I Chronicles 10



The portion of the Book of Chronicles referring more particularly to the genealogy of

Israel ends with the thirty-fourth verse of the last chapter. With the thirty-fifth verse

commences the real history of the people. The history of a nation is the history of its

head or king; and we commence that history with the history of Saul and David.

They both appear on the scene in the following verses. We must not forget, in reading

this history, that these two personages are representative characters. They are

eminently typical. In Saul we must not omit to see the head of the great world-power,

or that which is antagonistic to the kingdom of the Son of God. In David,

likewise, we must see ONE GREATER than David, even the true David, THE

LORD JESUS CHRIST!  Saul and David are from beginning to end in opposition,

Saul’s history comes first. He is the people’s choice, the man of the world.

His entire course is enmity against David. Hatred, opposition, and bitter

persecution are the results of this enmity. The end of the world-power, as

represented in him, is defeat and FAILURE, RUIN AND DEATH!

THUS WILL THIS WORLD’S RULE END ALSO!   Nevertheless, all this

opposition and enmity are most needful to David and his few faithful followers.

It disciplined and trained him for the kingdom for which he had been anointed of

God. So this world’s misrule and enmity are most needful for the Lord’s anointed

ones.  David and his followers under Saul were strangers and pilgrims indeed. So

Christ and His people are now (Hebrews 11:8-16).  But their time is at hand when

the weeds of sorrow shall be exchanged for the laurels of victory. I said Saul’s

history comes first.  It is always so. Whether in the history of individuals or

nations, whether in nature or in grace, in everything the dark background

comes first, and then the lines of the picture of grace can be seen. The

tenth chapter of this book is man at his best estate. It is the dark

background. One chapter is enough for it. The eleventh chapter begins

with the God-man, David,  a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22),

who is the type in it of a “Greater than David.” It goes on unfolding chapter

after chapter. It has not ended yet, for in the history of David’s Son —



ETERNITY (Ephesians 1:10; 2:7) for HE IS THE EVERLASTING GOD,


AND WHICH IS TO COME THE ALMIGHTY!   (Revelation 1:8; 4:8)


It is evident that the compiler of the Chronicles intended its history proper to begin

substantially with the reign of David. Strictly, however, it opens with the last mournful

chapter of the career of Saul and his sons, or of three out of the four (ch.9:39) of them.

The mention of Saul had been prepared for by the short preamble of his pedigree and

family; and, in like manner, the way is paved for the introduction of the reign and

deeds of David by the brief and affecting narration of the end of his predecessor on

the throne. The last chapter of the First Book of Samuel occupies itself with the same

subject and covers the same ground. Our present chapter compared with that is

sufficient to convince us that both were drawn from some common source or sources.

It is not possible to suppose that the writer of Chronicles merely copied from the Book

of Samuel. The differences are very slight, but they are such as produce a different

conviction, and are not consistent with the assumption of being mere alterations and

additions upon what is read in the other work. The last two verses of this chapter

form the distinctive feature of it, compared with the parallel of 1 Samuel 31. The

appropriateness of these two verses, as bridging over the history from Saul to David,

is evident, and is but another incidental indication of the thorough unity of purpose of

the compiler. They may even be viewed as tacitly compensating for the abrupt

introduction, at the commencement of the chapter, of the battle with the

Philistines, and the slaughter on Mount Gilboa.


1 “Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled

from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.”

No abruptness marks this narration in I Samuel 31. On the contrary, it is there

the natural conclusion of the wars between the Philistines and Saul. This engagement

took place (I Samuel 28:4; 29:1, 11) on the plains of Jezreel. The name Jezreel marks

either the city (Joshua 19:18; I Kings 21:1,11), or the celebrated valley or plain

called in later times Esdraelon, the Greek form of the word. The plain in its largest

proportions may be said to have been bounded by the Mediterranean (although it is

called the plain of Accho, where it abuts on that sea) and the Jordan, and by the

Samaria and Carmel ranges on the south and south-west, and those of Galilee on

the north and northeast. While called a “plain” and “the great plain” in Judges 1:9,

its name in the Old Testament is “valley.” It lay like a scalene triangle, with its apex

in the direction of the Mediterranean, opening into the above-mentioned plain

of Accho, and its sides going from right to left, about fifteen, twelve, and eighteen

miles long respectively. The allusions to it in Old Testament history are frequent.

Its exceeding richness is now turned into desolation unexceeded. Megiddo

(Joshua 12:21; Judges 1:27), the city, center of a smaller valley called by the

same name (ch.7:29; Judges 5:19), was situated within it, in the direction of Carmel.

Mount Gilboa identifies for us the exact battle-field of the text. It is the same with

that on which Gideon triumphed (Judges 7:1,8). It is in the lot of Issachar, flanked

by the Little Hermon ridge on the northeast, and by Gilboa on the southeast, a

mountain range of ten miles long, about six hundred feet high, and mentioned only

in the melancholy connection of this history. The flight of the men of Israel and of

Saul was from the plain back to their position on Mount Gilboa, where they were

pursued, overtaken, and slain. The modern name of the town Jezreel is Zerin,

the depraved aliases of which appear as Gerin and Zazzin.  Jezreel, Shunem,

and Beth-shean are the three most conspicuous places in this part of the whole

plain of Esdraelon.


