In 1 Samuel 13:8–16, in accordance with the Lord’s Word, Saul was in Gilgal, where he anxiously awaited the passage of the “seven days” (1 Samuel 10:8), and the prophet Samuel’s coming. The king’s obedience to Samuel’s directive to go to Gilgal had likely saved his life since to have remained at Micmash would have meant certain defeat at the hand of the Philistines.
But, Saul’s obedience was only half-way; he had also been directed to wait until Samuel arrived and administrated over the prescribed sacrifices. Since sacrifices were normally offered up twice a day, in the early morning and at twilight (Numbers 28:1–6), Samuel could have arrived at any time on the seventh day and still fulfilled his role in the process. Unfortunately Saul did not give Samuel an opportunity to do so but he offered the “burnt offering” himself. Before the king could offer up the “fellowship offerings,” however, he was interrupted by Samuel’s arrival (1 Samuel 10:10). Saul “went out to bless” the prophet.
Samuel’s terse response was in the form of a question—“What have you done?” (Compare 1 Samuel 13 with Genesis 3:13). Samuel makes clear that the he was not interested in pleasantries. As you would expect, Saul responded to the question defensively, blaming three other parties for his disobedience:
- Saul blamed his soldiers, who “were scattering”;
- Saul blamed Samuel, who “did not come at the set time”;
- Saul blamed the Philistines, who “were assembling at Micmash” (1 Samuel 10:11).
Saul “forced himself” to perform the sacrifice because he feared that the Philistines would attack him before he had “sought the Lord’s favor” (1 Samuel 10:12). It is ironic—and characteristic of Saul’s spiritual dullness—that the king believed he could obtain the Lord’s favor through an act of disobedience.
Samuel brushed aside Saul’s excuses, and condemned the king’s actions as those of a fool. No line of reasoning could ever justify disobedience to the Lord. Saul had disobeyed the Lord’s “command” and had to suffer the penalties. Then Samuel mentioned two consequences resulting from Saul’s disobedience, one with long-range implications and one with immediate implications.
- First, the Lord canceled plans to prosper Saul’s future as king.
- Second and more immediately, God has a new king already in mind. “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people” (1 Samuel 13:14). The term translated as “leader” is the same one used earlier to describe Saul’s present position as king. Unlike Saul, this new leader would be a man “after God’s own heart.”
The events included in the telling of this story serve to create a tragic parallel between Saul and Adam:
- Both men were the heads of their groups;
- Both violated commands given them by the Lord;
- Both were unwilling to take personal responsibility for their actions and blame others.
- Both lost their God given opportunity.
Adam lost the opportunity for sublime and eternal life in the garden, Saul lost the opportunity for an enduring kingdom in the Promised Land. “Samuel left Gilgal” (1 Samuel 13:15), apparently without offering up any of the sacrifices he had come to make.