1 Samuel 10 Exegesis

*This is not a definitive answer on the topic but I hope it is useful food for thought.

1 Samuel 10

The full question:

Provide an exegetical paper on 1 Samuel 10:17-27.


17Now Samuel summoned the people to the LORD at Mizpah. 18And he said to the sons of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel from Egypt and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms[1], the ones oppressing you.’ 19But this day you rejected your God, he who (always)[2] delivers you from all your calamities[3] and your distresses, and you have said, ‘No![4] But appoint a king over us.’ And now take one’s stand before the LORD according to[5] your tribes and according to your thousands[6].’ 20Then Samuel brought near all of the tribes of Israel, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken (by lot)[7]. 21And he[8] brought near the tribe of Benjamin according to its clans and the clan of the Matri was taken (by lot)[9], and Saul, the son of Kish, was taken (by lot) and they sought him but he could not be found. 22And they inquired again of the LORD, ‘Did the man[10] come here yet?’ and the LORD said, ‘’Behold he is hiding himself in the baggage[11]23And they ran and they took him from there and he took his stand in the midst of the people and he was higher than all the people from his shoulder and above. 24And Samuel said to all of the people, ‘Do you see whom the LORD has chosen? For there is none like him among all of the people. And they shouted and all of the people said, ‘Long[12] live the king!’ 25Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingship and wrote it in a book and placed it before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 26And also Saul went to his house with an army[13] whose heart God had touched. 27But worthless men[14] said ‘How can this man deliver us?’ And they despised him and they did not bring a gift for him but he kept silent. [15]


The meeting at Mizpah (1 Sam 10:17-27) declares there is a sovereign God who achieves his purposes despite a rebellious people. Ben-Barak considers this section to be on par with the events of Sinai (Ex 24) and Shechem (Josh 24).[16] The tension of the entire passage is one of God agreeing to provide a king, which is in his plans, yet the motivation of the people to ask for a king, is clearly condemned. Samuel seeks to communicate the people’s rebellion as he makes clear God’s sovereign choice of Saul, their new king.[17] Critical scholarship is in consensus that this section is a continuation of chapter eight[18] many consider הַיּ֜וֹם (this day) ‘as a reference to the same day on which the request was made in the assembly’[19] (8:4-22). Goldingay believes God used compilers who merely placed various stories end to end without any concern with how they are linked.[20] Many point to the ‘deuteronomistic historian’ to have compiled this section.[21] It seems that such a view imagines an editor who is ‘particularly clumsy’.[22] It seems more likely that this section follows the previous events (9:1-10:16) where ‘the secret choice of God’ through anointing, is ‘made public’ by lot.[23] The transition from a positive light in the selection of Saul to ‘a more dim view of kingship’ that follows merely emphasises the tension desired by the author. [24]

The passage has been split in to three sections: The Prophet’s Rebuke (vs. 17-19); The King Revealed (vs. 20-24); The Reactions (25-27). There appears to be a definite scene change between Samuel’s speech and then the casting of lots which choose Saul as king followed by what Samuel did next in verse twenty-five. The scene changes follow the waw consecutive translated first as ‘now’ in verse seventeen, ‘then’ in verse twenty and ‘then’ in verse twenty-five each providing a ‘sequence in time’[25]. This entire section fits well with the open paragraph markers ‘פ’ at the end of verses sixteen, twenty-four and twenty-seven.[26] Conceptually this division also contains a logical flow of thought between Samuel’s speech, the choice of Saul and the reactions of the people to this new system of government. As this passage passes through this ‘ominous’ change in Israel’s history, verse by verse, we will see a ‘remarkable assertion’ of God’s sovereignty over all the earth.[27]

The Prophet’s Rebuke Vv 17-19

The people gather once again at Mizpah (1 Sam 10:17) and the prophet, Samuel, begins with a rebuke. It is connected with the preceding section with the mention of ‘the key word’ הַמְּלוּכָה֙ (the kingdom) also used in verse twenty-five.[28] At the same time, it is ‘the beginning of a new scene’.[29] In another call for repentance at Mizpah (cf. 1 Sam 7:5-6) Samuel impressively summarises ‘Israel’s history’.[30] It is a characteristic speech pointing to God’s graciousness (10:18) and Israel’s rejection of ‘this gracious God’ (10:19).[31]

Verse 17

וַיַּצְעֵ֤ק שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה הַמִּצְפָּֽה׃

The hiphil verb וַיַּצְעֵ֤ק (summoned) is used for the causative sense in calling the people (הָעָ֔ם) to Mizpah (הַמִּצְפָּֽה). The people may refer to ‘the nation in its heads and representatives’.[32] Reid considers verse seventeen to follow on from their dismissal at the end of chapter eight.[33] Although, as noted above, the interceding verses are important to describe the private choice of Saul before the public coronation.[34] No sense of the time between the gathering at Ramah (1 Sam 8:4) and this assembly is provided.[35] The location of Mizpah is highly ironic and relevant for such an occasion. It appears to be ‘one of Samuel’s four centers of judicial activity’[36] (7:16) and possibly ‘the capital city at the time’[37]. This site is the same location as when Israel chose to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin (Judg 20:1-11), which is Saul’s tribe.[38]

