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King Saul
King of Israel
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 030.jpg
David Plays the Harp for Saul, by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1658.
Reign c.1047 BC to 1007 BC
Coronation at Gilgal
Born 1079 B.C.
Birthplace possibly Gibeah
Died c.1007 BC
Place of death Battle of Mount Gilboa
Successor David
Consort Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz
Father Kish according to theTanakh of the family of the Matrites, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin, one of the tribes of Israel.

Saul (שאול המלך) (or Sha'ul, also Saul ben Kish) (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Modern Šaʾul Tiberian Šāʾûl, "asked for"; Arabic: طالوت, Tālūt‎; Greek: Σαούλ; Latin: Saul) (1079 - 1007 BC) was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel (reigned 1047 - 1007) according to the Hebrew Bible. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel and reigned from Gibeah. He committed suicide during a battle with the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, during which three of his sons were also killed. The succession to his throne was contested by Ish-bosheth, his only surviving son, and David, who eventually prevailed.

The main account of Saul's life and reign is found in the Book of Samuel.

Contents

The Biblical account

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House of Saul

According to the Tanakh, Saul was the son of Kish, of the family of the Matrites, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin, one of the twelve Tribes of Israel. (1 Samuel 9:1-2; 10:21; 14:51; Acts 13:21) It appears that he came from Gibeah.

David and Saul (1885) by Julius Kronberg.

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.[1]

Saul also had a concubine named Rizpah, daughter of Aiah, who bore him two sons, Armoni and Mephibosheth. (2 Samuel 21:8)

Saul offered Merab to David as wife after his victory over Goliath, but David does not seem to have been interested in the arrangement. (1 Samuel 18:17-19) Saul then gave his other daughter Michal in marriage to David, (1 Samuel 18:20-27) but when David became Saul's rival to the kingship, Saul gave Michal in marriage to Palti, son of Laish. (1 Samuel 25:44)

Saul killed himself at the Battle of Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:3-6; 1 Chronicles 10:3-6), and was buried in Zelah, in the region of Benjamin in modern-day Israel. (2 Samuel 21:14) After Saul was anointed to be king, he did what Samuel told him then Saul disobeyed God, and God told Samuel to anoint a new king.

Ish-bosheth and Mephibosheth

Three of Saul's sons – Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua – died with him at Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:2; 1 Chronicles 10:2). Ish-bosheth became king of Israel, at the age of forty. (2 Samuel 2:10) Michal was returned as wife to David.

Ish-bosheth reigned for two years and was killed by two of his own captains. (2 Samuel 4:5) Armoni and Mephibosheth (Saul's sons with his concubine, Rizpah) were given by David along with the five sons of Merab (Saul's daughter)[2] to the Gibeonites, who killed them. (2 Samuel 21:8-9) Michal was childless. (2 Samuel 6:23)

The only male descendant of Saul to survive was Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, (2 Samuel 4:4) who had been five when his father and grandfather Saul had died in battle. In time, he came under the protection of David. (2 Samuel 9:7-13) Mephibosheth had a young son, Micah, (2 Samuel 9:12) of whom nothing more heard.

Anointed as king

"Death of King Saul", 1848 by Elie Marcuse (Germany and France, 1817-1902)

Samuel, the Judge, had sons who were dishonest and not trustworthy of the faith. The leaders of the Israelites feared that it would be disastrous if his sons were to be judge over them and requested that Samuel give them a king. God warns that if he appoints a king over them, they will suffer the dealings of the king. Saul (Talut), a young Israelite, was commanded by his father, Kish, to go and locate their lost donkeys. Saul obeys and Samuel sees him walking toward him. God reveals to Samuel that Saul will be the one to be anointed as the "first" King of Israel. Peter J. Leithart observes:

Saul, the first king, begins as an ideal choice to lead and judge Israel ..... Saul cares for his father's animals (as did Joseph and Moses, and as David will), and he is a dutiful son ..... Saul is a handsome man and a head taller than any Israelite (1 Samuel 9:2)[3]

In the Books of Samuel, Saul is not referred to as a king (melech), but rather as a “leader” or “commander” (nagid) (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1).[4] However (possibly representing an opposing literary strain[citation needed]), Saul is said to be made a "king" (melech) at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15). Even David, before he was anointed king, was referred to only as a future nagid, or military commander (1 Samuel 13:14).

The people generally used the term “king,” because their desire was to be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5; 10:19). This may be indicative of the difference between what a certain faction of the people wanted, and a definite reluctance of certain leaders (e.g., the prophet Samuel) to break from the old tribal order: viz., an attempt to satisfy everyone without creating a riot. But Saul was finally crowned as "king" (melech) in Gilgal. (1 Samuel 11:14-12:2)

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.

Rejection

Saul and the Witch of Endor by Gustave Dore.

According to 1 Samuel 10:8, Samuel had told Saul to wait for seven days after which they would meet; Samuel giving Saul further instructions. But as Samuel did not arrive after 7 days (1 Samuel 13:8) and the Israelites restless, 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, God took away Saul's kingship (1 Samuel 13:14).

After the battle with the Philistines was over, the text describes Samuel as having instructed Saul to kill all the Amalekites, which was in accordance with the mitzvah to do so. Having forewarned the Kenites who were living among the Amalekites to leave, Saul went to war and defeated the Amalekites. Saul killed all the babies, women, children, poor quality livestock and men, and left alive the king and best livestock.

When Samuel found out that Saul had not killed them all, he became angry and launched into a long and bitter diatribe about how God regretted making Saul king, because Saul was disobedient. When Samuel turned away, Saul grabbed Samuel by his clothes and tore a small piece off them, which Samuel states is a prophecy about what will happen to Saul's kingdom. Samuel then commands that the Amalekite king (who, like all other Amalekite kings in the Hebrew Bible, is named Agag) should be brought forth. Samuel proceeds to kill the Amalekite himself and makes a final departure.

Saul and David

Assyrian warriors armed with slings from the palace of Sennacherib, 7th century BCE

It is at this point that David, a son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, enters the story. According to the narrative:

  • (1 Samuel 16:1-13) Samuel is surreptitiously sent by God to Jesse. While offering a sacrifice in the vicinity, Samuel includes Jesse among the invited guests. Dining together, Jesse's sons are brought one by one to Samuel, each time being rejected by him, speaking for God; running out of sons, Jesse sends for David, the youngest, who was tending sheep. When brought to Samuel, David is anointed by him in front of his other brothers.
  • (1 Samuel 16:14-23) Saul is troubled by an evil spirit sent by God (some translations euphemistically just describe God not preventing an evil spirit from troubling Saul[citation needed]). Saul requests soothing music, and a servant recommends David the son of Jesse, who is renowned as a skillful harpist and soldier. When word of Saul's needs reach Jesse, he sends David, who had been looking after a flock, and David is appointed as Saul's armor bearer. David remains at court playing the harp as needed by Saul to calm his moods.
  • (1 Samuel 17:1-18:5) The Philistines return with an army to attack Israel, but, having amassed on a hillside opposite to the Israelite forces, suggest that to save effort and lives on both sides, it would be better to have a proxy combat between their champion, a Rephaim from Gath named Goliath, and someone of Saul's choosing. David, a young shepherd boy, happens to be delivering food to his three eldest brothers, who are in the Israelite army, at the time that the challenge is made. David, who is faithful of God's power to defeat his enemies, talks to the nearby soldiers mocking the Philistines, but is reprimanded by his brothers for doing so. David's speech is overheard and reported to Saul, who summons David and on hearing David's views decides to fit him out with his (Saul's) own armour. Saul then appoints David as his champion, and David defeats Goliath with a single shot from a sling, which hits him in between the eyes. Goliath falls forward and David uses his sword to decapitate Goliath.

