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1 Samuel 13:1-15:33 – God Rejects Saul as King

Summary

Saul is rejected as king for disobedience at the beginning and end of this segment. In between, Saul's behavior is contrasted with that of Jonathan, his son.

Analysis

Saul's decline is matched by David's rise, a theme that will appear in an intermittent fashion throughout 1 Samuel. The theological problem of the monarchy was dealt with in chapters 8-12, and David will be anointed king in chapter 16. These intervening chapters deal with the disastrous early years of Saul's reign as king. Concentric arrangement abounds:

Saul's rejection (chapters 13-15) is depicted as a reversal of chapters 9-12:


A God chooses Saul as king (9:1-10:27a)
B People accept Saul as king (10:27b-11:13)
C Samuel acquiesces to Saul as king (11:14-12:25)
C′ Samuel rebukes Saul (13:1-15a)
B′ People rebuke Saul (13:15b-14:52)
A′ God rejects Saul as king (15:1-35)

In addition, chapters 13-15 display their own internal arrangement:


A Samuel rebukes Saul (13:1-15a)
B Victory in war (13:15b-14:23)
X Saul's foolish oath (14:24-46)
B′ Victory in war (14:47-52)
A′ God rejects Saul as king (15:1-35)

Saul's victories in war (13:15b-14:23; 14:47-52) secured his kingdom and gave the impression that the new institution of kingship might work out after all. But just as Saul's handsome appearance hid a troubled and depressed soul, so his outward achievements did little to conceal the inner problems of his reign:

  • Saul's impatient usurpation of Samuel's priestly role (13:8-14) would result in God's future selections based upon the heart (16:7) and indicates a lack of proper respect for worship.
  • Saul's foolish oath (14:24-46) against eating before battle would have resulted in the death of his son, Jonathan, had the people not prevented Saul from following through, and indicates a lack of judgment.
  • Saul's failure to follow God's instructions concerning the "ban" (15:1-33) is the most serious disobedience and results in Samuel's caustic rebuke: "Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king" (15:23).

1 Samuel 13:1-15:33

Saul’s Unlawful Sacrifice

13Saul was . . .* years old when he began to reign; and he reigned for . . . and two* years over Israel.

2 Saul chose three thousand out of Israel; two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin; the rest of the people he sent home to their tents. 3Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba; and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, ‘Let the Hebrews hear!’ 4When all Israel heard that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines, the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped at Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6When the Israelites saw that they were in distress (for the troops were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns. 7Some Hebrews crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

8 He waited for seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul.* 9So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt-offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.’ And he offered the burnt-offering. 10As soon as he had finished offering the burnt-offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. 11Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, 12I said, “Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favour of the Lord”; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt-offering.’ 13Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you. The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever, 14but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.’ 15And Samuel left and went on his way from Gilgal.* The rest of the people followed Saul to join the army; they went up from Gilgal towards Gibeah of Benjamin.*

Preparations for Battle

Saul counted the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. 16Saul, his son Jonathan, and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin; but the Philistines encamped at Michmash. 17And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies; one company turned towards Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 18another company turned towards Beth-horon, and another company turned towards the mountain* that looks down upon the valley of Zeboim towards the wilderness.

19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, ‘The Hebrews must not make swords or spears for themselves’; 20so all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen their ploughshares, mattocks, axes, or sickles;* 21The charge was two-thirds of a shekel* for the ploughshares and for the mattocks, and one-third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.* 22So on the day of the battle neither sword nor spear was to be found in the possession of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan; but Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

Jonathan Surprises and Routs the Philistines

23 Now a garrison of the Philistines had gone out to the pass of Michmash. 141One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father. 2Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree that is at Migron; the troops that were with him were about six hundred men, 3along with Ahijah son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, carrying an ephod. Now the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4In the pass,* by which Jonathan tried to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on one side and a rocky crag on the other; the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5One crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will act for us; for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’ 7His armour-bearer said to him, ‘Do all that your mind inclines to.* I am with you; as your mind is, so is mine.’* 8Then Jonathan said, ‘Now we will cross over to those men and will show ourselves to them. 9If they say to us, “Wait until we come to you”, then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10But if they say, “Come up to us”, then we will go up; for the Lord has given them into our hand. That will be the sign for us.’ 11So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines; and the Philistines said, ‘Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.’ 12The men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armour-bearer, saying, ‘Come up to us, and we will show you something.’ Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, ‘Come up after me; for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’ 13Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer following after him. The Philistines* fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer, coming after him, killed them. 14In that first slaughter Jonathan and his armour-bearer killed about twenty men within an area about half a furrow long in an acre* of land. 15There was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people; the garrison and even the raiders trembled; the earth quaked; and it became a very great panic.