Verse 18

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל פכֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אָנֹכִ֛י הֶעֱלֵ֥יתִי אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וָאַצִּ֤יל אֶתְכֶם֙ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֔יִם וּמִיַּד֙ כָּל־הַמַּמְלָכ֔וֹת הַלֹּחֲצִ֖ים אֶתְכֶֽם׃

Samuel begins with a ‘typical prophetic denunciation’ (פכֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל).[39] The emphasis is laid on God’s gracious acts with the use of the emphatic אָנֹכִ֛י (‘I’).[40] The deliverance from Egypt reminds the people of the foundation for the Mosaic covenant (Ex 20:1-2).[41] The mention of the kingdoms (הַמַּמְלָכ֔וֹת)[42] is intentional to remind the people that their request for a king, to ‘be like all the nations’ (1 Sam 8:20), is ironic in that the God they serve brought them out from those kingdoms.[43] In this speech God is in a sense ‘registering his dissent’.[44]

Verse 19

וְאַתֶּ֨ם הַיּ֜וֹם מְאַסְתֶּ֣ם אֶת־אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא מוֹשִׁ֣יעַ לָכֶם֮ מִכָּל־רָעוֹתֵיכֶ֣ם וְצָרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ וַתֹּ֣אמְרוּ לוֹ֔ כִּי־מֶ֖לֶךְ תָּשִׂ֣ים עָלֵ֑ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה הִֽתְיַצְּבוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶ֖ם וּלְאַלְפֵיכֶֽם׃

There is an emphatic contrast between אָנֹכִ֛י (‘I’) in the previous verse and וְאַתֶּ֨ם (‘but you’) with a disjunctive clause. The emphasis of the pronoun ‘I’ is typical of covenant formulations (cf. Gen 9:9; Ex 20:2; 2 Sam 7:8) yet here it is clear that though the LORD has kept his promise they have failed. This provides ‘a terrible disparity between what the Lord had done and what Israel had done.’[45] As noted above, the reference to this day (הַיּ֜וֹם) does not equate to the same day of chapter eight as Samuel dismissed the assembly to their cities on that meeting (1 Sam 8:22), it is rather a focus on ‘the present reality of the people’s defection from God’.[46] The use of rejection (מְאַסְתֶּ֣ם) is used earlier (8:7) and it will be used later in God’s rejection of this new king (16:1).[47] The rejection of God and the reference in the previous verse to the Sinai covenant may imply a ‘violation of the first commandment’.[48] After this condemning declaration, it is surprising that God then provides a way to bring about the selection of the new king. Although, the selection process is reticent of a method used to find the guilty party and exact punishment in other instances (Josh 7:16-18; 1 Sam 14:40-42). Perhaps there is a tone of judgment in what is to follow[49] yet instead of judgment God grants their request.[50] The tribes (לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶ֖ם) seem to be subdivided into thousands (וּלְאַלְפֵיכֶֽם). Baldwin believes ‘this sub-unit cannot be used to compute the size of the population, nor indeed the army’.[51] In verse twenty-one it seems the tribes are divided into clans (לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתוֹ) perhaps suggesting Baldwin being accurate in his assertion. At the same time, the word could have military connotations to ‘a military unit’ which points to ‘the king’s role’ being ‘initially conceived militarily’.[52] Sadly, just as the Israelites desired a king in rejection of God and a desire to be like the other nations so today it reflects a Christian’s ‘desire to be like the world’.[53] It is a comfort that even in humanity’s rebellious attitudes God still reigns supreme and it is also a warning of the results that come from a desire to be like the world. This is seen as the book of Samuel continues into Saul’s downfall.

The King Revealed 20-24

Rather than containing ‘an announcement of judgment’, like what happened to Achan (Josh 7), Saul is selected.[54] This could indicate Saul is the judgment, while many debate such a suggestion, the narrative seems to suggest both judgment and grace in the selection of Saul, as will be seen. God’s sovereignty is again shown clearly as he twice reveals the king – through lot (vs. 21) and through a divine answer (vs. 22). Though the people do not trust God to save them (vs. 19), they need God’s help just to find him.[55] Saul is a regal looking man who the LORD has chosen and the people embrace (vs. 24).[56] Here the gospel is made clear in that ‘the people reject God’ but ‘God doesn’t reject them’.[57]

Verse 20

וַיַּקְרֵ֣ב שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד שֵׁ֥בֶט בִּנְיָמִֽן׃

