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It is evident that the compiler of the Chronicles intended its history proper to begin substantially with the reign of David. Strictly, however, it opens with the last mournful chapter of the career of Saul and his sons, or of three out of the four (1 Chronicles 9:39) of them. The mention of Saul had been prepared for by the short preamble of his pedigree and family; and, in like manner, the way is paved for the introduction of the reign add deeds of David by the brief and affecting narration of the end of his predecessor on the throne. The last chapter of the First Book of Samuel occupies itself with the same subject and covers the same ground. Our present chapter compared with that is sufficient to convince us that both were drawn from some common source or sources. It is not possible to suppose that the writer of Chronicles merely copied from the Book of Samuel. The differences are very slight, but they are such as produce a different conviction, and are not consistent with the assumption of being mere alterations and additions upon what is read in the other work. The last two verses of this chapter form the distinctive feature of it, compared with the parallel of 1 Samuel 31:1-13. The appropriateness of these two verses, as bridging over the history from Saul to David, is evident, and is but another incidental indication of the thorough unity of purpose of the compiler. They may even be viewed as tacitly compensating for the abrupt introduction, at the commencement of the chapter, of the battle with the Philistines, and the slaughter on Mount Gilboa.
1 Chronicles 10:1
No abruptness marks this narration in 1 Samuel 31:1-13. On the contrary, it is there the natural conclusion of the wars between the Philistines and Saul. This engagement took place (1Sa 28:4; 1 Samuel 29:1, 1 Samuel 29:11) on the plains of Jezreel. The name Jezreel marks either the city (Jos 19:18; 1 Kings 21:1, 1 Kings 21:11), or the celebrated valley or plain called in later times Esdraelon, the Greek form of the word. The plain in its largest proportions may be said to have been bounded by the Mediterranean (although it is called the plain of Accho, where it abuts on that sea) and the Jordan, and by the Samaria and Carmel ranges on the south and south-west, and those of Galilee on the north and northeast. While called a "plain" and "the great plain" in Judges 1:8, its name in the Old Testament is "valley." It lay like a scalene triangle, with its apex in the direction of the Mediterranean, opening into the above-mentioned plain of Accho, and its sides going from right to left, about fifteen, twelve, and eighteen miles long respectively. The allusions to it in Old Testament history are frequent. Its exceeding richness is now turned into desolation unexceeded. Megiddo (Joshua 12:21; Judges 1:27), the city, centre of a smaller valley called by the same name (1 Chronicles 7:29; Judges 5:19), was situated within it, in the direction of Carmel. Mount Gilboa identifies for us the exact battle-field of the text. It is the same with that on which Gideon triumphed (Judges 7:1, Judges 7:8). It is in the lot of Issachar, flanked by the Little Hermon ridge on the north-east, and by Gilboa on the south-east, a mountain range of ten miles long, about six hundred feet high, and mentioned only in the melancholy connection of this history. The flight of the men of Israel and of Saul was from the plain back to their position on Mount Gilboa, where they were pursued, overtaken, and slain. The modern name of the town Jezreel is Zerin, the depraved aliases of which appear as Gerin and Zazzin (Robinson's 'Bibl. Res.,' 3:162-165, 3rd edit.), and Jezreel, Shunem, and Beth-shean are the three most conspicuous places in this part of the whole plain of Esdraelon.
1 Chronicles 10:2
Followed hard after. The Hebrew verb implies all this and rather more, viz. that they made the pursuit of Saul and his sons their one special object. Luther's "Hingen sich au Saul" expresses this forcibly. Abinadab; or Ishui (see 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Samuel 14:49). The sons of Saul. Omit the article, which is not present in the Hebrew text. The fourth son, not withstanding our 1 Chronicles 10:6, survived (2 Samuel 2:8-15).
1 Chronicles 10:3
The archers hit him. The literal translation would be, the shooters, men with the bow, found him. The context makes it plain that the meaning is that the arrows of the pursuers rather than the pursuers themselves "found" him, and these made him argue all the rest. To this our Authorized Version has jumped by the one word "hit" him. It is evident from 1 Chronicles 10:8 that the Philistines did not find the body of Saul to recognize it till next day. And he was wounded of the archers. The radical meaning of the verb (חוּל) is rather "to twist" (torquere) or "be twisted," "writhe" (torqueri). And the meaning here is in harmony with it, that Saul trembled from fear or writhed with the pain already inflicted of the arrows. Hence the parallel passage couples with this same verb, the adverb מְאֹךְ.
1 Chronicles 10:4
And abuse me. The main idea of the Hithp. of the verb here used is to satisfy the thirst of lust or cruelty. Saul probably feared not the abuse of mocking only, but that of torture. In the corresponding passage this verb is preceded by the clause, and thrust me through. His armour-bearer would not. He refused the request or bidding of Saul, no doubt mainly in respect of the fact that Saul was still "the anointed." We have a full description of both the loose arms and of the armour of the body in the case of the Philistine Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4-7). It is one of the world's surprising facts that the making of arms and armour, and the acquiring of skill in the using of them, should, as in fact all history attests, date from so early a period (Genesis 31:26; Genesis 34:25). As compared with the history and the fragmentary re. mains of classical antiquity, those of Scripture are remarkably scanty on this subject. The sword is the earliest mentioned in Scripture, carried in a sheath (1 Samuel 17:51; 2 Samuel 20:8; 1 Chronicles 21:27); though the Hebrew word is here different from that used in Samuel. It was slung by a girdle (1 Samuel 25:13), rested on hips or thigh (2 Samuel 20:8; Judges 3:16; Psalms 45:3), and was sometimes "two-edged" (Judges 3:16; Psalms 149:6). Then follows the spear in several varieties, as in 1 Samuel 17:7; 1 Chronicles 11:11; 1Ch 20:5; 1 Chronicles 23:9. Again as a javelin (Joshua 8:14-25; Job 29:23; 1 Samuel 17:6, where in the Authorized Version it is called target, or gorget). Again as a lancet (1 Kings 18:28; 1Ch 12:8, 1 Chronicles 12:24; 2 Chronicles 11:12; Nehemiah 4:13; Ezekiel 39:9). In addition to these three chief varieties of spear—the spear proper, the javelin, end the lancet—there is mention of two other weapons used at all events as the dart of a light kind would be used, in 2 Chronicles 23:10, and elsewhere, and in 2 Samuel 8:14, respectively. After sword and spear rank the bow and arrow (Gen 21:20; 1 Samuel 31:3; 1 Chronicles 8:40; 1 Chronicles 12:2; Psalms 68:9; Psalms 120:4; Job 6:4) And lastly, the sling (Jdg 20:16; 1 Samuel 25:29; 2 Kings 3:25), and a very strong weapon of the same kind mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:15. The chief articles worn as bodily armour were the breastplate (1 Samuel 17:5, 1 Samuel 17:38); the somewhat obscure habergeon, mentioned only twice, in no connection then of battle (Exodus 28:32; Exodus 39:23), the original name of which, tacharah, is found on Egyptian papyri of the nineteenth dynasty,—it seems to have been a species of doublet or corselet; the helmet (1Sa 17:5; 1 Samuel 26:14; Ezekiel 27:10); greaves (1 Samuel 17:6); two kinds of shield (1 Samuel 17:7, 1 Samuel 17:41, compared with 1 Kings 10:16; 2 Chronicles 9:15); and lastly the article mentioned in 2 Samuel 8:7; 1Ch 18:7; 2 Kings 11:10; 2 Chronicles 23:9; So 2 Chronicles 4:4; Jeremiah 51:11; Ezekiel 27:11; and of which we can say nothing certainly bearing upon its nature or its use, except that it was made of gold. Armour-bearers, then, the first distinct mention of whom we find in Judges 9:54, may well have been a necessity for kings and for the great. Joab had ten (2 Samuel 18:15). The word is not expressed as a compound in Hebrew, but as "one carrying (כֵלַים) arms."
1 Chronicles 10:5
And died. The parallel (1 Samuel 31:5) adds "with him."
1 Chronicles 10:6
All his house. In place of these words, the parallel (1 Samuel 31:6) has, "And his armour-bearer, and all his men, that same day together." This reading avoids the ambiguity referred to already (1 Chronicles 10:2). In either passage the moral is plain, that the end and ruin of Saul's family as a whole had arrived, rather than literally that the whole, including every member, of that family had perished.
1 Chronicles 10:7
In the valley. In place of these words, the parallel (1 Samuel 31:7) has, "On the other side of the valley, and.; on the other side Jordan." We have here a clear instance of the desire of the compiler of Chronicles to compress his narrative, while the fidelity of the parallel narrative is testi-fled in the naturalness of its statements, amounting to this, that, quick as the intelligence or report could reach all those Israelites who were at all within the range of the victorious Philistines, they hastened to vacate their abodes.
1 Chronicles 10:8
And his sons. The parallel (1 Samuel 31:8) says explicitly, "And his three sons."
1 Chronicles 10:9
And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour. Some comparing this with the parallel (1 Samuel 31:9), "They cut off his head, and stripped off his armour," say "our author" leaves the beheading unmentioned! It is certainly sufficiently implied. To carry tidings unto their idols. This sentence is more clearly explained, and brought into rather unexpected and perhaps unwished accord with the most modern of our ecclesiastical habits, when in the parallel as above, we find "to publish it in the house of their idols" as the form of expression.
