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1 Samuel 11-15 Common English Bible (CEB)

11 About a month later,[a] Nahash the Ammonite went up and laid siege to Jabesh-gilead. All the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we’ll be your servants.”

“I will make a treaty with you on one condition: that everyone’s right eye be gouged out!” Nahash the Ammonite said to them. “That’s how I bring humiliation on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh replied to him, “Leave us alone for seven days so we can send messengers thoughout Israel’s territory. If there’s no one to save us, then we’ll surrender to you.”

When the messengers reached Gibeah where Saul lived, they reported the news directly to the people there. Then they all wept aloud. At just that moment, Saul was coming back from keeping the cattle in the fields. “What’s wrong with everybody?” he asked. “Why are they crying?” Saul was then told what the men from Jabesh had said.

God’s spirit came over Saul when he heard those words, and he burned with anger. He took two oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent them by messengers throughout Israel’s territory. “This is exactly what will be done to the oxen of anyone who doesn’t come to the aid of Saul and Samuel,” he said. Great fear of the Lord came over the people, and they came to Saul completely unified.[b] When Saul counted them at Bezek, the soldiers from Israel totaled three hundred thousand and those from Judah thirty thousand.

The messengers who had come were then told, “Say this to the people of Jabesh-gilead: Tomorrow by the time the sun is hot, you will be saved.” When the messengers returned and reported this to the people of Jabesh, they were overjoyed.

10 Then the people of Jabesh told the Ammonites, “We will surrender to you tomorrow. Then you can do whatever you want to us.”

11 The next day Saul organized his troops into three formations. They attacked the Ammonite camp during the morning watch and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. The survivors were so scattered that not even two of them could be found together.

12 Then people asked Samuel, “Who was it who said, ‘Will Saul rule over us?’ Give us those people; we’ll kill them!”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be executed because today the Lord has saved Israel.”

14 “Let’s go to Gilgal,” Samuel told the people, “and renew the monarchy there.” 15 So everyone went to Gilgal, and there at Gilgal they made Saul king in the Lord’s presence. They offered well-being sacrifices in the Lord’s presence, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration there.

Samuel’s last speech

12 Samuel said to all Israel: “Listen: I have done everything you asked of me and have placed a king over you. The king will lead you now. I am old and gray, though my sons are still with you, and I’ve been your leader since I was young until now. So I’m here: Tell the truth about me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Have I ever stolen someone’s ox? Have I ever taken someone’s donkey? Have I ever oppressed or mistreated anyone? Have I ever taken bribes from someone and looked the other way about something? Tell me the truth.[c] I will make it right.”

“You haven’t oppressed or mistreated us, and you’ve never taken anything from anyone,” the people answered.

Samuel replied, “The Lord and his anointed one are witnesses against you today that you haven’t found anything in my possession.”

“Agreed,” they said.

Then Samuel told the people: “The witness[d] is indeed the Lord, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up from the land of Egypt. So now stand here, and I will judge you in the Lord’s presence because of all the Lord’s righteous acts that he has done for you and your ancestors:

“When Jacob entered Egypt, the Egyptians oppressed them.[e] So your ancestors cried out to the Lord. The Lord then sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them here. But your ancestors forgot the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera the commander of Hazor’s army, and to the Philistines, and to the Moabite king, all of whom fought against them. 10 Then your ancestors cried out to the Lord and said: ‘We have sinned because we have abandoned the Lord and have worshipped the Baals and the Astartes. But now deliver us from the power of our enemies, and we will worship you.’ 11 So the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Barak,[f] Jephthah, and Samson,[g] and he delivered you from the power of your enemies on every side. And you lived safe and secure. 12 But when you saw that Nahash the Ammonite king was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No! There must be a king to rule over us.’ But the Lord your God was already your king!

13 “So now, here is the king you chose, the one you asked for. Yes, the Lord has put a king over you! 14 If you will fear the Lord, worship him, obey him, and not rebel against the Lord’s command, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God—all will be well. 15 But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against the Lord’s command, then the Lord’s power will go against you and your king to destroy you.[h]

16 “So now take a stand! Look at this awesome thing the Lord is doing. 17 Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord to send thunder and rain. Then you will know and will see for yourselves what great evil you’ve done in the Lord’s eyes by asking for a king.”

