1 Samuel 15
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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 rejection of Saul for his disobedience in the Amalekite war

CHAPTER 15:1–35

1SAMUEL also [And Samuel] said unto Saul, The Lord [Jehovah] sent me to anoint thee to be [om. to be] king over his people,1 over Israel; now therefore [and 2now] hearken thou unto the voice of the words2 of the Lord [Jehovah]. Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah] of hosts, I remember [have considered3] that which [what] Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for [withstood4] him in the way, when he 3came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy5 all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

4And Saul gathered [summoned] the people together [om. together], and numbered them in Telaim,6 two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of 5Judah.7 And Saul came to a [the]8 city of Amalek, and laid wait9 in the valley.10 6And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So [And] the Kenites11 departed from 7among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until [as]12 8thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people [all the people he utterly 9destroyed] with the edge of the sword. But [And] Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings [secondrate],13 and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but everything that was vile13 and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

10Then came the word of the Lord [And the word of Jehovah came] unto Samuel, 11It repenteth me that I have set up [made] Saul to be [om. to be] king; for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And 12it grieved14 Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord [Jehovah] all night. And when [om. when] Samuel rose early15 to meet Saul in the morning, [ins. and] it was told Samuel,16 saying, Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set him up a place [monument]17 13and is gone about, and passed on [over], and gone down to Gilgal. And Samuel came to Saul,18 and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord [Jehovah]; 14I have performed the commandment of the Lord [Jehovah]. And Samuel said, What meaneth then [And what is] this bleating of the [om. the19] sheep 15in mine ears, and the lowing of the [om. the19] oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They20 have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice unto the Lord [Jehovah] thy God; 16and the rest we20 have utterly destroyed. Then [And] Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord [Jehovah] hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

17And Samuel said, When [Though]21 thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord [Jehovah] anointed thee 18king over Israel? And the Lord [Jehovah] sent thee on a journey [way], and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until 19they be consumed.22 Wherefore, then, didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord [Jehovah], but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah]? 20And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea23 [om. yea] I have obeyed the voice of the Lord [Jehovah]24, and have gone the way which the Lord [Jehovah] sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and [ins. the Amalekites I] have 21utterly destroyed the Amalekites [om. the Amalekites]. But [And] the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed [things devoted to destruction (or, banned)] to sacrifice unto the 22Lord [Jehovah] thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord [Jehovah] as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord [Jehovah]? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat 23of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry [For the sin of witchcraft is rebellion, and idolatry (or idols) and teraphim is stubbornness].25 Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord [Jehovah], he hath also [om. also] rejected thee from being king.

24And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord [Jehovah] and thy words; because I feared the people and 25obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon [And now, pardon, I pray thee] my sin, and turn again [return] with me, that I may [and I will] worship the 26Lord [Jehovah]. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee; for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord [Jehovah], and the Lord [Jehovah] hath 27rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as [om. as] Samuel turned about 28to go away, [ins. and] he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The Lord [Jehovah] hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou. 29And also, the Strength26 of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man that 30he should repent. Then [And] he said, I have sinned; yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and turn again [return] 31with me, that I may [and I will] worship the, Lord [Jehovah] thy God. So [And] Samuel turned again [returned] after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord [Jehovah].

32Then said Samuel [And Samuel said], Bring ye hither [om. ye hither] to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately [cheerfully].27 33And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. 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 [Jehovah] in Gilgal.

34Then [And] Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah 35of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul [saw Saul no more] until the day of his death; nevertheless [for] Samuel mourned for Saul; and the Lord [Jehovah] repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.


1 Samuel 15:1–3. The divine commission to Saul to execute judgment on Amalek. 1 Samuel 15:1 is not to be connected chronologically with 1 Samuel 12. (Then.), but continues the narrative of chs. 13. and 14. The solemn reminder of Saul’s royal anointing and of Samuel’s divine mission to that end refers not to 11:15, but to 9:15–10:1. It points to the fact that the following commission is a divine command, communicated by the appointed organ, the prophet of God, and that the bearer of the royal office has here to perform a theocratic mission with unconditional obedience. The “me” stands first [such is the order in the Heb.—TR.] in order to give prominence to the official authority, as bearer of which Samuel must needs have felt himself obliged by Saul’s past conduct to assert himself over against him.

1 Samuel 15:2. The Amalekites were a wild, warlike desert-people, dwelling south and south-west of Judea in Arabia Petræa, descended from the same ancestor as the Edomites, and took their name from Esau’s grandson Amalek (Gen. 36:12, 16; 1 Chron. 1:36). Comp. Joseph., Antiq. II. 1, 2, where this people is described as an Edomitic tribe, and their territory said to be part of Idumea. The mention of the “country of the Amalekites” in Gen. 14:7 is not in conflict with their derivation from Esau’s grandson, for this (Hengst, Pent. II. 303 sq.) is merely a proleptical statement (comp. Winer, W. B. I. 51, Anm. 1).28 In the prophecy of Balaam (Num. 24:20) it is expressly mentioned as the first of the heathen nations that opposed Israel as the Lord’s people, and whose destruction by Israel (comp. 1 Samuel 15:8) is foretold. The first hostile movement of this people is narrated in Ex. 17:8 sq. Soon after Israel’s exodus from Egypt the Amalekites fell on their wearied rearguard in the desert of Rephidim, but were defeated by Joshua through Moses’ prayer, and were doomed to extermination by the divine command (1 Samuel 15:14, 16). God’s command to Saul goes back to these first hostilities of the Amalekites (which were often afterwards repeated in their alliances with the Canaanites (Num. 14:40 sq.), with the Moabites (Judg. 3:13), and with the Midianites (Judg. 7:12)), the Amalekites (according to 1 Samuel 15:33) having newly made an inroad, with robbery and murder, on the Israelitish territory.—I have noted what Amalek did to Israel, that is, the whole series of Amalekite hostilities, the beginning of which is expressed in the following words: “how he withstood him” (to Heb. שָׂם supply מַחֲנֶה29 as in 1 Kings 20:12), because in Ex. 17:14, 16, Amalek is declared the doomed hereditary and deadly enemy of Israel. Comp. Deut. 25:17–19.

1 Samuel 15:3. The complete extermination of the Amalekites, persons and property, as a righteous judgment of the holy God (as is intimated in the “noted” (considered) of 1 Samuel 15:2) is enjoined on Saul. The phrase “put everything under the ban” [this is the exact meaning of the Heb.; Eng. A. V.: “utterly destroy,”—TR.] is explained by the following parallel phrases to mean “slaying,” the “inferior being put last in each member” (Then.), and the “both … and” expressing complete destruction without exception. [The Ban. The ban, of which we have here a notable instance, was an old custom, existing probably before Moses, but formulated, regulated and extended by him. In its simplest form it was the devotion to God of any object, living or dead. (The object thus devoted was called חֵרֶם, Cherem, from חרם, “to separate,” “set apart from common use,” and from the noun comes, according to Ewald, the Heb. Hiph. “to make a thing cherem,” “put under the ban.”) When an Israelite or the whole congregation wished to devote to God anything, man, beast or field, whether for the honor of God, or to get rid of an injurious or accursed thing, it was brought and offered to the priest, and could not then be redeemed (Lev. 27:28)—if living, it must be put to death. A deep consciousness of man’s sin and God’s holiness underlay this law. The wicked thing, contrary to the spiritual theocratic life of God’s people, must be removed, must be committed to him who was the ruler and judge of the people. And so the custom had a breadth of use as well as of meaning in Israel which it never had in other ancient nations (Ew.). A city might be devoted (Deut. 13:12–17), or a whole nation by vow of the people (Num. 21:2), or by command of God (Ex. 17:14). In such case all human beings and cattle were to be slain, all the spoil (houses, furniture, etc.) to be burned, the land was to lie for some time fallow, and other things to be given to the sanctuary. From this strict rule there were occasional deviations (Num. 31; Josh. 9:3–15), but on special grounds. To spare the devoted thing was a grave offence, calling down the vengeance of God. In later times the ban was, doubtless under prophetic direction, softened, and in the New Testament times the infliction of death had quite ceased.—On this whole subject see Ew., Alterth. I. 101 sq. (1866), Herzog R. E., s. v. Bann, Comm. of Kalisch and Bib. Comm. on Lev. 27.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:4–9. How Saul performs this divine command.

