1 Samuel 9
Saul hunts donkey, finds prophet
Saul’s well-to-do family1Kish was a rich man from the tribe of Benjamin in Israel. His father was Abiel, his grandfather was Zeror, his great-grandfather was Becorath, and his great-great-grandfather was Aphiah. 2Kish had a son, a good man named Saul—the best-looking man in Israel, and a head taller than the rest.
Donkey roundup3Kish had some donkeys that strayed one day. So he told Saul, “Take a servant with you and round up the strays.”
4They searched up and down Ephraim’s hills, and in the territories of Shalishah and Shaalim,  and all over Benjamin’s tribal land. No luck. 5By the time they reached the territory of Zuph,  Saul told the young man traveling with him, “We’d better get home. Before long, my dad’s going to start worrying about us instead of the donkeys.”
6But the young man said, “Before we go home, there’s a man in the nearby town you might want to see. He serves God. People respect him. Whenever he says something will happen, it happens. Let’s go see him. Maybe he’ll help us finish what we started.”
7Saul said, “We don’t have anything to give him for helping us. Our food is gone. We’ve got nothing left. What can we give him?”
A quarter-shekel for a prophet8The young man said, “I have a silver coin, a fourth of a shekel.  I’ll give it to him if he’ll help us.”
9Back in Saul’s day, when people wanted to ask God a question, they would say, “Let’s ask the seer.” Today, a seer is called a prophet. 
10Saul said, “Excellent. Let’s go.” So, they went to Samuel’s hometown. 11As they were climbing a hill to the town, they met some young women on their way down to the well. The men said, “Is the seer around?”
12The woman said, “Yes, he is. He’s right up the trail ahead of you. But you need to hurry. He came to town today because the people brought a sacrifice to the worship center.  13You’ll find him just inside the town, past the city gate. He’ll pray over the sacrifice before worshipers and their guests eat the meal.  Go and you’ll see him there.”
14They went into town and caught up with Samuel, who was on his way to the worship center.
Flashback: God tells Samuel about Saul15A day earlier, God spoke to Samuel about Saul. 16God said, “Tomorrow, about this time, you’ll meet a man from Benjamin’s tribe. I’m sending him to you. I want you to pour olive oil on him in a ritual that anoints  him king of Israel. He’s going to rescue my people from the Philistines. I see how the Philistines are hurting them. And I’ve heard Israel’s prayers for help.”
17When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD told Samuel, “That’s him. He’s the one I told you about. He’ll rule my people of Israel.” 18Saul walked up to Samuel inside the city, past the city gate. Saul said, “Could you please tell me where the seer lives?”
19Samuel said, “I’m the seer. Come with me to worship. We’ll eat together this evening. In the morning I’ll tell you what you want to know and then I’ll send you on your way.
Big dreams for “unimportant” Saul20But I’ll tell you this much right now, your donkeys are fine. You lost them three days ago, but they’ve been found. You should know this, too: The people of Israel want one thing more than anything else. They want you and your family.
21Saul said, “What? I’m from the smallest tribe in Israel, the tribe of Benjamin. My clan is the least important of all the extended families in that tribe. So, what are you talking about?”
22Samuel took Saul and the young man into the dining area and seated them in a place of honor among about 30 guests. 23Samuel told the cook, “Remember the cut of meat I told you to save for me? Bring it now.” 24The cook brought the upper thigh  and set it in front of Saul. Samuel told Saul, “I saved this meat for you to eat with these guests today.” Saul ate with Samuel.
25When they left the worship center, Samuel had a bed prepared for Saul on the roof of a house. That’s where he slept that night.
26Samuel woke Saul at dawn: “Time to get up. I need to send you on your way home.” Saul got up. He walked into the street, with Samuel beside him. 27Samuel, Saul, and Saul’s young servant walked to the outskirts of town together. There, Samuel told Saul, “Send the young man ahead of you.” Saul did, and his servant walked ahead. Samuel said, “I want you to stop here for a moment. I need to give you a message from God.”
Location of all three sites in this verse are uncertain. But the best guesses so far place the search area northwest of Jerusalem. The presumed sites were all within about a day’s walk of where Saul lived, in Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:26), near Jerusalem. Ephraim’s hills may refer to hill country in Ephraim’s tribal territory, in central Israel. Shalishah may refer to Baal Shalishah of 2 Kings 4:42, possibly a ruin now known as Kefr Thilth, some 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Shechem. That’s about 23 miles (36 km)—a day’s walk—northwest of Gibeah. Shaalim may refer to a ruin called Tel Shaalbim, 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Gibeah.
Location uncertain. Zuph’s generally linked to land near Samuel’s hometown of Ramah. Ramah is usually linked to ruins called Al-Ram. It’s about 5 miles (8 km) north of Jerusalem and about 15 miles (24 km) south of Shiloh. That’s almost a day’s walk to Shiloh. Some scholars link Ramah to another ruin about five miles southwest, Nabi Samwil. At the time, Jerusalem was still a generation away from when King David would capture it and turn it into his capital, the City of David.
Shekels came in different kinds of metal and different weights. A quarter shekel may have been roughly 3 grams of 0.1 ounce. That’s about the weight of an American copper penny or a two-cent euro coin. There was a heavy shekel that weighed about 11.5 grams or 0.4 ounces. This was sometimes called the King’s Shekel or the Royal Shekel. Some scholars say this was also the weight used in the Israelite worship center and later in the Jerusalem Temple. The lighter shekel weighed about 9.5 grams or 0.33 ounces. Some scholars say this was probably the shekel accepted at the worship center.
Prophets were the flip side of the coin, opposite priests. Prophets took God’s message to the people, as a rule. Priests took requests of people to God—and some of the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices (Leviticus 7:28-38).
Also described as a shrine. The description of a doorway into the facility (1 Samuel 1:9) hints that the Israelites had upgraded the tent worship center they built during the Exodus out of Egypt. Yet they still called it a tent (2:22).
Some sacrificed animals were burned entirely on the altar, the “burnt offering,” for one—an offering for sin. Other sacrifices, such as the “peace offering,” were expressions of thanks. Only some of that meat was burned on the altar. Worshipers shared the rest among the presiding priests along with guests.
Pouring olive oil on people was an ancient Jewish tradition known as anointing. It was a way of showing people that they had a connection with God. Samuel anointed Saul and later a young David as future kings of Israel. For David, Samuel took the jar of olive oil and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day on (1 Samuel 16:13). Christians later picked up that tradition and used it in a ritual that included praying for the sick and placing hands on them. “Do you have any sick people there? If so, ask the church leaders to pray over them and to anoint them with oil. Do this in the name of the Lord, invoking the Lord’s authority” (James 5:14).
The thigh was a prized cut of meat. It was often burned on the altar for God or given to the priests as a gift. That doesn’t mean Samuel was promoting Saul to the priesthood. Priests came from the Levite tribe, not Benjamin’s tribe. The cut of meat suggests Samuel was honoring Saul. Imagine one guest at the meal getting two chicken wings and another getting a KC Strip. That would certainly send a signal.
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