Saul was the first king of Israel. He was the son of Kish and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. Its Hebrew name Sha’ul means “God’s Request”. Saul was also Paulo de Tarso’s first Jewish name, although the name was translated into Portuguese in the form of Saulo.
The Bible quotes King Saul’s entire life. It narrates from his rise as king in 1 Samuel 9, until his decline in 1 Samuel 31.
Saul reigned over Israel for forty-two years ( 1 Samuel 13: 1 ). He was the father of six sons: Jonathan, Isvi, Malquisua, Is-Bosete, Armoni and Mephibosheth, and two daughters: Merab and Michal, who married David. . Saul’s reign was marked by battles and acts of disobedience to God that resulted in his sad end.
Saul was a good-looking young man, unique among the Israelites; the tallest ones tapped their shoulders. And his father was a wealthy and influential man in the tribe of Benjamin ( 1 Samuel 9: 1-2 ).
At the time when Saul lived, the people of Israel were ruled by judges, the last of whom was the prophet Samuel. Due to the Philistines’ imminent threat and the prophet’s advanced age, the people began to claim a king who could deliver Israel from its enemies. Samuel did not agree, because the people wanted to satisfy a human will, but God allowed a man to be raised as king in Israel ( 1 Samuel 8: 6-7 ).
Read: Who was Samuel in the Bible?
In this scenario Saul appears, who went to meet the prophet Samuel in search of his father’s donkeys. Before his arrival, the Lord revealed to the prophet that Saul was going to visit him: “Tomorrow, around this time, I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him as a leader over Israel, my people; he will release the my people from the hands of the Philistines. I have seen my people, for their cry has come to me “( 1 Samuel 9:16 ).
Saul was received by Samuel, who soon reassured him about the donkeys and invited him to eat with him saying: “To whom will everything that is precious in Israel belong, if not to you and to all your father’s family?” ( 1 Samuel 9: 19-20 ). The honorable question made Saul astonished that he identified himself as Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes of Israel.
The prophet spoke to Saul on his terrace and accompanied him to the exit of the city. As he said goodbye, Samuel asked Saul’s servant to move on and that he would like to speak in reserve with the young man about God from him ( 1 Samuel 9: 25-27 ). Samuel then anoints Saul with oil and kisses his face and says, “The Lord has anointed him as the leader of his inheritance” ( 1 Samuel 10: 1 ).
After anointing him, the prophet gave a series of guidelines on what would happen and what he should do. He also said that when he found a group of prophets, he would be seized by the Spirit of the Lord, prophesy and become a new man ( 1 Samuel 10: 6 ).
After all these things happened, Samuel assembled the tribes of Israel at Mizpah to announce Saul as the king. His acclaim was the result of joy among the tribes ( 1 Samuel 10:24 ). But the Bible records that some people despised his appointment ( 1 Samuel 10:27 ).
In the early days as king, Saul fought a bloody battle against the Ammonites. He recruited all the men of Israel and Judah and attacked the Ammonite camp at dawn, slaughtering them until the hottest hour of the day ( 1 Samuel 11:11 ). This show of strength illustrates a characteristic of Saul, that of a warrior-king.
Over the years, Saul continued to be victorious and his son Jonathan had an important role in commanding battles. Fights against the enemies of God’s people were permanent throughout his reign and there was no rest. In one of these raids, Jonathan attacked a Philistine detachment in Gibeah, attracting the Philistines’ hatred of Israel ( 1 Samuel 13: 3-4 ).
The wrath of the Philistines brought despair and fear to Saul’s soldiers and they all took refuge in caves. On this occasion, Saul’s first great error arises: disobeying the guidance of the prophet Samuel, he decides for himself to offer the communion sacrifice in Gigal for fear of the dispersion of his soldiers ( 1 Samuel 13: 8-10 ).
The price of this offense cost him his reign. Samuel rebukes Saul’s disobedience to a Lord’s Commandment and says that God had already found a man after His heart ( 1 Samuel 13:14 ), who was David.
See: Who was David?
Still, Saul continued to “choose what to obey” from God’s orders. The Lord through Samuel had ordered the total annihilation of the Amalekites ( 1 Samuel 15: 3 ). In the battle, Saul kept King Agague alive, as well as the enemy’s best sheep and oxen. Once again Samuel reproaches Saul and breaks completely with the king ( 1 Samuel 15:35 ). After this event, the prophet Samuel anointed David as successor to the throne of Israel in carrying out the Lord’s command.
The departure from God’s presence over Saul’s reign caused the king to go into total perdition, being taken by an evil spirit. Envy moved Saul to persecute David, even though he knew of David’s deliverance of God to Israel, defeating the Philistine Goliath, and of his son Jonathan’s strong friendship with David. At no time did Saul acknowledge that God had raised David up.
See also: How was the fight between David and Goliath?
Saul did not admit that God had turned away from him, but he did not realize that it was actually him who turned away from God. For the third time he sins against God and goes to consult a witch in Em-Dor, asking him to invoke the spirit of the prophet Samuel ( 1 Samuel 28: 7-8 ). The result of this sin was to hear for the third time that his kingdom was rent, that he would die soon, and that David would be the king of Israel ( 1 Samuel 28: 17-19 ).
We find in the Bible two versions of the death of King Saul. Each approaches his death differently. In 1 Samuel it says that Saul and his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malquisua were surrounded by the Philistines.
Without seeing alternatives, Saul asked his squire to strike him with the sword, but he did not want to do so. Saul then took his own sword and threw himself on it. When the squire saw that Saul was dead, he also threw himself on his sword and died with him ( 1 Samuel 31: 4-6 ).
See also: David’s song about the death of Saul and Jonathan.
The second version is an account that a young Amalekite gave to David. According to the young man, on Mount Gilboa, Saul was wounded with his own sword but had not yet died. At Saul’s request, he executed it ( 2 Samuel 1: 8-10 ). In order to prove what he did, the young man removed Saul’s crown and bracelet. When he told his version, it caused great regret in David, which resulted in the death of the young Amalekite ( 2 Samuel 1: 14-15 ).
The Amalekite probably invented this version in order to impress David and get some reward, which had the opposite effect. The version of consummated suicide is confirmed in the passage from 1 Chronicles 10: 4-6 , which reaffirms the event described in 1 Samuel.
Unfortunately, Saul’s tragic suicide was a consequence of the rejection of the Lord’s ways, disobedience and unfaithfulness to God ( 1 Chronicles 10: 13-14 ).S