The Bible Story Of The Death Of King Saul, And The Reign Of King David

This article is part of a series of Bible passages, which together are mainly about how the Bible says the Jewish race developed and were given laws, how they settled in ancient Israel, and how it says God sometimes punished them for disobeying his commands, which led to them changing their ways.
This is Part 7 (of 8) in Section 7: "The First Centuries In The Promised Land".

Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

In the First Book of Samuel in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

1 Samuel chapter 31 (TEV)

1 The Philistines fought a battle against the Israelites on Mount Gilboa. Many Israelites were killed there, and the rest of them, including King Saul and his sons, fled. 2 But the Philistines caught up with them and killed three of Saul's sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 The fighting was heavy around Saul, and he himself was hit by enemy arrows and badly wounded. 4 He said to the young man carrying his weapons, "Draw your sword and kill me, so that these godless Philistines won't gloat over me and kill me." But the young man was too terrified to do it. So Saul took his own sword and threw himself on it. 5 The young man saw that Saul was dead, so he too threw himself on his own sword and died with Saul. 6 And that is how Saul, his three sons, and the young man died; all of Saul's men died that day. 7 When the Israelites on the other side of Jezreel Valley and east of the Jordan River heard that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had been killed, they abandoned their towns and fled. Then the Philistines came and occupied the towns.

8 The day after the battle the Philistines went to plunder the corpses, and they found the bodies of Saul and his three sons lying on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off Saul's head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers with them throughout Philistia to tell the good news to their idols and to their people. 10 Then they put his weapons in the temple of the goddess Astarte, and they nailed his body to the wall of the city of Beth Shan.

11 When the people of Jabesh in Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 the bravest men started out and marched all night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall, brought them back to Jabesh, and burned them there. 13 Then they took the bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in town, and fasted for seven days.

In the Second Book of Samuel, the Bible says:

2 Samuel chapter 2 (GWT)

1 After this, David asked the LORD, "Should I go to one of the cities of Judah?"

"Go," the LORD answered him.

"Where should I go?" David asked.

"To Hebron," the LORD replied.

2 David went there with his two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail (who had been Nabal's wife) from Carmel. 3 David took his men and their families with him, and they settled in the towns around Hebron. 4 Then the people of Judah came to Hebron and anointed David to be king over the tribe of Judah.

They told David, "The people of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who buried Saul." 5 So David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh Gilead. He said to them, "May the LORD bless you because you showed kindness to your master Saul by burying him. 6 May the LORD always show you kindness. I, too, will be good to you because you did this. 7 Now, be strong and courageous. Because your master Saul is dead, the tribe of Judah has anointed me to be their king."

8 Ner's son Abner, commander of Saul's army, took Saul's son Ishbosheth and brought him to Mahanaim. 9 Abner made him king of Gilead, Asher, Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin, that is, all Israel. 10 Saul's son Ishbosheth was 40 years old when he became king of Israel. He ruled for two years, but the tribe of Judah followed David. 11 In Hebron David was king over the tribe of Judah for seven years and six months.

12 Ner's son Abner and the officers of Saul's son Ishbosheth went from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 Zeruiah's son Joab and David's officers also left [Hebron]. Both groups met at the pool of Gibeon. They sat down there, one group on one side of the pool and the other group on the other side of the pool. 14 Abner said to Joab, "Let's have the young men hold a contest." Joab agreed. 15 The men got up and were counted as they passed by. Twelve were from the tribe of Benjamin (representing Saul's son Ishbosheth), and twelve were from David's officers. 16 Each one grabbed his opponent by the head, stuck his sword into his opponent's side, and they fell down together. Therefore, that place in Gibeon is called the Field of Enemies.

17 Fierce fighting broke out that day, and David's men defeated Abner and the men of Israel. 18 Zeruiah's three sons were there: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel was as fast on his feet as a wild gazelle. 19 He chased Abner and refused to leave him alone. 20 When Abner looked back, he asked, "Are you Asahel?" "Yes," Asahel answered.

21 Abner told him, "Leave me alone! Catch one of the young men, and take his weapon." But Asahel refused to turn away from him. 22 So Abner spoke again to Asahel. "Stop following me," he said. "Why should I kill you? How could I look your brother Joab in the face again?"

23 But Asahel refused to turn away. So Abner struck him with the butt of the spear. The spear went into his belly and came out his back. He fell down there and died on the spot. And everyone who came to the place where Asahel fell and died stopped there.

24 But Joab and Abishai chased Abner. When the sun went down, they came to the hill of Ammah, opposite Giah on the road from Gibeon to the desert. 25 The men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner, banding together and taking their position on top of a hill.

26 Then Abner called to Joab, "Should this slaughter go on forever? Don't you know this will end in bitterness? How long will it be before you will call off your troops from chasing their relatives?"

