In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites demand a king. They will have to pay more in taxes, more of their men will have to serve in the army and fight in wars. The best of their land will have to be given up for service to the king. Women will have to work in various trades that will serve the kingdom. They will be subjects. In spite of all of that, the people still say they want a king.
In chapter 9, we’re introduced to Saul, the man who would be the first king of Israel.
1 Samuel 9:1:
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth.
As is often the case in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, when a new person is introduced, we see a family line given to introduce the person.
The Benjaminites were one of the 12 tribes of Israel. They were the smallest of the tribes numerically.
Other noteworthy Benjaminites in the Bible include Esther and the Apostle Paul.
The verse also mentions that the family was wealthy.
Continuing in verse 2:
2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
Physical descriptions of people in the Bible are generally pretty rare and when we see them, it’s usually for a reason. We don’t even know what Jesus looked like. But First Samuel mentions that Saul is a tall, handsome man.
Saul’s appearance matters to the story. Saul is the only Israelite who’s ever referred to as being tall in the Bible. And the word handsome is found just a handful of times.
So now that the general introductory things have been told about Saul, the author gets into the story.
The lost donkeys
3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.”
So Saul might come from a wealthy family, but we’re introduced to him having to engage in a fairly inglorious task of looking for some lost donkeys.
4 And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them. 5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.”
Still talking about donkeys.
It seems that the author is trying to show us the simple life that Saul was living. He’s going to be a king, but here, he’s just doing what his father sent him to do.
Agin, he’s just some Benjaminite. The smallest tribe. While his family seems well off, they’re not even the most prominent family within their tribe.
Saul has no ambition of being a King. Israel has never even had a king at this point!
It’s kind of like how I doubt George Washington grew up with aspirations of being president.
Because he grew up in a time when the presidency wasn’t a thing.
Saul has no aspiration of being the leader of Israel. So Saul is with one of his servants looking for the donkeys and they have wandered into this small town: Zuph. Still no donkeys. But they’ve been gone for awhile and Saul starts to worry that his father is going to start to worry.
But the servant of Saul makes a suggestion.
6 But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.”
The servant refers to “a man of God” in that city. The man of God is the Prophet Samuel.
Samuel is essentially a leader over Israel. He’s not a king. But he’s known throughout the land.
For instance, 1 Samuel 3:20 says:
20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.
Back in our passage. So it’s not Saul that has the idea to see Samuel. It’s his servant who has the idea. The servant knows and Saul doesn’t. And this is the future king of Israel! So Saul’s servant suggests Saul seek out Samuel. To find some donkeys.
Saul responds. He’s uncertain.
7 Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have”
Culturally, he feels like he needs to have some sort of gift to present before a prophet.
His servant happens to have some silver on him in verse 8. And so the two men go in pursuit on Samuel.
After a quick note on how they needed to have a gift, we see in verses 11-12, their journey is interrupted by a group of women.
Saul and his servant are looking for Samuel. And the women tell Saul and his servant that Samuel has just returned to the city.
1 Samuel 9:11-12:
11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” 12 They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place.
So the women tell Saul and his servant to hurry because Samuel has to perform a sacrifice that day.
1 Samuel 9:13:
13 As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.”
So the women are talking about this feast. Unknown to the women, unknown to Saul, but the feast is for him.
14 So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.
And it is there where they will meet the Prophet Samuel and where Saul will receive some news which will change his life and the future history of Israel.
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