1 Samuel 9:9
(9) Beforetime in Israel.--This verse was evidently inserted in the original book of memoirs of the days of Samuel by a later hand. Three special words are found in the Divine writings for the inspired messengers or interpreters of the Eternal wilt; of these, the title seer (roeh) was the most ancient. It is the title, evidently, by which Samuel in his lifetime was generally known. "Is the seer here?" we read in this passage; and "Where is the seer's house?" and "I am the seer." As time passed on, the term, in the sense of an inspired man of God, became obsolete, and the word chozeh, "a gazer." on strange visions, seemed to have been the word used for one inspired. The title nabi--prophet--began to come into common use in the time of Samuel, to whom the term is not unfrequently applied. The word nabi, or prophet, is found in nearly all the Old Testament books, from Genesis to Malachi, though rarely in the earlier writings. This note was inserted by some scribe who lived comparatively later (perhaps in the time of Ezra), but who must have been a reviser of the sacred text of very high authority, as this "note" has come down to us as an integral part of the received Hebrew text. The reason of the insertion is obvious. The title roeh--seer--as time passed on, no longer belonged exclusively to "a man of God." The scribe who put in this expression was desirous of pointing out that when Samuel lived it was the word always used for a prophet of the Lord. In those early days it had not deteriorated in meaning.

Verse 9. - Beforetime, etc. This verse is evidently a gloss, written originally by some later hand in the margin, in order to explain the word used for seer in vers. 11, 18, 19. Inserted here in the text it interrupts the narrative, and is itself somewhat incomprehensible. The Septuagint offers a very probable reading, namely, "for the people in old time used to call the prophet a seer," i.e. it was a word used chiefly by the common people. Prophet, nabi, is really the older and established word from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end. The word roeh, used in this place for seer, is comparatively rare, as a popular word would be in written compositions. It refers to that which is seen by the ordinary sight, to waking vision (see on 1 Samuel 3:1, 10), whereas the other word for seer, chozeh, refers to ecstatic vision. Roeh is used by Isaiah, ch. Isaiah 30:10, apparently in much the same sense as here, of those whom the people consulted in their difficulties, and they might be true prophets as Samuel was, or mere pretenders to occult powers. The present narrative makes it plain that roeh was used in a good sense in Samuel's days; but gradually it became degraded, and while chozeh became the respectful word for a prophet, roeh became the contrary. Another conclusion also follows. We have seen that there are various indications that the Books of Samuel in their present state are later than his days. Here, on the contrary, we have a narrative couched in the very language of his times; for the writer of the gloss contained in this verse was displeased at Samuel being called a roeh, but did not dare to alter it, though taking care to note that it was equivalent in those days to calling him a nabi.

9:1-10 Saul readily went to seek his father's asses. His obedience to his father was praise-worthy. His servant proposed, that since they were now at Ramah, they should call on Samuel, and take his advice. Wherever we are, we should use our opportunities of acquainting ourselves with those who are wise and good. Many will consult a man of God, if he comes in their way, that would not go a step out of their way to get wisdom. We sensibly feel worldly losses, and bestow much pains to make them up; but how little do we attempt, and how soon are we weary, in seeking the salvation of our souls! If ministers could tell men how to secure their property, or to get wealth, they would be more consulted and honoured than they now are, though employed in teaching them how to escape eternal misery, and to obtain eternal life. Most people would rather be told their fortune than their duty. Samuel needed not their money, nor would he have denied his advice, if they had not brought it; but they gave it to him as a token of respect, and of the value they put upon his office, and according to the general usage of those times, always to bring a present to those in authority.Before time in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God,.... To ask doctrine of him, as the Targum, to be taught by him, to have his mind and will in any affair of moment and importance; which was usually done by applying to some man of God, eminent for grace and piety, and a spirit of prophecy:

thus he spake, come, and let us go to the seer; a man used to say to his friend, when he wanted some instruction or direction, let us go together to such an one, the seer, and ask counsel of him what is proper to be done in such an affair:

for he that is now called a prophet was before called a seer; for though these names are used freely of the same persons, both before and after this time; yet now the more common appellation which obtained was that of a prophet; custom, and the use of language, varied at different times, though the same was meant by the one and the other; such men were called seers, because of the vision of prophecy, because they saw or foresaw things to come; and they were called prophets, because they foretold what they saw, or delivered out their predictions by word of mouth. This verse is put in a parenthesis, and is commonly supposed to be the words of the writer of this book: hence some draw an argument against Samuel being the writer of it, as Abarbinel does, who concludes from hence that it was written by Jeremiah, or some other person long after Samuel, or that this verse was added by Ezra; but as this book might be written by Samuel in the latter part of his life, he might with propriety observe this, that in his younger time, and quite down to the anointing of Saul king, both when there was no open vision, and afterwards when there was scarce any that had it but himself, he was used to be called the seer; but in his latter days, when there were many that had the vision of prophecy, and there were schools set up, it was more common to call them prophets; though perhaps these are the words of Saul's servant, spoken to encourage Saul to go to the man of God, and inquire of him, since in former times, as he could remember, being perhaps an old servant, or he had heard his parents so say, that such men used to be called seers, because they saw what others did not, and declared and made others to see what they did; and therefore there was a probability that this man of God, who was a seer, might show them the way they should go to find the asses.

1 Samuel 9:8
Top of Page
Top of Page