Our word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek word that meant “actor,” that is, one who wore a mask and pretended to be other than they were.

Contrasting Saul’s repentance to that of David in 2 Sam 12:13, Anglican preacher and expositor Andrew Willet (1562–1621) criticizes Saul’s confession, believing it to be that of a hypocrite: slow to come, qualified by excuses, and motivated by fear.

Failure to Acknowledge Sin

There was great difference between Saul’s repentance here and David’s, who forthwith confesses: “I have sinned.” David, as soon as his sin was shown to him, confessed it. But Saul is hardly brought to acknowledge his sin.

Indeed, he is an example of slow and late repentance. He does not make a simple and plain confession, but minces and extenuates his sin, because he feared the people, and so at their instigation did as he did.

It is very hard for hypocrites to be brought to make a true confession of their sin. Instead, they prefer to lay the fault on others. Saul only confesses his sin out of the fear of losing the kingdom rather than for the grief that he had offended God: For till such time as Samuel had said that the Lord had rejected and cast him off, Saul would not confess himself as guilty.

1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, eds. Derek Cooper and Martin Lohrmann, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT Vol. V, p. 66.