1Samuel 13-15

Sunday Evening Bible Study

January 27, 2002


When Saul was made king, the nation of Israel faced a threat from the Ammonites.  Saul was able to raise an army of 330,000, and brought about a great victory for Israel.  Now it’s time for things to settle down a bit.

1Samuel 13

:1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

Apparently the Hebrew is a little unclear here, and there are several ways this verse has been translated.

It would seem that the actual text must say something like, “Saul was one year old and reigned for two years”. But this doesn’t make any sense.

The King James and New King James take it to mean that the events of the last chapter took place during the first year of Saul’s reign, while the next chapter starts with the second year of his reign.

(1 Sam 13:1 KJV) Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

Another way is to say that Saul was a pure and innocent as a one year old child, and this is how the Jewish paraphrase called the “Targum” translates it:

“as the son of a year, in whom there are no faults, so was Saul when he reigned;”

Others take it to mean that he was only a “year old” in the Lord, from the time that he had been changed into another man (1 Sam. 10:6,9)

Some of the newer translations feel that there has been an “ellipsis”, that part of the text has been left out, and that we must assume that there is a missing number. With this approach, there have been several ways of looking at it.

(1 Sam 13:1 NIV) Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.
(1 Sam 13:1 NASB) Saul was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-two years over Israel.
But keep in mind, this is the translators that are supplying their “best guess” as to what was missing.

I think we could just stay with how the King James translates it.

:2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel … in Michmash and … in Gibeah

When Saul conquered the Ammonites back in 1Samuel 11, Saul had gathered an army of 330,000 men. From these men, he now chooses 3,000 to be in his standing army. He will command 2,000 men, and give 1,000 men to be commanded by his son Jonathan.

Michmashmik-mawsh’ = “hidden” see map

GibeahGib‘ah – “hill”. see map

:3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet

JonathanYownathan – “Jehovah has given”

GebaGeba‘– “hill”. A town in Benjamin about a 1 ½ miles northeast of Gibeah. see map

SaulSha’uwl – “desired”

blew the trumpet – the blowing of a trumpet was a way of communicating with the nation. There were several reasons for blowing trumpets, but mainly it was to gather the people together (Numbers 10:1-10). One reason was to gather the people for war:

(Num 10:9 KJV) And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.

Saul is probably blowing the trumpet to gather the people to fight against the Philistines.

:4 all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten … the Philistines

There’s two ways of looking at this.

You could look at this as if Saul’s government has taken action against the Philistines, which is true.

But you could also look at this as if Saul is taking credit for something that Jonathan has done, which isn’t too good.

:4 Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines.

The Jewish paraphrase, the “Targum”, takes the idea of the “garrison” as being an individual. The idea is that Jonathan struck against a person, a governor that the Philistines had set in place to gather taxes from Israel.

Though we tend to look at Israel as always being the “good guys” (and I think we should), to put this in a modern context, it was as if the Israelites assassinated a government official, making them the “bad guys” in the eyes of the Philistines.

:4 And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.

Gilgal Gilgal – “a wheel, rolling” see map

The purpose of the trumpet blast was to gather the people. They gather at Gilgal.

Earlier, when Samuel had first met Saul, part of his instructions to Saul involved meeting Samuel at Gilgal:

(1 Sam 10:8 KJV) And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do.
Saul had been given specific instructions to wait for Samuel at Gilgal, and that Samuel would tell him what to do.

:5 And the Philistines gathered …thirty thousand chariots … pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.

The Philistines gather a HUGE army.

Perhaps they have been aware of how Saul had gathered an army of 330,000 to fight the Ammonites. They don’t want to take chances.

thirty thousand chariots – some think this is way too big of a number and that it should read “three thousand chariots”.

chariots … horsemen – for this day and time, these are the “advanced weapon systems”. Israel does not have any chariots or horsemen.

Keep in mind, Israel no longer has 330,000 gathered, but instead Saul only had 3,000 men with him.

people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude – Josephus records that it was 300,000 men.

