Wesley's Notes on the Bible
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.
31:2 Jonathan - David's dear friend; God so ordering it for the farther exercise of David's faith and patience; and that David might depend upon God alone for his crown, and receive it solely from him, and not from Jonathan; who doubtless, had he lived, would have speedily settled the crown upon David's head. There was also a special providence of God, in taking away Jonathan, (who of all Saul's sons, seems to have been the fairest for the crown) for preventing divisions, which might have happened amongst the people concerning the successor: David's way to the crown being by this means made the more clear. Abinadab - Called also Ishui, chap.14:49. Ishbosheth was not here, being possibly at home for the management of affairs there.
And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.
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.
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.
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.
31:8 Saul and his three sons - The scripture, as Mr. Henry well observes, makes no mention of the souls of Saul and his sons, what became of them after they were dead: secret things belong not to us.
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.
31:9 Cut off his head - As the Israelites did by Goliath, and fastened it in the temple of Dagon, 1Chron 10:10. Idols - To give them the glory of this victory. And by this respect shewn to their pretended deities, how do they shame those, who give not the honour of their achievements to the living God?
And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
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.
31:12 Took the body, and c. - This they did, not only out of a concern, for the honour of Israel, and the crown of Israel, but out of gratitude to Saul, for his zeal and forwardness to rescue them from the Ammonites.
And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
31:13 Fasted - To testify their sorrow for the loss of Saul, and of the people of God; and to intreat 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 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.