Poole on 1 Samuel 9:6-10: Search for the Seer

Verse 6:[1] And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city (Deut. 33:1; 1 Kings 13:1) a man of God, and he is an honourable man; (1 Sam. 3:19) all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.



[There is a man of God] That is, a prophet; as in 1 Samuel 2:27 (Piscator). Thus the Prophets were called, inasmuch as, because of some excellence, they were approaching most nearly to God; for example, in holiness, or in prophecy (Mendoza).


A man of God; a prophet, as that phrase is used, 1 Samuel 2:27; Joshua 14:6; Judges 13:6.


[A noble man] Illustrious, distinguished (Vatablus), honorable, in the Hebrew[2] and Chaldean, namely, in wisdom and prophecy (Menochius, similarly Lyra, Kimchi in Drusius).


An honourable man; one of great reputation for his skill and faithfulness.


[It comes, בּ֣וֹא יָב֑וֹא] Undoubtedly it comes to pass (Vatablus). But false prophets were speaking some things false, some things ambiguous (Mendoza).


All that he saith cometh surely to pass; his declaration of things secret or future are always certain, and confirmed by the event.


[If perhaps he might tell us, etc.] There is nothing absurd that the Prophets of the Jews were wont to answer concerning certain chance circumstances, as here and in 2 Kings 1:3, so that no occasion might be given to the Hebrews to seek the vain divinations of the Gentiles (Mendoza almost out of Origen). But, he says, if perhaps, etc., not because he doubted of the truth of the prediction; but of the will to predict. Now, his reason for doubting was his own humility (Mendoza).


[Concerning our way, אֶת־דַּרְכֵּנוּ] Our way (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius), that is, the way in which we are to go in order to find the asses (Piscator).


[For which we are come (thus Munster, similarly the Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), אֲשֶׁר־הָלַ֥כְנוּ עָלֶֽיהָ׃] Upon which we are come (Jonathan). By which we might travel (Piscator), or go (Tigurinus), that is, the occasion of our way on account which we have undertaken this journey; namely, where the asses of thy father are (Vatablus, similarly Drusius).


Our way that we should go; the course we should take to find the asses. He saith peradventure, because be doubted whether so great a prophet, would seek, or God would grant him, a revelation concerning such mean matters; although sometimes God was pleased herein to condescend to his people, to cut off all pretence or occasion of seeking to witches or heathenish divination. See 1 Kings 14:2; 2 Kings 1:3.


Verse 7:[3] Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, (see Judg. 6:18; 13:17; 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 4:42; 8:8) what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in (Heb. is gone out of,[4] etc.) our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we (Heb. is with us[5])?


[Behold, we will go] Saul did not reject the advice of his servant. So also it behooves us to attend to, not who says, but what is said (Martyr).


[What shall we carry to the man of God?] That is to say, It would be impolite to approach him, previously unknown, without an honorarium (Junius, Piscator). [They understand it in a variety of ways:] 1. They were supposing the Prophet of God to receive gifts, just as their divines were doing (Vatablus, similarly Jerome and Theodoret and Procopius and Rupertus in Mendoza on verse 10). It is not said that Samuel accepted, but that Saul and his servant offered, as the price of prophecy (Mendoza). But I do not believe that the nature and character of Samuel, averse to gifts, and so well known to all, was unknown to Saul, who was not far distant from Ramah, where Samuel had both a public court, and a stable residence (Sanchez). 2. They were not offering as the price of prophecy, but as a small gift for a sign of regard (Menochius, Tirinus, similarly Mendoza), towards their superior (Tirinus). Just as it was not lawful for anyone to approach the Kings of the Persians without a gift (Tirinus out of Sanchez and Cajetan). Prophets, as Philosophers, ἀπὸ τῶν γνωρίμων ἐλάμβανον τὰ πρὸς τὰς χρείας, received from their acquaintances for their maintenance, says Origen in his Against Celsus.[6] See on 1 Kings 13:9, and what things are said on Matthew 10:8 (Grotius). Note here Samuel’s modesty and restraint; inasmuch as a common and mean gift is not supposed to be rejected by him. Not so the Kings that succeeded the Judges (Sanchez). But we do not read that Samuel received the gift from him. Indeed, on the contrary, that Saul gave anything to Samuel is so wanting, that he was even received by him to a sumptuous feast (Martyr). Saul gave this as a gift of gratitude, or for the sake of support (Lapide almost out of Serarius). 3. Or Saul gave a small offering or alms, which would lighten the necessity of the poor (Sanchez). He did not give it for the use of the Prophet, but for the workmanship of the sanctuary. Some maintain that Saul thought that to approach the Prophet was in a certain way to approach God, to whom no one was to present himself empty[7] (Martyr).


