Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 3 2019 - 1 Samuel 31:1-13; 2 Samuel 1:17-27 – Saul dies in battle

We have seen that David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king over Israel. Although King Saul had been disobedient towards God and had sought David's life, David had refused to raise a hand against Saul. David was content to wait for the Lord to remove Saul before he would take upon himself the role of leader over God's people.

Today we have read of Saul's death. In a battle against the Philistines, the Israelite army had fled and Saul's sons, including Jonathan, had been killed. Saul was critically injured by a Philistine arrow and knows he will soon be captured. Not wishing to be mocked, abused and tortured by the Philistines he tells his armour-bearer to kill him. When the armour-bearer refused to do it, Saul fell on his own sword – taking his own life in a form of Hari-kari and his armour-bearer then does the same. But Saul cannot escape the abuse of his body after death; the Philistines found him and cut off his head which they sent around their cities in triumph. Saul's body was then fastened to the city wall at Beth Shan. The same fate seems to have befallen Saul's three sons.

How does David respond to Saul's death? He takes no delight in the death of the man who had sought his life. We might have expected him to lament the death of his friend Jonathan, but David laments the death of Saul as well. He laments the fact that the mighty ones of Israel have fallen (2 Samuel 1.19); that Israel had been humiliated and the Philistines were gloating over their victory. He grieves for Jonathan who was dear to him and whom he loved as a brother (1:26), but his grief is also for Saul (v.24):

From the blood of the slain,
    from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
    the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
Saul and Jonathan –
    in life they were loved and admired,
    and in death they were not parted.   (vv. 22-23)

David had been content to await God's timing for him to succeed Saul as king. Now that the time had come, he is more concerned to honour Saul than promote himself; he is not anxious to exert his right to be king over Israel but concerned rather to honour Saul and Jonathan who had sought to defend God's people against the enemies who had threatened them.

In this, David sets us an example. Are we concerned to honour those who have sought to defend the people of God and the cause of Christ even when we disagree with them personally, or are we more concerned to advance the cause of our own party and its champions while speaking ill of those of other parties – as we perceive it?

We long for the day when all weapons of war shall perish, the day when all humankind will live under the glorious reign of the Prince of Peace. But we remember that Jesus Christ our Saviour has gained the victory over all the forces that oppose God, his purposes and his people, at the cruel cost of his own life. There, for a while, on that hillside outside Jerusalem it might have been said, "How has the mighty one fallen!" But neither death, nor all the powers of darkness can defeat him. Jesus is our risen and triumphant Saviour; we do not mourn his death but celebrate his saving work.

Father God, we thank you for the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we too are more than conquerors in him. Help us by your Spirit to live for you and to honour all those who have given their lives to defending the cause of the Gospel.

Peter Misselbrook