵ֣י בִנְיָמִ֑ן וְלָ֙מָּה֙ דִּבַּ֣רְתָּ אֵלַ֔י כַּדָּבָ֖ר הַזֶּֽה׃ [14] Hebrew: כַּדָּבָ֖ר הַזֶּֽה׃. [15] Hebrew: הֲל֙וֹא בֶן־יְמִינִ֤י אָ֙נֹכִי֙. [16] See Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2; Hebrews 7:1, 2. [17] 1 Chronicles 20:5: “And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi (אֶת־לַחְמִי) the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam.” As written, אֶת appears to be the direct object marker, and לַחְמִי/Lahmi the name of the one slain. However, if it is read as an alteration ofבֵּית הַלַּחְמִי, the Beth-lehemite, it serves as a further description of Elhanan or Jair. [18] Pliny’s Natural History 11:117. [19] Pliny’s Natural History 8:193. [20] Latin of Proverbs 14:1. [21] See Genesis 49:3, 4; 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2. [22] According to legend, Romulus was the founder and first king of Rome in the eighth century BC. Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, although descended from Mars and Rhea Silvia, were condemned to drowning in the Tiber by the tyrant Amulius. They were left instead on the bank, and raised by a she-wolf. [23] According to the legendary account of Herodotus, the infant Cyrus (King of Persia from 559 to 530 BC) was ordered to by killed by his envious and paranoid grandfather. He was saved and raised by a shepherd. [24] Darius (King of Persion from 522 to 486 BC) was from an affluent, but not particularly prominent family. Herodotus, Histories 3:139, describes him as “of no consequence at the time”. [25] See verses 20-22. [26] See 1 Samuel 9:1.


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

George Swinnock's The Fading of the Flesh: 'The third use which I shall make of this doctrine, shall be by way of exhortation. If the comfort of a Christian in his saddest condition be this, that God is his portion, let me then persuade thee, reader, to choose God for thy portion. I look on thee as rational, and accordingly shall treat thee in this use, not doubting, but if reason may be judge, I shall prevail with thee to repent of thy former, and resolve on a new choice. Thou art one who hast chosen the world for thy portion; but hast thou not read what a poor, what a pitiful, what a piercing, what a perishing portion i…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'Providence having at length brought Samuel and Saul together, we have here an account of what passed between them in the gate, at the feast, and in private....

In the gate of the city; passing through that, Saul found him (1 Samuel 9:18), and, little thinking that he was Samuel himself, asked him the way to Samuel's house: Tell me where the seer's house is; for there he expected to find him. See how mean a figure Samuel made, though so great a man: he took not any state, had no attendants, no ensigns of honour carried before him, nor any distinguishing habit, no, not when he went to church, but appeared, in all respects, so much a…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

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