A Sorry End to a Sorry Reign

1 Samuel 31 SCC 5/17/15


Today the church touts love as tolerance. This is the idea that we must not call actions or attitudes or beliefs sinful since Jesus would expect us to accept, receive, love and tolerate the ambiguities and contrary beliefs held by many in the church. A motivation for this is Gods delay of judging and punishing his people for willful unresolved disobedience. We look at the God of the OT and muse that he no longer acts that way. He does not punish or judge. So we err by teaching love as tolerance. We reason that Jesus did not exemplify this in his ministry. That Paul’s emphasis of Gods eventual punishing of sin is an anomaly—something that does not square with Jesus of the gospels. So we can dismiss the apostle as a homophobe, bigot, chauvinist and a frozen product of the first century historical situations. Even though Jesus Christ personally commissioned Paul himself. In other words, Apostle Paul speaks for Jesus. It is a mistake to ignore the NT teaching that warns believers of their accountability before Christ. Just because it is delayed until the Judgment Seat of Christ is not s reason to see the God of the OT and the NT differently. God is still just even though it has been pushed ahead to a later date. Saul’s demise teaches us that God judges, punishes unresolved disobedience.  



Verse 1: When David and his men part company with the Philistines at Achish, the Philistines head north to Jezreel, while David and his men turn south toward Ziklag. This means that Saul and the Israelite army are fighting Philistines just about the same time David and his men are in pursuit of the Amalekite raiders. David learns of Saul’s death on the third day after he and his men arrive back at Ziklag, victorious over the Amalekites.

PT: God providentially removes David from this conflict by occupying his attention even farther to the south. David is thus not allowed to fight with or against the Philistines. It is God’s will that in this battle between Israel and the Philistines, the Philistines will win and Saul and his sons will die in the battle.

Verse 2: Many tragic details of this battle are omitted. All the verbage indicates things going badly. The men of Israel flee from the attacking Philistines. Many Israelite soldiers fall dead on Mount Gilboa; whatever defense shield they were to provide for Saul now collapses. The Philistines begin to press their attack against Saul and his sons.

Verse 3: Saul may have retreated to the highest, most protected spot on Mt. Gilboa, while his sons attempt to provide a last line of defense for their father. This effort fails and the three sons of Saul lay dead as the archers spot Saul and begin to use him for target practice. None of Saul’s wounds are instantly fatal, though Saul is no longer able to attack, much less defend, himself. It is only a matter of time, and Saul knows it.

Verse 4: Saul’s “request” is really a command. He instructs his armor bearer to draw his sword and to run him through with it. A number of Philistine arrows find their mark, and Saul is critically wounded. He gives two reasons for this: (1) He does not want to die at the hand of some “uncircumcised” heathen; (2) He does not want his enemies to be able to make sport of him. The armor bearer refuses to act out of fear. In fact, we are told he is greatly afraid v 4 possibly to slay Gods anointed.

Verse 5-6: Saul is desperate. He has no strength left to fight the Philistines and very little strength to kill himself. There is one thing he can do; he can fall on his own sword, which he does. We know from the Amalekite’s words that Saul does not finish the job of killing himself. This young man comes upon Saul, leaning on his spear 2 Sam 1:6-10. Saul tries to do himself in and simply cannot do the job right. The Amalekite finishes what Saul could not. Either then or possibly before what Saul’s armor bearer will not do to Saul, he does to himself. So…



In 1 Sam 15:26-29; 1 Sam 28:16-19 Saul was warned of this outcome for years. His unresolved disobedience led to this judgment. For a believer, God has left perpetual reminders that His people must resolve issues and instances of disobedience else we will be accountable for it. (1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Gal 6:6-9; Col 3:25; Hebrews 10:26-29; James 5:19-21). Seek maturity for your eternal and spiritual good. The Bible perpetually calls us to an eternal lifestyle and mindset not temporal.



Verse 7: The author is choosing to focus on Saul more than on his sons or the nation Israel. We are not told how Jonathan dies, although we would expect him to die like the champion fighting to his last breath. When Saul is killed, many Israelites also die, and many other Israelites turn and flee. Those on the other side of the valley and across the Jordan who are not the focus of the Philistine attack see the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul and his sons, and know there is no hope of defeating the Philistines. Abandoning their cities, the Philistines then occupy them. This defeat not only reduces the size of Israel’s army, it reduces the size of Israel.