2 “And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons;

and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua,

the sons of Saul.”  Followed hard after. The Hebrew verb implies all this and

rather more, viz. that they made the pursuit of Saul and his sons their one

special object. Abinadab; or Ishui (see ch.8:33; I Samuel 14:49). The

sons of Saul. Omit the article, which is not present in the Hebrew text. The

fourth son, not withstanding our v. 6, survived (II Samuel 2:8-15).


3 “And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him,” -  The

literal translation would be, the shooters, men with the bow, found him. The

context makes it plain that the meaning is that the arrows of the pursuers rather

than the pursuers themselves “found” him, and these made him argue all the rest.

To this our Authorized Version has jumped by the one word “hit” him. It is

Evident from v. 8 that the Philistines did not find the body of Saul to recognize it

till next day - “and he was wounded of the archers.”  The radical meaning

of the verb (lWj) is rather “to twist” (torquere) or “be twisted,” “writhe”

(torqueri). And the meaning here is in harmony with it, that Saul trembled

from fear or writhed with the pain already inflicted of the arrows. Hence

the parallel passage couples with this same verb, the adverb Ëaom].


4 “Then said Saul to his armor-bearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me

through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me.”

The main idea of the Hithp. of the verb here used is to satisfy the thirst of lust

or cruelty. Saul probably feared not the abuse of mocking only, but that of torture.

In the corresponding passage, this verb is preceded by the clause, “and thrust

 me through. His armour-bearer would not. “But his armorbearer would

not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.”

He refused the request or bidding  of Saul, no doubt mainly in respect of the fact

that Saul was still “the anointed.”  We have a full description of both the loose

arms and of the armor of the body in the case of the Philistine Goliath (I Samuel

17:4-7). It is one of the world’s surprising facts that the making of arms and armor,

and the acquiring of skill in the using of them, should, as in fact all history attests,

date from so early a period (Genesis 31:26; 34:25). As compared with the history

and the fragmentary remains of classical antiquity, those of Scripture are remarkably

scanty on this subject. The sword is the earliest mentioned in Scripture, carried in

a sheath (I Samuel 17:51; II Samuel 20:8; ch.21:27); though the Hebrew word

is here different from that used in Samuel. It was slung by a girdle (I Samuel

25:13), rested on hips or thigh (II Samuel 20:8; Judges 3:16; Psalm 45:3), and

was sometimes “two-edged” (Judges 3:16; Psalm 149:6; Hebrews 4:12). Then

follows the spear  in several varieties, as in I Samuel 17:7; ch.11:11; 20:5;

II Chronicles 23:9.  Again as a  javelin (Joshua 8:14-25; Job 41:29; I Samuel 17:6,

where in the Authorized Version it is called target, or gorget). Again as a lancet

(I Kings 18:28; ch.12:8,24; II Chronicles 11:12; Nehemiah 4:13; Ezekiel 39:9).

In addition to these three chief varieties of spear — the spear proper, the javelin, 

and the lancet — there is mention of two other weapons used at all events as the

dart of a light kind would  be used, in II Chronicles 23:10, and elsewhere, and in

II Samuel 18:14, respectively.  After sword and spear rank the bow and  arrow

(Genesis 21:20; I Samuel 31:3; ch.8:40; 12:2; Psalm120:4;  Job 6:4)  And

lastly, the sling (Judges 20:16; I Samuel 25:29; II Kings 3:25), and  a very strong

weapon of the same kind mentioned in II Chronicles 26:15. The chief articles worn

as bodily armor were the breastplate (I Samuel 17:5, 38); the  somewhat obscure

habergeon, mentioned only twice, in no connection then of  battle (Exodus 28:32;

39:23), the original name of which, tacharah, is found on  Egyptian papyri of the

nineteenth dynasty, — it seems to have been a species of  doublet or corselet; the

helmet (I Samuel 17:5; ch. 26:14; Ezekiel 27:10); greaves (I Samuel 17:6); two

kinds of shield (I Samuel 17:7, 41, compared with I Kings 10:16; II Chronicles 9:15);

and lastly the article mentioned in II  Samuel 8:7; ch. 18:7; II Kings 11:10; II Chronicles

23:9; Song of Solomon 4:4; Jeremiah 51:11; Ezekiel 27:11; and of which we can say

nothing certainly bearing upon its nature or its use, except that it was made of gold.

Armor-bearers, then, the first distinct mention of whom we find in Judges 9:54, may

well have been a necessity for kings and for the great. Joab had ten (II Samuel 18:15).

The word is not expressed as a compound in Hebrew, but as “one carrying

(μyl"ke) arms.”