Saul's love of glory

"Saul Throws Spear at David" by George Tinworth

In the text, Saul's son, Jonathan, and David become close friends and eventually David becomes Jonathan's brother-in-law by Michal. Jonathan recognises David as the rightful king, and 1 Samuel 18 states "Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul."[5] Jonathan even gives David his military clothes, symbolizing David's position as successor to Saul.

God makes David successful wherever Saul sends him. Therefore Saul sets David in charge of the army. After David returns from battle, the women heap praise upon him and refer to him as a greater military hero than Saul, driving Saul to jealousy, fearing that David constituted a rival to the throne.

Another day, while David is playing the harp, Saul, possessed by an evil spirit, throws a spear at him but misses on two occasions. Saul resolves to remove David from the court and appoints him an officer, but David becomes increasingly successful, making Saul more resentful of him. In return for being his champion, Saul offers to marry his daughter, Merob, to David, but David turns the offer down claiming to be too humble, and Merob is married to another man instead. Another daughter, Michal, falls in love with David, so Saul repeats the offer to David with Michal, but again David turns it down claiming to be too poor; Saul persuades David that the bride price would only be 100 from the Philistines, hoping that David would be killed trying to achieve this. David obtains 200 and is consequently married to Michal.

The narrative continues as Saul plots against David, but Jonathan dissuades Saul from this course of action, and tells David of it. Saul then tries to have David killed during the night, but Michal helps him escape and tricks his pursuers by using a household idol to make it seem that David is still in bed. David flees to Jonathan, who wasn't living near Saul. Jonathan agrees to return to Saul and discover his ultimate intent. While dining with Saul, Jonathan pretends that David has been called away to his brothers, but Saul sees through this and castigates Jonathan for being the companion of David, and it becomes clear that Saul wants David dead. The next day, Jonathan meets with David and tells him Saul's intent, and the two friends say their goodbyes, as David flees into the country. Saul later marries Michal to another man instead of David.

Saul is later informed by his head shepherd, an Edomite named Doeg, that Ahimelech assisted David. A henchman is sought to kill Ahimelech and the other priests of Nob. None of Saul's henchmen are willing to do this, so Doeg offers to do it instead, killing 85 priests. Saul also kills every man, woman and child living in Nob.

David had already left Nob by this point and had amassed about 400 disaffected men including a group of outlaws. With these men David launches an attack on the Philistines at Keilahhe. Saul realises he could trap David and his men inside the city and besiege it. However, David hears about this, and having received divine counsel (via the Ephod), finds that the citizens of Keilah would betray him to Saul. He decides to leave and flees to Ziph. Saul discovers this and pursues David on two occasions:

  • Some of the inhabitants of Ziph betray David's location to Saul, but David hears about it and flees with his men to Maon. Saul follows David, but while Saul travels along one side of the gorge, David travels along the other, and Saul is forced to break off pursuit when the Philistines invade. This is supposedly how the place became known as the gorge of divisions. David hides in the caves at Engedi and after fighting the Philistines, Saul returns to Engedi to attack him. Saul eventually enters the cave in which David had been hiding, but as David is in the darkest recesses Saul doesn't spot him. David swipes at Saul and cuts off part of his garment, but restrains himself and his associates from going further due to a taboo against killing an anointed king. David then leaves the cave, revealing himself to Saul, and gives a speech that persuades Saul to reconcile.
  • On the second occasion Saul returns to Ziph with his men. When David hears of this he sneaks into Saul's camp by night, and thrusts his spear into the ground near where Saul is sleeping. David prevents his associates from killing Saul because of a taboo against killing an anointed king, and merely steals Saul's spear and water jug. The next day, David stands at the top of a slope opposite to Saul's camp, and shouts that he had been in Saul's camp the previous night (using the spear and jug as proof). David then gives a speech that persuades Saul to reconcile with David, and the two make an oath not to harm one another.

Saul is among the prophets

The phrase Saul is among the prophets, is mentioned by the text in a way that suggests it was a proverb in later Israelite culture. Two accounts of its origin are given:

  • (1 Samuel 10:11 etc.) Having been anointed by Samuel, Saul is told of signs he will receive to know that he has been divinely appointed. The last of these signs is that Saul will be met by an ecstatic group of prophets leaving a high place and playing music on lyre, tambourine, and flutes. The signs come true (though the text skips the first two, suggesting that a portion of the text has been lost, or edited out for some reason), and Saul joins the ecstatic prophets, hence the phrase.
  • (1 Samuel 19:24 etc.) Saul sends men to pursue David, but when they meet a group of ecstatic prophets playing music on lyre, tambourine, and flute, they become possessed by a prophetic state and join in. Saul sends more men, but they too join the prophets. Eventually Saul himself goes, and also joins the prophets, hence the phrase.

Battle of Gilboa and the death of Saul

The Battle of Gilboa, by Jean Fouquet, the protagonists depicted anachronistically with 15th Century armour

Despite the oath(s) of reconciliation, the biblical text states that David 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 secretly 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 ghost of Samuel. Samuel's ghost tells Saul that he would lose the battle and his life.

Broken in spirit, Saul returns to face the enemy, and the Israelites are duly defeated. 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. An Amalekite then claims to have killed Saul, and the Amalekite tells David. Infuriated, David orders the Amalekite to be put to death as punishment for killing the God's anointed, despite Saul's earlier assassination attempt against him. (2 Samuel 1:1-16) The body of Saul, with those of his sons, were fastened to the wall of Beth-shan, and his armor was hung up in the house of Ashtaroth (an Ascalonian temple of the Canaanites). The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead (the scene of Saul's first victory) rescue the bodies and take them to Jabesh-gilead, where they burn their flesh and bury the bones (Sam.I 31,13).

Classical Rabbinical views

Two opposing views of Saul are found in classical rabbinical literature. One is based on the reverse logic that punishment is a proof of guilt, and therefore seeks to rob Saul of any halo which might surround him; typically this view is similar to the republican source. The passage referring to Saul as a choice young man, and goodly (1 Samuel 9:2) is in this view interpreted as meaning that Saul was not good in every respect, but goodly only with respect to his personal appearance (Num. Rashi 9:28). According to this view, Saul is only a weak branch (Gen. Rashi 25:3), owing his kingship not to his own merits, but rather to his grandfather, who had been accustomed to light the streets for those who went to the bet ha-midrash, and had received as his reward the promise that one of his grandsons should sit upon the throne (Lev. Rashi 9:2).

