The “King Saul Effect” can be seen today and the results for an individual, people and nation are quite chilling. Avoid Saul’s downfall, if you can.
When reading the Bible, many of the books contain a writing style called narrative. The narrative gives an overall theme found within all of the books of the Old and New Testament. These themes can apply to individuals as well as society at large. One of the main themes that we see is a rejection of God and a longing to follow the ways of the world as well as individuals and a culture. One of the best examples of how foolish this is can be found within 1 Samuel pertaining to King Saul.
Prelude to destruction
Here is how the story begins:
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.””
I Samuel 8:4-9 NKJV
While the people criticize the fact that the prophet Samuel is old and his offspring do not follow in his ways, both of which were true, the real reason comes to light in their final declaration,“…now make us a king to judge just like all the nations.” It is important to understand that up to this point, the judges, as well as prophets, have been guiding Israel. Within the aforementioned passage, God reveals to Samuel the real reason:
- The people don’t want God to rule over them (verse 7)
- They haven’t gotten out of the habit of serving other gods like they did in Egypt (verse 8)
- The people rejecting Samuel, because Samuel represents God and their rejection of God by worshiping idols is reflected in the rejection of Samuel by setting up a king as their new idol (verse 8).
At this point, God relates to Samuel that he will give them exactly what they want (…Now, therefore, heed their voice…), but he also tell Samuel to warn them (…However, you shall solemnly forewarn them…) of the king that they would get (…and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.)
So Samuel did exactly that; he, through permission and words from the Lord God Almighty, gave them exactly what they wanted with a warning that preceded their foolish desires. Samuel’s warning was this:
“So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.””
I Samuel 8:10-18 NKJV
Even with this very plain warning from Samuel, the mouthpiece of God, the people didn’t care, not only did the people reveal that they wanted to be like other nations, they also revealed something more. The people wanted a “human proxy” to fight their battles for them as opposed to the Lord God Almighty:
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.””
I Samuel 8:19-20 NKJV
With the final proclamation of the people, the Lord gave them what they wanted:
“So the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.””
I Samuel 8:22 NKJV
The thing that I find most startling about the above passage is the shortness of God’s response.
Sewing the seeds
From that point on, God would arrange circumstances to give the nation of Israel what they cried out for, and they would get exactly what they wanted and what God warned them that they would receive:
“Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. And Kish said to his son Saul, “Please take one of the servants with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” So he passed through the mountains of Ephraim and through the land of Shalisha, but they did not find them. Then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and they were not there. Then he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they did not find them. When they had come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us return, lest my father cease caring about the donkeys and become worried about us.” And he said to him, “Look now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man; all that he says surely comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way that we should go.” Then Saul said to his servant, “But look, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread in our vessels is all gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” And the servant answered Saul again and said, “Look, I have here at hand one-fourth of a shekel of silver. I will give that to the man of God, to tell us our way.” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.) Then Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was. As they went up the hill to the city, they met some young women going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is the seer here?” And they answered them and said, “Yes, there he is, just ahead of you. Hurry now; for today he came to this city, because there is a sacrifice of the people today on the high place. As soon as you come into the city, you will surely find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now therefore, go up, for about this time you will find him.” So they went up to the city. As they were coming into the city, there was Samuel, coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.”
I Samuel 9:3-14 NKJV
“Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.””
I Samuel 9:15-16 NKJV
All of these circumstances set in motion to give the people there version of the attractive fruit (Genesis 3:6):
“There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”
I Samuel 9:1-2 NKJV
We must always remember that even though the people rejected Samuel, he was still a prophet of the Lord and was the visual representation/mouthpiece of God. Samuel gave instruction to Saul as to what he was to do as well as telling him that God would change him:
“After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
I Samuel 10:5-6 NKJV
At this point, Saul did as the prophet Samuel told him to do and all went exactly as Samuel described.
We need to remember that Saul was not what God had wanted for his people, but God gave them what they desired. The soon to be king would expose a vital flaw in a one-on-one dialogue with his uncle:
“Then Saul’s uncle said to him and his servant, “Where did you go?” So he said, “To look for the donkeys. When we saw that they were nowhere to be found, we went to Samuel.” And Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you.” So Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, he did not tell him what Samuel had said.”
I Samuel 10:14-16 NKJV
Why is this significant? It seems like a small thing, but it is not. It shows a glimmer of the future kings character when he withholds information from his uncle. Saul’s uncle realized that Samuel was a prophet and wanted to hear what God was saying, but the future king would withhold that information for whatever reason. Perhaps Saul thought it was unimportant, or that it would take from the spot light that was shining on him at the moment, or something else that we don’t know, but the thing that we do know is that Saul was living up to what God warned the people about, that he would be selfish and self-serving (I Samuel 8:10-18).
