From 1 Samuel 28-31
A significant battle is won over Israel by the Philistines. The author uses the expression ‘good news’ to describe the message the Philistines were passing around concerning their victory. This is the first reference to ‘good news’ in the scriptures and it carries the meaning of a significant battle has been won in favour of the people. The irony here is that the Philistines were proclaiming the good news to their own people of the defeat of Israel and her king.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
David believes Saul will again attempt to kill him so he escapes to the land of the Philistines himself. Initially the Philistine Achish is wary, but David has some good diplomatic skills and leads Achish to believe they are allies. Little does Achish know David runs sortie after sortie wiping out the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. These were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt (1 Sam 27.1-28.2).
The Philistines prepare to attack Israel in numbers and Saul has to fight. He fears the Philistines so he attempts to speak to the LORD. The LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets (1 Sam 28:6). The LORD has abandoned him. Still Saul will not repent and ask for forgiveness. In desperation he goes to a medium to ask the deceased Samuel out the outcome of the battle. and what he should do. Samuel is not impressed and does not give him good news. Saul goes into a depression (1 Sam 28.3-25).
As the Philistines mass for the attack, some of them recognise David with Achish. They display more common sense that Achish and will not allow David and his men to join them in the battle. Who knows what the LORD’s anointed will do from the back of the Philistine army when they attack the LORD’s people? Leaving David and his men behind the Philistines move for Jezreel where they will meet Saul (1 Sam 29.1-11).
Meanwhile the Amalekites made a raid themselves against the Negeb, the land where David was residing and burn the city and capture their families. The men are distressed, but David strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Sam 30.6). Unlike Saul, the LORD speaks to David because they have a good relationship and the LORD tells him if they pursue them they will rescue their households. On the way they meet a friendly Egyptian who gives them much needed food and drink. But some fall behind because they are exhausted with the pursuit. Eventually they catch up with the Amalekites and defeat them resoundingly. On their return some bogans in David’s army suggest those who could not continue due to exhaustion should not have their possessions back. David rebukes them (1 Sam 30.1-31)
Israel’s battle with the Philistines has begun and Saul is in the thick of it.
31 Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And 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 abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them. (1 Sa 31:1–7)
Unfortunately Jonathan was killed. Jonathan was faithful to the LORD and a loyal friend to David. Saul describes the Philistines as ‘these uncircumcised’. Circumcision represented membership in the covenant people of God (Gen 17.9-14) and it was not uncommon to distinguish between the two peoples in this way.
You might remember when David declined to kill Saul when he had the opportunity he gave three possible ways he might die.
- the LORD will strike him, or
his day will come to die, or
he will go down into battle and perish.
Option three is the way Saul died. He killed himself and the people in the surrounding country scattered in fear of the Philistines. The LORD has made his judgment on Saul and cleared the way for David to become king.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, 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 arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days. (1 Sa 31:8–13)
The author uses the expression ‘good news’ to describe the message the Philistines were passing around concerning their victory over Israel. This is the first reference to ‘good news’ in the scriptures and it carries the meaning of a significant battle has been won in favour of the people. The irony here is that the Philistines were proclaiming the good news to their own people of the defeat of Israel and her king.
In Israel’s history the proclamation of good news describes the coming of the LORD. The good news proclaimed is a promise the LORD will return and restore Israel.
9 Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isa 40:9–11)
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (Isa 52:7–10)
61 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isa 61:1–3)
Story of Jesus
Some may remember where these passages are recalled in the New Testament. The last one was quoted by Jesus in the synagogue (Lk 4.16-19). Jesus was intentional in reading this and he finishes the reading by dropping a bomb.
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4.21)
Jesus fulfills the promise of the LORD’s coming by becoming incarnate, becoming one of us in order to to save us from our sins in his death and be raised to new life through his resurrection. The ‘good news’ proclaimed by the Philistines is overshadowed by the ultimate victory God’s people will win over sin and death by their promised King.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.