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.
The absence of all chronology or note of time is remarkable.
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.
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 was made by them upon the south country at a time when they thought the Israelites were weakened by their contests with the Philistines.
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.
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.
And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
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.
And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.
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.
And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
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.
And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
The saving Agag alive was in direct violation of the devotion to destruction.
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.
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.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
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.
And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The sinners - As though God would justify His commission to destroy them. (Compare Genesis 13:13.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1 Samuel 15:22.To what purpose shall frankincense be brought unto me from Sabah?
Or the rich aromatic reed from a far country?
Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable,
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.
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)."
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.
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 Psalm 51:4.
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
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.
And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
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.
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
The strength of Israel - A phrase which occurs only here. The word means, perpetuity, truth, glory, victory, and trust, or confidence.
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.
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.
So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
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.
Samuel came no more ... - In the sense of visiting or conversing on public affairs.