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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 15

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-35

1 Samuel 15:2 . I remember what Amalek did; Numbers 17:8; and what he has often repeated, in the effusion of innocent blood. He joined Midian, and the children of the east, in a bloody and unprovoked invasion of Israel. Judges 6:3.

1 Samuel 15:3 . Utterly destroy all. God himself passed the sentence. The Kenites, (1 Samuel 15:6, and Judges 1:4.) live for their kindness, while the Amalekites die for their cruelties. But many saved themselves by flight, for David found them still occupying their country. 1 Samuel 27:8.

1 Samuel 15:9 . Spared Agag. Sesostris, on making his triumphant entrance into Memphis, metropolis of Egypt, had his chariot drawn by four kings.

1 Samuel 15:12 . A place. Hebrews יד Yad, a hand. A monument of the victory, suddenly raised by the hands of the army. This custom was universal among all the gentile nations. Joshua 22:10.

1 Samuel 15:23 . Rebellion is displeasing to the Lord, as the sin of קסם chesem, divination. He who sets up his own will against the will of God offends, as he who sets up an idol and a teraphim.

1 Samuel 15:33 . As thy sword, &c. Samuel passed the sentence, being a judge, of blood for blood, leaving the soldiers to execute his commands.


From the utmost vengeance of heaven here denounced against Amalek, we ought to trace and infer the magnitude of their sin. Amalek was descended from Esau. Genesis 36:2-4. 1 Chronicles 1:36. Therefore he was related to Israel, and had apostatized from the best of paternal examples in Isaac. Now, this subtle nation, instead of rejoicing at the emancipation of his brother from Egypt, and adoring God in his works, laid in ambush, and smote the aged, the sick, and the weak who were hindmost in the route. Exodus 17:14; Exodus 17:16. Emboldened by these advantages he assembled all his strength, and fought a hard battle with Joshua. Scarcely a war had happened but Amalek had unfurled his unprovoked and bloody banners against his brother. Judges 3:13; Judges 6:3. Of all this effusion of innocent blood he never repented. Agag himself had made women childless: and now that his measure was full, justice listened to the cry of blood. This is the first offensive war, and specially by the divine command; for the character of the Hebrew theocracy was hostile to war. It was impossible for these crimes, accompanied with four hundred years of correspondent wickedness, to go unpunished. So Balaam had predicted; Numbers 24:20; and so Moses had commanded before his death. Deuteronomy 25:17-18.

The little infants of Amalek were involved in temporal death with their guilty fathers. The equity of this punishment is frequently illustrated by God’s dealing with mankind according to his covenant; and while this law exhibits the Lord as the arbiter of life and death, it should be a weighty argument with all parents to obedience; for children are at all times very much implicated in the prosperity, or the afflictions of their parents.

In this expedition, a mission worthy of angels, Saul discovered a character very much degenerate from his sentiments when first anointed. He discovered his pride by sparing Agag, the finest and most guilty person in the nation, to grace his triumph; and the people taking a licence from his conduct, spared the best of the cattle and of the flocks. This was a sin of covetousness and pride; this was Achan’s sin, for all Amalek was accursed as Jericho, though many escaped death by flight. Joshua 7:0. This sin tarnished the spotless purity of God’s judgments: neighbouring nations, instead of being sanctified with fear, would say that Israel had cut off Amalek, not for iniquity, but for spoil. Saul having lost the humility and grace of his first anointing, he was not only proud, but vainglorious. He set up a pillar to commemorate his victory; he boasted to Samuel that he had done as the Lord had commanded; and finally became so mean as to beg the prophet to honour him before the people. Need we wonder that God should reject so faithless a servant? Let us learn therefore to execute God’s just decrees against the Amalek of our corruptions with a firm and unrelenting hand. Let us tremble at disobedience, and at every vestige of lurking pride; for sins so fostered may prove as awful to us, as to Saul in the day of trial.

Saul, by his former unbelief and presumptuous sacrifice in Gilgal, and now by sparing the best spoil of Amalek, so far provoked the Lord that his repentance was not accepted to continue him in the kingdom. In vain did he, after blaming the people, acknowledge his sin; in vain did he offer peace-offerings, the Holy One of Israel had no pleasure in a camp polluted with Achan’s sin. In vain did Samuel cry to the Lord for a whole night, and continue his mourning till the anointing of David; the Strength of Israel, or giver of victory, would neither repent nor lie. He lost the crown as Esau lost the birthright. He lost his crown by sparing bloody Amalek, and it was the lot of an Amalekite to take it off his head on Gilboa, and bring it to David! Ah, how piercing when Samuel’s mantle rent, to hear the prophet say, the Lord has taken the kingdom from thee, and given it to thy neighbour. So when a man departs from the Lord, and falls into wilful sin, every circumstance around him joins the terrors of his mind to preach the judgments of God. The sound of the clock seems to say, that divine justice is ready to strike his soul with the vengeance due to sin.

From the fall of this misguided king, all classes of men may feel the force of Samuel’s words: Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. The man who goes on his way with a stedfast and simple mind shall be exalted in the issue; but he who goes through life sinning and repenting, may sin once too often, and place himself beyond the reach of a Samuel’s intercession. From the time the Lord answered him not, Saul’s steps were doubtful and calamitous, his temper violent and wicked, and his death tragic and inglorious to Israel. May every man who began his course with humility, but who on being exalted a little by providence, became imperious and proud, profit by the errors of Saul, who once had a prospect of becoming the greatest of kings, and the happiest of men.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-15.html. 1835.
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