- God chose Samuel to be His representative leader and the one to anoint His King.
- Samuel anointed Saul as king but when he sinned he announced his rejection.
- Foundation of the kingdom (1 Samuel 1:1-7:17)
- Rise and fall of the king (1 Samuel 8:1-15:35)
I. Foundation of the Kingdom (1Samuel 1:1-7:17)
A. General Analysis
- Samuel’s early life and disasters for Israel (ISam.1:1-4:22)
- The captivity of the ark in Philistia (ISam.5:1–12)
- The return of the ark to Israel (ISam.6:1–21)
- Samuel’s later life and successes for Israel (ISam.7:1–17)
B. Detailed Analysis
1. Samuel’s early life and disasters for Israel (ISam.1:1-4:22)
-Samuel’s life begins (ISam.1:1-2:11)
-Eli’s sons degenerate (ISam.2:12-2:36)
-Samuel’s life develops (ISam.3:1-19)
-Eli’s house doomed (ISam.4:1-22)
The narrator draws a stark contrast between the degeneracy of Eli’s sons and the divine curse upon them, and the spiritual growth of the young lad Samuel and God’s blessing upon him. God was preparing Israel for a King by raising up Samuel to be the nation’s greatest judge. The focus on him in these early chapters of 1 & 2 Samuel establish his importance in both the national life of Israel and in the personal lives of Saul and David.
After Eli’s grim death, responsibility as judge in Israel falls to Samuel. He is the last of the judges, but not a military judge – not ruling like Samson by physical strength, but by high spiritual qualities and prayer; not so much wrestling against flesh and blood as against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. In this respect his function as judge blends with his work as prophet.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002)[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: God prepared and exalted Samuel to appoint and anoint Israel’s kings.
2. Hannah’s prayer (ISam.2:1-10)
a True Strength [horn is the LORD] (ISam.2:1-2)
b Fake Strength [human/arrogant boast] (ISam.2:3)
c Strength and weakness fluctuate in people (ISam.2:4-5)
d True Strength [from God] (ISam.2:6-7)
c’ The LORD’s power helps the weak (ISam.2:8-9a)
b’ Fake Strength (ISam.2:9b-10)
a’ True Strength [horn is the king] (ISam.2:10b)[footnote]B Waltke, Lectures on Judges to Poets (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote]
When Samuel was born, Hannah was inspired to sing praises to God for His power. Hannah was enabled to see that this power would eventually raise up a King for Israel. In her own experience Hannah discerned the general laws of the Divine economy which are highlighted in this book – God exalts the humble and brings down the proud. It also highlights at the very beginning, the author’s other dominant theme – the Lord’s provision of a king.
The experience which she, bowed down and oppressed as she was, had had of the gracious government of the omniscient and holy covenant God, was a pledge to her of the gracious way in which the nation itself was led by God, and a sign by which she discerned how God not only delivered at all times the poor and wretched who trusted in Him out of their poverty and distress, and set them up, but would also lift up and glorify His whole nation, which was at that time so deeply bowed down and oppressed by its foe.[footnote]Keil quoted in E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1953), 176.[/footnote]
The focus on God’s chosen king, his anointed one, David, appears right at the outset, and reveals the stance from which the whole narrative is being viewed.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
Hannah’s magnificat becomes a proleptic summary of the themes that fill the book as a whole: Hannah’s prophetic song looks forward to the emergence of kingship in Israel, a victory David will live to celebrate as historical reality. The sanctuary and protection of the Lord’s anointed is among the unifying themes in the book.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 141.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: God exalts humble kings (David) but brings down the proud (Saul).
3. Glory and “Heavy”
The author uses repetition of key words to get his point across. For example, the Hebrew root (kbd) conveys the related ideas of “be heavy” and “consider weighty, honor” and “glory.” Eli the priest gives ”honor” to his sons instead of God (1 Sam. 2:29) by allowing them to get fat on the meat-offerings. God says, “Those who honor [‘give weight to’] me, I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained [“considered light”]” (ISam.2:30). Eli’s broken neck and death result from a fall because he was heavy (ISam.4:18), and the loss of the ark prompts the naming of his grandson Ichabod (“glory, honor is no more”).
