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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 31

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

1Sa 31:1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.

Ver. 1. Now the Philistines fought against Israel. ] As they had done, by times, all the days of Saul, whose endless turmoils - as one saith of our King John - kept his body still in action, his mind in passions, and his prowess in use. Now he is to fight his last, and to die for his transgressions, 1Ch 10:13 and, as it maybe feared, in his trangressions, which is worse than to die in a ditch, Joh 8:21 though Josephus renown him for a martyr to his country, and Pellican send him to heaven.

And the men of Israel fled … and fell down slain.] Or, Wounded: as they had been foretold. 1Sa 12:25 "But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both you and your king"; but they believed it not, till it befell them. Now they are so hard bestead, that they had neither good heart to go forward, nor good liking to stand still, nor good assurance to run away: as our historian saith of the Scottish army at Musselburgh field; adding, moreover, that two thousand lying all day as dead, departed in the night; and that many so strained themselves in their flight, that they fell down breathless and dead; whereby they seemed in running from their death, to run to it. The execution was much maintained by the Scots’ own swords scattered in every place, &c. The like might be done here. If this calamity befell them at the same instant when David was triumphing over the Amalekites, as Josephus saith it did, it was very remarkable. It is sometimes hail with the saints, when it is much worse with the wicked. At once the sun rose upon Zoar, and the fire fell down upon Sodom. Abraham stands upon the hill, and seeth the cities burning. Gen 19:27-28

Verse 2

1Sa 31:2 And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons.

Ver. 2. And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul. ] Heb., Clave to him; sat close upon his skirts: fighting neither against small nor great, so much as against him, as their capital enemy, the destroyer of their country, that had slain many of them, as Judges 16:24 .

And the Philistines slew Jonathan. ] That peerless prince, the glory of chivalry, that lumen et columen the light and support of his country. He dieth among the rest, and hath his share as deep as any other in that common calamity: so true is that of Solomon, Ecc 9:1-2 "there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked"; but God maketh them to differ, Mal 3:18 as the harvest man cutteth down the good corn and the weeds together, but for a different purpose. Martyr noteth, that if Jonathan had lived, his heart might have changed toward David, and the people’s hearts might have hanged much after him, so valiant and virtuous a prince, to David’s great prejudice. We read how they were set upon it to settle Ishbosheth upon the throne, though an ουτιδανος , a worthless man, and undeserving.

And Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons.] All whom, and many more of his dear friends, Saul lived to see slain before him, for his greater punishment. And the like befell Mauritius, the emperor - a far better man - who made a better use of it.

Verse 3

1Sa 31:3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.

Ver. 3. And he was sore wounded of the archers. ] Sulpitius Severus saith he was so wounded that he fell from his horse. a But this he addeth of his own; for neither in the Scriptures nor yet in Josephus read we any such thing.

a Saul equo delapsus. - Sac. Hist., lib. i.

Verse 4

1Sa 31:4 Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

Ver. 4. Then said Saul unto his armourbearer. ] Whom the Rabbis constantly affirm to have been Doeg, the Edomite, whom Saul had once commanded to slay the Lord’s priests, and now to do the like to himself.

Discite iustitiam moniti.

Lest these uncircumcised come. ] To his last he reproaches the Philistines with their uncircumcision: as if his condition had been better than theirs, because he was circumcised. Whereas external privileges profit nothing those that are profane; but they are therefore the worse, because they ought to be better. Galatians 5:6 ; Gal 6:15

And abuse me, ] i.e., My body, whereof he took more care than for his precious soul; a common fault. His body was abused, nevertheless.

But his armourbearer would not. ] No more would Mark Antony’s armourbearer Eras: but, that he might not meddle with his master, fell first upon his own sword.

Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. ] After that he had first seen so many fall by the sword before him; and that with delight, if he had fallen before into the unpardonable sin, as some think he had. We read a of one that had committed that sin, that he wished that his wife and children, and all the world, might be damned together with him. But that he thus desperately slew himself, lest he should be slain by the enemy, "Hic rogo non furor est, ne moriare mori?" So some Jews at the sack of Jerusalem killed themselves, lest they should be taken by the Romans. Cato, lest he should fall into the hands of Caesar; for which suicide Seneca b highly extolleth him, but Augustine, c upon better grounds, dispraiseth and condemneth that fact of his as absurd and cowardly; especially since at his death he bade his son to do otherwise; yea, to promise himself all good of Caesar’s clemency. Cleombrotus and the Circumcelliones are not worth mentioning; Brutus and Cassius were to be pitied: but God receiveth not such souls, saith Jerome, d as against his will go out of their bodies. Osiander thinketh that Saul’s desperate death was a forerunner of his everlasting destruction: the Lord taketh it upon himself, and saith that he slew him. 1Ch 10:14

a Burr., Moses’s Choice, p. 34.

b Lib. de Provid. Divin.

c De Civ. Dei, lib. i. cap. xxiii.

d Ad Marcel.