27 Joab answered, "I solemnly swear, as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would not have stopped chasing their relatives until morning."

28 So Joab blew a ram's horn, and all the troops stopped. They didn't chase or fight Israel anymore. 29 Abner and his men marched through the plains all that night. They crossed the Jordan River and passed through the entire Bithron until they came to Mahanaim. 30 Joab returned from chasing Abner. When he had gathered all the troops, [only] 19 of David's officers and Asahel were missing. 31 However, David's officers had killed 360 of the men of Benjamin under Abner's command. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father's tomb in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.

2 Samuel chapter 3 (NLT)

1 That was the beginning of a long war between those who had been loyal to Saul and those who were loyal to David. As time passed David became stronger and stronger, while Saul's dynasty became weaker and weaker.

2 Samuel chapter 4 (NLT)

2 Now there were two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth's raiding parties. They were sons of Rimmon, a member of the tribe of Benjamin who lived in Beeroth . 5 One day Recab and Baanah, ... went to Ishbosheth's home around noon as he was taking a nap. 6 The doorkeeper, who had been sifting wheat, became drowsy and fell asleep. So Recab and Baanah slipped past the doorkeeper, went into Ishbosheth's bedroom, and stabbed him in the stomach. Then they escaped.

2 Samuel chapter 5 (TEV)

1 Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, "We are all members of your family. 2 For a long time, even while Saul was our king, you were the one who really led Israel. And the LORD has told you, 'You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be their leader.'"

3 So there at Hebron, David made a covenant with the leaders of Israel before the LORD. And they anointed him king of Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming and went into the stronghold. 18 The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 19 So David asked the LORD, "Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?"The LORD replied, "Yes, go ahead. I will certainly give you the victory." 20 So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there.

"The LORD has done it!" David exclaimed. "He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!" So David named that place Baal-perazim (which means "the Lord who bursts through"). 21 The Philistines had abandoned their idols there, so David and his troops confiscated them.

22 But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 23 And once again David asked the LORD what to do.

"Do not attack them straight on," the LORD replied. "Instead, circle around behind them and attack them near the balsam trees. 24 When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the balsam trees, attack! That will be the signal that the LORD is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistines."

25 So David did what the LORD commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

2 Samuel chapter 8 (NLT)

1 After this, David subdued and humbled the Philistines by conquering Gath, their largest city.

2 Samuel chapter 21 (NLT)

1 There was a famine during David's reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the LORD about it. And the LORD said, "The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites."

2 So King David summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal, had tried to wipe them out.

3 David asked them, "What can I do for you to make amends? Tell me so that the LORD will bless his people again."

4 "Well, money won't do it," the Gibeonites replied. "And we don't want to see the Israelites executed in revenge."

"What can I do then?" David asked. "Just tell me and I will do it for you."

5 Then they replied, "It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in Israel. 6 So let seven of Saul's sons or grandsons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the LORD at Gibeon, on the mountain of the LORD."

"All right," the king said, "I will do it."

7 David spared Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, who was Saul's grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the LORD. 8 But he gave them Saul's two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 9 The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the LORD. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah, the mother of two of the men, spread sackcloth on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented vultures from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night.

11 When David learned what Rizpah, Saul's concubine, had done, 12 he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and asked for the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When Saul and Jonathan had died in a battle with the Philistines, it was the people of Jabesh-gilead who had retrieved their bodies from the public square of the Philistine city of Beth-shan.)

13 So David brought the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. 14 He buried them all in the tomb of Kish, Saul's father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin.

After that, God ended the famine in the land of Israel.

2 Samuel chapter 20 (NLT)

1 A troublemaker named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, blew a trumpet and shouted,

"We have nothing to do with David.
We want no part of this son of Jesse ...."

2 The men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba. ...

6 Then David said to Abishai, "... Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified city where we can't reach him."

7 So Abishai and Joab set out after Sheba with an elite guard from Joab's army and the king's own bodyguard.

14 Meanwhile, Sheba had traveled across Israel to mobilize his own clan of Bicri at the city of Abel-beth-maacah.

15 When Joab's forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah and built a ramp against the city wall and began battering it down. 16 But a wise woman in the city called out to Joab, "Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you." 17 As he approached, the woman asked, "Are you Joab?"

"I am," he replied.

So she said, "Listen carefully to your servant."

"I'm listening," he said.

18 Then she continued, "There used to be a saying, 'If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the city of Abel.' 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying a loyal city. Why do you want to destroy what belongs to the LORD?"

20 And Joab replied, "Believe me, I don't want to destroy your city! 21 All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand him over to me, we will leave the city in peace."

"All right," the woman replied, "we will throw his head over the wall to you."

22 Then the woman went to the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba's head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet and called his troops back from the attack, and they all returned to their homes.