(The following nine verses from Ephesians 6:10-18 should put in perspective

our warfare in the Christian life – dealing with spiritual wickedness in high places:


10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his

might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand

against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,

but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the  darkness

of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  13 Wherefore take

unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the

evil day, and having done all, to stand.  14 Stand therefore, having your

loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to

quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  17 And take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit, which is THE WORD OF GOD.  18 Praying

always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto

with all perseverance and supplication……” - CY – 2012)



A Great Might-Have-Been: Saul, King of Israel (v.4)


“So, Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.” It is useful to study achievements

for inspiration, and failures for warning. Here we have a great “might-have-

been,” or one of those cases in which everything conspired to make a noble future

possible, and yet, through unfortunate misdirection, life ended darkly, and all better

success of earlier stages was clouded by adversity and failure. It is not death in battle,

nor even defeat, which makes us lament him. Nelson died in battle, but in glory as well.

And defeat is an incident that all armies may experience. It is that it is A DARK

CLOSE TO A DARKER HISTORY.  That beginning brightly, clouds gathered

over his life, and deepened until they closed in night. Consider:


  • THIS MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN. If ever a life had fair opening and

opportunity, it was Saul’s.


Ø      Every personal advantage that could be desired was his. Good

looks above all in Israel; immense strength of bodily frame; mental

qualities to match; wisdom and courage suitable for a king; —

qualities that gained for him the regard of Israel and the reverence

of David, and, what is very noteworthy, the affection of Samuel.

Then his circumstances were of that sort that most persons would

envy him. He came of one of the wealthiest families in all the south

country. He was so naturally selected for king that there was no

difficulty in securing allegiance of people. A few murmur, as was to

be expected from such as were themselves candidates for the throne

or backed such as were. But the support of Samuel, and the success

of first expedition against Ammon, stilled all murmurs through the land.

None disputed his title to the throne.


Ø      Opportunity favored him. His election proved the waking of Israel.

The same energy which craved a leader inspired willingness to follow.

Samuel’s influence was exerted on his behalf. That meant backing of

mightiest in land. Nor was it formal only. Samuel protested against wish

of Israel to have a king. But protesting against the general wish for a king,

he did not proceed to protest against the particular choice. So far from

disapproving of Saul, he loved him, and, when he could do no more, he

mourned with the sorrow of a saint and patriot over Saul’s failure.

Then  he found the grandest service available. There were Abner, David,

Jonathan, the worthies following David, all ready to aid; and, above all,

God ready to help him. Besides room for him, there was need for him.

Israel was in low water. So everything conspired to create a grand



Ø      And no thing in character made grand life impossible. He comes

before us with many qualities which engage respect.


o       There is modesty, which accepts greatness as a charge rather than

eagerly covets it.

o       Generosity, which tolerates with brave wisdom the disaffection of


o       Courage, that suits his calling and his country’s needs.

o       Kindliness of heart. One must not overlook this quality; the more so

As he sins so deeply in the opposite direction. But he loved David

greatly  (I Samuel 16:21), suggesting that he was capable of great

affections, and, but for bias, might have been remembered as like

father of his noble son. Then there was some working of piety in him;

not much, but still apparently some. He had a sensitive nature, which

occasionally, in higher moments, admitting play of Spirit of God on it,

made him prophesy in an exalted strain. Though, in other moments,

same sensitiveness lays him open to influences of spirit not of God.

But there is susceptibility. Everything thus seems to concur to make

life not only moderate but brilliant success. Power, opportunity,

circumstances, advantages, natural endowment, — all in favor.

And God, always waiting to make best of us, sought to make the

best of him.  And if he had but walked with God, what service

 he might have rendered, and what joy in life have won! But, alas!

amidst all these supreme advantages and natural probabilities of

success, there is one defect of character which mars everything.

There is a wilfulness, which is left unrestrained; a habit of

choosing his own path and keeping to it; impatience of any restraint

of religion or duty. If Samuel comes not in time, no reverence for

sanctity of priestly office will prevent his assuming its functions.

(I Samuel 15).  If God prescribes utter destruction of Amalek, he

will carry out precept, excepting where he thinks it better to

 disobey it, saving cattle, oxen (i.e. the best of spoil), and Agag.

David becomes, by service he renders, a possible rival. His

existence, therefore, Saul will not tolerate.

o       Self-will, declining:

§         the restraints of religion, and

§         those of conscience,

      early appears in him. He is never humbly obedient, but picks

      and chooses what part of precept he likes, stopping short of a

      whole obedience. Always feeling at liberty to revise and moderate

      the requirements of God, he thus comes short, through wilfulness,

      of God’s requirements. The self-will that declines to serve heartily

      soon ceases to serve at all. And after he has wrought great

      deliverances and secured independence of Israel, a long,

      dark period ensues, unrelieved by nobler quality — one in which

      his path is downward. The very energy which, restrained and

      ordered, would have been of vast service, unrestrained, becomes

      terror to his friends. That firmness of nerve-formation which,

      consecrated, would have lain his nature open to God, unconsecrated

      lays him open to invasion of evil spirit, to madness and fury. His

      action is disapproved by his best friends, by Jonathan, by nation, by

      his own heart. And wasting powers of nature in following David, he

      sinks lower and lower, till eve of last battle finds him in SHEER

      DESPAIR!  There is something terrible in hopelessness with which

      he addresses the ghost of Samuel: God is departed from me,

     and answereth me no more,… therefore I have called thee,

     that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do”

     (I Samuel 28:15).  Something touching in way in which, to the end,

     he believes in Samuel, and longs to hear again something from his

     lips, and prefers to hear his doom from him if he has to hear it at all.