1 Chronicles 10:10
The house of their gods. In place of this general designation, the parallel (1 Samuel 31:10) designates the house more exactly as "the house of Ashtaroth" (Genesis 14:5; the Phoenician female deity, as Baal was their male deity. The Greek form of the name is Astarte. See also Cic; 'De. Nat. Deo.,' Deuteronomy 3:23). And fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. The parallel, as above, gives us, "And fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shah" (which account is corroborated in 2 Samuel 21:12-14), and does not say what further was done with the head. It is no doubt remarkable that one historian puts on record the one fact and the other the other; and it is one of the clearer indications that both took from some common sources. It is perhaps something to be remarked also that, while the historian in Samuel says nothing further about the head (though allusion to it is probably included in the "body" and the "bones," the further account of which is given in 1 Chronicles 10:12, 1 Chronicles 10:13, as well as in 2 Samuel 21:12-14), the compiler of Chronicles does revert to mention of "the body of Saul," 1 Chronicles 10:12, infra, though without any corresponding naming of Beth-shah. Bertheau finds little difficulty in the question, by simply supposing that the omission in Chronicles is another instance of the desire to compress; while others suppose corruption in our text, or, as Thenius and Ewald, the loss of a sentence to our text. After all said, the omission in Samuel of the fate of the head would seem to be fully as remarkable as the omission, so far as this verse is concerned, in Chronicles of the fate of the body. It is reasonable to suppose that the head and trunk of the body of Saul were brought together again, or it were likely some allusion to the contrary would have transpired in the following verses of this chapter or in 2 Samuel 21:12-14. With regard to the act of the Philistines in dedicating the armour of Saul, and fixing his head in the temple of Dagon, as though trophies, the custom was both ancient and not uncommon (Judges 16:21-30; 1 Samuel 5:1-5; 1 Samuel 21:9). The house of Dagon (Joshua 15:41; Joshua 19:27) here spoken of was that at Ashdod (Joshua 15:47), between Gaza and Joppa. Though belonging to Judah's lot, it was never subdued by Israel, and remained throughout their history one of their worst foes. It is the Azotus of Acts 8:40. There was another Dagon temple at Gaza (Judges 16:21-31). Dagon's representation was the figure of a man, as to head, hands, and bust, but for the rest that of a fish, which was a symbol of fruitfulness. As Ashdod was situate on the extreme west of Palestine, so Beth-shah—generally written Beth-shean, a city of Manasseh (ch. 7:29), though within the borders of Issachar (Joshua 17:11), flora which the Canaanites were not expelled (Judges 1:27)—was on the extreme east near the Jordan. It was afterwards called Scythopolis. Considering the distance these were apart, and their contrary directions, we may suppose that some suggestion was intended by the fixing the head in the one place and the body in the other.
1 Chronicles 10:12
Jabesh. This is the only place where "Jabesh" is used as an abbreviation for Jabesh-gilead, of which it was the chief city. Gilead comprised the lots of Reuben and Gad (Numbers 32:1-5, Numbers 32:25-32, Numbers 32:39-41) and of half Manasseh (1 Chronicles 27:21). Saul had on a celebrated occasion (1 Samuel 11:1-13) befriended the people of Jabesh-gilead, coming to their rescue against Nahath the Ammonite, of which kindness they are now mindful, show that rarest of virtues, gratitude to a fallen monarch, and are further on (2 Samuel 2:5) commended for it by David. This verse does not tell us, as the parallel (1 Samuel 31:12) does, of the first burning of the bodies, and then of the burying of the calcined bones. The silence is very remarkable. It does name the kind of tree, the "oak" or "terebinth." The word for the tree, however, in both passages is of doubtful and perhaps only generic signification. The several Hebrew words translated in various places as "oak," all share a common root, significant of the idea of strength. Dr. Thomson says that the country owns still to an abundance of oaks of very fine growth in some eases, and that these are exceedingly more plentiful and altogether a stronger tree than the "terebinth." The different names, though all connected with one root, referred to are probably owing to the large variety of oaks. With the statement of the burying of the bones under a tree, and the fasting of seven days on the part of these brave and grateful men of Jabesh-gilead, the parallel account comes to its end.
1 Chronicles 10:13
So Saul died for his transgression. (For this transgression and the stress laid upon it and its predicted consequences, see 1Sa 15:1-9, 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:14; 1 Samuel 28:18.) For asking… of… a familiar spirit (1 Samuel 28:7-24).
1 Chronicles 10:14
And inquired not of the Lord. Saul seems to have, in point of fact, inquired in some sense (1 Samuel 14:37; 1Sa 28:5, 1 Samuel 28:6, 1 Samuel 28:15). But the probable meaning is that he did not inquire in the first instance (see 1 Chronicles 10:3, 1 Chronicles 10:4); and when he did inquire, he did not await the reply solely and exclusively of Jehovah. Therefore he slew him (so see 1 Chronicles 2:3). David the son of Jesse. The compiler, having heretofore given so scrupulously whatever of genealogical fact he could, is now careful to use it. And he identifies the future chief hero of his history as him who had already been instanced (1 Chronicles 2:15), "son of Jesse."
1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14.-The epitaph, a beacon-warning.
So far as this work is concerned, Saul is introduced to us, and takes "for ever" his farewell of us, in this one and the same chapter. We know him, however, well elsewhere. On the background of a bright sky, we are at once prepared to say, his figure stands out, and ever will stand out, dark in appearance, of somewhat commanding proportions, with the bearing of no altogether ordinary man—a striking figure, indeed, but one that strikes fear and a chill feeling throughout one, rather than one that inspires reverence, emulation, love, It cannot be said of him or of his career that they lack incident or dramatic effect. On the contrary, they were born in these and abound in them. Saul and his career were remarkably differenced from anything which could be called commonplace. And while the world continues, they must needs stand among the foremost examples for impressiveness, of grand opportunity and splendid prospects grievously missed and dishonoured. Our chapter is itself but a summary, the concluding snatch of a strange, eventful, solemn life, to the condemning faults of which, in its course, the present text points. And we, following a similar plan, will pass beneath our eye, in brief summary, the prominent facts, the moral qualities, and the opportunities of Saul; the troubled current on which they are hurried along, the dark abyss in which at last they are lost. Let us notice —
I. SAUL'S SUMMONS FROM OBSCURITY TO THE SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY AND THE FULL GLARE OF DAY. What we have to notice, especially about this, is that undoubtedly it was the doing of an upper power, of a special providence, of no purpose nor seeking of the man who was thus elevated, nor even of the contrivance of others. It was something outside of the individual life and outside the national life. No calculation of coincidence could count upon it nor account for it. In the presence of it, the man who disbelieves Providence and providences, and special and particular providences, because they make too large a demand on his fund of belief, prefers parsimoniously to spare expenditure in one direction, in order to lavish unscrupulous, disproportionate outlay in another. What he can believe, this he drains to the dregs in one of its resources, because he will not draw a fair measure of it from another. Of him it may well be said that the heart that refuses a healthy faith is that which grows the most abundant crop of credulity. The kingdom of God's people—only known as yet for a kingdom, inasmuch as he himself was its King—has reached one of its great crises. Moses foresaw it, and, strange to say, foreshadowed and sketched the legislation adapted to it. The special ministers, consisting of individual and local judges, have had their day. The majority of the nation dawns consciously upon it. The nation compares its composite, federal, fraternal constitution with the unity and cohesion of other nations, foes around; and, blessed though it is in comparison of them, yet deliberately estimates the balance as unfavourable to itself. Nay, Samuel himself, at this time by a moral force and growth the one judge and prophet of nearly the whole people, seems raised up at the moment to suggest that that embodiment of authority in one person—"a king that might judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles"—was quite within the range of possibility in the midst of themselves. In fact, the national voice, in a remarkable way and with a remarkable unanimity, had pronounced for this. But no man, no name even, was before them for king. They express no wish, ask no choice, solicit no help nor advice from Samuel on this particular point, but seem to leave it entirely with him (1 Samuel 8:22), and he leaves it entirely with God. Saul, however, a young man whose only known distinction at present is of tallness and bodily "goodliness,'' by a little chain of circumstances as uncertain from one to another as they were trivial in themselves, finds himself in the presence of Samuel, the seer of the tribes. The supreme Seer of the nation, God himself, has already instructed Samuel; and the issue is that Saul, "of the smallest of the tribes of Israel," his "family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin" (1 Samuel 9:21), is called to be king over all God's people] This was "the Lord's doing, and marvellous was it in the eyes" of Saul, at all events, as we are expressly told.
II. SAUL'S CONVERSION. It was a conversion of the old day, of the old Church, also of the old yet ever new Spirit. How stirred the heart, the thoughts, the amazement of Saul at the new future which had been so suddenly presented before him! We may well understand that he could not, did not, take it in all at once. But his heart was to k now a greater stirring, a deeper moving. "God gave him another heart" before ever he got back to his earthly father's house again. "The Spirit of God came upon him" (1 Samuel 10:9, 1 Samuel 10:10). The. great facts of conversion for the old day, for the old Chinch, and for all time are intrinsically the same, and are two—God's gift of another heart and of his Spirit therewith. And what transporting experience that must have been for him, when "all the signs" which had been given him by Samuel "came to pass;" and when "he prophesied" among the company of prophets that met him; and when, at his formal anointing, "all the people, shouted, God save the king" "and when, at the close of that solemn day, he went to Gibeah, and "there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched," also! Could there have been a more striking, a fuller, a richer beginning of a new religious life, and one shaped to highest ends? Who could ever lose the memory, the impressions, the force of hallowed resolutions belonging to such a time?
