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A fatal battle between the Israelites and Philistines in Gilboa, in which Saul is mortally wounded, and has three sons slain, 1 Chronicles 10:1-6. The Israelites being totally routed, the Philistines, coming to strip the dead, find Saul and has three sons among the slain; they cut off Saul‘s head, and send it and his armor about the country to the idol temples; and then fix them up in the house of Dagon, 1 Chronicles 10:7-10. The men of Jabesh-gilead come by night, and take away the bodies of Saul and has three sons, and bury them in Jabesh, 1 Chronicles 10:11, 1 Chronicles 10:12. The reason of Saul‘s tragical death; the kingdom is transferred to David, 1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14.
Now the Philistines fought against Israel - The reader will find the same history in almost the same words, in 1 Samuel 31:1-13, to the notes on which he is referred for every thing important in this.
So Saul died - and all his house - Every branch of his family that had followed him to the war was cut off; his three sons are mentioned as being the chief. No doubt all his officers were slain.
When all Jabesh-gilead heard - For a general account of the principles of heroism and gratitude from which this action of the men of Jabesh-gilead proceeded, see the note on 1 Samuel 31:11, 1 Samuel 31:12.
By the kindness of a literary friend, I am enabled to lay a farther illustration of this noble act before the reader, which he will find at the conclusion of the chapter.
Saul died for his transgression - See the concluding observations on the first book of Samuel (1 Samuel 31:13 (note)).
Inquired not of the Lord - On these two last verses the Targum speaks thus: “And Saul died for the transgression by which he transgressed against the Word of the Lord, and because he did not keep the commandment of the Lord when he warred against the house of Amalek; and because he consulted Pythons, and sought oracular answers from them. Neither did he ask counsel from before the Lord by Urim and Thummim, for he had slain the priests that were in Nob; therefore the Lord slew him, and transferred the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.”
A Literary friend furnishes the following remarks: -
“The sacred writer, in the first book of Samuel, 1 Samuel 31:11-13, and 1 Chronicles 10:11, 1 Chronicles 10:12, after relating the defeat and death of Saul, and the ignominious treatment of his remains, thus concludes: -
“‹And when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there; and they took the bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.‘
“Often has this account been read with admiration of the bravery and devotedness of the men of Jabesh-gilead, but without considering that these men had any greater cause than others for honoring the remains of their sovereign; but, on reflection, it will be perceived that the strong impulse of gratitude prompted them to this honorable exertion. They remembered their preservation from destruction, and, which to brave men is more galling, from bearing marks of having been defeated, and being deprived of the honorable hope of wiping off disgrace, or defending their country at future seasons.
“Reading these verses in conjunction with the attack of Nahash, we perceive the natural feelings of humanity, of honorable respect, prompting the men of Jabesh to act as they did in rescuing the bones of Saul and his family.
“The father of Grecian poetry relates in how great a degree the warriors of ancient days honored the remains of their leaders; how severe were the contests for the body of the fallen chief, more determined oftentimes than the struggle for victory: this point of military honor was possibly excited or heightened by the religious idea so prevalent in his age, and after times, respecting the fate of the spirits of those who were unburied.
“Homer wrote of events passing at no distant period from those recorded in the first volume of Samuel; and these accounts mutually corroborate each other, being in unison, not only with the feelings of humanity, but with the customs of ancient nations. These may be farther illustrated by comparing the conduct of the Philistines with regard to Saul and his sons, with that of the hero of the Iliad towards Hector, the most finished character of the poem. Saul had been a severe scourge to the Philistines throughout a long series of years; the illustrious chief of Troy had long warded off the ruin of his country, and destroyed the flower of her foes, independently of his last victory over Patroclus, which drew on his remains that dishonor which, however, fell only on his destroyer.
“Should the siege of Troy be considered a fable, it may then be concluded that Homer introduced into his poems the customs and manners known to those for whose perusal he wrote, if these customs were not prevalent among his readers; but anxiety for the body of the illustrious dead, or regret for his death, has often caused success when all exertions prior to this powerful stimulus have not availed; and this even in our days.
“The Philistines had long been confined to the southwest angle of the promised land, and in the earlier part of Saul‘s reign had suffered many and severe losses; yet it appears by this chapter that, alone or in conjunction with allies, they had been able to penetrate nearly to the banks of the Jordan, to fight the battle on Mount Gilboa. This could only have been effected by a march through great part of the kingdom of Israel.
“Doubtless the attention of Saul in its defense might have been greatly distracted by his pursuit and fear of David, which appeared to have absorbed his whole mind; and it may account for the defenceless or weakened state of his forces.
“These circumstances appear to corroborate the authenticity of these books, independently of the many private transactions therein recorded; particularly the interesting and singular friendship of Jonathan and David, a transaction not likely to occur to a forger of a narrative. J.W.”