Saul (Heb. Shaill', שָׁאוּל, desired; Sept. and New Test. Σαούλ; Josephus, Σάουλος), the name of several men, the following three of whom are thus known in the A.V. For the others SEE SHAUL.
1. An early king of the Edomites, successor of Samlah at Rehoboth (Ge 36:37-38), elsewhere called "Shaul" (1Ch 1:4 p. 49). B.C. post 1618.
2. The first king of Israel (B.C. 1093-1053). As such his career possesses a peculiar interest in the history and relations of the chosen people.
I. The Name. — This first becomes prominent here in the history of Israel, though found before in the Edomitish prince already mentioned, and in a son of Simeon (Ge 46:10; A.V. "Shaul"). It also occurs among the Kohathites in the genealogy of Samuel (1Ch 6:24, "Shaul"), and in Saul, like the king, of the tribe of Benjamin, better known as the apostle Paul (see below). Josephus (War, 2, 18, 4) mentions a Saul, father of one Simon who distinguished himself at Scythopolis in the early part of the Jewish war. The name in its application to the present character seems almost like a mockery of his history.
II. His Family. — On the following page is a general view of Saul's pedigree.
In this genealogy may be observed —
1. The repetition in two generations of the names of Kish and Ner, of Nadab and Abi-nadab, and of Mephibosheth.
2. The occurrence of the name of Baal in three successive generations; possibly in four, as there were two Mephibosheths.
3. The constant shiftings of the names of God, as incorporated in the proper names: (a) Ab-iel=Jehiel; (b) Malchi-shua=Je-shua; (c) Esh- baal=Ishbosheth; (d) Mephi- (or Meri-) baal=Mephi-bosheth.
4. The long continuance of the family down to the times of Ezra.
5. Is it possible that Zimri (1Ch 9:42) can be the usurper of 1 Kings 16--if so, the last attempt of the house of Saul to regain its ascendency? The time would agree.
There is a disagreement between the pedigree in 1Sa 9:1; 1Sa 14:51, which represents Saul and Abner as the grandsons of Abiel. and 1Ch 8:33; 1Ch 9:39, which represents them as his great- grandsons. If we adopt the more elaborate pedigree in the Chronicles, we must suppose either that a link has been dropped between Abiel and Kish, in 1Sa 9:1, or that the elder Kish, the son of Abiel (1Ch 9:36), has been confounded with the younger Kish, the son of Ner (1Ch 9:39). The pedigree in 1 Chronicles 8 is not free from confusion, as it omits among the sons of Abiel, Ner, who in 1Ch 9:36 is the fifth son, and who in both is made the father of Kish. SEE ABIEL.
Saul's more particular genealogy and lineage (so far as given) is as follows:
III. Saul's History. —
1. Up to his Coronation. — The birthplace of Saul is not expressly mentioned; but as Zelah was the place of Kish's sepulchre (2 Samuel 21), it was probably his native village. There is no warrant for saying that it was Gibeah, though, from its subsequent connection with him, it is called often "Gibeah of Saul." SEE GIBEAH. (When Abiel, or Jehiel [1Ch 8:29; 1Ch 9:35], is called the father of "Gibeon," it probably means founder of Gibeah.)
