Last we saw David and Saul, David had two opportunities to kill Saul. Killing Saul would have been the politically expedient thing for David to do. Saul is after all the person who is trying to hunt down and kill David, and David is the person God has chosen to be the next king of Israel. But did David kill Saul? No.
Why not? Does anyone remember? [Let them answer.]
David didn’t kill Saul, because Saul was the man God chose to be king of Israel. He was God’s anointed. And yes, God had decided Saul was no longer to be king—and David was the man for the job. But the key here was God decided that, not David. And David knew only God—not David—could decide it was time to end Saul’s life.
So instead of killing Saul and making his life easier, David decided to wait on God.
Let’s see how that works out for him. Please go get your Bibles and turn to 1 Samuel 27:1-4.
27 David said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than to escape to the land of the Philistines; then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” 2 So David set out and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to King Achish son of Maoch of Gath. 3 David stayed with Achish at Gath, he and his troops, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow. 4 When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought for him.
Since Saul is still alive, David is still in danger from him, and David is being really angsty about it. He’s basically despairing and thinking Saul is going to kill him one day. So David decides to escape out of Saul’s hands. He gathers all his men and he leaves the country—he goes to the very people that the Israelites have been fighting for generations. The Philistines.
This was probably a very hard decision for David. He probably felt like he was betraying everyone by leaving, but he was no longer safe in his own land and he felt like he had no choice. So he goes into the land of the Philistines.
Let’s not forget that David has killed a number of Philistines. Do you guys think that the Philistines are just going to welcome David with open arms? [Let them answer.]
Well let’s see. Someone please read 1 Samuel 27:5-7.
5 Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your sight, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, so that I may live there; for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?” 6 So that day Achish gave him Ziklag; therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. 7 The length of time that David lived in the country of the Philistines was one year and four months.
So David goes to the king of the Philistines and is like “Please let me stay in a small town with all my people.” You would think the king would be like “You are an enemy of the Philistines! Why would I give you anything???” But instead the king does in fact give David a small town called Ziklag. Why? Well from this kings perspective his enemy is Saul—the king of the Israelites. And David is also the enemy of Saul. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so the Philistine king welcomes David and his people.
Seems easy, peasy. It’s not. Someone please read 1 Samuel 27:8-12.
8 Now David and his men went up and made raids on the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites; for these were the landed settlements from Telam on the way to Shur and on to the land of Egypt. 9 David struck the land, leaving neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing, and came back to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Against whom have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” 11 David left neither man nor woman alive to be brought back to Gath, thinking, “They might tell about us, and say, ‘David has done so and so.’” Such was his practice all the time he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself utterly abhorrent to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”
So David and his men are raiding a whole bunch of people while they stay in this small town. Raids against Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites, but you’ll notice none against his own people. He would take stuff—spoils if you will—from the people he raided and he would take a portion of the spoils back to the king of the Philistines. The king would ask him who he was raiding and David would always claim he was raiding Israelites—his own people. It was a lie, but the king didn’t know that. From his perspective, David was raiding his own people which meant he was a true enemy of Israel and he would never be able to go back—so he would always be in Philistine and be loyal to this king.
We know however he’s not attacking his own people.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 28:1-2.
28 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You know, of course, that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” 2 David said to Achish, “Very well, then you shall know what your servant can do.” Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”
Once again the Philistines are making ready for war against Israel and the king of Philistine is like, “Of course you and your men will join my army, David!” And David is sort of ambiguous in response he’s like “Well if you take me with you to war, you’ll know what I’m made of.” And the king is like, “Totally! I will make you my bodyguard for life if you are successful at this.”
So David is going to war with the Philistines, against his own people. His choices then are to fight his own people or refuse to and be in the heart of the Philistine army and then the Philistines will turn on him and kill him and his men. What do you think David will do faced with this choice? Fight for the Philistines or the Israelite? [Let them answer.]
We’ll see. But for now the story is going to take a minor turn. We’re going to catch up with what Saul is doing. Someone read 1 Samuel 28:3-7.
3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. Saul had expelled the mediums and the wizards from the land. 4 The Philistines assembled, and came and encamped at Shunem. Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go to her and inquire of her.” His servants said to him, “There is a medium at Endor.”
This section opens with letting us know that Samuel has died. You’ll recall that Samuel was the prophet of God at this time. He was the spiritual and religious leader of Israel, and it was he that God used to anoint Saul and David as king. But Samuel was old and he died. All of Israel mourned.
Now the Bible then tells us that Saul had gotten rid of all the mediums and wizards. Basically he had gotten rid of anyone in the land who thought they might be able to talk to spirits or other gods or the like, as Israel was a land that was all supposed to fall under Judaism. These mediums, wizards, and witches represented people who sought to seek answers not from God but other means. So Saul—under the guidance of Samuel—had expelled them from the land.
But the Philistines were gathering and Samuel was dead, and suddenly Saul was very afraid. How was he supposed to get answers from God without Samuel to talk to God for him? Saul kept trying to ask God himself but God was not answering—probably because Saul was not his chosen one anymore. And so Saul was getting desperate, and in his desperation he looked for another way to get the answers he needed. He sought out a medium.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 28:8-14.
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes and went there, he and two men with him. They came to the woman by night. And he said, “Consult a spirit for me, and bring up for me the one whom I name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He answered, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” 13 The king said to her, “Have no fear; what do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being[a] coming up out of the ground.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” She said, “An old man is coming up; he is wrapped in a robe.” So Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
Saul disguised himself to go see this woman, and he went in the night. Because he knew he shouldn’t be talking to her. He asked her to consult a spirit and she was like “You know the king of this land has outlawed what I do, are you trying to trick me?” She’s basically accusing him of being like an undercover cop here. But Saul swore to her that no punishment would come upon her for her actions here—at least no punishment that would come from him.