In the beginning, King Saul acted within the accordance of God. He did as he requested and evidence of a strength of character as well as mercy can be read in chapter 11 of 1 Samuel.
The pivot point
Chapter 12 becomes a pivot point. It was at Sauls coronation that the prophet Samuel made a very succinct address to the people. The outline is as follows:
Samuel establishes his good character to the people of Israel and asks them if they agree or disagree:
“Now Samuel said to all Israel: “Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. And now here is the king, walking before you; and I am old and grayheaded, and look, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.” And they said, “You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.” Then he said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they answered, “ He is witness.””
I Samuel 12:1-5 NKJV
Samuel reminds the people of the past and how the Lord has taken care of them and delivered them:
“Then Samuel said to the people, “ It is the LORD who raised up Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. Now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did to you and your fathers: When Jacob had gone into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgot the LORD their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. Then they cried out to the LORD, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and Ashtoreths; but now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety. And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king.”
I Samuel 12:6-12 NKJV
When Samuel presents the king to the people, he reminds the people to serve and obey the Lord. You would think that he would tell the people to serve and obey the king, but he does not. Samuel makes it very clear that if you serve the Lord, things will be OK with the even more narrow path that you have chosen, but if you do not serve the Lord, you and the king will be swept away:
““Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the LORD your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
I Samuel 12:13-15 NKJV
To confirm all of the things that Samuel has said, the Prophet calls upon the Lord for a sign so that the people understand that it is not just Samuel speaking, but he is speaking on behalf of God Almighty:
““Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes: Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.””
I Samuel 12:16-19 NKJV
After all of this, Samuel gives one last final instruction and warning to the people of Israel:
“Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.””
I Samuel 12:20-25 NKJV
We must understand a single instance up to this point, and granted, I understand that many of you are thinking that this is an exceptionally long dissertation before addressing the core issue, but it is important to understand why this is needed. God, through his prophet Samuel, was warning the nation, basically warning the people that through their choice and actions of removing God as their ruler and obtaining a king that suited their needs, there would be consequences as well as putting themselves on a very perilous path. Chapter 12 is basically a final “I’ve warned you and now I’m blameless” approach to the situation. Throughout the rest of the chapters, we will see what happened to the “good king“.
The descent into madness and destruction
After two years of reign, King Saul makes the mistake of disobeying the Commandments of God:
“… As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering.”
I Samuel 13:7-9 NKJV
Basically, King Saul breached the separation of “state and church” (yeah, I tweaked the phrase), doing something that only a prophet or priest should be doing and not being directed to do so by said prophet or priest. It goes even further. King Saul basically did this from his own compulsion and feelings of “this is the right thing to do”, as opposed to what God wanted him to do as seen in the next passage:
“Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.””
I Samuel 13:10-14 NKJV
King Saul was concerned not for the commandments of the Lord, but that the people were scattered from him (…When I saw that the people were scattered from me…), he did what he felt was right, basically stating that his reasoning skills were on par with God’s (…Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering…). Because of his panicked state, he felt that he knew God‘s wishes as opposed to asking the Lord himself by waiting on his prophet Samuel (…The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD…). The consequences of king Saul’s action would be great (…But now your kingdom shall not continue…). Because of this, Saul would be paranoid about anyone that would come after him for fear that this individual would take away what he thought he had (…The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people.)
The prophet Samuel would not be seen in this book until chapter 14, and it is at that point that King Saul would not only have his kingdom removed from him, but the Spirit of the Lord God would be removed also. King Saul had done his own thing for quite some time after his first disobedience. In chapter 14, he seems to have no problem doing whatever he pleases as we see direct disobedience from the commands that God gives the king through his prophet Samuel. Here are the events that followed:
“Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night. So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.” So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” So 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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” And as Samuel turned around to go away, 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 a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.”
I Samuel 15:10-31 NKJV
Here is the Cliff Notes version of the travesty of King Saul:
- He was given instructions by God through his prophet Samuel (verses 2 & 3).
- King Saul disobeyed and kept the spoils (verse 9).
- Saul lied a point blank to Samuel’s face (verse 13).
- King Saul passed the blame and renounced God (verse 15).
- The king, upon given an opportunity to confess his sin, lied again as well as renouncing God (verses 19 & 20).
