The Word Made Fresh
1The Philistines attacked Israel, and the Israelites fled. Many of them were killed on Mt. Gilboa. 2They overtook Saul and his sons, and killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3An archer wounded Saul. 4Saul ordered his armorbearer to draw his sword. “Thrust it through me,” he said. “I don’t want these uncircumcised Philistines to make fun of me.” But the young man was terrified and couldn’t bring himself to do it, so Saul fell on his own sword. When the armorbearer saw it, he, too, fell on his sword and died with Saul. 6So it was that Saul, his three sons and his household all died together. 7When the Israelite soldiers in the valley below saw the army fleeing the scene, and heard that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the towns they were guarding and fled also. The Philistines came and occupied the towns.
8The next day the Philistines came to rob the dead and found the bodies of Saul and his sons on Mt. Gilboa. 9They stripped them and took Saul’s head and his armor and sent runners throughout Philistia to relay the news to their idols and their people. 10They hung Saul’s armor in the temple of one of their gods and hung his head in the temple of their chief god Dagon.
11The people of Jabesh-Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul. 12Their bravest men went and took away the bodies of Saul and his sons and brought them to Jabesh and buried them under the oak tree there. They observed a fast for seven days.
13Saul died because he was not faithful to the LORD. He did not obey the LORD’s commandments. He had even consulted a witch and sought guidance from her 14instead of from the LORD. That is why the LORD had him killed, and turned the kingdom over to David, son of Jesse.
1-7: The Chronicler picks up Israel’s history with the story of the death of Saul in a battle with the Philistines. These verses are almost identical with I Samuel 31:1-7.
8-12: The Philistines find the bodies of Saul and his sons, decapitate Saul and celebrate their victory. The men of Jabesh-Gilead recover the bodies and give them an honorable burial. These verses are a bit shorter than I Samuel 31:8-13.
13-14: The chronicler adds his personal judgment that Saul’s demise was punishment for his unfaithfulness. He consulted a medium, for heaven’s sake! So God did away with Saul and put David in his place, the Chronicler says, skipping over much of the material with which II Samuel begins.
I don’t care for the chronicler’s statement that God had Saul killed. God allowed it, yes, just as God allows all of us to suffer the consequences of our foolishness. But the idea that God would actually encourage a man to take his own life is not in keeping with a merciful God. Remember that these stories were written in hindsight by scribes who lived hundreds of years later, and who desperately wanted to show that in spite of Israel’s having been exiled to Babylon, God loved the people of Israel above all else. That idea will be challenged by the later witness that “God so loved the world.” Not just Israel. God chose Israel to be the conduit of God’s compassion for all nations.