1 Samuel 15:23
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance is like the wickedness of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king."
Discord and HarmonyF. Paget.1 Samuel 15:23
Rebellion Against God All Malignant as WitchcraftS. Clark, D. D.1 Samuel 15:23
Saul RejectedJ. C. Coghlan, D. D.1 Samuel 15:23
Saul's Deserved and Irrevocable DoomR. Steel.1 Samuel 15:23
The Character of SaulH. Alford, B. D.1 Samuel 15:23
Christian CultureHomiletic Review1 Samuel 15:11-23
Grief Over a Fallen BrotherH. O. Mackay.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Partial Obedience a SinW. Jones.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Samuel's Grief Over SaulHelen Plumptre.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedCharles E. Jefferson.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedMonday Club Sermons1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedJ. Parker, D. D.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's Continued DisobedienceJ. A. Miller.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's DethronementHenry W. Bell, M. A.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's Disobedience and RejectionW. G. Craig, D. D.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Showy ProfessionA. Toplady.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Commission Given to SaulR. G. B. Ryley.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Self-RighteousW. E. Fetcham.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Sentence of RejectionB. Dale 1 Samuel 15:22, 23

"Hath Jehovah (as much) delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of Jehovah?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to give heed than the fat of rams.

For (like) the sin of divination is rebellion,
And (like) an idol and teraphim is obstinacy.
Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah,
He hath rejected thee from being king." The crisis has now fully arrived. The aged prophet confronts the self-deceived king, whom he looks upon as no longer reigning as servant of Jehovah, in consequence of his endeavour to rule according to his own will and pleasure, though in connection with the outward forms of the religion of Israel. He has striven in vain to turn him from his way, and can henceforth only regard him as a rebel against the supreme Ruler. Inasmuch as Saul, in seeking to justify himself, showed that he estimated moral obedience lightly in comparison with ritual worship, Samuel first of all asserts the incomparable superiority of the former to the latter. He then declares that disobedience is equivalent to heathenism and idolatry, against which Saul, in offering sacrifices to Jehovah and other ways, exhibited such zeal. And, finally, he pronounces, as a judge upon a criminal, the sentence of his rejection. "There is a poetical rhythm in the original which gives it the tone of a Divine oracle uttered by the Spirit of God, imparting to it an awful solemnity, and making it sink deep into the memory of the hearers in all generations" (Wordsworth). Notice -

I. THE PARAMOUNT WORTH OF OBEDIENCE, considered in relation to offerings and sacrifices and other external forms of worship (ver. 22).

1. It is often less regarded by men than such forms. They mistake the proper meaning and purpose of them, entertain false and superstitious notions concerning them, and find it easier and more according to their sinful dispositions to serve God (since they must serve him somehow) by them than in self-denial and submission to his will. It is indeed by no means an uncommon thing for those who are consciously leading a sinful life to be diligent and zealous in outward religious worship, and make use of the fruit of their disobedience "to sacrifice unto the Lord," imagining that it will be pleasing to him, and make compensation for their defects in other things.

2. It is absolutely necessary in order that they may be acceptable to God. The spirit of obedience and love is the soul of external services of every kind, and without it they are worthless. "To love him with all the heart is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). The one ought never to be disjoined from the other, but it is often done; and they are set in contrast to each other. "If we were to say charity is better than church going, we should be understood to mean that it is better than such church going as is severed from charity. For if they were united they would not be contrasted. The soul is of more value than the body. But it is not contrasted unless they come into competition with one another, and their interests (although they cannot in truth be so) seem to be separated" (Pusey, 'Minor Prophets,' Hosea 6:6). "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination" (Proverbs 21:27).

3. It is incomparably superior to them, considered as needful and appointed modes of serving God (apart from the "wicked mind" with which they are sometimes observed). Because -

(1) The one is universal; the other is partial, and really included in it.

(2) The one is moral, the other ceremonial. It is a "weightier matter of the law."

(3) The one is of a man himself, the willing sacrifice of his own will; the other of only a portion of his powers or possessions. And "how much better is a man than a sheep!"

(4) The one is essential, being founded upon the natural relation of man to God; the other is circumstantial, arising from man's earthly and sinful condition. "Angels obey, but do not sacrifice."

(5) The one is the reality, the other the symbol.

(6) The one is the end, the other the means. Sacrifice is the way of the sinner back to obedience, and the means of his preservation therein. Even the one perfect sacrifice of Christ would not have been needed if man had been obedient. Its design is not merely to afford a sufficient reason for the remission of punishment in a system of moral government, but also to restore to obedience (Titus 2:14).

