Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.9. The Death of Saul
1. Saul wounded in battle (1Samuel 31:1-3)
2. Saul a suicide (1Samuel 31:4-6)
3. The victorious Philistines (1Samuel 31:7-10)
4. The bodies recovered and burnt (1Samuel 31:11-13)
A sad ending to one of the saddest stories of the Bible. Jonathan, Abinadab and Melchi-shua, Saul’s sons, fall first. Then Saul is wounded. He asks his armour bearer to make an end of his sufferings. There is no evidence whatever of his repentance and turning unto the Lord. He died as he had lived in rebellion against Jehovah. The armour-bearer refused to kill Saul; then he fell upon his own sword and committed suicide. He is the first suicide mentioned in the Bible. Ahithophel (2Samuel 17:23); Zimri (1Kings 16:18) and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:5) are other suicides recorded in the Word. The first chapter of the second book of Samuel tells us of an Amalekite who slew Saul. This is not a contradiction at all as some have declared. First Saul asked his armour-bearer to slay him; he refused. Then he fell upon his sword but was not wholly successful. In anguish he leaned upon his spear and when the Amalekite came along, he told him that his life was still in him (2Samuel 1:9) and he slew him. His end is sad and has its solemn lessons. His sin was the sparing of Amalek, we say again, the type of the flesh. Of this sin Samuel had reminded him in his message of doom (1Samuel 28:18). His disobedience ended in self-destruction. Such is sin. And an Amalekite made the end of him. Sin allowed and followed will do its dreadful work in the end, as this Amalekite, spared by Saul, ends his life.
The triumph of the Philistines is complete. Saul’s body is held up to scorn in the idol-house of the Philistines and afterward his body and the bodies of his sons are recovered and buried by Jabesh. The people’s choice, King Saul, has gone down in ruin and shame. All looks hopeless now. Israel’s hope centers now in the coming king after God’s own heart, David the son of Jesse. How he foreshadows the true King and his coming kingdom, He who is the hope of Israel, the hope of the world, as well as the hope of the church, we shall find in the second book of Samuel.