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Deeper Commentary


1Sa 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 Benjamite, a mighty man of valour-
The Hebrew phrase "might man of valour" is usually employed about military prowess. Kish had presumably got a name for himself in previous conflicts with the Philistines; "Kish" means "bow" so perhaps he was famed as an archer. The relevance to the exiles was that the "mighty men of valour" had not saved Jerusalem and had been taken into captivity (s.w. 2 Kings 24:14), because they had not learned the lesson taught by Samuel's mother Hannah, that the valour of the mighty is brought down before God, and the humble and weak exalted (s.w. 1 Sam. 2:4).     

1Sa 9:2 He had a son whose name was Saul, an impressive young man; there was not among the people of Israel a more impressive person than he. From his shoulders and upward he was taller than any of the people-
The name "Saul" means "asked for"; for the people had asked for him (1 Sam. 8:10). It is very similar to "Samuel", "asked of God" (1 Sam. 1:20). Samuel was called to be a prophet, priest and anointed king (see on 1 Sam. 2:10), but he apparently failed to live up to this potential and was potentially replaced by Saul. He too failed, as did David and Solomon later, with all the potentials only coming finally true in the Lord Jesus. 

Saul is described as both chosen by God, and also the one the people chose. It was as if God understood the spirit of what the people wanted, and gave it to them. All confirmation that we are given the essence of what we really desire, no matter how well or not we verbalize it. So the essence is to watch our desires. "Impressive young man" is literally "a chosen young man", and indeed he had been chosen by God, exactly in accordance with their desires. The word is used about David (Ps. 89:19). God's potential plan for Saul was transferred to him. And from thence to Solomon and finally to the Lord Jesus. This is how God works to this day, transferring potentials from one to another when the first option fails.   

The height of Saul was of course irrelevant, because as Samuel was taught when anointing David, God looks on the heart and not the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). We note too how the handsome Absalom was spiritually empty. But it's as if God gave Israel exactly the kind of king they wanted- one who appeared well outwardly. Not just a king, but a king of the type they would want. Saul’s physical height surely reflected his narcissism, contrasting with the humble king of God's choice, not the peoples' demand, “whose heart will not be lifted above his brothers” (Dt. 17:20). The heart is the mind, which is in the head- and Saul's head was higher than all the other people, "his brothers". This is the scene described in Romans 1; God confirms sinful people in their own desires, giving them a mind that wants to commit perversion- because that is what they want to do.  

1Sa 9:3 The donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. Kish said to Saul, Take now one of the servants with you and go to look for the donkeys-
Donkeys were the animal of nobility at the time (Jud. 5:10; 10:4; 12:14 cp. Zech. 9:9). The idea may be that Kish too had had the potential to be a leader but lost / failed it. Or that Saul was unconsciously seeking to be king but couldn't find it in his own strength. Yet the donkeys were found by God for Saul, even though he himself failed to find them. The idea may be that Saul was indeed lacking in spiritual qualification to be king, but Yahweh was prepared to make up for this, because He wanted Saul to realize the potentials He had given him. See on :6.  

The king was to take away their donkeys (1 Sam. 8:16), and the narrative of the call of Saul in 1 Sam. 9 begins with his almost obsessive desire for donkeys. Saul is presented as the exact fit to the prophecies of the awful king the people would be given if they wished to go the path of kingship. Yet Saul's failure was far from inevitable. The predictions about him could have been voided by his own freewill. Like Nineveh, he lived in the gap between the statement of judgment and its fulfilment. In the context of donkeys, he is told not to "set his heart on the donkeys", 1 Sam. 9:20 Heb. He is being invited not to be like the awful king he potentially could be. But like so many, he wasted that potential. Samuel in :20 is asking him not to think about donkeys, but rather about being king on God's behalf. But he failed, and remained focused on the material and immediate things of himself.

1Sa 9:4 He passed through the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but they didn’t find them. Then they went through the land of Shaalim and they weren’t there; he went throughout the land of the Benjamites, but they didn’t find them-
If as suggested on :3 the donkeys were a symbol of leadership or kingship, Saul was being taught that finding them was to be of God's grace or gift, and not any amount of human strength. "Shalishah" is literally 'the land of threes', and tripilisms were to occur throughout Saul's subsequent experience. Three signs, three men meeting him, etc. were all to be signs to him that God was working with him quite separate to his own qualification or human strength in seeking for it. See on :13.