1 Samuel 15:4. Saul summons the people (Heb. “make them hear,” the Pi. only elsewhere in 23:8). The whole of the population fit for war (see the numbers in 1 Samuel 15:4) appears again in arms, because the powerful Amalekites could be overthrown and destroyed only by the full force of Israel.—Telaim is the same with Telem, a southern city of Judah (Josh. 15:24), lying, therefore, near the Amalekite territory, which agrees with Saul’s choice of the place for his mustering of the army. The reading of the Sept.: “in Gilgal,” is an unfortunate gloss, suggested by chs. 11 and 12. [On the numbers see “Text. and Gram.” The separate mention of Judah points possibly to a post-Solomonic date for the chapter. See Erdmann’s Introduction, p. 40.—TR.]30 1 Samuel 15:5. The name of the “city” of the Amalekites, against which Saul advanced, is not known.31 Saul lay in ambush in the valley. To this Thenius objects that nothing more is said of an ambush, and that Saul went openly to work; but the first remark is of no importance, since it is not intended to give a full account of the battle; and as to the second, Saul was able to treat with the Kenites in the manner described the better because he had concealed his army in a gorge. According to the reading conjectured by Thenius: “and he set the battle in array” (וַיַּעֲרֹךְ מִלְחָמָה, after the Arabic [and Targ.—TR.]: “he set the people in array there”), Saul, “already prepared for battle,” must have addressed himself openly to the Kenites. But neither this declaration to the Kenites, who were living in the midst of the Amalekites, nor the withdrawal of the former from their midst could have occurred as related, if the Israelitish army had stood over against the Amalekites ready for battle. The latter would certainly not have looked quietly on while Saul withdrew the Kenites from them to himself.—The Kenites, a small tribe of the northwestern Arabian nomadic peoples (in Canaan as early as Gen. 15:19), had shown friendship and kindness to the Israelites after their departure from Egypt (Num. 10:29). Moses’ brother-in-law, Hobab (Judg. 1:16), belonged to them, and under his guidance it was that this kindness was shown. According to Judg. 1:16 these friendly Kenites dwelt south of the city Arad in the wilderness of Judah, that is, near the Amalekites, and near their original seat. Thence they had descended up to Saul’s time farther into the Amalekite territory. Some of them settled in the north, as Heber, husband of Jael (Judg. 4:11, 17). Another branch of the Kenites, hostile to the Israelites and in alliance with the Edomites, who dwelt in the caves of Arabia Petræa, and are without ground regarded by Hengstenberg (Bileam, p. 190 sq.) as a totally distinct people, are set forth in Num. 24:21 as the object of God’s inevitable judgment. The Kenites here mentioned (they appear also in the history of David as friends of Israel, 1 Samuel 27:10; 30:29) are withdrawn from the punishment which was inflicted on the Amalekites.

1 Samuel 15:7. The defeat of the Amalekites reached from Havilah to Shur. Havilah, according to Gen. 25:18, the boundary of the Ishmaelites, probably, therefore in the south-east on the border of Arabia Petræa and Arabia Felix (according to Strabo 16, 767, the region of the Chaulotœans, which he puts between the Nabatæi and the Agræi). Shur is the present Wilderness of Jifar, the portion of the Arabian desert bordering on Egypt, into which the Israelites entered after the exodus (Ex. 15:22). Saul thus smote the Amalekites throughout their territory from southeast towards the west and northwest.—[Havilah and Shur. Great difficulty attaches to the name Havilah on account of the different mentions of it in the Old Testament. It belongs to a Cushite (Gen. 10:7) and to a Shemitic Joktanite (Gen. 10:29), perhaps thus denoting a region in southern Arabia occupied by these two peoples. The statement in Gen. 2:11 throws no light on the locality. It is difficult certainly to assign to this tribe (the Amalekites) a limit so far south, and we should then have to suppose a place different from those mentioned in the passages cited, and have almost no data for an opinion.—Shur is certainly in the border of Egypt; but it is not easy to fix its exact position from the Bible-statements about it (Gen. 16:7; 20:1; 25:18; 1 Sam. 15:7; 27:8; Ex. 15:22, 23). It seems to be here not a wilderness, but a town or fortress. As the word means “wall,” and Ebers has brought out the fact that a wall extended in ancient times across the north-eastern boundary of Egypt (whence the name Mizraim, “the enclosed or fortified”), it is suggested by Wellhausen that the place took its name from the wall near which it was.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:8. Agag (“the fiery,” according to the Arab.) seems to have been the official name of their kings, Num. 24:7 (as Pharaoh among the Egyptians, and Abimelech among the Philistines).—That Saul did not slay Agag, but took him alive, is to be referred, from what we know of Saul, either to a fit of weak lenity and forbearance, or to a vain desire to hold the king of this people prisoner (5. Gerlach).32 The whole people, that is, speaking generally. Some survived of course; the Amalekites appear afterwards, 27:8; 30:1; 2 Sam. 8:12. Their complete annihilation is mentioned in 1 Chron. 4:43.

1 Samuel 15:9. Besides the best of the people, king Agag, the best of the property, that is, among this people herds of course, was spared; for selfish reasons Saul and the people were unwilling to destroy the best of the booty. Besides the best of the small and large cattle, there is specially mentioned the best of the מִשְׁנִים, that is, the animals which held the second rank (so the Sing. denotes the second after the king, 2 Chron. 28:7, the second of brothers, 1 Chron. 5:12; 1 Sam. 8:2; 17:13, and the Plu. goblets of the second rank in value, Ezra 1:10). According to this it must be supposed that the herds were divided into groups according to their value. Perhaps, however, the word also means (Kimchi and Tanchum) “animals of the second birth,” which were thought better than the others.—[So Rödiger in Ges. Thes., while Gesenius says incorrectly that they were inferior. Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 43, pp. 429–431) renders “bidentes,” that is, animals which had shed, or were about to shed, their two long teeth, at which time they were in their prime. Other meanings have been assigned to the word, none satisfactory.—TR.]—Fat lambs also, fattened on the meadows, are specially mentioned. The Sept. reading “vineyards” (and so Ew.) is to be rejected, because, as Then, rightly says, we have here to do with things that could be carried along. Thenius and Ewald [and Eng. A. V.] read (with Chald., Syriac, Arabic) “failings” (מַשְׁמַנִּים), instead of “second-class” (as in the Heb.); but this is suspicious on account of the ease of the change33—“And they spared everything good.” From this comprehensive expression, and especially from the following statement of what they destroyed, it is evident that the idea of the word “best” is a loosely-defined one. Namely, it expressly says, they destroyed all property [that was worthless.—TR.]34

1 Samuel 15:10–23. By command of God Saul is called to account by Samuel for his disobedience, and his excuse being set aside, is by God condemned and rejected.

