1 Samuel 31:4, the Death of Saul

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it.

//Here, we have one of the great murder mysteries of the Bible. In this battle, the Philistines routed Israel and wounded Saul. So Saul and his armor bearer, seeing how it would end, committed suicide. In fact, all of Saul’s sons and fighting men died in the battle. None lived to tell the story of Saul’s death.

Ah, but one man did live to tell. An Amalekite, an enemy of Israel, of a nation Saul utterly destroyed in battle. At least, the Bible says every one of the Amalekites were slain by Saul, but one must have survived. One that was, apparently, loyal to David. He straightaway brought word to David of how Saul was really killed:

“I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost upon him. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’ “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered. “Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me and kill me! I am in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ “So I stood over him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

How is it that this enemy of Saul, a man who should have an intense hatred for Israel, is loyal to David? How is it that David, who fought at least once on the side of the Philistines against Saul, now finds himself dismayed to hear Saul has died in a battle with the Philistines? And what does David do when the Amalekite begins telling his story? David quickly has him silenced, killing him as well. Is the story that has been placed on the Amalekite’s lips any more plausible than the suicide legend?

Oh, what a tangled web! Saul’s death is a murder mystery that may never be unraveled.

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