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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, Yahweh sent me to anoint you to be king over His people Israel. Now therefore, listen to the words of Yahweh-
We could interpret Samuel as meaning that he had anointed Saul to be king, and God had set Saul up for success. Yet he had been rejected from the kingship due to his impatient disobedience in 1 Sam. 13. But despite that, which apparently happened early in his reign (1 Sam. 13:2), he remained king. The fact God didn't immediately depose him may simply have been because he was being given a chance to repent. And perhaps now with the set of instructions given him regarding Amalek, he was being given an opportunity to prove he had learned the lesson, and to undo his mistake. He fails spectacularly, but we marvel all the same at God's grace in trying by all means to save him. We note too that Saul's calling began with sets of detailed instructions from Samuel, which he obeyed. Circumstances repeat in our lives, as God seeks to help us learn the lessons.

The Hebrew is literally "Listen to the voice of the words of Yahweh". See on :22. His "voice" was to be heard, but instead Saul heard the "voice" of the people (:24) and the "voice" of the bleating sheep which Saul coveted as his own (:14). And there we have it- the power of God's voice in His word must be louder than the voice of human opinion and the call of materialism and self-enrichment. This is the power of accepting God's word in the Bible as indeed His inspired voice. Hence :22,23 accuse Saul of not listening to the voice of Yahweh.

1Sa 15:2 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel, opposing them when they came up out of Egypt-
It was God who was to do this; Saul is being invited to be His agent on earth, and not rule and fight in his own strength and to his own glory. For this was his problem. Saul's desire for personal vengeance upon his enemies in 1 Sam. 14:24 was sadly deficient in any desire to see God's glory. God patiently now tries to correct him by now asking him to work for Him, as His agent, in executing His vengeance or punishment upon His enemies, in respect of His people Israel. And yet Saul fails, because he is more interested in showing off the best animals he has captured and to have a powerful king whom he has conquered publically paraded. Rather than slaying the king and the animals as requested.

1Sa 15:3 Now go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have; don’t spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and nursing baby, ox and sheep, camel and donkey’-
The reason for this command was because God wanted the glorification of His Name and His people, and if these things and persons were preserved, then they would have been paraded to Saul's glory. See on :2. And that was indeed his motive in preserving them. "Utterly destroy" translates the word used for religious devotion. Amalek was to be devoted to Yahweh in its condemnation, and the murder of everything living was to be seen as a sacrifice to Him. To keep some of His offerings for himself was therefore effectively Saul thieving from God.

Perhaps the command to destroy even the memory of Amalek meant that even their animals should be destroyed, lest any should even think "This is an Amalekite sheep". The call to spiritual mindedness means making similar decisions at times.

Despite his rejection by God in 1 Sam. 13 and poor behaviour to Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14, God now gives Saul a mission. Elijah likewise was relieved of his ministry on Horeb, and yet God still worked with him and gave him work to do for Him. We too must sense God's refusal to give up with man and His intense desire to work with us, even if on a lower level than what we were potentially capable of. 

1Sa 15:4 Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim-
Place of lambs'. The area was known for sheep and animals; the very best of the very best was kept by Saul for himself when clearly it was intended for devotion to Yahweh.

Two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah-
The proportion of the men of Judah is very small. It could be that Saul was seen as showing nepotism to the tribe of Benjamin and his support within Judah was waning. "Thousand" more likely refers to a brigade or family.

We note that the large numbers who now came to Saul contrast with the 600 men he managed to summon in 1 Sam. 13, and the impression that many of his soldiers drifted away from him. Saul now seems to command Israel's loyalty again. Although it was Jonathan's exploits that had for a time reduced the Philistine threat, Saul perhaps had taken credit for that as he did for Jonathan's exploits in 1 Sam. 13:3,4. Despite his rejection from the "kingdom" in 1 Sam. 13, God is still clearly open to using him and giving him opportunities for obedience- and perhaps that is why He moved the men of Israel to loyal support of Saul at this time.

1Sa 15:5 Saul went to the city of Amalek and laid wait in the valley-
I have noted earlier that Saul tried to emulate the examples of faithful men like Moses and Gideon. Here he is copying Joshua (Josh. 8:4). But he was emulating on a surface level only, with no real spiritual attention.

1Sa 15:6 Saul said to the Kenites, Go away from among the Amalekites so that I don’t destroy you with them, for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites-
He could have been commanded to do this by God through Samuel. But if not, this shows some spiritual awareness and familiarity with Biblical history- which makes his sins all the more culpable. By doing this, Saul lost the advantage of making a surprise attack. But he put grace and care for people first (or perhaps at least Samuel insisted he did), and won the victory all the same. 