1 Samuel 15:10. Samuel receives a revelation from God concerning Saul’s God-opposing conduct. The psychological basis of this revelation is Samuel’s exact acquaintance with the condition of Saul’s heart, which was already poisoned and rent by self-seeking and self-will. The way and the form in which the word of the Lord came to Samuel is not pointed out. But it is probable from what follows (Ew.) that it was by a dream. The content of the divine word is 1) the declaration: It repenteth me that I have made Saul king.—The repentance of God is the anthropopathic expression for the change of the divine procedure into the opposite of what the holy and righteous will of God had determined under the condition of holy and righteous conduct by men, when on man’s side there has been a change to the opposite of this condition without repentance. Theodoret: “God’s repentance is His change in administration.”35 The repentance of God always presupposes a change for the worse in man’s conduct towards God, whose holiness and justice must consequently assume another relation to man; hence it cannot exist without accompanying sorrow in the divine love over the sin of man, which necessitates a change in God’s action on man’s life; but it is too narrow a definition to regard it (as Keil does, on Gen. 6:6 and here) merely as an anthropopathic expression for the sorrow of the divine love over the sin of man. Saul indeed remains the legitimate king of Israel according to the divine appointment. But, since he has not remained the humble servant of God, as which he was called to be king, God the Lord, with the deep sorrow of His holy love, must now regard and treat him as an apostate who is in conflict with the truth of the theocratic kingdom. This declaration of God’s repentance itself involves the judicial decision of God, which, however, is here not yet expressly announced; rather this divine word contains 2) only the ground of God’s repentance: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandment [literally, word]. The first clause denotes internal defection from sincere fellowship of life with the Lord under the figure of a way, in which the walk after God, that is, in His retinue in fellowship with him, is performed in humble subjection to his will and command; Saul has not observed Samuel’s exhortation “turn not aside from after the Lord” (12:20), and has gone his own way away from God. The last clause: “and has not kept my word,” is the external form of the defection: disobedience in the non fulfilment of the divine command. “He has not performed my word,” that is, has fallen away, has not reached permanence, fulfilment.—A two-fold effect is produced by this revelation of God on Samuel’s heart.—To Samuel was kindled, namely, anger (supply אַף, “anger,” as in Gen. 18:30; 31:36; 2 Sam. 19:43, and many other places). That it was holy anger is clear from what follows; for Samuel could pray in his anger. The object, of his anger was first, obviously, Saul’s defection and disobedience, and then the therein-involved violation of the Lord’s honor and thwarting of His purposes. To render: “was sorry” (J. Schmid: doluit Samueli) is inadmissible, because the expression always denotes anger.—[On the difficulty here see “Text, and Grammat.”—TR.]—But to anger at Saul’s disobedience and frustration of his holy mission Samuel adds prayer for Saul, mighty, fervent: he cried to the Lord, and persistent, unremitting: the whole night.—The object of the prayer was doubtless not release from the fulfilment of the divine command (Ew.), but the exemption of Saul from the sentence of rejection and the forgiveness of his disobedience. But the hearing of such a prayer is conditioned on the sincere repentance of him for whom it is made. This condition did not appear in Saul, but rather its opposite. Therefore the picture of the priestly mediator, in which character Samuel represents Saul before the Lord, changes into that of the judging prophet, who represents the Lord over against Saul.—[Abarbanel says, that Samuel was angry and displeased because he loved Saul for his beauty and heroism and as his own creature whom he had made king, and that he prayed all night because God had not revealed to him Saul’s sin, and he wished to know why sentence was pronounced against him.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:12. Having thus learned immediately from God by this revelation his divine mission to Saul, Samuel after this grievous night goes early to meet Saul. On the way he learns that Saul had come to Carmel (Josh. 15:55), now Kurmul with extensive ruins dating from ancient times and the Middle Ages, southeast of Hebron [ten miles] on the mountains of Judah (comp. 25:2; 27:3); that he had there set up a monument in commemoration of this great victory over Amalek. (יָד, “the hand,” here denotes a monument of victory, as in 2 Sam. 18:18, because this, like the hand, directs attention to what it denotes.) The “him” [=to him] is in the whole connection significant, as it brings out the selfish principle which actuated Saul. He does not give the honor to God the Lord by unconditional obedience, but he sets up a monument in his own honor.—(רַיִסּב [“is turned, gone about”] cannot mean “went in solemn procession” (Buns.), nor are we to read: “and turned the chariot,” as Then, does after the Sept. whose translators did not understand the וַיַּעֲבֹר, “passed on.”) He passed over, namely from Carmel and the neighboring mountain across the mountains of Judah, and then descended into the Jordan-valley to Gilgal (13:4). Saul went to Gilgal to celebrate his victory with offerings. Thenius and Ewald insert after “Gilgal” (from Sept. and Vulg.) the words: “And Samuel came to Saul, and behold, he was offering a burnt-offering to the Lord, the firstlings of the spoil, which he brought from Amalek,” supposing (but without sufficient ground) that they fell out of the Heb. because the following sentence begins with the same words. It is nowhere hinted that, according to the view of the narrator, Samuel and Saul had intended to meet on Mount Carmel (Then.). The Sept. introduced Saul’s offering after the analogy of 13:8 sq. in order to conform this second great sin of Saul to the first.

1 Samuel 15:13. Samuel took the long journey to Gilgal to meet Saul. In the place where he had solemnly pledged Saul and the people to unconditional obedience (chap. 12), he now executes judgment for disobedience to the divine will. The psychological and ethical momenta of this procedure are clearly exhibited in the following deeply moving narrative. After all that had occurred between Samuel and Saul (13—15:1), Samuel’s mere appearance must have been an accusation and a warning of conscience for Saul. Conscious of his sin, which, however, he will not confess,—disregarding it, and deceiving himself with all the arts of a heart entangled in hypocrisy and lies, and alienated from the Lord,—he anticipates Samuel’s accusation with his defence: 1) he not only meets, but anticipates, Samuel with forced friendliness with the greeting: Blessed be thou of the Lord; and 2) straightway adds the assurance: I have performed the commandment [word] of the Lord.—In this he in one respect tells the truth; for he had broken the power of the Amalekites. But in another respect he tells a lie; for from selfish motives he had failed to carry out the command of complete annihilation, as given in the “word of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:14. Saul is convicted of falsehood by the voices of the animals which he has spared contrary to God’s command. Samuel’s mode of citing them against him by the question: “What mean these voices?” has an air of holy humor and cutting irony.

1 Samuel 15:15. Saul continues to advance in falsehood and hypocrisy, receding more and more from the truthfulness of a confession of sin (which was his duty) by presenting a two-fold defence: 1) “The people spared,” he declares; he does not blame himself. And yet in 1 Samuel 15:9 it is said: “Saul and the people spared.” He seeks to excuse himself as blameless by transferring the blame to the people. And, suppose the people had spared the good oxen, yet he, the general, had permitted it; the people dared not do it against his will. [Comp. the people’s obedience to Saul in 14:24, 34, 40.—TR.] 2) He seeks to extenuate and to justify his transgression of the divine command by pleading the holy purpose of “sacrificing to God.” …… Whether now this was thought of or not, in any case it is hypocrisy, by which Saul seeks to excuse himself and the people. [Bib. Comm.: “Every word uttered by Saul seems to indicate the break-down of his moral character. One feels that after this scene, Saul must have forfeited his self-respect.” Bishop Sanderson (quoted by Wordsworth in loco), in his Lectures on Conscience, II. § 13, exposes the futility of the pretence that good intention is a right rule of conscience and a good guide of conduct.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:16. Samuel interrupts him with the exclamation: “Stay!” (חֶרֶף Imper. apoc. Hiph. of רָפָא, “desist, cease.”) To the false and hypocritical speech of Saul he solemnly and sharply opposes what the Lord said to him in the night. (Instead of plu. וַיֹּאמְרוּ read sing.)36

1 Samuel 15:17–19 follows the powerful, crushing address of Samuel, hurled on Saul’s conscience with the might of Samuel’s conviction that he now spoke as prophet solely in the name and stead of the Lord to the deep-fallen king.

First comes the reminder of his elevation from lowliness to the high dignity of royalty by the favor of the Lord. The question “wast thou not?” sharpens for Saul’s conscience the sting concealed in this recollection. The sentence is variously construed. Kimchi renders: “though thou seemedst to thyself too little and weak to curb the people, yet wast thou the head, and shouldst as such have done thy duty”—wholly against the connection, and under the incorrect supposition that Samuel received Saul’s excuse. Köster refers the expression hypothetically to the future: “if thou wouldst henceforward be humble, thou shouldst.” But against this is the reference to the past fact: “the Lord anointed thee.” Others (S. Schmid, De Wette, Keil) render: “when thou wast little, thou wast made.” But אִם must retain its meaning, “if.” Here, as in many places (Judg. 13:16; Am. 5:22; Jer. 5:2; 15:1; 22:24; Job 9:15; Josh. 1:18), it=“although.” Ges. § 306, 2, 9 [Conant’s Transl., § 155, 2 g.TR.]; Ewald, § 355, 1, 6 [1 b].37 Though thou wast little in thine own sight.—The reference here to Saul’s own words, 9:21, is beyond doubt. It is the humiliating reminder to the haughty Saul of the low position whence he had been elevated to the headship of Israel, and of the modesty and humility which he then possessed. “In thine eyes.” Samuel here indirectly points to the haughtiness of his heart as the deepest ground of his defection from the Lord. The Lord anointed thee.—That was God’s gracious act by which he had been raised to this height, and had incurred the most sacred obligation to be obedient to the Lord and to keep the people obedient to Him. On this foundation Samuel bases his exhortation in respect to Saul’s guilt in this particular case.

