Poole on 1 Samuel 13:13, 14: Samuel's Sentence

Verse 13:[1] And Samuel said to Saul, (2 Chron. 16:9) Thou hast done foolishly: (1 Sam. 15:11) thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.


[Thou hast done foolishly (thus Jonathan, Munster, Pagnine, Kimchi, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Septuagint)] Since great respect is due to Kings, one might wonder why Samuel falls upon Saul with such severity. But the prophets, being unheld by the authority and majesty of the Most High, were wont thus to inveigh sharply against Kings. See 1 Kings 14:6; 18:18; 21:19; 2 Kings 1:16; 3:13, 14 (Mendoza). Samuel conducted himself beautifully. In this very thing, in which Saul was wanting to appear to have acted prudently, Samuel calls him foolish. Men are wise, when they follow the word of God: but, when they want to follow their own inventions, they are foolish (Martyr).


[נִסְכָּלְתָּ[2]] Others translate it, thou hast offended (Syriac, Arabic); thou hast acted the fool (Tigurinus, Montanus, Mendoza), as if he had acted foolishly, not in one deed only, but had clothed himself about in foolishness (Mendoza out of Lapide and Gregory).


[Thou hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee] The individual words have emphasis. God; that is to say, not only thy Lord, but also God. Thy, specifically, in assigning so many gifts to thee. Which He commanded, not to all generally, but to thee specifically (Mendoza out of Lapide and Gregory).


Thou hast done foolishly in that very thing wherein thou thinkest thou hast done wisely and politicly, in disobeying my express command upon a pretended necessity, or reason of state. The Lord thy God; not only upon common grounds, as thou art his creature, and one of his people; but in a special manner, who hath conferred peculiar favours and honours upon thee; which is an aggravation of thy sin.



[The Lord would have even now established thy kingdom over Israel forever (thus the Septuagint, Tigurinus),כִּ֣י עַתָּ֗ה הֵכִ֙ין יְהוָ֧ה אֶת־מַֽמְלַכְתְּךָ֛ אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃] For now the Lord had established, or would have established (Mariana), thy kingdom forever (Pagnine, Montanus, similarly Jonathan, Drusius, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, English, Dutch, Mariana). Question: In what sense is this meant, since the kingdom had previously been promised to the tribe of Judah? Response 1: עוֹלָם signifies a long duration, but not an eternal one (Mendoza, similarly Munster). It is properly that time period that comes between two Jubilees[3] (Vatablus in Tigurinus Notes, Mariana, Mendoza). Perpetually, that is, for thy whole life (Junius). For a long time would that Royal dignity have remained in thy lineage (Vatablus). Forever, that is, as long as Saul’s posterity was living (Grotius). God would have passed the kingdom to thy posterity through many ages (Osiander). Response 2: The promise made to the tribe of Judah was absolute, and infallibly to be fulfilled; the promise made to Saul was conditional (Mendoza). And, because God foresaw that Saul would decline from the condition, He was certainly able to foretell that the scepter was going to be removed from him, and transferred to the tribe of Judah (Tirinus almost out of Mendoza, similarly Menochius, Piscator, Sanchez, Lapide). [The Arabic connects these words with what precedes in this manner: Thou hast sin, in that thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord which He had commanded thee, when He established thy kingdom over Israel, and said, I will establish thee forever.]


Now would the Lord have established thy kingdom on Israel for ever. Question: How could this be true, when the kingdom was promised to Judah, Genesis 49:10, and consequently must necessarily be taken away from Saul, and from his tribe? Answer: First, The phrase for ever, in Scripture use, ofttimes signifies only a long time, as Genesis 43:9; Exodus 21:6; 1 Samuel 28:2. So this had been abundantly verified, if the kingdom had been enjoyed by Saul, and by his son, and by his son’s son; after whom the kingdom might have come to Judah. Secondly, Though the kingdom had been promised to Saul and to his posterity for ever in a larger sense, yet that was upon condition of his obedience. And therefore God might well promise the kingdom to Judah, because at that time, and before, he foresaw that Saul would by his disobedience forfeit that promise, and that he would take the forfeiture, and transfer the kingdom to Judah.


Verse 14:[4] (1 Sam. 15:28) But now thy kingdom shall not continue: (Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22) the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.


[But thy kingdom shall be no means ascend any farther, לֹא־תָקוּם[5]] It shall not stand (Septuagint, Pagnine, Mendoza); it shall not be established (Jonathan in Mendoza); it shall not continue (Vatablus, Mendoza, Arabic). Note here the mercy of God. He threatens, but does not immediately inflict punishment (Mendoza).


[He hath sought (thus the Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator)] And what He sought He found and chose, ἀνθρωποπάθεια, an anthropopathy. Indeed, He had decreed from eternity to choose Him (Piscator). It signifies that God did not choose some by the way, but sought with great care and diligence (Mendoza). בִּקֵּשׁ, He chose (Syriac, Arabic); He established (Jonathan).