18 Samuel called upon the Lord, and God sent thunder and rain on that very day. Then all the people were in awe of the Lord and Samuel.

19 All of them said to Samuel, “Please pray for us, your servants, to the Lord your God so we don’t die because we have added to our many sins the evil of asking for a king.”

20 But Samuel answered the people, “Don’t be afraid. Yes, you’ve done all this evil; just don’t turn back from following the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn aside to follow useless idols that can’t help you or save you. They’re absolutely useless! 22 For the sake of his reputation, the Lord won’t abandon his people, because the Lord has decided to make you his very own people. 23 But me? I would never sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will teach you what is good and right. 24 Just fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Look at what great things he has done for you! 25 But if you continue to do evil, then both you and your king will be destroyed.”

Samuel rejects Saul’s dynasty

13 Saul was 30 years old[i] when he became king, and he ruled over Israel forty-two years.[j] Saul selected three thousand men from Israel. Two thousand of those were with Saul at Michmash in the hills near Bethel, and one thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. He sent the remaining men home. Jonathan attacked the Philistine fort at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul sounded the alarm[k] throughout the land and said, “Hebrews! Listen up!” When all Israel heard that Saul had attacked the Philistine fort and that Israel was hated by the Philistines, the troops were called to Saul’s side at Gilgal. The Philistines also were gathered to fight against Israel. They brought thirty thousand chariots with them, six thousand cavalry, and as many soldiers as there is sand on the seashore to fight Israel.[l] They marched up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth-aven. When the Israelites saw that they were in trouble and that their troops were threatened, they hid in caves, in thickets, among rocks, in tunnels, and in cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan River, going into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul stayed at Gilgal, and the troops followed him anxiously. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and his troops began to desert. So Saul ordered, “Bring me the entirely burned offering and the well-being sacrifices.” Then he offered the entirely burned offering.

10 The very moment Saul finished offering up the entirely burned offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and welcome him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?”

“I saw that my troops were deserting,” Saul replied. “You hadn’t arrived by the appointed time, and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash. 12 I thought, The Philistines are about to march against me at Gilgal and I haven’t yet sought the Lord’s favor. So I took control of myself[m] and offered the entirely burned offering.”

13 “How stupid of you to have broken the commands the Lord your God gave you!” Samuel told Saul. “The Lord would have established your rule over Israel forever, 14 but now your rule won’t last. The Lord will search for a man following the Lord’s own heart,[n] and the Lord will commission him as leader over God’s people, because you didn’t keep the Lord’s command.”

15 Samuel got up and went on his way from Gilgal, but the rest of the people followed Saul to join the army, and they went from Gilgal[o] to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul counted about six hundred men still with him. 16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the people who were with him were staying at Geba in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17 Three raiding parties left the Philistine camp. One took the road to Ophrah toward the territory of Shual. 18 Another took the road to Beth-horon, and the last took the border road that overlooks the Zeboim Valley toward the desert.

Philistine ironworking

19 No metalworker was to be found anywhere in Israelite territory because the Philistines had said, “The Hebrews must not make swords and spears.” 20 So every Israelite had to go down to the Philistines to sharpen their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles. 21 The cost was two-thirds of a shekel[p] for plowshares and mattocks, but one-third of a shekel for sharpening axes and for setting goads. 22 So on the day of the battle, no swords or spears were to be found in the possession of any of the troops with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

Jonathan leads Israel to victory

23 Now a group of Philistine soldiers had marched out to the pass at Michmash.

14 One day Jonathan, Saul’s son, said to his young armor-bearer, “Come on! Let’s go over to the Philistine fort on the opposite side.” But he didn’t tell his father. Saul was sitting on the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree at Migron. He had about six hundred men with him, including Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who was Ichabod’s brother and the son of Phinehas the son of Eli, who was the Lord’s priest at Shiloh. He was wearing a priestly vest.[q] None of the troops knew that Jonathan had gone.

There were two stone outcroppings in the pass where Jonathan planned on crossing over to the Philistine fort—one on each side. One of these was named Bozez; the other was named Seneh. One outcropping was on the north side, in front of Michmash, and the other was on the south side, in front of Geba. Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the fort of these uncircumcised men. Maybe the Lord will act on our behalf. After all, nothing can stop the Lord from saving, whether there are many soldiers[r] or few.”

