From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Hebrew Sηαul

1. An early king of Edom ( Genesis 36:37-38).

2.  Genesis 46:10.

3.  1 Chronicles 6:24.

4. First king of Israel. The names Kish and Ner, Nadab and Abi-nadab, Baal and Mephibosheth, recur in the genealogy in two generations. The family extends to Ezra's time. If the Zimri of  1 Chronicles 9:42 be the Zimri of 1 Kings 16 it is the last stroke of the family of Saul for the kingdom. Saul was son of Kish, son of Ner, son of Abiel or Jehiel.  1 Samuel 9:1 omits Ner, the intermediate link, and makes Kish son of Abiel;  1 Chronicles 8:33 supplies the link, or Ner in 1 Chronicles is not father but ancestor of Kish ( 1 Chronicles 9:36-39), and Ner son of Abi-Gibeon (Father Or Founder Of Gibeon,  1 Chronicles 8:29 ) is named only because he was progenitor of Saul's line, the intermediate names mentioned in 1 Samuel 9 being omitted. The proud, fierce, and self willed spirit of his tribe, Benjamin, is conspicuous in Saul (see Judges 19; 20; 21). Strong and swift fooled ( 2 Samuel 1:23), and outtopping the people by head and shoulders ( 1 Samuel 9:2), he was the "beauty" or "ornament of Israel," "a choice young man," "there was none goodlier than he."

Above all, he was the chosen of the Lord ( 1 Samuel 9:17;  1 Samuel 10:24;  2 Samuel 21:6). Zelah was Kish's burial place. Gibeah was especially connected with Saul. The family was originally humble ( 1 Samuel 11:1-21), though Kish was "a mighty man of substance." Searching for Kish's donkeys three days in vain, at last, by the servant's advice, Saul consulted Samuel, who had already God's intimation that He would send at this very time a man of Benjamin who should be king. God's providence, overruling man's free movements to carry out His purpose, appears throughout the narrative. Samuel gave Saul the chiefest place at the feast on the high place to which he invited him, and the choice portion. Setting his mind at ease about his asses, now found, Samuel raised his thoughts to the throne as one "on whom was all the desire of Israel." "Little then in his own sight" ( 1 Samuel 15:17), and calling himself "of the smallest of the tribes, and his family least of all the families of Benjamin" ( 1 Samuel 9:21), Saul was very different from what he afterward became in prosperity; elevation tests men ( Psalms 73:18).

Samuel anointed and kissed Saul as king. On his coming to the oak ("plain") of Tabor, three men going with offerings to God to Bethel gave him two of three loaves, in recognition of his kingship. Next prophets met him, and suddenly the Spirit of God coming upon him he prophesied among them, so that the proverb concerning him then first began, "is Saul also among the prophets?" The public outward call followed at Mizpeh, when God caused the lot to fall on Saul. So modest was he that he hid himself, shunning the elevation, amidst the baggage. A band whose hearts God had touched escorted him to Gibeah, while the worthless despised him, saying "how shall this man save us?" (Compare  Luke 14:14 , The Antitype, Meekly "He Held His Peace";  Psalms 38:13 ) . NAHASH'S cruel threat against Jabesh Gilead, which was among the causes that made Israel desire a king ( 1 Samuel 8:3;  1 Samuel 8:19;  1 Samuel 12:12), gave Saul the opportunity of displaying his patriotic bravery in rescuing the citizens and securing their lasting attachment.

His magnanimity too appears in his not allowing any to be killed of those whom the people desired to slay for saying "shall Saul reign over us?" Pious humility then breathed in his ascription of the deliverance to Jehovah, not himself ( 1 Samuel 11:12-13). Samuel then inaugurated the kingdom again at Gilgal. In  1 Samuel 13:1 read "Saul reigned 40 years"; so  Acts 13:21, and Josephus "18 years during Samuel's life and 22 after his death" (Ant. 16:14, section 9). Saul was young in beginning his reign ( 1 Samuel 9:2), but probably verging toward 40 years old, as his son Jonathan was grown up ( 1 Samuel 13:2). Ishbosheth his youngest son ( 1 Chronicles 8:33) was 40 at his death ( 2 Samuel 2:10), and as he is not mentioned among Saul's sons in  1 Samuel 14:49 he perhaps was born after Saul's accession. In the second year of his reign Saul revolted from the Philistines whose garrison had been advanced as far as Geba ( Jehu , N.E. Of Rama) , ( 1 Samuel 10:5;  1 Samuel 13:3) and gathered to him an army of 3,000.

Jonathan smote the garrison, and so brought on a Philistine invasion in full force, 30,000 chariots. 6,000 horsemen, and a multitude as the sand. The Israelites, as the Romans under the Etruscan Porscna, were deprived by their Philistine oppressors of all smiths, so that no Israelite save Saul and Jonathan had sword or spear ( 1 Samuel 13:19-21). Many hid in caves, others fled beyond Jordan, while those (600:  1 Samuel 13:15 ) who stayed with Saul followed trembling. Already some time previously Samuel had conferred with Saul as to his foreseen struggle against the Philistines, and his going down to Gilgal (Not The First Going For His Inauguration As King,  1 Samuel 11:14-15 ; But Second After Revolting From The Philistines) which was the most suitable place for gathering an army.

Samuel was not directing Saul to go at once to Gilgal, as seen as he should go from him, and wait there seven days ( 1 Samuel 10:8); but that after being chosen king by lot and conquering Ammon and being confirmed as king at Gilgal, he should war with the Philistines (One Main End Of The Lord'S Appointing Him King,  1 Samuel 9:16 , "That He May Save My People Out Of The Hand Of The Philistines, For I Have Looked Upon My People, Because Their Cry Is Come Unto Me") , and then go down to Gilgal, and "wait there seven days, until I come, before offering the holocaust." The Gilgal meant is that in the Jordan valley, to which Saul withdrew in order to gather soldiers for battle, and offer sacrifices, and then advance again to Gibeah and Geba, thence to encounter the Philistines encamped at Michmash. Now first Saul betrays his real character. Self will, impatience, and the spirit of disobedience made him offer without, waiting the time appointed by Jehovah's prophet; he obeyed so far and so long only as obedience did not require crossing of his self will.

Had he waited but an hour or two, he would have saved his kingdom, which was now transferred to one after God's own heart; we may forfeit the heavenly kingdom by hasty and impatient unbelief ( Isaiah 28:16). Saul met Samuel's reproof "what hast thou done?" with self justifying excuses, as if his act had been meritorious not culpable: "I saw the people scattered from me, and thou camest not within the days appointed (Samuel Had Come Before Their Expiration) , and the Philistines gathered themselves. ... Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto Jehovah; I forced myself therefore (He Ought To Have Forced Himself To Obey Not Disobey; Necessity, Is Often The Plea For Sacrificing Principle To Expediency) and offered." Jonathan's exploit in destroying the Philistine garrison (1 Samuel 14) eventuated in driving the Philistines back to their own land. (See Jonathan .)

The same reckless and profane impatience appears in Saul; he consults Jehovah by the priest Ahiah (  1 Samuel 14:18 Read With Septuagint, "Bring Here The Ephod, For He Took The Ephod That Day In The Presence Of Israel"; For The Ark Was Not Usually Taken Out, But Only The Ephod, For Consultation, And The Ark Was Now At Kirjath Jearim, Not In Saul'S Little Camp) ; then at the increasing tumult in the Philistine host, impatient to join battle, interrupted the priest, "withdraw thine hand," i.e. leave off. Contrast David's patient and implicit following of Jehovah's will, inquired through the priest, in attacking in front as well as in taking a circuit behind the Philistines ( 2 Samuel 5:19-25). Saul's adjuration that none should eat until evening betrayed his rash temper and marred the victory ( 1 Samuel 14:29-30). His scrupulosity because the people flew upon the spoil, eating the animals with the blood ( 1 Samuel 14:32-35), contrasts with true conscientiousness which was wanting in him at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13).