His father, Kish, was a powerful and wealthy chief, though the family to which he belonged was of little importance (1Sa 9:1,21). 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, accompanied by a servant (נִעִר) who acted also as a guide and assistant of the young man (ver. 3-10). After a three days' journey (ver. 20), which it has hitherto proved impossible to track with certainty, SEE RAMAH, through Ephraim and Benjamin, SEE SHALIM; SEE SHALISHA; SEE ZUPH, they arrived at the foot of a hill surrounded by a town, when Saul proposed to return home, but was deterred by the advice of the servant, who suggested that before doing so they should consult "a man of God," "a seer," as to the fate of the asses, securing his oracle by a present (backshish) of a quarter of a silver shekel. They were instructed by the maidens at the well outside the city to catch the seer as he came out of the city to ascend to a sacred eminence, where a sacrificial feast was waiting for his benediction (1Sa 9:11-13). At the gate they met the seer for the first time — it was Samuel. A divine intimation had indicated to him the approach and the future destiny of the youthful Benjamite. Surprised at his language, but still obeying his call, they ascended to the high place, and in the inn or caravansary at the top (Sept. τὸ κατάλυμα, ver. 27) found thirty or (Sept. and Josephus, Ant. 6, 4, 1) seventy guests assembled, among whom they took the chief place. In anticipation of some distinguished stranger, Samuel had bidden the cook reserve a boiled shoulder, from which Saul, as the chief guest, was bidden to tear off the first morsel (Sept. 1Sa 9:22-24). They then descended to the city, and a bed was prepared for Saul on the housetop. At daybreak Samuel roused him. They descended again to the skirts of the town, and there (the servant having left them) 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 and (Sept.) deliverer of the nation (1Sa 9:25-10:1). From that moment, as he turned on Samuel the huge shoulder which towered above all the rest (Sept. 10:9), a new life dawned upon him. He returned by a route which, like that of his search, it is impossible to make out distinctly; and at every step homeward it was confirmed by the incidents which, according to Samuel's prediction awaited him (10:9, 10). At Rachel's sepulchre he met two men, who announced to him the recovery of the asses — his lower cares were to cease. At the oak of Tabor, SEE PLAIN, TABOR, he met three men carrying gifts of kids and bread and a skin of wine, as an offering to Bethel. Two of the loaves were offered to him as if to indicate his new dignity. At "the hill of God" (whatever may be meant thereby, possibly his own city, Gibeah) he met a band of prophets descending with musical instruments, and he caught the inspiration from them as a sign of his new life (Ewald, 3, 28-30).
This is what may be called the private, inner view of his call. The outer call, which is related independently of the other, was as follows. An assembly was convened by Samuel at Mizpeh, and lots (so often practiced at that time, see Aristot. Polit. 6, 11; Virgil, En. 2) were cast to find the tribe and the family which was to produce the king. Saul was named, and, by a divine intimation, found hidden in the circle of baggage which surrounded the encampment (1Sa 10:17-24). His stature at once conciliated the public feeling, and for the first time the shout was raised, afterwards so often repeated in modern times, "Long live the king!" (ver. 23, 24) and he returned to his own Gibeah, accompanied by the fighting part (הִחִיַל) of the people, of whom he was now to be the especial head. The murmurs of the worthless part of the community who refused to salute him with the accustomed presents were soon dispelled by an occasion arising to justify the selection of Saul. The words which close 1Sa 10:27 are, in the Hebrew text, "he was as though he were deaf;" in Josephus, Ant. 6, 5,1, and the Sept. (followed by Ewald), "and it came to pass after a month that." 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). The prospect of the event related below seems also to have conspired with the cause just mentioned and with a love of novelty in prompting the demand for a king (1Sa 12:12) — an officer evidently alien to the genius of the theocracy, though contemplated as a historical certainty, and provided for by the Jewish lawgiver (ver. 17- 20; De 17:14-20; on which see Grotius's note; also De Jure Belli, etc. 1, 4, 6, with the remarks of Gronovius, who [as Puffendorf also does] controverts the views of Grotius). 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 (ִמַשׁסִּט הִמֶּלֶ, Sept. δικαίωμα τοῦ βασιλέως; 1Sa 8:11; 1Sa 10:25), failed to move the people from their resolution. SEE SAMUEL. Both previously to that election (ver. 16), 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 corporal advantages which most ancient nations desiderated in their sovereigns — what Euripides calls the worthy form of royalty. His person was tall and commanding, and he soon showed that his courage was not inferior to his strength (1Sa 9:1; 1Sa 10:23). 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.
