Saul Is Rejected as King
1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “I was the one the Lord sent to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now listen to what the Lord says.tn Heb “to the voice of the words of the Lord” (so KJV).
2 Here is what the Lord of hosts says: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposedtn Heb “what Amalek did to Israel, how he placed against him.” Israel along the way when Israeltn Heb “he”; the referent (Israel) has been specified in the translation for clarity. came up from Egypt.
3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t sparetn Or perhaps “don’t take pity on” (cf. CEV). them. Put them to death – man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’”
4 So Saul assembledtn Heb “caused the people to hear.” the armytn Heb “people.” and mustered them at Telaim. There were 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah.
5 Saul proceeded to the citytc The LXX has the plural here, “cities.” of Amalek, where he set an ambushtc The translation follows the LXX and Vulgate which assume a reading וַיָּאָרֶב (vayya’arev, “and he set an ambush,” from the root ארב [’rv] with quiescence of alef) rather than the MT, which has וַיָּרֶב (vayyareb, “and he contended,” from the root ריב [ryv]). in the wadi.tn That is, “the dry stream bed.”
6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go on and leave! Go down from among the Amalekites! Otherwise I will sweep you awaytc The translation follows the Syriac Peshitta and Vulgate which assume a reading אֶסִפְךָ (’esfÿka, “I sweep you away,” from the root ספה [sfh]) rather than the MT אֹסִפְךָ (’osifÿka, “I am gathering you,” from the root אסף[’sf]). with them! After all, you were kind to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from among the Amalekites.
7 Then Saul struck down the Amalekites all the way from Havilah totn Heb “[as] you enter.” Shur, which is next to Egypt.
8 He captured King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but he executed all Agag’s peopletn Heb “all the people.” For clarity “Agag’s” has been supplied in the translation. with the sword.
9 However, Saul and the army spared Agag, along with the best of the flock, the cattle, the fatlings,tn The Hebrew text is difficult here. We should probably read וְהַמַּשְׂמַנִּים (vÿhammasmannim, “the fat ones”) rather than the MT וְהַמִּשְׂנִים (vÿhammisnim, “the second ones”). However, if the MT is retained, the sense may be as the Jewish commentator Kimchi supposed: the second-born young, thought to be better than the firstlings. (For discussion see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 123-24.) and the lambs, as well as everything else that was of value.tn Heb “good.” They were not willing to slaughter them. But they did slaughter everything that was despisedtc The MT has here the very odd form נְמִבְזָה (nÿmivzah), but this is apparently due to a scribal error. The translation follows instead the Niphal participle נִבְזָה (nivzah). and worthless.
10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:
11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned away from me and has not done what I told him to do.” Samuel became angry and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
12 Then Samuel got up early to meet Saul the next morning. But Samuel was informed, “Saul has gone to Carmel wheretn Heb “and look.” he is setting up a monument for himself. Then Samuel lefttn Heb “and he turned and crossed over.” and went down to Gilgal.”tc At the end of v. 12 the LXX and one Old Latin ms include the following words not found in the MT: “to Saul. And behold, he was offering as a burnt offering to the Lord the best of the spoils that he had brought from the Amalekites.”
13 When Samuel came to him,tn Heb “to Saul.” Saul said to him, “May the Lord bless you! I have done what the Lord said.”
14 Samuel replied, “If that is the case,tn The words “if that is the case” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. then what is this sound of sheep in my ears and the sound of cattle that I hear?”
15 Saul said, “They were broughttn Heb “they brought them.” from the Amalekites; the army spared the best of the flocks and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord our God. But everything else we slaughtered.”
16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait a minute!tn Or perhaps “be quiet.” Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” Saultc The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading the singular (“he said”) rather than the plural (“they said”) of the Kethib.tn Heb “he”; the referent (Saul) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said to him, “Tell me.”
17 Samuel said, “Is it not true that when you were insignificant in your own eyes, you became head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord chosetn Heb “anointed.” you as king over Israel.
18 The Lord sent you on a campaigntn Heb “journey.” saying, ‘Go and exterminate those sinful Amalekites! Fight against them until youtc The translation follows the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targum in reading the second person singular suffix (“you”) rather than the third person plural suffix of the MT (“they”). have destroyed them.’