Now he built his first altar. Jonathan's unconscious violation of Saul's adjuration, by eating honey which revived him ( 1 Samuel 13:27-29, "enlightened his eyes,"  Psalms 13:3), was the occasion of Saul again taking lightly God's name to witness that Jonathan should die (contrast  Exodus 20:7). But the guilt, which God's silence when consulted whether Saul should follow after the Philistines implied, lay with Saul himself, for God's siding "with Jonathan" against the Philistines ("He Hath Wrought With God This Day") was God's verdict acquitting him. Thus convicted Saul desisted from further pursuit of the Philistines. His warlike prowess appears in his securing his regal authority ( 1 Samuel 14:47, "took the kingdom over Israel") by fighting successfully against all his enemies on every side, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, the Philistines, and Amalek (Summarily Noticed  1 Samuel 14:48 , In Detail In 1 Samuel 15) .

Saul's second great disobedience at his second probation by God was (1 Samuel 15) his sparing the Amalekite Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, etc., and all that was good; again self will set up itself to judge what part of God's command it chose to obey and what to disobey. The same self complacent blindness to his sin appears in his words to Samuel, "I have performed the commandment of Jehovah." "What meaneth then tills bleating of the sheep?" Saul lays on the people the disobedience, and takes to himself with them the merit of the obedience: "they have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep ... to sacrifice ... and the rest we have utterly destroyed." True obedience observes all the law and turns not to the right or left ( Joshua 1:7;  Deuteronomy 5:32). The spirit of self will shows its nonsubmission to God's will in small but sure indications. Saul had zeal for Israel against the Gibeonites where zeal was misplaced, because not according to God's will (2 Samuel 21); he lacked zeal here, where God required it.

He shifts the blame on "the people" and makes religion a cloak, saying the object was "to sacrifice unto Jehovah, thy God." We must not do evil that good may come ( Romans 3:8). Samuel tears off the pretext: "behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, ... for rebellion is as the silt of witchcraft," the very sin which Saul fell into at last (1 Samuel 28). As Saul rejected Jehovah's word so He rejected Saul "from being king." In  1 Chronicles 10:13 "Saul died for his transgression (Hebrew Maal , 'prevarication,' shuffling, not doing yet wishing to appear to do, God's will) against Jehovah, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit." The secret of Saul's disobedience he discloses, "because I feared the people and obeyed their voice," instead of God's voice ( Exodus 23:2;  Proverbs 29:25). Even in confession, while using the same words as David subsequently, "I have sinned" ( 2 Samuel 12:13), he betrays his motive, "turn again with me ... honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people and before Israel" ( John 5:44;  John 12:43).

Man's favor he regarded more than God's displeasure. Henceforth Samuel, after tearing himself from the king, to the rending of his garment (The Symbol Of The Transference Of The Kingdom To A Better Successor) , came to Saul no more though mourning for him. As the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from the day of his anointing ( 1 Samuel 16:13-14), so an evil spirit from (It Is Never Said Of) Jehovah troubled Saul, and the Spirit of Jehovah departed from hint. David then first was called in to soothe away with the harp the evil spirit; but music did not bring the good Spirit: to fill his soul, so the evil spirit returned worse than ever ( Matthew 12:43-45;  1 Samuel 28:4-20). No ritualism or sweet melody, though pleasing the senses, will change the heart; the Holy Spirit alone can attune the soul to purity and peace.

Like his tribe, which should "ravin as a wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at night ... the spoil" ( Genesis 49:27), Saul was energetic, choleric, and impressible, now prophesying with the prophets whose holy enthusiasm infected him, now jealous to madness of David whom he had loved greatly and brought permanently to court ( 1 Samuel 16:21;  1 Samuel 18:2) and made his armour bearer; and all because of a thoughtless expression of the women in meeting the conquerors after the battle with Goliath, "Saul hath slain his thousands, David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 17;  1 Samuel 18:7). A word was enough to awaken suspicion, and suspicion was wrested into proof of treason, "what can he have more but the kingdom?" (see  Ecclesiastes 4:4;  Proverbs 27:4). But David's wise walk made Saul fear him ( 1 Samuel 18:12;  1 Samuel 18:14-15;  1 Samuel 18:29;  Psalms 101:2;  Psalms 5:8). God raised up to David a friend, Michal, in his enemy's house, which made Saul the more afraid. So, not daring to lay his own hand on him, he exposed him to the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 18:17-27); in righteous retribution, it was Saul himself who fell by them ( Psalms 9:15-16).

For a brief time a better feeling returned to Saul through Jonathan's intercession for David ( 1 Samuel 19:4-6); but again the evil spirit returned, and Saul pursued David to Michal's house, and even to Samuel's presence at Naioth in Ramah. But Jehovah, "in whose hand the king's heart is, to turn it wheresoever He will" ( Proverbs 21:1), caused him who came to persecute to prophesy with the prophets. Yet soon after, because Jonathan let David go, Saul cast a javelin at his noble unselfish son, saying, "thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, for as long as he liveth thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom" ( 1 Samuel 20:28-33). Saul's slaughter of the priests at Nob, on Doeg's information, followed (1 Samuel 22), Saul upbraiding his servants as if conspiring with David and feeling no sorrow for the king; "yet can David, as I can ( 1 Samuel 8:14, compare  1 Samuel 22:7), give every one of you fields and vineyards?" etc., thus answering to David's picture of him ( Psalms 53:7), "this is the man that trusted in the abundance of his riches," etc.(See Doeg ; David

By slaying the priests, so that Abiathar alone escaped to David, Saul's sin recoiled on himself, for Saul thereby supplied him whom he hated with one through whom to consult Jehovah, and deprived himself of the divine oracle, so that at last he had to have recourse to witchcraft, though he had himself tried to extirpate it ( 1 Samuel 23:2;  1 Samuel 23:9;  1 Samuel 28:3-7, etc.). The Philistines, by whom Saul thought to have slain David, were the unconscious instruments of saving him from Saul at Mann ( 1 Samuel 23:26-27). David's magnanimity at the cave of Engedi in sparing his deadly foe and only cutting off his skirt, when in his power, moved Saul to tears, so that his better feelings returned for the moment, and he acknowledged David's superiority in spirit and deed, and obtained David's promise not to destroy his seed (1 Samuel 24). Once again (1 Samuel 26), at Hachilah David spared Saul, though urged by Abishai to destroy him; the Altaschith of Psalm 57; 58; 59; refers to David's words on this occasion, "destroy not." (See Altaschith .)

David would not take vengeance out of God's hands ( Psalms 35:1-3;  Psalms 17:4;  Psalms 94:1-2;  Psalms 94:23;  Romans 12:19). His words were singularly prophetic of Saul's doom, "his day shall come to die, or be shall descend into battle and perish." The "deep sleep from Jehovah" on Saul enabled David unobserved to take spear and cruse from Saul's bolster. From a hill afar off David appealed to Saul, "if thy instigation to (I.E. Giving Up To The Manifestation Of Thine Own) evil be from Jehovah, through His anger against thee for sin, let Him smell sacrifice" (Hebrew), i.e. appease God's wrath by an acceptable sacrifice; "but if thy instigators be men, they drive me out from attaching (Hebrew) myself to the inheritance of Jehovah (The Holy Land) ; now therefore let not my blood fall to the earth far away from the face of Jehovah," i.e. do not drive me to perish in a heathen land; contrast  Psalms 16:4-6. Saul acknowledged his sinful "folly" (Meaning "Wickedness" In Scripture: See Muth-Labben) , and promised no more to seek his hurt, and blessed him.

The consultation with the witch at Endor preceded the fatal battle of Gilbea. Saul had "put away out of the land wizards," etc. But the law forbad them to live ( Leviticus 19:31;  Leviticus 20:27;  Deuteronomy 18:10, etc.). He only took half measures, as in sparing the Amalekite king; "rebellion" ended in "witchcraft" ( 1 Samuel 15:23). He had driven away the only man, David, who could have saved him from the Philistines (1 Samuel 17;  2 Samuel 5:17-22). He had killed all by whom he could have consulted Jehovah (1 Samuel 21; 22). How men's own wickedness, by a retributive providence ( Jeremiah 2:19), corrects them! She was mistress of a "spirit" ( Baalath-Ob ) with which the dead were conjured up to inquire of them the future. Either she merely pretended this, or if there was a demoniacal reality Samuel's apparition differed so essentially from it that she started at seeing him, and then (What Shows Her Art To Be Something More Than Jugglery) she recognized Saul; probably she fell into a state of clairvoyance in which she recognized persons, as Saul, unknown to her by face.

