1 Samuel 15

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Read 1 Samuel 15

The Lord Rejects Saul as King

1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

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

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”

Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

33 But Samuel said,

“As your sword has made women childless,
    so will your mother be childless among women.”

And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Go Deeper

God gave Saul a very specific command: Destroy the Amalekites and all that belongs to them (v. 3). Hundreds of years earlier, the Amalekites had committed terrible sin against the Israelites when they attacked them after their escape from Egypt. We learn in Exodus 17:14 that the Lord told Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” Four hundred years after that command was given from the Lord, God is giving Saul an opportunity to redeem himself through obedience. In verses 4-9, Saul does a lot of what God asked him to do, but he did not keep every detail. Saul directly disobeyed the explicit will of the Lord. 

When we get to 1 Samuel 15:13, we see Samuel come to confront Saul. Saul reports in this verse “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” It’s comical to imagine Saul standing in celebration at the monument he has built to himself as he proclaims that he has completed the task just as the Lord asked. We read in verse 14 that Samuel can hear the bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen that were supposed to be killed in the not-so-distant background. Saul’s pride and disobedience made him deaf to his own sin.

We can learn many important lessons from the way that Saul reacts and responds after Samuel confronts him about his disobedience. Saul’s immediate response was to place blame on others… “They have brought them from the Amalekites” (v. 15). He then proceeds to justify his sin by saying that the animals were spared so that they could be sacrificed to the Lord ( v. 15). Finally, he begs Samuel to worship with him in verse 25 because he seems more concerned with the appearance of his repentance than the actual state of his heart.  

We can see a lot of ourselves in Saul. How often when confronted with sin do we deflect blame to other people? Or justify our sinful motivations and actions? And how often are we more concerned with how our revealed sin is going to look to other people than how destructive the hidden sin will be to our own lives and those around us. 

God tells us through Samuel that obedience is better than sacrifice. The sacrificial system was never intended to replace living an obedient life–it was intended to be an expression of it. Saul’s sin was in the disobedience of God’s commands and his desire to seek the approval of people rather than of God. In sacrifice, people were offering the flesh of another creature, but in obedience we have the opportunity to offer ourselves. May we seek to live out Romans 12:1 and be “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, as our spiritual act of worship.”


  1. John 14:15 says “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  Do you struggle to obey God’s words and commandments?
  2. Do you have friends, like Samuel, that you allow to point out the sins in your life that you might be blind/deaf to? (like the bleating sheep)
  3. Spend some time confessing to the Lord areas of your life where you are seeking the approval of people more than the approval of God.

Did You Know?

We can’t overlook the way that Saul’s disobedience affected Samuel. 1 Samuel 15:11 says “…And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night.” This verse is a reminder that when we are close to the heart of God, like Samuel was, the things that grieve Him will grieve us, and the things that please God will please us!

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3 thoughts on “1 Samuel 15”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    I see one notable act Saul accomplished in this passage when he allowed the Kenites to separate from the Amalekites before his attack. He recalled how the Kenites had shown kindness to Israel when they came out of Egypt. Soon afterwards Saul is caught in the downward spiral of sin that forever changes the trajectory of his life. Before God rejected Saul, Saul rejected God. When confronted by Samuel, Saul shows his true colors: Disobedience, pride, deceitfulness, & rationalization. I’m reminded that my poor choices grieve the heart of God. Every time I veer off the straight and narrow path, I am showing I think my way is best, not his. Obedience is the only way that glorifies my Savior. I must hear, trust, submit & surrender to God and his Word. I want God’s approval over any other.

  2. Kathy Davidson

    Verse 24 is telling for Saul: “I have sinned for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD & your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Saul had been given the explicit will of God & yet he chose to disregard part of it & to justify his disobedience because he cared more about what others thought than God. The fear of man was his downfall. And it is often ours as well. God has explicitly given us his will & yet, oftentimes we disobey, disregard & worse, justify our disobedience in order to fit in more with the people around us. May God’s anger at Saul here remind us of His anger at our sin when we chose to fit in & do what’s easy, rather than follow Him. God- forgive us & help us. Destroy our idol of people-pleasing & help us obey your voice only.

  3. So often I have transgressed against the Lord’s command thinking that God will change His mind. I soon find out that I have sinned, once again, amd am in need of Jesus to bail me out. Therefore, may I trust, believe, and obey what the Lord has said to me that I may grow in maturity and wisdom.

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