1 Samuel 15:18. The Lord sent thee on the [properly a] way and said: Go, etc.—It was a distinctly marked way which Saul was to go according to the Lord’s command, “after him;” it was a divine mission which he was obediently completely to fulfil. The sinners the Amalekites.—These words give the reason why this people was to be destroyed and not spared, because they strove to annihilate God’s people and kingdom.38 All this ought to have pledged thee to obedience. The question: Why didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord?—with the accusation which it contains—connects itself all the more emphatically with the reference to the duty of obedience which the Lord Himself had laid on him. The following words characterize Saul’s conduct as based on avarice [“didst fly upon the spoil”]. The “fly,” as in 14:32, expresses eagerness, passionate craving.39

1 Samuel 15:20, 21. Saul hardens himself still farther: 1) in deceitful self-justification, positively denying the fault attributed to him (following exactly the order of Samuel’s specifications), and affirming with emphasis (אֲשֶׁר) that he had gone the appointed way and fulfilled the mission assigned him, witness of which was the captive Agag and the annihilated Amalekites; 2) in vain and hypocritical excuse, which is a mere repetition of the above pretext of the people’s act and their purpose to sacrifice to the Lord the spared oxen as “firstlings of the spoil.” This might have seemed a pious act, as in the similar case in Num. 31:48 sq.; but, as all the goods of the Amalekites had been devoted—that is, consecrated—to the Lord, and the living things must be killed, no burnt-offering (according to Lev. 27:29) could be made with them (see Keil). Saul evades the fact that the command of God is: Every thing is to be put under the ban (1 Samuel 15:3). The words: “to the Lord thy God” are a sort of captatio benevolentiœ, an attempt to curry favor [others see here, perhaps not so well, an implied censure of Samuel, as if Saul would say: “you rebuke me for serving the God whom you profess to serve.”—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:22, 23. Samuel’s answer tears away all the cloaks with which Saul had striven to cover his sin, and lays bare the deepest ground of evil in his heart. Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?—To give color to his open disobedience to the Lord, Saul adduced his purpose to make an offering. In opposition to this is the meaning of Samuel’s words: offering, brought with such a disobedient heart, cannot be well-pleasing to God, as is the obedience of the will, which subjects itself unconditionally to the will of the Lord, and brings itself as offering. External offerings are an abomination to the Lord when there is lacking the heart full of obedient love, the humble consecration of the whole man. The same thought was repeatedly expressed by Samuel (12:14, 20, 24) in his exhortations to the people and their king, with the threat of destruction for both, if they should fail in this time-offering and service in faithful, hearty obedience to the will and commands of God. This fundamental ethical truth is affirmed, with unmistakable reference to these words of Samuel, in the classical passages Ps. 50:8–14; 51:18, 19; Isa. 1:11; comp. 16–19; Mic. 6:6–8; Hos. 6:6; Jer. 6:20.—In the following words: To obey is better than sacrifice, the thought takes a new turn: apart from what alone is well-pleasing to God, only an obedient disposition of mind is in itself something good, the offering, without such a disposition, is not a good thing, has no moral value. The “fat of rams,” that is, the pieces of fat offered on the altar [see Lev. 1 and many other places.—TR.].

1 Samuel 15:23. The thought is carried on as follows: As the outward work of offering without answering devotion of heart and life to God with obedient mind has no moral value, and is not an object of the divine good-pleasure, so disobedience and the thence-resulting rebellion and defiant self-dependence is similar in essence to, stands on the same moral plane with the outward wickedness of witchcraft, that is, “divination in the service of anti godly demon-powers” (Keil), and of idolatry. אָוֶן [Eng. A. V. “iniquity”] is “nothingness,” then “false god” and “idol,” Isa. 66:3, “idol-worship,” Hos. 10:3. Teraphim [Eng. A. V. “idolatry”] are household-gods as oracle-deities and dispensers of good fortune, Gen. 31:19. Comp. Keil, Archäol., § 90 [and Smith’s Bib. Dict., Arts. “Teraphim” and “Magic,” Commentaries of Kalisch, Delitzsch, Lange and Bib. Comm. on Gen. 31:19. Samuel’s decided condemnation of teraphim-worship (which he clearly did not regard as a permissible form of Jehovah-worship) is to be noted.—TR.].—For the sake of emphasis the predicates in both clauses stand before the subjects. As in divination and idolatry the living God is denied and rejected, so is rebellion and stubbornness a defection from the Lord and a rejection of the Lord40 This is the ground (כִּי) of the declaration in 1 Samuel 15:22. Now follows the sentence thus grounded, with sharp brevity concluding this part of the scene: Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath rejected thee from being king.41—Rejected by the Lord, Saul is now himself abandoned “to his self-love and his passions” (Berl. Bib.).

1 Samuel 15:24–31. Saul’s vain striving with Samuel in false penitence, and Samuel’s sentence of rejection. 1 Samuel 15:24. Saul confesses: I have sinned.—To judge from his previous obstinate refusal to acknowledge his wrong, Samuel’s earnest and powerful address must have worked on his inner life like a circle of fire ever closing in upon his conscience, so that he saw himself forced to abandon his attempts at palliation and frankly make this confession of sin. The whole preceding narrative shows that it was extorted from him partly by the unsparing revelation of his lies and hypocrisy and the undeniable exhibition of his heart-rooted disobedience, partly by the judicial decision respecting the unavertible consequences of his defection and disobedience. A confession of sin induced by resulting evil and punishment is often no expression of true penitence. And it is not this with Saul; for though he now confesses that he has transgressed the commandment of the Lord, he yet shows that he is not thinking solely of the Lord, since he adds: “and thy word.” His conduct before and after this throws light on this apparently unimportant statement of his; powerfully impressed by Samuel’s word, he puts it alongside of the word of the Lord; he is concerned to regain Samuel’s good-will and approbation. This regard for Samuel’s human authority, which ought to vanish out of sight before God’s authority, springs from the same root in his heart (lack of humble fear and simple obedience towards God) as the fear of men and desire to please men which he himself now gives as the reason for his disobedience: For I feared the people and obeyed their voice.—Berl. Bib.: “Here stands revealed the hypocrite, who loved the honor of men more than the favor of God. The people must still tear the blame.” Instead of fearing God, he feared the people, he the king, who in this, therefore, was guilty of unpardonable weakness; he obeyed the voice of the people instead of God’s voice out of fear of man, if indeed the people did make the demand. And yet in all his confession of sinful regard for men his purpose is evidently to soften his guilt by bringing in the people.—[Ex. 23:2: Thou shalt not follow the multitude into evil.—TR.]—He prays Samuel: And now, pardon my sin. He does not turn straightway to God with this prayer; the “and now” indicates his belief that he might expect the fulfilment of his prayer in return for his confession of sin. Samuel turns from him, perceiving that the confession and prayer do not come from a truly penitent heart. To this Saul’s request refers: Return with me that I may worship the Lord.—Confession, renewed excuse, cry for forgiveness, request to Samuel to remain, desire to approach God, all follow one after another in painful haste. Saul is smitten by his conscience; but his heart is not broken. He nevertheless gives not God the honor. 1 Samuel 15:26. Samuel, seeing through him, shortly and decidedly rejects his request, and instead repeats his previous judicial sentence, because Saul’s desire for forgiveness sprang not from a penitence directed to God, but from a self-loving penitence, whose aim was his own advantage; for he did not trouble himself about his having dishonored God, but was afraid that he might lose the kingdom.

1 Samuel 15:27. Samuel’s turning away from Saul was a vigorous confirmation of his rejection, and a sign that he would henceforth have no association with him. The impression which the narrative makes on us of a, vehement, unquiet and disordered mind is heightened to the utmost by this moving scene in which Saul seizes the skirt of Samuel’s mantle in order to arrest his departure, uses physical force, that is, to attain his end: and it was rent.—[It is plain that it is Saul that tears Samuel’s garment undesignedly. Some Jewish writers held that Samuel symbolically tore Saul’s garment or his own (Gill).—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:28. Samuel uses this as a symbol to show Saul that the Lord had that day rent the kingdom from him. The second part of Samuel’s address declares that the theocratic kingdom was to be given to another, “thy neighbor,”—an indefinite expression, since Samuel did not yet know whom the Lord had chosen—who is better than thou, that is, who would walk obediently in the ways of the Lord. Before it was said: “the Lord hath rejected thee from the kingdom;” now it is said: the Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee. Samuel, who for the third time announces the rejection of Saul (whose spiritual steadfastness constantly diminishes), expressly emphasizes the fact that the Lord has rejected him not merely personally, but as the theocratic king. In 1 Samuel 13., on the other hand, it was declared that the kingdom should not remain permanently in his family. Though now Saul retained the kingdom some years after this rejection, God’s relation to him was, in consequence of his apostasy, completely altered; he no longer looked on him as the organ of His will, and withdrew from him the power and gifts of His Spirit. His external royalty remained as a divine appointment; but its inner core was rejected; Saul, as bearer of the royal office, was rejected, because he had rejected the Lord.