2. Confirmation of Saul's Appointment. — He was (having, apparently, returned to his private life) on his way home, driving his herd of oxen, when he heard one of those wild lamentations in the city of Gibeah, such as mark in Eastern towns the arrival of a great calamity. It was the tidings of the threat issued by Nahash, king of Ammon, against Jabesh-gilead. SEE AMMON. For, in the meantime, 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 (1Sa 11:3), sent messengers through the land imploring help. The inhabitants of Jabesh were connected with Benjamin by the old adventure recorded in Judges 21. It was as if this one spark was needed to awaken the dormant spirit of the king. 'The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,' as on the ancient judges. The shy, retiring nature which we have observed vanished never to return. In this emergency, he had recourse to the expedient of the earlier days by the message of the flesh of two of the oxen from the herd which he was driving. Saul thus acted with wisdom and promptitude, summoning the people, en masse, to meet him at Bezek; and having, at the head of a vast multitude, totally routed the Ammonites (ver. 11) and obtained a higher glory by exhibiting a new instance of clemency, whether dictated by principle or policy — "Novum imperium inchoantibus utilis clementiae fama" (Tacitus, Hist. 4, 63), "For lowliness is young ambition's ladder" — he and the people betook themselves, under the direction of Samuel, to Gilgal, there with solemn sacrifices to reinstall the victorious leader in his kingdom (1 Samuel 11). If the number set down in the Hebrew text of those who followed Saul (1Sa 11:8) can be depended on (the Sept. more than doubles them, and Josephus outgoes even the Sept.), it would appear that the tribe of Judah was dissatisfied with Saul's election, for the soldiers furnished by the other tribes were 300,000, while Judah sent only 30,000; whereas the population of the former, compared with that of Judah, appears, from other passages, to have been as about five to three (2Ki 24:9). Yet it is strange that this remissness is neither punished (1Sa 11:7) nor noticed. 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). The effect of this military success was instantaneous on the people; the punishment of the murmurers was demanded, but refused by Saul, and the monarchy was inaugurated anew (1 Samuel 11:1-15). It should be observed, however, that, according to 1Sa 12:12. the affair of Nahash preceded and occasioned the election of Saul. He became king of Israel. But he still so far resembles the earlier judges as to be virtually king only of his own tribe, Benjamin, or of the immediate neighborhood. Almost all his exploits are confined to this circle of territory or associations.
These were the principal transactions that occurred during the first decade of Saul's reign (which we venture to assign as the meaning of the first clause of ch. 13 — "the son of a year was Saul in his reigning;" the emendation of Origen, "Saul was thirty years old," being required by the chronology, for he seems, at the next event, to have been forty years old); and the subsequent events happened in the second decade, which may be the meaning of the latter clause.
3. Saul's First Trial and Transgression. — Samuel, who had up to this time been still named as ruler with Saul (1Sa 11:7,12,14), now withdrew, and Saul became the acknowledged chief. The restrictions on which he held the sovereignty had (1Sa 10:25) 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 (1Sa 13:13). Saul could not understand his proper position, as only the servant of Jehovah speaking through his ministers, or confine himself to it; and in this respect he was not, what David with many individual and private faults and crimes was a man after God's own heart, a king faithful to the principles of the theocracy.
In the twentieth year of his reign (as the age of Jonathan evidently requires; the text being corrupt; see Keil, ad loc.) Saul began to organize an attempt to shake off the Philistine yoke which pressed on his country; not least on his own tribe, where a Philistine officer had long been stationed even in his own field (1Sa 10:5; 1Sa 13:3). Having collected a small standing army, part of which, under Jonathan, had taken a fort (or slain the officer) of the Philistines, Saul summoned the people to withstand the forces which their oppressors, now alarmed for their dominion, would, upon this signal, 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. The number of chariots, 30,000, seems a mistake; unless we suppose, with Le Clerc, that they were not war chariots, but baggage wagons (an improbable supposition), so that 3000 may be the true number. 'Apparently reduced to extremity, and the seventh day having come, but not being ended, the expiration of which Samuel had enjoined him to wait, Saul at least ordered sacrifices to be offered — for the expression (ver. 9) does not necessarily imply that he intruded into the priest's office (2Sa 6:13; 1Ki 3:2-4), though that is the most obvious meaning of the text. Whether that which Saul now disregarded was the injunction referred to (1Sa 10:8) or one subsequently addressed to him, this is evident, that Saul acted in the full knowledge that he sinned (1Sa 13:12); and his guilt, in that act of conscious disobedience, was probably increased by its clearly involving an assumption of authority to conduct the war according to his own judgment and will. But just after the sacrifice was completed Samuel arrived and pronounced the first curse on his impetuous zeal (1Sa 13:5-14). Samuel, having denounced the displeasure of Jehovah and its consequences, left him, and Saul returned to Gibeah (the addition made to the text of the Sept. ver. 15, where, after "from Gilgal," the clause, "and the rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the enemy from Gilgal to Gibeah," etc., being required apparently by the sense, which, probably, has been the only authority for its insertion). Left to himself, Saul's errors multiplied apace. SEE SAMUEL.
