1 Samuel 27 - 31


The closing chapters of the first book of Samuel constantly shift back and forth between David and Saul.







 m  Comes to Gath

 m Given Ziklag

 m Secretly raids the enemies of Israel


 m Seeks of the witch of Endor.

 m Is condemned by Samuel.


 m Accompanies Philistines to Battle.

 m Sent back home.

Finds home burned.

 m Rescues his people.


 m Defeated.

 m Commits suicide.

 m His body is dishonored.


Spiritual Defeat


Defeat & Death

Appears to be one with the Philistines.

Has a fellowship meal with a medium.

Is delivered from the Philistines & lives.

Fights the Philistines & dies.





1.         David’s Decision to leave Israel.


            Then David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.  There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines.  Saul then will despair of searching for me anymore in all the territory of Israel, and I will escape from his hand.” (1 Samuel 27:1).


David had been on the run from Saul for a very long time.  Saul’s relentless pursuit had taken him throughout the entire southern area of Israel.  There had only been one place where Saul had not followed David.  That had been his very brief sojourn in Gath, the city of the Philistines.  And so, David determines to return to the Philistines.


The question which we must ask is whether David did the correct thing in going to the land of the Philistines.  While the passage does not comment on David’s actions, we ought to point out the following considerations:


a.         David had already been told by the prophet Gad to stay in the land of Judah (1 Samuel 22:5).


By disobeying this injunction and leaving the land, David is placing his trust in the Philistines rather than in the Lord.  The Lord had already demonstrated that He was capable of saving David’s life.


b.         We do not read of his mentioning the Lord in any of his deliberations which lead him into the land of the Philistines.


c.         He finds himself in a situation where he will have to fight against the people of God in open battle.


2.         David comes to Gath.


            So David arose and crossed over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath.

            And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, each with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Canaanitess, Nabal’s widow. (1 Samuel 27:2).


David’s reception in Gath this time is much different that the first time he had come to this city.


1 Samuel 21:19-15

1 Samuel 27

David was the hero of Israel.

David has been an outlaw for many years.

David had been alone and pretended to be mad.

David is the head of a band of trained men.


In both cases we shall see that David successfully deceives the king of the Philistines.


3.         David asks for and receives Ziklag.

            Then David said to Achish, “If now I have found favor in your sight, let them give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may live there, for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”

            So Achish gave him Ziklag that day; therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day.

            And the number of days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months. (1 Samuel 27:5-7).


The Philistine government was centered in five major cities along the coastal plain.  Gath was one of those cities.  It was a royal city - the home of one of the five ruling kings of the Philistines.


For a time, David lives in Gath with his men.  But this began to be uncomfortable both for David as well as for the Philistines.  After all, David had made his reputation as “David the Giant Philistine-Killer.”  They still remembered the “oldie-goldie” on the hit parade that sang of how Saul had slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.  And they knew that those numbers referred to how many Philistines David had slain.


While Saul is losing to the Philistines, David is being given a city from the hands of the Philistines.

David is given the city of Ziklag.  This city had originally been claimed both by the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:31) as well as by the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:5; 1 Chronicles 4:30).  It was a border town, laying in the no-man’s land between Israel and Philistia.


This was the time of the beginning of the Iron Age and the Philistines enjoyed a monopoly on the secret of smelting iron.  But this changed radically after David became king.  Could it be that he stole the secret of iron-smelting and brought it to the Israelites?


There is a lesson here.  It is that Christians need to utilize the technology of their age for the service to the Lord.  That might be the computer or the Internet.  Or it might be music or other forms of the arts.  Whatever it is, these aspects are tools to win our own spiritual war.  Christians in recent times have neglected using the various tools of our age and making them available for the Lord.  This was seen in the 20th century when they allowed the television era to come and to go without using this tool in a creative way.


Too often, Christians have taken the opposite stance with regard to technological change.  They have looked at technology and change is if it were necessarily an enemy instead of that which could be utilized in a positive way.

3.         David’s Military Campaigns in the South.


            Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites, for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt.

