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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
1 Samuel 15

 

 


Verse 1

1 Samuel 15:1-35 :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.

Ver. 1. The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king.] And kings are doubly bound to obey the Lord, - as Queen Elizabeth wrote to Henry IV of France, - first as men; next as men so entrusted and advanced.

Now therefore hearken thou.] Now at least, and at length, after thy so foul miscarriages, and God’s heavy menaces thereupon. [1 Samuel 13:8-9] Ut prioris inobedientiae nexus enodes, as Gregory hath it, that thou mayest redeem thine own sorrows, breaking off thy sins by righteousness, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity, or a healing of thine error. [Daniel 4:27]


Verse 2

1 Samuel 15:2 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.

Ver. 2. Thus saith the Lord of hosts.] Who judgeth righteously, [Jeremiah 11:20] and is able to save and to destroy.

I remember that which Amalek did to Israel.] Though it be four hundred years since, and I may seem to have forgotten it. It is ill angering the Ancient of Days; his forbearance is no quittance. Heb., I have reviewed.

How he laid wait for him in the way.] Smiting all the feeble and wearied: and so answering his name Amalek, which signifieth a licking people. (a)


Verse 3

1 Samuel 15:3 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.

Ver. 3. Now go and smite Amalek.] This God had twice threatened; [Exodus 17:14 Deuteronomy 25:17] Ut ostenderet quam ex animo et omnino id vellet fieri. (a) The greater was Saul’s offence, in executing it so slackly.

And utterly destroy all that they have.] Oh the severity of God! Oh the venomous nature of sin! How evil and bitter a thing is it! [Jeremiah 2:1-37] Aliorum perditio, tua sit cautio. Amalek, for molesting God’s Israel, is thus utterly destroyed. The Kenites, for showing them kindness, are graciously preserved.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 15:4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.

Ver. 4. And numbered them in Telaim.] Called also Telem, a town of Judah. [Joshua 15:24] Not in Gilgala, as Josephus hath it, after the Septuagint.

Two hundred thousand footmen.] Not forty thousand only of Israel, and thirty thousand of Judah; as Josephus, but not truly.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 15:5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.

Ver. 5. And laid wait in the valley.] Or, Skirmished by the burn or brook: declining the mountains, lest it should have proved prejudicial to the Kenites who dwelt there.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 15:6 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.

Ver. 6. And Saul said unto the Kenites.] Who were the posterity of Jethro, [ 1:16] who, though he went not with Israel, yet some of his children did, and were helpful. They dwelt at this time in the borders of Amalek, but in tents, as did their issue, the Rechabites, - they are therefore warned to move their habitations, lest they should perish with ill neighbours, [Zechariah 9:2] Hamath lying nigh to Damascus, partook of its punishment. See 2 Corinthians 6:17, Revelation 18:4).

Go, depart, get you dawn,] Congeries asyndetos celeritatis index: pack away with all speed. And when the Kenites pack up their fardles {little bundles}, it is time to expect judgment, Migremus hinc is a sad foretoken.

So the Kenites departed.] This they could soon do, as being Scenites, dwellers in tents.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 15:7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah [until] thou comest to Shur, that [is] over against Egypt.

Ver. 7. And Saul smote the Amalekites.] So many as he could well come at; for many made escape, and they were still a nation in David’s days, retaining their old hatred and hostility against God’s Israel, derived to them from Esau their progenitor, and first founder. [1 Chronicles 1:36] See 1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 15:8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

Ver. 8. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive.] Captans laudem clementiae, that he might be cried up for a clement conqueror: or that he might put him to his ransom, or rather out of a foolish and preposterous pity to his fellowking; as Ahab afterwards dealt by Benhadad. (a)

And utterly destroyed all the people.] All that he met with, as those that were devoted to destruction. The Jews at this day think they may kill any idolaters; and they have a saying, Optimus qui inter gentes, dignus est cui caput conteratur tanquam serpenti. The very best man among the Gentiles is as worthy as the old serpent to be knocked on the head.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 15:9 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 every thing [that was] vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

Ver. 9. And the best of the sheep.] If Saul spare Agag, the people will take liberty to spare the best of the spoil, - Regis ad exemplum, &c., the sins of the great command imitation, and do as seldom go without attendants as their persons, - which they ought not to have done, because together with those spoils, the memory also of the nation remained, which God had decreed utterly to blot out. They should have done as they did once at Jericho. [Joshua 6:17] But the dust of covetousness had put out their eyes; neither was it godliness, - as they pretended, - but gain, that made them so to fly upon the spoil. [1 Samuel 15:19]


Verse 10

1 Samuel 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,

Ver. 10. Then came the word of the Lord.] That which one saith of our Henry VIII may well be applied to Saul, Habuit ille quidem egregias dotes; sed suos simul patiebatur manes: there were in him great virtues, and no less vices, jumbled together, as it were. And as the chronicler writeth of our Edward II. Never was prince received with greater love and opinion of all than he; or ever any that sooner lost it. So here.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 15:11 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.