Deuteronomist’s Message: God honors those who honor him (David) and dishonors those who don’t (Saul).
4. The Captivity of the Ark in Philistia (ISam.5:1-12)
a. The ark and defeat for Israel
The Israelites were confused about what the ark of God really was (chapter 4). To them God was bottled up in this ark, and if they picked up the ark and carried it out to battle God had no choice. He had to go with the people. Here we see trust in the ark, instead of trust in God who is the God of the ark. They thought in terms of the outward external ark, as though that had some value, instead of trusting in God, who is simply symbolized in the presence of the ark. The later prophets would use this example to warn the people of Jerusalem against trusting in the temple.
b. The ark and defeat for Philistines
Though the Philistines had defeated Israel twice on the field of battle, killing 30,000 Israelite soldiers, a confrontation on a different level was about to take place. Israel’s God would now show Himself superior to the chief god of the Philistines. Yahweh defeated Dagon in his own temple. Dagon was reduced to a stump without a head for thinking or hands for acting. The hand of Yahweh (i.e., his power) was heavy against any Philistine city where the ark lodged. This narrative underscores the point that Yahweh was master even in Philistine territory (5:8–12).
Deuteronomist’s Message: God will defeat those who simply trust in the ark (Saul) instead of trusting in the God of the ark (David).
5. The Return of the Ark to Israel (ISam.6:1-21)
The Exodus is the most important event in Israel’s history. It is the central theme in many Psalms and is referred to by many Prophets. As John Currid points out in his Lectures on Samuel, the Exodus is also the model or pattern for other biblical events (Ezek.20:34-36; Zechariah 10:9-11; Rev.16:2ff). The whole ark narrative is permeated with Exodus themes, from its capture to its release (eg.,1Sam.6:6). The writer of 1 Samuel builds the narrative around these Exodus words and concepts. God continues to work in patterns.
6. Samuel’s later life and successes for Israel (1Sam.7:1-17)
Eli’s sons lead to defeat and the loss of the ark (ISam.4:1b-22)
-The ark brings curses to the Philistines (ISam.5:1-12)
-The ark is returned by the Philistines (ISam.6:1-7:1)
Samuel leads to victory (ISam.7:2-17)[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 391.[/footnote]
Samuel calls the people back to the Lord. The spiritual darkness and chaos of the period of the Judges is just about over and Samuel is about to move the people back into the light of the knowledge of God’s word. At Mizpeh, the Israelites obeyed, fasted and prayed and sacrificed. God heard, accepted the sacrifice and thundered against their Philistine attackers with a great thunder.
The people of God reached their all-time low point when the ark of God was captured in battle. A dying mother made the most telling comment on this disaster when she whispered with her dying breath the name for her new son “Ichabod,” (the glory has departed)! (1 Sam. 4:20). But twenty years later a grateful prophet shouts the name “Ebenezer” (stone of help) as he erected a monument to God’s grace after Israel smashed the Philistines in battle (1Sam.7:12)
God is making clear that He had chosen Samuel to replace Eli and his sons as the recognized authority in Israel so that he could anoint Israel’s king.
Deuteronomist’s message: God replaced corrupt leadership (Eli/Saul) with godly leadership (Samuel/David).
C. New Testament Analysis
1. Hannah and Mary’s Song
This song of Hannah is the prototype of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and of Zecharias’ prophecy (Luke 1:68-79) which show how the song was understood by the devout in Israel.