III. THE FACT OF THE GREAT OUTER OPPORTUNITIES WHICH THE POSITION OF SAUL AND THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD COMBINED TO PROFFER TO SAUL. Outer opportunity is not everything, and indeed it is not anything where inner fitness and intrinsic gift and the spirit of a mission may not be present. But otherwise, outer opportunity is matter of great advantage. As the plant must flower and the tree must fruit, in order to develop to the highest advantage, so thought and purpose, feeling and love, and all life of man, crave the help of some outer opportunity. They find expression thereby, and, in finding expression, unfailingly develop power and quality. God, no doubt, measures opportunity justly, wisely, kindly to us all. And where any child of his may find or fancy he finds himself cramped and stinted in such respect, there may be overpoweringly good reasons for it, of a kind difficult for us to trace with any dogmatic assurance at present; and there may be found overwhelmingly ample compensation for it later on in life, or when the span of the present life is passed. Yet can there be little doubt that, so far as the present life taken by itself is concerned, many a beautiful soul pines away for want of outer opportunity of action and of exhibition? many a mighty courage dwarfs its growth? many a great heart infolds its rich powers and qualities, instead of unfolding them? An old Roman exile poet, who exchanged sunny Rome for the forbidding Pontus, and who shivered as he wrote it, said, "What am I to do alone? How can I utilize enforced idleness? How speed the day unhallowed by work? When disappointment is my only pay, when to dance in the dark is my mocking destiny, when to write a poem that can find no reader is my fate,—then I learn how much the speaker depends on the hearer, and the fostering of virtue depends on the awarding of praise, and how immense the stimulus of glory's opportunity." This old heathen seized and put into most effective poetry some of life's most affecting facts. Now, to the unbroken length of Saul's public life, an uninterrupted series of inspiring opportunity was undeniably proffered, both of God and man. Zeal that knew no bounds, enthusiasm that threatened to consume intelligent devotion that should disdain and fling even to an infinite distance all the petty interferences of the brood of envy and jealousy and suspicion's spawn,—these were the legitimate expectations of a whole world, from the grand sphere of opportunity in the midst of which Saul presided. Some of them he realized, and be began well, and did "awhile run well."
IV. SOME OF THE LEADING INDICATIONS OF SAUL'S QUALITIES OF CHARACTER. For instance, before his call, we find him the faithful, trusted, considerate son (1 Samuel 9:5). The very tone of his recorded conversation with his servant (1 Samuel 9:6-10) impresses us favourably, as affable, respectful, and open to suggestion and to reply. The master, especially if a young man, who knows how to unite such qualities as these in his treatment of his servants, may well beget the prepossessions of the very best judges—for the virtue is rare. Then at the time of his private call and the first communications made to him by Samuel, he does not disappoint us for modesty, retiringness, unostentatious reticence and guardedness of the tongue. No boastful word was on his lip, no eager ambition grasped at what lay before him; the opposite of even family vain-glory seems to have characterized him (1 Samuel 9:21; 1 Samuel 10:16). At the time of his public call and Divine election from among the tribes, he would fain hide from the honour, and decline the exalted responsibility about to be laid upon him (1 Samuel 10:21-24). And he crowned the day with an instance of self-mastery; temperateness, forbearance (1 Samuel 10:27, compared with 1 Samuel 11:12, 1 Samuel 11:13). The promptness of righteous indignation and zeal of resolution were very conspicuous in the dashing engagement by which he delivered those of Jabesh-gilead in the hour of the Ammonites' power (1 Samuel 11:4-11), and they were witnessed to by the aid and effectual blessing of the "Spirit of God." The events of that day also were crowned with renewed consecration, with sacrifices of thanksgiving, and with a sacred and general joy on the part of "Saul and all the men of Israel." Yet from this point all went amiss. The strange reversal of all that Saul had formerly seemed began with the unwarrantable impatience and unpardonable presumption which found him anticipating Samuel and sacrificing to the Lord in Gilgah This was, no doubt, the self-willed presumption on which his whole career was now wrecked. It was succeeded by fault after fault of wayward "rebellion," and of wilful "stubbornness" (1 Samuel 15:23), of alleged "fear of the people" and craving to be "honoured" before them (1 Samuel 15:24, 1 Samuel 15:30), till the ominous knell is heard, and his conversion "by the Spirit of the Lord" is reversed, when "the Spirit of the Lord departed" from him (1 Samuel 16:14). The sequel is too well known. Jealousy of his successor, fierce fits of passion and fits of brief repentance, outbursts of short-lived affection and visitations of remorse, unattended by any single symptom of real reformation, argued the torn, distracted, disordered spirit within. He is brave in war; he is cowardly in the massacre of the priests; he is high in spirit and high-handed; he is morbidly sensitive to disgrace. He seals the Spirit's departure and final forsaking of him when, with a formal, faithless, professional inquiry of the Lord, he really makes his inquiry of the witch, and fills up the measure of his iniquities. It is hard to say whether the manner of his death (on the field of flight rather than of battle)expressed most aptly his better or worse quality, but anyway it was not altogether deficient in self-devotion or spirit, such as the circumstances would allow. Yet what a commentary the barest facts now utter forth! He who had often conquered the Philistines and other hostile nations, with little of material help, fell before them, because he had guiltily forfeited the Divine help. He had presumed on himself—it brings him to make an end of himself! As repentance had been the stranger of his company, so now despair is the bosom friend he hugs. And trace as best we may the course he ran, his character, and the end of a life which had opened in providence so abundant and so encouraging, the skilled pen of Scripture guides our last thought, and reveals the just conclusion of the whole matter: "Saul died for his transgressions which he committed against the Lord, even against the Word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking… of… a familiar spirit, to inquire thereof, and he inquired not of the Lord"—this low-lying epitaph, a beacon of warning set up aloft to all time.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 10:6, 1 Chronicles 10:13.-The mighty fallen
The death of Saul and Jonathan, upon the heights of Gilboa, is one of the grandest and most awful episodes in Hebrew history. Behold the chosen of God, the hero and the idol of Israel, wounded by the archers, supplicating death from his armour-bearer, falling in despair upon his sword! Princes and warriors," swifter than eagles, stronger than lions; "Saul and Jonathan" are slain in the high places." "The shields of the mighty are vilely cast away!" The king's sons and his body-guards and the flower of his army perish with him on this awful day. "How are the mighty fallen!" But let us turn from the dramatic, the tragic side of this incident, to ponder its spiritual lessons.
I. Saul's appalling fate reminds us of GREAT POWERS MISUSED. The gigantic stature and amazing strength of the son of Kish naturally impressed all beholders, and conciliated ― almost commanded—the respect and confidence of the people. But he was more than an athlete, he was a general who had delivered his country and gained many victories over his enemies. He appears to have possessed great qualities, not only of body, but of mind. All this gave Saul great advantages. If he had but used these aright, he would have retained the regard of his subjects and the allegiance of the brave, and he might have lived to old age, in possession of the dignity and power of kingship. But his moody, wilful spirit gave a wrong bias to his energies. His was a wonderful but a wasted life. The valour and skill which had defeated the Philistines in his early days might have defeated them now. But Saul was not the same man as of old. Even so many, whom God has richly endowed with gifts of body and of mind, have proved themselves unworthy of these gifts, have misused them in such manner that it had been better for them that they had never been born. To whom God has given much, of them he requires the more.
II. We observe here A LOFTY VOCATION ILL UNDERSTOOD AND ILL FULFILLED. Saul was the first of Israel's kings. Anointed by Samuel, chosen by lot, elected by the acclamation of the people, he entered upon the kingly office with every omen and every prospect of success. Called to be, not, like one of the judges, the chief of a tribe or a temporary deliverer, but the ruler of a nation and a king for life, Saul might have raised his people to independence and to power. But be was disobedient to the voice of the seer, he was unfaithful to the cause of the God who raised him to eminence and invested him with theocratic authority; and he reaped the bitter harvest of disobedience and unfaithfulness. To some position, with some vocation, the Author of our life has called each one of us. Not only kings and rulers, pastors and Church officers, but all Christians, in every station of life, have committed to them a peculiar and sacred trust. Let each ask—How is this trust fulfilled?
III. There is exemplified here the possibility of TRUE RELIGION BEING KNOWN AND YET FORSAKEN. In his early life, Saul had put within him another heart, and became another man. But there are signs that he came under heathen influences. Certainly one of the last acts of his life was indicative of superstition, when he sought unto the witch of Endor, instead of looking to Jehovah for counsel and encouragement. He "inquired not of the Lord." It was a grievous defection; he, whose religious life commenced so brightly under the guidance of Samuel, came to grovel before an ignorant necromancer! A lesson this of human instabilty, frailty, and fickleness. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!" Alas! how often has the bright promise of youth been clouded in maturer years, and the sun which rose in splendour sunk beneath the gloomy clouds! It is a solemn warning which none should disregard.
IV. We are informed that THE FALL OF THIS FIRST KING OF ISRAEL WAS A DIVINE JUDGMENT. "Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord." We are seldom at liberty authoritatively and confidently to pronounce calamity a judgment from the Lord. But in the case before us we are expressly warranted in doing so. Saul had violated the Divine Law. He had directed sacrifice to be offered without the permission of the prophet. He had spared Agag, and appropriated the spoil. He had displayed, again and again, a rebellions and ungodly disposition; had given way to impulses of anger, envy, jealousy, and fear. He had too often despised God's Word, persecuted God's servants, trusted in himself, and forgotten that Jehovah had called him to be the leader of his people in righteousness. Now at length the long-delayed retribution came upon the guilty monarch. "The Lord slew him." A warning to the impenitent, this terrible fate of Saul should summon the sinner to repentance, and (thank God!) to "repentance unto life."—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 10:1-10.-Understanding the end.
