These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Old Testament Survey Lesson 11 – Early Kingdom
The command to destroy the Amalekites (15:1-3)
The attack (4-9)
The preparations (4-5)
The warning (6)
The victory (7-8)
The disobedience (9)
God’s judgment on Saul (10-11)
Samuel’s conversation with Saul (12-31)
Samuel’s travel to meet Saul (12)
Saul’s prideful greeting (13)
Samuel’s question: why do I hear sheep? (14)
Saul’s response: to shift blame and a good purpose (15)
Samuel’s repetition of God’s command (16-19)
Samuel’s question: a chance to repent (20)
Saul’s self-defense (20-21)
Samuel’s pronouncement of judgment (22-23)
Saul’s false repentance (24-25)
Samuel: the punishment repeated (Saul’s repentance was too little too late 26-29)
Saul’s last grasp for respect (30-31)
Samuel kills Agag (32-33)
Many people ask, “how can a righteous God murder so many people, including children?” How would you answer this question?
What are some of the reasons why God gave this command?
What do you know about the Canaanite religion and culture?
What other similar examples can you see in Scripture where God judged whole peoples?
What can we learn about God from this?
Why was God just in doing this?
What principles can we learn and what applications can we make from this in our culture and lives today?
What is significant about verse 6 (where Saul warns some to leave)?
Explain what wrong Saul did.
Explain what God thought about it and what His judgment was.
What principles can we apply from this to our lives today?
What do you think was Saul’s and the people’s real motivation to disobey God?
What lasting consequences did this have in Israel?
What can learn from this about the consequences of disobedience?
Is there ever a good reason to disobey? Is it ever necessary to disobey? What about culture? Financial situation? “Necessity?”
Who was responsible for the sin?
If you really love God, what should you do?
What is significant about the fact that Saul only admits his sin after Samuel pronounces God’s judgment on him?
What is the difference between Saul’s repentance and true repentance?
How does Saul’s response compare with Adam’s and Eve’s thousands of years before?
What does God truly desire from us?
What can we learn from Samuel’s execution of Agag?
Overview of Canaanite religion and culture – Their religion included such practices as child sacrifice (some in fire). Numerous pits have been discovered filled with skeletons of small children, probably sacrificed by the Canaanites. It also included incest, bestiality, homosexuality, and cultish prostitution, both male and female. There is evidence that other peoples besides Israel disagreed with some of these practices, but the Canaanites were totally sold out to them.
Also give an overview of the nation of Israel from the time they entered the Promised Land to the time Saul become king and the events surrounding Samuel anointing him as king.
1-3 (God’s command to destroy the Amelekites) –
This was not a new command. It had been given concerning all of the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7:2-6 and it was applied specifically to the Amelekites in Deuteronomy 25:17-19. There are several reasons given in the Bible why God told Israel to utterly destroy them. Firstly, they were evil. Their practices were abominable to God. We know both from the Bible and from other historic documents that the Canaanite civilization was perhaps the most wicked and vile ever known in the world (see above). Their sin was a stench in God’s nostrils and the very land spewed or vomited them out (Leviticus 18:25). They were descended from Esau and also were exposed to the Israelites and the true teaching from God. Yet they rejected it in favor of a vile, sensuous, and brutal religion. God’s just character requires Him to punish evildoers. Generally He is patient (and He did wait hundreds of years to use Israel to wipe out the Canaanites), but His patience doesn’t last forever and He decided to judge the Amalekites sooner rather than later. Secondly, according to Deuteronomy 7 and other Scriptures, if any portion of these wicked nations were allowed to remain they would ensnare Israel and lead them away from the true God to worship their false gods and also practice abominations. Israel did not completely wipe out those nations and what God prophesied did happen, not only once but numerous times (1 Kings 14:22-24, Jeremiah 32:35). At various times in their history they not only worshiped false gods, but also had hundreds of false prophets who practiced bloodletting (during the time of Ahab), had male cult prostitutes, and sacrificed their children by fire to Molech.
God doesn’t need justification or to “prove” Himself to us when He acts. However, it is clear that He had plenty of reason to give the command to wipe out the Canaanites. Some ask about “innocent” babies. First of all, not one is innocent. Babies are also guilty from the time of their birth. Secondly, the sin of parents does effect and have consequences of others. Thirdly, if indeed babies go to heaven it was a blessing for them. Fourthly, it was necessary to destroy everyone. If any were left they would grow up and almost surely practice the same sinful abominations that their parents practiced.
God also judged other nations and peoples at various times. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (from this example and Abraham’s talk with God we know God doesn’t generally destroy the righteous with the wicked). Also God judged the entire world, which was “filled with violence”, with the flood. Somehow it is easier to accept when God uses natural forces, yet it is the same using His people or wind or water and God is just as just no matter which method He chooses.