Many consider this process to be an indication of the divine judgment against Israel, as briefly noted above, due to the similarity to Achan’s own process of condemnation (Josh 7) and Jonathan’s supposed guilt (1 Sam 14:40-42).[58] While this may be the case, taking the lot[59] (וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד)[60] was used in more ways than merely finding the guilty party. Baldwin notes that the land of Canaan was ‘allocated by lot’ (Josh 18:10), the fate of the goats on the day of atonement was by lot (Lev 16:8-10) and Proverbs indicates that the lot is directed by the LORD (Prov 16:33).[61] Perhaps the use of the lot has the predominant purpose of indicating God’s sovereign choice rather than specifically his condemnation.[62] At the same time, there may be an underlying theme of punitive action as later God says, ‘I gave you a king in my anger’ (Hos 13:11).[63] The tribe of Benjamin (שֵׁ֥בֶט בִּנְיָמִֽן) is one of the smallest tribes of Israel (1 Sam 9:21), which is understandable considering recent history (Judg 20-21). Here, it is seen once again how God chooses the ‘weak to shame the strong’.[64]

Verse 21

וַיַּקְרֵ֞ב אֶת־שֵׁ֤בֶט בִּנְיָמִן֙ לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתוֹ וַתִּלָּכֵ֖ד מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת הַמַּטְרִ֑י וַיִּלָּכֵד֙ שָׁא֣וּל בֶּן־קִ֔ישׁ וַיְבַקְשֻׁ֖הוּ וְלֹ֥א נִמְצָֽא׃

Samuel brought (וַיַּקְרֵ֞ב)[65] the chosen tribe of Benjamin by its clans (לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתוֹ)[66]. The Matrites (הַמַּטְרִ֑י) are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible yet appear to be Kish’s family’s clan.[67] Immediately after the selection has been revealed Saul is lost. The election of Saul as king began ‘with a question to find some lost donkeys’ and ‘now the king himself cannot be found’.[68] Some commentators question the legitimacy of this account as they presume Saul had to have been there for the lot to be cast yet such an assertion does not allow for a plethora of other options in the process of being taken by lot.[69] Much attention has been drawn to the motive behind Saul’s hiding, yet any assertion must be merely hypothesized as the text does not spell it out. Some suggest a lack of self-confidence[70], humility[71] or cowardliness[72]. Perhaps it was a lack of wisdom and a desire to avoid responsibility.[73] It does seem clear from his previous anointment and the three signs he received (1 Sam 10:1-7) that Saul had a clear indicator who would be chosen by lot.[74] Regardless of whether this shows ‘modesty or a flaw in character’, Saul does indeed stand among the people (vs. 23) (וַיִּתְיַצֵּ֖ב) once he has been found which is the same verb used earlier in reference of the ‘people before Yahweh’ (vs. 19) (הִֽתְיַצְּבוּ֙).[75]

Verse 22

וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ־עוֹד֙ בַּֽיהוָ֔ה הֲבָ֥א ע֖וֹד הֲלֹ֣ם אִ֑ישׁ סוַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה הִנֵּה־ה֥וּא נֶחְבָּ֖א אֶל־הַכֵּלִֽים׃

The people ask God where Saul could be (הֲבָ֥א ע֖וֹד הֲלֹ֣ם אִ֑ישׁ)[76]. His vacancy is a pattern begun with hiding the news of kingship from his servant and his uncle (1 Sam 9:27; 10:16).[77] The inquiry by the people is a play on Saul’s name (וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ) in a sense they ‘requested’ ‘the requested one’. Chapman considers this to hint at ‘the story of Saul’s kingship originates in uncertainty and Saul’s name is treated as a kind of implicit question’.[78] Although they inquire again (עוֹד֙) it is not by the same method ‘since the answer is introduced by the formula, the Lord said’ (וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה), this could refer to God speaking directly to Samuel. [79] The place which Saul chose to hide is quite an ambiguous term (הַכֵּלִֽים). Woodhouse notes it could be ‘almost any physical object’.[80] Bergen considers it most probably to be ‘a location at the perimeter of the camp’.[81] Ackroyd notes that the mention of this word ‘suggests that warriors are assembled ready for war’. Of the thirty-nine references to כְּלִי in first and second Samuel twenty-six are clearly war related with another eight in war related instances. Perhaps there was an assortment of items including military equipment. This would make sense, as an army (חַ֫יִל) follows after Saul (10:26) and part of the intention of the king was to ‘go out before us and fight our battles’ (8:20). Regardless of what the baggage contains, God sovereignly knows where Saul is and directs the people to the king he has chosen.