     And disobedience leading to despair, the two soon lead to

     DESTRUCTION!   Oh what a loss was the absence of David

     on that battle-day! Just for want of him, with his heroic following,

     fate of battle adverse. And there is deplorable defeat where there

     would have been grandest victory. All that Saul got by opposing

     David was a sadder life, a shorter reign, a darker fate. And,

      instead of his ranking with great heroes that have wrought

      deliverance in the earth: he stands a majestic, melancholy

     might-have-been, and nothing more. A truncated life; a casting

     spoilt in the mouding. THE MERE POSSIBILITY OF A




  • WHAT LESSONS EMERGE FROM THIS? This is the second point

we have to dwell on.


Ø      Likelihoods are not certainties. Your career may have every

prospect of being honorable, useful, happy. But probability is not

certainty. Whether probability realized will depend altogether

and exclusively on the degree of faithfulness you manifest.


Ø      Danger of self-will. “Our wills are ours to make them Thine,”

says the poet, nobly uttering grand philosophy of life. But reservation

of some thing from God is one of the commonest temptations. We say,

We will do much, but not this. We will sacrifice much, but not this.

We will follow, but will choose our own time and our own way.”

Especially are we liable to be deflected from path of duty when

waywardness of will strengthened by some strong passion —

greed, revenge, dislike. Let us beware of this selfwill.

It has a look of force and energy; but it really destroys both. It

changes the may-be into the might-have-been. We cannot be

Christ’s disciples unless we deny self and follow Him. Self-will

never is allowed in any soul WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES



Ø      Let us take our Savour as entire Master. Give Him absolute control.

Withhold nothing. The more consecrated we are, the more glorified

We shall be. Man keeps back nothing from Christ save to his

own hurt.  You give up nothing but to your profit. Don’t let our lives

be mere might-have-beens.  But keep faithfully to the path of duty

as shown by Christ, and then, although men of grandest early

advantages and powers make grievous shipwreck, you, with no

advantages and no special power, will find that “that which

concerneth you God will perfect.” (Psalm 138:8)


5 “And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise

on the sword, and died.”  The parallel (I Samuel 31:5) adds “with him.”



6 “So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house” -  In place of these

words, the parallel (Ibid. v.:6) has, “And his armor-bearer, and all his men,

 that same day together.” This reading avoids the ambiguity referred to already

(v. 2). In either passage the moral is plain, that the end and ruin of Saul’s family as a

whole had arrived, rather than literally that the whole, including every member, of

that family had perished - “died together.”


7 “And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley” -  In place of these

words, the parallel (Ibid. v.:7) has, “On the other side of the valley, and.., on the

 other side Jordan.” We have here a clear instance of the desire of the compiler of

Chronicles to compress his narrative, while the fidelity of the parallel narrative is

testified in the naturalness of its statements, amounting to this, that, quick as the

 intelligence or report could reach all those Israelites who were at all within the

range of the victorious Philistines, they hastened to vacate their abodes - “saw that

they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their

cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.”


8 “And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to

strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa.”

The parallel (Ibid. v.:8) says explicitly, “And his three sons.”


9 “And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armor,” - 

Some comparing this with the parallel (Ibid. v.9), “They cut off his head, and

stripped off his armor,” say “our author” leaves the beheading unmentioned!

It is certainly sufficiently implied. and sent into the land of the Philistines round

about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people.”  This sentence is

more clearly explained, and brought into rather unexpected and perhaps unwished

accord with the most modern of our ecclesiastical habits, when in the parallel as above,

we find “to publish it in the house of their idols “as the form of expression.


10 “And they put his armor in the house of their gods,” - In place of this general

designation, the parallel (Ibid. v.10) designates the house more exactly as “the

house of Ashtaroth (Genesis 14:5; the Phoenician female deity, as Baal was their

male deity. The Greek form of the name is Astarte - “and fastened his head in the

temple of Dagon.”  The parallel, as above, gives us, “And fastened his body to

the wall of Beth-shah” (which account is corroborated in (II Samuel 21:12-14),

and does not say what further was done with the head. It is no doubt

remarkable that one historian puts on record the one fact and the other the

other; and it is one of the clearer indications that both took from some

common sources. It is perhaps something to be remarked also that, while

the historian in Samuel says nothing further about the head (though

allusion to it is probably included in the “body” and the “bones,” the further

account of which is given in vs. 12-13, as well as in II Samuel 21:12-14),

the compiler of Chronicles does revert to mention of “the body of Saul,”- 

v. 12, infra, though without any corresponding naming of Bethshah.