The second view of Saul makes him appear in the most favourable light as man, as hero, and as king. This view is similar to that of the monarchical source. In this view it was on account of his modesty that he did not reveal the fact that he had been anointed king (1 Samuel 10:16; Meg. 13b); and he was extraordinarily upright as well as perfectly just. Nor was there any one more pious than he (M. Q. 16b; Ex. Rashi 30:12); for when he ascended the throne he was as pure as a child, and had never committed sin (Yoma 22b). He was marvelously handsome; and the maidens who told him concerning Samuel (cf 1 Samuel 9:11-13) talked so long with him that they might observe his beauty the more (Ber. 48b). In war he was able to march 120 miles without rest. When he received the command to smite Amalek (1 Samuel 15:3), Saul said: For one found slain the Torah requires a sin offering [Deuteronomy 21:1-9]; and here so many shall be slain. If the old have sinned, why should the young suffer; and if men have been guilty, why should the cattle be destroyed? It was this mildness that cost him his crown (Yoma 22b; Num. Rashi 1:10) —the fact that he was merciful even to his enemies, being indulgent to rebels themselves, and frequently waiving the homage due to him. But if his mercy toward a foe was a sin, it was his only one; and it was his misfortune that it was reckoned against him, while David, although he had committed much iniquity, was so favored that it was not remembered to his injury (Yoma 22b; M. Q. 16b, and Rashi ad loc.). In some respects Saul was superior to David, e.g., in having only one concubine, while David had many. Saul expended his own substance for the war, and although he knew that he and his sons would fall in battle, he nevertheless went forward, while David heeded the wish of his soldiers not to go to war in person (2 Samuel 21:17; Lev. Rashi 26:7; Yalq., Sam. 138).

According to the Rabbis, Saul ate his food with due regard for the rules of ceremonial purity prescribed for the sacrifice (Yalq., l.c.), and taught the people how they should slay cattle (cf 1 Samuel 14:34). As a reward for this, God himself gave Saul a sword on the day of battle, since no other sword suitable for him was found (ibid 13:22). Saul's attitude toward David finds its excuse in the fact that his courtiers were all tale-bearers, and slandered David to him (Deut. Rashi 5:10); and in like manner he was incited by Doeg against the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:16-19; Yalq., Sam. 131) - this act was forgiven him, however, and a heavenly voice (bat qol) was heard, proclaiming: Saul is the chosen one of God (Ber. 12b). His anger at the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:2) was not personal hatred, but was induced by zeal for the welfare of Israel (Num. Rashi 8:4). The fact that he made his daughter remarry (1 Samuel 25:44), finds its explanation in his (Saul's) view that her betrothal to David had been gained by false pretenses, and was therefore invalid (Sanhedrin 19b). During the lifetime of Saul there was no idolatry in Israel. The famine in the reign of David (cf 2 Samuel 21:1) was to punish the people, because they had not accorded Saul the proper honours at his burial (Num. Rashi 8:4). In Sheol, Saul dwells with Samuel, which is a proof that all has been forgiven him ('Er. 53ba]

Biblical criticism

Saul's name and Samuel's birth-narrative

The birth-narrative of the prophet Samuel is found at 1 Samuel 1-28. It describes how Samuel's mother Hannah requests a son from Yahweh, and dedicates the child to God at the shrine of Shiloh. The passage makes extensive play with the root-elements of Saul's name, and ends with the phrase hu sa'ul le-Yahweh, "he is dedicated to Yahweh." Hannah names the resulting son Samuel, giving as her explanation, "because from God I requested him." Samuel's name, however, means "name of God," and the etymology and multiple references to the root of the name seems to fit Saul instead. The majority explanation for the discrepancy is that the narrative originally described the birth of Saul, and was given to Samuel in order to enhance the position of David and Samuel at the former king's expense.[6]

Source criticism

The existence of different explanations for Saul's rise to kingship is the result of the biblical narrative being spliced together from a number of originally distinct source texts. This may be supported by text-critical evidence: in the Septuagint version of 1 Samuel 11:15, Saul is being publicly anointed as king by Samuel at Gilgal, rather than the crowd simply acclaiming him as such; i.e. Saul gets anointed three times, and twice publicly.[7]

The numbers in the account of the battle with the Philistines are grossly unrealistic, claiming they had 30,000 chariots for example (the Septuagint and Syriac versions reduce the number to 3,000). Also unrealistic is the suggestion that Saul and his son Jonathan were the only men apart from the Philistines to have weapons; this suggestion (1 Samuel 13:19-22) is probably a later addition to the text, particularly as the narrative flows more naturally from the end of verse 18 onto the start of verse 23. The idea that the Israelites were led by a man named Jonathan is simply an ethnology - indicating that the Hebrews were a branch of Israelites (and distinct from the others), rather than that they were led by a son of the Israelite King.

Both the earlier passage about Saul's impatience (1 Samuel 13:7b-15a) and the later narrative of the Amalekite war (1 Samuel 15) are later redactions of the text that belong together. Both are designed to justify the later fate of Saul and division in his kingdom, when Saul had seemingly been divinely chosen to be king, and simultaneously portray ancient Israel as more of a theocracy than it would otherwise have appeared to be, making a king appear to take orders from a prophet.

The fact that David spares Saul's life on two occasions is the result of the splicing together of two earlier narratives - the republican source and the monarchical source; the republican source being responsible for the passages involving Jonathan, the first pursuit to Ziph and the first reconciliation; the monarchical source being responsible for the passages involving Michal, Nob, the second pursuit to Ziph and the second reconciliation. Michal essentially plays the same role in the monarchical source as Jonathan does in the republican source - as David's protector in Saul's court.

The monarchical source's mention of a "household idol" is of interest as it indicates that such things existed and were not regarded as inappropriate in early Yahweh-religion; archeology confirms a large number of such idols in early Israel, particularly statues of Asherah, the consort originally of El and later of Yahweh.

Notes

  1. ^ 1 Samuel 14:51 lists three sons - Jonathan, and Ishvi, and Malchi-shua - and the two daughters. But see also 2 Samuel 2:8 and 1 Chronicles 8:33.
  2. ^ Some Hebrew versions say that the five sons were Michal's - eg. 2 Samuel 21:8-9
  3. ^ Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name, Canon Press, 2000. p. 136
  4. ^ Bright, John, "A History of Israel," The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1972, p. 185.
  5. ^ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2018%20;&version=47;
  6. ^ The idea was originally advanced in the 19th century, and has most recently been elaborated in Kyle McCarter's influential commentary on I Samuel (P. Kyle McCarter, "I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary", Anchor Bible Series, 1980)
  7. ^  "Saul". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Saul. 