2 Samuel chapter 10 (TEV)

1 King Nahash of Ammon died, and his son Hanun became king. 2 King David said, "I must show loyal friendship to Hanun, as his father Nahash did to me." So David sent messengers to express his sympathy.

When they arrived in Ammon, 3 the Ammonite leaders said to the king, "Do you think that it is in your father's honor that David has sent these men to express sympathy to you? Of course not! He has sent them here as spies to explore the city, so that he can conquer us!" 4 Hanun seized David's messengers, shaved off one side of their beards, cut off their clothes at the hips, and sent them away. 5 They were too ashamed to return home.

When David heard about what had happened, he sent word for them to stay in Jericho and not return until their beards had grown again.

6 The Ammonites realized that they had made David their enemy, so they hired twenty thousand Syrian soldiers from Bethrehob and Zobah, twelve thousand men from Tob, and the king of Maacah with a thousand men. 7 David heard of it and sent Joab against them with the whole army. 8 The Ammonites marched out and took up their position at the entrance to Rabbah, their capital city, while the others, both the Syrians and the men from Tob and Maacah, took up their position in the open countryside. 9 Joab saw that the enemy troops would attack him in front and from the rear, so he chose the best of Israel's soldiers and put them in position facing the Syrians. 10 He placed the rest of his troops under the command of his brother Abishai, who put them in position facing the Ammonites. 11 Joab said to him, "If you see that the Syrians are defeating me, come and help me, and if the Ammonites are defeating you, I will go and help you. 12 Be strong and courageous! Let's fight hard for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord's will be done!"

13 Joab and his men advanced to attack, and the Syrians fled. 14 When the Ammonites saw the Syrians running away, they fled from Abishai and retreated into the city. Then Joab turned back from fighting the Ammonites and went back to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel chapter 11 (TEV)

1 The following spring, at the time of the year when kings usually go to war, David sent out Joab with his officers and the Israelite army; they defeated the Ammonites and besieged the city of Rabbah. But David himself stayed in Jerusalem.

2 One day, late in the afternoon, David got up from his nap and went to the palace roof. As he walked around up there, he saw a woman taking a bath in her house. She was very beautiful. 3 So he sent a messenger to find out who she was, and learned that she was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. 4 David sent messengers to get her; they brought her to him and he made love to her. (She had just finished her monthly ritual of purification.) Then she went back home.

5 Afterward she discovered that she was pregnant and sent a message to David to tell him.

6 David then sent a message to Joab: "Send me Uriah the Hittite." So Joab sent him to David.

7 When Uriah arrived, David asked him if Joab and the troops were well, and how the fighting was going. 8 Then he said to Uriah, "Go on home and rest a while." Uriah left, and David had a present sent to his home. 9 But Uriah did not go home; instead he slept at the palace gate with the king's guards. 10 When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he asked him, "You have just returned after a long absence; why didn't you go home?" 11 Uriah answered, "The men of Israel and Judah are away in battle, and the Covenant Box is with them; my commander Joab and his officers are camping out in the open. How could I go home, eat and drink, and sleep with my wife? By all that's sacred, I swear that I could never do such a thing!"

12 So David said, "Then stay here the rest of the day, and tomorrow I'll send you back."

So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 David invited him to supper and got him drunk. But again that night Uriah did not go home; instead he slept on his blanket in the palace guardroom.

14 The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by Uriah. 15 He wrote: "Put Uriah in the front line, where the fighting is heaviest, then retreat and let him be killed."

16 So while Joab was besieging the city, he sent Uriah to a place where he knew the enemy was strong. 17 The enemy troops came out of the city and fought Joab's forces; some of David's officers were killed, and so was Uriah. 18 Then Joab sent a report to David telling him about the battle, 19 and he instructed the messenger, "After you have told the king all about the battle, 20 he may get angry and ask you, "Why did you go so near the city to fight them? Didn't you realize that they would shoot arrows from the walls? 21 Don't you remember how Abimelech son of Gideon was killed? It was at Thebez, where a woman threw a millstone down from the wall and killed him. Why, then, did you go so near the wall?' If the king asks you this, tell him, "Your officer Uriah was also killed.' "

22 So the messenger went to David and told him what Joab had commanded him to say. 23 He said, "Our enemies were stronger than we were and came out of the city to fight us in the open, but we drove them back to the city gate. 24 Then they shot arrows at us from the wall, and some of Your Majesty's officers were killed; your officer Uriah was also killed."

25 David said to the messenger, "Encourage Joab and tell him not to be upset, since you never can tell who will die in battle. Tell him to launch a stronger attack on the city and capture it."

26 When Bathsheba heard that her husband had been killed, she mourned for him. 27 When the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to the palace; she became his wife and bore him a son.

But the Lord was not pleased with what David had done.

