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There was not much known about the man from the town of Gibeah when he was taken and anointed as the first king over Israel. He was of the line of Benjamin, and his father was a “mighty man of power.”
Man of Character
From day one Saul showed he had not only good looks but also good character. He followed his father’s instructions without arguing when asked to go look for some lost animals (verse 3) and even considered his father’s feelings when out looking for them, verse 5.
Saul, who soon would be anointed, considered his servant’s request of going to see the Prophet Samuel to help find his father’s animals. He even considered what should be given as a gift:
Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of Elohim: what have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of Elohim, to tell us our way. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of Elohim, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of Elohim was, 1 Sam 9:7-10.
Before Saul reaches the city, Yahweh the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is already calling him to Samuel the prophet and identifying him as the one to be anointed king over all of Israel. Samuel the prophet gives a little hint to Saul of what is about to take place by saying,
“…I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes,” 1 Sam 9:20 NLT.
Saul is Humble and Exalted
Not fully knowing that Yahweh has chosen him to be king over His people, Saul shows his humbleness by replying to Samuel saying,
“…But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?” (1 Sam 9:21 NLT)
It is a well known concept in Scripture that the humble will be exalted (Luke 1:52; James 4:10; Acts 5:32), and this is the case with Saul.
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because YAHWEH hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? (1 Sam 10:1)
If this weren’t enough, Yahweh provides His Spirit that comes upon King Saul in such a way as to make him prophesy and to be “changed into another man,” verse 6, 10.
After all this Saul still kept on being humble and even kept the matters to himself for a time.
When Saul finished prophesying, he entered the place of worship. Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?” Saul said, “We were looking for the donkeys. When we couldn’t find them, we went to talk to Samuel.” Saul’s uncle asked, “Please tell me. What did Samuel say to you?” Saul answered, “He told us the donkeys had already been found.” But Saul did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about his becoming king, 1 Sam 10:13-16 NCV.
Saul, after experiencing all of this, hid himself among some items being stored, 1 Sam 10:22. Although a bit comical, it must have seemed a bit overwhelming to him to have experienced these things and he evidently needed to get away from everyone to be alone with his own thoughts. He may have decided not to face reality at the moment.
Though this may be a mark against him, showing that he didn’t have perfect character, the humbleness of Saul cannot be denied. He knew when to speak as well as when not to speak, as in the following example after being brought out from hiding:
Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man Yahweh has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before Yahweh. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home. Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts Elohim had touched. But some troublemakers said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent, 1 Sam 10:24-27 NIV.
The People Speak Up
King Saul is given the opportunity to do away with troublesome and divisive Israelites that are against him, but we find that when given the opportunity to be proud and revengeful, he stays humble, merciful, and grateful to Yahweh:
And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death. And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today Yahweh hath wrought salvation in Israel. Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before Yahweh; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly, 1 Sam 11:12-15.
The children of Israel have their desire though, in that they wanted a king. They had rejected Yahweh by not trusting in Him and allowing His timing in matters.
Previously, the account of chapter 8 does tell us that Samuel had set his sons Joel and Abijah as judges over Israel, but they were corrupt and the elders therefore wanted a king rather than these disobedient misfits.
The elders’ underlying motive, however, was clearly to have a monarchy as we’re not told that they prayed that Yahweh would take care of the lawless judges. No, they wanted a king “like all the nations,” 1 Sam 8:5, 20. Yahweh granted their desire to have a monarchy by providing Saul. However, it was with a warning that they would be oppressed and would suffer with things that they had not experienced before as the nation of Israel.
And he (Samuel) said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and Yahweh will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of Yahweh. And Yahweh said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city, 1 Sam 8:11-22.
It’s interesting that Yahweh had already promised to set a king over all of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 17. It may have been King David that Yahweh had in mind all along, but the elders pushed for a king before David was raised up.