1 Samuel 15:29. Samuel declares this divine sentence to be unavertible and unavoidable: And also the Refuge of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man that he should repent, that is, the judicial decision, by which the Lord has inflicted on thee the penalty of rejection, remains unchanged and unchangeable by reason of His immutable will. “And also” introduces this sentence as something new=“in addition to this.” נֵצַח = “steadfastness, permanence,” then subjectively “trust, confidence” (Lam. 3:18), then the object of trust, of God: the Refuge42 [Eng. A. V. Strength]. The same declaration of the unchangeableness of the divine decisions, only in reference to His promise of blessing, is found in Num. 23:19. Comp. Jer. 4:28; Ezek. 24:14. The apparent contradiction between this declaration (“The Lord does not repent”) and that in 1 Samuel 15:11, 35 (“The Lord repented”) is by some expositors harmonized by remarking (Clericus) that here (1 Samuel 15:29) the words are said θεοπρεπῶς [as becomes God], and are there to be understood ἀνθρωποπαθῶς [after the manner of men]; but this does not offer a complete solution of the question, since the expression “it repented the Lord,” rightly understood after being divested of its human dress, is the appropriate expression of a real manifestation of the unchangeable divine being and will, only this latter must occupy a different relation to the man who has himself changed. In contrast with man, who repents because his will changes, God is here declared by Samuel to be (in respect to Saul) the unchangeable God, who cannot contradict Himself, as would be the case if He retracted His decision concerning the impenitent Saul; while in 1 Samuel 15:41 and 1 Samuel 15:35 the same unchangeable God is described in human phrase according to the changed relation which His unvarying holy and righteous will must occupy to men when they recede from the religious-moral relation to Him, under which He has hitherto in holiness and righteousness revealed Himself.

1 Samuel 15:30. Not even by this overwhelming declaration of the irrevocable character of God’s sentence, founded, as it was, in the unchangeableness of His holy and righteous will, is the excited Saul silenced. Two things, he says, wherein is displayed the real selfishness and self-love of his heart. First he repeats his confession of sin. But it is only in one word: “I have sinned.” And that this was a hypocritical one is shown by what follows:—Yet, honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me that I may [better, “and I will,”—TR.], worship the Lord thy God. How many words, spoken with passionate haste, against that one cold introductory word “I have sinned!” If the Lord’s sentence of rejection is irrevocable, Saul will at least before men save the halo of royal honor. His inner man is revealed. He did not honor the Lord by obedience, and when his disobedience was held up before him, he persistently denied the Lord His honor in his impenitent mind. Now comes to light the deepest-lying ground of this conduct. He is concerned about his own honor. In his self-seeking he has clean cast loose from the Lord and withdrawn into himself. [If Saul had been really penitent, he would have prayed to be humbled rather than to be honored (Gregory, quoted by Wordsworth).—TR.]. And Samuel returned after Saul. He then acceded to Saul’s request, not, of course, to yield to his selfish opposition to God’s honor, but to preserve unimpaired in the eyes of the people the position of Saul’s kingdom, which though theocratically rejected, yet still in fact by God’s will remained, and especially not to be wanting in the sacrifice of the people.

1 Samuel 15:32 sq. What Saul had disobediently neglected, Samuel executes in the name of the Lord, namely, the extermination of Amalek by slaying king Agag.—Agag appeared before Samuel cheerfully; the word occurs in Ps. 29:17 in the sense of “joy.” His words: Surely, the bitterness of death is past agree with his joyful mood. S. Schmid sees in them the feigned courageousness which cowards can put on. Others understand a real heroic contempt of death in the presence of death. Probably, however, Agag, not having been slain by Saul, was all the surer of life when he was led from the king to Samuel [since Samuel was an old man and a priest.—TR.].

1 Samuel 15:33. Samuel’s words, however, must have immediately shown him his error. They presuppose that Agag had acted with great cruelty in his marauding and military expeditions: “As thy sword has made women childless, so shall thy mother be the most childless [or, be childless] among women;” that is, “because in her son she loses at the same time the king of her people” (Bunsen).—There can be nothing surprising in Samuel’s “hewing Agag in pieces” for one who from the theocratic point of view regards Agag’s death as a necessity founded in the divine decree, and sees in Samuel the divine instrument for the fulfilment of the divine will, coming in place of him who in spite of his call thereto has refused obedience and service. Grot.: “When kings abandoned their duty, God often executed His law by prophets” 1 Kings 18:40. [Samuel’s act was not one of revenge, not an individual execution of justice, but a simple carrying out for the people of the ban-sentence pronounced against Amalek by Jehovah.—TR.].

1 Samuel 15:34 sq. The notice that Samuel returned to Ramah and Saul to Gibeah is a significant introduction to the important statement that henceforth Samuel broke off all communication with Saul: He saw him no more to the day of his death. Maurer: “He went to see Saul no more.” This does not contradict 19:24, according to which Saul once more met him. All intercourse with Saul on Samuel’s side ceased from now on, since God had rejected him, and Samuel could have met him only as messenger and prophet of God. From this also we see that Saul’s kingship, though still one de facto, yet from this time lost its theocratic relation. God’s ambassador was recalled from him; the intercourse of the God of Israel with Saul through His Spirit came to an end, because Saul, sinking step by step away from God, had by continued disobedience and increasing impenitence given up communion with God.—In keeping with the above mention of Samuel’s fervent, continued prayer for Saul is the statement: “For Samuel mourned for Saul;” this was the human sorrow for this highly-gifted, highly-favored, and hopelessly-sunken man; then follows the deeply pathetic statement: “The Lord repented, etc.;” this was the divine sorrow over the loss of this chosen instrument.


1. When the Scriptures speak of God’s repentance, anger, zeal, and the like, ascribing to Him human affections and dispositions, and consequently changes, we cannot regard these anthropopathisms as merely figurative statements; these representations, after leaving out the ungodly human element, as Nitzsch (Syst., § 79 A. 2) remarks, have “realness and validity; it is not a human, but a divine movement that is spoken of, and we must therefore deny that it is sinful and passionate, but not that it is efficient and true.” The anthropopathic representations set forth a real relation of the living God to man who bears His image, only described from a human standpoint. They are the means of maintaining vigorously and effectively the thought of the living God and His real relation to man, and of saving it from being dissipated in abstractions. Kling admirably says on the two passages in point in this chapter (Art. “Reue” in Herzog): “The latter (1 Samuel 15:29 “he does not repent”) refers to the firm, irrevocable resolution to give the kingdom to a better man; the repentance (1 Samuel 15:11) looks to the fact that Saul, an humble man when he was called and fitted to discharge his duty in faith and obedience, was now changed, exalted himself in his office, would be his own master, and, setting aside God’s express command, followed his own pleasure. Thus he showed himself no longer fit to be king in Israel, God’s people, and the divine will, which made him king, changed to the opposite,—a repentance which betrays no mutability in God, but rather reveals His constancy alongside of the mutability of man, His unvarying will that the humbly obedient shall be king in Israel.”

2. Persistent impenitence towards the holy and righteous God, as it is exemplified in Saul, has its deepest ground in the unwillingness to subordinate one’s own self, especially one’s own will to the holy will and the gracious will of God. It leads to hypocrisy, which seeks to cover its own wrong with works of external piety, or lays the blame on outward circumstances and other men. Before the irrefragable self-revelation of the holy and righteous God the impenitent man, despite his concealing lies and hypocrisy, must ever reveal new hidden sins, ever involve himself from step to step in new sins, till the deepest depth of his sinful heart is displayed in self-seeking, self-love, and self-will; and if the sinner will not even then humble himself and take refuge in the grace of God, there comes the judgment of inner hardening, by which the man becomes insusceptible to the influences of God’s Spirit and word, and incapable of turning to God, since the will confirms itself in permanent opposition to God; the end is the divine judgment of rejection. See the separate steps of this process in the Exposition of the Section.

