1 Samuel 15:20 MEANING

1 Samuel 15:20
(20) Yea, I have obeyed . . .--These and the words which follow are simply a repetition of the king's former excuse for his act: but they show us what was the state of Saul's mind: he evidently disbelieved in the power of the Eternal as a heart reader. If he could justify himself before Samuel, that was all he cared for. He asserted his own integrity of purpose and his great zeal for the public sacrifice to God, knowing all the while that low earthly reasons had been the springs of his conduct. He reiterated the plea that what he had done was in accordance with the voice of the people, conscious all the while that the plea was false.

Verses 20, 21. - Saul's justifcation of himself is remarkable, as he seems entirely unconscious of having done anything wrong. His education had no doubt been defective (1 Samuel 10:12), and his knowledge of the law was probably very small; but he must have listened to Samuel's injunctions in a very off hand way, and have troubled himself about very little more than that he was to make war upon the Amalekites. There may even have been the wish in his mind to let Samuel know that he was now king, and would carry on affairs after his own fashion. The very form of his answer requires notice; for the word rendered yea is literally in that, or because, and may be paraphrased as follows: Do you reproach me thus because I have obeyed you? See, there is Agag in proof of our victory; and if the people have spared the cattle, it was with the best of intentions. The next clause, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, reads in the A.V. like an ironical parenthesis. It is not so, but an important part of Saul's defence. These sheep and oxen were "the best of the devoted things," selected as the first fruits for sacrifice. Saul may not have known that such a sacrifice was forbidden (Deuteronomy 13:15-17). The words, to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God, imply that Samuel ought to be pleased at the victorious army doing this public homage to the Deity whose prophet he was. It was virtually a compliment to himself, and is very much in accordance with the notions of the generality of people now, who consider that attendance at a place of worship, or sending their children to school, is a favour to the clergyman.

15:10-23 Repentance in God is not a change of mind, as it is in us, but a change of method. The change was in Saul; He is turned back from following me. Hereby he made God his enemy. Samuel spent a whole night in pleading for Saul. The rejection of sinners is the grief of believers: God delights not in their death, nor should we. Saul boasts to Samuel of his obedience. Thus sinners think, by justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord. The noise the cattle made, like the rust of the silver, Jas 5:3, witnessed against him. Many boast of obedience to the command of God; but what means then their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their angry and unkind spirit, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness against them? See of what evil covetousness is the root; and see what is the sinfulness of sin, and notice that in it which above any thing else makes it evil in the sight of the Lord; it is disobedience: Thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord. Carnal, deceitful hearts, like Saul, think to excuse themselves from God's commandments by what pleases themselves. It is hard to convince the children of disobedience. But humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all burnt-offering and sacrifices. God is more glorified and self more denied, by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be burned upon the altar, than to bring every high thought into obedience to God, and to make our will subject to his will. Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men, who are not willing that God should rule over them.And Saul said to Samuel, yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord,.... Here Saul breaks in upon Samuel before he had declared all that the Lord had said unto him; for having expostulated with him for not obeying the voice of the Lord, he could not forbear interrupting him, but with the utmost assurance affirms he had obeyed the voice of the Lord; but then it was very imperfectly, and poor proof does he give of it:

and have gone the way which the Lord sent me; it is very true he went into the country of Amalek, but he did not do there all the Lord commanded him:

and have brought Agag the king of Amalek; took him alive, and brought him captive; whereas he ought to have destroyed him at once, and not have reserved him for triumph; a sad proof this of his obeying the voice of the Lord:

and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites; all that came in his way, in which he did right; but then he had not destroyed the principal of them, their king.

Courtesy of Open Bible