I Samuel 15. Saul’s Last Chance.

Key Notes: God's revenge on Amalek. Saul did a half-job. He lied to cover his tracks, hoping sacrifices would placate God. Samuel said he lost it.

15:1–3 Saul was next assigned to wipe out Amalek in revenge for the way they had harried Israel in the wilderness 400 years before. (Ex.17:8-). That sounds dreadful. We need the background.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau and the Amalekites were always mortal enemies of Israel. Moses had reminded Israel that Amalek had cut down the stragglers of Israel's two million ex-slaves coming out of Egypt--the pregnant, the aged, the cripples, and the sick. Israel was to carry out God's judgment on them later.
(Deut.25:17-). God had waited some 600 years before carrying out this judgment. Saul was to spare nothing that breathed. (Perhaps the cattle carried endemic diseases like brucellosis, scrapie, or bovine tuberculosis.)

15:4–9 Saul mustered 200,000 men, and ambushed Amalek. He let the Kenites escape, because they had been friends of  Israel. He said he killed all the people, but kept Agag and the best of the cattle. The Amalekites were to be a threat to David later in I Samuel.

15:10–12 God told Samuel that he was sorry he had made Saul king, because he had not been obedient. Meantime Saul made a monument to himself, presumably a memorial to his victory.

15:13–16 Saul blessed Samuel and reported that he had fulfilled the commandment to wipe out the Amalekites. (He had not. Four-hundred Amalekite warriors escaped some years later from the raid on David’s town of Ziklag (ISam.30:14). That suggests that thousands of their warriors survived and continued to be a danger to Israel.) When Samuel questioned him, he said that the people had saved the best of the cattle to sacrifice to the Lord.

15:17–23 Samuel told Saul that God was more interested in obedience than in sacrifices and offerings. Rebellion and stubbornness were as bad as idolatry and witchcraft. God had rejected him from being king.

15:24–31 Saul admitted that he had sinned because he feared the people and obeyed their voice but Samuel should support him in the worship service. Samuel said he would not, and turned away. Saul grabbed him and tore his robe. Samuel said the kingdom had been torn from him and given to his neighbor. Saul insisted that Samuel honor him before the people and return with him to worship the Lord.

15:32–35 Then Samuel called for Agag, who came cheerfully, hoping that the past would be forgotten. Samuel cut him down. Then he went back to his house at Ramah and grieved over Saul. The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king.

He said he wiped out the Amalekites but did not. They would be a serious threat to David a few years later.( I Sam.3:1–31). He did not kill all the Amalekite cattle because the people wanted to keep them "for sacrifices". That seems unlikely. He kept the king for good measure. He was obviously pleased with himself because he made a monument to himself. When cornered, he insisted on Samuel's help to keep up appearances and to maintain his political position.

The church is big on worship {the sacrifice of praise}, but nobody mentions obedience--which has priority. Our Sunday behavior may have nothing to do with our week-day lives.

"To obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams. for rebellion is as the sin of divination and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry"

Does God repent?
I Sam. 15:11 "I repent that I have made Saul king; for he has turned back from following me and has not performed My commandments." (15:35)
I Sam. 15:29 "The Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent." This is a quote from Num. 23:19, Balaam speaking.

There are a number of other occasions in which Scripture says that God repented or would repent.
"…and the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth." (Gen. 6:6)
"...and The Lord repented of the evil that he had thought to do to his people." (After the golden calf; Ex.32:14)
"The Lord repented of the evil and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people: 'It is enough; now stay your hand.'" (after the census; II Sam. 24:16)
"God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them and he did not do it." (After the repentance of Ninevah; Jonah 3:10)
"If that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it..... " (Jerusalem before the fall; Jer.18:8; 26:3).

There are also texts that affirm that God will not change His plan.
"The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: you are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psa. 110:4 )
"For I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back." (Jer. 4:28 )
"I will do it; I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not repent; according to your ways and your doings I will judge you, says the Lord God." (Ezek. 24:14)

God's plan is fixed. He changes his action based on what human beings do, and the word "repent" does not imply a change of mind, but a change of action based on a constant state of mind. In most of the passages, God's "repentance", His reversal of judgment, comes in response to our repentance.

God is faithful. "He cannot deny Himself." (IITim.2:`13)