1Sa 15:7 Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur east of Egypt-
This is not the Havilah near Yemen. It means "circle" and must refer to some spot in the south of Judah. "Shur" is literally "the wall", referring to the wall which ran from Pelusium past Migdol to Hero, resulting in the name "Mizraim" for Egypt, meaning 'the enclosed / fortified'. The idea is that Saul destroyed them to the Egyptian border.

1Sa 15:8 He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people-
"Agag" is the same consonants as "Gog", the leader of the latter day invasion of Israel in Ez. 38. But it is a generic name for the ruler of Amalek, like "Pharaoh". "Utterly destroyed" is the word for sanctification / devotion to Yahweh. The idea isn't that every Amalekite was destroyed, as David later fights with them. It could be argued that by keeping the best of the animals, and needing to care for them and not over drive them, Saul's men therefore didn't destroy as many Amalekites as they otherwise could have done. 

We wonder why Saul spared Agag. Maybe Saul was so narcissistic he fancied having a great long as his personal slave. We wonder why otherwise Saul would have wanted to keep Agag alive. 

1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, cattle, fat calves and lambs and all that was good, and wouldn’t utterly destroy them; everything that was bad and worthless they destroyed utterly-
I suggested on :2,3 that the reason for this command was because God wanted the glorification of His Name and His people, and if these things and persons were preserved, then they would have been paraded to Saul's glory. And that was indeed Saul's motive in preserving them. By having a live, conquered king and impressive fat animals, Saul could boast of his personal military prowess. And the whole exercise he had been given in fighting Amalek had been designed to help him unlearn his personal pride, and work on God's behalf to God's glory, rather for his own. He failed totally. He ended up offering to God that which was "bad and worthless". And then trying to lie his way out of it. "Bad" is the word for "despise", and is used about how Eli and his sons had despised Yahweh's offerings (1 Sam. 2:30). Saul was intended to replace Eli but he had not learned from history. The relevance for the exiles was that they were in exile because they had likewise despised Yahweh's offerings (Ez. 22:8).

We observe that Saul spared Agag, although he was under the ban, and had to be slain; and yet had been so eager to kill his own son Jonathan. Clearly personal jealousy issues were huge in Saul's mind, rather than any obedience to Yahweh. We see too how Saul's disobedience was also because of materialism. He wanted those fine sheep for himself, just as he enters the record obsessed with lost donkeys.

1Sa 15:10 Then the word of Yahweh came to Samuel saying-
Samuel was apparently not with Saul at this time (:12), although hovering nearby.

1Sa 15:11 It grieves Me that I have set up Saul to be king-
God 'repented' (AV), He changed His mind about setting Saul up as king. And yet He gave them a king in His wrath, warning Israel how Saul would work out, although He set Saul up for success. And yet when indeed Saul fails, God changes His mind and as it were regrets having made Saul king. We have here an insight into how God feels. He enters fully into the human situation, limiting His omniscience and omnipotence to do so; and therefore has such conflicted feelings within Him, just as His many changes of mind within Him were kindled together in Hos. 11:8.

For he has turned back from following Me and has not obeyed My commandments-
"Turned back" suggests God did consider Saul to have initially followed Him.

Samuel was troubled and he cried out to Yahweh all night-
God tells Samuel of His rejection of Saul, implying this opportunity to change His earlier rejection of Saul in 1 Sam. 13 has again not worked out; and Samuel cries to Him all night. I think the implication is that Samuel was pleading with God to consider another future with Saul (1 Sam. 15:11,35; 16:1). We should be awed by Samuel's love for Saul and desire to make him work out spiritually. Amos 7:1-6 is another case- God reveals His intention regarding Israel, but then Amos makes a case against this and is heard. In fact, these and other examples suggest that this is almost a pattern with God- to devise His purpose, and then in the 'gap' until its fulfillment, be open to the persuasion of His covenant people to change or ammend those plans. This could be what Am. 3:7 is speaking of: "Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets". It's as if He reveals His plans to them so that they can then comment upon them in prayer.

1Sa 15:12 Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning-
There is a much repeated characteristic of God's servants: that they 'rose up early in the morning' and did God's work. In each of the following passages, this phrase is clearly not an idiom; rather does it have an evidently literal meaning: Abraham (Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3); Jacob (Gen. 28:18); Job (1:5); Moses (Ex. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4); Joshua (Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10); Gideon (Jud. 6:38; 7:1); Samuel (1 Sam. 15:12); David (1 Sam. 17:20; 29:11); Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chron. 29:20). This is quite an impressive list, numerically. This can be a figure for being zealous (Ps. 127:2; Pr. 27:14; Song 7:12; Is. 5:11; Zeph. 3:7). God Himself rises up early in His zeal to save and bring back His wayward people (2 Chron. 36:15; Jer. 7:13,25; 11:7; 25:3,4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14,15; 44:4). Yet the above examples all show that men literally rose up early in their service to God; this was an expression of their zeal for God, in response to His zeal for us. I'm not suggesting that zeal for God is reflected by rising early rather than staying up late; but it wouldn't be too much to suggest that if we are men of mission, we won't waste our hours in bed. Get up when you wake up.