Michmash – This was where Saul had been with his troops (vs. 2). see map

BethavenBeyth ‘Aven – “house of vanity” see map

:6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait…the people did hide themselves

in a straittsarar – to bind, be narrow, be in distress, make narrow, cause distress, besiege, be straitened, be bound. We say, “between a rock and a hard place”.

Instead of the nation gathering together as they did against the Ammonites, just the opposite happens. The people scatter and Saul will go from having an army of three thousand to an army of only six hundred.


As the Lone Ranger and Tonto were riding along towards the north, they spotted a war party of about 50 Apaches coming at them. They turned south, but another war party appeared. They turned east and met another party of 100 braves. They turned west as their last remaining hope and saw a party of 500. The Lone Ranger turned to his friend and said, “Well, faithful friend, this is the end, there’s not much we can do.” Tonto looked back at the Lone Ranger. “What you mean WE, white man?”

:7 over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead

Gad and Gilead – the area on the eastern side of the Jordan River see map

:8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed

seven days – this was the length of time that Samuel had told Saul to wait:

(1 Sam 10:8 KJV) And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do.

:9 And he offered the burnt offering.

Either Saul himself (breaking the Law), or perhaps he had a priest with him who offered the sacrifice. Either way, this was something he should have waited for Samuel to perform.

:10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came


Patience – Learn to wait

This is one of those frustrating moments when you wait and wait and wait, and just the time you quit, the thing you’re waiting for happens.

:12 I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.

Saul was afraid that things would get worse if he didn’t take matters into his own hands.


Fear and disobedience

The problem is that we often fail to realize that matters aren’t really in our hands at all.
It’s more important that we do things God’s way.

:13 Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee


Pay attention to God’s warnings

God is giving Saul a serious warning here. Saul needs to pay attention. This won’t be the last warning.
God always gives us warnings.

:14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue:

Saul could have had a permanent dynasty, but he has lost that opportunity because of his disobedience.

:14 the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart

This would be David.


A heart for God

(2 Chr 16:9 KJV) For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

:15 Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.

Saul is down to only six hundred men. Facing a HUGE Philistine army.

:16 in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.

Gibeah … Michmash – only about 2 ½ miles apart.

:17 And the spoilers came out …to Ophrah…Shual:

Ophrah – 5 miles north of the camp in Michmash. see map

Shual – a city 50 miles to the north of Michmash. They were heading in that direction.

:18 …to Bethhoron…to the valley of Zeboim

BethhoronBeyth Chowrown – “house of hollowness”; 14 miles west of Michmash see map

Zeboim[email protected]‘iym – “speckled”. About 25 miles northwest of Michmash. see map

The Philistines begin to send out raiding parties to attack the Israelites.

:19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:

Apparently the Philistines practices a type of “gun-control” over the Israelites, keeping them from producing weapons comparable to their own. They had kept the Israelites from having their own blacksmiths.

:20 But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock.

sharemacharesheth – plough share

coulter‘eth – ploughshare (or, mattock or axe)

mattock – or, “hoe”

The Israelites had to go to the Philistines to have their farm tools sharpened.

:21 Yet they had a file for the mattocks …

The newer translations read:

(1 Sam 13:21 NIV) The price was two thirds of a shekel for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.

:22 there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan:

Not only were they down to six hundred men, but they were VERY POORLY armed!!! There are only TWO swords in the whole army!

:23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.

They guarded the passage that led to Michmash.

1Samuel 14

:3 And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD'S priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod

Ahiah was the high priest at the time. He was a great-grandson of Eli. He was with Saul.

:4 there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.

BozezBowtsets – “surpassing white: glistening” see map

SenehCeneh – “thorny”

To get to the Philistines, Jonathan and his armor bearer will have to go down one cliff and climb the other.

:6 it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.


God can use just a few

That was the lesson that Gideon had learned. I wonder if Jonathan had been thinking about Gideon?
For us, as a small church, we can sometimes think that God could only use us if we become a “big church”. Not so. It doesn’t take many.
It only takes one.

:7 Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.

I wonder what happened to the other 2,400 men who had been following Saul earlier? How come there’s only six hundred left?

When the chips were down, people had left.


Support or run?

Not only was Jonathan brave, but his armor bearer was too.
I’d like to not only be like the six hundred that stayed with Saul, but I’d like to be like Jonathan’s armor-bearer, who was willing to be the only guy to support what God was doing.

:8 we will discover ourselves unto them.

discovergalah – to uncove; to disclose, discover, lay bare; to make known, show, reveal

:10 But if they say thus …

They lay out a “fleece”. Jonathan wants to make sure that this is really a “God-thing” and not just his own crazy idea.

The idea is this: If the Philistine guards ask them to come up to their side, then they’ll take it that this is exactly what they should do and they’ll go up and fight. If the Philistines tell them to stay put, then they’ll run.


Be sure it’s really God speaking

Don’t just be a person who likes to live life dangerously for the sake of living dangerously.
Be sure God is speaking.
If God is leading you, then wherever you are is the safest place in the world. But if God is not leading you, you’re in trouble!

:12 Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.

Jonathan knows now that God has been leading them.  And he gets moving.


Take a step

It only takes one person who will step forward instead of backward.

Napoleon often referred to Marshall Ney as the bravest man he had ever known. Yet Ney’s knees trembled so badly one morning before a battle that he had trouble mounting his horse. When he was finally in the saddle he shouted contemptuously, “Shake away, knees, you would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you.”

--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 129-130.

:13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet

They had to scale the cliffs, but when they get to the top, they start killing Philistines.

:14 And that first slaughter …

The Philistines are caught off guard and Jonathan and his armor bearer start killing them.

:15 And there was trembling in the host…the earth quaked

Not only are the Philistines shocked to see so many of their comrades fall, but God pitches in and causes an earthquake, causing a panic among the Philistines.

:16 they went on beating down one another.

The Philistines became confused and began to turn on each other.

:17 Number now, and see who is gone from us

Saul doesn’t know who is gone. He wants to know who is doing this fighting.

:18 And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.

The NLT says that Saul asks for the “ephod”. This is because the Septuagint has “ephod” here instead of ark. But I think it was really the ark.

The ark was with Saul in Gibeah. At some point, it had been moved from Kiriathjearim to Gibeah. Later, when David brings the ark to Jerusalem, he brings it from Gibeah:

(2 Sam 6:3 KJV) And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

:19 And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.

Apparently Saul is going to ask the Lord if he should send the army into battle, but when he sees how things are going across the way with the Philistines, he is afraid that if he doesn’t get his troops on the move, they are going to miss their opportunity.


There’s a time to move

Saul is certainly going to make some mistakes on this day, but I’m not sure this is one of them.
There are times when God is working that we need to get busy as well.
When Moses and the people were pinned against the Red Sea, and Pharoah’s chariots were closing in, God said to Moses,

(Exo 14:15 NLT)  Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!

Don’t get me wrong – praying is good.  But sometimes we are praying when God wants us to be moving.

:20 there was a very great discomfiture.

discomfiture[email protected] – tumult, confusion, disquietude, discomfiture, destruction, trouble, vexed, vexation

(1 Sam 14:20 NIV) Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords.

:21 the Hebrews that were with the Philistines … they also turned to be with the Israelites

Apparently some of the Israelites had been living in the camp of the Philistines, pretending to be Philistines. When the battle heats up, they join in the battle with Saul and Jonathan.

:22 even they also followed hard after them in the battle.

All the people that had been hiding in caves came out to fight.

Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:116) that by this time, Saul’s army had grown from 600 men to 10,000.

:23 So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.

Bethaven – (1Sam. 13:5) this was one of the outer boundaries of the Philistine camp. see map


God saved through one

There would be another person who would bring salvation to the nation of Israel single-handedly.
(John 11:49-52 KJV)  And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, {50} Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. {51} And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; {52} And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
That’s exactly what Jesus would do.  He would die for the nation.  He would go to the cross, willingly, and die in our place.
(Heb 12:1-3 KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

:24 So none of the people tasted any food.

Saul makes the people promise not to stop and eat anything until evening.

Fasting can be a good thing when you’re seeking the Lord, but it’s not a good idea if you’re going to expect your warriors to keep up their strength.

Josephus gives us some interesting insight (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:116-117),

“whether out of ignorance, or whether out of joy for a victory gained so strangely (for it frequently happens that persons so fortunate are not then able to use their reason consistently), as he was desirous to avenge himself, and to exact a due punishment of the Philistines, he denounced a curse upon the Hebrews”


Stupid ideas

Saul has done some brilliant things as king.  This is NOT one of them.

:24 that I may be avenged on mine enemies.


Rising pride

Though Saul started out with a level of humility, we are seeing the humility slip.
The issue is no longer about God or about the people. Now the issue is “Saul” and “his” enemies.
It’s not about you.
Be careful when you start hearing yourself using the words “I”, “me”, or “mine” too much.
When you begin to focus on how life is affecting you, you’re heading for trouble.
Sometimes the thing God is doing is not really about you, but about the people around you.

:25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.

Bees had hives in the forest, the hives were dripping with honey.

:27 his eyes were enlightened.

Jonathan gets a boost from the honey.

:29 My father hath troubled the land

hath troubled‘akar – to trouble, stir up, disturb, make (someone) taboo

Jonathan realizes that his father has made a bad choice. Jonathan seems to be a man of common sense.

:31 that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.

Aijalon‘Ayalown – “field of deer”; about fifteen miles west of Michmash. It’s the last stop out of the hills. see map

Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:120) that they had killed “many tens of thousands of Philistines”

:32 And the people flew upon the spoil … the people did eat them with the blood.

It’s now evening, and the people can now take time to eat.

The Philistine army would have lots of animals with them because that’s their provisions. As the Israelites are wiping out the Philistines, there are lots of animals around as “spoil”.

eat them with the blood – God had strictly prohibited His people to eat meat with the blood in it.

(Lev 17:10-11 KJV) And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. {11} For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

The blood was to be something special, something to remind the Jew of the life that was in the animal. Because of that, whenever a Jew was to slaughter an animal, the blood had to be drained first. It’s a much more time-consuming way of slaughtering animals.

:33 Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the LORD

a great stone – make a place for the proper slaughtering of animals.

It’s interesting to note that the people were concerned about not disobeying Saul’s command to not eat until evening, but they didn’t have any scruples about disobeying God’s command of not eating meat with the blood.

:35 And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.

I don’t know if this is actually a good thing.  It seems that the using of this rock as a place of slaughter has stirred up Saul to build an altar.  But we will see increasing signs of Saul falling away from the Lord, not drawing near to him.

Ho 8:14  For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples

Sometimes people who are far from the Lord can act the most religious.

:36 Let us go down after the Philistines … Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.

After the people have eaten, Saul wants to continue the battle during the night.

But the priest speaks up and suggests that they ask God first.

:37 But he answered him not that day.

Some have suggested that the way God would speak through the priest was through a black stone and a white stone kept in a pouch on the high priest’s breastplate. This is what some have suggested that the “Urim” and “Thummin” were. They would ask God a question, and if the black stone was pulled out, the answer was “no”, if the white stone was pulled out, then the answer was “yes”.

The only problem with that suggestion is, how could there be a situation when God wouldn’t answer?

I think it’s probably better to understand that God was working by the Holy Spirit upon the priest. The priest knew that God was at work. The priest knew what the Holy Spirit was saying.

:38 And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.


When God is silent

Saul thinks that the reason God is silent is because there is some sin.
This can be true some times.

(Isa 59:1-2 KJV) Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: {2} But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Is this the case here?
I think God definitely wants to bring out this problem with Saul’s “curse”. God will allow Jonathan to be picked out and Saul will find out that Jonathan had eaten some honey.

