MLx250Morning Light – June 9th, 2015
Today: [1 Samuel Chapter Thirty-One]: Death of Saul. In this chapter after consulting the witch of Endor Saul goes into battle. The prophet Samuel had predicted from the grave just one day before that Saul will die. Faithful to the end Saul’s sons accompany their father and die before him. Saul is mortally wounded and begs his armor bearer to take his life. An ignominious end to a king who failed to live up to his potential. In this chapter we see the warning that is it possible to live in the shadow of greatness yet due to insecurity, selfishness and disobedience we like Saul might not see our full destiny.

Today: [1 Samuel Chapter Thirty-One]: Death of Saul. In this chapter after consulting the witch of Endor Saul goes into battle. The prophet Samuel had predicted from the grave just one day before that Saul will die. Faithful to the end Saul’s sons accompany their father and die before him. Saul is mortally wounded and begs his armor bearer to take his life. An ignominious end to a king who failed to live up to his potential. In this chapter we see the warning that is it possible to live in the shadow of greatness yet due to insecurity, selfishness and disobedience we like Saul might not see our full destiny.

[1Sa 31:1-13 KJV] 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 upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. 3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers. 4 Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.

The Philistines had gathered to attack Israel and Saul had marshaled his forces on Mount Gilboa where the Philistines came upon them inflicting a brutal defeat upon Saul’s army. The Philistines see the advantage and identify Saul and his sons on the battlefield. They press hard against Saul and his sons who valiantly give their lives for their father who had withdrawn himself to the point where only archers could reach him. Three of Saul’s sons die on the battlefield leaving the remaining son Ish-bosheth who is later declared king by Saul’s general Abner. Ishbosheth reigns for two years in contention with David after which two of his captains assassinate him hoping David will reward them. David hearing of their treachery will have them publically hanged although their brutality cleared the way for his ascent to the throne.

Remember that David was initially among the Philistines that comprised the invasion force against Israel at this time. The remaining lords of the Philistines complained to King Achish that David should not be among them and therefore Achish sent David back to Ziklag. Upon returning to Ziklag David finds the city burned with fire and all their wives and children taken captive by the Amalekites. So while David is trying to avoid being stoned by his own men because of this tragedy the Philistines are pursuing after and will eventually kill Saul and his sons including Jonathan.

Saul is mortally wounded and orders his armor bearer to thrust him through. The armor bearer refuses and Saul falls on his own sword. The prophet Samuel when summoned by the witch of Endor at Saul’s request prophesied Saul’s death to him only the day before. Samuel’s words even after death did not fall to the ground. Saul knew this yet went into battle regardless. Saul was prideful, disobedient and murderous yet in his character not lacking in boldness to face adversity even at the cost of his own life.

The armor bearer on seeing Saul fall on his sword likewise kills himself in the same manner. This account leaves us to assume that Saul is dead but we will see in fact that a short time later an Amalekite happens upon this scene and Saul yet lives – begging the Amalekite to finish him off. The Amalekite does so and takes proof of Saul’s death to David hoping for a reward. David promptly executes the Amalekite for daring to harm God’s anointed king. The irony of this is that a member of the people who God had commanded Saul to destroy kills Saul and when he disobeyed the kingdom was taken from him.

6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel that [were] on the other side of the valley, and [they] that [were] on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities, and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them. 8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. 9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish [it in] the house of their idols, and among the people. 10 And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. 11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which 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 Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13 And they took their bones, and buried [them] under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

When the Israelites on the wilderness side of the Jordan hear that Saul and his sons are dead they flee the cities and the Philistines occupy them that same day. Remember that these lands on the other side of the Jordan are held by the Ephraimites and Benjamites who decided under Joshua that they didn’t want to go into the promised land hoping to avoid the rigors of battle. In the book of Judges these compromisers came out against Gideon and later Jephthah complaining that they weren’t allowed to participate in their victories which they had conveniently avoided at the time the battles were fought. Ephraim was the largest and most powerful tribe in Israel yet time and time again showed themselves prideful and cowardly in times of crises.

The Philistines go out the next day to strip the dead and discover Saul’s body and that of his sons. They cut off Saul’s head and put it in the temple of Ashtaroth and hand the bodies up in Bethshan. This atrocity on the bodies of Saul and his son speak to us a prophetic warning against we ourselves suffering their fate. They displayed Saul’s head in Ashtaroth. Ashtaroth was a female diety of lust and power. She represents for us the cult of celebrity whereby we demand that our leaders are men like Saul – a goodly man, head and shoulders above the rest yet lacking in character and deeply narcissistic. This was the principality and stronghold that ruled Saul’s mind throughout his reign. He was consistently and overwhelmingly concerned about how he looked before the people and what the people thought. He willingly and repeatedly defied God’s command in deference to maintaining his image before his public. Thus it is apt that the stronghold that gripped Saul’s mind in his lifetime becomes the house of the idol where his head is displayed as a grisly yet apt trophy of a life lived in the deception of fleeting celebrity and the vain favor of men.

The bodies of Saul and his sons are fastened to the wall at Bethshan. Bethshan means “life of ease”. From the time that Saul first met Samuel we see him as a man given to appetites. He denied himself nothing. He lived his life dialing down to the lowest common denominator. The tragedy is that his selfish choices impacted not only his own life but those of his sons. In just a few short years his entire family line is completely wiped out with the exception of a miserable cripple who is spared by the kindness of king David.

David upon hearing of the death of Saul composes this verse:

[2Sa 1:19 KJV] 19 The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!

David does not rejoice at the death of his nemesis. He sees Saul not as he was but according to his lost and squandered potential. When we see leaders fail and fall this should be our heart’s attitude – not to despise them for what they have done in failure but to remember their greatness in God and lament their lost potential.

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