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This article is about the king. You may be looking for Saul of Tarsus (called Paul).


Saul was the first king of Israel, serving for 40 years[1] from the town of Gibeah in Benjamin.[2] The prophet Samuel had been called on to choose a king for the people. After God had approved of the plan, Samuel anointed him to be king.[3]

An able warrior, Saul fought well in the northern tribes of Israel, but faced much difficulty against the resurgence of the Philistines on the southern coastlands. Being the tallest among his troops,[4] he seemed the Israelite's best hope against the Philistine giant named Goliath.

However, when he refused to face the giant, a young shepherd boy, and part-time court musician, named David came along to defeat Goliath with a well placed stone slung from his shepherd's sling.[5]

After making David an armor bearer and then a commander of his troops, Saul came to be jealous of the young man from the other side of Jerusalem. Not heeding to his own son Jonathan's pleas, Saul became a bitter enemy to David.

Much of his later reign was spent in fighting not just the enemies of the nation, but in seeking to destroy the advancement of the popular soldier of whom songs were sang. Aware that God had chosen David to be the next king in his place, Saul sought to thwart the will of God by seeking to kill his rival.

Nevertheless, in the end Saul would die in battle against the Philistines. Though Jonathan and two other sons died with him, his son Ishbosheth (born: Ishui) was not in battle that day. For seven years after his death, his son Ishbosheth would sit as king over the northern tribes while David reigned in Hebron in southern Judah.

Biography

Early life

Saul was part of the Matri Clan (one of the smallest clans[6]) of the Tribe of Benjamin,[7] and son of Kish,[4] son of Abiel.[8] Saul's uncle was Ner [9] the father of Abner, who would eventually become the commander of his army.[10] Saul was named by his father "desired" and he would live up to this name, being a head taller than anyone else and very handsome.[4]

As a young man, Saul helped his father (and probably his uncle) with various tasks, likely on a farm, where they owned donkeys.[11] During that time Saul lived in the city of Gibeah,[12] near the hill country of Ephraim,[13] helping to manage the family estate. Likely before becoming king, he took a wife named Ahinoam (meaning "pleasantness") and had five children by her, three sons, Jonathan, Ishui (called Ishbaal or Ishbosheth) and Melchishua; and two daughters, Merab and Michal.

Saul would go on to have at least three more children, Abinadab, Armoni and Mephibosheth. The latter two were by his concubine Rizpah. From all these children, only Jonathan's son Mephibosheth II would produce a family to carry on the house of Saul. His five grandsons by Merab would pay the price for apparently taking part in Saul's war crimes against the people of Gibeon.

Appointment to King

The Lost Donkeys

At one point in Saul's life as a young man his father's donkeys went missing and so he was told to go with a servant to search for them.[11] After passing through the hills of Ephraim, traveling around Shalisha, exploring the district of Shaalim and moving through Benjamin's land they could not find the animals.[13] When they reached the Zuph district Saul suggested that they should go back before his father began to worry.[14] Saul's servant, however, thought they should go and see the seer who lived nearby.[15] Saul agreed, and along the way he met some women drawing water who told them where to find Samuel.[16]

Meeting with Samuel

Once they approached the gate of the city Samuel was coming towards them to meet them,[17] because when Samuel saw Saul God told Him this was the king that would be appointed[18] (as He had revealed a day earlier in a vision[19]). When Samuel approached, he confirmed that he was the seer for whom the men were looking.[20] Samuel then told Saul that the donkeys he had been searching for were found. Samuel also asked Saul to eat a meal with him, because everybody in Israel wanted a man such as him because of his lineage.[21]

Saul was astonished, asking Samuel why he would say such a thing since his clan was so small in the smallest tribe in Israel.[6] Saul and his servant were then brought into a banquet hall and seated at the head of the table where he and thirty others were served a meal with Samuel that day.[22] Saul then went with Samuel to his house where they talked quite a bit more.[23]

Anointment

Then Samuel grabbed a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head, giving him a kiss (a cultural norm of respect at the time)[24] where Saul was giving the blessing of being God's chosen ruler over Israel. Saul then had prophesied telling him he would meet some men near the tomb of Rachel who would tell him that the missing donkeys had been found and that his father had become worried.[25] Additionally Samuel gave Saul some other prophecy and told him that what was about to happen was a sign that God was with him[26]