See also

Further reading

  • Wellhausen, Julius, Der Text der Bücher Samuelis
  • Budde, Die Bücher Richter und Samuel, 1890, pp. 167–276
  • Driver, S. R., Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, 1890
  • Cheyne, T. K., Aids to the Devout Study of Criticism, 1892, pp. 1–126
  • Smith, H. P., Old Testament History, 1903, ch. vii.
  • Cheyne, T. K., and Black, (eds.) Encyclopedia Biblica
  • SAMUEL AND SAUL: A NEGATIVE SYMBIOSIS by Rabbi Moshe Reiss
Saul of the United Kingdom of Israel & Judah
House of Saul
Cadet branch of the Tribe of Benjamin
Regnal titles
New title
Anointed king to
replace Judge Samuel
King of the United Kingdom
of Israel and Judah

1047 BC – 1007 BC
Succeeded by
Ish-bosheth, David

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Saul" by Joseph Jacobs, Ira Maurice Price, Isidore Singer, and Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, a publication now in the public domain.


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource



Saul
George Frideric Handel and Charles Jennens
This is the libretto to George Frideric Handel's oratorio, Saul. It was composed in 1739.

Contents

Dramatis Personae

  • Saul (bass)
  • Merab (soprano)
  • Michal (soprano)
  • Jonathan (tenor)
  • David (alto)
  • Samuel (bass)
  • High Priest (tenor)
  • Witch of Endor (tenor)
  • Abner (tenor)
  • Amalekite (tenor)
  • Doeg (bass)
  • Chorus of Israelites
  • Chorus

ACT ONE

1. Overture

Scene 1

An Epinicion or Song of Triumph, for the victory over Goliath and the Philistines.

2a. Chorus of Israelites
How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heav'ns, O King ador'd,
How hast Thou set Thy glorious throne!
3. Air (soprano)
An infant rais'd by Thy command,
To quell Thy rebel foes,
Could fierce Goliath's dreadful hand
Superior in the fight oppose.
4. Trio
Along the monster atheist strode,
With more than human pride,
And armies of the living God
Exulting in his strength defied.
5. Chorus of Israelites
The youth inspir'd by Thee, O Lord,
With ease the boaster slew:
Our fainting courage soon restor'd,
And headlong drove that impious crew.
2b. Chorus of Israelites
How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heavn's, O King ador'd,
How hast thou set Thy glorious throne!
Hallelujah!

Scene 2

Saul, Jonathan, Merab, Michal and Abner, introducing David and the High Priest.

6. Recitative

Michal:

He comes, he comes!
7. Air

Michal:

O godlike youth, by all confess'd
Of human race the pride!
O virgin among women blest,
Whom Heav'n ordains thy bride!
But ah, how strong a bar I see
Betwixt my happiness and me!
O godlike youth. . . da capo
8. Recitative

Abner:

Behold, O king, the brave, victorious youth,
And in his hand the haughty giant's head.

Saul:

Young man, whose son art thou?

David:

The son of Jesse,
Thy faithful servant, and a Bethlemite.

Saul:

Return no more to Jesse; stay with me;
And as an earnest of my future favour,
Thou shalt espouse my daughter: small reward
Of such desert, since to thy arm alone
We owe our safety, peace and liberty.
9. Air

David:

O king, your favours with delight
I take, but must refuse your praise:
For every pious Israelite
To God that tribute pays.
Through Him we put to flight our foes,
And in His name,
We trod them under that against us rose.
O king. . . da capo
10. Recitative

Jonathan:

Oh,early piety! Oh, modest merit!
In this embrace my heart bestows itself;
Henceforth, thou noble youth, accept my frienship,
And Jonathan and David are but one.
11. Air

Merab:

What abject thoughts a prince can have!
In rank a prince, in mind a slave.
12. Recitative

Merab (aside, to Jonathan):

Yet think on whom this honour you bestow;
How poor in fortune, and in birth how low!
13. Air

Jonathan:

Birth and fortune I despise!
From virtue let my friendship rise.

(To David)

No titles proud thy stem adorn,
Yet born of God is nobly born,
And of His gifts so rich thy store,
That Ophir to thy wealth is poor.
Birth and fortune. . . da capo
14. Recitative

High Priest:

Go on, illustrious pair! Your great example
Shall teach your youth to scorn the sordid world
And set their hearts on things of real worth.
15. Air

High Priest:

While yet thy tide of blood runs high,
To God thy future life devote;
Thy early vigour all apply,
His glorious service to promote.
So shall thy great Creator bless,
And bid thy days serenely flow:
So shall thy youthful happiness
In age no diminution know.
With sweet reflections thou shalt taste,
Declining gently to thy tomb,
The pleasure of good actions past,
And hope with rapture joys to come.
16. Recitative

Saul:

Thou, Merab, first in birth, be first in honour:
Thine be the valiant youth, whose arm has sav'd
Thy country from her foes.

Merab (aside):

Oh, mean alliance!
17. Air

Merab:

My soul rejects the thought with scorn,
That such a boy, till now unknown,
Of poor plebeian parents born,
Should mix with royal blood his own!
Though Saul's command I can't decline,
I must prevent his low design,
And save the honour of his line.
18. Air

Michal:

See, with what a scornful air
She the precious gift receives!
Though e'er so noble, or so fair,
She cannot merit what he gives.
19. Air

Michal:

Ah, lovely youth, wast thou design'd
With that proud beauty to be joined?
20. Symphony
21. Recitative

Michal:

Already see the daughters of the land,
In joyful dance, with instruments of music,
Come to congratulate your victory.

Scene 3

Saul, Michal, Chorus.

22. Chorus of Israelites
Welcome, welcome, mighty king!
Welcome all who conquest bring!
Welcome David, warlike boy,
Author of our present joy!
Saul, who hast thy thousands slain,
Welcome to thy friends again!
David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!
23. Accompagnato

Saul:

What do I hear? Am I then sunk so low,
To have this upstart boy preferr'd before me?
24. Chorus of Israelites
David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!
25. Accompagnato

Saul:

To him ten thousands, and to me but thousands!
What can they give him more, except the kingdom?
26. Air

Saul:

With rage I shall burst his praises to hear!
Oh, how I both hate the stripling, and fear!
What mortal a rival in glory can bear?

Exit.

Scene 4

27. Recitative

Jonathan:

Imprudent women! Your ill-timed comparisons,
I fear, have injured him you meant to honour.
Saul's furious look, as he departed hence,
Too plainly shew'd the tempest of his soul.