3. The word: “Obedience is better than sacrifice” is the refutation of a twofold error: 1) that man can gain God’s approval by outward works, apart from a spirit of true obedience in which heart and will are given up and subjected to Him; 2) that man can by such works absolve himself from the performance of moral duties, and escape the guilt and punishment of his disobedience to God.—This declaration further indicates the true relation between the ceremonial law and the moral law. The holy usages of the former, especially sacrifices, do not occupy towards the demands of the latter the relation of the Outward to the Inward. “Every ceremonial law is moral; the outward act is never enjoined but for the sake of the inward thing, what it pictures—represents. Never is there body without spirit. But the fleshly sense would have none of the spirit, and laid hold solely of the body, which thus isolated became a corpse.” Hengst. Einl. zu Ps. 50. That word contains the principle of and lays the foundation for the position which the prophetic Order (after Samuel’s example) takes towards the sacrificial worship and the fulfilment of the ceremonial law in general. Not the offering absolutely is rejected, but the outward work without the root of love to God (Deut. 6:5) and of the obedience whence alone it can spring as fruit well-pleasing to God. On the relation between the teaching of the Mosaic law and this prophetical doctrine (which dates from this word of Samuel) of the necessity of the sacrifice of a pious heart and an humbly obedient will in contrast with external service according to the prescriptions of the ritual law, Oehler (Herz. XII. 228) says: “The prophets, by bringing out the difference between the ritual and moral laws, and by declaring the merely outward service to be in itself worthless—and valid only as the expression of a godly will, merely logically developed Mosaism, which indeed commonly puts the moral and the ritual, the inward and the outward immediately side by side, but therein indicates not unclearly the sense and aim of its teaching, partly by basing all laws on the divine elective grace and the divine holiness, partly in the fact that even the ritual ordinances of the Law every where display a spiritual meaning, and thus awaken a dim conception of moral duties. On the other hand, Prophecy by inserting in its pictures of the Messianic times essential features of the old ceremonial, shows that it holds fast the divine significance and warranty of the ritual law.”


1 Samuel 15:1. BERLENB. BIBLE: Although Saul was rejected by God on account of his disobedience, yet God left him still king, so that he was bound to carry out the will of God.—[HENRY: Samuel plainly intimates that he was now about to put Saul upon a trial, in one particular instance, whether he would be obedient to the command of God or no. And the making of this so expressly the trial of his obedience, did very much aggravate his disobedience.—GILL: And whereas he had been deficient in one instance before, for which he had been reproved [chap. 13.], he suggests that now he should take care to observe and do, particularly and punctually, what should be enjoined him.—TR.] It is impossible to be truly a king and to rule in the church, if one does not yet know the voice of the Lord, and cannot distinguish it from the voice of reason and nature.

1 Samuel 15:2, 3. STARKE: God’s judgments, though they come slowly, yet come certainly and at the right time (Exodus 32:34).—[HALL: He that thinks, because punishment is deferred, that God hath forgiven or forgot his offence, is unacquainted with justice, and knows not that time makes no difference in eternity.—TR.]—SCHLIER: When God the Lord commands such a war of annihilation, then this is no war of human vengeance; still less is it an ambitious war of conquest—but it is a judgment of divine wrath.

1 Samuel 15:6. CRAMER: We must beware of communion with the ungodly, that we may not be swept away with them (Rom. 18:4).—OSIANDER: God requites to the pious even their forefathers’ good works and benefits, which they have done to their neighbor. Who then will say that it is vain to serve God (Mal. 3:14).—SCHLIER: Thus does every good thing reward itself; nothing remains forgotten; often in later centuries the seed sown in an old past yet every where comes up gloriously, and children and children’s children derive advantage from the good done by the fathers.

1 Samuel 15:8, 9. STARKE: Not what seems to us good are we to do, but what God will have from us (Jer. 7:23). Avarice leads to great sins, especially to untimely compassion (1 Tim. 6:10).—S. SCHMID: No one is more foolish than he who wishes to be wiser than God, and ventures to explain God’s word and commandments according to what seems good to him.

1 Samuel 15:10, 11. “It repenteth me.”—BERLENB. BIBLE: Such feelings must in the case of God be understood in a divine manner, and not as in the case of changeable men in a human manner; they must be understood more in the effect than in the affection, of God’s unchangeable righteousness, which moves Him to withdraw His special grace and to with hold His hand, the cause of every change that takes place among His creatures.—[GILL: Though God repented He made Saul king, He never repents of His making His saints kings and priests for Himself. His outward gifts He sometimes takes away, as an earthly crown and kingdom; but His gifts and callings which are of special grace are without repentance, Rom. 11:29.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:12. OSIANDER: The lost sheep we must diligently seek, if perhaps they may be brought to the right way.

1 Samuel 15:13. [HENRY: Thus sinners think by justifying themselves to escape being judged of the Lord; whereas the only way to do that is by judging ourselves.—TR.]—STARKE [from HALL]: No man brags so much of holiness as he that wants it (Lu. 18:11, 12).—[WORDSWORTH: Here is a proof that a man may be blinded by his own self-will, and that he may imagine that his own way is right, while it is leading him to the gate of death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). It is not enough for a man to be approved by his own conscience; but it is necessary to regulate the conscience by God’s Will and Word (Acts 26:9; 1 Tim. 1:13).—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:14, 15. S. SCHMID: God knows how to bring men’s sins to light, however great the care with which they may be cloaked.—STARKE: Nothing remains concealed, and sooner than the sins of the ungodly should fail to be reported, the irrational creatures themselves must reveal them. [HALL: Could Saul think that Samuel knew of the asses that were lost, and did not know of the oxen and sheep that were spared? …… Much less when we have to do with God Himself should dissimulation presume either of safety or secrecy. Can the God that made the heart, not know it?—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:15. [From HALL]: It is a shameful hypocrisy to make our commodity the measure and rule of our execution of God’s command, and under pretence of godliness to intend gain.—OSIANDER: Hypocrites will not come right out with the confession of their sin, but desire always to excuse and palliate it.—BERL. BIBLE: Beware of covering thy ungodly heart with the cloak of religion, and consider that the day is coming on which God will make manifest what is hidden in darkness and the counsel of men’s hearts (1 Cor. 4:5).

1 Samuel 15:16. S. SCHMID: We must not look to what hypocrites say of themselves, but to what God’s word says of them.—BERL. BIBLE: Hold on! speak not many vain words to cloak and to palliate! The stitches do not hold. Happy he in whose spirit there is no guile (Ps. 32:2). [SCOTT: The unhumbled heart, however, will never be at a loss to excuse or palliate the most evident criminality; and it will always be necessary for preachers to drive sinners from their subterfuges, to show them the malignity and aggravation of their offences, to silence their objections and excuses, and urge conviction upon their hearts, though the convincing Spirit of God alone can render the means effectual (Jo. 16:8, 11).—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:20. CRAMER: That is the way with hypocrites, that they make themselves fair, and yet are not washed from their filthiness (Proverbs 30:12). They boast of their works, and their hand kisses their mouth (Job 31:27; Luke 18:11).—BERL. BIBLE: Saul makes his cause worse and worse, while he wishes to be guiltless, yea, even to be in the right towards God, as if he had executed every thing quite well, even after Samuel had already censured him and sought to arouse his conscience. It is accordingly not only a single sin, but many there come together. He contradicts the prophet, he denies that he has been disobedient; he makes light of his fault, even if any fault were granted, and throws it to and fro from himself to the people; he uses the service of God for a pretext and cloak of excuse, like a vile hypocrite who has little respect for God’s omniscience. See what tricks corrupt nature can devise? How crafty it is in its concealment! How many kinds of subterfuges it employs to defend itself!

