1 Samuel 31 has the end of Saul’s reign. The Philistines go into battle with the Israelites, and “the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain”. It was not going well. They overtook Saul and his sons, and struck down “Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul”. Everyone was fighting to try and deal with the Philistines, but they have the upper hand and have killed off the royalty. Now to get the king.
Scripture tells us “the archers found him” and Saul was badly wounded. He was shot with an arrow and is injured. He asks his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword as he didn’t want his enemies to come and capture him and use him for a bargaining chip or mistreat him. So he pleads for his servant to just kill him. But the armor-bearer refuses. He had failed to protect him from the enemy, and now he won’t follow orders and finish the job. Not a really good example of a loyal servant, even if the request is a bit challenging.
So Saul takes things into his own hands, and “took his own sword and fell upon it”. It was quite a day. “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together”. Almost sounds like one of those cult kinds of mass suicide doesn’t it. But in this case – it was just the enemy being extremely effective. They killed the Israelites and the rest of the people “abandoned their cities and fled”. It was time to get out of town before they were all killed.
The Philistines move in and live in the cities of the Israelites and took their spoils. They cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor. They carried the message throughout their land letting everyone know what had happened – Saul was dead. But a few of “the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul….came to Jabesh and burned them….took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree….fasted seven days”. These guys risked their lives to keep the enemy from mocking Saul’s body. They go and take it and burn it and bury the bones to make sure it is not carried throughout the countryside. God had obviously removed His hand from Saul and his army. It is time for a new king – David – to step up.