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- Bible Text: 1 Samuel 31:1-13 (ESV) 1 Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
- Reflection & Application: 1 Samuel 31:1-3
- Reflect on God’s hand in David’s life in helping him remain blameless towards Saul till the end. What can I learn about God from the fact that he spared David from being part of this battle that is responsible for killing Saul and his sons, including Jonathan?
1 Samuel 31:1-10
In the previous unit, God’s guidance for David was both defensive and offensive. He intervened in David’s dealings with Achish and the Philistines to prevent him from fighting against Israel, but he also intervened against the Amalekites to provide a much-needed military victory. By contrast, Saul is quickly turned over to the Philistines and decapitated after his death, and his body is left exposed to the elements. Saul failed to accept Yahweh as king, so Yahweh rejected Saul as king. Future anointed ones should be like David, not like Saul.
- After years of rejecting God as king, Saul finally comes to the tragic end of his life and the lives of his sons. What are the crucial steps that Saul took that led to this kind of tragic end?
- How did Saul’s tragic end bring shame not only to his name but also to God’s name (vv. 9-10)?
- What warning does Saul’s life have for me?
1 Samuel 31:11-13
The final word of this chapter is not, however, of death and humiliation but of honor … The people of Jabesh-gilead could not forget or ignore the debt they owe Saul for his swift and valiant rescue when they were at the mercy of Nahash, the king of Ammon (chap. 11). Saul had begun his time as king with courageous and effective leadership as befits a king. For the people of Jabesh-gilead, this moment remains worthy of honor, and they act to ensure that this honor be bestowed even in death. Saul is not to have a place in Israel’s future, but the people of Jabesh-gilead ensure that Saul’s royal moments in Israel’s past will be remembered.
- What did the people of Jabesh-gilead risk because of their loyalty to Saul? What should my loyalty and gratitude to God result in?
- What can I learn from the people of Jabesh-gilead about the proper place of gratitude and honor toward people based on their past conduct, even if their later conduct is not worthy of honor?
 Arnold, Bill T. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 and 2 Samuel. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), p 402.
 The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume II. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), p.1198.