And Samuel said, Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.—In this answer it would seem that the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Samuel, and that he here gave utterance to one of those rapt expressions which now and again in the course of each of these Hebrew prophets’ lives these famous men were commissioned by the Divine power to give out to their fellows. The words of Samuel here were reproduced, or at least referred to, by other prophets and teachers of the old dispensation; for example, see Psalm 50:8-14; Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20; Micah 6:6-8; Hosea 6:6. Our Lord himself, in His words recorded in Matt. ix, 13, if not actually referring to this passage, makes substantially the same declaration.
Irenæus, Haer. 4:32 (quoted by Wordsworth), sees in this great saving of Samuel’s a plain intimation that the day would come when the burnt offerings enjoined on Israel would give place to a simple worship of the heart. Wordsworth also quotes a weighty comment from St. Gregory (Moral. 35:10): “In sacrifices (per victimas) a man offers only strange flesh, whereas in obedience he offers his own will.”1 Samuel 15:22. Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice — A most divine admonition this, and inculcated by all the following inspired writers, by David, Solomon, and the prophets; as the reader may see by consulting the margin. Obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness; and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner. Therefore thy gross disobedience to God’s express command is not to be compensated with sacrifice. To hearken — That is, to obey. The fat of rams — Then the choicest part of all the sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15:22.To what purpose shall frankincense be brought unto me from Sabah?
Or the rich aromatic reed from a far country?
Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable,To obey is better than sacrifice, because obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness; and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner; therefore thy gross disobedience to God’s express command is not to be compensated with sacrifice.
To hearken, i.e. to obey, as hearing is oft used in Scripture. Than the fat of rams; than the choicest part of all the sacrifice, to wit, the fat, which was appropriated to God, Leviticus 3:16; whereas the offerer might partake of other parts of it.
hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? no, certainly, the one being merely ceremonial, the other moral; the one supposes sin committed, for which sacrifice is offered; the other moral, and is a compliance with the will of God, and is neither sinful, nor supposes anything sinful, and therefore must be the more acceptable:
behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams; which always was claimed by the Lord as his right and due; or the fattest rams or best sacrifices, of whatever sort, whether burnt offerings, or sin offerings, or peace offerings; for had man obeyed the will of God, and not sinned, there would have been no need of sacrifice; and that was only acceptable to God when offered with a heart truly sensible of sin, and penitent for it, and in the faith of the great sacrifice of Christ, of which all sacrifices under the law were typical, and led unto.And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. With a burst of prophetic inspiration Samuel rends asunder Saul’s tissue of excuses, and lays bare his sin. His words are the key-note of the long remonstrance of the prophets in subsequent ages against the too common error of supposing that external ceremonial can be of any value in the sight of God when separated from the true devotion of the worshipper’s heart which it symbolizes. See Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 50:8 ff; Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7. The rhythmical form of the original adds force and solemnity.Verses 22, 23. - The rebuke of Samuel contains one of those pregnant sayings which mark the high moral tone of the teaching of the prophets, and soon became a fundamental principle with them. To obey is better than sacrifice is a dictum reproduced by Hosea (Hosea 6:6), the most ancient of those prophets of Israel whose lessons have been preserved in writing; it is referred to in still earlier psalms (see Psalm 50:13-14; Psalm 51:16, 17); by other prophets (Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20; Micah 6:6, 8); and finally received our Lord's special approbation (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7). It asserts in the clearest terms the superiority of moral to ritual worship, and that God can only be really served with the heart. Witchcraft is in the Hebrew divination, a sin always strongly condemned in the Old Testament. Iniquity literally means nothingness, and so is constantly used for "an idol;" and this must be its signification here, as the word coupled with it, and rendered idolatry, is really teraphim. These were the Hebrew household gods, answering to the Roman Lares, and were supposed to bring good luck. Their worship, we see from this place, was strictly forbidden. The verse, therefore, means, "For rebellion is the sin of divination (i.e. is equal to it in wickedness), and obstinacy (i.e. intractableness) is an idol and teraphim." Samuel thus accuses Saul of resistance to Jehovah's will, and of the determination at all hazards to be his own master. With this temper of mind he could be no fit representative of Jehovah, and therefore Samuel dethrones him. Henceforward he reigns only as a temporal, and no longer as the theocratic, king. 1 Samuel 9:21), thou didst become head of the tribes of Israel? and Jehovah anointed thee king over Israel, and Jehovah sent thee on the way, and said, Go and ban the sinners, the Amalekites, and make war against them, until thou exterminatest them. And wherefore hast thou nor hearkened to the voice of Jehovah, and hast fallen upon the booty," etc.? (תּעט, see at 1 Samuel 14:32.)
Even after this Saul wanted to justify himself, and to throw the blame of sparing the cattle upon the people.
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