[Asked [of God]; Inquired [of God]].
1. A Benjamite descended from Jeiel (presumably also called Abiel) through Ner and Kish (1Ch 8:29-33; 9:35-39; see ABIEL No. 1); the first divinely selected king of Israel. (1Sa 9:15, 16; 10:1) Saul came from a wealthy family. A handsome man, standing head and shoulders taller than all others of his nation, he possessed great physical strength and agility. (1Sa 9:1, 2; 2Sa 1:23) The name of his wife was Ahinoam. Saul fathered at least seven sons, Jonathan, Ishvi, Malchi-shua, Abinadab, Ish-bosheth (Eshbaal), Armoni, and Mephibosheth, as well as two daughters, Merab and Michal. Abner, evidently King Saul’s uncle (see ABNER), served as chief of the Israelite army.—1Sa 14:49, 50; 2Sa 2:8; 21:8; 1Ch 8:33.
The young man Saul lived during a turbulent time of Israel’s history. Philistine oppression had reduced the nation to a helpless state militarily (1Sa 9:16; 13:19, 20), and the Ammonites under King Nahash threatened aggression. (1Sa 12:12) Whereas Samuel had faithfully judged Israel, his sons were perverters of justice. (1Sa 8:1-3) Viewing the situation from a human standpoint and, therefore, losing sight of Jehovah’s ability to protect his people, the older men of Israel approached Samuel with the request that he appoint a king over them.—1Sa 8:4, 5.
Anointed as King. Thereafter Jehovah guided matters to provide the occasion for anointing Saul as king. With his attendant, Saul looked for the lost she-asses of his father. Since the search proved to be fruitless, he decided to return home. But his attendant suggested that they seek the assistance of the “man of God” known to be in a nearby city. This led to Saul’s meeting Samuel. (1Sa 9:3-19) In his first conversation with Samuel, Saul showed himself to be a modest man. (1Sa 9:20, 21) After eating a sacrificial meal with Saul, Samuel continued speaking with him. The next morning Samuel anointed Saul as king. To confirm that God was with Saul, Samuel gave him three prophetic signs, all of which were fulfilled that day.—1Sa 9:22–10:16.
Later, at Mizpah, when chosen as king by lot (1Sa 10:20, 21, JB; NE), Saul bashfully hid among the luggage. Found, he was presented as king, and the people approvingly shouted: “Let the king live!” Escorted by valiant men, Saul returned to Gibeah. Though good-for-nothing men spoke disparagingly of him and despised him, Saul remained silent.—1Sa 10:17-27.
Early Victories. About a month later (according to the reading of the Greek Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama in 1Sa 11:1) Ammonite King Nahash demanded the surrender of Jabesh in Gilead. (See NAHASH No. 1.) When messengers brought news of this to Saul, God’s spirit became operative upon him. He quickly rallied an army of 330,000 men and led it to victory. This resulted in a strengthening of Saul’s position as king, the people even requesting that those who had spoken against him be put to death. But Saul, appreciating that Jehovah had granted the victory, did not consent to this. Subsequently, at Gilgal, Saul’s kingship was confirmed anew.—1Sa 11:1-15.
Next Saul undertook steps to break the power of the Philistines over Israel. He chose 3,000 Israelites, placing 2,000 under himself and the remainder under his son Jonathan. Evidently acting at his father’s direction, “Jonathan struck down the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba.” In retaliation, the Philistines assembled a mighty force and began camping at Michmash.—1Sa 13:3, 5.
Sins Presumptuously. Meanwhile Saul had withdrawn from Michmash to Gilgal in the Jordan Valley. There he waited seven days for Samuel. But Samuel did not come at the appointed time. Fearing that the enemy would sweep down upon him when he had not secured Jehovah’s help and that further delay would result in losing his army, Saul ‘compelled himself’ to offer up the burnt sacrifice. Samuel, on arriving, condemned Saul’s ‘foolish act’ as sinful. Evidently, Saul’s sin consisted of his presumptuously going ahead with the sacrifice and not obeying Jehovah’s commandment, which had been given through his representative Samuel, to wait for Samuel to offer up the sacrifice. (Compare 1Sa 10:8.) As a consequence of this act, Saul’s kingdom was not to last.—1Sa 13:1-14.
