1 Samuel 15-17
Contemporary English Version
Saul Disobeys the Lord
15 One day, Samuel told Saul:
The Lord had me choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord: 2 “When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
3 “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
4 Saul sent messengers who told every town and village to send men to join the army at Telaim. There were two hundred ten thousand troops in all, and ten thousand of these were from Judah. Saul organized them, 5 then led them to a valley near one of the towns in[a] Amalek, where they got ready to make a surprise attack. 6 Some Kenites lived nearby, and Saul told them, “Your people were kind to our nation when we left Egypt, and I don’t want you to get killed when I wipe out the Amalekites. Leave here and stay away from them.”
The Kenites left, 7 and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah[b] to Shur, which is just east of Egypt. 8 Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag. 9 Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn’t want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.[c]
The Lord Rejects Saul
10 The Lord told Samuel, 11 “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.”
Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the Lord all night. 12 Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal.”
13 Samuel finally caught up with Saul,[d] and Saul told him, “I hope the Lord will bless you! I have done what the Lord told me.”
14 “Then why,” Samuel asked, “do I hear sheep and cattle?”
15 “The army took them from the Amalekites,” Saul explained. “They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the Lord your God. But we destroyed everything else.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said. “Let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”
“All right,” Saul answered.
17 Samuel continued, “You may not think you’re very important, but the Lord chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel. 18 When the Lord sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites. 19 Why didn’t you listen to the Lord? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?”
20 “But I did listen to the Lord!” Saul answered. “He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation. 21 All the animals were going to be destroyed[e] anyway. That’s why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the Lord your God.”
22 “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king.”
24 “I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead. 25 Please forgive me and come back with me so I can worship the Lord.”
26 “No!” Samuel replied, “You disobeyed the Lord, and I won’t go back with you. Now the Lord has said that you can’t be king of Israel any longer.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel’s robe. It tore! 28 Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. 29 Besides, the eternal[f] God of Israel isn’t a human being. He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind.”
30 Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”
31 Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord. 32 Then Samuel shouted, “Bring me King Agag of Amalek!”
33 But Samuel said, “Agag, you have snatched children from their mothers' arms and killed them. Now your mother will be without children.” Then Samuel chopped Agag to pieces at the place of worship in Gilgal.
34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again.
The Lord Chooses David To Be King
The Lord was sorry he had made Saul the king of Israel. 16 1 One day he said, “Samuel, I’ve rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil[i] in a small container[j] and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I’ve chosen one of his sons to be my king.”
2 Samuel answered, “If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed.”
“Take a calf with you,” the Lord replied. “Tell everyone that you’ve come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, 3 then invite Jesse to the sacrifice.[k] When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, “Is this a friendly visit?”
5 “Yes, it is!” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Get yourselves ready[l] to take part in the sacrifice and come with me.” Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.
6 When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. “He has to be the one the Lord has chosen,” Samuel said to himself.
7 But the Lord told him, “Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”
8 Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him.”
9 Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen him either.”
10 Jesse had all seven of his sons go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, “Jesse, the Lord hasn’t chosen any of these young men. 11 Do you have any more sons?”
“Yes,” Jesse answered. “My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep.”
“Send for him!” Samuel said. “We won’t start the ceremony until he gets here.”
12 Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the Lord told Samuel, “He’s the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head.”[m]
13 Samuel poured the oil on David’s head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and stayed with him from then on.
Samuel returned home to Ramah.
David Plays the Harp for Saul
14 The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord was terrifying him. 15 “It’s an evil spirit from God that’s frightening you,” Saul’s officials told him. 16 “Your Majesty, let us go and look for someone who is good at playing the harp. He can play for you whenever the evil spirit from God bothers you, and you’ll feel better.”
17 “All right,” Saul answered. “Find me someone who is good at playing the harp and bring him here.”
18 “A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp,” one official said. “He’s a brave warrior, he’s good-looking, he can speak well, and the Lord is with him.”
