Monday, January 7, 2013

CII - I Samuel 30, 31 - Saul Takes His Own Life

To quickly review, David and his army of 600 had followed the Philistines as they were going into battle against the Israelites, but the Philistine king Aschis ordered them to turn back.  The Philistine captains did not want "Hebrews fighting against Hebrews", for fear that David's army would side with the Israelites once the battle started.  {They would have been correct.}  So David and his army returned to Ziklag to be with their families and wait to see how the events would play out.

Chapter 30 tells us that while David and his army had left with the Philistines, the Amalekites raided their home in Ziklag, capturing all women and children of the entire camp.  When David and his men returned there was noone left at the camp.  Both of David's wives, Abigail and Ahinoam, were taken also.  David and his entire army grieved indescribably.  Verse 4 says they had wept until there were no tears left.  Although these verses are not very well known, David almost experienced a mutiny at this time, as his men were so distraught, they threatened to stone David.  {It's human nature to want to blame someone when there is such a tragedy.}  But David was able to pursuade them otherwise.  He then inquired of the Lord as to whether or not to go after the Amalekites in war.  God directed him to go after the Amalekites, and He also assured David victory.  As David and his army of six hundred chased after the Amalekites, only four hundred proved strong enough to continue the pursuit, leaving two hundred behind to rest and look after the supplies.  As David continued his chase, he came across an Egyptian who was a slave to one of the Amalekites.  He was almost dead from illness and starvation.  David and his men fed him and he ended up guiding them to the Amalekite army.  David fought the Amalekites for about a day and a half, defeating them handily, thus recovering all that was taken from their camp.  All the Israelites were reunited with their families plus many goods and livestock plundered from the Amalekites.  As mentioned earlier, two hundred of David's men were unable to continue chasing the Amalekites, and stayed behind as the other four hundred stronger soldiers went on.  So, on the way back from their victory against the Amalekites, many of the soldiers wanted to withhold the goods and livestock from those who stayed back.  Vss 23-25 tells how David halted that way of thinking, issueing the mandate that all spoils were to be divided evenly among the entire six hundred and their families.  In fact, David made a "statute and ordinance" that stood throughout Israel's existance as a nation, stating that this would be the practice of law in the nation of Israel.  In addition, he sent a portion to all of Israel's tribal elders.  {David was establishing himself as a qualified leader early.

In I Samuel's last chapter 31, we're taken back to Saul and the tremendous Philistine army's attack.  Remember the Philistines not only out-numbered Saul and the Israelites by thousands of soldiers, but were also equipped with far supperior weaponry.  Previously we saw how Saul knew he was doomed to not only lose the battle, but he and his sons would be killed.  Verse 2 tells us that all three of Saul's sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua were killed by the Philistines.  {Studying the Scripture, one would hope that David's best friend Jonathan would have been spared this fate and would have
ended up on David's court, but he followed his father loyaly into battle to die with his brothers.  I believe Jonathan to have been a fine man.}  Verse 3 tells us that the archers had hit Saul, and he knew he was fataly wounded.  He then turned to his armor-bearer and commanded him to kill him, not wanting to die at the hands of "these uncircumsized Philistines".  The young armor-bearer was just too frightened to do such a thing, so Saul fell on his own sword.  {This is one of very few
suicides documented in the Scriptures.}  Although the armor-bearer was too frightened to kill Saul, he had the courage to fall on his own sword after Saul killed himself.  {In those days this would have been expected of the loyal armor-bearer.  Being unable to protect his commander, he would have taken his own life as well.  The shame would have followed him for the rest of his life.  As I've said previously, these are brutal times.}  Verse 6 summarizes the magnitude of losses that day:  Saul, his
three sons, his armor-bearer.  As was normal in that day, when the rest of Saul's army had heard of this, they all fled and it was every man for himself.  Even if they had not been so over-powered, an army cannot function without leadership.

The following day (as was customary) the Philistines went throught the battlefield to collect weapons and valuables from the dead.  In doing so, they found Saul and his sons.  The Philistine soldiers cut off their heads, stripped them of their armor and took their remains to the temple of Ashtoreth.  What a humiliating end to the life of Israel's first king.  Anyone but the cruel and hated Philistines. The very last verses of this book tells that a few valient Israelite men risked their own lives to end the humiliation and take the remains of Saul and his sons from public display and give them a proper burial.

This concludes our study of the book of I Samuel.  Next post we'll begin the book of II Samuel. 

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