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.