1 Chronicles 10:1-14 – Saul


1 Chronicles 10:1-14


Only the final chapter in the life of Israel’s first king, Saul, is presented. Here it serves as an example of exile as the result of unfaithfulness.


The story of Saul, Israel’s first king, took up twenty-four chapters in the earlier history (1 Samuel 8-31). Chronicles, while assuming the reader is aware of the whole story, is only interested in the last scene, Saul’s death at the hands of the Philistines. This is because Saul functions as a foil for the Chronicler’s portrayal of David and Solomon. Alterations in his source (1 Samuel 31) make this reapplication of the story clear.

In 1 Samuel, Saul dies along “all his men” (1 Samuel 31:6); but in Chronicles, “all his men” is changed to “all his house” (1 Chronicles 10:6), despite the long genealogy of Saul’s house presented in 1 Chronicles 8:29-40. The Chronicler intends to show that this is the end of Saul’s kingship and line. The reason for this judgment is found in 10:13-14 where it is clearly stated that ultimately it was the Lord who put Saul to death and turned the kingdom over to David because of Saul’s “unfaithfulness.” Two crucial aspects of the Chronicler’s theology are introduced here:

  • David’s kingship is divinely authorized as “the LORD” is the subject of the verb “to cause to die”–that is, God was behind the activities of the Philistine archers.
  • “Unfaithfulness” had resulted in exile for Judah (1 Chronicles 9:1) and the northern tribes (1 Chronicles 5:25-26 where the Hebrew word is translated “transgressed” in the NRSV).

Thus, the Chronicler begins his narrative of David’s reign with a portrayal of Saul, Israel’s first king, who embodies the danger of losing the land and exile because of unfaithfulness. David, and Solomon after him, will embody the possibility of retaining the land due to their faithfulness to God and especially to proper worship in the temple.