Saul: After Man’s Heart
1 Samuel 8–15
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #037
December 29, 2015
“Father, what a wonderful privilege it is to serve You, to have another day, another week, to be on this earth where we can glorify You, where we can make the truth of the gospel clear to those we come in contact with, and that we can be used by You to serve the body of Christ.
Father, above all we need to be trained so we are effective servants for You. That means that we need to know Your Word. We need to have it drilled into our thinking so that we cannot forget it. Father, we pray that tonight as we study a large chunk of Scripture, that You will help us to see the flow of action taking place within Samuel, and be able to come to a better understanding, better memory, of what happens in these large books. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tonight we are going to do a flyover. This is an “A level” lesson. What that means is I divide lessons into three categories: A level, B level, and C level.
- A-level headings are overviews, flyovers.
- B-level is when we go verse-by-verse through the section.
- C-level is when we break out from a section and deal with the topics or the doctrines that are in those sections.
That way people can go back later, if you are teaching prep school / Sunday school, a seminary student needing quick information on a passage, then you can go in and get one of the A level lessons, and that will help you work through a section rather quickly.
Tonight we are going to look at the second section of the book dealing with Saul. That is a little bit of a misnomer.
It is Saul and Samuel just as when we get to the last third of the book, 1 Samuel 16–31 in this section, until we get to the last part of the book, where it is Saul and David.
This is Samuel in 1 Samuel 1–7, then Saul in 1 Samuel 8–15. What we see in Saul is that he is being contrasted to what will come:
God’s ideal for a king is:
- a man after God’s own heart
- a man who is devoted to serving the Lord
That does not mean the king is perfect. David certainly failed many times in many egregious ways, but his heart’s desire was to serve the Lord and to focus on Him.
We have Samuel in 1 Samuel 1–7. 1 Samuel 8 is a transition. It is the set-up for 1 Samuel 9–15. Those seven chapters are what we are going to focus on tonight. It is the rise of Saul.
We see an interplay between Saul and Samuel in 1 Samuel 9–15, with the ultimate demise of Saul when God rips the kingdom from him for his disobedience in 1 Samuel 15. He is still king. He is still going to reign as king. This is a type. The second half is a type of living in the world today.
David is anointed in 1 Samuel 16. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ is the Anointed, He is the Messiah, the anointed Davidic king for the kingdom, but the Church Age is like that period in David’s life between his anointing and the death of Saul.
Saul is still the king just as the devil is still the ruler of this age, and the prince and power of the air.
Jesus Christ does not come back to establish His kingdom until He returns the second time. There is no kingdom right now in any way shape or form except a generic rule of God over His creation.
Jesus Christ is not ruling from the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. He is not seated on His throne. He is seated at the right hand of God. Revelation 3:21 says He is seated on the throne of God, not on His own throne yet. He is not enthroned until the Second Coming.
Last time, as we were wrapping up 1 Samuel 7, I pointed out that what God is doing in this section between 1 Samuel 8–31, with the reign of Saul, is He is giving the Israelites what they want. They want a man after their own heart, not a man after God’s heart. God is going to give them what they want so that they can see what a disaster that is.
That is often a pattern that God uses in our own lives. We are stubbornly rebellious. He gives us what we think we want, and it brings misery into our life. This is a pattern we see, as I ended up last time.
I pointed this out in Romans 1:24–25, how there is the depiction of the human race rejecting the non-verbal general revelation of God. God then turns them over to the lusts of their hearts. There are three stages mentioned in Romans 1:24ff–that God gives us over to our depraved desires.
The same kind of thing was seen with the Exodus generation when they rebelled against God because they got bored with eating manna every day, every meal for forty years. We might make light of that, but many of us would have a tough time if we had to eat manna every day for every meal for forty days and forty nights, not forty years.
They complained, and God says you want meat? I am going to overstuff you with meat. He brought this huge flock of quail in, and quail fell on the ground everywhere. They ate the quail until they were sick. Psalm 106:15 summarizes that. It says that God gave them their request, but He sent leanness into their souls.
Often what we think we want in terms of the details of life, are the worst thing possible, because that desire, that lust, flows out of a wrong conception of happiness. This is what is going to happen in this section with Saul.
Saul is a lesson on what we do not want. God often gives us the leaders that we deserve. Israel, because of their rebelliousness toward God, gets a leader who reflects their human viewpoint values and their pagan thinking. The result is that it is destructive to them.