Then he asks her to basically talk to Samuel for him—remember Samuel is dead. So he’s basically asking her to summon a dead spirit. This is kind of thing is strictly not allowed in the Law. In fact Leviticus 20:6 says, “6 If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people.” God takes this all very seriously. Turning to a medium or wizard is basically turning your back on God. Saul has never sunk this low before.
So he asks this medium to summon Samuel, which she does and when she does she realizes that it’s Saul who has asked her to do this thing. And he’s like “I need you to do this! Get me Samuel!” So she does.
Someone read 1 Samuel 28:15-20.
15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; so I have summoned you to tell me what I should do.” 16 Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you just as he spoke by me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you today. 19 Moreover the Lord will give Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”
20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.
When Samuel appears he’s like “Why have you disturbed me.” And Saul is all like “OMG Samuel, things are awful. The Philistines are coming, God won’t answer me, and I need you to tell me what to do.” And Samuel is just like “What did you expect? You know God does not support you as king anymore. In fact God is going to give Israel and you into the hands of the Philistine and by this time tomorrow you and all your sons will be dead, like me.”
One can imagine, this is not the happy news that Saul wanted to hear. He is greatly distressed over these words.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 29:1-5.
29 Now the Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, while the Israelites were encamped by the fountain that is in Jezreel. 2 As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, 3 the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of King Saul of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years? Since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” 4 But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him; and the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, so that he may return to the place that you have assigned to him; he shall not go down with us to battle, or else he may become an adversary to us in the battle. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5 Is this not David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
Meanwhile David is gathering with the Philistines to go war against his own people. And Philistine nobles are like, “Why are these Israelites here with us to go to war against the Israelites? That seems really stupid.” And the king is like, “Dudes, this is David. He’s been with us for over a year now and he’s an enemy of Saul, and he’s totally going to have our backs!” But the nobles and commanders are like, “This seems like a bad plan. We don’t think they’re going to fight against their own people. We think they’re going to turn on us. After all, isn’t David the one they say has killed ten thousand Philistines? Seems like a bad idea to trust him.”
And well the nobles aren’t wrong.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 29:6-11.
6 Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign; for I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me until today. Nevertheless the lords do not approve of you. 7 So go back now; and go peaceably; do nothing to displease the lords of the Philistines.” 8 David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I should not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” 9 Achish replied to David, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God; nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ 10 Now then rise early in the morning, you and the servants of your lord who came with you, and go to the place that I appointed for you. As for the evil report, do not take it to heart, for you have done well before me.[a] Start early in the morning, and leave as soon as you have light.” 11 So David set out with his men early in the morning, to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel.
The king of the Philistines calls David to him and is like, “David, my man, you have been a good and loyal servant to me and I have found no wrong in you. However, my commanders think it’s a bad idea for you to come with us, so I’m going to let you go back now peacefully.”
And David instead wiping his brow in relief and being like, “you got me out of a really sticky moral situation,” he’s like, “What? I’ve done nothing wrong? It’s kind of unfair that you wouldn’t take me with you!”
And the king is like, “I know, you’ve done nothing wrong but it’s my generals. Don’t worry about what they’re saying, they’re just scared. But you can leave first thing tomorrow morning and all will be well.”
So in the morning, David and his men start to head back to Philistine and the Philistines head on to Israel.
David goes back to Ziklag and has a bit of an adventure that we’re going to mostly skip over. When he gets back to the city he discovers it’s been attacked, and all the women and children have been taken. So instead of fighting Israelites or Philistines, David goes after the raiders to save his people. And he does save them.
Meanwhile, the Philistines have gone to war.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 31:1-3.
31 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them.
As Samuel predicted, the Israelites are losing to the Philistines. The Philistines overtake the army and kill Saul’s sons, including Jonathan. Even Saul gets wounded. The end is near.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 31:4-7.
4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.” But his armor-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together on the same day. 7 When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.
Saul knows he’s doomed, but he doesn’t want to die at the hand of the Philistines. Because he is an enemy king, and the Philistines won’t just kill him. They will likely torture him to death and then desecrate his body. Saul doesn’t want that, so he turns to his armor-bearer and is like, “Please will you kill me?” The armor-bearer is like, “Are you crazy? No!!! I’m not going to kill you!” So Saul takes his own sword and kills himself.
The armor-bearer when he realizes Saul is dead—that he has failed his duty to protect him and that everything seems doomed—kills himself also. Thus Saul, his sons, and a ton of his men all die on the same die. The Israelites flee and the Philistines occupy Israel.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 31:8-13.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Astarte;[a]and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men set out, traveled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
The Philistines are going through the bodies of the people they’ve killed and they discover that Saul and his sons are dead. So they cut of Saul’s head, trip of his armor, and send the news throughout all of Israel that Saul is dead, Israel has fallen. They put his armor and his body on display so everyone can see it and know for a fact that Saul is dead.
However, the Israelites weren’t going to let their king’s body just decompose on the wall so a group of brave men decided to defy the Philistines. They went out and took the body of Saul and his sons down and they burned them.
This…isn’t a happy ending to a story, but it was never going to be. Saul was the first king of Israel—a king who ran away from the idea of being king. And for a while he did okay. But then Saul stopped trusting God. He behaved as if he could be king and priest, and worst of all, when he eventually called a medium, he basically decided he didn’t need God.
And so Saul and his sons died. Israel is in disarray, conquered by the Philistines.
But there is hope. Because David is still out there. And he will be the new king of Israel.