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1 Chronicles 10


(LXX versing)
Defeat and Death of Saul and His Sons Tragic End of Saul and His Sons Saul, the Unfaithful Predecessor of David The Death of King Saul Death of Saul
10:1-6 10:1-7 10:1-7 10:1-7 10:1-7
10:8-10 10:8-10 10:8-12 10:8-12 10:8-10
Jabesh-gilead's Tribute to Saul
10:11-12 10:11-12 10:11-12
10:13-14 10:13-14 10:13-14 10:13-14 10:13-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. The book of 1 Samuel tells of Saul in twenty chapters, but Chronicles uses only one chapter.
     It is possible to begin this context in 1 Chronicles 9:35 (i.e., the lineage of Benjamin, Saul's tribe).

  2. The focus of the Chronicler is David (i.e., 1 Chronicles 10-29). This chapter gives the theological reasons for YHWH removing Saul as king (1 Chr. 10:13-14). The new king is YHWH's choice!

  3. The Chronicler assumes that his readers/hearers know the full story from Samuel. His purpose is the transfer of kingship! David did not take it, YHWH took it and then gave it to David (cf. 1 Chr. 10:14; 11:1-3; 12:38-40).


1Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2The Philistines closely pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3The battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers. 4Then Saul said to his armor bearer, "Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and abuse me." But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword and died. 6Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all those of his house died together.

10:1 "the Philistines" The Philistines were apparently Greeks from the Aegean Islands. They were the only group of people in this part of the world who were uncircumcised. They were apparently a mercenary force who tried to attack Egypt in the twelfth century B.C. but were defeated. They then settled on the southern coast of Palestine. They had five major cities which are delineated in Jos.13:3: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. They were a major military problem throughout the period of the judges and even throughout the reign of Saul and David. The name "Palestine" comes from the word "Philistine." For further information see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1048-1052.

▣ "Mount Gilboa" This location is just south of Mt. Tabor, overlooking the Valley of Jezreel. This chapter parallels 1 Sam. 28:1-7 and 31:1-13.

10:2 "Saul and his sons" In 1 Sam. 14:49, Saul's sons are named:

  1. Jonathan
  2. Ishvi
  3. Malchi-shua

but here #2 is named Abinadab. See note at Contextual Insights, 1 Chronicles 6, D.

It is unknown why the Chronicler omits "Ish-bosheth" (2 Samuel 2-4) from this list, nor why he does not mention Michal (cf. 1 Chr. 10:6) or Mephibosheth.

Josephus, Antiq. 6.14.7-9, is highly positive about Saul's valor in this event.

10:3 "wounded" This VERB (BDB 296, KB 297, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) has two different connotations.

  1. to whirl in a dance, Exod. 15:20; Jdgs. 11:34; 21:21
  2. to writhe in pain (i.e., like child birth), Deut. 2:25; Isa. 13:8; Jer. 4:19; Ezek. 30:16; Joel 2:6; Zech. 9:5; the parallel in 1 Sam. 31:3 has "badly wounded"

10:4 "armor bearer" This is a personal assistant to chief military leaders in pre-exilic times.

  1. servant of Abimelech ‒ Jdgs. 9:54
  2. servant of Jonathan ‒ 1 Sam. 14:7,12,13,14,17
  3. servant of Saul
    1. David ‒ 1 Sam. 16:21
    2. unnamed ‒ 1 Sam. 31:4-6; 1 Chr. 10:4-5
  4. servant of Joab ‒ 2 Sam. 18:15; 23:37; 1 Chr. 11:39

▣ "Draw your sword and thrust me through with it" These are two Qal IMPERATIVES.

  1. BDB 1025, KB 1543
  2. BDB 201, KB 230

▣ "these uncircumcised" The only people group of this region who did not practice circumcision were the Philistines. Most western ANE cultures used it as a rite of adulthood. Only Israel did it to infants. It had spiritual significance (cf. Gen. 17:9-14).

The practice may have first developed in northeastern Africa and spread to Egypt. Possibly this is where Israel first encountered the rite.

NASB, NKJV  "abuse"
LXX, NRSV, JPSOA, REB  "make sport of"
TEV  "gloating over"
NJB  "make fun of"
NET Bible  "torture"

This VERB (BDB 759 I, KB 834, Hithpael PERFECT with waw) is used several times.

  1. mock ‒ Exod. 10:2; Num. 22:29
  2. treat severely ‒ 1 Sam. 6:6; Lam. 1:12
  3. make sport ‒ 1 Sam. 31:4; 1 Chr. 10:4; Jer. 38:19
  4. sexual abuse ‒ Jdgs. 19:25

▣ "Saul took his sword and fell on it" This is an obvious case of suicide. The theological implications of this act have been confused by Roman Catholic doctrine linking it to Judas Iscariot. However, there are several OT examples mentioned without negative comment.


