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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 10

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-14

CRITICAL NOTES.] The genealogical introduction now closed. Narrative in twenty chapters describes the reign of David. The first 12 verses in this chapter a second edition of 1 Samuel 31:0, with variations in diction and in facts, partly from brevity and an interval of five or six centuries.

1 Chronicles 10:1-7.—The death of Saul. Gilboa on which Gideon triumphed (Judges 7:1-8). Followed. Hebrew implies that Saul was special object of pursuit. 1 Chronicles 10:2. “Sons of S.,” without article: four altogether (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:39). 1 Chronicles 10:3. Wounded, not dangerously, perhaps. “Some read he trembled before the archers,” who hit, literally found, reached him in pursuing. 1 Chronicles 10:4. Abuse me, mock me. Afraid out of respect for loyalty and in the same peril. 1 Chronicles 10:6. House, not whole family or all his sons, for Ishbosheth survived and succeeded him in portion of kingdom (2 Samuel 2:8-16; 2 Samuel 3:6-15); but “all his household,” or body of attendants in war.

1 Chronicles 10:8-12.—Treatment of remains. House of Ashtaroth (1 Samuel 31:10). Customary to deposit spoils of war in heathen temples. 1 Chronicles 10:10. Head, skull. Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2). This temple destroyed in time of Maccabees (1Ma. 10:82-85). The headless corpse fixed to the wall of Beth-shan (1 Samuel 31:10). 1 Chronicles 10:11. Jab-gil. moved by gratitude for former help (1 Samuel 11:1-3). Buried the bones (after burning of the bodies, 1 Samuel 31:12) under oak or terebinth, “the tree” or tamarisk in Samuel. The word in both places generic, different names from one root, refer to large variety of oaks [cf. Dr. Thom., The Ld. and Bk., pp. 243, 244].

1 Chronicles 10:13-14.—Moral of Saul’s death. Transgression in sparing king of Amalckites (1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 13:15); and in consulting a familiar spirit (1 Samuel 28:0). 1 Chronicles 10:14. Inquired in form, not in right spirit. Impatient consultation considered by the writer as so inquiry at all.


THE HEIGHTS OF GILBOA.—1 Chronicles 10:1-6

Mount Gilboa a noted place in the lot of Issachar, “flanked by the Little Hermon ridge on north-east, and by Gilboa on south-east; a mountain range of ten miles long, about 600 feet high, and mentioned only in the melancholy connection of this history.”

I. The important battle. Philistines an old and inveterate enemy, more numerous, perhaps better led and better posted, began attack. Some think Saul had gone to consult the witch and left the camp. Israel ever exposed to a watchful foe. Christian life a conflict. When thrown off our guard and God forgotten, we are easily surrounded and overcome.

II. The disgraceful flight. Best of troops put into disorder. The people of God chased by the enemy, and multitudes slain! How different from yore, when one put a thousand to flight! But when a people walk contrary to God, He will send a faintness into their hearts, and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth (Leviticus 26:23-36).

III. The pride of Israel slain. Sad scenes on Gilboa’s top! The chosen of God and the hero of Israel wounded by archers and falling upon his own sword! The king’s sons, the bodyguard and the pride of his army, perish with him. “How are the mighty fallen!” Learn that one sinner not only destroyeth much good, but entails much suffering.

1. Upon his own kindred. Parents sin, and children suffer. Princes disobey, and their heirs are cut off.

2. In society at large. Not only the family, but the subjects of Saul suffered. How many homes, how many nations have been thrown into sorrow and deprived of their glory through sinful leaders! Achan perished not alone in his iniquity. “If ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

THE DEATH OF SAUL.—1 Chronicles 10:3-7; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

The life and conduct of Saul full of incident, dramatic effect, and solemn warning. Learn—

I. That a splendid beginning may have an awful ending. Saul loved and elevated, called from obscurity to the service of his country; had gifts of body and mind; but opportunities lost, calling unfulfilled, and life a failure! “The chosen of the Lord” died a self-murderer! “All is well that ends well.”

II. That divine judgments overtake men’s sins. “The Lord slew him.” He had disobeyed law, defied the authority of Samuel; persisted in his self-will, and became the proud controller of his own life. Frightful to die in rebellion, to rush unbidden into God’s presence, and become a monument of judgment! From Scripture, history, and moral law we learn that “God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.”

