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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)All the valiant men.—Literally, every man of valour. Samuel adds, “and marched all the night.”
Took away.—Carried off. Samuel has “took,” (ceperunt).
The body.—A common Aramaic word, gûfāh, only read here in the Old Testament, for which Samuel has the pure Hebrew synonym a’wîyah. Samuel adds, “from the wall of Beth-shan.”
And brought them.—Samuel, “and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.” To burn a corpse was a further degradation of executed criminals (Joshua 7:25; Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9), and as the Jews did not ordinarily practise cremation, it is supposed that the phrase “burnt them,” in 1 Samuel 31 means “made a burning for them” of costly spices, as was done at the funerals of kings (Jeremiah 34:5; 2Chronicles 16:14; 2Chronicles 21:19). But perhaps the bodies were burnt in this exceptional case because they had been mutilated by the enemy.
Buried their bones.—Samuel, “took and buried.” The phrase “their bones,” contrasted with their “corpses,” certainly seems to imply that the latter had been burnt.
The oak.—Heb., terebinth, or turpentine tree. Samuel, “tamarisk.” The difference points to another source used by Chronicles.1 Chronicles 10:12. And fasted seven days — Every day till evening, after the manner of the Jewish fasts.2 Samuel 2:8-15; 2 Samuel 3:6-15; 2 Samuel 4:1-12). The phrase is perhaps an abbreviation of the expression in the parallel passage of Samuel 1 Samuel 31:6.
fastened his head in the temple of Dagon—while the trunk or headless corpse was affixed to the wall of Beth-shan (1Sa 31:10).1 Samuel 31:1. 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)12. took away] i.e. from the walls of Beth-shan (so Pesh.).
to Jabesh] Samuel adds “and burned them there.” The Chronicler omits this statement perhaps because the bones were not destroyed by this burning; cp. 2 Samuel 21:12-14 (the bones of Saul and Jonathan brought from Jabesh in David’s reign and re-interred in the family sepulchre). Burning was not a usual funeral rite among the Jews (cp. 2 Chronicles 16:14, note), and probably the perfunctory burning carried out by the men of Jabesh was merely a ruse to give the Philistines the impression that Saul’s remains were destroyed and that therefore it was useless to disturb his grave.
under the oak] R.V. mg., under the terebinth. Large trees, being rare in Palestine, frequently serve as landmarks; cp. Jdg 4:5; 1 Samuel 22:6 (“tamarisk tree” R.V.).
fasted seven days] Fasting involved abstinence from food during daylight. David fasted “till the evening” in mourning for Saul (2 Samuel 1:12) and for Abner (ib. 2 Samuel 3:35). The fast of Jabesh was a sevenfold fast.
13, 14 (peculiar to Chron.). The Moral of the Overthrow of the House of Saul
Such reflexions as these are characteristic of the Chronicler; cp. 2 Chronicles 12:2 (note); 1 Chronicles 22:7; 1 Chronicles 24:24; 1 Chronicles 25:27. They are not so frequent in Sam. and Kings.Verse 12. - Jabesh. This is the only place where "Jabesh" is 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 (1 Chronicles 27:21). Saul had on a celebrated occasion (1 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 (2 Samuel 2:5) commended for it by David. This verse does not tell us, as the parallel (1 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 cases, 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. 1 Chronicles 8:33); and when the archers came upon Saul he trembled before them (יחל from חוּל), and ordered his armour-bearer to thrust him through. Between המּורים and בּקּשׁת the superfluous אנשׁים is introduced in Samuel, and in the last clause מאד is omitted; and instead of מהמּורים we have the unusual form מן־היּורים (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:23). In Saul's request to his armour-bearer that he would thrust him through with the sword, וּדקרני (1 Samuel 31:4) is omitted in the phrase which gives the reason for his request; and Bertheau thinks it did not originally stand in the text, and has been repeated merely by an oversight, since the only motive for the command, "Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith," was that the Philistines might not insult Saul when alive, and consequently the words, "that they may not thrust me through," cannot express the reason. But that is scarcely a conclusive reason for this belief; for although the Philistines might seek out Saul after he had been slain by his armour-bearer, and dishonour his dead body, yet the anxiety lest they should seek out his corpse to wreak their vengeance upon it could not press so heavily upon him as the fear that they would take vengeance upon him if he fell alive into their hands. It is therefore a more probable supposition that the author of the Chronicle has omitted the word וּדקרני only as not being necessary to the sense of the passage, just as עמּו is omitted at the end of 1 Chronicles 10:5. In 1 Chronicles 10:6 we have וכל־בּיתו instead of the כּל־אנשׁיו גּם כליו ונשׂא of Samuel, and in 1 Chronicles 10:7 ישׂראל אנשׁי is omitted after the words נסוּ כּי (Samuel). From this Bertheau concludes that the author of the Chronicle has designedly avoided speaking of the men of Saul's army or of the Israelites who took part in the battle, because it was not his purpose to describe the whole course of the conflict, but only to narrate the death of Saul and of his sons, in order to point out how the supreme power came to David. Thenius, on the contrary, deduces the variation between the sixth verse of the Chronicles and the corresponding verse in Samuel from "a text which had become illegible." Both are incorrect; for כּל־אנשׁיו are not all the men of war who went with him into the battle (Then.), or all the Israelites who took part in the battle (Berth.), but only all those who were about the king, i.e., the whole of the king's attendants who had followed him to the war. כּל־בּיתו is only another expression for כּל־אנשׁיו, in which the כּליו נשׂא is included. The author of the Chronicle has merely abridged the account, confining himself to a statement of the main points, and has consequently both omitted ישׂראל אנשׁי in 1 Chronicles 10:7, because he had already spoken of the flight of the warriors of Israel in 1 Chronicles 10:1, and it was here sufficient to mention only the flight and death of Saul and of his sons, and has also shortened the more exact statement as to the inhabitants of that district, "those on the other side of the valley and on the other side of Jordan" (Samuel), into בּאמק אשׁר. In this abridgement also Thenius scents a "defective text." As the inhabitants of the district around Gilboa abandoned their cities, they were taken possession of by the Philistines.
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