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.
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(9) And he took Agag . . . alive.—Agag seems to have been for the sovereigns of Amalek the official title, like Pharaoh in the case of the kings of Egypt, and Abimelech among certain of the Philistine peoples. The meaning of the term Agag is unknown.

Utterly destroyed all the people.—That is to say, Ir-Amalek was sacked, and the nation generally broken up; but many, no doubt, escaped into the desert, for we hear of the people again on several occasions in this book. In 1Chronicles 4:43 their complete, and probably final, annihilation is recorded.

(9) Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen.—It would seem that Saul carried out the awful curse to the letter (with the exception that he spared the king) in the case of the human beings and the less valuable of their beasts. But covetousness seems to have suggested the preservation of the choicest cattle, and pride probably induced the Hebrew king to save Agag alive, that he might show the people his royal captive.

1 Samuel 15:9. Would not utterly destroy them — As they had been commanded of God, but took them as a prey to themselves. Every thing that was vile, they destroyed — All that was not worth the keeping. Thus they obeyed God as far as they could, without inconvenience and loss to themselves, which is a striking instance of the baseness of human nature, when governed by covetousness, or any such like grovelling affection or appetite.

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.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. 8, 9. he took Agag … alive—This was the common title of the Amalekite kings. He had no scruple about the apparent cruelty of it, for he made fierce and indiscriminate havoc of the people. But he spared Agag, probably to enjoy the glory of displaying so distinguished a captive, and, in like manner, the most valuable portions of the booty, as the cattle. By this wilful and partial obedience to a positive command [1Sa 15:3], complying with it in some parts and violating it in others, as suited his own taste and humor, Saul showed his selfish, arbitrary temper, and his love of despotic power, and his utter unfitness to perform the duties of a delegated king in Israel. Saul and the people; the one proposed to do so, and the other consented to it, and so both were guilty.

All that was good; which it is more than probable they reserved for their own use, rather than for sacrifice, because they knew God would not accept a sacrifice contrary to his own command. Thus they obey God only so far as they could without inconvenience to themselves; they destroyed only what was not worth keeping, nor fit for their use.

And Saul and all the people spared Agag,.... Perhaps Saul made the motion to spare him, and the people agreed to it; it may be, out of respect to him as a king; or because of the comeliness of his person, the height of his stature, and the largeness of his body, as Josephus (y) notes; or to carry him in triumph in a public show, see 1 Samuel 15:12.

and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings; or "of the second sort", as in the margin, the second best; or rather which shed their two long teeth, as sheep at two years old did when reckoned at their full strength, and fittest for sacrifice (z):

and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; as they were commanded, but kept them for their own private use and advantage, and this not only the best and fattest of the flocks and herds, but of their household goods:

but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly: such of the cattle that were poor and lean, lame or blind, or had any defect in them, and household goods that were mere rubbish and lumber; such they entirely destroyed, killed the creatures, and burnt the goods; in doing which they thought they fulfilled the will of God.

(y) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 6. c. 7.) sect. 2.((z) Bidentes, Virgil. Aeneid. l. 6. ver. 39. Vid. Servium in ib.

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.
9. spared Agag] Perhaps to grace his triumph and to be an evidence of his victory (Jdg 1:7): perhaps from a feeling of sympathy with a fellow king (1 Kings 20:32).

and the best of the sheep, &c.] In direct violation of the Divine command. It was to be a sacred war from which the people were to take no gain of spoil, in token that it was undertaken in the execution of a Divine vengeance and not for their own profit.

fatlings] See note on p. 246.

Verse 9. - The fatlings. So the Syriac and Chaldee render the word, but the Hebrew literally means "the second best." Kimchi and Tanchum give perhaps a preferable rendering, "the second born," such animals being considered superior to the first born, as the dams had by that time arrived at their full strength. REJECTION OF SAUL AND HIS DYNASTY (vers. 10-23). 1 Samuel 15:9Their king, Agag, he took alive (on the name, see at Numbers 24:7), but all the people he banned with the edge of the sword, i.e., he had them put to death without quarter. "All," i.e., all that fell into the hands of the Israelites. For it follows from the very nature of the case that many escaped, and consequently there is nothing striking in the fact that Amalekites are mentioned again at a later period (1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1; 2 Samuel 8:12). The last remnant was destroyed by the Simeonites upon the mountains of Seir in the reign of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:43). Only, king Agag did Saul and the people (of Israel) spare, also "the best of the sheep and oxen, and the animals of the second birth, and the lambs and everything good; these they would not ban." משׁנים, according to D. Kimchi and R. Tanch. , are לבטן שׁניים, i.e., animalia secundo partu edita, which were considered superior to the others (vid., Roediger in Ges. Thes. p. 1451); and כּרים, pasture lambs, i.e., fat lambs. There is no necessity, therefore, for the conjecture of Ewald and Thenius, משׁמנּים, fattened, and כּרמים, vineyards; nor for the far-fetched explanation given by Bochart, viz., camels with two humps and camel-saddles, to say nothing of the fact that camel-saddles and vineyards are altogether out of place here. In "all that was good" the things already mentioned singly are all included. המּלאכה, the property; here it is applied to cattle, as in Genesis 33:14. נמבזה equals נבזה, despised, undervalued. The form of the word is not contracted from a noun מבזה and the participle נבזה (Ges. Lehrgeb. p. 463), but seems to be a participle Niph. formed from a noun מבזה. But as such a form is contrary to all analogy, Ewald and Olshausen regard the reading as corrupt. נמס (from מסס): flowing away; used with reference to diseased cattle, or such as have perished. The reason for sparing the best cattle is very apparent, namely selfishness. But it is not so easy to determine why Agag should have been spared by Saul. It is by no means probable that he wished thereby to do honour to the royal dignity. O. v. Gerlach's supposition, that vanity or the desire to make a display with a royal slave was the actual reason, is a much more probable one.
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