The longing for a child, for a righteous king and for an anointed one (1Sam.2:10) in Hannah’s song is heard again in Mary’s own song as she anticipates the birth of Israel’s king and Messiah (Luke 2:32-33, 46-55, 69).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 146.[/footnote]
Both Hannah and Mary’s songs open with jubilation over the Lord’s deliverance (v1; Lk.1:46-48). Both extol the Lord’s uniqueness and holiness (v2; Lk.1:49-50), both condemn proud boasting (v3; Lk.1:51), both point to reversals of human fortune as the result of interventions by the sovereign Lord (v4-8; Lk.1:52-53), and both express the Lord’s faithful care for his own (v9; Lk.1:54-55).[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 396.[/footnote]
Hannah’s prayer strikes thematic/theological keynotes that will reverberate throughout the narratives that follow….These same themes of divine grace and sovereignty are revisited near the end of 2 Samuel in the poetic compositions ascribed to David (2Sam.22:1-23:7). Thus, the books of Samuel are framed fore and aft with poetic pieces providing thematic orientation for the reading of the intervening narrative episodes. Hannah’s prayer also anticipates the coming of the “king,” the Lord’s “anointed” (1Sam.2:10), while the closing frame is ascribed to the king himself (2Sam.22:1; 23:1). This again is very much in keeping with a dominant concern of the books of Samuel: the issue of human kingship and how it should be exercised.[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III (Editors), The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1993), 167-168.[/footnote]
“And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house” (1Sam.2:35). This is tantamount to saying the priesthood of Levi has failed, but God will raise him up a priest who will not fail. The writer to the Hebrews in Chapter 7:11ff deals with this fact and shows that the priesthood of Levi did fail, but God raised up a greater priest, not of the tribe of Levi, namely Christ who would not fail.
Samuel was a prophet, priest and judge who was used by God to usher in a new period in the history of Israel, and so functions as a type of Christ.
He preached repentance to the whole of Israel (ISam.7:2-6). He was the forerunner of David, as John was of Christ. Samuel the prophet provides another strong link in the chain between the promise of a great Prophet given through Moses (Deut. 18:15) and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He provides a fitting type of Christ as a prophet, priest and judge. Of young Samuel it is said that he ‘grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men’ (ISam.2:26); of the Savior when young it is said that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’ (Luke 2:52; cf. v. 40).[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 246[/footnote]
4. Lord of Hosts
Here we find the expression ‘the LORD of hosts’ (ISam.1:3) for the first time. It occurs another 281 times and signifies the God of Israel as the Lord of all the multitudes in heaven and earth.
That ‘Jehovah of Hosts’ is a title sometimes applied to Christ is seen by comparing Isaiah 6:1-5 with John 12:41, and Isaiah 8:13-14 with 1 Peter 2:5-8.[footnote]Ibid., 245.[/footnote]
II. Rise and Fall of the King (1 Samuel 8:1-15:35)
A. General Analysis
a The king desired and anointed by Samuel (ISam.8:1–10:27)
b Saul’s rise in kingship (ISam.11:1–11:15)
c Samuel’s farewell address of counsel and warning (ISam.12:1–25)
b’ Saul’s failing kingship (ISam.13:1–14:52)
a’ The king disobeys and is rejected by Samuel (ISam.15:1–35)
B. Detailed Analysis
1. The king desired and anointed by Samuel (1Sam.8:1-10:27)
In the previous lecture we noted that human kingship had been expected by both God and His people. However, the people still sinned in asking for one. What was wrong in their request?
Instead of waiting for God’s timing, the people showed lack of trust in God by demanding one immediately.
b. Like other nations (ISam.8:5, 20)
God’s intention was for Israel to be different from the other nations, even in the area of kingship (Deut 17). However, they wanted to be like the other nations, especially in the area of kingship, this despite Samuel making clear to them what kingship in the ancient Near East meant (ISam.8:11-18). God had given them everything – their victories, treasures, rewards, blessings, fields, servants, wealth, etc. But look what the king will do – he’ll take your daughters, fields, vineyards, olive yards, the tenth of your seed, your men servants and maid servants, your asses, the tenth of your flocks. In other words he’s going to take, he isn’t going to give. And then finally you will cry out because of the king you chose and the Lord won’t answer you in that day, the Lord won’t intervene, He won’t change it. In the latter days the kings became so wicked that the people did cry out in distress but God let them move right on into captivity without intervention.
