1 Samuel 15:17
And Samuel said, When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed you king over Israel?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) When thou wast little in thine own sight.—Kimchi’s rendering of the Hebrew here is singular: “Though thou seemest to thyself too little and weak to curb the people, yet wast thou the head, and shouldest have done thy duty;” but this, as Lange observes, would imply that Samuel had accepted Saul’s excuse that it was the people’s will to reserve the choicest spoil. The prophet’s words, however, were simply to remind Saul that the Lord, whose clearly expressed will he had disregarded, had raised him in bygone days from a comparatively humble station to the proud position he was then occupying as chief of Israel. The old counsellor reminds the king that there had been a time when he judged himself unequal to this great work to which his God summoned him; but now, how strange the contrast! Flushed with success, he was trusting alone in his unaided strength, and openly disobeying the Divine commands.

15:10-23 Repentance in God is not a change of mind, as it is in us, but a change of method. The change was in Saul; He is turned back from following me. Hereby he made God his enemy. Samuel spent a whole night in pleading for Saul. The rejection of sinners is the grief of believers: God delights not in their death, nor should we. Saul boasts to Samuel of his obedience. Thus sinners think, by justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord. The noise the cattle made, like the rust of the silver, Jas 5:3, witnessed against him. Many boast of obedience to the command of God; but what means then their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their angry and unkind spirit, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness against them? See of what evil covetousness is the root; and see what is the sinfulness of sin, and notice that in it which above any thing else makes it evil in the sight of the Lord; it is disobedience: Thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord. Carnal, deceitful hearts, like Saul, think to excuse themselves from God's commandments by what pleases themselves. It is hard to convince the children of disobedience. But humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all burnt-offering and sacrifices. God is more glorified and self more denied, by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be burned upon the altar, than to bring every high thought into obedience to God, and to make our will subject to his will. Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men, who are not willing that God should rule over them.Samuel now acquiesces in the wisdom and justice of the sentence which 1 Samuel 15:11 he had so strenuously resisted at first. What before was known only to the Searcher of hearts, had now been displayed to Samuel by Saul himself. 13-23. Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord—Saul was either blinded by a partial and delusive self-love, or he was, in his declaration to Samuel, acting the part of a bold and artful hypocrite. He professed to have fulfilled the divine command, and that the blame of any defects in the execution lay with the people. Samuel saw the real state of the case, and in discharge of the commission he had received before setting out, proceeded to denounce his conduct as characterized by pride, rebellion, and obstinate disobedience. When Saul persisted in declaring that he had obeyed, alleging that the animals, whose bleating was heard, had been reserved for a liberal sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, his shuffling, prevaricating answer called forth a stern rebuke from the prophet. It well deserved it—for the destination of the spoil to the altar was a flimsy pretext—a gross deception, an attempt to conceal the selfishness of the original motive under the cloak of religious zeal and gratitude. Little in thine own sight, i.e. modest, humble, and submissive, as 1 Samuel 9:21 10:22; whereby he implies that now he was grown proud, and stubborn, and impudent, both to commit sin and justify it. And Samuel said, when thou wast little in thine own sight,.... Humble and lowly, and had a mean opinion of himself, his family and tribe, and judged himself unworthy of the kingdom; see 1 Samuel 9:21 suggesting, that now he was proud and haughty, and would have his own will and way:

wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel; not of his own tribe only, which was the least, but of all the tribes, and so they were all subject to him, and at his command:

and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel; all which is observed, partly to point out unto him the high honour he was raised unto, from a low estate, which laid him under obligation to serve the Lord, and obey him; and partly as an answer to him, excusing himself, and laying the blame upon the people; whereas seeing he was made king over them, his business was to rule and govern them, guide and direct them in the right way, and restrain them from that which was evil; and since he was anointed by the Lord, and not by the people, he ought to have obeyed him, and not regarded the pleasure of them.

And Samuel said, When thou wast {g} little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

(g) Meaning, of base condition as in 1Sa 9:21.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. When thou wast little] Is it not the case that though thou wast little in thine own eyes, thou hast been made head of the tribes of Israel? There is a reference to Saul’s own words of astonishment that he should be chosen as king (1 Samuel 9:21). The prophet desires to remind him that as his elevation came solely from God, obedience was due to God. There is a curious tradition preserved in the Targum, that Saul’s elevation was a reward for the courage of the tribe of Benjamin at the passage of the Red Sea, when they sought to pass over first.Verse 17. - When - rather, Though - thou wast little in thine own sight. Before his elevation to the royal dignity Saul had deemed himself altogether unequal to so heavy a task (1 Samuel 9:21); now, after great military successes, he is filled with arrogance, and will rule in open defiance of the conditions upon which Jehovah had appointed him to the office The word of the Lord came to Samuel: "It repenteth me that I have made Saul king, for he hath turned away from me, and not set up (carried out) my word." (On the repentance of God, see the remarks on Genesis 6:6.) That this does not express any changeableness in the divine nature, but simply the sorrow of the divine love at the rebellion of sinners, is evident enough from 1 Samuel 15:29. יי מאחרי שׁוּב, to turn round from following God, in order to go his own ways. This was Saul's real sin. He would no longer be the follower and servant of the Lord, but would be absolute ruler in Israel. Pride arising from the consciousness of his own strength, led him astray to break the command of God. What more God said to Samuel is not communicated here, because it could easily be gathered and supplied from what Samuel himself proceeded to do (see more particularly 1 Samuel 15:16.). In order to avoid repetitions, only the principal feature in the divine revelation is mentioned here, and the details are given fully afterwards in the account of the fulfilment of the instructions. Samuel was deeply agitated by this word of the Lord. "It burned (in) him," sc., wrath (אף, compare Genesis 31:36 with Genesis 30:2), not on account of the repentance to which God had given utterance at having raised up Saul as king, nor merely at Saul's disobedience, but at the frustration of the purpose of God in calling him to be king in consequence of his disobedience, from which he might justly dread the worst results in relation to the glory of Jehovah and his own prophetic labours.

(Note: "Many grave thoughts seem to have presented themselves at once to Samuel and disturbed his mind, when he reflected upon the dishonour which might be heaped upon the name of God, and the occasion which the rejection and deposition of Saul would furnish to wicked men for blaspheming God. For Saul had been anointed by the ministry of Samuel, and he had been chosen by God himself from all the people, and called by Him to the throne. If, therefore, he was nevertheless deposed, it seemed likely that so much would be detracted from the authority of Samuel and the confidence of the people in his teaching, and, moreover, that the worship of God would be overturned, and the greatest disturbance ensue; in fact, that universal confusion would burst upon the nation. These were probably the grounds upon which Samuel's great indignation rested." - Calvin.)

The opinion that ל יחר is also used to signify deep distress cannot be established from 2 Samuel 4:8. "And he cried to Jehovah the whole night," sc., praying for Saul to be forgiven. But it was in vain. This is evident from what follows, where Samuel maintains the cause of his God with strength and decision, after having wrestled with God in prayer.

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