God had sent Saul to carry out his judgement against the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a nation that had cruelly attacked Israelís people at the time of Moses. Since then, they had become cruel robbers who often attacked the south of Israel. Probably, Saul was pleased to have this opportunity to punish them.
Saul showed them no pity. He dealt with them as cruelly as they had dealt with other people. He first attacked their main camp. Then he attacked them across their entire region. Wherever he went, Saul and his soldiers killed the Amalekites. He tried not to leave any of them alive. (However, as 1 Samuel chapter 30 shows us, some of them did escape.).
However, Saul did not obey Godís instructions to him. Saul was acting as Godís agent when he punished the Amalekites. That was a sacred and serious duty. God had ordered that Saulís men must destroy everything (15:3). They must not take back anything from the Amalekites.
After the battle, Saulís men robbed the Amalekites, even as the Amalekites had robbed other people. Saul allowed the men in his army to take back the Amalekitesí best animals. Saul later said that he intended those animals as gifts to God (15:15).
Saul himself brought back Agag, the Amalekitesí king, as his prisoner. Agag was a cruel murderer (15:33). We do not know what Saul intended to do to Agag.† Perhaps Saul wanted to show that he could control such a powerful and cruel foreigner as Agag. Later, Saul did gain control over such a man, Doeg from Edom. Doeg was willing to carry out the most wicked acts on Saulís behalf. He carried out cruel and evil deeds that nobody from Israel would ever dare to do (22:18-19).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.