The psalmist (Psalms 73:1-28.)was much perplexed and perturbed in spirit "when he saw the prosperity of the wicked." He was disposed to think that he had "cleansed his heart in vain," and in vain "washed his hands in innocency" (Psalms 73:13). But on further and deeper thought, he arrived at a sound conclusion. When he "went into the sanctuary of God," i.e. when he looked at the matter in the light of Divine truth, then he "understood their end." If any one should wonder at Saul's continued prosperity, should wonder where God was that a man whose hands were so stained with blood should so long be seated on a throne, he would only have to wait and see the end to know that "verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth." We learn from these verses —
I. THAT WE CANNOT TELL WHETHER HUMAN LIFE WILL PROVE TO BE ENVIABLE TILL IT IS CONCLUDED. The ancients said, "Call no man happy till he is dead." The epigram was the outcome of the fact, finding frequent illustration, that men who were supposed to be most enviable proved, after all, to be those with whom few would willingly exchange conditions. In the heyday of Saul's power and prominence there must have been many Israelites who wished that such happy fortune had been theirs; that the kingly lot had fallen on their tribe, on their family, on themselves (1 Samuel 10:20, 1 Samuel 10:21). But who, now, would wish to have been the first King of Israel, to have run his checkered course, to have been driven to such sad and guilty shifts, and to have terminated a career in such ruinous dishonour as that which closed his clouded life? To be miserably beaten, to be utterly routed in battle (1 Chronicles 10:3), to be driven to suicide in order to avoid the worst abuses (1 Chronicles 10:4), to know, before he died, that his house was perishing with him (1 Chronicles 10:5), to be dishonoured by the enemy after death (1 Chronicles 10:9), to have his body taken and exposed in the temple of an idol (1 Chronicles 10:10),—all this was the last extreme of humiliation and disaster. Envy not those whose outward career seems enviable. Who knows what miseries are within; what madness reclines at the royal hearth; what wretchedness reposes under the princely roof; what jealousy drives in the gilded chariot; what insatiable hatred or inappeasable remorse sits down to the sumptuous meal? Who knows in what black clouds of calamity the sun of human greatness will set? Who can tell whether the end will not, like Saul's, be such an end that all the brightness and the excellency that went before will be utterly eclipsed, and that all men will join to say, "What a miserable man was he!"
II. THAT ONE MAN'S SIN INVOLVES MANY MEN'S SUFFERING. Because Saul had sinned, "the men of Israel fled .... and fell down slain" (1 Chronicles 10:1). Because their faulty king had fallen, "the men of Israel… forsook their cities… and the Philistines came and dwelt in them" (1 Chronicles 10:7). Sinful sovereigns have entailed heavy penalties on suffering nations. But it is not kings only that cause human hearts to bleed, and that fill human lives with trouble and distress. How many thousands of homes are the abodes of sorrow, of keen disappointment, of cruel suffering, of dark foreboding, because one soul has forsaken God and made shipwreck of a good conscience!
III. THAT OUTWARD FORTUNE IS NO SAFE CRITERION OF HUMAN CHARACTER. Jonathan perished on the same field with Saul; the brave and generous son with his jealous and murderous father! "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
IV. THAT MEN SOMETIMES TACITLY CONFESS THEIR OWN FOLLY, "They sent… to carry tidings unto their idols" (1 Chronicles 10:9)—to inform their gods! Surely they were thus condemning their own idolatry. How often do we condemn ourselves!—C.
1 Chronicles 10:11-14.-The moral of misfortune.
The setting of the sun of the first King of Israel in such dark clouds has its truth to tell as well as its shadows to throw. We may learn —
I. THAT OUR WORST MISFORTUNES BRING OUT THE BEST FEELINGS OF OUR FRIENDS. "When all Jabesh-gilead heard," etc. (1 Chronicles 10:11, 1 Chronicles 10:12). Saul, in his earlier and better days, had risen to the height of a noble opportunity and delivered this city from impending ruin by an act of great energy and courage (1 Samuel 11:1-15.). And when the last misfortune had befallen their deliverer, and the worst indignities were practised on his dead body, the men of Jabesh-gilead remembered what they owed him, gave free play to their gratitude, summoned up their courage, and rescued his dishonoured remains from the hands of the insolent enemy. It was worthily done; their best traits were drawn out by the dire calamity of their friend. So it is always and everywhere. It is one of the mitigations of our misery that the kindest and most generous feelings are then displayed toward us by those who love us. Sickness, loss, disappointment, bereavement, the larger and deeper sorrows of human life, evoke all that is most tender, gracious, and Christ-like in the human soul. In truth, we do not know the depth of the affection with which our kindred and our friends are loving us until some saddening experience calls out all the latent sympathy that lies within their hearts. Better things as well as worse things than we ordinarily suppose reside within us; when the occasion comes they rise to the surface and show themselves to the eyes of men. The crushing blow which strikes us to the ground is one of these occasions. Then human love comes forth to render its truest and choicest ministry.
II. THAT TRANSGRESSION WILL CERTAINLY BE OVERTAKEN BY PENALTY IN DUE TIME. "Saul died for his transgression" (1 Chronicles 10:13). Retribution may have seemed tardy; it may have seemed to Saul as if he would "escape the judgment of God." Days, months, years, passed by and the blow fell not. The thought of his heart may have been, "I am safe now; the wrath of God would have descended if it were coming; I am secure; my mountain stands strong." But if he thus thought he was mistaken. Penalty was on its way, "leaden-footed but iron-handed," slow of step but sure of stroke, and the days of his life and of his power were numbered. His transgression was twofold.
1. Disobedience: he "kept not the word of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 10:13).
2. Departure from God: he "inquired not of the Lord," but he "asked counsel of one that had a familiar spirit" (1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14). Instead of resorting to God through his prophet, "as he did aforetime," he had recourse to the forbidden and dangerous arts of necromancy thus forsaking the Lord and putting his trust in a miserable and delusive system of imposture. His punishment, like his sin, was twofold.
1. His own death: the Lord "slew him."
2. The overthrow of all his hopes and plans: "he turned the kingdom unto David" (1 Chronicles 10:14). Our transgression and our penalty often take these two forms.
(1) First come disobedience and departure. We do not the things which God enjoins; neglecting that which, above all things, is his will concerning us (John 6:39, John 6:40). We depart from his side and his service, seeking our well-being in other sources of joy (Jeremiah 2:13).
(2) Then come death and overthrow. Our soul dies; its finer feelings disappear, its truer thoughts give place to false imaginings, its better hopes die down, its wiser aspirations sink and are lost; the shadows of spiritual death fall upon us. And with our own destruction comes the dispersion of our plans and expectations: the "kingdom is turned away;" the "wood, hay, and stubble" of a false life are consumed in the fires of God. Our life-work is overthrown and lost. The tower we took so long to build is in the dust.—C.
1 Chronicles 10:14 (with 1 Chronicles 10:4).-Divine and human agency.
In the last verse of this chapter that event is ascribed to the hand of God which, in the fourth verse, is accounted for by the act of Saul. "He [the Lord] slew him" (1 Chronicles 10:14). "So Saul took a sword," etc. (1 Chronicles 10:4). As both statements are true, there must be a consistency between them. Evidently the one result was due to more than one agency. The Lord had something to do with Saul's death; Saul also had much to do with it himself. We may see —
I. SAUL'S AGENCY IN BRINGING ABOUT HIS END. He contributed to the final result by:
1. Acting in such wise as to make his death due to his folly.
2. Taking, generally, those steps which led to the final catastrophe.
3. Putting into play the physical causes which immediately effected it. He would not have died at the time and in the way he did, had he not been personally responsible in these three ways.
II. GOD'S DIVINE AGENCY IN DETERMINING THE ISSUE.
1. It was in accordance with his Divine desire. He desires that righteousness should be fully vindicated, sin attended with its penalty as well as integrity with its reward, by the events which happen on the earth. Saul's death was desirable from the standpoint of the supreme Judge.
2. He permitted it to occur. He saw no reason to interpose so that it should not be the last link in the chain of circumstances then being forged.
3. He so ordered events that this should be the issue. So far as he did touch the chain of human affairs with his intervening hand, he so touched it that this occurrence would take place. In some measure it was due, positively, to the outworking of his Divine hand. In regard to the great subject of Divine and human agency co-operating, as they do, to produce one result, we conclude:
1. That God might work out his designs by direct volition, but does use human instrumentality.
2. That what may seem to us, at the time, to he solely due to our agency may be the accomplishment of his purpose. His permitting, controlling, directing hand may be found to be much nearer than we think, to have had a much larger share in the issue than we imagine.
3. That if the hand of God is in such events as this, we may be sure that it is present in things of another and higher order. If it could be said concerning a suicide, "the Lord slew him," how much more may it be said concerning desirable, admirable, useful achievements, that God brings them about? If the evil which happens to the city come of him (Amos 3:6), much more shall we say that he who builds all things is God (Hebrews 3:4)? Therefore:
(1) Let the perverse and impenitent beware. The observant eye of the Holy and the Just One is on them and upon their lives, and his retributive hand may show itself at any point in their career.
(2) Let the righteous take heart and hope. God is with them; he is working for them and in them and through them. He will sanctify and use their efforts for the outworking of his own gracious end, for the establishment of his holy kingdom.—C.