Verse 8: Saul does not get what he wants. First, he is killed by the uncircumcised. Saul’s sword does not kill him nor does the sword of his armor bearer. The arrows of the Philistines (31:3) and the sword of the Amalekite 2 Sam 1:8-10 kill Saul. Saul is indeed killed by uncircumcised hands. This is all as God meant it to be and how God said it would be. It is not coincidence that Saul is killed by the hands of the Philistines (28:19) and by the hand of an Amalekite (28:18). Saul is reaping what he himself has sewn. Uncircumcised hands he had refused to kill, kill him. No matter how hard Saul tries to change his destiny, he cannot succeed at thwarting God’s will or His word. Is his death not one more attempt to disobey God, one final act of rebellion?

Verse 9-10: Second, Saul’s second request that his enemies not make sport of him is denied. Saul’s slow agonizing death is not a pretty sight. After Saul is dead, his armor is stripped from his body and his head cut off. And then they take Saul’s armor and his head and parade them around their cities, taking them into the temple of their god. All of this mocks not only Saul but his God. The final indignity for Saul is that his body, along with the bodies of his sons, is fastened to the wall of Beth Shan. So…



The Bible warns that this kind of judgment results in loss that is both painful and personal. So what is it about unresolved disobedience that warrants personal, painful and inevitable judgment?

First, disobedience conveys that God has a legitimate rival in your life, living, and lifestyle. God says you either serve Him or another. Rivals tear you away from allegiance to God’s Word and will.

Second, disobedience is an act of rebellion against God that will be punished. You cannot perpetually violate the will of God and not also excite the need for the execution of justice.

Third, disobedience is a personal attempt to arrive at what God wants for you in your own way. It says I know better than God what is good for me. This is pride and God judge’s pride and the proud.

Fourth, disobedience ignores the fact of the revealed will of God in the Word of God for your spiritual life and maturity. Perpetual disobedience is irrevocable. Your lose reward and any chance to regain it.  



Verse 11: This is not a pretty sight but it is how it all finally ends for Saul. Saul suffers indignities and the defeat and death. When the men of Jabesh Gilead learn that Saul and his sons have been killed, and that their bodies have been publicly displayed on the wall of Beth Shan, they know what they must do.

Verse 12-13: They march through the night to Beth Shan and then return to Jabesh Gilead. They take down the bodies of Saul and his sons and carry them all the way back to Jabesh. There, they burn the bodies and then bury the bones under the tamarisk tree. What prompts the men of this city to do that of which no one else has even thought?

PT: The people of this city remember Saul and his liberation of them. The incident is described in 1 Sam 11. The men of Jabesh did not forget what Saul did for them. In their hour of need, Saul came with the help that saved them. Now, in Saul’s hour of need, they find a way to help him. The bodies of Saul and his sons suspended on the city wall of Beth Shan, are there to be mocked. The men of Jabesh take down their bodies and bring them back to Jabesh, a gesture of appreciation and respect.



1. With rare exception, God does not judge people in this life, but awaits the Day of Judgment to execute justice. Some Christians will indeed suffer loss, shame, and be “punished” on the Day of Judgment. By definition, “suffering loss” is punishment. Scripture makes it clear that Christians will receive what they are due for the way they have lived. Receiving little or nothing as an inheritance is a punishment.

2. Punishment is a penalty or a consequence for a sin or an offense. Punishment means, “a penalty imposed for wrongdoing.” Punishment, by definition, is not something designed to change the behavior of a person; rather, it is a consequence for a sin, crime, or fault. Punishment is a vital part of justice, because without consequences there is no justice. While some punishments are used to motivate correct behavior, by definition, correction is not a part of punishment.

3. Chastisement, discipline and corrections are punishments that are designed to correct or improve a person’s behavior. However, none of these words are used in relation to the Judgment. No verse of Scripture says that what a person receives at the Judgment is “correction,” “chastening,” or “discipline.” Each person will receive a reward or loss based on his works, and what he receives is a consequence of his actions in his past life. The Bible does not say that the consequences people receive for sin at the Judgment will be corrective. Consequences are a payment for the “job” that was done in the first life. A job well done merits a reward. A lousy job merits loss.


So What?

So every Christian is responsible to live in a manner that is worthy of God’s calling on his or her life and the gifts and abilities he or she has been given. Pursue this and avoid the Saul syndrome.

So every Christian should strive to appear before the Lord at the Judgment Seat holy and blameless. This can be accomplished through a diligent effort to be faithful to God’s will and Word. The temptation will be to live a temporal existence.

NB: Today Gods discipline is corrective. At the judgment seat Gods judgment will be punitive.