Study Notes

1Samuel 15:1-35


Last week, we saw King Saul take a drastic downward turn. Selfishly taking credit for his son Jonathan's victory over the Philistine garrison, sinfully offering the sacrifice of the burnt offering and peace offering, childishly refusing to admit his sin to Samuel; foolishly demanding that his army not eat until he was avenged of his enemies, and pridefully deciding to put his own son to death rather than admit he was wrong.

Samuel told Saul,

1Sam. 13:13-14 ..."You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."

So God's kingdom will not be ruled by Saul's descendants because of his sin. Now, as we pick up in chapter 15, several years have passed.

15:1 Political Authority Vs. Spiritual Authority

After being king for awhile, Saul could have easily come to the conclusion that he was the head honcho of Israel. After all, he was the political leader of the nation. But Samuel was the spiritual leader of the nation, and God's authority outweighs any human government's.

Rom. 13:1 ...There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

1Tim. 6:15 ...He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords

So when the Lord had given Samuel directions for Saul, Samuel came to Saul saying, "Before I say this, I want you to remember that I'm the one that anointed you king in the first place, by God's authority."

15:2-3 Utterly Destroy Amalek

The word from God to Saul was to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all that they owned. Remember that the Amalekites were the first to attack Israel after they left the bondage of Egypt, fighting Israel at Ref-ee-DEEM, in the battle where Moses held his hands up (Exodus 17). As a result of this attack, the Lord said,

Deut. 25:17-19 "Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget."

Amalek continued to be a brutal enemy of Israel, attacking with the Canaanites when they tried to enter the promised land (Numbers 14), partnering with the Moabites and the Ammonites to defeat Israel (Judges 3), and marauding with the Midianites during the days of Gideon (Judges 6). Even into the days of King Saul, they were plundering the Israelites (1Samuel 14).

And so the command comes to Saul,

1Sam. 15:3 "Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

A lot of people don't understand the judgment of God - it seems so brutal to them. It's one of the reasons even many Christians don't study the Old Testament.

It's certainly a valid question: how could God order the unilateral destruction of men, women, children, and animals? God knows with foresight what we only learn with hindsight. God knew the the idolatrous, immoral Amalekites would never repent, never turn to Him, and would ultimately destroy Israel if they were not destroyed themselves. As a matter of fact, we're going to see that just one of them was nearly able to commit genocide of the entire Jewish nation.

Plus, the Amalekites were the walking dead anyway. They would all eventually die, and their eternal destination was the second death. So God's command to destroy the Amalekites was the same as we as parents kill a bee that will sting our daughter or shooting a rabid dog going after our son. The bee will die when its stinger is pulled out, the rabid dog will die of its disease. Would we not save our children?

15:4-6 Kenites Let Go

Saul gathers the Israelite warriors in Tel-aw-EEM: 200,000 foot soldiers, plus another 10,000 from the tribe of Judah. They set an ambush in the valley outside the Amalekites' city.

However, the Kenites were also among the Amalekites. You should remember that the Kenites were a people that lived in the land of Canaan. But unlike the other nations, were accepting of the Israelites. It is possible that they knew that Moses' father-in-law was a Kenite, and thus let them be.

In Numbers 4, when Balaam was prophesying destruction to the various nations,

Num. 24:21 ...He looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, "Your dwelling place is enduring, and your nest is set in the cliff."

So, those who attacked Israel in the wilderness were being punished, but those who had blessed Israel in the wilderness were delivered.

15:7-9 Saul Fails To Follow The Command Of God

Once the Kenites were safe, Saul attacked the Amalekites. All over the place, from Khav-ee-LAW as you go to Shoor, Saul's army was victorious. He did have all the people killed, as God had commanded, but captured King Agag. And they did kill the animals that were less than perfect, but kept the best ones.

15:10-11 God's Regret

God tells Samuel that he regrets having made Saul king. That seems like such an odd thing - why would God, Who knows all, including the future, do anything that He would later regret?

We must understand that although God can be grieved by our behavior, He doesn't change His plan because of it. As a matter of fact, this same Hebrew word, naw-KHAM, is used later in this chapter, saying, "God will not 'naw-KHAM,' or "God will not change His mind."

God's plans therefore are set in stone, yet that doesn't mean He is pleased by all that we do while accomplishing those plans.

It is yet another picture of the sovereignty of God interacting with the free will of man.

God's plan was to have a fish vomit Jonah up on the beach near Nineveh. But Jonah had to sin against God in rebellion in order to get on the boat, be cast into the sea, and be swallowed by the fish.

God's plan was to have the gospel spread throughout the world. But the Jews had to sin against God to bring persecution against the church to get them going.

