Story Nine

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
THE LAST DAYS OF KING SAUL
ONCE more the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ gathered together to make war on King Sa̤ul and the land of Ĭś̝ ra-el. The king of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝, Ā́ chish, sent for Dā́ vid, and said to him, "You and your men shall go with me in the army, and fight against the men of Ĭś̝ ra-el.”
For Dā́ vid was now living in the Phĭ-lĭś tĭne country, and under their rule. So Dā́ vid came from Zĭḱ lăg, with all his six hundred men, and they stood among the armies of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝. But when the lords of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ saw Dā́ vid and his men, they said, "Why are these Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes here? Is not this the man of whom they sang,
‘Sa̤ul slew his thousands,
And Dā́ vid his ten thousands.'
Will not this man turn from us in the battle, and make his peace with his king by fighting against us? This man shall not go with us to the war.”
Then Ā́ chish, the king of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝, sent away Dā́ vid and his men, so that Dā́ vid was not compelled to fight against his own people. But when he came to his own city, Zĭḱ lăg, he found it had been burned and destroyed; and all the, people in it, the wives and children of Dā́ vid's men, and Dā́ vid's own wives also, had been carried away by the Āḿ a-lĕk-ītes into the desert on the south.
The Lord spoke to Dā́ vid through the high-priest, Ā̇́ bī́ a-thār, saying, "Pursue these men, and you will overtake them, and take back all that they have carried away.”
So Dā́ vid followed the Ăḿ a-lĕk-ītes into the wilderness. His march was so swift that a part of his men could not endure it, but stopped to rest at the brook Bḗ sôr, while four hundred men went on with Dā́ vid. He found the Ăḿ a-lĕk-ītes in their camp, without guards, feasting upon the spoil that they had taken. And Dā́ vid and his men fell upon them suddenly and killed all of them, except four hundred men who escaped on camels far into the desert, where Dā́ vid could not follow them. And Dā́ vid took from these robbers all the women and children that they had carried away from Zĭk-1ăg, and among them Dā́ vid's own two wives; also he took a great amount of treasure and of spoil, not only all that these men had found in Zĭk-1ăg, but what they had taken in many other places.
Dā́ vid divided all these things between himself and his men, giving as much to those who had stayed at the brook Bḗ sôr as to those who had fought with the Ăḿ a-lĕk-ītes. This treasure taken from the Ăḿ a-lĕk-ītes made Dā́ vid very rich; and from it he sent presents to many of his friends in the tribe of Jū́ dah.
While Dā́ vid was pursuing his enemies in the south, the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝ were gathering a great host in the middle of the land, on the plain of Ĕs-dra-ḗ lon, at the foot of Mount Gĭl-bṓ ȧ. Saul and his men were on the side of Mount Gil-bed, near the same spring where Ḡĭd́ e-on's men drank, as we read in Story Ten in Part Second. But there was no one like Ḡĭd́ e-on now, to lead the men of Ĭś̝ ra-el, for King Saul was old, and weakened by disease and trouble; Săḿ u-el had died many years before; Dā́ vid was no longer by his side; Sa̤ul had slain the priests, through whom in those times God spoke to men; and Sa̤ul was utterly alone, and knew not what to do, as he saw the mighty host of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ on the plain. And the Lord had forsaken Sa̤ul, and would give him no word in his sore need.
Sa̤ul heard that there was living at Ĕń =dôr, on the north side of the Hill Mṓ reh, not far from his camp, a woman who could call up the spirits of the dead. Whether she could really do this, or only pretended to do it, we do not know, for the Bible does not tell. But Sa̤ul was so anxious to have some message from the Lord, that at night he sought this woman. He took off his kingly robes and came dressed as a common man, and said to her, "Bring me up from the dead the spirit of a man whom I greatly long to meet.”
And the woman said, "What spirit shall I call up?”
And Sa̤ul answered, "Bring me up the spirit of Săḿ u-el, the prophet.”
Then the woman called for the spirit of Săḿ u-el; and whether spirits had ever arisen from the dead before or not, at that time the Lord allowed the spirit of Săḿ u-el to rise up from his place among the dead, to speak to King Sa̤ul.