HOMILIES BY R. GLOVER
1 Chronicles 10:4.-A great might-have-been: Saul, King of Israel.
"So, Saul took a sword, and fell upon it." It is useful to study achievements for inspiration, and failures for warning. Here we have a great "might-have-been," or one of those cases in which everything conspired to make a noble future possible, and yet, through unfortunate misdirection, life ended darkly, and all better success of earlier stages was clouded by adversity and failure. It is not death in battle, nor even defeat, which makes us lament him. Nelson died in battle, but in glory as well. And defeat is an incident that all armies may experience. It is that it is a dark close to a darker history. That beginning brightly, clouds gathered over his life, and deepened until they closed in night. Consider —
(1) This might-have-been; and
(2) its lessons to us.
I. THIS MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN. If ever a life had fair opening and opportunity, it was Saul's.
1. Every personal advantage that could be desired was his. Good looks above all in Israel; immense strength of bodily frame; mental qualities to match; wisdom and courage suitable for a king;—qualities that gained for him the regard of Israel and the reverence of David, and, what is very noteworthy, the affection of Samuel. Then his circumstances were of that sort that most persons would envy him. He came of one of the wealthiest families in all the south country. He was so naturally selected for king that there was no difficulty in securing allegiance of people. A few murmur, as was to be expected from such as were themselves candidates for the throne or backed such as were. But the support of Samuel, and the success of first expedition against Ammon, stilled all murmurs through the land. None disputed his title to the throne.
2. Opportunity favoured him. His election proved the waking of Israel. The same energy which craved a leader inspired willingness to follow. Samuel's influence was exerted on his behalf. That meant backing of mightiest in land. Nor was it formal only. Samuel protested against wish of Israel to have a king. But protesting against the general wish for a king, he did not proceed to protest against the particular choice. So far from disapproving of Saul, he loved him, and, when he could do no more, he mourned with the sorrow of a saint and patriot over Saul's failure. Then he found the grandest service available. There were Abner, David, Jonathan, the worthies following David, all ready to aid; and, above all, God ready to help him. Besides room for him, there was need for him. Israel was in low water. So everything conspired to create a grand opportunity.
3. And no thing in character made grand life impossible. He comes before us with many qualities which engage respect.
(1) There is modesty, which accepts greatness as a charge rather than eagerly covets it.
(2) Generosity, which tolerates with brave wisdom the disaffection of minority.
(3) Courage, that suits his calling and his country's needs.
(4) Kindliness of heart.
One must not overlook this quality; the more so as he sins so deeply in the opposite direction. But he "loved David greatly;" suggesting that he was capable of great affections, and, but for bias, might have been remembered as like father of his noble son. Then there was some working of piety in him; not much, but still apparently some. He had a sensitive nature, which occasionally, in higher moments, admitting play of Spirit of God on it, made him prophesy in an exalted strain. Though, in other moments, same sensitiveness lays him open to influences of spirit not of God. But there is susceptibility. Everything thus seems to concur to make life not only moderate but brilliant success. Power, opportunity, circumstances, advantages, natural endowment,—all in favour. And God, always waiting to make best of us, sought to make the best of him. And if he had but walked with God, what service he might have rendered, and what joy in life have won! But, alas! amidst all these supreme advantages and natural probabilities of success, there is one defect of character which mars everything. There is a wilfulness, which is left unrestrained; a habit of choosing his own path and keeping to it; impatience of any restraint of religion or duty. If Samuel comes not in time, no reverence for sanctity of priestly office will prevent his assuming its functions. If God prescribes utter destruction of Amalek, he will carry out precept, excepting where he thinks it better to disobey it, saving cattle, oxen (i.e. the best of spoil), and Agag. David becomes, by service he renders, a possible rival. His existence, therefore, Saul will not tolerate. Self-will, declining
(1) the restraints of religion, and
(2) those of conscience,
early appears in him. He is never humbly obedient, but picks and chooses what part of precept he likes, stopping short of a whole obedience. Always feeling at liberty to revise and moderate the requirements of God, he thus comes short, through wilfulness, of God's requirements. The self-will that declines to serve heartily soon ceases to serve at all. And after he has wrought great deliverances and secured independence of Israel, a long, dark period ensues, unrelieved by nobler quality—one in which his path is downward. The very energy which, restrained and ordered, would have been of vast service, unrestrained, becomes terror to his friends. That firmness of nerve-formation which, consecrated, would have lain his nature open to God, unconsecrated lays him open to invasion of evil spirit, to madness and fury. His action is disapproved by his best friends, by Jonathan, by nation, by his own heart. And wasting powers of nature in following David, he sinks lower and lower, till eve of last battle finds him in sheer despair. There is something terrible in hopelessness with which he addresses ghost of Samuel: "God is departed from me, and answereth me no more,… therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do." Something touching in way in which, to the end, he believes in Samuel, and longs to hear again something from his lips, and prefers to hear his doom from him if he has to hear it at all. And disobedience leading to despair, the two soon lead to destruction. Oh what a loss was absence of David on that battle-day! Just for want of him, with his heroic following, fate of battle adverse. And there is deplorable defeat where there would have been grandest victory. All that Saul got by opposing David was a sadder life, a shorter reign, a darker fate. And, instead of his ranking with great heroes that have wrought deliverance in the earth: he stands a majestic, melancholy might-have-been, and nothing more. A truncated life; a casting spoilt in the moulding. The mere possibility of such a thing should rouse solicitude in all our hearts.
II. WHAT LESSONS EMERGE FROM THIS? This is the second point I have to dwell on.
1. Likelihoods are not certainties. Your career may have every prospect of being honourable, useful, happy. But probability is not certainty. Whether probability realized will depend altogether and exclusively on degree of faithfulness you manifest.
2. Danger of self-will. "Our wills are ours to make them Thine," says poet, nobly uttering grand philosophy of life. But reservation of some thing from God is one of the commonest temptations. We say, "We will do much, but not this. We will sacrifice much, but not this. We will follow, but will choose our own time and our own way." Especially are we liable to be deflected from path of duty when wayward. ness of will strengthened by some strong passion—greed, revenge, dislike. Let us beware of this self-will. It has a look of force and energy; but it really destroys both. It changes the may-be into the might-have-been. We cannot be Christ's disciples unless we deny self and follow him. Self-will never is allowed in any soul without consequences of saddest kind. Therefore:
3. Let us take our Savour as entire Muster. Give him absolute control. Withhold nothing. The more consecrated we are, the more glorified we shall be. Man keeps back nothing from Christ save to his own hurt. You give up nothing but to your profit. Don't let our lives be mere might-have-beens. But keep faithfully to the path of duty as shown by Christ, and then, although men of grandest early advantages and powers make grievous shipwreck, you, with no advantages and no special rower, will find that "that which concerneth you God will perfect."—G.
1 Chronicles 10:11, 1 Chronicles 10:12.-A deed of honour.
"And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, they arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days." It is well to study deeds of honour. Honour is integrity, gratitude, or courage in its finest bloom. If we aim no higher than the fulfilment of our legal obligations, our action will be apt to droop beneath that meagre level. Courage is an essential quality of faith. Gratitude a fine grace, which fosters the growth of every other. So that to aim at honourable action is essential if we would live a worthy life. Sometimes a Falstaff gives us a philosophy of honour, sounding very shrewd, but really very shallow. Sometimes Judas is followed in his example of cynical criticism, and we begin to ask, Cui bono? "To what purpose is this waste?" Mary's anointing of the Saviour "for his burial;" the honour done here, at great risk, to the dead Saul; the honour done David, when men cut their way through a host to bring him a draught of water from the well of Bethlehem;—are above such critics. They see no use in such activities. They believe in money and in power, in avoiding injuries and gathering comforts. But fine enthusiasms, high devotion, costly tributes of affection, they cannot understand. But some can. The writer of the Book of Samuel could see a beauty in this act of Jabesh-gilead, and relates it as something that gives a little relief to the darkness of the field of Gilboa. The author of the Chronicles felt it worth recording. David blessed them for their courage and their gratitude. It is worth our while simply to ponder the noble deed. To make this victory as crushing in its humiliation for Israel as proud for the cities of the Philistines, Saul's head is put in the temple of Dagon, and his body, dismembered, is hung insultingly on the walls of Beth-shah. Jabesh-gilead was a city about six miles to the east, as Beth-shah was about six miles to the west of Jordan. It had owed to the energy of Saul, immediately on his accession to the kingdom, that it was saved from the cruel fate which Nahash the Ammonite intended and seemed able to inflict. When shame, grief, a tender memory of the service rendered by Saul in the days of his youth rise up within them, they resolve that, whatever risk has to be faced, whatever dangerous eminence their very success may make for them, they will do honour to the dead. If they cannot save his life, they can risk their own to give him a worthy burial. And so, not tarrying, they rise up by night, and by the morning the dead bodies of Saul and his heroic sons are in a friendly city. All the honour that can be shown is given in the decent burial and the week of fasting. The poor, spiteful triumph of the Philistines is curtailed, and the nation, beginning to sink in despondency, wakes up to feel there are still heroic spirits in its midst, that can beard the enemy even when flushed with victory. Several things are noteworthy here.
I. DEATH IS NOT ALTOGETHER LOSS. It ended Saul's life, but it increased his influence. Yesterday criticized, censured, object of apprehension; to-day he is revered even in his deepest failure. All now is forgotten of visitations of evil spirit, envy of David, unfortunate division which lost them the help of David in this time of their nation's need. Instead of which they remember him as he delivered Gibeon and conquered the Philistines; how sometimes he prophesied; how no family in the land had shown itself more brave than his; how, when he was really himself, none was manlier or more generous. And now Saul, dead, takes his place once more in the heart of a nation's love. And as David forgot all his injuries to celebrate his praise, so Jabesh-gilead forgets her weakness and the absence of all help, to rise and do him honour. Mark Antony spoke wrongly when he said-
"The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones?