- King Saul makes the people a scapegoat for his disobedience (verse 24).
- Once again, King Saul rejects God (verse 30).
It is at this point that the prophet Samuel, directed by God, seeks out David and would anoint him to be king of Israel after King Saul. Upon David‘s anointing by the prophet Samuel, the Spirit of the Lord left King Saul, and from that point on, a “troubling spirit” would always be with him:
“But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.”
I Samuel 16:14 NKJV
Because of this troubling spirit that would only be relieved by the music of David. King Saul would descend into more rebellious behavior, madness, and get into the occult. The shortened down version of king Saul’s dissent can be found here:
- Paranoia, fear, attempted murder: I Samuel 18:1-16
- Cowardice, duplicity, more fear: I Samuel 18:17-29
- Attempted murder, swearing to God than breaking the oath (He was a liar), psychotic behavior: I Samuel 19:1-16
- More paranoia, attempted murder of his son: I Samuel 20:25-33
- A paranoia that his servants are conspiring against him, the killing of priests associated with God: I Samuel 22:6-19
- Lying, utilizing over the top methods to do evil, listening to bad advice that aligns with his madness: I Samuel 24:2-21
- Getting into the occult: I Samuel 28:3-15
- Suicide: I Samuel 31:1-6
The parallels in today’s people & nation
What can we learn from this? I can understand if you have made it this far, that I seem to have gone over the top with regard to detail as to this “good king”, but there is a parallel that is seen within nations, and individuals and is being seen in this country and it’s citizens.
King Saul embodies a lot of people as well as politicians in our country today. A New Testament passage that sums up Saul reads:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of (money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”
2 Timothy 3:1-9 NKJV
I realize that the above passage is an “end of days” passage used by eschatologists, but it applies today as well as to the near future. While the “King Saul Effect” has been seen in the past, this pattern has been repeating throughout time, is happening now, and will happen in the end of days.
Let’s look at it from two perspectives, believers in Jesus Christ and non-believers. I will discuss the latter first.
While it is rightly said that we are all created from God (Genesis 1:26), it can also be rightly said that not all of us are God’s children. Jesus Christ sets this president in Matthew 12:47-49 and in John 8:42-47. You become a child of God by confessing Jesus as your Savior and Lord, believing in your heart and making that confession with your mouth (Romans 10:1-13). Because of this confession that Christians make, they are written in the book of life (Luke 10:17-20). Because nonbelievers do not make this confession, God leaves them to fend for themselves in this world. Non-believers, in essence, are doing exactly what King Saul did in his rejection of God and his commandments. Non-believers are doing things as they see fit. Because of this, they are “outside the umbrella of protection” (Job 1:10) that God provides through his Holy Spirit that lives within all believers of Jesus Christ (John 14:17). Because non-believers have not taken up Jesus, they do not have access, thus they are left to demonic torments, oppression, and even possession with the example seen in King Saul after God removed his Holy Spirit from him for his disobedience.
While it is true that we are “in the family “because of Jesus Christ, it does not mean that we cannot suffer from demonic attack through disobedience. As you might’ve read from King Saul, God had his spirit upon him and even changed his heart, but he was disobedient and God removed his Holy Spirit from him. Most assuredly, the Holy Spirit, nor our salvation, can’t be taken from us because of disobedience, this does not mean that we cannot suffer from our disobedience. As you have read, the Israelites chose to forsake God and find their own way, to be like those other kingdoms in the world, and God gave them exactly what they wanted. When Christians choose disobedience, to not make God first and foremost in their lives, God gives them what they want and they can be left to torments and oppression from demonic forces as well as being at the hands to the system of this world and the flesh. This is the reason why we see habitual depression, rage, fornication, and other things with regard to matters of the flesh (Mark 7:21-23, Galatians 5:19-21, and Colossians 3:5-8). If we choose to, as individuals or as a collective people within a nation, disobey God and seek after the things of this world, our fate with regard to the next leader that we are given from God (Daniel 2:21) as well as our nation, can end up the same as Israel.
The final analysis
Mark Twain once said, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” As I stated at the very beginning of this, we learn from the Bible’s narrative found more in the Old Testament than the New, how things work out when we take a certain path. What I have learned in studying King Saul is that individually, many of us are outside the Will of God, and I am speaking to both Christians and non-believers. As a nation, I believe that we have made the conscious choice to find that “desirable forbidden fruit”, willfully knocking the King of Kings and Lord of Lords from our site,, and that God might, or has already given us a leader that we may have wished for with eyes wide open.