Michal (to David):

'Tis but his old disease, which thou canst cure:
Oh, take thy harp, and as thou oft hast done,
From the king's breast expel the raging fiend,
And sooth his tortur'd soul with sounds divine.
28. Air

Michal:

Fell rage and black despair possess'd
With horrid sway the monarch's breast;
When David with celestial fire
Struck the sweet persuasive lyre:
Soft gliding down his ravish'd ears,
The healing sounds dispel his cares;
Despair and rage at once are gone,
And peace and hope resume the throne.
29. Recitative

High Priest:

This but the smallest part of harmony,
Great attribute of attributes divine,
And centre of the rest, where all agree:
Whose wondrous force what great effects proclaim!
30. Accompagnato

High Priest:

By Thee this universal frame
From its Almighty Maker's hand
In primitive perfection came,
By Thee produc'd, in thee contain'd:
No sooner did th'eternal word dispense
Thy vast mysterious influence,
Than chaos his old discord ceas'd.
Nature began, of labour eas'd,
Her latent beauties to disclose,
A fair harmonious world arose;
And though, by diabolic guile,
Disorder lord it for a while,
The time will come,
When nature shall her pristine form regain,
And harmony for ever reign.

Scene 5

Saul, David, Jonathan, Merab, Michal, Abner, High Priest.

31. Recitative

Abner:

Racked with infernal pains, ev'n now the king
Comes forth, and mutters horrid words, which hell,
No human tongue, has taught him.
32. Air

David:

O Lord, whose mercies numberless
O'er all thy works prevail:
Though daily man Thy law transgress,
Thy patience cannot fail.
If yet his sin be not too great,
The busy fiend control;
Yet longer for repentance wait,
And heal his wounded soul.
33. Symphony
34. Recitative

Jonathan:

'Tis all in vain; his fury still continues:
With wild distraction on my friend he stares,
Stamps on the ground, and seems intent on mischief.
35. Air

Saul:

A serpent, in my bosom warm'd,
Would sting me to the heart:
But of his venom soon disarm'd,
Himself shall feel the smart.
Ambitious boy! Now learn what danger
It is to rouse a monarch's anger!

He throws his javelin. Exit David.

36. Recitative

Saul:

Has he escap'd my rage?
I charge thee, Jonathan, upon thy duty,
And all, on your allegiance, to destroy
This bold, aspiring youth; for while he lives,
I am not safe. Reply not, but obey.
37. Air

Merab:

Capricious man, in humour lost,
By ev'ry wind of passion toss'd!
Now sets his vassal on the throne,
Then low as earth he casts him down!
His temper knows no middle state,
Extreme alike in love or hate.

Scene 6

38. Accompagnato

Jonathan:

O filial piety! O sacred friendship!
How shall I reconcile you? Cruel father!
Your just commands I always have obeyed:
But to destroy my friend, the brave, the virtuous,
The godlike David, Israel's defender,
And terror of her foes! To disobey you —
What shall I call it? 'Tis an act of duty
To God, to David — nay, indeed, to you.
39. Air

Jonathan:

No, cruel father, no!
Your hard commands I can't obey.
Shall I with sacrilegious blow
Take pious David's life away?
No, cruel father, no!
No, with my life I must defend
Against the world my best, my dearest friend.
40. Air

High Priest:

O Lord, whose providence
Ever wakes for their defence
Who the ways of virtue choose:
Let not thy faithful servant fall
A victim to the rage of Saul
Who hates without a cause,
And, in defiance of thy laws,
His precious life pursues.

41. Chorus:

Preserve him for the glory of Thy name,
Thy people's safety, and the heathen's shame.

ACT TWO

Scene 1

42. Chorus:

Envy, eldest born of hell,
Cease in human breasts to dwell,
Ever at all good repining,
Still the happy undermining!
God and man by thee infested,
Thou by God and man detested,
Most thyself thou dost torment,
At once the crime and punishment!
Hide thee in the blackest night:
Virtue sickens at thy sight!

Scene 2

Jonathan and David.

43. Recitative

Jonathan:

Ah, dearest friend, undone by too much virtue!
Think you, an evil spirit was the cause
Of all my father's rage? It was, indeed,
A spirit of envy, and of mortal hate.
He has resolv'd your death; and sternly charg'd
His whole retinue, me especially,
To execute his vengeance.
44. Air

Jonathan:

But sooner Jordan's stream, I swear,
Back to his spring shall swiftly roll,
Than I consent to hurt a hair
Of thee, thou darling of my soul.
45. Recitative

David:

Oh, strange vicissitude! But yesterday
He thought me worthy of his daughter's love;
Today he seeks my life.

Jonathan:

My sister Merab, by his own gift thy right,
He hath bestow'd on Adriel.

David:

Oh, my prince, would that were all!
It would not grieve me much: the scornful maid
(Didst thou observe?) with such disdainful pride
Receiv'd the king's command! But lovely Michal,
As mild as she is fair, outstrips all praise.
46. Air

David:

Such haughty beauties rather move
Aversion, than engage our love.
They can only our cares beguile,
Who gently speak, and sweetly smile.
If virtue in that dress appear,
Who, that sees, can love forbear?
Such beauties. . . da capo.
47. Recitative

Jonathan:

My father comes: retire, my friend, while I
With peaceful accents try to calm his rage.

Exit David.

Scene 3

Saul and Jonathan.

48. Recitative

Saul:

Hast thou obey'd my orders, and destoy'd
My mortal enemy, the son of Jesse?

Jonathan:

Alas, my father! He your enemy?
Say, rather, he has done important service
To you, and to the nation; hazarded
His life for both, and slain our giant foe,
Whose presence made the boldest of us tremble.
49. Air

Jonathan:

Sin not, O king, against the youth,
Who ne'er offended you:
Think, to his loyalty and truth,
What great rewards are due!
Think with what joy this godlike man
You saw, that glorious day!
Think, and with ruin, if you can,
Such services repay.
50. Air

Saul:

As great Jehovah lives, I swear,
The youth shall not be slain:
Bid him return, and void of fear
Adorn our court again.
51. Air

Jonathan:

From cities stormed, and battles won,
What glory can accrue?
By this the hero best is known,
He can himself subdue.
Wisest and greatest of his kind,
Who can in reason's fetters bind
The madness of his angry mind!

Scene 4

52. Recitative

Jonathan:

Appear, my friend.

Enter David.

Saul:

No more imagine danger:
Be first in our esteem; with wonted valour
Repel the insults of the Philistines:
And as a proof of my sincerity,
(Oh, hardness to dissemble!) instantly
Espouse my daughter Michal.
53. Air

David:

Your words, O king, my loyal heart
With double ardour fire:
If God his usual aid impart,
Your foes shall feel what you inspire.
In all the dangers of the field,
The great Jehovah is my shield.

Exeunt David and Jonathan.

54. Recitative

Saul:

Yes, he shall wed my daughter! But how long
Shall he enjoy her? He shall lead my armies!
But have the Philistines no darts, no swords,
To pierce the heart of David? Yes, this once
To them I leave him; they shall do me right!

Scene 5

David and Michal.

55. Recitative

Michal:

A father's will has authorized my love:
No longer, Michal, then attempt to hide
The secret of my soul. I love thee, David,
And long have loved. Thy virtue was the cause;
And that be my defence.
56. Duet

Michal:

O fairest of ten thousand fair,
Yet for thy virtue more admir'd!
Thy words and actions all declare
The wisdom by thy God inspir'd.

