1 Samuel 15
Samuel tells Saul to erase Amalekites
Samuel tells Saul to erase Amalekites1Samuel told Saul, “I’m the one who anointed you king over Israel. The LORD told me to do that. Well, he just told me to give you this message. So, listen carefully. 2The LORD says it’s time to punish the Amalekites. Long ago, they attacked Moses and the Israelite refugees who were on their way here to freedom, from slavery in Egypt. 3Go and kill all the people and livestock. Kill  the men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
4Saul assembled an army of 200,000  soldiers at Telem.  Ten thousand came from the tribe of Judah. 5Saul marched his men to a valley outside the Amalekite city. 
6Saul warned the Kenite people living in the area, “Please leave the area right away. I’m here to kill the Amalekites, and I don’t want to have to kill you, too. You were kind  to our people when they came here from Egypt.” Kenites left the area.
7Saul attacked and killed Amalekite people from the sands of Havilah to Shur on Egypt’s eastern border. 8He captured their king, Agag, but he killed everyone else. 9Saul spared the king’s life and he kept some of the enemy’s best sheep and cattle. Israelites killed only the livestock they didn’t want to bother with.
Samuel lowers the boom and doom on Saul10The LORD delivered a message to Samuel:
11“It was a sad day  when I made Saul king of Israel. He didn’t follow my orders. Instead, he did what he wanted.” Samuel got so upset about this that he prayed all night to the LORD. 12Samuel got up early in the morning and went to have a talk with Saul. But someone told him, “Saul’s not here. He went to the town of Carmel  and set up a monument to his victory. Then he was going to Gilgal.”
13When Samuel finally caught up with Saul, the king said, “Well, the LORD bless you. I’m back and I’ve done what the LORD told me to do.”
14“Really?” Samuel said. “Why does this ringing in my ears sound like sheep bleating and cows mooing?”
15Saul said, “My soldiers took them from the Amalekites. They spared the best sheep and cattle so we can sacrifice them to the LORD your God. But we killed the rest. All of them.”
16Samuel said, “Just stop it! Let me tell you what the LORD told me last night.” Saul said, “I’m listening.” 17Samuel said, “You might not have a high opinion of yourself but tell me this. Are you or are you not the chief of all these tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king. 18The LORD gave you his orders. He told you to erase the sinful Amalekites—to wipe them all out, every last one. 19Why didn’t you do that? Why did you take whatever you wanted? You knew it was wrong.”
20Saul told Samuel, “No, I obeyed the LORD. I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back their king, Agag, as our captive and I killed everyone else. 21The soldiers took only the prized livestock, the best sheep and cattle. They did it so we can sacrifice them to the LORD your God at the worship center in Gilgal.
Does God want sacrifice or obedience?22
Is that what the LORD wants—dead animals burning on a rock?
Wouldn’t he prefer obedience—that you do what he says?
Surely, he wants your obedience more than your sacrifice,
And your willingness more than the fat  inside your gutted sheep.
Thickheaded stubbornness is like boldfaced idolatry.
Since you’ve disobeyed and quit on the LORD,
The LORD has quit on you. You’re fired as king. 24Saul pled with Samuel, “I’m sorry. I sinned. I disobeyed the LORD’s order. I was afraid of what the soldiers would do if I made them come home without anything to show for their victory. 25Please forgive me. Come with me to talk with the LORD so I can worship him.”
26Samuel said, “Not a chance. You quit on the LORD, so he quit on you. He fired you. You’re not the king of Israel anymore.” 27Samuel turned to walk away. Saul tried to stop him by grabbing his robe, which tore. But Samuel kept walking.
28Samuel said, “You may have torn my robe, but today the LORD has torn the nation of Israel right off your back. He has given it to one of your neighbors, someone who’ll be a better king than you were. 29And in case you’re wondering, the Pride of Israel isn’t lying about this. He’s not going to change his mind. He’s not a mortal who needs to change his mind.”
30Saul continued to plead, “I sinned. I admit that. Now come on, go back with me and tell the leaders of Israel that I did well. Then I can worship the LORD your God.” 31Samuel gave in. He went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped God.
Samuel’s rage with a sharp object32Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the Amalekite king.” The king resisted but stepped up. Then he said, “There’s no doubt about it, death is a terrible thing.” 
“Your sword slaughtered children and left women motherless.
Now your mother will experience their grief.”
The Hebrew word for “kill” is herem, meaning “annihilate.” This is the same term used to describe what Joshua and the invading Israelites did to the Canaanites. Moses had told them, “When the LORD your God gives them to you, you’ll need to finish them off. After you defeat them in battle, wipe them out by killing them all. Don’t make any peace treaty with them. Don’t show them mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2). Scholars describe this as a “curse of war” or a “ban.” The “ban” means that when soldiers conquer a city, for example, they are banned from keeping anything for themselves—everything in the city is under the curse of war and must die. This kind of vow in ancient times was considered irrevocable and irredeemable. You couldn’t take it back. And nothing of the enemy was allowed to live. Everything in the city was devoted to God, much like sacrificial animals that are slaughtered and burned. “It’s a vow of devotion. If something is devoted to the LORD—whether human, animal, or land—you can’t have it back. If you devote something in this unique way, it’s holy and it stays holy because it belongs to the LORD…You can’t reverse that. You can’t buy back that person’s life. That person is doomed to die” (Leviticus 27:28-29).
Some Bible scholars argue that this number and many others like it in the Old Testament are too high. In earlier chapters, Saul had smaller armies of just a few hundred (13:2; 14:2). And David later fought the Amalekites with just 400 men (1 Samuel 30:10). Some scholars argue that the word for “thousand” may have referred to a smaller group, such as 200 extended families who sent volunteer militiamen to go with Saul. Or maybe it referred to 200 military units of 10 or 20 soldiers each.
It’s unknown where Telem was. The town shows up in Joshua 15, after what may be its neighboring town of Ziph, in the Negev badlands, and about 50 miles (80 km) south of Jerusalem. Saul’s home was just a few miles north of Jerusalem. If Telem was near Ziph, that would put it in the territory of the Amalekite people in what is now southern Israel.
Location unknown. But it was apparently their main town or settlement. They settled in the area around what is now Arad, roughly 40 miles (64 km) south of Jerusalem.
There’s nothing in the Bible about Kenites, nomadic herders, showing kindness to Israel. But Moses’ father was a Kenite, and he did give Moses some helpful advice about how to delegate responsibility (Exodus 18:21).
More literally, the LORD “regretted he made Saul king.” But the way that’s phrased seems to clash with verse 29, “He’s not a mortal who needs to change his mind.” Perhaps the context of Saul’s full story suggests that Israel is to blame for wanting a human king in place of God (1 Samuel 8:7). In which case, God didn’t regret his choice of Saul, but he regretted Israel’s demand for a king.
Carmel was a town in Israel’s southland area, in southern Judah.
Fat was considered some of the best and juiciest parts of an animal. Some sacrifices devoted to God involved burning “fat in and around the intestines and internal organs” (Leviticus 3:14).
An alternate interpretation: “Death would have been terrible,” implying that the king didn’t expect the Israelites to kill him at this point.
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