Moreover, the demand to be “like the other nations” carries with it a virtual uni¬lateral withdrawal from the Sinai covenant, which mandated Israel’s difference from the world.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 83.[/footnote]
c. Autonomous human king (v7)
God makes clear that the people desired an autonomous human king rather than a king ruling under God. They were therefore rejecting God from being their king. This is the final sin of the nation during the rule by judges. Before, they rebelled against God’s rule by turning to idols, but now they rebel against God by rejecting His rule in favor of depending on a king to save them from foreign oppression.
Dynastic kingship would eliminate from Israel Yahweh’s spontaneity and direction, which judgeship had provided, thus cutting the cord of spiritual guidance by providing for an ordered succession. Israel in the future would be tempted to look for deliverance from its king, ignoring leadership from the kingdom of God, and this would be its covenantal undoing.[footnote]Ibid., 83.[/footnote]
d. Sense of insecurity (v20)
Samuel was old and his sons were corrupt. External dangers were growing. The people realized that they needed strong national leadership to unite the nation and face these growing threats. However, they did not look to Lord to deliver them but looked to a human agent. They wanted someone out there that they could see, and point to, and say he’s our king, he’s our leader, he will fight our battles for us.
This desire flew in the face of the injunctions in Deuteronomy 17:14–20 (esp. v. 14 in its prohibition against hoarding horses, the symbol of military might), and it was couched in terms of the common ancient Near Eastern conception of a king as one who would fight the nation’s battles and receive the glory for it…. In effect, this desire served to “depose” the Lord as Israel’s king, for He had been the one who had delivered Israel time and time again.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
So, God was not forbidding human kingship per se. He was for it from the beginning, as long as God retained His supreme place over Israel as its God and its warrior. This was not their intention, and because they sought a king from the wrong motives, at the wrong time and without regard for the law of God, Samuel warned them of trouble to come. God’s warnings proved to be accurate. Even the best of Israel’s monarchs failed miserably. Their violations of God’s law brought much trouble to Israel and eventually led to the exile of God’s people.
When the time came (1 Sam 8) that they felt their need of a king (monarchy), they had rejected the idea of God on the throne (theocracy). God objected to their request for a king, not because He was against kingship (monarchy), but because of their rejection of Him (theocracy): “They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam 8:7).[footnote]I L Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 169.[/footnote]
However, although much trouble came upon the nation through the sinful timing and motive of their request for a king, where sin abounded grace did much more abound.
He used the people’s kings as His channels of revelation, service, blessing, and justice. One of those whom He anointed as king was David, “a man after His own heart” (1S.am 13:14), who would be the grand type and forerunner of the Messianic King. The two books of 1 and 2 Samuel describe the establishing of this Davidic kingdom in Israel.[footnote]Ibid.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: Israel’s king will only prosper if he rules under God (David) but will be defeated if he rules apart from God (Saul).
2. Prophet (1 Sam.9)
As soon as a kingship arrives so does the formal institution of the prophets. Kingship is presented in a prophetic perspective and kingship must submit to prophecy if it is to succeed.
The prophets Samuel and Nathan played prominent roles in dealing with Saul and David, both in encouraging and in condemning them. The exercise of true kingship in Israel was not to be done apart from loyalty to the Lord and obedience to His covenant. By emphasizing the prophetic perspectives in a work devoted mainly to chronicling the establishment of kingship, the author showed that the kings were obligated to be sensitive to the prophets, who interpreted the covenant for the nation.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: The king after God’s heart will listen to the prophets (David) rather than disobey them (Saul).
3. Anointing (1Sam.9-12)
In chapters 9-12 a distinctive theology of kingship is developed which was to separate Israel’s kingship from that of the surrounding nations and so guard the covenant between God and the nation.
