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The Disobedience of Saul

Now Saul had sent forth an order, saying: "Cursed be any man that eats any food until evening, that I may be avenged on my enemies." So none of the people tasted any food.

As the soldiers passed through a wood, there was honey upon the ground, but no man touched it for fear of the curse of Saul. But Jonathan was not with the people when his father sent forth the order, and did not know that he should not touch food. So he took the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in the honey-comb, and then put the honey in his mouth.

Then one of the people said to Jonathan: "Your father charged the people with an oath that they should not eat any food this day." But Jonathan replied that his father had troubled the people by such an oath and that they were faint, and that it would have been better if they had eaten while they were giving battle to their enemies.

"If the people had eaten freely of the spoil of their enemies this day, they would have had strength to slay more of the Philistines," said he. Still, the slaughter was very great, for the Lord was with Israel.

Then the hungry people fell upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground, and ate the flesh raw, with the blood yet upon it, which was a sin in the sight of the Lord. And when Saul heard what the people had done he desired to know who had led the people into this sin and called all the chief men of the tribes together. He said to them:

"As the Lord liveth, though it be Jonathan, my son, he shall surely die." But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.

Then Saul spoke again: "Let all the people be on one side and Jonathan and I will be on the other side, and let the Lord decide which is guilty, the people or one of my household." And when the lot was decided Jonathan was taken.

"Tell me, what you have done?" demanded Saul of his son.

"I but tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and for that must I die?" asked Jonathan. And Saul told him he must die as the curse had declared.

Then the people shouted:

"Shall Jonathan die,

who has saved Israel from her enemies this day? As the Lord liveth there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground." So the people rescued Jonathan from the wrath of his father, and he did not die.

The word of the Lord came to Saul again: "Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not." And Saul gathered all the people together, and they came to a city of the Amalekites and laid in wait in the valley. When the Amalekites came out to give battle to Israel, they were smitten by the sword and utterly defeated according as the Lord had told Saul.

But Agag, the king of the Amalekites, was taken alive, and the best of the sheep, and oxen, and lambs, and all that was good, were spared. Only that which was vile and refuse did Saul and his soldiers destroy.

The Lord spoke to Samuel and said: "Saul has not done as I commanded him, and he is turned back from following me. I repent that I have made him king of Israel." This grieved Samuel so much that he cried unto the Lord all night.

When Samuel came to Saul, the king said: "Blessed be you, Samuel, for I have performed all that the Lord told me."

"What means this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and lowing of oxen which I hear?" asked the prophet. Saul then told him that the people had brought them from the Amalekites, and had spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord.

When Samuel saw that Saul was trying to excuse himself for his disobedience, he said to him: "I will tell you what the Lord has said to me this night. When you were little in your own sight, you were made head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and sent you to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all that they had. But you did evil in the sight of the Lord and fell upon the spoil and did not destroy it, and have brought away Agag, their king, and the best of their sheep and oxen and lambs."

"The people took the spoil which should have been destroyed to offer sacrifices unto the Lord," replied the king.

But Samuel answered: "Has the Lord more delight in sacrificing than in obedience to His word? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Rebellion against the word of God is sin, and for that you shall be made to suffer. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He will reject you from being king."

As Samuel turned to go, Saul lay hold of the skirt of his mantle, but it tore in his hands. Whereupon Samuel said: "This means that the Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you and your household and given it to some one else, that is better than you."

Then Samuel left Saul and came no more to see him.