The Philistines defeat king Saul in battle. Rather than become a prisoner, Saul chooses to end his life by falling upon his sword. Although the Philistines desecrate his body, the people of Jabesh-Gilead give him and his sons a proper burial.
The Philistines prove to be a formidable force: “The battle raged around Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded by the archers… Saul grasped the sword and fell upon it.” (vv. 3-4)
III. Important Verses
vv. 2-4: The Philistines pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, sons of Saul. The battle raged around Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded by the archers. Saul said to his arms-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me.” But his arms-bearer, out of great awe, refused; whereupon Saul grasped the sword and fell upon it.
v. 7: And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled; the Philistines then came and occupied them.
vv. 8-10: The next day the Philistines came to strip the slain, and they found Saul and his sons lying on Mount Gilboa. They stripped him, and carried off his head and his armor, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines to spread the news to their idols and among the people. They placed his armor in the temple of their god, and they impaled his head in the temple of Dagan.
vv. 11-12: When all Jabesh-gilead heard everything that the Philistines had done to Saul, all their stalwart men set out, removed the bodies of Saul and his sons, and brought them to Jabesh. They buried the bones under the oak tree in Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.
vv. 13-14: Saul died for the trespass that he had committed against the LORD in not having fulfilled the command of the LORD; moreover, he had consulted a ghost to seek advice, and did not seek advice of the LORD; so He had him slain and the kingdom transferred to David son of Jesse.
1-7. King Saul’s death
8-10. Saul’s body is desecrated
11-12. Saul is honored in death
13-14. Reasons for Saul’s demise
After listing the genealogies of “the ideal Israel,” the book of Chronicles takes a new tack by describing the reigns of King David and King Solomon. While it is clear that the narrative sections of Chronicles follow the outline of 1 Sam 31 – 2 Kings 25, there are numerous additions, omissions, and alterations. De Vries attempts to put our chapter into its proper perspective: “[The Chronicler] needs a rationale for dismissing Saul and his entire lineage in the history he is about to recount, thereby assuring for David the position of eponymous king of Israel. We immediately see that this writer expresses his view just as effectively in the passages he omits as in those he modifies or quotes more or less verbatim. He will hear nothing of Saul’s rise, of his long struggle to eliminate David, or of David’s own struggle against Ishbosheth. Not too much must be made of this human, worldly contest; for, rather, it is a matter of [the Lord] judging Saul and thereby clearing the way for David. This is the one and only place where we read that [the Lord] directly intervenes to substitute one king for another: ‘Therfore [the Lord] slew him and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse’ (v. 14b).” (119) Indeed, Saul is condemned in vv. 13-14: “Saul died for the trespass that he had committed against the LORD in not having fulfilled the command of the LORD; moreover, he had consulted a ghost to seek advice, and did not seek advice of the LORD; so He had him slain and the kingdom transferred to David son of Jesse.”
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
De Vries, Simon J. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989).
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