David:

O lovely maid! Thy form beheld,
Above all beauty charms our eyes:
Yet still within thy form conceal'd,
Thy mind, a greater beauty, lies.

Both:

How well in thee does Heav'n at last
Compensate all my sorrows past.

Exeunt.

57. Chorus
Is there a man, who all his ways,
Directs, his God alone to please?
In vain his foes against him move:
Superior pow'r their hate disarms;
He makes them yield to virtue's charms,
And melts their fury down to love.
58. Symphony

Scene 6

David and Michal.

59. Recitative

David:

Thy father is as cruel, and as false,
As thou art kind and true. When I approach'd him,
New from the slaughter of his enemies,
His eyes with fury flam'd, his arms he rais'd,
With rage grown stronger; by my guiltless head
The javelin whizzing flew, and in the wall
Mock'd once again his impotence of malice.
60. Duet

David:

At persecution I can laugh;
No fear my soul can move,
In God's protection safe,
And blest in Michal's love.

Michal:

Ah, dearest youth, for thee I fear!
Fly, begone, for death is near!

David:

Fear not, lovely fair, for me:
Death, where thou art, cannot be;
Smile, and danger is no more.

Michal:

Fly, or death is at the door!
See, the murd'rous band comes on!
Stay no longer, fly, begone!

Scene 7

Michal and Doeg.

61. Recitative

Michal:

Whom dost thou seek? And who hast sent thee hither?

Doeg:

I seek for David, and am sent by Saul.

Michal:

Thy errand?

Doeg:

'Tis a summons to the Court.

Michal:

Say he is sick.

Doeg:

In sickness or in health,
Alive or dead, he must be brought to Saul;
Show me his chamber.

David's bed discovered with an image in it.

Do you mock the king?
This disappointment will enrage him more:
Then tremble for th'event.

Exit.

62. Air

Michal:

No, no, let the guilty tremble
At ev'ry thought of danger near.
Though numbers, armed with death, assemble,
My innocence disdains to fear.
Though great their power as their spite,
Undaunted still, my soul, remain:
For greater is Jehovah's might,
And will their lawless force restrain.

Scene 8

63. Recitative

Merab:

Mean as he was, he is my brother now,
My sister's husband; and to speak the truth,
Has qualities which justice bids me love,
And pity his distress. My father's cruelty
Strikes me with horror! At th'approaching feast
I fear some dire event, unless my brother,
His friend, the faithful Jonathan, avert
Th'impending ruin. I know he'll do his best.
64. Air

Merab:

Author of peace, who canst control
Every passion of the soul;
To whose good spirit alone we owe
Words that sweet as honey flow:
With thy dear influence his tongue be fill'd,
And cruel wrath to soft persuasion yield.

Scene 9

Saul at the Feast of the New Moon.

65. Symphony
66. Accompagnato

Saul:

The time at length is come when I shall take
My full revenge on Jesses's son.
No longer shall the stripling make
His sov'reign totter on the throne.
He dies — this blaster of my fame,
Bane of my peace, and author of my shame!

Scene 10

Saul and Jonathan.

67. Recitative

Saul:

Where is the son of Jesse? Comes he not
To grace our feast?

Jonathan:

He earnestly ask'd leave
To go to Bethlem, where his father's house,
At solemn rites of annual sacrifice,
Requir'd his presence.

Saul:

O perverse, rebellious!
Thinkst thou I do not know that thou hast chose
The son of Jesse to thy own confusion?
The world will say thou art no son of mine,
Who thus canst love the man I hate; the man
Who, if he lives, will rob thee of thy crown:
Send, fetch him thither; for the wretch must die.

Jonathan:

What has he done? And wherefore must he die?

Saul:

Darest thou oppose my will? Die then thyself!

He throws the javelin. Exit Jonathan, then Saul.

68. Chorus
Oh, fatal consequence
Of rage, by reason uncontroll'd!
With every law he can dispense;
No ties the furious monster hold:
From crime to crime he blindly goes,
Nor end, but with his own destruction knows.

ACT THREE

Scene 1

Saul disguised, at Endor.

69. Accompagnato

Saul:

Wretch that I am, of my own ruin author!
Where are my old supports? The valiant youth,
Whose very name was terror to my foes,
My rage has drove away. Of God forsaken,
In vain I ask his counsel. He vouchsafes
No answer to the sons of disobedience!
Even my own courage fails me! Can it be?
Is Saul become a coward? I'll not believe it!
If Heav'n denies thee aid, seek it from hell!
70. Accompagnato

Saul:

'Tis said, here lives a woman, close familiar
With th'enemy of mankind: her I'll consult,
And know the worst. Her art is death by law;
And while I minded law, sure death attended
Such horrid practises. Yet, oh hard fate,
Myself am now reduc'd to ask the counsel
Of those I once abhorr'd!

Scene 2

Saul and the Witch of Endor.

71. Recitative

Witch:

With me what would'st thou?

Saul:

I would, that by thy art thou bring me up
The man whom I shall name.

Witch:

Alas! Thou know'st
How Saul has cut off those who use this art.
Would'st thou ensnare me?

Saul:

As Jehovah lives,
On this account no mischief shall befall thee.

Witch:

Whom shall I bring up to thee?

Saul:

Bring up Samuel.
72. Air

Witch:

Infernal spirits, by whose pow'r
Departed ghosts in living forms appear,
Add horror to the midnight hour,
And chill the boldest hearts with fear:
To this stranger's wond'ring eyes
Let the prophet Samuel rise!

Scene 3

Apparition of Samuel.

73. Accompagnato

Samuel:

Why hast thou forc'd me from the realms of peace
Back to this world of woe?

Saul:

O holy prophet!
Refuse me not thy aid in this distress.
The num'rous foe stands ready for the battle:
God has forsaken me: no more he answers
By prophets or by dreams: no hope remains,
Unless I learn from thee from course to take.

Samuel:

Hath God forsaken thee? And dost thou ask
My counsel? Did I not foretell thy fate,
When, madly disobedient, thou didst spare
The curst Amalekite, and on the spoil
Didst fly rapacious? Therefore God this day
Hath verified my words in thy destruction,
Hath rent the kingdom from thee, and bestow'd it
On David, whom thou hatest for his virtue.
Thou and thy sons shall be with me tomorrow,
And Israel by Philistine arms shall fall.
The Lord hath said it: He will make it good.
74. Symphony

Scene 4

David and an Amalekite.

75. Recitative

David:

Whence comest thou?

Amalekite:

Out of the camp of Israel.

David:

Thou canst inform me then. How went the battle?

Amalekite:

The people, put to flight, in numbers fell,
And Saul, and Jonathan his son, are dead.

David:

Alas, my brother! But how knowest thou
That they are dead?

Amalekite:

Upon mount Gilboa
I met with Saul, just fall'n upon his spear;
Swiftly the foe pursu'd; he cried to me,
Begg'd me to finish his imperfect work,
And end a life of pain and ignominy.
I knew he could not live, therefore slew him;
Took from his head the crown, and from his arms
The bracelets, and have brought them to my lord.