19 Saul sent a message to Jesse: “Tell your son David to leave your sheep and come here to me.”
20 Jesse loaded a donkey with bread and a goatskin full of wine,[n] then he told David to take the donkey and a young goat to Saul. 21 David went to Saul and started working for him. Saul liked him so much that he put David in charge of carrying his weapons. 22 Not long after this, Saul sent another message to Jesse: “I really like David. Please let him stay with me.”
23 Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away.
Goliath Challenges Israel’s Army
17 The Philistines got ready for war and brought their troops together to attack the town of Socoh in Judah. They set up camp at Ephes-Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah.[o] 2-3 King Saul and the Israelite army set up camp on a hill overlooking Elah Valley, and they got ready to fight the Philistine army that was on a hill on the other side of the valley.
4 The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet[p] tall. 5-6 He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back, 7 and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.
8 Goliath went out and shouted to the army of Israel:
Why are you lining up for battle? I’m the best soldier in our army, and all of you are in Saul’s army. Choose your best soldier to come out and fight me! 9 If he can kill me, our people will be your slaves. But if I kill him, your people will be our slaves. 10 Here and now I challenge Israel’s whole army! Choose someone to fight me!
11 Saul and his men heard what Goliath said, but they were so frightened of Goliath that they couldn’t do a thing.
David Decides to Challenge Goliath
12 David’s father Jesse was an old man, who belonged to the Ephrath clan and lived in Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons: 13-14 the oldest was Eliab, the next was Abinadab, and Shammah was the third. The three of them had gone off to fight in Saul’s army.
David was Jesse’s youngest son. 15 He took care of his father’s sheep, and he went back and forth between Bethlehem and Saul’s camp.
16 Goliath came out and gave his challenge every morning and every evening for forty days.
17 One day, Jesse told David, “Hurry and take this sack of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread to your brothers at the army camp. 18 And here are ten large chunks of cheese to take to their commanding officer. Find out how your brothers are doing and bring back something that shows that they’re all right. 19 They’re with Saul’s army, fighting the Philistines in Elah Valley.”
20 David obeyed his father. He got up early the next morning and left someone else in charge of the sheep; then he loaded the supplies and started off. He reached the army camp just as the soldiers were taking their places and shouting the battle cry. 21 The army of Israel and the Philistine army stood there facing each other.
22 David left his things with the man in charge of supplies and ran up to the battle line to ask his brothers if they were well. 23 While David was talking with them, Goliath came out from the line of Philistines and started boasting as usual. David heard him.
24 When the Israelite soldiers saw Goliath, they were scared and ran off. 25 They said to each other, “Look how he keeps coming out to insult us. The king is offering a big reward to the man who kills Goliath. That man will even get to marry the king’s daughter, and no one in his family will ever have to pay taxes again.”
26 David asked some soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and stopping him from insulting our people? Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He’s making fun of the army of the living God!”
27 The soldiers told David what the king would give the man who killed Goliath.
28 David’s oldest brother Eliab heard him talking with the soldiers. Eliab was angry at him and said, “What are you doing here, anyway? Who’s taking care of that little flock of sheep out in the desert? You spoiled brat! You came here just to watch the fighting, didn’t you?”
29 “Now what have I done?” David answered. “Can’t I even ask a question?” 30 Then he turned and asked another soldier the same thing he had asked the others, and he got the same answer.
31 Some soldiers overheard David talking, so they told Saul what David had said. Saul sent for David, and David came. 32 “Your Majesty,” he said, “this Philistine shouldn’t turn us into cowards. I’ll go out and fight him myself!”
33 “You don’t have a chance against him,” Saul replied. “You’re only a boy, and he’s been a soldier all his life.”
34 But David told him:
Your Majesty, I take care of my father’s sheep. And when one of them is dragged off by a lion or a bear, 35 I go after it and beat the wild animal until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the throat and kill it.