We start this period when we are in 1 Samuel 8. The Philistines are still the power source, the main enemy, but they are basically on the fringes. They have been defeated. But by the time we get to 1 Samuel 31, what has happened to the Philistines?
They have recovered to the point where they deliver a massive defeat to the Israelite army of Saul on Mt. Gilboa. Saul falls on his sword. Jonathan is killed. His other sons are killed. Israel suffers a massive defeat.
But out of that defeat David will rise as the next king. He is the one who will finally defeat the Philistines. They will no longer be a military problem for Israel.
We start on this section starting in 1 Samuel 9. We see that God led Samuel to select Saul to be the next king. If we read in those first two verses:
1 Samuel 9:1-2, “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.”This is an idiom for someone of great wealth and prestige.
“And he (Kish) had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul.” Saul means “to be asked of God.”
There is an interesting irony there. The people have asked for a king. They get a man whose name is “to be asked.”He was asked for.
“There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”
Saul looked like a king. He was head and shoulders taller than anybody else, which is interesting, because if you look at American elections. Americans have never (pay attention to this and identify the candidate I am talking about), elected a short man for President—never. A lot of you want a short man to be president. Be forewarned. Americans have never done that.
A lot of Americans vote on cosmetics, especially since the advent of film and television. Just talk to tricky Dick Nixon about that, after his debate with Kennedy. That plays a huge part.
I am just saying this is part of American policy. People want a leader that looks like a leader—what you think of as a Hollywood image of a leader. Moses has to look like Charlton Heston, not like Marty Feldman. Paul probably looked more like Marty Feldman than he did like Charlton Heston.
We have to be careful. God looks on the heart and not on the outside, but the lesson here is that those who want a king want one who looks kingly. So they like Saul.
On the outside he looked great, but what we are going to learn is that in terms of his character, not so much. It starts off extolling Saul. We are introduced to him. This is the one God is going to choose to be the king of Israel because he is giving Israel what they want, not what they ought to have, but what they deserve to have.
The last verse of this section at the end of 1 Samuel 15 in the last part of the verse, we read that the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king of Israel. Those are the bookends for this section:
- God is going to lead Samuel to anoint Saul.
- At the end God says He regrets it.
That is an anthropopathism to communicate God’s disapproval of what Saul did as king, but God knew that all along. This was God’s permissive will.
In God’s permissive will He allows people the exercise of their volition to make bad or foolish decisions and to reap the consequences thereof. And what we see here is that God is going to use Saul to teach Israel the consequences of their poor values and their poor decisions.
In the first chapter of this division, we are in the transition chapter in 1 Samuel 8, but in this first main chapter, 1 Samuel 9, God is going to select Saul to be the king. This goes from 1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:16. Here we see God specifically chooses Saul to be king.
We know from Genesis 49:10, Jacob is giving a prophecy about each of his sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. He came to Judah and said that the scepter, which is the sign of a ruler, will never depart from the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah will provide the ruler that ultimately culminates in the Messiah. That is an early Messianic prophecy.
But Saul is not from Judah. Saul is a Benjamite. If we think in terms of a broader picture of Scripture, at the end of the book of Judges, what did we learn about the tribe of Benjamin?
These guys are spiritually rebellious. They instigated a civil war. They are apostates. In fact they generated the civil war, Benjamin against all of the other tribes, that was so severe that the other tribes took an oath that they would not give any of their daughters to marry a Benjamite.
What is the natural consequence of that going to be? It is going to be the end of the tribe of Benjamin. What happened at the end of that was that they did some second thinking. They had already made a vow. They had to keep the vow that they had made. They realized that they could not decimate the Benjamites like that. They looked to see if there were any Israelites that had not participated in that vow.
There was one group that did not. They were from the area across the Jordon called Jabesh-Gilead.
On the map, Jabesh-Gilead is on the Transjordan area. It is just across directly east of Mt. Gilboa and Beth-Shan. What is interesting is that there are two occasions where Jabesh-Gilead plays a significant role in Saul’s life. This is something I just put together today. It is that Saul’s mother or grandmother was probably one of the women of Jabesh-Gilead that married Benjamites, because there is this interesting connection two or three times in the life of Saul where Jabesh-Gilead plays this significant role.
