1 Samuel 15:29
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
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(29) The Strength of Israel will not lie.—This title of the Eternal, here rendered “the Strength of Israel,” would be better rendered the Changeless One of Israel. The Hebrew word is first found in this passage. In later Hebrew, as in 1Chronicles 29:2, it is rendered “glory,” from the Aramaean usage of speech (Keil). Some, less accurately, would translate it here “The Victory,” or “the Triumph of Israel,” will not lie, &c. In the eleventh verse of this chapter we read of the Eternal saying, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king,” while here we find how “the Changeless One (or Strength) of Israel will . . . not repent.” The truth is that with God there is no change. Now He approves of men and their works and days, and promises them rich blessings; now He condemns and punishes the ways and actions of the same men; hence He is said “to repent:” but the change springs alone from a change in the men themselves, not in God. Speaking in human language the Lord is said “to repent” because there was what appeared to be a change in the Eternal counsels.

“One instrument,” well says Dean Payne Smith, “may be laid aside, and another chosen (as was the case of Saul), because God ordains that the instruments by which He works shall be beings endowed with free will.” So God in the case of King Saul—in human language—was said to repent of His choice because, owing to Saul’s deliberate choice of evil, the Divine purposes could not in his case be carried out. Predictions and promises in the Scriptures are never absolute, but are always conditional. Still, God is ever the “Changeless One of Israel.” “The counsel of the Lord stands for ever” (Psalm 33:11). “I am Jehovah; I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

15:24-31 There were several signs of hypocrisy in Saul's repentance. 1. He besought Samuel only, and seemed most anxious to stand right in his opinion, and to gain his favour. 2. He excuses his fault, even when confessing it; that is never the way of a true penitent. 3. All his care was to save his credit, and preserve his interest in the people. Men are fickle and alter their minds, feeble and cannot effect their purposes; something happens they could not foresee, by which their measures are broken; but with God it is not so. The Strength of Israel will not lie.The strength of Israel - A phrase which occurs only here. The word means, perpetuity, truth, glory, victory, and trust, or confidence. 29. the Strength of Israel will not lie—Hebrew, "He that gives a victory to Israel," a further rebuke of his pride in rearing the Carmel trophy, and an intimation that no loss would be sustained in Israel by his rejection. He calls God

the Strength of Israel; partly, to show the reason why God neither will nor can lie; because lying is a weakness, and proceeds from the sense of a man’s weakness, because he cannot many times accomplish his design without lying and dissimulation; which therefore many princes have used for this very reason. But, saith he, God needs no such artifices; he can do whatsoever he pleaseth by his absolute power, and hath no need to use lies to accomplish his will. Partly, to show that Israel should be no loser by Saul’s loss, as he might vainly imagine, because he had saved them from their enemies on every side, 1 Samuel 14:47. For not Saul, but God, was the Strength and Protector of Israel, and he would continue to save them when Saul was lost and gone. And partly, to assure Saul that God would execute this threatening, because he wanted not strength to do it, and none could hinder him in it.

Nor repent, i.e. nor change his counsel; which also is an effect of weakness and imperfection, either of wisdom or power. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent,.... Neither of the evil which he had threatened to Saul in taking away the kingdom from him; nor of the good which he had promised to David in giving it to him; nor of his purpose and promise to Israel to protect and defend them, save and deliver them from the Philistines, and continue them a nation and kingdom: and for the confirmation of all this, this title or character of the Lord is given, "the Strength of Israel"; hence he cannot lie, which is the effect of weakness; nor repent or change his mind, as men do, when something unforeseen arises, which hinders the execution of their first design, and which through weakness they cannot surmount: and hence God would support Israel as a nation, and strengthen them against their enemies, and work deliverance and salvation for them: or "the victory of Israel" (q); the author of Israel's victories, and to whom they are to be ascribed, and who is able to give them more, and would; and as he did especially by David, to whom the kingdom is promised: or "the eternity of Israel" (r); that gives firmness, permanency, and duration to them; all which is true of Israel in a spiritual sense; he gives them spiritual strength, victory over their enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, permanent duration, everlasting salvation, immortality, and eternal life:

for he is not a man, that he should repent; men are weak and feeble, and cannot perform what they purpose or promise, and therefore repent; but God, the Strength of Israel, is able to perform whatever he has purposed or promised, and therefore repents not; men are changeable in their minds, and repent of their first thoughts and designs; but God is unchangeable, and never alters his counsels, breaks his covenant, reverses his blessings, repents of his gifts, nor changes his affections to his Israel. Abarbinel says this may be understood of Saul, and so be given as a reason why God would not repent of the evil he had threatened him with, because he was a man that repented not of his sin; but the first sense is best, and agrees with and is confirmed by Numbers 23:19.

(q) "victoria Israel", Montanus, Vatablus, Piscator; "victor Israelis", Tigurine version. (r) "Aeternitas Israelis", Junius & Tremellius.

And also the {m} Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

(m) Meaning God, who maintains and prefers his own.