Saul did not himself see Samuel with his eyes, but recognized that it was he from her description, and told him his distress; but Samuel told him it was vain to ask of a friend of God since Jehovah was become his enemy. Saul should be in Hades by the morrow for his disobeying as to the Amalekites, while David, Amalek's destroyer ( 1 Samuel 30:17), should succeed. On the morrow the Philistines followed hard upon Saul, the archers hit him; then Saul having in vain begged his armour bearer to slay him ( 1 Samuel 31:4) fell on his own sword, but even so still lingered until an Amalekite (Of The Very People Whom He Ought To Have Utterly Destroyed) stood upon and slew him, and brought his crown and bracelet to David ( 2 Samuel 1:8-10).

The Philistines cut off his head and fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. The armour they put in the temple of Ashtaroth, the head in the temple of Dagon ( 1 Samuel 31:9-10;  1 Chronicles 10:10); the tidings of the slaughter of their national enemy they sent far and near to their idols and to the people. The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead showed their gratitude to their former deliverer by bravely carrying off the bodies of him and his sons, and burning them, and burying the bones under a tree. His life is a sadly vivid picture of declension and deterioration until suicide draws a dark curtain over the scene. In his elegy David brings out all his good qualities, bravery, close union with Jonathan, zeal for Israel whose daughters Saul clothed in rich spoils; David generously overlooks his faults (2 Samuel 1). Years after he had the bones of Saul and Jonathan buried in Zelah in the tomb of Kish ( 2 Samuel 21:12-14).  2 Samuel 21:5. Paul's original name. He was proud of his tribe Benjamin and the name Saul ( Acts 13:21).

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

SAUL . 1 . Son of Kish, a Benjamite, the first king of Israel. We first meet him about to abandon the search for his father’s asses, when his servant suggested consulting Samuel . As it was customary to bring a present to a seer, and the wallet was empty, Saul hesitated till the servant produced the fourth part of a shekel of silver to give to the man of God. The seer, Divinely prepared for their arrival, met them as he was on his way to the high place to sacrifice. A banquet was made ready, and special honour paid to Saul by Samuel. The seer told the seekers that the asses had been found, and broached the matter of the kingdom to Saul, and anointed him as he was leaving. Saul was given certain signs in attestation of Samuel’s message, and after leaving the seer’s house, where he and his servant spent the night, he met a band of prophets, and soon was prophesying among them, to the marvel of his acquaintances (  1 Samuel 10:10 ). This narrative gives no hint that the people asked for a king, or that his selection would be displeasing to either Samuel or Jehovah.

The account is interrupted at  1 Samuel 10:17 by one of a different temper. The people demand a king, which Samuel interprets to be a rejection of Jehovah, their true king, and Saul, after protest, is elected by lot at Mizpah. He remained quietly at home till Nahash’s cruel demand that the men of Jabesh-gilead should surrender to him, and each one lose the right eye, roused him. He was ploughing in the field when the news reached him, and immediately sacrificed the oxen, sending out parts of the sacrifice to his brethren with the command that they should follow him. When the army was mustered he marched to Jabesh-gilead and administered a crushing defeat to Nahash, after which his grateful countrymen made him king at Gilgal (ch. 11). A still greater necessity for a king appears in the encroachments of the Philistines. Saul and Jonathan , his son, were encamped in Michmash and Gibeah (Geba), when Jonathan smote the ‘garrison’ (?) of the Philistines in Geba, thus precipitating the struggle. The plan of the Philistines was to send out plundering parties, and Jonathan threw the whole camp into confusion by surprising one of its guerilla headquarters (  1 Samuel 13:1-3 ,   1 Samuel 14:1 f.). When Saul heard of the flight of the enemy he inquired of the oracle what to do, but the rout was so apparent that he joined pursuit without the answer. The destruction of the enemy would have been greater had not Saul put a taboo on food. In the evening the famished warriors fell upon the cattle, and ate without sacrificing till the reported impiety reached the ears of Saul, who legitimated the meal by sacrificing at a great stone. As he failed to receive an answer from the oracle, when he Inquired whether he should pursue the Philistines farther, Saul concluded that some one had sinned. An inquiry was taken to the oracle, and the fault was found to lie with Jonathan, who confessed to having tasted honey. He was, however, delivered by the people from the penalty, for Saul had sworn that he should die (  1 Samuel 14:17-45 ).

This narrative (chs. 13, 14) is interrupted at  1 Samuel 13:8 to   1 Samuel 15:35 by an account which represents Samuel as taking issue with Saul for sacrificing at the end of an appointed period of seven days, and announcing his rejection (See art. Samuel, p. 823 n ). We have from another source (ch. 15) a story of the encounter with Amalek , against whom Samuel sent Saul with instructions to destroy men, women, children, and spoil. Saul, however, spares Agag, and part of the booty. This is now assigned as the reason for his rejection. Saul acknowledged his fault, but begged Samuel to honour him before the people by sacrificing with him. In his importunity he lays hold of Samuel’s garment, which is rent, and becomes the symbol of the kingdom wrested from Saul. Samuel relents and worships with him.

The second stage of Saul’s life concerns his relations with David . Saul is advised to employ music as a relief from a deep-seated mental trouble, called ‘an evil spirit from the Lord.’ David, a skilled harper and celebrated soldier, is engaged. Saul loves him, and makes him his armour-bearer (  1 Samuel 16:14-23 ). The Philistines again assemble, this time at Socoh; Goliath issues his challenge, but no one responds. The lad David, who had come to the camp to visit his brethren, learns of the proffered reward, meets the boaster in single combat, and kills him. In this story Saul seems weak, irresolute, and unacquainted with David (ch. 17). David’s growing popularity and prowess lead Saul to attempt his life. Michal, Saul’s daughter, is offered to him in marriage in return for one hundred Philistines. The hazard involved failed to accomplish his death. Then David’s house is surrounded, but Michal manages David’s escape through a window (  1 Samuel 18:6-9 ,   1 Samuel 20:29 ,   1 Samuel 19:11-17 ). Merab, Saul’s elder daughter, was also offered to David, but withdrawn when he should have had her. This seems to be an effort to explain why David did not receive Saul’s daughter after he had slain the giant. David flees to Ramah, and Saul, seeking him there, is seized with the prophetic frenzy and rendered powerless (  1 Samuel 19:18-24 ). David again flees, and receives help from the priests at Nob. So enraged was Saul that he ordered the slaughter of the entire priesthood there (chs. 20 21). Saul had David all but captured in the hills of Ziph, when a raid of the Philistines called him away (  1 Samuel 23:14-29 ). Twice Saul was in the power of David, who refused to harm the Lord’s anointed (chs. 24, 26).

The circumstances connected with Saul’s death are told in a dramatic way. The Philistines had gathered together at Aphek, while Saul held the fateful plains of Megiddo at Jezreel. Answer came from neither prophet nor priest. Then in despair he applied to the necromancer at Endor, but received only a hopeless message. The battle joins; Saul’s sons are slain; sore pressed, he calls on his armour bearer to slay him, but being refused he falls upon his sword and dies. The following day the Philistines severed the heads of Saul and his sons, and exposed the bodies on the walls of Beth-shan, whence the grateful Jabesh-gileadites brought them away by night (chs. 28, 31). An Amalekite, who brought the story of Saul’s death to David, claimed that he himself slew him, and was promptly executed by David ( 2 Samuel 1:1-16 ).

2 . Saul of Tarsus. See Paul.

J. H. Stevenson.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Saul. (Desired). More accurately, Shaul .

1. One of the early kings of Edom, and successor of Samlah.  Genesis 36:37-38;  1 Chronicles 1:48. (B.C. after 1450).

2. The first king of Israel, the son of Kish, and of the tribe of Benjamin. (B.C, 1095-1055). His character is, in part, illustrated by the fierce, wayward, fitful nature of the tribe, and, in part, accounted for by the struggle between the old and new systems, in which he found himself involved. To this, we must add a taint of madness, which broke out in violent frenzy, at times, leaving him with long lucid intervals.

