Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,6. The First Failure of Saul and Its Results
1. The failure of Saul (1Samuel 13:1-9)
2. Samuel’s sentence (1Samuel 13:10-14)
3. Israel’s deplorable condition (1Samuel 13:15-23)
Omit the first verse of this chapter as it does not belong into the text. In self-confidence Saul has dismissed the greater part of the people; only 2000 remained with him and 1000 with his son Jonathan. Saul is now passing through a test. Hath he true faith which counts and depends on God? Is he obedient to His word as given by the prophet? Jonathan appears here for the first time. His name means “the Lord hath given.” He is the opposite from his poor father; the son is a man of real faith and zeal for God. In smiting the garrison of the Philistines he manifested that faith. He counted on God and in dependence on Him he acted. And what did Saul do? “And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, let the Hebrews hear.” It was not the action of faith but the result of his own proud heart. Significant it is that he avoids the word Israel. The Lord never speaks of “My people the Hebrews,” their original, national name; it is always “My people Israel.” He leaves out the God of Israel. It all reveals the character of Saul. Then Saul gets the credit of having smitten the garrison of the Philistines, and when they gathered in all their strength the people are paralysed by fear, and instead of advancing in the name of Jehovah they seek the caves, the thickets, the rocks, the high places and the pits. And some of the Hebrews even crossed the Jordan. Saul remains in these demoralized conditions at Gilgal, followed by some of the people trembling. It is all unbelief; like king, like people. They fear the Philistines and distrust Jehovah. And Saul at Gilgal! He might have remembered the captain of the Lord’s hosts and sought His presence and help. All shows the chosen king knew not the Lord. Samuel’s word to him (chapter 10:8) was not forgotten by Saul. He waits, but not long enough. The test is on. The people stay a few days and then begin to scatter. They have no faith; neither has the king. True faith waits on God and trusts in Him. Faith knows that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Saul makes an outward effort to be obedient, while in his soul he knows no subjection to the Lord and to His way. At last the breaking point is reached. He intrudes into the priestly office. The burnt offering, without any meaning under these circumstances, is brought by Saul and immediately after, perhaps before the seven days had fully expired, Samuel appears.
The king’s own words reveal once more his character and they are his condemnation. He was tested and the test revealed a heart which did not fear the Lord, had no confidence in Him and is disobedient to His word. And Samuel delivers his message. Sentence is pronounced. Another, a man after the Lord’s own heart, is to take his place. And the deplorable condition of Israel! The Philistines speak also of them as Hebrews. Instead of being dependent upon the Lord for everything, they were the slaves of their oppressors, dependent upon them. This is the place into which unbelief can put the people of God.