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Bible Study #41: Saul and His Downfall (1 Kingdom/Samuel 11-15)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 18 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Chapter 11. Saul leads like a boss.

Venerable Bede. The Evil One wants to distort our vision. Some of the faithful people in the church often consented to be genuinely and lovingly allied with and to serve obediently teachers whom they deemed to be as “wise as serpents” in their frequent meditation on the Scriptures, but these preservers of peace in the church did not know that these teachers were not as “innocent as doves.” But because there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed these “creators of falsehoods” and “worshipers of false doctrines” immediately showed themselves not to have the eyes of their heart illuminated. They were unable to say, “Our eyes are like doves,” but on the contrary they long to take away the right eyes of their hearers, that is, the perception of heavenly and supernal contemplation, and to turn them aside to view only evil and perverse matters and to render them powerless in the war which we wage “against spiritual powers of iniquity in heavenly places.” Nahash wanted to deprive the men of Jabesh of their right eyes so that they would not be able to see anything they needed to see for their defense against the enemy since they would have covered the left side of their face with their shields in battle.

Chapter 12. Samuel rains on Saul's coronation.

St. John Chrysostom. Samuel knows how to work the crowd and get them to hear the stakes. For Samuel also put together a high panegyric upon himself, when he anointed Saul, saying, “Whose ass have I taken, or calf, or shoes? Or have I oppressed any of you?” And yet no one finds fault with him. And the reason is because he did not say it by way of setting off himself, but because he was going to appoint a king, he wishes under the form of a defense [of himself] to instruct him to be meek and gentle.… But when he saw that they [the people] would not be hindered by any of these things [the ways of the king] but were incurably distempered, he thus both spared them and composed their king to gentleness. Therefore he also takes him to witness. For indeed no one was then bringing suit or charge against Saul that he needed to defend himself, but Samuel said those things in order to make him better. And therefore also he added, to take down his pride, “If you will listen, you and your king,” such and such good things shall be yours, “but if you will not listen, then the reverse of all.”

Chapter 13. Saul ruins his chance; Samuel prophesies a new leader “after God's own heart.”

St. John Chrysostom. How Saul's madness went from small to great. And mark it, he [the devil] desired to bring Saul into [the] superstition of witchcraft. But if he had counseled this at the beginning, the other would not have given heed; for how should he, who was even driving them out? Therefore gently and by little and little he leads him on to it. For when he had disobeyed Samuel and had caused the burnt offering to be offered, when he was not present, being blamed for it, he says, “The compulsion from the enemy was too great,” and when he ought to have bewailed, he felt as though he had done nothing. Again God gave him the commands about the Amalekites, but he transgressed these too. Then he proceeded to his crimes about David, and thus slipping easily and little by little he did not stop, until he came to the very pit of destruction and cast himself in.

Apostolic Constitutions. Each order has its own role. As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop; for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, “It will not avail for you,” so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labors in vain.

Venerable Bede. Don't go to battle without your weapons. Because Israel did not have arms, it abandoned the country to its enemies. We too grant our enemy an opportunity by our laziness in reading or consulting spiritual teachers, just as the Israelites did by their neglect of making arms or seeking Israelite smiths for them. Consequently, the enemy uses the opportunity to bring in their weapons of godlessness against the other virtues, just as the Philistines invaded the boundaries of the holy land.

Chapter 14. Jonathan is a hero; Saul continues to show his lack of wisdom.

St. Jerome. Don't neglect the fasts! Saul, as it is written in the first book of Kings [Samuel], pronounced a curse on him who ate bread before the evening, and until he had avenged himself upon his enemies. So none of his troops tasted any food while all the people of the land ate. And so binding was a solemn fast once it was proclaimed to the Lord, that Jonathan, to whom the victory was due, was taken by lot and could not escape the charge of sinning in ignorance, and his father’s hand was raised against him, and the prayers of the people barely saved him.

Chapter 15. The Lord removes his blessing from Saul for disobedience.

Apostolic Constitutions. On the sin of indulgence (not mercy). But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, and Eli his sons, “who knew not the Lord.” Such a one profanes his own dignity and that church of God which is in his parish. Such a one is esteemed unjust before God and holy men, as affording occasion of scandal to many of the newly baptized and to the catechumens; as also to the youth of both sexes, to whom a woe belongs, add “a millstone about his neck,” and drowning, on account of his guilt.

St. Gregory the Great. On the need for humility. Thus Saul, after merit of humility, became swollen with pride, when in the height of power: for his humility he was preferred, for his pride rejected; as the Lord attests, who says, “When you were little in your own sight, did I not make you the head of the tribes of Israel?” He had before seen himself little in his own eyes, but, when propped up by temporal power, he no longer saw himself little. For, preferring himself in comparison with others because he had more power than all, he esteemed himself great above all. Yet in a wonderful way, when he was little with himself, he was great with God; but, when he appeared great with himself, he was little with God. Thus commonly, while the mind is inflated from an affluence of subordinates, it becomes corrupted to a flux of pride, the very summit of power being pander to desire.

St. Augustine. Not everyone who says they are sorry means it. Saul, too, when he was reproved by Samuel, said, “I have sinned.” Why, then, was he not considered fit to be told, as David was, that the Lord had pardoned his sin? Is there favoritism with God? Far from it. While to the human ear the words were the same, the divine eye saw a difference in the heart. The lesson for us to learn from these things is that the kingdom of heaven is within us and that we must worship God from our inmost feelings, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak, instead of honoring him with our lips, like the people of old, while our hearts are far from him. We may learn also to judge people, whose hearts we cannot see, only as God judges, who sees what we cannot, and who cannot be biased or misled.

Next Week: David is anointed and tames a demon.

Bibliography
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 242-258).IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181018-SaulsPoorChoices.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EST