Scripture Reference: 1 Samuel 13:5-14; 15:1-35
Suggested Emphasis: Accept responsibility for the sin we commit and do not blame others.
Memory Verse: If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13, ICB
The Lord gave King Saul specific instructions on how to handle a battle with the enemy, the Amalekites. King Saul disobeyed the Lord in front of all of the people and then he refused to admit his own sin. When Samuel confronted him, Saul made excuses and even blamed others. At this time, the Lord rejected Saul as King.
Saul had been chosen by God to be the first king of Israel. He had no palace, army, nor royal city, so he simply went back to his farm to live. Only when the people of Jabesh-gilead (Jay besh gil e ud) were being attacked did Saul begin to act like a king. He immediately called the men of Israel together to form an army and saved Jabesh-gilead. After this, Saul was crowned king in an official coronation ceremony. Saul continued to lead the people against many of their enemies. He always consulted God through Samuel and offered sacrifices before battles. He began reigning as a man who loved God.
Saul and his son, Jonathan, fought together to defend Israel. Jonathan distinguished himself in battle (1 Samuel 13:23-14:23).
Samuel was disappointed in Saul many times. Saul did not carefully follow the Lord. Even before today’s story the Lord revealed to Samuel that Saul would be replaced as king. This was because Saul tried to act as a priest and offer a sacrifice to the Lord (1 Samuel 13:5-14).
Now Samuel brought God’s message to Saul: “Go and completely destroy the Amalekites and everything they possess. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau. They were a warlike people. They lived primarily south of Canaan, in the Negev area and sometimes in the Sinai region.
God had a very good reason for wanting Saul to destroy the Amalekites. They were the first nation to attack the Israelites when they left Egypt (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 14:45). Even after Israel defeated them at this battle, they continued to harass and attack Israel. They would attack from the rear, killing any Israelite who could not keep up with the rest of the group. They were described as a nation having no fear of the Lord.
Years earlier Moses had pronounced a curse from God on the Amalekites. He said that when the Israelites had settled in the promised land, they would return to completely destroy the Amalekites. (See Deuteronomy 25:19) Now God was keeping that promise through Saul and his army.
Saul called the army together at Telaim (Te lay im) in the Negev region. When they were ready for battle, Saul sent word to the Kenites (Kee nites) to leave the area or be killed. The Kenites were a semi-nomadic people who also lived in southern Canaan and Sinai.
The Amalekites were destroyed from Havilah (Hav ih luh) to Shur. These were cities or regions located at opposite ends of the Amalekite territory. Havilah was in the western part of Arabia. The exact spot is unknown, but it is believed to be in the north of modern Yemen. Shur was on the eastern border of Egypt.
The Lord had told Saul to destroy everything. Saul just could not pass up a chance to make himself look good. It was a practice among heathen nations to keep a conquered king alive. They would take him back to their country. In front of his people, the victor would put out the eyes of his captive king and otherwise humiliate him. Then he would be put to death.
Saul had become very proud of himself. He kept the Amalekite king alive, as well as the best of everything else. When he returned to Israel, he even erected a monument to himself at Carmel.
Samuel had to tell Saul of the Lord’s anger. Instead of repenting, Saul tried lying and then made excuses. He blamed the soldiers and then said that they only kept the animals alive to make sacrifices to the Lord. Even though Saul finally confessed (1 Samuel 15:24) he continued to try to pass the responsibility onto others. He even asked Samuel to try to make him look good in front of the people (15:30-31).
Way to Introduce the Story:
Bring two puppets to class or make your own. A simple way to do this is to draw a simple face (eyes, nose, and mouth) on the pad of your index finger. Draw faces on each index finger and these can be your simple puppets. Introduce your puppet friends to the class. Be sure to give them names. Tell the children that these two “children” have done something wrong. They were wrestling around and they knocked over a beautiful vase. The vase broke. Now tell the class that the “children” are going to have to make a choice. They can do the right thing or the wrong thing. See if they can guess which is which. Proceed to let the puppets act out two scenes. One puppet goes and tells his mother and tells her he is very sorry. He says he knows that he did a bad thing and he wants to pay for the vase. The other puppet goes and tells his mother that it is the other one’s fault. He says that it was not his fault at all. “Which of our friends did the right thing? Once there was a king who did something wrong. Let’s see if he is sorry for what he did?”
God chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. King Saul’s responsibility was to lead the people and help them follow God’s instructions.
Samuel was a prophet and a priest for God. Samuel’s responsibility was to tell the people messages from God and to offer sacrifices as a way of worship.
The Amalekites had been very mean to God’s people so God told Samuel to give King Saul a message. Samuel told Saul that God’s message was to fight a battle with the Amalekites and destroy them. God had some very clear instructions for King Saul to obey. God’s instructions were, “After you win the battle, do not take anything home from the Amalekites.”
King Saul and his soldiers began to do what God had told them to do. They won the battle over the Amalekites. But then, King Saul stopped obeying God. He only obeyed part of God’s instructions.
King Saul took some of the best animals from the Amalekites and took them home with him.
Maybe King Saul thought no one would notice. But God knows everything that people do.
God sent Samuel to talk to King Saul. When Samuel arrived, Saul said, “I obeyed God and did what he asked.”
But Samuel said to Saul, “You are telling a lie, Saul. You only did part of what God told you to do. He said to destroy the Amalekites and to not take any of their animals home with you. But you disobeyed! I can even hear the animals making noises right now!”
King Saul should have said, “I’m sorry, I have done a bad thing. It is my fault.”
But that is not what King Saul said. Instead of saying he was sorry he said things like, “It’s not my fault! The soldiers did it.” Then he said, “Besides, they only took the animals so they could offer sacrifices to God to make him happy.”
Samuel was sad and angry at the same time. “You are the leader of the people. Don’t blame them. You have not made God happy, Saul. You have disobeyed him.”
And then Samuel said, “Sacrifices do not make God happy if you disobey him. Obeying God is the most important thing. It is more important than making sacrifices.”
So, King Saul had made all of the wrong choices when he disobeyed God. Then, when Samuel talked to him about it, he was not even sorry. He just blamed other people and tried to make it sound like he was doing something good.
Because of King Saul’s disobedience, Samuel now had a very serious message from God.
He said, “Saul, God chose you to be the king so you would obey him and help the people. Because your heart and actions are not good, God will choose another king.
For a long time after this, Saul was still king. He made mistake after mistake. Soon, there would be another king over Israel.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download the slideshow or click here to download the pictures to print. Be selective. Each teacher is unique, so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing, so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What was the first thing that Saul did that made God not want him to be king? He acted like a priest and offered a sacrifice to the Lord.
- When Saul fought the Amalekites was he supposed to bring back prisoners and capture sheep and animals? No, Saul disobeyed God
- What did Saul do when Samuel told him he had sinned? He said he didn’t do it, he tried to blame others and then He made excuses.
- Oh Be Careful Song
- Books of the Old Testament Song
- The Books of the Old Testament.
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Have an “excuses bee.” Children stand in a line. One at a time the children must say an excuse people might say for doing something wrong (Example: I didn’t obey my mum because I didn’t hear her.) If a child cannot think of an excuse they sit down. The answers might get silly but so do excuses.
- Discuss what it means to take responsibility for our own actions. Then write (or have children write) “I will be responsible” in the centre of a large piece of paper and then use any art method to paint or draw a border around it.
- Role-play situations where the person must choose whether or not to own up and take responsibility for a wrong done (examples might be breaking something in a shop when no one was around or not doing homework).
- Practice looking up books of the Old Testament to help learn the books.
- Choose a confident student to help you with this idea. Ask the student a question about the story and then let them answer (they can answer correctly or incorrectly – their choice). Once they have answered tell everyone who agrees to stand up. Everyone who disagrees should sit on the floor. Then tell them to tell you the correct answer. Ask a number of questions this way. Usually, children love this one.
- (Costumed Bible Characters) A little play-acting is often a fun way to tell the story or review what has been learned. Here are some ways you might use the idea:
- After telling the story guide the children in dressing up in costumes and acting it out.
- Or, you can dress up in a simple costume to act the part of one of the Bible characters. As you begin to speak “get into character” as if you were actually the person in the story visiting the class today to tell them what has happened to you.
- Or, later in the class session, as a review, the teacher can also use the same method to ask the children review questions as if you are one of the characters in the story talking to the children.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets -Saul becomes king (Calvary Curriculum)
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets-Saul rejected by God (Calvary Curriculum)
- Youtube video of a teacher telling this story
- Article to read about encouraging children to accept blame(Imperfect families)
- Good article on how to teach children to stop making excuses and take responsibility (homeschool adventure)
- Situational discussion questions to discuss taking responsibility (homeschool adventure)
- A variety of ideas and links for this story can be found (Childrens Church