1 Samuel Chapter 13

Saul had been called by the Lord, to be the king of the Israelite people. He lived in a time when the Israelites were largely following after their own wisdom and not living according to the will of the Lord. In the beginning of his rule, Saul had delivered the people from the hands of the Ammonites. He had not boasted of himself, but had done what he could to remind the people that their deliverance had come the Lord. This chapter begins:

1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.
4 And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.

Saul had been the king for two years, when he chose 3,000 men as soldiers. The rest of the army were allowed to return to their homes. Jonathan, his son, was over 1,000 of the soldiers in Gibeah. They smote the Philistine soldiers that had been in Geba. The Philistines got word of this. Saul made the sound of the trumpet heard in all the land, that they would know that a garrison of the Philistines had been smitten. The people were called to gather in Gilgal.

5 And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven.
6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
7 And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

A Philistine army gathered in Michmash, with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and a host of men to fight. The Israelites were worried. Those in or near that area hid themselves or fled to Gilead in the land of Gad. Saul remained in Gilgal, but the people with him were scared.

8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.

He waited for Samuel for seven days, which was when they had planned to meet there. I think that this was probably a yearly ritual and sacrifice, which they went through in order to follow the law of Moses. It may have been close to the anniversary of his becoming king over Israel. Samuel did not come. The people began to leave him, so Saul decided to make a burnt offering himself instead of waiting for Samuel any longer. He was the king, and could probably make demands that things be done his own way, rather than strictly following the tradition of sacrifices which had been followed for many years. After making the sacrifice, Samuel arrived, and Saul went to meet him.

11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.
15 And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.
16 And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.

Samuel asked Saul what he had done. Saul explained his reasons for making an offering to the Lord, including worry that he would not have been able to perform sacrifices before being attacked by the Philistines. Saul told Samuel that he had taken it upon himself to make the offering, as if he could give himself the priesthood authority to do so. Samuel told him that he made a poor decision when he did this, and that it went against the commandment of the Lord. If he had been faithful in the commandments, the Lord would have been with him in his continued leadership in Israel. But now, Saul was given the promise that his kingdom would not continue and that the Lord would call another to lead Israel. Saul was left with 600 of the men, including Jonathan, when he left Gilgal and went to Gibeah. Meanwhile, the Philistines were still camped against them.

17 And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual:
18 And another company turned the way to Beth-horon: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

The Philistines sent companies of men toward Ophrah, Beth-horon, and the border towards Zeboim.

19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
20 But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
21 Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
22 So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.

While under the oppression of the Philistines, the Israelites were not allowed to have any blacksmith. This was to prevent them from making any swords or spears. Instead they would have to go into the land of the Philistines to have their tools made and sharpened. Therefore, when the battle was upon them, the army of Saul did not have any swords or spears with them. As this chapter ends, the Philistines were prepared to fight them.

One thing I learn from this chapter, is that Saul had a good intention with his desire to sacrifice to the Lord. I believe it was so that they would have the Lord on their side during the upcoming battle against their enemy. However, he made the sacrifice and offering in a manner that was not authorized by God. Even though his desires were not entirely bad, he went against the strict rules given to them regarding who was to make sacrifices. Without the authority of the priesthood in the ritual of sacrifice, it was not only incorrect, but evil in the sight of God. This reminds me of the first mortal conflict we learn of in the bible. In the story of Cain and Able, the people had been commanded to make sacrifices. Even at that point there were guidelines to adhere to, and Cain had the good desire to give a sacrifice. But in his choices regarding that sacrifice to God, he did not follow the instructions for an acceptable offering. Therefore, his sacrifice was not accepted by God and consequences followed. We are not immune to making the same kinds of mistakes in our own lives. There are many opportunities when one might desire to do something good, but like Cain and Saul, should not change the established pattern or take the responsibility on themselves. God is a god of order, and He has asked that his ordinances and laws be followed strictly, in part, so that they are done correctly and completely. This allows us the opportunity to take full advantage of the blessings that should come as a result, rather than for us to be held accountable for the covenants we make, without the fullness of His blessings upon us.

I knew a group of girls once, who innocently did something a lot like this story of Saul. It was a group of young LDS (Latter-day Saints) girls who were on a school trip away from home. It was on a Sunday, and they were unable to attend church. They decided that they would have their own sacrament meeting where they were staying and the group of them took it upon themselves to bless and administer the sacrament. These girls were young and did not have the knowledge and understanding for this to be considered evil, but it was incorrect. They did not have the priesthood. Without the priesthood authority they did not have the ability to follow after the pattern that the Lord has established for the ordinance of the Sacrament. The intention was good, but it was not a good choice. I don’t know the outcome, but I am sure there was a lesson to be learned about the ordinances of the priesthood. This is an simple example of how these things can happen in our own lives.

With regard to the priesthood, modern revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 121:39, teaches us, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” How does this apply to Saul? He was the ruler of Israel. He had dominion over the people and was an example of how they should live. He would have been taught the proper order of the ordinances and statutes related to offerings and sacrifices. It is very possible he knew of the ancient story of Cain as well. Saul knew that he was stepping outside of his authority, and yet he did so in order to get his personal desired result. In doing this, he forfeited the blessings of God upon his leadership. In a way Saul was putting his own judgement and wisdom before God. How does this apply to us? We forfeit the blessings promised to us, when we put our own wisdom before the wisdom of the Lord. When we participate in the ordinances and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must do it in the manner which the Lord has established. When we follow the pattern established by the Lord, we can receive the fullness of His blessings in our lives.

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.

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