This is one example of a more accurate translation improving on one’s understanding of the theology. In 1 Samuel we have Saul, the fatally flawed King of Israel, playing out his necessary role in the coming of the King David. Which, of course, sets the stage for the later coming of our Savior.
Saul had it all; sorry for the rhyming. He was, per 1 Samuel 9:1, of the tribe of Benjamin, and “a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Yet Saul, after he became king, just wouldn’t heed the Lord’s commands, as relayed through the Lord’s faithful prophet Samuel.
Well, we all can read how Saul lost it all through his disobedience. At the end, Samuel himself has to come on the scene to make it right by slaying Agog (1 Samuel 15:33). And then we see the Lord’s judgment on the whole episode, from 1 Samuel 15:35, KJV:
…and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
The Lord “repented”; changed His mind. Which is fascinating for those of us who were taught that God is outside of time and space; there never was a time He wasn’t; there never will be a time He won’t be. It just seems not credible that He changed His mind.
Then I turned to the ESV of the same verse:
And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
Now we’re talking. The Lord “regretted.” Since we must assume (ok, I must so assume) that God knew exactly what would happen, I’m left with the apparent contradiction: Why would God set up Saul as King, knowing that he would fail? And, since He knew, from before it happened, how Saul would not obey, why on earth would God “regret” the whole thing?
My answer may be incomplete, but it’s all I have: God regretted He could not find a stronger link in the chain of His revelation to mankind than Saul. But Saul was at the right time in history, and met the overarching needs of salvation history: Saul’s failure provided the setting for David’s kingship.
God surely regrets it when any of His creatures fail, as fail we must. Saul was a mighty man, and tall and handsome, to boot. So Saul fell a little further than most of us do. God has surely been shaking His head in sadness over all of us, in regret, that we are all fallen. Not least Saul.
For some of Phillip Johnson’s take on the impassibility of God, which is what this post is (in a sense) about, check this out.
| technorati tag | Christianity|