Meanwhile the adventurous exploit of his son brought on the crisis which ultimately drove the Philistines back to their own territory. Jonathan, having assaulted a garrison of the Philistines (apparently at Michmash [1Sa 14:31], which therefore must have been situated near Migron in Gibeah [1Sa 14:1], and within sight of it [1Sa 14:15]), Saul, aided by a panic of the enemy, an earthquake, and the cooperation of his fugitive soldiers, effected a great slaughter; but by a rash and foolish denunciation, he (1) impeded his success (1Sa 14:30), (2) involved the people in a violation of the law (1Sa 14:33), 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 total ignorance, could involve no guilt. SEE JONATHAN. This campaign was signalized by two remarkable incidents in the life of Saul. One was the first appearance of his madness in the above rash vow which all but cost the life of his son (1Sa 14:24,44). The other was the erection of his first altar, built either to celebrate the victory, or to expiate the savage feast of the famished people (1Sa 14:35). This success against the Philistines was followed, not only by their retirement for a time within their own territory, but by other considerable successes against the other enemies of his country. Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, the Amalekites, and the Philistines — all of whom he harassed. but did not subdue. These wars may have occupied two or three years, about the middle of Saul's reign (B.C. 1073-71).
4. Saul's Second Transgression. — The expulsion of the Philistines (although not entirely completed [1Sa 14:52]) at once placed Saul in a position higher than that of any previous ruler of Israel. Probably from this time was formed the organization of royal state, which contained in germ some of the future institutions of the monarchy. The host of 3000 has been already mentioned (1Sa 13; 1Sa 24:2; 1Sa 26:2; comp. 1Ch 12:29). Of this Abner became captain (1Sa 14:50). A bodyguard of young, tall, and handsome Benjamites (Josephus, Ant. 6, 6, 6; 7, 14) was also formed of runners and messengers (see 1Sa 16:15,17; 1Sa 22:14,17; 1Sa 26:22). Of this David was afterwards made the chief. These two were the principal officers of the court, and sat with Jonathan at the king's table (20:25). Another officer is incidentally mentioned the keeper of the royal mules — the comes stabuli, the "constable" of the king — such as appears in the later monarchy (1Ch 27:30). He is the first instance of a foreigner employed about the court — being an Edomite or (Sept.) Syrian, of the name of Doeg (1Sa 21:7; 1Sa 22:9). According to Jewish tradition (Jerome, Qu. Hoeb. ad loc.) he was the servant who accompanied Saul in his pursuit of his father's asses — who counseled him to send for David (1Sa 9:16), and whose son ultimately killed him (2Sa 1:10). The high priest of the house of Ithamar (Ahimelech or Ahijah) was in attendance upon him with the ephod, when he desired it (1Sa 14:3), and felt himself bound to assist his secret commissioners (21:1-9; 22:14). The king himself was distinguished by a state not before marked in the rulers. He had a tall spear of the same kind as that described in the hand of Goliath, and the same that now marks the Bedouin sheik. This never left him — in repose (18:10; 19:9), at his meals (20:33), at rest (26:11), in battle (2Sa 1:6). In battle he wore a diadem on his head and a bracelet on his arm (1:10). He sat at meals on a seat of his own facing his son (1Sa 20:25; Sept.). He was received on his return from battle by the songs of the Israelitish women (18:6), among whom he was on such occasions specially known as bringing back from the enemy scarlet robes, and golden ornaments for their apparel (2Sa 1:24).