III. That in national calamities the godly suffer with the ungodly. The sons, the family, and the dynasty of Saul suffered through his guilt. Sin is personal, but its consequences extensive and self-propagating. The innocent involved by the guilty. A father’s conduct ruins the children; a monarch’s government destroys the nation. If by the arrangements of society and by the law of influence we entail good or evil, let the ungodly beware and the righteous be faithful, “for none of us liveth to himself.”

SCENES IN THE CAPITAL OF GATH.—1 Chronicles 10:7-10

I. Tidings of the deaths of the royal family. When day after battle dawned, the Philistines found dead bodies of father and three sons. Tidings told in capital of Gath and published in the streets of Ashkelon.

II. Welcome to the victorious army. Daughters of accursed race rejoiced and welcomed back their victorious army. Retribution had come for the fall of their champion leader.

III. Trophies suspended in the temple of the gods. This customary. “As head and sword of Goliath were carried off to the sanctuary, so head of Saul cut off and fastened to the temple of Dagon at Ashdod, and his arms—the spear on which he had so often rested, the sword and the famous bow of Jonathan—were sent round in festive processions to the Philistine cities, and finally deposited in the temple of Ashtaroth, in the Canaanitish city of Bethshan, hard by the fatal field. On the walls of the same city, overhanging the public place in front of the gates, were hung the stripped and dismembered corpses.” A lasting memorial of Israel’s ignominious defeat and subjugation.

THE DEVOTED CITY.—1 Chronicles 10:11-12

I. The patriotism of the city. In general defection trans-Jordanic towns loyal to the fallen house. Jabesh-gilead specially devoted. Concerned for the land defiled by exposure of dead bodies, and for the crown of Israel profaned by uncircumcised.

II. The zeal of the city. Enthusiasm contagious. Seen—

1. In arming the people. “All the valiant men arose.”

2. In a successful raid. A long journey, a distance of about twelve miles; dangerous in the night, and by a narrow upland passage; guard surprised and bodies rescued.

III. The gratitude of the city. All this in remembrance of services rendered by Saul against their enemies (1 Samuel 11:1-13). Gratitude expressed—

1. In solemn funeral rites; and

2. In fasting and sorrow. Rare to show gratitude to a fallen foe. This act commended by David (2 Samuel 2:5), and mentioned by Josephus (Antiq. vi. 6, ch. xiv., sect 8). Cherish the memory of past help; repay when opportunity comes, for come it will. You shall reap what you sow, a reward from God and man. “The Lord show kindness and truth unto you; and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing” (2 Samuel 2:6).

SAUL’S TRANSGRESSION.—1 Chronicles 10:14

I. He was a disobedient king. God’s command definite: “Slay man and woman.” Saul’s conduct was partial, he spared Agag the king, and kept best of cattle (1 Samuel 16:1). Men never prosper who violate God’s commands. Sooner or later punishment overtakes them. Adam, Balaam, Jonah.

II. He was an untruthful king. “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Saul had a bad heart and a false tongue. He coveted Agar’s wealth and Samuel’s blessing. The bleeting of sheep convicted the lying king. God will expose the untruthful. Abraham, Ananias, &c.

III. He was a hypocritical king. “The people spared the fattest of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord.” When convicted of sin he blamed the people, but attributes their sin to a sacred motive. Hypocrisy adorns herself in the most attractive attire. One sin opens the gates for another. Disobedience leads to falsehood; falsehood to hypocrisy; hypocrisy to ruin. Bad men disqualify themselves for exalted positions. When kings refuse to obey God, he will cut them off. When great men fail, God appoints their successors. God can raise up men for the most arduous duties [J. T. Woodhouse].

THE LOST KINGDOM.—1 Chronicles 10:14

I. Lost through sin. Disobedience, obstinate pride, and self-will.

II. Transferred by divine appointment. “He turned the kingdom unto David, the son of Jesse.” God overturns one and raises up another. Royalty no shelter against judgments, power no defence against heaven. “Thy kingdom shall not continue.” A proud man, elated by talent and success; a boasting church, a people glorying in wealth or wisdom, in anything but Christ, may soon be abased. God brings down the mighty from their seats and exalts the humble, “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”


1 Chronicles 10:1-7. Battle against Saul, who was—

1. Abandoned to despair. “Sore afraid,” 1 Chronicles 10:4, i.e., he trembled, was frightened at archers. After scene of Endor might well fear.

