1 Samuel 13

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Read 1 Samuel 13

Samuel Rebukes Saul

1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty- two years.

Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.

Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.

Israel Without Weapons

16 Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash. 17 Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, 18 another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboyim facing the wilderness.

19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening plow points and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.

22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

Jonathan Attacks the Philistines

23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash.

Go Deeper

It would be easy for the casual reader to miss just how important this chapter is in the story of Israel. 1 Samuel 13 involves a poorly timed sacrifice and a description of Saul’s soldiers paying to sharpen their weapons. What’s the big deal? This chapter is important because it marks a turning point in who God would and wouldn’t use to advance His Kingdom. It is also the first of many missteps in Saul’s leadership. The characteristics He’s looking for in a leader here in 1 Samuel 13 are the exact same that He’s looking for today. In order to be used by God, we’d be wise to learn from Saul’s mistakes in this chapter.

 For context, Samuel had ordered Saul to wait for him in Gilgal as Samuel would soon come to offer a sacrifice before the army went to battle. However, a few days passed and Saul started to get anxious. He examined the situation and realized that his soldiers were antsy, his enemy was nearby, and Samuel was still nowhere to be found. Since his circumstances did not look like they were unfolding according to plan, he decided to take control. Saul quickly took the offering and burned it before God to attempt to get His blessing. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. Saul’s actions here were sinful. First, Saul plainly disobeyed Samuel’s orders. Second, Saul was a king, not a priest, and only priests were to offer sacrifices. From this moment on, God removed His blessing on Saul.

 So what mistake did Saul make? It came down to the way he made decisions. His sin came from the 3 dangerous “I’s.” In verses 11 and 12, Saul explained to Samuel why he rushed the sacrifice and he said he made the sacrifice because, “I saw,” “I thought,” and “I felt.” How many times have you fallen into sin because you followed what you saw, thought, or felt? God is not looking for us to make decisions based on what we think is right. In fact, obedience will routinely require us to willingly lay down our own desires to follow God’s. While God was searching for a man after His own heart (v. 14), Saul was only in tune with his own and it resulted in his disobedience. So today let’s ask what God sees, what God thinks, and what God feels about our situation. When we sit back and listen, we will begin to let Him lead us rather than hoping he’ll follow us.


  1. What did you notice about Saul in this chapter?
  2. How does this chapter affect the way you understand God?
  3. Do you most often fall into sin because you follow what you see, think, or feel? How can you begin to let God’s desires take precedent over your own?

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4 thoughts on “1 Samuel 13”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    Samuel’s warning to Israel in the last verse of chapter 12, “However, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away” becomes a reality in our reading today. Saul’s failure as a leader is exposed with his poor choices, most notably offering a sacrifice that was not his privilege to do so. God will not allow direct disregard of his commands then or now. Saul will continue to self-destruct reaching low points in his leadership as king. His army dwindles to nothing leaving the Israelites vulnerable to enemy attack in numbers and weapons. As a result the kingdom is stripped from Saul’s family line and given to another who is loyal to God. Today, I will remember that God is holy and his ways are perfect. My selfish, pride-filled heart can and will lead me astray every time I follow it. Ignoring His ways and then making excuses is lame and unacceptable. However, as a believer there is always forgiveness in Christ as I repent and turn from evil, even though consequences will come, my heart can be realigned to His. There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience. (French proverb)

  2. In verse 11 Samuel ask Saul, “What have you done?” Samuel already knew the answer. He just wanted Saul to own up to his mistakes. However Saul listed what he thought were good reasons for his actions. He had learned how to rationalize his failures. I remember, as a child, hearing those words from my mother, “What HAVE you done?” I knew I had messed up. No amount of explanation would help….just own up and accept the consequences. Saul an adult, a leader, an anointed King was brought down low that day hearing Samuel’s words, “You have done a foolish thing.” If only Saul would have waited and trusted God instead of taking things into his own hands. I want to have the faith to wait on the Lord and trust Him.

  3. I like the last sentence of the Go Deeper section of this study where it states “When we sit back and listen, we begin to let him lead us rather than hope he’ll follow us.” So often I have done this in my own life. It really is about trusting what the Lord has spoken and standing on it. Help me, Lord, to be immoveable in my faith in your Word.

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