We can learn some principles from this. We CANNOT say it is good for us to kill sinners or practice genocide as some have said before. This is a narrative passage, yet we can glean some principles from it, ones that are supported by other Scripture or by commentary from God or the author. One clear one is that God is just and judges sinners. Another is that we need to be extremely careful not to be influenced by culture or unbelievers around us, and also not to leave any sin or foothold for Satan (Ephesians 4:27) in our lives. If we give a foothold to Satan he will use it and influence our lives negative, trying to turn us from God. Different applications can be made from this principle and could include such things as getting rid of music, dvds, magazines, or books that are influencing us in worldly things. Or we can learn to renew our minds in God’s Word regularly, establish fellowship with people who can keep us accountable, or the like.
4-9 (The attack) –
So far so good. Saul summoned the army and numbered them and went to attack Amalek.
It is significant that before he attacked he gave the Kenites an opportunity to leave. God is not one to execute judgment indiscriminately, but is a fair and just judge. The Amalekites had already shown themselves to be not only evil, but also enemies of Israel (when Israel left Egypt the Amalekites went out of their way to attack them before the Israelites ever attacked them). However, the Kenites had been kind to Israel and were free to go, much like Rahab and her family was when Israel attacked Jericho (which was also under the “herem” or ban, that ban also being disobeyed).
Saul and his troops had physical victory over Amalek, but they did have a victory spiritually because they disobeyed God. They spared Agag, the best of the livestock and everything valuable. By sparing Agag, Saul was prideful. It was common in that time to keep an enemy king as a prisoner or servant to show one’s power. Also, Saul and the people were selfish. They were only willing to obey God as far as it benefited them. Saul and the people only obeyed partially, which is disobedience. God wants us to obey fully and completely, even if it doesn’t seem advantageous to us.
People are very quick and happy to obey completely when a command benefits them. Watch and see how much faster most children are to obey when their parents tell them to get a game to play or candy to eat compared with telling them to go to bed or go clean up their room. Not only children have this problem; adults do too. Adults are much quicker and happier to love their girlfriend or spouse (someone who loves them) than they are to love an enemy (like a mean boss or coworker). True obedience doesn’t depend on if we feel like it or not. It is a decision, a decision to obey God even if it is not easy.
10-11 (God’s command to Saul) –
God expresses sorrow at appointing Saul king. So why did He do it? No one can know all of the reasons, but one is probably so that we can learn from Saul’s disobedience and the consequences that followed and not repeat it!
12-31 (The conversation between Samuel and Saul)
When Samuel goes to meet Saul, Saul greets him in a very prideful way. It looks a lot like he was defending himself ahead of time because he knew he was guilty of disobedience. There are several comparisons between this interchange and the one between God and Adam and Eve. What are they? Saul sinned. Samuel (acting for God in all of these steps) took the initiative to come to him. Samuel asked questions to encourage Saul to repent. Instead of repenting Saul made excuses and blamed others. Samuel repeated the command. Samuel pronounced a judgment on Saul for his disobedience. Why are there so many similarities? Because God’s nature is the same and so is man’s! We can be free of this problem by trusting and Christ who will free us from our old man.
Saul not only blames others, but he also defends himself by offering a good reason/motivation for their actions. We also often defend ourselves by these methods. How often do you hear people make the excuse that they did something wrong, but they did it for a good reason! Examples include lying to make people feel better, disobeying because one has a better idea, working a bad job because of financial need, hanging out with bad influences to show respect or attempt to influence them, etc. The examples run on and on. There are no “buts” to obeying God! We are either obedient or we aren’t. There is no in-between. 95% obedience is disobedience.
As leader, Saul was ultimately responsible for the sin. He tried to push the blame off onto others, but God held Him responsible. God holds us each responsible for our own actions. It will not be acceptable to say, “my friend/wife/father/girlfriend/teacher/boss made me do it.” On the other hand, neither will it be acceptable to say that the government or a leader made us do something wrong. No one can make us sin. We are responsible for our own actions and will answer to God for them.
Also, it’s clear that Saul and the people never finished the job of destroying the Amalekites. These remained to plague and ensnare the Israelites for hundreds of years, even through the time of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:43)!
Samuel offered Saul several chances to repent, but Saul didn’t take them. Instead he persisted in excusing himself and blaming others. Three times he defended himself and he was clearly wrong. When we sin we need to repent and rise up again instead of defending or justifying ourselves. This is very basic to the Christian life. Unfortunately, we all sin fairly often. If we are not to live in a continual state of sin we need to be quick to repent.
