Deutsche Staatsbibliothek/Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin

“Why did you disobey the Lord?” Samuel asks when he arrives at Gilgal and finds that Saul has not killed all the Amalekites’ livestock, as Yahweh had commanded (1 Samuel 15:19). The two horses of Samuel’s chariot and Saul, standing before an altar, are visible in the upper left panel of this vellum page from what may be the oldest extant illuminated Bible, the early fifth-century Quedlinburg Itala, now in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. The inscriptions identify the figures and offer instructions to the illuminator: “Paint the prophet in a carriage, talking against the king, Saul sacrificing and two of the king’s servants.”

When Samuel informs Saul that Yahweh has now rejected him as king, Saul begs the prophet to pray with him for forgiveness. As Saul turns to leave, Samuel seizes the corner of his robe, as shown in the second panel. At lower left, Saul admits his wrong and prays with Samuel. In the final panel, the prophet wields his knife over the Amalekite king Agag: “And Samuel slew Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:33)—perhaps foreshadowing Saul’s own fate.