Dumbrell notes a distinctive sequence in the call to kingship in both Saul and David:
|Anointed by prophet||ISam.10:1||ISam.16:13|
|Endowed with the Spirit||ISam.10:6-13||ISam.16:13|
|Publicly affirmed by military victory||ISam.11||ISam.17|
When the Spirit leaves Saul and instead is given to David, a transfer of leadership is implied, and the necessity of the Lord’s Spirit to lead God’s people is explicit.
In both cases, the anointing constructs a relationship between the king and Yahweh, not between the king and people, whereby the Israelite king is then called Yahweh’s messiah.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 86.[/footnote]
Klein has called attention to the fact that of thirty-four times in which the term “anointed” is used of a royal person, it always appears with the name Yahweh, or a possessive pronoun referring to Him.
David’s continued use of “messiah” in referring to Saul (1 Sam. 24:6, etc.) indicates that only Yahweh could abrogate the relationship, just as He had begun it.
The four elements – choice, anointing, gift of the Spirit as empowerment for office, and mighty acts publicly recognized as fitness for office – are not again associated with kingship beyond Saul and David, until we arrive at the ideal kingship demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.[footnote]Ibid., 85.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: Israel’s true king has God’s true anointing (David not Saul).
4. Samuel’s final address of warning and counsel (1 Sam.12:1–25)
History bore testimony that God faithfully had performed the royal office. The request for a king had been premature, unnecessary, and insulting to the Lord (ISam.12:6–12). It was therefore followed both by verbal condemnation (ISam.12:13-15), and providential condemnation (ISam.12:16-18). However, despite Israel’s sin God will not abandon Israel (ISam.12:19-22) as His name was bound up with nation, and Samuel will not abandon Israel (ISam.12:23) but continue to pray for them and instruct them. But, if Israel keeps on sinning Israel and their king will be swept away (ISam.12:24-25). He exhorts both king and people to obey God and warns them of judgment if they fail to. In effect, a covenant had been sworn binding Saul to lead God’s people in covenant-keeping ways.
First Samuel 12 also seems to occur at Gilgal (no change in site is indicated) and focuses on renewal of the covenant. Though the monarchy is now a matter of fact and its existence cannot be undone – for God, after all, had approved of it – Samuel aims to reduce its importance in the eyes of the people and to re¬assert their dependence on Yahweh and on his own good auspices. The narrator wished to make clear that the monarchy did not come by public initiative, from dazzling personalities or because of socio-economic or military power, but because of the will of Yahweh. Far from being his farewell speech, chapter 12 outlines Samuel’s continued role as Israel’s intercessor (vv23-25) and thus as the ultimate guide of the new order. With 1 Samuel 12, kingship of a modified character has been grafted into the Sinai arrangement.[footnote]Ibid., 85.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: Saul was given ample warning of the dangers of disobedience.
5. Saul’s sins
a. Pride (1Sam.13:2-4)
Although it was Jonathan that defeated the Philistines (v3), Saul blows the trumpet and announced that he got the victory (v4ff). He is later upset at the women praising David for smiting the Philistines. This is not a humble theocratic monarchy but self-glorifying sinful monarchy.
b. Offers sacrifice (1Sam.13:9ff)
Saul usurped the priestly role when it suited his purposes. Saul was too impatient to wait for Samuel. When challenged by Samuel, Saul excused himself saying, “I forced myself.” This means literally, “I made myself strong to do this.”