After all said, the omission in Samuel of the fate of the head would seem to

be fully as remarkable as the omission, so far as this verse is concerned, in

Chronicles of the fate of the body. It is reasonable to suppose that the head

and trunk of the body of Saul were brought together again, or it were likely

some allusion to the contrary would have transpired in the following verses of

this chapter or in II Samuel 21:12-14. With regard to the act of the Philistines in

dedicating the armor of Saul, and fixing his head in the temple of Dagon,

as though trophies, the custom was both ancient and not uncommon

(Judges 16:21-30; I Samuel 5:1-5; 21:9). The house of Dagon (Joshua 15:41;

19:27) here spoken of was that at Ashdod (Ibid. v.47), between Gaza and Joppa.

Though belonging to Judah’s lot, it was never subdued by Israel, and remained

throughout their history one of their worst foes. It is the Azotus of Acts 8:40.

There was another Dagon temple at Gaza (Judges 16:21-31). Dagon’s

representation was the figure of a man, as to head, hands, and bust, but for

the rest that of a fish, which was a symbol of fruitfulness. As Ashdod was

situate on the extreme west of Palestine, so Beth-shah — generally written

Beth-shean, a city of Manasseh (ch. 7:29), though within the borders of

Issachar (Joshua 17:11), from which the Canaanites were not expelled

(Judges 1:27) — was on the extreme east near the Jordan. It was afterwards

called Scythopolis. Considering the distance these were apart, and their contrary

directions, we may suppose that some suggestion was intended by the

fixing the head in the one place and the body in the other.


12 “And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done

to Saul,  13 They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of

Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried

their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” This is the

only place where Jabeshis used as an abbreviation for Jabesh-gilead, of

which it was the chief city. Gilead comprised the lots of Reuben and Gad

(Numbers 32:1-5, 25-32, 39-41) and of half Manasseh (ch.27:21). Saul had

on a celebrated occasion (I Samuel 11:1-13) befriended the people of

Jabesh-gilead, coming to their rescue against Nahath the Ammonite, of which

kindness they are now mindful, show that rarest of virtues, gratitude to a fallen

monarch, and are further on (II Samuel 2:5) commended for it by

David. This verse does not tell us, as the parallel (I Samuel 31:12)

does, of the first burning of the bodies, and then of the burying of the

calcined bones. The silence is very remarkable. It does name the kind of

tree, the “oak” or “terebinth.” The word for the tree, however, in both

passages is of doubtful and perhaps only generic signification. The several

Hebrew words translated in various places as “oak,” all share a common

root, significant of the idea of strength. Dr. Thomson (‘The Land and the

Book,’ pp. 243, 244) says that the country owns still to an abundance of

oaks of very fine growth in some eases, and that these are exceedingly

more plentiful and altogether a stronger tree than the “terebinth.” The

different names, though all connected with one root, referred to are

probably owing to the large variety of oaks. With the statement of the

burying of the bones under a tree, and the fasting of seven days on the part

of these brave and grateful men of Jabesh-gilead, the parallel account

comes to its end.


13 “So Saul died for his transgression” -  (For this transgression and the stress

laid upon it and its predicted consequences, see I Samuel 15:1-9,11,14; 28:18) –

 which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD,

which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit,

to enquire of it;” (I Samuel 28:7-24).


There is exemplified here the possibility of TRUE RELIGION BEING

KNOWN AND YET FORSAKEN. In his early life, Saul had put within

him another heart, and became another man. But there are signs that he

came under heathen influences. Certainly one of the last acts of his life was

indicative of superstition, when he sought unto the witch of Endor, instead

of looking to Jehovah for counsel and encouragement. He “inquired not of

the Lord.” It was a grievous defection; he, whose religious life commenced

so brightly under the guidance of Samuel, came to grovel before an ignorant

necromancer! A lesson this of human instabilty, frailty, and fickleness. “Let him

that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12)  Alas!

how often has the bright promise of youth been clouded in mature years,

and the sun which rose in splendor sunk beneath the gloomy clouds! It is



14 “And enquired not of the LORD:” - Saul seems to have, in point of fact,

inquired in some sense (Ibid. ch.14:37; 28:5-6,15). But the probable meaning is

that he did not inquire in the first instance (see Ibid. 15:3-4); and when he did

inquire, he did not await THE REPLY SOLELY AND EXCLUSIVELY

OF JEHOVAH! -   “therefore He slew him,” – (see ch. 2:3) - “and turned

the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.”  The compiler, having heretofore

given so scrupulously whatever of genealogical fact he could, is now careful to use

it. And he identifies the future chief hero of his history as him who had already

been instanced (Ibid. v.15), “son of Jesse.”



“Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord.”