36 Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way, and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn’t have made fun of the army of the living God! 37 The Lord has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine.
“All right,” Saul answered, “go ahead and fight him. And I hope the Lord will help you.”
38 Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear. 39 David strapped on a sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things.
“I can’t move with all this stuff on,” David said. “I’m just not used to it.”
David took off the armor 40 and picked up his shepherd’s stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath.
David Kills Goliath
41 Goliath came toward David, walking behind the soldier who was carrying his shield. 42 When Goliath saw that David was just a healthy, good-looking boy, he made fun of him. 43 “Do you think I’m a dog?” Goliath asked. “Is that why you’ve come after me with a stick?” He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods 44 and shouted, “Come on! When I’m finished with you, I’ll feed you to the birds and wild animals!”
45 David answered:
You’ve come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But I’ve come out to fight you in the name of the Lord All-Powerful. He is the God of Israel’s army, and you have insulted him too!
46 Today the Lord will help me defeat you. I’ll knock you down and cut off your head, and I’ll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God. 47 Everybody here will see that the Lord doesn’t need swords or spears to save his people. The Lord always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you.
48 When Goliath started forward, David ran toward him. 49 He put a rock in his sling and swung the sling around by its straps. When he let go of one strap, the rock flew out and hit Goliath on the forehead. It cracked his skull, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 David defeated Goliath with a sling and a rock. He killed him without even using a sword.
51 David ran over and pulled out Goliath’s sword. Then he used it to cut off Goliath’s head.
When the Philistines saw what had happened to their hero, they started running away. 52 But the soldiers of Israel and Judah let out a battle cry and went after them as far as Gath[q] and Ekron. The bodies of the Philistines were scattered all along the road from Shaaraim to Gath and Ekron.
53 When the Israelite army returned from chasing the Philistines, they took what they wanted from the enemy camp. 54 David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem, but he kept Goliath’s weapons in his own tent.
David Becomes One of Saul’s Officers
55 After King Saul had watched David go out to fight Goliath, Saul turned to the commander of his army and said, “Abner, who is that young man?”
“Your Majesty,” Abner answered, “I swear by your life that I don’t know.”
56 “Then find out!” Saul told him.
57 When David came back from fighting Goliath, he was still carrying Goliath’s head.
Abner took David to Saul, 58 and Saul asked, “Who are you?”
“I am David the son of Jesse, a loyal Israelite from Bethlehem.”
- 15.5 one. . . in: Or “the town of.”
- 15.7 from Havilah: Or “from the valley” (see 15.5).
- 15.9 animals. . . weak: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 15.13 Saul: One ancient translation adds “Saul had sacrificed to the Lord the best animals they had taken from Amalek, when Samuel came up to him. . .”
- 15.21 animals. . . destroyed: The Hebrew means things that were set aside for God. They could not be used for anything else, so they had to be destroyed.
- 15.29 eternal: Or “glorious.”
- 15.32 in chains: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 15.32 Surely. . . now: Hebrew; one ancient translation “It would have been better to die in battle!”
- 16.1 olive oil: See the note at 9.16.
- 16.1 small container: Hebrew “horn”; animal horns were sometimes hollowed out and used as containers.
- 16.3 sacrifice: A sacrifice often involved a dinner where the meat from the sacrificed animal would be served.
- 16.5 Get yourselves ready: The people of Israel sometimes had to perform certain ceremonies to make themselves acceptable to God.
- 16.12 olive oil on his head: See the note at 9.16.
- 16.20 wine: Wine was sometimes kept in bottles made of goatskin sewn up with the fur on the outside.
- 17.1 Socoh and Azekah: Socoh was controlled by the Israelites, while Azekah was in Philistine hands.
- 17.4 over nine feet: The Standard Hebrew Text; the Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of one ancient translation have “almost seven feet.”
- 17.52 Gath: One ancient translation; Hebrew “a valley.”