Leaving out the vowels, "Shalishah" is related to the Hebrew word for 'Saul', and "Shaalim" to that for Shmuel, Samuel. Saul was searching for Samuel, in the hand of providence, just as Samuel was searching for Saul; when in secular terms, Saul was searching for donkeys and Samuel was probably mentally searching for a candidate to anoint as king as he had been commanded. See on :11 for how the hidden hand of providence was at work.

The theme of 'finding' is so stressed in this narrative. Saul didn't find the donkeys, despite his obsessive search for them which left him without money and bread. This is said twice in :4. We note that in the Hebrew of :20, they are called the donkeys which Saul had lost. He takes it therefore so seriously. But he 'finds' things from the way of God's Spirit. Truly "Vain was the good which in the world we sought". Things go so well once we are going the way of the Spirit. But perhaps this is why highly committed levels of following the Spirit are found in older people, who have had to learn empirically that you don't find what you seek in this world. You don't "find" what you seek, in family, in relationships, in wealth, in career... only in the things of the Spirit and the Kingdom. But many like Saul never really learn it. So consider all the occurrences of the same Hebrew word for "find": Saul's servant 'happened' to find a coin so that Saul was confident to visit Samuel "I have here at hand [s.w. find] the fourth part of a shekel" (1 Sam. 9:8); "they found young women" who told them where Samuel was (1 Sam. 9:11), who told them that they would "immediately find" Samuel (1 Sam. 9:13), contrasting with how Saul didn't find his lost donkeys immediately nor after a long search; the donkeys were "found" anyway but not by Saul (1 Sam. 9:20; 10:2); Saul would "find two men by Rachel's sepulchre" (1 Sam. 10:2); three men would "find" ["meet"] Saul and guide him further (1 Sam. 10:3, showing how in fact it was God who was searching for Saul and "found" him); the Spirit would come upon Saul and he was to "do what your hand finds [s.w.], for God is with you" (1 Sam. 10:7). Saul didn't find the donkeys, and Samuel tells him to stop taking thought or 'setting his heart' on finding them, but rather focus on the things of the Kingdom. And like Saul, whatever we find to do for this will prosper. Saul was given God's Spirit to change his heart, from secular things to the things of the Kingdom. Possibly Ecc. 9:10 alludes here: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, where you are going". But instead, Saul became obsessed with 'finding' David in the desert scrub, just as he had been obsessed with finding the donkeys. But as Jonathan said, "The hand of Saul my father will not find [s.w.] you" (1 Sam. 23:17). Saul allowed personal pride and jealousy to lead him to search for the wrong things, which he never "found".

1Sa 9:5 When they reached the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, Come, let us return, lest my father stop caring about the donkeys and be anxious for us-
This indicates at least some humanity in Saul. He is presented as a secular, unspiritual man who has all the same not a bad person. Out looking for lost animals, he was met by God and called. He was encountered by God without previously searching for Him, just as he was when he returned from working in the fields and found Jabesh under attack (1 Sam. 11:5). The call of God comes in the midst of everyday life. Just as the disciples were casting their net into the sea, the Lord Jesus called them. Simon of Cyrene was coming out of the fields when he was pressganged into carrying the Lord's cross, and likely came to faith in Him because of it. The call of God is presented here as being of Divine grace alone. It's not that these men were searching for God, but rather He was in search of man. It's not so much that we know God, but rather than we are known of Him (Gal. 4:9). Nowhere is God's personal grace clearer than when we reflect upon our calling; and that is especially true for those who were called through being born into a believing family.

1Sa 9:6 The servant said, Look now, in this city there is a man of God, and he is a man who is held in honour. All that he says comes true. Now, let us go there; perhaps he can tell us which way to go-
There is quite a theme of servants bringing blessings or good news (1 Sam. 9:6; 16:16; 25:14 cp. Gen. 41:10; 2 Kings 5:3). This may be to reflect God's interest in the significance of the lowly. The servant doesn't even know Samuel's name, and Saul is ignorant completely about the presence of any man of God, nor did it occur to him to go there. We note the extensive search for the donkeys and the concern to find out their fate from a man of God. See on :7. This would be understandable if as suggested on :3 they were symbols of leadership or even kingship. "Which way to go" could imply they were lost. Or "tell us the way we go" may mean that they sensed their journey was pregnant with undisclosed meaning, and they wanted a prophet to explain it to them. We note that the land of Zuph is literally the land of the prophet. They were taking the hints that something greater was afoot than merely a search for lost donkeys. 

