1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 31.
Death and Burial of Saul and His Sons.
DEATH OF SAUL AND HIS SONS. — V. 1. Now, the Philistines, whose armies had been placed in battle array in the Plain of Jezreel, chap. 29, 1.2, fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, as Saul had been told, and fell down slain in Mount Gilboa, where they fled from the valley upon the attack of the Philistine forces. V. 2. And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons, they pursued him with great tenacity, they hung closely at his feet, they strove to overtake him; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, Saul’s sons, chap. 14, 49. V. 3. And the battle went sore against Saul, literally, “toward” him, for the whole weight of the battle turned in his direction, and the archers hit him, striking him from all sides with arrows; and he was sore wounded of the archers, rather, he was much frightened, for he saw no way of escaping the enemy’s superior forces, since the battle had apparently resolved itself into individual combats on the part of Israel. V. 4. Then said Saul unto his armor-bearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith, lest these uncircumcised, the Philistines, come and thrust me through, and abuse me, torture him cruelly before putting him to death. But his armor-bearer would not; for he was sore afraid, he was responsible for the king’s life and felt too much awe for his person. Therefore Saul took a sword, and, turning the point toward his own body, fell upon it, committed suicide. V. 5. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword and died with him. V. 6. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, those of his immediate neighborhood, his body-guard, that same day together. That was the end of the man who had once had the Spirit of God and had been filled with power from above. Those who forsake the Lord are truly forsaken, and therefore in the end have no comfort, no help in the hour of death, but go their way into eternal destruction.
BURIAL OF SAUL AT JABESH-GILEAD. — V. 7. And when the men of Israel that were on the other side of the valley, in the hill-country toward the north and northeast, and they that were on the other side Jordan, apparently such as had not been mustered in the army, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities, for fear that they could not hold them anyway, and fled; and the Philistines, eventually, at the end of the campaign, came and dwelt in them. V. 8. And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, to take their garments, jewelry, and weapons as booty, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in Mount Gilboa. V. 9. And they cut off his, Saul’s, head, and stripped off his armor, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, evidently using these grim trophies to announce their victory, to publish it in the house of their idols and among the people, for they ascribed their victory to their idols. V. 10. And they put his armor in the house of Ashtaroth, their chief female goddess, whose largest temple was at Askelon; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan, a city in the valley of the Jordan which had been occupied by the Philistines as a result of the battle. V. 11. And when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, the city in the country east of Jordan which had been saved from the Ammonites by Saul’s timely intervention, chap. 11, heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul; v. 12. all the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, under cover of night, and came to Jabesh, and burned them there, their mutilation probably rendering them unfit for burial. V. 13. And they took their bones, the charred remains after the flesh had burned off, and buried them under a tree, a well-known tamarisk, at Jabesh, and fasted seven days, in deep mourning over the death of their benefactor, a touching and rare example of gratitude. Saul, although rejected by God, had been in fact king of Israel until his death. We also should honor those in authority, even if they are godless rascals, for the sake of the office given to them by God, which makes them His representatives.