Saul "among the prophets"

The most notable of this was that Saul would prophesy with a group of prophets near his hometown[12] of Gibeah.[27] As Saul left Samuel to go down to Gilgal (going through Gibeah) God changed Saul's heart.[28] When Saul approached Gibeah he met the prophets as they were worshipping God with musical instrument. At that time the Holy Spirit powerfully came upon Saul moving him to prophesy among them.[29] When people who had known Saul saw him prophesying among the prophets they were amazed and asked "Is Saul among the prophets?". This became a popular saying throughout the land to indicate an unlikely event.[30] Once Saul stopped prophesying he went to Gilgal.[31]

Made King

Saul's uncle Ner saw him there and asked his nephew where he had been.[9] Saul explained the situation that he had been through, but did not tell him about his having been anointed.[32] Samuel then called each tribe up to appoint a king, with Benjamin being selected by lot. Clan by clan were eliminated until Saul's clan of Matri, and finally Saul himself, was selected.[7] But when Saul was nowhere to be found, Samuel asked the LORD where Saul was, and it was revealed that he had been hiding among the supplies.[33] When Saul was brought before the people it was noted that he was taller than any other man.[3]

After Samuel explained the rights, roles, duties and functions of the Office of the King, everyone returned home. Saul returned to his home[12] escorted by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. However, there were others who despised Saul, refusing to bring him gifts in congratulations. Saul remained silent on this matter.[34]

Rescuer of Jabesh-Gilead

When Nahash the Ammonite set terms for at treaty with the leaders of Jabesh-Gilead, which required that he gouge their right eyes out,[35] they sent messengers to Gibeah, that is, "Gibeah of Saul" for it was the home of their king.[36] As the messengers announced the sad terms of surrender, Saul had come up from his fields behind his oxen.[37] When Saul heard of the Ammonite offense the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon him and he burned with anger.[38] Saul took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces and had them delivered throughout all Israel with messengers declaring that the same fate for the oxen of whoever did not follow his leadership.[39]

The people honored the LORD in following Saul's order. He called a draft of the military and recruited an army of 300,000.[40] When the people of Jabesh heard of Saul's new army, and they told Ammonites that they would surrender the next day, thus distracting them from the approaching Israelite army. In the early morning, before the sun rose, Saul split his army into three groups and they slaughtered the Ammonites.[41]

Confirmation of Office of King

After the people of Israel heard of Saul's heroism, many of his advisors asked for those who rejected his leadership to be executed. However, Saul wisely proclaimed that the victory was Yahweh's, not his. Instead of a day of vengeance, it would be a day of celebration. Samuel summoned the people to Gilgal, where Saul's position as King was reaffirmed and a great feast was held in his honor.[42]

Campaigns against the Philistines

Saul's Impatience with Samuel

In the ongoing battles against the Philistines, Saul chose three thousand troops from among the 300,000 conscripts. While he commanded two thousand, he sent his son Jonathan out with on thosand. With these troops, Jonathan defeated the Philistines at Geba. In response, Saul sent heralds throughout the land proclaiming that he, Saul, had been victorious.[43]

The reports of Saul's comparatively small army, the Philistines built up a large army to hopefully end the Israelite threat. Their strength had most people in Israel frightened to such an extent that they left the towns and cities and hid in caves and wooded areas. Meanwhile, Saul was still at Gilgal, awaiting the arrival of Samuel to bless his troops. When the agreed upon seven days had passed, Saul called for a Levite to make a sacrifice to obtain God's blessings.[44]

Soon after the sacrifice had been made, Samuel showed up. He was not pleased. Instead he reproved Saul even as the king made excuses. Though it seemed a small thing, Samuel informed Saul that the sin was against Yahweh, for it was His command that had been disregarded. The consequences of this disobedience was that the next king would not be a son of Saul, but instead would be from among another tribe altogether.[45]

Saul's Injustice to Jonathan

After word came to the troops that the Philistines had mustered an overwhelming army,[46] the soldiers of Israel largely abandoned Saul, leaving him with only about six hundred men. The Philistines, who had a monolpy on iron weapons and chariots, began taking advantage of the Israelite people.[47]

