Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.
And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul's sons.
And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.
He was sore wounded - Better, "he was sore afraid" (compare Deuteronomy 2:25). Saul's fear is explained in 1 Samuel 31:4.
Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.
And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.
So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.
All his men - This and similar expressions must not be taken too literally (compare 1 Chronicles 10:6). We know that Abner, and Ish-bosheth, and manymore survived the day of Gilboa.
And when the men of Israel that were on the other side of the valley, and they that were on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities, and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.
The men on the other side of the valley - This must mean to the north of the plain of Jezreel, and would comprise the tribe of Naphtali, and Zabulon, and probably Issachar. But the text of 1 Chronicles 10:7 has "that were in the valley," limiting the statement to the inhabitants of the plain of Jezreel.
On the other side Jordan - This phrase most commonly means on the east of Jordan, the speaker being supposed to be on the west side. But it is also used of the west of Jordan, as here, if the text be sound.
The Philistines ... dwelt in them - One of the principal cities, Beth-shan, fell into their power at once 1 Samuel 31:10.
And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.
And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.
And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
In the house of Ashtaroth - This was doubtless the famous temple of Venus in Askelon mentioned by Herodotus as the most ancient of all her temples. Hence, the special mention of Askelon 2 Samuel 1:20. The placing Saul's armour as a trophy in the temple of Ashtaroth was a counterpart to the placing Goliath's sword in the tabernacle 1 Samuel 21:9. In 1 Chronicles 10:10 it is added that they "fastened Saul's head in the temple of Dagon," probably either in Gaza Judges 16:21, or in Ashdod 1 Samuel 5:1-3. This was, perhaps, in retaliation for the similar treatment of Goliath's head 1 Samuel 17:54. The variations seem to imply that both this narrative and that in 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 are compiled from a common and a fuller document.
And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
When the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead heard ... - See 1 Samuel 11:1-15. This is a touching and rare example of national gratitude.
All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
burnt them - Burning was not the usual mode of sepulture among the Hebrews. But in this case from a pious desire to disguise the mutilation of the headless corpses, and exempt them from any possible future insult, the men of Jabesh burned the bodies, yet so as to preserve the bones 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 21:12.
And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Under a tree - Rather, "Under the tamarisk," a well-known tree at Jabesh which was standing when this narrative was written.
They fasted seven days - In imitation of the mourning for Jacob (marginal reference). They would give full honor to Saul though he was fallen.