1 Samuel 15
In this chapter we have the final rejection of Saul from being king,
for his disobedience to God's command in not utterly destroying the
Amalekites. By his wars and victories he hoped to magnify and
perpetuate his own name and honour, but, by his mismanagement of them,
he ruined himself, and laid his honour in the dust. Here is,
I. The commission God gave him to destroy the Amalekites, with a
command to do it utterly,
1 Samuel 15:1-3.
II. Saul's preparation for this expedition,
1 Samuel 15:4-6.
III. His success, and partial execution of this commission,
1 Samuel 15:7-9.
IV. His examination before Samuel, and sentence passed upon him,
notwithstanding the many frivolous pleas he made to excuse himself,
1 Samuel 15:10-31.
V. The slaying of Agag,
1 Samuel 15:32,33.
VI. Samuel's final farewell to Saul,
1 Samuel 15:34,35.
|The Amalekites Destroyed.
||B. C. 1065.|
1 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.
2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek
did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he
came up from Egypt.
3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they
have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and
suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in
Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of
5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the
6 And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from
among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed
kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of
Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou
comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and
utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
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
I. Samuel, in God's name, solemnly requires Saul to be obedient to the
command of God, and plainly intimates that he was now about to put him
upon a trial, in one particular instance, whether he would be obedient
1 Samuel 15:1.
And the making of this so expressly the trial of his obedience did very
much aggravate his disobedience.
1. He reminds him of what God had done for him: "The Lord sent me to
anoint thee to be a king. God gave thee thy power, and therefore he
expects thou shouldst use thy power for him. He put honour upon thee,
and now thou must study how to do him honour. He made thee king over
Israel, and now thou must plead Israel's cause and avenge their
quarrels. Thou art advanced to command Israel, but know that thou art a
subject to the God of Israel and must be commanded by him." Men's
preferment, instead of releasing them from their obedience to God,
obliges them so much the more to it. Samuel had himself been employed
to anoint Saul, and therefore was the fitter to be send with these
orders to him.
2. He tells him, in general, that, in consideration of this, whatever
God commanded him to do he was bound to do it: Now therefore hearken
to the voice of the Lord. Note, God's favours to us lay strong
obligations upon us to be obedient to him. This we must render,
II. He appoints him a particular piece of service, in which he must now
show his obedience to God more than in any thing he had done yet.
Samuel premises God's authority to the command: Thus says the Lord
of hosts, the Lord of all hosts, of Israel's hosts. He also gives
him a reason for the command, that the severity he must use might not
seem hard: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel,
1 Samuel 15:2.
God had an ancient quarrel with the Amalekites, for the injuries they
did to his people Israel when he brought them out of Egypt. We have the
&c., and the crime is aggravated,
He basely smote the hindmost of them, and feared not God. God then
swore that he would have war with Amalek from generation to
generation, and that in process of time he would utterly put out
the remembrance of Amalek; this is the work that Saul is now
appointed to do
(1 Samuel 15:3):
"Go and smite Amalek. Israel is now strong, and the measure of
the iniquity of Amalek is now full; now go and make a full riddance of
that devoted nation." He is expressly commanded to kill and slay all
before him, man and woman, infant and suckling, and not spare
them out of pity; also ox and sheep, camel and ass, and not
spare them out of covetousness. Note,
1. Injuries done to God's Israel will certainly be reckoned for sooner
or later, especially the opposition given them when they are coming out
2. God often bears long with those that are marked for ruin. The
sentence passed is not executed speedily.
3. Though he bear long, he will not bear always. The year of
recompence for the controversy of Israel will come at last. Though
divine justice strikes slowly it strikes surely.
4. The longer judgment is delayed many times the more severe it is when
5. God chooses out instruments to do his work that are fittest for it.
This was bloody work, and therefore Saul who was a rough and severe man
must do it.
III. Saul hereupon musters his forces, and makes a descent upon the
country of Amalek. It was an immense army that he brought into the
(1 Samuel 15:4):
200,000 footmen. When he came to engage the Philistines, and the
success was hazardous, he had but 600 attending him,
1 Samuel 13:15.
But now that he was to attack the Amalekites by express order from
heaven, in which he was sure of victory, he had thousands at his call.
