1 SAMUEL 15
[Shmuel Alef 15 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 Samuel [Shmuel] also said unto Saul [Sha'ul], Yahweh sent me to anoint thee [limeshachacha] to be king [ Melech] over His people, over Israel [Yisroel]: now therefore hearken [shema (pay heed)] thou unto the voice of the words [Divrei] of Yahweh.
Saul had so much opportunity to honour and serve the God who had permitted him the honour of leading His people. But sadly, so early in his rulership, he failed to understand the terms of obedience, and to manifest a willingness to uphold the divine righteousness. A simple task was given him to determine his courage and faithfulness to his calling, but he was to misrepresent the matter. This was Saul's third failure and reveals a mind of disobedience and deceit. **
2 Thus saith Yahweh of hosts [Tzva'os], I remember that which Amalek did to Israel [Yisroel], how he laid wait [waylaid] for him in the way [derech], when he came up from Egypt [Mitzrayim].
The Amalekites were a wicked, warlike people, who constantly opposed and attacked the people of God. They were the first to attack Israel out of Egypt, and were soundly defeated at Rephidim (Exo. 17).
3 Now go and smite [attack] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman [ ish and isha], infant and suckling [olel, and yonek], ox and sheep, camel and ass [shor, seh, gamal, and chamor].
... the Creator as the Proprietor may, when He sees fit, with righteousness become the Destroyer of men; and that a man who receives a command to destroy in such circumstances, performs a work of righteousness in performing the commanded work of destruction, as Joshua did in the utter extermination of the Canaanite population that came into his hand, and as Christ and the saints will do when they "execute the judgment written" and destroy the wicked from the earth. *
To men who do not recognise God's side of human affairs, this is very shocking. It is barbarism pure and simple. But with Christ, God's side of human affairs was the great side, and if we are Christ's, it will be because we share his views. Now he said
"the Scripture cannot be broken."
Therefore to him, there was nothing barbarous in this dooming of the Amalekites to destruction. And I think to unbiassed reason, there can be nothing but sober propriety in it when all the elements of the case are allowed their place. The first element is that
"the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: the world and all that dwell therein."
Grant that God has made, who can deny His right to destroy? And if He have the right to destroy, who will deny that He is the sole judge as to when and for what reason that right is to be exercised? He made man, not merely for human satisfaction, but for divine pleasure.
When man ceases to please, may He not send him forth from Eden to death, or drown a whole population in a flood of waters, or give over seven wicked nations to the sword of Joshua?
Reason cannot falter in the answer, though human feeling may have its objections. Reason illuminated by knowledge feels no jar as it listens to the command issued to Saul to extirpate the Amalekites who proved themselves adversaries to the work of God when He brought Israel out of Egypt, and who ever since had walked in their own evil ways.
We may also discern a certain teaching of wisdom which is also unpalatable to human thought, namely, that human life is not the precious thing in God's eyes that it seems in man's. The whole sentiment of Scripture is strong on this point.
"All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted unto him as less than nothing and vanity" (Isa. 40:17). "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass" (1 Pet. 1:24).
And is not experience in harmony with this declaration? A man cooped up in a confined line of life in which he only sees certain persons and does certain things and reads certain books all the year round, may nurse himself into the idea that human life is of sacred and lasting interest.
But let a man go abroad and live long enough to behold not only the endless multitudes, but the endless diversifications and the endless abortivenesses of human life, and the bottomless abyss of decay and death that everywhere yearly receives into itself a ceaseless stream of gigantic volume, he will feel within himself the sentiment that David expressed when he said,
"Lord, what is man that thou takest knowledge of him and the son of man that thou visitest him?"
Saul goes and does the work, but he does not do it thoroughly. He devastates the country of Amalek, destroys the bulk of the population, but he saves alive the well-bred king, and brings back a vast quantity of live stock. God tells Samuel of the unsatisfactory performance, and Samuel meets Saul at his return. He taxes him with his imperfect work. "Yea," said Saul,
"I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me . . . and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites." "What meaneth, then, this bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"
Saul's answer was that the people had brought these for sacrifice. Samuel's rejoinder brings the whole principle of the case to a powerful focus:
"Hath the Lord so great delight in burnt-offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22).
It requires no particular penetration to see here the lesson of all Christ's teaching. The essence of all righteousness is obedience to what God has commanded.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1898
7 And Saul smote [Sha'ul attacked] the Amalekites from [Chavilah] until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt [alongside Mitzrayim].
THOU SHALT NOT KILL!