In the progress of the campaign against the Philistines, Saul pronounced a curse upon anyone partaking of food before vengeance was executed on the enemy. This rash oath led to adverse consequences. The Israelites tired, and though they triumphed over the Philistines, their victory was not as great as it might have been. Famished, they did not take time to drain the blood from the animals they afterward slaughtered, thereby violating God’s law concerning the sanctity of blood. Not having heard his father’s oath, Jonathan ate some honey. Saul, therefore, pronounced the death sentence upon him. But the people redeemed Jonathan, for he had been instrumental in Israel’s gaining the victory.—1Sa 14:1-45.
Rejected by God. Throughout Saul’s reign there were repeated battles against the Philistines and other peoples, including the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Amalekites. (1Sa 14:47, 48, 52) In the war against the Amalekites, Saul transgressed Jehovah’s command by sparing the best of their flock and herd as well as their king, Agag. When asked why he had not obeyed Jehovah’s voice, Saul disclaimed guilt and shifted the blame onto the people. Only after Samuel emphasized the serious nature of the sin and said that, because of it, Jehovah was rejecting him as king did Saul acknowledge that his error was the result of his fearing the people. After Saul pleaded with Samuel to honor him in front of the older men and in front of Israel by accompanying him, Samuel did appear with him before them. Then Samuel himself proceeded to put Agag to death. After that, Samuel parted from Saul and they had no further association.—1Sa 15:1-35.
It was after this and after the anointing of David as Israel’s future king that Jehovah’s spirit left Saul. From then on “a bad spirit from Jehovah terrorized him.” Having withdrawn his spirit from Saul, Jehovah made it possible for a bad spirit to gain possession of him, depriving Saul of his peace of mind and stirring up his feelings, thoughts, and imaginations in a wrong way. Saul’s failure to obey Jehovah indicated a bad inclination of mind and heart, against which God’s spirit offered Saul no protection or resistive force. However, since Jehovah had permitted the “bad spirit” to replace his spirit and terrorize Saul, it could be termed a “bad spirit from Jehovah,” so that Saul’s servants spoke of it as “God’s bad spirit.” On the recommendation of one of his attendants, Saul requested that David be his court musician to calm him when he was troubled by the “bad spirit.”—1Sa 16:14-23; 17:15.
Relationships With David. Thereafter the Philistines threatened Israel’s security. While they were camped on one side of the Low Plain of Elah and King Saul’s forces were camped on the opposite side, Goliath, morning and evening, for 40 days, emerged from the Philistine camp, challenging Israel to furnish a man to fight him in single combat. King Saul promised to enrich and to form a marriage alliance with any Israelite who might strike down Goliath. Also, the house of the victor’s father was to be “set free,” probably from the payment of taxes and compulsory service. (Compare 1Sa 8:11-17.) When David arrived on the scene with food supplies for his brothers and certain portions for the chief of the thousand (possibly the commander under whom David’s brothers served), his questionings apparently suggested his willingness to answer the challenge. This led to his being brought to Saul and to his subsequent victory over Goliath.—1Sa 17:1-58.
Develops enmity for David. Saul thereafter placed David over the men of war. This eventually resulted in David’s being celebrated in song more than the king himself. Saul, therefore, came to view David with suspicion and envious hatred. On one occasion, as David was playing on the harp, Saul ‘began behaving like a prophet.’ Not that Saul began to utter prophecies, but he evidently manifested extraordinary feeling and a physical disturbance like that of a prophet just prior to prophesying or when prophesying. While in that unusual, disturbed state, Saul twice hurled a spear at David. Failing in his attempts to pin David to the wall, Saul later agreed to give his daughter Michal in marriage to David upon the presentation of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. Saul’s intent in making this offer was that David would die at their hands. The scheme failed, David presenting, not 100, but 200 foreskins to form a marriage alliance with Saul. The king’s fear of and hatred for David therefore intensified. To his son Jonathan and to all of his servants, Saul spoke about his desire to put David to death. When Jonathan interceded, Saul promised not to kill David. Nevertheless, David was forced to flee for his life, as Saul hurled a spear at him for the third time. Saul even had messengers watch David’s house and commanded that he be put to death in the morning.—1Sa 18:1–19:11.
