1 Samuel 31:13
And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
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(13) A tree in Jabesh.—A tree, that is “the well-known” tamarisk (êshel). For Saul’s love for trees see as an instance 1Samuel 22:6. The men of Jabesh-Gilead well remembered this peculiar fancy of their dead king, and under the waving branches of their own beautiful and famous tamarisk they tenderly laid the remains of their dead hero and his princely sons.

Evidently King David, at a subsequent period, fetched away these royal remains, and had them reverently interred in the family sepulchre of Kish, the father of Saul, in Zelah of Benjamin (2Samuel 21:12; 2Samuel 21:14).

And fasted seven days.—This was the period the sons of Israel mourned for Jacob at the threshing floor of Atad beyond Jordan (Genesis 1:10). The grateful men of Jabesh-Gilead thus paid the last honours to the fallen Saul.

It is probable that the Talmudic rule which enjoins strict mourning for seven days (fasting was mourning of the strictest kind) was originally based on these two historic periods of mourning recorded in the case of the great ancestor of the tribes, Jacob, and of the first King Saul, although the curious tradition preserved in the Babylonian Talmud gives a special reason for the period—seven days. Rav. Chisda said: The soul of the deceased mourns over him the first seven days; for it is said, Job 14:22, “and his soul shall mourn over him.” Rav. Jehudah said: If there are no mourners to condole with, ten men sit down where the death took place. Such a case happened in the neighbourhood of Rav. Jehudah. After the seven days of mourning, the deceased appeared to Rav. Jehudah in a dream, and said Mayest thou be comforted as thou hast comforted me.”—Treatise Shabbath, fol. 152, Colossians 2.

To this day among the Jews ten men are hired to perform the usual daily prayers during the seven days of mourning at the house of the deceased.

On the reason for the number seven being fixed for the period of mourning, we read again in the Seder Moed of the Babylonian Talmud, “How is it proved that mourning should be kept up seven days? “It is written, Amos 8:10 : “I will turn your feasts into mourning,” and these (usually) lasted seven days.—Treatise Moed Katon, fol. 20, Colossians 1.

“Again a long draught of my soul-wine! Look forth o’er the


Thou hast done now with eyes for the actual; begin with the


Is Saul dead? In the depth of the vale make his tomb, bid


A grey mountain of marble heaped four-square, till built to the


Let it mark where the great First King slumbers; whose fame

would ye know?

Up above see the rock’s naked face, where the record shall go,

In great characters cut by the scribe. Such was Saul, so ne


With the sages directing the work, by the populace chid—

For not half, they’ll affirm, is comprised there! Which fault to


In the grove with his kind grows the cedar, whereon they shall


(See, in tablets, it is level before them) their praise, and record,

With gold of the graver, Saul’s story—the statesman’s great


Side by side with the poet’s sweet comment. The rivers


With smooth paper-reeds grazing each other when prophet

winds rave:

So the pen gives unborn generations their due and their part

In thy being! Then, first of the mighty, thank God that thou

art !”


1 Samuel 31:13. And fasted seven days — To testify their sorrow for the loss of Saul, and of the people of God; and to entreat God’s favour to prevent the utter extinction of his people. But we must not understand this word of fasting strictly, as if they ate nothing for seven whole days; but in a more large sense, as it is used both in sacred and profane writers; that they did eat but little, and that but mean food, and drank only water for that time. This book began with the birth of Samuel, and ends with the death of Saul. The comparing these together will teach us to prefer the honour that comes from God before all the honours of the world. The reader will do well to observe also that in this book we have two such examples of piety and virtue in Samuel and David as we cannot too frequently make the subject of our consideration. On the other hand, in the example of Saul we have a picture of the miserable state of that man who forgetteth God, and turneth aside from his commandments. May God, through Jesus Christ, send down his grace into our hearts, that, through our whole lives, we may be inclined to imitate the first, and may always dread to fall into the state of the latter, and, as the only way to escape it, make it our chief study and delight to please God, and do his will; for this is the whole of man: in which all his happiness, all his peace consists. For that there is no peace to the wicked, hath been pronounced by Him who knoweth the nature and frame of man; by the Lord himself, who cannot lie. “The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” Isaiah 57:20-21.

31:8-13 The Scripture makes no mention what became of the souls of Saul and his sons, after they were dead; but of their bodies only: secret things belong not to us. It is of little consequence by what means we die, or what is done with our dead bodies. If our souls are saved, our bodies will be raised incorruptible and glorious; but not to fear His wrath, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, is the extreme of folly and wickedness. How useless is the respect of fellow-creatures to those who are suffering the wrath of God! While pompous funerals, grand monuments, and he praises of men, honour the memory of the deceased, the soul may be suffering in the regions of darkness and despair! Let us seek that honour which cometh from God only.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.

12. valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons—Considering that Beth-shan is an hour and a half's distance, and by a narrow upland passage, to the west of the Jordan (the whole being a journey from Jabesh-gilead of about ten miles), they must have made all haste to travel thither to carry off the headless bodies and return to their own side of the Jordan in the course of a single night.

burnt them—This was not a Hebrew custom. It was probably resorted to on this occasion to prevent all risk of the Beth-shanites coming to disinter the royal remains for further insult.

To testify their sorrow for the public loss of Saul, and of the people of God; and to entreat God’s favour to prevent the utter extinction of his people. But you must not understand this word of fasting strictly, as if they eat nothing for seven whole days; but in a more large and general sense, as it is used both in sacred and profane writers; that they did eat but little, and that seldom, and that but mean food, and drunk only water for that time.

And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh,.... For though they burned the bodies, yet so as to preserve the bones; and these, together with the ashes of the parts burnt, they gathered up, and buried under a tree near this city; this tree is said to be an oak, 1 Chronicles 10:12; so Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah, was buried under an oak, Genesis 35:8. The Jews generally interred their dead under some oak, as aforementioned writer observes (q); pleased perchance with the parallel, as he expresses it, that as these plants, seemingly dead in winter, have every spring an annual resurrection, so men's dry bones shall have new sap put into them at the day of judgment:

and fasted seven days; not that they ate and drank nothing all that time, but they fasted every day till evening, as the Jews used to do; so long it seems a man may live without eating, but not longer; See Gill on Exodus 24:18 and see Gill on 1 Kings 19:8; this they did, as Kimchi thinks, in memory of the seven days Nahash the Ammonite gave them for their relief, in which time Saul came and saved them, 1 Samuel 11:3.

(q) Pisgah-Sight of Palestine b. 2. ch. 2. p. 82.

And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and {f} fasted seven days.

(f) According to the custom of mourners.

13. under a tree] Under the tamarisk, some well-known tree at Jabesh. Chron. reads “under the terebinth,” (êlah). David removed the bones to the family sepulchre at Zelah (2 Samuel 21:12-14).

fasted seven days] A sign of general mourning. Cp. 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:35, &c.

1 Samuel 31:13When the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead heard this, all the brave men of the town set out to Beth-shean, took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall, brought them to Jabesh, and burned them there. "But their bones they buried under the tamarisk at Jabesh, and fasted seven days," to mourn for the king their former deliverer (see 1 Samuel 11:1-15). These statements are given in a very condensed form in the Chronicles (1 Samuel 31:11, 1 Samuel 31:12). Not only is the fact that "they went the whole night" omitted, as being of no essential importance to the general history; but the removal of the bodies from the town-wall is also passed over, because their being fastened there had not been mentioned, and also the burning of the bodies. The reason for the last omission is not to be sought for in the fact that the author of the Chronicles regarded burning as ignominious, according to Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9, but because he did not see how to reconcile the burning of the bodies with the burial of the bones. It was not the custom in Israel to burn the corpse, but to bury it in the ground. The former was restricted to the worst criminals (see at Leviticus 20:14). Consequently the Chaldee interpreted the word "burnt" as relating to the burning of spices, a custom which we meet with afterwards as a special honour shown to certain of the kings of Judah on the occasion of their burial (2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19; Jeremiah 34:5). But this is expressed by שׂרפה לו שׂרף, "to make a burning for him," whereas here it is stated distinctly that "they burnt them." The reason for the burning of the bodies in the case of Saul and his sons is to be sought for in the peculiarity of the circumstances; viz., partly in the fact that the bodies were mutilated by the removal of the heads, and therefore a regular burial of the dead was impossible, and partly in their anxiety lest, if the Philistines followed up their victory and came to Jabesh, they should desecrate the bodies still further. But even this was not a complete burning to ashes, but merely a burning of the skin and flesh; so that the bones still remained, and they were buried in the ground under a shady tree. Instead of "under the (well-known) tamarisk" (eshel), we have האלה תּחת (under the strong tree) in 1 Chronicles 10:11. David afterwards had them fetched away and buried in Saul's family grave at Zela, in the land of Benjamin (2 Samuel 21:11.). The seven days' fast kept by the Jabeshites was a sign of public and general mourning on the part of the inhabitants of that town at the death of the king, who had once rescued them from the most abominable slavery.

In this ignominious fate of Saul there was manifested the righteous judgment of God in consequence of the hardening of his heart. But the love which the citizens of Jabesh displayed in their treatment of the corpses of Saul and his sons, had reference not to the king as rejected by God, but to the king as anointed with the Spirit of Jehovah, and was a practical condemnation, not of the divine judgment which had fallen upon Saul, but of the cruelty of the enemies of Israel and its anointed. For although Saul had waged war almost incessantly against the Philistines, it is not known that in any one of his victories he had ever been guilty of such cruelties towards the conquered and slaughtered foe as could justify this barbarous revenge on the part of the uncircumcised upon his lifeless corpse.

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