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1 and 2 Samuel Rising of the Kings

King Saul’s Disobedience & Demise

1 Samuel 15

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell

Introductory | The Crisis (1 Samuel 15:1-3) | The Response (1 Samuel 15:4-9)
The Test (1 Samuel 15:10-15) | The Excuse (1 Samuel 15:16-23)
The Confession (1 Samuel 15:24-31) | The Future (1 Samuel 15:32-35)

Bible Study Questions | mp3 Podcast


1 Samuel 15 on King Saul's Disobedience and Demise forms introduction (1/7) to 1 Samuel 15 including a self-examination quiz on one's spiritual life and reflection on whether King Saul was a genuine believer - part of The Bible Teacher's Commentary.

Check out out Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!Check out our Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!


The historical books are filled with great examples of how God interacts with mankind. 1 Samuel 15 is no exception. Here we observe the full development of how wrongly responding to the Lord in one area of one’s life can have an impact on the rest of one’s life if not changed. A slow heart towards the things of God can so easily grasp each of us.

By looking at King Saul’s life and decision making, we are able to scrutinize our own heart and decisions. Jeremiah says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). These heart self-examinations are very helpful to keep us from where King Saul went. A two-question quiz is below.

Evaluate whether you are spending daily time with the Lord and whether you are communing with Him. If you are spending time in His Word but bored, then consider yourself lukewarm. If you don’t regular meet with Him, then you are not too close. If you haven’t met the Lord in His Word for months, then consider yourself distant.

Let’s also evaluate our spiritual lives regarding the compromises we might make in life.

1- I don’t really care what God thinks. I do my best and He needs to accept me for who I am. 3 - I might compromise but try not to - I don’t want to be legalistic you know. 5 - I try not to compromise but sometimes do. It really is no big deal. No real confession and restoration. 7 - I don’t compromise or if I do, I spontaneously confess my sin and draw near to God.

A Soul Test (only two questions!)

1 - Rather distant  |  3 - Not too close  |  5 - Lukewarm |  7 - Eagerly growing
1- Don’t care  |  3 - Compromise. No big deal  |  5 - I try not  |  7 - I don’t compromise/repent

So how did you do?

It is important that we learn how to self-monitor our spiritual lives. A car is built with warning lights. When a light comes on, then we know something needs attention. If we want to be spiritually alive, we need to be attentive to certain things in our personal lives. Through Saul’s life we can gain insights into the process by which a person ignores these ‘red light’ warnings and drifts from the Lord.

Introductory remarks: Was Saul a believer?

Before continuing on, we need to acknowledge the debate on whether Saul was a genuine believer or not. The reasons some suggest he was a genuine believer is because of the heart change that God gave to him.

“Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day” (1 Samuel 10:9).

Opposed to this view is that he was not a genuine believer. If one adopts this later view, we should be careful not to use this passage how a person loses his salvation. There is too little certainty (i.e. Too much debate) about whether he really was a believer.

I would be comfortable to see him as a person who never came to know the Lord, but the way God clearly worked in his heart forces me to acknowledge him as a believer who hardened his heart. When God changed his heart, it was for the good.

This is the clearest reference to regeneration that we can find. Other Old Testament references to this are those which speak of a ‘circumcised heart’ (Deuteronomy 30:6) or ‘new heart’ (Ezekiel 36:26). The new heart depicts a new nature accompanied by a new set of desires to please God (cf. Romans 8:1-8). The reason this heart change is here mentioned is because Saul’s life looked so much like an unbeliever.1 He simply kept disobeying God. God’s desire is clear.

“Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Remember that due to his important position God was more carefully scrutinizing his life. The Lord wanted a king that would learn and lean upon Him. Saul had done many things right. God, however, points out the places that King Saul did not obey so that we can see the effect of disobedience and observe that Saul was not the long promised King that would bring long-lasting help to Israel.

We then will interpret this passage through the eyes of treating Saul as a believer and how he went astray from fulfilling God’s purposes. God worked in his life despite his poor personal decisions such as helping him beat the Amalekites. We will find so many points of application to help us in 1 Samuel 15.

If one insists on treating Saul as an unbeliever, still observe how Saul rejected the truth given to him. Please do not use this as proof that a person once saved can loose his salvation. We need clear doctrinal passages to make important doctrinal insights that shape our perspectives.

Continue -> The Crisis: Opportunity and temptation (1 Samuel 15:1-3)