Verse 23

וַיָּרֻ֨צוּ֙ וַיִּקָּחֻ֣הוּ מִשָּׁ֔ם וַיִּתְיַצֵּ֖ב בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעָ֑ם וַיִּגְבַּהּ֙ מִכָּל־הָעָ֔ם מִשִּׁכְמֹ֖ו וָמָֽעְלָה׃

Despite Saul’s attempt at hiding himself they eagerly take him from his hiding spot and ‘he took his stand’ (וַיִּתְיַצֵּ֖ב). The hitphael generally provides a reflexive sense in which the subject is not being assisted or acted upon by another force. Here, though the people ran (וַיָּרֻ֨צוּ֙) and took him (וַיִּקָּחֻ֣הוּ), Saul took his stand on his own accord among the people. His towering figure is again noted in the narrative (1 Sam 9:2). Bergen suggests that his height provides a link between Saul and Israel’s other enemies who ‘are noted as being tall’[82] (cf. Num 13:33). This is a tentative assertion at best. Though there may still be some connotations towards the concept taught later in David’s anointing, where men look on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).[83] This idea continues in the very next verse.

Verse 24

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֜ל אֶל־כָּל־הָעָ֗ם הַרְּאִיתֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּֽחַר־בּוֹ֣ יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין כָּמֹ֖הוּ בְּכָל־הָעָ֑ם וַיָּרִ֧עוּ כָל־הָעָ֛ם וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ יְחִ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ פ

Samuel emphasises the LORD’s choosing (בָּֽחַר). This is both a sovereign act of mercy and of judgment. It also drives the point home that even ‘the king will rule under the authority of the Lord and be responsible to the Lord’ which echoes Moses’ own instructions (Deut 17:15).[84] Later, the choice is placed squarely on the people and attributed to the LORD in the same verse (1 Sam 12:13).[85] Both the people’s desire and God’s choosing come together and result in a ‘joyful response’ (יְחִ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ).[86] This became a repeated ‘acclamation of the king’ (cf. 1 Kings 1:25, 34).[87] There was ‘a real enthusiasm’ for Saul.[88] Despite this response, the following verses show various reactions of the people to God’s choice and demonstration of his sovereign rule.

The Reactions 25-27

The reactions that follow this ‘turning point’[89] in Israel’s history is diverse. Samuel lays down ‘the manner of the kingship’ (1 Sam 10:25) recognising God’s rule over the king and though Saul is proclaimed by the people as king (10:24) there are some that loyally follow because of God (10:26) and others that do not share in the joy of this elected leader (10:27). This final reaction is condemned in the text choosing to call them out as ‘worthless men’ (וּבְנֵ֧י בְלִיַּ֣עַל). Following God’s sovereign choice of the new king, regardless of the people’s rebellious intentions that brought it about, there is one reaction driven by God (10:26) that indicates the desired response.

Verse 25

וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר שְׁמוּאֵ֜ל אֶל־הָעָ֗ם אֵ֚ת מִשְׁפַּ֣ט הַמְּלֻכָ֔ה וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב בַּסֵּ֔פֶר וַיַּנַּ֖ח לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיְשַׁלַּ֧ח שְׁמוּאֵ֛ל אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֖ם אִ֥ישׁ לְבֵיתֹֽו׃

This verse contains four actions of Samuel: told (וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר); wrote (וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב); placed (וַיַּנַּ֖ח); sent (וַיְשַׁלַּ֧ח). The first and last action include Samuel (שְׁמוּאֵ֜ל) with the middle two verbs Samuel is presumed. The first three actions ‘are in the same sub-paragraph’ which ‘supports the idea that this is a tripartite action’.[90] It created a covenant between the king and the people under God.[91] Samuel has already announced the ‘manner’ (מִשְׁפַּ֣ט) of the king previously (1 Sam 8:9, 11) yet the manner of the king (הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ) in chapter eight seems different to the rights of the kingship (הַמְּלֻכָ֔ה) stated here.[92] What Samuel records is not stipulated in the text, yet it seems likely that he refers to ‘the stipulations of the kingship such as are outlined in Deuteronomy 17’.[93] Tsumura argues that the judgments spoken, written and placed before the LORD is ‘more specific’ than the ‘Deuteronomic laws in general’.[94] Such a view would not discount the concept that the rights and regulations here still refers to Deuteronomy seventeen. This chapter in Deuteronomy is pointed to by John Knox to explain that ‘earthly monarchs are not laws unto themselves but are themselves subject to God’s law’.[95] These actions of Samuel point once again to the sovereign rule of God and the role of the king is a ‘vice-king’.[96] Placing the book before the LORD, ‘presumably in the sanctuary…means it continues to testify about what is expected of both king and people’.[97] God’s spokesman, Samuel, then dismisses the people demonstrating once again who is in charge.[98] God mercifully selects a king and graciously continues to rule.