But, whatever it was at other times, it was not now for the honour of
Judah that their forces were numbered by themselves, for their quota
was scandalously short (whatever was the reason), but a twentieth part
of the whole, for they were by 10,000, when the other ten tribes (for I
except Levi) brought into the field 200,000. The day of Judah's honour
drew near, but had not yet come. Saul numbered them in Telaim,
which signifies lambs. He numbered then like lambs (so
the vulgar Latin), numbered them by the paschal lambs (so the
Chaldee), allowing ten to a lamb, a way of numbering used by the Jews
in the later times of their nation. Saul drew all his forces to the
city of Amalek, that city that was their metropolis
(1 Samuel 15:5),
that he might provoke them to give him battle.
IV. He gave friendly advice to the Kenites to separate themselves from
the Amalekites among whom they dwelt, while this execution was in
1 Samuel 15:6.
Herein he did prudently and piously, and, it is probable, according to
the direction Samuel gave him. The Kenites were of the family and
kindred of Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, a people that dwelt in tents,
which made it easy for them, upon every occasion, to remove to other
lands not appropriated. Many of them, at this time, dwelt among the
Amalekites, where, though they dwelt in tents, they were fortified by
nature, for they put their nest in a rock, being hardy people
that could live any where, and affected fastnesses,
Balaam had foretold that they should be wasted,
However, Saul must not waste them. But,
1. He acknowledges the kindness of their ancestors to Israel, when they
came out of Egypt. Jethro and his family had been very helpful and
serviceable to them in their passage through the wilderness, had been
to them instead of eyes, and this is remembered to their posterity many
ages after. Thus a good man leaves the divine blessing for an
inheritance to his children's children; those that come after us may be
reaping the benefit of our good works when we are in our graves. God is
not unrighteous to forget the kindnesses shown to his people; but they
shall be remembered another day, at furthest in the great day, and
recompensed in the resurrection of the just. I was hungry, and you gave
me meat. God's remembering the kindness of the Kenites' ancestors
in favour to them, at the same time when he was punishing the injuries
done by the ancestors of the Amalekites, helped to clear the
righteousness of God in that dispensation. If he entail favours, why
may he not entail frowns? He espouses his people's cause, so as to
bless those that bless them; and therefore so as to curse
those that curse them,
They cannot themselves requite the kindnesses nor avenge the injuries
done them, but God will do both.
2. He desires them to remove their tents from among the Amalekites:
Go, depart, get you down from among them. When destroying
judgments are abroad God will take care to separate between the
precious and the vile, and to hide the meek of the earth in the day of
his anger. It is dangerous being 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,
The Jews have a saying, Woe to the wicked man and woe to his
V. Saul prevailed against the Amalekites, for it was rather an
execution of condemned malefactors than a war with contending enemies.
The issue could not be dubious when the cause was just and the call so
clear: He smote them
(1 Samuel 15:7),
utterly destroyed them,
1 Samuel 15:8.
Now they paid dearly for the sin of their ancestors. God sometimes
lays up iniquity for the children. They were idolaters, and were
guilty of many other sins, for which they deserved to fall under the
wrath of God; yet, when God would reckon with them, he fastened upon
the sin of their ancestors in abusing his Israel as the ground of his
quarrel. Lord, How unsearchable are thy judgments, yet how
incontestable is thy righteousness!
VI. Yet he did his work by halves,
1 Samuel 15:9.
1. He spared Agag, because he was a king like himself, and
perhaps in hope to get a great ransom for him.
2. He spared the best of the cattle, and destroyed only the refuse,
that was good for little. Many of the people, we may suppose, made
their escape, and took their effects with them into other countries,
and therefore we read of Amalekites after this; but that could not be
helped. It was Saul's fault that he did not destroy such as came to his
hands and were in his power. That which was now destroyed was in effect
sacrificed to the justice of God, as the God to whom vengeance
belongeth; and for Saul to think the torn and the sick, the lame and
the lean, good enough for that, while he reserved for his own fields
and his own table the firstlings and the fat, was really to honour
himself more than God.
|Samuel Reproves Saul; Saul Rejected of God.
||B. C. 1065.|
10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he
is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my
commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD
12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it
was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set
him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed
be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the
sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites:
for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to
sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly
16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what
the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say
17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight,
wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the
LORD anointed thee king over Israel?