The warlike character of his reign naturally still predominated, and he was now able not merely, like his temporary predecessors, to act on the defensive, but to attack the neighboring tribes of Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, and finally Amalek (1Sa 14:47). The war with Amalek is twice related, first briefly (ver. 48), and then at length (15:1-9). Its chief connection with Saul's history lies in the disobedience to the prophetical command of Samuel, shown in the sparing of the king, and the retention of the spoil (B.C. 1070). In this event another trial was afforded Saul before his final rejection namely, by the command to extirpate the Amalekites, whose hostility to the people of God was inveterate (De 25:18; Ex 17:8-16; Nu 14:42-45; Jg 3:13; Jg 6:3), and who had not by repentance averted that doom which had been delayed 550 years (1Sa 14:48). The extermination of Amalek and the subsequent execution of Agag belong to the general question of the moral code of the Old Test. SEE AGAG. There is no reason to suppose that Saul spared the king for any other reason than that for which he retained the spoil — namely, to make a more splendid show at the sacrificial thanksgiving (15:21). Such was the Jewish tradition preserved by Josephus (Ant. 6, 7, 2), who expressly says that Agag was spared for his stature and beauty, and such is the general impression left by the description of the celebration of the victory. Saul rides to the southern Carmel in a chariot (Sept.), never mentioned elsewhere, and sets up a monument there (Heb. "a hand" [2Sa 18:18]), which in the Jewish traditions (Jerome, Qu. Hoeb. ad loc.) was a triumphal arch of olives, myrtles, and palms. In allusion to his crowning triumph, Samuel applies to God the phrase, "The victory (Vulg. trumphator) of Israel will neither lie nor repent" (1Sa 15:29; and comp. 1Ch 29:11). The apparent cruelty of this commission was not the reason why it was not fully executed, as Saul himself confessed when Samuel upbraided him, "I feared the people and obeyed their voice" (1Sa 15:24). 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 (1Sa 13:13-14; 1Sa 15:23), and which was now significantly represented, or mystically predicted, by the rending of the prophet's mantle. The struggle between Samuel and Saul in their final parting is also indicated, as he tears himself away from Saul's grasp (for the gesture, see Josephus, Ant. 6, 7, 5), and by the long mourning of Samuel for the separation "Samuel mourned for Saul." "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?" (1Sa 14:35; 1Sa 16:1). After this second and flagrant disobedience, accordingly, Saul received no more public countenance from the venerable prophet, who now left him to his sins and his punishment; "nevertheless the Lord repented that he had made Saul king" (15:35). SEE SAMUEL.
5. Saul's Conduct towards David. — 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. It is described in mixed phrases as "an evil spirit of God" (much as we might speak of "religious madness"), which, when it came upon him, almost choked or strangled him from its violence (1Sa 16:14; Sept.; Josephus, Ant. 6:8, 2). The denunciations of Samuel sank into the heart of Saul, and produced a deep melancholy, which either really was, or which his physicians (1Sa 16:14-15; comp. Ge 1; Ge 2) told him was, occasioned by a supernatural influence; unless we understand the phrase רוּחִ רָעָה, an evil spirit, subjectively, as denoting the condition itself of Saul's mind, instead of the cause of that condition (Isa 29:10; Nu 5:14; Ro 11:8). We can conceive that music might affect Saul's feelings, might cheer his despondency, or divert his melancholy; but how it should have the power to chase away a spiritual messenger whom the Lord had sent to chasten the monarch for his transgressions is not so easily understood. Saul's case must probably be judged of by the same principles as that of the daemoniacs mentioned in the New Test. SEE DAEMONIAC. In this crisis David was recommended to him by one of the young men of his guard (in the Jewish tradition groundlessly supposed to be Doeg [Jerome, Qu. Hoeb. ad loc.]) on account of his skill as a musician (1Sa 16:16-23). But the narrative of his introduction to Saul, his subsequently killing Goliath, Saul's ignorance of David's person after he had been his attendant and armor bearer, with various other circumstances in the narrative (1Sa 16:14-23; 1Sa 17; 1Sa 18:1-4), present difficulties which neither the arbitrary omissions in the Sept. nor the ingenuity of subsequent critics has fully succeeded in removing, and which have led many eminent scholars to suppose the existence of extensive dislocations in this part of the Old Test. The change proposed by Hales and others seems to be the most ready, which would place the passage 1Sa 16:14-23 after 18:9; yet why should Saul's attendants need to describe so minutely a person whom he and all Israel knew so well already? Also, how can we conceive that Saul should love so much (1Sa 16:21) a person against whom his jealousy and hatred had been so powerfully excited as his probable successor in the kingdom? (1Sa 18:9). Besides, David had occupied already a much higher position (ver. 5); and, therefore, his being made Saul's armor bearer must have been the very opposite of promotion, which the text (16:21) supposes it was. The most rational solution of the difficulty appears to be the supposition that David had in the interim grown so much that the monarch did not now recognize him. SEE DAVID.