He thought that he rose above the weak-kneed people around him and made sacrifice to keep everyone together. But he did not follow the Torah or Samuel’s divine word to him. True kingship depends on the authority of God’s word.[footnote]J Currid, Lectures on Judges to Poets (Jackson: RTS).[/footnote]
c. Rash oath against eating (1Sam.14:24f)
When Saul made a hasty oath, the people end up sinning by eating blood with meat (Lev.3:17, 17:10-14). The reason he gives for making such an oath was, “Until I have avenged myself upon the enemy” (1 Sam.14:24). The verb for “avenge myself” is in the niphal which is a reflexive stem. It is all about “me, myself and I.” Later, when accused of being the cause of the people’s sin he turns on his accusers and says “Roll a stone to me.” Here again, he sinfully takes the role of priestly intermediary as he prepares an altar of sacrifice to, as he sees it, protect Israel from God’s judgment.
d. Spares Amalekites (1Sam.15:1ff)
Amalek were inveterate enemies of Israel whom God had set apart for judgment because of their treacherous behavior towards Israel in the wilderness (Ex.17:8-16; Dt.25:17-19). They joined themselves to anyone who was opposed to Israel. Now, with Israel’s first king installed, the time had come to execute God’s judgment on them (1 Sam.15:1-3). Commanded to destroy Amalek, Saul disobeyed and was rejected by God. But instead of repenting in humility, he builds a monument to his own glory with a view to living on into eternity.
That both Saul’s initial rejection and the final one occurred at Gilgal and in connection with the offering of sacrifice is not without significance in understanding his removal and the announcement of David’s succession. On the first occasion Saul had failed to await Samuel’s arrival at Gilgal and had, with his own hands, offered burnt offerings, a function totally and absolutely forbidden to a non-Levite unless granted a special dispensation by Yahweh. On the second occasion Saul had presumed to violate herem by sparing certain Amalekite animals, beasts which he intended to sacrifice to Yahweh. It is plausible that Saul also planned to offer these sacrifices personally. Samuel’s indictment would favor this interpretation, for he reminded Saul that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Such disobedience, Samuel said, is rebellion, a sin as bad as divination or idolatry. Saul’s failure, then, lay in his appropriating to himself priestly prerogatives which may have been associated with pagan kingship but which, without specific divine sanction, were inappropriate to him or any king of Israel. The cultic role of kings was, indeed, well-nigh universal, so Saul, in emulating their behavior, might well be excused had he no contrary word from God in the law. But that word was clear – cultic affairs were reserved to the priests and Levites.[footnote]E H Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books House, 1992), 210.[/footnote]
e. Hatred of David
As soon as the moral, military and spiritual worth of David becomes obvious, Saul’s hatred of him becomes irrational and unrelenting.
f. Evil spirit (1Sam. 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9).
Seven times reference is made to the evil spirit from the Lord that came upon Saul. The only other time this is mentioned in the Old Testament was in connection with Abimelech (Jdg.9:23).
It is noteworthy that the only occasions where God sent an evil spirit on individuals involve (technically) Israel’s first two “kings,” both of whom proved to be unworthy candidates for the office. Undoubtedly this was a reflection of how God felt about the way the monarchy was established in these two cases and about these two individuals. Abimelech was “king” over at least a portion of Israel for three years. However, he seized the kingship illegitimately, he was a very poor candidate for the office, and he exercised authority wrongly when he did have power. Saul, too, came to power out of ill-conceived and illegitimate motives on the part of those asking for a king, and he, too, quickly demonstrated his unsuitability for the office, despite his initially having been chosen and anointed by God for the kingship.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
In contrast, Israel’s next king, David, was favored with the Lord’s spirit from the day of his anointing onwards (1Sam.16:13). This reinforces the ideal nature of David’s kingship and God’s positive attitude toward it.
It should be remembered that the evil spirit from the Lord was not the cause of Saul’s sin but the punishment of it. God did not make Saul evil. Saul was evil in and of himself. The evil spirit of the Lord is God hardening him in his sin (remember Pharaoh).
Necromancers consulted ghosts or the dead. God’s people were told to stay away from them or be fatally judged (Lev.19:31, 20:27). Significantly the prohibition against necromancy in Deuteronomy 18 comes immediately after God’s authorizing of the monarchy in chapter 17. Samuel tells Saul that he would die the next day. God’s rejection of Israel’s first king was not an arbitrary dismissal for minor infractions, but rather was consistent with the goodness, holiness, and justice of God.
