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When Samuel rebuked Saul for improperly making an offering before the Lord, he asks for both a burnt offering and a "sacrifice of well-being":

He waited seven days, the time that Samuel [had set]. But when Samuel failed to come to Gilgal, and the people began to scatter, Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the sacrifice of well-being”; and he presented the burnt offering. He had just finished presenting the burnt offering when Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and welcome him. But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “I saw the people leaving me and scattering; you had not come at the appointed time, and the Philistines had gathered at Michmas. I thought the Philistines would march down against me at Gilgal before I had entreated the Lord, so I forced myself to present the burnt offering.” Samuel answered Saul, “You acted foolishly in not keeping the commandments that the Lord your God laid upon you! Otherwise the Lord would have established your dynasty over Israel forever. But now your dynasty will not endure. The Lord will seek out a man after His own heart, and the Lord will appoint him ruler over His people, because you did not abide by what the Lord had commanded you.”—1st Samuel 13:8-14 (NJPS)

My understanding, is that the "sacrifice of well-being" is the same as the peace offering. If so, I read this passage to mean that Saul was calling for two different offerings and would chose one if he were planning to go to war and the other if he intended to remain at peace. He chose the burnt offering and that is what Samuel rebukes him for: failing to wait on the Lord's command to go to war.

On the other hand, I can also read this passage as mentioning the sacrifice of well-being because Saul intended to make both sacrifices. But since Samuel arrived so soon after the first offering was finished, he did not have time to continue with the second ritual before being rebuked for making the first offering without Samuel present.

How should I read this passage?

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  • Good question. Do you have a primary source showing the link between war or peace with a particular sacrifice?
    – user10231
    Jun 26, 2016 at 19:33

5 Answers 5

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Saul's offering in 1 Samuel chapter 13 was originated from the instruction of Samuel, who anointed him in chapter 10.

8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (1 Samuel 10:8 NIV)

Burnt offering symbolised a complete dedication and consecration to God, while the fellowship offering (peace offering) expressed a restoration of communion with God. These two offerings were used to do together, theirs earliest accounts were found in Exodus 18:12; 20:24; 24:5; 29:15-28; 32:6

As such, these offerings commanded by Samuel was not intended to the divine determination of war or peace, but a probation of Saul to see whether he was dedicated to God and his communion with God was accepted.

Since he failed his dedication by not keeping the Lord's command, Samuel arrived to interrupt his peace offering, as the Lord judged to end the communion with Saul, and Samuel declared to Saul the Lord's judgement.

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.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14 NIV)

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  • upvoted as basically right. I'll offer (pun intended) my own with a different emphasis. Jul 18, 2023 at 4:29
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From the OP's quote (empahsis mine):

I saw the people leaving me and scattering; you had not come at the appointed time, and the Philistines had gathered at Michmas. I thought the Philistines would march down against me at Gilgal before I had entreated the Lord, so I forced myself to present the burnt offering.

This doesn't sound like a king who was eager to go to war. Rather, it sounds like a man in panic. But what's more, in his explanation of his actions Saul reveals to Samuel (and to God) that he was a man who thought the presence of God must be invoked like a genie from a bottle -- if one burns the sacrifice, the LORD will appear.

By his actions here, Saul demonstrated that he was not the man for the job to which he was called. He may have looked, to the people, like the right man on the outside, but it took this encounter to demonstrate that he was not the right man on the inside.

In 1 Kings 28, some 30 years later (according to the BibleHub time-line), Saul finds himself in similar circumstances, with the Philistines again gathering for war against Israel (and with Saul again trembling in his boots). However, this time Saul is not waiting for Samuel to arrive, ... because he is dead.

Saul is stymied with no means of inquiring of God's input, either by dream, or Urim, or the prophets. So, faced with such silence, how does Saul confirm the reason for his rejection as leader of God's people, he wants to rub the lamp again, this time to INVOKE Samuel, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her."

The narrative regarding Saul sets him as a type: the antithesis of the type depicted by David.