"This city" in the land of Zuph may be Ramathaim Zophim, the ancestral home of Samuel, Ramah in the land of Zuph (1 Sam. 1:1). We note that Saul's servant and uncle seem to know Samuel, but Saul is presented as the unspiritual one of the family who apparently has no clue about Samuel's existence. Samuel had built an altar at Ramah (1 Sam. 7:17), and it was this "high place" which is referred to in :12.  

1Sa 9:7 Then Saul said to his servant, But if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the food is finished from our bags and there is no gift to bring to the man of God. What do we have?-
Again we see Saul's unspirituality. He assumed that one had to pay a man of God before getting a consultation. They were still far from home and were now without food. As noted on :6, this reflects the earnestness of Saul's desire to find the donkeys; see on :3. Saul clearly sees Samuel as no more than a fortune teller. Saul later would insist on offering the sacrifices without Samuel's presence in 1 Sam. 13, and in 1 Sam. 15 he thinks that his disobedience can be dealt with merely by offering sacrifice, leading to the condemnation from Samuel in 1 Sam. 15:22 "Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh?". Perhaps in this early incident we can detect Saul's legalism, his religious rather than spiritual mindset, and perhaps this was one reason he failed to retain the generous gift of the Spirit he received.

1Sa 9:8 The servant replied, I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give that to the man of God to tell us our way-
The need to be told their way, when they had given up searching for the donkeys, could mean that they were actually lost. Most people didn't travel far from their birthplaces. This is the same phrase as in :6, and it only recurs in the Bible in Jer. 42:3, where the Jews after the captivity ask Jeremiah to ask God to show / tell them the way to go. But when told, they refused to walk in it. This confirms our frequent observation that these historical records were rewritten for the instruction of the exiles.   

1Sa 9:9 (In earlier times in Israel when a man went to inquire of God he would say, Come and let us go to the seer, for he who is now called a prophet was before called a seer)-
This clarifying note would be appropriate if as I have suggested these records were rewritten during the exile. Perhaps too the record is clarifying that a "man of God" or prophet was a seer of Divine visions, and not a person caught up in cultic, ecstatic "prophecy" as known amongst the Gentiles. 

1Sa 9:10 Then Saul said to his servant, Good. Let us go. So they went to the city where the man of God was-
There is a strange repetition here of Samuel's command that Israel were to "go" to their own "cities" (1 Sam. 8:22 s.w.). It's as if Saul obeyed this by going to Samuel.

1Sa 9:11 As they went up the hill to the city they found young girls going out to draw water and they asked them, Is the seer here?-
The water may have been necessary for the religious service Samuel was doing there. In 1 Sam. 7:6 he had used the drawing and pouring out of water to symbolize the pouring out of hearts in repentance, and it cannot be coincidence that drawing water is again featuring in his work. We note that Saul was not present at such gatherings. In this case he was being asked himself to pour himself out to Yahweh in repentance.

We may wonder why this story is recorded in such detail. The details aren't random. They are all the hand of providence, the guidance of the Spirit, over and above Saul's freewill. He just happened to have a servant who knew Samuel, that servant [unknown to Saul] happened to have a coin without which Saul would've been ashamed to visit a prophet; they just happened to give up hope of finding the donkeys when they were near a place where Samuel was; it just happened to be a feast day when Samuel was in that village; and they just happened to meet water carrying girls who directed them to Samuel, who just happened to be walking the street where they were walking. He didn't meet Samuel near his home, but rather at the most distant point of Saul's journey searching for the donkeys. Putting these things together- this was all of God. And so we can be comforted that there is no random in our lives. See on :4.

1Sa 9:12 They answered, He is. Look, he is ahead of you. Hurry now, for he has come today into the city because the people have a sacrifice today in the high place-
This implies that Saul was ignorant of the sacrifices. Samuel travelled on a circuit, enabling the people to come and sacrifice. He acted as a priest although he was not a Levite and was a prophet. So Saul would later surely realize it had been of God's providence that he happened to be in the town when Samuel was there running a feast.  

