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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 15

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


The sacred historian is prosecuting the account of Saul's reign, in this chapter. Every part of his government seems to be with a view to aggrandize himself, and to show his disregard to the Lord. We have here, the relation of a commission the Lord sent him upon, to destroy the Amalekites: his partial obedience to that commission: the Lord's displeasure upon the occasion, and his rejection of Saul from being king, communicated to him by Samuel. The zealous prophet, in his warmth for God's glory, doth that which Saul had neglected, and heweth Agag, the king of the Amalekites, in pieces before the Lord, in Gilgal. The chapter closeth with an account of Samuel's final departure from Saul, and visiting him no more until his death.

1 Samuel 15:1

(1) ¶ Samuel also said unto Saul, 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.

In the opening of this message, we should remark, how Samuel prefaceth it. I do not command thee, saith the prophet, but the Lord, who sent me to anoint thee king. Receiving, therefore, thy commission from him, see thou obey this precept faithfully. Reader! it doth not behove creatures, and sinful ignorant creatures too, such as we are, to reason about the fitness of such things as God commands. When we have to do with men, it may be proper to pause, and to reason on right and wrong: but when we have to do with God, it doth not become us to argue on his appointments. This doctrine is very sweet and precious, if considered as it refers to our faith in Jesus. Salvation in him, and through him, is the Lord's appointed way. As such, let you and I heartily, and cordially accept it, without presuming to be wiser than God: and this will be our wisdom. So Moses told Israel: Deuteronomy 4:6 .

Verses 2-3

(2) Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. (3) Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

The observation made on the preceding verse meets us with full force in these. When the Lord commands any service, the justice and propriety of the measure, is not to be arraigned at the bar of man's tribunal. The Lord had sworn to have war with Amalek, from generation to generation. See Exodus 17:8-16 . And now the year of the Lord's vengeance was come, and the iniquity of Amalek is full. Reader! if you are a child of God, do not overlook in this scripture, what is read to you in it: namely, the Lord will subdue all your foes before your face. He hath engaged in covenant promises to do this. And, Reader, do not envy therefore the short-lived triumphs of the ungodly, the Lord hath seen that his day is coming. Every injury done to one of God's afflicted ones, must sooner or later be accounted for. Psalms 37:13 .

Verses 4-6

(4) And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. (5) And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. (6) And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

It is profitable to mark, and admire distinguishing mercies of any kind. The salvation of the Kenites, was certainly a marked blessing. And is it not yet more sweet and refreshing, to contemplate the distinguishing blessings of grace. When the Lord was about to bring a flood upon the world, for the destruction of the ungodly, Noah had an ark provided for his safety. Dearest Jesus! how precious art thou in this point of view, to thy people!

Verses 7-9

(7) And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. (8) And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. (9) But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

Is there not a spiritual sense in this, for the Reader to gather improvement from? Do we not, my brother, in that war, which admits of no neutrality, too often spare, what we think the best of our good deeds, and think favorably of ourselves, while sacrificing the more flagrant corruptions of our nature?

Verses 10-11

(10) ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, (11) It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

Let not the Reader imagine, that from these expressions, there is any change in the mind of God, as if that God was liable to alter. The repentance here spoken of, is in accommodation to our language, speaking after the manner of men, and not in reference to him, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is in one mind (saith Job) and who can turn him? Job 23:13 . But what a precious thought is it, concerning salvation, that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29 . What a beautiful view is given, in the close of this verse of Samuel. Dear, man! the dismission of himself and his sons from the government; called forth no such concern. But we behold him in tears a whole night, crying to the Lord for Saul. But Reader! turn your views from Samuel, and behold him, of whom Samuel is but a faint resemblance, who spent whole nights in prayers to God: and in that unequalled agony he sustained in the garden, poured out his very soul, until the sweat of his face was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Neither is this all. Samuel's intercession falls infinitely short of our Jesus. Though both prayed for their enemies, and the enemies of our God; yet though Samuel succeeded not, Jesus always prevails. Yes! dearest Lord! thou must ever prosper; neither can one, for whom thou prayest, perish, or come short of thy salvation.

Verse 12

(12) And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

It should seem, from this account, that Saul was so flushed with his victory, he was regardless of the divine favor, and in the pride of his heart had set up a place, perhaps a pillar of triumph, by way of publishing and perpetuating his conquest. Alas! what blindness, and presumption, and sin, is there in the human heart.