Saul is the king after Israel’s own heart (ISam.12:13): he offered sacrifices to God, but not properly; he willingly fought against the enemies of Israel, but did not seek God’s blessing before setting out; he trusted God until he saw his men deserting him; he believed in the outward forms of sacrifice without having internal faith, love and obedience. These reflect the character of Israel at the time.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 242.[/footnote]
Deuteronomist’s Message: Saul’s forfeiture of the kingdom was just and deserved and brought about by himself.
6. Saul’s rejection by God and Samuel (ISam.15:1–35)
a. God’s repentance
In a chapter that explicitly states that God does not repent (ISam.15:29) we have two examples of God repenting that he had made Saul king (ISam.15:11, 35).
The language here is often said to be “anthropomorphic” (i.e., describing God using human forms), or “anthropopathic” (describing God using human emotions), whereas that in verse 29 is said to be “theomorphic” (describing God in “real” terms). Theologically, given His omniscience, this must be so. However, to attempt to solve this problem solely with reference to these concepts obscures the important truth about the conditionality inherent in almost every one of God’s promises of punishment or reward.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
So what is the answer? First of all we should note that the Hebrew root for repentance here (nhm “repent, regret, change one’s mind”) is not the word that is normally used to describe human repentance (swb “turn”). Here the sense is of God “changing His mind” but without any sense of ignorance, short-sightedness or mistaken first purposes. The unchangeableness of God concerns God’s fidelity to His own character which must hate sin and require obedience.
At the outset Saul had been warned that only if he honored God through obedience would he be blessed, and if he did not he would be rejected. Thus Yahweh’s change of attitude toward Saul was not a change of purpose. For God to be unchanging in his purpose, he had to now change his attitude toward Saul.
With respect to the internal consistency of the texts in 1 Samuel 15 concerning God’s repentance (vv. 11 , 29 , 35 ), the context of Samuel’s statement about God’s not “changing his mind” (v. 29 ) is a statement of universal truth, and its application here has to do with His not reversing the judgment He had just made upon Saul (to take away the kingdom). Saul had had enough opportunity to do things right, but he had finally forfeited his claim permanently, and God would not change His mind in regard to this. The narrator’s comments in verses 11 and 35 make clear that God did indeed “change His mind” regarding His initial actions concerning Saul because of Saul’s sins.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
b. Samuel’s rejection
Saul’s inexorable decline is the counter theme to David’s rise. In three steps the rejection of Saul is made clear. First, Samuel announced that Saul would have no lasting dynasty. Second, Samuel declared that Saul personally had been rejected by the Lord. Third, Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint that one who would be Saul’s replacement in kingship.
c. Obedience is better than sacrifice (ISam.15:22)
Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1Sam.15:22).
This is one of the key verses in the Old Testament in regard to the will of God. Sacrifices were never intended to be a substitute for obedience. What God wanted above everything else was the obedience of His people to His law. The sacrifice is never in God’s sight something that is an alternative to obedience. Sacrifice should simply bring the people to a realization of what great sinners they are. It was far from that for Saul. He couldn’t see any sin he had done at all. He could offer sacrifices all day but he was not impressed with his own sin. Then Samuel goes on: “Rebellion is the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry.” In essence he is saying here: “Saul you’re bringing the people right back to the dark ages, right back to the period of the judges when witchcraft and idolatry were rampant. You rejected God’s word and He has rejected you.”
Deuteronomist’s Message: Saul’s kingship was rejected by God and His prophet in accordance with the Mosaic covenant.
C. New Testament Analysis
1. Obedience is better than sacrifice (Matt.9:13; 12:7)
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matt.9:13)
III. The Message
Original Message: Trust in Davidic King because he was divinely anointed and legitimized by Samuel, and because Saul and his family forfeited kingship by turning away from God.
Present Message: Trust in Christ because he is God’s divinely anointed and authorized King, and because all other kings and leaders have forfeited their position by sin.