And he was told: Saul came to Carmel and he set up a monument for himself, then went down to Gilgal-
We see here Saul's vanity, wishing to memorialize his own great victory, although that victory had been given by God. We must be warned by this not to glory in and seek to memorialize that which was given us by God's grace and as part of His wider purpose.

"Monument" can mean "altar", so we note again Saul's love of building altars and sacrificing, as if to undo or disprove his condemnation for earlier offering offerings without Samuel. See on :22.

1Sa 15:13 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, Yahweh bless you! I have obeyed the commandment of Yahweh-
Saul speaks of "Yahweh your God" in :15, as if he felt unable to say that Yahweh was fully his God, even though he here uses the Yahweh Name as a formality. Personal relationship with God is not the same as using the right Hebrew names for Him and the correct religious language.

1Sa 15:14 Samuel said, Then what is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What does this lowing of cattle mean?-
We sense through the record how angry Samuel is that Saul can tell such a childish lie; we hear the bleating and lowing of cattle coming down through the centuries, such is the power of the inspired word.

The Hebrew in :1 is literally "Listen to the voice of the words of Yahweh". See on :22. His "voice" was to be heard, but instead Saul heard the "voice" of the people (:24) and the "voice" of the bleating sheep which Saul coveted as his own (:14). And there we have it- the power of God's voice in His word must be louder than the voice of human opinion and the call of materialism and self-enrichment. This is the power of accepting God's word in the Bible as indeed His inspired voice. Hence :22,23 accuse Saul of not listening to the voice of Yahweh.

1Sa 15:15 Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to Yahweh your God. We have utterly destroyed the rest-
Saul had defeated the Amalekites in the south, near the border with Egypt (:7), had then gone up to Carmel in the north to build a memorial (:12), and was now in Gilgal (:12). This must have required at least a week. And the animals were still alive. Saul's story was clearly untrue. We note he speaks of "Yahweh your God", as if he felt unable to say that Yahweh was fully his God, even though he uses the Yahweh Name as a formality (:13). Saul excuses himself by blaming it on the people, as if he is not really king. And further, he reasons that they devoted "the rest" to Yahweh. He refuses to see that the commandment was to devote all to Yahweh. But he considers he devoted something, so that, surely, was good enough. And this is not so far from our own weakness, faced with the demand for our all, and total devotion after the pattern of the crucified Christ

1Sa 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, Stop! I will tell you what Yahweh said to me last night. He said to him, Tell me-
Samuel as a child had to tell Eli of God's rejection of him, a message he also heard at night, and His replacement of him with someone else. This prepared Samuel for doing this very same thing years later, with Saul (1 Sam. 15:16); and to some extent, he too failed in ways similar to Eli, and was in a sense replaced. Whilst it's impossible to attach meaning to events at the time they happen, they potentially prepare us for later use by God if we are willing to be used.

1Sa 15:17 Samuel said, When you were once little in your own sight, weren’t you made the head of the tribes of Israel? Yahweh anointed you king over Israel-
"Little" is the word Saul earlier used in saying that he was from the littlest / smallest tribe in Israel. Pride was Saul's problem. A fair case can be made for his humility in not punishing those who initially mocked him, his hiding amongst the baggage, his not telling his uncle about his calling. But David in the Psalms frequently complains of Saul's pride. Saul appears to have changed his name to ‘Paul’, “the little one”, at the time of his first missionary journey- in order to not be like Saul in his later life, but "little". His preaching of the Gospel was thus related to his own realization of sinfulness, as reflected in his name change. And so it has ever been. Saul becomes Paul in so many lives. True self-abnegation, recognition of our moral bankruptcy, our desperation, and the extent of the grace we have received…these two paradoxical aspects, fused together within the very texture of human personality, are what will arrest the attention of others in this world and lead them to the Truth we can offer them.

Another take is that we can translate: "Are you so little in your own eyes?". The argument is that 'You are the king of Israel, you are over the people not beneath them. So you can't claim to be king, and yet also argue that the people made you do what you didn't want to do. In fact you are very big in your own eyes, rebellious and stubborn, and not so little as you are now making out to be'.

1Sa 15:18 and Yahweh sent you on a mission and said-
"Mission" is AV "journey". It is the word used of how Saul went on his "way" to find the lost donkeys (1 Sam. 9:6,8), and as part of his calling process he was sent on journeys and was obedient. But now he had not been obedient. And yet Saul arrogantly insists that he has gone on the "mission" or "way" (:20 s.w.). 

