Disobedience of Saul
In chapter 15 of 1 Samuel, the story is told of Saul disobeying God’s command of killing the Amalekites. He obeyed as far as killing the humans but kept the animals alive. I’ve quoted it from the netbible below. If you’ve never read this story you can read it. Otherwise skip to the end because I have some comments on it later.
15:1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “I was the one the Lord sent to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now listen to what the Lord says. 15:2 Here is what the Lord of hosts says: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposed Israel along the way when Israel came up from Egypt. 15:3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death – man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’” 15:4 So Saul assembled the army and mustered them at Telaim. There were 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 15:5 Saul proceeded to the city of Amalek, where he set an ambush in the wadi. 15:6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go on and leave! Go down from among the Amalekites! Otherwise I will sweep you away with them! After all, you were kind to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from among the Amalekites. 15:7 Then Saul struck down the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, which is next to Egypt. 15:8 He captured King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but he executed all Agag’s people with the sword. 15:9 However, Saul and the army spared Agag, along with the best of the flock, the cattle, the fatlings, and the lambs, as well as everything else that was of value. They were not willing to slaughter them. But they did slaughter everything that was despised and worthless. 15:10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned away from me and has not done what I told him to do.” Samuel became angry and he cried out to the Lord all that night. 15:12 Then Samuel got up early to meet Saul the next morning. But Samuel was informed, “Saul has gone to Carmel where he is setting up a monument for himself. Then Samuel left and went down to Gilgal.” 15:13 When Samuel came to him, Saul said to him, “May the Lord bless you! I have done what the Lord said.” 15:14 Samuel replied, “If that is the case, then what is this sound of sheep in my ears and the sound of cattle that I hear?” 15:15 Saul said, “They were brought from the Amalekites; the army spared the best of the flocks and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord our God. But everything else we slaughtered.” 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait a minute! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” Saul said to him, “Tell me.” 15:17 Samuel said, “Is it not true that when you were insignificant in your own eyes, you became head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord chose you as king over Israel. 15:18 The Lord sent you on a campaign saying, ‘Go and exterminate those sinful Amalekites! Fight against them until you have destroyed them.’ 15:19 Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Instead you have greedily rushed upon the plunder! You have done what is wrong in the Lord’s estimation.” 15:20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the Lord! I went on the campaign the Lord sent me on. I brought back King Agag of the Amalekites after exterminating the Amalekites. 15:21 But the army took from the plunder some of the sheep and cattle – the best of what was to be slaughtered – to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 15:22 Then Samuel said, “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams. 15:23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and presumption is like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 15:24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded and what you said as well. For I was afraid of the army, and I followed their wishes. 15:25 Now please forgive my sin! Go back with me so I can worship the Lord.” 15:26 Samuel said to Saul, “I will not go back with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel!” 15:27 When Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed the edge of his robe and it tore. 15:28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to one of your colleagues who is better than you! 15:29 The Preeminent One of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.” 15:30 Saul again replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel. Go back with me so I may worship the Lord your God.” 15:31 So Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
This story really bothers me. Especially this part
“Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death – man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.”
Why did God command such a thing in the first place? Whatever happened to “Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder”. Is it ok to kill just because God supposedly said so? Saul took his orders from Samuel who heard God speak to him.
I just can’t believe that God actually would have said that. If indeed it was, then he sounds very mean and unjust. Saul only partially obeyed, so in a way, he was far more obedient than I would have been in the same situation. I would not have killed the humans or the animals. This makes me more wicked than King Saul.
Aside from that, why did God need to command a king and his army to kill a group of people. Why not destroy them himself. He could have used fire, a flood, or maybe one of the plagues he used against the Egyptians.
I’ve been thinking about this story for a long time. I’m not sure how to tell people that God loves them while at other times, he sounds so hateful. Is the God of the old testament not the same one as the God in the new testament? Which one is true and which is a lie?