Initially we are going to see in 1 Samuel 11 that Jabesh-Gilead is attacked by Nahash the Ammonite. Saul raises an Israelite army to go rescue them.
Then at the end of Saul’s life, he is killed on Mt. Gilboa, which is near Beth-Shan, just off the eastern shoulder of Mt. Gilboa. There is the ridge line where the Canaanites lived. The Canaanites of Beth-Shan took Saul’s body and his head, because the Philistines decapitated him. Then they hung his carcass and his head on the walls of Beth-Shan.
Then we are told that the men of Jabesh-Gilead came over in a night raid and recovered the remains of Saul and took him back across the river and buried him in Jabesh-Gilead. I never thought about that before, until I put these things together. The story about the wives is over in Judges, and this is in Samuel.
We tend to disconnect events like that, but why did they not bury Saul down in Gibeah, which is his home town? It is because this is where his mother’s relatives would have been. This is why there is this connection between Jabesh-Gilead and Saul. That is just a little insight into how the text of Scripture hangs together. There is a consistency within the Word of God.
The last time we read about the tribe of Benjamin, at the end of Judges, it is not a good thing. They are apostates. There is all this negative foreshadowing in Judges related to the tribe of Benjamin.
If we are knowledgeable, and we are reading through the text, we would say “why in the world is God pulling out somebody from this loser tribe in Israel?” It is because He is going to teach Israel a lesson.
God selects Saul. He looks good. He looks the part. The first image we see of him is of someone who cannot really take care of the livestock well. This is a negative picture of leadership. A leader in Israel is a good shepherd. He is able to take care of the livestock.
But Saul is not a good herdsman. He loses the donkeys. He cannot find his asses with both hands. He is out looking for them. He passes through these territories that we will cover. They are allotments of land to different families.
A lot of times in this overview we are going to be going back to the map. He is down in the area of Gibeah, which is his home town, which is about ten miles or so north of Jerusalem. He is looking for the donkeys and they come to the area of the land that is owned by Zuph. He has been gone for quite a while from Gibeah.
Saul seems to exhibit a few positive things. He is concerned about his father, that his father might be worried because they had been gone so long and have not returned. He tells the servant “let us go home lest my father worry too much about us.” The servant says to wait a minute. There is a man of God who lives in this town. Ramah is located close to that. That is where Samuel is from.
The servant tells Saul there is a man of God in Ramah. Let us go and see if he can show us what we should do. The servant seems to be thinking, “let’s get a little divine guidance here as to how to solve the problem.” But Saul also exhibits something of his ignorance, because he does not know anything about the presence of Samuel at all in that location. This is very close to his home.
On the other hand, Saul exhibits a certain graciousness in recognizing that if they are going to go to the prophet they should bring a gift. They should bring an offering. Saul says to wait a minute because we do not have anything to take. The servant says that he had a fourth of a shekel of silver here. We can take that to him as a gift.
Saul and the servant go to the city where the man of God was, which is Ramah. As they go into the city they meet some women. The women say to the servant and Saul that the man of God is coming to offer a sacrifice today in the city, that they can catch up with him just ahead. They are following in Samuel’s footsteps and the Lord, we are told in 1 Samuel 9:15, had informed Samuel the day before that Saul would be coming.
In 1 Samuel 9:16 we read, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines.”
This is part of God’s purpose. If Saul had been obedient, he could have been the one to deliver them from the hands of the Philistines.
This is one of those passages that I go to every now and then showing that God knows what would happen, what could happen, and what should happen. He knows the possibilities. What might happen if certain things had happened?
That potential is there because of Saul’s volition, but because of his negative volition, he is not able to deliver the people.
When Samuel sees Saul come up to him, the Lord speaks to him again. He reveals to him that this is the man whom He had spoken about the day before, the man who will reign over My people. Saul comes up. He asks him were he can find Samuel. Samuel introduces himself, but he says he is on the way to the high place to offer a sacrifice. They were to go with him. Then he tells him not to worry about your donkeys. They have been found and are taken care of and are on the way home.
Then Samuel informs Saul that on him all the desire of Israel focuses. In other words, Samuel tells Saul that he is going to be the first king, but Saul has a reticence. He is not confident. We see this come up a couple of times, which indicates positively Saul is not in this initially for power. He is not interested in power. He would rather stay back out of sight and not take on the responsibility.