‘Go, and utterly destroy those sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are destroyed’-
The mission had been total destruction of the Amalekites. But Saul was content with just a tokenistic victory. We learn here that he was told they were "sinners". He was asked to manifest Yahweh's judgment against sin. But he ignored that dimension, and saw himself as simply glorifying himself.

1Sa 15:19 Why then didn’t you obey the voice of Yahweh-
Israel did not obey / hearken to the voice of Yahweh, and He did not hearken to their voice in prayer (Dt. 1:45; 9:23; 28:15; Josh. 5:6; Jud. 2:20; 6:10 cp. Dt. 8:20 s.w.). 2 Kings 18:12 states this specifically. God hearkened to Joshua's voice in prayer (Josh. 10:14) because Joshua hearkened to His voice. It was to be the same with Saul. He didn't hearken to God's voice (1 Sam. 15:19) and God didn't hearken to Saul's voice in prayer in his final desperation at the end of his life (1 Sam. 28:18, although he hearkened to the voice of the witch, 1 Sam. 28:23). If God's word abides in us, then our prayer is powerful, we have whatever we ask, because we are asking for things according to His will expressed in His word (Jn. 15:7). See on :23.

But took the spoils and did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh?-
Sins of omission, serving God partially and not wholly, for the sake of appearance, are described here as "evil". And they are our most likely form of sin.

1Sa 15:20 Saul said to Samuel, But I have obeyed the voice of Yahweh, and have gone on the mission which Yahweh gave me and have brought Agag the king of Amalek-
This is Saul at his most inexcusable, seeking to save face before Samuel by lying when the evidence of the bleating animals was for all to hear in the background. He had indeed "gone on the mission" given by Yahweh,  but had not fulfilled it as required. We too can have the illusion that because we are involved in God's work, have "gone on the mission", that we are thereby justified. But God works through all manner of sinful people, and awareness of His activity in and around our lives doesn't mean we are therefore pleasing to Him.

And have utterly destroyed the Amalekites-
He had not utterly destroyed them, for David later had to smite them (s.w. 2 Sam. 1:1). Saul was empowered to smite the Amalekites but he didn't completely do this. As often happens, God then passed on the job to another, in this case David. We can see His hand working in similar ways today. This seems to be the idea of Esther 4:14. If she had not saved her people, then God would have pursued another plan to the same end. 

1Sa 15:21 But the people took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of the devoted things, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God in Gilgal-
This is alluded to by Solomon in Prov. 21:27: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination: how much more, when he brings it with a wicked mind!". Solomon may have in view Saul's rejection from the kingship for his wrong attitude to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:21,22). Likewise the attempts of Absalom and Adonijah to take the throne from David and Solomon involved the offering of sacrifices (2 Sam. 15:12; 1 Kings 1:9). What Solomon says in the Proverbs is true on one level, but he harnesses Divine truth to justify himself and his own agendas; just as we can.

Again we note "Yahweh your God". Not "our God" or "my God". Yet he freely uses the Yahweh Name in addressing Samuel in :13. It was as if he felt unable to say that Yahweh was fully his God, even though he here uses the Yahweh Name as a formality. Personal relationship with God is not the same as using the right Hebrew names for Him and the correct religious language.

1Sa 15:22 Samuel said, Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams-
The point was that God didn't need the sacrifices of themselves. The essence He sought was an obedient heart toward His voice. So often, form comes to eclipse content with religious people; the external sacrifices are seen as of supreme importance, rather than the attitude behind them. We recall how Saul earlier had thought that he couldn't go to Samuel unless he had a gift for him; and likewise it seems he thinks here that sacrifice of itself can somehow save him. David learnt from this and reflects this spirit after his sin with Bathsheba, when he accepts that God takes no pleasure in burnt offerings of themselves (Ps. 51:16,17). We too are to learn from these historical records, because there surely will come times when the essence of the lesson and the issues surfaces in our life experience.

The Hebrew in :1 is literally "Listen to the voice of the words of Yahweh". His "voice" was to be heard, but instead Saul heard the "voice" of the people (:24) and the "voice" of the bleating sheep which Saul coveted as his own (:14). And there we have it- the power of God's voice in His word must be louder than the voice of human opinion and the call of materialism and self-enrichment. This is the power of accepting God's word in the Bible as indeed His inspired voice. Hence :22,23 accuse Saul of not listening to the voice of Yahweh.

The reference may be to Saul's love of building altars and offering voluntary sacrifices. He is being told that this cannot replace obeying Yahweh's actual commands. Saul's stubbornness was in refusing to accept he had sinned. His own pride and ego thus became his idol, for there is no reference to Saul worshipping actual idols.

