OT Survey 113 Seminar 11 Saul
Andrew Hodge 1st July 2006
Old Testament Survey OTE 113
Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago pp 169-180; 1 Samuel 8-31
Explain the popularity of Saul during the period he was first chosen as king:
In the eyes of the people, Saul was ‘goodly’ because he was head and shoulders over everyone else (1 Samuel 9:2) meaning ‘fair, prosperous, excellent, rich, etc’ as well as literally being tall (10:23). It is noteworthy that under God’s guidance Samuel rejected Jesse’s firstborn Eliab on exactly the same grounds (16:7).
In spite of his reservations regarding Saul, Samuel was forewarned by God to expect and anoint Saul as king (1 Samuel 9:15-17) at Ramah, Samuel’s home. Saul therefore received God’s ‘blessing’ through his endorsement by Samuel which in the eyes of the people would have counted for a great deal. This endorsement was repeated twice more (Mizpeh and Gilgal 11:15) so that the whole of Israel became aware that Saul was the king they had demanded. As a final ‘seal’, the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied (19:24).
After Saul was selected by lot at Mizpeh, he went back home to the farm. When he heard of the distress of Jabesh-Gilead on account of the Ammonites, the Spirit came upon him, roused him to anger, he gathered “all Israel” (ie as many volunteers as would respond) and sent the Ammonites packing (11:1-11). The whole nation respected him for this.
The Lord used Saul in the next battle against the long-entrenched and battle-ready Philistines and routed them with a small force, assisted by his son Jonathan’s bravery and a supernatural fear causing the Philistines to ‘tremble greatly’. This episode would have elevated Saul to a greater height if he had not threatened to kill Jonathan for disobedience to one of his orders. The soldiers stepped in and told Saul not to do this; although not specifically mentioned, Saul’s status must have diminished as a result.
It should be remembered that God appointed Saul to be “captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 9:16). Saul performed this task to the letter and very well.
In the ensuing years, Saul maintained his popularity by a string of military successes (14:47-48), but he increasingly disregarded God and did things his own way. His eventual downfall and suicide was not only on account that the Spirit left him causing a paranoia (an evil spirit also sent by God - 1 Samuel 16:14; 18:10), but was also in his treatment of David, who was very popular with the Israelites at the same time.
Compare the leadership of Samuel to that of Saul:
Samuel was Godly, Saul was selfish. Samuel’s decisions were driven by God, Saul was only happy to have God along as a tack-on. Saul was happy for God to be around when things went ‘well’, and ultimately desperate to communicate with Him when disaster loomed. Samuel is chosen by God and remains faithful to Him, Saul is selected by God but goes his own way.
After an initial settling in period, both men lead from in front. Samuel relinquishes the role of judgeship when Saul takes over as king but remains as ‘seer’ and spiritual advisor afterward. This continues even after Samuel’s death (1 Samuel 28). Saul shows mercy to his enemies (eg the Ammonites) but with the prevailing attitude towards the enemy, this may or may not have endeared him to his subjects. At least it showed that he was capable of effective leadership.
Samuel serves the Lord for virtually all of his ~80 years, varying in his influence over Israel. Saul reigns as king for no more than 40 years.
Samuel makes a major contribution to the Nation in that he returns their hearts toward the Lord after 400+ years of cyclical rebellion. Saul does no such thing, and even in a secular sense he makes no significant changes, apart from establishing a permanent standing army (1 Samuel 14:52).
Samuel was the last Judge, Saul the first of the Israelite Monarchy thus instituting a paradigm shift in Israeli government from nominally theocratic to secular monarchical.
Both Samuel and Saul are recorded as having only one wife - remarkable for Saul as a king. Both had small ‘courts’ (unless Samuel’s prophet schools could be counted as belonging to him), and Saul did not seek the pageant and pomp familiar to many Eastern rulers.
In general, Saul’s significant military achievements are not thought of highly in that he has the misfortune of being succeeded by David. Samuel’s succession is also under a cloud because of the unsuitability of his own sons to carry on.
Both Samuel and Saul are fearless in doing what they believe to be right; but when Saul’s rationality departs him, he focuses on destroying David rather than the Philistines.
Discuss the comparative strengths of Israel and that of Philistia during Saul’s time of rule:
Being Israel’s first king, Saul had to deal with an immediate and pressing problem - the imminent destruction of his nation by the aroused Philistines who were rightly concerned by the sudden unification of a vassal nation under a king.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary: “Saul was faced with an extraordinarily difficult task as military commander. His home ground had the advantage of being reasonably easy to protect, for most of it was mountainous countryside. But he was surrounded on all four sides by enemies who wanted his land, he had inadequate weapons (Philistines controlled the supply of iron), he had no large standing army, he had inadequate communication systems, and he did not have the wholehearted support of all the Israelites. For several years he was relatively successful against almost impossible odds, but eventually his military genius failed.
