Study Notes

1Samuel 31:1-13

31:1 Israel Flees Before The Philistines

Israel had rejected God's leadership through the prophet Samuel. They had demanded a king to rule over them. God had given them over to their wicked desires, reminding them that if they and their king would turn to the Lord, things would work out wonderfully. But they and their king had gone their own way. Now they are paying the ultimate price. God is allowing the Philistines to overrun them, bringing death and destruction.

31:2 Sons Of Saul Killed

The Philistines killed King Saul's three sons as well. Jonathan, Ab-ee-naw-DAWB, and Mal-kee-SHOO-ah.

In chapter 14, we were told,

1Sam. 14:49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan and Yish-VEE and Mal-kee-SHOO-ah...

And twice the book of 1Chronicles states (8:33; 9:39),

1Chr. 9:39 ...Saul became the father of Jonathan, Mal-kee-SHOO-ah, Ab-ee-naw-DAWB, and Esh-BAH-al.

Is this a contradiction? No. Actually, Saul had four sons. Three were killed here in chapter 31, and the fourth will become king of Israel for a short time. We will see that in 2Samuel 2.

Why the difference in names? Saul's son Ab-ee-naw-DAWB was also called Yish-VEE, which means "he resembles me." It is likely that he picked up the name because he looked a great deal like Saul.

His son Esh-BAH-al was also called Eesh-BO-sheth, which means, "man of shame." This nickname was probably a derogatory remark about his character.

We have to wonder though, why was Jonathan killed? He had been nothing but honorable and godly. He had pledged his love and support for David, even saying,

1Sam. 23:17 " will be king over Israel and I will be next to you..."

Why would God allow the Philistines to kill Jonathan as well? For the wicked, death is judgment, but it is so easy to forget that for the righteous, death is victory.

1Cor. 15:54-57 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the antichrist kills those who believe in Christ, they are seen in heaven and called,

Rev. 15:2 ...those who had come off victorious from the beast...

There is no defeat in death when you are a child of God.

31:3-6 Saul's Suicide

King Saul himself is mortally wounded by arrows during the battle. When he realizes that he is dying, he asks his armor bearer to kill him. You see, if the Philistines found the king alive, they would "make sport of him." This verb is translated in other places, "make a mockery of," "abuse," and "deal severely with." The Philistines were known to be ruthless to notable enemies. Remember that when they had captured Samson, they gouged out his eyes (Judges 16:21) and entertained themselves by watching him stumble around. Saul was afraid that the Philistines would capture him and treat him similarly.

But his armor bearer was afraid and refused. Seeing no other way out, Saul fell on his own sword, committing suicide. The armor bearer followed suit and killed himself as well.

Thus, the prophecy of Samuel the day before had come true.

1Sam. 28:19 "Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the LORD will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!"

Suicide is not a common action in the Bible. These are two of only seven suicides discussed in Scripture. Unfortunately, suicide is becoming increasingly more common today.

In America, about 765,000 people attempt suicide each year. About 30,000 of them are successful. To put that in perspective, every year the population of a city larger than Laramie kills themselves. It is the 8th leading cause of death in America. This is an epidemic.

The Voices

Why are people killing themselves in such great numbers today? It is not that others in the Bible did not want to die. Elijah...

1Kgs. 19:4 ...requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life..."

Jonah also...

Jonah 4:8 ... begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life."

Job wished he was dead, saying,

Job 3:11 "Why did I not die at birth, Come forth from the womb and expire?"

Even the apostle Paul wrote,

2Cor. 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came {to us} in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;

So the desire for death is not uncommon. But we must learn where it comes from and what the right response to it is.

First of all, the desire for suicide never comes from God. God has never told anyone to kill themselves. The temptation to do it is from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The world convinces us that when we are no longer a resource, we are a burden. It is no wonder that the more wicked our society becomes, the more we embrace euthanasia and assisted suicide. "Kill the old, the sick, the weak, and the deformed."

Just as we saw in chapter 30, the Amalekites left their Egyptian slave to die in the wilderness when he became sick.

The flesh also speaks to us of suicide. Convinces us that it cannot take another day of depression, another minute of pain, another second of despair. Meanwhile, our spirit cries out for life, but many have lived so long in the flesh that they turn a deaf ear to its pleas.

Rom. 8:5-6 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace

Rom. 8:13 ...if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The most heinous of these voices though, is the devil. He encourages our destruction. Even when tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he took Him to stand on the pinnacle of the temple and said, "throw yourself down" (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:9).

But Jesus told us,

John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have {it} abundantly.

Jesus wants us to have abundant life, not to let the devil steal, kill, and destroy our lives.

