Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 15

Continuing our study of the Book of 1 Samuel, we come to two pivotal chapters in the Scriptures. 1 Samuel 15 continued the narrative when the prophet rebuked King Saul’s wicked pretense of worshiping and sacrificing without Samuel. 1 Samuel 16 introduced David, a young shepherd God had chosen to be king.  

1 Samuel 15

Inspired by Israel’s victory over the Philistines, Saul’s army increased, and the nation experienced battlefield victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites (1 Samuel 14:47-52). 

Saul’s Disobedience (1 Samuel 15:1-11)

Obeying the LORD’s command, Samuel came to Saul and directed the king to lead Israel to war with the Amalekites and not spare a life. The instructions were undeniable: All the Amalekites were to be killed, every “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul’s army, now two hundred and ten thousand strong (1 Samuel 15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:7-8). Nevertheless, the king disobeyed Saul’s instructions and the LORD’S command (1 Samuel 15:9).  

Samuel’s Response (1 Samuel 15:10-12)

The LORD then came to Samuel and said to His prophet, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king” (1 Samuel 15:11a). Samuel’s response was one we would expect of God’s man, for he grieved [lit., He was hot with anger] and “cried unto the Lord all night” (1 Samuel 15:11b). The prophet wrestled in his heart and mind throughout the night, even as he prayed for Saul. Then, rising early the following day, Samuel journeyed to Saul’s encampment (1 Samuel 15:12).

Saul’s Deception (1 Samuel 15:12-15)

As Samuel came to Saul, the king professed piety that belied his sin. He said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:13b). Samuel, however, undeterred by the king’s lies, said, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14). 

Here was an opportunity for Saul to confess his sin. Instead, the king excused his actions, deflected his failure, and suggested the people had “spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:15). 

Samuel’s Rebuke and the LORD’s Rejection (1 Samuel 15:16-23) 

Undeterred by Saul’s misrepresentation, Samuel revealed that Saul’s pride had brought the king to the spiritual crossroads where he was standing (1 Samuel 15:16-17). The king had failed the LORD and Israel. Foolishly, Saul protested that he had “obeyed the voice of the Lord…21But the people took of the spoil…to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:20-21). Stating one of the great spiritual truths of the Old Testament Scriptures, Samuel identified Saul’s sin and said: 

“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 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” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Saul Discarded (1 Samuel 15:24-35)

1 Samuel 15 closed with a portrait of the disastrous consequences of rebellion and disobedience.  Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command, and He had rejected him from being king. Indeed, God had turned His heart to another who would be king. Samuel, in the act of righteous indignation, then took up a sword, and the old prophet “hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:33). 

Closing thoughts:

1 Samuel 15 closed with a tragic, heart-breaking scene as Saul returned to his home in Ramah. The king’s failure to obey God stirred both disappointment and sorrow. We read, “Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:35).

Questions to consider:

1) What wickedness had the Amalekites committed that the LORD determined to destroy them? (1 Samuel 15:2; Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

2) Why were the Kenites warned and spared the same judgment as the Amalekites? (15:6)

3) How did Samuel respond when he learned that Saul had failed to obey the LORD? (15:10-11)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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