1 Samuel 9 – “Samuel Greets Saul”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Saul searches for his father’s missing donkeys and happens to meet Samuel. Samuel prepares a feast and tells Saul that he is destined for greatness.

II. Photo
Samuel’s cook prepares a meal for Saul: “And Samuel said to the cook, ‘Bring the portion which I gave you and told you to set aside.’” (v. 23)

III. Important Verses
1-2: There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of substance. He had a son whose name was Saul, an excellent young man; no one among the Israelites was handsomer than he; he was a head taller than any of the people.
7-8: “But if we go,” Saul said to his servant, “what can we bring the man? For the food in our bags is all gone, and there is nothing we can bring to the man of God as a present. What have we got?” The servant answered Saul again, “I happen to have a quarter-shekel of silver. I can give that to the man of God and he will tell us about our errand.”
9: Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for the prophet of today was formerly called a seer.
11-13: As they were climbing the ascent to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer in town?”  “Yes,” they replied. “He is up there ahead of you. Hurry, for he has just come to the town because the people have a sacrifice at the shrine today. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the shrine to eat; the people will not eat until he comes; for he must first bless the sacrifice and only then will the guests eat. Go up at once, for you will find him right away.”

IV. Outline
1-2. Saul’s greatness
3-5. Saul searches for his father’s donkeys
6-14. Saul and his servant set off to visit Samuel
15-17. God tells Samuel that Saul is to be made king
18-21. Samuel tells Saul about his donkeys and his future role
22-24. Saul is given a feast
25-27. Samuel and Saul stop to speak privately

V. Comment
Chapter 9 sets the stage for Saul’s anointment as king. It begins when Saul, who is described as the most handsome and tall man in Israel (v. 2), searches for his father’s missing donkeys. He is surprised when Samuel tells him that he is destined to be the leader in Israel.

When discussing the book of 1 Samuel it is important to address what scholars call “the Deuteronomist” and “Deuteronomistic history.” In his introduction to the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, Collins gives an explanation of these ideas, their origins, and their current status in scholarship. He writes: “The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (traditionally known as the Former Prophets) provide the main account that we have of the history of ancient Israel. All history writing is subject to ideological bias, and in the case of these books the bias might also be described as theological. History is viewed through the lens provided by the book of Deuteronomy. Accordingly, these books are known in modern scholarship as Deuteronomistic History.

“The view that the book of Deuteronomy once constituted a literary unit with the historical books was argued in detail by the German scholar Martin Noth in 1943, and has been generally accepted since then, although some scholars have questioned it in recent years. The historical books contain diverse kinds of material, and evidently drew on older sources and traditions. Other scholars before Noth had noticed that some elements in these books were influenced by the book of Deuteronomy. The books of Kings, for example, frequently condemn the kings of northern Israel for continuing ‘the sin of Jeroboam,’ the first king of northern Israel, who erected places of worship at Bethel and Dan, as counterattractions to the temple in Jerusalem. This criticism clearly presupposes Josiah’s reform and Deuteronomic law. Noth, however, pointed out that similar language and ideology runs through all these historical books, and that this shows that they were edited in a consistent manner. the editor is called Deuteronomistic because history is judged in the light of Deuteronomic theology…

“Noth argued that the entire Deuteronomistic History was composed by one editor, during the Babylonian exile. The purpose of the work would then be to explain the disaster that befell Israel and Judah as divine punishment for their failure (and especially the failure of the kings) to keep the covenant. Other scholars, however, have insisted that this is not the only theme in the history. There is also a positive view of the kingship that is reflected in the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 and in the account of Josiah’s reform. Various alternatives to Noth’s single editor have been proposed. The most influential of these is the view of Frank Moore Cross that there were two editions of the history. The first edition was in the reign of Josiah. This had a positive view of the monarchy, and was in effect propaganda for Josiah’s reform. The second edition was in the Babylonian exile, after the release of King Jehoiachin from prison in 562 B.C.E., which is the last event reported in 2 Kings. The second edition was colored by the destruction of Jerusalem, and placed greater emphasis on the failure of the monarchy. Other scholars have proposed more complex theories. A theory of three editions, one with a historical focus, one prophetic, and one nomistic (emphasizing law) has enjoyed wide support in German scholarship.” (183-184)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Klein, Ralph W. “1 Samuel” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 10 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983).
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “1 Samuel,” Anchor Bible vol. 8 (New York: Doubleday, 1980).
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