Dave Burnette's Commentary

1 Samuel Chapter 31

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Samuel, Nathan, & Gad 
Date Penned: (931-975 BC)
Overview: Samuel, Israel's Last Judge (c 1-31)
Theme: Saul and David (c 16-31)
Message: Saul Dies on the Battlefield (v 1-13)

1 Samuel 31 Commentary

(31:1-2) Saul Takes His Own Life - The Philistines had a well-earned reputation for torturing their captives. Saul likely knew about Samson's fate (Judges 16:18-31) and did not want to risk physical mutilation or other abuse. When his armour bearer refused to kill him, he took his own life.

(31:3-4) A Testimony of Weakness - Saul was tall, handsome, strong, rich, and powerful, but all this was not enough to make him someone we should emulate. He was large physically, but he was small in God's eyes. He was handsome, but his sin made him ugly. He was strong, but his lack of faith made him weak. He was rich, but he was spiritually bankrupt. He could give orders to many, but he couldn't command their respect or allegiance. Saul looked good on the outside, but he was decaying on the inside. A right relationship with God and strong character are much more valuable than a good-looking exterior.

(31:3-4) A Moral Dilemma - Saul's armour bearer faced a moral dilemma: should he carry out a sinful order from a man he was supposed to obey? He knew he should obey his master, the king, but he also knew murder was wrong; particularly, he knew that it was wrong to kill the Lord's anointed king. He decided not to kill Saul There is a difference between following an order with which you don't agree and following one you know is wrong. It is never right or ethical to carry out a sinful act, no matter who gives the order or what the consequences for disobedience may be. What shapes your choice when you face a moral dilemma? Have the courage to follow God's law above human commands.

(31:4) Saul Failed to Seek the Lord - Saul faced death the same way he faced life. He took matters into his own hands without thinking of God or asking for his guidance. If our lives aren't the way we would like them to be now, we can't assume that change will come more easily later. When nearing death, we will respond to God the same way we have been responding all along. Coming face-to-face with death only shows us what we are really like. How do you want to face death? Start facing life that way right now.

(31:10) A Trophy of Weakness - To put Saul's armor in the Philistine temple gave credit to a pagan goddess for victory over Saul. Ashtaroth was an ancient Middle Eastern goddess of war, fertility, and sex. Beth-shan was a town on the eastern slopes of Mount Gilboa, overlooking the Jordan Valley.

(31:13) A Judge or a King - Consider the difference between the last judge of Israel and the nation's first king. Saul, the king, was characterized by inconsistency, disobedience, and self-will. He did not have a heart for God. Samuel, the judge, was characterized by consistency, obedience, and a deep desire for God's will. He had a genuine desire for God. When God called Samuel, he said, "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (3:10). But when God (through Samuel) called Saul, Saul replied, "Wherefore then speakest thou so to me?" (9:21). Saul was dedicated to himself; Samuel was dedicated to God.Saul's death was also the death of an ideal--the people of Israel could no longer believe that having a king like the other nations would solve all their troubles. The real problem was not the form of government but the sinful king. Saul tried to please God by spurts of religiosity, but real faithfulness takes a lifetime of consistent obedience. Heroic spiritual lives are built by stacking days of obedience one on top of the other. Like a brick, each obedient act is small in itself, but in time the acts will pile up, and a huge wall of godly character will be built--a great defense against temptation. We should strive for consistent obedience each day.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

An Empty Life


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 1st Samuel with Chapter 31. In our text, we see the death of Saul and his sons. What catches my eye is looking at the life of Saul. A man who had everything on the outside (looks, wealth, fame, etc.) but had little on the inside (lack of Godliness). In making an application, we see many lives that follow this same direction. Focusing on the outward man, they lead empty lives that end just as empty. The truth is a life without Christ is a meaningless life. It reminds me of a story about a football player that had it all on the outside. On the inside, he was empty and ended his life. He didn't see the value in the life that Christ died on the Cross to forgive his sin and give him a fulfilling and whole life. How about you? Is your life as full as God created it to be? I can testify that a life with Christ is much better than one without Jesus Christ. If you have never received this fulfilling love of the Savior, let me encourage you to seek Him and His Salvation. Let us learn from our text today and the life of Saul to see that a life without Christ is an empty life.


1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31

 1Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.

 2And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, Saul's sons.

 3And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.

 4Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

 5And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.

 6So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.

 7And when the men of Israel that were on the other side of the valley, and they that were on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities, and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

 8And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.

 9And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.

 10And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.

 11And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;

 12All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.

 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.