16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin were watching as the multitude was surging back and forth.* 17Then Saul said to the troops that were with him, ‘Call the roll and see who has gone from us.’ When they had called the roll, Jonathan and his armour-bearer were not there. 18Saul said to Ahijah, ‘Bring the ark* of God here.’ For at that time the ark* of God went with the Israelites. 19While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more; and Saul said to the priest, ‘Withdraw your hand.’ 20Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle; and every sword was against the other, so that there was very great confusion. 21Now the Hebrews who previously had been with the Philistines and had gone up with them into the camp turned and joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22Likewise, when all the Israelites who had gone into hiding in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed closely after them in the battle. 23So the Lord gave Israel the victory that day.

The battle passed beyond Beth-aven, and the troops with Saul numbered altogether about ten thousand men. The battle spread out over the hill country of Ephraim.

Saul’s Rash Oath

24 Now Saul committed a very rash act on that day.* He had laid an oath on the troops, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies.’ So none of the troops tasted food. 25All the troops* came upon a honeycomb; and there was honey on the ground. 26When the troops came upon the honeycomb, the honey was dripping out; but they did not put their hands to their mouths, for they feared the oath. 27But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the troops with the oath; so he extended the staff that was in his hand, and dipped the tip of it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes brightened. 28Then one of the soldiers said, ‘Your father strictly charged the troops with an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food this day.” And so the troops are faint.’ 29Then Jonathan said, ‘My father has troubled the land; see how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. 30How much better if today the troops had eaten freely of the spoil taken from their enemies; for now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great.’

31 After they had struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon, the troops were very faint; 32so the troops flew upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slaughtered them on the ground; and the troops ate them with the blood. 33Then it was reported to Saul, ‘Look, the troops are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.’ And he said, ‘You have dealt treacherously; roll a large stone before me here.’* 34Saul said, ‘Disperse yourselves among the troops, and say to them, “Let all bring their oxen or their sheep, and slaughter them here, and eat; and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.” ’ So all of the troops brought their oxen with them that night, and slaughtered them there. 35And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord.

Jonathan in Danger of Death

36 Then Saul said, ‘Let us go down after the Philistines by night and despoil them until the morning light; let us not leave one of them.’ They said, ‘Do whatever seems good to you.’ But the priest said, ‘Let us draw near to God here.’ 37So Saul inquired of God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?’ But he did not answer him that day. 38Saul said, ‘Come here, all you leaders of the people; and let us find out how this sin has arisen today. 39For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, even if it is in my son Jonathan, he shall surely die!’ But there was no one among all the people who answered him. 40He said to all Israel, ‘You shall be on one side, and I and my son Jonathan will be on the other side.’ The people said to Saul, ‘Do what seems good to you.’ 41Then Saul said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim; but if this guilt is in your people Israel,* give Thummim.’ And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared. 42Then Saul said, ‘Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.’ And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, ‘Tell me what you have done.’ Jonathan told him, ‘I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand; here I am, I will die.’ 44Saul said, ‘God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan!’ 45Then the people said to Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great victory in Israel? Perish the thought! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground; for he has worked with God today.’ So the people ransomed Jonathan, and he did not die. 46Then Saul withdrew from pursuing the Philistines; and the Philistines went to their own place.

Saul’s Continuing Wars

47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side—against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines; wherever he turned he routed them. 48He did valiantly, and struck down the Amalekites, and rescued Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.

49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn was Merab, and the name of the younger, Michal. 50The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his army was Abner son of Ner, Saul’s uncle; 51Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

52 There was hard fighting against the Philistines all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any strong or valiant warrior, he took him into his service.

Saul Defeats the Amalekites but Spares Their King

15Samuel said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

4 So Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot-soldiers, and ten thousand soldiers of Judah. 5Saul came to the city of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. 6Saul said to the Kenites, ‘Go! Leave! Withdraw from among the Amalekites, or I will destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.’ So the Kenites withdrew from the Amalekites. 7Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

Saul Rejected as King

10 The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.’ Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. 12Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, and Samuel was told, ‘Saul went to Carmel, where he set up a monument for himself, and on returning he passed on down to Gilgal.’ 13When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.’ 14But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?’ 15Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.’ 16Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ He replied, ‘Speak.’

17 Samuel said, ‘Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, “Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.” 19Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?’ 20Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.’ 22And Samuel said,
‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
   and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.’

24 Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord.’ 26Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.’ 27As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28And Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbour of yours, who is better than you. 29Moreover, the Glory of Israel will not recant* or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind.’ 30Then Saul* said, ‘I have sinned; yet honour me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.’ 31So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord.

32 Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ And Agag came to him haltingly.* Agag said, ‘Surely this is the bitterness of death.’* 33But Samuel said,
‘As your sword has made women childless,
   so your mother shall be childless among women.’
And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

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10 February 2011

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