Poole on 1 Samuel 15:12-21: Saul Confronted and Convicted, Part 1
Verse 12: And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to (Josh. 15:55) Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
[So that he might go to Saul in the morning] So that he might meet with him in time. For, he understood that sin, after it has once put down roots, is not able so easily to be cured (Martyr).
[To Carmel] Not that most famous Carmel, concerning which Joshua 12:22, but another mountain, or another town, of the tribe of Judah; which was in the path of Saul returning from the Amalekites, concerning which see Joshua 15:55 (Malvenda out of Junius).
Carmel; not Mount Carmel, of which Joshua 12:22, but another mountain or town in the tribe of Judah, of which see Joshua 15:55.
[And he had set up for himself a triumphal arch, וְהִנֵּ֙ה מַצִּ֥יב לוֹ֙ יָ֔ד] And, behold, he set up for himself a hand (Montanus). A hand is taken for a place (Mariana). He set up (erected [English], was preparing [Syriac, Arabic]) for himself a place (Munster, Pagnine), or station (Junius and Tremellius), that is, with his army he had stopped, so that it might be recreated from labor (Junius). He designated for himself a place in which he might pitch camp, namely, so that he might divide the spoil there (Vatablus, Kimchi in Munster). Thus Jonathan: a place, to divide in it the spoil. Others otherwise: and, behold, he set up for himself a monument (Tigurinus, thus Castalio, Strigelius, Piscator, Martyr), a memorial monument of victory (Dutch, Malvenda). Thus יַד/hand appears to be taken in 2 Samuel 18:18 (Malvenda, Piscator). Thus it is called, either, 1. because perhaps it was raised in the figure of a hand (Dutch, Piscator). Or, 2. because perhaps they were placing their hands on trophies, to signify their enemies subdued by a strong hand (Menochius). Or, 3. thus metonymically is called an eminent work of the hand (Lapide). Just as an image or writing we call the hand of an artisan (Sanchez). He erected for himself, out of ambition; and unto his own honor, not God’s; he ascribed this victory to himself (Osiander). Others think that it was an altar for making sacrifices (Martyr). And, behold, he set up for himself a hand, that is, a military hand, a garrison (certain interpreters in Malvenda). He designated a place for soldiers, where they might be able to keep watch, whether to protect the borders, or to occupy the tyrannt’s territory (certain interpreters in Martyr).
[And he had gone down unto Gilgal] They rode in a long procession, all the way to Gilgal, so that they might display the prey (Martyr). When he had raised a monument to himself, as if that ought to have been the first care of all, he went down to Gilgal, so that he might sacrifice peace offerings. For there was an altar in that place, 1 Samuel 11:14 (Sanchez).
A place, that is, a monument or trophy of his victory, as the same Hebrew word is used, 2 Samuel 18:18. And this may be here noted by way of censure, that he set it up not to God’s honour, but to himself, that is, to his own praise; which he minded in the first place, and afterwards went to Gilgal, as it here follows, to offer sacrifice to God.
Verse 13: And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, (Gen. 14:19; Judg. 17:2; Ruth 3:10) Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
[Blessed be thou of the Lord] A Hebraic formula of salutation (Piscator). That is to say, the Lord chooses thee, and greatly favors thee, who reveals to thee His secrets (Vatablus). These are the words of a man smitten in conscience, and flattering Samuel, so that he might soothe him (Malvenda). Or, that is to say, thou art blessed, to whom it has been given to known future things, as I gather from this event (Sanchez).
Blessed be thou of the Lord; I thank thee, and I beg that God would bless thee, for sending me upon this employment, and giving me this opportunity of manifesting my obedience to God.
[I have fulfilled the word of the Lord] Transgression of the Law the wretch calls obedience: Thus he had dismissed all sense of sin (Martyr).
I have performed the commandment of the Lord, to wit, for the main and substance of it, to wit, the extirpation of that wicked people; for he thought the sparing of Agag and the cattle very inconsiderable in the case, though indeed it was expressly contrary to God’s command; but self-interest made him exceeding partial in his own cause: or else, like a bold hypocrite, he pretends that for his part he had obeyed God; resolving, it seems, to cast the blame upon the people, as he did.
Verse 14: And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
[What is this sound of sheep] What is the meaning? (Junius and Tremellius). What is it? in the place of, of what thing is it a sign? (Piscator). Thus he convicted him of a manifest lie (Menochius).
What meaneth then, etc.?: How can this evidence of guilt consist with the profession of thy innocency?
Verse 15: And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: (1 Sam. 15:9, 21; Gen. 3:12; Prov. 28:13) for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
[The people spared] As if this were done with him unwilling or ignorant; which was not able to be the case, since those herds were transported over that whole tract, not without long delay (Sanchez). When reprobates are charged, sometimes they hide their faults by denial, sometimes they transfer them to others (Gregory in Sanchez).