The Philistines assembled a large army in the vicinity of Aphek (1 Sm 29:1), but instead of attacking Saul’s mountain territory directly, the army moved northward and then began to penetrate Israelite territory at a weak point in the vicinity of Jezreel (v 11). Saul attempted to gather an adequate military force to meet the Philistine threat, but he was unable to do so. With inadequate preparation and insufficient forces, he prepared for battle at Mt Gilboa (31:1); he should never have entered that battle, for it could not have been won. His sons were killed on the battlefield, and Saul, rather than fall into the hands of the Philistines, committed suicide (vv 2–6).”
Formulate your own conclusions as to Saul’s salvation:
At first sight, this is a strange question because ‘salvation’ is a concept normally limited to the NT. “Salvation” in the English NT KJV occurs 45 times in 43 verses, and in the OT KJV occurs 119 times in 115 verses - a disproportionately higher incidence in the OT.
Perhaps the final decision as to whether a person is saved or not is whether they end up in heaven with their Saviour for eternity. As this is not completely knowable by one human about another, being ultimately God’s decision and His alone, and really only knowable by an individual person about themselves, any conclusion we may come to about Saul is based on interpreting what Scripture has to say about him, and the plenary Scriptural doctrines of salvation as applied to him at the time he was living.
The NT uses one root - soter - to express physical and spiritual salvation, implying a completely reliable rescue from an enemy. With two OT exceptions (see below - Isaiah 45:17 and 46:13), this is a NT concept only, for it must be applied to the human spirit in the absence of the OT ceremonial Law.
There are four Hebrew words in the OT translated ‘salvation’ or implying rescue from an enemy. The most common is yeshua:
3444 יְשׁוּעָה [yâshuw`ah /yesh·oo·aw/] n f. Passive participle of 3467; TWOT 929b; GK 3802; 78 occurrences; AV translates as “salvation” 65 times, “help” four times, “deliverance” three times, “health” three times, “save” once, “saving” once, and “welfare” once. 1 salvation, deliverance. 1a welfare, prosperity. 1b deliverance. 1c salvation (by God). 1d victory 
The second most common is yesha:
3468 יֵשַׁע [yesha`, yesha` /yeh·shah/] n m. From 3467; TWOT 929a; GK 3829; 36 occurrences; AV translates as “salvation” 32 times, “safety” three times, and “saving” once. 1 deliverance, salvation, rescue, safety, welfare. 1a safety, welfare, prosperity. 1b salvation. 1c victory 3
and the least common mowsha’ah:
4190 מֹושָׁעָה [mowsha`ah /mo·shaw·aw/] n f. From 3467; TWOT 929d; GK 4636; AV translates as “salvation” once. 1 saving act, deliverance.4
It is clear that all of these words apply only to physical rescues, even when procured directly by God Himself. The only Hebrew word implying both a physical and a spiritual connection is tashua, used 17 times:
8668 תְּשׁוּעָה [tâshuw`ah, tâshu`ah /tesh·oo·aw/] n f. From 7768 in the sense of 3467; TWOT 929e; GK 9591; 34 occurrences; AV translates as “salvation” 17 times, “deliverance” five times, “help” five times, “safety” four times, and “victory” three times. 1 salvation, deliverance. 1a deliverance (usually by God through human agency). 1b salvation (spiritual in sense).5
Of these 17 times, 9 still clearly apply to physical rescue of one kind or another.
The remaining 8 could be said to have a spiritual aspect, especially in the Psalms where David recognises that he is sinful and desperately wants to be clean. He also knows without doubt that only his God can give him this, but he seeks it by fulfilling the Law as righteously as possible (Psalm 51:7-19; 119:81). He has no concept of being free from the Law (Psalm 40:6-10; 119:41-43) although he is aware that no amount of sacrificing can achieve what he desires so much. He is grateful for the past deliverances that God has achieved for him (both physically and mentally) but he has no idea how this might be achieved on a spiritual plane (for he cannot conceive that his Creator/Redeemer would die for him?).
The 8668 ‘salvation’ of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple in 2 Chronicles 6:41 is to plead that God would ‘clothe’ the Temple priests with salvation as they minister, causing them to be clean in God’s service. At the most, this would imply a covering by the symbolic blood of the Temple sacrifices; there is no suggestion of individual repentance and seeking forgiveness, although in context, Solomon recognises the sin of Israel as a whole, and seeks national forgiveness in advance.
The 8668 ‘salvation’ of Isaiah 45:17 and 46:13 apply to the National true NT spiritual salvation of Israel in the Millennium - after the Cross and after repentance.
It should be noted that if only the above line of logic is followed, then no OT individual can be saved as the NT reveals the concept - they “received not the promise” Hebrews 11:39.
What other criteria might be examined?
