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.
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(3) Smite Amalek, and utterly destroy . . .—For “utterly destroy” the Hebrew has the far stronger expression, “put under the ban” (cherem). Whatever was “put under the ban” in Israel was devoted to God, and whatever was so devoted could not be redeemed, but must be slain. Amalek was to be looked upon as accursed; human beings and cattle must be killed; whatever was capable of being destroyed by fire must be burnt. The cup of iniquity in this people was filled up. Its national existence, if prolonged, would simply have worked mischief to the commonwealth of nations. Israel here was simply the instrument of destruction used by the Almighty. It is vain to attempt in this and similar transactions to find materials for the blame or the praise of Israel. We must never forget that Israel stood in a peculiar relation to the unseen King, and that this nation was not unfrequently used as the visible scourge by which the All-Wise punished hopelessly hardened sinners, and deprived them of the power of working mischief. We might as well find fault with pestilence and famine, or the sword—those awful instruments of Divine justice and—though we often fail to see it now—of Divine mercy.

1 Samuel 15:3. Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, &c. — This heavy sentence was pronounced against them long before, (Exodus 17:14,) and renewed at the Israelites’ entrance into Canaan, with a charge not to forget it, (Deuteronomy 25:19,) and now ordered to be put in execution. Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling — We are to consider these orders of God, given in Scripture, for the slaying the innocent with the guilty, even children and sucklings, who could have done no harm, in the same light as we do a plague or earthquake, or any other of God’s judgments in the earth, whereby the guiltless are cut off with the guilty; the reason of which, perhaps, may be, that the guilty, in such calamities, are more grievously afflicted and punished, by the cutting off their harmless children, than they would be by any thing that could befall themselves. And God can, and certainly does, crown elsewhere the innocent with happiness, great enough to reward them amply for the evils that fall upon them here. And, without doubt, every infant, however much its death may be lamented by its parents, receives a great favour and blessing from God by having death bestowed upon it in its infancy; as it is taken away from all the miseries of this life, in order to be made perfectly and eternally happy.

The reason, perhaps, of God’s ordering the beasts to be all killed, upon this and some other occasions of this sort, was, that the neighbouring nations might know that these terrible executions of the Israelites upon some particular nations, did not proceed from any views of profit or interest to themselves, but were done in obedience to the commands of the Lord of all, to punish those whose iniquity was full. For, had the Israelites been allowed to spare the cattle (which were then the chief riches of the nations) on these occasions, they would have appeared rather as the murderers of these people, for the sake of their riches, than the ministers of God’s wrath, to punish nations whose abominations made them ripe for destruction. 15:1-9 The sentence of condemnation against the Amalekites had gone forth long before, Ex 17:14; De 25:19, but they had been spared till they filled up the measure of their sins. We are sure that the righteous Lord does no injustice to any. The remembering the kindness of the ancestors of the Kenites, in favour to them, at the time God was punishing the injuries done by the ancestors of the Amalekites, tended to clear the righteousness of God in this dispensation. It is dangerous to be found in the company of God's enemies, and it is our duty and interest to come out from among them, lest we share in their sins and plagues, Re 18:4. As the commandment had been express, and a test of Saul's obedience, his conduct evidently was the effect of a proud, rebellious spirit. He destroyed only the refuse, that was good for little. That which was now destroyed was sacrificed to the justice of God.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. 2, 3. Amalek—the powerful tribe which inhabited the country immediately to the eastward of the northern Cushites. Their territory extended over the whole of the eastern portion of the desert of Sinai to Rephidim—the earliest opponent (De 25:18; Ex 17:8-16)—the hereditary and restless enemy of Israel (Nu 14:45; Jud 3:13; 6:3), and who had not repented (1Sa 14:48) of their bitter and sleepless hatred during the five hundred years that had elapsed since their doom was pronounced. Being a people of nomadic habits, they were as plundering and dangerous as the Bedouin Arabs, particularly to the southern tribes. The national interest required, and God, as King of Israel, decreed that this public enemy should be removed. Their destruction was to be without reservation or exception.

I remember—I am reminded of what Amalek did—perhaps by the still remaining trophy or memorial erected by Moses (Ex 17:15, 16).

All that they have, both persons and goods; kill all that live, and consume all things without life; for I will have no name nor remnant of that people, whom long since I have cursed and devoted to utter destruction.

Spare them not; show no compassion or favour to any of them. The same thing repeated to prevent mistake, and oblige Saul to the exact performance hereof; or, to leave him without excuse, in case of neglect.

Infant and suckling; for their parents’ crime and punishment; which was not unjust, because God is the supreme Lord and giver of life, and can require his own when he pleaseth; infants also are born in sin, Psalm 51:5, and therefore liable to God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3, and to death, Romans 5:12,14. Their death also was rather a mercy than a curse to them, as being the occasion of preventing the vast increase of their sin and punishment.

Ox and sheep, camel and ass; which being all made for man’s benefit, it is not strange nor unjust if they suffer with him, and for him and for the instruction of mankind. Now go and smite Amalek,.... This was one of the three things the Israelites were obliged to do when they came into the land of Canaan, as Kimchi observes; one was, to appoint a king over them, another, to build the house of the sanctuary, and the third, to blot out the name and memory of Amalek, see Deuteronomy 25:19 and this work was reserved for Saul, their first king:

and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; all were to be devoted to destruction, and nothing remain to be made use of in any way, to any profit and advantage; living creatures were to be put to death, and everything else burnt and destroyed:

but slay both men and women, infant and suckling; neither sex nor age were to be regarded, no mercy and pity shown to any; they had shown none to Israel when weak and feeble, and by the law of retaliation none was to be exercised on them:

ox and sheep, camel and ass; though useful creatures, yet not to be spared; as not men, women, and children, through commiseration, so neither these through covetousness, and neither of them on any pretence whatsoever. Children suffered for their parents, and cattle because of their owners, and both were a punishment to their proprietors; an ox, or any other creature, might not be spared, lest it should be said, as Kimchi observes, this was the spoil of Amalek, and so the name and memory of Amalek would not be blotted out.

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but {b} slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

(b) That this might be an example of God's vengeance against those who deal cruelly with his people.

3. utterly destroy all that they have] The word translated “utterly destroy” means “to ban,” or “to devote,” and hence since that which was cherem or “devoted” might not be taken as spoil, it comes to signify “utterly destroy.” See Leviticus 27:28-29; Joshua 6:17 ff. The word is used in Samuel only in this chapter.

On the “moral difficulty” involved in this command see Note V. p. 240.Verse 3. - Utterly destroy. Hebrew, "put under the ban." The word herem, ban, properly signifies a thing set apart, especially one devoted to God; and whatever was so devoted could not be redeemed, but must be slain. When a country was put under the ban, all living things, men and cattle, were to be killed; no spoil might be taken, but it was to be burnt, and things indestructible by fire, as silver and gold, were to be brought into the treasury. Everything, in short, belonging to such a nation was looked upon as accursed (see Numbers 21:2, 3). Saul's family. - 1 Samuel 14:49. Only three of his sons are mentioned, namely those who fell with him, according to 1 Samuel 31:2, in the war with the Philistines. Jisvi is only another name for Abinadab (1 Samuel 31:2; 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39). In these passages in the Chronicles there is a fourth mentioned, Esh-baal, i.e., the one who is called Ish-bosheth in 2 Samuel 2:8, etc., and who was set up by Abner as the antagonist of David. The reason why he is not mentioned here it is impossible to determine. It may be that the name has fallen out simply through some mistake in copying: the daughters Michal and Merab are mentioned, with special reference to the occurrence described in 1 Samuel 18:17.
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