“Go ahead with whatever you’re planning,” his armor-bearer replied. “I’m with you, whatever you decide.”

“All right then,” Jonathan said. “We’ll go over to the men and show ourselves. If they say to us, ‘Stay there until we get to you,’ then we’ll stay where we are and won’t go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up because that will be the sign that the Lord has handed them over to us.”

11 So they showed themselves to the Philistine fort, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes they’ve been hiding in!” 12 Then the troops in the fort yelled to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come on up! We’ll teach you a lesson!”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Follow me, because the Lord has handed them over to Israel!” 13 So Jonathan scrambled up on his hands and feet with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan. His armor-bearer, coming behind him, would then finish them off. 14 In the first attack, Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed about twenty men in an area of about half an acre.[s] 15 Panic broke out in the camp, in the field, and among all the troops. Even those in the fort and the raiders shook with fear. The very ground shook! It was a terror from God.

16 Now Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the Philistine camp running all over the place.[t] 17 Saul said to the troops with him, “Take a count and see who is missing.” So they counted, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone. 18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the priestly vest!”[u] because at that time, Ahijah wore the priestly vest in Israel’s presence.[v] 19 As Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp continued to grow. Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”[w]

20 Then Saul called all his troops together, and they went into battle. The Philistines were completely confused; every soldier’s sword was turned against his fellow soldier. 21 Even those Hebrews who had earlier joined up with the Philistines and moved into their camp changed sides to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 Similarly, when all the Israelites who had been hiding in the highlands of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they also joined the battle in hot pursuit of the Philistines. 23 The Lord saved Israel that day, and the fighting carried on beyond Beth-aven.

24 Now the Israelite soldiers were in a difficult situation that day because Saul had bound the troops by a solemn pledge: “Anyone who eats anything before evening when I have taken revenge on my enemies is doomed.” So none of the army ate anything. 25 The troops[x] came across a honeycomb with honey on the ground. 26 But even when they came across the honeycomb with the honey still flowing, no one ate any of it because the troops were afraid of the solemn pledge. 27 But Jonathan hadn’t heard his father make the people swear the pledge, so he dipped the end of the staff he was carrying into the honeycomb. When he ate some his eyes lit up. 28 Then one of the soldiers spoke up: “Your father bound the troops by a solemn pledge: ‘Anyone who eats food today is doomed.’ That’s why the troops are exhausted.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has brought trouble to the land. Look how my eyes lit up when I tasted just a bit of that honey! 30 It would have been even better if the troops had eaten some of their enemies’ plunder today when they found it! But now the Philistine defeat isn’t as thorough as it might have been.”

31 That day, after they had fought the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, the troops were completely exhausted. 32 So the troops tore into the plunder, taking sheep, cattle, and calves. They slaughtered them right on the ground and devoured them with the blood still in them. 33 When it was reported to Saul, “The troops are sinning against the Lord by eating meat with blood in it,” Saul said, “All of you are traitors! Roll a large stone over here right now. 34 Go among the troops and say to them, ‘Everyone must bring their ox or sheep, and slaughter them here with me. Don’t sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’” So everyone brought whatever they had and slaughtered it there.[y] 35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord. It was the first altar he had built to the Lord.

36 “Let’s go after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning,” Saul said. “We won’t leave them a single survivor!”

“Do whatever you think is best,” the troops replied.

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”

37 So Saul questioned God: “Should I go after the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?” But God did not answer him that day.

38 Then Saul said, “All you officers in the army, come forward! Let’s find out what sin was committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord lives—the one who has saved Israel—even if it’s my own son Jonathan, that person will be executed.” Not one of the soldiers answered him. 40 So Saul said to all Israel, “You be on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other.”

“Do whatever you think is best,” the troops said.

41 Then Saul asked the Lord God of Israel, “Why haven’t you answered your servant today? If the wrongdoing is mine or my son Jonathan’s, respond with Urim, but if the wrongdoing belongs to your people Israel, respond with Thummim.”[z] Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the troops were cleared.