When the woman saw Săḿ u-el's spirit she was filled with fear.
She cried out, and Sa̤ul said to her, "Do not fear; but tell me whom you see.”
For Sa̤ul himself could not see the spirit whom the woman saw. And she said, "I see one like a god rising up. He is an old man, covered with a long robe.”
Then out of the darkness a voice came from the spirit whom Sa̤ul's eyes could not see. "Why have you troubled me, and called me out of my rest?”
And Sa̤ul answered Săḿ u-el, "I am in great distress, for the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝ make war upon me, and God has forsaken me. He will not speak to me either by a prophet, or a priest, or in a dream. And I have called upon you that you may tell me what to do." And the spirit of Săḿ u-el said to Sa̤ul, "If the Lord has forsaken you and has become your enemy, why do you call upon me to help you? The Lord has dealt with you as I warned you that he would do. Because you would not obey the Lord, he has taken the kingdom away from you and your house, and has given it to Dā́ vid. And the Lord will give Ĭś̝ ra-el into the hands of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝; and to-morrow you and your three sons shall be as I am, among the dead." And then the spirit of Săḿ u-el the prophet passed from sight. When Sa̤ul heard these words he fell down as one dead, for he was very weak, as he had taken no food all that day. The woman and Saul's servants who were with him raised him up, and gave him food, and tried to speak to him words of cheer. Then Sa̤ul and his men went over the mountain to their camp.
On the next day a great battle was fought on the side of Mount Ḡĭl-bṓ ȧ. The Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ did not wait for Sa̤ul's warriors to attack them. They climbed up the mountain, and fell upon the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes in their camp. Many of the men of Ĭś̝ ra-el were slain in the fight, and many more fled away. Sa̤ul's three sons were killed, one of them, the brave and noble Jŏń a-than.
When Sa̤ul saw that the battle had gone against him, that his sons were slain, and that the enemies were pressing closely upon him, he called to his armor-bearer, and said, "Draw your sword and kill me; it would be better for me to die by your hand than for the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ to come upon me and slaughter me.”
But the armor-bearer would not draw his sword upon his king, the Lord's anointed. Then Sa̤ul took his own sword and fell upon it, and killed himself among the bodies of his own men.
On the next day the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ came to strip off the armor and carry away the weapons of those who had been slain. The crown of King Sa̤ul and the bracelet on his arm had been already carried away; but the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ took off his armor and sent it to the temple of their idol, Dā́ gon; and the body of Sa̤ul and those of his three sons they fastened to the wall of Bĕth́=shăn, a Cā́ năan-īte city in the valley of the Jordan.
You remember how Sa̤ul, in the beginning of his reign, had rescued the city of Jā́ besh=ḡĭĺ e-ăd from the Ăḿ mon-ītes. The men of Jā́ besh had not forgotten Sa̤ul's brave deed. When they heard what had been done with the body of Sa̤ul they rose up in the night and went down the mountains and walked across the Jordan, and came to Bĕth́=shăn. They took down from the wall the bodies of Sa̤ul and his sons, and carried them to Jā́ besh; and that they might not be taken away again, they burned them and buried their ashes under a tree; and they mourned tor Sa̤ul seven days. Thus came to an end the reign of Sa̤ul, which began well, but ended in failure and in ruin, because Sa̤ul forsook the Lord God of Ĭś̝ ra-el.
Sa̤ul had reigned forty years. At the beginning of his reign the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ĭtes were almost free from the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝, and for a time Sa̤ul seemed to have success in driving the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ out of the land. But after Sa̤ul forsook the Lord, and would no longer listen to Săḿ u-el, God's prophet, he became gloomy and full of fear, and lost his courage, so that the land fell again under the power of its enemies. Dā́ vid could have helped him, but he had driven Dā́ vid away; and there was no strong man to stand by Sa̤ul and win victories for him. So at the end, when Sa̤ul fell in battle, the yoke of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ was on Ĭś̝ ra-el heavier than at any time before.