They, that is, the people. Thus, after the manner of all hypocrites, he excuseth himself, and lays the blame upon the people; whereas they could not do it without his privity and consent; and he should have used his power and authority to overrule them for God’s sake, as he had done formerly for his own sake. But the truth is, he was zealous for his own honour and interest, but lukewarm where God only was concerned.
[So that they might be sacrificed to the Lord] Thus he ascribes this to piety, not to avarice (Sanchez). That is to say, The Lord did indeed command that we destroy all things, and yet He also commanded us to sacrifice. Wherefore those cattle were to be left for sacrifice (Martyr). But he is openly refuted in verse 9, where we read that he spared all the best in their kind, while yet most of these were not suitable for the altar. He adds, to thy God; that is to say, whom thou dost worship and love, and so art not able not to approve of this (Sanchez).
To sacrifice unto the Lord: it is not likely that this was his and the people’s design; but this he now pretends, and ascribes that to his piety, which was indeed the effect of his impiety and avarice. Thy God, whom thou lovest and servest, and therefore must needs be pleased with our pious respect to him and his service.
Verse 16: Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
[Allow me, הֶרֶף] Stay (Junius and Tremellius); permit (Pagnine); allow, understanding, me to speak; that is, that I might reveal to thee, etc. (Vatablus).
Verse 17: And Samuel said, (1 Sam. 9:21) When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?
[Is it not the case that, when thou wast small, etc.? (thus Pagnine)] When thou wast seeming small (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), or thou wast made (Munster, Tigurinus). Although thou wast small (Vatablus). Behold, thou wast small in thine eyes (Syriac), or in thy judgment (Arabic).
Little in thine own sight, that is, modest, humble, and submissive, as 1 Samuel 9:21; 10:22; whereby he implies that now he was grown proud, and stubborn, and impudent, both to commit sin and justify it.
Verse 18: And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed (Heb. they consume).
[He sent thee into the way, בְּדָרֶךְ] By the way (Pagnine, Vatablus, Piscator), that is, that thou mightest prepare thyself for a journey (Vatablus). In the way (Piscator). On this expedition (Junius and Tremellius), this journey (Junius); that is to say, to thee he showed the way, wherein thou shouldest walk (Sanchez).
The sinners; so called by way of eminency, as that word is used, Genesis 13:13; Matthew 9:10; John 9:24, 31.
Verse 19: Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?
[Wherefore didst thou not hearken, etc.] That is to say, Why didst thou not persist in thy youthful humility; for thus thou wouldest have persisted in obedience: Therefore, the root of Saul’s fall was that he was too tenacious of his own judgment; neither did he submit that to the will and judgment of God. For he was judging it to be more satisfactory, to preserve the prey of Amalek for the uses of himself and his own, than to destroy that without profit (Lapide).
The LORD: Who cannot be deceived by thy fair professions of religion, but knows very well that thou didst not seek sacrifices for God, but prey for thyself.
[But thou didst turn to the spoil, וַתַּ֙עַט֙ אֶל־הַשָּׁלָ֔ל] And or but thou diverted (wast converted [Syriac, Strigelius, similarly the Arabic, Tigurinus], didst regard [Jonathan], didst draw [Junius and Tremellius]) toward the spoil or prey (Montanus, Pagnine): thou didst rush (Septuagint), properly didst fly; a Metaphor from wild birds flying upon prey (Malvenda). But עוּט or עִיט pertains, not only to birds, but to whatever animal rushing upon its prey. Hence in Ezekiel 39, to עַיִט is added צִפּוֹר/bird διακριτικῶς/diacritically, because rapacious animals are also included under that term (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:3:11:839).
[Evil in the eyes of the Lord] That is, that which especially displeases the Lord (Vatablus).
Verse 20: And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, (1 Sam. 15:13) I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
[Indeed, I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord (thus Munster, Tigurinus, similarly Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio), אֲשֶׁ֤ר שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ וגו״] That I heard, etc. (Montanus, similarly Jonathan); I heard, etc. (Arabic, similarly the Syriac) [as if the אֲשֶׁר/that were superfluous]. The Septuagint thus has it, because I hearkened to the voice of the people. Saul defends himself, and is made worse from the evil, and more pertinacious in sin. Nothing is less pleasing to God than ἐθελοθρησκεία/will-worship. God did indeed command the firstfruits and sacrifices to be offered to Him. But the same God afterwards commanded that all the goods of the Amalekites be entirely destroyed. Here then, since the two Laws proposed were contrary, obedience was to be yielded to the latter. The Pagans also saw this, as it appears in the Pandects. On which the Glossa thus says, Prior Laws are supplemented, determined, and corrected by the latter. Thus Abraham, although he knew it was the commandment of the Lord not to kill; nevertheless, having been commanded by God to kill his son, with the prior commandment set aside, obeys the second (Martyr).