[The bread has failed, etc., כִּ֤י הַלֶּ֙חֶם֙ אָזַ֣ל מִכֵּלֵ֔ינוּ] For the bread has gone out (departed [Munster, Piscator], or vanished [Munster], failed [Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius]) from our (Vatablus) bags (vessels [Munster, Drusius, Piscator], supplies [Junius and Tremellius]), that is, we are left without food (Vatablus): This they say, not that they were going to give bread as the recompense, but they indicate that they were left without provision for the journey. If bread, much more money, etc. (Drusius). They were not able to give money to the Prophet, since they hardly had enough to buy supplies for the journey (Munster).


The bread is spent in our vessels: this he saith, because bread was not unusually given by way of present, as we see, 1 Samuel 10:3, 4. Or bread is put for all manner of provisions, as is frequent; and among these they might have something not unfit, in these plain times, to make a present of, as clusters of raisins, or cakes of figs, such as Abigail presented to David, 1 Samuel 25:18. See also 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 4:42.



[And we do not have a gift,[8] וּתְשׁוּרָה[9]] Tribute or an offering (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Malvenda, Drusius out of Kimchi), provision for a journey (Syriac). There is no more with us (Septuagint in Drusius). Anything that is right (Jonathan), as if the primary form were יָשַׁר, to be right or straight, whence תְּשׁוּרָה, as תְּשׁוּעָה/salvation is from יָשַׁע, to save. Menahem[10] explains it as a gift that is given to see a King, or a man that is in some esteem; from שׁוּר, to look upon (Drusius). תְּשׁוּרָה is from שׁוּר, which sometimes to present or offer (Mendoza).


There is not a present; such presents were then made to the prophets, 1 Kings 14:2, 3; 2 Kings 4:42; 8:8; either as a testimony of respect to him as their superior; upon which account subjects made presents to their kings, 1 Samuel 10:27; and the Persians never came to their king without some gift: or as a grateful acknowledgment of his favour; or for the support of the prophets themselves; or of the sons of the prophets; or of other persons in want, known to them.


[Nor anything else, מָ֖ה אִתָּֽנוּ׃] What is with us? (Pagnine), that is to say, nothing (Vatablus).


Verse 8:[11] And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand (Heb. there is found in my hand[12]) the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.


[The fourth part of a stater[13]] Hebrew: the fourth part of a shekel of silver[14] (Junius and Tremellius), that is, one drachma, which is equal to one denarius,[15] as Villalpando[16] says (Mendoza)


The fourth part of a shekel of silver was near a groat; which, though now it may seem a contemptible gift, yet in those ancient times it was certainly of far more worth, and better accepted than now it would be, when the covetousness, and pride, and luxury of men have raised their expectations and desires to far greater things.


Verse 9:[17] (Beforetime in Israel, when a man [Gen. 25:22] went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called [2 Sam. 24:11; 2 Kings 17:13; 1 Chron. 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chron. 16:7, 10; Isa. 30:10; Amos 7:12] a Seer.)