19 Why haven’t you obeyedtn Heb “listened to the voice of the Lord.” the Lord? Instead you have greedily rushed upon the plunder! You have done what is wrong in the Lord’s estimation.”tn Heb “you have done what is evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyedtn Heb “listened to the voice of the Lord.” the Lord! I went on the campaigntn Heb “journey.” the Lord sent me on. I brought back King Agag of the Amalekites after exterminating the Amalekites.
21 But the army took from the plunder some of the sheep and cattle – the best of what was to be slaughtered – to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
22 Then Samuel said,
“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as he does in obedience?tn Heb “as [in] listening to the voice of the Lord.”
Certainly,tn Heb “look.” obediencetn Heb “listening.” is better than sacrifice;
paying attention is better thantn The expression “is better” is understood here by ellipsis (see the immediately preceding statement). the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and presumption is like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you astn Or “from [being].” king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commandedtn Heb “the mouth of the Lord.” and what you said as well.tn Heb “and your words.” For I was afraid of the army, and I followed their wishes.tn Heb “and I listened to their voice.”
25 Now please forgive my sin! Go back with me so I can worshiptn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose/result. the Lord.”
26 Samuel said to Saul, “I will not go back with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel!”
27 When Samuel turned to leave, Saultn Heb “he,” but Saul is clearly the referent. A Qumran ms and the LXX include the name “Saul” here. grabbed the edge of his robe and it tore.
28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to one of your colleagues who is better than you!
29 The Preeminent Onetn Heb “splendor,” used here by metonymy as a title for the Lord. of Israel does not go back on his wordtn Or perhaps “does not lie.” or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.”sn This observation marks the preceding statement (v. 28) as an unconditional, unalterable decree. When God makes such a decree he will not alter it or change his mind. This does not mean that God never deviates from his stated intentions or changes his mind. On the contrary, several passages describe him as changing his mind. In fact, his willingness to do so is one of his fundamental divine attributes (see Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). For a fuller discussion see R. B. Chisholm, Jr., “Does God Change His Mind?” BSac 152 (1995): 387-99.
30 Saultn Heb “he”; the referent (Saul) has been specified in the translation for clarity. again replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel. Go back with me so I may worship the Lord your God.”
31 So Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
Samuel Puts Agag to Death
32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me King Agag of the Amalekites.” So Agag came to him trembling,tn The MT reading מַעֲדַנֹּת (ma’adannot, literally, “bonds,” used here adverbially, “in bonds”) is difficult. The word is found only here and in Job 38:31. Part of the problem lies in determining the root of the word. Some scholars have taken it to be from the root ענד (’nd, “to bind around”), but this assumes a metathesis of two of the letters of the root. Others take it from the root עדן (’dn) with the meaning “voluptuously,” but this does not seem to fit the context. It seems better to understand the word to be from the root מעד (m’d, “to totter” or “shake”). In that case it describes the fear that Agag experienced in realizing the mortal danger that he faced as he approached Samuel. This is the way that the LXX translators understood the word, rendering it by the Greek participle τρέμον (tremon, “trembling”). thinking to himself,tn Heb “and Agag said.” “Surely death is bitter!”tc The text is difficult here. With the LXX, two Old Latin mss, and the Syriac Peshitta it is probably preferable to delete סָר (sar, “is past”) of the MT; it looks suspiciously like a dittograph of the following word מַר (mar, “bitter”). This further affects the interpretation of Agag’s comment. In the MT he comes to Samuel confidently assured that the danger is over (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV “Surely the bitterness of death is past,” along with NLT, CEV). However, it seems more likely that Agag realized that his fortunes had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and that the clemency he had enjoyed from Saul would not be his lot from Samuel. The present translation thus understands Agag to approach not confidently but in the stark realization that his death is imminent (“Surely death is bitter!”). Cf. NAB “So it is bitter death!”; NRSV “Surely this is the bitterness of death”; TEV “What a bitter thing it is to die!”
33 Samuel said, “Just as your sword left women childless, so your mother will be the most bereaved among women!” Then Samuel hacked Agag to pieces there in Gilgal before the Lord.