David:

Whence art thou?

Amalekite:

Of the race of Amalek.
76. Air

David:

Impious wretch, of race accurst!
And of all that race the worst!
How hast thou dar'd to lift thy sword
Again th'anointed of the Lord?
(To one of his attendants, who kills the Amalekite.)
Fall on him, smite him, let him die!
On thy own head thy blood will lie;
Since thy own mouth has testified,
By thee the Lord's anointed died.
77. Symphony: dead march

Scene 5

Elegy on the death of Saul and Jonathan.

78. Chorus
Mourn, Israel, mourn thy beauty lost,
Thy choicest youth on Gilboa slain!
How have thy fairest hopes been cross'd!
What heaps of mighty warriors strew the plain!
79. Air

High Priest:

Oh, let it not in Gath be heard,
The news in Askelon let none proclaim;
Lest we, whom once so much they fear'd,
Be by their women now despis'd,
And lest the daughters of th'uncircumcis'd
Rejoice and triumph in our shame.
80. Air

Merab:

From this unhappy day
No more, ye Gilboan hills, on you
Descend refreshing rains or kindly dew,
Which erst your heads with plenty crown'd;
Since there the shield of Saul, in arms renown'd,
Was vilely cast away.
81. Air

David:

Brave Jonathan his bow never drew,
But wing'd with death his arrow flew,
And drank the blood of slaughter'd foes.
Nor drew great Saul his sword in vain;
It reek'd, where'er he dealt his blows,
With entrails of the mighty slain.
82. Chorus of Israelites
Eagles were not so swift as they,
Nor lions with so strong a grasp
Held fast and tore the prey.
83. Air

Michal:

In sweetest harmony they lived,
Nor death their union could divide.
The pious son ne'er left the father's side,
But him defending bravely died:
A loss too great to be survived!
For Saul, ye maids of Israel, moan,
To whose indulgent care
You owe the scarlet and the gold you wear,
And all the pomp in which your beauty long has shone.
84. Solo and Chorus

Israelites:

O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!

David and Israelites:

O Jonathan! How nobly didst thou die,
For thy king and people slain.

David:

For thee, my brother Jonathan,
How great is my distress!
What language can my grief express?
Great was the pleasure I enjoy'd in thee,
And more than woman's love thy wondrous love to me!

David and Israelites:

O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!
Where, Israel, is thy glory fled?
Spoil'd of thy arms, and sunk in infamy,
How canst thou raise again thy drooping head!
85. Recitative

High Priest:

Ye men of Judah, weep no more!
Let gladness reign in all our host;
For pious David will restore
What Saul by disobedience lost.
The Lord of hosts is David's friend,
And conquest will his arms attend.
86. Chorus of Israelites
Gird on thy sword, thou man of might,
Pursue thy wonted fame:
Go on, be prosperous in fight,
Retrieve the Hebrew name!
Thy strong right hand, with terror armed,
Shall thy obdurate foes dismay;
While others, by thy virtue charm'd,
Shall crowd to own thy righteous sway.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SAUL (Heb. sha'ul, " asked"), in the Old Testament, son of Kish, and king of Israel.' His history is closely interwoven with that of the prophet Samuel and the Judaean king David. Two distinct accounts are given of his rise. In one Samuel, after defeating the Philistines, rules as the last "judge" of Israel; the people demand a king, and Saul, a young giant of Benjamin, is chosen by lot; the choice is confirmed when he delivers 1 On the name Saul, also that of an Edomite king (Gen. xxxvi. 37 seq.), see Samuel note 1. Kish seems to be identical with the Arabic personal and god-name Kais.

Jabesh-Gilead from the Ammonites (i Sam. i.-viii., x. 17-27, xi., xii.). In the other, Saul is raised up by Yahweh to deliver Israel from a sore Philistine oppression. Samuel, a seer of local fame, previously unknown to Saul, gives him the divine commission, and ultimately a complete victory is gained which is celebrated by the erection of an altar (ix. 1 - x. 16, xiii. seq.). See further Samuel. Once king, Saul achieves conquests over the surrounding states, and the brief summary in i Sam. xiv. 47-5 1 may be supplemented by 2 Sam. i. 19 sqq., where the brave deeds of the loving pair Saul and his son Jonathan, and their untimely death, 'form the subject of an old poem which vividly describes the feelings of a prostrate nation. Saul and his sons fell in the battle on Mt. Gilboa in the north and the land was thrown into confusion (i Sam. xxxi.). Jabesh-Gilead, mindful of its debt, secretly carried away the dead bodies (cf. 2 Sam. xxi. 2 seq.), and Abner the commander hurriedly removed the surviving son, Ishbosheth, 2 to Mahanaim and at length succeeded in establishing his power over all Israel north of Jerusalem (2 Sam. ii 8 seq.). But the sequel is lost in the more popular accounts of the rise of David.

Little old tradition is preserved of the house of Saul. The interest now lies in the prominence of Samuel, and more particularly in the coming supremacy of the Judaean king David (see the introductory verse 1 Sam. xiv. 52); as a result of this Saul is depicted in less sympathetic colours, his pettiness and animosity stand in strong contrast to David's chivalry and resignation, and in the melancholy Benjamite court with its rivalry and jealousy, the romantic attachment between David and Jonathan forms the one redeeming feature. The great Israelite disaster is foreshadowed in a thrilling narrative of Saul's visit to the since famous Witch of Endor (1 Sam. xxviii.). Israel had lost its mainstay through the death of Samuel (cf. xii. 23), and the king, uneasy at the approach of the enemy, invoked the shade of the prophet only to learn that his cause was lost through his own sin. The incident is now connected with David's nearing supremacy, and refers to a previous act of disobedience in his Amalekite campaign. In a detailed account of Saul's expedition we learn that his failure to carry out Yahweh's commands to the letter had brought the prophet's denunciation (cf. Ahab, Kings xx. 42), and that he had lost the divine favour (xv.). This in turn ignores an earlier occasion when Saul is condemned and the loss of his kingdom foretold ere he had accomplished the task to which he had been called (xiii. 8-14).3 This later tendency to subordinate the history of Saul to that of David appears especially in a number of detailed and popular narratives encircling Judah and Benjamin, superseding other traditions which give an entirely different representation of David's move from the south to Jerusalem. Consequently it proves impossible to present a consistent outline'of the history. Instead of the sequel to Ishbaal's recovery of power, and instead of David's incessant conflicts north of Hebron, ending with the capture of Jerusalem and its district from a strange people (2 Sam. v. xxi. 15-22, xxiii. 8 sqq.), we meet with the stories of the war with Benjamin and Israel, of the intrigue of Abner (q.v.) and the vengeance of Joab. While Saul's death had left Israel in the hands of the Philistines, it is David who accomplishes the deliverance of the people (2 Sam. iii. 18, xix. 9). So, also, in accordance with his generous nature, David takes vengeance upon the Amalekite who had slain Saul (2 Sam. i. 6-10, contrast the details in 1 Sam. xxxi.), and upon the treacherous aliens who had murdered Ishbaal (iv.). When king at Jerusalem (seven years after Saul's death) he seeks out the survivors of Saul in order to fulfil his covenant with Jonathan. Jonathan's son Mephibosheth 4 is found in safe-keeping east of the Jordan 2 Ishbosheth, i.e. Ishbaal, "man of Baal," cf. 1 Chron. viii. 33.