Samuel tells him that he is the one that God has selected. Then he brings Saul to a place of honor for dinner. He gives him a special cut of meat to indicate his place of privilege and blessing. Then the next day he sends Saul on his way.
Then Samuel and Saul, 1 Samuel 8:27, are on the outskirts of the city. Samuel tells Saul to tell his servant to go on ahead. Samuel then announced to Saul the Word of God. It is at that point that Samuel is going to anoint Saul. It is a private ceremony.
I point this out many times. We live in a world today of quasi-mysticism, especially in a lot of denominations and among a lot of evangelicals, where people make sloppy statements: God spoke to me; I am praying that God would give me guidance … It is a soft form of mysticism. People say well, God spoke to me and told me to do this …
This is not how God works in the present Church Age with the closing of the Canon. There is no more revelation of any kind. We have all that we need. That is the sufficiency of Scripture.
What we see in the Old Testament is that even when God speaks privately, or does something privately, He always confirms it publically so that nobody can come along and say: “God spoke to me.”
There has to be confirming, objective attestation that God has really spoken to somebody. Otherwise, anybody can do it. This was one of the tests of the prophets back in Deuteronomy 18. If anyone comes along and says “Thus says the Lord …” what they say has to conform to previous revelation. It has to be consistent with what God has said.
So we have a private episode that takes place here, at the beginning of 1 Samuel 10, where Saul is going to be anointed. Then there are going to be three things that Samuel says that will validate this anointing:
1 Samuel 10:3, “Then you shall go on forward from there …”That is as he is headed back towards his home; “and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel …”
Here is the map. Bethel is located north of Gibeah, this about another ten miles of so up to Bethel. Samuel tells Saul that he is going to find three men, not two, not four. He is very specific, “three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats.” I want to know how he was doing that. What kind of backpack does he have? He only has two arms. Where is he carrying the third one? Inquiring minds want to know.
“… another carrying three loaves of bread and another carrying a skin of wine.”It is very specific, objective data that is going to confirm what Samuel has said.
1 Samuel 10:4–5, “And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands. After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city …”This is the second sign.
1 Samuel 10:5b, “And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them …” They have a stringed quartet. They have their rhythm section with the tambourine. They have a stringed instrument of some kind and a flute and a harp; “and they will be prophesying.”
This is one of those passages that everybody gets to and they go well what does this mean, “they will be prophesying”? We think of prophesy in a couple of ways:
1. Bringing a condemnation against the people of God by a prophet who functions like an attorney general or district attorney from the high court of Heaven bringing an indictment against the Israelites. That indictment often includes the second thing that we think of when we think of a prophet.
2. Some sort of foretelling of a future event that will take place.
But prophesy per se is not necessarily foretelling the future, but is bringing a message of condemnation against the people in a judicial kind of context, reminding them of their covenant responsibilities and charging them with covenant disobedience.
When we think of prophesying, a group with a stringed quartet, coming down and playing beautiful music, does not quite fit our picture of prophesying. Does it?
This is where I have read and read and read on these issues for 30 years, and I am so glad that back when I was in seminary there was a wonderful article written by a professor who has long since gone to be with the Lord named Leon Wood.
Professor Wood wrote a commentary on Judges and a number of other Old Testament commentaries—one on Daniel; and he wrote an article that appeared in the “Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society”. The title was “Were the Prophets of the Old Testament Ecstatic?”
See, when we live in a post-charismatic world, this is our familiarity. We think of something in terms of what is common to us and our experience. That is these ecstatic utterances of the charismatics. So, the prophets must have been ecstatic.
Wrong! Ecstasy was the modus operandi of the pagans. God does not operate through ecstasy. He spoke objectively, either privately or where it could be heard by others, to those to whom He was communicating. We cannot read pre-conceived notions into the text, but there are hints in Scripture that prophesy has a broader range of meaning than either of the two options that I have given you.
We see this over in 1 Chronicles 25:2–3. There is a list there of the musicians in the temple. It says, “Of the sons of Asaph:” Most of you may not recognize the name of Asaph, but if you read through the Psalms you will discover that a number of the Psalms have been written by Asaph. He was a lyricist. He has written the lyrics for these hymns in the worship of Israel. He was a musician.
1 Chronicles 25:2, “Of the sons of Asaph:” and it lists “Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, [that is like a choir director, band director, or orchestra director] who prophesied according to the order of the king.” If that was the only verse, we would not necessarily think that we were talking about music, but read on to the next verse.
