Providence having at length brought Samuel and Saul together, we have here an account of what passed between them in the gate, at the feast, and in private.
I. In the gate of the city; passing through that, Saul found him (1 Sam. 9:18), and, little thinking that he was Samuel himself, asked him the way to Samuel’s house: Tell me where the seer’s house is; for there he expected to find him. See how mean a figure Samuel made, though so great a man: he took not any state, had no attendants, no ensigns of honour carried before him, nor any distinguishing habit, no, not when he went to church, but appeared, in all respects, so much a common person that Saul, though he was told he should meet him, never suspected that it was he, but, as if he looked more like a porter than a prophet, asked him the way to the seer’s house. Thus is great worth oftentimes hidden under a very despicable appearance. Samuel knew that it was not the house, but the man, that he wanted, and therefore answered him, “I am the seer, the person you enquire for,” 1 Sam. 9:19. Samuel knew him before he knew Samuel; thus, though all that are called to the kingdom of glory are brought to know God, yet first they were known of him, Gal. 4:9. Now, 1. Samuel obliges him to stay with him till the next day. The greatest part of this day had been spent in sacrificing, and the rest of it was to be spent in holy feasting, and therefore, “To-morrow I will let thee go, and not sooner; now go up before me to the high place; let us pray together, and then we will talk together.” Saul had nothing in his mind but to find his asses, but Samuel would take him off from that care, and dispose him to the exercises of piety; and therefore bids him go to the high place, and go before him, because, it may be, some business obliged Samuel to call by the way. 2. He satisfies him about his asses (1 Sam. 9:20): Set not thy mind on them, be not in further care about them; they are found. By this Saul might perceive that he was a prophet, that he could give him an answer to the enquiry which he had not yet made, and tell him what he thought; and thence he might infer, if a man of God can do this, much more doth God himself understand our thoughts afar off. 3. He surprises him with an intimation of preferment before him: “On whom is all the desire of Israel? Isa. it not a king that they are set upon, and there is never a man in Israel that will suit them as thou wilt.” It does not appear that the country had as yet any eye upon him for the government, because they had left it wholly to God to choose for them; but such a one as he they wished for, and his advancement would be the advancement of his family and relations, as Abner, and others. 4. To this strange intimation Saul returns a very modest answer, 1 Sam. 9:21. Samuel, he thought, did but banter him, because he was a tall man, but a very unlikely man to be a king; for, though the historian says (1 Sam. 9:1) his father was a mighty man of power, yet he himself speaks diminishingly of his tribe and family. “Benjamin, the youngest of Jacob’s sons, when grown up to be a man, was called a little one (Gen. 44:20); that tribe was diminished by the war of Gibeah; and I am a Benjamite, my family the least,” probably a younger house, not in any place of honour or trust, no, not in their own tribe. Gideon had expressed himself thus, Jdg. 6:15. A humble disposition is a good presage of preferment.
II. At the public feast; thither Samuel took him and his servant. Though the advancement of Saul would be the deposing of Samuel, yet that good prophet was so far from envying him, or bearing him any ill-will for it, that he was the first and forwardest man to do him honour, in compliance with the will of God. If this be the man whom God has chosen, though he be none of Samuel’s particular friends or confidants, yet he is heartily welcome to his table, nay, to his bosom. We may suppose it was no unseasonable kindness to Saul to give him a meal’s meat, for it seems, by what he said (1 Sam. 9:7), that all their meat and money were spent. But this was not all. Samuel treats him not as a common person, but a person of quality and distinction, to prepare both him and the people for what was to follow. Two marks of honour he put upon him:—1. He set him in the best place, as more honourable than any other of the guests, to whom he said, Give this man place, Luke 14:9. Though we may suppose the magistrates were there, who in their own city would claim precedency, yet the master of the feast made Saul and his servant too (who, if Saul was a king, must be respected as his prime minister of state) sit in the chief place, 1 Sam. 9:22. Note, Civil respects must be paid to those who in civil things have the precedency given them by the divine providence. 2. He presented him with the best dish, which, having had notice from heaven the day before of his coming (1 Sam. 9:16), he had designed for him, and ordered the cook to secure for him, when he gave orders for inviting the guests and making preparation for them. And what should this precious dish be, which was so very carefully reserved for the king-elect? One would expect it should be something very nice and delicate. No, it was a plain shoulder of mutton (1 Sam. 9:23, 24). The right shoulder of the peace-offerings was to be given to the priests, who were God’s receivers (Lev. 7:32); the next in honour to that was the left shoulder, which probably was always allotted to those that sat at the upper end of the table, and was wont to be Samuel’s mess at other times; so that his giving it to Saul now was an implicit resignation of his place to him. Some observe a significancy in this dish. The shoulder denotes strength, and the breast, which some think went with it, denotes affection: he that was king had the government upon his shoulder, for he must bear the weight of it; and the people in his bosom, for they must be dear to him.
III. What passed between them in private. Both that evening and early the next morning Samuel communed with Saul upon the flat roof of the house, 1 Sam. 9:25, 26. We may suppose Samuel now told him the whole story of the people’s desire of a king, the grounds of their desire, and God’s grant of it, to all which Saul, living very privately, was perhaps a stranger; he satisfied him that he was the person God had pitched upon for the government; and whereas Saul would object that Samuel was in possession, and he would not for all the world take it out of his hands, Samuel, we may suppose, gave him all the assurance he could desire of his willingness to resign. Early in the morning he sent him towards home, brought him part of the way, bade him send his servant before, that they might be private (1 Sam. 9:27), and there, as we find in the beginning of the next chapter, he anointed him, and therein showed him the word of the Lord, that is, gave him full satisfaction that he was the person chosen to be king, for he would not jest with that sacred rite. It is by the unction of the Holy Ghost that Christ, the great prophet, shows us the word of the Lord. 1 John 2:27; the same anointing teacheth you of all things.