Punishment of Saul Conveys God’s Promise

Saul Violates Separation of State and Worship

Saul was punished swiftly with termination of his kingdom over Israel when he violated a principle of separation of state and worship. The punishment conveys a promise of God’s intervention to provide relief against a government that violates his principles. He provided principles to guide performance of individual responsibilities in government versus people relationships. Any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing. Therefore, it is important to remain faithful and committed to Godliness even in the event of ‘bad’ government. The people must believe God and rely on him to guide interactions with the government.

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The separation of state and worship (see previous study under Separation of State and Worship) introduces two principles in people versus government relationships. First, government does not have authority to regulate worship, therefore, has no role in a person’s relationship with God. Second, God establishes a hierarchy of worship leadership (referred to as the clergy in modern-day societies) independent of state authority. The clergy is self-regulating and determines the training and qualification requirements for its membership. A king (or any other person in rulership position) is not a member of the clergy unless duly qualified by the appropriate regulatory authority.

Apparition of spirit of Samuel to Saul
Apparition of spirit of Samuel to Saul
wikipedia.org

King Saul violated both principles. He violated the second principle first when he assumed the authority of the clergy to lead burnt offering. He was supposed to wait for Prophet Samuel but “…felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” [1 Samuel 13:12] because he was overcome by fear of the apparently superior Philistine army. He believed that the kingship conferred on him the authority to lead offering, which was a violation of the second principle of separation of state and worship. Samuel rebuked Saul and informed him God will terminate his kingdom because he disobeyed the principle [1 Samuel 13:13–14]: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue.”

Saul was not penitent after the violation and punishment because he went on to violate the first principle in a subsequent incident. The violation was that he failed to respect clergy independence. He was suspicious of an interaction between David and the priest of Nob, Ahimelek; assumed authority to interrogate the interaction; passed judgment against the clergy; and executed the judgment. On that day, he massacred 85 priests and destroyed their city, having accused one of them of conspiring against him with David [1 Samuel 22:13]: “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword, and have inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as it is this day?”

Punishment in Hungary
Punishment in Hungary
wikipedia.org

We discuss Saul’s violation of the principles of separation of state and worship and his punishment for the violation. The punishment was swift and conveys a promise that God will provide relief against a ruler that disobeys his principles. The events provide two lessons regarding people versus government relationships. First, the principles of separation of state and worship are commandments of God. He frowns at any person that disobeys his commandments. Second, God has provided principles to guide performance of individual responsibilities in government versus people relationships. Any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing.

Saul Usurps Priesthood Authority

Saul’s first violation occurred at Gilgal. The people of Israel had gathered there, summoned by Saul to setup for a battle against the Philistines. However, they appeared over-matched in number and equipment and became fearful of the Philistines. Some abandoned Saul to protect themselves: “When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits” [1 Samuel 13:6]. Saul remained determined but waited for Samuel to lead them in prayer and sacrifice first. When Samuel did not arrive after seven days, Saul lost patience and decided to lead the sacrifice. He performed the role of priest in offering sacrifice to prepare for the battle [1 Samuel 13:9]: “So Saul said, ‘Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.’ And he offered the burnt offering.”

However, Samuel arrived soon after and rebuked Saul for performing the role of the priesthood. Saul had assumed that he could substitute for Samuel. He was overcome by fear of the Philistines and believed he needed to do something to retain the men that were still with him. He believed his authority as king covered whatever he needed to do, including leading the people in sacrifice to prepare for a battle [1 Samuel 13:11–12]: “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” In contrast, Samuel understood that Saul’s action of leading sacrifice violated a principle of separation of state and worship.

SAUL’S KINGDOM TERMINATED Samuel rebuked Saul and pronounced his punishment for the violation: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you…” [1 Samuel 13:13]. He informed Saul that God had intended to establish his kingdom over Israel forever but will now terminate the kingdom because of the violation [1 Samuel 13:13-14]: “…For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” His kingdom will be terminated, i.e., his offspring will not succeed him as king of Israel; because he assumed that the authority of king extended over worship; thus, violated a principle of separation of state and worship.

Saul Massacres Priests

Saul ordered massacre of priests at Nob to punish what he construed as a conspiracy against him. He had received a report that the priest of Nob Ahimelek prayed for David and provided him with food and weapon as David escaped from Saul.

Massacre of the innocents
Massacre of the innocents
wikipedia.org

He interrogated Ahimelek; pronounced him guilty of conspiracy; and ordered his mercenary, Doeg the Edomite, to execute Ahimelek and the other priests. Doeg killed eight-five priests that day and destroyed the city of Nob [1 Samuel 22:18-19]: “So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck the priests, and killed on that day eighty-five men who wore a linen ephod. Also Nob, the city of the priests, he struck with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and donkeys and sheep—with the edge of the sword.”

The event was Saul’s second violation of the separation of state and worship and indicated he had no remorse for his first violation and the punishment he received as a result. In this incident, he imposed his authority on the priesthood by interrogating Ahimelek’s interactions with David, passing judgment over the priests, and executing the judgment. Ahimelek had explained to him that his interaction with David was consistent with normal conduct in the relationship between a priest and worshiper [1 Samuel 22:15]: “Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.” However, Ahimelek’s assertion of priestly privilege did not persuade Saul. He passed judgment and ordered the massacre.

Promise in Saul’s Punishment

The swift punishment of Saul through termination of his kingdom conveys a promise from God the he will provide relief against a ruler that violates his principles. God promises to intervene in the event of bad government. He will intervene at his chosen time in his chosen way.

Portrait of modern-day prison
Portrait of modern-day prison
wikipedia.org

The promise means God is aware of how individuals participate in people versus government relationships. He has provided basic principles to guide how government leaders perform their responsibilities and how the rest of the people perform theirs. He frowns at those that violate his principles and will judge them accordingly. Government leaders that violate the principles will be punished for their violation, at his time and in his way. Also, any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing. Therefore, we have to remain faithful and committed to Godliness even in the event of ‘bad’ government. The people must believe God and rely on him to guide interactions with such government as they seek lawful and Godly ways to contend with or rise in opposition against the government.

Summary of What We Learned

Saul was punished swiftly with termination of his kingdom over Israel when he violated a principle of separation of state and worship. The punishment conveys a promise of God’s intervention to provide relief against a government that violates his principles. He provided principles to guide performance of individual responsibilities in government versus people relationships. Any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing. Therefore, it is important to remain faithful and committed to Godliness even in the event of ‘bad’ government. The people must believe God and rely on him to guide interactions with the government.

More Information

Please watch this bible study on video at VIDEO_LINK , listen to or download the audio at AUDIO_LINK . You can also download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation from PDF_LINK.

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