1 Samuel 11–15: Rebellion & Rejection

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 13: Tuesday

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which He commanded you, for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. Yahweh has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and Yahweh has appointed him as ruler over His people because you have not kept what Yahweh commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:13–14 LSB

In Tuesday’s Bible reading is 1 Samuel 11–15. In chapter 10 Saul had been chosen by God to be king. He is made king in chapter 11 after he leads Israel to defeat the Ammonites. In chapter 12, Samuel tells Israel once more of their wickedness in rejecting God and asking for a king to rule them. The people finally repent and Samuel warns them repeatedly to follow the Lord and to serve Him with all their heart.

Saul continues to lead Israel to victory in war in the next chapters, but his rebellious, headstrong and foolish actions bring rebuke from Samuel and the news that God will remove the kingdom from his house. In chapter 13, impatient in waiting for Samuel to come, Saul presumes to take upon himself the role of priest and offer sacrifice. When Samuel arrives he tells Saul he has acted foolishly and his kingdom will not endure.

Chapter 14 has the record of Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his armor bearer who bravely take a Philistine garrison by themselves. Jonathan’s courage and trust in God are seen in this chapter, contrasting with his father’s foolish style of leadership when Saul curses anyone who eats before evening and before Saul has avenged himself. Jonathan unknowingly eats honey, and has a few pointed comments on the effects of not eating on men going into battle (14:29–30). This is readily seen in 14:31–32. When it’s discovered that Jonathan had eaten, Saul is ready to put his own son to death and is only stopped by the refusal of the people to let this happen.

D. F. Payne comments on Saul’s character seen in 1 Samuel 14:36–46.

“Even in the account of the batte, the progressive estrangement between Saul and his God is evident. Saul’s chief fault, in these early days of his reign, seems to have been impulsive and ill-considered action.”1

Finally, in chapter 15, Saul’s rebels against the direct command of God in fighting the Amalekites and lies about it to Samuel. Samuel delivers God’s words of judgment against Saul.

And Samuel said,
“Has Yahweh as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of Yahweh?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as wickedness and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh,
He has also rejected you from
being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22–23 LSB

As I was reading I thought of several things about Saul. Jonathan is under no illusions about his father and is a better man. It’s also easy to understand Saul’s jealousy, vascillation, and murderous intent when David comes on the scene.

The other thing is that Samuel’s words that I quoted at the top are very sobering. Have you ever thought that rebellion is as the sin of divination? Or that insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry? Saul had a casual attitude towards obeying God, and he did as he wanted at the moment, even attempting to cover up his sin. His disobedience was taken seriously by God and came with severe consequences. Joyce Baldwin writes:

“In a memorable prophetic utterance, Samuel pronounces for all time the futility of attempting to rely on ritual sacrifice when what is required is obedience. No ceremonial can make up for a rebellious attitude to God and his commandments, because obstinate resistance to God exalts self-will to the place of authority, which belongs only to God. That is why it is as bad as divination (by evil spirits), and tatamount to idolatry, for another god, self, has usurped his place.”2

As you read, you may have wondered about how the verses in 1 Samuel 15:10–11, 29, 35 about God’s regrets fit together. The same Hebrew word is used in vv. 11, 29, and 35. The New American Standard Bible 1995 Update translates this word as regret in vv 11 and 35, and as change in v. 29.

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.
1 Samuel 15:10–11
Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
1 Samuel 15:29
Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
1 Samuel 15:35

Bob Burridge in Does God Repent of Things He Has Done? has a very helpful discussion on the meaning of this Hebrew word:

“The Hebrew word here for “repent” or “change” is nakham (נחם). It’s translated many ways in the Bible depending upon the context. Most often it is translated either “to be sorry”, “to repent”, or “to comfort”, seemingly very different ideas.

“The Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (BDB) defines it this way: “to be sorry, to be consoled, to be moved to pity, to have compassion, to be comforted, to be relieved.”

“When we repent over our sins, our response is grief over the offense they cause to God. When God “repents” he has nothing to regret in himself. He has nothing for which to be sorry. God answers to no one but himself and to his own perfect and eternal plan. The sins of mankind offend him deeply. These sorrowful occurrences are used by God as means to accomplish all he’d purposed to happen. When God observes these tragic outworkings of evil, he is grieved over the sin, but he turns them into occasions to reveal his justice in his judg­ments, and his mercy in redemption. The word nakham (נחם) beautifully conveys this response.

“To communicate to us the offense toward God which is produced by the sins of his creatures, the Bible uses a human response we all understand. We often experience grief, sorrow, and a need for consolation. When a human emotion is used to explain how God responds to something, we call it an “anthropopathism”, a human feeling.”3

Burridge also has some great points about interpretating the Bible he applies here.

“Our unchangeable God can never regret what he’s done. Passages that appear to say otherwise need to be more carefully examined to understand the point being made.

1. Consider what God has directly stated elsewhere. [Remember the primary rule of interpreting Scripture is that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.] This rules out what the passages cannot mean. God is perfect. His plan is unchangeable. No Bible passage can teach that God regrets or repents as we do.

2. Discover what the original words mean, and how they were commonly used. The word translated as “repent” or “sorry” is not equivalent to our word “regret”. It’s mainly about his discomfort connected with sorrowful things.

3. Consider the attitude of God described in these passages. We need to understand what the human emotion represents in the infinite and unchangeable being of God. God is offended by sin. It appalls him. It causes what was created in a blessed state to be treated at a later time with judgment and contempt.

God’s immutability is both a sober warning, and a comforting assurance. God’s true nature is an uncomfortable fact for those who remain unredeemed by Christ. For those brought into the family of God by grace, it is a wonderful truth. God can’t go back on his promises, nor can his plan fail in any way. His blessings and judgments are sure.”4

Saul’s example is one of those examples of warning. May God enable us to learn and may He enable us to live in obediently in awe and reverence before Him.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Saul Reproved by Samuel for Not Obeying the Commandments of the Lord: John Singleton Copley. Public Domain.
1D. F. Payne, “1 Samuel,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 294.
2Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1988) 115.
3,4Bob Burridge, “Does God Repent of Things He Has Done?” Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies, January 22, 2012.
Further reading:
Does God Change His Mind?” Copyright 2022 by James Dolezal. Ligonier Ministries.
Sam Storms, “Does God Ever Change His Mind?

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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