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The Unauthorized Action of Saul
v. 1. Samuel also said unto Saul, in delivering to him the Lord's commission, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel; now, therefore, hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. As the king of Israel by God's direct selection, Saul was bound to carry out the commands of God, the real King of His people.
v. 2. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the almighty Ruler of armies, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, during the desert journey, how he laid wait for him in the way when he came up from Egypt, Exodus 17:8-14. The Amalekites were a roving desert-people, descendants of Esau's grandson, Genesis 36:12; Genesis 36:16, and very decidedly hostile to Israel.
v. 3. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, as devoted to the Lord, in a campaign of annihilation, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. The entire people with all their possessions were placed under the ban, as being destined for destruction.
v. 4. And Saul gathered the people together, summoning them for service in war, and numbered, mustered, them in Telaim, in the southern country, midway between Beersheba and the Dead Sea, two hundred thousand footmen and ten thousand men of Judah, for there was need of a mighty army in conquering a strong confederation of Bedouin tribes.
v. 5. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, evidently their largest camp, and laid wait in the valley, set an ambush before venturing an attack.
v. 6. And Saul said unto the Kenites, a small tribe of nomads friendly to Israel, with whom they had come up from the wilderness under the leadership of Hobab, Judges 1:16, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt, Numbers 10:29. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
v. 7. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, all along the southern boundary of Canaan, well into Arabia Petrea, that is over against, east of, Egypt.
v. 8. And he took Agag, the king of the Amalekites, alive and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword, so that the power of their confederation was broken for many years.
v. 9. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings, those of the second brood, commonly considered the best, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them, taking them, instead, as their booty; but everything that was vile and refuse, which had little or no value, that they destroyed utterly. Partial obedience is equivalent to total disobedience, and such a course of action inevitably brings upon the transgressors God's punishment.
v. 10. Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,
v. 11. It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king, an expression which denotes that God had found it necessary to change His mode of action into the opposite of what He had determined under the condition of holy and righteous conduct of men; for he is turned back from following Me and hath not performed My commandments. Pride and self-will, in the consciousness of his own power in Israel, had caused Saul to disregard the divine charge. And it grieved Samuel, it hurt him bitterly to find that Saul had turned away from the Lord, it kindled a holy anger in his heart; and he cried unto the Lord all night, probably to obtain for Saul forgiveness for his disobedience.
v. 12. And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, setting out to call Saul to account, as the Lord had commanded, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, southeast of Hebron, and, behold, he set him up a place, a monument to commemorate the victory, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal, in the valley of Jordan.
v. 13. And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord, a greeting of hypocritical friendliness; I have performed the commandment of the Lord, a calm assurance intended to throw sand into Samuel's eyes.
v. 14. And Samuel, losing no time in unmasking the hypocrisy of Saul, said, What meaneth, then, this bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
v. 15. And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites, so much he had to concede, though it appears even here that he wants to put the blame on the people; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, they were the transgressors, while he was blameless, to sacrifice unto the Lord, thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. The untruth and hypocrisy of this excuse were evident at once, as well as the selfish interests, for the thank-offerings were always combined with sacrificial meals.
v. 16. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, he should desist from lying excuses, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
v. 17. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, for so Saul had described himself when Samuel first met him, 1 Samuel 9:21, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?
v. 18. And the Lord sent thee on a journey and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, who were so persistent in their hostility against Israel and against Jehovah, and fight against them until they be consumed.
v. 19. Wherefore, then, after this plain command, didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, in eager greed, in passionate craving, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
v. 20. And Saul said unto Samuel, still persisting in his denial of any blame on his part, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag, the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. It was a further hypocritical self-justification.
v. 21. But the people, upon whom Saul again lays all the blame, took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, the firstlings of the devoted things, to sacrifice unto the Lord, thy God, in Gilgal. Saul evaded the plain words of the Lord that everything was to be put under the ban, and that therefore the animals could no longer be used for burnt offerings.
v. 22. And Samuel saith, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? A mechanical worship without true loyalty of the heart is not acceptable to Him. Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams. This principle, of the utter worthlessness of a dead worship, especially when it goes side by side with a lack of obedience to the Lord, has held in the Church of God at all times, and should be considered most carefully by all those whose churchgoing is a matter of mere routine.
v. 23. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, or divination, the service of demons in any form, and stubbornness, in refusing to obey God's commands, is as iniquity and idolatry, in which the living God is denied and rejected. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king, Saul was abandoned to his pride, selfishness, and wickedness. He who opposes the Word of the Lord in any way, whether by speaking or by doing, thereby denies the true God and is in danger of being rejected.
v. 24. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned, this confession was extorted from him by fear, but was not an expression of true penitence; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and thy words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice, he had loved the honor and favor of men more than the favor and good will of God.
v. 25. Now, therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me that I may worship the Lord. He did not really acknowledge his guilt, but wanted the good will of Samuel again, lest he be publicly rejected and ousted from his position of king, a disgrace which he felt would be all the harder to bear since he had already been told that the position of king would not be hereditary in his family, 1 Samuel 13:14.
v. 26. And Samuel, who knew that even the repentance of Saul was feigned and insincere, said unto Saul, I will not return with thee; for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel, in the sight of God he no longer occupied that position.
v. 27. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he, Saul, laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, evidently with the intention of holding him back by force, and it rent.
v. 28. And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou. This much was even now decided in the counsel of the Lord, although even Samuel did not yet know who Saul's successor would be.
v. 29. And also the Strength of Israel, the Lord, who is the Refuge, the Confidence of Israel, will not lie nor repent, He would not change this judicial sentence with the penalty of rejection; for He is not a man that He should repent, Numbers 23:19.
v. 30. Then he said, I have sinned, a hollow sound without true sorrow of heart; yet honor me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and turn again with me that I may worship the Lord, thy God. Saul was concerned chiefly about his own honor, for he had only one fear, namely, that his authority and influence would be lost in case the people would find out about the open breach between him and Samuel.
v. 31. So Samuel turned again after Saul, not only for the purpose of maintaining outward order in the nation and of preventing anarchy, but also to carry out the sentence of death upon Agag; and Saul worshiped the Lord, he observed this outward formality.
v. 32. Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag, the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately, in a cheerful mood. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past, which may have been an attempt at heroism in the face of death, or a hope that Samuel would spare him.
v. 33. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women; he was but receiving his just reward for his cruelties. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal, he carried out Jehovah's sentence of destruction upon him.
v. 34. Then Samuel went to Ramah, to his home; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
v. 35. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death, all intercourse with the rejected king on his side ceased from now on; nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul; and the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel. Although Samuel had loved Saul, yet, since the latter had now been rejected as king, he could do nothing to effect a change of heart in him. A feigned repentance is the climax of hypocrisy and only tends to confirm the Lord's sentence of rejection.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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