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. He attempted twice to assassinate him with his own hand (1Sa 18:10-11; 1Sa 19:10); he sent him on dangerous military expeditions (1Sa 18:5,13,17); he proposed that David should marry first his elder daughter, whom yet he gave to another, and then his younger, that the procuring of the dowry might prove fatal to David; and then he sought to make his daughter an instrument of her husband's destruction; and it seems probable that unless miraculously prevented he would have imbrued his hands in the blood of the venerable Samuel himself (1Sa 19:18), while the text seems to intimate (1Sa 20:33) that even the life of Jonathan was not safe from his fury, though the subsequent context may warrant a doubt whether Jonathan was the party aimed at by Saul. The slaughter of Ahimelech the priest (ch. 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; and yet the wickedness of the act was not greater than its infatuation, for it must have inspired his subjects not only with abhorrence of their king as an inhuman tyrant, but with horror of him as an impious and sacrilegious monster. This crime of Saul put David in possession of the sacred lot, which Abiathar, the only surviving member of Eli's priestly family, brought with him, and by which he was enabled to obtain oracles directing him in his critical affairs (1Sa 22:21-23; 1Sa 23:1-2).
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 the hand of David's wife on another, 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 (1Sa 23:19; 1Sa 26:1), and others, perhaps, might color their fear by the pretence of conscience (1Sa 23:12). 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 (1Sa 24:3-7; 1Sa 26), which two passages, though presenting many points of similarity, cannot be referred to the same occasion without denying to the narrative all historic accuracy and trustworthiness. 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 (1Sa 23:27-28). In Saul"s better moments, also, he never lost the strong affection which he had contracted for David. "He loved him greatly" (1Sa 16:21). "Saul would let him go no more home to his father"s house" (1Sa 18:2). "Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat?" (1Sa 20:27). "Is this thy voice, my son David? ... Return, my son David; blessed be thou, my son David" (1Sa 24:16; 1Sa 26:17,25). Occasionally, too, his prophetical gift returned, blended with his madness. He "prophesied" or "raved" in the midst of his house — "he prophesied and lay down naked all day and all night" at Ramah (1Sa 19:24). But his acts of fierce, wild zeal increased. The massacre of the priests, with all their families — the massacre, perhaps at the same time, of the Gibeonites (2Sa 21:1), and the violent extirpation of the necromancers (1Sa 28:3,9), are all of the same kind.
6. Saul"s Last Offense and Death. — At length the monarchy itself, which he had raised up, broke down under the weakness of its head. The Philistines reentered the country, and with their chariots and horses occupied the plain of Esdraelon. Their camp was I pitched on the southern slope of the range now called Little Hermon, by Shunem. On the opposite side, on Mount Gilboa, was the Israelitish army, clinging, as usual, to the heights which were their safety. It was near the spring of Gideon"s encampment, hence called the spring of Harod, or "trembling;" and now the name assumed an evil omen, and the heart of the king as he pitched his camp there "trembled exceedingly" (1Sa 28:5). The measure of Saul's iniquity, now almost full, was completed by an act of direct treason against Jehovah the God of Israel (Ex 22:18; Le 19:31; Le 20:27; De 18:10-11). Saul, probably in a fit of zeal and perhaps as some atonement for his disobedience in other respects, had executed the penalty of the law on those who practiced necromancy and divination (1Sa 28:3). Now, however, in the loss of all the usual means of consulting the divine will, he determined, with that wayward mixture of superstition and religion which marked his whole career, to apply to one of the necromancers who had escaped his persecution. Forsaken of God, who gave him no oracles, and rendered, by a course of wickedness, both desperate and infatuated, he requested his attendants to seek him a woman who had a familiar spirit (which is the loose rendering in the English Bible of the expression occurring twice in ver. 7, אֶשֶׁת בִּעֲלִת אוֹב, a woman a mistress of Ob; Sept. ἐγγαστρίμυθος, i.e. a ventriloquist; Vulg. habens Pythonem, i.e. a Pythoness, SEE NECROMANCY ), that he might obtain from her that direction which Jehovah refused to afford