Poole on 1 Samuel 15:24-31: Saul's Repentance, and the Never Repenting God
Verse 24: (see 2 Sam. 12:13) And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I (Ex. 23:2; Prov. 29:25; Is. 51:12, 13) feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
[I have sinned] This is not a sincere repentance, but from a fear of dishonor, and of losing the kingdom (Lapide, similarly Menochius, Sanchez, Martyr). The indication is, 1. That he diverted the blame from himself to the people (Sanchez). 2. That he said I have sinned no sooner than he heard that the kingdom was to be transferred (Sanchez out of Gregory). 3. That the having of honor from the people extorted this repentance from him (Martyr on verse 30).
I have sinned; which confession proceeded not from true repentance, but from the sense of his great danger, and from a desire of recalling that dreadful sentence denounced against him. The commandment of the Lord, and thy words, that is, the commandment of the Lord delivered to me by thy words; another hendiadis.
[Fearing the people] He falsely conceals his own fault; since he himself was not under obedience to the people, but the reverse (Lyra). Those two decress in 1 Samuel 11:7 and 14:24 show that he did not so fear the people. Indeed, the people would not have labored for the rescue of Agag, from which no advantage was anticipated for them (Sanchez).
I feared the people; who, as thou knowest, are set upon mischief, and would probably have broken forth into a mutiny or rebellion, had I done otherwise. But how little he feared the people, may be seen by 1 Samuel 11:7; 14:24. But this was a false cause; nor doth he acknowledge the true cause, which was his covetousness, and because he did not fear God.
Verse 25: Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
[Carry my sin, שָׂ֥א נָ֖א אֶת־חַטָּאתִ֑י] Dismiss, I pray, my sin (Vatablus). Bear away, namely, before God, by entreaty (Grotius). A minister is said to remit sins, 1. Because he prays to God that He might remit. 2. He has the keys, and preaches the remission of sins through Christ (Martyr). Bear, or lift, remit, my sin, by obtaining forgiveness through thy prayers and sacrifices, as Priests are wont to do; or dissimulate my sin (Menochius).
Pardon my sin; use thy great interest with God to obtain the pardon of my sin. Or, do thou pardon my sin against thee; for he had sinned not only against God, but against Samuel also, as God’s prophet; and therefore needed a pardon both from God and man.
[And return with me] That is, come with me returning. Saul had come out from Gilgal to meet Samuel; and Samuel had not yet entered into Gilgal, that he might be able to be said to return there. See on verse 13. You have a similar expression in Ruth 1:10, 22; 2:6. Thus in 1 Samuel 26:20, 21 (Malvenda). This counsel of Saul, return, so that I might worship, etc., was sharp and crafty; that is to say, return with me to renew, or to continue, the office of sacrifices, which he was then offering from the prey of the Amalekites. Thus the Prophet by his presence would show that the gift from the spoils of Amalek was pleasing to God. Since Samuel foresaw this, he refused to return with Saul to the interrupted rites, or for his other intentions (Sanchez). So that I might worship, so that before thee and through thee I might sacrifice to God (Lapide).
And turn again with me, to Gilgal, whence Saul was gone forth to meet Samuel; and Samuel is here said to turn again to Gilgal, not properly, for he had not now been there; but by way of concomitancy, because he accompanied Saul, who was come thence, and returned thither: see the like expression Ruth 1:10, 22; 2:6. That I may worship the Lord; that I may offer further sacrifices to God; partly to praise him for the past victory; and partly to implore his mercy, and the taking off of my sin and punishment. This was a politic device of Saul’s, that Samuel might at least seem to countenance his design, in reserving the cattle for sacrifice; which Samuel seeing, refused to do it. Hebrew: and I will worship the Lord, that is, I will seek his pardon and favour.
Verse 26: And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: (see 1 Sam. 2:30) for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
[I will not return with thee] Samuel appears to speak a falsehood, for he afterwards returned. Response: At that time he was not intending to return; but afterwards he changed his resolution for the reasons that are mentioned. Thus Christ in John 7:8 said, I will not go up, but immediately afterwards he went up (Lyra).
I will not return with thee: this was no lie, though he afterwards returned, because he spoke what he meant; his words and intentions agreed together, though afterwards he saw reason to change his intentions: compare Genesis 19:2, 3: which may relieve many perplexed consciences, who think themselves obliged to do what they have said they would do, though they see just cause to change their minds.