42 Then Saul said, “Decide between me and my son Jonathan.”[aa] And Jonathan was selected.

43 “Tell me what you’ve done,” Saul said to Jonathan.

So Jonathan told him. “I only took a very small taste of honey on the end of my staff,” he said. “And now I’m supposed to die?”

44 “May God deal harshly with me and worse still if you don’t die today!”[ab] Saul swore.

45 But the troops said to Saul, “Why should Jonathan die when he has won this great victory for Israel? No way! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair off his head will fall to the ground, because he did this today with God’s help.” So the troops rescued Jonathan, and he wasn’t executed.

46 Then Saul stopped chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines went back to their own country.

Saul’s wars

47 Saul secured his kingship over Israel. He fought against his enemies on every side: against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the king of Zobah,[ac] and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he was victorious.[ad] 48 He acted heroically, defeating the Amalekites and rescuing Israel from the power of any who had plundered them.

49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab, the oldest, and Michal, the younger daughter. 50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, Ahimaaz’s daughter. The name of his general was Abner, Ner’s son, Saul’s uncle. 51 Kish, Saul’s father, and Ner, Abner’s father, were Abiel’s sons.

52 There was fierce warfare against the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul saw any strong or heroic man, he would add him to his troops.

Samuel rejects Saul’s kingship

15 Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel. Listen now to the Lord’s words! This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: I am going to punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel: how they attacked the Israelites as they came up from Egypt. So go! Attack the Amalekites; put everything that belongs to them under the ban.[ae] Spare no one. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

Saul called out the troops and counted them at Telaim: two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand more troops from Judah. Then Saul advanced on the Amalekite city and laid an ambush in the valley. Saul told the Kenites, “Get going! Leave the Amalekites immediately because you showed kindness to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. Otherwise, I’ll destroy you right along with them.” So the Kenites left the Amalekites. Then Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is near Egypt. He captured Agag the Amalekite king alive, but Saul placed all the people under the ban, killing them with the sword. Saul and the troops spared Agag along with the best sheep, cattle, fattened calves,[af] lambs, and everything of value. They weren’t willing to put them under the ban; but anything that was despised or of no value[ag] they placed under the ban.

10 Then the Lord’s word came to Samuel: 11 “I regret making Saul king because he has turned away from following me and hasn’t done what I said.” Samuel was upset at this, and he prayed to the Lord all night long.

12 Samuel got up early in the morning to meet Saul, and was told, “Saul went to Carmel, where he is setting up a monument for himself. Then he left and went down to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel reached Saul,[ah] Saul greeted him, “The Lord bless you! I have done what the Lord said.”

14 “Then what,” Samuel asked, “is this bleating of sheep in my ears and mooing of cattle I hear?”

15 “They were taken from the Amalekites,” Saul said, “because the troops spared the best sheep and cattle in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. The rest was placed under the ban.”

16 Samuel then said to Saul, “Enough! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

17 Samuel said, “Even if you think you are insignificant, aren’t you the leader of Israel’s tribes? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 The Lord sent you on a mission, instructing you, ‘Go, and put the sinful Amalekites under the ban. Fight against them until you’ve wiped them out.’ 19 Why didn’t you obey the Lord? You did evil in the Lord’s eyes when you tore into the plunder!”

20 “But I did obey the Lord!” Saul protested to Samuel. “I went on the mission the Lord sent me on. I captured Agag the Amalekite king, and I put the Amalekites under the ban. 21 Yes, the troops took sheep and cattle from the plunder—the very best items placed under the ban—but in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 Then Samuel replied,

“Does the Lord want entirely burned offerings and sacrifices
    as much as obedience to the Lord?
Listen to this: obeying is better than sacrificing,
    paying attention is better than fat from rams,
23 because rebellion is as bad as the sin of divination;
    arrogance is like the evil of idolatry.[ai]
Because you have rejected what the Lord said,
    he has rejected you as king.”

24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned because I disobeyed the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the troops and obeyed them. 25 But now please forgive my sin! Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I can’t[aj] return with you because you have rejected what the Lord said, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

27 Samuel turned to leave, but Saul grabbed at the edge of his robe, and it ripped. 28 Then Samuel told him, “The Lord has ripped the kingdom of Israel from you today. He will give it to a friend of yours, someone who is more worthy than you. 29 What’s more, the enduring one of Israel doesn’t take back what he says and doesn’t change his mind. He is not a human being who would change his mind.”