18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and
utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against
them until they be consumed.
19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD,
but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of
the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have
brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the
21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief
of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to
sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt
offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than
the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and
stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast
rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from
Saul is here called to account by Samuel concerning the execution of
his commission against the Amalekites; and remarkable instances we are
here furnished with of the strictness of the justice of God and the
treachery and deceitfulness of the heart of man. We are here told,
I. What passed between God and Samuel, in secret, upon this occasion,
1 Samuel 15:10,11.
1. God determines Saul's rejection, and acquaints Samuel with it: It
repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king. Repentance in God
is not, as it is in us, a change of his mind, but a change of his
method or dispensation. He does not alter his will, but wills an
alteration. The change was in Saul: He has turned back from
following me; this construction God put upon the partiality of his
obedience, and the prevalency of his covetousness. And hereby he did
himself make God his enemy. God repented that he had given Saul the
kingdom and the honour and power that belonged to it: but he never
repented that he had given any man wisdom and grace, and his fear and
love; these gifts and callings of God are without repentance.
2. Samuel laments and deprecates it. It grieved Samuel that Saul
had forfeited God's favour, and that God had resolved to cast him off;
and he cried unto the Lord all night, spent a whole night in
interceding for him, that this decree might not go forth against him.
When others were in their beds sleeping, he was upon his knees praying
and wrestling with God. He did not thus deprecate his own exclusion
from the government; nor was he secretly pleased, as many a one would
have been, that Saul, who succeeded him, was so soon laid aside, but on
the contrary prayed earnestly for his establishment, so far was he from
desiring that woeful day. The rejection of sinners is the grief of good
people; God delights not in their death, nor should we.
II. What passed between Samuel and Saul in public. Samuel, being sent
of God to him with these heavy tidings, went, as Ezekiel, in
bitterness of soul, to meet him, perhaps according to an
appointment when Saul went forth on this expedition, for Saul had come
(1 Samuel 15:12),
the place where he was made king
(1 Samuel 11:15),
and were now he would have been confirmed if he had approved himself
well in the trial of his obedience. But Samuel was informed that Saul
had set up a triumphal arch, or some monument of his victory, at
Carmel, a city in the mountains of Judah, seeking his own honour more
than the honour of God, for he set up this place (or hand, as
the word is) for himself (he had more need to have been repenting of
his sin and making his peace with God than boasting of his victory),
and also that he had marched in great state to Gilgal, for this seems
to be intimated in the manner of expression: He has gone about, and
passed on, and gone down, with a great deal of pomp and parade.
There Samuel gave him the meeting, and,
1. Saul makes his boast to Samuel of his obedience, because that was
the thing by which he was now to signalize himself
(1 Samuel 15:13):
"Blessed be thou of the Lord, for thou sendest me upon a good
errand, in which I have had great success, and I have performed the
commandment of the Lord." It is very likely, if his conscience had
now flown in his face at this time and charged him with disobedience,
he would not have been so forward to proclaim his disobedience; for by
this he hoped to prevent Samuel's reproving him. Thus sinners think, by
justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord;
whereas the only way to do that is by judging ourselves. Those
that boast most of their religion may be suspected of partiality and
hypocrisy in it.
2. Samuel convicts him by a plain demonstration of his disobedience.
"Hast thou performed the commandment of the Lord? What means then
the bleating of the sheep?"
1 Samuel 15:14.
Saul would needs have it thought than God Almighty was wonderfully
beholden to him for the good service he had done; but Samuel shows him
that God was so far from being a debtor to him that he had just cause
of action against him, and produces for evidence the bleating of the
sheep, and the lowing of the oxen, which perhaps Saul appointed to
bring up the rear of his triumph, but Samuel appears to them as
witnesses against him. He needed not go far to disprove his
professions. The noise the cattle made (like the rust of silver,
would be a witness against him. Note, It is no new thing for the
plausible professions and protestations of hypocrites to be
contradicted and disproved by the most plain and undeniable evidence.
