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Passage: 1 Samuel 13:1-15:33

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


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.


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).