Verse 26

וְגַ֨ם־שָׁא֔וּל הָלַ֥ךְ לְבֵיתֹ֖ו גִּבְעָ֑תָה וַיֵּלְכ֣וּ עִמּוֹ֔ הַחַ֕יִל אֲשֶׁר־נָגַ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּלִבָּֽם׃

The disjunctive clause[99] emphasises Saul also (וְגַ֨ם־שָׁא֔וּל) obeys Samuel’s command.[100] At first it may seem unexpected that Saul returns to his normal work (1 Sam 11:5), yet perhaps McCarter accurately points out how currently Saul is merely king de jure, it is not until after his military success (11:5-11) that he becomes king de facto (11:15).[101] The reason for this could be the initial request and desire of the people in chapter eight verse twenty, ‘that our king may…go out before us and fight our battles’. Saul demonstrates his ability to do this in chapter eleven and so his kingship is further accepted as fact. This verse also shows God’s provision for his selected king in touching the hearts (אֲשֶׁר־נָגַ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּלִבָּֽם) of valiant men, the beginning of a standing army. These men most probably would have been both rich and trained in war.[102] God had already changed Saul’s heart (10:9) and now he touches others’ hearts, God is clearly at work.[103] God sovereignly provides for this chosen king.

Verse 27

וּבְנֵ֧י בְלִיַּ֣עַל אָמְר֗וּ מַה־יֹּשִׁעֵ֨נוּ֙ זֶ֔ה וַיִּבְזֻ֕הוּ וְלֹֽא־הֵבִ֥יאוּ לוֹ֖ מִנְחָ֑ה וַיְהִ֖י כְּמַחֲרִֽישׁ׃ פ

Beginning with a disjunctive clause[104] the emphasis is placed on some worthless men (וּבְנֵ֧י בְלִיַּ֣עַל)[105]. Though God begins in verse nineteen with announcing he is a God who saves, these men question God’s choice of king.[106] It is possible their expectations and desires for a king to be like the other nations is crumbling in God’s ultimate authority over the king. They then refuse to acknowledge him as king.[107] The text suggests there was some contempt with the demonstrative pronoun (זֶ֔ה) being used which can ‘have this nuance by the omission of a fuller expression’ as seen here.[108] They are ultimately questioning not just Saul but God who chose him.[109] They refuse to bring a gift (מִנְחָ֑ה) which would be an act of reverence.[110] Firth suggests that this incident may cause some to look back from hindsight and wonder if ‘they had it right’[111] yet such a view seems to ignore the term used by the author to describe these men. Their rebellious reaction to a theocratic king elected by God is in no way right or positive as David himself continues to prove (cf. 1 Sam 24:6; 26:11). Saul’s silence to their rebellion is often seen as positive yet the text does not confirm whether ‘this is from a position of strength or weakness’.[112] To be under the reign of the LORD produces many reactions. The only right reaction is provided through God’s own action in touching one’s heart to follow his rule.


In this remarkable passage Israel embarks on a journey living under kings. It all ends ‘ignominiously by living under a foreign king in Babylon’[113] yet God’s sovereign rule never ends. The LORD condemns Israel through Samuel and their rejection of him yet graciously chooses them a king. This king is still required to reign under God’s ultimate authority. God sovereignly dictates this entire scene as he condemns Israel’s choice yet chooses, reveals and equips this vice-king. He shows his power in rebellion and continues to display his ultimate kingship today. This great God can never be ‘dethroned’ regardless of humanity’s futile attempts. This omnipotent God will achieve the purposes that he chooses throughout the course of history.

  1. Some read הַמַּמְלָכ֔וֹת as ‘kings’. Robert P. Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary (Exeter, Devon: Paternoster, 1986), 120. P. Kyle McCarter, I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary (Anchor Bible; New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press: Doubleday, 2010). Firth considers this to be possible and explains the advantage is it resolves the issue of it being masculine rather than feminine. Yet he believes it is still more prudent to keep the normal translation ‘kingdoms’ ‘and interpret the gender of the participle as personification, so that kingdoms and the kings become indistinguishable’. David G. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary 8; Nottingham, England: Downers Grove: Apollos; InterVarsity, 2009), 129. Keil and Delitzch suggest that it is ‘kingdoms’ and that the verb is going with the ‘sense’ of the noun. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel (trans. by James Martin; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1876), http://archive.org/details/biblicalcommen00keil, (accessed July 25, 2018), 106. Perhaps an alternative option is to view the participle functioning as a substantival rather than an adjectival verb. Meaning it is still referring to the kingdoms semantically but it is independent grammatically. This suggestion allows for the plain meaning and no discrepancy within the text. It would seem the KJV 1900 concedes this as a possibility in their translation, ‘out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you’ (cf. Gen 4:7).

  2. When a participle operates as a verb it can indicate a continuous type of action. Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, and Jan Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (Electronic ed.; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 162.