We are seldom at liberty authoritatively and confidently to pronounce calamity a

judgment from the Lord. But in the case before us we are expressly warranted in

doing so.  Saul had violated the Divine Law. He had directed sacrifice to be

offered without the permission of the prophet. He had spared Agag, and

appropriated the spoil. (I Samuel 15)  He had displayed, again and again, a

rebellions and ungodly disposition; had given way to impulses of anger, envy,

jealousy, and fear. He had too often despised God’s Word, persecuted God’s

servants, trusted in himself, and forgotten that Jehovah had called him to

be the leader of His people in righteousness. Now at length the long delayed

retribution came upon the guilty monarch. “The Lord slew him.” A warning to

the impenitent, this terrible fate of Saul should summon the sinner to repentance,

and (thank God!) to repentance unto life.”(Acts 11:18)



The Danger of Spiritualism (vs. 13-14)



THAT OF GOD. For ordinary life the ordinary senses and faculties of

man suffice. For all work it is a mistake if the tool be too fine, as well as if

it is too coarse. Finer faculties than we have would be too fine for the work

of life; would be a source, not of strength, but only of pain and torment.

That knowledge of the unseen and future, which we always crave for, would

have been given us had it been good for us. But God has concluded that, as

regards the unknowable, FAITH IS BETTER THAN SIGHT and, as


 For common life, common sense is requisite and is sufficient, especially as


ENLIGHTENMENT that will make our steps safe, if it do not

altogether satisfy our curiosity. If we pray to God for guidance, He will

answer that prayer, not in some strange and supernatural way, but by

calming our over-anxiety, by fortifying our judgment, by presenting in clear

light the determining considerations which should weigh with us, by

restraining the temptation that might mislead us, by ordering our

circumstances so that the only open path is the path of wisdom and of duty.

More than this no one needs, and the imagination that the knowledge of

the concealed would benefit us is misleading and worrying. Beyond that of

God we need no supernatural help or light.


  • SUCH LIGHT IS USELESS AS WELL. There are some things not

essential but still soothing, comforting, and helpful. But the knowledge of

the concealed is not only not essential — it is useless in any shape in which

it can come to us. And that for one reason — It is never capable of being

verified. You are at the mercy of any tricksy sprite that likes to play with

your solicitude. If ghosts are free to report themselves, any one of them

could simulate Samuel, and, instead of the sober oracle you expect, could

give you something with just that shade of error in it that would make it

fatally seductive. You cannot apply rule-and-compass argument or faculty

to the verification of the message. You must “trust them all or not at all.”

You cannot prove the spirits in any of the matters on which you seek their

light. I say therefore it is valueless. Such oracles are unsigned checks,

which you cannot treat as money. Seeking to escape from the painful

necessity of relying on your own judgment, you (like Roman Catholics)

have still to rely on your private judgment on the most momentous

question of the whole, viz. whether they are worthy to be your guides.

Therefore “pick no locks;” be content to be in the dark where God has left

you in the dark. It will be safer for you to travel the unknown road by

God’s moonlight or starlight, than to have a blazing gleam thrown round







Ø      There is injury to the body. There are few whose nervous systems

can stand either real or imaginary communion with the unseen world.

Converse with fellow men and women has no exciting element; but

spirits either find or leave the nerves unstrung. Fancy takes reason’s

throne. Man lives in two worlds, instead of in one bright with the

presence of God and man. There can hardly be enjoyment of the

friendship without solicitude as to the enmity of the spirits; so that

calmness of nerve and that fine physical health which furthers all good

growth is generally seriously impaired.


Ø      There is injury to the mind. The proper self-reliance which dignifies

and develops man is interfered with by this reference of all things to a

mysterious oracle. The faculties grow strong by being trusted.

Judgment inspired and brightened by God, the more it is used the more

it grows. Subordinate it to mysterious oracles, and the whole mental

energy deteriorates and slackens. Above all:


Ø      The soul suffers. We cannot well have two guides — two oracles.

We can leave God, and be guided by the dubious light which mediums

may find for us; or we may leave them, and take God’s light and God’s

darkness as He sees fit to give it; but we cannot very well have both.

Even the devoutest we imagine will find the simplicity of their

dependence on God somewhat impaired by resorting to other guides;

and their simple acceptance of the Saviour’s teaching impaired by

their sitting at the feet of those whose suggestions do not always concur

with His. So the writer speaks of Saul’s act as of a backsliding, pointing

the despair into which he had sunk. Keep your heart free of all that

enfeebles it and of all that divides it from the Lord. Poor Saul got

nothing but a deeper despair that drove him to his doom. Take Isaiah’s

exhortation, therefore, to the spiritualists of his day: “When they shall

say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and

unto wizards that peep, and that mutter:   should not a people

seek unto their God?” (Isaiah 8:19).