1 Chronicles 25:3, “Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun (descendants in the priestly line): Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the Lord.”
There it defines prophesy in relation to the writing and singing of psalms of thanks and praise to God. To further help us understand that this is part of the definition of prophesy, remember:
- In Exodus, after the Israelites got across the Red Sea and God delivered them, Miriam, Moses’ sister, writes a hymn of victory over the Pharaoh. It is introduced by the fact that “Miriam, the prophetess said.” Then you had this long hymn that she writes.
- Then in Judges 6 you have Deborah, who is a judge. Then we are told that Deborah is also a prophetess. Judges 6 is a long hymn, psalm of praise to God, for giving them victory over Sisera and the Canaanites.
When we think of what is going on here, do not think of some sort of uncontrolled ecstatic event that is taking place, but that you have a group of prophets here and their function is in the arena of music and writing music and psalms for the praise of God, in the worship of God at the tabernacle.
That is who Saul runs into. In 1 Samuel 10:6, Saul learns that the Spirit of the Lord will come upon him “and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” Saul is told he is going to be changed. That does not mean that there is some kind of ecstatic thing happening, but the Spirit of God comes upon him.
This is a kind of inspiration. He will be working and singing these hymns of praise with these other prophets. That is the only thing that makes sense in context, because it is emphasizing music and instruments and everything else that fits with the broader sense of the term.
In 1 Samuel 10:7–8, “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings …”Saul is sent at this point to Gilgal, where he is going to have to wait for seven days for Samuel to show up. And this is where we learn of his first major flaw in this particular event.
We are told in 1 Samuel 10:9, “So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart.”This is not Saul’s personal regeneration, but it would not be true unless he was already regenerate. I believe Saul is already saved.
Then we read, 1 Samuel 10:10, “When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” This is not going to happen if somebody is not regenerate already.
1 Samuel 10:11, “And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, ‘What is this that has come upon the son of Kish?’ Is Saul also among the prophets?”
1 Samuel 10:12, “Then a man from there answered and said, ‘But who is their father?’ Therefore it became a proverb: ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ ”
Notice, the men do not understand what is going on. They are saying that his father is not a prophet. How can he be a prophet? The response is but who is their father? In other words, when you look at these other prophets, their fathers were not prophets either, because the gift of prophesy does not come through physical inheritance from generation to generation, father to child. It is a giftedness of God. That just helps to understand that passage.
This is all part of the evidence, and then from there Samuel is going to call the people together at Mizpah. It is not on the map. Samuel gathers the people together at Mizpah, 1 Samuel 10:17. This is where they had the covenant renewal ceremony earlier, after the conquest. Samuel is going to warn them.
Notice what Samuel says in 1 Samuel 10:18–19, “… Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you. But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, “No, set a king over us!” Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.’ ”
As we look at the structure I am giving you, we saw the anointing of Saul in 1 Samuel 9:1–10:16, but starting in 1 Samuel 10:17 we have the public anointing of Saul.
Then there is a challenge that comes from Samuel to obedience to God. He reminds them again that God is the One who acted in history. He intervened in history. He is the One who delivered Israel from Egypt.
Notice how many times God is referred to as “the God who brought you up out of Egypt.”If going back to that event was just legend, then all these other things that are built upon that would fall apart.
Samuel brings all the tribes together in this section. He goes through a process of elimination, eventually going through until he has Saul standing before him, and he cannot find Saul. Saul is back with the baggage train. He is hiding out. Again this probably shows that he is not really eager to take on the responsibility and to be the king. He is not someone who is actively seeking this kind of authority within Israel.
Then we have a telling event that occurs in 1 Samuel 10:25–27. Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty. You are going to have a king. This is how the king is respected. This is the level of authority that the king has. He gives them the instructions. He writes it down for them in a book, and then he sends all the people away.
Saul goes home. Here he has just been anointed king. Where is he going to go? He just goes home, back to be with dad and take care of the donkeys.
There were some men who were rejecting this. 1 Samuel 10:27, “But some rebels said, ‘How can this man save us?’ So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.” This is negative foreshadowing. Some people at least recognized that Saul is not the right guy for the job and they may be in trouble.
I pointed out that there were three objective events to validate the private anointing of Saul:
- The first event was the three men carrying the goats, the loaves, and the wine.
