Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611


First Samuel

First Samuel was taught by Dr. James Modlish


Chapter Thirty One



The Philistines engage the Israelites in battle on Mt. Gilboa, located south of the eastern part of the Plain of Jezreel. God is not with Israel. They are scattered and slain. Saul's sons including Jonathan, are slain, and Saul himself is fatally wounded by the arrows of the enemy archers. In his dying moments, Saul beseeches his armourbearer to kill him; when he refuses to do so, Saul commits suicide, the first recorded in the Word of God.

Thus a career which at the outset had promised to be one of the brightest in history, ended in thick darkness. It might not have been that way except for the fact that Saul insisted in doing things his way instead of the Lord's. "So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired-not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse." (1 Chron. 10:13,14).




III. SAUL'S BURIAL - (11-13)



In the past 25 years more than 1500 books have been written on the topic of suicide. Suicide seems about to join drug addiction, alcoholism, free love (better known as VD), and air pollution, as one of the glum preoccupation's of the past decade.

The World Health Organization furnishes the. figures of suicide around the world. One Thousand people per day commit suicide. Hungary has the highest rate at 34.9 per 100,000 population. Czechoslovakia, Austria, Sweden, Canada and the U.S. follow in that order. Factors most commonly associated with suicide are bereavement, social isolation, chronic illness, psychotic disturbance, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Every day 60 Americans choose to take their own lives. Suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst college students and is the 10th leading cause of death in the country.

John Bunyan in his famous work Pilgrim's Progress has some interesting comments on the subject. Christian is held captive in Doubting Castle by the Giant of Despair. The record concerns the sort of despondency that leads to suicide. Christian is speaking: "The life that we now live is miserable; for my part I know not whether it is better to live thus or die out of hand .... The grave is more easy than this dungeon. Shall we be ruled by the giant?"

In reply Hopeful brings forth ten arguments against self-murder. Some of them follow here word for word; others appear only in substance.

[1]. "The Lord of the country to which we are going hath said, 'Thou shalt do no murder.' Much more than are we forbidden to take the giant's counsel to kill ourselves."

[2]. "He that kills another can but commit murder upon his body, but for one to kill himself is to kill both body and soul at once."

[3]. "Thou talkest of ease in the grave, but hast thou forgotten the hell whither for certain the murderers go?"

[4]. Others have escaped from the clutches of Giant Despair.

[5]. God may cause him to die, or at least to grow careless.

[6]. By watchfulness thou canst escape.

[7]. Think of thy former deliverances from such in the dungeon.

[8]. Summon to thine aid the Christian virtue of Patience.

[9]. Avoid the shame that becometh not a believer in Christ.

The allegory reaches a climax in the account of Christian's escape. Just before the dawning of the day, after a night spent in prayer, he exclaims: "I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle." So it proved. Soon the pilgrims found themselves free."

Suicide is not very common in the scriptures yet there are a few examples other than Saul, Judas (Matt. 27:5); Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17: 23); Zimri (1 Ki. 16:18). If these cases are typical they show that suicide takes place most often among strong men who have suffered a reversal of fortune.

Note the contradiction between this account and the account of the Amalekite in (2 Sam. 1). It is apparent that the Amalekite lied hoping to win favor with David for killing his archenemy, but David did not view Saul's death through human eyes. See (2 Sam. 1:17-27)!



"All's fair in love and war" someone once said. In every war ever fought on the face of this earth, you can be sure that there have always been such atrocities as this that is pictured here in this chapter. Innocent lives taken, unnecessary destruction and the desecration of human bodies are all part of war. How could one legislate the rules of war? What man would abide by the rules if breaking the rule would give him a chance to live? "There shall be wars and rumours of wars," that is the history of man. General Douglas MacArthur speaking to the 1962 graduating class at West Point said, "only the dead have seen the end of war." There's one thing that man learns from history, and that is, that man doesn't learn anything from history. "From whence come wars and fightings ... come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (Jas. 4:1).

"And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: (see note in 1 Sam. 7 - Roman numeral 2) and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan." (2 Sam. 21:12; Josh. 17:11; Joel 1:27).


III. SAUL'S BURIAL - (11-13)

The valiant men of Jabesh-gilead decide to reciprocate Saul's bravery of (1 Sam. 11:1-11). These men imperiled their lives in order to rescue the mutilated bodies and accord them an honorable burial. The actions of the Jabesh-gileadites offer to us an interesting contrast. Saul lost his personal regard for life, he destroyed himself. The Philistines have even less regard, for they mutilate and desecrate the body of Saul. On the other hand, the men of Jabesh-gilead demonstrate their high regard for Saul and his remains by risking their lives to recover the corpses of Saul and his sons, and provide for them an-honorable burial.

What is so striking about the end of the chapter is the brevity with which the Lord treats the death of this major biblical character. Physical death is universal and inevitable, God makes little "to do" of the matter. Death is very routine in a dying world.

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