Verses 13-23

(13) And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. (14) And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? (15) And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. (16) Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. (17) And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? (18) And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. (19) Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? (20) And Saul said unto Samuel, 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. (21) But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. (22) And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (23) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

We have here the solemn conference between Samuel and Saul, on the subject of Saul's disobedience, and the awful consequence of it, in the Lord's determining to dethrone him. We behold, in the pointed language of the prophet, the unalterable purpose, and fixed displeasure of God against sin. And we behold in Saul, what every man's heart is void of grace, full of excuses and justifying pretences, like the first sinners in Eden, to soften their transgressions. Alas! there is not a man alive but covers himself under this covering. And until God the Holy Ghost convinces of sin, none of Adam's posterity are ever convinced of it, so as to see the absolute necessity of a Saviour. Precious Spirit of truth! do thou fulfil that blessed office which the Son of God promised thou shouldst perform in the minds of his people, and convince me of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Make Jesus precious to my view, for he is only so to them that believe. John 16:8-11 ; 1 Peter 2:7 .

Verse 24

(24) ¶ And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

What it was that brought down the proud spirit of Saul to this confession, I know not, unless it was the dread of being dethroned. But certain it is, from all that followed in his life, though he acknowledged he had sinned; yet he never felt godly sorrow for sin, not to be repented of. 2 Corinthians 7:10 .

Verse 25

(25) Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

What a folly to ask Samuel to pardon his sin. But to preserve still his dignity with the people, Samuel's turning with him to worship the Lord, seemed to carry with it an idea that all was made up again. Thus sinners under the gospel are mightily well pleased, if they can carry on an outward appearance with men: little considering how to make peace with Him that readeth the heart.

Verses 26-31

(26) And Samuel 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. (27) And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. (28) And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. (29) And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. (30) Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour 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. (31) So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Though Samuel at first refused to join in worship with Saul; yet perhaps in reflection he judged it to be right. Where shall gracious souls lead sinners but to a throne of grace? The rent of Saul's skirt was an apt allusion to the renting of the kingdom from him, and as Samuel made application of it to this event, so it is remarkable, that in the after history of Saul's life, when David cut off a portion of Saul's skirt, Saul, as if recollecting this circumstance, applied it to David. I know well (said he) that thou shalt surely be King. 1 Samuel 24:20 .

Verses 32-33

(32) ¶ Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. (33) And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

This view of Agag is truly awful. So must all sinners be accounted with at the last. Reader! remember the bitterness of death is never past, until the sting of death, which is sin, is taken out by the blood of Christ. Then, blessed be God, we have the victory through him, who through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, that he might deliver them who through fear of death, are all their life time subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14-15 .

Verses 34-35

(34) Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. (35) And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

What is here said of Samuel's coming no more to see Saul, means no more to visit and advise him, or with a message from the Lord. That they met together afterwards, and perhaps more than once, is evident from 1 Samuel 19:24 . But it means he came no more to him from the Lord. Saul was rejected in the Lord's will, and his servant had, therefore, no more message for him. Yet Samuel's heart mourned for Saul, and lamented, as every good man doth, when the wicked reject the counsel of God, against their own souls.

Verse 35


READER! pause with me over the perusal of this chapter, and mark, in the progress of Saul's history, the certain truth of that awful sentence of the apostle, that evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. And while we look at the king of Israel under this melancholy character, let us not forget, to gather from the history of the Lord's everlasting war with the Amalekites, that there can be no truce in this battle. Grace and corruption can no more join issue, than the iron and the clay in the image which the prophet saw. Put it down, Reader, in the maxims of your life, and see to it that your own experience corresponds to this most certain and unquestionable truth: the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit. Lord, grant that neither the writer of this Commentary, nor the Reader of it, may be debtor to the flesh to live after the flesh: for if we live after the flesh we shall die: but, if we through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live.

Oh! most gracious God! give me to see, and awfully to feel the impression of it on my heart, in the history of the utter destruction of the Amalekites: that though the Lord long bears with the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; yet the day, the dreadful day, the tremendous day of judgment, surely cometh as a thief in the night, Oh! precious Jesus, be thou my refuge, my covert, my strong hold, in that day of wrath!

One sweet improvement more would I gather from the perusal of this chapter, before I take my leave of it, and in the sorrow the man of God felt for the Lord's rejection of Saul, I would see how suited it is for the ministers of Jesus, to weep between the porch and the Altar, and lift up their cries and prayers over the sad ruin of our fallen nature? Did Samuel weep for Saul because the Lord had determined to take from him his earthly kingdom: and shall not my soul weep over the thousands of ungodly sinners, against whom the Lord hath sworn they shall not enter into his heavenly kingdom? Did the events of this short life, as they related to Saul, call forth the affection of the prophet: and shall not the grand concerns of eternity, as they attach themselves to sinners in the present hour, call forth my sympathy and prayer, that the Lord in the midst of judgment may remember mercy? Oh! most gracious Saviour! from whose distinguishing favor it is, that by the grace of God, I am what I am: teach me, Lord, to rejoice with trembling; and in the deepest sense of those awful judgments which I most righteously have deserved, but which thy mercy hath saved me from; give me a suitable frame of mind to come before thee. Like the prophet Ezekiel, I would fall to the dust, crying out; Ah! Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in this pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem!

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/1-samuel-15.html. 1828.
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