- The second event was the group of prophets that Saul ran into coming down from the city where the Philistine garrison was located.
- The third event is this battle that takes place and is described in 1 Samuel 11.
Jabesh-Gilead, which I mentioned earlier, is under assault from the Ammonites. Here is modern day Ammon. In the ancient world it was called Rabbah. It is the capital of Ammon. The Ammonites, under their leader Nahash, have invaded and have surrounded Jabesh-Gilead. They are on the verge of being destroyed.
- Nahash is going to make a covenant with them—that if they will surrender, he will take the right eye of everyone, as a sign that they had been defeated by him. 1 Samuel 11:2, “On this condition I will make a covenant with you, that I may put out all your right eyes, and bring reproach on all Israel.”
- The elders of Jabesh-Gilead said well let’s just wait a little bit. Why not hold off about seven days and we will see what happens. They sent messengers to Gibeah to Saul. Saul raises an army. Saul comes with 330,000 Israelites, according to 1 Samuel 11:8. 300,000 from all of Israel. 30,000 from Judah. They attack and defeat the army of Nahash.
- The third validating event is that God gives his anointed one the ability to defeat the enemies of Israel. That is an important principle, because we are going to see this happen with David.
David is going to be anointed in 1 Samuel 16, and what happens in 1 Samuel 17? He defeats Goliath. We see this pattern because this foreshadows that the role of the Messiah, the role of Jesus, will be to defeat the enemy of mankind, who is Satan.
After the defeat we read in 1 Samuel 11:12, “Then the people said to Samuel, ‘Who is he who said, “Shall Saul reign over us?” ’ ”
Let’s go find those rebels. You have given us victory. You have shown that God has anointed you. Let’s go execute these men who were rebellious. Saul shows graciousness in 1 Samuel 11:13. He says, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel.”
1 Samuel 11:14, “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.’ ” Remember, before the battle and everything, Samuel said for Saul to go to Gilgal for seven days and then he would show up, and they would have a sacrifice. Then in the intervening period you have this battle at Jabesh-Gilead. It looks like these events are unfolding pretty quickly.
Then Samuel is going to crown Saul, 1 Samuel 12:1, that we are going to crown Saul king over all of you. Then Samuel gives them a lengthy talk (and this will be an interesting study to go through this). He goes through and he talks about how the fact that having a king was something they asked for. It was wrong, but God is giving them a king.
Samuel basically says that he had nothing to do with this. I am absolving myself of any responsibility because this is not going to turn out good. He goes on in that vein for a while. Then he reminds the people of the faithfulness of God. This begins in 1 Samuel 12:6. He reviews God’s faithfulness. He reminds them:
- It is the Lord who raised up Moses and Aaron.
- It is the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Samuel talks about the faithfulness of God during the period of the judges:
- Delivering them from Sisera.
- Delivering them from the Philistines.
- Delivering them from the king of Moab.
Samuel is reminding them that every time they are oppressed, the people turn back to God. They confess their sin and God delivered them. The Lord sent these deliverers:
- Jerubbaal, another name for Gideon.
- Barak, Bedan, in the New King James.
There is a lot of corruption in names, but the other versions, like the Syriac and the Septuagint have the names correct: Barak, Jephthah, Samuel mentioned next. But in several of the translations it is, of course, Samson.
Samuel goes on and confronts them now in1 Samuel 12:13–14, “Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God.”
In other words, there is that hypothetical again: if you obey the Lord, He is going to give you the victory over the Philistines.
Earlier I pointed out that he said about Saul that if he obeys the Lord, God would give him victory over the Philistines. Samuel is stating the same thing again. 1 Samuel 12:16, “if you stand and see what the Lord will do then He will deliver you.”
Then Samuel gives them an immediate sign of God’s power that He can do this. What happens is described in 1 Samuel 12:17–18. It is the time of the wheat harvest, which takes place in the late spring when it is not the rainy time. There is this thunderstorm that comes up and it rains. The people know that this is a sign form God. Their response is to what? To confess their sin.
1 Samuel 12:19–20, “And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.’ Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’ ”
In other words, there is forgiveness. God will provide. If you walk in obedience, God will give you victory over your enemies.
The bottom line is 1 Samuel 12:24–25, “Fear the Lord, serve Him in truth with all your heart… But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” There is the drum roll of the evil that is going to come.