For other explanations see 1 Chron. x. 13 seq. (which refers to 1 Sam. xxviii.), and Josephus, Ant. vi. 14, 9 (a reference to Saul's massacre of the priests at Nob, I Sam. xxii., a crime which is not brought to his charge in biblical history and probably belongs to one of the latest traditions).

4 Perhaps Meribaal, "man of Baal," or Meribbaal, "Baal contends"; for the intentional alteration of the name cf. note 2 above, and see Baal.

and is installed at court (ix.). Another impression is given by the relations between David and Saul's daughter, Michal (vi. 16 sqq., cf. also the "wives" in xii. 8), and we learn from yet another source that he handed over Saul's sons to the Gibeonites who had previously suffered from the king's bloodthirsty zeal (xxi. 1-14). On this occasion (the date is quite uncertain) the remains of Saul and Jonathan were removed from Jabesh-Gilead and solemnly interred in Benjamin. During Absalom's revolt, Mephibosheth entertained some hopes of reviving the fortunes of his house (xvi. 1-4, xix. 24-30), and two Benjamites, Shimei and Sheba, appear (xvi. 5 sqq., xix. 16-23, xx). But there is no concerted action;, the three are independent figures whose presence indicates that Judaean supremacy over Israel was not accepted without a protest, and that the spilt blood of the house of Saul was laid upon the shoulders of David. Henceforth Saul's family disappears from the pages of history. But a genealogy of his descendants (1 Chron. viii. 33-40, ix. 39-44) tells of "mighty men of valour, archers," who with their sons number 150 strong, and this interesting post-exilic list is suggestive for the vitality of the traditions of their ancestors.

In surveying the earlier traditions of Saul's rise, it is clear that the desperate state of Israel leaves little room for the quiet picture of the inexperienced youth wandering around in search of his father's asses, or for the otherwise valuable representation of popular cult at the local sanctuaries (I Sam. ix.). Since it is Saul who is commissioned to deliver Israel, it is disconcerting to meet his grown-up son who slays the Philistine "garrison" (rather "officer") in Geba (Gibeah, xiii. 3 seq.), and takes the initiative in overthrowing the Philistines (xiv. 1-16); yet the account wnich follows of Jonathan's violation of Saul's hasty vow and its consequences prepares us for the subsequent stories of the unfriendly relations between the two. Finally the absence of any prelude to the Philistine oppression is perplexing. On the other hand, Judg. x. 6 sqq. (now the introduction to the Gileadite Jephthah and the Ammonites) contain references (now obscure) to the distress caused by the Philistines, the straitened circumstances of the people, and their penitent appeal to Yahweh. When at length Yahweh "could bear the misery of Israel no longer," it is evident that in the original connexion some deliverer was raised. But the sequel cannot be found in the Danite Samson, the priest Eli, or the seer Samuel, and it is only in the history of Saul that Yahweh's answer to the people's cry leads to the appointment of the saviour. The traces of the older accounts of Saul's rise and the fragments in the highly composite introduction in Judg. x. (vv. 7a, 8b, 10-16) agree so materially that unless both the prelude to the former and the sequel to the latter have been lost it is probable that the two were once closely connected, but have been severed in the course of the literary growth of the traditions. See further Samuel, Books, § 6.

The development of views regarding the pre-monarchical "judges," the rise of the monarchy and its place in the religion of Yahweh have been factors quite as powerful as the growth of national tradition of the first king of Israel and the subordination of the narratives in order to give greater prominence to the first king of the Judaean dynasty. Although a considerable body of native tradition encircled the great Israelite heroes (cf. Ahab, Jehu, the wars of Aramaeans and Ammonites), Saul is pre-eminently a Benjamite figure. From the biblical evidence alone it is far from certain that this is the earliest phase. Saul's deliverance of Jabesh-Gilead from Ammon and his burial may suggest (on the analogy of Jephthah) that Gilead regarded him as its own. Some connexion between Gilead and Benjamin may be inferred from Judg. xxi., and, indeed, the decimation of the latter (see ibid. xx. 4, 7, xxi. 13 seq.) seems to link the appearance of the tribe in the earlier history with its new rise under Saul. But the history of the tribe as such in this period is shrouded in obscurity, and the Benjamite cycle appears to represent quite secondary and purely local forms of the great founder of the Israelite monarchy, whose traditions contain features which link him now with another founder of Israel - the warrior Joshua, and now with the still more famous invader and conqueror Jacob.

See S. A. Cook, Critical Notes on 0. T. History (Index, s.v.), and art. JEWS, §§ 6-8, SAMUEL (Books). (S. A. C.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Saül, and Saúl

Contents

English

Etymology

Hebrew שָׁאוּל "asked for".

Proper noun

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Singular
Saul

Plural
-

Saul

  1. (Biblical) The first king of Israel.
  2. (Biblical) The original name of Apostle Paul.
  3. A male given name.

Quotations

Translations

Anagrams


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: asked for

  1. A king of Edom, also called Shaul
  2. Saul (King of Israel)
  3. "Who is also called Paul", the circumcision name of the apostle, given to him, perhaps, in memory of King Saul (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1).
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

For the New Testament character, see Paul of Tarsus. For other uses, see Saul (disambiguation).

.]] Saul (שאול המלך) (or Sha'ul) (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Standard Šaʾul Tiberian Šāʾûl ; "asked for") (reigned 1047 BC - 1007 BC) is a King in the Books of Samuel, 1 Chronicles and the Qur'an. He was the first king of the ancient Israel.

He loved and obeyed God until he stopped listening to God and became slightly greedy, losing God's whole interest for him. Samuel, the prophet comes and rebukes him, and gives him a warning that God is not with him anymore. When turning to leave, Saul grabs Samuel's cloak, and it tears. Samuel says (1Samuel15:28~29), "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors - to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should chang his mind."

Then the spirit of the Lord departs from Saul, and an evil spirit torments him. Saul takes in David the sheperd, and the youngest son of Jesse, into his service to play a harp for him and so that he would be soothed when the evil spirit rests upon him. Later he gets jealous of David, and begins to suspect David as the 'one of your neighbors' that Samuel had mentioned. He grows afraid of David, and finally his jealousy turns to hatred, and he wishes to kill him. But Saul's son Jonathan is bound to David in friendship,which makes his anger fume on Jonathan as well.

Later, Saul dies at the battle against the Philistines,and falls on his own sword because he does not want to be abused by the 'uncircumcised' Philistines.


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