“After these things He gave them
judges until Samuel the prophet.
“Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish,
a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
“After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king,
concerning whom He also testified and said,
‘I have found David the son of Jesse,
a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:20–22)
Saul becomes king
Saul’s 27 year reign, before David was anointed as king
“After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. “After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:20–22)
1. Ark of covenant is at Kiriath-jearim. Tent of meeting is at Nob and there are altars at Bethel (Jacob’s Gen 35:1), Geba, Gilgal
2. Samuel establishes the hierarchy between God, prophet and king right from the beginning. This order, where the king is under the authority of the prophet, will be the pattern for all subsequent kings. “And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.” (1 Samuel 10:8) This order is also seen in the fact that prophets anoint kings. Kings were never “prophet makers”. When kings failed to accept this pattern, they inevitably went down in history as kings who “did evil in the sight of the Lord”.
3. When Samuel was 52 years old, he anointed Saul as king in 1052 BC. Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin and lived in Gibeah. Historically, Benjaminites were known to be valiant warriors who could hit a hair with a sling stone. They were proud and confident that they were their own kingdom within Israel and no one could tell them what do to. In Judges 19, around 1300 BC, the entire tribe had a history of unrepentant pride, because when the rest of Israel demanded the tribe of Benjamin hand over the homosexual offenders who raped and murdered the woman, they refused. This triggered a call to war and the near extinction of the tribe of Benjamin, save 600 men. Saul was a descendant of one of these 600 men and his father Kish, was known as a “mighty man of valour”. However, to be a Benjaminite AND a resident of Gibeah, is about as low on the national social ladder as you can get. So his ancestry was cause for him to be humble, but his family reputation was a cause to be proud.
4. Timeline and chronology:
a. Samuel is born in 1102 BC and is called by God into divine service at age 10 while living with Eli in 1094 BC.
b. In 1082 BC, Saul is born.
c. In Jonathan is likely born around 1067 BC since he is Saul’s oldest son.
i. It is important to note that Jonathan was old enough to lead the defeat of the Philistines at Geba and then singlehandedly defeat them at Michmash with his armor bearer.
ii. So Saul was only 30 years old when he became king, yet he had a son old enough to lead a battle against the philistines.
iii. He would have to be at least 15 years old but not much older than that, given Saul is 30 when Jonathan defeats the Philistines at Michmash.
iv. This would mean that Saul was 15 when he became the father of Jonathan and that Jonathan was 15 when Saul became king.
v. David was about 15 when he killed Goliath some 27 years later. David is born in the 12th year of Saul’s reign.
vi. So here we have the portrait of three 15 year olds.
1. Saul who became the father of Jonathan at age 15 in 1067 BC.
2. Then 15 years later, Jonathan who defeated the philistines at age 15 in 1052 BC.
3. Then 27 years later, David kills Goliath at age 15 in 1025 BC.
4. Although Jonathan was 47 years old when David killed Goliath, it was probably this youthful valiancy of faith that formed the bond of love the friendship between David and Jonathan.
c. In 1052 BC, Samuel was 52 years old when he anointed Saul at age 30 year old as king. 1 Sam 13:1
i. Jonathan is 15 years old.
ii. David is not born for ten more years.
d. In 1040 BC, David is born when Jonathan is about 27 years old and Saul is 42.
e. In 1025 BC, Saul had been king for 27 years but had failed to obey God twice and is told another will replace him. (David)
i. David is anointed king in Saul’s place in Bethlehem by Samuel in 1025 BC at age 15 years old. Saul is now 57 years old
ii. In 1025 BC, David kills Goliath when he is about 15 years old, the same year he was anointed by Samuel as king.
iii. Jonathan is 42 years old when David killed Goliath and it is now that they first form a friendship.
iv. Samuel lives another 11 years until he dies in 1014 BC, but never sees Saul again.
v. David is hunted by Saul for 15 years until Saul dies in 1010 BC
A. How long did Saul Reign: Textual Variants
1. Acts 13:21 says Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, reigned 40 years. This was recorded by the apostle from the tribe of Benjamin AND named after him, “Saul-Paul”. Apostle Saul would have likely taken personal interest in the true history of the king whose name he wore. Combined with inspiration, it is doubtlessly correct that King Saul reigned 40 years.
