WE NOW COME TO THE INEVITABLE END OF KING SAUL, WHO DIED AS VIOLENTLY AS HE LIVED. THERE'S NO FEELING OF GLOATING OR EVEN CONDEMNATION OF THIS TRAGIC KING, RATHER WHAT WE READ IS ALMOST SENTIMENTAL, PERHAPS EVEN REVERENT. THE ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE SCENE IS TYPICALLY BRIEF, AND YET ONE CAN ALMOST CLOSE THEIR EYES AND PICTURE IT AS IT UNFOLDED. THE MAIN CONFRONTATION WAS FOUGHT IN THE JEZREEL VALLEY, A VAST PLAIN WHERE COUNTLESS BATTLES HAD BEEN FOUGHT OVER THE CENTURIES AND MANY MORE WOULD FOLLOW.
DEATH OF SAUL (SAM.31)
And after much preparation, the Philistine and Yisharalite armies finally clashed, possibly for days. Darkness was a disadvantage to both sides (as you can’t fight an enemy you can’t see). So all day long the opposing forces of Saul and the Philistines waged a desperate struggle for survival, but in time the Philistines gained the upper hand. The men of Yisharal ran away in retreat, but many of them were killed scampering back up the slope into the area of their battle camp, the hills of Gilboa. While this battle was raging, David was still off fighting the Amalekites, who’d raided his home at Ziklag and stolen all their families and belongings.
As the sun was getting low in the sky, the (now energised) Philistine warriors cornered the Yisharalites and the slaughter was on. Only darkness ceased the clanking of sword against shield, but not the cries of anguish as the wounded on both sides lay dying. Who was mortally wounded? Who had survived? What was the final toll? Who won? Only at the rising of the morning sun the next day would they find out. So the Philistines followed Saul and his sons and when they closed in on them, they killed Saul’s sons, Jonathan (David’s mate), Abinadab and also Malchishua.
Then the battle closed in around Saul, and he was shot with arrows and badly wounded. And remembering how the Philistines had blinded and tormented Samson, and not wanting to suffer as a man, or as the king, and not wanting to see these pagans claim an advantage over Yisharal’s Alahim, Saul yelled at his armor-bearer, “Take out your sword and thrust it through me … don’t let these uncircumcised dogs come and finish me just for their own sick sport”. But his armor-bearer was afraid of being punished by Yahuah for killing His anointed King, so he wouldn’t do it. So Saul drew his own sword and fell onto it, committing suicide. And when the armor-bearer saw this, he pulled out his sword too and fell on it, committing suicide also. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his close family died together on the same day.
When the people of Yisharal who were on the other side of the valley, and even those beyond the Jordan River, learned that the Yisharalite army had been defeated and heard that Saul and his sons were dead, they left their cities and fled. Then the Philistines came and lived in them.
The next day, as the Philistine Army was looting the bodies of the fallen Yisharalites, they found Saul and his three sons dead on the heights of Gilboa. So they cut off Saul’s head, stripped his body of his weapons, and sent messengers with the good news to the temples and to the people throughout Philistia. Then they put Saul’s Armor in the temple of Astarte and nailed his body to the wall at Beth-shan.
But news of this travelled to the people of Jabesh-Gilead (who’d been rescued by Saul from the wicked King Nachash who’d threatened to blind them, not long after Saul had become King and were related by blood) and when they heard about this indignity done to King Saul by the Philistines, the brave men among them rose up and traveled through the night. And when they arrived, they took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall at Beth-shan. Then they returned to Jabesh and burned them there, taking their bones and burying them in Jabesh beneath the tamarisk tree, like the one where Saul had held court in Gibeah. And for seven days they fasted and mourned. BUT THIS WAS NOT TO BE THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF SAUL AND 3 OF HIS SONS. WE READ IN 2 SAM 21 THAT AT A LATER DATE DAVID WOULD HAVE THE GRAVE DUG UP AND THEIR BONES MOVED TO THE TERRITORY OF BENJAMIN AND DEPOSITED IN THE TOMB OF KISH, SAUL’S FATHER - BECAUSE IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE.
SAUL WAS MANY THINGS: A BRUTE, A COWARD, A KING, A WARRIOR, A BELIEVING FOLLOWER, A PESTERED FREAK, AND NOW HE'S DEAD. SOME MIGHT CELEBRATE HIM, OTHERS WILL MOURN HIM. THE KING THAT `THE PEOPLE DEMANDED' HAS BEEN DETHRONED, AND THE KINGDOM LIES OPEN TO INVASION. BUT YAHUAH’S PLAN IS STILL OPERATING AND `HIS KING' IS ON THE WAY. THE DEATHS OF SAUL AND HIS SONS CONCLUDE THE FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL. THE KING IS DEAD AND THE ARMIES OF YISHARAL ARE DEFEATED.
ESSENTIALLY WE FIND THAT AN ENTIRE NEW POLITICAL LANDSCAPE NOW FACED YISHARAL; MUCH OF THE LAND OF THE NORTHERN TRIBAL COALITION OF YISHARALITES WAS LOST TO THE PHILISTINES. THOSE HEBREW TRIBES WHO HAD ALWAYS SIDED WITH SAUL AND SUPPORTED HIS RULE WERE NOW FIRMLY UNDER PHILISTINE CONTROL.
BUT THE SOUTHERN TRIBES OF SIMEON AND JUDAH REMAINED LARGELY UNAFFECTED BECAUSE OF THE MOUNTAIN RANGE THAT ACTED AS A FORMIDABLE SEPARATION AND BARRIER BETWEEN NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN YISHARAL. IN GENERAL THE YISHARALITE TERRITORY OF THE TRANSJORDAN WAS ALSO UNAFFECTED EXCEPT PERHAPS FOR A FEW ISOLATED CITIES AND/OR TOWNS.
SO AS WE EXIT THE BOOK OF 1ST SAMUEL YISHARAL IS A RUDDERLESS SHIP, ADRIFT IN A SEA OF TURMOIL. THE PHILISTINES ARE IN CONTROL, AND YISHARAL IN NEED OF A DELIVERER. THE FIRST KING OF YISHARAL IS DEAD, AND THEY HAVE NO KING. THE READER IS LEFT WITH A SENSE OF INCOMPLETENESS AND UNCERTAINTY AMID A VACUUM OF AUTHORITY. EVEN THOUGH WE KNOW FROM THE NARRATOR THAT YAHUAH HAS EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL AND DAVID IS IN THE PROCESS OF ASSUMING THE THRONE OF YISHARAL, WE ALSO KNOW THAT THE PEOPLE OF YISHARAL HAVE NO IDEA OF THIS.
BUT AS OF THIS POINT IN THE NARRATIVE, EVEN THE READER OF THE SAMUEL SCROLL HAS MANY QUESTIONS LEFT UNANSWERED. HOW AND WHEN WILL YAHUAH INSTALL DAVID AS KING; ESPECIALLY SINCE THE PHILISTINES NOW HAVE A FIRM GRIP ON THE LARGEST SEGMENT OF THE HEBREW POPULATION AND HEBREW LAND? THE SAME SORTS OF ISSUES WOULD BE RAISED FOR THE COMING MESSIAH. THE READER WILL LEARN THAT A DELIVERER FOR DAVID’S LINE IS COMING, BUT HOW, WHEN?