Ver. 11. It repenteth me that I have set up Saul.] This is humaniths dictum, spoken after the manner of men: as man when he altereth anything that he did before, seemeth to repent. It hath been elsewhere noted, that God’s repentance is not a change of his will, but of his work. Repentance with man, is the changing of his will; repentance with God, is the willing of a change.

And it grieved Samuel] Heb., And Samuel kindled; viz., with anger and grief together; anger against Saul, and grief for him, See a like mixture of holy passions in our Saviour against the hard-hearted Jews, Mark 3:5.

And he cried unto the Lord all night.] That God would not cast away Saul, but give him repentance unto life. Here was no envy at his new successor, but fervent charity.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 15:12 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.

Ver. 12. Saul came to Carmel.] A town of Judah that was in his way as he returned from Amalek. [Joshua 15:55]

And, behold, he set him up a place.] Heb., A hand: that is, say some, a trophy or monument of triumph like a hand; as who should say, By mine own hand have I achieved this victory. So Sesostris, king of Egypt, not long before Saul’s days, when he had conquered any country, was wont to set up pillars there; and thereon to engrave these words, Tηνδε την χωρην ωμοισιν τοις εμοισιν οκτησαμην; With mine own hands did I get this land. This is taken for a vain glorious vaunt of Saul’s, and an aggravation of his sin. He goeth on to boast in the next.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 15:13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed [be] thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

Ver. 13. Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed, &c.] Which if he had done indeed, he would never thus have boasted, but by glossing speeches he thinks to stop Samuel’s mouth, from whom he might well fear a reproof. He gives good words, when his deeds were evil: he protests his obedience against his conscience, and faceth out his protestation against a reproof. In a word, there needeth no other character of hypocrisy than Saul in the handling of this one business with Agag and Samuel, as a very grave and learned divine (a) hath well observed.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, What [meaneth] then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

Ver. 14. What meaneth then this bleating, &c.] Quid verba quaero, facta cum videam? cave ne dicta factis erubescant. Tenue mendacium pellucet: falsehood may be transparently seen through, many times: "but the unjust knoweth no shame." [Zephaniah 3:5]


Verse 15

1 Samuel 15:15 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.

Ver. 15. They have brought … the people spared, &c.] He had no hand in it, if you will believe him; he lays all the blame upon the people, - contrary to 1 Samuel 15:9, - they would have it so, and how could he hinder them? A poor shift of weak princes, an ordinary trick of arrant hypocrites, to save themselves by charging others. As harlots when their beauty is decayed, desire to hide it from themselves by false glosses, and from others by paintings: so do hypocrites their sins, - from themselves by false glosses, and from others by shuffling and excuses.

To sacrifice unto the Lord.] Thus piety is frequently pretended to worldly respects, [Philippians 3:18-19] and to wicked respects. [Matthew 23:14 1 Kings 21:9 2 Samuel 15:8 Matthew 2:8] But this is putrid hypocrisy; it is double iniquity.

The rest we have utterly destroyed.] With shame enough might he speak it: but it was past that time of day with him.


Verse 16

1 Samuel 15:16 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.

Ver. 16. Stay, and I will tell thee.] Ministers must rebuke with all authority: neither may any despise them for so doing. [Titus 2:15] It is a treacherous flattery to soothe men up in their sins, and to sew pillows under their elbows.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 15:17 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?

Ver. 17. When thou wast little in thine own sight.] There is an ingratitude in every sin, and that is to be considered. Good turns aggravate unkindnesses: and our offences are increased by our obligations.


Verse 18

1 Samuel 15:18 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.

Ver. 18. Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites.] Those sinners with an accent, those wicked with a witness; qui noluerant solita peccare, - as Seneca said of some in his time, - who strove to out sin others.


Verse 19

1 Samuel 15:19 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?

Ver. 19. Wherefore then didst thou … fly upon the spoil?] As a hungry hawk upon his prey. See on 1 Samuel 15:9.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 15:20 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.

Ver. 20. Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.] He thinketh to overcome the prophet, and to make his penny good silver. He putteth God to his proofs, as those did in Jeremiah 2:25. Et pudet non esse impudentem, as Augustine speaks.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 15:21 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.

Ver. 21. But the people took, &c.] See 1 Samuel 15:15.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 15:22 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.