The Responses

So how do we answer these voices calling for our suicide? When the world tells you that you have no value, no future, no benefit, no hope, your response should be, "I am made in the image of God (). God has plans for me, plans of a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). God values all life, and me especially, because Jesus said,

Matt. 10:29-31 'Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And {yet} not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.'

Therefore, I will not listen to the world when it tells me to end my life.

When your flesh tells you that it cannot endure its discomfort any longer, you respond,

Rom. 8:18 ...the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed...

And when the devil's voice tells you to end it all, your response should be to,

James 4:7-8 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...

Suicide is not the unforgivable sin, but it is a grievous sin nonetheless. It is selfish, defiant, and murder. Let God finish His plan for you. Do what Paul did - he trusted in God.

2Cor. 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came {to us} in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a {peril of} death, and will deliver {us,} He on whom we have set our hope.

In other words,

Prov. 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Set your hope in God, and this season will come to pass on its own.

31:7 The Philistines Occupy Judah

The Philistines came and lived in the cities that the Israelites had abandoned. God had moved the Jews into this land, saying that He would give them...

Deut. 6:10-11 ...great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant...

Now, the players are switched. It is the Philistines that are moving into the cities that the Israelites were inhabiting. How sad it is to see this role reversal! Unfortunately, ,this is happening spiritually today as well.

There was a time that the gospel was spreading throughout this country. People were saved, and many churches housed hundreds of believers. Their buildings are still around today. Unfortunately, many of these churches gave way to the world. Abandoning the Word of God and beginning to incorporate psychology, evolution, religious legislation, and other abominations. Now, there are only 5 or 10 senior citizens attending, or worse yet, their buildings have been bought up by businesses or cults. Today in England, there are more Muslims than there are evangelical Christians. Each year, 85 churches close their doors, and most of them are bought by Muslims and turned into Mosques for Islam.

31:8-10 Saul's Body Taken

The custom in those days was to go into a battle site and take everything of value from the dead. Weapons, money, even clothes and shoes were retrieved from the slain. As the Philistines were going through the fallen, they found the body of King Saul.

They cut off his head, took his weapons, and sent them with the "good" news of the defeat of the king of Israel. They placed his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, their supreme goddess whom they believed blessed the people with fertility. The Philistines made sure to acknowledge their false gods in times of victory. You may recall that when they captured the ark of the covenant, they placed it in the temple of Daw-GOHN (1Sam. 5:2), another god of fertility.

As for Saul's body, it was, along with the bodies of his sons, fastened to the wall in the open square (2Sam 21:12) of the city of Beth-shan.

31:11-13 Burned And Buried

You might remember Yaw-BASHE Ghil-AWD as the city that had not responded to the call when all of Israel gathered against the Benjamites to punish them for allowing a terrible sin to go unpunished (Judges 20-21). Because they did not come to fight, many of them were killed by the Israelites.

Later, they were besieged by the Ammonites (1Sam. 11). It was told them that they could surrender and have their right eyes gouged out, or else they would all die. They sent a call for help, not expecting the rest of Israel to come to their aid, but the newly-crowned King Saul gathered 330,000 soldiers together and struck down the Ammonites.

Because of this, they were deeply indebted to Saul. When they heard what had been done to him by the Philistines, they walked all night to Beth-shan, took the bodies of he and his sons back and burned them. They buried their bones, then fasted for a week.

When I became a Christian, I was very surprised to hear about the controversy that rages regarding burial versus cremation. I had never thought about it. I knew that cremation was cheaper than burial, and always assumed that this choice was fine. "Not so," I was told. "A Christian must be buried."

They make the point that it was the pagans that burned or embalmed their dead. They say that because God will resurrect our earthly bodies into heavenly bodies, He can't resurrect a body that's been cremated. They say that burial is a commandment of God, according to Deuteronomy 21.

Deut. 21:22-23 "And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

Now, I've read the articles, I've heard the debates. But they don't convince me one bit. Scripturally, it's not clear that God has mandated burial and condemned cremation. On the contrary, cremation merely speeds up the process that nature propagates anyway. Remember that Solomon said, when a man dies..

Eccl. 12:7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

The men of Yaw-BASHE Ghil-AWD are not represented in a negative light for their actions here either. True, God did bury Moses. Jesus Himself was buried. But is this a mandate? I don't think so. I will continue to encourage my family to cremate my body when I go to be with the Lord, because if it saves them money, why be an unnecessary financial burden to them?

Cremation vs. burial is not an important spiritual issue, but just one more way that the devil has brought division into the body of Christ. Those who want to be buried, let them. Those who want to be cremated, let them. If they have received Christ as their Lord and Savior, God will give them both glorified, eternal bodies.

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