According to Dt. 12:11-14, the people were to worship at the sanctuary and not build such high places for sacrifice. But Samuel had built an altar at Ramah (1 Sam. 7:17) and I suggest on 1 Sam. 9:6 that Saul met Samuel in Ramah on a day when Samuel was sacrificing at this "high place". This may possibly be another point [in addition to making his corrupt sons judges] where Samuel fails. Or it could be that he figured that seeing the people weren't switched on enough to go the sanctuary to worship, it was better to build an altar locally for them to at least make some dedication to Yahweh rather than none at all. One often faces such pastoral decisions.

1Sa 9:13 As soon as you have come into the city you will immediately find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not eat until he comes, because it is he who blesses the sacrifice. Afterwards, those who are invited eat. Now therefore go up, for at this time you should find him-
Their language was to make the point that Saul had not found the donkeys (:3 s.w.), but instead he had found Samuel; and through Samuel, God had found him. Although Saul knew nothing about these things, he was to find that he was in fact amongst those invited (:22,24). "Invited" is the common word for "call". The whole account here is a parade example of God's calling of men, always taking the initiative, and bursting into the lives of otherwise secular people. Standing on a street distributing New Testaments, we are the vehicles for that same call of God into the lives of men and women on the street.

The narrative has given the impression of Saul spending a lot of time searching for donkeys and getting nowhere. But now the tempo radically changes. He must "make haste" because Samuel "just now" had arrived to offer sacrifice "today". And Saul must encounter him "as soon as" he goes through the city gates. There is a sense of urgency for Saul to just catch Samuel before he offers the sacrifice, and so he is told to quickly go to meet him "immediately". This is how the Spirit works. The years spent apparently coasting along in some pursuit or enterprise abruptly come to an end and we must respond to the calling of the Spirit "immediately". The record of the Spirit's work here is absolutely credible because this is how God works oftentimes with man.

1Sa 9:14 They went up to the city. As they came into the city, Samuel came out toward them, to go up to the high place-
The old Yiddish verse came powerfully true: "And going out to meet Him / I met Him coming toward me". But we note that Samuel is presented as coming toward them, on his way up to the high place. The impression therefore is that somehow they were walking away from the high place. And Samuel met them head on, and they turned around and followed him.

The Lord Jesus called men, arresting them with His radical call in the very midst of daily life, just when they were throwing a net into the sea, at the most utterly inconvenient moment, even the most humanly inappropriate moment- such as being on the way to your father’s funeral. The Son of God was actually acting as His Father had done. Gideon was called whilst in the middle of threshing wheat in a time of famine (Jud. 6:1), Saul whilst he was out looking for lost cattle (1 Sam. 9:10) and again whilst he was coming home from work one evening (1 Sam. 11:5); David whilst he was looking after the sheep; Samuel whilst he was asleep; Amos whilst he was leading the flocks to water (Am. 7:14); and see too 1 Kings 11:29; 19:16; 2 Kings 9:1-13,18. In other words, the call of God comes to us right in the midst of ordinary, mundane life. Of this there can be no doubt. And the Lord Jesus called men in just the same way.

1Sa 9:15 Now Yahweh had revealed to Samuel a day before Saul came, saying-
Heb. “had uncovered Samuel’s ear”. We see here the intimacy between God and His man. The idea is that God had lifted a corner of Samuel's turban so as to whisper a confidential secret into his ear. And this intimacy extends to all God's people. What we hear in the ear, that we must preach on the housetops (Mt. 10:27). This is built on the language of 1 Sam. 9:15,25, where God speaks in Samuel’s ear, and then he speaks that word to Saul on the housetop. The Lord is saying that in essence, we are all in Samuel’s position; we hear the word of this world’s salvation, the word about “the Kingdom” as it was for Saul, and that very fact is in itself the imperative to overcome our natural reservations and share it with those for whom it is intended- even if, as with Saul, we consider them unlikely and unspiritual hearers.