David may be referring to this when he condemns Saul in Ps. 119:150: "They draw near who follow after wickedness, they are far from Your law". "Draw near" is a common idiom for offering sacrifice and worshipping God. But that sacrifice must be from men who are near to God's law, and not offering just as mere tokenistic ritualism. He may be alluding to Saul's insincere sacrifices and religious rituals which led to his rejection and David's choice as the next king (1 Sam. 14:36,38; 15:22).

The words of Mk. 12:33 allude to a number of OT passages which also show the superiority of knowledge and practical service over sacrifices (1 Sam. 15:22; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6-8). Putting them together we find the following parallels:

To obey God’s word is better than sacrifice

To listen to God’s word is better than sacrifice

To show mercy is better than sacrifice

To know God is better than sacrifice

To be humble and just is better than sacrifice

To understand God is better than sacrifice.

Understanding God, hearing His word, knowing God in ongoing personal relationship (all acts of the intellect) are therefore paralleled with practical things like loving out neighbour, showing mercy, justice etc. These practical things are an outcome of our correct knowledge of / active relationship with God.   

1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as the evil of idolatry-
We wonder if he destroyed all witchcraft in order to transfer onto the witches his own sin of rebellion and the punishment for it. This is again a psychological classic- to transfer personal guilt and need for punishment onto others. The sin of omitting obedience was as bad as committing witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23). Even though Saul partially obeyed God's commandments (1 Sam. 15:20), his omissions of some of them led to God declaring that Saul had in fact turned back from following His commandments (1 Sam. 15:11). Sins of omission are our strongest temptations. We note that Saul does commit the sin of witchcraft at the end of his life. When Samuel has taught him here that this sin is one of the greatest sins he could commit. But at this point, Saul had cut off all or killed all the witches he could find in Israel. He is being told that his sin of rebellion is as bad as the very sin he so hates and prosecutes.


Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh, He has also rejected you from being king-
Our attitude to God's word becomes His attitude to us; see on :19. We later read that God's "soul" departed from Israel, because "the Lord has rejected you" (Jer. 6:8,30). The connection is because these historical records were intended for the exiles to learn from. This is the same language used about Saul- God rejected him, and so His spirit departed from him (1 Sam. 15:23; 16:14). The implication was that God's very soul / spirit is "with" us, and therefore He can be so terribly wounded by us in His heart by the rebellions of those in covenant relationship with Him. For His heart / soul / spirit is so close to us His beloved people.

Although it is true as it was with Saul that those who reject Yahweh's word are rejected (1 Sam. 15:23), God's grace is beyond such a simplistic picture. Israel were to despise / reject God's word (s.w. Lev. 26:15,43), "and yet for all that.. I will not reject them / cast they away" (Lev. 26:44 s.w.). Israel rejected Yahweh when they wanted Saul to be their king (s.w. 1 Sam. 8:7; 10:19), and yet He did not reject them immediately because of that. The relevance to the exiles was in that they were in captivity because they too had rejected God's word and therefore God had rejected them (2 Kings 17:15 cp. 2 Kings 17:20; 23:27), because they rejected His prophetic words, He rejected them (Jer. 6:19,30; Hos. 4:6), "and yet for all that.. I will not reject them / cast they away" (Lev. 26:44; Jer. 31:37 s.w.). For ultimately God has not rejected / cast away His people (Is. 41:9; Jer. 33:26; Rom. 11:2). This is the mystery of grace, no matter how we may seek to explain it away by Biblical exposition and balancing Bible verses against each other. Although this rejection seems final, later God still have Saul His Spirit, as if in a desperate attempt to bring him, almost force him, to personal spirituality and salvation. Even if he was not to be king, he could still have been saved. But he rejected even that. This willingness of God to re think even at that stage is perhaps reflected by Samuel returning or repenting (s.w.) after Saul in :31. And it is clear from 1 Sam. 16:1 that Samuel did consider Saul to still have some chance with God. 

1Sa 15:24 Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned-
The very words of Judas (Mt.27:4). Again, we see clearly David as a type of Christ. David said these same words to Nathan and was accepted, but Saul wasn't. Clearly the words were like so much in his life, a mere religious formality and not from the heart.

David was after God's heart. We see for all time that repentance can be feigned, a mere form of words with a desire to appear right before men. And this merits rejection. 

I have transgressed the commandment of Yahweh and your words because I feared the people and obeyed their voice-
This fear of the people contrasts with the warning given to him in 1 Sam. 12:14: "If you will fear Yahweh and serve Him, listen to His voice and not rebel against the commandment of Yahweh, then it will be well with both you and the king who reigns over you". He feared the people rather than Yahweh. And so many likewise fear the opinion of others rather than feel the depth of their personal relationship with God.