1 Samuel 15:21. OSIANDER: It is a horrible crime when any one wishes to cloak his avarice, disobedience and other crimes with religious devotion (Jo. 12:4–6).—BERL. BIBLE: How many engaged in God’s worship deceive themselves herein, who think it is enough to offer something temporal to the Lord, when meanwhile they are constantly maintaining their own disposition and their own will!—[SCOTT: When the Lord expressly says, “Thou shalt,” and His rational creature dares to persist in saying, “I will not,” whether the contest be about an apple or a kingdom—it is “stubbornness” and “rebellion”—a contempt of the commandment of God, and a daring insult to His majesty and authority.—TR.]—J. LANGE: Even in the Levitical worship God always and chiefly looked to the inner (Ezek. 6:6; Ps. 51:18, 19). My fellow Christian! make thy Christianity then consist not in the outward but in the inward, and worship God in spirit and truth (Jo. 4:24).—BERL. BIBLE: May we then take good care that even when we mean to render the Lord service or obedience, we yet beware of our choice and fancy, and follow only the traces of the divine will, and thereby escape from ourselves or break and tame our own will. Obedience is the mother-grace, the parent of all virtues. It makes the eye see, the ear hear, the heart think, the memory remember, the mouth speak, the foot go, the hand work, and the whole man do that, yea, that alone, which is conformed to the will of God. All these and other things are valuable only in so far as they agree with the will of God.

1 Samuel 15:23. S. SCHMID: It is a dreadful fault when one wishes to make light of gross sins. An honest servant of God represents the greatness of the sins according to the truth and prescription of the word of God.—TUEB. BIBLE: God rejects no one unless he is before rejected by Him.—BERL. BIBLE: It is impossible for him who is not obedient to God to lay any command upon men. That is what these words and the aim of God therein mean.—The authorities must not proceed according to their own will and notion, but in everything must take God’s word and will for their rule.—If He does not drive them (the apostate rulers) from their position, like as He did Nebuchadnezzar, but leaves them ruling, as He also did Saul for a while, yet they are and remain rejected in His might, and vainly write themselves “by the grace of God,” when He Himself does not so acknowledge them.—[On 1 Samuel 15:22, 23, there is a sermon by Jeremy Taylor, chiefly on rebellion, in which he uses singular arguments to justify religious persecution.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:24. OSIANDER: That is the way with hypocrites, that they do not outright and freely confess their sins, but push the guilt, as far as ever they can, from themselves upon others.

1 Samuel 15:26. BERL. BIB.: Every one wonders that God, who is yet so full of compassion, does not forgive Saul, though elsewhere He never refuses forgiveness to any repented sin. But it is due to the fact that the longing after forgiveness in Saul proceeded from no such repentance as God had in view, but from a self-loving repentance, which had only its own advantage as aim. For he was not troubled that he had dishonored God, but was in fear that he might lose the kingdom.

1 Samuel 15:29. OSIANDER: Although God, so long as we do not repent, does not change His threatenings, but certainly carries them into execution, yet if we earnestly repent and better our lives, He does repent of the evil which He had threatened to do us if we had gone on in sin (Jer. 18:7 sqq.); and such a change is not instability in God, but grace and goodness.

1 Samuel 15:30. BERLENBURGER BIBLE: “Honor me, I pray thee.” That shows what he is mainly concerned about (Jno. 5:44; 12:43); loss and shame he would like to escape, and as he cannot deceive God, he wishes to deceive men by the appearance of God’s favor.—WUERT. BIB.: Hypocrites bewail and lament in their repentance only the chastisements they have to suffer, and not their sins; they seek only their own, and not God’s honor (1 Kings 21:27).—[S. GREGORY (in WORDSWORTH): If Saul had been really penitent, he would have prayed to be humbled, rather than to be honored.—W. M. TAYLOR: There came to the son of Kish a tidal time of favor, which if he had only recognized and improved it, might have carried him not only to greatness, but to goodness. But he proved faithless to the trust which was committed to him, and became in the end a worse man than he would have been, if no such privileges had been conferred upon him. …… As his life wore on, the good features in his character disappeared.—TR.]

1 Samuel 15:33. S. SCHMID: Although the right of retaliation has no place in personal revenge, yet it is righteously exercised in public judgments (Lev. 24:20). To execute God’s strict judgment with a spirit free from all thirst for vengeance, is no barbarity.

J. DISSELHOFF on 1 Samuel 15:1–21. The fall of King Saul shows: 1) How unrepented and only whitewashed sin at the first severe temptation breaks out as manifest and criminal self-seeking; 2) How this self-seeking is so blinding as to tell itself and others the lie that it is a labor for the Lord.—The same on 1 Samuel 15:20–23. Sacrifice or obedience? 1) A sacrifice which lacks obedience of heart is an abomination in the sight of God; 2) Where obedience of heart is, there is also the true sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.—The same on 1 Samuel 15:23–31. Beware of a Saul’s confession. That you may do this, it is necessary to know two things: 1) What a Saul’s confession is; 2) What a Saul’s confession works.

1 Samuel 15:1–11. God’s curse and blessing: 1) Long delayed, but not revoked; 2) At last fulfilling itself according to God’s truth and righteousness.

1 Samuel 15:22–3. Sacrifice and obedience: 1) Sacrifice without obedience (worthless in the sight of the Lord, perilous for men); 2) Obedience the best sacrifice (on what ground, with what blessed result).

1 Samuel 15:10–31. Seeming repentance before the Lord: 1) How it conceals from the Lord the root of sin in the heart; 2) draws the garment of self-righteousness over sin; 3) thereby leads from sin to sin; and 4) drives on towards the judgment of hardening and rejection.

[1 Samuel 15:11. The Lord repented: 1) in what sense, 2) for what reasons, 3) with what results. (Comp. “Exeg.” on 1 Samuel 15:11 and 29, and “Hist, and Doct.,” No. 1.)

1 Samuel 15:11. Praying in vain.

1 Samuel 15:11, 16. Grieving, but faithful.

1 Samuel 15:12, 13. The glory and the shame of Saul—his victory, his disobedience, his efforts to hide and palliate his offence. (This would embrace nearly the whole chapter.)

1 Samuel 15:20–1. Eclectic obedience.

1 Samuel 15:23. The rejecter rejected. Comp. Rom. 1:24, 26, 28; John 3:18, 19.

1 Samuel 15:27. Clinging to the religious teacher, while not clinging to religion.

1 Samuel 15:30–1. Worshipping to save appearances.

1 Samuel 15:32. To be without fear of death is not proof of preparation for death.—TR.]


1[1 Samuel 15:1. Omitted in Sept. (Vat., not Alex.); Syr. has “Israel his people,” while Vulg. and some MSS. have “his people Israel.” These may be free renderings, or may point to different texts.—TR.]

2[1 Samuel 15:1. Wanting in Vat., Sept., and Vulg., and perhaps in Arab. (though Ar. קול is ratherדבר than קול). The Heb. is not to be regarded as a later insertion to avoid an anthropomorphism “voice of God” (but the Targ. has “the word of the saying of Jehovah”) but simply as a full expression (comp. קוֹל י׳ 1 Samuel 15:20, 22 of this ch.). The Heb. קוֹל is equivalent to “word” (as in Arab.) in the phrase “hear the voice, obey the voice of Jehovah.”—TR.]

3[1 Samuel 15:2. The word (פּקד) means “visit,” “inspect,” “fix the mind on,” Vulg. recensui, Aq. ἐπεσκεψάμην. Others render (improperly) “will punish,” so Sept. ἐκδικήσω, Berl. Bib. will heimsuchen, De Wette ahnden, Gesen. (Thes. s. v.). The signification “punish” exists, but the future sense does not accord so well with the following verse.—TR.]

4[1 Samuel 15:2. שׂוּם with לְ “to set one’s self against.” In the corresponding passage in Deut. (25:17–19) the word קרה is used “to go to meet” in hostile sense, and it is added “cut off thy rear-guard,” which perhaps in part suggested the rendering of Eng. A. V., which is found only here, comp. Jer. 9:7 (8). The Targ., however, has “laid wait” (כמן), and Syr. and Arab. omit.—TR.]

5[1 Samuel 15:3. Sept.: “Destroy him and all his,” which is preferred by Wellhausen. The Greek text contains a duplet, and the Vulg. adds “et non concupiscas ex rebus ipsius aliquid.” The “utterly” which Eng. A. V. everywhere employs in rendering the word חרם is as good an expression of the idea, perhaps, as is available. See translator’s note in the body of the work.—TR.]