He was remarkable for his strength and activity,  2 Samuel 1:25 and, like the Homeric heroes, of gigantic stature, taller by head and shoulders than the rest of the people, and of that kind of beauty denoted by the Hebrew word "good,"  1 Samuel 9:2, and which caused him to be compared to the gazelle, "the gazelle of Israel." His birthplace is not expressly mentioned; but, as Zelah in Benjamin was the place of Kish's sepulchre,  2 Samuel 21:14, it was, probably, his native village.

His father, Kish, was a powerful and wealthy chief, though the family to which he belonged was of little importance.  1 Samuel 9:1;  1 Samuel 9:21. A portion of his property consisted of a drove of asses. In search of these asses, gone astray on the mountains, he sent his son, Saul. It was while prosecuting this adventure that Saul met with Samuel, for the first time, at his home in Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem. A divine intimation had made known to him, the approach of Saul, whom he treated with special favor, and, the next morning, descending with him to the skirts of the town, Samuel poured over Saul's head, the consecrated oil, and with a kiss of salutation announced to him that he was to be the ruler of the nation.  1 Samuel 9:25;  1 Samuel 10:1.

Returning homeward, his call was confirmed by the incidents which, according to Samuel's prediction, awaited him.  1 Samuel 10:9-10. What may be named, the public call, occurred at Mizpeh, when lots were cast to find the tribe and family which was to produce the king, and Saul, by a divine intimation was found hid in the circle of baggage which surrounded the encampment.  1 Samuel 10:17-24. Returning to Gibeah, apparently to private life, he heard the threat issued by Nahash, king of Ammon, against Jabesh-gilead. He speedily collected an army, and Jabesh was rescued. The effect was instantaneous on the people, and the monarchy was inaugurated anew at Gilgal.  1 Samuel 11:1-15. It should be, however, observed that according to  1 Samuel 12:12, the affair of Nahash preceded and occasioned the election of Saul.

Although king of Israel, his rule was, at first, limited; but in the second year of his reign, he began to organize an attempt to shake off the Philistine yoke, and an army was formed. In this crisis, Saul, now on the very confines of his kingdom at Gilgal, impatient at Samuel's delay, whom he had directed to be present, offered sacrifice himself. Samuel, arriving later, pronounced the first curse, on his impetuous zeal.  1 Samuel 13:5-14. After the Philistines were driven back to their own country occurred the first appearance of Saul's madness in the rash vow which all but cost the life of his soil.  1 Samuel 14:24;  1 Samuel 14:44.

The expulsion of the Philistines, although not entirely completed,  1 Samuel 14:52, at once, placed Saul in a position higher than that of any previous ruler of Israel, and he made war upon the neighboring tribes. In the war with Amalek,  1 Samuel 14:48;  1 Samuel 15:1-9, he disobeyed the prophetical command of Samuel, which called down the second curse, and the first distinct intimation of the transference of the kingdom to a rival. The rest of Saul's life is one long tragedy.

The frenzy which had given indications of itself before now, at times, took almost entire possession of him. In this crisis, David was recommended to him. From this time forward, their lives are blended together. See David . In Saul's better moments, he never lost the strong affection which he had contracted for David. Occasionally, too, his prophetical gift returned, blended with his madness.  2 Samuel 19:24. But his acts of fierce, wild zeal increased. At last, the monarchy itself broke down under the weakness of his head. The Philistines re-entered the country, and just before giving them battle Saul's courage failed, and he consulted one of the necromancers, the "Witch of Endor," who had escaped his persecution.

At this distance of time, it is impossible to determine the relative amount of fraud or of reality in the scene which follows, though the obvious meaning of the narrative itself tends to the hypothesis of some kind of apparition.  2 Samuel 19:28. On hearing the denunciation which the apparition conveyed, Saul fell the whole length of his gigantic stature on the ground, and remained motionless till the woman and his servants forced him to eat. The next day, the battle came on. The Israelites were driven up the side of Gilboa. The three sons of Saul were slain. Saul was wounded. According to one account, he fell upon his own sword,  1 Samuel 31:4, and died. The body on being found by the Philistines was stripped slid decapitated, and the headless trunk hung over the city walls, with those of his three sons.  1 Samuel 31:9-10. The head was deposited, (probably at Ashdod), in the temple of Dagon,  1 Chronicles 10:10. The corpse was buried at Jabesh-gilead.  1 Samuel 31:13.

3. The Jewish name of St. Paul.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]


Old Testament The Hebrew name Sha' ul is used of four persons in the Old Testament. It is usually rendered Shaul for a king of Edom (  Genesis 36:37-38 ), the last son of Simeon ( Genesis 46:10 ), and a Levite of the Kohathites ( 1 Chronicles 6:24 ). Saul, however, primarily refers to the first king of a united Israel, a tall and handsome son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin (1Samuel 9:1-2, 1 Samuel 9:21 ). Chosen by God ( 1 Samuel 9:15-17 ) and secretly anointed by Samuel ( 1 Samuel 10:1 ), Saul was later selected publicly by lot ( 1 Samuel 10:17-24 ). Despite some people's skepticism ( 1 Samuel 10:27 ), he proved himself an able leader by delivering the city of Jabesh-gilead and was acclaimed king at Gilgal ( 1 Samuel 11:1-15 ).

The numbers in  1 Samuel 13:1 are incomplete in the Hebrew text, but Saul's reign is generally dated about 1020-1000 B.C. He made his capital at “Gibeah of Saul” (“Saul's hill,”   1 Samuel 11:4 ), probably tell el-Ful, three miles north of Jerusalem where excavations have uncovered contemporary foundations of a modest fortresslike palace. From Gibeah, Saul drove the Philistines from the hill country ( 1 Samuel 13:19-14:23 ) and fought other enemies of Israel ( 1 Samuel 14:47-48 ).

A tragic figure, Saul's heart was initially changed; he had even prophesied ( 1 Samuel 10:9-13 ). See Prophets. His presumptuous offering ( 1 Samuel 13:8-14 ), however, and violation of a holy war ban led to his break with Samuel and rejection by God ( 1 Samuel 15:7-23 ). The spirit of the Lord left Saul and was replaced by an evil spirit which tormented him. David is introduced as a musician who soothed him by playing the lyre ( 1 Samuel 16:14-23 ). After the Goliath episode, Saul became jealous and fearful of David (1Samuel 18:7, 1 Samuel 18:12 ), eventually making several spontaneous and indirect attempts on David's life (1Samuel 18:10-11, 1 Samuel 18:25; 1Samuel 19:1, 1 Samuel 19:9-11 ). Saul's fits of rage, his obsession with David, and the slaughter of the priests at Nob ( 1 Samuel 22:17-19 ), make it appear as though he suffered from some sort of psychotic state. His final wretched condition is betrayed by his consultation of the witch at En-dor ( 1 Samuel 28:7-8 ). The following day, Saul and three sons were killed at the hands of the Philistines on Mount Gilboa ( 1 Samuel 31:1 ). Saul's body was beheaded and hung on the walls of Beth-shan, from whence it was rescued and buried by the grateful inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead ( 1 Samuel 31:8-13 ).

The enigma of Saul was sensed by David who refused to lift his hand against “the Lord's anointed” (1Samuel 26:9-11, 1 Samuel 26:23 ) and at his death provided a fitting elegy ( 2 Samuel 1:17-27 ).

New Testament Though the king Saul is mentioned in passing, most occurrences of the name in the New Testament refer to the Hebrew name of the apostle Paul.

