I Samuel xv: 1 to 35.
FTER the great victory over the Philistines, Saul led his men against the enemies of Israel on every side of the land. He drove back the Moabites to their country east of the Dead Sea, and the Ammonites to the desert regions across the Jordan. He fought the Edomites on the south and the kings of Zobah in the far north. For a time the land of Israel was free from its oppressors.
On the south of the land, in the desert where the Israelites had journeyed for forty years, were living the wild and wandering Amalekites, a people who had sought to harm the Israelites soon after they came out of Egypt, and had killed many of their people when they were helpless on their journey. (See Story 25.) For this God had said that Israel should have war against the Amalekites until they were destroyed.
The time had now come for God's word against the Amalekites to be fulfilled, and Samuel said to Saul, "Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, go down and make war against the Amalekites, and destroy them utterly."
Then Saul called out the men of war in all the tribes, and they marched southward into the desert where many years before their fathers had lived for forty years. There Saul made war on the Amalekites, and took their city and destroyed it. But he did not do what God had commanded him. He brought Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and many of his people as prisoners, and a great train of their sheep and oxen, intending to keep them.
Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "It would have been better never to have chosen Saul as king, for he does not obey my commands."
All that night Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the next day he went to meet Saul. When Saul saw him, he said, "May the blessing of the Lord be upon you. I have done what the Lord commanded me to do."
Then said Samuel, "If you have obeyed God's command and destroyed all the Amalekites and all that they possessed, what is the meaning of this bleating of the sheep and the bellowing of the oxen which I hear?"
"They have bought them from the Amalekites," answered Saul, "for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to offer in sacrifice to the Lord your God. All the rest we have utterly destroyed." This he said to excuse his wrong-doing and to put the blame for his disobedience to God's command on the people.
Then Samuel said, "I will tell you what God said to me last night. When you were humble in your own sight, God chose you to be king over Israel. He sent you on a long journey to the southward into the desert and said to you, 'Go and utterly destroy the Amalekites and leave nothing of them.' Why did you not obey God's word but did seize their oxen and sheep and save many of their people alive, disobeying God's voice?"
And Saul said, "I have done as God commanded, and have destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some things that should have been destroyed, to offer in sacrifice to the Lord."
And Samuel said, "Is the Lord as well pleased with offerings as he is with obeying his words? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen to God's word is more precious than to place offerings on his altar. To disobey God's word is as evil as to worship idols. You have refused to obey the voice of the Lord, and the Lord will take away your kingdom from you."
Saul saw now how great was the harm that he had done, and he said, "I have sinned in not obeying God's word; but I was afraid of the people, and yielded to them. Now forgive my sin. Come with me, and I will worship the Lord."
"No," said Samuel, "I will not go with you, for God will refuse you as king."
As Samuel turned away, Saul took hold of his garment, and it tore in his hand. And Samuel said, "Even so has God torn the kingdom away from you; and he will give it to a man that is better than you are. And God is not like a man, to say one thing and do another. What God has said shall surely come to pass."
Saul begged Samuel so hard not to leave him, but to give him honor in presence of the people, that Samuel went with Saul, and Saul worshipped the Lord with Samuel.
After this Samuel went to his house at Ramah, and he never again met Saul as long as he lived; but he mourned and wept for Saul, because he had disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord had rejected him as king.
Samuel turns away from Saul.