Samuel’s directions to Saul have not always followed prophetic model, until chapter 15. Now, Samuel brings a “Thus says YHWH” proclamation. Now, there is no doubt what Saul is supposed to do. And now, it’s payback for the Amalekites- total annihilation of this people. Of course we have to understand ancient perceptions when it comes to wiping people out. We can’t always assume the killing was each and every single person. As I noted in a previous post, the Egyptians erected a stele two hundred years before Saul’s time claiming to have destroyed all Israel.
Again, we get Judah numbers separated out. Judah is being singled out already.
How do you set up an ambush with 200 000+ troops? We get another mention of the Kenites here. They are to be spared. The Kenites are descended from Moses’ brother-in-law. Heber’s wife Jael is likely the most noteworthy among these allies of Israel (Judges 4 & 5).
Saul spares Agag, and takes spoils of war. Thus, he does not follow instructions. We’ve seen Saul show mercy to his opposition in previous chapters, even when Samuel calls for severe punishment. Now, Saul’s mercy is his weakness. He keeps the good. Hophni and Phineas got themselves in trouble by taking the best meat from the Israelites, showing contempt for YHWH’s commands. Now Saul is guilty of the same contempt.
In verse 11 we see God “repent” (typically translated as regret, but he is turning from his choice of direction; the verb used is typically meant to read repent). 3 times it is used of God (in the story of Noah, when Israel turns to idols when Moses is on the mountain, and here). Then we read the reason, “There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” Saul is glorifying himself. This is what brought down the house of Eli. Now he’s going to Gilgal again.
I love the sarcasm dripping from Samuel in verse 14, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Oh Samuel, you hostile old man.
Not obeying is as bad as idolatry. Exile theology?
This tearing of the cloth is reminiscent of 1 kings 11:29-40 where the tearing of cloth is used to symbolize the tearing apart of the kingdom.
God has chosen another already. Saul is still in power though; overlapping anointing? Also, one “better” than Saul; Pro-Judah/Davidic line propaganda?
Then Samuel hacks Agag to pieces. Impressive given the lack of swords in Israel… or did the manage to get some from the Philistines? So the Amalekites are now gone, right? But wait, in the Esther narrative we read of Haman the Agagite… whoa. Not only that, but Haman is trying to bring down Mordecai, a descendant of… Kish.
Samuel goes back to Ramah, Saul to Gibeah which seems to be a makeshift capital now… Sodom and Gomorrah is now the capital for God’s chosen people, and the prophet and king don’t see each other again. Given the prophet-king relationship, the two being isolated is a recipe for disaster.