Poole on 1 Samuel 13:10-12: Saul's Self-Justification
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Verse 10: And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him (Heb. bless him).
[Behold, Samuel was coming] That is, it was announced to him that Samuel was approaching (Vatablus).
Behold, Samuel came, that is, it was told Saul, Behold, Samuel is coming.
[So that he might salute him (thus Pagnine, Junius, Piscator, Castalio, Osiander, Drusius)] לְבָרֲכוֹ, to bless him (Syriac, Munster, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Septuagint); that he might pray favorable things for him (Arabic); to ask after his welfare (Jonathan in Drusius); that he might congratulate his coming (Tigurinus, Munster). Saul exhibited a twofold honor to Samuel, in going out to meet him and in saluting him (Mendoza). Here, to bless means to salute, as in Genesis 47:7; Proverbs 27:14. For those giving greeting were saying, The Lord bless thee. See Psalm 129:8 (Drusius). By this honor Saul wanted to soothe the anger of Samuel, which he feared to have been roused against himself (Mendoza).
Salute him, that is, congratulate his coming. This he did, partly out of custom; and partly, that by this testimony of his affection and respect to Samuel, he might prevent that rebuke which his guilty conscience made him expect.
 Hebrew: וַיְהִ֗י כְּכַלֹּתוֹ֙ לְהַעֲל֣וֹת הָעֹלָ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֥ה שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל בָּ֑א וַיֵּצֵ֥א שָׁא֛וּל לִקְרָאת֖וֹ לְבָרֲכֽוֹ׃  Hebrew: לְבָרֲכוֹ.  Genesis 47:7: “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed (וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֖ב) Pharaoh.”  Proverbs 27:14: “He that blesseth (מְבָרֵךְ) his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.”  Psalm 129:8: “Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord (בִּרְכַּת־יְהוָה) be upon you: we bless (בֵּרַכְנוּ) you in the name of the Lord.”
Verse 11: And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash…
[What hast thou done?] Samuel had clearly known all, either, by divine revelation; or, by human relation; or, even by his own experience; for the altars were yet smoking. Why then does he ask? Responses: 1. Lest he should appear to given sentence with the reason left unsaid. 2. So that he might all the more press, pursue, and accuse the offender. 3. So that he might call him to confession, or contrition (Mendoza).
What hast thou done? he suspected that Saul had transgressed, either by his dejected countenance, or some words uttered by him, though not here expressed; but he asks him, that he might be more fitly and certainly informed, and that Saul might be brought to an ingenuous confession of his sin, and true repentance for it.
[Because I saw, etc.] He not only excuses himself, but accuses as many as he is able: 1. his soldiers, because they were fleeing: 2. his enemies, because they were threatening: 3. Samuel, because he did not come within the appointed time (Mendoza). Hypocrites cannot be brought to blame themselves. They not only defend, but also at the same time adorn their sins; as if it ought not to been done otherwise. And they are entire in this, lest they should appear to have sinned. Now, the true reason of the sacrifice performed before the proper time was, that he placed more faith in his soldiers, than in God (Martyr).
[And thou hadst not come according to the days appointed, לְמוֹעֵ֣ד הַיָּמִ֔ים] At the time of the days (Jonathan, Pagnine, Tigurinus), understanding, days appointed; that is, on the day appointed and predetermined (Vatablus, similarly Montanus, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Munster). You will say, if Samuel was absent at the appointed time, how dared Saul to say this? Responses: 1. Because he believed that the appointed days were to be numbered inclusively, from the day on which Samuel had been summoned. 2. Perhaps he did not hesitate to insert a lie in his excuse (Mendoza). 3. Or, he did not mean that he had not come, but that he suspected that he was not going to come (Mendoza, similarly Lapide).
Within the days appointed, that is, when the seventh day was come, and a good part of it past; whence I concluded thou wouldst not come that day, and that thou hadst forgotten thy appointment, or been hindered by some extraordinary occasion.
