1 Samuel 15


Samuel sends Saul to destroy the Amalekites, and all their

substance, 1-3.

Saul collects an immense army and comes against their city,

4, 5.

He desires the Kenites to remove from among the Amalekites, 6.

He smites the Amalekites, and takes their king, Agag, prisoner,

and saves the best of the spoil, 7-9.

The Lord is displeased, and sends Samuel to reprove him, 10, 11.

The conversation between Samuel and Saul, in which the latter

endeavours to justify his conduct, 12-23.

He is convinced that he has done wrong, and asks pardon, 24-31.

Samuel causes Agag to be slain; for which he assigns the

reasons, 32-35.


Verse 1. The Lord sent me to anoint thee] This gave him a right

to say what immediately follows.

Verse 2. I remember that which Amalek did] The Amalekites were a

people of Arabia Petraea, who had occupied a tract of country on

the frontiers of Egypt and Palestine. They had acted with great

cruelty towards the Israelites on their coming out of Egypt. (See

Ex 17:8, and the notes there.) They came upon them

when they were faint and weary, and smote the hindermost of the

people-those who were too weak to keep up with the rest. (See

De 25:18.) And God then purposed that Amalek, as a nation,

should be blotted out from under heaven; which purpose was now

fulfilled by Saul upwards of four hundred years afterwards!

Verse 3. Slay both man and woman] Nothing could justify such an

exterminating decree but the absolute authority of God. This was

given: all the reasons of it we do not know; but this we know

well, The Judge of all the earth doth right. This war was not for

plunder, for God commanded that all the property as well as all

the people should be destroyed.

Verse 4. Two hundred thousand-and ten thousand] The Septuagint,

in the London Polyglot, have FOUR HUNDRED thousand companies of

Israel, and THIRTY thousand companies of Judah. The Codex

Alexandrinus has TEN thousand of each. The Complutensian Polyglot

has TWO HUNDRED thousand companies of Israel, and TEN thousand of

Judah. And Josephus has FOUR HUNDRED thousand of Israel, and

THIRTY thousand of Judah. All the other versions are the same with

the Hebrew text; and there is no difference in the MSS.

Verse 5. Saul came to a city of Amalek] I believe the original

should be translated, and Saul came to the city Amalek; their

capital being called by the name of their tribe.

Verse 6. Said unto the Kenites] The Kenites were an ancient

people. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite. Hobab

his son (if the same person be not meant) was guide to the Hebrews

through the wilderness. They had a portion of the promised land,

near to the city Arad. See Jud 1:16; and for more particulars

concerning them and the Amalekites, see the notes on

Nu 26:20, 21.

Verse 7. From Havilah-to Shur] From Pelusium in Egypt, unto the

Red Sea.-Josephus. But Havilah lay eastward from the Red Sea; the

Amalekites lay between this and the way to Egypt towards Shur.

Verse 11. It repenteth me that I have set up Saul] That is, I

placed him on the throne; I intended, if he had been obedient, to

have established his kingdom. He has been disobedient; I change my

purpose, and the kingdom shall not be established in his family.

This is what is meant by God's repenting-changing a purpose

according to conditions already laid down or mentally determined.

Verse 12. He set him up a place] Literally, a hand, yad.

Some say it was a monument; others, a triumphal arch: probably it

was no more than a hand, pointing out the place where Saul had

gained the victory. Absalom's pillar is called the hand of

Absalom, 2Sa 18:18.

Verse 15. The people spared the best of the sheep] It is very

likely that the people did spare the best of the prey; and it is

as likely that Saul might have restrained them if he would. That

they might not love war, God had interdicted spoil and plunder,

so the war was undertaken merely from a sense of duty, without any

hope of enriching themselves by it.

Verse 17. Little in thine own sight] Who can bear prosperity? Is

it not of the Lord's great goodness that the majority of the

inhabitants of the earth are in comparative poverty?

Verse 21. To sacrifice unto the Lord] Thus he endeavours to

excuse the people. They did not take the spoil in order to enrich

themselves by it, but to sacrifice unto the Lord; and did not this

motive justify their conduct?

Verse 22. Hath the Lord as great delight, &c.] This was a very

proper answer to, and refutation of Saul's excuse. Is not

obedience to the will of God the end of all religion, of its

rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices?

Verse 23. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and

stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.] This is no translation

of those difficult words, ki

chattath kesem meri veaven utheraphim haphtsar. It appears to me

that the three nouns which occur first in the text refer each to

the three last in order. Thus, chattath, TRANSGRESSION,

refers to aven, INIQUITY, which is the principle whence

transgression springs. kesem, DIVINATION, refers to

teraphim, consecrated images or telesms, vulgarly talismans,

used in incantations. And meri, REBELLION, refers evidently to

haphstar, STUBBORNNESS, whence rebellion springs. The meaning

therefore of this difficult place may be the following: As

transgression comes from iniquity, divination from teraphim, and

rebellion from stubbornness, so, because thou hast rejected the

word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. All

the versions are different.

Verse 24. I have sinned-because I feared the people] This was

the best excuse he could make for himself; but had he feared GOD

more, he need have feared the PEOPLE less.

Verse 25. Pardon my sin] Literally, bear my sin; take it away;

forgive what I have done against thee, and be my intercessor with

God, that he may forgive my offense against him; turn again with

me, that I may worship the Lord.

Verse 26. I will not return with thee] I cannot acknowledge thee

as king, seeing the Lord hath rejected thee.

Verse 29. The Strength of Israel will not lie] What God has

purposed he will bring to pass, for he has all power in the

heavens and in the earth; and he will not repent-change his

purpose-concerning thee.

We may say it was some extenuation of Saul's fault that the

people insisted on preserving the best of the prey; for who could

resist the demands of a victorious mob? But his crime was in

consenting; had he not, the crime would have been theirs alone.

Verse 32. Agag came unto him delicately.] The Septuagint have

τρεμων, trembling; the original, maadannoth, delicacies;

probably ish, man, understood; a man of delights, a

pleasure-taker: the Vulgate, pinguissimus et tremens, "very fat

and trembling."

Surely the bitterness of death is past.] Almost all the versions

render this differently from ours. Surely death is bitter, is

their general sense; and this seems to be the true meaning.

Verse 33. As thy sword hath made women childless] It appears

that Agag had forfeited his life by his own personal

transgressions, and that his death now was the retribution of his


And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces] 1. What Samuel did here he did

in his magisterial capacity; and, 2. It is not likely he did it by

his own sword, but by that of an executioner. What kings,

magistrates, and generals do, in an official way, by their

subjects, servants, or soldiers, they are said to do themselves;

qui facit per alterum, facit per se.

Verse 35. And Samuel came no more to see Saul] But we read,

1Sa 19:22-24, that

Saul went to see Samuel at Naioth, but this does not affect what

is said here. From this time Samuel had no connection with Saul;

he never more acknowledged him as king; he mourned and prayed for

him, and continued to perform his prophetic functions at Ramah,

and at Naioth, superintending the school of the prophets in that


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