Their words, and the unspoken 'word' of their silent opinion of Saul, struggled within Saul's mind against the words of God. And because he didn't have a deep seated respect for God's word as the ultimate authority, he therefore gave in to their words. We have this same struggle almost minute by minute in daily life. It's not only our familiarity with the Biblical text which will assist us towards victory, but our base, core conviction that God's words are of ultimate authority. One reason for Saul's lack of respect for Yahweh's words is that he seems to see them as Samuel's words ("your words"); hence he feels he has sinned against Samuel more than against God; see on :25. Our attitude to God's word, our approach to the inspiration of the Bible, will be related to our obedience to it.

Saul had been anointed king of Israel, on God's behalf. His duty was to lead them, not be led by them. In this sense he is admitting his failure to be king. He had already been removed from being king but had insisted on remaining king. He is admitting his failure as a king. We need to ask: 'And what should he have now done?'. So he should have now recognized his failure as a king, resigned from the kingship, let David take over- and walk humbly with his God to ultimate future salvation. But as with so many, the pride and prejudice of the flesh took over. Saul's second rejection at this point was not simply because he didn't kill Agag and kept the cattle for himself. The essence was that he was on his own admission listening to the people, being ruled by them, rather than spiritually leading them. I suggested on 1 Sam. 13:15 that this was the same reason why he was rejected from being king then.

Saul obeyed the voice of the people and the voice (s.w.) of the sheep and oxen that he covered (1 Sam. 15:24,24). Later he obeys the voice of Jonathan and promises not to kill David (1 Sam. 19:6) the voice of the witch and of his servants who persuade him against his will to eat (1 Sam. 28:22,23). We have the impression of a man readily persuaded by voices. If he had had a fundamental commitment to obey the voice of Yahweh as he was repeatedly asked, he would not have listened to these other voices. Nor the voices in his own head. Likewise those without a fundamental commitment to God's word are open to all the other voices around them, and likewise have no moral compass nor ethical direction.  The Hebrew for 'to hear' is the same as 'to obey'. Samuel had told Saul he would be made to hear or obey God's word (1 Sam. 9:27 "that I may tell you the message of God" uses the word for to hear / obey, the hint being 'that I may make you hear / be obedient to the message'). But he failed to make use of this be ause he found the voice of other things more attractive to hearken to. 

1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and come back with me so that I may worship Yahweh-
Saul's religiosity is reflected by the way in which he asks Samuel to "pardon my sin", when he ought instead to have been asking this of God. For Yahweh is the God who delights to pardon sin (s.w. Ex. 34:7). But whilst Saul uses the correct vocabulary, he misdirects it- to Samuel and not to God. And he ends up using the very phrase of Pharaoh (Ex. 10:17), also without ultimate sincerity. And we note Pharaoh also asked Moses to pardon his sin, rather than asking Yahweh directly.  By contrast, David asks God directly to "pardon my sin" (Ps. 25:18; 32:5). In this we see how David was a man after God's heart and Saul wasn't. They both sinned, but it was the response they made to their sin which reflected the real state of their heart. Saul's motive is clear- he wants Samuel to return to Gilgal and publically justify Saul by presiding over the sacrifice of the best animals at Gilgal, although this was perhaps not what Saul had initially planned. For he kept them for himself.  

That the repentance was insincere is shown by the statement in :26 that Saul has rejected Yahweh's word, and has "turned away from following Me" (:11). True repentance would have involved still following Yahweh; the righteous man falls seven times but rises up again. And in this we see the difference with David's heart, who wanted to continue following despite his conviction of serious sin. 

1Sa 15:26 Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of Yahweh, and Yahweh has rejected you from being king over Israel-
For "rejected", see on :23. Samuel appears to have concluded that Saul is now finally rejected and beyond the hope of reformation by repentance. "Return" is the word usually used for repentance. Samuel didn't see Saul's repentance as sincere, and so he would not turn again with him. And yet he apparently gives in and does so in :31. This could have been due to fear of Saul, who apparently got physically violent with him (see on :27). Or it could have been because he still entertained the desperate hope that perhaps Saul had turned again / repented. And perhaps he is rebuked for this in 1 Sam. 16:1.  

1Sa 15:27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul grabbed the skirt of his robe and it tore-
The translation here is misleading. He grabbed the hem, the outer border of the garment, probably at the neck or shoulder, literally grabbing him by the collar. It's possible that Saul intended the mantle to tare, because it symbolized Samuel's prophetic authority. And Saul dearly wished for God's words through Samuel to be untrue. But denial of God's word, rejecting the inspiration of the Bible, will not save us. And we see that such positions are ultimately motivated by a desire to demonstrate God's judgments of us as being untrue and somehow negated by our negation of them.

