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David destroys Amalekite raiders, increases his army, and hears of the battle loss and of Saul’s death; the man who claims the credit for killing Saul is killed: 1 Samuel 30; 1 Chronicles 12:20–22; 1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10:1–14; 1 Chronicles 9:40–44; 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 1

There are two accounts of Saul’s death. Did Saul die by his own hand:

1 Samuel 10:3-4 The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him. Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to taunt and torture me.’ But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.

Or was he killed at his own request by the Amalekite:

2 Samuel 1:6-10 I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him. When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him. … Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’ So I killed him, for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.

Either way, Saul asked someone, either his armour bearer or the Amalekite, to kill him with his own sword once he realised he was badly wounded and losing the battle. One version gives Saul the dignity of dying by his own hand rather than that of an enemy. The other version involves another person, the Amalekite, doing the deed for him. Either way, Saul was wounded in battle and died.

It would be no surprise if the Amalekite’s version of events were a fabrication: having stumbled across Saul’s dead body at the end of the battle, he could have seen an opportunity too good to miss, or so he thought. This account then becomes an attempt to curry favour with David, who was most likely next in line for the throne. But it didn’t do him any good:

2 Samuel 1:14-16 ‘Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?’ David asked. Then David said to one of his men, ‘Kill him!’ So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him. ‘You have condemned yourself’, David said, ‘for you yourself confessed that you killed the Lord’s anointed one’.

 

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