Poole on 1 Samuel 15:22, 23: Saul Confronted and Convicted, Part 2
Verse 22: And Samuel said, (Ps. 50:8, 9; Prov. 21:3; Is. 1:11-13, 16, 17; Jer. 7:22, 23; Mic. 6:6-8; Heb. 10:6-9) Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, (Eccles. 5:1; Hos. 6:6; Matt. 5:24; 9:13; 12:7; Mark 12:33) to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
[Does the Lord desire burnt offerings, etc.] What follows shows that these things ought to be understood comparatively (Grotius). Obedience is better than sacrifices (Martyr). Question: Why? Responses: Because obedience is of greater necessity, than to offer sacrifices; for the latter is free and spontaneous (Lapide). 2. In sacrifices, it is the flesh of another; through obedience one’s own will is sacrificed (Gregory in Sanchez, Lapide). 3. Sacrifices remove sins. But obedience brings it to pass that there is no sin (Rabbi Ben Gershon in Martyr). 4. Sacrifices are sometimes rejected by God, Psalm 50; Isaiah 1; Jeremiah 7. Therefore, it is necessary that it be of less value, than that which God always requires. Such is obedience. 5. Sacrifices are common to God with idols; but obedience is proper to God (Martyr).
To obey is better than sacrifice, because obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness; and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner; therefore thy gross disobedience to God’s express command is not to be compensated with sacrifice. To hearken, that is, to obey, as hearing is oft used in Scripture.
[Than to offer the fat of rams] This is added for the sake of amplification. He compares obedience, not now with sacrifices, in which the law finds fault with, and rejects, many things; and many things are also converted unto the use of men; but with the fat, which was offered to God alone. See on 1 Samuel 2:15. Or fat here is put for fattened sacrifices: just like flesh and blood, for those things that consist of flesh and blood (Sanchez).
Than the fat of rams; than the choicest part of all the sacrifice, to wit, the fat, which was appropriated to God, Leviticus 3:16; whereas the offerer might partake of other parts of it.
Verse 23: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (Heb. divination, Deut. 18:10), and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, (1 Sam. 13:14) he hath also rejected thee from being king.
[To rebel is as the sin of divination, כִּ֤י חַטַּאת־קֶ֙סֶם֙ מֶ֔רִי] For the sin (as the sin [Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, English, Jonathan]) of divination (of magic [Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio, Dutch]) is rebellion (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Montanus, Vatablus, Munster) (or, disobedience [Strigelius, Dutch, similarly Castalio], contumacy [Tigurinus]). So grievous is the sin, and so grievous a punishment is due to it (Vatablus). As the guilt of men that entreat from a diviner (Jonathan), who put their faith in augury and the art of divination (Munster). Thus the guild of every man that rebels against the word of the Lord (Jonathan, similarly Munster). The term קֶסֶם comprehends every sort of forbidden divination, which is performed through demons; as also ariolation, which was named after aris/altars, around which those consulting the demons were offering prayers or sacrifices (Menochius out of Sanchez). The Papists twist this passage to obedience which is due to themselves and their traditions. But Samuel does not speak of that; but of that obedience which is due to the commandment of God (Martyr). The Latin calls ariolatio/divination, what some Greeks call οἰώνισμα, divination by the flight of birds, others μαντείαν, the power of divination, which is as opposed to τῇ προφητείᾳ, the gift of prophecy, as idols are to the true God. See Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10, 11 (Grotius).
Rebellion, that is, disobedience to God’s express precept, which was Saul’s case. Is as the sin of witchcraft; is, though not so great, yet as inexcusable and impudent a sin as witchcraft; as plainly condemned, and as certainly destructive and damnable.
