1 Samuel 31 Commentary

First Samuel 31 Commentary


First Samuel closes with chapter 31. King Saul dies. His three sons also die, including Jonathan. It is a sad day for Israel. The army is decimated. Chapter 31 makes a mockery of the word of the LORD that, “One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised.” Joshua 23 verse 10. Instead, it’s Israel that is routed by the enemy. But this is expected, if not deserved.

First Samuel ends here.

We started this journey with Hannah’s prayer for a son in chapter 1. The request was granted and a son was given. He was a nazirite just like Samson. Eli’s wicked sons Hophni and Phinehas desecrate the sanctuary with their wickedness. The Glory departs. But the LORD is talking to the young priest Samuel. Hannah’s son would go on to serve as a priest, leader, judge, and prophet. His role in the history of the nation is Moses-like in importance. By the hand of Moses, the priesthood was introduced. By the hand of Samuel, the kingship was introduced. In addition, the role of the prophet was enhanced.

As Leader and Judge of the nation, Samuel is well known for his ‘Ebenezer’ statement. It marked an important point in the nation’s life as the LORD generously guided the nation to victories.

The aged Samuel must hand over power to another. But his sons are no better than Hophni and Phinehas. The nation demands that it be ruled by kings like every other nation. The LORD elects Saul. The Spirit empowers him to defeat Nahash’s army at Jabesh Gilead. The Spirit doesn’t stay long in Saul’s life because of sin. Instead, we have demons running the show in the king’s life.

The lowest point in the book is another of the LORD’s profound statement that He regretted having made Saul King. The last time the LORD regretted having created man resulted in the Spirit ‘not remaining in man’. It is a terrible situation for Saul and indeed for any mortal to want to exist without the Spirit of the LORD in them.

Plan B is implemented. David is the chosen one. 

Fear and jealousy lead Saul to hunt David from place to place, killing the LORD’S priests in the process. Jonathan provides a rare friendship with David which proves critical to the LORD’S master plan for David.

The last 4 chapters focus on the last battle. Saul consults the dead prophet, Samuel.

Saul’s trip to Endor to consult a spiritist is representative of a life that had clearly derailed. Without the Spirit of the LORD, Saul was walking dead. This is probably our pick from the Book of Samuel. The presence of the Spirit of the LORD means life. The absence means death. When David sins by committing adultery with Bathsheba, his main concern is the Spirit of the LORD departing in the manner of Saul’s experience. He genuinely repents: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51 verse 11.

Thanks for loving the word of the LORD.

Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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