If the ten commandments were the moral law, and the moral law were "a law of nature", killing could never be right, whereas the killing of the Canaanites became Israel's duty (Deut. 20: 15-17), and the killing of the Amalekites, Saul's duty, for failure in which Saul was ejected from the kingship (1 Sam. 15:3, 23). It is the wrong view of the subject that creates what are called "the moral difficulties of the Old Testament". People holding it read of the slaughter of the Canaanites and many other things with a shock for which there is no ground at all.
Duty is obedience to the commandments of God, and not the following of a supposed natural bias. Natural bias may be whim and darkness. The keeping of the commandments of God is the following of the light, whatever the commandments are. He makes alive, and has a right to kill, and when he says "Kill ", it is wickedness to refrain. The slaughter of the wicked Canaanites was by the order of God, and became an act of righteousness. So with all the other so-called "difficulties" They are difficulties that vanish with a right understanding.
Law of Moses Ch 3
9 But Saul and the people [Sha'ul and HaAm] spared Agag, and the best of the sheep [tzon], and of the oxen [bakar], and of the fatlings [fat bulls and the fat sheep], and the lambs, and all that was good [tov], and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse [despised and worthless], that they destroyed utterly [with utter cherem destruction].
Saul, not realising the divine point of view in the case, only partially executed his commission. He and the people spared the king of the Amalekites...
This was acting the part of the natural man as distinguished from the spiritual man. To destroy the "vile and refuse" was to destroy because vile and refuse, and not because God had commanded. To save "the best of the sheep and oxen" was directly to disobey God-not perhaps out of a desire to disobey, but from a natural sense of the desirability of preserving "the best of the sheep and oxen." *
Agag was a victim more fitted for the judgment of God than the helpless sheep and oxen, whose fat carcases and senseless bleating and lowing, filled the prophet with anger and disdain **
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto Yahweh all night.
When Samuel, on Saul's return, found fault with this, Saul sought to palliate his offence with a plea which made matters worse. *
The Repentance of God Not Inconsistent with His Immutability
'God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent.' Numb. 22:19
cp Gen. 6:6, and Exodus 32:14:
'It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth.'
'The Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do with His people.'
-The first two texts affirm the steadfastness, in the sense of non-fickleness, of any purpose the Almighty may form when the stability of that purpose depends upon Himself alone.
The last three intimate a change of purpose consequent on a change of the conditions in others upon which the purpose was based.
The difference between a stable and an unstable man illustrates the point in some degree. The one can always be relied upon under given circumstances; and the other not at all. But the steadiness of the stable man does not consist in a propensity to adhere with mulish pertinacity to plans without reference to their propriety; but in the disposition to steadily follow a certain course of action so long as that course of action is wise.
To continue in the course when circumstances have so altered as to make that course unwise, would be evidence of stupidity and not of stability. To alter the course when the circumstances dictating it have altered, is no evidence of inconstancy or instability.
The stability of a wise man shows itself in steadily pursuing one end, and in adapting himself to every change in circumstances that might prevent him reaching his aim
Now, in effect, the declaration concerning God...that His purposes, where they depend only upon Himself, are immovable and unchangeable; that anything resting on His word is more certain and secure than the everlasting hills; that He is, in His nature, the highest reason and most steadfast of purpose; that the principles on which he acts are absolutely unchangeable; that nothing like wanton change or fickleness is possible with Him.
But this is not inconsistent with the fact that He adapts Himself to circumstances as they arise in the evolution of His purpose. The human race, in the first instance, turned out differently from His desire. He intended them to be obedient, and was working with them on this basis. They became disobedient and (after much patience) with the alteration in the conditions upon which the original intention was based, He alters His intention, and gives them up as hopeless.
Saul is chosen on the understanding that obedience is the basis of favour. Saul disobeys, and God repents (or changes His mind) with reference to his selection as king. This is not inconsistent with the unchangeability of the principle on which He acts.
The Christadelphian, Sept 1871
18 And Yahweh sent thee on a journey [baderech (on a mission)], and said, Go and utterly destroy [Go destroy with utter cherem destruction] the sinners [chatta'im] the Amalekites, and fight [make war ] against them until they be consumed.
There are two states, or kingdoms, in God's arrangements, which are distinguished by constitution. These are the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. The citizens of the former are all sinners; the heirs of the latter are saints. Men cannot be born heirs by the will of the flesh; for natural birth confers no right to God's kingdom. Men must be born sinners before they can become saints; even as one must be born a foreigner before he can be an adopted citizen of the [United] States.