Hath sought, that is, hath found or discovered, as men do by seeking, an anthropopathy.


[A man[6]] The prophetic Spirit had revealed this to him; but he was not yet knowing who he might be (Drusius, Mendoza, Tostatus, Piscator). And he calls him a man to indicate his fortitude. Thus man is taken in 1 Samuel 4:9;[7] 26:15;[8] 1 Kings 2:2[9] (Mendoza).


[After His own heart (thus the Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Piscator), כִּלְבָבוֹ] According to His own soul (Junius and Tremellius); according to the purpose of His soul (Castalio); a man acceptable to Him (Arabic), doing His will (Jonathan), pleasing to Him, that is, to God (Piscator).


A man after his own heart, that is, such a man as he desires, one who will fulfil all the desires of his heart, and not oppose them, as thou dost.


[The Lord hath commanded him to be a Captain, וַיְצַוֵּ֙הוּ יְהוָ֤ה לְנָגִיד֙] And He hath commanded him (shall commission him [Septuagint, Jonathan]) for a captain (Montanus), that he might be a captain (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Osiander, Strigelius), to be king (Jonathan), to be leader (Junius and Tremellius), to rule the people (Syriac, similarly the Arabic). He hath commanded, that is, He is going to command. Samuel speaks of a future matter, as He would a past matter, as the Prophets are wont to do (Menochius), to indicate the certainty of the matter (Mendoza), or of the divine providence (Lyra). Or He hath commanded, that is, He hath ordained, hath declared in His heart, and hath ratified the precept, as it were; but He hath not yet promulgated it. Thus in 1 Kings 17:4, I have commanded the ravens, that is, I have decided, ordained, that they feed thee (Lapide).


Hath commanded, that is, hath appointed or decreed, as the word command is sometimes used; for it was not yet actually done.


[Because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee] Question 1: What then was the sin of Saul in this passage? Response 1: That he usurped the priest’s office (Munster, Lyra, thus Carthuasianus and Rupertus in Mendoza). [To others this does not satisfy.] 1. The letter does not say this. It is indeed said that he offered, namely, by the priests. Thus Elkanah is said to have sacrificed, 1 Samuel 1:4, and also Solomon, 1 Kings 3:4. Indeed, even Saul himself is commanded to offer in 1 Samuel 10:8. 2. Samuel does not accuse Saul of this; but only that he kept not the commandment of the Lord, which was only concerning the awaiting of Samuel, 1 Samuel 10:8. [See what things were written on that passage.] 3. Neither does Saul excuse himself concerning this. 4. He says that he, compelled by necessity, offered. But there was no necessity to offer by his own hand: for multiple priests were present there; both to attend the Ark, and to sound trumpets (Mendoza on verse 9). Response 2: He sinned in this, that he did not wait the entire, pre-established time (Mendoza, Estius, Menochius, Munster, Lyra, Lapide, Sanchez). [Concerning which see on verse 8.]. Question 2: Whether this sin of Saul was so grievous that he should be deprived of the kingdom because of it (Sanchez); as a result of the first sin of a man previously so innocent? (Tirinus). Responses: 1. We only see external things; God has all things under His inspection, and sees whether a thing is done out of infirmity or out of contempt (Martyr). 2. In divine commandments the quality or quantity of the matter ought not so much to be regarded as the majesty and will of the One commanding (Tirinus). 3. It was not a small sin not to obey. See 1 Samuel 15:23 (Menochius). 4. God is wont (as Isidore of Pelusium[10] observes, Epistle 181), in order to ratify the discipline of His laws, to punish severely those that sin first in any sort (Menochius, thus Tirinus, Sanchez). On that account, God punished so severely, 1. Adam: 2. Cain, the first murderer (Sanchez): 3. the man that, gathering wood, kept not the law of the Sabbath recently delivered, Numbers 15:32 (Menochius, Tirinus, Sanchez): 4. the First Christians, Ananias and Sapphira. Saul was the first king in Israel; this was the first precept that he received from the Lord (Sanchez). He was especially providing, that future Kings might be certainly persuaded that in the administration of the kingdom there was not to be any receding from the commandments of God, not even in the smallest matters (Tirinus out of Sanchez). Question 3: Because of what disobedience was Saul deprived of his kingdom? because of this? or because of that in 1 Samuel 15, in not destroying the Amalekites? For the letter appears to have assigned both as the total cause of this deprivation; this in this place, and that in 1 Samuel 15:23, 28. And before that disobedience Samuel did not leave Saul, 1 Samuel 15:35 (indeed, he was treating him as King); neither did the Spirit of the Lord withdraw from Saul, 1 Samuel 16:14; nor was David anointed as King, 1 Samuel 16:13 (Mendoza). Response: Because of the first disobedience Saul deserved to be deprived of the kingdom: but because of the second he was actually deprived (Tostatus, Sanchez). By these words, Saul does not appear to have been altogether rejected by the Lord, but threats only are issued, unless he obey going forward: but the threat was brought into effect, 1 Samuel 15:26 (Menochius out of Sanchez and Tostatus). And two rules are to be observed here: 1. A thing is said to be done or appears to be done, when it is worthy to be done. 2. What has been begun is accounted as completed (Sanchez). [This sentence does not please Mendoza.] If the speech be concerning the deprivation of the Kingdom in the very person of Saul, on the grounds of neither disobedience was he deprived; for he ever, while he lived, retained the Kingdom. But if the speech be concerning the deprivation of the kingdom to be enforced in his posterity, on the grounds of either disobedience was he deprived; yet in such a way that after the first disobedience the sentence of this deprivation was passed, but after the second it was confirmed (Mendoza).