Verses twenty-two and twenty-three are two of my favorite from the Bible. God doesn’t seek outward actions. He looks at our heart. He wants our heart to belong to Him fully. Love is not merely singing some songs to God. It is not tithing. It is not talking. These are all ways we can show our love. But doing these things only does not guarantee that we are loving Him. Loving Him is shown by obeying Him in ALL areas, not only ones that are advantageous or easy for us. This is what God truly desires, obedience. Obedience is the mark of a true believer. If you see a person who continues in the state of disobedience, probably that person is not a believer. In fact, God compares him to a witch and an idol worshipper! Disobedience or “partial obedience” is a serious crime before God. Are you willing to obey Him completely in all areas of your life? Are you willing to give Him control, even if it means sacrificing something that is valuable to you?
This matter is so important to God that He rejected Saul from being king and planned to appoint another. The consequences of sin are severe. The consequences of Saul’s sin cost him and his family the kingdom. Worse than that, Israel was plagued for hundreds of years by the Amelekites, who continued to attack them and influence them to follow false gods.
Now, only after Samuel tells Saul the consequences of his disobedience, he seemingly repents. However, I don’t believe it is true repentance. Why not? Firstly, the motivation of his confession seems to be not the fact that he did wrong and is sorry for it, but that he was caught and punished for it. False repentance is sorry for being caught and punished; true repentance is sorry for grieving God. Also, even in his confession he attempts to shift the blame to the people and appear as an unwilling accomplice. True repentance takes responsibility and doesn’t try to blame others. Finally, he asks Samuel to go with him and forgive the sin, showing again his concern seems to be securing Samuel’s approval again and keeping the kingdom. When his confession didn’t work, Saul lost his temper and grabbed Samuel’s robe with such force that it tore. Again, it shows that he wasn’t truly penitent. Samuel confirmed God’s decree and said that God doesn’t change His mind. After that Saul again showed concern only for himself.
32-35 (killing Agag and the conclusion) –
Samuel showed his faithfulness to God. He did what Saul was unwilling to do, kill the king, the leader of the wicked Amalekites. This was surely not an enjoyable job, yet it had to be done. Samuel was faithful to the end, a stark contrast to Saul. Both Samuel and God were sorrowful that Saul was made king. Samuel was truly troubled to see Saul go down the wrong path. It should also grieve us when we see people fall into sin.
Joshua 7:16 – The Hebrew words for “utterly destroy” and “ban” (to devote or dedicate or destroy is “herem” and can have any of these meanings.
Deuteronomy 7:2-6 – Some of the reasons for completely destroying the Amalekites.
Deuteronomy 25:17-19 – God commanded them a long time before to destroy the Amalekites. They didn’t fear God and they also attacked Israel first.
Leviticus 18:25 – The land was vomiting out its inhabitants.
1 Kings 14:22-24 – Israel fell into idol worship and had male cult prostitutes.
1 Chronicles 4:43 – The Amalekites remained until the time of Hezekiah.
Ephesians 4:27 – Do not give the devil a foothold.
Genesis 3:10-13 – Adam and Eve offer excuses and blame for their sin.
John 14:15 – If you love me you will keep my commandments.
Obedience – Obedience is how we show our love for God. It is the mark of a true believer. It is not up to us to choose if or when or how much to obey. We must obey all of God’s commands. We must obey completely, quickly, and with a good attitude even if it means giving up something valuable to us or if there seems to be a good reason not to.
True repentance – True repentance doesn’t come from a desire not to be caught or punished. It is because one is grieved that they disobeyed God and desires to make it right again. One must take complete responsibility without offering excuses, shifting blame, or justifying it.
Consequences for sin – God does not let sin go unpunished. There are short and longer time effects, many of which we might not even be able to see. Before sinning think of the long-term effects of Saul’s sin, which influenced thousands to follow false gods and finally contributed to the fall of Israel and Judah.
Think of some area in your life where you know God wants you to make a change to follow Him completely. Decide not to let Satan maintain a foothold in your life. Decide to sacrifice what is valuable to you and surrender control of that part of your life to God.
Think of some negative influence in your life that you have allowed to stay, such as music or books. Decide to get rid of it.
Think of some sin that you have committed against others. Go to them and confess it.
Homework assignment –
Make or find a chart/graph with all the kings of Israel and Judah on it and the dates they ruled. It would also be good if it included major events that took place during their reign and if they were good or bad. Study it to become familiar with the kingdom period.
OT Event #1 – Creation
OT Event #2 – Fall of Man
OT Event #3 – The Flood
OT Event #4 – Babel and Abraham
OT Event #5 – Call of Moses
OT Event #6 – Let My People Go
OT Event #7 – 9 Plagues
OT Event #8 – The Passover
OT Event #9 – Ten Commandments
OT Event #10 – The Promised Land
OT Event #11 – Early Kingdom
OT Event #12 – David is Anointed
OT Event #13 – Divided Kingdom
OT Event #14 – The Prophet Elisha
OT Event #15- Kingdom Under Hezekiah
OT Event #16 – The Dispersion, Esther
OT Event #17 – Daniel in Babylon
OT Event #18 – Call of Isaiah
OT Event #19 – OT Period Ends, Malachi