Samuel also said unto Saul, 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.
Hearken — Thou hast committed error already, now regain God's favour by thy exact obedience to what he commands.
 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
I remember — Now I will revenge those old injuries of the Amalekites on their children: who continue in their parents practices.
Came 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 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, whilst they struck at that people which God had brought forth in so stupendous a way.
 Now go and smite Amalek, and 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 — 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 left, whom long since I have devoted to utter destruction.
Spare not — Shew no compassion or favour to any of them. The same thing repeated to prevent mistake, and oblige Saul to the exact performance hereof.
Slay, … — Which was not unjust, because God is the supreme Lord of life, and can require his own when he pleaseth; infants likewise are born in sin, and therefore liable to God's wrath. Their death also was rather a mercy than a curse, as being the occasion of preventing their sin and punishment.
Ox, … — Which being all made for man's benefit, it is not strange if they suffer with him, for the instruction of mankind.
 And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
Kenites — A people descending from, or nearly related to Jethro, who anciently dwelt in rocks near the Amalekites, Numbers 24:21, and afterwards some of them dwelt in Judah, Judges 1:16, whence it is probable they removed, (which, dwelling in tents, they could easily do) and retired to their old habitation, because of the wars and troubles wherewith Judah was annoyed.
Shewed kindness — Some of your progenitors did so, and for their sakes all of you shall fare the better. You were not guilty of that sin for which Amalek is now to be destroyed. When destroying judgments are abroad God takes care to separate the precious from the vile. It is then especially dangerous to be found in the company of God's enemies. The Jews have a saying, Wo to a wicked man, and to his neighbour.
 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
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, and secured themselves in other places, 'till the storm was over.
 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
All — Whom he found. Now they paid dear for the sin of their ancestors. They were themselves guilty of idolatry and numberless sins, for which they deserved to be cut off. Yet when God would reckon with them, he fixes upon this as the ground of his quarrel.
 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, 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.
Vile — Thus they obeyed God only so far as they could without inconvenience to themselves.
 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.
Repenteth — Repentance implies grief of heart, and change of counsels, and therefore cannot be in God: but it is ascribed to God when God alters his method of dealing, and treats a person as if be did indeed repent of the kindness he had shewed him.
All night — To implore his pardoning mercy for Saul, and for the people.
Is turned back — Therefore he did once follow God. Otherwise it would have been impossible, he should turn back from following him.
 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
A place — That is, a monument or trophy of his victory.
 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
They — That is, the people. Thus, he lays the blame upon the people; whereas they could not do it without his consent; and he should have used his power to over-rule them.
 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.
A journey — So easy was the service, and so certain the success, that it was rather to be called a journey than a war.
 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, 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.
The king — To be dealt with as God pleaseth.
 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.
But the people, … — Here the conscience of Saul begins to awake, tho' but a little: for he still lays the blame on the people.
 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
Sacrifice — Because obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness: and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner. Therefore thy gross disobedience to God's express command, is not to be compensated with sacrifice.
Hearken — That is, to obey.
Fat — Then the choicest part of all the sacrifice.
 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
Rebellion — Disobedience to God's command.
Stubbornness — Contumacy in sin, justifying it, and pleading for it.
Iniquity — Or, the iniquity of idolatry.
Rejected — Hath pronounced the sentence of rejection: for that he was not actually deposed by God before, plainly appears, because not only the people, but even David, after this, owned him as king. Those are unworthy to rule over men, who are not willing that God should rule over them.
 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
I have sinned — It does by no means appear, that Saul acts the hypocrite herein, in assigning a false cause of his disobedience. Rather, he nakedly declares the thing as it was.
 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Pardon my sin — Neither can it be proved that there was any hypocrisy in this. Rather charity requires us to believe, that he sincerely desired pardon, both from God and man, as he now knew, he had sinned against both.
 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
I will not — This was no lie, though he afterwards returned, because he spoke what he meant; his words and his intentions agreed together, though afterwards he saw reason to change his intentions. Compare Genesis 19:2,3. This may relieve many perplexed consciences, who think themselves obliged to do what they have said they would do, though they see just cause to change their minds.
Hath rejected thee, … — But he does not say, he "hath rejected thee from salvation." And who besides hath authority to say so?
 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
Strength of Israel — So he calls God here, to shew the reason why God neither will nor can lie; because lying proceeds from the sense of a man's weakness, who cannot many times accomplish his design without lying and dissimulation; therefore many princes have used it for this very reason. But God needs no such artifices; he can do whatsoever he pleaseth by his absolute power.
Repent — That is, nor change his counsel; which also is an effect of weakness and imperfection, either of wisdom or power. So that this word is not here used in the sense it commonly is when applied to God, as in Jeremiah 11:1-23, and elsewhere.
 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.
Turned — First, that the people might not upon pretence of this sentence of rejection, withdraw their obedience to their sovereign; whereby they would both have sinned against God, and have been as sheep without a shepherd. Secondly, that he might rectify Saul's error, and execute God's judgment upon Agag.
 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
As, … — Whereby it appears, that he was a tyrant, and guilty of many bloody actions. And this seems to be added for the fuller vindication of God's justice, and to shew, that although God did at this time revenge a crime committed by this man's ancestors 400 years ago, yet he did not punish an innocent son for his father's crimes, but one that persisted in the same evil courses.
Hewed — This he did by divine instinct, and in pursuance of God's express command, which being sinfully neglected by Saul, is now executed by Samuel. But these are no precedents for private persons to take the sword of justice into their hands. For we must live by the laws of God, and not by extraordinary examples.
 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
To see Saul — That is, to visit him, in token of respect or friendship: or, to seek counsel from God for him. Otherwise he did see him chap. 19:24. Though indeed it was not Samuel that came thither with design to see Saul, but Saul went thither to see Samuel, and that accidentally.