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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 10

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Verses 1-6


It is not the purpose of 1 Chronicles to present the life of Saul in detail because it contributes little to the subject of this Bible book: the house of God. The particularities of Saul’s life are given in the first book of Samuel. It is presumed that the reader knows that. In the first book of Samuel the failure of man in his responsibility is presented. Then God will work on the fulfillment of His counsels by giving the kingdom to David (cf. Acts 13:21-Song of Solomon :). The man to the heart of the people is set aside by God. Man according to the flesh must disappear to make room for the man according to God’s heart.

The Death of Saul and His Three Sons

Because the purpose of the chronicler is to describe David’s life, there is only one moment in Saul’s life that interests him, and that is his death. The opening words of 1 Chronicles 10:1 point to the connection with the previous history of Saul, described in the first book of Samuel.

The history of Saul’s death is described in almost equal terms in 1 Samuel 31 (1 Samuel 31:1-Joshua :). When the Philistines fight against Israel, Saul sees his men fleeing and being killed. He sees that his end is approaching. Yet there is no crying to God. The only thing he still wants is to prevent falling alive into the hands of the Philistines. He will have known from the life of Samson what that means (Judges 16:21-Lamentations :).

Saul calls the Philistines “uncircumcised”. But even though Saul has been circumcised externally, and thus externally a member of the people of God, he is uncircumcised in heart (Romans 2:28-Joel :). Circumcision is a picture of the judgment of the sinful flesh, the acknowledgment that God had to judge it in Christ (Colossians 2:11). Saul maintains the outer separation between him as an Israelite and the Philistines, without realizing that inwardly he himself is a Philistine.

Saul asks his armor bearer to kill him, but his armor bearer is afraid to do it. Then Saul commits suicide. It is the first suicide we find in the Bible. According to Samuel’s word, Saul and his sons die in one day (1 Samuel 28:19). They fall by the hand of the enemies they had to fight and exterminate. Saul did not succeed because he himself had no inner relationship with God. That is why he is powerless in his fight against the Philistines, who for the same reason are supreme.

Three of Saul’s sons died with him, including Jonathan. David’s heroes have chosen David’s side when he is still rejected. Jonathan is not there. He gave everything to David, except his shoes, so to speak (cf. 1 Samuel 18:4). He thought he could serve David by staying with his father Saul. At the critical moment, when it is clear that David must flee, he does not follow him, but returns to the city (1 Samuel 20:42).

The chronicler passes by a fourth son of Saul, Ish-bosheth, who was made king by Abner instead of his father Saul. Because Ish-bosheth was made king totally without God’s will, he does not count. That is why the chronicler says of “Saul” that he “died with his three sons, and all [those] of his house died together” (1 Chronicles 10:6). With this the house of Saul has reached the end of its existence and the way is free to introduce David.

Verses 7-10

The Philistines Dishonor Saul

Saul did not fulfil his task of delivering the land of the Philistines. On the contrary, when he has died, the Philistines come and live in the cities abandoned by the Israelites (1 Samuel 31:7). And of which Saul has been afraid, that he would be mocked, does happen. When the Philistines find him and his sons, they strip him of his armor and his head.

The Philistines send Saul’s head and armor around their land. They do so to bring the message of their victory to their idols and to the people. It shows the folly of their idols. Their idols do not know what happened and must be informed. Then Saul’s armor is placed in the idol’s house as a tribute to their god. The head of Saul may be placed in the house of their idols (1 Samuel 31:8-2 Samuel :; cf. 1 Samuel 17:54; 1 Samuel 17:57).

Verses 11-12

Jabes Pays Tribute to Saul

There are still people in Israel for whom this humiliation goes too far. The men from Jabesh are mentioned honorably. They act with the anointed of the LORD as David has respected him. They sacrifice their night’s rest to pick up Saul’s body and the bodies of his sons and bury them. Then they fast for seven days (1 Samuel 31:11-1 Chronicles :). They understand something of the reproach that has been laid upon Israel.

Verses 13-14

Why Saul Died

The reasons for Saul’s rejection are given:
1. Not keeping “the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 13:8-2 Chronicles :; 1 Samuel 15:1-Leviticus :1 Samuel 15:9-1 Kings :; 1 Samuel 15:26). The fact that he did not keep what God said means that he did not keep it in order to preserve, guard and secure it. He has not taken that word as a guideline for his actions. It shows its negative attitude towards what is good.
2. Asking counsel of a medium, to inquire the spirit of a dead person (1 Samuel 28:7-1 Chronicles :), literally that he has asked an evil spirit to seek, rather than consulting the LORD. Here we see that he takes a positive attitude towards evil. Where the former is not present, there will be room for the latter.

Saul was not killed by the hand of the Philistines, nor by his own hand, but by the hand of the LORD. The time of Saul is over. God’s time has come for the introduction of the man to His heart, David.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Chronicles 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-chronicles-10.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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