Many boast of their obedience to the command of God; but what mean then
their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their passion
and uncharitableness, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness
3. Saul insists upon his own justification against this charge,
1 Samuel 15:15.
The fact he cannot deny; the sheep and oxen were brought from the
(1.) It was not his fault, for the people spared them; as if
they durst have done it without the express orders of Saul, when they
knew it was against the express orders of Samuel. Note, Those that are
willing to justify themselves are commonly very forward to condemn
others, and to lay the blame upon any rather than take it to
themselves. Sin is a brat that nobody cares to have laid at his doors.
It is the sorry subterfuge of an impenitent heart, that will not
confess its guilt, to lay the blame on those that were tempters, or
partners, or only followers in it.
(2.) It was with a good intention: "It was to sacrifice to the Lord
thy God. He is thy God, and thou wilt not be against any thing that
is done, as this is, for his honour." This was a false plea, for both
Saul and the people designed their own profit in sparing the cattle.
But, if it had been true, it would still have been frivolous, for God
hates robbery for burnt-offering. God appointed these cattle to be
sacrificed to him in the field, and therefore will give those no thanks
that bring them to be sacrificed at his altar; for he will be served in
his own way, and according to the rule he himself has prescribed. Nor
will a good intention justify a bad action.
4. Samuel overrules, or rather overlooks, his plea, and proceeds, in
God's name, to give judgment against him. He premises his authority.
What he was about to say was what the Lord had said to him
(1 Samuel 15:16),
otherwise he would have been far from passing so severe a censure upon
him. Those who complain that their ministers are too harsh with them
should remember that, while they keep to the word of God, they are but
messengers, and must say as they are bidden, and therefore be willing,
as Saul himself here was, that they should say on. Samuel
delivers his message faithfully.
(1.) He reminds Saul of the honour of God had done him in making him
(1 Samuel 15:17),
when he was little in his own sight. God regarded the lowness of
his state and rewarded the lowliness of his spirit. Note, Those that
are advanced to honour and wealth ought often to remember their mean
beginnings, that they may never think highly of themselves, but always
study to do great things for the God that had advanced them.
(2.) He lays before him the plainness of the orders he was to execute
(1 Samuel 15:18):
The Lord sent thee on a journey; so easy was the service, and so
certain the success, that it was rather to be called a journey
than a war. The work was honourable, to destroy the sworn
enemies of God and Israel; and had he denied himself, and set aside the
consideration of his own profit so far as to have destroyed all that
belonged to Amalek, he would have been no loser by it at last, nor have
gone this warfare on his own charges. God would no doubt have
made it up to him, so that he should have no need of spoil. And
(3.) He shows him how inexcusable he was in aiming to make a profit of
this expedition, and to enrich himself by it
(1 Samuel 15:19):
"Wherefore then didst thou fly upon the spoil, and convert that
to thy own use which was to have been destroyed for God's honour?" See
what evil the love of money is the root of; but see what is the
sinfulness of sin, and that in it which above any thing else makes it
evil in the sight of the Lord. It is disobedience: Thou didst not
obey the voice of the Lord.
5. Saul repeats his vindication of himself, as that which, in defiance
of conviction, he resolved to abide by,
1 Samuel 15:20,21.
He denies the charge
(1 Samuel 15:20):
"Yea, I have obeyed, I have done all I should do;" for he had
done all which he thought he needed to do, so much wiser was he in his
own eyes than God himself. God bade him kill all, and yet he puts in
among the instances of his obedience that he brought Agag alive, which
he thought was as good as if he had killed him. Thus carnal deceitful
hearts think to excuse themselves from God's commandments with their
own equivalents. He insists upon it that he has utterly destroyed
the Amalekites themselves, which was the main thing intended; but,
as to the spoil, he owns it should have been utterly destroyed;
so that he knew his Lord's will, and was under no mistake about
the command. But he thought that would be wilful waste; the cattle of
the Midianites was taken for a prey in Moses's time
&c.), and why not the cattle of the Amalekites now? Better it should be
prey to the Israelites than to the fowls of the air and the wild
beasts; and therefore he connived at the people's carrying it away. But
it was their doing and not his; and, besides, it was for sacrifice
to the Lord here at Gilgal, whither they were now bringing them.