Daniel C. Browning, Jr.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Saul ( Sawl ), Asked For, Desired. 1. The first king of Israel. He was the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin.  1 Samuel 9:1-2;  1 Samuel 10:1;  1 Samuel 10:21;  1 Samuel 10:23-24 In personal appearance he was tall, remarkably fine and noble. After his signal defeat of the Ammonites, Saul was confirmed on the throne by the army at Gilgal,  1 Samuel 11:1-15, though the continuance of the theocracy was earnestly insisted on by Samuel.  1 Samuel 12:1-25. He carried on successful wars against the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Amalekites.  1 Samuel 13:1-21;  1 Samuel 14:46-52. Saul, however, in two instances, forgot that he was subject to Jehovah, the invisible King.  1 Samuel 13:11-14;  1 Samuel 15:1-35. Hence Jehovah commanded Samuel to anoint David privately, as Saul's successor to the kingdom.  1 Samuel 16:1-13. From this time Saul is exhibited as the slave of jealousy, duplicity, and malice; he fell at last into a deep melancholy. David was introduced to the court to soothe Saul, and there he became acquainted with the manners of the court, and the business of government.  1 Samuel 16:14-23. See David. The Philistines mustered an army so formidable, that Saul, finding himself abandoned of God, applied in his emergency to a witch at Endor. Disheartened by the ambiguous answer of the wily sorceress, Saul advanced against the Philistines. The Hebrews were routed, and Saul, finding himself wounded, fell upon his own sword, b.c. 1056, after a reign of forty years.  1 Samuel 28:1-25;  1 Samuel 31:1-13. There is no character in history more pitiable than this wretched king, swayed by evil impulse, tormented by his own conscience, powerless as it seemed for everything but mischief. His better thoughts, if temporarily awakened, were stings and scourges to him.  1 Samuel 24:17;  1 Samuel 26:21.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

The son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, the first king of the Israelites, anointed by Samuel, B. C. 1091, and after a reign of forty years filled with various events, slain with his sons on Mount Gilboa. He was succeeded by David, who was his son-in-law, and whom he had endeavored to put to death. His history is contained in  1 Samuel 10:1-31:13 . It is a sad and admonitory narrative. The morning of his reign was bright with special divine favors, both providential, and spiritual,  1 Samuel 9:20   10:1-11,24,25 . But he soon began to disobey God, and was rejected as unworthy to found a line of kings; his sins and misfortunes multiplied, and his sun went down in gloom. In his first war with the Ammonites, God was with him; but then follow his presumptuous sacrifice, in the absence of Samuel; his equally rash vow; his victories over the Philistines and the Amalekites; his sparing Agag and the spoil; his spirit of distracted and foreboding melancholy; his jealousy and persecution of David; his barbarous massacre of the priests and people at Nob, and of the Gibeonites; his consulting the witch on Endor; the battle with the Philistines in which his army was defeated and his sons were slain; and lastly, his despairing self-slaughter, his insignia of royalty being conveyed to David by an Amalekite,  1 Samuel 31:1-13   2 Samuel 1:1-27   1 Chronicles 10:13,14 . The guilty course and the awful end of this first king of the Hebrews were a significant reproof of their sin in desiring any king but Jehovah; and also show to what extremes of guilt and ruin one may go who rebels against God, and is ruled by his own ambitious and envious passions.

SAUL was also the Hebrew name of the apostle Paul.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, the first king of the Israelites,  1 Samuel 9:1-2 , &c. Saul's fruitless journey when seeking his father's asses; ( See Ass ; ) his meeting the Prophet Samuel; the particulars foretold to him, with his being anointed as king, about A.M. 2909; his prophesying along with the young prophets; his appointment by the lot; his modesty in hiding himself; his first victory over the Ammonites; his rash sacrifice in the absence of Samuel; his equally rash curse; his victories over the Philistines and Amalekites; his sparing of King Agag with the judgment denounced against him for it; his jealousy and persecution of David; his barbarous massacre of the priests and people of Nob; his repeated confessions of his injustice to David, &c, are recorded in 1 Samuel 9-31. He reigned forty years, but exhibited to posterity a melancholy example of a monarch, elevated to the summit of worldly grandeur, who, having cast off the fear of God, gradually became the slave of jealousy, duplicity, treachery, and the most malignant and diabolical tempers. His behaviour toward David shows him to have been destitute of every generous and noble sentiment that can dignify human nature; and it is not an easy task to speak with any moderation of the atrocity and baseness which uniformly mark it. His character is that of a wicked man, "waxing worse and worse;" but while we are shocked at its deformity, it should be our study to profit by it, which we can only do by using it as a beacon to warn us, "lest we also be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]


Saul the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, is mentioned in St. Paul’s address at Pisidian Antioch as the first king whom God gave to Israel. After he had reigned 40 years, God removed him, and raised up David to be king over Israel, a man after His heart ( Acts 13:21-22). Saul of Tarsus could not fail to be profoundly interested in the career of the great king whose name he bore and to whose tribe he belonged. The story of the hero who was called against his will to the throne, and who lived and died fighting for the liberty of his country, has all the elements of high tragedy. By separating the later from the earlier and more authentic narrative contained in 1 Sam., historical criticism enables the reader to understand more fully and to appraise more highly the real services of this protagonist who turned the tide of Philistine conquest into defeat and paved the way for the still greater king who consolidated the Hebrew monarchy. For a fine psychological study of his character, see A. B. Davidson, The Called of God, 1902, p. 143 ff.

James Strahan.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

  • "Who is also called Paul" (q.v.), the circumcision name of the apostle, given to him, perhaps, in memory of King Saul (  Acts 7:58;  8:1;  9:1 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Saul'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

    Son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, and the first king of Israel. He was anointed by Samuel by God's direction when the Israelites demanded a king. As the king whom they had chosen and desired, 'a new heart' was given him, and he had a fair start in his reign; but he signally failed in obedience to God, by the word of Samuel. He was rejected, and David was anointed, whom for years he malignantly persecuted. Being forsaken of God, without faith or conscience he resorted to one with a familiar spirit, and there heard his doom. (See Divination He was conquered by the Philistines, the very people he was to have overcome. Thus royalty, as everything else committed to man by God, at once failed. For details of Saul's life see Samuel, First Book Of

    Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

    King of Israel. His name is as remarkable as his history, if it be derived, as some have thought, from Sheol, or Shaal, hell, or sepulchre. His history we have at large in the first book of Samuel. The great apostle Paul, whose name was originally Saul may, it is probable, have had his name changed at his conversion on this account: but this, the reader will recollect, is only conjecture.

    Webster's Dictionary [12]

    (1): ( n.) Same as Sal, the tree.

    (2): ( n.) Soul.

    King James Dictionary [13]

    SAUL, an old spelling of soul.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

    Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Saul'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

    sôl ( שׁאוּל , shā'ūl  ; Σαούλ , Saoúl ):

    (1) The first king of Israel.

    I. Early History

    1. Name and Meaning

    2. Genealogy

    3. Home and Station

    4. Sources for Life

    5. Election as King

    6. Reasons for It

    II. Reign And Fall

    1. His First Action

    2. Army Reorganized

    3. Battle of Michmash

    4. Defeats the Amalekites

    5. Deposition Pronounced

    6. David Introduced to Saul

    7. Two Accounts

    8. Saul's Envy of David

    9. Attempts to Get Rid of David

    10. David Spares Saul

    11. Saul's Divided Energies

    12. Consults a Necromancer

    13. Battle of Gilboa

    14. Double Accounts

    15. Saul's Posterity

    III. Character

    1. Book of Chronicles

    2. Saul's Failings

    3. His Virtue

    4. David's Elegy

    I. Early History.

    1. Name and Meaning:

    The name Saul is usually regarded as simply the passive participle of the verb "to ask," and so meaning "asked" (compare  1 Samuel 8:4 ff), but the gentilic adjective shā'ūlı̄ ( Numbers 26:13 ) would point to its having also an intensive connotation, "the one asked importunately," or perhaps, "the one asking insistently," "the beggar."

    2. Genealogy:

    Saul was the son of Kish, a Benjamite. His genealogical tree is given in  1 Samuel 9:1 (compare Septuagint   1 Samuel 10:21 ). In  1 Samuel 9:1 his grandfather is Abiel, but in   1 Chronicles 8:33;  1 Chronicles 9:39 , Ner, who appears as his paternal uncle in  1 Samuel 14:50 ,  1 Samuel 14:51 .

    The last verse contains a very curious scribal error, a yodh having slipped out of one word in it into another. It states that both Abner and Ner were sons of Abiel. These apparent inconsistencies are to be explained by the fact that in Hebrew, as in Arabic, "son" is often used in the sense of grandson. Also, with the facility of divorce then prevalent, by "brother" and "sister" we must in most cases understand half-brother and half-sister. Moreover, Saul's mother might have been the wife at different times of Kish and of his brother Ner (compare   1 Samuel 20:30 ). This was quite common, and in some cases compulsory ( Deuteronomy 25:5-9 ).

