Although too late, Saul acknowledged that he had “sinned.” Having finally understood the gravity of the prophet’s words, he dropped to his knees, begging Samuel to “forgive [his] sin.” Again, Saul misunderstood that forgiveness was an act that could not be performed by the prophet but only by the Lord himself. Saul also requested that Samuel return with him so that the king could “worship the Lord.”
Samuel rejected Saul’s plea and restated the crucial facts:
- Saul had disobeyed the Lord in a matter of utmost importance,
- Saul had consistently disobeyed the Lord on previous occasions,
- And the Lord had now rejected him as king.
As Samuel “turned to leave,” Saul grabbed the “hem” of his robe. The Torah required tassels to be on the robe as symbolic reminders of all of the Lord’s commands. It was likely the tassel that Saul actually grabbed. When Saul “tore” the corner tassel from Samuel’s robe, he dramatically symbolized his breach of the Lord’s command. Samuel immediately picked up on the significance of Saul’s act and marked God’s divine rejection. Though Saul might continue to act as Israel’s king, “one better,” more careful than Saul to keep the Lord’s commands, was being given to the kingdom of Israel.
Saul had shown that he was spiritually hopeless. His punishment would not be altered. Though the Lord “was grieved,” He would not “change his mind.” Words of judgment spoken against Saul by an eternal God would stand unchanged forever.
Saul, desperate to retain his position of authority over the people, repeated and expanded begging Samuel. He begged again for Samuel come with him and “honor” him before Israel. Surprizingly, “Samuel went back with Saul.” Saul kept his word and “worshiped the Lord.” Saul was able to maintain the appearance of an undamaged relationship with the Lord.
Since Saul was not permitted to complete the task given to him by God, the elderly Samuel did. As one charged with the responsibility of carrying out the Lord’s judgments, Samuel did what Saul would not do. Samuel “put Agag to death before the Lord.”