"Revealed" in 1 Sam. 3:7,21; 9:15 is the word used of how Yahweh had revealed Himself to the tribe of Levi and called them to be His priests (1 Sam. 2:27), and Eli as it were was in the loins of his father Levi, according to the principle of Heb. 7:10. But the line of Levi and Eli had potentially been rejected because of Eli's apostasy. The Divine intention was to replace them with Samuel as a prophet-priest and perhaps king (1 Sam. 2:10), revealing Himself to him, although he was not a Levite. But this potential was only partially fulfilled by Samuel, and despite possibilities in David and Solomon, it only came to full term in the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

1Sa 9:16 Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man out of the land of Benjamin, and you must anoint him to be prince over My people Israel, and he will save My people out of the hand of the Philistines, for I have looked on My people, because their cry has come to Me-
"I will send you" was achieved through the chain of events which led to Saul coming to Samuel. Unknown to him, all this was God's hand in sending him to Samuel.

Their request for a human king was, as God Himself mightily demonstrated to them, an utter rejection of Him, and He grieved because of it. And yet when God gave them a King, He expresses His decision in quite a different tone; as if He had compassion upon their humanity, their wrong desire to have a human king. He is indeed compassionate to us even in moral failure, and here exhibits amazing understanding of the human condition. And that is even more enhanced through the work and mediation of His Son. Here God speaks as if the gift of Saul was akin to the provision of Moses, to save poor Israel from their unwarranted persecution. For God looking upon His people because of their cry is the language of His gracious deliverance of His weak, idolatrous people from Egypt. Actually, Saul was slain by the Philistines- in His foreknowledge, the Almighty knew all about Saul. But in His pure grace, He doesn't reflect this in the way He speaks at this time.

1Sa 9:17 When Samuel saw Saul, Yahweh said to him, Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He will have authority over My people-
Saul didn't recognize Samuel when they met (:18), so Samuel might have been disappointed that the chosen man was not one of his various protégés amongst the people he ministered to. But he would have recalled the chilling prophecy he had given Israel of the kind of man this was, or would become. It would have been hard for Samuel to be civil to him, especially seeing he so strongly disagreed with Israel having a king. But presumably he was also aware that God was going to try to work through this man, and that his words of prediction need not come true if the man repented. Indeed Samuel didn't resent Saul but seems to have even loved him, kissing him and weeping for him. Such was his humility. The intended impression is that Saul went out looking to find his donkeys, but the Lord found him through Samuel. Many likewise have been out searching and hoping to find something secular, didn't succeed or failed dramatically- and were found by the Lord for Himself.

1Sa 9:18 Then Saul came near to Samuel in the gate and said, Please tell me where the seer’s house is-
It is unclear whether this means that they were in Ramah, Samuel's home, or whether this was one of the towns which Samuel visited on his circuit. If indeed it was Ramah, then this was only 5 miles from Gibeah of Saul. That Saul didn't know anything much about Samuel nor did he recognize him when they met... is all a tacit reflection of his lack of interest in spiritual things. It wasn't apparent that Samuel was the priest or prophet. Contrary to the style of that time, and religion generally, he wore no special clothes that pointed out his ministry. The girls in :13 had told Saul that he would find Samuel immediately he entered the city. He enters through the gate of the city and immediately meets Samuel "in the gate". But Saul doesn't quite believe the girls, and asks this person whom he meets where Samuel's house is. His slowness to believe is made clear. And yet we also note that although on some level he was expecting to meet Samuel immediately on passing through the gate, entering the city, he doesn't imagine that the man he meets is in fact Samuel. One conclusion would be that Samuel didn't look like a prophet or religious man. Perhaps that was one reason Israel rejected this humble, unassuming man for a king like Saul. Samuel's humility is shown by how he loves Saul, kissing him, weeping for him, and enthusiastic about his kingship- when Samuel was being replaced by Saul. And when Saul was replaced by Samuel with David, there is no hint that Samuel considers that he himself is best qualified to be the replacement. He was a kingmaker, and this required humility. Clearly Samuel also perceived that Saul was not set up for failure, and that his prophecies about Saul's future failure were conditional.  

