1 Samuel 15:32
Then said Samuel, Bring you here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came to him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.
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(32) Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.—But in the public service of thanksgiving there was one stern act of judgment still to be done. The King of the Amalekites had been sentenced to die. Saul had spared him for selfish reasons of his own; we need not discuss here the apparent harshness of the doom. There were, no doubt, amply sufficient reasons for the seemingly hard sentence on the people of Amalek: such as their past crimes, their evil example, the unhappy influence which they probably exercised on the surrounding nations. Weighed in the balance of the Divine justice, Amalek had been found wanting; and perhaps—we speak in all reverence—this death which was the doom of Amalek was sent in mercy rather than in punishment: mercy to those whom their evil lives might have corrupted with deep corruption—mercy to themselves, in calling them off from greater evils yet to come, had they been permitted still to live on in sin. Their king, whom Saul had, in defiance of the Divine command, spared, could not be permitted to live. From Samuel’s words in 1Samuel 15:33 he seems, even among a wicked race, to have been pre-eminent. in wickedness. Ewald suggests a curious, but not wholly improbable, reason for Saul’s preserving him alive: “kings, for the honour of their craft, must spare each other.” There are other instances in the Sacred Book of prophets and priests acting as the executioners of the Divine decrees: for instance, Phinehas, when he slew Zimri and Cozbi before all Israel (Numbers 25:8-15); and Elijah, in the case of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1Kings 18:40). It has been suggested that Samuel did not perform the terrible act of Divine justice with his own hand, but simply handed over Agag to the officers of justice to put to death; but it is far more in harmony with other similar scenes in Hebrew story, and with the stern unflinching character of these devoted servants of the God of Israel, to understand the recital in its literal sense, which certainly leaves the impression on the reader that Samuel himself slew the King of Amalek.

The Hebrew word rendered “delicately” is apparently derived from the same root as “Eden,” the garden of joy; the meaning then would probably be “cheerfully, gladly;” another derivation, however, would enable us to render it “in bands or in fetters.” This would give a very good sense, but most expositors prefer the idea of “cheerfulness” or gladness.” The LXX. must have found another word altogether in their copies, for they render it “trembling.” The Syriac Version omits it—strangely enough—altogether. Another view of the tragical incident is suggested in Excursus G at the end of this Book.

1 Samuel 15:32-33. Agag came unto him delicately — Hebrew, מעדנת, magnadannoth, in delights, or ornaments; that is, he came not like an offender, expecting the sentence of death, but in the garb, and gesture, and majesty of a king. And Agag said — Or, For Agag said; this being mentioned as the reason why he came so. Surely the bitterness of death is past — I, who have escaped death from a warlike prince and his soldiers in the fury of battle, shall certainly not suffer it from a prophet in time of peace. As thy sword hath made women childless — By this it appears that he had been a tyrant; and guilty of many bloody actions; and was now cut off, not merely for the sins of his ancestors four hundred years ago, but also for his own merciless cruelty. Samuel hewed Agag in pieces — This he doubtless did by a divine instinct, and in pursuance of God’s express command, which had been sinfully neglected and disobeyed by Saul, but is now executed by Samuel. It is not said that Samuel cut Agag in pieces with his own hand; perhaps he only commanded him to be slain by proper officers. In those days, however, it was no unusual thing for the greatest persons to perform these executions. But no private persons are authorized to make such instances as these precedents for taking the sword of justice into their own hands. For we must be governed in our own conduct by the laws of God, and not by extraordinary examples. Before the Lord in Gilgal — That is, before the altar of the Lord, where they had been praying and offering sacrifices.15:32-35 Many think the bitterness of death is past when it is not gone by; they put that evil day far from them, which is very near. Samuel calls Agag to account for his own sins. He followed the example of his ancestors' cruelty, justly therefore is all the righteous blood shed by Amalek required. Saul seems unconcerned at the token of God's displeasure which he lay under, yet Samuel mourns day and night for him. Jerusalem was carnally secure while Christ wept over it. Do we desire to do the whole will of God? Turn to him, not in form and appearance, but with sincerity.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.

32. Agag came unto him delicately—or cheerfully, since he had gained the favor and protection of the king. Delicately, or in delights, or in his ornaments, i.e. he came not like an offender, expecting the sentence of death, but in that garb and gesture which became his quality.

And Agag said, or, for Agag said; this being the reason why he came so.

