Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.The Death of Israel's First King
1 Samuel 31
Saul's death was neither more nor less than suicide; the death of all deaths the most loathsome and despised of men: of all deaths the only one that men call cowardly. It was a great historical event, meaning much to the nation which saw its first king thus sadly fall. It was the end of Saul's kingdom: his sons and all his family, and with them, all his hopes, died with him that night on Mount Gilboa. And it is still a conspicuous moral, as well as historical event, on which we may well pause to look across the ages. Saul brought down thousands with him when he fell, but he had been lowering the tone of the spiritual nation almost from the time when he began his reign. He had insulted and abashed and driven away the spiritual genius that brooded over that holy land, and he had dragged the armies of Jehovah down to the level of the armies of the nations around. And as he had been in his life in the land, so was he when he died at Gilboa. For 'There was the shield of the mighty vilely cast away—the shield of Saul—as of one not anointed of the Lord.' There are three points which indicate the departure of Saul from the path of peace and duty.
I. He had not long- reigned until he began to separate himself from good men in the land. He was soon separated from Samuel, the best, the noblest, the representative good man of the time. He was soon separated from David, the man of the future, the man after God's own heart, and who desired to do only God's will. He was soon cruel and fierce in his wrath, slaying one by one the priests of the Lord.
II. Then we find that he was separated from God. He prayed to God and God gave him no answer. He was separated from Him who is the source of all light and the source of all strength. He asked in vain for God's guidance, and then called in vain for the dead Samuel.
III. Last of all Saul got separated from himself; from his own best nature. There was a great chasm in his nature, between his evil and his controlling better self; and thus he was left to the wreck and ruin which his own worst nature prompted. Such is the spiritual history of him whose tragic life we have now read to its close.
—Hugh Black, The British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 57.
And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul's sons.
And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.
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.
And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.
So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.
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.
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.
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.
And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
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.
And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.