The Epitaph of Saul, a Beacon-Warning (vs. 13-14)


So far as this work is concerned, Saul is introduced to us, and takes “for

ever” his farewell of us, in this one and the same chapter. We know him,

however, well elsewhere. On the background of a bright sky, we are at

once prepared to say, his figure stands out, and ever will stand out, dark in

appearance, of somewhat commanding proportions, with the bearing of no

altogether ordinary man — a striking figure, indeed, but one that strikes

fear and a chill feeling throughout one, rather than one that inspires

reverence, emulation, love, It cannot be said of him or of his career that

they lack incident or dramatic effect. On the contrary, they were born in

these and abound in them. Saul and his career were remarkably different

from anything which could be called commonplace. And while the world

continues, they must needs stand among the foremost examples for

impressiveness, of grand opportunity and splendid prospects


itself but a summary, the concluding snatch of a strange, eventful, solemn life,

to the condemning faults of which, in its course, the present text points. And we,

following a similar plan, will pass beneath our eye, in brief summary, the

prominent facts, the moral qualities, and the opportunities of Saul; the troubled

current on which they are hurried along, the dark abyss in which at last

they are lost. Let us notice:




notice, especially about this, is that undoubtedly it was the doing of an

upper power, of a special providence, of no purpose nor seeking of the

man who was thus elevated, nor even of the contrivance of others. It was

something outside of the individual life and outside the national life. No

calculation of coincidence could count upon it nor account for it. In the

presence of it, the man who disbelieves Providence and providences, and

special and particular providences, because they make too large a demand

on his fund of belief, prefers parsimoniously to spare expenditure in one

direction, in order to lavish unscrupulous, disproportionate outlay in

another. What he can believe, this he drains to the dregs in one of its

resources, because he will not draw a fair measure of it from another.

Of him it may well be said that the heart that refuses a healthy faith is that

which grows the most abundant crop of credulity. The kingdom of God’s

people — only known as yet for a kingdom, inasmuch as He Himself was its

King — has reached one of its great crises. Moses foresaw it, and, strange

to say, foreshadowed and sketched the legislation adapted to it. The special

ministers, consisting of individual and local judges, have had their day. The

majority of the nation dawns consciously upon it. The nation compares its

composite, federal, fraternal constitution with the unity and cohesion of

other nations, foes around; and, blessed though it is in comparison of them,

yet deliberately estimates the balance as unfavorable to itself. Nay,

Samuel himself, at this time by a moral force and growth the one judge and

prophet of nearly the whole people, seems raised up at the moment to

suggest that that embodiment of authority in one person — “a king that

might judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”

(I Samuel 8:20) - was quite within the range of possibility in the midst of

themselves. In fact, the national voice, in a remarkable way and with a

remarkable unanimity, had pronounced for this. But no man, no name even,

was before them for king.  They express no wish, ask no choice, solicit no

help nor advice from Samuel on this particular point, but seem to leave it

entirely with him (Ibid. 8:22), and he leaves it entirely with God. Saul, however,

a young man whose only known distinction at present is of tallness and bodily

goodliness’’ (Ibid. 9:2), by a little chain of circumstances as uncertain from

one to another as they were trivial in themselves, finds himself in the presence

of Samuel, the seer of the tribes. The supreme Seer of the nation, God

Himself, has already instructed Samuel; and the issue is that Saul, “of the

smallest of the tribes of Israel,” his “family the least of all the families

of the tribe of Benjamin”  (Ibid. v.21), is called to be king over all

God’s people.  This was “the Lord’s doing, and marvellous was it in

 the eyes” (Psalm 118:23) of Saul, at all events, as we are expressly told.


  • SAUL’S CONVERSION. It was a conversion of the old day, of the

old Church, also of the old yet ever new Spirit. How stirred the heart, the

thoughts, the amazement of Saul at the new future which had been so

suddenly presented before him! We may well understand that he could not,

did not, take it in all at once. But his heart was to know a greater stirring,

a deeper moving. “God gave him another heart” before ever he got back

to his earthly father’s house again. “The Spirit of God came upon him”

(I Samuel 10:9-10, 24, 26). The. great facts of conversion for the old day,

for the old Church, and for all time are intrinsically the same, and are two —

God’s gift of another heart and of His Spirit therewith. And what

transporting experience that must have been for him, when “all the signs”

which had been given him by Samuel “came to pass;” and when “he

prophesied among the company of prophets that met him; and when,

 at his formal anointing, “all the people, shouted, God save the king”

and when, at the close of that solemn day, he went to Gibeah, and

there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched,”

 also! Could there have been a more striking, a fuller, a richer beginning of a

new religious life, and one shaped to highest ends? Who could ever lose the

memory, the impressions, the force of hallowed resolutions belonging to

such a time?




