King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 15

Saul sent to destroy Amalek. (1-9) Saul excuses and commends himself. (10-23) Saul’s imperfect humiliation. (24-31) Agag put to death, Samuel and Saul part. (32-35)

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Saul sent to destroy Amalek

1 Samuel 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.

2 Thus 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.

3 Now 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.

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

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

6 And 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.

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

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

9 But 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.

Saul excuses and commends himself

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

11 It 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.

12 And 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.

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

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

15 And 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.

16 Then 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.

17 And 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?

18 And 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.

19 Wherefore 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?

20 And 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.

21 But 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.

22 And 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.

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.

Saul’s imperfect humiliation

24 And 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.

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

26 And 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.

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

28 And 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.

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

30 Then 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.

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

Agag put to death, Samuel and Saul part

32 Then 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.

33 And 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.

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

35 And 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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Lord, in gratitude for so great an honour. H.

Ver. 2. Reckoned up. God speaks in a human manner, as if he had been reading the history of ancient times. Ex. xvii. 14. M. — The Amalecites had treated Israel with inhumanity, above 400 years before. God’s vengeance is often slow, but only so much the more terrible. C. — Heb. pakadti, I have visited, or will punish and remember.

Ver. 3. Destroy, as a thing accursed. H. — Child. The great master of life and death (who cuts off one half of mankind whilst they are children) has been pleased sometimes to ordain that children should be put to the sword, in detestation of the crimes of their parents, and that they might not live to follow the same wicked ways. But without such ordinance of God, it is not allowable in any wars, how just soever, to kill children. Ch. — The Israelites were now to execute God’s orders with blind obedience, as he cannot be guilty of injustice. — Nor covet…his, is omitted in Heb. &c. C. — Amalec is stricken when the flesh is chastised—He is destroyed when we repress evil thoughts. S. Greg. W.

Ver. 4. As lambs. This comparison is very common. Isai. xl. 11. Ezec. xxxiv. 2. But many translate the Heb. “in Telaim.” S. Jerom reads Heb. c, as, instead of b, in, with greater propriety. Sept. and Josephus, “in Galgal,” which in effect would have been the most proper place for rendezvous. C. — Footmen. Vat. Sept. “400,000 ranks or standards, (Josephus, men) and Juda 30,000.”

Ver. 5. Amelac. The people dwelt in tents, and removed from one place to another. So in Ethiopia there are properly no cities, the place where the prince encamps is deemed the capital. C. — Torrent. Heb. or “valley.”

Ver. 6. Egypt. See Judg. i. 16. Ex. xviii. 12. Num. x. 31. and xxiv. 21. Saul gave private instructions to the Cinite, who had been settled at Arad, and had mixed with Amalec, to depart. C.

Ver. 7. Sur. See Gen. ii. 11. and xvi. 7. and xxv. 18. Ex. xv. 22. M. — These people had occupied a great part of the country, from the Persian Gulf to Egypt. H.

Ver. 9. Garments. Heb. is commonly rendered, “fatlings.” Sept. “eatables.” C. — Avarice seems to have actuated Saul, (Lyran) or a false pity, (Josephus) or a desire to grace his triumph, v. 12. Glossa. M.

Ver. 11. Repenteth. God cannot change: but he often acts exteriorly as one who repents. He alters his conduct when men prove rebellious. S. Justin. p. 22. — Grieved. Heb. “indignant.” C. — He was sorry to think that Saul would now lose his temporal, and perhaps his eternal crown. Salien. — “The choice of Judas and of Saul, do not prove that God is ignorant of future events, but rather that he is a Judge of the present.” S. Jer. in Ezec. ii.

Ver. 12. Arch. Here we behold what a change prosperity makes in the manners of those who before shewed the greatest humility. Saul erects a monument to his own vanity. Heb. “he has set him up a hand,” (as Absalom did, 2 K. xviii. 18.) or “a place” to divide the booty, (Jonathan) or “a garrison,” to keep the country in subjection. C. — Perhaps he erected the figure of “a hand,” as an emblem of strength, and in honour of Benjamin, “the son of the right hand,” of whose tribe he was. H.

Ver. 14. Hear, and which manifestly prove, that God’s order has not been put in execution. M.

Ver. 15. Thy God. This was probably a falsehood, like the rest. Salien.

