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1 and 2 Samuel Rising of the Kings

King Saul’s Disobedience & Demise

1 Samuel 15

The Bible Teaching Commentary

The Excuse: Shifts Blame

1 Samuel 15:16-23

Paul J. Bucknell

Introductory | The Crisis (1 Samuel 15:1-3) | The Response (1 Samuel 15:4-9)
The Test (1 Samuel 15:10-15) | The Excuse (1 Samuel 15:16-23)
The Confession (1 Samuel 15:24-31) | The Future (1 Samuel 15:32-35)

Bible Study Questions | mp3 Podcast


1 Samuel 15:16-23 The Excuse: Shifts Blame is part 5/7 of The Bible Teacher's Commentary on 1 Samuel 15 which shows how Samuel exposes King Saul of his error, unthankfulness and shifts blame off himself.

“Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” And Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal (1 Samuel 15:16-21).

It appears to me that Saul was eager to hear what the Lord said to Samuel last night. Saul said, “Speak.” He thought God would say good things about what he did and how he wiped out the Amalekites.

A sense of delusion stepped into the life of Saul in his disobedience. He thought so much of what he was doing so that they can hear or think no different. Samuel’s response was very different from what Saul expected.

Samuel first discussed how God made Saul, an unknown personality, head over the tribes of Israel. Then the Lord made him King. God even sent him on a mission to wipe out the Amalekites. Samuel hinted at the two neglects of Saul: (1) He did not exterminate all the Amalekites - King Agag was alive, and (2) Due to greed the people did not kill off all the livestock but kept the good for themselves.

Saul was still convinced he obeyed the Lord. He apparently could not fully understand where Samuel was coming from. He did obey the Lord. He didn’t let them escape. Agag is right there captured.

Regarding the animals, he starts to use ‘they,' to refer to the people, because the conversation might turn bad. But they, he said, kept the animals so that they could offer a special sacrifice to the Lord at Gilgal. He evidently is hinting at why he brought them. Saul rejects the idea that they were greedy and presents their bringing of livestock as a very good thing, “To sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” It is quite possible that Saul was trying to make good out of a bad situation. He did not earlier control them (perhaps he did not know how) but at least now he persuaded them to bring many to Gilgal for an offering.

The big question is whether Saul really believed what he was saying. I believe he was. He was so excited about the victory that these other things were really of no consequence. This was a major battle and he led it all in obedience to the Lord.

Is it possible that Saul was covering his tracks? Did Saul really did think about the sin that he had made? There are two ways to manage sin. Usually, those that are contrite are arguing with sin all along the way. They are aware of the standards and battle with it first in their conscience and then in the decision process. Upon being confronted, they humble themselves and acknowledge their sin. They have been very aware of it.

Others, like Saul I believe, are not at all thinking of the details. They are self absorbed. He was focused on the mission of God - beat the Amalekites. He was again going to fight for the Lord. He gave little thought about whether the life of King Agag or letting the people take livestock was right or wrong. If so, it was easily dismissed with some ego-boosting idea. In Saul’s case, he thought he was doing the Lord a good by bringing Agag and an offering that offset any possible problem. He trivialized the sin.

It was at this point that Samuel speaks some powerful words.

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

These words are a strong rebuke to Saul. What he considered as trivial, God held of great importance. The Lord comes forward and clearly articulates what is important to Him. (We will see more of this in the next chapter when He selects a new king.) Let’s clarify what each of the significant statement says.

Defines the importance of obedience

The Lord delights more in obedience than in burnt offerings and sacrifices. In Saul’s context we see that this statement did not mean that burnt offerings and sacrifices were not important. If Saul really wanted to show dedication, which these burnt offerings symbolized, then he should have used his own sheep rather than stolen ones (from God). God clearly states having a good heart or purpose does not substitute for complete obedience.

Explains the heart of disobedience

In a radical thrust of stinging words the Lord explains the real problem with ‘a little’ disobedience. Rebellion is disobedience because one insists on one’s own will up against the Lord’s will. “I prefer to do it my way, thank you!”2 Rebellion, he continues, is just like the sin of divination. Divination can be translated as witchcraft. It is not a subtle word.

He not only accuses Saul of rebellion but witchcraft. Perhaps it means that Saul uses God as a manipulative tool to get what he wants. All he had to hear an omen from Samuel that he should fight the Amalekites, then off he went. But there was no sense that he was on God’s mission. Saul was in charge. This is where the word insubordination comes in. King Saul lived as if he was not under the Lord. This is iniquity and idolatry and because of this God rejected Saul from being king.



Continue -> The Confession: Reveals his Superficial Heart (1 Samuel 15:24-31)