This can also be translated as Samuel tearing Saul's robe. When David does the same to Saul, he is alluding to this.

1Sa 15:28 Samuel said to him, Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbour of yours who is better than you-
Put this together with later verses in :29,35: "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee (Saul)... and hath given it to (David)... the strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that he should repent... and the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel" (AV). This juxtaposition of such conflicting statements seems to intentionally give us insight into the deeply conflicted feelings of God, which were perhaps reflected in Samuel (see on :31).

I suggested on :27 that it was Saul who had torn the Kingdom. Those who are deprived of the Kingdom will have made the decision themselves. Samuel knew that Yahweh had already decided to given the kingdom to another, as already expressed in 1 Sam. 13; and he knew that God had already selected this "neighbour"; for Bethlehem was only 12 miles away from Gibeah of Saul. But Samuel had still gone on hoping for Saul, and was apparently not proactive in seeking for this replacement- hence the implicit criticism of him by God in 1 Sam. 16:1. 

Perhaps David took a cue from these words, and started thinking of Saul as his neighbour. And then his mind went to Lev. 15:18; if Saul was his neighbour, he was to love him as himself, and not take vengeance.

"Better" recalls the description of Saul in 1 Sam. 9:2: “and there was no man among the sons of Israel better than him”. David was "better" than Saul in that he was a man "after" God's own heart, i.e. he was seeking for that heart, as in "the Police are after him", "the miner is after gold". In the same way as there are to be shepherds according to God's heart (Jer. 3:15), and Eli was to be replaced by such a man:  “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is within my heart and within my soul" (1 Sam. 2:35). And the reason for chosing David is stated in 1 Sam. 16:7- Yahweh looks to the heart. Externally, David was not necessarily "better" than Saul, and his Psalms frequently reference his "sins and faults of youth".

1Sa 15:29 The Strength of Israel will not lie nor change His mind, for He is not a man that He should change His mind-
We read in this very context that God has changed His mind about Saul. Why the obvious contradiction? It is so glaring that it must be intentional. I suggest the impression being given is that God is conflicted within Himself. He could have not changed His mind about Saul- He had after all predicted how Saul would be, Israel had agreed to that, and so there was nothing more for God to do. His change of mind was in that He didn't want His beloved people to suffer under Saul, and so He had changed His mind about leaving them to suffer the results of their choice- and had gone on to choose a king who would be good for them. It is the choice of David which is wherein God changed His mind; His mind change was in not leaving Israel to the consequences of their sin. His change of mind was about judgment upon His people. They had absolutely consciously chosen it for themselves despite warning- but still God feels sorry for them, despite no real signs of repentance. From His basic pity for His people. And such relenting from judgments, or ameliorating their effects, is to be found all through the prophets. But this feature of God should lead us to repentance, rather than abusing His grace. Joel 2:13 is clear- because Yahweh does relent from judgment, therefore "Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to Yahweh, your God; for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and relents from sending calamity".

God does change His mind; the Hebrew for "lie" here can mean "retract", and clearly God does often retract His judgments upon men if they repent. So these words may solely and specifically reference this case of God's rejection of Saul as king and His choice of David. Saul wants God to change His mind about this, but he is clearly being told that in his case, this isn't going to happen. Saul's "kingdom", either his personal kingship or his dynasty, had already been removed in 1 Sam. 13:13,14- but God had been open to ammending that. Saul's behaviour in 1 Sam. 14 and then with the Amalekites in 1 Sam. 15 meant that the window of opportunity was now closed. And meantime, it seems God had "found" David as a replacement; we are given the impression that God began searching in 1 Sam. 13:13,14, and then in 1 Sam. 15:28 He says that He has given the kingdom to Saul's neighbour. The statement that God will not lie i.e. retract is perhaps referencing the choice of David as a replacement: "Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David” (Ps. 89:35- also alluded to in Ps. 110:4 "Yahweh has sworn, and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek"). His choice of David would not be changed, but this didn't mean that Saul personally was rejected from salvation. Sadly he saw only the kingship and not personal salvation and relationship with God.

And yet despite these apparently final words of rejection of Saul and replacement with David, Samuel mourns for Saul with the implication that he is begging God to even so, rethink and find a way for Saul (1 Sam. 15:31); hence God's rebuke of Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul... since I rejected him", 1 Sam. 16:1. He knew God well enough to know that He does rethink. We have many examples likewise in the prophets. 'This is it... no re-thinking, no about turn again... I will save you no more'. But still God does.

