A Question I Was Asked:

Why Did the Lord "Regret" Making Saul King? Since He is God, Surely He Could Have Prevented It?

Why did the Lord "regret" making Saul king? Since He is God, surely He could have prevented it?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, we need to look at 1 Samuel 15:

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: "I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11).

Saul sometimes showed a great reluctance to carry out divine orders from God, he tended to 'interpret' orders in his own way. Yes, this included his showing mercy where the Lord did not wish mercy to be shown. Later on, Israel had to suffer much because certain tribes continually opposed them whom the Lord wished to be destroyed.

Yes, the Lord could have prevented Saul from becoming king in the first place but there are always lessons in these things for all of us. The Old Testament is there to teach us lessons. See 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Saul came from a very well-to-do family (1 Samuel 9:1), he was also apparently very tall and very handsome; he looked like a real leader. Years before Saul's rule, Samuel the prophet had been Israel's religious leader but not a king. At that time Israel was loosely ruled by judges who presided over various domestic - and wider - squabbles. But in times of war they struggled. The Philistines were Israel's sworn enemies, and war broke out between the two peoples on a pretty regular basis (1 Samuel 4). Because of the constant threat of war, the people pressed Samuel to appoint a king to rule over them just like the Gentile peoples (1 Samuel 8:5). So Saul became king.

But Saul soon proved himself to be a very unwise leader at times. The people eventually learned the lesson that the tallest, most handsome and seemingly most able leader is not always the best. As we know, eventually Saul was replaced by David. Thereafter Saul continually opposed and undermined David, even attempting to kill him on several occasions.

But couldn't God have known Saul would 'turn bad'? The answer is yes, the Lord certainly did know that Saul would 'turn bad' but Israel needed to learn lessons and - in our day - Christians need to learn lessons too. Sometimes loud, handsome, ebullient men - seemingly natural leaders - are put in charge of churches and it leads to disaster! I have known that, and you have known it too.

The second point is, when we read that the Lord 'regretted' making Saul king that is an 'anthropomorphism.' An 'anthropomorphism' is the attribution of human form or other characteristics to beings other than men, especially deities. In this case, this is where God speaks in human terms and in human ways and often working through people, in time, and fashioning His comments in order to be relative to the time and situation of ordinary people. For example, God expresses emotion over the sin of people, such as anger (Deuteronomy 9:8), regret (1 Samuel 15:11), sorrow, disappointment and pity (Judges 2:18). God is merely displaying proper emotions at the proper time even though He knew from eternity that people would sin. So God is accommodating Himself to our human responses and levels of understanding.

Our God does not 'cry over spilt milk,' as we say. He is fully in charge of everything which happens in this world. But when bad things, happen, yes, our God 'regrets it' in the sense that He regrets seeing human suffering. Yet He knows it is for a purpose, and He is fully aware of that purpose. God also knows that an Eternity of joy awaits His people after Christ's return in glory and power.

Robin A. Brace. September 20th, 2015.