Verse 12: Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication (Heb. intreated the face) unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
[I said] That is, I thought (Piscator, Mendoza). Thus it is taken in Judges 15:2; 2 Kings 5:11; Ecclesiastes 2:1. The sense: I did not weight those reasons for sacrificing lightly; but I pondered them with deep meditation. Saul is trying to demonstrate, not only his innocence, but also his prudence (Mendoza).
[They will come down] Which was exceedingly probable, both from the proximity of the place, and from the declivity of the way; for Gilgal was lower-lying than Michmash, being situated near Jordan (Mendoza).
[I have not placated the face of the Lord, וּפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה לֹ֣א חִלִּ֑יתִי] And the faces of the Lord I have not entreated (Montanus, Pagnine), or asked (Munster); that is, I have not yet supplicated (Vatablus, Septuagint, Junius and Tremellius); or, I have not yet considered, etc. (Arabic, Syriac); I had not yet consulted (Tigurinus). [Why could it not thus be translated, the anger of the Lord I had not averted by prayer: פָּנִים is sometimes taken in this way (just as אַף/nose sometimes signifies both face and anger); and from that state of affairs he was able rightly to gather that God was angry.] Jonathan thus: Before the Lord I have not prayed. For, as Camius testifies, during burnt offerings they were nearly always praying (Drusius).
I have not made supplication to the Lord; hence it appears that sacrifices were accompanied with solemn prayers.
[Compelled by necessity, I offered, וָֽאֶתְאַפַּ֔ק וָאַעֲלֶ֖ה] And so I strengthened myself (I was strengthened or took courage [Septuagint, Jonathan]; I was compelled), and I offered (Montanus), that is, I steeled my mind; that is to say, even with my mind protesting, I offered the burnt offering because of fear (Vatablus, similarly Kimchi and Rabbi Salomon in Drusius). Wherefore I dared (understanding, even being reluctant [Tigurinus]) to sacrifice (Syriac, Arabic, Tigurinus, Strigelius). And, although I restrained myself (that is, for a time, while awaiting thee [Piscator]), finally I offered (Junius and Tremellius). And when I had forced myself, etc. (Munster). My conscience was saying to me that thou wert to be awaited: but the dangers were compelling me to sacrifice. Hence will and necessity were in conflict; at last necessity prevailed. But this excuse is false. For there was no necessity of offering sacrifices contrary to the divine will; indeed, there was the highest necessity of abstaining from them: for with such sacrifice God would not be pleased, but provoked (Mendoza).
I forced myself; I did it against my own mind and inclination. My conscience told me I should forbear it, and punctually obey God’s command delivered to me by Samuel, but my necessity urged me to make haste.
 Hebrew: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שָׁא֡וּל כִּֽי־רָאִיתִי֩ כִֽי־נָפַ֙ץ הָעָ֜ם מֵעָלַ֗י וְאַתָּה֙ לֹא־בָ֙אתָ֙ לְמוֹעֵ֣ד הַיָּמִ֔ים וּפְלִשְׁתִּ֖ים נֶאֱסָפִ֥ים מִכְמָֽשׂ׃  Hebrew: וָאֹמַ֗ר עַ֠תָּה יֵרְד֙וּ פְלִשְׁתִּ֤ים אֵלַי֙ הַגִּלְגָּ֔ל וּפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה לֹ֣א חִלִּ֑יתִי וָֽאֶתְאַפַּ֔ק וָאַעֲלֶ֖ה הָעֹלָֽה׃  Hebrew: חִלִּיתִי. חָלָה in the Piel signifies to mollify, to appease, or to entreat.  For example, Genesis 19:1: “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face (אַפַּיִם) toward the ground…”  For example, Genesis 27:45a: “Until thy brother’s anger (אַף־אָחִיךָ) turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him…” אָפַק in the Hithpael Conjugation signifies to force or restrain oneself.