Monday, December 3, 2012

XCV - I Samuel 14:24 - 15:35 - Saul's Hasty Decisions

Saul and Israel have just won a great victory against a huge Philistine army.  This should have been a time of celebration and thanksgiving.  But we're going to see Saul make some very costly mistakes in this post.
Chapter 14:24  -  Saul sensed an opportunity to perhaps wipe out the Philistine army once and for all.  But he became thoughtless toward his army of brave men.  Saul urged his army forward toward the fleeing Philistines.  So anxious was he that he commanded his soldiers to not even stop to eat.  {A leader who becomes so obsessed with an objective that he disregards the welfare of his followers is doomed to failure.}  He even went so far as to pronounce a curse on anyone who ate.  {Please note what was said in the last post about poor communication within an army in those days.}  Saul's son
Jonathan did not hear the command and ate some honey (vs 26).  Jonathan was immediately revived by the honey.  Then someone told Jonathan about his father's command and the curse that was carried with it.  Jonathan said it would have been better to let the soldiers eat to gain strength, making them more fit for a more decisive victory.  That same day, after furthering their victory over groups of Philistines, the Israelite soldiers were so hungry that they captured the livestock of the Philistines,
killed and ate the raw meat (vss 31-33).  When Saul heard of this he commanded them to bring the livestock to the camp and cook it properly.  (It was unlawful for an Israelite to eat meat with the blood still in it.)  {We see here an evolving Saul.  Saul was very knowledgable of the Law.  He had everthing it took to be a GREAT leader, but he begins to make a lot of mistakes.  He had already be rebuked by Samuel for taking liberties going ahead of the Lord.  Perhaps he was afflicted with the
proverbial "drunk with power" syndrome.}

Saul wanted to continue the battle into the night, but the priests could not get an immediate answer from the Lord as to the direction Saul was to take.  Saul was again anxious to continue his attack on the Philistines, and his men were in agreement.  Saul came to the conclusion that God was witholding His answer because someone had sinned.  So he called for an assembly of the leaders in order to find out who was at guilt.  He did it properly, using the Urim and Thummim.  So zealous was Saul that he vowed to punish the offender, even if it was his own son.  The casting of the lots pointed directly to
Jonathan as the one who disobeyed Saul's commandment not to eat.  When Saul saw this he was furious (maybe at himself), and asked Jonathan what he did.  Jonathan confessed to eating the honey, and offered himself to be put to death.  But the men of Israel (they considered Jonathan a brave and mighty warrior) insisted that Jonathan be spared.  Saul honored their intervention (vs 45).

Chapter 14 turns to a brief summary.  {In the writing of History among Israel and other nations, "updates" summarizing a king's life to date was a very common practice.}  It states clearly that after this incident with Jonathan that Saul and his army retreated to their homes.  But goes on to tell that Saul and Israel continued to fight against the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines.  It states that he defeated the Amalekites in particular, which probably
meant that he was able to wipe them out completely.

The following verses tell of Saul's family:  His wife Ahinoam.  His three sons, Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki-Shua.  His two daughters, Merab and Michal.  It also names the commander of his army, Abner, who was a close cousin to Saul.

In the final verse of this chapter it says that although Saul defeated many of Israel's enemies, he was unable to defeat the Philistines totaly.  {I wonder what the world would be like today if he had defeated the Philistines as he did the Amalekites.}

Chapter 15 - God Rejects Saul

A few years after Saul's defeat of the Philistines, Samual appeared to Saul with some specific insructions from the Lord (vs 1).  Vss 2 and 3 says that it is time to avenge Israel against the Amalekites.  {Reminder:  When Moses wanted to go through the land of Amalek on his way from the Sinai Peninsula to the Promised Land, the Amalekites made Moses and the Israelites to go hundreds of miles out of their way southward, eastward, then finaly northward, having to enter the Promised Land from the east side of the Jordan River.  I mentioned many months ago that God was going to make them pay for this cruelty.  Now the time has come.}  Saul was to muster his forces and march on Amalek and utterly destroy them.  Samual specificly mentions all men, women, children, infants, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.  The term "utterly destroy" always meant that no spoils were to be taken, as in normal warfare.  {This of course seems harsh, but that was God's judgement on the people who had made themselves a stumbling block to Moses and God's people.}  Note that here again in verse 4 that Judah is mentioned separately from the rest of Israel.  One must read a few Books ahead to understand the significance of this.  Look at vss 7-9.  Saul spared Agag the king and allowed his men to take the "best" of the livestock as spoils of war.  This was direct disobedience to God.  Samuel heard of this and he was angry.  {Not only did Samuel realize that Saul was
disrespecting God, but was also disrespecting Samuel himself as God's messenger.  Samuel warned of this being a constant threat of having a king.  The king was never to assume authority over God or the Priesthood.}  Saul tried to defend himself to Samuel, but his reasoning was lame.  Look closely at verse 22:  "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king."  Saul knows that Samuel was correct in everything he ever says.  And Saul knew that God was powerful and absolute.  Saul tried to correct the situation by bringing Agag to Samuel's presense and slay him.  But Samuel did that himself.

The last two verses of this chapter 15 is very telling of the near future for Israel and Saul.  Samuel and Saul went their separate ways after this episode and they never met again, although Samuel mourned for Saul. And it says again that "the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel".

In the next post we are introduced to the man I always thought of as one of God's favorites:  David

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