See what a hard thing it is to convince the children of disobedience of
their sin and to strip them of their fig-leaves.
6. Samuel gives a full answer to his apology, since he did insist upon
1 Samuel 15:22,23.
He appeals to his own conscience: Has the Lord as great delight in
sacrifices as in obedience? Though Saul was not a man of any great
acquaintance with religion, yet he could not but know this,
(1.) That nothing is so pleasing to God as obedience, no, not sacrifice
and offering, and the fat of rams. See here what we should seek and aim
at in all the exercises of religion, even acceptance with God, that he
may delight in what we do. If God be well pleased with us and our
services, we are happy, we have gained our point, but otherwise to
what purpose is it?
Now here we are plainly told that humble, sincere, and conscientious
obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him
than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. A careful conformity to
moral precepts recommends us to God more than all ceremonial
Obedience is enjoyed by the eternal law of nature, but sacrifice only
by a positive law. Obedience was the law of innocency, but sacrifice
supposes sin come into the world, and is but a feeble attempt to take
that away which obedience would have prevented. God is more glorified
and self more denied by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier
to bring a bullock or lamb to be burnt upon the altar than to bring
every high thought into obedience to God and the will subject to
his will. Obedience is the glory of angels
and it will be ours.
(2.) That nothing is so provoking to God as disobedience, setting up
our wills in competition with his. This is here called rebellion
and stubbornness, and is said to be as bad as witchcraft
1 Samuel 15:23.
It is as bad to set up other gods as to live in disobedience to the
true God. Those that are governed by their own corrupt inclinations, in
opposition to the command of God, do, in effect, consult the
teraphim (as the word here is for idolatry) or the diviners. It
was disobedience that made us all sinners
and this is the malignity of sin, that it is the transgression of
the law, and consequently it is enmity to God,
Saul was a king, but if he disobey the command of God, his royal
dignity and power will not excuse him from the guilt of rebellion and
stubbornness. It is not the rebellion of the people against their
prince, but of a prince against God, that this text speaks of.
7. He reads his doom: in short, "Because thou has rejected the word
of the Lord, hast despised it (so the Chaldee), hast made
nothing of it (so the LXX.), hast cast off the government of
it, therefore he has rejected thee, despised and made nothing of
thee, but cast thee off from being king. He that made thee king
has determined to unmake thee again." Those are unfit and unworthy to
rule over men who are not willing that God should rule over them.
|Saul's Dethronement Foretold.
||B. C. 1065.|
24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have
transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because
I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again
with me, that I may worship the LORD.
26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for
thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath
rejected thee from being king over Israel.
27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the
skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of
Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of
thine, that is better than thou.
29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for
he is not a man, that he should repent.
30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray
thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn
again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.
31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the
Saul is at length brought to put himself into the dress of the
penitent; but it is too evident that he only acts the part of a
penitent, and is not one indeed. Observe,
I. How poorly he expressed his repentance. It was with much ado that he
was made sensible of his fault, and not till he was threatened with
being deposed. This touched him in a tender part. Then he began to
relent, and not till then. When Samuel told him he was rejected from
being king, then he said, I have sinned,
1 Samuel 15:24.
His confession was not free nor ingenuous, but extorted by the rack,
and forced from him. We observe here several bad signs of the hypocrisy
of his repentance, and that it came short even of Ahab's.
1. He made his application to Samuel only, and seemed most solicitous
to stand right in his opinion and to gain his favour. He makes a little
god of him, only to preserve his reputation with the people, because
they all knew Samuel to be a prophet, and the man that had been the
instrument of his preferment. Thinking it would please Samuel, and be a
sort of bribe to him, he puts it into his confession: I have
transgressed the commandment of the Lord and thy word; as if he had
been in God's stead,
1 Samuel 15:24.
David, though convinced by the ministry of Nathan, yet, in his
confession, has his eye to God alone, not to Nathan.
