1 Samuel 15
New English Translation
Saul Is Rejected as King
15 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.[a] 2 Here is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposed[b] Israel along the way when Israel[c] came up from Egypt. 3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything they have. Don’t spare[d] them. Put them to death—man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’”
4 So Saul assembled[e] the army[f] and mustered them at Telaim. There were 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 5 Saul proceeded to the city[g] of Amalek, where he set an ambush[h] in the wadi.[i] 6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go on and leave! Go down from among the Amalekites. Otherwise I will sweep you away[j] 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 to[k] Shur, which is next to Egypt. 8 He captured King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but he executed all Agag’s people[l] with the sword. 9 However, Saul and the army spared Agag, along with the best of the flock, the cattle, the fatlings,[m] and the lambs, as well as everything else that was of value.[n] They were not willing to slaughter them. But they did slaughter everything that was despised[o] and worthless.
10 Then the Lord’s message 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 where[p] he is setting up a monument for himself.” Then Samuel left[q] and went down to Gilgal.[r] 13 When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May the Lord bless you! I have fulfilled the Lord’s orders.”[s]
14 Samuel replied, “If that is the case,[t] then what is this sound of sheep in my ears and the sound of cattle that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They were brought[u] 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![v] Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” Saul[w] 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 chose[x] you as king over Israel. 18 The Lord sent you on a campaign[y] saying, ‘Go and exterminate those sinful Amalekites! Fight against them until you[z] have destroyed them.’ 19 Why haven’t you obeyed[aa] the Lord? Instead you have greedily rushed upon the plunder! You have done what is wrong in the Lord’s estimation.”[ab]
20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed[ac] the Lord! I went on the campaign[ad] 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?[ae]
Certainly,[af] obedience[ag] is better than sacrifice;
paying attention is better than[ah] 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 Lord’s orders,[ai]
he has rejected you from being king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded[aj] and your words as well. For I was afraid of the army,[ak] and I obeyed their voice. 25 Now please forgive my sin. Go back with me so I can worship the Lord.”
26 Samuel said to Saul, “I will not go back with you, for you have rejected the Lord’s orders,[al] and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel!”
27 When Samuel turned to leave, Saul[am] 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 One[an] of Israel does not go back on his word[ao] or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.”[ap] 30 Saul[aq] 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,[ar] thinking to himself,[as] “Surely death is bitter!”[at] 33 Samuel said, “Just as your sword left women childless, so your mother will be the most bereaved[au] among women.” Then Samuel hacked Agag to pieces there in Gilgal before the Lord.
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, while Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day he[av] died, Samuel did not see Saul again. Samuel did, however, mourn for Saul, but the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Samuel 15:1 tn Heb “to the voice of the words of the Lord” (so KJV).
- 1 Samuel 15:2 tn Heb “what Amalek did to Israel, how he placed against him.”
- 1 Samuel 15:2 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Israel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 15:3 tn Or perhaps “don’t take pity on” (cf. CEV).
- 1 Samuel 15:4 tn Heb “caused the people to hear.”
- 1 Samuel 15:4 tn Heb “people.”
- 1 Samuel 15:5 tc The LXX has the plural here, “cities.”
- 1 Samuel 15:5 tc The translation follows the LXX and Vulgate which assume a reading וַיָּאָרֶב (vayyaʾarev, “and he set an ambush,” from the root אָרַב [ʾarav] with quiescence of alef) rather than the MT, which has וַיָּרֶב (vayyareb, “and he contended,” from the root רִיב [riv]).
- 1 Samuel 15:5 tn That is, “the dry stream bed.”
- 1 Samuel 15:6 tc The translation follows the Syriac Peshitta and Vulgate which assume a reading אֶסְפָךְ (ʾesfak, “I sweep you away,” from the root סָפָה [safah]) rather than the MT אֹסִפְךָ (ʾosifeka, “I am gathering you,” from the root אָסַף [ʾasaf]).
