A Self-Fulfilling ProphecyBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
This chapter begins the historical narrative. Since the focal point of the Book is the Davidic dynasty, we start with the end of Saul’s reign and David’s acceptance as king.
Saul died during the Philistine wars, as detailed in I Samuel chapter 31. There was a crushing defeat in which Saul’s sons were killed and he himself was in imminent danger of capture. Saul was afraid of being tortured, so he asked his armor bearer to kill him. When his aide refused, Saul threw himself on his sword. When the army of Israel saw Saul and his sons dead, they dispersed. The next day, the Philistines came to strip the fallen bodies of their armor and weapons, when they discovered Saul. They severed his head and brought it back as a trophy, which they placed in the temple of the idol Dagon. (This was the same place the Philistines had displayed the Ark when they captured it in I Samuel 4-5.) The residents of Yaveish Gilad heard that the bodies of Saul and his sons were being displayed, so they retrieved them under cover of night and gave them a respectable burial. (The parallel account in I Samuel 31 only tells us about Saul’s body, not his head; that information is unique to this account.)
Here we are told that Saul died for two reasons: (1) because he disregarded G-d’s instructions regarding the Amalekites (in I Samuel 15) and (2) he consulted a necromancer, commonly called the “witch of Endor” (in I Samuel 28). What’s noteworthy is that the sorceress foretold Saul’s death, an event that was at least partially decreed because he consulted her!
David had previously been anointed by the prophet Samuel. Upon Saul’s death, he was the rightful king.