The Battle of Gilboa and the Death of Saul and Jonathan   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Saul

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXVIII

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1 Samuel 31:1-13

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

2 Samuel 1:1-27

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For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

They say, “God has forsaken him;

go after him and seize him;

because there is none who will save.”

–Psalm 71:10-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

Saul had become the King of Israel with a charge to free the Israelites from the Philistine threat.  He had failed.  After his death, most of Israel came under Philistine domination.  Saul, early in his reign, had rescued the people of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 11).  Ironically, Saul was beyond rescue in Chapter 31.  Residents of Jabesh-Gilead rescued his corpse, however.  Saul had chosen honorable suicide over captivity.  His story had a sad ending.

Saul’s dynasty continued, though.  One son, Ishbosheth, survived.  He became the King of Israel in 2 Samuel 2.

Notice, O reader, the consistency between 1 Samuel 31:1-13 and 1 Chronicles 10:1-14.  Both of them state that Saul committed suicide.  Then, O reader, contrast that version with with the tale the Amalekite told David in 2 Samuel 1.  One lesson a person can learn from reading certain portions of the Hebrew Bible is never to trust an Amalekite.  Also remember that not everybody in the Bible speaks honestly.

The unnamed Amalekite, I suppose, sought a reward from David for having allegedly killed Saul, even allegedly at Saul’s request.  The Amalekite lied to the wrong man.  Saul, as David acknowledged, was God’s anointed.

David also mourned for Jonathan, his friend and brother-in-law.  Jonathan had good character.  He was also loyal to his father to the end.  Jonathan had been honest about Saul’s failings as a man, a ruler, and a military commander.  Jonathan had spoken up on David’s behalf and incurred Saul’s verbal wrath.  Jonathan had helped David while the latter was on the run from Saul.  Yet Jonathan had never been disloyal to the kingdom and the monarchy.

The germane texts depict Jonathan as a decisive military commander and a man of good character.  I wonder about a counterfactual scenario in which Jonathan succeeded his father.  I wonder what the Biblical evaluation of King Jonathan would have been.  That, of course, is not the story we have.  The death of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 31 and 1 Chronicles 10 may be sadder than that of King Saul.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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