    3. Home and Station:

    Saul's home was at Gibeah (which see), which is also called Gibeah of Saul, i.e. Saul's Hill ( 1 Samuel 11:4; compare also  1 Samuel 10:5 , God's Hill, or simply The Hill,  1 Samuel 10:10;  Hosea 5:8 , etc.), or the Hill of Benjamin or of the Benjamites ( 1 Samuel 13:15;  2 Samuel 23:29 ). It is usually identified with Tell el - Fûl , but perhaps its site is marked rather by some ruins near but beneath that eminence. The tribe of Benjamin was the fighting tribe of Israel, and Kish seems to have been one of its most important members. Saul's remarks in depreciation ( 1 Samuel 9:21 ) are not to be taken literally.

    4. Sources for Life:

    The circumstances of Saul's career are too well known to require recapitulation. It will be sufficient to refer to some of the recognized difficulties of the narrative. These difficulties arise from the fact that we appear to have two distinct biographies of Saul in the present Books of Samuel. This may well be the case as it is the practice of the Semitic historian to set down more than one tradition of each event, without attempting to work these up into one consistent account. We shall call the duplicated narratives A and B, without postulating that either is a continuous whole. See Samuel , Books Of .

    5. Election as King:

    According to A, Saul was anointed king of Israel at Ramah by the prophet Samuel acting upon an inspiration from Yahweh, not only without consulting anyone, but in the strictest secrecy ( 1 Samuel 9:1 through 10:16). According to B, the sheiks of the tribes demanded a king. Samuel in vain tried to dissuade them. They would not listen, and a king was chosen by lot at Mizpah. The lot fell upon Saul, and Samuel immediately demitted office (  1 Samuel 8;  1 Samuel 10:17-27 , omitting the last clause; and chapter 12).

    6. Reasons for It:

    There are three distinct reasons given in the text for the abolition of theocracy and institution of an elective or hereditary monarchy: first, the incapacity of Samuel's sons ( 1 Samuel 8:1 ff); second, an invasion of the Ammonites (  1 Samuel 12:12 ); and third, the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 9:16 ). These three motives are not mutually exclusive. The Philistines formed the standing menace to the national existence, which would have necessitated the creation of a monarchy sooner or later. The other two were temporary circumstances, one of which aggravated the situation, while the other showed the hopelessness of expecting any improvement in it in the near future.

    II. Reign and Fall.

    1. His First Action:

    The election of Saul at Mizpah was conducted in the presence of the chieftains of the clans; it is not to be supposed that the whole nation was present. As soon as it was over, the electors went home, and Saul also returned to his father's farm and, like Cincinnatus, once more followed the plow. "Within about a month," however ( 1 Samuel 10:27 the Septuagint, for Massoretic Text "But he held his peace"), the summons came. A message from the citizens of Jabesh-Gilead (which see) was sent round the tribes appealing for help against the Ammonites under Nahash. They, of course, knew nothing about what had taken place at Mizpah, and it was only by chance that their messengers arrived at Gibeah when they did. Saul rose to the occasion, and immediately after he was acclaimed king by the whole body of the people ( 1 Samuel 11:1-15 ). This double election, first by the chiefs and then by the people, is quite a regular proceeding.

    2. Army Reorganized:

    This first success encouraged Saul to enter upon what was to be the mission of his life, namely, the throwing off of the Philistine suzerainty. From the first he had had the boldest spirits upon his side ( 1 Samuel 10:26 , the Septuagint, the Revised Version margin); he was now able to form a standing army of 3,000 men, under the command of himself and his son Jonathan (which see). The Philistines, the last remnant of the Minoan race, had the advantage of the possession of iron weapons. It was, in fact, they who introduced iron into Palestine from Crete - the Israelites knowing only bronze, and having even been deprived of weapons of the softer metals. They seem to have armed themselves - with the exception of the king and his son - with mattocks and plowshares ( 1 Samuel 13:19 ff).

    3. Battle of Michmash:

    The first encounter was the attack upon the Philistine post at Michmash ( 1 Samuel 13;  14 ). The text of the narrative is uncertain, but the following outline is clear. On hearing that the Hebrews had revolted ( 1 Samuel 13:3 , the Septuagint), the Philistines gathered in great force, including 3,000 chariots ( 1 Samuel 13:5 , the Septuagint; the Massoretic Text has 30,000) at Michmash. In dismay, Saul's troops deserted ( 1 Samuel 13:6 f), until he was left with only 600 (  1 Samuel 14:2 ). In spite of this, Jonathan precipitated hostilities by a reckless attack upon one of the outposts. This was so successful that the whole Philistine army was seized with panic, and the onset of Saul and the desertion of their Hebrew slaves completed their discomfiture. Saul followed up his victory by making predatory excursions on every side ( 1 Samuel 14:47 ).

    4. Defeats the Amalekites:

    Saul's next expedition was against the Amalekites under Agag, who were likewise completely defeated. The fight was carried out with all the remorselessness common to tribal warfare. Warning was sent to the friendly Kenites to withdraw out of danger; then the hostile tribe was slaughtered to a man, their chief alone being spared for the time being. Even the women and children were not taken as slaves, but were all killed ( 1 Samuel 15 ).

    5. Deposition Pronounced:

    It is not clear what was the precise attitude of Samuel toward Saul. As the undoubted head of theocracy he naturally objected to his powers being curtailed by the loss of the civil power ( 1 Samuel 8:6 ). Even after the elections of Saul, Samuel claimed to be the ecclesiastical head of the state. He seems to have objected to Saul's offering the sacrifice before battle ( 1 Samuel 13:10 ff), and to have considered him merely as his lieutenant (  1 Samuel 15:3 ) who could be dismissed for disobedience ( 1 Samuel 15:14 ff). Here again there seem to be two distinct accounts in the traditional text, which we may again call A and B. In A, Saul is rejected because he does not wait long enough for Samuel at Gilgal (  1 Samuel 13:8; compare  1 Samuel 10:8 ). "Seven days," of course, means eight, or even more, in short, until Samuel should come, whenever that might be. The expression might almost be omitted in translating. In B S aul is rejected because he did not carry out Samuel's orders ( 1 Samuel 15:3 ) to the letter. The two narratives are not mutually exclusive. The second offense was an aggravation of the first, and after it Samuel did not see Saul again ( 1 Samuel 15:35 ).

    6. David Introduced to Saul:

    He had good reason for not doing so. He had anointed a rival head of the state in opposition to Saul, an act of treason which, if discovered, would have cost him his head (compare  2 Kings 9:6 ,  2 Kings 9:10 ). Saul did not at once accept his deposition, but he lost heart. One cannot but admire him, deserted by Samuel, and convinced that he was playing a losing game, and yet continuing in office. To drive away his melancholy, his servants introduced to him a musician who played until his spirits revived ( 1 Samuel 16:14 ff; compare   2 Kings 3:15 ).

    7. Two Accounts:

    By a strange coincidence (compare I, 5, above) the minstrel was the very person whom Samuel had secretly anointed to supplant Saul. According to what looks like another account, however, it was his encounter with Goliath which led to the introduction of David to Saul ( 1 Samuel 17:1 ff; see David ). In spite of all that has been said to the contrary, the two narratives are not incompatible, since we are not told the order of the events nor over how many years these events were spread. The theory of duplicate narratives rests upon the assumption that all statements made by the dramatis personae in the Bible are to be taken at their face value. If 1 Samuel 16 and 17 had formed part of a play of Shakespeare, they would have been considered a fine example of his genius. Treatises would have been written to explain why Saul did not recognize David, and why Abner denied all knowledge of him. Septuagint, however, omits 1 Sam 17:12-31,   1 Samuel 17:41 ,  1 Samuel 17:50 , 55 through 18:5.

    8. Saul's Envy of David:

    Whether Saul actually discovered that David had been anointed by Samuel or not, he soon saw in him his rival and inevitable successor, and he would hardly have been human if he had not felt envious of him. His dislike of David had two motives. The first was jealousy, because the women preferred the military genius of David to his own ( 1 Samuel 18:7 f). His consequent attempt upon the life of David (  1 Samuel 18:8-11 ) is omitted in the Septuagint. Not least was the love of his own daughter for David ( 1 Samuel 18:20; in  1 Samuel 18:28 read with Septuagint "all Israel"). The second cause was his natural objection to see his son Jonathan supplanted in his rights to the throne, an objection which was aggravated by the devotion of that son to his own rival (  1 Samuel 20:30 ). See also David; Jonathan .

