“And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men died together that same day.” 1 Samuel 31:5–6
The last chapter of first Samuel records the sad end to what could have been a beautiful story had Saul chosen faithfulness to God over satisfaction of self.
The Philistine army over ran the Israelites and the Israelite army fled. In their pursuit of the Israelites the Philistines focused on overtaking Saul and his sons and that day all of them were killed; first Saul’s three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, and later Saul.
But Saul didn’t died at the hands of the Philistines. Saul had been badly injured by an archer, which was no doubt slowing his retreat, and when he saw that his sons were slain and that the Philistines were fiercely pursuing him he commanded his armor bearer to kill him so that the Philistines wouldn’t be able to capture and torture him. But his armor bearer was afraid and wouldn’t do it, so Saul took his own sword and fell on it taking his own life. After that his armor bearer fell on his sword and he died as well.
The next day the Philistines, as they were looting the battle field, found the bodies of Saul and his sons. So they stripped the armor off them and placed it as a trophy in the temple of their God and hung their bodies on the wall of Beth Shan, proclaiming to the land that they had defeated Israel and slain their king and his sons.
There is one touching part to this sad story. When the people of Jabesh Gilead, whom Saul had saved from defeat and disfigurement at the beginning of his reign, heard that Saul and his sons were slain and that their bodies were hanging on the wall of Beth Shan, all their valiant men went to Beth Shan at night, retrieved their bodies and took them to Jabesh Gilead and gave them a proper burial.
Just as Samuel had prophesied years before the kingdom had been torn away from Saul and his family. Saul’s death and Israel’s defeat was a bitter blow for Israel but it was not the end of the story. Through the prophet God had prepared for this day when he had had a shepherd boy named David anointed as king.
The transition from Saul to David was never going to be an easy change; one doesn’t change ruling families without strife, but God made a way for David to ascend to the throne without having to raise himself up against Saul and his good friend Jonathan.
If we will give God the chance he will do the most difficult things for us as well. Many times we think we need to compromise our principles and convictions to make God’s plan come to pass. But God doesn’t need our cleverness or deviousness to accomplish his will. If we will be patient and wait God will make a way.