2. Failed in resources. No prophet, no divine guidance, sorely wounded and unable to defend himself. A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

1 Chronicles 10:2. Jonathan. That peerless prince, the glory of chivalry, that lumen et columen 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, “There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-2); but God maketh them to differ (Malachi 3:18), as the harvest-man cutteth down the good corn and the weeds together, but for a different purpose [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 10:4. Abuse me, i.e., my body, whereof he took more care than for his precious soul. A common fault. His body was abused nevertheless [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 10:5. Fell likewise. Evil examples, especially of the great, never escaped imitation: the armour-bearer of Saul follows his master, and dares do that to himself which to his king he durst not [Bp. Hall]. Fell by Saul’s evil example, and perhaps in love to him, as loth to outlive him whom he had held the joy of his heart, the breath of his nostrils. He had done better if he had died by the hand of the enemy, in his master’s defence [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 10:4. Suicide as illustrated by the case of Saul. I. Causes;

1. Not merely accumulated misfortunes, but long-continued wrongdoing;

2. Cowardly fear of suffering (1 Chronicles 10:3), even in a man formerly brave;

3. Caring more for disgrace than for sin;
4. Abandonment of trust in God as to this life and the future life. II. Effects:

1. Others led by the example into the same folly and sin (1 Chronicles 10:5);

2. Personal dishonour not really prevented (1 Chronicles 10:4; 1 Chronicles 10:9-10);

3. A crowning and lasting reproach to the man’s memory [Lange].

1 Chronicles 10:11-12. Exploit of men of Jabesh-gilead.

1. It was a brave deed;
2. A patriotic deed;
3. A grateful deed (ch. 11);
4. But the bravery, patriotism, and gratitude had been better shown before Saul’s death by helping him (which they do not appear to have done). Honours after death make poor amends for neglect and unfaithfulness during life;
5. And care of the poor remains could avail little for the man’s reputation in this world, and nothing for his repose in eternity [Lange].

1 Chronicles 10:13. A familiar spirit. He turned aside (1 Samuel 12:20), indicating not only external defection in non-fulfilment of the word, but internal, a falling away in fellowship and walk with God, was not subject to God’s will and word. Learn—

1. The possibility that a man may fall from spiritual communion with the divine and invisible. “God is departed from me and answereth me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams.”

2. The rapidity with which a man may fall from the highest eminence. “Because thou obeyedst not, therefore hath the Lord done this thing.”

3. The certainty that one day the impenitent will want their old teachers. “Bring me up Samuel” [City Temple, vol. i.].


1 Chronicles 10:6. Saul died. There is not in sacred history, or in any other, a character more melancholy to contemplate than that of Saul. Naturally humble and modest, though of strong passions, he might have adorned a private station. In circumstances which did not expose him to temptation, he would probably have acted virtuously. But his natural rashness was controlled neither by a powerful understanding nor a scrupulous conscience, and the obligations of duty and the ties of gratitude, always felt by him too slightly, were totally disregarded when ambition, envy, and jealousy had taken possession of his mind. The diabolical nature of these passions is seen, with frightful distinctness, in Saul, whom their indulgence transformed into an unnatural monster, who constantly exhibited the moral infatuation so common among those who have abandoned themselves to sin, of thinking that the punishment of one crime may be escaped by the perpetration of another. In him also is seen the moral anomaly or contradiction which would be incredible did we not often witness it, of an individual pursuing habitually a course which his better nature pronounces not only flagitious, but insane (1 Samuel 24:16-22). Saul knew that the person should be king whom he persisted in seeking to destroy, and so accelerated his own ruin [Kitto].

1 Chronicles 10:14. Turned. Because of unrighteous dealings, the kingdom is turned from one people to another (Sir. 10:8).

“Kings then at last have but the lot of all,
By their own conduct they must stand or fall” [Cowper].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-chronicles-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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