1 Chronicles
Introduction 1-6 The Death of Saul and His Three Sons 7-10 The Philistines Dishonor Saul 11-12 Jabes Pays Tribute to Saul 13-14 Why Saul Died
Introduction

It is not the purpose of 1 Chronicles to present the life of Saul in detail because it contributes little to the subject of this Bible book: the house of God. The particularities of Saul’s life are given in the first book of Samuel. It is presumed that the reader knows that. In the first book of Samuel the failure of man in his responsibility is presented. Then God will work on the fulfillment of His counsels by giving the kingdom to David (cf. Acts 13:21-2221Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.22After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’). The man to the heart of the people is set aside by God. Man according to the flesh must disappear to make room for the man according to God’s heart.


The Death of Saul and His Three Sons

1Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2The Philistines closely pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3The battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers. 4Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword and died. 6Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all [those] of his house died together.

Because the purpose of the chronicler is to describe David’s life, there is only one moment in Saul’s life that interests him, and that is his death. The opening words of verse 11Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. point to the connection with the previous history of Saul, described in the first book of Samuel.

The history of Saul’s death is described in almost equal terms in 1 Samuel 31 (1Sam 31:1-61Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa.2The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul.3The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers.4Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it.5When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him.6Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together.). When the Philistines fight against Israel, Saul sees his men fleeing and being killed. He sees that his end is approaching. Yet there is no crying to God. The only thing he still wants is to prevent falling alive into the hands of the Philistines. He will have known from the life of Samson what that means (Jdg 16:21-2521Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.22However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.23Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said,
“Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”
24When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said,
“Our god has given our enemy into our hands,
Even the destroyer of our country,
Who has slain many of us.”25It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars.
).

Saul calls the Philistines “uncircumcised”. But even though Saul has been circumcised externally, and thus externally a member of the people of God, he is uncircumcised in heart (Rom 2:28-2928For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.29But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.). Circumcision is a picture of the judgment of the sinful flesh, the acknowledgment that God had to judge it in Christ (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). Saul maintains the outer separation between him as an Israelite and the Philistines, without realizing that inwardly he himself is a Philistine.

Saul asks his armor bearer to kill him, but his armor bearer is afraid to do it. Then Saul commits suicide. It is the first suicide we find in the Bible. According to Samuel’s word, Saul and his sons die in one day (1Sam 28:1919Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the LORD will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!”). They fall by the hand of the enemies they had to fight and exterminate. Saul did not succeed because he himself had no inner relationship with God. That is why he is powerless in his fight against the Philistines, who for the same reason are supreme.

Three of Saul’s sons died with him, including Jonathan. David’s heroes have chosen David’s side when he is still rejected. Jonathan is not there. He gave everything to David, except his shoes, so to speak (cf. 1Sam 18:44Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.). He thought he could serve David by staying with his father Saul. At the critical moment, when it is clear that David must flee, he does not follow him, but returns to the city (1Sam 20:42b42Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’” Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.).

The chronicler passes by a fourth son of Saul, Ish-bosheth, who was made king by Abner instead of his father Saul. Because Ish-bosheth was made king totally without God’s will, he does not count. That is why the chronicler says of “Saul” that he “died with his three sons, and all [those] of his house died together” (verse 66Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all [those] of his house died together.). With this the house of Saul has reached the end of its existence and the way is free to introduce David.


The Philistines Dishonor Saul

7When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled; and the Philistines came and lived in them. 8It came about the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9So they stripped him and took his head and his armor and sent [messengers] around the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10They put his armor in the house of their gods and fastened his head in the house of Dagon.

Saul did not fulfil his task of delivering the land of the Philistines. On the contrary, when he has died, the Philistines come and live in the cities abandoned by the Israelites (1Sam 31:77When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled; then the Philistines came and lived in them.). And of which Saul has been afraid, that he would be mocked, does happen. When the Philistines find him and his sons, they strip him of his armor and his head.

The Philistines send Saul’s head and armor around their land. They do so to bring the message of their victory to their idols and to the people. It shows the folly of their idols. Their idols do not know what happened and must be informed. Then Saul’s armor is placed in the idol’s house as a tribute to their god. The head of Saul may be placed in the house of their idols (1Sam 31:8-108It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.9They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent [them] throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people.10They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.; cf. 1Sam 17:54,5754Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent.57So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand.).


Jabes Pays Tribute to Saul

11When all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12all the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons and brought them to Jabesh, and they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

There are still people in Israel for whom this humiliation goes too far. The men from Jabesh are mentioned honorably. They act with the anointed of the LORD as David has respected him. They sacrifice their night’s rest to pick up Saul’s body and the bodies of his sons and bury them. Then they fast for seven days (1Sam 31:11-1311Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul,12all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.13They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.). They understand something of the reproach that has been laid upon Israel.


Why Saul Died

13So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry [of it], 14and did not inquire of the LORD. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.

The reasons for Saul’s rejection are given:
1. Not keeping “the word of the LORD” (1Sam 13:8-148Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him.9So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering.10As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him [and] to greet him.11But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash,12therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.”13Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.14But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”; 15:1-3,9-11,261Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD.2Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek [for] what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.3Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”9But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.10Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,11“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.26But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.”). The fact that he did not keep what God said means that he did not keep it in order to preserve, guard and secure it. He has not taken that word as a guideline for his actions. It shows its negative attitude towards what is good.
2. Asking counsel of a medium, to inquire the spirit of a dead person (1Sam 28:7-137Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”8Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.”9But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?”10Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”11Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.”13The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.”), literally that he has asked an evil spirit to seek, rather than consulting the LORD. Here we see that he takes a positive attitude towards evil. Where the former is not present, there will be room for the latter.

Saul was not killed by the hand of the Philistines, nor by his own hand, but by the hand of the LORD. The time of Saul is over. God’s time has come for the introduction of the man to His heart, David.


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