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Poole on 1 Samuel 15:1-3: The Lord's War against Amalek!

[circa 1079 BC] Verse 1:[1] Samuel also said unto Saul, (1 Sam. 9:16) The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

[The Lord sent me, so that I might anoint thee] That is to say, Thou hast been chosen King by God. For which reason it is just that thou serve Him. And, although all Kings are obliged to obey God, thou art especially obliged (Martyr). Question: How is Samuel said to have been sent to Saul, while on the contrary Saul had been sent to Samuel? Response: He does not speak of the sending according to external motion, but according to internal and prophetic instinct. In this sense, both Jeremiah, Jeremiah 49:14, and Obadiah, Obadiah 1, are said to have been sent to the nations. Thus also Ahijah is said to have been sent to the wife of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 14:6, although the Queen is reported to have come to him (Mendoza).

[Over His people, Israel] Hebrew: over His people, over Israel.[2] This is of the elegancies of the Hebrew language. Thus in Genesis 21:10, with my son, with Isaac;[3] and in Genesis 32:6, to thy brother, to Esau.[4] So in Genesis 4:2;[5] Zechariah 11:10[6] (Drusius).

[Now therefore hear the voice of the Lord, שְׁמַ֔ע לְק֖וֹל דִּבְרֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃] Hearken to the voice of the words of the Lord (Montanus, Syriac, similarly Drusius, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus). The same expression is found in Deuteronomy 1:34; 4:12; Job 33:8; 34:16. That is, listen to the voice of God speaking. For it is the voice of weeping,[7] of singing,[8] etc. Some have it, hear the voice, the words of the Lord, treating it as ἀσύνθετον/asyndeton, in the place of and words, etc. (Drusius); heed the voice and words of the Lord (Junius and Tremellius); now therefore hearken to the voice of the words, etc., that is, of the Oracles of the Lord. For, there were a number of divine oracles concerning the overthrow of Amalek, Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:17; and this passage; so that thence the guilt of Saul might be reckoned weightier, who violated a mandate so often repeated (Mendoza).

Now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD: The Lord made thee king, and therefore thou art highly obliged to serve and obey him. Thou hast committed one error already, for which God hath severely rebuked and threatened; now therefore make amends for thy former error, and regain God’s favour by thy exact obedience to what he now commands.

Verse 2:[9] Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, (Ex. 17:8, 14; Num. 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19) how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

[I have reckoned up (thus Montanus, Tigurinus)] He speaks in a human manner; that is to say, I have unrolled the annals, and have found that Amalek owes satisfaction to me (Menochius out of Sanchez). פָּקַדְתִּי, I remember (Jonathan, Syriac, Pagnine, Vatablus, English). I contemplated (Munster). I have called to reckoning (Strigelius). I know (Arabic). I have visited (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), that is, I have recollected, and decided to visit (Junius). I have considered. Metonymy of determined effect, and Metaphor. For, he that visits something, does this for this reason, that he might look immediately upon it; or, I visited, that is, I will certainly visit, that is, in vengeance (Piscator). But to visit in this sense usually have the particle עַל/against/upon after it (Drusius). The force of this oft repeated expression in Sacred Scripture is to execute the promised good, or the threatened evil (Malvenda).

[What Amalek did] Some think the people of the Amalekites to be twofold: one of Eliphaz, the son of Esau, Genesis 36:12; the other long before Esau, Genesis 14:7. Thus Origen and Strabo[10] on Exodus 17 appear to think. Nevertheless, most more correctly make this only one people, and those of Genesis 14:7 so called by Prolepsis (Mendoza). [See the notes on that passage.] God is said to remember now, because He was previously appearing to have forgotten. For, He had long delayed this vengeance (Martyr). Note that this sin, committed four hundred years earlier, was not now erased from the divine recollection (Mendoza).

I remember, etc.: I seem to have forgotten, but now I will show that I remember, and now will revenge, those old injuries done four hundred years ago, which now I will punish in their children; which was the more just, because they continued in their parents’ cruel practices, below, verse 33.

