The design of Ezra, in these books of the Chronicles, was to preserve the records of the house of David, which, though much sunk and lessened in a common eye by the captivity, yet grew more and more illustrious in the eyes of those that lived by faith by the nearer approach of the Son of David. And therefore he repeats, not the history of Saul's reign, but only of his death, by which way was made for David to the throne. In this chapter we have, I. The fatal rout which the Philistines gave to Saul's army, and the fatal stroke which he gave himself, ver. 1-7. II. The Philistines' triumph therein, ver. 8-10. III. The respect which the men of Jabesh-Gilead showed the royal corpse, ver. 11, 12. IV. The reason of Saul's rejection, ver. 13, 14.
The Death of Saul.
B. C. 1400.
1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. 3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. 4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died. 6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together. 7 And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.
This account of Saul's death is the same with that which we had, 1 Sam. xxxi. 1, &c. We need not repeat the exposition of it. Only let us observe, 1. Princes sin and the people suffer for it. It was a bad time with Israel when they fled before the Philistines and fell down slain (v. 1), when they quitted their cities, and the Philistines came and dwelt in them, v. 7. We do not find that they were at this time guilty of idolatry, as they had been before, in the days of the judges, and were afterwards, in the days of the kings. Samuel had reformed them, and they were reformed: and yet they are thus given to the spoil and to the robbers. No doubt there was enough in them to deserve this judgment; but that which divine Justice had chiefly an eye to was the sin of Saul. Note, Princes and great men should in a special manner take heed of provoking God's wrath; for, if they kindle that fire, they know not how many may be consumed by it for their sakes. 2. Parents sin and the children suffer for it. When the measure of Saul's iniquity was full, and his day came to fall (which David foresaw, 1 Sam. xxvi. 10), he not only descended into battle and perished himself, but his sons (all but Ishbosheth) perished with him, and Jonathan among the rest, that gracious, generous man; for all things come alike to all. Thus was the iniquity of the fathers visited upon the children, and they fell as parts of the condemned father. Note, Those that love their seed must leave their sins, lest they perish not alone in their iniquity, but bring ruin on their families with themselves, or entail a curse upon them when they are gone. 3. Sinners sin and at length suffer for it themselves, though they be long reprieved; for, although sentence be not executed speedily, it will be executed. It was so upon Saul; and the manner of his fall was such as, in various particulars, answered to his sin. (1.) He had thrown a javelin more than once at David, and missed him; but the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. (2.) He had commanded Doeg to slay the priests of the Lord; and now, in despair, he commands his armour-bearer to draw his sword and thrust him through. (3.) He had disobeyed the command of God in not destroying the Amalekites, and his armour-bearer disobeys him in not destroying him. (4.) He that was the murderer of the priests is justly left to himself to be his own murderer; and his family is cut off who cut off the city of the priests. See, and say, The Lord is righteous.
8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa. 9 And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people. 10 And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. 11 And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 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. 13 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 enquire of it; 14 And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
Here, I. From the triumph of the Philistines over the body of Saul we may learn, 1. That the greater dignity men are advanced to the greater disgrace they are in danger of falling into. Saul's dead body, because he was king, was abused more than any other of the slain. Advancement makes men a mark for malice. 2. That, if we give not to God the glory of our successes, even the Philistines will rise up in judgment against us and condemn us; for, when they had obtained a victory over Saul, they sent tidings to their idols--poor idols, that knew not what was done a few miles off till the tidings were brought to them, nor then either! They also put Saul's armour in the house of their gods, v. 10. Shall Dagon have so honourable a share in their triumphs and the true and living God be forgotten in ours?
II. From the triumph of the men of Jabesh-Gilead in the rescue of the bodies of Saul and his sons we learn that there is a respect due to the remains of the deceased, especially of deceased princes. We are not to enquire concerning the eternal state; that must be left to God: but we must treat the dead body as those who remember it has been united to an immortal soul and must be so again.
III. From the triumphs of divine Justice in the ruin of Saul we may learn, 1. That the sin of sinners will certainly find them out, sooner or later: Saul died for his transgression. 2. That no man's greatness can exempt him from the judgments of God. 3. Disobedience is a killing thing. Saul died for not keeping the word of the Lord, by which he was ordered to destroy the Amalekites. 4. Consulting with witches is a sin that fills the measure of iniquity as soon as any thing. Saul enquired of one that had a familiar spirit, and enquired not of the Lord, therefore he slew him, v. 13, 14. Saul slew himself, and yet it is said, God slew him. What is done by wicked hands is yet done by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Those that abandon themselves to the devil shall be abandoned to him; so shall their doom be. It is said (1 Sam. xxviii. 6) that Saul did enquire of the Lord and he answered him not: but here it is said, Saul did not enquire of God; for he did not till he was brought to the last extremity, and then it was too late.