1 Samuel 15:23 MEANING

1 Samuel 15:23
(23) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.--Witchcraft, more literally soothsaying or divination, was a sin constantly held up to reprobation in the Old Testament. It was the greatest of all the dangers to which Israel was exposed, and was in fact a tampering with the idol-worship of the surrounding nations. Impurity, and an utter lack of all the loftier principles of morality which the one true God and His chosen servants would impress on the peoples of the East, characterised the various systems of idol-worship then current in Syria and the adjacent countries. And Samuel here, in this solemn inspired saying, briefly gives the grounds of the Lord's rejection of His Anointed: "Rebellion," or conscious disobedience to the express commands of the Eternal, in the case of Saul, God's chosen king, was nothing else than the deadly sin of idol-worship, for it set aside the true Master of Israel, and virtually acknowledged another. The next sentence still more emphatically expresses the same thought: "Stubbornness," or "intractableness," is in the eyes of the pure God the same thing as worshipping idols and teraphim. The Hebrew word aven, rendered iniquity, literally signifies "nothingness;" it is a word used in the late prophets for an idol (Hosea 10:8; Isaiah 66:3). The word in the original translated in the English Version "idolatry," is teraphim. Teraphim were apparently small household gods or idols, venerated as the arbiters of good and evil fortune. In Roman life we find similar idols under the name of "Lares." Teraphim is derived from an unused root, taraph, signifying "to live comfortably;" Arabic, tarafa: compare the Sanscrit trip, and the Greek ???????. These idols appear to have been small human figures of various sizes. The image in 1 Samuel 19:13 was probably nearly life-size. These teraphim were made generally of silver or of wood. It has been suggested that the teraphim which Rachel stole were images of her ancestors. (See Note on Genesis 31:19, and Mr. Whitelaw's comment on ib. in the Pulpit Commentary.)

15:10-23 Repentance in God is not a change of mind, as it is in us, but a change of method. The change was in Saul; He is turned back from following me. Hereby he made God his enemy. Samuel spent a whole night in pleading for Saul. The rejection of sinners is the grief of believers: God delights not in their death, nor should we. Saul boasts to Samuel of his obedience. Thus sinners think, by justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord. The noise the cattle made, like the rust of the silver, Jas 5:3, witnessed against him. Many boast of obedience to the command of God; but what means then their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their angry and unkind spirit, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness against them? See of what evil covetousness is the root; and see what is the sinfulness of sin, and notice that in it which above any thing else makes it evil in the sight of the Lord; it is disobedience: Thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord. Carnal, deceitful hearts, like Saul, think to excuse themselves from God's commandments by what pleases themselves. It is hard to convince the children of disobedience. But humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all burnt-offering and sacrifices. God is more glorified and self more denied, by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be burned upon the altar, than to bring every high thought into obedience to God, and to make our will subject to his will. Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men, who are not willing that God should rule over them.For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,.... Or divination (e), in whatsoever way it was exercised; for there were various sorts of it among the Heathens, and all condemned by the law of God, Deuteronomy 18:10. Now rebellion against God, or disobeying his commands, though in things otherwise, were they not forbidden by him, lawful to be done, is as heinous a sin as to be guilty of witchcraft, or any kind of divination forbidden by the law of God, and deserves as sore a punishment:

and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry: for a man, when he has committed a sin, to persist in it obstinately, or to vindicate himself in it, and insist on his innocence, which was Saul's case, is as hateful to God as any iniquity whatever; yea, as bad as idolatry, or making use of the teraphim, as is the word here; of which see Hosea 3:4 than which nothing is more abominable to the Lord:

because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord; disregarded his command, treated it with contempt and abhorrence:

he hath rejected thee from being king; not actually, for he continued to exercise kingly power and authority to his death, and was treated as a king by his subjects, and even by David, though anointed by the Lord; but the sentence of rejection was pronounced upon him, and the bestowal of the government on his posterity was cut off.

(e) "peccatum divinationis", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; "ariolandi", V. L. "magiae", Munster, Tigurine version.

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