THE DESERVED DIVINE EXECUTION OF SAUL PAVES THE WAY FOR THE TRANSFER OF THE KINGDOM TO DAVID
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler’s account of Saul shows the high cost of covenantal unfaithfulness, described as rejecting the word of the Lord (v.13; cf. 1Sa 13:14; 15:26). In fact, Samuel told Saul that God “would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time” (1Sa 13:13). Instead, Saul’s unfaithfulness causes the Lord to seek a leader “after his own heart” (13:14). . .
The Chronicler’s review of Saul’s reign is brief and works to succinctly summarize the final event through which God “turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (10:14).
Andrew Hill: The abruptness of the shift from the genealogical prologue to the narrative of Hebrew kingship is striking. The brevity of the Chronicler’s account of King Saul’s reign is arresting as well.
(1) Note that David, not Saul, is the focus of the Chronicler’s retelling of Israelite history. Saul’s death is a tragic but necessary introduction to Davidic kingship.
(2) The writer of Chronicles has assumed his audience is familiar with the reign of King Saul on the basis of the records preserved in Samuel.
(3) Finally, the theological appraisal explains the motive for this terse summary of Saul’s reign: the transition of kingship from the house of Saul to the house of David because of Saul’s disobedience to God’s word (10:14).
Iain Duguid: Just as an individual and a corporate “breach of faith” framed Israel’s tribal genealogies (2:7, Achan [a Judahite]; 9:1, Judah), so the narrative of the monarchic period begins with the first king’s “breach of faith” (10:13) and will end with king, priests, and people as “exceedingly unfaithful” (2 Chron. 36:14).
Hugh Williamson: In the Chronicler’s view, however, the kingdom was God’s. This underlines the independence in the Chronicler’s scheme of the Saul narrative, leaving Israel at its close in a position of total defeat and “exile”, a situation from which only the faithfulness of a David could lift them. . .
The reigns of Saul, David and Solomon over a united Israel are central to the concerns of the Chronicler, about half his narrative material being devoted to these three kings alone. Nearly all the many themes of his work are developed here, and it is in their light that the subsequent history of the people is assessed.
Martin Selman: The main purpose of this chapter is to show how and why the kingdom was transferred from Saul to David.
I. (:1-7) DEMISE OF THE HOUSE OF SAUL — REPORT OF SAUL’S DEATH IN BATTLE WITH THE PHILISTINES
A. (:1-3) Losing Pivotal Battle
“Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines closely pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 And the battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers.”
Mark Boda: Saul’s retreat into the mountain reveals that his army was no match for the Philistines in the large valley of Jezreel; which was ideally suited for a battle with chariots but not for a force accustomed to guerrilla warfare in mountainous terrain.
B. (:4-6) Losing Saul’s Life
“Then Saul said to his armor bearer, ‘Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me.’ But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword and died. 6 Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all those of his house died together.”
J.A. Thompson: There clearly was great apprehension in Saul’s mind about what his fate would be if he fell into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. Humiliation, torture, and mutilation surely would be likely to follow Saul’s capture. Death at his own hands or at the hands of his armor bearer would be preferable. Suicide practically was unknown in Israel although 1 Sam 31:3–6 has preserved the story of Saul’s own suicide. Second Samuel 1:10 has preserved the account of an Amalekite who claims to have killed Saul out of mercy. The Amalekite was apparently lying, and, as a result, David had the Amalekite put to death.
Frederick Mabie: The account of Saul’s death by his own hand noted here and at 1 Samuel 31:4–5 is described in 2 Samuel 1:5–10 as coming by the hand of an Amalekite, whom Saul asks to put him out of his misery as he lay upon his spear (2Sa 1:6–9; cf. 1Ch 10:5; 1Sa 31:4). While some try to present this as a contradiction, the account of 2 Samuel has simply provided additional details of Saul’s final moments.
C. (:7) Losing Israelite Cities
“When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled; and the Philistines came and lived in them.”
Andrew Hill: Saul was anointed king over Israel in order to deliver God’s people “from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 9:16). Ironically, Saul and his sons were killed by these very same Philistines. In the end, Israel actually lost more territory than it gained in these wars. The national hopes that fueled the fervent clamor for a king were dashed at Mount Gilboa (cf. 1 Sam. 8:20). The chant of victory slogans (e.g., “Saul has slain his thousands,” 1 Sam. 18:7) gave way to the wail of the funeral dirges (“How the mighty have fallen!” 2 Sam. 1:19).
Frederick Mabie: Although Yahweh used Saul to temper the Philistine threat against his people (cf. 1Sa 9:16), it was not completely eradicated. In fact, Philistine dominance over Israel is reflected in the garrisons they were able to establish in Judah and Benjamin (cf. 1Sa 10:3–5; 13:3) as well as their ability to prohibit metalworkers in Israel (13:19–22). Despite this dominance, Saul had some success in pushing the Philistines back to the coastal plain and reasserting Israelite control over the Negev (cf. 13:3–14:46). Nonetheless, there was “bitter war” between Israel and the Philistines “all the days of Saul” (14:52).
The Chronicler focuses on the final moments of the last extended battle narrative between Saul and the Philistines, which ends in his demise (for the full account see 1Sa 28–31). This conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines is unique in that it is centered in the environs of the Jezreel Valley rather than the typical location in the Shephelah or hill country, and it may relate to control of key trade routes that pass through the Jezreel and Beth Shan valleys. As the Chronicler succinctly summarizes, the Israelites were routed in this battle, Saul died, his sons were killed, and the Israelite army fled (vv.6–7). This victory gave the Philistines control over the important Jezreel-Harod-Beth Shan valleys (v.7), effectively driving a wedge between the Cisjordanian tribes (see J. M. Monson, The Land Between [Mountain Home, Id.: Biblical Backgrounds, 1996], 57).
