The Execution of Agag
1 Samuel 15:32, 33
Then said Samuel, Bring you here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came to him delicately. And Agag said…

Agag was put to death, perhaps, by the hand of Samuel: more probably by other hands under his order, for it is common to speak of official persons doing what they simply command to be done (John 19:1). "In ancient time persons of the highest rank were employed to execute the sentence of the law (Jether, the eldest son of Gideon, Doeg, Benaiah). Sometimes the chief magistrate executed the sentence of the law with his own bands" (Paxton's 'Illustrations,' 4:171). The act was one of great severity. It should, however, be remembered that -

1. The Amalekite king had committed great atrocities (ver. 33), and was the chief representative of cruel and irreconcilable enemies of Israel.

2. Amalek lay under a ban of extermination which had been pronounced by Jehovah (Exodus 17:14; Numbers 24:20), and was now required to be fully carried into effect. Samuel acted in obedience to a higher will than his own; not from personal revenge, but in his public capacity, doing what Saul (from no feelings of humanity) had failed to do, and giving honour to Jehovah before his altar. "There must indeed have been inadequate ideas of the individuality of man and of the rights of human life before a dispensation could have been received which enforced wars of extermination - wars which would now be contrary to morality; for the reason that our ideas on the subject of human individuality and the rights of life are completely changed, and that we have been enlightened on these subjects, upon which the early ages of mankind were in the dark" (Mozley, 'Ruling Ideas in Early Ages,' p. 161).

3. The peculiar circumstances of the case necessitated some such exhibition of the authority and justice of Jehovah for the maintenance of the theocracy, and the reproof and warning of the people who had shared in the sin of their king. "Such a sinking age could be saved from imminent dissolution only by extreme severity. He who, however kindly disposed in other respects, was most direct and inexorable in carrying out what seemed urgently needed, he alone could now become the true physician of the times, and the successful founder of a better age" (Ewald). We have here -


1. Although sentence upon an evil work is not speedily executed, it is not reversed. The long suffering of God waits, "as in the days of Noah" (2 Peter 3:20), when judgment was suspended for 120 years; but "he spared not the old world" (2 Peter 2:5).

2. Justice requires that incorrigible sinners should be punished with significant severity. "As" (in the same manner as) "thy sword," etc.

3. Death is naturally bitter to men, and especially to those who have heavy guilt upon their consciences. The last words of Agag were, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."

4. When sinners deem themselves most secure, then "sudden destruction cometh upon them." Having been spared so long, he imagined that the danger was over, and little thought that the venerable prophet was the messenger of wrath. "The feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool, but they strike with iron hands."


1. The more a man loves righteousness, the more intensely does he hate sin. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil." What woes were ever so terrible as those that fell from the lips of Christ?

2. A good man may inflict punishment on the wicked without feelings of personal revenge against them "Our Lord declared the inferiority of the legal position of the Old Testament not because the desire of retribution ought to be excluded from the religion of reconciliation, but because it ought not to predominate in it" (Thohlck).

3. When some fail to carry out the purposes of God, others are bound to make up for their defect, and sometimes to do things for which they do not seem well adapted, and which do not harmonise with their general character 1 Kings 18:40). "When kings abandoned their duty God often executed his law by the prophets" (Grotius).

4. That which is severity to one must often be done, provided it be not contrary to justice, for the good of all.


1. No excuse can justify disobedience to the commands of God. Doubtless the people, if called to account, would have been as ready as Saul to offer excuses for the part they took in sparing Agag and the best of the sheep, etc.

2. They who fail to obey these commands deprive themselves of invaluable blessings. The sunshine of heaven is beclouded, and the sentence of rejection on their king, although at present little known, will ere long produce disastrous effects in them.

3. God's work must be done, and if one refuses to do it, another is raised up for the purpose. As with individuals, so with nations (Numbers 14:21; Romans 11:22).

4. Those who, although the professed people of God, contend against his purposes must share the fate of his open enemies. "If ye shall still do wickedly ye shall be consumed, both you and your king" (1 Samuel 12:25). - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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 bitterness of death is past.

WEB: Then Samuel said, "Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites!" Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."

The Bitterness of Death
Top of Page
Top of Page