him. She was a woman living at Endor, on the other side of Little Hermon.. According to the Hebrew tradition mentioned by Jerome, she was the mother of Abner, and hence her escape from the general massacre of the necromancers (see Leo Allatius, De Engastrimutho, cap. 6 in Critici Sacri, vol. 2). Volumes have been written on the question whether in the scene that follows we are to understand an imposture or a real apparition of Samuel. Eustathius and most of the fathers take the former view (representing it, however, as a figment of the devil); Origen, the latter view. Augustine wavers (ibid. ut supra, p. 1062- 1114). The Sept. of 1Sa 27:7 (by the above translation) and the A.V. (by its omission of "himself" in 28:14, and insertion of "when" in ver. 12) lean to the former. Josephus (who pronounces a glowing eulogy on the woman, Ant. 6, 14, 2, 3) and the Sept. of 1Ch 10:13, to the latter. At this distance of time it is impossible to determine the relative amount of fraud or of reality, though the obvious meaning of the narrative itself tends to the hypothesis of some kind of apparition. She recognizes the disguised king first by the appearance of Samuel, seemingly from his threatening aspect or tone as towards his enemy. Saul apparently saw nothing, but listened to her description of a godlike figure of an aged man wrapped round with the royal or sacred robe. On hearing the denunciation which the apparition conveyed, Saul fell the whole length of his gigantic stature (see 1Sa 28:20, margin) on the ground, and remained motionless till the woman and his servants forced him to eat.
Assured of his own death in the coming engagement, 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 all announced to him by that same authority which had foretold his possession of the kingdom, and whose words had never been falsified — Saul, in a state of dejection which could not promise success to his followers (comp. Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 168), prepared as best he could to meet the enemy in Gilboa, on the extremity of the great plain of Esdraelon (on the localities of this battle, etc., see Hackett, Illustrations of Script. p. 178 sq.).
The next day the battle came on, and, according to Josephus (Ant. 6, 14,7), perhaps according to the spirit of the sacred narrative, his courage and self devotion returned. The Israelites were driven up the side of Gilboa. The three sons of Saul were slain (1Sa 31:2). Saul himself with his armor bearer was pursued by the archers and the charioteers of the enemy (ver. 3; 2Sa 1:6). He was wounded in the stomach (Sept. 1Sa 31:3). His shield was cast away (2Sa 1:21). In his extremity, having in vain solicited death from the hand of his armor bearer (Doeg the Edomite — the Jews say, "a partner before of his master's crimes and now of his punishment"), Saul perished at last by his own sword (1Sa 31:4). According to another account (less trustworthy, or, perhaps, to be reconciled with the former by supposing that it describes a later incident), an Amalekite came up at the moment of his death wound (whether from himself or the enemy) and found him "fallen" but leaning on his spear (2Sa 1:6,10). The dizziness of death was gathered over him (ver. 9), but he was still alive; and he was, at his own request, put out of his pain by the Amalekite, who took off his royal diadem and bracelet and carried the news to David (ver. 7-10). Not till then, according to Josephus (Ant. 6, 14, 7), did the faithful armor bearer fall on his sword and die with him (1Sa 31:5). The body, on being found by the Philistines on the morrow, was stripped and decapitated. The armor was sent into the Philistine cities, as if in retribution for the spoliation of Goliath, and finally deposited in the temple of Astarte, apparently in the neighboring Canaanitish city of Bethshan; and over the walls of the same city was hung the naked, headless corpse with those of his three sons (ver. 9, 10). The head was deposited (probably at Ashdod) in the temple of Dagon (1Ch 10:10). The corpse was removed from Bethshan by the gratitude of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, who came over the Jordan by night, carried off the bodies, burned them, and buried them under the tamarisk at Jabesh (1Sa 31:13). It is pleasing to think that even the worst men have left behind them those in whom gratitude and affection are duties. Saul had those who mourned him, as some hand was found to have strewn flowers on the newly made grave of Nero. After the lapse of several years, his ashes and those of Jonathan were removed by David to their ancestral sepulchre at Zelah in Benjamin (2Sa 21:14).
