Questions From Readers
● What does the scripture at 1 Samuel 18:10 mean when it says that “God’s bad spirit became operative upon Saul, so that he behaved like a prophet within the house”?
In 1 Samuel 16:14 we are informed that “the very spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and a bad spirit from Jehovah terrorized him.” In this we can see an application of the principle indicated by Jesus at Matthew 12:43-45, namely, that if the mind and life are not filled with Jehovah’s spirit, then they are open to invasion of demon spirits. It is not that Jehovah actually sent an evil spirit to terrorize Saul, but by removing his holy spirit from the disobedient king a vacancy was left, a vacancy that was promptly filled by a bad spirit or mental inclination. Since Jehovah made the evilly inclined possession possible by the removal of his holy spirit, Jehovah is referred to as the source of the evil spirit.
Just how this bad spirit impelled Saul to act or behave like a prophet is not precisely stated in the account. However, it is quite likely that he “was filled with prophetic frenzy,” as one translation renders the words (AT). Others render the words “behaved like a prophet” simply as “raved,” and concerning this the Soncino version states: “he-raved. lit. ‘played the prophet,’ displaying the manifestations of physical excitement which were associated with the ecstatic frenzies of the prophetic bands.” It is quite likely that in this particular instance, since music was being played and since some prophets prophesied when music was being played, the frenzy was badly directed, which it would not have been if Saul had been under the influence of a good spirit from Jehovah. (2 Ki. 3:14, 15; 1 Sam. 10:5-13) This is what we could expect in view of what the record goes on to say: “He behaved like a prophet within the house, while David was playing music with his hand, as in former days; and the spear was in Saul’s hand. And Saul proceeded to hurl the spear and say: ‘I will pin David even to the wall!’” Certainly such an action evinced a greatly disturbed state of mind.—1 Sam. 18:10, 11.