1 Samuel 31:1-13 – The Death of Saul


1 Samuel 31:1-13


First Samuel comes to a close with the death of Israel’s first king during a losing battle with the Philistines.


First Samuel ends on a tragic note. Saul, who had been anointed by Samuel to defend Israel from the Philistine incursion (9:16), now dies by his own hand at the end of a Philistine victory that will annex most of Saul’s kingdom. Throughout 1 Samuel, David’s successes have been contrasted with Saul’s defeats. This pervasive theme climaxes in the parallel between chapter 30, where David’s dramatic victory over the Amalekites apart from Saul and his armies starkly contrasts with Saul’s miserable defeat in chapter 31 at the same time. Adding to the tragedy is the realization that this has come about in fulfillment of Samuel’s announcement, when Saul consulted the dead prophet through the medium at Endor, that God would deliver Israel into the hands of the Philistines (28:19). Another parallel is found in the decapitation of Saul by the Philistines (31:9) and David’s decapitation of Goliath, the Philistine giant (17:51). Even Saul’s suicide, often taken as a courageous act to preserve the honor of Israel, arises out of fear of being abused by the Philistines, as Samson had been (Judges 16:21, 25, 28-30).