[And to be unwilling to acquiesce is as the sin of idolatry, וְאָ֥וֶן וּתְרָפִ֖ים הַפְצַ֑ר] And falsehood (or, an idol [Pagnine], iniquity [Vatablus, English], as superstition [Junius and Tremellius]: A note of similitude is rightly supplied [Mariana]) and Teraphim (or, and idols [Junius and Tremellius], idolatry [English]) to transgress (Montanus, Mariana, Vatablus), understanding, the will of God (Vatablus) (or, stubbornness [English], resistance [Junius and Tremellius]); that is to say, to transgress the will of God, to add to His precept, is as grave a sin, as to desire to know future things through images (Vatablus). And the iniquity of idolatry, to be unwilling to obey (Munster), or to harden the heart (Tigurinus, similarly Strigelius, Dutch, Symmachus in Grotius). The vanity of Teraphim, etc., where the term Teraphim, which is neutral, as we observed elsewhere, by the adjunct vanity is shown to be taken in a negative way (Grotius). אָוֶן signifies iniquity, lying and falsehood, and even the very idols of the Gentiles; because they are nothing other than lies, deceiving men. The images through which future things are known he calls Teraphim. Concerning which term see Genesis 31:19. Whoever transgresses the precept of God, that is, adds anything, appears to deny that God is most wise, and makes himself wiser than God (Vatablus). הַפְצַר is either an Infinitive, or an Infinitive noun; whence they render it, 1. to separate oneself, or separation; when one is not willing to obey, but makes a separation, and tears himself away. 2. To pursue, to persevere, in sinning. 3. Resistance, or reluctance, understanding, to God, or to His command. 4. To force, to compel; that is, as if to apply force to God (Malvenda). פָּצַר signifies to compel with words, in Genesis 33:11, he compelled him to accept; and in Judges 19:7, he compelled him to remain. The same term is used of those that want to bend the law of God, and to bring it to pass that the law might comply with them. For, they force it with their reasons, and make it subject to themselves (Martyr, similarly Lapide). פָּצַר here means, to wish to cleave to vanity by force and against reason (Munster). Moreover, Samuel does not wish in this place to make sins equal; but to magnify the evil of disobedience (Mariana, similarly Lapide). For in itself magic or idolatry is a more grievous sin than disobedience; yet the latter is similar to both: 1. The disobedient is similar to the diviner; inasmuch as he judges of the will of God from the lying figments of his own judgment; just as diviners do concerning future things, from the chattering and the flight patterns of birds. 2. It is similar to idolatry, inasmuch as in disobedience his own judgment and will is God; in idolatry he dedicates and surrenders himself and all his own; and to it refers all his actions (Lapide).
Stubbornness; either wilful and presumptuous sin, whereby a man violently breaks loose from God’s command, and resists his authority; or rather, perseverance or contumacy in sin, justifying it, and pleading for it, which was Saul’s present crime. Is as iniquity and idolatry, or, the iniquity of idolatry; this being an hendiadis; as judgment and justice, Deuteronomy 16:18, is put for the judgment of justice, or just judgment. Or, idolatry, (for so the Hebrew word אָוֶן/ aven signifies, as Jeremiah 10:15; Hosea 4:15; 10:5, compared with 1 Kings 12:29) even the teraphim, which is here mentioned as one of the worst kinds of idolatry.
[The Lord has rejected thee from being King] Hebrew: from king, in the place of, from being king (Piscator); that is to say, After this thou shalt not be King (Vatablus). Just and suitable is the punishment of Saul; that he that was unwilling to be subject to his God might be deprived of the kingdom, so that his subjects might not be subject to him. Moreover, Saul was deprived of his kingdom in the first act, as it were, not the second: that is, God cast him down from royal power; but nevertheless He permitted to him its use and administration for life. Or rather He pronounces against him the deprivation of the Kingdom, the execution of which was to be accomplished somewhat afterwards. For, it is evident that Saul did remain King afterwards; because he was considered King by the people, and by David himself, and by Samuel, verse 30 (Lapide).
Hath also rejected thee from being king, that is, hath pronounced the sentence of rejection; for that he was not actually rejected or deposed by God plainly appears, because not only the people, but even David, after this, owned him as king; and Samuel, at Saul’s desire, did honour him, that is, own him as king, before the people, 1 Samuel 15:30.
 Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֗ל הַחֵ֤פֶץ לַֽיהוָה֙ בְּעֹל֣וֹת וּזְבָחִ֔ים כִּשְׁמֹ֖עַ בְּק֣וֹל יְהוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֤ה שְׁמֹ֙עַ֙ מִזֶּ֣בַח ט֔וֹב לְהַקְשִׁ֖יב מֵחֵ֥לֶב אֵילִֽים׃  Hebrew: כִּ֤י חַטַּאת־קֶ֙סֶם֙ מֶ֔רִי וְאָ֥וֶן וּתְרָפִ֖ים הַפְצַ֑ר יַ֗עַן מָאַ֙סְתָּ֙ אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה וַיִּמְאָסְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽלֶךְ׃  Hebrew: קֶסֶם.  Deuteronomy 18:10: “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination (קֹסֵ֣ם קְסָמִ֔ים), or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch…”  Genesis 31:19: “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images (אֶת־הַתְּרָפִים) that were her father’s.”  Genesis 33:11: “Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took (וַיִּפְצַר־בּ֖וֹ וַיִּקָּֽח׃) it.”  Judges 19:7: “And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him (וַיִּפְצַר־בּוֹ֙ חֹתְנ֔וֹ): therefore he lodged there again.”  Deuteronomy 16:18: “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment (מִשְׁפַּט־צֶדֶק, judgment of justice).”  Hosea 4:15: “Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-aven (בֵּ֣ית אָ֔וֶן), nor swear, The Lord liveth.”  Hosea 10:5: “The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven (בֵּ֣ית אָ֔וֶן): for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.”  1 Kings 12:29: “And he set the one in Beth-el (בְּבֵית־אֵל), and the other put he in Dan.”  Hebrew: מִמֶּלֶךְ.  That is, the bare existence of a thing.  That is, the existence of a thing in its operations.