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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 31

Verses 1-13

The Battle of Gilboa (31:1-13)

Meanwhile at Gilboa the battle raged between the Philistines and the Israelites led by Saul. Badly wounded and afraid that he would be treated like Samson and made an object of sport, Saul besought his armor-bearer to slay him. When the man refused, he slew himself. Jonathan and two other of Saul’s sons were also slain, and the Israelites were thoroughly routed. The victorious Philistines cut off Saul’s head, placed his armor in their temple, and fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan, along with the bodies of his sons; but the men of Jabesh-gilead, whose city Saul in his early days had rescued from the Ammonites, came by night, took away the bodies to Jabesh, and burned them there. Burning the dead has little precedent or parallel in Hebrew practice. The Chronicler, in his version of the incident, replaces it by burying (1 Chronicles 10:12). Amos declares burning the dead to be an abomination (Amos 2:1). Actually we have other cases where corpses were burned, but always they were of men cut off by God from his Covenant (Joshua 7:25; 1 Kings 13:2). Saul regarded himself as God-forsaken, hence his resort to the witch of Endor. It may well be that the men of Jabesh-gilead regarded his suicide as a confirmation of his divine rejection. In this case, the burning of his body would have been an acknowledgment by them of his exclusion from the covenanted life of Israel, even though they showed their indebtedness to him by rescuing his body from the dishonor to which the Philistines had subjected it.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 31". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-samuel-31.html.