7When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled; and the Philistines came and lived in them.

10:7 An example of repopulation by military intimidation.

The "valley" is the Valley of Jezreel.

The "they" could refer to

  1. Saul and his sons
  2. the Israeli army (best contextual option)

8It came about the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9So they stripped him and took his head and his armor and sent messengers around the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10They put his armor in the house of their gods and fastened his head in the house of Dagon.

10:8 "to strip the slain" This was considered the "booty" of a victorious military campaign. They would have been looking for

  1. weapons
  2. clothing
  3. valuables
  4. souvenirs

10:9 "stripped him" This VERB (BDB 832, KB 980, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) is also used in 1 Sam. 31:9. The Piel stem is found in 1 Sam. 31:8; 2 Sam. 23:10; 1 Chr. 10:8.

▣ "to carry the good news to their idols" What a contrast! YHWH is active in history (cf. 1 Chr. 10:13- 14), but these pagan idols have to be told! What irony, they have no eyes to see or ears to hear!

▣ "their idols" Their main deity, "Dagon" (cf. Jdgs. 16:23; 1 Samuel 5), was a fertility god, especially associated with

  1. vegetation (male, Aegean sources)
  2. later fish (Dercet ‒ female half-fish goddess, "Da," means fish; later from Akkadian mythology it became a male figure)

In Canaanite mythology, Dagon was one of the sons of Ei and father of Ba'al


10:10 "their gods" The PLURAL here may be the PLURAL OF MAJESTY.

▣ "Dagon" The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 369, tries to explain the change of deities (i.e., Dagon in 1 Chronicles; Ashtaroth in 1 Samuel) by suggesting Saul's head was hung in one and his body in the other. This seems unwise to me, but it may be based on the fact that archaeology has found two prominent temple ruins in Beth-shan (cf. 1 Sam. 31:10; NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 443).

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

10:11 "Jabesh-gilead" Saul's body was hung from the walls of Beth-shan (or Beth-shean), about five or six miles from where Saul died. The men of Jabesh-gilead, about thirteen miles to the southeast on the eastern side of the Jordan River, heard of this atrocity (i.e., improper burial) and came to give Saul and his sons a proper burial. Saul had earlier saved this city from the Ammonites (cf. 1 Samuel 11).


10:12 "buried their bones" In the parallel of 1 Sam. 31:12, this is one of just a few references to cremation in the Bible. Obviously here it had no negative connotation.


▣ "under the oak" The parallel in 1 Sam. 31:13, has "tamarisk tree." His royal burial was not in a palace courtyard or sacred area but under a desert tree!

▣ "fasted seven days" This was a ritual time of grief for a king.



13So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, 14and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.

10:13 "So Saul died for his trespass" There are several issues.

  1. Saul offering a sacrifice himself and not waiting for Samuel in 1 Sam. 13:13-14
  2. Saul's disobedience about the total slaughter (i.e., herem) of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15
  3. Sauls' visit to the witch of En-dor in 1 Sam. 28:3-25

▣ "he asked counsel of a medium" The VERB (BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal ACTIVE INFINITIVE refers to asking someone who claims to have knowledge of future events, i.e., idols in Deut. 18:10; Hos. 4:12.

The NOUN "medium" (BDB 15) is a difficult term to define. Some see the term as it is used in Lev. 19:31; 20:6,27, as (1) a pit or place of sacrifice or (2) form of "father," which refers to ancestor worship. It is translated in the LXX in Isa. 8:19 as "ventriloquist." Because of this and Isa. 29:4, some think it means "to chirp" or "to mutter." This would imply "to talk with a different voice." However, from 1 Sam. 28:7-9, it is related to the ability to call or talk to someone in the ground or to communicate with the dead or spirits of the underworld (cf. Isa. 8:19; 19:3).

10:14 This first chapter of Historical Narrative shows why and how YHWH made the change from Saul to David. is in control of time-space-history. He has an eternal plan.




This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why does the Chronicler repeat Saul's last battle and death?
  2. Why does 1 Chr. 10:2 not list all of Saul's sons?
  3. Is suicide a sin?
  4. What is wrong with 1 Chr. 10:6?
  5. Who is Dagon? Why is another name found in 1 Samuel 31?
  6. Is cremation a sin?
  7. Why is 1 Chr. 10:13-14 so theologically significant?

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