            And David attacked the land and did not leave a man or a woman alive, and he took away the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing.  Then he returned and came to Achish. (1 Samuel 27:8-9).


Located as he was on the border of southern Canaan, David turned his energies toward a number of raiding parties against three traditional enemies of the people of God.


a.         Geshurites.


They seem to have lived directly south of the Philistine territories.  The Israelites had failed to take this land at the same time they had failed to drive out the Philistines (Joshua 13:2).


b.         Girzites.


The Masoretic Text reads “Gerizite.”.  The DSS read “Gezrite”, which would possibly indicate inhabitants of Gezer.  The Septuagint GezraioV supports the DSS reading.


The problem is that Gezer is located north of Ekron on the northern edge of the Philistine territories while verse 8 seems to place all three of these groups in the northern Sinai.


c.         Amalekites.


Descended from Esau and originally a tribe of Edom.  They lived in the northern Sinai but also extended their influence northward all the way to the hill country of Ephraim (Judges 12:15).  They had been the first to attack the Israelites upon their exodus from Egypt.  They had invaded Israel during the period of the Judges.  Most recently, Saul had fought against them and had won a great victory.


In these campaigns, David has taken up the mantle of the holy war of Israel against the enemies of God’s people.  This was the war for which Saul had originally been commissioned.  But Saul had disqualified himself as the Lord’s representative because of his own disobedience.


Discussion Question:  Was David’s keeping of the livestock of the enemies of the Lord contrary to earlier injunctions?

Was David acting in disobedience?


4.         David’s Deception of the Philistines.


            Now Achish said, “Where have you made a raid today?”  And David said, “Against the Negev of Judah and against the Negev of the Jerahmeelites and against the Negev of the Kenites.”

            And David did not leave a man or a woman alive, to bring to Gath, saying, “Lest they should tell about us, saying, ‘So has David done and so has been his practice all the time he has lived in the country of the Philistines.’” (1 Samuel 27:10-11).


David’s official reports to the Philistines were quite different than his actions.  In short, he LIED.  Once again, we must remember that the Scriptures do not condone David’s actions or his lies.  Neither are his actions sugar-coated.


David was pretending to attack Israel and her allies.  Instead, he made it his practice to attack the enemies of Israel and to put to death any and all witnesses.  His purpose was that of deception rather than for the religious purposes given in 1 Samuel 15.  His deception was successful.


            So Achish believed David, saying, “He has surely made himself odious among his people Israel; therefore he will become my servant forever.” (1 Samuel 27:12).


Achish believed that David had cut himself off from his fellow Israelites to the point where they would never again take him in.  From the point of view of the Israelites, David would STINK.  As a result, David was elevated to the position of a trusted lieutenant.


5.         War between Israel and the Philistines.


            Now it came about in those days that the Philistines gathered their armed camps for war, to fight against Israel.  And Achish said to David, “Know assuredly that you will go out with me in the camp, you and your men.”

            And David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.”  So Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.” (1 Samuel 28:1-2).


There is a touch of irony here as David who made his start cutting off the head of Goliath is now made “guardian of the head” of Achish.

As the Philistines prepared an invasionary force to strike at the very heart of Israel, David found himself drawn into the service of Achish.  He was appointed bodyguard - literally, “guard of my head.”  Furthermore, this was not to be a temporary appointment.  It was to be forever - permanent.


David’s deception put him in the position of having to fight against the people of God in open warfare.


There is a parallel here between the loyalty which David promises toward the Philistines and the oath by which Saul binds himself to the medium of Endor.


David pretends loyalty to the Philistines (27).


Saul binds himself by an oath and a meal to a medium (29).






1.         Saul’s Precarious Situation.


For the last 10 chapters, we have seen Saul preoccupied with only one thing - the capture and murder of David.   It had not been until David departed from the land and went to live among the Philistines that Saul had given up his search.  Now he is confronted with a much greater problem.


a.         The lack of spiritual guides.


            Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him and buried him in Ramah his own city.  And Saul had removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists. (1 Samuel 28:3).


We read of the death of Samuel back in chapter 25.  Why is it mentioned here again?  It is because now Saul was feeling that loss.  He desperately needed a word from the Lord and Samuel was no longer available to give it.


