At the end of our previous study we read:
47 After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he fought against their enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them.
Saul had done a good job as commander of a successful army. Now it is time for him to demonstrate that he can obey orders as well as give them.
Read 1 Samuel 15:1-3
1 Samuel said to Saul, ‘I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”‘
What does the specific phrase ‘totally destroy’ (cherem) mean in verse 3 (and another six places in this chapter)?
It means ‘totally devoted to God’ and was used for any item which would be burnt, or shattered, as an indication that it was totally dedicated to God, and no-one else.
This was a punishment pronounced by God in Exodus 17:14, and the Israelites were commanded not to forget it in Deuteronomy 25:19
Read 1 Samuel 15:4-6
4 So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim – two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. 5 Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. 6 Then he said to the Kenites, ‘Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.’ So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.
Who were the Kenites and how had they helped the Israelites?
Jethro, Moses father in law was a Kenite. They were a nomadic people who knew the desert well and helped show the wandering Israelites how to survive (Numbers 10:31).
Read 1 Samuel 15:7-11
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.
10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’ Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
Knowing Saul, could Samuel (and the Lord) have predicted his failure?
Do you get a feeling that Saul had been set up to fail?
Why was Samuel so angry (v11)?
Read 1 Samuel 15:12-16
12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, ‘Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honour and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.’
How should I comment? My instant feeling was ‘Oh dear’. Hardly a sensible act following a punitive mission carried out in God’s name and for his Glory.
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, ‘The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.’
14 But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’
15 Saul answered, ‘The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.’
16 ‘Enough!’ Samuel said to Saul. ‘Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’
‘Tell me,’ Saul replied.
I get the feeling that Saul is still full of himself and only expects to hear good news. Hadn’t he done well?
Read 1 Samuel 15:17-21
17 Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.” 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’
20 ‘But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’
Saul had heard God’s words, but he hadn’t understood God’s heart. His understanding and relationship with God was superficial – it hadn’t affected his heart.
Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23
22 But Samuel replied:
‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’
It seems that God had hoped that Saul would come to know him better, that he would have developed a close relationship with him that would give him a better understanding of God’s heart. But for Saul, religion meant obeying rules and orders.
Now he at last understood – he’d broken the rules.
Read 1 Samuel 15:24-25
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.’
Was that the problem? Sorry, I broke a rule – forgive me?
Read 1 Samuel 15:26-31
26 But Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!’
27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbours – to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.’
30 Saul replied, ‘I have sinned. But please honour me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.’ 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshipped the Lord.
Saul worshipped – but still there was something lacking. Look at the last four words in verse 30 ‘the Lord your God’
And look again at the first part of that verse. Was Saul really keen to worship the Lord? Or was he simply anxious to have Samuel ‘honour me before the elders of my people and before Israel’?
Read 1 Samuel 15:32-33
32 Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.’
Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past.’
33 But Samuel said,
‘As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.’
And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.
Samuel had done what God had instructed, and like God, now turned his back on Saul.
Read 1 Samuel 15:34-35
34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
Could someone expand on verse 35 ‘Samuel mourned for him’?
Now chapter 16:
Read 1 Samuel 16:1-3
1 The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’
2 But Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.’
The Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.’
We saw earlier (1 Samuel 7:15-17) that Samuel’s regular circuit was ‘from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah judging Israel in all those places’. Samuel was old (1 Samuel 8:1) and a well-known celebrity figure, and he would have travelled with a support team. To break with routine and set off on a journey south was bound to raise questions
So – was the Lord telling Samuel to lie?
No – he was telling him to tell the truth!
And as always, Samuel was obedient.
Read 1 Samuel 16:4
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’
Why were the elders so afraid?
Samuel was best known as a travelling judge. They naturally assumed that someone in their town was in trouble.
Read 1 Samuel 16:5-12
5 Samuel replied, ‘Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ 9 Jesse then made Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ 11 So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’
‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’
Samuel said, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’
Note how close Samuel must have been to the Lord, and how easily the Lord was able to talk to him – especially verses 7 and 12.
Read 1 Samuel 16:13-14
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
Remember when Saul had been anointed King? (1 Samuel 10:6-10, and 11:6)
(See also many of the Judges: Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6, 14:19, 15:14)
The Holy Spirit ‘came upon’ those that God would set apart for his service. He would bring something of God’s wisdom and power – but it would still be up to the individual to use it wisely.
In many ways Samson failed, now too Saul was considered unworthy and the Spirit left Saul and instead came upon David.
What do we notice that is different when the Spirit comes to Christians?
Galatians 4:6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. (and Romans 8:9-11).
When we ask Jesus into our lives the Spirit does not come upon us – he comes to live within us (For more on this subject see the studies on John 15(c) and John 15(g)), and he will never leave us (For more on that see John 15(e)).
Back to verse 14
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
What do you understand by the second phrase?
It was bad enough to be told that the kingdom would be taken from him, (1 Samuel 15:28). Now without God’s Spirit to guide and protect, the devil was given permission to trouble and terrify Saul.
Read 1 Samuel 16:15-23
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’
17 So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’
18 One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.’
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, ‘Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.’ 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armour-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
A coincidence, or ordained by God? Both!
I wonder if Saul, in his misery, even noticed the last phrase of v18?