Yea, I have obeyed, etc.: He addeth obstinacy and impenitency to his crime, and justifies his fact, though he hath nothing of any moment to say but what he said before. So he gives Samuel the lie, and reflects upon him as one that had falsely accused him.
[And I have brought Agag] Understanding, as a captive. I have not permitted him to do as he pleases (Vatablus).
Have brought Agag, to be dealt with as God pleaseth, and as thou thinkest fit.
Verse 21: (1 Sam. 15:15) But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
[The people took] That is to say, I did not do it, but rather the people, of whom I am afraid, verse 24 (Malvenda out of Junius).
[The firstfruits of those things which were slaughtered, רֵאשִׁ֣ית הַחֵ֑רֶם] In the beginning of the anathema (Jonathan in Vatablus) [as if with ב/in missing before רֵאשִׁית/beginning]; that is, before he began to destroy the animals (Vatablus). The beginning (the principal things [Pagnine, Syriac, Tigurinus, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Strigelius], the firstfruits [Munster, Vatablus]) of the anathema (Montanus), that is, the more excellent animals, which were to be altogether destroyed (Vatablus).
The chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed: Hebrew, the chief of the devoted things; which being devoted to destruction, I thought it most proper to destroy them by way of sacrifice to God. But God had commanded Saul himself to smite and slay all upon the place, above, verse 3.
 Hebrew: וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֧ם שְׁמוּאֵ֛ל לִקְרַ֥את שָׁא֖וּל בַּבֹּ֑קֶר וַיֻּגַּ֙ד לִשְׁמוּאֵ֜ל לֵאמֹ֗ר בָּֽא־שָׁא֤וּל הַכַּרְמֶ֙לָה֙ וְהִנֵּ֙ה מַצִּ֥יב לוֹ֙ יָ֔ד וַיִּסֹּב֙ וַֽיַּעֲבֹ֔ר וַיֵּ֖רֶד הַגִּלְגָּֽל׃  A woodenly literal rendering.  2 Samuel 18:18: “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place (יַ֣ד אַבְשָׁלֹ֔ם).”  Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֥א שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל אֶל־שָׁא֑וּל וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ שָׁא֗וּל בָּר֤וּךְ אַתָּה֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה הֲקִימֹ֖תִי אֶת־דְּבַ֥ר יְהוָֽה׃  See Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 3:32; Matthew 13:11.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל וּמֶ֛ה קֽוֹל־הַצֹּ֥אן הַזֶּ֖ה בְּאָזְנָ֑י וְק֣וֹל הַבָּקָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י שֹׁמֵֽעַ׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל מֵעֲמָלֵקִ֣י הֱבִיא֗וּם אֲשֶׁ֙ר חָמַ֤ל הָעָם֙ עַל־מֵיטַ֤ב הַצֹּאן֙ וְהַבָּקָ֔ר לְמַ֥עַן זְבֹ֖חַ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ וְאֶת־הַיּוֹתֵ֖ר הֶחֱרַֽמְנוּ׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל הֶ֚רֶף וְאַגִּ֣ידָה לְּךָ֔ אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֙ר דִּבֶּ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה אֵלַ֖י הַלָּ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֥אמְרוּ ל֖וֹ דַּבֵּֽר׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל הֲל֗וֹא אִם־קָטֹ֤ן אַתָּה֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ רֹ֛אשׁ שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אָ֑תָּה וַיִּמְשָׁחֲךָ֧ יְהוָ֛ה לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃  Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלָחֲךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה בְּדָ֑רֶךְ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֵ֣ךְ וְהַחֲרַמְתָּ֞ה אֶת־הַֽחַטָּאִים֙ אֶת־עֲמָלֵ֔ק וְנִלְחַמְתָּ֣ ב֔וֹ עַ֥ד כַּלּוֹתָ֖ם אֹתָֽם׃  Hebrew: כַּלּוֹתָם.  Hebrew: וְלָ֥מָּה לֹא־שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ בְּק֣וֹל יְהוָ֑ה וַתַּ֙עַט֙ אֶל־הַשָּׁלָ֔ל וַתַּ֥עַשׂ הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֤ר שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ בְּק֣וֹל יְהוָ֔ה וָאֵלֵ֕ךְ בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־שְׁלָחַ֣נִי יְהוָ֑ה וָאָבִ֗יא אֶת־אֲגַג֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ עֲמָלֵ֔ק וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵ֖ק הֶחֱרַֽמְתִּי׃  Colossians 2:23: “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship (ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ), and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” The Digest, or Pandects, was a compendium of Roman law, compiled at the command of Justinian I.  Hebrew: וַיִּקַּ֙ח הָעָ֧ם מֵהַשָּׁלָ֛ל צֹ֥אן וּבָקָ֖ר רֵאשִׁ֣ית הַחֵ֑רֶם לִזְבֹּ֛חַ לַֽיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בַּגִּלְגָּֽל׃