Against thee only have I sinned. But Saul, ignorantly enough,
confesses his sin as a transgression of Samuel's word; whereas his word
was no other than a declaration of the commandment of the Lord.
He also applies to Samuel for forgiveness
(1 Samuel 15:25):
I pray thee, pardon my sin; as if any could forgive sin but God
only. Those wretchedly deceive themselves who, when they have fallen
into scandalous sin, think it enough to make their peace with the
church and their ministers, by the show and plausible profession of
repentance, without taking care to make their peace with God by the
sincerity of it. The most charitable construction we can put upon this
of Saul is to suppose that he looked upon Samuel as a sort of mediator
between him and God, and intended an address to God in his application
to him. However, it was very weak.
2. He excused his fault even in the confession of it, and that is never
the fashion of a true penitent
(1 Samuel 15:24):
I did it because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. We
have reason enough to think that it was purely his own doing and not
the people's; however, if they were forward to do it, it is plain, by
what we have read before, that he knew how to keep up his authority
among them and did not stand in any awe of them. So that the excuse was
false and frivolous; whatever he pretended, he did not really fear the
people. But it is common for sinners, in excusing their faults, to
plead the thoughts and workings of their own minds, because those are
things which, how groundless soever, no man can disprove; but they
forget that God searchest the heart.
3. All his care was to save his credit, and preserve his interest in
the people, lest they should revolt from him, or at least despise him.
Therefore he courts Samuel with so much earnestness
(1 Samuel 15:25)
to turn again with him, and assist in a public thanksgiving for the
victory. Very importunate he was in this matter when he laid hold on
the skirt of his mantle to detain him
(1 Samuel 15:27),
not that he cared for Samuel, but he feared that if Samuel forsook him
the people would do so too. Many seem zealously affected to good
ministers and good people only for the sake of their own interest and
reputation, while in heart they hate them. But his expression was very
gross when he said
(1 Samuel 15:30),
I have sinned, yet honour me, I pray thee, before my people. Is
this the language of a penitent? No, but the contrary: "I have
sinned, shame me now, for to me belongs shame, and no man can
loathe me so much as I loathe myself." Yet how often do we meet with
the copies of this hypocrisy of Saul! It is very common for those who
are convicted of sin to show themselves very solicitous to be honoured
before the people. Whereas he that has lost the honour of an innocent
can pretend to no other than that of a penitent, and it is the honour
of a penitent to take shame to himself.
II. How little he got by these thin shows of repentance. What point did
he gain by them?
1. Samuel repeated the sentence passed upon him, so far was he from
giving any hopes of the repeal of it,
1 Samuel 15:26,
the same with
1 Samuel 15:23.
He that covers his sins shall never prosper,
Samuel refused to turn back with him, but turned about to go
1 Samuel 15:27.
As the thing appeared to him upon the first view, he thought it
altogether unfit for him so far to countenance one whom God had
rejected as to join with him in giving thanks to God for a victory
which was made to serve rather Saul's covetousness than God's glory.
Yet afterwards he did turn again with him
(1 Samuel 15:31),
upon further thoughts, and probably by divine direction, either to
prevent a mutiny among the people or perhaps not to do honour to Saul
(for, though Saul worshipped the Lord,
1 Samuel 15:31,
it is not said Samuel presided in that worship), but to do justice on
1 Samuel 15:32.
2. He illustrated the sentence by a sign, which Saul himself, by his
rudeness, gave occasion for. When Samuel was turning from him he tore
his clothes to detain him
(1 Samuel 15:27),
so loth was he to part with the prophet; but Samuel put a construction
upon this accident which none but a prophet could do. He made it to
signify the rending of the kingdom from him
(1 Samuel 15:28),
and that, like this, was his own doing. "He hath rent it from thee, and
given it to a neighbour better than thou," namely, to David, who
afterwards, upon occasion, cut off the skirt of Saul's robe
(1 Samuel 24:4),
upon which Saul said
(1 Samuel 24:20),
I know that thou shalt surely be king, perhaps remembering this
sign, the tearing of the skirt of Samuel's mantle.