David knew that God didn't have to be invoked, because He was ALWAYS with him. And David was able to wait for God, whatever the situation. Referring again to the time-line at BibleHub, David slew Goliath fourteen years prior to Saul's actions here at Gilboa.

enter image description here
Map showing Gilboa, and Endor to the north -- Wikipedia/media

During those fourteen years, David was given cause by Saul, and was given opportunity, to usurp the kingdom, but he would not take advantage of it, "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD's anointed..." (1 Samuel 24:6, 1 Samuel 26:11).

Conclusion

Saul was not conflicted in 1 Samuel 13 concerning a decision about whether to pursue war or peace. Instead, he was conflicted concerning where God was. He showed himself to be a man who had no personal sense of God's presence, and a man who believed God's presence must be invoked by rite and ceremony -- regardless of the proper protocols.

I mentioned in my comments that Saul was the antithesis of the type depicted by David, but it also strikes me that Saul is also the antithesis of the type depicted by Daniel's three friends, who, faced with the prospect of being thrown into the furnace, declared:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
-- Daniel 3:17-18 (KJV)

Saul, most certainly, was not of this type.

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They are two separate offerings.

Leviticus distinguishes the burnt offering (הלָעֹ) detailed in Leviticus 1 from the peace (wellbeing) offering (םלֶשֶׁ֫) found in Leviticus 3. They are distinct offerings with different requirements, notably the animal for the burnt offering must be male but the peace offering may be either male or female.

There are parallels between Saul’s intended actions, the initial giving of the Law, and the making of the golden calf (NKJV):

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. (Exodus 20:22-24)

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:5-6)

Saul is described as responding to the people in the same manner as Aaron and in both cases, the impetus was the absence of the expected authority. When Moses delayed Aaron acted in response to the people; when Samuel delayed Saul acted in response to the people.

Not only should the passage be read as Saul intending to make 2 separate offerings; he is described as following Aaron when he made the golden calf.

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I don't think the issue had anything to do with the sacrifice but with the fact that Saul didn't wait as the Prophet of God had instructed. My2Cents

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  • the answer is basically right, but it was Samuel's role as priest, not prophet, that was at stake here. (see my answer) Jul 18, 2023 at 15:43
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The type of offering was not important to the story's purpose. The issue is that Saul usurped Samuel's position as priest. In Israelite tradition this was a serious offense dating back Korah's rebellion against the authority of Aaron in the Book of Numbers.

God has allowed you and your Levite kinsmen with you to approach him, and yet you seek the priesthood too. It is therefore against the Lord that you and all your faction are conspiring. (16:10-11)

Saul lost God's blessing on his kingship because of this error, and God sought "a man after my own heart" as a replacement. That man would be David, who was careful never to overstep the authority of the priests. Saul's troubled relationship with the priesthood did not end with this incident, however. It reached a horrible zenith in his mass murder of the priests of Nob who had given shelter and hospitality to David. (1. Sam 22) Later, instead of consult the high priest who could have sought God's will with Ummin (1 Sam. 14:40) he infamously went to the medium at Endor in violation of the commandment against such things. (1 Sam. 28)

David,, meanwhile, established an unbroken lineal tradition of respect for the priests' role as distinct from that of the king. One important exception came during the reign of Uzziah, who, like Saul, took on a priestly function for himself:

[Uzziah] entered the temple of the Lord to make an offering on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest, and with him eighty other priests of the Lord, courageous men, followed him. 18 They stood up to King Uzziah, saying to him: “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who have been consecrated for this purpose....At the very moment that [the king] showed his anger to the priests... leprosy broke out on his forehead... 21 King Uzziah remained a leper till the day he died.(2 Chronicles 26)

God allowed Uzziah to continue to rule because he had otherwise acted righteously and is considered as one of the "good kings" by the biblical authors. In Saul's case, coming at the beginning of his reign, his sin was more problematic. Saul too continued to rule, but he had lost God's blessing and the incident established a pattern in Saul's life, in which he several times substituted his own view for that of God. This tragic flaw sealed Saul's fate.

Saul usurped the role of priest at the beginning of his reign by failing to wait for Samuel. Throughout the rest of his life, he never fully submitted himself to the realm of the holy as distinct from royal authority.

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