It is the good men do lives after them, and all their faults are buried in their graves. Remember the canonizing touch of death; how it rounds off the memory of the life, softens ill feeling, lets the better nature have its proper influence over others.
II. DEEDS OF KINDLY SERVICE ARE LONG REMEMBERED, It is nearly forty years since Saul had saved Jabesh-gilead from the hand of Nahash. Most of those then saved from the ignominy and mutilation which were to be the terms of capitulation, had died. It was another generation that had risen, and you would hardly have been surprised if they had felt no particular gratitude for so remote a favour. But with all its defects, human nature is not so void of finer feelings as some would paint it. In estimating the deficiency of gratitude, it has to be remembered how exaggerated sometimes are our estimates of service rendered, and how we expect shillings' worth of service to be requited by pounds' worth of gratitude. We must remember, too, how often the service is mixed with disservice; the graciousness of the act of help destroyed in the way of rendering it; a gift is accompanied with a scold, or with a threat, or with an intimation of the reluctance with which it is done, or with a degree of patronage that humiliates the receiver. In such cases grateful return is hardly due. The persons rendering help have taken out their payment for it in self-complacency or superiority. But when these faults do not mar the graciousness of help. is gratitude so rare? Kindly natures, whose experience is most large, are never found complaining of ingratitude. They rather agree with the poet, who reports that the gratitude of men had oftener left him mourning. The true benefactors of a nation, what gratitude invests their memory! The kindly natured have a reward which they at least feel far surpassing all their merits. If in an humble position, love flows forth toward them for their modest offices of neighbourly affection, they are honoured by the confidence of men, and their character is that which their fellows copy. If in somewhat higher position, how does the reverence and kindly feeling of a whole city invest the life of honourable kindness! Here this distant act of Saul's is remembered. And a sort of service which one would fancy would follow with soothing influence the spirit of the dead, is the beautiful fruit of their grateful recollection. Nor is this the only fruit; for you will observe that, in the subsequent history, the house of Saul has nowhere more devoted adherents than the inhabitants of Gilead. Do not fear your good will ever be unrequited. Say neither to God nor man, "Thou art a bard master, and therefore I bury my talent in the earth;" for the world is froward to the froward, honourable to the honourable, grateful to the good; a sort of mirror, in which we find the face we bring to it. With this difference, however, that God working on the side of all that is good, the reward of any goodness is always vastly larger than the retribution of any ill. Covet the beautiful rewards of kindness. Scores of years after they have been rendered they will return with a blessing into your bosom.
III. A DEED OF HONOUR ALWAYS BEARS SOME FRUITS OF GRAND ADVANTAGE. Judas thought there was no reply possible to his question of cynical utilitarianism. And some like him in Jabesh doubtless asked, Cui bono? and protested that the project was rash; that the dead were not bettered by any attentions shown them; that they should rather look after the substantial advantages of their wives and families than risk their lives in sentimental expeditions. But if some argued thus, the event might convince even such that the project was not quite so unwise as it seemed. What were the results? They were at least these.
1. An increase of their own self-respect. Self-respect is as valuable as self-esteem is weakening. It is a force daily lifting men higher in purpose and in action, a restraint on what is unworthy, a stimulus to all that is good. These people had approval of their own hearts. Their act saved them from self-contempt; set a pattern for them which they would copy and excel. Never lower yourself in your own esteem, nor do that for which you will have to excuse yourself to yourself. Your deeds of honour will raise your self-respect, and by doing so will raise your whole future character.
2. It had another result in the good esteem in which all Israel held them. All the tribes honoured them for their faithfulness; David solemnly blessed them for their nobility; a kindly reverence moved all hearts towards them, and an enduring fame. Even the Judases can appreciate such an advantage, only they stickle always at the way that leads to it, because the fame cannot be guaranteed beforehand. We are members one of another. So act that the esteem of your fellows shall be yours. Only second to God's approval is that of your fellow-men.
3. This act inspired Israel with fresh power to resist the Philistines. The spirit and success of this act took the gilding off the great victory; made the Philistines feel that the end was not quite so absolute as they had thought. The inspiration of the noble deed crept into innumerable hearts; invigorated and nerved them for the task of undoing the mischief wrought; permitted the feeble to breathe more freely, and the brave to make their plans for further struggle. Such are some—not by any means all—of the services of this deed of honour. Are they not very high and noble? "Go and do thou likewise." In your action towards your Saviour, do all that honour bids you; and in your action towards your fellow-men, let honour rather than advantage be the principle of all your actions.—G.
1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14.-The danger of spiritualism.
"So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of the Lord." Consider not the many and grievous faults of Saul, but one, and that his last. In modern language, the witch of Endor was a "medium," and Saul's act simply one of those acts of consulting the dead which many believe to be at once practicable and proper. It is not part of my province to defend what some deem the severity of the Mosaic laws against all manner of witchcraft in all its forms. I only remark that a defence of the law which inflicted death upon such might be made by men of tenderest charity; that such would only need to indicate the universal tendency of magic to become "the black art"—a means of revenge, prolific in murder and in crime—to justify the severest measures necessary to repress it. It is easy for the sorcerer to destroy, difficult for him to save life. So in all ages and lands, from the astrologers of Europe, in the Middle Ages, down to the Obeamen of the West Indies to-day, the sorcerers have been the instruments of revenge, at once ready to commit and able to conceal the greatest crimes. Even the English law, with its nineteenth-century indifferentism, finds it necessary to punish the common and vulgar forms of fortune-telling. I prefer to take not the forensic but the personal side of this question; and to deal with it, not in its darker phases, in which it would appear as a superstition, enslaving the mind, tempting to by offering facilities for crime, investing life with awful horrors, but rather in the lighter form in which it seems harmless, in which a few years ago in this country and America it was somewhat fashionable, in which it might even seem to be a means of grace, furnishing some proof of the existence of the soul after death to a gainsaying and materialistic age. I would make two or three preliminary observations.
1. That in the nature of things one would expect a great deal of deception to be practised in connection with spiritualism. Even if a large substratum of fact is in it, yet there will always be a temptation to guess when the oracle provokes by its silence—a reluctance to be caught at a loss; and the tendency to eke out the oracles by guesses will be all the greater when (as usually happens) it would be impossible to convict immediately of error.
2. That we are at a loss in this matter from not knowing exactly how many senses we have. To the five commonly recognized, one has been added—a sense of heat and cold. But probably we have a great many more senses than six: powers of perception, too subtle to be tabulated, but, in some natures of fine sensibility, quite strong enough to perceive by direct and natural but subtle apprehension what lies outside of the knowledge of the five homely senses that are merely the strong, rough ones, common to us all.
3. That whatever be the explanation (and probably a simple scientific one is possible), the existence and practices of clairvoyants in every age and country, and the record of undoubted wonders done by them, make it almost impossible to doubt that some persons in some circumstances can perceive more than comes within the range of ordinary perception. From Apollonius of Tyana down to Swedenborg; from the Delphic oracle, which told what Croesus was doing on a certain day, several hundreds of miles away, to the instances of second sight still at least supposed to exist in the Scottish Highlands,—you get strange facts, too numerous to be met by a universal denial, for which we should, if possible, find some explanation consistent with natural science. But the more of truth there is in the claim of power to reveal the distant or the future, the less, in my judgment, will any wise man have to do with such practices. I therefore urge on many grounds the danger and wrong of spiritualism. Perhaps the following heads may sum up what is material on this matter: —
I. WE DO NOT NEED ANY SUPERNATURAL HELP BEYOND THAT OF GOD. For ordinary life the ordinary senses and faculties of man suffice. For all work it is a mistake if the tool be too fine, as well as if it is too coarse. Finer faculties than we have would be too fine for the work of life; would be a source, not of strength, but only of pain and torment. That knowledge of the unseen and future, which we always crave for, would have been given us had it been good for us. But God has concluded that, as regards the unknowable, faith is better than sight, and, as regards the future, hope is better than foreknowledge. For common life, common sense is requisite and is sufficient, especially as we all have within reach aids of grace and enlightenment, that will make our steps safe, if it do not altogether satisfy our curiosity. If we pray to God for guidance, he will answer that prayer, not in some strange and supernatural way, but by calming our over-anxiety, by fortifying our judgment, by presenting in clear light the determining considerations which should weigh with us, by restraining the temptation that might mislead us, by ordering our circumstances so that the only open path is the path of wisdom and of duty. More than this no one needs, and the imagination that the knowledge of the concealed would benefit us is misleading and worrying. Beyond that of God we need no supernatural help or light.
II. SUCH LIGHT IS USELESS AS WELL. There are some things not essential but still soothing, comforting, and helpful. But the knowledge of the concealed is not only not essential—it is useless in any shape in which it can come to us. And that for one reason—It is never capable of being verified. You are at the mercy of any "tricksy sprite" that likes to play with your solicitude. If ghosts are free to report themselves, any one of them could simulate Samuel, and, instead of the sober oracle you expect, could give you something with just that shade of error in it that would make it fatally seductive. You cannot apply rule-and-compass argument or faculty to the verification of the message. You must "trust them all or not at all." You cannot prove the spirits in any of the matters on which you seek their light. I say therefore it is valueless. Such oracles are unsigned cheques, which you cannot treat as money. Seeking to escape from the painful necessity of relying on your own judgment, you (like Roman Catholics) have still to rely on your private judgment on the most momentous question of the whole, viz. whether they are worthy to be your guides. Therefore "pick no locks;" be content to be in the dark where God has left you in the dark. It will be safer for you to travel the unknown road by God's moonlight or starlight, than to have a blazing gleam thrown round you, which comes you know not whence and leads you know not whither.
