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Verses 1-35

Saul’s Victory over Amalek. His Disobedience and Rejection

Amalek had attacked Israel at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8) and opposed their entrance into Canaan (Numbers 14:45: cp. Deuteronomy 25:7; They are mentioned as allies of the Midianites in Judges 7:12. The Amalekite nomads probably occupied a large tract of the wilderness S. of Judah. This chapter evidently comes from a different source from the preceding, which concludes the history of Saul. It forms the connexion between the history of Saul and that of David. We have no means of determining to what part of Saul’s reign it belongs.

3. Utterly destroy] lit. ’devote’ (to Jehovah). The first idea of the word (herem) is that the object is dedicated to Jehovah, and so forbidden to common use: see Joshua 6:18. We meet with the same root in harem (the women’s apartments), and haram (the sacred enclosure at Mecca): cp. Leviticus 27:29.

4. Telaim] probably the same as Telem (Joshua 15:24), a town in S. Judah. Men of Judah are thus summoned to the expedition.

5. A city of Amalek] RV ’the city of Amalek,’ i.e. the capital.

6. Kenites] see on Judges 4:17. They formed a nomad tribe, living partly in and partly outside Palestine.

7. From Havilah until thou comest to Shur] cp. Genesis 25:18. Havilah was the eastern boundary of the district inhabited by the Amalekites, but its position is uncertain. Shur (Wall) was originally the name of the wall built to protect the eastern frontier of Egypt, and was then applied to the neighbouring part of the desert (Exodus 15:22).

8. The Amalekites subsequently sack Ziklag (1 Samuel 30); but from this time onwards they cease to be formidable.

11. It grieved Samuel] RV ’Samuel was wroth.’ He was annoyed at the course events were taking: cp. 2 Samuel 6:8; Jonah 4:1. It is characteristic of the Bible that it mentions the failings of its heroes and saints.

12. Carmel] a town in Judah, 7 m. S. of Hebron. It lay directly in Saul’s way on his return from smiting the Amalekites. A place] RV ’a monument’ (to commemorate his victory): cp. 2 Samuel 18:18.

17. RM ’Though thou be little in thine own sight, art thou not head of the tribes of Israel?’ i.e. the excuse, even if genuine, was not valid.

22, 23. These words are in poetic form, as we can see by the parallelism. See Intro. to Psalms.

22. For the views expressed in this v. cp. Psalms 40:6; Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:11.; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6. The Israelite was not left to imagine, like the heathen, that sacrifices were what God chiefly desired.

23. Samuel goes behind Saul’s pretended motive, sacrifice, to his real disobedience. Iniquity] RV ’idolatry.’ Idolatry] RV ’teraphim’: see on 1 Samuel 19:13.

24, 25. Saul’s feeling was not true repentance, but merely a desire to propitiate Samuel and secure his apparent adhesion: see 1 Samuel 15:30.

32. Delicately] RM ’cheerfully.’ Surely the bitterness, etc.] Since Saul had spared his life, Agag thought he was secure.

35. Came no more to see Saul] As a prophet he had no longer any message for the rejected king, although as a man he mourned for the failure of a career that had once seemed so promising.

The execution of Agag seems to us mere butchery; but, to both Samuel and Saul, Agag, like the rest of Amalek, had been put under the ’ban,’ and hence his death, even in cold blood, was a religious necessity. According to the ideas of the time, Saul had had no right to give any ’quarter.’ Nor is it right to judge the ancient Hebrews by what are happily our higher standards of conduct.

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