King Saul - the Bible text

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Saul the warrior

Saul's story 

A roaring lion

Bible study activities

A young princess

Saul's daughter Michal

Veiled woman with downcast eyes

Rizpah, Saul's 
tragic concubine

Warrior, drawing, da Vinci

Bible Warriors

Map of Bible lands in ancient times

Where it happened

Use of helmets, different types, archaeology: helmets in the Bible

Helmets

Different types of armour in the ancient lands of the Bible: archaeology

Armor


 


 


 

 

We want a king...          1 Samuel 8.4-9

Gold crown, ancient4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations." 

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." 

This is the popular plea for a king. We can understand the eldersí demand, from a political point of view. Stability was what Israel lacked, as the stories in the Book of Judges show. The tribal elders connected this with the lack of stable leadership. But from the religious aspect, the demand (however sensible and far-sighted a move politically) was tantamout to rejecting Yahweh from being king. 

Note: A human king would not take Godís place, or place Him at a distance from His people. The judges, including Samuel, had been leaders who had demanded allegiance from the Israelites, with full divine approval. The chief difference between judge and king was simply that of continuity. Kings establish dynasties. Judges had been individually appointed by Yahweh, at times of His choosing; Israelís defeats had been caused by their own sins, not by political incompetence by the judges. But instead of learning this lesson from their past national history, and showing repentance and trust in Yahweh as a result, the elders considered that a stable leadership would prevent the ups and downs of the past; this decision amounted to an attempt to bypass God, and in effect rejected His future leadership and power of choice, despite the willingness of the elders to allow Him (through Samuel) to select for them the first king. 

Saul is selected          1 Samuel 9:1-2

1 There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abi'el, son of Zeror, son of Beco'rath, son of Aphi'ah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth; 2 and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. 

Note: Saul's lack of personal ambition is emphasized by the narrative: he was merely looking for lost donkeys, with no thought in his head of political greatness; he did not even recognize Samuel when he met him. Nevertheless, he came froma family of substance and his personal appearance was kingly enough.

Saul anointed by Samuel    1 Samuel 10:1

Samuel anoints Saul1 Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, "Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? 

And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. 

Note: Anointing marked out a man set apart by God for kingly office. It was also the means by which kingly powers were granted. From this time on, even after his rejection, Saul was irrevocably the anointed of Yahweh. 

Samuel withdraws his support     1 Samuel 13:5-15

5 And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-a'ven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in straits (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, 7 or crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 

Making a burnt offering 8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings." And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. 11 Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favor of the LORD'; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering." 

13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you; for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you." 15 And Samuel arose, and went up from Gilgal to Gib'e-ah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.

Note: In disobeying Samuel's explicit instructions, Saul's real excuse was that sacrifice had to be offered to ensure success in battle. His men were already deserting, and to omit such an important act would have been disasterous to morale.

Saul the warrior      1 Samuel 14:47-49

47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines; wherever he turned he put them to the worse. 48 And he did valiantly, and smote the Amal'ekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them. 49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Mal'chishu'a; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the first-born was Merab, and the name of the younger Michal; 

Saul favors young David      1 Samuel 16:14-23

14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15 And Saul's servants said to him, "Behold now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants, Ancient harp, Hebrew nebel who are before you, to seek out a man who is skilful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well." 17 So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me a man who can play well, and bring him to me." 18 One of the young men answered, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skilful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him." 

19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me David your son, who is with the sheep." 20 And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a skin of wine and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul, and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." 23 And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. 

The death of Saul   1 Samuel 31:1-13

1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. 4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will run me through and abuse me." But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 

6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day. 7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. Decapitated head And the Philistines came and occupied them. 8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 

9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan. 

11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days. 

 


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Bible Study Resource: Bible People: The life and times of Saul, king of the Israelites

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