Haftarah for Zachor

Saul loses the kingship when he does not follow God's commands to destroy all of Amalek.

God commands Samuel the prophet to tell King Saul that He is exacting punishment on the Amalekites for what that nation did to the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. God specifies that King Saul should spare no one: Men, women, children, infants, and animals must be killed.

Saul gathers his troops and warns another nation, the Kenites, who had shown mercy to the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, to withdraw from the Amalekites.

Saul Complies, But Not Completely

Saul destroys the Amalekites, but he spares the King of Amalek, Agag, and the best of the animals and all that was of value.

God tells Samuel He regrets making Saul king, because he did not carry out God’s commands. Samuel is distressed and debates with God the whole night.

The next morning, Samuel goes to meet Saul. By now, the King has gone to Carmel to erect a monument for himself, and has moved on to Gilgal.

Samuel Shows the Flaw of Saul’s Plans

Saul greets Samuel, exclaiming that he has fulfilled God’s commands. Samuel asks Saul, “Is that the sound of sheep bleating?” Saul explains that those animals were captured from the Amalekites, and that the troops had spared the best animals for sacrifice to the Lord.

Samuel breaks the bad news to Saul: He was sent on a mission as the king of Israel, and that was to exterminate every Amalekite and their animals. The prophet asks: Why, then, did you disobey God?

Saul responds that he obeyed God’s commands—he captured the King of Amalek and took the best animals to sacrifice to Him.

Samuel asks the king: “Does the Lord delight in offerings as much as in the obedience of His command? Surely, obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Finally the prophet doles out the final blow: Because Saul rejected God’s command, He has rejected Saul as king.

Saul Changes His Tune

Only then does Saul realize his mistake. He apologizes, and begs for Samuel to come with him to bow down to the Lord.

Samuel refuses. As he leaves, Saul grabs the corner of his robe, and it rips. Samuel uses the ripped cloth as a metaphor to explain that just like the cloth, the Lord has torn the kingship away from Saul and given it to another who is worthier.

Saul once again admits he was wrong and begs Samuel to come with him to bow to the Lord. Samuel follows Saul back, and joins Saul as he bows low before God.

Samuel brings forth Agag, the King of Amalek. Before killing him, Samuel proclaims, “Just as your sword bereaved women, so shall your mother be bereaved among women.”

Saul and Samuel part ways: Samuel to Ramah, and Saul to his home in Gilgal.

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