II. (:8-12) DESECRATION OF THE BODY OF SAUL BY THE PHILISTINES CONTRASTED WITH HEROIC ACTIONS OF MEN OF JABESH-GILEAD
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler shows the honor of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead in contrast to the dishonor of the Philistines. The displaying of the spoils of war or the body of an important enemy in a temple (v.10) was, in the biblical world, a means of thanking a deity for victory in battle (cf. v.9). The motivation behind the Jabesh Gileadites’ rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons for proper burial may well stem from Saul’s efforts to save that city from a brutal assault by the Ammonites (1Sa 11:1–11).
A. (:8-10) Reveling in the Demise of the Royal Family — Desecration of the Body of Saul by the Philistines
1. (:8-9) Declaring the Good News of Saul’s Humiliation
“And it came about the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they stripped him and took his head and his armor and sent messengers around the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to their idols and to the people.”
2. (:10) Dedicating Trophies to the Philistine Gods
“And they put his armor in the house of their gods
and fastened his head in the house of Dagon.”
John Schultz: The Chronicler’s mention of Dagon’s temple, where Saul’s head ended up, is an indication of the spiritual implications of Saul’s unfaithfulness to the God of Israel. The Philistines must have believed that their victory over Israel was an indication of their idol’s superiority over the Yahweh.
B. (:11-12) Rescuing the Royal Bones — Heroic Actions of Men of Jabesh-Gilead
“When all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul,
12 all the valiant men arose 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.”
Frederick Mabie: Saul’s motivation to aid the city of Jabesh Gilead likely stemmed from the close connection between the Benjamites and the city of Jabesh Gilead. Recall that two-thirds of the decimated tribe of Benjamin (four hundred men out of six hundred survivors) received their wives from the city of Jabesh Gilead in the aftermath of the Benjamite war (Jdg 19–21; cf. esp. 21:5–12). Thus two-thirds of Saul’s kin (including perhaps his own mother or grandmother) could trace their lineage through the city of Jabesh Gilead, facilitating a unique and strong bond between this city and the tribe of Benjamin.
III. (:13-14) DIVINE JUDGMENT EXECUTED AGAINST SAUL FOR HIS UNFAITHFULNESS – TRANSITIONING THE KINGDOM TO DAVID
A. (:13-14a) Failures of Saul
1. (:13a) Unfaithfulness to the Covenant Relationship
“So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD,”
2. (:13b) Disobedience to the Word of God
“because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep;”
3. (:13c) Seeking Guidance from Satanic Sources
“and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it,
John Schultz: Saul’s syncretism is a microcosm of Israel’s unfaithfulness in the Old Testament. It is also a contradiction of ‘the first and greatest commandment’ (Matt. 22:37-38; Deut. 6:5).
4. (:14a) Failing to Depend on the Lord
“and did not inquire of the LORD.”
August Konkel: Unfaithfulness is a personal matter, but its effects are never limited to one person. The tragic story of Saul was the consequence of the low priority he placed on obedience to God. His personal potential as a representative of a leading family in the tribe of Benjamin was eroded. He became increasingly insecure and desperate, even to the point of seeking help from a medium. Saul did not determine to be unfaithful; his intentions were not to turn away from God, who had called him and anointed him (1 Sam 10:1). His unfaithfulness manifested itself in a lack of trust that then led to a succession of wrong choices.
J.A. Thompson: The consulting of a medium was as grievous an act of unfaithfulness as any ritual offense. The practice of consulting mediums was expressly forbidden in Israel (Deut 18:9–14; cf. 1 Sam 15:23). It was a phenomenon recognized by twittering communications from within a man (Lev 20:27; Isa 29:4) Saul should have taken his problems to the Lord, but he did not “inquire” (šā’al) of the Lord. It meant for him not merely seeking information but a deep dependence on God born out of a trustful attitude of personal faith and loyalty. Failure to inquire of the Lord on this occasion was a further indication of Saul’s whole attitude. Godly leadership is characterized by complete obedience to the Lord and by seeking guidance from him in faith. Saul failed on both counts.
Iain Duguid: “Seek guidance” (darash) is a key word in Chronicles, occurring almost forty times in a religious context. While often, as here, it refers to guidance in a specific matter (“inquire”), more generally it expresses wholehearted devotion to God (“seek”; e.g., 1 Chron. 16:11).
Mark Boda: Without losing sight of the many good sources of truth and knowledge that can be found in our world because of God’s common grace to all humanity, as Christians we need to ensure that the priority of revelation is found in “asking the Lord for guidance” (10:14) in the person of Jesus, in the presence of the Spirit, and in the witness of Scripture.
B. (:14b) Fatal Execution of Saul and Transition to David’s Dynasty
1. Fatal Execution of Saul
“Therefore He killed him,”
2. Transition to David’s Dynasty
“and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.”
Townsend: Having established the remnant’s genealogical link with the Davidic and priestly lines, he [the writer] focused on the groundwork of the Davidic promises. His design was to show how the kingly and priestly concerns came together in David. David is then seen as a model for the postexilic community as they look forward to One like David.
Mark Boda: The final phase of the evaluation brings into focus the main purpose of the chapter as a whole, that is, to describe how the kingship came to David. As the Lord was the subject of the action of judgment against Saul, so he was the subject of the transference of the kingship from Saul to David. This is a key reminder that this office was God’s to appoint to one who was faithful to him. In this uneasy transition between dynasties, the reader is reminded who the true king was.