But I have a hard time thinking that Jonathan is in the wrong here. The real problem is not that Jonathan had eaten honey, the real problem was that Saul made a stupid oath.

I wonder if God isn’t just trying to get Saul to slow down.

:43 and, lo, I must die.

Jonathan is willing to submit to his father’s wishes. He’s willing to die for eating some honey.

:44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.

Saul intends to have his son put to death.

:45 he hath wrought with God this day.

The people realized what had happened that day. They realized that God had been at work. And they realized that Jonathan had been working hand-in-hand with God.


Working with God

God wants to work with us.
(Phil 2:13 KJV)  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

:45 So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.


Rescue people from foolishness

Jephthah too had made a foolish vow. He promised to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house if God would give him victory. And he apparently sacrificed his daughter to keep his vow.
I don’t think God wants us to keep foolish promises. I think sometimes we need to open our eyes to some of the silly things we do.

:47 So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies

This victory over the Philistines then seemed to turn the tide for Israel. Though they had a great victory over Nahash the Ammonite, it was this victory over the Philistines that put the world on notice that they couldn’t hassle Israel.

And the victory came because one man said, “I wonder what God can do?”

:52 And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and

sorechazaq – strong, stout, mighty; severe, sharp, hot

:52 when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him.

Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:130):

“he made such of the young men as were remarkable for tallness and comeliness the guards of his body.”

He picked tall, handsome men, like himself.

1Samuel 15

:1 hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

It’s possible that it has been several years since Samuel has given any instruction to Saul.

Now Saul is being asked to pay attention to the Lord’s direction.


Retake the test

In a sense, Saul is being given a chance to retake the test that he failed back in chapter 13.
(1 Sam 13:13-14 KJV) And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. {14} But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.
Now, once again the issue is going to be obedience. Will Saul do what God asks him to do?

:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel

The Amalekites attacked Israel on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. The mode in which they attacked was to attack those who would fall behind during the daily march.

De 25:18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, [even] all [that were] feeble behind thee, when thou [wast] faint and weary; and he feared not God.

Israel had already had one great battle with Amalek:

(Exo 17:8-16 KJV) Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. {9} And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. {10} So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. {11} And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. {12} But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. {13} And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. {14} And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. {15} And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: {16} For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

It’s now been close to five hundred years since Joshua battled Amalek. Now it’s finally time to do something about it.

:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have

This sounds a bit strong, to “utterly destroy” these people.

I think that in the days after September 11, perhaps if we realized that the Amalekites were something of a cross between the al Qaeda terrorists and the pornography industry, we might have a little better idea as to why God wanted the entire thing wiped out.

God doesn’t want anything left of these people, nothing left to remind the world of their depraved and wicked society.

:4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.

Telaim[email protected]’iym – “lambs”. A city in the south of Israel. The Amalekites tended to raid Israel from the south. see map

To show that we need to be careful not to take everything Josephus writes as inspired or inerrant as Scripture, Josephus records,

“he found them to be about four hundred thousand of the Israelites, besides the tribe of Judah, for that tribe contained by itself thirty thousand” (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:134)

We choose what Scripture says over what Josephus says.

:6 And Saul said unto the Kenites …

Kenites – these were the people of Moses’ father-in-law (Judges 1:16).

:7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur

Havilah … Shur – these are areas far to the south in the Sinai (not on the map).

:8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive

Agag‘Agag – “I will overtop”. This was the common title of the Amalekite kings.

:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep …

Josephus gives us a reason why Agag was spared, (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:137)

“the beauty and tallness of whose body he admired so much, that he thought him worthy of preservation”

He doesn’t have any problem wiping out the worst stuff, but he wants to spare the pretty things.

No matter how you look at it, Saul is disobeying the command of the Lord.

He might have had his reasons, but it’s still disobedience.


Don’t reinterpret God’s commands

Sometimes we like to have reasons why we can fudge on things God has asked us to do.
All it does is get us into trouble.

:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me

It repentethnacham – to be sorry, repent, regret


A ruler needs to be ruled

This is the second time that Saul has disobeyed what God has asked him to do.
When he was in Gilgal, he didn’t wait for Samuel to arrive.
Now, he spares Agag and some of the spoil, though God had told him to destroy all.

These might sound like pretty small things, but God doesn’t want us to obey “most” of His commands, He wants us to obey ALL of His commands.

If you are in a position of authority, the most important thing you can learn is not how to give orders, but how to take them.

:11 And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

grieved charah – to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled. I kind of think the idea is that Samuel is pretty upset with Saul disobeying the Lord again.

(1 Sam 15:11 NLT) Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the LORD all night.

(1 Sam 15:11 NIV) Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

(1 Sam 15:11 NASB) And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.


Handle frustrations with prayer

Samuel will confront Saul, but only after spending the entire night in prayer.

:12 Saul came to Carmel

Carmel – this appears to be a place in southern Israel, not the mountain in northern Israel. see map

:12 behold, he set him up a place

a placeyad – hand; sign, monument

(1 Sam 15:12 NASB) behold, he set up a monument for himself

(1 Sam 15:12 NLT) Someone told him, "Saul went to Carmel to set up a monument to himself

(1 Sam 15:12 NIV) There he has set up a monument in his own honor


Look what I’ve done

When Samuel had lead Israel to a great victory over the Philistines, he too had set up a stone to remember things:
(1 Sam 7:12 KJV) Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

Samuel had given the credit to God, he had set up a monument to God. Saul is setting up a monument to himself.

Saul is out of control.  He’s gone off the deep end.  He’s too taken by himself.

:13 Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

You might think that Saul has completely wiped out all the Amalekites except for King Agag, but you’d be wrong. Saul has not wiped out the Amalekites.

In just a few years, David will encounter more Amalekites:

(1 Sam 30:1 KJV) And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire;

When David catches up to the raiders, there’s quite a few of them:
(1 Sam 30:16 KJV) And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah.

And even further down the road, another Amalekite will rise to power who will seek to wipe out the nation of Israel. The bad guy in the story of Esther is named Haman, the “Agagite” (Est. 3:1), a descendant of Agag.


Dealing with the flesh

We often see the Amalekites as a kind of picture of our “flesh”, our “sin-nature”.
The way we are to deal with the flesh is to wipe it out, not to reform it.
(Gal 2:20 KJV)  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
(Rom 8:13 KJV)  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
If we think that there’s stuff in our flesh worth keeping, things to be “fed”, then we will end up regretting it.  The flesh will eventually rise up to kill us.

:14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

If you’ve so completely obeyed the Lord, then where did these sheep and oxen come from?

:15 They have brought them … the people spared … unto the LORD thy God

Note Saul’s excuses – he blames it on the people. He isn’t willing to accept the blame. “They have brought” … “the people spared …”

Why is it “the LORD thy God” and not “the LORD my God”?

:16 I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night

As Samuel prayed all night, God spoke to him.

:17 thou wast little in thine own sight

Saul at one point had a measure of humility.

:20 Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD …and have brought Agag …


Don’t be deceived

How can Saul say this? He says that he has totally obeyed the Lord, and yet he acknowledges that he has done something that was against the Lord’s command.
Sometimes we can deceive ourselves.
I think of President Clinton’s famous line to the camera, “I did not have sex with that woman”. He had it all reasoned out as to why he could say that and feel like he was being truthful. But he was deceiving himself.
Don’t be deceived.
(1 Cor 6:9-10 KJV) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, {10} Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
(1 Cor 15:33 NASB) Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
(Gal 6:7 KJV) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

:21 the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

Hey Sam, don’t sweat it, we only took these things so we could sacrifice them to the Lord!!

:22 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.


God doesn’t want your presents, He wants your obedience

Some people fall into a trap of thinking that as long as they put an extra $20 in the offering at church, that God doesn’t if they got drunk the night before.
God would rather that you keep your money and that you sober up.
The Bible says,
(Prov 6:23 KJV) For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

God’s commands to us are good things. They help us. It’s not about ruining our “fun”, it’s about preserving our life.

