1 Samuel 31:9
They cut off Saul's head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temples of their idols and among their people.
Saul of Gibeah, and Saul of TarsusB. Dale 1 Samuel 31:1-13
The Chastisement of IsraelB. Dale 1 Samuel 31:7-10

1 Samuel 31:7-10. (GILBOA.)
The thunderstorm of which they were long ago warned (1 Samuel 12:18, 25) had now burst upon the people of Israel. Since the capture of the ark they had not experienced so great a calamity, and in it the fatal results of their demand for a king were made manifest. Although the demand was evil, it contained an element of good, and was complied with by God in judgment mingled with mercy. "As no people can show a visible theocracy, so no monarchy can be accused, simply as such, of usurping the Divine prerogative. But still the transaction does involve a moral lesson, which lies at the foundation of all sound policy, condemning the abandonment of principle on the plea of expediency, and pointing by the example of Israel the doom of every nation that seeks safety and power in a course known to be wrong" (P. Smith, 'Ancient History'). They had their own way, yet the purpose of God was not defeated, but accomplished less directly, and in such a manner as to convince them of the folly of their devices, and exhibit his overruling wisdom and power. Whilst they pursued their course under a king "according to the will of man," their Divine King was preparing "a man after his own heart to be captain over his people" (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 12:22). When the end came David stood ready to occupy the throne, and, after a brief period of conflict and confusion, the whole nation, taught by experience, gladly received him as its ruler. This is the theocratic "argument" of the greater portion of the Book. In the terrible defeat of Israel we see -

I. THEIR IDOL BROKEN IN PIECES. "So Saul died," etc. "The men of Israel fled, and Saul and his sons were dead," etc. (vers. 6, 7). Men are apt to imagine that something else beyond what God has ordained is necessary to their welfare, to be impatient of his time, to attach an undue value to the expedients which in their imperfect knowledge and sinful desires they devise, to set their hearts upon earthly and visible objects, and depend upon them rather than upon "him who is invisible." This tendency finds expression in many ways, and embodies itself in many forms. And although God may permit such idols to continue for a time, he always overthrows them. When Israel made an idol of the ark it was given into the hands of the Philistines, and when they made an idol of "a king" (1 Samuel 8:5) he was slain. Their hope in him was bitterly disappointed, and inasmuch as he yeas (according to Divine prescience, though not by absolute necessity nor without personal guilt) a representation and reflection of their sin (worldliness, formalism, self-will), they were severely punished in him and by his instrumentality. How little did they gain, how much did they lose, by having their own way! "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" (Hosea 13:11). "Cease ye from man," etc.

II. THEIR CITIES FORSAKEN. "And when the men of Israel that were by the side of the plain" (west of the central branch of the valley of Jezreel, "opposite to the place of conflict, which the writer assumed as his standpoint" - Keil), "and by the side of the Jordan" (east of the plain, between Gilboa and the Jordan), "saw that the men of Israel" (who were engaged in the battle) "fled," etc. "they forsook the cities; and the Philistines came" (from that time onward) "and dwelt in them" (so that the whole of the northern part of the land fell into their hands). Instead of overcoming their enemies, they were overcome by them, driven from their homes, reduced to the most abject condition, and without any prospect of regaining by their own strength their lost possessions. "Your country is desolate," etc. (Isaiah 1:7). The peaceful government of Samuel gave them prosperity (1 Samuel 7:13, 14); but the warlike rule of Saul, which they preferred, ended in their overthrow. "Sore distressed," like him (1 Samuel 28:15), whither should they turn for help? Men are deprived of all hope in themselves that they may "set their hope in God."

III. THEIR ENEMIES TRIUMPHANT. "And it came to pass on the morrow" (after the battle, which ended at nightfall) "when the Philistines came," etc. "And they cut off his head (as in the case of Goliath of Gath, and afterwards deposited it in the temple of Dagon, in Ashdod, 1 Chronicles 10:10; 1 Samuel 5:1), and sent (messengers bearing his head and armour) into the land of the Philistines round about, to proclaim the good tidings in their idol temples (to their idols) and among the people (2 Samuel 1:20). And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth (in Askelon), and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan" (Judges 1:27). It has been remarked of the Philistines that "so implacable was their enmity to the Israelites, that one would be almost tempted to think that they bad been created on purpose to be a thorn in their sides" (Russell, 'Connection,' History of the Philistines). Their victory was the victory of their gods; the defeat of Israel the dishonour of Jehovah. Rather than sanction sin in his people, God not only suffers them to be overthrown by their enemies, but even his own name to be for a while despised and "blasphemed among the heathen." But the triumph of the wicked is short (2 Samuel 5:17-25).