2. The New Testament corrects four key chronological and numeric errors of the day:
a. Age of Terah when Abraham was born (Acts 7:4): 130 years
b. Number of Hebrews who entered Egypt with Jacob (Acts 7:14): 75 persons
c. Years in Egypt (Gal 3:17): 430 years
d. Number of years Saul reigned (Acts 13:21): 40 years
3. Septuagint Lucianic Manuscripts (LXX-L) says Saul was 30 years old when he became king
4. Saul’s son was 40 years old when he succeeded Saul as king: "Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he was king for two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David." (2 Samuel 2:10)
5. Greek Josephus says Saul reigned 40 years: Antiquities 6.378 (eighteen years during Samuel’s life, twenty-two after his death)
a. Latin Josephus says Saul reigned 20 years: Antiquities 10.143
6. Masoretic Text (MT) in 1 Sam 13:1 says Saul became king at age 1 and reigned 2 years: clearly corrupted.
7. CONCLUSION: Saul was 30 years old when he became king and reigned 40 years.
B. Basic outline of the section: 1 Sam 9-15
1. Saul leaves his home at Gibeah for donkeys ends up at Ramah.
2. Samuel anoints Saul, and he returns past Rachel’s tomb (Gen 35:19-20), then the oak of Tabor (Rebecca’s nurse buried Gen 35:8, and Deborah judged there. Judg 4:5) to Geba.
3. Saul prophecies with prophets coming from Geba, which is a Levitical city and where a garrison of Philistines are stationed.
4. Ironically, Israel came to Mizpah to crown Saul (a Benjamite) where they previously came to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin save 600 men. (Judges 20)
5. Ammonites invade Jabesh-gilead. Saul sends cut up oxen throughout Israel as a call to war to defend the very city that failed to heed a previous call when the cut up wife was sent as a call to war but Jabesh didn’t come & were attacked. Judg 21:10.
6. Saul’s army of 330,000 gather at Bezek and defeat Ammonites.
7. Samuel calls Israel to Gilgal, confirms Saul, noting God’s anger in asking for a king.
8. Jonathan kills the Philistine garrison at “Geba of God” which triggers retaliation.
9. 36,000 Philistines gather for war at Michmash but Israelites flee and hide in terror.
10. Saul is called to Gilgal by Samuel but fails to wait 7 days and offers sinful sacrifice.
11. Samuel & Saul are at Gibeah with 600 men while Philistines send out three raiding armies from Michmash, north to Ophrah, west to Beth-Horon and east to Zeboim.
12. Jonathan leaves Geba, scales the cliffs of Michmash and kills 20 Philistines.
13. God strikes the Philistines with madness & confusion who start killing each other.
14. Ahijah brings the ark from Kiriath-Jearim and Israel attacks as far as Beth-aven.
15. Saul issues an order not to eat but Johnathan innocently eats honey.
16. The Philistines are defeated from Michmash to Aijalon (5km NW of Kiriath-jearim).
17. Saul defeats Moab, Ammon, Edom, kings of Zobah, the Philistines & Amalekites.
18. Saul gathers 210,000 at Telaim in the Negev to annihilate the Amelekites but spares livestock and the king Agag. Saul sets up a monument to himself at Carmel (west of Engedi) then meets Samuel at Gilgal.
19. God rejects Saul as king for the second time and sends Samuel to anoint David.
a. The sins of Saul were "rebellion and insubordination": "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." 1 Samuel 15:23
b. Saul got very angry at Samuel who told him a better man than Saul would replace him: "As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you." 1 Samuel 15:27-28
C. Samuel's home at Ramah and Naioth the prophet's school:
1. Ramah is located 7 KM Nebi Samuel and 4 km due north of Gibeah of Saul.
2. Click on the panorama photo above for high resolution.
3. Pictured above is a Panorama from Nebi Samuel that overlooks Gibeon. The photo was taken from the summit. There is a small photo of the crusader church on the top that the photo was taken around.
4. “Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He used to go annually on circuit to Bethel and Gilgal and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. Then his return was to Ramah, for his house was there, and there he judged Israel; and he built there an altar to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:15–17)
5. Ramah is the location of Naioth, Samuel's preachers school. It was also his home. There was an altar that he built here.
