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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 31

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-6

The Death of Saul and His Sons

After we have seen the deviation and recovery of David we are moved back to the events around Saul. The Philistines are supreme. Saul, after his inner distress by visiting the medium in Endor (1 Samuel 28:7-Lamentations :), also gets distressed from the outside. A king is made one with his people. The people are falling. The people who wanted a king who goes before them (1 Samuel 8:4-Deuteronomy :), falls with his king here. With Saul, his three thousand exquisite men have also fallen. They fall with their lord. That is how it goes with every human being. Every human being falls with his lord, the devil, or conquers with his Lord, the Lord Jesus. Three sons of Saul, including Jonathan, also died.

Saul sees that his end is approaching. Yet there is no call to God. All he wants left is to prevent him from falling alive into the hands of the Philistines. He calls the Philistines “uncircumcised”. But even though he himself has been circumcised and thus externally a member of the people of God, he is uncircumcised in heart (cf. Romans 2:28-Joel :). Circumcision is a picture of the judgment of the sinful flesh, the acknowledgement that God had to judge it in Christ (Colossians 2:11).

Saul maintains the outer separation between him as an Israelite and the Philistines, without realizing that he is inwardly precise as they are. David lived among the Philistines, but never was a Philistine. Saul was never among the Philistines, but he is one of them within. Samson also spoke about Philistines as the uncircumcised (Judges 15:18), but he did so to God. Jonathan also, but in faith (1 Samuel 14:6). Saul does it in orthodoxy.

His condition is tragic. He is only surrounded by enemies. God has taken His hands away from him. Saul asks his armor bearer to kill him. He is afraid to do that. David has also been an armor bearer of Saul. He too never stretched out his hand against Saul. Then Saul commits suicide. Saul is the first of the few people who are mentioned in Scripture as having committed suicide: Saul’s armor bearer, Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23); Zimri (1 Kings 16:18) and Judas (Matthew 27:5). According to Samuel’s word, Saul and his sons die on the same day.

His armor bearer follows the example of his lord. He linked his life to that of Saul. When Saul is dead, there is no more purpose for him to live. The difference between Saul’s and Jonathan’s armor bearer (1 Samuel 14:6-Judges :; 1 Samuel 14:12-2 Chronicles :) is as great as the difference between Saul and Jonathan. Today we can recognize Saul’s armor bearer in many who glorify an idol. When this idol falls, their lives fall to pieces and it loses its subsistence value. They have lost what they have venerated so much and commit suicide. To this despair the devil leads every man who follows another man as his god.

Saul’s death puts an end to an old system of things that sidelines God. Now God puts that system aside (Hosea 13:11). He judges it through the Philistines as His rod of discipline. Now there is room for his king, for the man of his choice, the man after his heart. The fall of Saul and his men means the fall of Israel. This is the situation David is in when he becomes king. He comes to bring order to the greatest disorder resulting from judgment. Prophetically it will be the same. The Lord Jesus will not accept His government until all human government has come to an end, that is to say, it has been put to an end by Him.

Verses 7-10

The Philistines Celebrate the Victory

Saul has not fulfilled his mission to deliver the land of Israel from the Philistines. On the contrary, when he has died, the Philistines come and live in the cities abandoned by the Israelites. What Saul had wanted to prevent in his pride, that he would be mocked, happens to him (cf. Judges 16:25). He escaped the torments of the Philistines by his suicide, but they defaced his body by beheading it.

When he was introduced to the people, it appeared that he stood head and shoulders above the people (1 Samuel 10:23). The people have therefore applauded him and greeted him as their hero. His enemies have let his head go through the land like a trophy and bring the joyful message of victory into the house of their idols and to the people. They have hung his body on the wall of Beth-San as a sign of reproach.

Verses 11-13

The Inhabitants of Jabesh

Then it turns out that Saul still has friends. There are still people in Israel for whom this humiliation goes too far. They sacrifice their night’s rest in order to pick up Saul’s body and bury it. Then they fast for seven days. They understand something of the reproach that has been placed on Israel.

With this everything that has to do with the king after the heart of man and the system that belongs to him has ended. The way is free for the man after God’s heart. That is what the next book is about.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 31". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-31.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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