Saul (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל) was the first Jewish King of Bnei Yisrael. The main account of Saul's life and reign is found in the Book of Samuel I.
Life Before King
Saul married Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz. They had four sons and two daughters. The sons were Jonathan, Abinadab, Malchishua and Ish-bosheth. Their daughters were named Merab and Michal.
Before Saul became king, he was a humble man, and the Midrash explains he was free from sin.
Annonted as King
When Bnei Yisreal begged Samuel for a king, God told him Saul. Saul and Samuel met, as Saul was trying to locate his father's lost donkeys. God revealed to Samuel that Saul will be the one to be anointed as the firs" King of Israel.
When Samuel told Saul he would be the first king, Saul, i his humbleness refused. However, Samuel eventually convinced him.
The Books of Samuel give three events in Saul's rise to the throne:
- (1 Samuel 9:1-10:16) Saul was sent with a servant to look for his father's donkeys, who had strayed; leaving his home at Gibeah, they eventually wander to the district of Zuph, at which point Saul suggests abandoning their search. Saul's servant however, remarks that they happened to be near the town of Ramah, where a famous seer was located, and suggested that they should consult him first. The seer (later identified by the text as Samuel), having previously had a vision instructing him to do so, offers hospitality to Saul when he enters Ramah, and later anoints him in private.
- (1 Samuel 10:17-24 and 12:1-5) Desiring to be like other nations, there was a popular movement to establish a centralised monarchy. Samuel therefore assembled the people at Mizpah in Benjamin, and despite having strong reservations, which he made no attempt to hide, allows the appointment of a king. Samuel uses cleromancy to determine who it was that God desired to be the king, whittling the assembly down into ever smaller groups until Saul is finally identified. Saul, hiding in baggage, is then publicly affirmed.
- (1 Samuel 11:1-11 and 11:15) The Ammonites, led by Nahash, lay siege to Jabesh-Gilead, who are forced to surrender. Under the terms of surrender, the occupants of the city would be forced into slavery, and have their right eyes removed as a sign of this. The city's occupants send out word of this to the other tribes of Israel, and the tribes west of the Jordan assemble an army under the leadership of Saul. Saul leads the army to victory against the Ammonites, and, in both gratitude and appreciation of military skill, the people congregate at Gilgal, and acclaim Saul as king.
At first, Saul was a great, humble king. However, before a battle, Samuel had told Saul to wait for seven days after which they would meet; Samuel giving Saul further instructions for the war. But as Samuel did not arrive after 7 days and with the Israelites complaining and bugging Saul, Saul started preparing for battle by offering sacrifices. Samuel arrived just as Saul finished offering his sacrifices and reprimanded Saul for not obeying his instructions. As a result of not keeping God's instructions, and for taking the duties of a Levite priest into his own hands, God took away Saul's kingship from his household.
Later, Samuel, as commanded by God, told Saul to kill all the Amalekites, which was in accordance with the mitzvah to do so. Saul killed all the babies, women, children, poor quality livestock and men. Unfortanately, he failed to kill all the animals, and even did not kill the king, Agog, who, because Saul let him live, became the grandfather of Haman. Since Saul did not listen to God's words, God declared he will be succeeded by a man named David.
When a giant from the Philistines, named Goliath attacked the Jews, only David was able to stop him. Once David killed Goliath, everyone found out David will be the next king. Saul became jealouse off David, and started to become haughty. Saul spent nearly the rest of his life, chasing after David trying to kill him. He even gave him his daughter Michal as a wife for him, saying it's on the condition that David kills 1,000 Philistines, think David will fall in battle. However, David actually killed 2,000 Philistines.
David realized Saul was trying to kill him, and ran away. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to kill David, but God protected David, so saul was never successful.
David, who was still being chased by Saul, felt insecure, and so made an alliance with the Philistines, becoming their vassal. Emboldened by this, the Philistines prepared to attack Israel, and Saul led out his army to face them at Mount Gilboa, but before the battle decided to consult the witch of Endor for advice. The witch, unaware of who he is, reminds Saul that the king (i.e. Saul himself) had made witchery a capital offence, but after being assured that Saul wouldn't harm her, the witch conjures up the spirit of Samuel. Upon seeing the spirit of Samuel Saul falls with his face to the ground and Samuel asks Saul "Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?" (I Samuel 28:15) Saul tells Samuel's spirit of the forthcoming battle with Philistine and that God will not answer him anymore when he prays, and asks for understanding. Samuel then tells Saul that he will lose the battle and his life. Broken in spirit, Saul returns to face the enemy, and the Israelites are duly defeated. Saul then repented for all his sins. To escape the ignominy of capture, Saul asks his armour bearer to kill him, but is forced to commit suicide by falling on his sword when the armour bearer refuses. Due to his repentance, and cruel death, Saul was given a share in the world to come.