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1 Chronicles 10:1-14 – Saul


Only the final chapter in the life of Israel's first king, Saul, is presented. Here it serves as an example of exile as the result of unfaithfulness.


The story of Saul, Israel's first king, took up twenty-four chapters in the earlier history (1 Samuel 8-31). Chronicles, while assuming the reader is aware of the whole story, is only interested in the last scene, Saul's death at the hands of the Philistines. This is because Saul functions as a foil for the Chronicler's portrayal of David and Solomon. Alterations in his source (1 Samuel 31) make this reapplication of the story clear.

In 1 Samuel, Saul dies along "all his men" (1 Samuel 31:6); but in Chronicles, "all his men" is changed to "all his house" (1 Chronicles 10:6), despite the long genealogy of Saul's house presented in 1 Chronicles 8:29-40. The Chronicler intends to show that this is the end of Saul's kingship and line. The reason for this judgment is found in 10:13-14 where it is clearly stated that ultimately it was the Lord who put Saul to death and turned the kingdom over to David because of Saul's "unfaithfulness." Two crucial aspects of the Chronicler's theology are introduced here:

  • David's kingship is divinely authorized as "the LORD" is the subject of the verb "to cause to die"--that is, God was behind the activities of the Philistine archers.
  • "Unfaithfulness" had resulted in exile for Judah (1 Chronicles 9:1) and the northern tribes (1 Chronicles 5:25-26 where the Hebrew word is translated "transgressed" in the NRSV).

Thus, the Chronicler begins his narrative of David's reign with a portrayal of Saul, Israel's first king, who embodies the danger of losing the land and exile because of unfaithfulness. David, and Solomon after him, will embody the possibility of retaining the land due to their faithfulness to God and especially to proper worship in the temple.

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

Death of Saul and His Sons

10Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, sons of Saul. 3The battle pressed hard on Saul; and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. 4Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, ‘Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me.’ But his armour-bearer was unwilling, for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died. 6Thus Saul died; he and his three sons and all his house died together. 7When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that the army* had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.

The next day when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9They stripped him and took his head and his armour, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10They put his armour in the temple of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. 11But when all Jabesh-gilead heard everything that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12all the valiant warriors got up and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh. Then they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.

13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, 14and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord * put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

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