(7) The one is temporary, the other is eternal. The sacrifices of the former dispensation have now been abolished; and how much of the present form of Divine service will vanish away when we behold the face of God! But love and obedience will "never fail." Since obedience is thus the one thing, the essential, more important than anything else, it should hold the supreme place in our hearts and lives.

II. THE IDOLATROUS CHARACTER OF DISOBEDIENCE (ver. 22). In proportion to the excellence of obedience is the wickedness of disobedience.

1. It is a common thing for men to make light of it, especially in actions to which they are disposed, or which they have committed, being blinded by their evil desires and passions.

2. In the sight of God every act of disobedience is exceedingly hateful. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Habakkuk 1:13) without punishing it.

3. In the light of truth it is seen to be the same in principle as those transgressions on which the severest condemnation is pronounced, and which are acknowledged to be deserving of the strongest reprobation. It is probable that Saul had already taken measures to put down the "sin of divination" (1 Samuel 28:9), and prided himself upon his zeal against idolatry; but he was acting in the spirit of that which he condemned, and was an idolater at heart. For he was turning away from God, resisting and rejecting him, and making an idol of self, which is done by all who (in selfish and superstitious fear or desire) seek divination (witchcraft) and trust in an idol ("which is nothing in the world") and teraphim (household gods - ch, 19:13). "The declinations from religion, besides the privative, which is atheism, and the branches thereof, are three - heresies, idolatry, and witchcraft. Heresies when we serve the true God with a false worship; idolatry when we worship false gods, supposing them to be true; and witchcraft when we adore false gods, knowing them to be wicked and false - the height of idolatry. And yet we see, though these be true degrees, Samuel teacheth us that they are all of a nature, when there is once a receding from the word of God" (Bacon, 'Advancement of Learning'). "All conscious disobedience is actual idolatry, because it makes self-will, the human I, into a god" (Keil). "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).


1. The punishment of the disobedient is the appropriate fruit of his disobedience. "Because thou hast rejected me," etc. Saul wished to reign without God, and have his own way; what he sought as a blessing he obtains as a curse. Sinners say, "Depart from us," etc. (Job 21:14); and the most terrible sentence that can be pronounced upon them is, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Psalm 6:8; Matthew 7:23). "God rejects no one unless he is before rejected by him."

2. It involves grievous loss and misery - the loss of power, honour, blessedness; the experience of weakness, reproach, unhappiness, which cannot be wholly avoided, even though mercy be afterwards found.

3. Judgment is mingled with mercy. Although Saul was discrowned as theocratic king, he did not cease to live or to reign as "legal king." He was not personally and entirely abandoned. God sought his salvation to the last. "His rejection involved only this -

(1) That God would henceforth leave him, and withdraw from him the (special) gifts of his Spirit, his counsel through the Urim and Thummim and by his servant Samuel; and

(2) that in a short time the real deposition would be followed by tangible consequences - the kingly ruins would be destroyed, and the kingdom would not pass to his descendants (Hengstenberg, 'Kingdom of God,' 2:89). - D.

Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
To rebel against the clearest light and most express declaration of the will of God: this is an action of the like malignity, even as the sin of witchcraft. When a crime is said to be "as the sin of witchcraft," the meaning is that it is a fault of so heinous and provoking a nature that the obstinate commission of it is altogether inconsistent with all true principles of religion, and, in effect, a total renunciation of them. The word "iniquity," in the latter part of the text, is iniquity towards God, the forsaking His worship, the denying Him His true honour, the turning from Him to false gods, or joining them with Him; and therefore it is expressed by two words together, iniquity and idolatry. Which two words in this place do not signify two distinct things, but are of the same import as if it had been said in one, the iniquity of idolatry, the perverseness or unrighteousness of serving false gods. This their disobedience in any one known instance of immorality, this their rebellion, is as the sin of witchcraft; and their stubbornness is as the iniquity of idolatry. Their refusing to obey the true God, whom they profess to worship, is like serving a false one. For wherein consists the iniquity of idolatry, and the wickedness of serving false gods; but in this, that it derogates from the majesty of the true God, and denies Him that honour which is His alone peculiar due? Not that there are not degrees of disobedience in rebelling against God; but that a wilful stubbornness in any particular disobedience is absolutely inconsistent with the favour of God, and that there may be a perverseness in persisting habitually in single sins, even like to the perverseness of a total apostasy. One mortal wound destroys a man, as certainly as many; and incorrigible obstinacy in the practice of any sin, may be of equal malignity even as idolatry itself. Equal not perhaps as to the degree of the particular punishment it shall bring upon him; but equal as to the certainty of its bringing him in general to condemnation. God requires that men should serve Him with their whole heart. But the folly of wicked men will distinguish where there is no distinction; and they will serve God in what manner only, and in what instances they please. This is that great deceitfulness of sin. The external, the formal and ceremonial part of religion, they will possibly be very fond of, but the inward and real virtues of the mind, meekness and purity, humility and charity, equity, simplicity and true holiness, for these they would gladly commute, and make amends with any compensation. This is the great and general corruption; this has in all times and in all places been the first and the last error in matters of religion. Saul would needs sacrifice unto the Lord his God, out of those very spoils, which he had presumptuously taken, against God's express command. In following ages the whole nation of the Jews would in like manner be always very diligent, in offering their sacrifices and oblations, as if that would make amends for the viciousness of their lives. And yet how often did the scriptures admonish them to the contrary (Psalm 50:13; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Isaiah 1:11, 16; Hosea 6:6). Even in our Saviour's time, after all these repeated admonitions, the Pharisees still continued to value themselves upon their mere external performances; and yet that very Scribe who was sent to tempt him, could not but acknowledge to our Lord that He had said the truth in affirming that for a man to love God with all his heart, and...his neighbour as himself; was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (St. Mark. 12:83). They would with great superstition wash the outside of their cups and pots, while the inside of their own hearts was full of unrighteousness and all uncleanness. In a word, they would do anything rather than what was right and ought to be done; and therefore our Saviour declares, that except our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Among the several corrupters of Christianity likewise, what is it that men have not been willing to undertake, what journeys and pilgrimages, what hardships and abstinences, what voluntary humilities and uncommanded austerities, what profuse gifts to monasteries or religious societies, and unbounded zeal for propagating what they call right opinions, that is, such as happen to prevail, or be in fashion amongst them; instead of serving God with simplicity of devotion and loving their neighbours as themselves? If a man runs in a race, yet if he takes a shorter way to the mark, sad runs not in that course which is by the rules appointed and marked out, his labour is in vain; and if a man professes to serve God, yet if he serves Him not in that method of obedience which God Himself requires, but will go a nearer way to heaven, either according to his own humour and fancy, or in the way of any human invention whatsoever, instead of the plain rules of reason and scripture, he may justly fall short of his reward. But no description of the perverseness of this sort of sinning can set it forth in so lively a manner as the giving some historical examples of it. And I shall mention two, which contain a more exact representation of the nature of this stubbornness than any explication of it in words could do. The one is the behaviour of Saul, in the other actions of his life, besides that referred to in the text; the other is the behaviour of the Jews, in their passage through the wilderness towards the promised land. When God commanded them to return back into the wilderness, then on the contrary they would go up into the land which the Lord had promised them, and would fight for it presumptuously, and were defeated. In these instances their rebellious disposition was as the sin of witchcraft, and their stubbornness like to the iniquity of idolatry

(S. Clark, D. D.)