God's plan was to have his Son die to pay the death penalty of sinners. But many people - Judas, the Romans, the Pharisees - had to sin to accomplish that plan.

Although sinners accomplished His plan, He is still grieved by their sin.

Have you ever wondered why satan is allowed to bring such sorrow into the world?

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him.

The devil is accomplishing the plan of God, but not in a way that is in accordance with the will of God. The results of satan's interaction with the human race may grieve God, but they also accomplish the ultimate plan of God.

This can be very confusing, and even lead people to believe that God is unfair for judging their sin, since it is just accomplishing His plan. Romans 3 addresses that specifically.

Rom. 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise how will God judge the world? But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? And why not {say} (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just.

So God hasn't changed His mind about His plan, but He is very grieved over Saul's sin.

Samuel's Cries

When the Lord revealed to Samuel that Saul had sinned again, he cried out to the Lord all night.

Samuel was a man who prayed for others, both when they needed help, and when they were in sin. When the Philistines were gathering to attack Israel,

1Sam. 7:9 ...Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him.

When Israel was in sin asking for a king,

1Sam. 8:6 ...The thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD

When he needed Israel to see that their sin was great,

1Sam. 12:18 So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

And when the people repented and said, "Please pray for us," his response was,

1Sam. 12:23 "...Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you..."

Now, here is Samuel, a man of prayer, crying out to the Lord all night. The word there means to cry for help. The nation of Israel needs help, Saul is in sin, and Samuel is praying.

15:12 A Monument For Himself

Saul's pride was becoming more and more evident. In the beginning, he had insisted on giving God the glory for victory, saying,

1Sam. 11:13 "...Today the LORD has accomplished deliverance in Israel."

But now, he takes personal credit for the defeat of the Amalekites, erecting a monument for himself in Carmel.

15:13-15 Saul's Excuse

When Samuel arrives at Saul's place, Saul acts as if he has, and even claims to have, done everything the Lord commanded. But Samuel doesn't mince words: "If you've done everything you were commanded, where did all this Amalekite livestock come from?"

Saul makes the excuse that it was the people who had kept the best livestock, and besides, they had taken it to sacrifice to the Lord.

15:16-19 Samuel's Rebuke

Samuel reminds Saul how humbled he had been by being anointed king over Israel.

1Sam. 9:21 ..."Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?..."

"You were so humble then! But now, when the Lord sends you on a mission saying, 'utterly destroy all of the Amalekites' people and livestock,' you do not obey!"

15:20-21 Saul's Next Excuse

As Saul is trying to explain that he obeyed almost everything, he also lets it slip that he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, as well. He also makes the excuse again that these animals will be destroyed, but as sacrifices to the Lord, rather than the way the Lord commanded it.

15:22-23 Rebellion

"To obey is better than sacrifice." What a great statement to describe the Christian's life! Yes, Jesus has died for our sin, but that is not to say that we can then just continue on in it, saying that Christ paid for it all. The sixth chapter of Romans details this explicitly.

Rom. 6:1-13 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also {in the likeness} of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with {Him,} that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin {as} instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members {as} instruments of righteousness to God.

Even though Christ has paid for our sin, to die to sin is better than to live in sin. To obey is better than sacrifice.

15:24-31 No Change Of Mind

This section of Scripture seems very harsh. After all, Saul acknowledges that he has sinned, but God will not remove the judgment from him. How can this be?

Notice this: Saul confesses his sin, but does not repent of it. He explains why he sinned ("I feared the people"), but he does not turn away from it. As a matter of fact, Saul's biggest concern is that he is going to look bad in the eyes of the people, and actually asks Samuel to honor him in front of the people! It's like he's saying, "Yes, yes, you're right, this sin business has been a difficulty, but since you're here, let's call a press conference and get a good photo op!"

And although Saul goes up to worship God, notice the change in his vocabulary: While before, he was calling the Lord "the Lord," (11:13; 13:12; 14:33-34; etc.) three times in this chapter, he calls the Lord, "The Lord YOUR God." There is a definite separation happening in the Saul's relationship with God.

15:32-33 Agag Killed

Samuel kills Agag, the king of the Amalekites, as the Lord had commanded. No harm, no foul - God's command has finally been accomplished, right? Wrong. Saul's "partial obedience" (disobedience) almost spelled destruction for the entire nation of Israel.

You see, sometime between being captured and being killed, Agag had relations with a woman. And her offspring became the father of the Agagites. When we get to the book of Esther, we will see that a man named Haman was very nearly successful in having all the Jews destroyed. And Haman was an Agagite. Partial obedience can lead to our destruction.

15:34-35 Samuel Departs From Saul

Samuel went back to his city of Raw-MAW, and Saul goes back to his hometown of Ghib-AW. The two will never see each other again as long as they both live.

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