v1-3: The Lord had a test for Saul. It may have been that He gave a fresh opportunity to show real obedience.
The Amalekites had shown cruelty to Israel in the wilderness, by attacking the stragglers. Saul's task was to destroy them completely, fulfilling God's own word, Deut 25.17-19.
v4-6: As Saul planned his attack, he warned the Kenites, who had shown kindness to Israel years before. It seems that all Israelites would have respected the Kenites, so Saul's words do not indicate that he showed any special mercy.
v7-9: Saul destroyed everything that was despised and worthless, but kept "everything that was good". Like Achan, he looked with human eyes, and rejected God's ways. He was disobedient to the clear command given through Samuel.
v10-11: Samuel was God's messenger. His sorrow over Saul was communicated only to Samuel. Samuel, full of mercy and kindness, prayed through the night. Perhaps this was a key turning point for Saul, although he was ignorant of this ‘message’ from the Lord to Samuel.
v12: Saul had built a monument to his own honour and name, like Absalom later. Such folly, in the light of his disobedience.
v13: Saul boasted in his personal achievement.
v14: Samuel was not fooled, and the noise of sheep and cattle exposed Saul's disobedience.
v15: Saul provided an excuse, even a 'spiritual' argument about offering a sacrifice to God. The Lord is “the Lord your God,” not Saul’s God, but Samuel’s. Already, here is clear testimony of Saul’s lack of faith.
v16: Samuel was the one in touch with God, and even told the king to "Stop!", 'Be quiet!'
v17-21: Samuel pointed out Saul's disobedience. Saul argued, claiming to have obeyed, and also to be keen to offer a sacrifice to the Lord.
v22-23: Samuel's response is clear. Obedience is better than animal sacrifice. Rebellion and arrogance, of which Saul was guilty, are as serious as divination (witchcraft) and idolatry. The previous warning in 13.13-14 was carried through. John Groves comments that ‘rebellion is worse than witchcraft because witchcraft is only one of the fruits of rebellion. On the other hand obedience is the highest expression of honour to God, better than sacrifice.
v24-26: Saul admitted his wrong doing, but blamed the people. True sorrow and repentance has no qualifications. Saul hoped that God would forgive. But Samuel insisted that the kingdom had finished, Saul's authority had gone.
v27-29: The tearing of Samuel's coat gave a further prophecy, that the kingdom had been taken out of Saul's hands, and God had raised up another to be king. God had decided, and nothing Saul could do would change that.
v30-31: Saul wanted to worship God, and Samuel did not stop him. Saul had lost the authority as king, but could not be prevented from worshipping God. Sadly, this was not a regular practice.
v32-33: Samuel put Agag to death, completing the work that Saul had failed to do. Saul's 'mercy' led to the birth of Haman, the Agagite (Esth 3.1), who threatened the nation of Israel. One failure one day can cause serious consequences later.
v34-35: Saul did not keep close to the Lord. He lost touch with God and with Samuel. His downward slide continued for the rest of his life, with the affliction of an evil spirit, the pursuit of David, and the enquiring of a medium.