Among the moral difficulties of the Old Testament is the apparent disproportion between particular acts of sin and the temporal punishment with which God visited them. Even when we have considered the points on which Dr. Mozley insists in his masterly lectures upon "Ruling Ideas in Early Ages": when we have recognised how God accommodated, as it were His will to the possible or current conceptions of men's minds, that out of each stage in the education of our race He might elicit the very best character that it could produce: even when we have made allowance for the need of teaching rough people by rough means, and of driving plain truths into the heart of a rude and obdurate age by strong and sudden judgments: — still it may be strange to us that the most awful weapons in all the armoury of wrath should be sometimes brought out against offences which at first seem little more than faults of taste or policy or a passing temper: faults such as even good men might commit in a moment of carelessness or irritation, or on what we should call their unlucky days. How could it be equitable in a life thus rude and wild, a life where only the broadest distinctions were as yet apparent, and where the subtler lines of moral definition had not yet been traced, to doom with so terrible a sentence the hasty word of an angry woman or of a soldier flushed with peril and victory? Surely a part of the answer to such questions is found when we reflect how infinitely different may be in different lives the moral significance of the very same act. It is not only that the real quality of every action depends upon its motive: there is often a further and a deeper meaning to be read in the inner history of that character out of which, perhaps, the motive itself has come. That which on the surface seems too trivial to be heeded, may be the only outward evidence of a change which has been going on in us for years; there perhaps alone may be revealed the drift and volume of the stream which from some far-off spring has been flowing for many a mile beneath the ground: and the silent, secret course of half a lifetime may be betrayed beyond recall in that one glimpse. There are trivial acts which may disclose the bygone stages of our moral history, just as some trick of gesture or pronunciation lets out the secret of a man's parentage or nationality, or as some faint and useless trait connects a species with the ancestry of its evolution. Some such critical significance in Saul's neglect of the Divine command seems to be suggested in the strange comparison by which Samuel illustrates it: "Rebellion," he says, "is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is at iniquity and idolatry." The likeness is not, on the surface, clear; there seems no near or necessary connection between disobedience and superstition: but perhaps their link of kindred may appear if we look more closely into the meaning and history of the act which had provoked the sentence. We shall, I think, find it to have been the outcome and revelation of a deep disorder such as always tends to bewilder or distort the religious impulses of the soul. The spirit then which came to Saul on that great day of his anointing was the prophetic spirit of insight into the true drift and order of the world: he was admitted to the counsels of the Almighty, and recognised the Divinity that shapes our ends. Thus was be prepared to reign: thus did he see the truth of history in all its lines stretched out and ordered in the sight of God: thus did he learn the law whose conscious service was to be his sovereignty. What might not Saul have been, where might he not have placed his name among the beloved and blessed of God and men, if only he had enthroned the revelation of that day for undivided empire in his heart: if only, like another Saul, he could have looked back to the day of his conversion and declared that he had not been disobedient unto the heavenly vision: if only like him he had thenceforward striven "to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christy." For is not this the secret of all his failure and misery, his madness and his superstition, is not this the deep significance of hit sin — that while he saw the Light he would not live by it? he knew the Law and would not work by it: he heard the Counsel of God and held hit will apart from it. "He was," says Dean Stanley, "half-converted, half-aroused; his mind moved unequally and disproportionately in its new sphere": until "the zeal of a partial conversion degenerated into a fanciful and gloomy superstition." All through his life there went the maddening elements of discord: day after day the higher and the lower fought within him for the throne of his irresolute, distracted heart: day after day he woke to hear two voices clashing and disputing for his guidance: and now he followed one and now the other: yet when he chose the better he still looked wistfully at the lower life, and when he chose the worse he trembled at the thought of God. He could neither say, with the frank self-degradation of the heathen satirist, "I see the better and approve it: I pursue the worse"; nor yet with the man after God's own heart, "Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in Thy truth: O knit my heart unto Thee, that I may fear Thy Name." And so he lived in discord, and he reigned by anarchy: restless and aimless, suspicious and dissatisfied, halting between light and darkness, and beset in that twilight by weird unhealthy thoughts like the evil dreams that make it bliss to wake, ever falling away from that which he saw and owned as God-like There is surely a deep meaning in the submission with which such a life as his welcomes the influence of music. The moral discord, the distraction and disorder of his will spread at times over all the powers of the mind: and the strain and irritation of that restless conflict broke out in gusts of terror and frenzy. "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." Even through his misery there came the great and constant prophecy of music: above the discord of his soul he heard those merciful echoes of a higher harmony; he knew that somewhere out, side all the chaos of his broken life, there were steadfast principles of melody, and calm and measured ways, and the eternal rhythm of an undisturbed song: he felt once more that the Most High is He Who sweetly and mightily ordereth all things, and there is peace for those who love His law. For "there is a rest which remaineth for the people of God." That great prophecy of music is among us still: still "the true harmony of tuneful sounds" helps men to be patient through distress and conflict, and to hope that their steps may yet be led into the sure ways of peace In the recess of a wall in the Catacomb of St Calixtus there is a painting of Orpheus: in his left hand he holds a lyre: the right is raised as though to mark the rhythm of his song: and round him are the wild beasts, tamed and hushed to listen while he plays. There is no doubt that the picture represents our Blessed Lord. Though the artist as he painted it was surrounded by the bodies of those who for Jesus' sake had borne the cruelty of persecution even unto death: though he himself, it may be, had left all to follow Christ and to be a partaker of His sufferings: still he knew Him as the Master of all Harmony, the Prince of Peace: still he felt that only since be took the Crucified to be his Lord had all the wild discord and conflict of his soul passed into mysterious and most blessed confidence of union with an eternal law of Melody. And we, if out of the confusion and bewilderment of our days, from the weakness and hesitation of our faith, we look back with a bitter sense of severance and strangeness to the simple and unhindered self-surrender of those saints of old: still let us hold fast by this — which is indeed a truth that all may test and prove: — that in proportion as the perfect obedience of the life of Christ comes through humility and prayer and thought to be the constant aim of all our efforts: we shall with growing hope and with a wonder that is ever lost in gratitude know that even our lives are not without the earnest of their rest in an eternal harmony.