    9. Attempts to Get Rid of David:

    Saul could not believe that David could remain loyal to him ( 1 Samuel 24:9 ); at the first favorable opportunity he would turn upon him, hurl him from the throne, and exterminate his whole house. In these circumstances, it was his first interest to get rid of him. His first attempt to do so (omitting with Septuagint  1 Samuel 18:8-11 ) was to encourage him to make raids on the Philistines in the hope that these might kill him ( 1 Samuel 18:21 ff); his next, assassination by one of his servants (  1 Samuel 19:1 ), and then by his own hand ( 1 Samuel 19:9 f). When David was compelled to fly, the quarrel turned to civil war. The superstitious fear of hurting the chosen of Yahweh had given place to blind rage. Those who sheltered the fugitive, even priests, were slaughtered (  1 Samuel 22:17 ff). From one spot to another David was hunted, as he says, like a partridge (  1 Samuel 26:20 ).

    10. David Spares Saul:

    It is generally maintained that here also we have duplicate accounts; for example, that there are two accounts of David taking refuge with Achish, king of Gath, and two of his sparing Saul's life. The latter are contained in  1 Samuel 24,26 , but the points of resemblance are slight. Three thousand ( 1 Samuel 24:2;  1 Samuel 26:2 ) was the number of Saul's picked men (compare  1 Samuel 13:2 ). David uses the simile of "a flea" in  1 Samuel 24:14 , but in  1 Samuel 26:20 for "a flea" Septuagint has "my soul," which is no doubt original. The few other expressions would occur naturally in any narrative with the same contents.

    11. Saul's Divided Energies:

    Obviously Saul's divided energies could not hold out long; he could not put down the imaginary rebellion within, and at the same time keep at bay the foreign foe. No sooner had he got the fugitive within his grasp than he was called away by an inroad of the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 23:27 f); but after his life had been twice spared, he seemed to realize at last that the latter were the real enemy, and he threw his whole strength into one desperate effort for existence.

    12. Consults a Necromancer:

    Saul himself saw that his case was desperate, and that in fact the game was up. As a forlorn hope he determined to seek occult advice. He could no longer use the official means of divination ( 1 Samuel 28:6 ), and was obliged to have recourse to a necromancer, one of a class whom he himself had taken means to suppress ( 1 Samuel 28:3 ). The result of the seance confirmed his worst fears and filled his soul with despair ( 1 Samuel 28:7 ff).

    13. Battle of Gilboa:

    It says much for Saul that, hopeless as he was, he engaged in one last forlorn struggle with the enemy. The Philistines had gathered in great force at Shunem. Saul drew up his army on the opposing hill of Gilboa. Between the two forces lay a valley (compare  1 Samuel 14:4 ). The result was what had been foreseen. The Israelites, no doubt greatly reduced in numbers (contrast  1 Samuel 11:8 ), were completely defeated, and Saul and his sons slain. Their armor was placed in the temple of Ashtaroth, and their bodies hung on the wall of Bethshan, but Saul's head was set in the temple of Dagon ( 1 Chronicles 10:10 ). The citizens of Jabesh-gilead, out of ancient gratitude, rescued the bodies and, in un-Semitic wise, burned them and buried the bones.

    14. Double Accounts:

    Once more we have, according to most present-day critics, duplicate accounts of the death of Saul. According to one, which we may name A, he fell, like Ajax whom he much resembles, upon his own sword, after being desperately wounded by the archers ( 1 Samuel 31:4 ). According to the second ( 2 Samuel 1:2 ff), an Amalekite, who had been by accident a witness of the battle, dispatched Saul at his own request to save him from the enemy. But B is simply the continuation of A, and tells us how David received the news of the battle. The Amalekite's story is, of course, a fabrication with a view to a reward. Similar claims for the reward of assassination are common (  2 Samuel 4:9 ff).

    15. Saul's Posterity:

    With Saul the first Israelite dynasty began and ended. The names of his sons are given in  1 Samuel 14:49 as Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchishua. Ishvi or Ishyo (Septuagint) is Eshbaal, called in   2 Samuel 2:8 Ish-Bosheth (which see).  1 Chronicles 8:33 adds Abinadab. Jonathan left a long line of descendants famous, like himself, as archers (  1 Chronicles 8:34 ff). The rest of Saul's posterity apparently died out. Malchishua and Abinadab were slain at Gilboa (  1 Samuel 31:6;  1 Chronicles 10:2 ), and Ish-bosheth was assassinated shortly after ( 2 Samuel 4:2 ff). Saul had also two natural sons by Rizpah who were put to death by David in accordance with a superstitious custom, as also were the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab (  2 Samuel 21:8 , not Michal; compare  1 Samuel 18:19 ). Saurs other daughter Michal apparently had no children. Saul had, it seems, other wives, who were taken into the harem of David in accordance with the practice of the times ( 2 Samuel 12:8 ), but of them and their descendants we know nothing.

    III. Character.

    1. Book of Chronicles:

    Saul's life and character are disposed of in a somewhat summary fashion by the Chronicler ( 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 , especially  1 Chronicles 10:13 ,  1 Chronicles 10:14 ). Saul was rejected because he was disloyal to Yahweh, especially in consulting a necromancer. The major premise of this conclusion, however, is the ancient dictum, "Misfortune presupposes sin." From a wider point of view, Saul cannot be dismissed in so cavalier a manner.

    2. Saul's Failings:

    Like everyone else, Saul had his virtues and his failings. His chief weakness seems to have been want of decision of character. He was easily swayed by events and by people. The praises of David ( 1 Samuel 18:7 f) at once set his jealousy on fire. His persecution of David was largely due to the instigation of mischievous courtiers (  1 Samuel 24:9 ). Upon remonstrance his repentance was as deep as it was short-lived ( 1 Samuel 24:16;  1 Samuel 26:21 ). His impulsiveness was such that he did not know where to stop. His interdict ( 1 Samuel 14:24 ff) was quite as uncalled for as his religious zeal (  1 Samuel 15:9 ) was out of place. He was always at one extreme. His hatred of David was only equal to his affection for him at first ( 1 Samuel 18:2 ). His pusillanimity led him to commit crimes which his own judgment would have forbidden ( 1 Samuel 22:17 ). Like most beaten persons, he became suspicious of everyone ( 1 Samuel 22:7 f), and, like those who are easily led, he soon found his evil genius (  1 Samuel 22:9 ,  1 Samuel 22:18 ,  1 Samuel 22:22 ). Saul's inability to act alone appears from the fact that he never engaged in single combat, so far as we know. Before he could act at all his fury or his pity had to be roused to boiling-point ( 1 Samuel 11:6 ). His mind was peculiarly subject to external influences, so that he was now respectable man of the world, now a prophet ( 1 Samuel 10:11;  1 Samuel 19:24 ).

    3. His Virtues:

    On the other hand, Saul possessed many high qualities. His dread of office ( 1 Samuel 10:22 ) was only equaled by the coolness with which he accepted it ( 1 Samuel 11:5 ). To the first call to action he responded with promptitude ( 1 Samuel 11:6 ff). His timely aid excited the lasting gratitude of the citizens of Jabesh-gilead (  1 Samuel 31:11 ff) If we remember that Saul was openly disowned by Samuel (  1 Samuel 15:30 ), and believed himself cast off by Yahweh, we cannot but admire the way in which he fought on to the last. Moreover, the fact that he retained not only his own sons, but a sufficient body of fighting men to engage a large army of Philistines, shows that there must have been something in him to excite confidence and loyalty.

    4. David's Elegy:

    There is, however, no question as to the honorable and noble qualities of Saul. The chief were his prowess in war and his generosity in peace. They have been set down by the man who knew him best in what are among the most authentic verses in the Bible ( 2 Samuel 1:19 ff).

    (2) Saul of Tarsus. See Paul .