The New American Commentary, by Broadman & Holman Publishers, gives the following insight:
“Biblical narrative accounts give no suggestion that any of the judges prior to Samuel ministered to all Israel. Samuel’s influence as both prophet and judge exceeded his regional boundaries, suggesting that he was a transitional figure, preparing Israel for more formal national leadership.”
Samuel, as directed by Yahweh, anointed David king, but not before the Israelites got a taste of the fruit of their impatience. The elders subverted Yahweh’s timing and regrettably paid for it along with the people not long thereafter.
King Saul Changes
Over the course of time, all of Saul’s good character of being respectful, considerate, humble, merciful, and giving glory to Yahweh seems to disappear overnight as he starts to take glory for himself and becomes proud and arrogant.
Given the opportunity to give honor where honor is due, King Saul it seems takes it for himself in the following account where Jonathan, Saul’s son and military leader, overran and successfully routed a military post of the Philistines:
Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become a stench to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal, 1 Sam 13:3-4 NIV.
Soon after this the Philistines gathered in such a great number that they are described as “soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore,” verse 5. This puts fear in the hearts of the Israelites and those that didn’t hide and were with Saul trembled with great fear.
King Saul then makes a wrong move and sins against Yahweh by not waiting for Samuel to offer a burnt offering to Yahweh in seeking His intervention, 1 Sam 10:8; 13:8-9. Samuel then confronts Saul,
And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto Yahweh: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of Yahweh thy Elohim, which he commanded thee: for now would Yahweh have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: Yahweh hath sought him a man after his own heart, and Yahweh hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which Yahweh commanded thee, 1 Sam 13:11-14.
King Saul’s Vow
King Saul somehow felt the need to motivate, or rather enslave the Israelites, to do his will, and therefore proclaimed a curse on all who would eat anything before Saul’s enemies (Philistines) were destroyed before him by evening,
And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food, 1 Sam 14:24.
His son Jonathan had not heard of the vow that his father had made, so he ate some honey that was in the land. When he did hear of the vow, he said, “My father has troubled the land,” 1 Sam 14:29. Indeed he had, and the Philistine army was not destroyed due to the weakness of the people from not eating, as Jonathan pointed out, verse 30.
After the battle, they were famished to the point of slaughtering sheep and oxen which the Philistines left behind and ate them without bleeding them. So, they ate the blood, too, in disobedience (Lev 7:26) to Yahweh.
Lots were cast to find out why they had sinned like this and the lot eventually fell to Jonathan. Saul then found out he had eaten honey during the day and wanted to kill him for it because of his own words, verse 39, but the people praised Jonathan for leading the battle to a victorious routing of the Philistines. Saul listened and didn’t kill his son because the people reasoned with him not to kill Jonathan, verse 45. In a sense, they actually rebuked him.
In the continuing downward spiral of Saul’s good character, he yet sins again by allowing the Israelites to take the best of the oxen and sheep from a battle with the Amalekites, in which he was told not to take any spoil from but rather he was to destroy it all.
Yahweh said, Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey, 1 Sam 15:3 NKJV.
King Saul, to add injury to insult, actually bragged about being obedient,
And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of Yahweh: I have performed the commandment of Yahweh, 1 Sam 15:13.
Had Saul forgotten what Yahweh had said? Prophet Samuel reminded him that he didn’t carry out what was commanded, but Saul argued that he had actually obeyed rather than sinned.
It was clear that Saul was becoming a dictator rather than a servant. Not even calling Yahweh his Elohim anymore, but saying “your” Elohim when speaking to Samuel, verses 15, 21.
No longer would the kingdom of Israel be in Saul’s hands, but rather it would be taken from him. It would not even be given to one of his sons, though he had three, 1 Sam 14:49.
Even though Saul admitted the wrong and pleaded for forgiveness, he suffered the consequences of his actions:
Then Saul admitted to Samuel,
“Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and Yahweh’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship Yahweh.” But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected Yahweh’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.” As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. And Samuel said to him, “Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!” (1 Sam 15:24-29 NLT)
Yes, King Saul suffered along with his family of whom Jonathan, we are informed, had lost respect and trust for him. He even went to war without telling his father, 1 Sam 14:1.