Furthermore there was no one else to serve as a substitute for Samuel as all of the mediums and spiritists had been removed from the land.


Saul could not even go to the high priest because he had murdered the high priest and his entire family.


b.         The Philistine invasion.


            So the Philistines gathered together and came and camped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together and they camped in Gilboa. (1 Samuel 28:5).


Shunem is located in the Valley of Jezreel at the southern foot of Mount Moreh, nine miles east-northeast of Megiddo.  Mount Gilboa is 10 miles to the south on the southeastern edge of the Valley of Jezreel.


Instead of coming up the narrow mountain passes as they had in the past, the Philistines now moved across the wide open plains of Jezreel.  Here they could maneuver their chariot corps to full effect.


If this military operation was successful, it would result in splitting the land in two.


c.         The silence of the Lord.


            When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly.

            When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets. (1 Samuel 28:6-7).


Saul had every reason to fear.  The Philistines were big and they had the best in military weaponry and there were a lot of them.


Saul sought a message from the Lord.  He tried all the ways in which God had spoken to people in the past.

m Dreams.

m Urim - a device worn by the high priest and used at time to receive messages from God.  It was connected with the ephod which Abiathar had brought to David after the massacre of his family.

m Prophets.


His seeking was met with silence.  God had already given His message to Saul.  There would be nothing more forthcoming.


What do you do when God is silent?  When you feel as though your prayers aren’t making it past the ceiling?  When your faith falters and a mountain of a problem gathers on your horizon?


You wait for the Lord.  And you keep on waiting.  And while you are waiting, you do what you know is right.  And you don’t do what Saul did.


2.         Saul’s Quest for a Medium.


            Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”  And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” (1 Samuel 28:7).


The Hebrew word for Medium is ‘Ob.  This is a Hittite loan-word.  It originally was used to describe a pit and spoke of the place of departed spirits.  It came to be used both of the spirits of the dead as well as of those who were supposedly able to contact those spirits.


“Your voice shall also be like that of a SPIRIT from the ground” (Isaiah 29:4).

“Do not turn to MEDIUMS or spiritists...” (Leviticus 19:31).


The Mosaic Law strictly forbade God’s people from consulting mediums.  The penalty for such actions was death.


            “Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death.  They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:27).


In accordance with God’s law, Saul had ordered that mediums and spiritists be driven from the land.  And yet, he now seeks to consult with one.  He is directed by his servants to the town of En-dor, located on the northern slope of Little Hermon.  He determines to make his way to this spiritual brothel in order to partake in a seance.


3.         Saul’s Séance in Endor.


            Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.”

            But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land.  Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?”

            And Saul vowed to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, there shall no punishment come upon you for this thing.” (1 Samuel 28:8-10).


To arrive at Endor from Mount Gilboa would have involved a long 8-mile detour around the Philistine forces.  Saul took this route under the cover of night, perhaps for several reasons.


      m  To escape detection by the Philistines.


      m  It was traditionally believed that such a seance would only work at night.


The woman of Endor at first refuses to participate.  It is not until Saul takes a solemn oath invoking the name of the Lord that she agrees to participate.


            Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”  And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”

            When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me?  For you are Saul.”

            And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?”  And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being [Elohim] coming up out of the earth.”

            And he said to her, “What is his form?”  And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.”  And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage. (1 Samuel 28:11-14).


This passage has troubled theologians for hundreds of years.  There have been three alternate interpretations offered for this passage.


a.         This was truly Samuel speaking from the grave.

This interpretation takes the passage naturally when it says that “the woman saw Samuel” (28:12).


b.         This was a demonic manifestation pretending to be Samuel.  This view was held by Augustine.


c.         This was a trick of the woman.


This is perhaps supported by the Septuagint which uses a term in this passage which is also used of ventriloquists.


The reason for the varied interpretation is because people do not care for the implications of what happened - that a seance was actually able to bring back Samuel from the dead.  However, this need not be considered as normative.  Just because Samuel actually appeared to the medium in this instance does not give credibility to all such mediums.


