1 Chronicles Chapter 10

The children of Israel had been led by judges, chosen by God and under His direction. This went on for many years, until the Israelites allowed the influence of surrounding nations to persuade them to have a king instead of following after the Lord’s pattern. This was around 1095 B.C. As their first king, the Lord chose a Benjamite named Saul. He was a very good, humble, young man when chosen by God. However, he gave in to personal weaknesses over time, and lost the favor of God (see 1 Samuel 15:23).

The Philistines had risen in power during the reign of Saul and he became afraid. He tried to pray for answers, but because of his disobedience, they were not answered. He went to the witch of Endor, and the spirit of Samuel told Saul he and his sons would die (see 1 Samuel 28). This chapter of Chronicles occurs somewhere around 1047 B.C. (according to the chronology of the Bible), after Saul had been told he would die. It begins as follows:

1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.
2 And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul.
3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers.
4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.
5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.
6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.
7 And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

The Philistines went against Israel and fought them hard. The Israelite army retreated to mount Gilboa, but the Philistines pursued them and killed many, including the sons of Saul. The Philistines chased after Saul and he was shot by an arrow. Saul asked his servant to kill him, so that he would not be tortured by their enemies, but the servant refused to do it because he was afraid. Saul chose to do it himself (see also 1 Samuel 31). Once the servant saw it, he also killed himself. The men of the land where this happened, saw that Saul and his sons were dead, and they ran away, leaving their cities for the Philistines to take and live in them. (see also 2 Samuel 1:10 for another witness of Saul’s death)

8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa.
9 And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people.
10 And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.

The Philistines went to the dead to take what they could from them, and they found the bodies of Saul and his sons. They stripped Saul, took his head and armor, and sent word to their people. They displayed his armor in their temple (the house of Ashtaroth) and his head in the temple of Dagon. (see also 1 Samuel 31:8-10 – his body was displayed on the wall of Beth-shan).

11 And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul,
12 They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

The men of Jabesh-gilead heard of the things that the Philistines had done to body of Saul. The valiant men went to the place where the bodies of Saul and his sons had been disrespected, and took their bodies to Jabesh where they buried them. Then they fasted for seven days, which was tradition according to the law of Moses. In the law, the Lord declared that any who touched the dead, were unclean for seven days. (see Numbers 19:11)

13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it;
14 And inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

The reason that the Lord allowed Saul to die in battle, was because he had transgressed and gone against the word of the Lord. He had knowingly turned to the forbidden choice of seeking after speaking with the dead, instead of turning to the Lord. In the law found in Leviticus 20:6, we read, “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” As a result, Saul was not protected in battle and the kingdom was then given to David, the son of Jesse, whom the Lord had chosen to be his successor. This was fulfillment of the prophecy of Samuel to Saul which said, “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” (see 1 Samuel 13:14)

I have been thinking about the description of the men in verse 12, which says they were valiant men. Which means men showing courage and determination. At first glance, it may seem to mean that these men had the courage necessary to enter the land of the Philistines, at the risk of their own lives, to gather the bodies of their royal family. This would indeed make them men worthy of the description of being valiant. However, I think it is possible that the recorder of this event felt something more about these men. As I said above, it was law that a person who touched the dead were considered unclean. It would seem that more often than not, those who could avoid even looking upon a dead body, would avoid it, so as to avoid all possibility of uncleanliness. Yet these men had such a respect for Saul and his sons (this does not mean they supported him or followed him, but that they respected that he was their leader who had been chosen for them by the Lord), that they were willing to make a personal sacrifice of cleanliness, in order to give them the honor they deserved and no longer be mistreated by their enemies. They were valiant men, because they honored the law of Moses in a time when many of their brethren were not faithful to the law. They made their choice knowing it would have personal consequences both physical and spiritual, but also knowing that their leaders deserved more in death then they had received. They were definitely valiant men of Israel.

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