IV. THEIR TRUE STRENGTH UNDESTROYED. It consisted in the presence and power of their Divine and invisible King; his benevolent and unchangeable purpose concerning them (1 Samuel 12:22); his faithful, praying, obedient subjects in their midst, who had been long looking to David as his chosen "servant," and were now rallying round him daily until his following became "a great host like the host of God" (1 Chronicles 12:22). There was an "Israel after the flesh" (constituting the State), and there was an Israel "after the spirit" (constituting the Church); and in the latter lay "the power of an endless life." Judgment might sweep over the nation like a destroying hailstorm, and leave it like a tree bereft of all its leaves, and even "cut it down" to the ground. But its true life would be spared, would be tried and purified by affliction, and become a source of renewed power and greater glory. "As a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof "(Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 65:8). Observations: -

1. That which is wrongly desired as an instrument of good becomes when obtained an instrument of evil.

2. Men may have their own Way apparently in opposition to the way of God, but his purpose does not change, and he knows how to carry it into effect.

3. The people who sanction the sins of their rulers justly share their punishment.

4. When the people of God expect to prevail against their enemies by adopting their sinful policy (1 Samuel 8:20), they are certain to be ultimately defeated.

5. The suffering and humiliation that follow sin are the most effectual means of its correction.

6. The hope of a nation in the day of trouble lies in its praying, believing, godly men.

7. God overrules all things, including the sins and sorrows of his people, for the establishment of his kingdom upon earth (1 Samuel 2:10). - D.

The Philistines came to strip the slain.
Is there any sadder sight than a battlefield after the guns have stopped firing? A similar scene is described in our text. Before I get through today, I will show you that the same process is going on all the world over, and every day, and that when men have fallen, Satan and the world, so far from pitying them or helping them, go to work remorselessly to take what little there is left, thus stripping the slain. There are tens of thousands of young men every year coming from the country to our great cities. They come with brave hearts and grand expectations. But our young man has a fine position in a dry-goods store. The month is over. He gets his wages. He is not accustomed to have so much money belonging to himself. He is a little excited, and does not know exactly what to do with it, and he spends it in some places where he ought not. Soon there come up new companions and acquaintances from the barrooms and the saloons of the city. Soon that young man begins to waver in the battle of temptation, and soon his soul goes down. In a few months, or few years, he has fallen. He is morally dead. Why do the low fellows of the city now stick to him so closely? Is it to help him back to a moral and spiritual life? Oh, no! I will tell you why they stay; they are Philistines stripping the slain. The point I want to make is this: Sin is hard, cruel, and merciless. Instead of helping a man up, it helps him down; it will come and steal your sword and helmet and shield, leaving you to the jackal and the crow. But the world and Satan do not do all their work with the outcast and abandoned. A respectable impenitent man comes to die. He could not get up if the house was on fire. What does Satan do for such a man? Wily, he fetches up all the inapt, disagreeable and harrowing things in his life. He says: "Do you remember those chances you had for heaven, and missed them? Do you remember all those lapses in conduct?" And then he takes all the past and empties it on that death bed, as the mail bags are emptied on the post office floor. The man is sick. He cannot get away from them. Come, now, I will tear off from you the last rag of expectation. I will rend away from your soul the last hope. I will leave you bare for the beating of the storm. It is my business to strip the slain. Sin is a luxury now; it is exhilaration now; it is victory now. But after a while it is collision; it is defeat; it is extermination; it is jackalism; it is robbing the dead; it is stripping the slain. Give it up today — give it up!

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.).

Abinadab, Israelites, Jabesh, Jonathan, Malchishua, Melchishua, Saul
Beth-shan, Jabesh-gilead, Jordan River, Mount Gilboa
Announce, Armor, Armour, Carry, Cut, Cutting, Glad, Gods, Houses, Idols, Messengers, News, Philistines, Proclaim, Publish, Round, Strip, Stripped, Taking, Temple, Throughout, Tidings, War-dress, Weapons
1. Saul, having lost his army, and his sons slain,
4. he and his armor bearer kill themselves.
7. The Philistines possess the forsaken towns of the Israelites
8. They triumph over the dead bodies
11. They of Jabesh Gilead recovering the dead bodies by night,
12. burn them at Jabesh,
13. and mournfully bury their bodies.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Samuel 31:9

     5571   surgery

1 Samuel 31:1-10

     7236   Israel, united kingdom

1 Samuel 31:1-13

     4254   mountains

1 Samuel 31:8-9

     5426   news

1 Samuel 31:8-10

     5485   punishment, legal aspects

Scythopolis. Beth-Shean, the Beginning of Galilee.
The bonds of Galilee were, "on the south, Samaris and Scythopolis, unto the flood of Jordan." Scythopolis is the same with Beth-shean, of which is no seldom mention in the Holy Scriptures, Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27; 1 Samuel 31:10. "Bethsaine (saith Josephus), called by the Greeks Scythopolis." It was distant but a little way from Jordan, seated in the entrance to a great valley: for so the same author writes, "Having passed Jordan, they came to a great plain, where lies before you the city Bethsane,"
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica

Jews and Gentiles in "The Land"
Coming down from Syria, it would have been difficult to fix the exact spot where, in the view of the Rabbis, "the land" itself began. The boundary lines, though mentioned in four different documents, are not marked in anything like geographical order, but as ritual questions connected with them came up for theological discussion. For, to the Rabbis the precise limits of Palestine were chiefly interesting so far as they affected the religious obligations or privileges of a district. And in this respect
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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