Verse 5

1Sa 31:5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.

Ver. 5. He fell likewise upon his sword. ] By Saul’s evil example, and perhaps in love to him; as loath to outlive him, whom he had held the joy of his heart, the breath of his nostrils.

Verse 6

1Sa 31:6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.

Ver. 6. And all his men, that same day together, ] i.e., His household servants, his bodyguard, allies, and a great part of his army; so that of him might be sung that of Virgil concerning Priamus,

Hic finis Priami fatorum, hic exitus illum

Sorte tulit Troiam incensam et prolapsa videntem

Pergama, tot quondam populis terrisque superbum

Regnatorem Aside: iacet ingens littore truncus,

Avulsumque humeris caput, et sine nomine corpus. ”

Verse 7

1Sa 31:7 And when the men of Israel that [were] on the other side of the valley, and [they] that [were] on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities, and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

Ver. 7. That were on the other side of the valley, ] i.e., On both sides of the place where the battle was fought.

And the Philistines came and dwelt in them. ] They were not like Hannibal, of whom it is said that he knew how to get a victory, but not how to use it. These pursued the victory; and having slain Saul, they might have overrun the land, but that God raised up David to put a stop to their proceedings, and at length to subdue them to his dominion.

Verse 8

1Sa 31:8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.

Ver. 8. And it came to pass on the morrow. ] They made sure work of the victory before they fell upon the spoil: so did not Pirinninus. See Trapp on " 1Sa 30:16 "

Verse 9

1Sa 31:9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish [it in] the house of their idols, and among the people.

Ver. 9. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour. ] They served him in like sort as their champion Goliath had been served: that they might cry quittance with him. Men love to retaliate.

To publish it in the house of their idols. ] Heb., Their fray-bugs object of fear . So called, because they fright their superstitious followers, instead of instructing and comforting them. See Psalms 16:4 . See Trapp on " Psa 16:4 "

And among the people. ] This David would not have had done, 2Sa 1:20 but God suffered it, though he some way suffered in it, to show his singular hatred of sin, and show he is set upon the punishment of it.

Verse 10

1Sa 31:10 And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.

Ver. 10. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth. ] That is, Of Venus, or, as some think, Juno. See Mr Selden, "De diis Syris," - opus illud accuratissimum, eruditionisqne reconditioris cum primis faetum, saith learned Mr Gataker. a

a Dissert. de Tetragram.

Verse 11

1Sa 31:11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;

Ver. 11. And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead. ] Memores beneficii a Saule accepti, they remembered what a good turn Saul had once done them, 1Sa 11:11 and hence make this bold adventure, Perraro grati reperiuntur; the memory of a good turn should never wax old; hence the Graces were painted as young virgins, &c. See Alciat’s "Emblems," p. 565. Trebius the Roman, for his kindness to that people, was carried forth, when he died, on their shoulders; and put into the funeral bonfire. a

a Plin.

Verse 12

1Sa 31:12 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 Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.

Ver. 12. And went all night. ] To rescue his dead body, as he had marched all night to rescue them from the Ammonites.

And burnt them there. ] Erant enim putrida corpora, plena vermibus, saith Vatablus; for their bodies were now putrified, by hanging long in the sun and air, full of vermin. They burnt them therefore with sweet odours, as 2 Chronicles 16:14 , and as was usual with the heathens, as may be seen in Virgil -

Ingentem struxere pyram, &c. ” - Aen., lib. vi.

Verse 13

1Sa 31:13 And they took their bones, and buried [them] under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

Ver. 13. And they took their bones. ] Half calcinated.

And buried them under a tree. ] Sub ulmo, some render it, under an elm: others, under a terebinth, as under a monument.

And fasted seven days. ] To show their great grief, as Job 2:13 , all which while they fasted, non a toto, sed a tanto et tali, as Daniel 10:3 , and prayed doubtless for the public wellfare.

Soli Deo Gloria

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 31". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-samuel-31.html. 1865-1868.
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