We first meet Saul in 1 Sam 9, and he is mentioned in nearly all of the remaining chapters of 1 Samuel.
Saul is another character whose evil and sinful ways are brought up a lot: I first heard about Saul as a teenager in churches, when I first heard the following well-known passage preached (and I’ve heard it a lot down through the years): Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Sam 15:22-23)
Let me say at the beginning that there is no doubt that Saul did great evil, but these are generally well-known and I will not dwell on them. In this series about various Bible characters, I’m not trying to call evil good; I’m trying to remind myself (and whoever reads this) to take a balanced look at these characters… and so on we go.
When we first meet Saul, he is a good-looking young man; he was sent by his father to find some lost donkeys (interesting word note: both ‘donkey’ and ‘ass’ refer to the same creature; however, the word ‘donkey’ did not exist until over 100 years after KJV was made, which is why it doesn’t appear in it). This means that Saul was trusted by his father, and he WAS trustworthy — he didn’t hang out with the servant until the money was gone and come back and report that they couldn’t find them – they actually went out and diligently searched.
When Saul met Samuel, he seemed shy and embarrassed — look at what Samuel said: And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?
And here is Saul’s response: Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me? My paraphrase: “Me? I’m nobody; I’m not even from an important family… are you sure you mean me?”
Later, with his uncle, he was still too shy or embarrassed to tell him what Samuel had said. When Samuel came to choose a king, Saul was hiding. Even at the beginning, some of the people didn’t see how a tall kid could help them, and thus despised him, but Saul didn’t have them executed… he was just silent. After Saul’s first great victory, the people spoke about killing the men who despised Saul, but Saul stopped them and gave glory to God. (1 Sam 11:12-13)
Saul’s early years are noble; we hear little about those good years; it seems that mostly what I hear is about the bad things he did. It is a terribly tragedy that he turned away from the good traits of goodness, trustworthiness, shyness, and humility leaving a crazed, jealous, and rebellious egomaniac on the throne. He who started with great respect for Samuel later ordered the execution of the innocent priests of the Lord. After honoring God’s law by ridding the land of witches, it is terrible that Saul would seek one near the end of his life.
Saul had an excellent beginning, but it did not continue. May that not be so for us!
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of (2 Tim 3:14)
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor 15:58)