That night David made his escape through a window of his house and ran to Ramah, where Samuel resided. With Samuel he then took up dwelling in Naioth. When news of this reached Saul, he sent messengers to seize David. But, upon arriving, they “began behaving like prophets.” Evidently God’s spirit operated upon them in such a way that they completely forgot the purpose of their mission. When this also happened to two other groups of messengers dispatched by him, Saul personally went to Ramah. He likewise came under the control of God’s spirit, and that for a prolonged period, this evidently providing David sufficient time to flee.—1Sa 19:12–20:1; see PROPHET (Means of Appointment and Inspiration).
David spares Saul’s life as God’s anointed. After these unsuccessful attempts on David’s life, Jonathan, for a second time, spoke out in behalf of David. But Saul became so enraged that he hurled a spear at his own son. (1Sa 20:1-33) From that time onward Saul relentlessly pursued David. Learning that High Priest Ahimelech had assisted David, Saul ordered that he and his associate priests be executed. (1Sa 22:6-19) Later, he planned to attack the Judean city of Keilah because David was residing there but abandoned the plan when David escaped. Saul continued the chase, hunting for him in wilderness regions. A Philistine raid, however, brought his pursuit to a temporary halt and enabled David to seek refuge in the Wilderness of En-gedi. On two occasions thereafter Saul came into a position that would have allowed David to kill him. But David refused to put out his hand against Jehovah’s anointed one. The second time Saul, learning of David’s restraint, even promised not to do injury to David. But this was an insincere expression, for it was only when he learned that David had run away to the Philistine city of Gath that he abandoned the chase.—1Sa 23:10–24:22; 26:1–27:1, 4.
Saul turns to spiritism. About a year or two later (1Sa 29:3), the Philistines came against Saul. Without Jehovah’s spirit and guidance, and abandoned to a disapproved mental state, he turned to spiritism, a transgression worthy of death. (Le 20:6) Disguised, Saul went to see a spirit medium at En-dor, requesting that she bring up the dead Samuel for him. From her description of what she saw, Saul concluded that it was Samuel. However, it should be noted that Jehovah had not answered Saul’s inquiries and obviously did not do so by means of a practice condemned by His law as warranting the death penalty. (Le 20:27) Therefore, what the woman said must have been of demonic origin. The message gave no comfort to Saul but filled him with fear.—1Sa 28:4-25; see SPIRITISM.
Saul’s death. In the ensuing conflict with the Philistines, Saul was severely wounded at Mount Gilboa and three of his sons were slain. As his armor-bearer refused to put him to death, Saul fell upon his own sword. (1Sa 31:1-7) About three days later a young Amalekite came to David, boasting that he had put the wounded king to death. This was evidently a lie, designed to gain David’s favor. David, however, commanded that the man be executed on the basis of the claim, because Saul had been Jehovah’s anointed one.—2Sa 1:1-15.
Meanwhile the Philistines had fastened the corpses of Saul and his three sons on the wall of Beth-shan. Courageous men of Jabesh-gilead, however, retrieved the bodies, burned them, and then buried the bones.—1Sa 31:8-13.
Years later, during David’s reign, the bloodguilt that had been incurred by Saul and his house in connection with the Gibeonites was avenged when seven of his descendants were slain.—2Sa 21:1-9.
2. A Benjamite of the city of Tarsus in Asia Minor who persecuted Christ’s followers but later became an apostle of Jesus Christ. (Ac 9:1, 4, 17; 11:25; 21:39; Php 3:5) In all of his letters he referred to himself by his Latin name Paul.—See PAUL.