Suppose you are a person who gets a kick out of driving 120 mph on the freeway at midnight. You get a ticket, and think, “Hey, I don’t mind paying the fine, I had a blast!” So you do it again. You get another ticket.

God really isn’t thrilled that you are willing to pay the fine. When you drive 120 mph on the freeway at midnight, you are not only endangering the lives of others on the freeway, but you are endangering your own life. God would rather that you learn to drive the speed limit and live, rather than get that “thrill” and pay the fines.

: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 being king.

stubbornnesspatsar – to press, push; (Hiphil) be insolent, display pushing (arrogance, presumption)

Saul had already been warned once that because of his disobedience in not waiting for Samuel (1Sam. 13:13) that his kingdom wouldn’t be passed on from generation to generation.

But now he is told that God is finished with him being a king at all.

:24  I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD,


Spiritual fakery

It is this kind of language that has confused my many times over the years.
This sounds exactly like what Saul should say.  When David’s sin with Bathsheba is exposed, David said, “I have sinned”.  So what’s the difference?  How come David is forgiven and Saul isn’t?
The difference is in the heart.
You can’t see the heart, not exactly.  But you can see the imprint the heart leaves.  See the kind of junk that’s still in Saul’s heart.
The same works in our lives as well.  People can say all the right things, and frankly we can be very confused as to why their lives don’t change.  It’s all because of the heart.  When the heart gets right, the life gets right.

:24 because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.


Let God motivate you, not people

When we become “people pleasers”, we run the risk of disobeying God.
We get ourselves into trouble when we become more concerned about what other people think than we do about what God thinks.
In Jesus’ day, there were people who could have followed Jesus, but had a hard time.
(John 12:42-43 KJV) Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: {43} For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Peter Cartwright, a nineteenth-century circuit-riding Methodist preacher, was an uncompromising man. One Sunday morning when he was to preach, he was told that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation, and warned not to say anything out of line.
When Cartwright stood to preach, he said, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is here. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent.”
The congregation was shocked and wondered how the President would respond. After the service, President Jackson shook hands with Peter Cartwright and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”

-- Leadership, Vol. XII #1, Winter, 1991, p. 49

:25 pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

worshipshachah – to bow down; (Hithpael) to bow down, prostrate oneself; before superior in homage; before God in worship

:26 the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

Why doesn’t Samuel (or God) forgive Saul? Doesn’t he say all the right words?

He is not sincere in his repentance and confession. We’ll see in a moment that Saul is still only concerned about what others think about him.


God looks at the heart

Only God knows if you’re sincere or not. And He does know.

:27 he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.

Saul holds on to Samuel’s upper, official robe, and it rips.

:28 The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day

Just as Saul tore Samuel’s coat, God has torn the kingdom from Saul and will give it to someone else. He will give it to David.

:29 the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

repentnacham – to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret

We were just told back in 15:11 that God said, “It repenteth me…”. But now Samuel says God does not “repent” (same word in Hebrew).

In 15:11, the idea is that God was sad that He had made Saul king.

Here, the idea is that God will not change His mind.

:30 yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel

Now we get to Saul’s true motive for confessing his sin.


The deception of pride

Saul isn’t broken over his sin in realizing that he has grieved God.
He’s just sorry that people aren’t going to give him any more honor.

:31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Samuel seems to take pity on Saul, so he goes with Saul. But that doesn’t change what God has said.

:32 Agag came unto him delicately… Surely the bitterness of death is past.

delicatelyma‘adan – dainty (food), delight

Agag thinks that everything is going to be just fine.

:33 As thy sword hath made women childless …

Samuel give to Agag what he has given to others. He has reaped what he’s sown.

:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul

Saul would not see Samuel any more.


Grieved over sin

Even though you might sense a kind of anger or “judgment” in the things that Samuel spoke to Saul, keep in mind that he loved Saul and he wasn’t pleased with how things turned out.
Don’t be angry with unrepentant sin. Grieve.