COMBINED TO PROFFER TO SAUL. Outer opportunity is not

everything, and indeed it is not anything where inner fitness and intrinsic

gift and the spirit of a mission may not be present. But otherwise, outer

opportunity is matter of great advantage. As the plant must flower and the

tree must fruit, in order to develop to the highest advantage, so thought

and purpose, feeling and love, and all life of man, crave the help of some

outer opportunity. They find expression thereby, and, in finding expression,

unfailingly develop power and quality. God, no doubt, measures

opportunity justly, wisely, kindly to us all. And where any child of his may

find or fancy he finds himself cramped and stinted in such respect, there

may be overpoweringly good reasons for it, of a kind difficult for us to

trace with any dogmatic assurance at present; and there may be found

overwhelmingly ample compensation for it later on in life, or when the span

of the present life is passed. Yet can there be little doubt that, so far as the

present life taken by itself is concerned, many a beautiful soul pines away

for want of outer opportunity of action and of exhibition? many a mighty

courage dwarfs its growth? many a great heart enfolds its rich powers and

qualities, instead of unfolding them? An old Roman exile poet, who

exchanged sunny Rome for the forbidding Pontus, and who shivered as he

wrote it, said, “What am I to do alone? How can I utilize enforced

idleness? How speed the day unhallowed by work? When disappointment

is my only pay, when to dance in the dark is my mocking destiny, when to

write a poem that can find no reader is my fate, — then I learn how much

the speaker depends on the hearer, and the fostering of virtue depends on

the awarding of praise, and how immense the stimulus of glory’s

opportunity.” This old heathen seized and put into most effective poetry

some of life’s most affecting facts. Now, to the unbroken length of Saul’s

public life, an uninterrupted series of inspiring opportunity was undeniably

proffered, both of God and man. Zeal that knew no bounds, enthusiasm

that threatened to consume intelligent devotion that should disdain and

fling even to an infinite distance all the petty interferences of the brood of

envy and jealousy and suspicion’s spawn, — these were the legitimate

expectations of a whole world, from the grand sphere of opportunity in the

midst of which Saul presided. Some of them he realized, and be began well,

and did “awhile run well.”



QUALITIES OF CHARACTER. For instance, before his call, we find him

the faithful, trusted, considerate son (I Samuel 9:5). The very tone of

his recorded conversation with his servant (Ibid. vs.6-10) impresses

us favorably, as affable, respectful, and open to suggestion and to reply.

The master, especially if a young man, who knows how to unite such

qualities as these in his treatment of his servants, may well beget the

prepossessions of the very best judges — for the virtue is rare. Then at the

time of his private call and the first communications made to him by

Samuel, he does not disappoint us for modesty, retiringness, unostentatious

reticence and guardedness of the tongue. No boastful word was on his lip,

no eager ambition grasped at what lay before him; the opposite of even

family vain-glory seems to have characterized him (Ibid. v.21; 10:16).

At the time of his public call and Divine election from among the

tribes, he would fain hide from the honor, and decline the exalted

responsibility about to be laid upon him (Ibid.10:21-24). And he

crowned the day with an instance of self-mastery; temperateness,

forbearance (Ibid. v.27, compared with ch.11:12-13). The

promptness of righteous indignation and zeal of resolution were very

conspicuous in the dashing engagement by which he delivered those of

Jabesh-gilead in the hour of the Ammonites’ power (Ibid. 11:4-11),

and they were witnessed to by the aid and effectual blessing of the

“Spirit of God.” The events of that day also were crowned with renewed

consecration, with sacrifices of thanksgiving, and with a sacred and general

joy on the part of “Saul and all the men of Israel.” YET FROM THIS

POINT ALL WENT AMISS!  The strange reversal of all that Saul had

formerly seemed began with the unwarrantable impatience and unpardonable

presumption which found him anticipating Samuel and sacrificing to the Lord

in Gilgal.  This was, no doubt, the self-willed presumption on which his

whole career was now wrecked. It was succeeded by fault after fault of

wayward “rebellion,” and of wilful “stubbornness” (Ibid. ch.15:23), of

alleged “fear of the people” and craving to be honoured before them

(Ibid. vs.24, 30), till the ominous knell is heard, and his standing is reversed,

by the Spirit of the Lord” when “the Spirit of the Lord DEPARTED  

FROM HIM (Ibid. ch.16:14). The sequel is too well known. Jealousy of

his successor, fierce fits of passion and fits of brief repentance, outbursts of

short-lived affection and visitations of remorse, unattended by any single

symptom of real reformation, argued the torn, distracted, disordered spirit

within. He is brave in war; he is cowardly in the massacre of the priests; he

is high in spirit and high-handed; he is morbidly sensitive to disgrace. He

seals the Spirit’s departure and final forsaking of him when, with

a formal, faithless, professional inquiry of the Lord, he really makes

his inquiry of the witch of Endor, AND FILLS UP THE MEASURE

OF HIS INIQUITIES!   It is hard to say whether the manner of his death

(on the field of flight rather than of battle) expressed most aptly his better or

worse quality, but anyway it was not altogether deficient in self-devotion or

spirit, such as the circumstances would allow. Yet what a commentary the

barest facts now utter forth! He who had often conquered the Philistines and

other hostile nations, with little of material help, fell before them, because


had presumed on himself — it brings him to make an end of himself! As



as best we may the course he ran, his character, and the end of a life which

had opened in providence so abundant and so encouraging, the skilled pen

of Scripture guides our last thought, and reveals the just conclusion of the

whole matter: “Saul died for his transgressions which he committed

against the Lord, even against the Word of the Lord, which he kept

 not, and also for asking… of… a familiar spirit, to inquire thereof,

 and he inquired not of the Lord” — this low-lying epitaph, a beacon

of warning set up aloft to all time.


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