Poole on 1 Samuel 15:7-9: Saul's (almost!) Complete Victory over Amalek!

Verse 7:[1] (1 Sam. 14:48) And Saul smote the Amalekites from (Gen. 2:11; 25:18) Havilah until thou comest to (Gen. 16:7) Shur, that is over against Egypt.


[And Saul smote Amalek, from Havilah, until thou comest to Shur] There is an Ellipsis of a participle here: it is to be translated in this manner, he smote…Amalek, dwelling thence from Havilah (Glassius’ “Grammar” 704, Osiander). For, he does not here describe the boundary that Saul laid waste; but the region that the Amalekites were occupying, who had encountered Saul: for not all the Amalekites were slaughtered, but those only, as it appears out of 1 Samuel 30 (Glassius out of Junius). Thus in Numbers 24:19 a participle is missing; he shall rule out of Jacob, that is, springing out of Jacob (Glassius’ “Grammar” 704). Of Havilah and Shur,[2] see on Genesis 25:18 (Malvenda).


From Havilah…to Shur: that is, From one end of their country to the other; he smote all that he met with; but a great number of them fled away upon the noise of his coming, as is usual in such cases, and secured themselves in other places, until the storm was over, when they returned again; of whom we read before, 1 Samuel 13:6; 14:22.


Verse 8:[3] And (see 1 King 20:34, 35, etc.) he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and (see 1 Sam. 30:1) utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.


He took Agag…alive: Saul spared Agag, either out of foolish pity for the goodliness of his person, which Josephus notes; or for his respect to his royal majesty, in the preservation of which he thought himself concerned; or for the glory of his triumph: compare 1 Samuel 15:12. All the people, to wit, the body of the people, but not every individual person, as hath been showed. Universal particles are commonly thus understood, as is confessed.


Verse 9:[4] But Saul and the people (1 Sam. 15:3, 15) spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings (or, of the second sort[5]), 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.


[And Saul and the people spared Agag] For what reason? Responses: 1. He preserved him for the triumph; for, he erected a triumphal arch, verse 12. 2. He was hoping that Agag would redeem himself with a large ransom (Menochius out of Sanchez, Lapide). It makes this probable, that he preserved whatever was best (Menochius). 3. Out of ill-advised mercy (Sanchez out of Tostatus). 4. Perhaps he wished to yield something to royal majesty. 5. Or he wished to seize a reputation for mercy. Josephus adds, that Agag was of a beautiful and excellent appearance.[6] But it was necessary that Agag, above all others, be killed: for, he was the head of evil men. The corruption of human nature is here depicted. When out cause is at stake, then we are willing to be severe above measure: But, if it be the cause of God, then we act more mildly and leisurely. Hence the Israelites were preserving the Canaanites and Moabite women, etc., whom they ought to have destroyed (Martyr).


Saul and the people; the one proposed to do so, and the other consented to it, and so both were guilty.


[And the garments, וְהַמִּשְׁנִים] [They render it variously:] The fat things (Pagnine, Montanus, Syriac, Vatablus, Jonathan in Vatablus, Munster, Tigurinus, Strigelius), that is, things fat in their own nature (Vatablus). Many think that by transposition of letters מִשְׁנִים/doubles, is said, in the place of שְׁמֵנִים, fat things: which sort of transposition is in כֶּבֶשׂ and כֶּשֶׂב/lamb; שִׂמְלָה and שַׂלְמָה/garment (Drusius). Or, fat cattle are called מִשְׁנִים in the sense in which it is said כֶּסֶף מִשְׁנֶה, double silver; because such are characterized by double flesh (Rabbi Salomon in Buxtorf’s Vindication 2:10:748), and fatness (Rabbi Salomon in Malvenda). Others: the seconds or secondary things (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Dutch, English), that is, seconds from the best. Thus the secondary of the King, who is also second from the King. And Quintus Arrius was called the secondary of Marcus Crassus, because he obtained the second place in eloquence after Marcus Crassus[7] (Drusius). Others: the second-born (certain interpreters in Drusius), those born in the second bearing; for such are more excellent (Vatablus). Or of the second year, that is, two-year olds, which sort are pre-eminent among cattle (Malvenda). Rather secondary things; that is to say, they spared all the first and best, likewise those that were obtaining the second places after them; they smote only the most vile. That this is the genuine signification of the Hebrew word, whatever others might say, is taught by the order of the letters and the vowel points (Junius). This interpretation is embraced by Forster, Mercerus, Avenarius, and Buxtorf. Others derive מִשְׁנִים from שָׁנָה/year, yearling lambs, which are wont to be the most tender and excellent. The Vulgate renders it garments, perhaps having regard to שָׁנָה, to change, so that he might understand things changeable (Malvenda).


[And the rams, וְעַל־הַכָּרִים[8]] And the fattened[9] (Pagnine, Vatablus, Jonathan, Syriac). That is, by human industry (Vatablus). And upon the lambs[10] (Montanus, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio, Strigelius, Dutch, English). Upon the wethers:[11] See on Deuteronomy 32:14[12] (Malvenda). And towards the shepherds (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator). So that they might be able more conveniently to lead the flocks away, being accustomed to their own shepherds. Now, that the Hebrew term is to be taken in this way, the repeated metaphor in the prophets teaches, wherein the leaders of men obtain this appellation: as in 2 Kings 11:4,[13] 19;[14] Ezekiel 39:18[15] (Piscator out of Junius). Some appear to have read בָּרִים[16] or בְּרִיאִים,[17] chosen, unblemished, fattened (Malvenda).