6. Nebi Samuel is about 1 km south of Gibeon (el Jib) where the Mosaic Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) was located from 1018-960 BC (58 years). Gibeon was a Levitical city which is why the tabernacle was moved here from Nob after Saul killed all the priests when they harbored David. (1 Sam 21) Since Samuel died in about 1014 BC, it may be that Samuel was already dead when Saul killed the priests at Nob or that Samuel lived for two years afterwards.
7. You can also see the hill of Gibeah that Saul built his palace on top of Geba, another Levitical city also called the "hill of God" because of the altar there. You can see Geba in the photo.
8. Ramah is where Saul came to find his donkeys and where he ate a meal with Samuel and was first told he was king.
9. Saul left Ramah and prophesied at Geba.
D. Saul’s Character:
1. Saul’s character is described as:
a. God describes Saul at the beginning as being “little in your own eyes”. However this was not true humility, but immature insecurity coupled with a lack of self-confidence.
b. Saul had many sinful character qualities: He was a “tall, dark and handsome” spoiled rich kid. (see more below)
c. We actually have no idea why God chose Saul to be king because he is about as bad a choice as you could find. Apparently Saul was like many politicians today who look good on the outside, but when they get into office, do great damage being totally incapable of leading altogether.
d. Having said this, there were a few positive things Saul did.
i. When Samuel first anointed Saul and gave him three signs, he believed immediately and began to prophecy immediately. 1 Sam 10:9. This is about the only faith victory that Saul won. Every other faith test he failed.
ii. Saul had the grace to spare from punishment, those who mocked him when he was first anointed king. Later when he had the power, he did not retaliate, even though others were demanding the mockers be put to death. 1 Sam 10:27 + 11:12-13. David experienced the exact same thing and did not retaliate: 2 Sam 16:5-14 + 2 Samuel 19:16-23. This is the only time when Saul matched the righteousness of David.
2. At the very beginning of Saul’s reign, he was famous through a proverb about him that was widely circulated, “is Saul among the prophets”? Years after Saul had been king, he did not like the fact that David was publically famous and known to kill “ten thousands” whereas Saul was ascribed only “thousands”. Saul was incapable of allowing anyone else to be better than him at something important. He was insecure, arrogant and jealous. If Saul was spiritually minded man, he would know it is much better to be known as a prophet who speaks for God, than a warrior.
3. Saul’s first faith failure came early by not immediately routing the Philistines on Geba, the “hill of God”. Saul was told that after he met the prophets who were coming from Geba in musical procession, that “It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you.” (1 Samuel 10:7). The obvious “occasion” would have been to attack the Philistine Garrison on the holy mountain of God at Geba, a Levitical city. Instead, deliverance came later from Jonathan, his son who had the faith to attempt the battle singlehandedly.
4. The first occasion for Saul to rise in righteous indignation and attack the oppressors, was not the Philistine occupation of the Holy Hill of Geba, but the Ammonite assault on Jabesh-gilead… a city that was sinfully allied with sodomite Benjamin in 1300 BC. The news of the attack on his old buddy/ally brought him to extreme anger. A person with his spiritual priorities in correct order would have been extremely angry that uncircumcised Philistines were stationed to keep a watch over the alter at Geba. Pagan Philistines do not belong on the “hill of God”. In the first century AD, Herod built his palace in such a way so as to be able to look from his window into the holy of Holies. Also the Antonio fortress, built directly on top of the Dome of the Rock was a Roman fort built directly beside the Jewish temple in order to keep watch of things much like the Philistines were doing at Geba.
5. Saul’s second faith failure came when he did not wait for Samuel at Gilgal for seven days, but offered sacrifices instead. He had been told that God was with him no matter what. The seven day wait was a deliberate test of faith which he failed. Everyone around him was cowering, hiding or crossing the Jordan to Gilead etc. He choked instead of waiting in quite peaceful faithfulness that God would not let him fail or be hurt. Saul was bold when he had an army of 330,000 men behind him, but when it was just he and God, he was a coward. “But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.”” (1 Samuel 13:11–12)
6. At the same time that cowardly, faithless Saul violated the law of Moses by offering sacrifices, his son Jonathan, for the second time, attacks the Philistines who were camped beside Geba at Mishmash. Jonathan single handedly routes the Philistines and starts the victory over them. Only when Jonathan attacks does God strike the Philistines with madness and confusion so they begin killing each other. Only when Saul saw the Philistines begin running and dying, did he join the battle.
