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8. War with Amalek: Saul’s Disobedience and Rejection

CHAPTER 15

1. The commission to destroy Amalek (1 Samuel 15:1-9 )

2. Saul’s disobedience and rejection (1 Samuel 15:10-23 )

3. Saul’s confession (1 Samuel 15:24-31 )

4. The doom of Agag (1 Samuel 15:32-35 )

From verse 48 in the previous chapter we learn that Saul smote the Amalekites. Samuel is sent by Jehovah with a new message to Saul telling him to smite Amalek again and to destroy utterly all that they have. It involves another task for Saul. He had been fully established as king and is therefore called upon to discharge his responsibilities and prove that he is fit for the position which he held. Amalek is the great foe of God’s people and typifies, as we have seen in our annotation on Exodus (chapter 17), the flesh and its lusts. Israel should have war with Amalek from generation to generation, and the remembrance of Amalek was to be completely blotted out. Even so the flesh is always the enemy of the children of God. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.” It is enmity against God. With this enemy Saul was to war and to destroy them utterly. But Saul at heart was nothing but an Amalekite. He gathers his army to do what Jehovah had demanded. The Lord gives Amalek into his hands. Then comes the significant “but.”--”But Saul and his 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 everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.”

“The lesson is a deeply solemn one, and wider in application than perhaps we would easily allow. If Amalek stands here as elsewhere for the lusts of the flesh, alas, is it not true that we measure our judgment of these often more by our own tastes than by the simple letter of the Word of God? How easy it is to judge the multitude of things, and spare the worst of all, the Agag! And things which minister to the lusts of the flesh are unhesitatingly allowed, if only they are not what to common estimate would be considered vile. Our judgments, how apt are they to be those of the world at large rather than of God,--in the light of nature rather than of the sanctuary!” (Numerical Bible)

Then the Lord, who had been the silent witness of all this, told Samuel about it. A night of sorrow and of prayer followed for the man of God. How he must have pleaded with the Lord for unhappy Saul! Samuel and Saul meet. Strange words which came from the lips of disobedient Saul: “Blessed be thou of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” It was a falsehood. He then hears the sentence. “When thou wast little in thine own sight thou becamest the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee King over Israel!” And now he had become great in his own sight and little in the sight of the Lord. Solemn are the prophet’s words to him. “Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 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 being king.” This was the irrevocable sentence of Jehovah. Alas! Saul’s confession but reveals his true character once more. He sinned and transgressed against the voice of the Lord, because he feared the people and hearkened to their voice. Such a one was unworthy to be king over the Lord’s people. It is a sad spectacle, the unrelenting Samuel and the deposed king. And Samuel deals with Agag in judgment as he deserved it.

The statement “and Samuel saw Saul no more until the days of his death” is taken by critics in connection with chapter 19:24 as an indication of the diversity of the sources from which the books of Samuel have been derived. But it is incorrect. Samuel did not come to see Saul again, though Saul prophesied before Samuel. However chapter 28:11-19 must be connected with Samuel’s final word to Saul in this chapter.

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