[But whatever was vile and refuse, וְכָל־הַמְּלָאכָ֛ה נְמִבְזָ֥ה וְנָמֵ֖ס] But whatever (or every work, or craft [Septuagint, Montanus]; every thing [Jonathan], or, substance [Vatablus], or furniture [Syriac]) was (Pagnine) worthless or vile, and worn out (or despised [Septuagint, Jonathan, Arabic], failing [Munster], flaccid [Tigurinus], weak [Strigelius], refuse [Osiander], wasting away [Hebrew], melting [Junius and Tremellius, Piscator], withered [Vatablus]). Moreover, מְלָאכָה/work here signifies, either, 1. sheep, as in Genesis 33:14, לְרֶ֙גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה, according to the foot of this work.[18] Thus in Exodus 22:8;[19] 36:6;[20] 1 Samuel 25:2[21] (Drusius). Or, 2. rather the remaining furniture (Munster). Or, 3. for everything in which we place our labor; that is, property, or wealth (Munster). Everything in which a man exercises himself is called מְלָאכָה/work and מַעֲשֶׂה/work, whether it be the work of craftsmen, or of the earth, or in sheep (Kimchi in Drusius). And note that it is here written נְמִבְזָה[22] instead of נִבְזָה,[23] despised and flaccid (Munster); with a letter added, which is not so common. Note that at the same time is read the masculine נָמֵס/refuse and the feminine נְמִבְזָה/vile; thus elsewhere וְר֣וּחַ גְּדוֹלָ֡ה וְחָזָ֞ק, and a great and strong wind,[24] which example is here adduced, although the noun רוּחַ/spirit/wind is of either gender (Drusius).


All that was good; which it is more than probable they reserved for their own use, rather than for sacrifice, because they knew God would not accept a sacrifice contrary to his own command. Thus they obey God only so far as they could without inconvenience to themselves; they destroyed only what was not worth keeping, nor fit for their use.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֥ךְ שָׁא֖וּל אֶת־עֲמָלֵ֑ק מֵֽחֲוִילָה֙ בּוֹאֲךָ֣ שׁ֔וּר אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י מִצְרָֽיִם׃ [2] Havilah sat on the northern tip of the Persian Gulf; Shur, in the Nile Delta. [3] Hebrew: וַיִּתְפֹּ֛שׂ אֶת־אֲגַ֥ג מֶֽלֶךְ־עֲמָלֵ֖ק חָ֑י וְאֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֖ם הֶחֱרִ֥ים לְפִי־חָֽרֶב׃ [4] Hebrew: וַיַּחְמֹל֩ שָׁא֙וּל וְהָעָ֜ם עַל־אֲגָ֗ג וְעַל־מֵיטַ֣ב הַצֹּאן֩ וְהַבָּקָ֙ר וְהַמִּשְׁנִ֤ים וְעַל־הַכָּרִים֙ וְעַל־כָּל־הַטּ֔וֹב וְלֹ֥א אָב֖וּ הַחֲרִימָ֑ם וְכָל־הַמְּלָאכָ֛ה נְמִבְזָ֥ה וְנָמֵ֖ס אֹתָ֥הּ הֶחֱרִֽימוּ׃ [5] Hebrew: וְהַמִּשְׁנִים. [6]Antiquities of the Jews 6:7. [7] Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53) BC was a wealthy Roman general and stateman, a member of the First Triumvirate. Quintus Arrius, on the other hand, was of humble origins, but by sycophantic service to Crassus, he ascended to the rank of prætor. [8] 1 Samuel 15:9a: “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs (וְעַל־הַכָּרִים), and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them…” [9] Here, perhaps כַּר is being related to כַּר/pasture, or כָּרָה, to give a feast. [10] Here, כַּר is related to the verbal root כָּרַר, to dance or skip. [11] A wether is a castrated sheep or goat. [12] Deuteronomy 32:14: “Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambsעִם־חֵ֙לֶב) כָּרִ֜ים), and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.” [13] 2 Kings 11:4: “And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard (לַכָּרִי֙ וְלָ֣רָצִ֔ים), and brought them to him into the house of the Lord, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the Lord, and shewed them the king’s son.” [14] 2 Kings 11:19: “And he took the rulers over hundreds, and the captains, and the guard (וְאֶת־הַכָּרִ֙י וְאֶת־הָרָצִ֜ים), and all the people of the land; and they brought down the king from the house of the Lord, and came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings.” [15] Ezekiel 39:18: “Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs (כָּרִים), and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan.” [16]בָּרַר signifies to select, or to purify. [17]בָּרָא signifies to be fat. [18] Genesis 33:14: “Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth (לְרֶ֙גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה, according to the foot of the work) before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.” [19] Exodus 22:8: “If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods (בִּמְלֶ֥אכֶת רֵעֵֽהוּ׃, unto the work of his neighbour).” [20] Exodus 36:6: “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work (מְלָאכָה) for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.” [21] 1 Samuel 25:2: “And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions (וּמַעֲשֵׂהוּ, and his works) were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.” [22] 1 Samuel 15:9b: “…but every thing that was vile and refuse (נְמִבְזָ֥ה וְנָמֵ֖ס), that they destroyed utterly.” [23] The expected form of the Niphal participle of בָּזָה, to despise. [24] 1 King 19:11.

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