Hi guys. Im working my way through 1 Samual and the story of Saul and David. I find it interesting that God regretted appointing Saul as king. It almost leaves you feeling that God made a mistake. Also the evil spirit that God brought over Saul, does this not manipulate Saul’s free will? Can he be held accountable for his actions in pursuing David?
@jacque The fact that God regrets something does not mean that God did not know what was going to happen, but that God still reacts with compassion and sorrow when He sees evil. Think of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus - ‘Jesus wept’. Why? Jesus knew Lazarus was going to shortly be raised from the dead. Jesus wept for our sake and because of the fact that He is God and takes no pleasure in evil or death.
Regarding the evil spirit, the following thread should provide one perspective on your question. Saul had free will, but when he abused his free will by rejecting God, he faced the judgment of God in the form of an evil spirit.
God may send an evil/deceiving spirit either to test men’s hearts or in judgment on men with evil hearts, but God never never does so without first revealing the truth. God does not lie, but He does test men’s hearts and bring judgment on evil men.
Hi! My version of scriptures, King James, reads ‘repented’ instead of regret. But as you continue in the book of 1 Samuel it becomes clear that the definitions of either term expands beyond our accepted or assumed definitions. That seems logical to me. Inevitably when you speak from GOD’s perspective or the perspective of GOD’s nature, human terminology is not sufficient.
1 Samuel 15:8-11 GOD said to Samuel, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king.” But 1 Samuel 15:29 reads “GOD the strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent.” That might seem a contradiction until you recall the subject matter is GOD, not another human.
When understanding the attributes of GOD, I acknowledge the limitations that prevent us from adequately describing or understanding the Creator of All. It is mathematically, logically, and humanly impossible; unless you can accept that our awareness is expected to be limited when trying to define, the undefinable.
Isaiah 55:8-11 tells that GOD’s ways are not ours, His thoughts unlike ours. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (verses eight and nine)
That scripture provides a logical conclusion for me. On our best, most educated, scientific, wisdom donning days; we still can’t fully know. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. Imagine how lacking is our intellect. Thank goodness for the gap-filling, trust-worthiness of GOD’s love for us. No wonder without faith it is impossible to please Him. I Samuel is one of many passages that identify the difference between GOD and everything else.
Does the evil spirit that rested on Saul indicate that his free will was pre-emptied? I don’t think its possible to pre-empt anyone’s free will. But I know that the choices I make come with consequences. What happened to Saul was the results of the choices he made. That those choices cause a separation between GOD and Saul remained Saul’s fault, the warning was given to him, the retribution also belonged to him. Whatever the timeline of consequences they arrive via our choices.
Perhaps if Saul’s concern had moved from the desire to be King to one of being reunited to GOD; his repentance would have returned him to favor. This is a good example of balancing what is important. Being reunited to GOD even if it means giving up wealth, prestige and human admiration. Another way to see it, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.
God wants everyone to come to Him. Our gift of free will is important to God and I believe that God is saddened by our rejection of Him and I do not see any regret. Eventually all who reject Him will regret.
Has anyone considered this - in the book of Job Satan had to ask permission from God. I interpret “God sending an evil/lying spirit…” in this same way. The spirit requested permission from God and it was granted. The spirit intends to do evil, no doubt. But God has His good purposes behind the granting of such permission.
@ssuttle1 That is a possibility. There is a separate passage about a lying spirit sent to deceive the false prophets in I Kings 22 that causes me to think that perhaps God did initiate the judgment against Saul. In this case, God is judging Ahab and his false prophets and God Himself actually asks for a volunteer. Some form of spiritual being volunteers to be a lying spirit.
I Kings 22:19-23 -Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’
22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.
“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
In all of the Biblical cases, as I note in the thread I linked above and below, there is a reason God is extending His hand - either to judge or to test the heart:
- in the case of Saul and Ahab, the evil spirit was sent in judgment because they had rejected God and God had rejected them as King over Israel
- in the case of Job, God was demonstrating the righteousness of His servant
- in the case of David, God was testing his heart
- all of these men had access to truth and they chose to reject it
I want to throw in a few thoughts.
If we are made in the image of God and we consider that this would include certain attribute that we have in common with him among them intelligence, reasoning ability, emotions, an ability to commune with God, self-awareness (sentience), language/communication ability, the presence of a soul or spirit (or both), the conscience and free will why do we accept the fact that he can love the unlovable, be heartbroken, sadden, be jealous of being displaced and judge the guilty, but we get nervous when we think that he (Yahweh) might show other emotions like regret or that he might change his mind.
