Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 15

Desert nomads

1 Samuel 15:5-6

In the south of Israel, and between Israel and Egypt, there are the deserts called Negev and Sinai. At the time of the Bible, people lived in these deserts. They included groups called Amalekites, Kenites and Midianites.

These people were nomads. In other words, they lived in tents and they travelled across the region. They had to travel in order to find places where their animals could feed. That was their usual work; to keep animals. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in that manner (Hebrews 11:9). So did Moses (Exodus 3:1).

These groups gained great knowledge of their region, and that allowed them to do some other work. They became traders (Genesis 37:28) and guides (Numbers 10:29-32). However, the Amalekites found an easier way to live. They became robbers who were famous for their cruelty (15:33; 30:1-2; 14:48).

The Amalekites’ “city” (15:5) was probably a large camp. (The word “city” in the Hebrew language really means a place that people guard by night.) Perhaps the Amalekites had gathered there because they were preparing to attack Israel again. However, Saul’s actions stopped that.

The Kenites were relatives of Hobab, who was the brother of Moses’ wife (Judges 4:11). They were originally Midianites, but they helped Israel’s people in the desert (Exodus chapter 18; Numbers 10:29-32). Now, however, the Kenites were living among the Amalekites.

Because of their kindness to Israel in the past, Saul wanted to save the Kenites. That was why Saul did not attack the Amalekites immediately. Instead, he first urged the Kenites to separate themselves from the Amalekites. He did not begin his attack until the Kenites were safe.

Next part: The defeat of Amalek (1 Samuel 15:7-9)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.