I copy-pasted every instance where the English translators placed Saul’s words in quotation marks and analysed his speech. In my last post I looked at Saul talking to his subordinates and his son.
Saul speaks to (and about) Samuel
In chapter 9 we’re introduced to Saul and his servant as they are on an errand to recover his father’s lost donkeys. A couple of perplexing things emerge from their dialogue:
- Saul did not know of Samuel even though all Israel did (see 1 Samuel 3:20).
- It was the servant, not Saul, who suggested seeking help from the prophet.
Samuel and Saul next talk in chapter 13, after Saul offers sacrifices he shouldn’t have offered. When Samuel asks for an explanation, Saul shifts the blame for his actions from himself to the soldiers (who were scattering), to Samuel (who was late) and to the Philistines (who were assembling nearby). He takes no personal responsibility.
Chapter 15 records their last meeting. Earlier, Samuel had given Saul a command to fulfil a promise Yahweh had made during the wilderness wandering period (Deuteronomy 25:17-19, see Exodus 17:8-16). Saul partially obeyed. Unsurprisingly, he shifts the blame—to the soldiers. In his conversation with Samuel, Saul uses “Yahweh” nine times. I found it disturbing that his greatest concentration of God-language was right after he had disobeyed a direct order from God. And while he does say, “I have sinned,” (15:24, 30) he is more concerned for what the people think of him than what God thinks of him.
He speaks again to Samuel in 28:15 at the medium’s house. By his own admission, God had turned away from him.
Saul speaks to (and about) David
Saul speaks to David before he went to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33, 37). While David’s words exude faith in God, Saul’s are pragmatic (17:33). In 17:37 Saul says, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.” Was he just being pious, or did he really mean it?
In chapter 18, he offers in marriage each of his two daughters in turn to David. Before this, he had been unsuccessful at killing David and only made these offers as part of an underhanded plan to get David killed in battle (18:17, 21, 25).
Chapters 24 and 26 tell of two separate incidents when David spared Saul’s life. Both times, Saul’s first words are, “Is that your voice, David my son?” In chapter 24 he weeps and declares David to be more righteous than he. He goes on to make a predictive prophecy that David would surely be king and that Israel would prosper under him. In chapter 26, he acknowledges his sin and promises to not harm David again.
Both times he seemed genuinely contrite, but on neither occasion does David return to Saul’s court.
Saul’s last recorded words
Said to his armour-bearer: “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me.” (1 Samuel 31:4, HCSB)
Said to an Amalekite: “‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.” (2 Samuel 1:9, NIV2011)
Having dwelt sufficiently long on Saul’s flaws, I’ll now change tack and focus on the evidences of God’s grace in his life.
- Out of all the tens of thousands of eligible men in Israel, God chose him, Saul son of Kish, to be leader over Israel.
- He had access to God through a prophet and a priest. He ignored the one and killed the family of the other, cutting himself off from divine revelation and guidance. When he was finally desperate for a word from God, he found none and sought it through a method expressly forbidden in Torah (see Leviticus 19:31, 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-13).
- Yahweh showed him exceeding kindness and patience. It isn’t clear how long he ruled after being rejected as king, but it was a great mercy that he wasn’t immediately struck down.
The Lord is… patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
–2 Peter 3:9, ESV