30 “I have sinned,” Saul said, “but please honor me in front of my people’s elders and before Israel, and come back with me so I can worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshipped the Lord.

32 “Bring me Agag the Amalekite king,” Samuel said.

Agag came to him in chains, asking, “Would death have been as bitter as this is?”[ak]

33 Samuel said, “Just as your sword left women without their children, now your mother will be childless among women.” Then Samuel cut Agag to pieces in the Lord’s presence at Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah. 35 Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul. However, the Lord regretted making Saul king over Israel.


  1. 1 Samuel 11:1 DSS (4QSama), LXX; MT lacks About a month later.
  2. 1 Samuel 11:7 MT lacks to Saul.
  3. 1 Samuel 12:3 LXX
  4. 1 Samuel 12:6 LXX; MT lacks witness.
  5. 1 Samuel 12:8 LXX; MT lacks the Egyptians oppressed them.
  6. 1 Samuel 12:11 LXX, Syr; MT Bedan
  7. 1 Samuel 12:11 Syr (cf Targ), LXXL Samson; MT, LXXAB Samuel
  8. 1 Samuel 12:15 LXXL; MT against you and against your ancestors
  9. 1 Samuel 13:1 LXXL; Syr twenty-one; MT lacks a number; 13:1 is omitted in LXXB.
  10. 1 Samuel 13:1 Part of the number is missing in MT (… and two years) and all ancient witnesses. Acts 13:21 says Saul ruled forty years, as does Josephus (Ant. 6.14.9 [378]), though Josephus also says Saul ruled twenty years (Ant. 10.8.4 [143]).
  11. 1 Samuel 13:3 Heb shofar
  12. 1 Samuel 13:5 LXX; MT lacks They brought, with them, and to fight Israel.
  13. 1 Samuel 13:12 Or forced myself; Heb uncertain
  14. 1 Samuel 13:14 Or a man loyal to the Lord
  15. 1 Samuel 13:15 LXX; MT lacks much of this verse.
  16. 1 Samuel 13:21 Heb pim, which is two-thirds of a shekel
  17. 1 Samuel 14:3 Heb ephod
  18. 1 Samuel 14:6 MT lacks soldiers.
  19. 1 Samuel 14:14 Heb uncertain
  20. 1 Samuel 14:16 LXX
  21. 1 Samuel 14:18 LXX ephod
  22. 1 Samuel 14:18 LXX; MT “Bring out God’s chest!because at that time God’s chest was with the Israelites; cf 14:3.
  23. 1 Samuel 14:19 That is, from the priestly vest (Heb ephod) or from the Urim and Thummim contained therein
  24. 1 Samuel 14:25 MT land
  25. 1 Samuel 14:34 LXX; MT brought their ox and slaughtered it there that night.
  26. 1 Samuel 14:41 LXX, Vulg; MT Saul asked the Lord God of Israel,Give the right answer.” Urim and Thummim were sacred lots carried by the priest.
  27. 1 Samuel 14:42 LXX adds Whoever the Lord selects will die. The army said to Saul,Don’t do this!But Saul forced them, so they decided between him and Jonathan his son.
  28. 1 Samuel 14:44 LXX; MT if you don’t die, Jonathan
  29. 1 Samuel 14:47 LXX, DSS (4QSama); MT kings of Zobah
  30. 1 Samuel 14:47 LXX
  31. 1 Samuel 15:3 A technique of holy war that often involves total destruction, in which everything that is destroyed is dedicated to the deity who helps in the battle; also in 15:8-9, 15, 18, 20-21.
  32. 1 Samuel 15:9 LXX
  33. 1 Samuel 15:9 LXX; Heb uncertain
  34. 1 Samuel 15:13 LXX adds he was offering entirely burned sacrifices to the Lord, the best of the plunder that he had taken from Amalek. As Samuel approached Saul.
  35. 1 Samuel 15:23 Sym, LXXB; MT evil and idolatry
  36. 1 Samuel 15:26 Or won’t
  37. 1 Samuel 15:32 LXX; Heb uncertain
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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