5.11 1 Samuel -- The Fall of Saul

Time passed, but there are gaps in the Biblical account. Perhaps 20 years separate chapters 12 and 13.   But the one constant was -- war with the Philistines.   We have now gone beyond inter-tribal raiding parties.  30,000 Philistine chariots was a colossal force!  Saul assembled his army at Gilgal, but they were "quaking in fear" (1 Sam 13:7).

        

Some critics have noted the 7-day waiting period for Samuel to appear and concluded that this is the same incident as 1 Sam 10:8, when Saul was first anointed king.  There are similarities:  Gilgal, 7 days to wait, sacrifices.  But there is no need to accuse the author of confusing his time-line:

          "To wait on God for 7 days at Gilgal may have been a religious custom among the Israelites of Saul's time," especially when we remember that Samuel went on an annual trek between the three towns of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah  (First Book of Samuel, by D. Tsumura, pp. 340-1).

            In other words, he regularly and repeatedly went to Gilgal.  So it is no stretch to think that Saul may have waited on him there twice over a period of 20 years or more.

         

This time, however, Samuel did not arrive in time, and the people were starting to run away.  Saul dared to offer the sacrifice himself, which was a task reserved for priests.  Saul showed disrespect for the priestly office by assuming he could fill it.  Right after the sacrifice Samuel showed up.  Unlike their first meeting, the words he spoke over Saul were not a blessing but a curse! 

           "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command" (1 Sam 13:14).

          

This was a harsh judgment, even for such a presumptuous sin.  There was no opportunity given for repentance.  This leads to the speculation that this act of Saul's was just "the last straw" in a long line of misdeeds.  Otherwise, why would the judgment include the statement:  "the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart..." ?  The inference is that over the last several years, Saul had not wholeheartedly served God after all.