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

    Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, was the first king of the Israelites. The corrupt administration of justice by Samuel's sons furnished an occasion to the Hebrews for rejecting that theocracy, of which they neither appreciated the value, nor, through their unfaithfulness to it, enjoyed the full advantages (1 Samuel 8). An invasion by the Ammonites seems also to have conspired with the cause just mentioned, and with a love of novelty, in prompting the demand for a king —an officer evidently alien to the genius of the theocracy, though contemplated as an historical certainty, and provided for by the Jewish lawgiver . An explanation of the nature of this request, as not only an instance of ingratitude to Samuel, but of rebellion against Jehovah, and the delineation of the manner in which their kings—notwithstanding the restrictions prescribed in the law—might be expected to conduct themselves , having failed to move the people from their resolution, the Lord sent Saul, who had left home in quest of his father's asses, which had strayed, to Samuel, who having informed Saul of the divine purpose regarding him, and having at a feast shown him a preference, which, no doubt the other guests understood, privately anointed him king, and gave him various tokens, by which he might be assured that his designation was from, Jehovah (1 Samuel 9-10). Moved by the authority of Samuel, and by the fulfillment of these signs, Saul's reluctance to assume the office to which he was called was overcome. On his way home, meeting a company of prophets, he was seized with the prophetic afflatus, and so gave occasion to a proverb afterwards in use among the Jews. Immediately after, Saul was elected at Mizpah in a solemn assembly by the determination of the miraculous lot—and both previously to that election , and subsequently, when insulted by the worthless portion of the Israelites, he showed that modesty, humility, and forbearance which seem to have characterized him till corrupted by the possession of power. The person thus set apart to discharge the royal function, possessed at least those corporeal advantages which most ancient nations desiderated in their sovereigns. His person was tall and commanding, and he soon showed that his courage was not inferior to his strength . His belonging to Benjamin also, the smallest of the tribes, though of distinguished bravery, prevented the mutual jealousy with which either of the two great tribes, Judah and Ephraim, would have regarded a king chosen from the other; so that his election was received with general rejoicing, and a number of men, moved by the authority of Samuel , even attached themselves to him as a body-guard, or as counselors and assistants. In the mean time the Ammonites, whose invasion had hastened the appointment of a king, having besieged Jabesh in Gilead, and Nahash their king having proposed insulting conditions to them, the elders of that town, apparently not aware of Saul's election , sent messengers through the land imploring help. Saul acted with wisdom and promptitude; summoning the people, en masse, to meet him at Bezek, at the head of a vast multitude he totally routed the Ammonites. He and the people then betook themselves, under the direction of Samuel, to Gilgal, there with solemn sacrifices to reinstall the victorious leader in his kingdom (1 Samuel 11). At Gilgal Saul was publicly anointed, and solemnly installed in the kingdom by Samuel, who took occasion to vindicate the purity of his own administration—which he virtually transferred to Saul—to censure the people for their ingratitude and impiety, and to warn both them and Saul of the danger of disobedience to the commands of Jehovah (1 Samuel 12) [SAMUEL].

    The restrictions on which he held the sovereignty had been fully explained as well to Saul as to the people, so that he was not ignorant of his true position as merely the lieutenant of Jehovah, king of Israel, who not only gave all the laws, but whose will, in the execution of them, was constantly to be consulted and complied with. The first occasion on which his obedience to this constitution was put to the test brought out those defects in his character which showed his unfitness for his high office, and incurred a threat of that rejection which his subsequent conduct confirmed .

    Having organized a small standing army, part of which, under Jonathan, had taken a fort of the Philistines, Saul summoned the people to withstand the forces which their oppressors, now alarmed for their dominion, would naturally assemble. But so numerous a host came against Saul, that the people, panic-stricken, fled to rocks and caverns for safety—years of servitude having extinguished their courage, which the want of arms, of which the policy of the Philistines had deprived them, still further diminished. Apparently reduced to extremity, and the seventh day being come, but not being ended, the expiration of which Samuel had enjoined him to wait, Saul 'offered a burnt offering,' thus intruding into the priest's office. Samuel having denounced the displeasure of Jehovah and its consequences, left him, and Saul returned to Gibeah. Left to himself, Saul's errors multiplied apace. Jonathan, having assaulted a garrison of the Philistines (apparently at Michmash, , which, therefore, must have been situated near Migron in Gibeah, , and within sight of it, ), Saul, aided by a panic of the enemy, an earthquake, and the co-operation of his fugitive soldiers, effected a great slaughter; but by a rash and foolish denunciation, he (1) impeded his success , (2) involved the people in a violation of the law , and (3), unless prevented by the more enlightened conscience of the people, would have ended with putting Jonathan to death for an act which, being done in ignorance, could involve no guilt.

    Another trial was afforded Saul before his final rejection, the command to extirpate the Amalekites, whose hostility to the people of God was inveterate (;;;; ), and who had not by repentance averted that doom which had been delayed 550 years . A second time Saul willfully violated the divine commission with which he had been entrusted. This stubbornness in persisting to rebel against the directions of Jehovah was now visited by that final rejection of his family from succeeding him on the throne, which had before been threatened . After this second and flagrant disobedience, Saul received no more public countenance from the venerable prophet, who now left him to his sins and his punishment; 'nevertheless, he mourned for Saul,' and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king .

    The denunciations of Samuel sunk into the heart of Saul, and produced a deep melancholy, which either really was, or which his physicians (; comp. ) told him, was occasioned by an evil spirit from the Lord. By the advice of his servants, music was employed for the purpose of removing the deep melancholy into which he had fallen, and David was recommended to his notice as one 'cunning in playing.' Some critics have supposed, however, and apparently with good reason, that this event occurred subsequently to the transactions recorded in 1 Samuel 18.

    Though not acquainted with the unction of David, yet having received intimation that the kingdom should be given to another, Saul soon suspected from his accomplishments, heroism, wisdom, and popularity, that David was his destined successor; and, instead of concluding that his resistance to the divine purpose would only accelerate his own ruin, Saul, in the spirit of jealousy and rage, commenced a series of murderous attempts on the life of his rival , that must have lost him the respect and sympathy of his people which they secured for the object of his malice and envy, whose noble qualities also they both exercised and rendered more conspicuous. The slaughter of Ahimelech the priest (1 Samuel 22), under pretence of his being a partisan of David, and of eighty-five other priests of the house of Eli, to whom nothing could be imputed, as well as the whole inhabitants of Nob, was an atrocity perhaps never exceeded.

    Having compelled David to assume the position of an outlaw, around whom gathered a number of turbulent and desperate characters, Saul might persuade himself that he was justified in bestowing on another the hand of his younger daughter whom he had given David to wife, and in making expeditions to apprehend and destroy him. A portion of the people were base enough to minister to the evil passions of Saul , and others, perhaps, might color their fear by the pretence of conscience . But his sparing Saul's life twice, when he was completely in his power, must have destroyed all color of right in Saul's conduct in the minds of the people, as it also did in his own conscience (; 1 Samuel 26). Though thus degraded and paralyzed by the indulgence of malevolent passions, Saul still acted with vigor in repelling the enemies of his country, and in other affairs wherein his jealousy of David was not concerned .

    The measure of Saul's iniquity, now almost full, was completed by an act of direct treason against Jehovah the God of Israel , in consulting a woman that had a familiar spirit. [The question as to the character of the apparition evoked by the Witch of Endor, falls more properly to be considered under the article WITCHCRAFTS]. Assured by this woman of his own death the next day, and that of his sons; of the ruin of his army, and the triumph of his most formidable enemies, whose invasion had tempted him to try this unhallowed expedient; Saul, in a state of dejection which could not promise success to his followers, met the enemy next day in Gilboa, on the extremity of the great plain of Esdraelon; and having seen the total rout of his army, and the slaughter of his three sons, of whom the magnanimous Jonathan was one; and, having in vain solicited death from the hand of his armor-bearer, Saul perished at last by his own hand .

    When the Philistines came on the morrow to plunder the slain, they found Saul's body and the bodies of his sons, which, having beheaded them, they fastened to the wall of Bethshan; but the men of Jabesh-gilead, mindful of their former obligation to Saul (1 Samuel 11), when they heard of the indignity, gratefully and heroically went by night and carried them off, and buried them under a tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. From Jabesh the bones of Saul and of his sons were removed by David, and buried in Zelah, in the sepulcher of Kish his father.

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

    A Benjamite, the son of Kish, who fell in with Samuel as he was on the way in search of his father's asses that had gone astray, and from his stature and stately bearing was anointed by him to be first king of Israel; he distinguished himself in the field against the enemies of his people, but fell at the hands of the Philistines after a reign of 40 years, and after several insane attempts on the life of David, who had been elected to succeed him.