Verse 44. "Phalti" - Called also Phaltiel, 2 Sam. iii. 16.
"Of Gallim." - Probably a city or town in the tribe of Benjamin; see Isa. x. 30. It is likely therefore that Saul chose this man because he was of his own tribe.
IN this chapter we have the account of the death of Samuel, who from his infancy had been devoted to God and the service of his people. He was born at a time in which religion was at a very low ebb in Israel, as there were but very few prophets, and no open vision-scarcely any revelation from God. Those who might be called prophets had no regular ministry of God's word; they were extraordinary messengers sent for a particular purpose, and not continued in the work any longer than the time necessary to deliver their extraordinary message.
Samuel is supposed to have been the first who established academies or schools for prophets, at least we do not hear of them before his time; and it is granted that they continued till the Babylonish captivity. This was a wise institution, and no doubt contributed much to the maintenance of pure religion, and the prevention of idolatry among that people.
Samuel reformed many abuses in the Jewish state, and raised it to a pitch of political consequence to which it had been long a stranger. He was very zealous for the honour of God, and supported the rights of pure religion, of the king, and of the people, against all encroachments. He was chief magistrate in Israel before the appointment of a king, and afterwards he acted as prime minister to Saul, though without being chosen or formally appointed to that station. Indeed, he seems on the whole to have been the civil and ecclesiastical governor, Saul being little more than general of the Israelitish forces.
In his office of minister in the state, he gave the brightest example of zeal, diligence, inflexible integrity, and uncorruptedness. He reproved both the people and the king for their transgressions, with a boldness which nothing but his sense of the Divine authority could inspire, and yet he tempered it with a sweetness which showed the interest he felt in their welfare, and the deep and distressing concern he felt for their back-slidings and infidelities.
He was incorrupt; he received no man's bribe; he had no pension from the state; he enriched none of his relatives from the public purse; left no private debts to be discharged by his country. He was among the Hebrews what Aristides is said to have been among the Greeks, so poor at his death, though a minister of state, that he did not leave property enough to bury him. Justice was by him duly and impartially administered, and oppression and wrong had no existence.
If there ever was a heaven-born minister, it was Samuel; in whose public and private conduct there was no blemish, and whose parallel cannot be found in the ancient or modern history of any country in the universe.
Let ministers of state who have sought for nothing but their own glory, and have increased the public burdens by their improvident expenditure; who have endeavoured, by their wordy representations, to dazzle and elude the people, and impose false grandeur in the place of true greatness and solid prosperity; who have oppressed the many, and enriched the worthless few; fall down at the feet of THIS heaven-born man, and learn, from this immaculate judge of Israel, what a faithful servant to his king, and an incorruptible minister of state, means, and in retiring from their high station, or in going to appear before the judgment-seat of God, see whether, in the presence of their king, and in the face of the thousands of their people, they can boldly say, "Behold, here am I! Witness against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose ass have I seized? Whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, by the imposition of heavy taxes for the support of needless expenses, and the payment of venal men? Or of whose hand have I taken any bribe to blind my eyes? Scrutinize my conduct, examine the state of my family, compare their present circumstances with what they were previously to my administration, and see if you can find aught in my hands." See chap. xii. 1, &c.
O, how seldom in the annals of the world, from the assembled heads of the great body politic, can the departing prime minister hear, "Thou hast not defrauded us, thou hast not oppressed us; neither hast thou taken aught of any man's hand! " This voice call be heard from Gilgal; but of what other minister can this be spoken but of Samuel the seer, who was the gift of God's mercy to the people of Israel; whose memory was too precious to be intrusted to public monuments, but stands, and alas; almost unique in the BOOK OF GOD? Of Daniel, and his administration, I shall have occasion to speak elsewhere.
A prime minister, deeply devoted to God and faithful to his king and to his country, is so rare a character in the world, that when he does occur, he should be held up to public admiration. But I have no parallel for Samuel. See the notes on chap. xii. 1-25 and on chap. xxiv. 6.