- For example, do any OT individuals (eventually) go to heaven when they die? Clearly they do, for Abraham’s bosom presumably contained many OT ‘saints’; Enoch, Elijah, Moses, Abraham and David rapidly come to mind (and remember the Hall of Fame which includes many unnamed martyrs eg Hebrews 11:35-39). Conventional teaching says that these individuals are saved in exactly the same way that NT individuals are - looking forward to the Cross instead of back. There is no doubt that David trusted God to work it out somehow, but as mentioned above he could not have foreseen what God planned to do for him on Calvary. In my view Saul fails this test, for unlike David he certainly did not have a heart that God approved of and did not trust God as David did.
- Is OT salvation dependent on whether the Holy Spirit comes onto a select individual for a special task? Saul passes this test with flying colours - but so would Samson, Balaam, the seventy elders (Numbers 11:25), Othniel, Gideon, even Saul’s messengers (1 Samuel 19:20) and Simeon (Luke 2:25).6 We would have mixed conclusions as to whether all of these individuals end up in heaven.
- Is salvation impossible if an individual hosts an evil spirit? Saul qualifies 1 Samuel 16:14.
- Is salvation merely dependent on the expression of a firm faith? Are all of those with special faith listed in Hebrews 11 in heaven? Probably (Hebrews 11:40), but it is not Scriptural to assume that anyone sufficiently dedicated to give their life for ‘God’ is saved eg John 15:13. Saul fails this test in that his faith appears to be firmly rooted in himself.
- Are OT individuals saved if they comply with all the provisions of God’s law as revealed to them at the time? In this respect the difference between fulfilling the letter and the spirit of the Law is nowhere better illustrated than comparing the attitudes of Saul and David - both largely complied with the letter, but only David with the spirit. Saul fails this test.
- Should salvation within any dispensation involve personal appreciation of sin, agreement with God that we are in rebellion against Him, seeking His forgiveness, accepting the free gift of salvation in God’s grace (otherwise we remain dead for eternity), and showing righteous works as a consequence of faith? Saul recognised that he was a sinner, was not infrequently sorry for it because he incurred Samuel’s strong displeasure, but was never truly repentant. He also fails this test.
Therefore on balance and in an OT sense, Saul is not saved.
Appreciate God’s requirements of obedience :
The concept of national and individual obedience in a Theocracy is well expounded by Solomon in his dedicatory prayer when the Temple was finished (1 Kings 8:22-53). Briefly, God’s attributes of power, justice and holiness are remembered and His qualities of mercy, love and longsuffering are entreated in the context of individual and national sin.
God never expects obedience unless He has made His requirements crystal clear first eg to Adam. In our current dispensation, we have no excuse for not knowing what God wants in that we have both general and specific revelation, freely available and to which we are accountable, and the drawing of the Holy Spirit toward God for every individual (2 Peter 3:9).
In the OT it is usually the voice of God - either directly or by prophecy - that is to be obeyed. Obedience which satisfies God is not half-hearted (Deuteronomy 26:16, 32:46), is the price of success (Joshua 1:8), is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:21-23), secures entrance into God’s kingdom (Matthew 7:21; Luke 8:21) and is our duty (Acts 5:29).7
6Thompson Chain Reference Bible Fifth Improved Edition B.B.Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana 1988 Item 1604 (4) p1435
7ibid Item 2614 (1) p 1486
Examples of the right kind of obedience are Noah (Genesis 6:22), Abraham (Genesis 22:2-3), Bezaleel (Exodus 36:1), Joshua (Joshua 11:15), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:6), Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39), Paul (Acts 26:19) and Christ Himself (Hebrews 5:8).8
God is also crystal clear about the consequences of disobedience (which are frequently - always? - added to the blessings of obedience when a covenant is being entered into eg Deuteronomy 11:26-28, 28:1-2,15; see also 1 Samuel 12:15, 28:18; Jeremiah 12:17). Examples of disobedience are many, including Adam (Genesis 3:6), Lot’s wife (19:26), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1), Moses (Numbers 20:11-12), Achan and his family (Joshua 7:1), Saul (1 Samuel 13:13-14), and Jonah (Jonah 1:3).9
Understand why Saul was later rejected as king of Israel:
Saul is informed by Samuel what God requires of him (1 Samuel 10:25), even writing it down. Saul forfeits his kingdom and any succession by being disobedient to what he was told to do. He had failed to remember that success as a king depended on maintaining his righteousness before God, not only in complying with the needs of the Covenants and revealed Mosaic Law, but also with the specific instruction given him by God through Samuel.
Saul may have been desired as a king by the nation, but he was appointed and deposed by God, and in the end, was not wanted nationally either because he obviously no longer enjoyed God’s support, which had been transferred to David.
9ibid Items 2620 (1) and 2621 (2) p 1487
Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library, 1169 (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001).
James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed., H3444 (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996).