[How he withstood him in the way, אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֥ם לוֹ֙ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ] What he put to him in the way (Munster, Tigurinus); for he set himself in opposition to him (Vatablus, Drusius, Dutch); who set a battle line against him on the journey (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, English, Hebrews in Vatablus), or, set an ambush against him (Pagnine, Montanus, Drusius out of Kimchi, similarly Jonathan). Note that to put/set is used absolutely, in the place of to set an ambush. Elsewhere it signifies to pitch a camp. Thus in Psalm 3:6.[11] Thus Virgil used tendere, to stretch or to encamp. What if it be, he placed against him, so that לוֹ, to him, might be עָלָיו, against him? Judge (Drusius). He met him in the way (Septuagint).

[When he came up out of Egypt] The proper and most prominent reason why God so severely commanded that the Amalekites be destroyed was that they attempted to turn the Hebrews, now recently joined to God at Sinai, as novitiates in faith and religion, as it were, and following God as their guide unto the promised land, from Him, indeed, to overthrow this work of God. Hence learn how reluctantly God endures and grievously punishes those that scandalize novitiates in the faith,[12] and attempt to turn them from it. For these kill in them the nascent God and Christ, as it were, and hence are Deicides and Christicides, as it were (Lapide). He had said that the Amalekites had been routed, 1 Samuel 14:48. But this fight is here separately described in greater detail because of the lapse of Saul (Martyr). The injuries of these were the most grievous, 1. Because they were the first of all to attack Israel, and thence they gave occasion to attack to other nations round about. 2. Because they assailed the Israelites, both with great violence, and with deceit. 3. Because they violated the laws of piety, by attacking kinsmen: evidently the old animosities between Jacob and Esau were cleaving to their hearts, and breaking out again. 4. Because they rushed upon the miserable, upon the weary and stragglers, etc. (Deuteronomy 25:18), and upon a people worn out with hunger and labor; and, where there was the most misery, their ferocity showed most: which is bestial (Mendoza).

In the way when he came up from Egypt; when he was newly come out of cruel and long bondage, and was now weak, and weary, and faint, and hungry, Deuteronomy 25:18; and therefore it was barbarous and inhuman, instead of that pity which even nature prompted them to afford, to add affliction to the afflicted; it was also horrid impiety to fight against God himself, and to lift up their hand in a manner against the Lord’s throne, as some translate these words, Exodus 17:16,[13] whilst they struck at that people which God had brought forth in so stupendous and miraculous a way.

Verse 3:[14] Now go and smite Amalek, and (Lev. 27:28, 29; Josh. 6:17, 21) 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.

[Destroy thou all of his, וְהַחֲרַמְתֶּם] Place ye under anathema, that is, reduce ye all things to nothing. What things live, kill; what things live not, burn and lay waste, lest anything usefulness arise hence to anyone. For, the verb חָרַם/ charam signifies this, although it sometimes signifies, to dedicate and to consecrate something to God (Munster).

All that they have, both persons and goods; kill all that live, and consume all things without life; for I will have no name nor remnant of that people, whom long since I have cursed and devoted to utter destruction.

[Spare him not] When we are pursuing our own cause, some mercy is to be granted. But, when the glory of God is at stake, and God commands a thing to be done with severity, God does not love misguided clemency. Hence He always inculcates that they be not touched with pity towards the Canaanites or Amalekites (Martyr). The punishment of Amalek is ordered with many and various words, smite, destroy, etc., whereby He signifies a most vehement desire to punish, as in Jeremiah 1:10 (Mendoza).

Spare them not; show no compassion or favour to any of them. The same thing repeated to prevent mistake, and oblige Saul to the exact performance hereof; or, to leave him without excuse, in case of neglect.