1Sa 9:19 Samuel answered Saul, I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today. In the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart-
"Let you go" reflects how Saul was somehow under arrest by God, as it were detained before Yahweh. When he was earnestly seeking to now get home to his worried family as quickly as possible. It was the offerers who ate of their own sacrifices after Samuel's blessing. Saul had not sacrificed and yet he was invited to eat of the meat offered. This was only done by the Levites, and Saul was a Benjamite. All through, he is being shown God's grace, although sadly he refused to be permanently convicted by it. And perhaps he is being invited to act as a Levite, as Samuel did, although he was not from the tribe of Levi. In this case, the hope was that he would become a king-priest. For Saul to go in front of Samuel to the high place would have been a mark of extreme respect, perhaps implying that Saul was to replace Samuel's role as a non-Levitical priest. So much potential was lost by Saul, as it is in the lives of so many. Wasted potential is the tragedy of the cosmos. 

We enquire when chronologically did Samuel's words come true, "and will tell you all that is in your heart". We can read this as Samuel saying that he would let Saul go in the morning. And now he would tell him all that was in his heart- i.e. the words of :20. Because in Samuel's later speech to Saul in 1 Sam. 10, he says nothing to Saul about what was in Saul's heart. So we conclude that what was in Saul's heart was the donkeys. He was obsessed about them. And he is told not to "worry", to set his heart, upon them- but rather upon the things of the Kingdom. And God's Spirit was given to Saul so that his spirit or heart would be taken over by the things of the Kingdom, and not secular things like donkeys. 

Another option is that the words of 1 Sam. 10, told to Saul the next day, were a telling of Saul all that was in his heart. In that Saul subconsciously had thought about being king of Israel, and now this subconscious thread in his heart was being addressed and made possible. Just as the things of the Kingdom may be subconsciously in the heart of secular people, but the calling of God reveals them to them, and they are asked to consciously believe and grasp them.

1Sa 9:20 As for your donkeys which were lost three days ago, don’t worry about them; they have been found. To whom has all the desire in Israel turned? Is it not to you and all your father’s house?-
This could equally be translated to mean that all that is desirable in Israel is for Saul and his father's house, and so he therefore need not worry about losing a few donkeys. Saul was being shown that God knew all about his situation; and knew how long he had been searching. The implication may be that Samuel had found the donkeys (hence Samuel later he insists he never stole donkeys, 1 Sam. 12:3); on :3 I suggested they represented kingship or leadership. They had been found by Samuel, by God, and were now being given to Saul.

Saul is introduced as a man obsessed with donkeys (see on :19); he combs a large area, reflecting almost an OCD, until he is left without bread and without money. The Hebrew suggests "the donkeys which you lost", as if he saw it as his fault; at least, they are called his donkeys, even if technically they belonged to his father. Three times Saul has to be assured that the lost donkeys had been found (1 Sam. 9:20; 10:2,9), perhaps reflecting his deep distress and obsession about their loss. Samuel will warn Israel that their king will take their donkeys from them, and protests that he himself has never taken a donkey from them. But Saul's taking of Israel's donkeys wasn't inevitable, Saul wasn't set up for failure. For Samuel here pleads with him to quit his obsession with donkeys, not to "worry" or set his heart upon them, and instead focus upon leading God's people. Saul failed ultimately to take that appeal. But we see here how predestiny and foreknowledge are all the same conditional, and human freewill is always valued and respected. God indeed directs history, history is His story, but in a beautiful way, human freewill isn't compromised. 

But we could as well translate the Hebrew here as "belonging to you are Israel’s best / desirable things”. He's being told not to worry about a few lost donkeys, because all Israel's best things are to be his. In this case, the allusion is to the prediction of the bad king in 1 Sam. 8:10-16. Saul is being warned that he would have all Israel's desirable things at his disposal. And the nudge is to warn him not to misuse them, not to set his heart upon them. Always there is the plea not to be that bad king. For he was not set up to inevitable failure; no man is. For God wants to save all men. See on 1 Sam. 9:3.

1Sa 9:21 Saul answered, Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me like this?-
Benjamin was indeed the smallest of the tribes according to Gen. 49:27, but that tribe had been made even smaller and humiliated within Israel by the fairly recent events of Jud. 19-21. This could be genuine humility, or the standard expression of 'humility' which almost goes with the territory of being given a great promotion. Kish is introduced as a mighty man of valour (:1), and I suggested on :3 that the donkeys had significance as the animals of leadership or even kingship. These questions are left open by the record, to exercise our thinking. Was Saul initially humble, or only on a surface level?