If a man cannot lead his family well, he cannot lead Yahweh’s people, 1 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 1:6.
It’s All About Me!
Immediately after King Saul is told of his punishment — as outrageous as it may seem —he seeks to look good in front of others. In the same sentence when he says, “I have sinned,” he says, “but please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel.” (1 Sam 15:30 NASU)
Both Yahweh and His Prophet Samuel grieved over King Saul because of his actions and ways of doing things.
And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and Yahweh repented that he had made Saul king over Israel, 1 Sam 15:35. (see also verse 11)
Saul had started out with good fruit in his thoughts and actions, but the fruit that was now being produced was spoiled and rotten. You wouldn’t think it could get worse, but indeed it does.
Samuel went and found young David and anointed him the new King of Israel, and immediately afterwards the Spirit of Yahweh that had been with Saul was removed. An evil spirit soon came that tormented him. He eventually tries to kill his own son and the new king that Yahweh has said will rule His people.
There are some important lessons from King Saul for those that Yahweh is calling and who have actually taken the steps to get in line with His will and way of life shown to us in Scripture.
Yahweh’s Spirit — the good spiritual force that is guiding, helping and directing certain brethren today — will be taken away unless it is taken to heart that one cannot just decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong, Prov 3:1-7; Ezek 18:31; 36:26- 27. We are to follow Yahweh through Yahshua wholeheartedly.
If you are baptized in Yahshua’s name, and have Yahweh’s Spirit, or even understand that you should seek these things, listen up. It is Yahweh’s right to tell us how we should live.
When, for just one example, He says that we are not to commit adultery, He means it. When His Son comes and magnifies His Father’s instruction on this and tells us to not even think about the opposite gender in a sexual way, it means just that. Yes, this means you too, Gal 3:28; 5:19-21. We are also likewise commanded to teach our children to live by Yahweh’s word, Deut 8:3; 11:1, 19; Matt 4:4.
Yahweh calls out of this world certain people by revealing Himself and His Son and Their names. He does it by His spiritual might and power. He is in control of all things, but allows us to choose, Deut 30:19. He even tells us to choose life!
King Saul chose to sin, and by sinning lost the anointing and the Spirit that Yahweh had given him. He took it away! He gives the breath of life, and He can take it away also. We are given so many breaths to live, learn, and to obey our Heavenly Father.
Satan would love to deceive you into thinking you can live your life the way you want. It is especially a wicked thing to do so after Yahweh reveals to you that you are to live your life according to the words that He speaks.
What spiritual force will rule in your life? What you do now affects things later. How will you spend eternity? We can start out doing good, but if we end up doing bad when we are called out of this world, all will be lost,
But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die, Ezek 18:24.
Saul Starts Losing His Mind
It didn’t take long for the jealousy and wrongful thinking of Saul to further manifest itself into irreprehensible actions. Young David had killed Goliath, the giant Philistine man that taunted the armies of Israel. Saul, still in the seat of leadership as king, placed him as a type of commander over the armies. As time passed, David gained further respect from the people. It was soon that Israel started praising David for victory and placing him above King Saul in the overall picture:
When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The very next day a tormenting spirit from Elohim overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice. Saul was then afraid of David, for Yahweh was with David and had turned away from Saul, 1 Sam 18:6-12 NLT.
Saul’s Lying and Murderous Heart
Saul starts to lie, even sacrificing his daughter in a sense, so as to get the upper hand on David.
And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain. And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king’s son in law, 1 Sam 18:21-22.
When things didn’t work out the way Saul had planned, he took matters into his own hands and again tried to kill David:
And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain, 1 Sam 19:10-11.