(F. Paget.)

Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.
We walk through the streets and see a fellow creature who had great abilities; who was once held in great esteem; for whom a brilliant future was predicted. We see such an one presenting that combination of indescribable symptoms which we expressively sum up in the one word "reduced." And the contemplation of such a wreck is singularly depressing; the disposition of him who could witness it without sorrow in his greatest enemy is by no means to be envied. Saul was such a man. His history is indeed melancholy. It is perplexing, also. Many persons, I dare say, think Saul was, on the whole, hardly treated. I can easily imagine one taking for granted that he was bad because he is told so, and because God rejected him; but saying to himself that he does not quite see that he was so bad — that he should never have expected to find him so severely punished — that it is strange that David escaped on so much easier terms. "What, sin did Saul ever commit so heinous as the sin of David?"

I. THIS PERPLEXITY, AND WRONG ESTIMATE OF SAUL'S CHARACTER, ARISES FROM VARIOUS CAUSES: PRINCIPALLY FROM OUR FALSE VIEWS ABOUT SIN AND OBEDIENCE. It happens that we live in a state of society where many acts are at once offences against society, and also sins against God. Influenced as we naturally are by what is seen, we come, in time, to view as sins only those which are transgressions of the laws of society, and to think little or nothing about those of which society takes no note. So, too, about obedience. We think that it is like work given to a servant. The more he does of it, the better servant he is. What his feelings may be about his master make little difference, provided he gets through his work. What he does is the only way in which we judge of him, as a good or bad servant. Accordingly, we suppose God judges of us, His servants, by the amount of our obedience. He issues a command, and, we suppose, the man who obeys much of it must be better than the man who obeys very little. This is not true. We may have gone with God's command, just, so far as that command coincided with our own inclination, and stopped short where the real and trying exercise of an obedient spirit came in, where alone it was needed.

II. GUARDING, THEN, AGAINST THESE COMMON AND ERRONEOUS VIEWS ABOUT SIN AND OBEDIENCE, LET US COME TO SOME OF SAUL'S ACTS. His falling away began from the circumstance recorded in the thirteenth chapter and first verse. Samuel came and rebuked him. This seems hard, especially when we consider the trying circumstances in which Saul was placed at the time: powerful enemies near at hand — many of his people fallen away — the rest following him, trembling — Samuel not coming — and, after all, as people would say now, "It was only a matter of form. What difference could it make, who offered the sacrifice?" "He showed a spirit above ritual observances — above ceremony and order." He certainly did. So did Naaman: and both were made to see the folly of their presumption. Some anxiety would have been natural in any man. But Saul was more than anxious. A distinct commandment of God forbade him to offer sacrifice, and yet he did it to secure an end which he thought to be desirable towards the overthrow of the Philistines. He forgot that the most trifling matter, when once it became the subject of a Divine command, ceased to be insignificant; if for no other reason, at least for this, that its observance thereby became a test — not of regard to form, but — of obedience to God. Now what disposition was manifested by this conduct? Was it not an utter absence of that "faith, without which it is impossible to please God"? What would be its effect, upon the people, when the excitement was over? What, but to encourage them in their departure from the ordinances of Him from Whom they longed to stray, and be as the heathen?