IV. Saul's Character. — There is not in the sacred history, or in any other, a character more melancholy to contemplate than that of Saul. Naturally humble and modest, though of strong passions, he might have adorned a private station. In circumstances which did not expose him to strong temptation, he would probably have acted virtuously. But his natural rashness was controlled neither by a powerful understanding nor a scrupulous conscience; and the obligations of duty and the ties of gratitude, always felt by him too slightly, were totally disregarded when ambition, envy, and jealousy had taken possession of his mind. The diabolical nature of these passions is seen, with frightful distinctness, in Saul, whom their indulgence transformed into an unnatural and bloodthirsty monster, who constantly exhibited the moral infatuation, so common among those who have abandoned themselves to sin, of thinking that the punishment of one crime may be escaped by the perpetration of another. In him, also, is seen that moral anomaly or contradiction, which would be incredible did we not so often witness it, of an individual pursuing habitually a course which his better nature pronounces not only flagitious, but insane (1Sa 24:16,22). Saul knew that that person should be king whom yet he persisted in seeking to destroy, and so accelerated his own ruin. For it can hardly be doubted that the distractions and disaffection occasioned by Saul's persecution of David produced that weakness in his government which encouraged the Philistines to make the invasion in which himself and his sons perished. "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" (Ho 12:11). In the prolonged troubles and disastrous termination of this first reign, the Hebrews were vividly shown how vain was their favorite remedy for the mischiefs of foreign invasion and intestine discord.
Saul's character is in part illustrated by the fierce, wayward, fitful nature of the tribe, SEE BENJAMIN, 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. His affections were strong, as appears in his love both for David and his son Jonathan, but they were unequal to the wild accesses of religious zeal or insanity which ultimately led to his ruin. He was, like the earlier Judges, of whom in one sense he may be counted as the successor, remarkable for his strength and activity (2Sa 1:23); and he was, 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" (1Sa 9:2), and which caused him to be compared to the gazelle — "the gazelle of Israel." It was probably these external qualities which led to the epithet which is frequently attached to his name, "chosen" — "whom the Lord did choose" — "See ye (i.e. Look at) him whom the Lord hath chosen" (1Sa 9:17; 1Sa 10:24; 2Sa 21:6).
V. Literature. — See the treatises referred to in Darling, Cyclop. Bibliograph. Colossians 290-302; Stanley, Jewish Ch. 2, lect. 21; Ewald, Hist. of Israel, 2, 15 sq.; Niemeyer, Charak. 5, 75 sq.; Hasse, König Saul (Gries. 1854); Richardson, Saul, King of Israel (Edinb. 1858); Miller, Saul, First King of Israel (2d ed., Lond. 1866); Brooks, King Saul ([a tragedy], N.Y. 1871); and the monographs on his interview with the witch cited by Fürst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 3, 236. SEE KING.
3. The Jewish name of Paul (q.v.). This was the most distinguished name in the genealogies of the tribe of Benjamin, to which the apostle felt some pride in belonging (Ro 11:1; Php 3:5). He himself leads us to associate his name with that of the Jewish king by the marked way in which he mentions Saul in his address at the Pisidian Antioch: "God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin" (Ac 13:21). These indications are in harmony with the intensely Jewish spirit of which the life of the apostle exhibits so many signs. The early ecclesiastical writers did not fail to notice the prominence thus given by Paul to his tribe. Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 5, 1) applies to him the dying words of Jacob on Benjamin. And Jerome, in his Epitaphium Pauloe (§ 8), alluding to the preservation of the six hundred men of Benjamin after the affair of Gibeah (Jg 20:48), speaks of them as "trecentos [sic] viros propter Apostolum reservatos." SEE BENJAMIN.
Nothing certain is known about the change of the apostle's name from Saul to Paul (Ac 13:9). Two chief conjectures prevail concerning the change. (1) That of Jerome and Augustine, that the name was derived from Sergius Paulus, the first of his Gentile converts. (2) That which appears due to Lightfoot, that Paulus was the apostle's Roman name as a citizen of Tarsus, naturally adopted into common use by his biographer when his labors among the heathen commenced. The former of these is adopted by Olshausen and Meyer. It is also the view of Ewald (Gesch. 6, 419, 420), who seems to consider it self evident, and looks on the absence of any explanation of the change as a proof that it was so understood by all the readers of the Acts. However this may be, after Saul has taken his place definitively as the apostle to the Gentile world, his Jewish name is entirely dropped. Two divisions of his life are well marked by the use of the two names.