1 Samuel 13-14 Saul behaves foolishly

From 1 Samuel 13-14

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Saul is an example where disobedience is described as foolishness (1 Sam 13.13). Saul’s foolishness is a combination of not trusting God and not realising that the LORD is the one who behind the scenes is winning his battles for him. Saul tried to put God in a box and control him. God doesn’t like working with people who keep trying to do this. The LORD is sovereign, we are not.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.


Passage and Comments

After yesterdays events Samuel calls the people together and declares the LORD has chosen a king for them in response to their rude request. Amusingly they ask where he is and the LORD speaking through Samuel said he was hiding among the baggage. Huh?!? What kind of a king hides from people? They find him and take him out. They admire his height and yell out ‘long live the king’. Samuel then tells them all the rights and duties of kingship. Some people (loud, criminal, bogun’s) mock Saul (1 Sam 10.17-27).

The Ammonites threaten Israel. Saul hears about it and is inflamed with anger from the Spirit. Consequently he raises up an army and wins a resounding victory over the Ammonites. Afterwards the people who earlier mocked Saul are sought so they may be put to death for what they said. In light of the salvation the LORD has wrought through Saul, he commands that they be spared. They return to Gilgal and renew the Kingdom of Israel offering peace offerings (1 Sam 11.1-15).

Samuel recognises that he is old and grey and is about to die. In light of this he argues he has been faithful in his duties. He recalls the covenant faithfulness of the LORD in bringing Israel into the promised land and making them into a people. Despite the LORD’s righteous deeds, he condemns Israel because they have rejected the LORD for asking for a king. They cower in fear of the LORD and Samuel, but Samuel reassures them they will not be punished. Rather he exhorts them to life faithfully and serve the LORD with all their heart (1 Sam 12.1-25).

Saul gets involved in increasing more campaigns against foreign invaders and keeps winning victories. Our passage today picks up before an oncoming battle and Saul is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Samuel so he may then offer various sacrifices to the LORD before the battle (1 Sam 13.1-7).

8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. (1 Sam 13:8)

Saul has waited to the appointed time. Samuel has not yet come. It is before the battle, the sacrifice to the LORD has not been offered and people were leaving. Reading between the lines, Saul does not have the leadership to keep them waiting. He doesn’t have the patience to wait till the end of the day. Or perhaps the trust in God, that he will protect his people regardless.

9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. (1 Sam 13:9-10)

I remember once in high school, the teacher was absent and the guys were having fun tossing the dusters in the overhead fans so they would then fly around the room. Eventually I worked up the courage to do the same. Just at the moment when I did the teacher walked in and busted me. Likewise when Saul can wait no longer he gives in and does something he shouldn’t. He makes the burnt offering himself. The LORD or Samuel wouldn’t mind would they? At that same moment, Samuel walks in and busts him after the act.

11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” (1 Sam 13:11-12)

Saul offers an excuse and in part it seems reasonable. Samuel took his time in coming. The Philistines were about to come down and attack them. The people were scattering – leaving. They are not ready because they have not sought the LORD’s favour. He ‘forced himself’ to make the burnt offering. Will Samuel buy it?

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. (1 Sam 13:13)

No he doesn’t. Samuel describes Saul’s actions as foolishness. Saul is a fool. He has not obeyed the command of the LORD. By offering the sacrifice himself he publicly sinned. He should have waited for Samuel so he may make the burnt offering. Saul’s earlier excuses seem in part reasonable, but he should have trusted the LORD. How did he think he was winning victories in the first place? The LORD could have held them off much longer. The LORD could have defeated the Philistines without him. The LORD could allow Saul and his forces to run away in the event the Philistines did come. These options did not involve Saul disobeying the command of the LORD.

So what is Saul’s punishment? His kingdom will not last forever. His descendants will not continue to rule over Israel.

14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 15 And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. (1 Sam 13:14–15)

The LORD has sought out a man ‘after his own heart’. Spoiler alert – King David. David will keep the commands of the LORD, with one notable exception.

Saul eventually goes to battle. But he isn’t the one the LORD uses to win the battle. The guts of the battle is won by Jonathan. But that’s another story.

Saul is an example where disobedience is described as foolishness (1 Sam 13.13). Saul’s foolishness is a combination of not trusting God and not realising that the LORD is the one who behind the scenes is winning his battles for him. Saul tried to put God in a box and control him. God doesn’t like working with people who keep trying to do this. The LORD is sovereign, we are not.

Story of Israel 

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Scripture portrays fools as those who have rejected God and his ways and are unable or unwilling to appreciate the wisdom of knowing and obeying him. In Israel’s history people who are described as fools lack knowledge of God (Jer 4.22; 5.4,21; Ps 92.6), they do not believe in God (Isa 53.1; Ps 14.1) or trust in Him (Hos 7.11).

Story of Jesus

When the apostle Paul looked at examples of disobedience in the old testament he used them to warn his audience against them.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10.11-13)

Saul did not wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice, he did it himself. If we relate Saul’s mistake to Jesus, how can people avoid doing the same? The answer is be aware of Jesus’ role in the things we are involved in and wait on him to bring them about. We can do this by remembering the significance of his death and resurrection in our salvation. By remembering the need for prayer before embarking on various endeavors.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.