[Beforetime in Israel thus one spoke, etc.] This whole verse is found in our Bibles enclosed in parentheses. They doubt who the Author of it may be (Mendoza). It appears that the book was written long after those times, from which fact is confirmed the conjecture posited at the beginning of this book (Grotius). I believe that this verse was inserted in this place by Ezra, who was inspired with the prophetic spirit (Mendoza). Perhaps this was added by Nathan, concerning whom see 1 Chronicles 29:29. Yet I would prefer by Samuel, and thus I understand. Since Samuel was inspired with the Prophetic spirit from his earliest years, while he was yet a boy, he was addressed as Seer; but afterwards, with fifty years having passed, as I suppose, when this history was written, the name of seer was changed into Prophet (Sanchez). This is not satisfying; for after the death of Samuel they were called seers, 2 Chronicles 9:29; 16:10; and elsewhere. And so Samuel was not able to say, Beforetime they were called seers, as if at that time that custom was already ended (Mendoza). But the sense appears to be: He that today is called a Prophet, previously was called a seer only, …whom now they also call Prophet. There is a similar thing in Ruth, in former time a man plucked off his shoe.[18] For that custom was still thriving in the times of Boaz. Thus, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; the sense is, Jacob only (Drusius). Although Prophet, seer, and Man of God are Synonyms; nevertheless, most are called Prophets; only two seers, Samuel[19] and Hanani;[20] ten Men of God[21] (Drusius’ Of Sacred Observations[22] 11:5). But Zadok is also called רוֹאֶה, a seer, 2 Samuel 15:27; and Gadחוֹזֶה, a seer,[23] which is the same thing: Lively on Isaiah 30:10 (Gataker). The activity of the Prophets is principally twofold: 1. Certain and perspicuous knowledge of the most abstruse things; 2. Speaking forth and explanation of the same. From the former they were called seers; from the latter, Prophets (Serarius).


[A Seer] That is, by Prophetic vision (Vatablus). They were called Seers, not only because they were seeing divine visions, and God was appearing to them; but also because they were, as it were, the eyes of others, whose office it was to reveal what things they had foreseen to others, so that they might either do or beware those things (Malvenda). Moreover, foreign and profane soothsayers were said to see what things they were having a presentiment of. Virgil, in Æneid 6, concerning the Sibyl:[24] I see wars, fierce wars, and the Tiber foaming with much blood. And in Æneid 7: Immediately he says, We Prophets see a foreign man coming… Lucan,[25] in Pharsalia 5: And while from sacred light, what fates she saw, she opens into the open daylight… (Mendoza). Also, προορᾶν, to see beforehand, by the Greeks, and prævidere by the Latins, is used of Prophets. Compare Numbers 24:4[26] (Grotius).


Of God; or, a man of God, which signified the same thing. Was called a seer, because he did discern and could discover things secret and unknown to others. And these are the words, either, first, Of some later sacred writer, which, after Samuel’s death, inserted this verse. Or, secondly, Of Samuel, who, being probably fifty or sixty years old at the writing of this book, and speaking of the state of things in his first days, might well call it beforetime. Or rather, thirdly, Of Saul’s servant, who might be now stricken in years, and might speak this either by his knowledge of what was in his juvenile years, or upon the information of his father or ancestors. And so it is a fit argument to persuade Saul to go to the man of God, that he might show them their way, and where the asses were, because he was likely to inform them; for the prophets were anciently called seers, because they knew and could reveal hidden things. And the meaning is, that anciently they were not vulgarly called prophets, but seers only; whereas now, and afterwards, they were called seers, yet they were more commonly called prophets.


