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Who Was King Saul in the Bible?

Saul had it all. Good looks, height, charm, and leadership ability. He was chosen by God and given the opportunity to be Israel’s first king. Saul’s own insistent disobedience against the Lord, however, dashed any opportunity for an enduring dynasty. Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 16, 2021
Who Was King Saul in the Bible?

The Bible prominently features two men named Saul. The first Saul was a king during Old Testament times.

The second Saul became a murderer just like his namesake...until his Damascus Road conversion and subsequent name change to Paul the apostle. This article focuses on the first - King Saul.

Story Highlights of King Saul in the Bible

Claim to fame: Saul was anointed by Samuel as the first king of the united kingdom of Israel.

Worst betrayal: King Saul turned against the Lord, slaughtering priests, and trying to kill David.

Saul’s Family Tree

  • Tribe and Clan: Benjamin and Matrites
  • Father: Kish
  • Wife: Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz
  • Sons and Daughters: Jonathan, Abinadab, Malchishua, Ish-bosheth (traditional spellings). Merab and Michal
  • Grandson and Great Grandson: Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 4:4). Micah, son of Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:12).


Bible Verses About King Saul

Most of Saul’s story is told 1 Samuel 9-31. His story wraps up early in 2 Samuel, but his legacy continues in David’s story, especially the seven years after Saul’s death.

His genealogy appears along with a few key stories from Saul’s life in 1 Chronicles.

That isn’t the last that we read about Saul:

 We know who his father was. We know who Saul married and how many sons he had. That said, Saul’s life story really doesn’t start in earnest until he’s 30 years old in 1 Samuel 13:1.

King Saul’s Important Story in the Bible

Before he was something, when he was ordinary, Saul was a humble man. True, he was born into a well-respected family. He was particularly good-looking. He stood much taller than other Israelite men.

Then again, he was a farmer who tended animals and worked the land. Most other men did the same. But God — in His providence, the Lord God orchestrated a meeting between Saul and the prophet Samuel, who honored him and anointed him king of Israel.

King Saul couldn’t really comprehend what that meant, but as he turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart (1 Samuel 10:9), the Holy Spirit came upon him “powerfully” (1 Samuel 10:10), and he prophesied. What a change, indeed!

At this point, Saul still was so humble that he didn’t tell his relatives about his anointing as king over the nation of Israel. 

Then, when Samuel cast lots before the people to confirm who was king, and announced that Saul had won, he disappeared. They found him hiding among the supplies (of food and wine, perhaps).

After winning an important military victory, Saul was reconfirmed as king of Israel (1 Samuel 11), and Samuel made an important speech (1 Samuel 12). Within a few days, however, disaster strikes.

Feeling extreme pressure, does Saul pray? No. Instead, he gives into pride, disobeys the Lord, and takes Samuel’s place at the altar (1 Samuel 13:8-9). Immediately, Samuel arrives to announce that the Lord has judged him.

Samuel then tells Saul: “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). That man, of course, turns out to be David, whom we meet four chapters later.

When Saul realizes David will be the next king, Saul’s jealousy and envy border on insanity. That insanity leads Saul to chase David near and far, including long jaunts into the wilderness.

The Spirit is replaced by evil spirits that cause Saul to rage and slaughter any and all who aid David. In desperation, Saul consults a medium to talk with the deceased Samuel, who tells Saul that he’s about to die.

Sure enough, soon thereafter the Philistines attack. Saul’s three oldest sons (and many others) die in battle. Saul himself is mortally wounded and takes his own life (suicide). What a terrible legacy after such a promising start.

Unlike Saul, let’s not give into pride, envy, or jealousy when God chooses to honor and use someone else more than He uses you or me.

Lessons from the Life of Saul 

Saul had it all. Good looks, height, charm, and leadership ability. He was chosen by God, touched by his Spirit, and given the opportunity to be Israel’s first and greatest king.

Saul’s own insistent disobedience against the Lord, however, dashed any opportunity for an enduring dynasty. Instead, jealousy and bitterness began to brew in the king’s heart.

Saul’s own son Jonathan could have felt just as bitter or jealous. After all, Jonathan knew full well that he had lost the kingship because of his father’s sin — and that David would become king instead. Yet Jonathan was willing to be second to David if that was God’s plan. Saul, however, would hear none of it.

Jealousy ate at Saul’s tormented mind. Like a man unhinged, he was driven to chase David in the wilderness, bent on destroying the man God chose as his replacement. In his jealous rage, Saul eventually viewed his own soldiers as conspirators against his happiness and God’s priests as traitors against his life.

Saul’s jealousy mushroomed into a terrible cloud of destruction. He murdered hundreds of innocent people but never could catch David. In the end, Saul fell victim to his own sword. Years later, David’s son Solomon wrote, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who jealousy is even more dangerous” (Proverbs 27:4, NLT).

If one of God’s most gifted men could not survive jealousy and other sins, who are you and I to think we can sin the same and fare any better?

For further reading:

Why Are There So Many Name Changes in the Bible?

King David in the Bible — Who Was He? Why Is He Important?

How Is Understanding the Bible Important (or even Possible)?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Kubra Cavus

headshot of David Sanford new 2020The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.


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