III. THERE IS MANIFOLD INJURY IN HAVING RECOURSE TO SUCH
1. There is injury to the body. There are few whose nervous systems can stand either real or imaginary communion with the unseen world. Converse with fellow men and women has no exciting element; but spirits either find or leave the nerves unstrung. Fancy takes reason's throne. Man lives in two worlds, instead of in one bright with the presence of God and man. There can hardly be enjoyment of the friendship without solicitude as to the enmity of the spirits; so that calmness of nerve and that fine physical health which furthers all good growth is generally seriously impaired.
2. There is injury to the mind. The proper self-reliance which dignifies and develops man is interfered with by this reference of all things to a mysterious oracle. The faculties grow strong by being trusted. Judgment inspired and brightened by God, the more it is used the more it grows. Subordinate it to mysterious oracles, and the whole mental energy deteriorates and slackens. Above all:
3. The soul suffers. We cannot well have two guides—two oracles. We can leave God, and be guided by the dubious light which mediums may find for us; or we may leave them, and take God's light and God's darkness as he sees fit to give it; but we cannot very well have both. Even the devoutest we imagine will find the simplicity of their dependence on God somewhat impaired by resorting to other guides; and their simple acceptance of the Saviour's teaching impaired by their sitting at the feet of those whose suggestions do not always concur with his. So the writer speaks of Saul's act as of a backsliding, pointing the despair into which he had sunk. Keep your heart free of all that enfeebles it and of all that divides it from the Lord. Poor Saul got nothing but a deeper despair that drove him to his doom. Take Isaiah's exhortation, therefore, to the spiritualists of his day: "When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits,… should not a people seek unto their God?" (Isaiah 8:19).—G.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 10:2, 1 Chronicles 10:14.-Saul and David.
The portion of the Book of Chronicles referring more particularly to the genealogy of Israel ends with the thirty-fourth verse of the ninth chapter. With the following verse commences the real history of the people. The history of a nation is the history of its head or king; and we commence that history with the history of Saul and David. They both appear on the scene in the following verses. We must not forget, in reading this history, that these two personages are representative characters. They are eminently typical. In Saul we must not omit to see the head of the great world-power, or that which is antagonistic to the kingdom of the Son of God. In David, likewise, we must see One greater than David, even the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ. Saul and David are from beginning to end in opposition, Saul's history comes first. He is the people's choice, the man of the world. His entire course is enmity against David. Hatred, opposition, and bitter persecution are the results of this enmity. The end of the world-power, as represented in him, is defeat and failure, ruin and death. Thus will this world's rule end also. Nevertheless, all this opposition and enmity are most needful to David and his few faithful followers. It disciplined and trained him for the kingdom for which he had been anointed of God. So this world's misrule and enmity are most needful for the Lord's anointed ones. David and his followers under Saul were strangers and pilgrims indeed. So Christ and his people are now. But their time is at hand when the weeds of sorrow shall be exchanged for the laurels of victory. I said Saul's history comes first. It is always so. Whether in the history of individuals or nations, whether in nature or in grace, in everything the dark background comes first, and then the lines of the picture of grace can be seen. The tenth chapter of this book is man at his best estate. It is the dark background. One chapter is enough for it. The eleventh chapter begins with the God-man, David, who is the type in it of a "Greater than David." It goes on unfolding chapter after chapter. It has not ended yet, for in the history of David's Son—the Lord Jesus Christ—it is still going on. The chapters are still unfolding him, and will throughout eternity, for he is "the everlasting God," the "I am that I am, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.'—W.
1 Chronicles 10:4.-Saul's character.
Saul was not an atheist. He was a religious man in his way. This chapter shows it. Saul calls the Philistines the "uncircumcised ones." Circumcision distinguished him, and he evidently prided himself on it. it had placed him on a pedestal so that he could look on all others and exclaim, "Stand aside; for I am holier than thou." Thus he had the "form of godliness;" but where was the "power"? Was there one iota of what circumcision was intended to represent about him? None. He rested in the ordinance. The meaning of that ordinance had in him no adequate expression. Are there not many now who pride themselves on baptism? But what has baptism in them in its true meaning? Are they dead and buried with Christ? Are they risen with Christ? Are they alive unto God and dead indeed unto sin? Where is the crucifixion of them to the world and the world unto them, which baptism signifies? Alas! they have none of it. They may look with disdain upon the "unbaptized" ones, as Saul did upon the "uncircumcised" ones; but well would it have been for him, and well would it be for them also, if they had never had it.—W.
1 Chronicles 10:13.-Saul's sin.
What was Saul's sin for which he was slain? He followed God just so far as suited his convenience; when it interfered in any way with his own interests he cast him off. He destroyed the Amalekites—so far he obeyed God's word, because he had no interest in doing otherwise; but he saved Agag and part of the cattle and the chief things of the Amalekites, because they were of advantage to himself. This is the sin of this day. We serve God so far as it does not interfere with personal advantage, present or future; but when God comes in and demands a full surrender at any cost, we cast him off. Self-interest and advantage are our god in reality, though it may be very convenient to us, and even help us to the attainment of our ends, to acknowledge Jesus Christ. But Saul committed a twofold sin against God. He sought in a time of perplexity to know God's will. The Lord was silent. He was left in darkness. Probably it was only in form that he sought God. God had given his will in the matter of Agag, and he had refused to act upon it. If we go deliberately against God's will in any matter, we must expect God to be silent. It is the punishment for our sin. Instead of repenting and again seeking God, he had recourse to a witch. This was forbidden by the Law, and Saul knew it. It mattered not. It was for his advantage; and Saul, true to his character, cared little for the law or anything else when it stood in his way. Nay, worse than all, he had put down necromancy. He had issued penalties of death upon it, and now he is actually seeking it himself! What tremendous inconsistency! Ah, but Saul would do as King of Israel what he would not do as an individual. He could carry out God's will when it did not interfere with himself in any way; but when it did, he would trample it under his feet. It is the picture of thousands.—W.
1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14.-Saul's death.
As we look at the account of Saul's death (1 Chronicles 10:2-4), how natural it seems—just in the ordinary course of battle! No eye looking at it could put any other interpretation upon it. But mark the Divine testimony—"God slew him." The battle and the archers and all the second causes are simply but the drapery behind which the Divine hand was carrying out its purposes of removing Saul to set up David. Thus must we look at everything that passes before the eye. It is the province of faith to look behind all the drapery and see the Divine hand. To this moral elevation none can reach but they who are habitually in communion with God. Not the "archers," not the armour-bearer's "sword"—not these, but "God slew him," and "turned the kingdom unto David." And observe the identification of the Lord's word here with the Lord himself. To sin against the Word is the same as to sin against God. So it is said of Jonah when he disobeyed the Lord's Word, "he rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord." Let us ever learn that the Lord's Word is God himself, and the despite done to one is done to the other.—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 10:2.-Innocent sharing in calamity.
The judgment that came upon King Saul could not be limited to him; it included his sons, his family, his dynasty. Saul's sin was distinctly personal. He committed acts of wilfulness; he failed in the completeness of his obedience (1Sa 13:8-14; 1 Samuel 15:8, 1 Samuel 15:9). And yet his sin could not be personal only—no man can secure that his sin shall be, while he comes into relations with others. Saul's sin must also be official—the iniquity of the representative person, the king; and relational—the iniquity of the father, the head of a family. So far as a man's sin starts a train of consequences, he cannot limit the disabilities to his own suffering, and he may not wonder if the resultant calamities should strike him through the suffering of those most dear to him. To our feeling the exceeding bitterness of the consequences of wilful sin lies in the fact of their involving others, and those whom we would most anxiously spare.
I. THE INNOCENT DO NOT SHARE IN THE GUILT. Distinguish between the guilt and the calamity that follows on it. The guilt can rest only on the man who does the wilful and guilty act, because an action is only guilty action when it is wilfully done against light and knowledge. So, depending on the will, it belongs exclusively to the individual. King Saul was guilty before God, but his sons were not, save as they may have personally accepted and approved their father's acts, and so made themselves individually responsible. This way of becoming sharers in guilt is taught by St. Paul in Romans 1:22. He comes under the Divine judgment who has pleasure in them that do evil things, as well as those who actually do the evil.
II. THE INNOCENT MAY SHARE IN THE CALAMITY THAT FOLLOWS ON SIN. This may be illustrated from the family sphere—a father's wrong-doing breaks up the home, etc.; or from the social spheres—neglect of sanitary laws on the part of local governments involve the innocent citizens in disease and plague; or from the national spheres—a king's wrong-doing brings war, and battle and siege are calamities for women and children as well as for soldiers.
III. THE INNOCENT MUST SHARE IN THE CALAMITY THAT FOLLOWS ON SIN. For this is precisely the condition under which God has set mankind. It follows, of necessity, upon that fact of the "solidarity of the race," which modern writers are now setting in prominence, but which St. Paul taught as one of the basis-principles of Christianity long years ago. See his speech at Athens and the Epistle to the Romans. Illustrate by the figure of "many members in one body." One limb or organ, diseased, gives vain and weakness in other organs that are not diseased. Men are, in actual life, as vitally related as parts of the body, and if one member sins the other members suffer with it.