6[1 Samuel 15:4. Sept. “Gilgal” (see Erdmann), Syr. Teloyo or Teloye, Arab. Tawila. Chald., Vulg. and others have taken the word as appellative; Chald.: “by paschal lambs,” on which Rashi (Breithaupt’s translation) says: “Saul told every man to take a lamb from the royal flocks, and then he numbered the lambs, since it was forbidden (Gen. 16:10, al.) to number the Israelites;” Anonymous Greek version (in the Hexapla) ἅρμασιν for ἄρνασιν; Vulg.: quasi agnos.—TR.]

7[1 Samuel 15:4. “It is strange that Judah forms only the twenty-first part of the army, and that ‘footmen’ and ‘men of Judah’ stand opposed to one another” (Wellh.). Syr: “two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand with the men of Judah.” The text is not clear.—TR.]

8[1 Samuel 15:5. The definite Art. is better, since it was certainly the principal (possibly, the only) city of the Amalekites. Perhaps it was called Ir-Amalek (Bib. Comm.). Sept. has “cities,” and so Josephus (Bib. Comm.).—TR.]

9[1 Samuel 15:5. On the Heb. verb-form see Erdmann.—TR.]

10[1 Samuel 15:5. The bed of a winter-torrent, or, a ravine through which flows a brook or torrent; Arab. Wady.—TR.]

11[1 Samuel 15:6. On account of the absence of the Art. in the Heb. Wellhausen proposes to read קַיִן (as in Numb. 24:22; Judg. 4:11).—TR.]

12[1 Samuel 15:7. The general direction is here given, as in Gen. 25:18 (where, apparently, for אַשּׁוּר we must read שׁוּר).—TR.]

13[1 Samuel 15:9. On the forms on this verse see Erdmann. Sept.: “the good of the flocks and of the herds and of the eatables (מַשְׁמַנִּים) and of the vines (כְּרָמִים).” For מִשְׁנִים (Eng. A. V. “fatlings)” Vulg. has vestibus, perhaps reading מְכַסִּים, or (Bib. Comm.). שָׁנִים. Wellhausen transposes the עַל from the fourth word to the third and renders: “the best of the sheep and oxen, the fat and well-fed animals.” As the text stands the third word is best rendered “second-rate,” which is not satisfactory. Proposed different readings are discussed in the exposition.—TR.]

14[1 Samuel 15:11. The meaning here is not clear. The Heb. phrase (וַיִחַר לְ) usually means “was angry,” properly “was hot, excited,” not only by anger, but (as in Arab., Gesen., Fuerst) by any emotion, as grief. It is difficult, however, to establish the sense “was sorry;” the most favorable passage, Gen. 45:5, is not decisive, and, indeed, is commonly rendered “be not angry.” If Samuel here was angry, it was either with Saul (which is improbable), or with himself (for which there is no reason), or with God (which we should not expect in Samuel), or with the general situation of affairs (which includes the others in part or in whole). The indefinite word “grieved” might therefore, be retained in the translation.—TR.]

15[1 Samuel 15:12. Pregnant construction for “rose up and went to meet Saul.” Such constructions are common in Hebrew.—TR.]

16[1 Samuel 15:12. The Sept. here badly transposes the names Samuel and Saul.—TR.]

17[1 Samuel 15:12. יָד clearly here “monument.” Its relation to יד “hand” and its original stem are not known.—TR.]

18[1 Samuel 15:13. Sept. inserts: “and he was offering sacrifices,” though it is clear from the narrative that Samuel had not seen the animals, 1 Samuel 15:14 (Wellh.).—TR.]

19[1 Samuel 15:14. The Heb. Art. is here better omitted in Eng.—TR.]

20[1 Samuel 15:15. Sept.: I.—TR.]

21[1 Samuel 15:17, The natural translation is: “though thou art little in thy eyes, art thou not head of the tribes of Israel?” as in Sept.: after which it would then be better to begin a new sentence and continue it in 1 Samuel 15:18. “Jehovah anointed thee and sent thee.” The past rendering, however, (as in Eng. A. V. Erdmann) is possible.—TR.]

22[1 Samuel 15:18. The pron. is repeated here in the Heb., probably by clerical error.—TR.]

23[1 Samuel 15:20. There is nothing in the Heb. corresponding to “yea.” The אֲשֶׁר here introduces oratio recta (as ὅτι in later Greek).—TR.]

24[1 Samuel 15:20. Sept. badly “the voice of the people.”—TR.]

25[1 Samuel 15:23. The Heb. order, in which the predicate precedes the subject, is more forcible, and not likely to be misunderstood by most Eng. readers. So it is stronger to omit the “as” which is not in the Heb. The word rendered “iniquity” in Eng. A. V. (אָוֶן) means “nothingness,” and is used of sin in general, and frequently of idolatry or idols, as here. The Vers., except Vulg. and Chald., are here confused. Chald.: “as the sin of the men who inquire by divination is the sin of every man who rebels against the word of Jehovah, and, as the sin of the people who wander after errors (idols) is the sin of every man who heaps up and adds to the words of the prophets.”—TR.]

26[1 Samuel 15:29. נֵצַח is variously rendered. Chald. and Syr. have same stem as Heb., idea of power, eminence; Vulg., triumphator; Luther, held (hero); Martin, force; Diodati, vittoria (victory); De Wette, vertrauen (confidence, trust); Van Ess., wahrheit (truth); Erdmann, hort (refuge). The Sept. and an anonymous Greek version misunderstood this word, and rendered (as if from חצץ) “and Israel shall be divided into two parts, and shall not return.” The Chald. paraphrases in order to avoid the anthropomorphic expressions of the text.—TR.]

27[1 Samuel 15:32. So Chaldee. Sept., “trembling,” Vulg., pinguissimus et tremens, Aq. ἀπὸ τρυφερίας “delicately, daintily,” and so Sym. ἁβρός.—TR.]

28[Another view is that the Amalekites were an ancient Arabian tribe (Gen. 14:7), afterwards partially fused with Edomites (Gen. 36:12, 16). So Ewald (Gesch. I. 331), Knobel (V. T., § 22), and see Smith’s Bib. Dict. s. v. For the view of the text see Herzog R. E., s.v.TR.]

29[That is, “set array against,” instead of “laid wait for,” as in Eng. A. V.—TR.]

30This war seems to be the same as that mentioned in 14:48; but no date is given, and the chronology throughout is difficult.—TR.]

31 וַיָּרֶב is Hiph. of אָרַב, contracted from וַיַּאֲרֵב, Ew. § 232 a.

32[Or, to carry him in triumph (Gill), or because of the comeliness of his person (Joseph.).—TR.]

33[On these names see “Text. and Grammat.” No satisfactory rendering of them has yet been given.”—TR.]

34 מְלָאכָה, from the connection, refers to cattle, as in Gen. 33:14—נְמִבְזָה. Ewald holds that this cannot be Niph. Part. from מִבְזֶה, “contempt,” and thinks the text corrupt, § 126 b, Anm. 1 [yet remarks that the book of Samuel presents many examples of strange words from the popular dialect]. Perhaps it is a mingling of נִמְזָה, “sucked out,” and נִבְזָה, “despised” (Böttcher). But it is possible that this last word was corrupted in the popular language, so as to produce alliteration with the following word by the arbitrarily inserted מ. The second predicate נָמֵם is [Ni. Partcp.] from מָסַם, “to melt,” the “ruined, mangy cattle.” Masc. and Fem. here stand together abnormally, as in 1 Kings 19:11.

35[See Gill in loco for a good statement of this.—TR.]

36[See a good note in Bib. Comm. on Samuel’s complete acquiescence in the divine decision which at first (1 Samuel 15:11) so grieved him, and our duty always to trust God.—TR.]

37[On this construction see “Text. and Grammat.” in loco.—TR.]

38Instead of כַּלּוֹתָם read ־תְךָ with Sept., Chald., Syr., Arab.

39 תּעט Impf. Qal. of עיט with Dag. forte implic. Ges. § 72, Rem. 9.

40[On the difficult subject of the nature of witchcraft and its treatment in the Old Testament see Art. “Magic” in Herzog’s R. E.TR.]

41 מִן with subst. may be predicate when a preceding closely attached verb leaves no doubt as to the sense, Ew. § 337 b.

42[On this word see “Text. and Grammat.”—TR.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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