- 1 Samuel 15:7 tn Heb “[as] you enter.”
- 1 Samuel 15:8 tn Heb “all the people.” For clarity “Agag’s” has been supplied in the translation.
- 1 Samuel 15:9 tn The Hebrew text is difficult here. We should probably read וְהַמַּשְׂמַנִּים (vehammasmannim, “the fat ones”) rather than the MT וְהַמִּשְׂנִים (vehammisnim, “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.)
- 1 Samuel 15:9 tn Heb “good.”
- 1 Samuel 15:9 tc The MT has here the very odd form נְמִבְזָה (nemivzah), but this is apparently due to a scribal error. The translation follows instead the Niphal participle נִבְזָה (nivzah).
- 1 Samuel 15:12 tn Heb “and look.”
- 1 Samuel 15:12 tn Heb “and he turned and crossed over.” Some translations assume that the quotation continues and that “he” is Saul. The wording of the LXX, “he went down to Gilgal to Saul” assumes that Samuel is the subject and that the quotation has ended.tc The LXX also has “he returned the chariot” or “the chariot returned” before “he went down.” Again this may or may not be part of the quotation.
- 1 Samuel 15:12 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.” The Lucianic Greek translation does not include this text.
- 1 Samuel 15:13 tn Or “message, word.”
- 1 Samuel 15:14 tn The words “if that is the case” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- 1 Samuel 15:15 tn Heb “they brought them.”
- 1 Samuel 15:16 tn Or perhaps “be quiet.”
- 1 Samuel 15:16 tc 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.
- 1 Samuel 15:17 tn Heb “anointed.”
- 1 Samuel 15:18 tn Heb “journey.”
- 1 Samuel 15:18 tc 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”).
- 1 Samuel 15:19 tn Heb “listened to the voice of the Lord.”
- 1 Samuel 15:19 tn Heb “you have done what is evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
- 1 Samuel 15:20 tn Heb “listened to the voice of the Lord.”
- 1 Samuel 15:20 tn Heb “journey.”
- 1 Samuel 15:22 tn Heb “as [in] listening to the voice of the Lord.”
- 1 Samuel 15:22 tn Heb “look.”
- 1 Samuel 15:22 tn Heb “listening.”
- 1 Samuel 15:22 tn The expression “is better” is understood here by ellipsis (see the immediately preceding statement).
- 1 Samuel 15:23 tn Or “message, word.”
- 1 Samuel 15:24 tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord.”
- 1 Samuel 15:24 tn Heb “people.”
- 1 Samuel 15:26 tn Or “message, word.”
- 1 Samuel 15:27 tn Heb “he,” but Saul is clearly the referent. A Qumran ms and the LXX include the name “Saul” here.
- 1 Samuel 15:29 tn Heb “splendor,” used here by metonymy as a title for the Lord.
- 1 Samuel 15:29 tn Or perhaps “does not lie.”
- 1 Samuel 15:29 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.
- 1 Samuel 15:30 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Saul) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 15:32 tn The MT reading מַעֲדַנֹּת (maʿadannot, 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 עָנַד (ʿanad, “to bind around”), but this assumes a metathesis of two of the letters of the root. Others take it from the root עָדַן (ʿadan) 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 (maʿad, “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”).
- 1 Samuel 15:32 tn Heb “and Agag said.”
- 1 Samuel 15:32 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!”
- 1 Samuel 15:33 tn Heb “bereaved more than [other] women.” The verb שָׁכָל (shakal) is a stative verb in the Qal stem meaning “to be bereaved” (HALOT 1492), that is, to be deprived of a loved one (a child) by death. Stative verbs are typically modified by מִן (min) with its comparative sense. A passive verb can also behave this way; compare Judges 5:24 where Jael is “most blessed of women.” While any woman’s loss of a child is tragic, perhaps from a social perspective because of his high position as king, his mother’s loss is construed as greater.
- 1 Samuel 15:35 tn That is, Samuel.