What Happened to Saul?
by Zack Howard
How did Saul, a man chosen by God, have the kingdom taken away from him? What does it mean if someone handpicked by God fails so miserably? Did God made a mistake? What happened to Saul?
1. Saul represented man’s image of a king:
In 1 Samuel 8, we see the Israelites clamoring for a King. They had rejected God as their king and demanded what all the other nations had. Because of this, God told Samuel to give them what they wanted and chose Saul. Saul was “a handsome young man,” and “taller than any of the people” (chap. 9.2). People want their rulers to be good looking and tall, showing the ideals of manly strength. God was accommodate these characteristics with Saul. God was willing to work through man’s images of strength and power—but again, man’s idea of strength and power fall short of God’s idea of strength and power. While we judge others by the outside appearance, God judges by looking at the hearts of man.
2. Saul allowed himself to be governed by his emotions, rather than God’s will:
In chapter 10, we see a glimpse of the king God saw in Saul. In 10.22, Saul is found hiding behind baggage, humbled by the calling of the kingship. Saul did not view himself as a king, showing his humility. Samuel talks of this in 15.17, reminding Saul that he once viewed himself as little in his own eyes. Yet, as the kingship grows and the power comes to Saul, his actions are marred by his emotions.
We will see his fear driving his actions in 13.8-15. Saul went out to face the Philistines at Gilgal, and while waiting for Samuel 7 days, he began to fear that Samuel wasn’t coming to bless their battle. Because of this, Saul decides to sacrifice the burnt offerings himself, even though he was not a priest. Immediately after this offering, Samuel arrived and knew that Saul had done wrong (13.11). Saul defended his actions, showing his fear of the Philistines and lack of trust in God. Because of this, Saul’s kingdom was taken from him (13.14).
We see again that Saul’s decisions are made by his emotions. 14.24:
24 And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food.
Because of the problems that the Philistines had put on Saul, he made a vow out of frustration—no one could eat until the Philistines were defeated. Jonathan ate that day, after Saul’s vow—because Jonathan did not know of it. Afterwards, Jonathan questions Saul’s vow, arguing that if the men had eaten, they would have defeated the Philistines more easily. After the battle, the Israelites began to eat whatever they could, even the blood of the animals—a sin under the law. Because of Saul’s vow, the men broke the law to appease their hunger. Not only this, but as Saul found out Jonathan had broken the vow earlier (the consequence of which was death), Saul had the Israelites pay a ransom so that Jonathan would live. Saul’s frustration at the Philistines caused him to make a vow, which almost cost his son’s life.
After these events, Saul again does what he wants in regards to the Amalekites
(15.4-9). Instead of following God’s command to utterly destroy them all, he saves the best for sacrifices. Because of this disobedience, God rejects Saul (15.10), and gives the kingship to David. Saul then reaches towards Samuel, resulting in Samuel’s robe being torn—which symbolized the kingdom being born from Saul.
Saul was chosen by God to be king. Instead of putting his confidence in God and making decisions by that, Saul allows his decisions to be made by fear, frustration and selfishness. His own free choice tore the kingdom away from him, making God regret Saul as king. In order to learn from Saul, we must allow our trust in God to influence our decisions, rather than fear of the world or selfish desires. We must focus on God and his love for us, obeying his commands, and not rejecting his law. 1 Samuel 15.22-23:
And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”