7. Saul showed extreme lack of wisdom and judgement by placing everyone under a “do not eat until we win” oath. It was Jonathan who openly said that his father had “troubled the land” by starving his army instead of feeding them.
8. Saul showed a lack of humility in admitting he was wrong by putting his entire army under the food ban and then insisting that Jonathan die. A smart king would have said, “I was wrong, it was a bad order, Jonathan is right, he will live, Pray that I may make wiser decrees in the future, kill me instead if you must, but I recant my oath and will suffer the consequences before God.” Saul was more worried about his reputation as a smart and noble king, than the life of his own hero son who singlehandedly fought and won two battles against the Philistines and ultimately the entire war.
9. Saul was not so valiant and brave himself, as much as he surrounded himself with brave and valiant men to fight for him. “Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.” (1 Samuel 14:52)
10. After disobeying the Lord a second time by sparing Agag the Amalekite and the best sheep, Saul had the nerve to build himself a monument to praise himself in what he accomplished. As he built the “self-praise” monument to himself, Samuel was about to tell him God replaced him as king with another who was better than he was. This was a perfect storm and Saul was not going to take Samuel’s rebuke very well. Saul goes from “Happy, to hurt, to idiot.” and attacks Samuel.
a. “Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.”
b. Saul arrives in Gilgal all happy with himself and the victory and announces to Samuel that he “carried out the command of the Lord”.
c. Samuel challenges him about the sheep and Saul first blame-shifts to the people, even though he obviously consented to it. After all, he was the one to was in command of the army, so blaming the people was as much a smokescreen as it was a lie and he knew it. Sinners avoid blaming themselves, cannot admit they are truly wrong and taking responsibility.
d. Even after Saul hears the sharp rebuke from Samuel from the mouth of God that Saul disobeyed, Saul’s next reply is, “God is wrong, I did obey Him.” Saul has the arrogance to actually challenge God’s judgement of himself.
e. Samuel replies with the classic: “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”” (1 Samuel 15:22–23)
f. Only when Saul realizes he cannot hide or bluff his way out of this, he suddenly admits he had sinned, even though in the back of his mind he really doesn’t think so. He simply voices the words and makes the outward actions appear he is sorry.
g. Saul’s lack of overall faith is apparent in that he begs Samuel to come with him so he can worship “the Lord YOUR God” instead of saying, “our God” or “my God”. 1 Sam 15:15,21,30. For Saul, religion was a political convenience he used to gain popularity.
h. The first time Samuel told Saul he had been replaced as king when he failed to wait the seven days and offered the sacrifices, Saul was able to successfully convince Samuel to come alone with him to his house. This second time Saul again tries to get Samuel to “stand by him” but Samuel refuses and walks away.
i. Saul’s true colours shine through his black heart and he attacks old Samuel which resulted in ripping Samuel’s robe. Imagine physically assaulting the most important spiritual authority in the world in this way. This is the first of a long series of uncontrollable outbursts of anger that Saul does. First Samuel, then David after that countless times. Notice that Saul is angry at Samuel who told him he is no longer king and David his replacement. Even a child could see that Saul is throwing a temper tantrum because he isn’t getting his own way.
j. Samuel replies words that will haunt and torment Saul for the rest of his life: “So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you.” (1 Samuel 15:28)
k. The stage is now set for a great animosity towards innocent David from sinful Saul.
l. Finally Saul seems to show signs of some repentance and Samuel goes with Saul who worships the Lord.
11. Although Saul thought that “once again” all will be well, in fact Samuel was off to anoint David in 1025 BC.
12. Saul would never see Samuel again, even though Samuel lived another 13 years before he died in 1014 BC.
1. Twice Saul was told he had been replaced as king:
a. When Saul failed to wait seven days at Gilgal, but instead offered animal sacrifices: 1 Samuel 13:8–14
b. When Saul spared king Agag and sheep and oxen in the Amalekite war: 1 Samuel 15:12,10–31
2. Saul is now an angry, jealous, bitter, rebellious, vengeful man who will spend the rest of his life attacking innocent David … simply because “he is better than Saul”.
3. With the anointing of David, we close our survey of the period of when Saul was king and open the period of when both Saul and David were anointed kings but Saul was in control.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.