3. He ratified it by a solemn declaration of its being irreversible
(1 Samuel 15:29):
The Strength of Israel will not lie. The Eternity or
Victory of Israel, so some read it; the holy One, so the
Arabic; the most noble One, so the Syriac; the triumphant
King of Israel, so bishop Patrick. "He is determined to depose
thee, and he will not change his purpose. He is not a man that
should repent." Men are fickle and alter their minds, feeble and
cannot effect their purposes; something happens which they could not
foresee, by which their measures are broken. But with God it is not so.
God has sometimes repented of the evil which he thought to have done,
repentance was hidden from Saul, and therefore hidden from God's
32 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.
33 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 in Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to
Gibeah of Saul.
35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his
death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD
repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
Samuel, as a prophet, is here set over kings,
I. He destroys king Agag, doubtless by such special direction from
heaven as none now can pretend to. He hewed Agag in pieces. Some
think he only ordered it to be done; or perhaps he did it with his own
hands, as a sacrifice to God's injured justice
(1 Samuel 15:33),
and sacrifices used to be cut in pieces. Now observe in this,
1. How Agag's present vain hopes were frustrated: He came
delicately, in a stately manner, to show that he was a king, and
therefore to be treated with respect, or in a soft effeminate manner,
as one never used to hardship, that could not set the sole of his
foot to the ground for tenderness and delicacy
to move compassion: and he said, "Surely, now that the heat of the
battle is over, the bitterness of death is past,
Having escaped the sword of Saul," that man of war, he thought he was
in no danger from Samuel, and old prophet, a man of peace. Note,
(1.) There is bitterness in death, it is terrible to nature. Surely
death is bitter, so divers versions read those words of Agag; as
the LXX. read the former clause, He came trembling. Death
will dismay the stoutest heart.
(2.) Many think the bitterness of death is past when it is not so; they
put that evil day far from them which is very near. True believers may,
through grace, say this, upon good grounds, though death be not past,
the bitterness of it is. O death! where is thy sting?
2. How his former wicked practices were now punished. Samuel calls him
to account, not only for the sins of his ancestors, but his own sins:
Thy sword has made women childless,
1 Samuel 15:33.
He trod in the steps of his ancestors' cruelty, and those under him, it
is likely, did the same; justly therefore is all the righteous blood
shed by Amalek required of this generation,
Agag, that was delicate and luxurious himself, was cruel and barbarous
to others. It is commonly so: those who are indulgent in their
appetites are not less indulgent of their passions. But blood will be
reckoned for; even kings must account to the King of kings for the
guiltless blood they shed or cause to be shed. It was that crime of
king Manasseh which the Lord would not pardon,
2 Kings 24:4.
II. He deserts king Saul, takes leave of him
(1 Samuel 15:34),
and never came any more to see him
(1 Samuel 15:35),
to advise or assist him in any of his affairs, because Saul did not
desire his company nor would he be advised by him. He looked upon him
as rejected of God, and therefore he forsook him. Though he might
sometimes see him accidentally (as
1 Samuel 19:24),
yet he never came to see him out of kindness or respect. Yet he
mourned for Saul, thinking it a very lamentable thing that a man
who stood so fair for great things should ruin himself so foolishly. He
mourned for the bad state of the country, to which Saul was likely to
have been so great a blessing, but now would prove a curse and a
plague. He mourned for his everlasting state, having no hopes of
bringing him to repentance. When he wept for him, it is likely, he made
supplication, but the Lord had repented that he had made Saul
king, and resolved to undo that work of his, so that Samuel's
prayers prevailed not for him. Observe, We must mourn for the rejection
1. Though we withdraw from them, and dare not converse familiarly with
them. Thus the prophet determines to leave his people and go from them,
and yet to weep day and night for them,
2. Though they do not mourn for themselves. Saul seems unconcerned at
the tokens of God's displeasure which he lay under, and yet Samuel
mourns day and night for him. Jerusalem was secure when Christ wept