Indeed, if there is a lesson here, it is that God’s people ought to trust in the Lord rather than in other types of spiritual phenomenon.  We ought not to delve into horoscopes or fortune telling or Ouija boards, for such activity is following in the footsteps of Saul.  In the best of situations, such attempts lead us to swindlers and trickery.  In the words of situations, one might come face to face with a terrible reality that God is against him.  This is what happened to Saul.


There are three lessons that we should take away from this account.


(1)        You must not ignore the silence of God.


(2)        You must not abandon the word of God.


(3)        You must not disobey the clear command of God.


It is ironic that he tells the woman in verse 13 not to be afraid when he himself had come here out of fear of the Philistines and would become even more afraid upon hearing the message of Samuel.


Evidently, only the woman saw the form of Samuel, for Saul asked in verse 14, “What is his form?” and did not realize that it was Samuel until she had given a description of the prophet.


Notice what it was about the description which identified the visionary arrival as Samuel.  It was the fact that he was an old man who was “wrapped with a robe” (28:14).  Saul remembered that robe.  He could not help but remember how Samuel had predicted the loss of the kingdom and had turned to go and how he, Saul, had grabbed the robe of Samuel and had torn it.  He had been told that in just such a manner the kingdom would be torn from his grasp.


4.         Samuel’s Message from the Grave.


            Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”  And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and answers me no more, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you make known to me what I should do.” (1 Samuel 28:15).


When the propriety of Saul’s actions are questioned, he responds that he has acted accordingly because the Lord had been silent.  Notice he mentions that he had tried prophets and dreams, but does not mention the Urim from verse 6.  Perhaps he does not wish to be reminded of his own slaughter of the priesthood of Nob.


Saul wants a word from the Lord, but Saul has consistently ignored the word from the Lord that has been given to him.  There is a principle here.  It is that no second word from the Lord is given until the first word is heard.


What was God’s first word to Saul?  It was that he should repent and humble himself before the Lord.  It is the same word that God gives to you and to me.


            And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary?

            “And the Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David.

            “As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath of Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day.

            Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.  Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1 Samuel 28:16-19).


While in the past the Lord had delivered Israel FROM the Philistine threat on more than one occasion, now Israel would be delivered by God INTO the hands of the Philistines (verse 19).


There is a principle here.  It is the principle of federal reciprocity.  It is the principle that the actions of the federal head have a direct impact upon the body.


It was not the people who had sinned, but they would suffer at least some of the consequences of Saul’s sin.


Here is the principle stated.  Leaders have an impact upon those whom they lead.  When leaders sin, those who are being led often suffer negative consequences of that sin.


This is illustrated most obviously in the case of Adam and Eve.  They were the leaders and the representatives of the human race.  And their sin had an impact upon all mankind.


This also takes place in a family.  Fathers have an awesome responsibility as the leaders of their home.  Their sins have a direct impact upon the rest of their family.  And it has an impact upon the leaders of a local church.  It means that we must ever pray for our leaders and those who have rule over us.


There is a noteworthy contrast between the events of chapter 25 and those of this chapter.


1 Samuel 25

1 Samuel 28

Focus upon DAVID.

Focus upon SAUL.

Samuel is dead (25:1).

Samuel is dead (28:3).

Hears the Lord’s advice as given through Abigail (25:14-24).

Does not hear the Lord (28:6).

Obeys the Lord by sparing the life of Nabal and Saul.

Disobeys the Lord by going to a medium.


Notice what Saul says in verse 16.  God has become Saul’s adversary.  This is a striking statement.  In our day when God is pictured as everyone’s friend, it is striking to think that God is actually the enemy of some people.


Before we think that we are safe from such a situation, we ought to remember that in two different passages we read that God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  That was Saul’s problem.  He had been lifted up with pride and it had cause him to sin.  Pride always does that.




Chapter 30 is arranges in a chiastic parallel.  It begins and ends at Ziklag.


David arrives at Ziklag & finds it plundered (30:1-3).




David & his men are promised the Lord’s victory (30:4-8).



David defeats the Amalekites (30:9-20).



David shares the Lord’s plunder with his men (30:21-25).


