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Saul refuses to completely destroy the Amalekites
We learned earlier that the year was about 1048 B.C. when Saul began to construct his specialised army. David was crowned king over Judah in 1010 B.C. at the age of thirty which means he was born in 1040 B.C., therefore, eight years before David was born, Samuel said to Saul, "The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart." This reminds us of Luke 1:14-171, where the angel of the Lord prophesied that John the Baptist would be the forerunner of Jesus "to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people Prepared for the Lord." This promise was made before John was conceived. As Ephesians 2: 101 says, " We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Chapter 13 contains interesting information from an archaeological perspective. Since it was 1048 B.C., only seven years had elapsed since the battle of Mizpeh, when the Philistines were defeated after their forty year occupation of the land. Verse 19 says there were no black-smiths in the land because the Philistines had forbidden them so that the Hebrews could not make weapons. The army fought with weapons such as axes, ox goads, plough-shares, and pitchforks. Only Saul and Jonathan had swords, evidently as signs of their offices of king and prince. Chapter 14 contains two important genealogies. In verse 31 we read: "Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod." From First Samuel 22:9-12, 20, we learn that Ahiah was a short form of Ahimelech. Later we find that Abiathar, the son of Ahiah (or Ahimelech), served as priest for David. The other important genealogy is in 14:49-50. Saul's sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua, by his wife Ahinoam (v50). The captain of his army was Abner, the son of Ner. In 9:1 we read that Abiel gave birth to Kish and Ner. Kish was the father of Saul and Ner was the father of Abner. So, Saul, and his commander-in-chief Abner, were first cousins. In I Chronicles 8:33 we learn that Saul also had two additional sons, named Esh-baal and Ish-bosheth. In I Samuel 14:47, there is a summary of all the battles which took place during the next twenty-two years, making a gap of twenty-two years between 14:52 and 15:1. We can therefore date chapter 15 at 1026 B.C. and this is when we read the details of Saul's four tragic sins which brought about God's censure and judgement on his life and his kingdom. We can understand it more fully by examining the historical background from Deuteronomy 25:191:
"Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it."
This was prophetic, and the task of fulfilling this commandment which had to be obeyed by the children of Israel fell on the shoulders of Saul, Israel's first monarch (15:2-3). It has become obvious in Scripture that our omnipotent God is never in a hurry. The words of Peter that one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8) are certainly true in the case of God in His judgment on those who oppose Him. We have seen that the inhabitants of Canaan were given seven hundred years of grace. Eli had fifteen years of grace. Now the Amalekites have had four hundred years of grace since they attacked the hindmost flank of the weak and elderly Israelites after they came out of Egypt. That event occurred in 1446 B.C. and the year was now 1026 B.C. But, God has not forgotten His promise to Moses that He would blot out Amalek. God said (vs.21), "Thus says the Lord, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel," and in verse 3, Samuel instructed Saul, "Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not."
Saul summoned the fighting men and numbered them. Then he "came to a city of Amalek. and laid wait in the valley" (v5). Verse 7 tells us that the battle raged "from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt." Saul defeated the Amalekites and captured Agag, their king, but kept him alive (v 9): "But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly".
In direct opposition and disobedience to God's prophecy and commandment made 420 years earlier, they spared the king and whatever spoil they considered to be of value. God's chosen instrument to carry out His will failed to obey, and so His judgment fell on Saul. Following Saul's sin and failure, God spoke to Samuel and said, "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me." Samuel rose early in the morning and went to meet Saul. Saul greeted him with the words, "Blessed be thou of the Lord" (v13). This once humble man, who twenty-four years earlier had hidden himself among the baggage, had now reached the exalted plateau in his life where he blessed the priest, prophet, and judge sent by God. Samuel approached and asked, "What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears?" (v14). Saul replied (v15), "They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep." "The people spared the best of the sheep" - once again Saul tries to pin the blame on others and attempts to abrogate his responsibility. Clearly he had the position of authority and therefore the power to insist that God's prophetic instruction and commandment should be fully carried out but, like the flabby and spineless leadership which had gone before him, exemplified by Eli and his sons, he also took the weak human path and attempted to deflect criticism by pointing out the great religious services he could do for God with these animals as sacrificial offerings, forgetting again that God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22-23) and also that these were the defiled products of an evil and condemned nation.
(Continued on page 548)