1Sa 9:22 Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the guest room, and made them sit in the best place among the guests, about thirty people-
We see reflected here the very small scale of Samuel's efforts. He came to this town to enable the people to offer peace offerings; after he blessed the offering, the offerers then ate their own offering. But only 30 people did this, and as with Hannah and Elkanah, it is likely that there were married couples amongst those 30. For many years Samuel made his circuits, encouraging the people in their devotion to Yahweh. But only 30 [at the most] offered peace offerings. The impression from the record is that most of Israel were far gone in idolatry and secularism, at least until they faced a real crisis from their neighbours.

1Sa 9:23 Samuel said to the cook, Bring the portion which I gave you, telling you to set it aside-
Samuel clearly had been told that the king to be anointed was coming to him, and he absolutely believed this, to the point of making very detailed plans. "The cook" is literally the slaughterer. We get the impression that although Samuel was not a Levite, in practice he pretty much took over from Eli as high priest, and this "cook" who dealt with the sacrifices was effectively his Levite, an assistant with the sacrifices.

1Sa 9:24 The cook took up the thigh and what was on it and set it before Saul-
AV "the shoulder and that which was upon it". This is the imagery of Is. 9:6; 22:22 "The government shall be upon his shoulder", again hinting that Saul was to be king. This was what was to be given to the priests (Ex. 29:27; Lev. 7:32-34; 10:14,15; Num. 6:20; 18:18). Saul was set up to be a king-priest. His later condemnation for offering the sacrifice was because of his attitude of heart, and not just because he was not a Levite.

Samuel said, Here is what has been kept for you! Eat it because it has been kept for you for this occasion since I said, ‘I have invited guests’. So Saul ate with Samuel that day-
This could be an intensive plural for the one great guest. 

1Sa 9:25 When they had come down from the high place into the city, he talked with Saul on the housetop-
What we say to the Lord Jesus in His ear in the bedroom in the darkness, will be openly spoken by the Lord Jesus at the judgment (Lk. 12:2,3). God dwells in darkness (Ex. 20:21; 1 Kings 8:12). Speaking in the bedroom in secret with the knowledge we will be openly rewarded is the language of prayer (Mt. 6:6). Our private relationship with the Lord now, praying to Him in our bedroom, meditating about Him there, will then be spoken out loud. But there is a related statement from the Lord: What we hear from Him in the ear, we must speak openly (Mt. 10:26,27; after the pattern of Isaiah in Is. 22:14). Putting these passages together, we get the picture of us speaking to God through Christ, talking in His ear, as one might whisper something very personal into a friend's ear, in the darkness of our bedroom. And then the Lord whispers back in our ear, i.e. His revelation to us (through the word) is very personal and not perceived by others; but we must openly, publicly act upon it. And this private relationship we have with the Lord in our prayer life will then be revealed openly at the judgment. God told Samuel " in his ear" about Saul's future, and although the message must have been hard to relay to Saul, Samuel did so, on the housetop (1 Sam. 9:15,25). The similarities with the Lord's words are too close to be accidental. Surely He saw each of us as passing through the essential experience of Samuel.

1Sa 9:26 They arose early, at daybreak, and Samuel called to Saul on the housetop, Get up, that I may send you away. Saul arose, and they went outside together-
"Called" translates the same Hebrew word used for "invited" in :25. Consistently we have the language of Divine calling. Saul is presented as being absolutely obedient to Samuel and the Divine calling- at this stage.

1Sa 9:27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the city Samuel said to Saul, Tell the servant to go on ahead of us (and he did so), but you stay here first, so that I may tell you the message of God
"Message" translates the standard Hebrew dabar for "word". "Tell you" is better "make your hear / be obedient". The same phrase is used of how Israel at Sinai were made to hear the word of God (Dt. 4:10) as a condition for entering covenant with Him. The subsequent activity of God's Spirit upon Saul was indeed to potentially make him hear / be obedient to the word of God to him. Only the day before he had been out looking for lost donkeys, with not a real thought for Yahweh. And now God was seeking to make him obedient to the word of the Kingdom. But as Saul's subsequent life demonstrates, although God through His Spirit does seek to make us obedient to His word, He will never ultimately force us.