Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

Israel’s Defeat and the Deaths of King Saul and His Sons (1 Samuel 31:1-7)

1 Samuel 31 brings us to King Saul’s inevitable, inglorious end.  The battle with the Philistines went against Israel, and Saul received word that his sons were slain (1 Samuel 31:1-2). The king, too, having suffered a life-threatening wound from an arrow, thus commanded his armorbearer to slay him lest he fall into the hands of his enemies. However, his attendant refused to be guilty of slaying the king, so Saul deliberately fell on his sword, thereby taking his own life (1 Samuel 31:3-4).

When the men of Israel learned their king and his sons were slain, they fled the battle and even abandoned their homes and cities (1 Samuel 31:7).

“To the Victor Go the Spoils.” (1 Samuel 31:8-13)

The Humiliation of Saul and His Sons (1 Samuel 31:8-10)

The day after the battle, the Philistines returned to the battlefield and looted the dead of Israel (1 Samuel 30:8). Amid the carnage, they found the bodies of Saul and his three sons (1 Samuel 30:8). Demeaning Israel and her slain king, they cut off Saul’s head, stripped him of his armor, and displayed it as a trophy. They placed the king’s armor “in the house of Ashtaroth [believed to be the temple to the goddess Venus]” (1 Samuel 31:9-10). To further humiliate Israel, they took the king’s and his sons’ bodies and fastened them “to the wall of Bethshan” (1 Samuel 31:10, 12).


The Valor and Daring of the Men of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 31:12-13)


When the men of Jabesh-Gilead learned how the bodies of the king and his sons were desecrated and displayed, we read: They “went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (1 Samuel 31:12-13).

Closing thoughts:


Why did the LORD allow Saul and his sons to suffer such a disastrous, ignoble end? That question is answered in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 when we read: “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 enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent]of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.”


Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything. Israel was defeated and humiliated (1 Samuel 31:1), his sons perished (1 Samuel 31:2), and his life (1 Samuel 31:3-4) honor was lost (1 Samuel 31:9-10). Sin is brutal, cruel, and merciless. Sin destroys marriages, strips men and women of their crowning achievements, and leaves them despairing of life. 


An Invitation:


Friend, sin will rob you of everything you hold dear. If you are enslaved by sin, there is hope. It is not too late to turn to the LORD, Who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). 

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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