When we come to 1 Samuel 13–15, this is where we see the problem of Saul’s character showing itself. He usurps priestly authority while he is waiting for Samuel at Gilgal. We are going to have some dicey things to figure out chronologically because it looks like at the end of 1 Samuel 10 Samuel tells Saul that he has seven days to go wait for him in Gilgal. It looks like all these other things have taken place.
When we come to the beginning of 1 Samuel 13, if you have a New King James or King James Bible, it reads like this, “Saul reigned one year and when he had reigned two years over Israel.” But the problem is that when you read it in some other translations, for example, in the New American Standard, it reads, “Saul was [thirty] years old when he began to reign, and he ruled over Israel for [forty] two years.”
Other translations will say Saul was forty when he began to reign and he reigned for forty years. That would mean he was eighty years old when he died at Mt. Gilboa. If the New American Standard’s guess, and that is what it is, what is right, then Saul is seventy when he dies at Mt. Gilboa. The problem is the Masoretic text lost the number. There is not a number there. We will get into the details of this more when we get there.
This also brings up an issue of what is going on here in relation to the chronology and Saul’s early reign. Saul goes to Gilgal. He waits and he waits and he waits. The problem is that Samuel delays. He does not get there in time. Saul is concerned about the defeat that is coming.
In 1 Samuel 13:8,“Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul …”went ahead impatiently and said well I am going to do it, and “said, ‘Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.’ And he offered the burnt offering.”
Saul is acting like a priest illegitimately. “… as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came …” Samuel will rebuke him. In 1 Samuel 13:11, Samuel said, “What have you done?”Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come …”This is Saul’s rationale:
- The people scattered.
- I got impatient.
- You did not show-up.
- I went ahead to do this.
Then Samuel will say to Saul in 1 Samuel 13:14, “But now your kingdom shall not continue.” This is when it is announced that:
- You are not going to have a dynasty.
- Your descendants are not going to sit on the throne.
- You have demonstrated that you are disobedient to the Lord.
- That is not the kind of king that God wants.
- Because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.
1 Samuel 13:15, “Then Samuel arose, and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men.”
Then we have this interesting little interlude. This is arms control in the ancient world, 1 Samuel 13:16–23, where we learn that the Philistines would not let the Israelites have iron weapons. There were no blacksmiths in the land. They negated the 2nd Amendment for Israel at that time. They can only have the inferior bronze weapons.
Incidentally, there is a silly debate going on right now amongst some evangelical leaders that I just read something about three or four days ago. I got another article on this today. Some evangelical leaders are beginning to say that it really isn’t Christian to have a concealed handgun license.
What about the fact that in Luke, Jesus told the disciples to bring swords? He said that a time was going to come—sell your cloaks and buy swords. Self-defense is clearly within Scripture. These inane idiots that lead evangelicals are so theologically impoverished and biblically illiterate. It is amazing. They have been educated beyond their level of intelligence and credibility.
That is what is happening here in Israel at this time. Then when they come into this major battle that they are about to fight, the only ones with iron weapons, with swords, are Saul and Jonathan. The rest of the Israelites do not have anything to fight with.
This is described in 1 Samuel 14, which is a huge battle and very technical. We will have to look at a lot of maps and geography to sort this out—how God miraculously gives Jonathan and his servant the ability to defeat the Philistines at this particular point.
Then Saul makes this extremely rash oath that nobody should eat until the battle was won. That means that nobody is going to have the nourishment they are going to need. They are going to grow faint. They are going to grow weary. Jonathan ate.
Then Saul finds out eventually that Jonathan disobeyed his command to fast until the battle was won. He is going to kill Jonathan. But this is where the people intervened against bad leadership and stopped Saul from implementing a bad law.
That does give a precedent in the Scripture. It does not mean that they disobeyed him. It was a bad law. They stopped him. They did not kick him out of power. They did not rebel against Saul, but they stopped him from fulfilling a foolish and bad vow that would have brought about the death of Jonathan.
Then we come to 1 Samuel 15, which is where it reaches the nadir of Saul’s reign. He is instructed to go into battle against the Amalekites. Saul is going to go down into the south into the Negev, which is where the Amalekites had a stronghold. He is instructed, and this is the last instruction in Scripture related to holy war, true biblical holy war, to destroy the Amalekites.
