Saul’s dethroning is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart around 1050 BC. However, to fully understand his story, let us start from the beginning in 1 Samuel 8. This was when the disgruntled leaders of Israel met with Samuel in Ramah to insist on him appointing a king over them. Samuel was now well into old age and his sons Joel and Abijah whom he appointed as judges were deemed unfit because of their greediness for money. He was displeased with their request for a king but acquiesced after consulting the Lord, who gave him permission to grant it. Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, was later on anointed as king over Israel.
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Saul started out strong, but his rash character and poor decisions ended his promising future as Israel’s king. The first instance was during the war with the Philistines when the troops of Israel were routed after a battle. Saul was at Gilgal and his impatience drove him to sacrifice the burnt and peace offerings when Samuel himself instructed him to wait for seven days (1 Samuel 10:8). The burning of the offering was a task delegated exclusively to priests (in this case, Samuel who was descended from the tribe of Levi) because of the degree of purity and holiness they were attributed to. Making Saul’s actions a severe offense to God and Samuel (1 Samuel 13).
The next example of Saul’s poor decision-making was during the war with the Amalekites. Through Samuel, God directed Saul to purge all the Amalekites including, their livestock. This was because they refused to allow the Israelites passage through their territory after they were freed from Egypt. Saul, however, failed in this task by sparing the Amalekite King Agag and keeping the livestock for himself and his men. Destroying only those that are of poor quality (1 Samuel 15:1-9).
The Lord was disappointed with him when he kept the plunder and Samuel admonished Saul for his disobedience. Saul added to his sins when he said that that he kept the livestock so he could sacrifice them to the Lord. This incident pushed Samuel to find a replacement for Saul as king of the new nation.
Mental Illness and Attempts at David’s Life
It has been proposed that Saul exhibited severe mental disturbance that may have contributed to his unstable personality and failed leadership. In 1 Samuel 16:14, the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul altogether, and an evil spirit tormented him. He may also have suffered from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Probably, as a result, of the violence he experienced during the war with the Ammonites, Amalekites, and the Philistines. David helped soothe Saul during these episodes by playing his harp.
As Saul’s behavior became increasingly erratic, he exhibited paranoia and jealousy toward David’s success and popularity. This would later drive him to make several attempts at killing David. These repeated attempts at murder would forever mar his reputation. It can even be said that he lost the kingship over Israel long before his demise. His death along with his sons on Mount Gilboa during a battle with the Philistines was the end of his reign. After his violent death, Saul was mourned by David and memorialized in a lament (2 Samuel 1:17-27).
Aftermath and Saul’s Legacy
Further violence erupted, and the young nation descended into civil war as Judah supported David as king while the northern tribes of Israel stayed loyal to the house of Saul. Particularly his son Ish-bosheth who ruled in Israel for two years. Ish-bosheth was later murdered by Recab and Baanah, his own tribesmen and leaders of his raiding band. David ruled over a united Israel and Judah after his death (2 Samuel 2-5).
Saul’s reputation as king and as a person overall was tarnished due to his unstable character and bad decisions. But he was also a mighty warrior who gave Israel some of its most important victories against its enemies during a time of chaos. He was then used by God to pave the way for David and future kings of the nation.
Picture By Julius Kronberg – nationalmuseum.se, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936125
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