1 Samuel 15:20
And Saul said to Samuel, Yes, 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Yea, I have obeyed . . .—These and the words which follow are simply a repetition of the king’s former excuse for his act: but they show us what was the state of Saul’s mind: he evidently disbelieved in the power of the Eternal as a heart reader. If he could justify himself before Samuel, that was all he cared for. He asserted his own integrity of purpose and his great zeal for the public sacrifice to God, knowing all the while that low earthly reasons had been the springs of his conduct. He reiterated the plea that what he had done was in accordance with the voice of the people, conscious all the while that the plea was false.

1 Samuel 15:20-21. Have brought Agag the king — To be dealt with as God pleaseth. Strange stupidity! to imagine such a partial obedience could be pleasing unto God. But the people took of the spoil — It was a mean thing to throw all the blame on the people, whom he ought to have governed better; and it was worst of all to pretend religion for his disobedience. The things which should have been utterly destroyed — Here he shows that he was conscious he had not done as he was commanded.15:10-23 Repentance in God is not a change of mind, as it is in us, but a change of method. The change was in Saul; He is turned back from following me. Hereby he made God his enemy. Samuel spent a whole night in pleading for Saul. The rejection of sinners is the grief of believers: God delights not in their death, nor should we. Saul boasts to Samuel of his obedience. Thus sinners think, by justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord. The noise the cattle made, like the rust of the silver, Jas 5:3, witnessed against him. Many boast of obedience to the command of God; but what means then their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their angry and unkind spirit, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness against them? See of what evil covetousness is the root; and see what is the sinfulness of sin, and notice that in it which above any thing else makes it evil in the sight of the Lord; it is disobedience: Thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord. Carnal, deceitful hearts, like Saul, think to excuse themselves from God's commandments by what pleases themselves. It is hard to convince the children of disobedience. But humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all burnt-offering and sacrifices. God is more glorified and self more denied, by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be burned upon the altar, than to bring every high thought into obedience to God, and to make our will subject to his will. Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men, who are not willing that God should rule over them.The sinners - As though God would justify His commission to destroy them. (Compare Genesis 13:13.) 13-23. Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord—Saul was either blinded by a partial and delusive self-love, or he was, in his declaration to Samuel, acting the part of a bold and artful hypocrite. He professed to have fulfilled the divine command, and that the blame of any defects in the execution lay with the people. Samuel saw the real state of the case, and in discharge of the commission he had received before setting out, proceeded to denounce his conduct as characterized by pride, rebellion, and obstinate disobedience. When Saul persisted in declaring that he had obeyed, alleging that the animals, whose bleating was heard, had been reserved for a liberal sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, his shuffling, prevaricating answer called forth a stern rebuke from the prophet. It well deserved it—for the destination of the spoil to the altar was a flimsy pretext—a gross deception, an attempt to conceal the selfishness of the original motive under the cloak of religious zeal and gratitude. He addeth obstinacy and impenitency to his crime, and justifies his fact, though he hath nothing of any moment to say but what he said before. So he gives Samuel the lie, and reflects upon him as one that had falsely accused him.

Have brought Agag to be dealt with as God pleaseth, and as thou thinkest fit. And Saul said to Samuel, yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord,.... Here Saul breaks in upon Samuel before he had declared all that the Lord had said unto him; for having expostulated with him for not obeying the voice of the Lord, he could not forbear interrupting him, but with the utmost assurance affirms he had obeyed the voice of the Lord; but then it was very imperfectly, and poor proof does he give of it:

and have gone the way which the Lord sent me; it is very true he went into the country of Amalek, but he did not do there all the Lord commanded him:

and have brought Agag the king of Amalek; took him alive, and brought him captive; whereas he ought to have destroyed him at once, and not have reserved him for triumph; a sad proof this of his obeying the voice of the Lord:

and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites; all that came in his way, in which he did right; but then he had not destroyed the principal of them, their king.

And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, {h} 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.

(i) He stands most impudently in his own defence both against God and his own conscience.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Yea, I have obeyed] Saul still persists in justifying his conduct. (a) He had fulfilled his mission and destroyed the Amalekites, and brought Agag with him in proof thereof. (b) The people had brought home the spoil for sacrifice, not for themselves.Verses 20, 21. - Saul's justifcation of himself is remarkable, as he seems entirely unconscious of having done anything wrong. His education had no doubt been defective (1 Samuel 10:12), and his knowledge of the law was probably very small; but he must have listened to Samuel's injunctions in a very off hand way, and have troubled himself about very little more than that he was to make war upon the Amalekites. There may even have been the wish in his mind to let Samuel know that he was now king, and would carry on affairs after his own fashion. The very form of his answer requires notice; for the word rendered yea is literally in that, or because, and may be paraphrased as follows: Do you reproach me thus because I have obeyed you? See, there is Agag in proof of our victory; and if the people have spared the cattle, it was with the best of intentions. The next clause, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, reads in the A.V. like an ironical parenthesis. It is not so, but an important part of Saul's defence. These sheep and oxen were "the best of the devoted things," selected as the first fruits for sacrifice. Saul may not have known that such a sacrifice was forbidden (Deuteronomy 13:15-17). The words, to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God, imply that Samuel ought to be pleased at the victorious army doing this public homage to the Deity whose prophet he was. It was virtually a compliment to himself, and is very much in accordance with the notions of the generality of people now, who consider that attendance at a place of worship, or sending their children to school, is a favour to the clergyman. But the prophet stripped his hypocrisy at once with the question, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and a lowing of oxen that I hear?" Saul replied (1 Samuel 15:15), "They have brought them from the Amalekites, because the people spared the best sheep and oxen, to sacrifice them to the Lord thy God; and the rest we have banned." So that it was not Saul, but the people, who had transgressed the command of the Lord, and that with the most laudable intention, viz., to offer the best of the cattle that had been taken, as a thank-offering to the Lord. The falsehood and hypocrisy of these words lay upon the very surface; for even if the cattle spared were really intended as sacrifices to the Lord, not only the people, but Saul also, would have had their own interests in view (vid., 1 Samuel 15:9), since the flesh of thank-offerings was appropriated to sacrificial meals.
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