God does not “repent” as men do, but He can still change His mind. Samuel therefore wept to God for Saul to change his mind, and therefore for God to relent on His stated purpose concerning him (1 Sam. 15:11). Saul had been rejected in 1 Sam. 13, but he was given a chance to change that (see on :1), and continued as king. So perhaps the idea here is that God would not any longer change His mind over Saul. The rejection of him in 1 Sam. 13 was now confirmed. Yet despite telling Saul that “the strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent”, Samuel appears to have continued praying for a change of mind from God and Saul; we can conclude this from the way God had to keep telling Samuel to stop (1 Sam. 15:25; 16:1). This is very similar to how God told Ezekiel that He would not spare nor repent of His attitude to Israel, and will judge them according to their ways (Ez. 24:14); yet according to His grace, it is many times recorded that He did and will spare them, and does not judge them according to the merits of their sins.

LXX adds: "And Israel shall be divided to two: and God will not turn nor repent, for he is not as a man to repent". The division of the kingdom was therefore ultimately traced back to Saul's apostasy.

1Sa 15:30 Then he said, I have sinned, yet please honour me now before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me so that I may worship Yahweh your God-
Again we note "Yahweh your God". See on :21. It really was all about appearances before men in the religious group, rather than before God. We note that all the elders of Israel were present there in Gilgal. Perhaps there was some truth in Saul's excuse that in fact he intended to offer the best animals to Yahweh at some big gathering proclaimed at Gilgal; for he had had at least a week to gather the elders. Saul had gone up to Carmel in the north of the land to proclaim his victory (:12), and perhaps he intended to offer the best animals in front of an Israel gathered to behold his military glory, and to view the humbled Agag before him. What was wrong with all this was that he had disobeyed Yahweh's commandment for the sake of his own pride, and was using the service of God for his own ego. And this pride was so disgusting to God, as it is to this day. Saul was therefore desperate that his display of victory, his victory triumph, not be marred by Samuel snubbing it.

1Sa 15:31 So Samuel went back with Saul-
"Return" or "went back" is the word usually used for repentance. In :26, Samuel didn't see Saul's repentance as sincere, and so he would not turn again / go back with him. And yet he apparently gives in and does so now. This could have been due to fear of Saul, who apparently got physically violent with him (see on :27). Or it could have been because he still entertained the desperate hope that perhaps Saul had turned again / repented. And perhaps he is rebuked for this in 1 Sam. 16:1.  

And Saul worshipped Yahweh-
Worship like prayer can be on a surface level, or the real thing. Saul “worshipped the Lord” merely for the sake of appearances, because this was what his position required of him, the hymn being sung which he had to go along with.

1Sa 15:32 Then Samuel said, Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites! Agag came to him confidently, thinking, Surely the bitterness of death is past-
I explained on :31 that the gathering at Gilgal had been set up as a kind of victory triumph to Saul's glory. Saul did not intend to kill Agag, and Agag had got that impression, that he would not taste the bitterness of death. It had been Saul's idea to parade him live, in some kind of Roman victory triumph- to Saul's glory. He had been commanded to kill him immediately exactly so that this would not be the case. Samuel therefore killed him, although it seems not at the victory triumph but privately, so that Saul could not glory in him.

1Sa 15:33 Samuel said, As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women! Samuel cut Agag in pieces before Yahweh in Gilgal-
See on :32. "Before Yahweh" implies there was a high place there, or possibly the ark.

1Sa 15:34 Then Samuel went to Ramah and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul-
The idea is that they both returned to their homes, for Samuel had his home in Ramah. The fact Saul returns to his home village at this point could suggest he was as it were resigning from being king.

1Sa 15:35 Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death-
This is proof enough that Samuel was resurrected to see Saul on the day of his death. Ramah was less than ten miles from Gibeah so it could be implied that Samuel went into hiding until his death.

Yet Samuel mourned for Saul, and Yahweh grieved that He had made Saul king over Israel-
We note the parallel in feeling between Yahweh and Samuel. Samuel's desperate desire for Saul to repent, for the project with him to work out, reflected that of God. And God's efforts with people are similar to this day. And like Samuel, we should have His saving, hopeful heart for the lost and stubborn.

Any separations from brethren are brought forth from much sorrow; Corinth ecclesia were told that they should  have mourned as they withdrew from one who had left the faith (1 Cor. 5:2). "The whole house of Israel" were commanded to "mourn" the necessary destruction of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:6). Samuel mourned and God repented when Saul was finally rejected (1 Sam. 15:35). Paul wept when he wrote about some in the ecclesia who had fallen away (Phil. 3:17-19). It must be said that 'block disfellowship'- the cutting off of hundreds of brethren and sisters because theoretically they fellowship a weak brother-  hardly enables 'mourning' and pleading with each of those who are disfellowshipped.

Samuel's mourning for Saul reflects his love for him and his desire to make things work for him. This is an essay in humility, seeing he was himself the ideal candidate for king and his maternal expectations were that he would be the anointed one.