  3. Literally, ‘evils’.

  4. Klein and Firth consider לוֹ֔ ‘to him’, to be an ‘aural mistake’ for לֹֽא ‘no’ (LXX, Syr, Targ). Also, the previous instance in chapter eight verse nineteen may indicate this conclusion. Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel (Word Biblical Commentary; Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 1983), 95. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 129. Driver considers לֹֽא to be ‘more pointed and forcible’. S. R Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 84. Keil and Delitzsch argue that though some of the Codices demonstrate this and parallel passages (8:19; 12:12) ‘it is not necessary; since כִּי is used to introduce a direct statement, even in a declaration of the opposite, in the sense of our “no but”…There is, therefore, no reason for exchanging לוֹ֔ for לֹֽא.’ Keil and Delitzsch, The Books of Samuel, 106. This is not a vital issue yet in general the MT text is reliable and so Keil and Delitzsch’s suggestion seems most plausible.

  5. The preposition לְ is used in the ‘normative’ sense in which it is used to divide a larger whole into parts. Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (New York, N.Y: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 113.

  6. Tsumura notes that ‘the Hebrew term as it is can be used as a unit for counting people, referring to a subdivision of “tribe.”’ David Toshio Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 297. Driver agrees considering it to be ‘tribal subdivisions’. Driver, The Books of Samuel, 84. Some versions translate this as ‘clans’ (NASB95, NRSV, LEB, NIV, NLT), while this may provide the correct understanding of a smaller unit, it is good to translate the plain meaning of the text (ESV KJV 1900).

  7. ‘The expression was taken (וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד)…has the technical meaning “taken” by the lot, which was used for the division of the Promised Land (Josh. 14:1-2; chs. 18, 19, 21); see on 1 Sam. 14:41, 42’ Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 297. McCarter also agrees noting that ‘the technical terminology of lot casting may be discerned’. McCarter, I Samuel, 192.

  8. ‘The MT omits specifying that Samuel brought the family of the Matrites near.’ Antony F. Campbell, 1 Samuel (The Forms of the Old Testament Literature; Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2003), 110. Firth notes, ‘a longer text regularizing a pattern is suspect, and MT is retained’. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 129. This is a lectio brevior et difficilior (the shorter and more difficult) reading and it is clear enough to be understood.

  9. The LXX adds, καὶ προσάγουσι τὴν φυλὴν Ματταρὶ εἰς ἄνδρας (and they bring near the family of Mattari, man by man). McKane believes they ‘are needed to complete the sense of the verse’. William McKane, 1 & 2 Samuel: Introduction and Commentary (The Torch Bible; London: Scm Press, 1963), 76. This addition may be possible, but it complicates the story unnecessarily when Saul cannot be found. Perhaps there are other possible ways in which the lot was chosen as some commentators suggest.

  10. Literally, ‘a man’. As Tsumura points out ‘the context requires definiteness’. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 296. The LXX adds a definite article and the NASB95, NIV, NRSV, KJV 1900, LEB all translate ‘the man’ yet the ESV retains ‘a man’. In consideration of the surrounding comments to Saul and ‘he’ it seems ‘the man’ is fitting.

  11. This word is ambiguous but most probably refers to, ‘a location at the perimeter of the camp’. Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (The New American Commentary 7; Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 132. Firth notes it also may hold connotations of military equipment. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 130. The idea of it being military equipment may answer a few key ideas within the commentary below.

  12. Here is a type of directive indicated with the jussive form. Indicating ‘wishes’. Christo H. J. VanDerMerwe, Jackie A. Naudé, and Jan H. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (Biblical Languages Hebrew; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 152–153. Arnold and Choi describe it as ‘an inferior uses the jussive with a superior as subject’ which seems to be the case in this situation. Arnold and Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 62.

  13. Klein notes that the LXX and 4QSama adds בְּנֵ֣י ‘sons of’ causing it to read ‘sons of strength’. Klein, 1 Samuel, 96. Keil and Delitzch disagree calling the LXX a ‘free rendering’. They also believe this verse does not indicate ‘a large military force but a crowd of brave men, who formed Saul’s escort of honour’. Keil and Delitzsch, The Books of Samuel, 109. Perhaps this is true, but the translation ‘army’ is still possible even if it is a small army at first (cf. 1 Sam 17:20). John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014).

  14. Literally, ‘sons of Belial’.

  15. Campbell discusses the various scholars who consider the further reading evident in 4QSama and Josephus (Antiquities, VI, 68-71). He acknowledged that ‘the issues are complex’ but concludes, ‘originality is looking less likely’ siding with the MT text. Campbell, 1 Samuel, 110–111. Peterson believes the extended reading was ‘lost accidentally early on in the process of transmission’. Eugene H. Peterson, First and Second Samuel (Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999), 67. Firth on the other hand agrees with Campbell stating that with the MT there is ‘a contrast between Samuel’s summoning ‘cry’ in 10:17 and Saul’s silence’. This would argue to retain the MT text. He also adds, ‘The inclusion of the extra text would not add significantly to our knowledge of the events described, and could conceivably have been generated by MT’s awkward phrasing’. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 130. Tsumura agrees that the reading of 4QSama was ‘originally absent’ and that the MT reading ‘explains the personality of Saul well and prepares the audience for the next stage of this drama with expectation.’ Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 301. The MT text appears to be more reliable in this instance.