If Yahweh does not have genuine regret as the 1 Samuel verses say then what do we do with Gen 6:6 or Ex 32:9-10, 12, 2 Sam 24:16 and Ez 24:14. I am sure that there are more.
The point that I am making is that would these emotions not fit nicely between agape love (still can’t fully embrace that) and judging the guilty? Would God be any less sovereign any less Holy if he had regrets?
I want to ask is it possible that we can read this meeting the way it was written as a Divine Council meeting with God as the Most High who express his will and allowing those in attendance to suggest ways to a means to Ahab’s end? I don’t see how you avoid this. God’s council is allowed to carry out God’s will at they (the council) see fit. God does not pre-program them or enable them he allows to carry out his will. That would include the possibility of making mistakes and or accomplishing the task in a not so perfect fashion.
For what is worth you read Job the same way.
Thoughts and comment welcome as I am trying to process what I have reading of late. I look forward to the groups comments.
Hi Jimmy! My short comment would be to conclude that being in GOD’s image does not equate to be as GOD. One of the reasons Agape love is undefinable is because it emanates from GOD, not from the images of GOD. Perceiving GOD in light of our understanding, basically means GOD is not GOD. The corruptible cannot produce incorruptible.
Thanks for your reply but if I suggested that because we have this set of attribute that made us equal with God please perish the thought. What I was saying is that it makes sense if we have these attributes then it would make sense that God could also have these feelings. As an aside how would parse the other verses I listed?
I hope you agree that we will be like him. We rule with Him. We will judge angels .
@Jimmy_Sellers I think the struggle people have is in relation to God’s omniscience and immutability (God does not change). And I think their quandary would go something like this:
- God is omniscient and knows all things
- God appointed Saul as King knowing what Saul would do
- God regrets appointed Saul as King
- Regret implies a lack of knowledge, therefore God is not omniscient
My argument is that God can be omniscient and still experience sorrow when people do evil things or experience bad things. Like when Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb - Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, but He still wept.
I agree we will be like him. I think I understand you to say regret is a sentiment we accept concerning our own selves, why is it unreasonable that GOD would be similar? Or how would it make GOD less GOD?
I think I would still conclude. The frailty and inconsistencies we experience cannot be shared by GOD. Because being the only true GOD means existing outside the limits of our existence. I think the divinity character is one that is both ‘in’ while outside our Universe. But I do believe that JESUS is wholly acquainted with what and who we are, being the first fruit of the Ressurection.
I don’t see any regret in the sense that we experience regret. Perhaps regretting or repenting in a manner so beyond us as to be beyond human logic or judgment. I understand GOD’s awareness of who I am, but being GOD is an entirely different reality than the one I can know in a fallen world.
Something that I find helpful when facing questions like this is to examine the text in its original language (studylight.org is my go-to). The Hebrew word “nâcham,” here rendered as “regret,” is defined as follows: “to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted.” Thus, it would be reasonable to translate the verse as “I am grieved…” or “I am sorry that I have anointed Saul king.”
If we try to consider God’s motive for anointing Saul as king, we can get some further insight into why God has done something that grieves Him. When Israel asked for a king, they did so not because they wanted political unity, a stable government, a commander to lead them in battle, or a leader who would keep them pointed toward the one true God; they wanted a king so they could “be like the other nations,” despite the fact that they had been called to be a different kind of people. In response to this rejection, God gave them a king, but rather than give them the kind they needed (a courageous, God-fearing man), He gave them the kind they wanted (physically impressive and superficially humble). As it turned out, such a king proved cowardly, insecure, self-promoting, and impious, a disaster in every way. God knew that the Israelites needed the lesson, but it still pained Him to have to teach it in that way, hence His sorrow. It’s not unlike a parent who disciplines a child out of love: He knows it to be necessary, but he is also pained by action.
I guess I tend to see Saul as a consequence of Israel demanding that Samuel provide them a king. That Samuel anointed him with a flask instead of horn leads me to believe that God knew the outcome of Israel’s impertinence from the start. As I understand it being anointed from a flask was a sign of man’s anointing, not God’s.
Saul also had a major character defect in the form of an obsession with the approval man rather than God as evidenced by his response to Samuel when Samuel told Saul that the Kingdom had been torn from him. All Saul cared about was how he looked in front of the people. 1 Sam 15:30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord. I believe character defects can open the door to the influence of evil and Saul is no exception.
I do not think that God made a mistake as evidenced by 1 Sam 15:29 "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
Like most of the Old Testament, I see this as another example of God allowing the free will of man to run riot and extract a proverbial teachable moment out of it. That’s my two cents.