1 & 2 Samuel Bible Study (The Rise of the Anointed)

1 Samuel 31 – 2 Samuel 1, The Death of the Anointed


As we transition into 2 Samuel it is important to remember that the division of these two books is arbitrary and not original to the scriptures. The book of Samuel was divided into 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel when the Greek translation of the scriptures was produced, hundreds of years later. But 2 Samuel describes the transition of the kingdom from Saul to David. The first ten chapters of 2 Samuel describe the rise of David. Chapter 11 records David’s failure. Chapters 12-24 reveal David’s fall. The book must answer the question if David is the rightful king and the promised king. Is David a better king than Saul? Is there still a better king to come? So we will continue to look for the rise and rule of the anointed as we approach the rest of the book of Samuel.

The Death of Saul (31:1-13)

Samuel has been conjured by a medium and told Saul that he and his sons were going to die the next day and Israel will fall into the hand of the Philistines. 1 Samuel 31 opens with this being fulfilled. Israel is fighting against the Philistines and being defeated and slain. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons (31:2). God’s word is being fulfilled. The truth of Hannah’s song as recorded in 1 Samuel 2:6-7 is coming true. God kills and brings to life. God makes poor and God makes rich. God brings low and God exalts. Saul is wounded in battle and asks his armor-bearer to finish him with the sword so that the Philistines do not take him and mistreat him. But the armor-bearer refuses to draw his sword against Saul. So Saul takes his own sword and falls on it. When the armor-bearer sees this, he also falls on his own sword and dies with him. The Philistines begin to occupy some of the cities in Israel with this victory (31:7). The Philistines cut off Saul’s head, put his armor in their temple to Ashtaroth, and hung his body on the wall. Some valiant men from Jabesh-gilead heard what they did to Saul, came by night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall, and buried their bones.

Another Version (1:1-16)

The news of Saul’s death is critically connected to what we read in the first chapter of 2 Samuel. On the third day a man comes to David from Saul’s camp. The third day is a frequent picture of deliverance in the scriptures. The death of Saul will be the deliverance of David. He comes with his clothes torn and dust on his head. He reports to David that many of Israel’s army have died. Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead. David wants to know how this man knows this. He says that he happened on Saul leaning on his spear and Saul called to him. Saul asked him to kill him because he was mortally wounded. So, believing that Saul could not live, the man killed Saul. He took his crown and his royal armlet, and brought them to David.

Now this is interesting because his telling of what happened does not match the account in 1 Samuel 31. The most reasonable reconciliation of this is that this man is lying. He is an Amalekite and therefore is not considered trustworthy. Further, a random young man running around the battlefield is also unlikely as well as just by chance coming upon Saul. The likely picture is that the Amalekite found Saul dead, took his stuff, concocts this story to tell David thinking that this is going to be good news for David. He has paved the way for David to be king by finishing off Saul.

But David does not respond with joy. Rather, David and his men tear their clothes in anguish. They mourned, wept, and fasted until evening because of the loss of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the losses inflicted on Israel in battle. David asks where this young man is from. He says that he is an Amalekite who is living in the land of Israel. David then charges this man: “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” David then orders for the Amalekite to be executed because his own words testified that he killed the Lord’s anointed.

The Lament of David (1:17-27)

This leads to the lament of David. David writes a lamentation that all of the people should learn. It is an amazing song as it describes Saul and Jonathan as the falling of the mighty of Israel. The glory and splendor of Israel have been slain. Do not let the enemies rejoice. Do not let the mountains have gladness on the place where he died. David even recounts the blessings of Saul and Jonathan to Israel (1:24). This is truly a special lament song considering all the pain and suffering that Saul put David through. Please consider that David does not rejoice that his opponent and troublemaker is dead. He does not gloat. He pens a memorial song for the people to memorize. He follows what the writer of the Proverbs would later pen: “Do not rejoice when your enemy fall, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him” (Proverbs 24:17). We must also not gloat over our enemies or over the misery of others. The death of Saul is pictured as a darkness overhanging the nation of Israel.

Picture of the Anointed

As we have noted in many of these lessons, there are numerous pictures of what the Lord’s anointed will do and be when he comes in Jesus. But there is one very important picture that we see David proclaim in the first chapter of 2 Samuel. Look at verse 16 of 2 Samuel 1. Your blood is on your own head because you have killed the Lord’s anointed. Death is deserved for the one who kills the Lord’s anointed. David understood this and this is why he would not raise his hand against Saul.

This point is key to Peter when he preaches. Look at what Peter says in Acts 2.

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22–23 ESV)

The people cry out what they should do knowing that they killed the Lord’s anointed and judgment was coming upon them. Peter says this again in Acts 3.

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. (Acts 3:13–15 ESV)

The point is declared by Peter again that they killed the Lord’s anointed. In fact, turn to Matthew 27:25 and listen to what the people had done.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24–26 ESV)

The people said what David notes about this Amalekite. Your blood is on your own head because you have testified against yourself because you called out for the Lord’s anointed to be killed. Those who raise their hand against the Lord’s anointed deserve to die.

Life Message

So what is the message for us? Let’s put the picture of Saul together for ourselves and then we will see the connection to the killing of the anointed. Saul’s primary failure seems to be that he only was seeking the Lord when he was in trouble. He never desired a relationship with God. Saul is quite resistant to the will of God. So much so that he will listen to a witch but will not listen to the Lord. Saul is unwilling to see the Lord beyond acting like a magic eight ball. Saul is right in his own eyes. Saul knows the will of the Lord but refuses to do the will of God. When God gives a command, he evaluates it for himself and decides what he wants to do. Think about how many times God gave Saul the opportunity to repent of this through David. David and Jonathan both repeatedly confront Saul throughout his life, telling him to not go against the Lord’s will and telling him to stop hunting after David. Saul will stop for a moment but life change never really happens. He never truly turns. He never is truly repentant. So we saw his life slide away from the Lord further and further. He rejected the Lord’s anointed.

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4–6 NRSV)

Did you see that we can also kill the Lord’s anointed? We can also crucify the Lord’s anointed and hold him in contempt by turning back from the Lord after beginning our spiritual journey with him. What we see in Saul can be us. We can resist to do the will of God. We can choose to not want a relationship with God. We can make God a cosmic piñata that we look for goodies to fall down from the sky, but we do not care about the Lord himself. We just want the Lord for what the Lord will do for us. We claim to care about God and his will but we are really doing what is right in our own eyes. We are never truly repentant for  our sins but just want our consequences to be taken away. The path of Saul is an easy path to take. What I want us to see that we are doomed if we take this path.

Saul hears the worst words he could possibly hear come from the mouth of Samuel. “The Lord has turned from you and become your enemy” (1 Samuel 28:16). Jesus also warned of this for us. “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:23). We need to seek a relationship with God now, through prayer, worship, and study of his word so that we do not turn our back on him and be worthy of the judgment decreed for those who do not belong to him.

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