  16. Zafrira Ben-Barak, ‘The Mizpah Covenant (I Sam 10:25): The Source of the Israelite Monarchic Covenant’, Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 91/1 (1979).

  17. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 134.

  18. Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel (Interpretation; Louisville, Ky: John Knox Press, 1990), 78. Cartledge considers 9:1-10:16 to be told in ‘parenthesis’. Tony W. Cartledge, 1 & 2 Samuel (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary; Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Pub, 2001), 141.

  19. Klein, 1 Samuel, 98.

  20. John Goldingay, 1 and 2 Samuel for Everyone: A Theological Commentary on the Bible (The Old Testament for Everyone; Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 58.

  21. Klein, 1 Samuel, 97. Birch argues multiple sources being placed together but that the Deuteronomistic author does not have an influence on this pericope. Bruce C. Birch, ‘Choosing of Saul at Mizpah’, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 37/4 (October 1975), 447–457.

  22. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 130.

  23. Tim Chester, I Samuel for You (Epsom, Surrey: The Good Book Company, 2014), 76; Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel, 119.

  24. Kevin Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (New Beacon Bible Commentary; Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012), 90.

  25. Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, 166.

  26. Ross identifies them as ‘open paragraph markers’. Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 311.

  27. Richard D. Phillips, 1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary; Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Pub, 2012), 159. Ominous is an interesting choice of word as the repeated refrain in Judges says, ‘there was no king in Israel and every man did what he pleased’, sets the stage for a king in the book of Samuel and allows for a positive view upon this episode if it was not for the motivation behind the request. Menachem argues for a more positive attitude to Saul and his reign, yet this must be balanced with the beginning and end of his life. Menachem Begin, ‘The Prophet Samuel and King Saul’, Jewish Bible Quarterly 20/4 (1992), 225–233. Murphy also argues for a more positive attitude to Saul. Francesca Aran Murphy, 1 Samuel (Brazos Theological; Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press, 2010), 87–88.

  28. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 296.

  29. Lyle M. Eslinger, Kingship of God in Crisis: A Close Reading of 1 Samuel 1-12 (Bible and Literature; Decatur, Ga: Almond Press, 1985), 337. Eslinger points to the temporal and geographical distinction between verse sixteen and seventeen that helps makes this clear.

  30. Peterson, First and Second Samuel, 65.

  31. Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, 78.

  32. Keil and Delitzsch, The Books of Samuel, 106.

  33. Andrew Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel: Hope for the Helpless (Reading the Bible Today; Sydney South: Aquila Press, 2008), 61.

  34. Bill T. Arnold and Bryan Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey (2nd ed.; Encountering Biblical Studies; Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2008), 200.

  35. Campbell, 1 Samuel, 112.

  36. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 131. Often used for national assemblies (Judg 20:1; 21:1, 5, 8; 1 Sam 7:5). Mary J. Evans, The Message of Samuel: Personalities, Potential, Politics, and Power (The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 71.

  37. D. F. Payne, ‘1 and 2 Samuel’, in New Bible Commentary (eds. D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, et al.; 4th ed.; Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 307.

  38. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 131.

  39. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 61.

  40. Driver, The Books of Samuel, 83.

  41. Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel, 90.

  42. The translation provided as ‘kingdoms’ as opposed to ‘kings’ is explained briefly above in the footnotes of the translation.

  43. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 131.

  44. Gordon J Keddie, Dawn of a Kingdom: The Message of 1 Samuel (Welwyn: Evangelical Press, 2013), 109.

  45. Woodhouse, 1 Samuel, 183.

  46. Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel, 120.

  47. Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel, 91.

  48. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 132.

  49. Robert B. Chisholm Jr., 1 and 2 Samuel (Teach the Text; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2013), 64–65. Mellish points out the similarities between Achan and Saul’s experience in the language used and the accusation being similar in the holding back of the spoils of war meant to be ‘devoted to destruction’ (Josh 7:11, 20-21; 1 Sam 15:13-15, 20-21). Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel, 91.

  50. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 61.

  51. Joyce G Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction and Commentary (ed. D. J Wiseman; Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 99.

  52. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 129.

  53. Phillips, 1 Samuel, 160.

  54. Bill T. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2003), 167.

  55. Chester, I Samuel for You, 76.

  56. Although not all eagerly embrace Saul, as will be seen later (vs. 27).

  57. Peterson, First and Second Samuel, 66.

  58. There is also Jonah 1:7 that could indicate the lot being used to discover the guilty party.

  59. The lot appears to be an ancient Near Eastern practice using ‘either stones, sticks, boards or dice…manipulated in a certain manner in order to divine God’s will…Old Testament narratives such as this one imply that the information provided by the lots was binary in nature’. Stephen B. Chapman, 1 Samuel as Christian Scripture: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2016), 109.

  60. This verb appears to be used in the occasional simple passive sense of the Niphal.

  61. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel, 100. There is also the final use of casting lots in the Bible to elect the replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26) which does not appear to suggest in any way a guilty party.

