1 Samuel 15

Saul's Failure with the Amalekites

The Amalekites

I have noted what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way (15:2).

The Amalekites lived in the region south of Israel. 1 Samuel 27:8 describes the Amalekites as living in the land of “Shur, even as far as the land of Egypt” (1 Sam 15:7). Also, Amalek fought with Israel at Rephidim (Exod 17:7), which seems to be in close proximity to Mount Sinai and is usually connected with Wadi Feiran. The wide distribution of Amalek from the Beersheba basin (cf. 1 Sam 15) to the Sinai Peninsula indicates that they were primarily a nomadic people. This aerial view of the Beersheba basin shows the area to their north that they sometimes raided (e.g., 1 Sam 30).


And Saul struck down the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt (15:7).

Havilah (Gen 2:11; 10:7, 29; 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7; 1 Chr 1:9, 23) is the name of both a geographic region and a descendant of Cush and Joktan. In terms of geography, Havilah and Shur are mentioned together in Genesis 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7. Shur is mentioned a number of times in contexts that suggest a location south of Beersheba and east of Egypt (Gen 16:7; 20:1; 25:18; Exod 15:22; 1 Sam 15:7; 27:8). While it is difficult to be very specific, these terms appear to be largely synonymous and refer to the region west and south of the Beersheba Basin and into the northern Sinai Peninsula. This American Colony photograph was taken between 1900 and 1920.

Saul's Monument

Samuel was told, “Saul went to Carmel and set up a monument for himself” (15:12).

Following a victory, kings would often set up a monument celebrating their victory. The text gives no indication whether the monument set up by Saul was a simple standing stone, one inscribed with a likeness of himself or some scene of battle, or perhaps something with an inscription. The limestone stele fragment shown here is inscribed with Hebrew letters that would not be too different from what Saul might have used if he left an inscription. This fragment was photographed at the Israel Museum.


Then Samuel went to Ramah (15:34).

Ramah was the hometown of Samuel and the place where he lived for his adult life. About 4 miles (6.5 km) north of Jerusalem, Ramah was located at the site today known as er-Ram, which means “the height.” The elders came to Samuel at Ramah to request a king (1 Sam 8:4). “From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD” (1 Sam 7:16-17, NIV).

Israel's Shepherd

And Yahweh regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel (15:35).

The metaphor of a shepherd was used in the Hebrew scriptures both to describe the earthly king (e.g., 2 Sam 5:2) and the heavenly king (e.g., Ps 23:1). In this pastoral depiction a shepherd leans on his staff in what appears to be a contemplative mood. Perhaps this is similar to the frame of mind attributed to God as He considered the manner in which His chosen leader, Saul, had corrupted his way, leading his sheep astray rather than in ways of righteousness. This sarcophagus fragment was photographed at the Vatican Museums.

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