The rise and fall of King Saul, recorded in 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, is one of the tragic stories of all time. Saul rose to power when the people of Israel demanded a king like all of the other nations. The request displeased the prophet Samuel, but the Lord reassured his faithful servant by saying, “For they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).
By human standards, Saul was an attractive candidate for king. He came from a wealthy and influential family. He was tall, physically attractive, and exhibited a commanding presence. He also appeared humble, at least in the beginning. Timing and momentum were definitely in his favor, contributing to his early success over Israel’s enemies. Most notably, the Spirit of God came upon him mightily.
Saul’s popularity grew. But the old saying is still true: the bigger they are the harder they fall. Ultimately, pride, jealousy, selective obedience, and insincere repentance led to Saul’s fall from grace. The way he blamed others for his personal foibles also contributed to his ultimate failure.
The contrasts between Saul and David, who would succeed him, are legendary. David was a man after God’s own heart; Saul was a man after his own heart. David was God’s choice for king while Saul was the people’s choice. David succeeded despite his failures; Saul failed despite his obvious skills and competencies. Finally, God accepted David while God ultimately rejected Saul, expressing regret that He had made him king (1 Samuel 15:11).
Tragically, Saul’s life ended in suicide on Mount Gilboa after a fierce battle with the Philistines (1 Chronicles 10:1-7). Later, his archenemies impaled his decapitated body on a wall at Beit She’an along with the bodies of his dead sons (1 Chronicles 10:8-12). From Saul, we learn that starting well does not guarantee ending well and that obedience is the first order of business in a life with God.