  62. Murphy carefully argues there being inadequate evidence that taking the lot was a sign of judgment. Murphy, 1 Samuel, 86. The point is well made and questions the idea of the lot being used to remind people of judgment but does not fully account for the similarities to the instance of Achan.

  63. Phillips, 1 Samuel, 162.

  64. Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Focus on the Bible; Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2007), 108.

  65. The Hiphil verb for causative effect. The absence of Samuel (cf. vs. 17, 19) is considered by some to be ‘an omission in the Hebrew’ due to the repetitiveness of the text. Peter R. Ackroyd, The First Book of Samuel (The Cambridge Bible Commentary; Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1971), 88. This conclusion seems unnecessary as Samuel is understood in context.

  66. This refers to ‘clans’ rather than ‘families’ as the clan is Matri and the family is of Kish yet as Hess points out there seems to be some ‘fluidity’ between clan and family. Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (n.p.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 151.

  67. Woodhouse, 1 Samuel, 583.

  68. Chester, I Samuel for You, 76.

  69. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 132.

  70. Evans, The Message of Samuel, 72. His insecurity could be an indicator as he has already displayed this character in reaction to Samuel (1 Sam 9:21) and this may impact his reaction in stressful situations with the Philistines (13:8-12). Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel, 91.

  71. This is what Chafin suggests as a possibility. Kenneth Chafin, 1, 2 Samuel (ed. Lloyd J. Ogilvie; Mastering the Old Testament; Dallas: Word Publishing, 1989), 92.

  72. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel, 167.

  73. Ackroyd, The First Book of Samuel, 88. One Targum text believes Saul slipped away ‘for some quiet prayer and Bible study’. Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel, 121. Such a view discounts the reality that they looked for him and could not find him suggesting a more intentional desire on the part of Saul.

  74. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 61.

  75. A. Graeme Auld, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), http://site.ebrary.com/id/10935007, (accessed July 23, 2018), 115.

  76. Consider above the contextual reference to Saul in this question.

  77. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 132.

  78. Chapman, 1 Samuel as Christian Scripture, 111. This may be too subtle to be the clear intention of the author. Perhaps this is more ironic than an important lesson the author is teaching.

  79. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 198.

  80. Woodhouse, 1 Samuel, 185. As in utensils, weapons, musical instruments, furniture etc.

  81. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 132.

  82. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 132.

  83. Chisholm Jr., 1 and 2 Samuel, 63.

  84. Chisholm Jr., 1 and 2 Samuel, 65.

  85. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 298.

  86. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 62.

  87. Ackroyd, The First Book of Samuel, 118.

  88. David Jobling, 1 Samuel (Berit Olam; Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1998), 60.

  89. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 132.

  90. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 299. To strengthen his argument for this being a legal action and the importance of writing and confirming Tsumura points to Habakkuk 2:2.

  91. Payne, “1 and 2 Samuel,” 307.

  92. Davis, I Samuel, 109–110. Hertzberg suggests it contains both/and. H. W Hertzberg, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary (London: SCM Press, 1964), 89–90. McCarter

  93. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 62.

  94. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 300.

  95. Phillips, 1 Samuel, 129.

  96. Davis, I Samuel, 110.

  97. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 133.

  98. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 133.

  99. Indicated by the noun coming before the verb.

  100. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel, 101.

  101. McCarter, I Samuel, 205.

  102. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 133.

  103. Evans, The Message of Samuel, 73.

  104. This can be seen as a disjunctive clause because it does not begin with the verb but two nouns in a construct relationship.

  105. Literally, ‘sons of Belial’. Used previously to describe Eli’s sons (1 Sam 2:12) and later in reference to Nabal (25:17). Leithart notes that the presence of ‘baggage’ and ‘worthless’ men later in David’s life (1 Sam 30:21-25) could bring out ‘a parallel between the initial revelation of Saul as king and the revelation that David was becoming king’. Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003), 166–167.

  106. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 62.

  107. Chisholm Jr., 1 and 2 Samuel, 65.

  108. Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Subsidia Biblica; Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblio, 1991), 532. Gesenius agrees with the concept of contempt in Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar 2nd English Edition (eds. E Kautzsch and A. E Cowley; 2nd ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 442.

  109. Klein, 1 Samuel, 101.

  110. Carson and Beale note the use of the gift as reverence here, homage in Genesis 32:14, political friendship in 2 Kings 20:12 and political submission in Judges 3:15, 17. All of which these men refuse to demonstrate. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (eds.), Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Nottingham, England: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 194.

  111. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 131.

  112. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 134. Jones believes this characteristic of graciousness to his foes follows Saul’s kingship (cf. 1 Sam 11:13). T. H. Jones, ‘Saul’, in The New Bible Dictionary (ed. J. D. Douglas; Great Britain: Inter-Varsity, 1962), 1147.

  113. Peterson, First and Second Samuel, 66.


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