Ver. 17. Eyes. God rejects the proud, and gives his grace to the humble. See Luke i. 52. H.

Ver. 20. Lord. Sept. “of the people.”

Ver. 21. First-fruits, or the best. — Slain. Heb. “of the anathema.”

Ver. 22. Rams. Can God be pleased with victims which he has cursed? H.

Ver. 23. Obey. Heb. “Rebellion is the sin of divination or witchcraft, and resistance is iniquity, and the Theraphim.” Sym. “the injustice of idols.” Theraphim here designate idolatrous representations. Gen. xxxi. 19. They were probably of Chaldee origin, in honour of the sun and fire, (C.) and were venerated like the Penates, and supposed to be the sources of prosperity, from the Arab. Taraph, “to give abundance.” Hence Laban was so solicitous to recover what Rachel had taken away. Louis de Dieu — By sacrifices we give our goods, or another’s flesh is immolated; (Mor. xxxiii. 10. D.) by obedience, we give ourselves to God. S. Greg. W.

Ver. 24. Voice: miserable excuse for a king, who ought to prevent the sins of his people! C. — Saul’s transgression seems less than David’s; but the one repents, and the other proudly defends what he had done. D.

Ver. 25. Bear, or take away. Pardon my fault. Do not expose me in public. — The Lord, by offering sacrifices, v. 31. C.

Ver. 27. Rent: a dreadful prognostic that Saul was cast away. H.

Ver. 29. Triumpher. Some suppose that he speaks ironically of Saul. A prince, like you, will not repent. C. — But it more probably refers to God, who would not fail to execute his threats against the king. H. — Heb. “the victor in Israel will not lie, he will not repent.” Sept. “and Israel shall be split in two, and the holy one of Israel shall not turn nor repent.” Saul’s rejection became now inevitable. C.

Ver. 30. Israel. He is wholly solicitous to shun disgrace in this world. H. — His confession was not actuated by such contrition as that he might deserve to hear, the Lord has removed thy sin. He begins by falsehood; continues making idle excuses, and throwing the blame on others, and concludes, by shewing that he is more concerned for what his subjects may think and do against him, than for the displeasure of God. He boldly ventures to offer victims. But Samuel joins not with him in prayer, looking upon him as a person excommunicated; and he only attends that he may see the word of the Lord fulfilled, and Agag treated as he deserved. Salien, A. 2965.

Ver. 32. Trembling. Heb. “and Agag came to him delicately.” Sept. “trembling,” (H.) or walking with a soft step, or “with bands or chains;” mahadannoth. See Pagnin. M. — Some think that he presented himself boldly, like a king, fearing nothing. Vatab. — Manner. Heb. “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” I have obtained pardon from Saul. But the sense of the Vulg. seems preferable, as he must have perceived, from the looks of the prophet, that death was hanging over him. Hence others translate, “is pouring upon me,” instead of, is past. Sept. “Is death thus bitter?” Chal. “I pray my Lord: the bitterness of death.” H. — O death! how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that hath peace in his possessions, &c. Eccli. xli. 1. So Aristotle (Nicom. iii. 6.) says, “Death is most terrible, (peras gar) for it is a passage,” or separation, from all the things which could attach a man to this world. C. — This catastrophe of Agag and Saul, had been long before predicted. Num. xxiv. 7. H.

Ver. 33. Pieces. Josephus adds, by the hand of others. M. — But zeal put the sword into his own hand; and he imitated the Levites and Phinees, (Ex. xxxii. 27.) to shew Saul how preposterous had been his pity, when the Lord had spoken plainly. C. — Lord, as a sort of victim. Isai. xxxiv. 6. M.

Ver. 35. Saw Saul no more till the day of his death. That is, he went no more to see him: he visited him no more. Ch. — He looked upon him as one who had lost the right to the kingdom, though he was suffered for a time to hold the reins of government, as a lieutenant to David. He might afterwards see Saul passing, but never to visit him, (Salien) or to consult with him about the affairs of state; (M.) nor perhaps did he even see him, when Saul came to Najoth. C. xix. 19. 24. His spirit came to announce destruction to Saul, the night preceding the death of that unfortunate king. C. xxxviii. H. — Repented. God is said, improperly, to repent when he alters what he had appointed. S. Amb. de Noe, c. iv. W.