IV. THE INNOCENT SHARING IN CALAMITY HAS A MORAL MISSION. It is one of warning. We only feel the real evil of sin through the pressure of the troubles that follow upon it. But it becomes an effective warning that we must drag others down with our sin; and we can never be sure who will be the chief sufferer—it may possibly be our dearest and best.
V. THE INNOCENT SHARING IN CALAMITY HAS A RECOVERING AND REDEMPTIVE POWER. It awakens to a sense of sin, recovering us from the delusions of self-will. It binds men together in a brotherhood of helpfulness; seeking to relieve from burdens of suffering, they are led to see that suffering must be dealt with at its root, which is sin.
Lead up to the fact of the Lord Jesus Christ, the innocent member of the human race, the spotless and perfectly obedient Son of God, suffering in, with, and for a guilty world. It is precisely this which is the fullest and most effective revelation of the guilt of mankind. Yet it is precisely this which is the great recovering and redemptive power. "He was wounded for our transgressions," and "by his stripes we are healed."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 10:3-6, 1 Chronicles 10:13.-The end of self-will.
In dwelling on the sad circumstances of King Saul's death, we are led to review the life which ended so miserably, and to endeavour to find the root of evil, in disposition or in conduct, which bore at last such fruitage. The actual incidents of Saul's career should be recalled.
I. THE HOPEFULNESS OF HIS INTRODUCTION TO US. In his expedition to seek the lost asses, in his anointing at Ramah, in his election by lot at Mizpeh, in the confirmation of his kingship at Gilgal, and in the first actions of his government, there are the signs of a hopeful reign. Especially may be noted and illustrated his modesty—in shrinking from the responsibility of kingship; his loyalty to duty—where the will of God and the people was made plain to him; his openness to religious influences—as seen in his catching the prophetic impulse; and his generosity—shown in refusing to take vengeance on those who disputed his authority. Many a man has begun well. No man knows himself until he has berne the stress of middle life, and its responsibilities, testings, and temptations.
II. THE PERIL OF THE OVER-DEVELOPED BODY. For this he was chosen and admired; in accordance with the admiration of physical size and strength which is common to all people who retain tribal notions. But there is also the peril of the bodily growth being stronger than the mental, and the overgrowth of body often involves moral weakness. And these may find expression in a stubbornness of self-will, which, by indulgence, may become mania. The self-will of moral weakness should be carefully distinguished from the self-reliance, power of rule, and masterfulness, which are as clearly the signs of mental and moral strength.
III. THE TEST OF THE NEW TRUST OF KINGSHIP. The office was quite a new one; the only previous instance was the forced kingship of Abimelech. Saul had really no modes on which to order his conduct. Exactly what kingship could be in a country where Jehovah himself was the sole sovereign Lord, he had to find out. So that, beyond the ordinary testings of any new and untried situations, Saul was tried by the uniqueness of the position in which he was placed. Exactly the point at which he might fail was this—he might practically claim independence for an office which was nevertheless strictly a conditioned and a dependent office. He could be Jehovah's prince and viceroy; he would be tempted to claim personal and independent kingly rights. So the trust of the office tested his will, proved whether he was fully and sincerely loyal to God. This piece of Saul's life brought him into the conflict of the seen and the unseen, which every man must enter. Would he, even with all the fascinations and interest of the "seen," be true to God, the unseen? Would he be strictly and wholly obedient to the Divine commands and the Divine leadings? Not character only, but the very root-principle of Saul's being, was tested. Compare the searching tests of Abraham's faith and Job's patient submission. Saul failed under the testing; so we have to consider —
IV. THE CONDITIONS OF THE GROWTH OF SELF-WILL. Apparent success in the earlier efforts of wilfulness encourages the self-confidence. But, in view of Saul's case, we may especially dwell on the influence of rejecting early Divine warnings, and refusing to be humbled under reproofs of earlier sins and failures. This involves the hardening of the heart, as may be illustrated in the case of Pharaoh.
V. SELF-WILL, IN THE END, BRINGS BOTH SELF AND OTHERS TO RUIN. It can never have more than a certain length of tether. No man can long "resist God and prosper." Saul's later days fully illustrate the inward miseries and-outward ruin of self-will; the "death" which this sin, "when it is finished, surely brings forth." Distinguish between the self-strength which God may use, and the self-will which severs a man wholly from God. Whatever may be our station or our office, there is one condition of success, and only one—we must "fear God, and keep his commandments."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 10:11, 1 Chronicles 10:12.-The time for returning kindness is sure to come.
Recall the deliverance which, very early in his kingship, Saul had wrought for the men of Jabesh-gilead (1 Samuel 11:1-15.). It seemed most unlikely that those rescued citizens would ever be able to do anything for Saul which would publicly testify their gratitude; and yet time passed on, and presently brought them their golden opportunity. When the stripped and dismembered bodies of Saul and his sons hung in front of the gates of Beth-shun, the men of Jabesh-gilead felt they could at least stop such dishonouring of the dead; so they made a sudden foray in the dead of night, seized the bodies, gave them honourable burning, and burial under a tree (1 Samuel 31:11-13). We may learn from this incident that —
I. WE CAN HELP OTHERS IN THEIR EXTREMITIES. For precisely this we are knit together in the human brotherhood; and there are no possible forms of human need and trouble for which there are not human alleviations; and these are at our command.
II. QUICKNESS TO HELP OTHERS IS CHARACTERISTICALLY CHRISTIAN. Sensitiveness to human suffering, and sense of personal responsibility in relation to its relief, are necessary features of Christian character, and essential elements of true Christ-likeness. "Himself bare our infirmities and carried our sorrows." We are to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
III. MEMORY OF HELP RECEIVED SHOULD BE LOVINGLY CHERISHED. Ingratitude is a sin of peculiar baseness. There may be long delay ere gratitude can find its opportunity, but it should be well nourished and kept for its occasion.
IV. TIME BRINGS ROUND THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL WHO KEEP THE WILL. Illustrate from incident of text, and from the care of our parents. We seem unable to show our gratitude for the hallowing care of our childhood; but their helpless old age comes, and we get our opportunity. Lead on to that sense of indebtedness we should feel to Christ for his redeeming work; and to the duty of keeping ever watchful of opportunities for serving him—as we may do, by serving some of the least of his brethren. See McCheyne's hymn, "When this passing world is done," etc.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 10:14.-Judgments come through men, but they are from the Lord.
This topic is suggested by the expression, "Therefore he slew him." This passage gives the reason for the death of Saul, as viewed from a later standpoint; amoral is pointed from it that might serve as a warning to the returned captives of Babylon. Saul came under judgment, and we must see that it was Divine judgment. It may be well to form a careful estimate of Saul's character and reign, so that the Divine dealings with him may be worthily apprehended. "It is impossible not to recognize elements of good in him. David's lament does but express the national admiration for one, who, in his best days, must have been both prudent in counsel and mighty in war. We cannot fail to see the evil taint of self-will making sinister marks across the entire record and utterly darkening the closing chapters." There is little bat warning to be gathered from the story of King Saul; but we should receive those warnings humbly, for "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS FIND EARTHLY SPHERES. One of the great objects for the sake of which the Old Testament histories are preserved to us is to convince us that God visits sins now, and lets his judgments be executed here on earth. Judgment, in Saul's case, came on a battle-field; it may come on a sick-bed or a ruined home. Our tendency is to call earthly troubles accidents, and to shift the idea of Divine judgment into the world that is to come. We think that God will judge, condemn, and execute his judgments there, and so we too easily separate him from the calamities of our life. It is to be impressively apprehended that Saul had his judgment in this sphere. No man can be sure of postponing the Divine judgment to the next life. Whosoever "transgresseth" lies under this exceeding peril; the Divine indignation is over him now, and he has no security as to how or when it will fall.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENTS AND HUMAN AGENTS. This needs to be set forth so as to correct a common fallacy and self-deception. Men may be willing to admit that fire and tempest, famine and pestilence, are executive agents of God, and work out his judgments, but they are less willing to see that their fellow-men, even in doing wrong, may be used by God as his executioners. Even the Philistines, in their violence and wilfulness, became the executors of the Divine wrath on Saul. See how much larger and more comprehensive a view of the Divine administration this gives; and it may afford some very humbling revelations of some misunderstood passages of our lives. Maybe we thought ourselves only wronged by men; through the wrong we were punished by God.
III. THE EARTHLY AND THE HUMAN JUDGMENTS MUST NOT HIDE THE DIVINE IN THEM. As we see things, the Philistines defeated Saul and he ultimately slew himself. But we must not thus obscure the Divine. The deeper truth is that God slew him. So of the incidents of our lives; nothing should hide the Divine meaning of them.
IV. THE EARTHLY AND THE HUMAN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CONFUSE OUR VIEWS OF THE FUTURE AND ETERNAL JUDGMENT. No judgment, limited to the earthly spheres, can be properly said to exhaust the Divine sentence. God wants the next life for the adequate vindications of his righteousness. The fact of a man's having suffered in this life gives him no security against judgment to come.
V. THE EARTHLY AND THE HUMAN FIND THEIR COMPLETE MISSION, NOT IN THE SUFFERER, BUT IN THE WARNING OF THOSE WHO MAY HEAR OF THE JUDGMENT. This is illustrated in the preservation of the records of the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, the ruin of Balaam, the miserable end of Saul, etc. Deal with our Lord's teachings concerning "calamity." Distinguish "calamity" from "judgment." We call a thing a judgment when we can connect together ― as in Saul's case ― the sin and the suffering. Otherwise we say, "It is a calamity, and it may be a judgment." Plead for a real and practical belief in God's present rule, and solemn vindications el his will and authority, both in national and individual spheres.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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