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As far as Saul’s shortcomings, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

God told Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely—buildings, people, animals—everything. Saul did not obey, but he told Samuel he did: “May you be blessed by the LORD; I have carried out the command of the LORD.” Samuel was no dummy: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.’” (NRSV, I Samuel 15:13–15) Of note, Saul said, “your God”, not “our God.” This suggests that Saul no longer saw the importance of faithful worship in God. Not only did Saul not obey God’s instructions in this battle, he set up a monument to himself afterwards.

Saul asked for forgiveness. Was it lip service? Was it heartfelt? The Bible does not say. What the Bible does say is laced with tragic poignancy: “Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.’ As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.’” (NRSV, I Samuel 15:26–28)



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