Journey Through The Scriptures

Ladders, Miracles and Enemies

Lesson 6: Saul and His Sons Fall at Gilboa

(Scripture to Read: 1 Samuel 31:1–13)

The end of King Saul came on Mount Gilboa in a pitched battle with Israel’s long-time enemy, the Philistines – sea people from the Mediterranean coast who produced the giant Goliath. Many Israelites were slain in the battle, including David’s beloved friend, Jonathan, (see 2 Samuel 1:1-27) and two other sons of Saul.

Saul himself was critically wounded and asked his armor-bearer to kill him. But the armor-bearer refused, and so Saul fell on his own sword so as not to die at the Philistines’ hands.

The victorious Philistines carried the bodies of Saul and his three sons to their fortress in the city of Beth Shan, (or Beit She’an) another exciting stop on The Fellowship’s “Journey Home” tour of Israel!

Standing above the spectacular ruins of a later Roman city at Beit She’an, visitors can look across the way toward Jabesh Gilead, from which brave men came to take down the bodies of Saul and his sons to bury them properly.

Study Questions

  1. Why would King Saul's armor-bearer refuse to kill him?
  2. Why did Saul want to end his own life and not let it be ended by the Philistines, like his three sons and so many others?
  3. What was the message the Philistine army was trying to get across when they attached the bodies of Saul and his sons to the wall? Who would be angered by such a move?
  4. Why did the men of Jabesh Gilead risk their lives to recover and bury Saul and his sons? (You'll find one reason in 1 Samuel 11:1-11.)

Something to Think About

Saul’s defeat and death were the culmination of a long period of personal and spiritual decline as he became more and more self-willed. Those Fellowship friends who stand at Beit She’an and hear this tragic story recounted will tell you that Saul’s demise is a stark reminder of our need to stay close to the Lord, and not allow circumstances or our desires to cause us to go ahead of God.