1 Samuel 31
Philistines kill Saul, sons
Saul’s position overrun1Philistines attacked Saul’s Israelite army and sent the warriors running for their lives. Many died on Mount Gilboa. 2Philistines began to overrun King Saul’s position. They killed three of his sons there: Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua.
3Philistines pushed hard, and soon the archers got Saul in range. They hit him and wounded him badly. 4Saul told the soldier in charge of his armor and weapons, “Finish this. Take your sword and drive it through me. I don’t want pagan Philistines to use me for target practice before they kill me,” The terrified soldier refused. So, Saul picked up his own sword and fell on it.
5When the soldier saw the king was dead, he fell on his sword, too. He died with his king. 6Saul and his three sons and his weapons man all died the same day.
The king is dead7News of Israel’s defeat spread. Many Israelites emptied their towns because they knew the Philistines were coming to take them. These included Israelites beyond the north side of the Jezreel valley and Israelites east of the Jordan River. Philistines moved into those homes.
8The day after the battle, Philistines came to strip the corpses of valuables. That’s when they found Saul and his three sons dead on Mount Gilboa. 9They cut off Saul’s head, stripped off his armor, and spread word of his death to other Philistine towns and idol temples throughout the land. 10They put Saul’s armor on display in the temple of their god Astarte.  Then hung his body on Beth-shan’s city wall.
11Israelites across the Jordan River at the town of Jabesh in Gilead heard what the Philistines did to Saul. 12Brave men from there traveled at night to Beth-shan.  Secretly, they retrieved the bodies of Saul and his sons. They carried them back to Jabesh and cremated them there. 13They took the bones that were left and buried them under a tamarisk tree in Jabesh and mourned him by fasting for seven days.
Philistines treated Saul’s armor as a war trophy. They put it in the temple of the goddess Astarte to show that the Philistine goddess of war was stronger than Israel’s God. Astarte, also known as Ashtarte, Ashtaroth, and similar variations, was a god of fertility, like Baal, a male god. But Astarte was also a go-to god for matters of love and war. Sometimes she’s described as Baal’s wife. Her figurines portray her as well-endowed, and then some—with her privates exposed and prominently displayed.
Men of Jabesh in Gilead (ruin called: Tell Maqlub) travelled 13 miles to Beth-shan. That’s about a four-hour walk at a medium pace. They were likely picking up the pace, though, to get out of Philistine territory before daylight.
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