Verse 27: And as Samuel turned about to go away, (see 1 Kings 11:30) he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
Verse 28: And Samuel said unto him, (1 Sam. 28:17, 18; 1 King 11:31) The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
[The Lord hath rent the kingdom] It is Antanaclasis, from a comparison with the preceding verse (Piscator). On occasion of the present deed, as a sign divinely given, Samuel warns that the judgment of God is going to come upon Saul for his fault (Malvenda out of Junius). He takes a sign from the emergent circumstances. Previously he only threatened, but now he declares it definite and accomplished. Or, previously he threatens that the kingdom is to be taken from his sons, but now he says it is not even going to be held long by Saul himself (Martyr). He hath rent, that is, He has decreed to rend (Lapide, Tirinus).
And Samuel said unto him, etc.: Samuel makes use of the emergent occasion, as a sign, to signify and confirm his former prediction. A neighbour of thine; either another man, or another Israelite; for the word neighbour is used both ways; or rather, one of the neighbouring tribe, even Judah, whose inheritance did not only join to that of Benjamin, but was partly mixed with it.
Verse 29: And also the Strength (or, eternity, or, victory) of Israel (Num. 23:19; Ezek. 24:14; 2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2) will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
[The Triumpher in Israel will not spare] Thus God is called, because in every matter He acts according to His own will, with a focus upon Israel (Menochius out of Sanchez). He appears to have made use of this title, so that He might humble the high spirits of Saul, lifted up by the recent victory; and so that Saul might fear the power of God, who gives and takes kingdoms at will, and who would easily accomplish what He has now threatened (Sanchez); and so that he might humble the triumphal Arch of Saul, and tacitly indicate that a monument was rather to be erected to God (Menochius).
[וְגַם֙ נֵ֣צַח יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לֹ֥א יְשַׁקֵּ֖ר] And also the fortitude, or strength (or victory [Montanus, Vatablus, Piscator], most noble [Syriac], holy [Arabic], victor [Tigurinus, Strigelius], triumpher [Castalio], who is eternity [Junius and Tremellius]) of Israel will not lie (Pagnine, Mariana, Syriac, Arabic, Dutch, English, Piscator). He will not deal falsely (Junius and Tremellius). God, who is the author of Israel’s victories, will not lie to him, to whom He gave the kingdom (Vatablus). He will not deceive (Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio, Osiander), that is, He does not deliver empty threats (Osiander). Others: and also He, understanding, the Lord, will not make the strength of Israel of no effect; that is, nevertheless, the Lord will not deprive Israel of his original strength (Vatablus). Victory will not fail the Israelites. The sense: Although the kingdom be rent from thee, God will not abandon His people, will not permit the kingdom of Israel to fall; but He hath chosen for Himself another man, etc. (Munster). Moreover, נֵצַח is posited in the abstract (which has greater force) and signifies, excellence, victory, strength, etc.; that is to say, not only the most excellent, but even excellence itself. They also note נֵצַח sometimes to be of time, and to signify the victory or triumph of time; that is, perpetuity and eternity; as in Isaiah 34:10 (Malvenda).
He calls God the Strength of Israel; partly, to show the reason why God neither will nor can lie; because lying is a weakness, and proceeds from the sense of a man’s weakness, because he cannot many times accomplish his design without lying and dissimulation; which therefore many princes have used for this very reason. But, saith he, God needs no such artifices; he can do whatsoever he pleaseth by his absolute power, and hath no need to use lies to accomplish his will. Partly, to show that Israel should be no loser by Saul’s loss, as he might vainly imagine, because he had saved them from their enemies on every side, 1 Samuel 14:47. For not Saul, but God, was the Strength and Protector of Israel, and he would continue to save them when Saul was lost and gone. And partly, to assure Saul that God would execute this threatening, because he wanted not strength to do it, and none could hinder him in it.
[And He will not be diverted by repentance (similarly the Septuagint, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Munster, Osiander), וְלֹ֣א יִנָּחֵ֑ם] He is not turned back from that which He said (Jonathan). Neither does He seek counsel (Syriac, Arabic). He will not change His mind (Castalio). He is said to repent, verse 11, namely, with respect to the alteration of effects; and not to repent, in this verse, namely, with respect to Himself (Serarius). God changes His sentence signified through the prophets, but not His counsel (Martyr). [See on verse 11.]