It is absurd to say that children are born holy, except in the sense of their being legitimate. None are born holy, but such as are born of the spirit into the kingdom of God. Children are born sinners or unclean, because they are born of sinful flesh; and "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," or sin. This is a misfortune, not a crime. They did not will to be born sinners. They have no choice in the case for it is written, "the creature," that is, the animal man,
"was made subject to the evil, not willingly, but according to the arranging in hope (Rom. 8:20).
This subjection to the evil, then, is referrible to the arranging, or constitution of things, which makes up the kosmos, or world. Hence, the apostle says, "by Adam's disobedience the many were made sinners" (Rom. v:19); that is, they were endowed with a nature like his, which had become unclean, as the result of disobedience; and by the constitution of the economy into which they were introduced by the will of the flesh, they were constituted transgressors, before they were able to discern between right and wrong.
Upon this principle, he that is born of sinful flesh is a sinner; as he that is born of English parents is an English child. Such a sinner is an heir of all that is derivable from sin. Hence, new born babes suffer all the evil of the peculiar department of satan, or sin's kingdom to which they belong. Thus, in the case of the Amalekites when the divine vengeance fell upon them, the decree was -- "utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1 Sam. 15:3).
The destruction of "infants and sucklings" is especially commanded in divers parts of Scripture. Not because they were responsible transgressors; but, on the same principle, that men not only destroy all adult serpents that come in their way, but their thread-like progeny also; for in these is the germ of venemous and malignant reptiles. Had God spared the infants and sucklings of the Canaanitish nations, when they had attained to manhood, even though they had been trained by Israel, they would have reverted to the iniquities of their fathers.
Even Israel itself proved a stiff-necked and perverse race, notwithstanding all the pains bestowed upon their education by the Lord God; how much more perverse would such a seed of evil serpents as the Canaanitish offspring have turned out to be.
It is a law of the flesh that "like produces like." Wild and truthless men reproduce themselves in their sons and daughters. The experiment has been tried on Indian infants. They have been taken from their parents, and carefully educated in the learning and civilization of the white man; but when they have returned to their tribe as men, they have thrown off the habits of their patrons, and adopted the practices of savage life.
The same tendency is seen in other animals. Hatch the eggs of the wild turkey under a tame one; and as soon as they are able to shift for themselves they will leave the poultry yard, and associate with the wild species of the woods. So strong is habit that it becomes a law to the flesh, when continued through generations for a series of years.
Elpis Israel 1.4
22 And Samuel [Shmuel] said, Hath Yahweh as great [chefetz] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices [olot and zevakhim], as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold [Hinei], to obey is better than sacrifice [zevach], and to hearken [pay heed] than the fat of rams [chelev eilim].
"Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me;" "if any man love Me, he will keep My words;" and "he that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words" (John 14:21,23,24).
In the face of these sayings of Jesus, what is the love of "professors" for God and his Son worth? It is like their faith, of no account whatever. God asks men for their hearts, but they give Him only their lips. They profess to love Him, but give their affections to the world.
From the ecclesiastical throne, or pulpit, to the humblest "layman," can they give a Scriptural demonstration of obedience to the faith? They offer verbal sacrifices without end; at least they do who are compensated for their words; the "laity" are possessed of a legion of dumb spirits, and sit only as the listless hearers of the "eloquence" presented according to their taste--but where is obedience to the gospel of the kingdom in the name of Jesus?
Who ever thinks of obeying this? And yet He comes to take vengeance on all who obey it not (2 Thess. 1:8).
I cannot too earnestly commend the words of Samuel to the attention of the reader in this place. "Hath the Lord," saith he, "as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:22, 23).
A great principle is set forth in these words. It is that which can alone place men in harmony with the religion of God. Without it a man may in deed know the truth, but he must believe and do if he would inherit the kingdom which has been preparing from the foundation of the world.
Religion is of two kinds; that, namely, which is invented by the thinking of sinful flesh, and that which is revealed of God. The former is superstition, and leads men to do a vast deal more than God requires of them, or less than he has appointed. In what is called "Christendom" most improperly (for instead of being Christ's dominion as the word implies, it is the arena of His sufferings in the persons of His disciples, and in the suppression of His truth) these extremes of superstition in its plus and minus exhibitions, are illustrated in all their diversity from popery, which is superstition in excess, down to quakerism, which is superstition in its homeopathic proportion.
The religion of God, on the contrary, is the juste milieu, occupying a commanding and dignified position between the two extremes. It does not require men to abase themselves in the dust, and to afflict their bodies for their sins, nor to plant themselves as so many statues of clay, with downcast or upturned visages, in the silence of the sepulchre, under pretence of waiting for him to move them to preach or pray.