David return to Ziklag & distributes the plunder (30:26-31).




1.         Invasion of the Israelite Territories..


            Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel.

            And the lords of the Philistines were proceeding on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were proceeding on in the rear with Achish. (1 Samuel 29:1-2).


From Saul, our scene shifts back to the Philistine invasion as it appeared from David’s point of view.  He was at the end of a very long line of Philistine warriors come to invade the land of Israel.


The point is that David was on the wrong side.  He had been pretending to be sympathetic to the Philistine cause in order to find a refuge among those people, but now he found himself in a position were he was going to war against the people of God.


2.         The Philistine Complaint against David’s Presence.


            Then the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?”  And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him from the day he deserted to me to this day”?

            But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him and the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man go back, that he may return to his place where you have assigned him, and do not let him go down to battle with us, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us.  For with what could this man make himself acceptable to his lord?  Would it not be with the heads of these men?

            “Is this not David, of whom they sing in the dances, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’” (1 Samuel 29:3-5).


The Philistines did not have one ruling king.  They were a federation of five main city-states, each ruled by its own king.  Achish was one of those kings.  And he had to answer to the commanders of the other four cities in this matter.


They were understandably worried about the presence of David in their ranks.  They had heard the hit song at the Israeli dances - ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’ and they were not impressed.


Achish agrees and sends David back home.  What is interesting is David’s protest in verse 8.  It was a calculated risk, but one which was designed to further alleviate the suspicions of Achish.


3.         Ziklag’s Capture.


            Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; 2 and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way.

            And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. (1 Samuel 30:1-3).


As David and his men arrive back home at Ziklag, it is to find their city a smouldering and deserted ruin.  The raids which David had previously made against the Amalekites now return to haunt him.  And yet, we see perhaps a measure of God’s providence in that the Amalekites take captives and do not slaughter the inhabitants.


            Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6).


David suffers tragedy upon tragedy.  Not only have his two wives and all of his possessions been taken, but the men in his force blame him and even speak of stoning him.


Here they speak of stoning him.  Later, when they have rescued their families and possessions, they will speak of keeping the possessions which belonged to their less hardy companions.


At a time like this, we see David’s true heart.  He turns to the Lord and “strengthens himself in the Lord.”  He has Abiather, the priest, bring the ephod and uses it to consult with the Lord as to what he should do.


Do you see the contrast?  Saul consulted with a medium.  David consults with the Lord.  It is not that David is any less a sinner, but only that he is trusting in the Lord.


4.         In Pursuit of the Amalekites.


Upon receiving a message from the Lord that the rescue would be accomplished, David sets out with his band of 600 men.


They come to the wadi of Besor and leave 200 behind who are too tired to continue.


Finding an Egyptian slave who had been abandoned, they revive him and use him as their guide, coming finally to the encampment of the Amalekites.


            And David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled.

            So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken and rescued his two wives. (1 Samuel 30:17-18).


David faces a superior force and is victorious (the fact that it was a superior force is seen in that there were 400 who escaped - this was equal to the sum of David’s entire force).


5.         The Victorious Return.


Upon returning, there were certain “wicked and worthless men” who felt that they should not share the recaptured possessions with those who had been unable to complete the march and join in the battle.  David intercedes on their behalf.


            Then David said, “You must not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us.

            “And who will listen to you in this matter?  For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays be the baggage; they shall share alike.”

            And so it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day. (1 Samuel 30:23-25).


There is a principle here.  It is that we all share in the rewards, even when we all do not have the same abilities and the same gifts.  One sows, another reaps, but it is God who gives the increase (John 4:37; 1 Corinthians 3:7).





Throughout most of the book of 1 Samuel we have seen a series of contrasts between David and Saul.  The contrast continues in this final chapter.




Appeared to be one with Achish, the Philistine enemy of God’s people.

Had a fellowship meal with a medium.

Sent home from the battle by the Philistines and lives

Went to battle against the Philistines and died.

Consulted the Lord before going to fight against the Amalekites.

Consulted with a medium before fighting the Philistines.

Fought against the Amalekites and won a great victory.