[Both the infant and the suckling] For, although these are without any fault, yet they are not killed without cause; and God, who thus commands it to be done, is the Lord of life and death (Menochius). God also desired their memory to be abolished; but it was enduring in their posterity (Lapide). Infants were also liable to death on account of original sin (Lapide, similarly Martyr); and a swift death was for them a blessing, rather than a punishment; lest, if they should grow to adulthood, they sin more grievously, and be punished more severely (Lapide out of Mendoza). All the posterity of Amalek were retaining the ancestral hatred for the people of God; and all were guilty of the same crime. For also, Agag is said to have left many women bereaved.[15] Then, many, because of the sins of others, are also smitten with a temporal (although not eternal) punishment by human law (Mendoza).

Infant and suckling; for their parents’ crime and punishment; which was not unjust, because God is the supreme Lord and giver of life, and can require his own when he pleaseth; infants also are born in sin, Psalm 51:5, and therefore liable to God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3, and to death, Romans 5:12, 14. Their death also was rather a mercy than a curse to them, as being the occasion of preventing the vast increase of their sin and punishment.

[Ox and sheep, etc.] He thus enumerates all these, distributively and painstakingly, lest any place afterwards be left to Saul for excuse. It is not strange, if sheep are involved in the curse of the people. For they are the possessions of men (Martyr).

Ox and sheep, camel and ass; which being all made for man’s benefit, it is not strange nor unjust if they suffer with him, and for him and for the instruction of mankind.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל אֹתִ֙י שָׁלַ֤ח יְהוָה֙ לִמְשָׁחֳךָ֣ לְמֶ֔לֶךְ עַל־עַמּ֖וֹ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְעַתָּ֣ה שְׁמַ֔ע לְק֖וֹל דִּבְרֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ [2] Hebrew: עַל־עַמּ֖וֹ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל. [3] Genesis 21:10: “Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac (עִם־בְּנִ֖י עִם־יִצְחָֽק׃).” [4] Genesis 32:6: “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother, to Esau (אֶל־אָחִ֙יךָ֙ אֶל־עֵשָׂ֔ו), and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.” [5] Genesis 4:2: “And she again bare his brother Abel (אֶת־אָחִ֖יו אֶת־הָ֑בֶל). And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” [6] Zechariah 11:10: “And I took my staff, even Beauty (אֶת־מַקְלִי֙ אֶת־נֹ֔עַם), and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.” [7] See, for example, Isaiah 65:19: “And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying (ק֥וֹל בְּכִ֖י וְק֥וֹל זְעָקָֽה׃).” [8] See, for example, Exodus 32:18: “And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing (קוֹל֙ עֲנ֣וֹת גְּבוּרָ֔ה וְאֵ֥ין ק֖וֹל עֲנ֣וֹת חֲלוּשָׁ֑ה ק֣וֹל עַנּ֔וֹת) do I hear.” [9] Hebrew: כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֔וֹת פָּקַ֕דְתִּי אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה עֲמָלֵ֖ק לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֥ם לוֹ֙ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ בַּעֲלֹת֖וֹ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ [10]Walafridus Strabo (c. 808-849) was a Germanic Benedictine monk and theologian. He composed commentaries on the Gospels and a selection of the Psalms. The Glossa Ordinaria was long ascribed to him, but appears instead to be a work of the twelfth century. [11] Psalm 3:6: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselvesagainst me round about (אֲשֶׁ֥ר סָ֜בִ֗יב שָׁ֣תוּ עָלָֽי׃).” [12] See Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2. [13] Exodus 17:16: “For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that (כִּֽי־יָד֙ עַל־כֵּ֣ס יָ֔הּ, or, because his hand was upon the throne of the Lord) the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” [14] Hebrew: עַתָּה֩ לֵ֙ךְ וְהִכִּֽיתָ֜ה אֶת־עֲמָלֵ֗ק וְהַֽחֲרַמְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א תַחְמֹ֖ל עָלָ֑יו וְהֵמַתָּ֞ה מֵאִ֣ישׁ עַד־אִשָּׁ֗ה מֵֽעֹלֵל֙ וְעַד־יוֹנֵ֔ק מִשּׁ֣וֹר וְעַד־שֶׂ֔ה מִגָּמָ֖ל וְעַד־חֲמֽוֹר׃ [15] 1 Samuel 15:33.

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