Dave Burnette's Commentary

1 Samuel Chapter 15

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Samuel, Nathan, & Gad 
Date Penned: (931-975 BC)
Overview: Samuel, Israel's Last Judge (c 1-31)
Theme: Samuel and Saul (c 8-15)
Message: Saul Disobeys by Keeping the Plunder (v 1-35)

1 Samuel 15 Commentary

(15:2-3)  God Commands Destruction - Why did God command such utter destruction? The Amalekites were a band of guerrilla terrorists. They lived by attacking other nations and carrying off their wealth and their families. They had been the first to attack the Israelites as they had entered the Promised Land (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-18), and they continued to raid Israelite camps at every opportunity. God knew that the Israelites could never live peacefully in the Promised Land as long as the Amalekites existed. He also knew that their corrupt, idolatrous religious practices threatened Israel's relationship with him. The only way to protect the Israelites bodies and souls was to utterly destroy the people of this warlike nation and all their possessions, including their idols.

(15:9) Saul Fails to Follow God's Commands - Saul and his men did not destroy all the plunder from the battle as God had commanded them to do (15:3). The law of devoting something setting it aside- entirely for destruction was well known to the Israelites. Anything under God's ban was to be completely destroyed (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). This was set up in order to prevent idolatry from taking hold in Israel because many of the valuables were idols. To break this law was punishable by death (Joshua 7). It showed disrespect and disregard for God because it directly violated one of his commands. When we gloss over sin in order to protect what we have or for material gain, we aren't being shrewd; we are disobeying God. Selective obedience is just another form of disobedience.

(15:11) God Expresses Sorrow Over Saul - When God said he repented of making Saul king, was he saying he had made a mistake? God's comment was an expression of sorrow, not an admission of error (see also Genesis 6:5-7). An omniscient God cannot make a mistake ( Samuel15:29); therefore, God did not change his mind. He did, however, change his way of relating to Saul when Saul changed. Saul's heart no longer belonged to God but to his own interests.

(15:12) Saul Builds a Monument to Himself - Saul built a monument in honor of himself. What a contrast to Moses and Joshua, who gave all the credit to God. Awards and accolades feel good, but we must maintain an honest estimate of ourselves. We can be thankful for what we accomplish, but we must also recognize God's role in helping us.

(15:13-14) Saul Believes His Own Lies - Saul thought he had won a great victory over the Amalekites, but God saw it as a great failure because Saul had disobeyed him and then lied to Samuel about the results of the battle. Saul may have thought his lie wouldn't be detected or that what he did was not wrong, but Saul was deceiving himself. Dishonest people soon begin to believe the lies they construct around themselves. Then they lose the ability to tell the difference between truth and lies. By believing your own lies, you deceive yourself, you will alienate yourself from God, and you will lose credibility in all your relationships. In the long run, honesty wins out, even when it is inconvenient or unflattering.

(15:15) Saul Keeps Some Spoils - Saul disobeyed God and kept part of the spoils, including the choicest livestock. When Samuel arrived, he could see and hear the evidence of Saul's wrong actions. When confronted, Saul claimed that the spoils they kept were going to be sacrificed to God. That is like saying, "But I only stole the money so I could put it in the offering plate!" Obeying God is always better than disobeying him, even when you do a supposedly noble deed.

(15:22-23) Obedience is Better than Sacrifice - This is the first of numerous places in the Bible where the theme "to obey is better than sacrifice" is stated (Psalms 40:6-8; 51:16-17; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:21-23: Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 12:7; Mark 12:33; Hebrews 10:8-9). Was Samuel saying that sacrifice is unimportant? No, he was urging Saul to look at his reasons for making the sacrifice rather than at the sacrifice itself. A sacrifice was a ritual transaction between a person and God that physically demonstrated a relationship between them. But if the person's heart was not truly repentant or if he or she did not truly love God, the sacrifice was a hollow ritual. Religious ceremonies or rituals are empty unless they are performed with an attitude of love and obedience. "Being religious" (going to church, serving on a committee, giving to charity) is not enough if we do not act out of devotion and obedience to God.

(15:23) Rebellion and Stubborness - Rebellion and stubbornness are serious sins. They involve far more than being independent and strong-willed. Scripture equates them with witchcraft and idolatry, sins worthy of death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 13:12-15; 18:10-12; Micah 5:10-14). Saul became both rebellious and stubborn, so it is little wonder that God finally rejected him and took away his kingdom. Rebellion against God is perhaps the most serious sin of all, because as long as a person rebels, he or she closes the door to forgiveness and restoration with God. 15:26 Saul's excuses had come to an end, and the time of reckoning had come. God wasn't rejecting Saul as a person--the king could still have sought forgiveness and restored his relationship with God. But it was too late to get his kingdom back. If you do not act responsibly with what God has entrusted to you, eventually you will run out of chances to keep it. All of us must one day give an account for our actions (Romans 14:12; Revelation 22:12). At the same time, when we follow God, we may lose our reputations, possessions, or careers, but those are nothing compared to the eternal life we gain.

(15:30) Saul's Prideful Opinions - Saul was more concerned about what others would think of him than he was about the status of his relationship with God (15:24). He begged Samuel to go with him to worship as a public demonstration that Samuel still supported him. If Samuel had refused, the people probably would have lost all confidence in Saul.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Stay Humble


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 1st Samuel with Chapter 15. In our text, we see Saul becoming jealous of David and him killing 200 Philistines as a dowry. What catches my eye today is How Saul becomes so Jealous of David. The root of his problem is pride. In making an application, we see an example of what the seed of pride can produce. In the chapters ahead, we will know the extent of Saul's jealous rage. We see this almost weekly on the news as a jealous rage comes to a tragic end. The key to avoiding this Pride is acknowledging Jesus as Lord and staying humble before him, even as David did in our text today. How about you? Are you humble before the Lord? Let us learn from our text today to avoid jealousy by being humble before our Lord.


1 Samuel 15

1 Samuel 15

 1Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

 2Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

 3Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

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

 5And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.

 6And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

 7And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.

 8And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

 9But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

 10Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,

 11It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

 12And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

 13And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

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

 15And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

 16Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

 17And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

 18And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.

 19Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?

 20And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

 21But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

 22And Samuel 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.

 23For 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.

 24And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

 25Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

 26And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

 27And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.

 28And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.

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

 30Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.

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

 32Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.

 33And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

 34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.

 35And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.