Nor repent, that is, nor change his counsel; which also is an effect of weakness and imperfection, either of wisdom or power.
[For He is not a man, etc.] He is not mutable, like men, who in the heat of anger often threaten that they are going to do whatever most terrible things to others; afterwards, when the anger will have cooled, they repent of their former vehemence (Osiander).
Verse 30: Then he said, I have sinned: yet (John 5:44; 12:43) honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.
[Honor me] The hypocrisy of Saul is here set forth, and the reason for his repentance (Martyr).
Honour me now, etc.: Here he plainly discovers his hypocrisy, and the true motive of this and his former confession; he was not solicitous for the favour of God, but for his honour and power with Israel.
Verse 31: So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.
[Samuel therefore turning again] Question: Why did He turn again? Responses: 1. Not so that he might worship, that is, that he might sacrifice at the same time with Saul; for not Samuel, but Saul (alone) is read to have worshipped (Sanchez). Samuel was unwilling to entreat the Lord with him, but he completely excommunicated him (Martyr on verse 26). 2. So that he might bestow honor on magistracy, even when impious (Martyr). Lest the people should spurn the King and drive out the kingdom (Lapide). 3. So that he might perform those things that Saul had omitted (Sanchez); more specifically, so that he might kill Agag (Martyr). 4. Lest he should drive Saul to desperation, or fury (Lapide).
Samuel turned again after Saul; not to worship the Lord with him, for that he did not; and therefore it is here mentioned that Saul only worshipped the Lord; but for two other reasons: first, That people might not upon pretence of this sentence of rejection immediately withdraw all respect and obedience to their sovereign; whereby they would both have sinned against God, and have been as sheep without a shepherd. Secondly, That he might rectify Saul’s error, and execute God’s judgment upon Agag.
 Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֤וּל אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵל֙ חָטָ֔אתִי כִּֽי־עָבַ֥רְתִּי אֶת־פִּֽי־יְהוָ֖ה וְאֶת־דְּבָרֶ֑יךָ כִּ֤י יָרֵ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וָאֶשְׁמַ֖ע בְּקוֹלָֽם׃  Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֕ה שָׂ֥א נָ֖א אֶת־חַטָּאתִ֑י וְשׁ֣וּב עִמִּ֔י וְאֶֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃  See Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23.  Hebrew: וְאֶֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל לֹ֥א אָשׁ֖וּב עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֤י מָאַ֙סְתָּה֙ אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה וַיִּמְאָסְךָ֣ יְהוָ֔ה מִהְי֥וֹת מֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃  Hebrew: וַיִּסֹּ֥ב שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל לָלֶ֑כֶת וַיַּחֲזֵ֥ק בִּכְנַף־מְעִיל֖וֹ וַיִּקָּרַֽע׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל קָרַ֙ע יְהוָ֜ה אֶֽת־מַמְלְכ֧וּת יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מֵעָלֶ֖יךָ הַיּ֑וֹם וּנְתָנָ֕הּ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ הַטּ֥וֹב מִמֶּֽךָּ׃  That is, the repetition of a word, but with a different signification.  Hebrew: וְגַם֙ נֵ֣צַח יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לֹ֥א יְשַׁקֵּ֖ר וְלֹ֣א יִנָּחֵ֑ם כִּ֣י לֹ֥א אָדָ֛ם ה֖וּא לְהִנָּחֵֽם׃  Hebrew: נֵצַח. נֵצַח is related to the verbal root נָצַח, to be pre-eminent or enduring.  Isaiah 34:10: “It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever (לְנֵ֣צַח נְצָחִ֔ים).”  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר חָטָ֔אתִי עַתָּ֗ה כַּבְּדֵ֥נִי נָ֛א נֶ֥גֶד זִקְנֵֽי־עַמִּ֖י וְנֶ֣גֶד יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְשׁ֣וּב עִמִּ֔י וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֵ֖יתִי לַֽיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃  Hebrew: וַיָּ֥שָׁב שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל אַחֲרֵ֣י שָׁא֑וּל וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ שָׁא֖וּל לַֽיהוָֽה׃