III. THE ALMIGHTY, THEN, DID NOT REJECT THIS HIS FIRST CHOSEN KING OF ISRAEL FOR ANY SLIGHT FAULT OR ANY MOMENTARY SWERVING FROM THE PATH OF OBEDIENCE THROUGH IGNORANCE OR FROM IMPULSE, BUT FOR HABITUALLY AND PERSEVERINGLY GOING WRONG IN THAT VERY RESPECT WHICH WAS OF MOST CONSEQUENCE IN THE DUE EXECUTION OF HIS OFFICE. He had to meet the difficult question which met the Apostles, "whether he should obey God rather than man." They had no hesitation in arriving at a decision: neither had he: but they decided it differently. If ever there was a time in which Saul would have been appreciated, ours is that, time. Were he alive now he would be just the man that would rise in the world — probably get into Parliament, lead a party, perhaps become Prime Minister. He was the man for the people. A striking man; able, energetic, fitted to command; above all, prepared to obey the Lord just so far as, by suiting the people's views, he should help to his own exaltation. The popular religion or phase of any particular religion would be his. All creeds just as far Divine as they were popular. None more the truth than another. Saul's day fell in an evil era, and, for him, under an evil dispensation. In his time the tares and the wheat, did not "grow together till the harvest." The tares were rooted out at the time, and so people who came could be shown what were pronounced tares by the Lord of the Harvest, and what was their end. This is one very important, advantage we derive from the system of temporal rewards and punishments and the special Providence under which the Jews lived. By these means we can strive at, the principle on which His future "judgment according to works" will be conducted. Thus, a line of conduct in which we should have detected nothing very striking, either of good or of evil, when marked with God's disapproval, arrests our attention, leads us to examination, and acts as a corrective to the erroneous judgment on human conduct which the time or the society in which we live had led us to form in our minds. Many would think that Saul had succeeded. Our Lord tells us that this is impossible. The compromise, He says, cannot be effected. God's rejection of Saul shows us that he did not succeed. The characters condemned and approved in the Old Testament are marked by the very same characteristics, after all, as those which are condemned and approved in the New. Double-mindedness, want of faith, loving this present world, loving, the praise of men more than the praise of God, seeking to be friends with it, making that our great aim, and the friendship of Him Who redeemed us secondary to that: a determination to do our own will; a hesitation and insincerity in saying, come what may, "Thy will be done"; these are ever the marks of those who are held up as sad examples of inconsistency, to be deplored and to be avoided.

(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)

Before Samuel turned after Saul he delivered his conscience, and pronounced the irrevocable doom against him. That doom was deserved, and it was irrevocable

1. It was deserved. Saul was forewarned. He had received a plain commission from God. He occupied a high position. He belonged to a nation that had the light of Divine revelation. He was their king, and had pledged himself to keep the constitution, which demanded obedience to the will of God. He was the first king, and according to his conduct was the monarchy on the one hand, and the subject people on the other, likely to be influenced. Obedience in his case had been concentrated on important points; but in these he had transgressed. It therefore repented the Lord that he had made Saul king. But his purpose of a right theocracy under a man after his own heart was not to fail: "The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man that he should repent."

2. It was irrevocable. God had solemnly declared that he would turn the kingdom from Saul. He had never said that Saul would be kept in the kingdom and found a dynasty in Israel. He was not bound to continue him in the office. He had raised him to the throne that he might have a fair trial, and full opportunity of acting aright. Saul was endowed by God with every advantage, with kingly qualities, surrounded with a band of men whose hearts God had touched, appointed to special commissions, and hedged up by every means likely to aid his fidelity. But God might change the sovereignty. When, therefore, he beheld Saul's conduct he is said to have repented that He had made him king. Here we find a principle which can bear a most extensive application. God's dealings with us are still wrought on the same plan. He has not given His word regarding our circumstances here. He has not pledged Himself to continue them as they have been. He may change these. He acts towards us as a judicious teacher, and shapes His course according to our conduct. There are reasons in our manner of action, proceeding from our abuse of mercies, which may necessitate a change. He may alter our worldly position, and send adversity instead of prosperity. He may lay a restraint upon our ambition, and make us feel by sad experience the vanity of human wishes. He may afflict our households, or prostrate ourselves. In this respect much depends upon the individual with regard to the providence of life. It was Saul's disobedience that warranted the chastisement which he received, and the change in God's mode of dealing with him.

(R. Steel.)

1. The first thought which occurs to us is — In this its first king, as in a mirror, behold Israel itself. Israel, like Saul, was chosen by God to rule the people. Israel was gifted with grace sufficient and upheld by glorious promises. But Israel, like Saul, has turned to his own way. Because he has rejected the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected him from being king.

2. The second thought is — In this character behold multitudes among ourselves reflected. How many are there, against whom nothing morally wrong can be alleged, who are not prone to any palpable vice, who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, with whom everything for time and eternity trembles on the balance, and the question is whether they will serve the Lord in life or whether they will not. Saul forgot the Lord his God. He sought not to Him for new supplies of that grace which had once been imparted to him. He was like one of those foolish ones who slumbered with their lamps burning, trusting that they would continue to burn on, but took no oil in their vessels for a supply. He went on his way, and thought not of God. But if forgetfulness of God be the passive symptom of the fatal disease, self-will is the active one. It was this which misled Saul. He leaned to his own understanding. He had his own ways, and his own calculations, where God's will had been already positively pronounced.

(H. Alford, B. D.)

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1 Samuel 15:22
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