Verse 10:[27] Then said Saul to his servant, Well said (Heb. thy word is good[28]); come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הִנֵּה־נָ֤א אִישׁ־אֱלֹהִים֙ בָּעִ֣יר הַזֹּ֔את וְהָאִ֣ישׁ נִכְבָּ֔ד כֹּ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יְדַבֵּ֖ר בּ֣וֹא יָב֑וֹא עַתָּה֙ נֵ֣לֲכָה שָּׁ֔ם אוּלַי֙ יַגִּ֣יד לָ֔נוּ אֶת־דַּרְכֵּ֖נוּ אֲשֶׁר־הָלַ֥כְנוּ עָלֶֽיהָ׃ [2] Hebrew: נִכְבָּד. [3] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל לְנַעֲר֗וֹ וְהִנֵּ֣ה נֵלֵךְ֮ וּמַה־נָּבִ֣יא לָאִישׁ֒ כִּ֤י הַלֶּ֙חֶם֙ אָזַ֣ל מִכֵּלֵ֔ינוּ וּתְשׁוּרָ֥ה אֵין־לְהָבִ֖יא לְאִ֣ישׁ הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים מָ֖ה אִתָּֽנוּ׃ [4] Hebrew: אָזַל. [5] Hebrew: אִתָּנוּ. [6] Celsus was a second century Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity. Excerpts from his The True Word are found in Origen’s Contra Celsum. [7] See Exodus 23:15; 34:20; Deuteronomy 16:16. [8] Latin: sportulam, food or money given by a patron to his client. [9]תְּשׁוּרָה appears to be related to שׁוּר, to travel. [10] Rabbi Menahem ben Benymin Recanati (late thirteenth, early fourteenth century) was an Italian Kabbalist. He wrote a commentary on the Torah, and many of the teachings of the ancient rabbis survive only in his works. [11] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤סֶף הַנַּ֙עַר֙ לַעֲנ֣וֹת אֶת־שָׁא֔וּל וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הִנֵּה֙ נִמְצָ֣א בְיָדִ֔י רֶ֖בַע שֶׁ֣קֶל כָּ֑סֶף וְנָֽתַתִּי֙ לְאִ֣ישׁ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהִגִּ֥יד לָ֖נוּ אֶת־דַּרְכֵּֽנוּ׃ [12] Hebrew: נִמְצָ֣א בְיָדִ֔י. [13] A stater was a Jewish coin, of the value of four drachmas. The drachma was about what a skilled laborer would make in a day, a comfortable subsistence. [14] Hebrew: רֶ֖בַע שֶׁ֣קֶל כָּ֑סֶף. [15] The denarius was about four and a half grams of silver. [16] John Baptist Villalpando (1552-1608) was a Spanish Jesuit. He is noteworthy for his interest in architecture and fascination with Ezekiel’s Temple vision. [17] Hebrew: לְפָנִ֣ים׀ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר הָאִישׁ֙ בְּלֶכְתּוֹ֙ לִדְר֣וֹשׁ אֱלֹהִ֔ים לְכ֥וּ וְנֵלְכָ֖ה עַד־הָרֹאֶ֑ה כִּ֤י לַנָּבִיא֙ הַיּ֔וֹם יִקָּרֵ֥א לְפָנִ֖ים הָרֹאֶֽה׃ [18] Ruth 4:7. [19] 1 Samuel 9:19; 1 Chronicles 9:22; 26:28; 29:29. [20] 2 Chronicles 16:7; 19:2. [21] Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6); unnamed (Judges 13:6, 8); unnamed (1 Samuel 2:27); Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6-10); Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:22); unnamed (1 Kings 13); Elijah (1 Kings 17:18, 24; 2 Kings 1:9-13); Elisha (2 Kings 4-8); David (2 Chronicles 8:14; Nehemiah 12:24, 26); unnamed (2 Chronicles 25:7, 9). See also Jeremiah 35:4. [22]Observationum Sacrarum. [23] See 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 21:9; 29:29; 2 Chronices 29:25. [24] The Sibyls were prophetesses of Ancient Greece, usually attached to holy sites. Æneas consults the Cumæan Sibyl, located near Naples. She is said to have bartered the Sibylline books to the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus. [25] Marcus Annæus Lucanus (39-65) was a Roman poet. [26] Numbers 24:4: “He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty (אֲשֶׁ֙ר מַחֲזֵ֤ה שַׁדַּי֙ יֶֽחֱזֶ֔ה; ὅστις ὅρασιν θεοῦ εἶδεν, in the Septuagint), falling into a trance, but having his eyes open…” [27] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֧וּל לְנַעֲר֛וֹ ט֥וֹב דְּבָרְךָ֖ לְכָ֣ה׀ נֵלֵ֑כָה וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֶל־הָעִ֔יר אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם אִ֥ישׁ הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃ [28] Hebrew: ט֥וֹב דְּבָרְךָ֖.