1 Samuel 15:3 Explanation: Saul’s Fateful Command

1 Samuel 15:3 explanation

Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

1 Samuel 15:3, ESV

1 Samuel 15:3 Explanation

In 1 Samuel 15:3 God commands Saul, Israel’s first king, to destroy the Amalekites. This verse is set against intense historical conflict: The Amalekites, notorious for their brutality, particularly in their attack on the vulnerable Israelites during the Exodus (Exodus 17:8-16), represent a persistent threat and evil.

This directive also comes within a larger narrative of Saul’s kingship being under divine scrutiny. His obedience, or lack thereof, is a test of his allegiance to God and his fitness to lead Israel. The command to utterly destroy reflects the Hebrew concept of “herem,” a total dedication to God often involving destruction. This is not merely a military campaign but a divine judgment against a people notorious for their cruelty and opposition to God’s will (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

The verse challenges us with its severe portrayal of divine justice and raises questions about the nature of God’s judgment and the human response to divine commands, especially those that seem harsh by contemporary standards. However, it’s crucial to understand this within the broader theological context of the Bible, which portrays God as ultimately just and merciful, offering redemption and peace through Christ (Romans 5:8).

For the contemporary Christian, this verse prompts serious reflection on our understanding of justice, obedience, and the nature of evil. While the literal command to Saul is not our directive, and his alone, the principle of responding righteously and justly to evil remains. Calling us to consider how we, as modern believers, reconcile the difficult parts of scripture with the overall message of God’s love and redemption.

Ultimately, 1 Samuel 15:3 is a challenging text that invites deep reflection on the nature of divine justice, human responsibility, and the complexity of following God in a world marred by sin and evil. It reminds us of the seriousness with which God views sin and the lengths to which He goes to eradicate evil, leading to the redemptive work of Christ.

Read 1 Samuel 15:3 in Additional Translations

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

1 Samuel 15:3, KJV

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

1 Samuel 15:3, NIV

Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation-men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

1 Samuel 15:3, NLT

Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”

1 Samuel 15:3, NKJV

Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

1 Samuel 15:3, CSB