There is no fanaticism nor pietism in His religion. When in the exercise of it men are moved to action, they are acted upon by an intelligent and earnest conviction of the truth. This is the instrumentality by which He rouses men to religious exercise--by the spirit, which is the truth (1 John 5:6).
Elpis Israel 1.5.
23 For rebellion[meri] is as the sin [chattat] of witchcraft [kesem], and stubbornness is as [heathenish] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word [Devar] of Yahweh, He hath also rejected thee from being king [Melech].
24 And Saul [Sha'ul] said unto Samuel [Shmuel], I have sinned [Chatati ]: for I have transgressed the commandment of Yahweh, and thy words: because I feared the people [HaAm], and obeyed their voice.
Saul revealed the true secret of his proceeding. He confessed he had sinned in the matter, but it was the confession of a man who finds himself in the custody of the law-caught in the act. It was the withdrawal of the crown that brought him to his knees. When left to act without compulsion, he acted from merely natural considerations-the fear of man and the desire to possess eligible spoil. He did not act from a recognition of the sacred and terribly binding obligation of the divine commandment. He acted exactly as Adam and Eve did; disobeyed from good motives as such are reckoned by the merely natural man.
In this is to be found the answer which those need who say they cannot see in what way Saul was so bad a man. He was not a bad man according to the human standards of action. He was a bad man according to the divine standard, which is the eternal standard. He did not recognise the divine will as the rule of action, but acted from human impression of what was nice, and convenient, and useful, which is all very well where the divine will has neither prescribed nor prohibited, but which is the reverse where God has commanded.
On this same principle, we may easily discern how it is that many men are "good" men according to human estimate, but not good according to the divine estimate. The first ingredient of goodness towards God, without which goodness has not begun, is obedience, springing from knowledge which generates love and fear. It was in this sense that Saul (though a tall man, "a goodly man to look to," and an amiable good-natured sort of man that would be popular with the world) was by no means a man after God's own heart, as his successor was. *
* Visible Hand of God Ch 23
28 And Samuel [Shmuel] said unto him, Yahweh hath rent the kingdom of Israel [torn the Mamlechut Yisroel] from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour [ re'a] of thine, that is better than thou.
Yahweh requires real obedience, literally. His language never exceeds His meaning. Conscience is revealed in obedience to minute things. It is therefore possible to give a religious reason for an act of disobedience (v. 23). One can be seduced into disobedience by popular clamour, and through pride (v. 24). Continued disobedience is certain to bring the withdrawal of the best influences of life (v. 35). **
29 And also the Strength [Netzach] of Israel [Yisroel] will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man [adam], that he should repent [change His mind].
"YAH is my AlL, and my father's ELOHIM," says Moses and the Israelites: that is, the ETERNAL INVISIBLE SPIRIT (Jhn. 4:24), who made all things by His power (Gen. 1:2), even YAH is "the strength of Israel" (1 Sam. 15:29); manifested in the ELOHIM, or incorruptible and immortal angels, who made themselves visible to Abraham and Jacob, "and who do his commandments;" "his ministers who do his pleasure" (Psa. 103:20,21), whether that pleasure be to fit up the earth for the indwelling of mankind, as related in Genesis; or to execute judgment upon Egypt, and the cities of the plain -
the invisible YAH~SPIRIT working everything by His power through oft-times visible ELOHISTIC SPIRITS. The Invisible One, "whom no man hath seen," visibly manifested in them to Adam in Eden's Garden; to Lot in Sodom; to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Hur, and seventy of the Elders of Israel (Exod. 24:10,11,13,17); to David; to Mary, the mother of Jesus; and in many other instances not necessary to mention here.
This is the doctrine of GOD-MANIFESTATION expressed by Moses in his song - a manifestation of ONE through MANY. But Moses did not confine himself simply to what existed. His words were prophetic of a FUTURE SPIRIT-MANIFESTATION; for he adds, "Yahweh is a Man of War."
But Samuel says, that "the strength of Israel is not a man". Moses and Samuel, however, are not at variance; but were contemplating the YAH-SPIRIT in different periods of manifestation. The strength of Israel was "not a man" until "manifested in the flesh" in the days of Jesus.
The Man Christ Jesus was the YAH-SPIRIT manifested Adamically; that is, in our nature; but he has not yet been manifested as "a Man of War". These facts indicate that Moses in his song was referring to YAH'S manifestation, as Apocalyptically exhibited in the scene of ch. 19:11-16, where he appears as a Man of War in the midst of His "called, and chosen, and faithful" brethren in arms; who, with their invincible chief, are the Yahweh-Spirit Conquerors, standing victorious upon the glassy sea.