Because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee. Question: First, What was Saul’s sin? Answer: Either, first, That Saul invaded the priest’s office, and offered the sacrifice himself; which is not probable, both because he had priests with him, and among others an eminent one, Ahiah, 1 Samuel 14:3, and therefore had no occasion nor pretence for that presumption. Or rather, secondly, That Saul did not wait the full time for Samuel’s coming; for that is the thing which God commanded, 1 Samuel 10:8, and the breach of this command is the only thing for which Saul makes an apology, 1 Samuel 13:11, 12. Question: Secondly, Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention? Answer: First, Men are very incompetent judges of God’s judgments, because they see but very little, either of the majesty of the offended God, or of the heinous nature and aggravations of the offence. For instance, men see nothing but Saul’s outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this; with what rebellion against the light of his own conscience, as his own words imply; with what gross infidelity and distrust of God’s providence; with what contempt of God’s authority, and justice, and many other wicked principles and motions of his heart, unknown to men. Besides, God clearly saw all that wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine. Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely, and that for divers weighty reasons, as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God’s free and rich mercy for passing by their great offences; and what need they have not to indulge themselves in any small sin, as men are very prone to do, upon vain presumptions of God’s mercy, whereby they are easily and commonly drawn on to heinous crimes; and for many other reasons: so that some such instances of God’s severity are necessary discipline and caution to all mankind in the present and future ages; and therefore there is far more of mercy and kindness in such actions, than of rigour and harshness, since this is but particular to one person, and the other is a universal good. Thirdly, It must be remembered that the kingdom of Saul and of Israel was now in its infancy, and that this was the first command which he received from God. And it hath been ever held a piece of wisdom in all lawgivers, severely to punish the first violations of their laws, to secure their honour and obedience, and to affright and caution offenders for the future. And accordingly God dealt with Cain the first murderer; with Israel, for their first idolatry with the calf;[11] with the first miscarriage of the priests, Leviticus 10:1; with the first profaner of the sabbath, Numbers 15:35; with the first gross hypocrites in the Christian church, Acts 5:5, 10. And therefore it is neither strange nor unjust if he deal with Saul after the same manner, and upon the same grounds. Fourthly, Though God threaten Saul with the loss of his kingdom for this sin, yet it is not improbable that there was a tacit condition implied, as is usual in such cases, as Jonah 3:4, to wit, if he did not heartily repent of this and of all his sins; for the full, and final, and peremptory sentence of Saul’s rejection is plainly ascribed to another cause, 1 Samuel 15:11, 23, 26, 28, 29; and till that second offence neither the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, nor was David anointed in his stead, 1 Samuel 16:13, 14.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֧אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֛ל אֶל־שָׁא֖וּל נִסְכָּ֑לְתָּ לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗רְתָּ אֶת־מִצְוַ֞ת יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוָּ֔ךְ כִּ֣י עַתָּ֗ה הֵכִ֙ין יְהוָ֧ה אֶת־מַֽמְלַכְתְּךָ֛ אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ [2]סָכַל in the Niphal Conjugation signifies to act foolishly. [3] See Leviticus 25. [4] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֖ה מַמְלַכְתְּךָ֣ לֹא־תָק֑וּם בִּקֵּשׁ֩ יְהוָ֙ה ל֜וֹ אִ֣ישׁ כִּלְבָב֗וֹ וַיְצַוֵּ֙הוּ יְהוָ֤ה לְנָגִיד֙ עַל־עַמּ֔וֹ כִּ֚י לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֔רְתָּ אֵ֥ת אֲשֶֽׁר־צִוְּךָ֖ יְהוָֽה׃ [5]קוּם can signify to arise, to stand, or to endure/continue. [6] Hebrew: אִישׁ. [7] 1 Samuel 4:9: “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men (לַאֲנָשִׁים), O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men (לַאֲנָשִׁים), and fight.” [8] 1 Samuel 26:15: “And David said to Abner, Art not thou a man (אִישׁ)? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord.” [9] 1 Kings 2:2: “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man (לְאִישׁ)…” [10] Isidore of Pelusium (late fourth-, early fifth-century) was of a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and settled as a hermit near Pelusium. His extant letters (numbering approximately two thousand) are of interest to the students of the history of exegesis. [11] Exodus 32.

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