29. the Strength of Israel] This word, which occurs here only as a title of God, combines the ideas of stability, permanence, constancy: the Strength or Confidence of Israel does not change as men do.

will not lie nor repent] The words closely resemble Numbers 23:19. There is a verbal contradiction between this utterance and 1 Samuel 15:11, which is usually explained by saying that in 1 Samuel 15:11 the historian uses language according to the manner of men (ἀνθρωποπαθῶς), while here the prophet speaks as befits the nature of God (θεοπρεπῶς). This is only a partial solution. It is precisely because God is unchangeable, that in His dealing with men He must seem to change His action as they change their conduct. This is one aspect of the great problem which runs through all religion, how human free-will can coexist with the Divine Sovereignty. Scripture is content to state both sides of the question, and leave conscience rather than reason to reconcile them.Verse 29. - The Strength - better, as in the margin, the Victory or Triumph - of Israel. He who is Israel's Victory, or He in whom Israel has victory, will not repent. In ver. 11 God was said to repent, because there was what appeared to be a change in the Divine counsels. "God gave Israel a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath" (Hosea 13:11). But such modes of speaking are in condescension to human weakness. Absolutely with God there is no change. He is the Eternal Present, with whom all things that were, and are, and shall be are one. But even looked at from below, as this finite creature man looks at his Maker's acts, there is no change in the Divine counsels, because, amidst all the vicissitudes of human events, God's will moves calmly forward without let or hindrance. No lower or secondary motives influence him, no rival power thwarts him. One instrument may be laid aside, and another chosen, because God ordains that the instruments by which he works shall be beings endowed with free will. Saul was the very counterpart of the Jewish people - highly endowed with noble qualities, but headstrong, self-willed, disobedient. Nevertheless, he laid the foundation for the throne of David, who in so many points was the ideal of the theocratic king; and Israel in like manner prepared the way for the coming of the true Messianic King, and gave mankind the one Catholic, i.e. universal, religion. "He who is Israel's Victory does not repent." Without entering, therefore, into any discussion of the meaning of the ban, as Saul only wanted to cover over his own wrong-doings by giving this turn to the affair, Samuel put a stop to any further excuses, by saying, "Hath Jehovah delight in burnt-offerings and slain-offerings as in hearkening to the voice of Jehovah? (i.e., in obedience to His word.) Behold, hearing (obeying) is better than slain-offerings, attending better than fat of rams." By saying this, Samuel did not reject sacrifices as worthless; he did not say that God took no pleasure in burnt-offerings and slain-offerings, but simply compared sacrifice with obedience to the command of God, and pronounced the latter of greater worth than the former. "It was as much as to say that the sum and substance of divine worship consisted in obedience, with which it should always begin, and that sacrifices were, so to speak, simple appendices, the force and worth of which were not so great as of obedience to the precepts of God" (Calvin). But it necessarily follows that sacrifices without obedience to the commandments of God are utterly worthless; in fact, are displeasing to God, as Psalm 50:8., Isaiah 1:11., Isaiah 66:3, Jeremiah 6:20, and all the prophets, distinctly affirm. There was no necessity, however, to carry out this truth any further. To tear off the cloak of hypocrisy, with which Saul hoped to cover his disobedience, it was quite enough to affirm that God's first demand was obedience, and that observing His word was better than sacrifice; because, as the Berleb. Bible puts it, "in sacrifices a man offers only the strange flesh of irrational animals, whereas in obedience he offers his own will, which is rational or spiritual worship" (Romans 12:8). This spiritual worship was shadowed forth in the sacrificial worship of the Old Testament. In the sacrificial animal the Israelite was to give up and sanctify his own person and life to the Lord. (For an examination of the meaning of the different sacrifices, see Pent. pp. 505ff., and Keil's Bibl Archol. 41ff.) But if this were the design of the sacrifices, it was clear enough that God did not desire the animal sacrifice in itself, but first and chiefly obedience to His own word. In 1 Samuel 15:22, טּוב is not to be connected as an adjective with זבח, "more than good sacrifice," as the Sept. and Thenius render it; it is rather to be taken as a predicate, "better than slain-offerings," and מזּבח is placed first simply for the sake of emphasis. Any contrast between good and bad sacrifices, such as the former construction would introduce into the words, is not only foreign to the context, but also opposed to the parallelism. For אילים חלב does not mean fat rams, but the fat of rams; the fat portions taken from the ram, which were placed upon the altar in the case of the slain-offerings, and for which חלב is the technical expression (compare Leviticus 3:9, Leviticus 3:16, with Leviticus 3:4, Leviticus 3:11, etc.). "For," continued Samuel (1 Samuel 15:23), "rebellion is the sin of soothsaying, and opposition is heathenism and idolatry." מרי and הפצר are the subjects, and synonymous in their meaning. קסם חטּאת, the sin of soothsaying, i.e., of divination in connection with the worship of idolatrous and demoniacal powers. In the second clause idols are mentioned instead of idolatry, and compared to resistance, but without any particle of comparison. Opposition is keeping idols and teraphim, i.e., it is like worshipping idols and teraphim. און, nothingness, then an idol or image (vid., Isaiah 66:3; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5, Hosea 10:8). On the teraphim as domestic and oracular deities, see at Genesis 31:19. Opposition to God is compared by Samuel to soothsaying and oracles, because idolatry was manifested in both of them. All conscious disobedience is actually idolatry, because it makes self-will, the human I, into a god. So that all manifest opposition to the word and commandment of God is, like idolatry, a rejection of the true God. "Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, He hath rejected thee, that thou mayst be no longer king." ממּלך equals מלך מהיוה (1 Samuel 15:26), away from being king.
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