He even tried to kill his own son Jonathan when Saul knew Jonathan was on David’s side, 1 Sam 20:33. The priests that provided help for David and his men were also killed by Saul’s command, along with their families and flocks, 1 Sam 22:16-19. These priests were priests of Yahweh. Only one had escaped. Saul truly had lost his mind and it wouldn’t be too long before he lost even more.
As time went on Saul continued to pursue David, but never could get the upper hand against him. It was all because Yahweh was with David. Saul finally came to see the error of his way (1 Sam 26: 21, 25), but it didn’t change his heart.
David also committed egregious sins against Yahweh later in his life. The difference was that he fully repented and changed. He stopped sinning as he was doing. The hope there is that we can, too. Comparatively, as we’ve seen, Saul just got worse after he first started sinning. We now jump forward to the final state of Saul, at the end of the book of I Samuel.
Saul Loses His Life
Saul once again finds himself in a battle with the Philistines. The significant verses we see concerning Saul’s death in this particular battle are 1 Sam 32:3-4 which says, in the NASU,
The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. (Emphasis mine)
In verse 3 the NASU version says, “he was badly wounded.” Concerning this we have the Greek Septuagent (LXX) and the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) saying two different things. Notice the following:
“The LXX asserts that Saul was ‘wounded in the belly,’ but the MT states only that ‘he writhed in fear of the archers’” – Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, by Smyth & Helwys Publishing.
Believing the Greek is not as reliable as the Hebrew in this instance, since the Greek is a translation from the Hebrew, we find that Saul was fearful more than he was wounded.
It seems to be emphasized by verse 4 in which he wants to die because they’ll “make sport of me,” showing that he was fearful of what they might do.
The main Strong’s word in the section of verse 4 is #1627 Hebrew alal, meaning, “to act severely,” or “make a fool of someone.” The NLT uses the word “humiliate.” In the KJV, the word used is “abuse,” but E.W. Bullinger notes the word “insult” as maybe a better choice.
In Saul’s character, though he had become proud and arrogant, he had within himself a fear, especially at the end of his life. No longer described as a “man of valor or strength,” but rather his character showed he was a cowardly man. Even though dead, what he feared happened to him…he was hanged in humiliation on a wall by the Philistine army for all to see,
And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan, 1 Sam 31:8-10.
His own last act was to kill himself, and indeed by his former actions of sin and taking things upon himself, he had already been killing himself, whether or not he had realized it. Let’s learn from his mistakes.
Events Take Time
Not always are we able to see the lives of individuals as clearly as we see Saul’s. He was king of Israel for over 30 years. We are able to get a snapshot of some of the places, people, and events that make up the life of Saul, King Saul, as so many will remember him. It’s just a few chapters in I Samuel, but it’s nearly a lifetime sketch.
What will be remembered most is the downward spiral that he took, from being a man of character, to being a man of the likes of Judas Iscariot, who you’ll remember also killed himself. Saul was even beheaded (1 Sam 31:9) like the pagan giant Goliath of the Philistine armies.
Events take time, and we can learn to do better than Saul did. We can learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. We can have a better end than he had. We can stop and think. “What if I start doing my own thing, my own will?” “What happened to Saul?” “Why did Saul die?”
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against Yahweh, even against the word of Yahweh, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit (witch of Endor, 1Sam 28:7), to enquire of it (forbidden, Lev 19:31); And enquired not of Yahweh: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse, 1 Chron 10:13- 14.
We can remember Saul and realize we must build good character by being obedient to Yahweh. It is still against Yahweh’s law to seek out mediums and to sin in such ways, 1 John 3:4. Seek to serve Yahweh through Yahshua the Messiah, rather than seeking to serve ourselves by doing what we want to do.
The lessons from the former King Saul can help encourage us to stay steadfast on the road that leads to everlasting life, because as was Saul’s example, there are roads that we can take that lead to death. Let’s do what Yahweh says, and by doing so, choose life!
-Elder David Brett
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