They cut off Saul’s head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to spread the good news in the temples of their idols and among the people. Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and hung his body on the wall of Beth-shan. (1 Samuel 31:9–10).
To the ears of Saul, the sound of the Philistine army approaching must had been like overwhelming thunder. As the Philistines fought against Israel, the armies of Israel fled and were killed on Mount Gilboa. Then three of Saul’s sons (including the faithful Jonathan) were killed. As the Philistines drew nearer, Saul feared a tortuous and long death from the Philistines. He first asked his armor-bearer to run his sword through him, reasoning that there was no chance of rescue. Then he took his own life.
Saul’s suicide was not the result of an irrational whim but a calculated decision. Thus, we must note what Saul didn’t do: With his dying breath, Saul did not cry out to God. Saul rejected the Lord. Saul died as he lived, with a rebellious self-will and without faith in the Lord’s salvation.
Although Saul was originally chosen to rule over God’s people and was equipped by the Spirit, Saul’s story is much like Adam—and their story is the story of us all. Adam was made in God’s image and called to rule over creation. What Adam had might become was undone by his disobedience to the word of God. Although this is the end of 1 Samuel, we anticipate a better king than Saul, David, who is a man after God’s heart and who will point to Jesus, the King above kings.
Saul and Jesus died a thousand years apart on two different mountains. Saul cried out to his armor-bearer to kill him. Jesus called out, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Saul was hung on a wall by unrighteous men who considered this good news. Jesus Christ was hung on a Roman cross to make the unrighteous righteous — and this is our good news. Saul’s rotting and hanging corpse was rescued and buried by those whom he previously helped. Jesus was buried by a secret disciple and three days later He was raised. Saul disobeyed the Lord, failing to fear Him and to save the Israelites from their enemies. Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly even unto death, and He conquered sin and death for those who believe in Him.
Who is your King today?