The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Samuel

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1 Samuel 31

1Sa 31:1

1Sa 31: Saul's divine commission had been to save Israel from the Philistines (1Sa 9:16). But ironically he dies at their hand -- such is the measure of his failure.

"The sad story of a king who commenced so well, is concluded. Israel's forces had been led by his foolish, suicidal actions to Gilboa, under challenge from the Philistine camp. With complete abandonment, Saul sought the advice of a witch at Endor, beyond the Philistine lines, but received no answer of peace. Instead, she confirmed his folly, and sent him to his death. In this the witch returned the judgments upon Saul that he had earlier, obediently, executed according to the law of God against witches. But Saul took the whole nation into despair, as he stood for the last time with his son Jonathan on the hills of Gilboa. It was the final act in a life of tragic drama: forty years of misrule came to an end. The former valiant king stood with his armour-bearer in a last, desperate action. If Saul's armor-bearer was Doeg, then they both fell by the same sword as slew the priests of Nob. So, again, the Philistines stood in triumph, a symbol of mankind's rebellion against God. But in the death of Saul would be accomplished the life of David. Shortly, he would be elevated to the monarchy, and commence a different reign from the former forty years. In this is a type of the conquest of Christ over the sin-power; first in himself at Golgotha; finally in his people redeemed from the misrule of Saul" (GEM).

1Sa 31:2

Saul's sons all die, to make way for David to assume kingship (cp Samuel's words in 1Sa 28:19).

ABINADAB: Prob the same as Ishvi in 1Sa 14:49.

1Sa 31:4

Saul killed himself -- the Amalekite lied (2Sa 1:10).

1Sa 31:6

ALL HIS MEN: Prob all his special bodyguard -- except for Abner, who survived.

1Sa 31:9

Vv 9,10: Cp death of Goliath: 1Sa 17:54; 21:9. "God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them" (Psa 53:5).

1Sa 31:10

BETH SHAN: In this area lies the 263 ft high tell of Beth-shean, one of the oldest cities in Bible Lands. The remains of 20 layers of settlement have been found going back more than three thousand years BC. The Israelites failed to conquer the city in Joshua's time (Jos 17:16; Jdg 1:27), and the fortified town was still under Philistine control in the time of Saul, the first king of Israel. When Saul and his sons were slain in battle their bodies were hung on the walls of this city by the victors (1Sa 31:6-13). Beth-shean is included in the cities of Solomon's kingdom (1Ki 4:12). When the Greek empire dominated the area the city was known as Scythopolis. Pliny, the Roman author (1st cent AD) mentions the city in his writings. It was one of the cities in the Roman province of Decapolis which was visited by Jesus (Mar 7:31). The city was further developed by the Romans and all around the ancient tell the archaeologists are busy uncovering this large city that was devastated by an earthquake. A recent find is a mosaic featuring the portrait of a zebra, an animal not found in Israel.

1Sa 31:11

THE PEOPLE OF JABESH GILEAD: Was Saul descended from one of the 400 virgins of Jabesh Gilead who were given to the Benjamites (Jdg 21:8-12...)? Saul had rescued their city from the Ammonites (1Sa 11).

1Sa 31:12

WHERE THEY BURNED THEM: Fear of infection? Amo 6:10.

1Sa 31:13

THEIR BONES: These bones, later removed by David to land of Benjamin (2Sa 2:12-14).

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