The command is given in 1 Samuel 15:3, “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
Saul gathers the people. There are 200,000 foot soldiers, 10,000 men from Judah. He is down from 330,000 to 210,000 in the army. They attack the Amalekites. But Saul does not want to destroy them all.
Saul leaves a number of them alive, including Agag, the king of the Amalekites. This is going to show up badly later on in Israel’s history, because at the time of Esther there is an Amalekite called an Agagite. He is a descendant of Agag, who part of his line was left alive—Haman.
Haman was virulently anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic. He devised a plot in the Persian Empire that all of the Jews will be slaughtered. He is a foreshadowing of Adolf Hitler. But God turns the tables on Haman.
That whole episode with Haman and the attempt to destroy the Jews, at the time of Esther, would not have taken place if Saul had just done his duty and totally annihilated all of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, but he does not do it.
Samuel shows up and confronts him and announces God’s condemnation of Saul in 1 Samuel 15:11, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”And it grieved Samuel.
It grieved Samuel that he had to do this. He goes to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:15 and says, “what is this bleating I hear? These oxen and the sheep are all alive. Agag is alive.”
Then Saul is going to justify all of this with his rationale: Well it is a lot of good stuff. We killed most of them, but we wanted to save the good stuff. We will sacrifice it to God.
People always want to give some religious rationale to make it look good. Samuel says basically to shut-up. The New King James is too polite. He tells him to stuff-it and shut-up and I will tell you what the Lord said to me.
1 Samuel 15:17, “Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission …”told you to destroy everything, why did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Then he nails it. This is one of the most important verses in the Scripture.
In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said:“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices …”Do notjust go through the formal ritual of showing up at church and opening up your Bible and taking notes, but God is looking for an internal heart attitude of obedience. He would rather have obedience than sacrifice.
Then in 1 Samuel 15:23, he says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft …” witchcraft is demonism. Who is the source of demonism? Satan. What was Satan’s original sin? He disobeyed the authority of God. This is why Samuel says rebellion, any rebellion, against a legitimate authority is like the sin of witchcraft, and “stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
This is when it is formally announced to everyone that the kingdom has been taken from Saul. In 1 Samuel 15:28–29, Samuel says to Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man that He should relent.” This is a great verse on the character of God. “The Strength of Israel” is a title for God.
Saul is going to be very remorseful, but he is not repentant. He does not change. He says “I have sinned.”I do not like these consequences! Take it away! Samuel says, No, God has given you your chance. Samuel turns his back on Saul. Saul worships the Lord, but it is too late.
One of my favorite scenes, if you have ever seen the film that was done of “King David”, back in the mid-80s where Edward Woodward was King Saul and Richard Gere was David … In this film there is this great scene where Samuel comes into this tent where Saul is, and you hear the sheep and the cattle, and he goes through this. The script is word for word out of the Scripture.
The filmmakers choreographed it perfectly. Saul begins to turn away from Samuel, and in one slick movement Samuel pulls Saul’s broad sword out and whirls and cleanly decapitates Agag. It is a fabulous scene. This is how a man of God operates. He is not this passive, wimpy kind of person that modern liberals present.
A man of God takes a stand to defend the reputation of God, and that is what Samuel does here. He decapitates Agag and “hacks him into pieces before the LORD in Gilgal,” 1 Samuel 15:33. One of my favorite passages of Scripture.
Then Samuel leaves Saul, never more to see him. We read at the conclusion, 1 Samuel 15:35,“Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.”
At the end we are at the pit. This has turned out very, very badly. Is there any hope for Israel? Yes there is.
In 1 Samuel 16, God is going to send Samuel to anoint David. We see the solution is always going to be going back to the grace of God to someone whose heart is devoted to God, rather than someone who is sold-out to human viewpoint. Let’s bow our heads and close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity we have had to study and reflect upon this section tonight. The many lessons we are going to learn here related to who You are, Your righteousness, Your integrity, Your justice, and how this is played out in human history—lessons related to Your sovereignty, as well as individual human volition.
And Father, we look forward to reading through this again and again, coming to understand the tremendous lessons that You have to teach us in regard to how You rule over the affairs of men. We pray that we might be, not like Saul, but like David, men and women whose hearts are focused upon You, who can truly desire to serve You, to know You, to know Your Word that our lives would be changed and transformed into the character of Jesus Christ. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”