2 Samuel chapter 12 (CEV)

1and he sent Nathan the prophet to tell this story to David:

A rich man and a poor man lived in the same town. 2 The rich man owned a lot of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had only one little lamb that he had bought and raised. The lamb became a pet for him and his children. He even let it eat from his plate and drink from his cup and sleep on his lap. The lamb was like one of his own children.
4 One day someone came to visit the rich man, but the rich man didn't want to kill any of his own sheep or cattle and serve it to the visitor. So he stole the poor man's little lamb and served it instead.

5 David was furious with the rich man and said to Nathan, "I swear by the living LORD that the man who did this deserves to die! 6 And because he didn't have any pity on the poor man, he will have to pay four times what the lamb was worth."

7 Then Nathan told David: You are that rich man! Now listen to what the LORD God of Israel says to you:

"I chose you to be the king of Israel. I kept you safe from Saul 8 and even gave you his house and his wives. I let you rule Israel and Judah, and if that had not been enough, I would have given you much more. 9 Why did you disobey me and do such a horrible thing? You murdered Uriah the Hittite by having the Ammonites kill him, so you could take his wife.

10 "Because you wouldn't obey me and took Uriah's wife for yourself, your family will never live in peace. 11 Someone from your own family will cause you a lot of trouble, and I will take your wives and give them to another man before your very eyes. He will go to bed with them while everyone looks on. 12 What you did was in secret, but I will do this in the open for everyone in Israel to see."

13-14 David said, "I have disobeyed the LORD."

"Yes, you have!" Nathan answered. "You showed you didn't care what the LORD wanted. He has forgiven you, and you won't die. But your newborn son will."

15 Then Nathan went back home.

The LORD made David's young son very sick. 16 So David went without eating to show his sorrow, and he begged God to make the boy well. David would not sleep on his bed, but spent each night lying on the floor. 17 His officials stood beside him and tried to talk him into getting up. But he would not get up or eat with them.

18 After the child had been sick for seven days, he died, but the officials were afraid to tell David. They said to each other, "Even when the boy was alive, David wouldn't listen to us. How can we tell him his son is dead? He might do something terrible!"

19 David noticed his servants whispering, and he knew the boy was dead. "Did my son die?" he asked his servants. "Yes, he did," they answered.

20 David got up off the floor; he took a bath, combed his hair, and dressed. He went into the LORD's tent and worshiped, then he went back home.

David asked for something to eat, and when his servants brought him some food, he ate it. 21 His officials said, "What are you doing? You went without eating and cried for your son while he was alive! But now that he's dead, you're up and eating."

22 David answered: While he was still alive, I went without food and cried because there was still hope. I said to myself, "Who knows? Maybe the LORD will have pity on me and let the child live." 23 But now that he's dead, why should I go without eating? I can't bring him back! Someday I will join him in death, but he can't return to me.

2 Samuel chapter 12 (NLT)

24 Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child 25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet that his name should be Jedidiah - "beloved of the LORD" - because the LORD loved him.

In Psalm 51 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 51 (NLT)

1 For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51 (GWT)

1 Have pity on me, O God,
in keeping with your mercy.
In keeping with your unlimited compassion,
wipe out my rebellious acts.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my guilt,
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 I admit that I am rebellious.
My sin is always in front of me.

4 I have sinned against you, especially you.
I have done what you consider evil.
So you hand down justice when you speak,
and you are blameless when you judge.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty.
I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 Yet, you desire truth and sincerity.
Deep down inside me you teach me wisdom.

7 Purify me from sin ...
and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear [sounds of] joy and gladness.
Let the bones that you have broken dance.

9 Hide your face from my sins,
and wipe out all that I have done wrong.

10 Create a clean heart in me, O God,
and renew a faithful spirit within me.
11 Do not force me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore the joy of your salvation to me,
and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience.

13 [Then] I will teach your ways to those who are rebellious,
and sinners will return to you.

14 Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, my savior.
Let my tongue sing joyfully about your righteousness!
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will tell about your praise.

16 You are not happy with any sacrifice.
Otherwise, I would offer one [to you].
You are not pleased with burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
O God, you do not despise a broken and sorrowful heart.

In Psalm 141, the Bible says:

Psalm 141 (NLT)

1 A psalm of David.

O LORD, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Listen when I cry to you for help!

3 Take control of what I say, O LORD,
and keep my lips sealed.
4 Don't let me lust for evil things;
don't let me participate in acts of wickedness.
Don't let me share in the delicacies
of those who do evil.

5 Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!
If they reprove me, it is soothing medicine.
Don't let me refuse it.
But I am in constant prayer
against the wicked and their deeds.

The next file in this section (Part 8), is entitled: "Rebellion Against King David - a Predicted Punishment From God for His Adultery and Murder".

If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials: