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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 15

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The absence of all chronology or note of time is remarkable.

Verse 2

Compare the marginal references. It appears 1 Samuel 14:48 that this expedition against Amalek was not made without fresh provocation. Probably some incursion similar to that described in 1 Samuel 30:0 was made by them upon the south country at a time when they thought the Israelites were weakened by their contests with the Philistines.

Verse 3

Utterly destroy - Rather, “devote to destruction” (Leviticus 27:28 note). When a city or people were thus made cherem, everything living was to be destroyed, and no part of the spoil fall to the conquerors (compare 1 Samuel 15:21). The valuables were put into the sacred treasury.

Verse 4

Telaim - Probably the same as “Telem” Joshua 15:24, one of the uttermost cities of Judah, toward the coast of Edom. The name means “lambs,” and was probably so called from the numerous flocks.

Two hundred thousand ... - A wonderful contrast with the six hundred men who composed his whole army before 1 Samuel 13:15, and a proof how completely for a time the Philistines had been driven back. The separate mention of the men of Judah shows how little union there was between Juduh and Ephraim even at this time; a circumstance which throws light upon the whole after history.

Verse 7

The district here described would stretch from Havilah on the extreme east to Shur, either near Suez, or further north on the coast road from Gaza to Egypt.

Verse 8

The saving Agag alive was in direct violation of the devotion to destruction.

Verse 9

The fatlings - The present Hebrew text cannot be so rendered. It can only mean “the second best” (compare the margin), i. e., sheep of the age to cut or shed the two teeth, sheep in their prime. But it is probable that the reading is corrupt, and that “fat or dainty bits” is the true reading.

Verse 11

It grieved Samuel - “Samuel was angry, or displeased,” as Jonah was Jonah 4:1, and for a similar reason. Samuel was displeased that the king whom he had anointed should be set aside. It seemed a slur on his prophetic office.

He cried unto the Lord - With the wild scream or shriek of supplication. (See 1Sa 7:8-9; 1 Samuel 12:18.) The phrase and the action mark Samuel’s fervent, earnest character.

Verse 12

A place - Rather, “a monument.” The Hebrew word יד yâd means a “hand,” but is used in the sense of “monument,” or “trophy,” in 2 Samuel 18:18, where we are told that the marble pillar which Absalom set up in his lifetime, was called “Yad Absalom.”

Carmel - (see the marginal reference) would be on Saul’s line of march on his return from the country of the Amalekites, more especially if he came from the neighborhood of Akaba.

Verse 13

Gilgal being within 15 miles of Ramah, Samuel might easily have come from Ramah that morning. Self-will and rashness had hitherto been Saul’s chief faults. He now seems to add falsehood and hypocrisy.

Verse 15

There is something thoroughly mean in his attempt to shift the responsibility of what was done from his own kingly shoulders to those of the people. Every word uttered by Saul seems to indicate the breaking down of his moral character.

Verse 16

Samuel now acquiesces in the wisdom and justice of the sentence which 1 Samuel 15:11 he had so strenuously resisted at first. What before was known only to the Searcher of hearts, had now been displayed to Samuel by Saul himself.

Verse 18

The sinners - As though God would justify His commission to destroy them. (Compare Genesis 13:13.)

Verse 21

The Lord thy God - There is an implied censure of Samuel in this phrase. Saul says that Samuel blames him for what was done in honor of Samuel’s God; as if be had more zeal for the glory of God than was felt by Samuel.

Verse 22

Hath the Lord ... - A grand example of the moral and spiritual teaching of the prophets (see the marginal references). The tension of Samuel’s spirit, as he is about to pronounce the sentence of rejection, produces a lyrical turn of thought and language.

Verse 23

The meaning is “Rebellion is as bad as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as bad as worshipping false gods (iniquity), and teraphim (idolatry).”

Verse 24

I have sinned - Compare 1 Samuel 15:25, 1 Samuel 15:30. How was it that these repeated confessions were unavailing to obtain forgiveness, when David’s was? (See the marginal reference.) Because Saul only shrank from the punishment of his sin. David shrank in abhorrence from the sin itself Psalms 51:4.

Verse 29

The strength of Israel - A phrase which occurs only here. The word means, perpetuity, truth, glory, victory, and trust, or confidence.

Verse 30

The pertinacity with which Saul clings to Samuel for support is a striking testimony to Samuel’s integrity. With all his worldly-mindedness Saul could perceive and appreciate the purity of Samuel’s character as a man of God.

The Lord thy God - As above, 1 Samuel 15:15.

Verse 32

Delicately - This phrase is very obscure. The meaning of the word so rendered is “dainties, delights” Genesis 49:20; Proverbs 29:17; Lamentations 4:5, which hardly gives a tolerable sense here. Some understand it “fawningly, flatteringly,” with a view of appeasing Samuel. (Others alter the reading, and translate “in bonds.”)

Surely the bitterness ... - Agag hopes that his life will be spared, and so expresses his confident belief that the bitterness of death is over.

Verse 33

Hewed in pieces - Only found in this passage. Samuel thus executed the חרם chērem 1 Samuel 15:3 which Saul had violated, and so both saved the nation from the guilt of a broken oath, and gave a final example to Saul, but apparently in vain, of uncompromising obedience to the commandments of God. There is something awful in the majesty of the prophet rising above and eclipsing that of the king (compare 1 Kings 21:20; Jeremiah 38:14 ff; Daniel 2:46; Daniel 4:27).

Verse 35

Samuel came no more ... - In the sense of visiting or conversing on public affairs.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-samuel-15.html. 1870.
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