Fought against the Philistines and suffered a great defeat.


1.         The Battle of Mount Gilboa.


            Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa.

            And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul. (1 Samuel 31:1-2).


While David was still rescuing his people from the Amalekites in the south, a grim scenario was unfolding to the north.  The battle lines had been drawn.  To the north were the hordes of Philistines with the full weight of their military machine.  To the south were the people of God, gathered about their dark king.


He had led them to victory in the past.  His son Jonathan had in the past snatched victory from the very jaws of defeat.  But today was to be a different outcome.


The battle went against Israel and Saul began a retreat back up the mountain of Gilboa.  Of the four sons of Saul, three were killed, including Jonathan.


2.         Saul’s Suicide.


            And the battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers.

            Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and pierce me through and make sport of me.”  But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid.  So Saul took his sword and fell on it.

            And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him.

            Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. (1 Samuel 31:3-6).


The archers served as the field artillery of the ancient world.  They could be a deadly arm of the military.  When Xenophon was going out to fight the Persians, he was told by one of his scouts, “There are so many archers that when they fire their arrows, they blot out the sun.”  To which he quipped, “Good!  We shall be able to fight in the shade.”


As volley after volley of Philistine arrows fell upon the hapless Israelite army, Saul was seriously wounded (        ).  The nature of the wound would prevent his escape.  And the Philistines were closing in.


Saul knew of the reputation of the Philistines.  They had captured Samson and had gouged out his eyes and had made a public spectacle of him.  Saul fears the worst.  He fears that he will be both tortured and humiliated.  And so, he resolved to take his own life.


He asks his armor bearer to assist him, but the armor bearer is afraid.  Of what was he afraid?  Perhaps it was the fear of raising his hand against the Lord’s anointed.


The last time a suicide had been described in the Bible had been the case of Abimelech who had been concerned that it not be said that a woman had killed him (Judges 9:54).




Wounded by a millstone dropped on his head by a woman.

Wounded by Philistine arrows.

Asked his armor bearer to kill him in order that it not be said that he had been killed by a woman.

Asked his armor bearer to kill him in order that the Philistines would not be able to make sport of him.

His armor bearer agrees to kill him.

His armor bearer is afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed.


Discussion Question:  Was the self-inflicted suicide of Saul a correct action to take?  It has been argued by some theologians that Saul’s stated reason for killing himself was so that the Lord’s anointed not be dishonored.


3.         The Flight of the Israelite Army.


            And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled; then the Philistines came and lived in them. (1 Samuel 31:7).


The defeat was not limited to the battlefield.  It signified the conquest of all of the cities in that part of Israel.  The inhabitants were disheartened by the defeat and death of Saul and they fled from their cities in mass.


4.         The Mutilation of the Body of Saul.


            And it came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.

            And they cut off his head, and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people.

            And they put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. (1 Samuel 31:8-10).


David had cut off the head of the Philistine champion.  Now the Philistines do the same to Saul.

The last great victory of the Philistines had been when they had captured the ark of the covenant and had placed it in the temple of their god.

Now they take the body of the Lord’s anointed king and mutilate it, placing it on display on the walls of a nearby city.


Beth-shan sits at the junction of the Valley of Jezreel as it intersects with the Jordan Valley.  This may have been one of the cities which the Philistines now occupied.


5.         The Honor of the Men of Jabesh-gilead.


            Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Caul, 12  all the valiant men rose and walked 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.

            And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1 Samuel 31:11-13).


Jabesh-gilead was the city which Saul had rescued at the very beginning of his reign (1 Samuel 11).  This was a city on the east bank of the Jordan.  When they had been besieged by the Ammonites and threatened with the disfigurement of having the right eye of every man gouged out, it was Saul who had led the forces of Israel to fight on their behalf.


He had called Israel to arms but cutting up two yoke of oxen and sending these grisly tokens throughout the land.  Now it is the body of Saul which has been cut apart.  And the men of Jabesh-gilead remember the debt which they owed their king and place themselves at risk by coming to rescue his mutilated corpse.  Thus, the bodies of Saul and his sons which were first humiliated are now honored.