New Defender's Study Bible Notes
31:1 Philistines fought against Israel. This was the battle from which David and his men were providentially spared. It was also the battle which Samuel had prophesied would result in the death of Saul and his sons (I Samuel 28:19).
31:6 Saul died. There is a superficial conflict between this account and that of II Samuel 1:2-10, where a young Amalekite in Saul’s army claimed to have slain Saul. Although there is a possibility that he had fabricated the story, hoping thereby to ingratiate himself with David, it is more likely that Saul’s life continued in him for a while even after he “took a sword, and fell upon it” (I Samuel 31:4), and that he did indeed request the Amalekite to slay him as he lay dying. In any case, David was not pleased. He himself had twice refused to slay “the LORD’s anointed” when he had the opportunity, and he would not condone this action. The young Amalekite, therefore, paid with his life (II Samuel 1:15,16).
31:6 his three sons. Another son of Saul’s, Ishbosheth, was apparently not with his three brothers at this time (II Samuel 2:8-10).
31:12 burnt them there. Cremation was not normally practiced by the Israelites, but the bodies of Saul and his sons had been so abused by the Philistines that this was the expedient thing at the time. The bones were not consumed, however, and so could be properly buried.