Ver. 22. Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.] The reason whereof is given by one, Quia per victimas aliena caro, per obedientiam voluntas propria mactatur: because in sacrifice the flesh of another creature, but by obedience, our own wills are offered up to God. Luther was wont to say, Mallem obedire quam miracula facere, I had rather be obedient, than able to work miracles:


Verse 23

1 Samuel 15:23 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.

Ver. 23. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.] Because it dethroneth God, as it were, and setteth up self in his place. For as the covetous man’s god is his gold, the glutton’s his belly, the ambitionist’s honour; so the obstinate sinner’s god is his own reason and will, which alone he serveth, seeketh, and setteth up for his chiefest good. It is his pleasure, his profit, and his preferment, that is every wicked man’s trinity: and his carnal self that is these in unity. What wonder then that God so hateth such? [Deuteronomy 29:19-21] He cannot satisfy himself in saying what he will do to them: but is absolute in threatening, to show that he will be resolute in punishing. See the like, Isaiah 22:12-14, Ezekiel 24:13-14.


Verse 24

1 Samuel 15:24 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.

Ver. 24. I have sinned.] Tandem aliquando frigide ait Peccavi. When he could deny it no longer, at length he maketh a forced and feigned confession; drawn thereto, more by the danger and damage of his sin, than by the offence; mincing and making the best of an ill matter. Rupertus, making a comparison between the repentance of Saul and of David, observeth that they both cried Peccavi, sed magno discrimine, but with a great deal of difference. It was wrung from Saul, but it freely came from David. [2 Samuel 12:13] Saul sought his own glory; David, God’s. Saul saith, "I have sinned; yet honour me before the people": David saith, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned; have mercy on me," &c.

Because I feared the people.] This was to excuse one sin with another. He should have trusted in God, done his duty, and not feared what man could do unto him.


Verse 25

1 Samuel 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

Ver. 25. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin,] i.e., Pray God to pardon it: though some here also tax him for this, that he relied more upon another’s virtue than upon his own penitency; likeas afterwards, also, he would cloak his guiltiness with the holiness of another’s presence.

That I may worship the Lord.] He would fashionably serve that God, whom yet he careth not to reconcile by sound repentance.


Verse 26

1 Samuel 15:26 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.

Ver. 26. The Lord hath rejected thee.] God loveth to retaliate; and what wonder that the holy and true God casteth off him, whose best was dissimulation?


Verse 27

1 Samuel 15:27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.

Ver. 27. He laid hold on the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.] Saul was loath to leave him, lest the people should take notice of a breach betwixt them. But what a madness of malice was that in those Papists in King Edward VI’s time, against Mr Cardmaker, lecturer in Paul’s, that in his reading, cut and mangled his gown with their knives! (a)


Verse 28

1 Samuel 15:28 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.

Ver. 28. The Lord hath rent the kingdom.] And given it to the man that shall hereafter tear off the skirt of thy garment, as Lyra here noteth out of the Rabbins, whence also Saul said then, "And now behold I know well that thou shalt surely be king," &c. [1 Samuel 24:20]


Verse 29

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he [is] not a man, that he should repent.

Ver. 29. And also the Strength (or Eternity) of Israel will not lie nor repent.] This was most fearful, and showed that the sentence passed upon Saul was irrevocable. Do not think, saith a reverend man, (a) this is a case that seldom comes; it is done every day, upon some or other.


Verse 30

1 Samuel 15:30 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.

Ver. 30. I have sinned: yet honour me.] Thus he careth to hold in with men, in what terms soever he standeth with God. Not so the sincere Christian. [Romans 2:29]


Verse 31

1 Samuel 15:31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Ver. 31. So Samuel turned again after Saul.] Both to show his respect to him as his sovereign, and to do execution upon Agag.


Verse 32

1 Samuel 15:32 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.

Ver. 32. And Agag came unto him delicately.] Gressu et incessu regio, et superbo, (a) stately and haughtily, with the garb and gait of a king; as little dreaming of death. Ultimus sanitatis gradus est morbo proximus, say physicians. The wicked when nearest misery, are oft in greatest security: as here Agag.


Verse 33

1 Samuel 15:33 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.

Ver. 33. As thy sword hath made women childless.] Thine and thy predecessors’, in whose footsteps thou hast trodden; being Mali corvi, malum ovum, (a) neither good egg, nor good bird.

And Samuel hewed Agag.] With his own hands likely, as Phinehas stabbed Zimri, and Elias slew the Baalites, not out of a desire of revenge, but a zeal for justice: such as was that in Charles V, who, hearing that his general Farnesius had ravished certain gentlewomen, said, If I had the villain here, I would despatch him with mine own hand. (b)


Verse 34

1 Samuel 15:34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.

Ver. 34. Then Samuel.] Little caring for one another’s company.


Verse 35

1 Samuel 15:35 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.

Ver. 35. And Samuel came no more,] viz., To visit him, and assist him.

Samuel mourned for Saul.] For the hardness of his heart, and the hazard of his soul.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-15.html. 1865-1868.

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Monday, October 19th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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