The death of Saul in 1 Samuel 31 freed David from Saul’s relentless pursuit, a time he poetically described as when “the ropes of death were wrapped around me; the torrents of destruction terrified me” (Ps 18:4). But David had to undergo the full measure of the Lord’s good discipline, through which he would learn to trust in the Lord alone. Once on the throne of Israel David said, “Add days to the king’s life; may his years span many generations. May he sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithful love and truth to guard him” (Ps 61:6-7).
While David and his troops were with the Philistine King Achish on the front line opposite Israel, some Amalekites had attacked Ziklag (1 Sam 30:1-8). It was a place of refuge for David’s family and a storage place for the plunder of David and his troops (see 1 Sam 27:3-7). David and company returned to Ziklag hoping for a time of respite, but it would not be: “When David and his troops arrived at the town, they found it burned down. Their wives, sons, and daughters had been kidnapped” (1 Sam 30:3). The scene was devastating for all of the troops but David “was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters” (1 Sam 30:6). Yet, “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6).
David inquired of the Lord regarding a counterattack on the Amalekites (1 Sam 30:7-8). Even though David and his troops were on mission to rescue their nearest loved ones (1 Sam 30:9-10), one third of them were not able to continue. They came upon an Egyptian man who, as a slave, had been part of the raid on Ziklag (1 Sam 30:11-15). This blessing was a sign of the good that would come as David and his troops avenged the Amalekite aggression. Eventually, “David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken; he also rescued his two wives…David got everything back” (1 Sam 30:18-19). David scattered the blessings of the raid so that the 200 men who remained with the supplies received a share (1 Sam 30:24), a practice which became a statute in Israel. David’s generosity went even beyond this initial provision to the 200: “He sent some of the plunder to his friends, the elders of Judah” (1 Sam 30:26). David’s generosity would later help to solidify David as king in Judah (see 2 Samuel 2).
In 1 Samuel 31, the author turns the reader’s attention back to the battle line between Israel and the Philistines. The encounter was one sided. As a result, “the Philistines fought against Israel, and Israel’s men fled from them. Many were killed on Mount Gilboa” (1 Sam 31:1). After being hit by a Philistine archer, Saul eventually committed suicide and his armor-bearer did the same. This was according to the word of the spirit of Samuel, who one day earlier had prophesied of Saul’s death (see 1 Sam 28:16-19). The Philistines captured Israelite territory and mutilated the bodies of Saul and his sons, placing the armor of the slain in the temples of their idols (1 Sam 31:7-10). The men of Jabesh-Gilead captured the remains of Saul and his sons and buried them (1 Sam 31:11-13).
The demise of Saul in conjunction with David’s political alliance with the elders of Judah cleared the path for David to take the throne. In contrast, King Jesus—the One who would forever sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:30-33)—formed no political alliances to assume His throne, nor was He dependent upon the removal of a previous ruler. Jesus’ place of royalty was earned through the cross and the empty tomb, the means by which He Himself deposed Satan from his position of ruling over humanity (John 12:31; Phil 2:7-11; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-15).