The bitterness of death is past: I who have escaped death from the hands of a warlike prince in the fury of battle, shall certainly never suffer death from an old prophet in time of peace. Then said Samuel, bring you hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites,.... This he said very probably to some of Saul's officers, and in his presence, and before all the people met together for sacrifice:

and Agag came unto him delicately; fat and plump, as the Vulgate Latin version, and yet trembling, as that and the Septuagint; well dressed, in the garb and habit of a king, and with the air and majesty of one; or with pleasure and joy, as Kimchi, choosing rather to die than to be a captive, and live in such reproach as he did; though R. Isaiah and Ben Gersom give the sense of it, that he came bound in chains, and fetters of iron, according to the use of the word in Job 38:31.

and Agag said, surely the bitterness of death is past; this he said, either as not expecting to die, that since he had been spared by Saul, the king of the nation, a fierce and warlike prince, he had nothing to fear from an ancient man and a prophet, and who now bore not the sword of justice; and especially when he came into his presence, and saw his form, which showed him to be a man of clemency and mercy, as Ben Gersom observes: or as expecting it, and so Kimchi interprets it to this sense, "the bitterness of death is come"; and is near at hand, and will be soon over; or suggesting that that which was bitter, to others grievous and terrible, was to him sweet and desirable; but the former sense seems best by what follows.

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 {n} bitterness of death is past.

(n) He expected nothing less than death, or as some write, he passed not for death.

32–35. The execution of Agag. Samuel’s departure

32. delicately] Rather, cheerfully: not fearing any harm from the aged prophet, as the king had spared his life. But the meaning of the word is very doubtful. The Sept. has “trembling;” the Vulg. a curious double rendering, “sleek and trembling” (pinguissimus et tremens).

Surely the bitterness of death is past] This was what Agag said to himself, expecting to be spared. But the Sept. (from a different reading) gives: “Is death so bitter?” Vulg. “Does bitter death thus sever [me from life]?” (Siccine separat amara mors?) representing Agag as afraid.Verse 32. - Delicately. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate this word trembling, and the Syriac omits, probably from inability to give its meaning. Most commentators render cheerfully, joyfully, forming it from the same root as Eden, the garden of joy (comp. Psalm 36:8, where Eden is translated pleasure). The very word, however, occurs in Job 38:31, where the A.V. renders it bands, and this seems the right sense: "Agag came unto him in fetters." The idea that Agag came cheerfully is contradicted by the next clause - Surely the bitterness of death is passed. Though put affirmatively, there is underlying doubt. It is no expression of heroic contempt for death, nor of real confidence that, as Saul had spared him hitherto, his life was in no danger. He had been brought to the national sanctuary, and a great festival in honour of the success of the army was to be held. It was entirely in accordance with the customs of ancient times that his execution should be the central feature of the spectacle. Agag's words show that this fear was present in his mind, though they are put in such a form as to be a protest against his life being taken after so long delay. Samuel's reply treats Agag's assertion as being thus at once a question and a protest. The bitterness of death has still to be borne, and the cruelty of Agag's past life makes the shedding of his own blood just. The Syriac translates, "Surely death is bitter;" the Septuagint, "If death be so bitter," with which the Vulgate agrees. Thus they all understood that Agag came trembling for his life. This request Samuel refused, repeating at the same time the sentence of rejection, and turned to depart. "Then Saul laid hold of the lappet of his mantle (i.e., his upper garment), and it tore" (lit. was torn off). That the Niphal ויּקּרע is correct, and is not to be altered into אתהּ ויּקרע, "Saul tore off the lappet," according to the rendering of the lxx, as Thenius supposes, is evident from the explanation which Samuel gave of the occurrence (1 Samuel 15:28): "Jehovah hath torn the sovereignty of Israel from thee to-day, and given it to thy neighbour, who is better than thou." As Saul was about to hold back the prophet by force, that he might obtain from him a revocation of the divine sentence, the tearing of the mantle, which took place accidentally, and evidently without any such intention on the part of Saul, was to serve as a sign of the rending away of the sovereignty from him. Samuel did not yet know to whom Jehovah would give it; he therefore used the expression לרעך, as רע is applied to any one with whom a person associates. To confirm his own words, he adds in 1 Samuel 15:29 : "And also the Trust of Israel doth not lie and doth not repent, for He is not a man to repent." נצח signifies constancy, endurance, then confidence, trust, because a man can trust in what is constant. This meaning is to be retained here, where the word is used as a name for God, and not the meaning gloria, which is taken in 1 Chronicles 29:11 from the Aramaean usage of speech, and would be altogether unsuitable here, where the context suggests the idea of unchangeableness. For a man's repentance or regret arises from his changeableness, from the fluctuations in his desires and actions. This is never the case with God; consequently He is ישׂראל נצח, the unchangeable One, in whom Israel can trust, since He does not lie or deceive, or repent of His purposes. These words are spoken θεοπρεπῶς (theomorphically), whereas in 1 Samuel 15:11 and other passages, which speak of God as repenting, the words are to be understood ἀνθρωποπαθῶς (anthropomorphically; cf. Numbers 23:19).
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