In contrast to Saul, his son Jonathan was fearless. His faith was so great that he and his armor bearer struck out on their own to see if they could get an advantage over the Philistines in the hill country. He told his armor bearer that Yahweh was able to do a miracle by which just the two of them could bring about the defeat of a whole garrison. Finding soldiers passing through the Michmash Pass,[48] the two of them killed twenty of them with such fervor that the whole garrison was in disarray.[49]

The result of Jonathan's actions was used by God to turn the Philistines against each other. When word of this came to the people in hiding, they came out and attacked the confused armies as they ran away.[50] In a move to solidify his troops, Saul made a rule that no one should eat any food until the victory was secured. However, Jonathan and his friend did not get the message. Consequently, he ate some wild honey along the way after rejoining his father.[51] Meanwhile, the troops with Saul became weaker by the hour. Having left the spoil of several towns alone, they finally fell to killing and eating animals without ceremoniously draining their blood as the Law required.[52]

In response to the sin of his troops, Saul called for the priest to sacrifice sin offerings and offer up petition to Yahweh. Having built an alter, Saul called upon God as to whether he should continue his campaign against the Philistines. When he did not recieve a response, Saul assumed a hidden sin was the cause, so he called for a lottery to discover who had sinned. The lot fell on Jonathan. When Jonathan confessed and challenged his father, Saul called for his execution. However, the people protected the prince and the battles against the Philistines subsided for years to come.[53]

God Rejects Saul as King

Saul Battles David

Death

Legacy

Verses

  1. Acts 13:21 (Link)
  2. 1 Sam. 22:6 (Link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 1 Sam 10:1, 23-24
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 1 Sam. 9:2
  5. 1 Sam 17:49 (Link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 1 Sam 9:21
  7. 7.0 7.1 1 Sam 10:21
  8. 1 Sam 9:1 (Link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 1 Sam 10:14
  10. 1 Sam 14:50 (Link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 1 Sam 9:3
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 1 Sam 10:26
  13. 13.0 13.1 1 Sam 9:4
  14. 1 Sam 9:5 (Link)
  15. 1 Sam 9:6-10 (Link)
  16. 1 Sam 9:11-13 (Link)
  17. 1 Sam 9:14 (Link)
  18. 1 Sam 9:17 (Link)
  19. 1 Sam 9:15-16 (Link)
  20. 1 Sam 9:18-19a (Link)
  21. 1 Sam 9:19-20 (Link)
  22. 1 Sam 9:22-24 (Link)
  23. 1 Sam 9:25-27 (Link)
  24. 1 Sam 10:1 (Link)
  25. 1 sam 10:2 (Link)
  26. 1 Sam 10:7 (Link)
  27. 1 Sam 10:5-6 (Link)
  28. 1 Sam 10:8-9 (Link)
  29. 1 Sam 10:10 (Link)
  30. 1 Sam 10:11-12 (Link)
  31. 1 Sam 9:13 (Link)
  32. 1 Sam 10:14-15 (Link)
  33. 1 Sam 10:22 (Link)
  34. 1 Sam 10:27 (Link)
  35. 1 Sam 11:1-2 (Link)
  36. 1 Sam 11:4 (Link)
  37. 1 Sam 11:5 (Link)
  38. 1 Sam 11:6 (Link)
  39. 1 Sam 11:7 (Link)
  40. 1 Sam 11:8 (Link)
  41. 1 Sam 11:11 (Link)
  42. 1 Sam 11:12-15 (Link)
  43. 1 Samuel 13:1-4 (Link)
  44. 1 Samuel 13:5-9 (Link)
  45. 1 Samuel 13:10-14 (Link)
  46. 1 Samuel 13:5, 17-18 (Link)
  47. 1 Samuel 13:17-23 (Link)
  48. 1 Samuel 13:23 (Link)
  49. 1 Samuel 14:1-15 (Link)
  50. 1 Samuel 14:16-23 (Link)
  51. 1 Samuel 14:24-28 (Link)
  52. 1 Samuel 14:28-32 (Link)
  53. 1 Samuel 14:33-52 (Link)

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