How many people knew of Samuel’s words to Saul: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”
If those words were widely known, no wonder the Elders of Bethlehem were alarmed when Samuel appeared.
On the other hand, Samuel appears with a heifer for a sacrifice. The law specified that if a murder was committed, and the perpetrator were unknown, the Elders of the town closest to the body were to offer a heifer as a sacrifice for the sin. The principle is that the community is responsible when blame cannot be determined. Perhaps Samuel’s appearance implied that a murder had been committed and the Elders had been ignorant or negligent of proper justice.
In any case, the whole idea of sacrifice disappears a third of the way into the story as Samuel proceeds to anoint David as king of Israel.
Two thoughts come to mind as I read this text.
First, didn’t God authorize Samuel to lie when he told him to tell folks he had come to make a sacrifice? The fact is, Samuel did offer a sacrifice, so it wasn’t a lie. On the other hand, it wasn’t the whole truth either and this points to the supreme sovereignty of God. The Lord has no obligation to be totally forthcoming, and you (we) have no right to full disclosure. God is not a man.
Second is the statement of the Lord Himself in 16:7 – “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It should always be our goal to know God so well that when we look at anything – people, things, or situations – we see them with the eyes of God.