1. SAUL'S BACKGROUND
Saul was the son of Kish who was a Benjamite. His geneaology is given in 1 Sam 9:1, showing his grandfather is Abiel. However in 1 Chro. 8:33 and 9:39, Ner, who appears to be his paternal uncle in 1 Samuel 14:50-51, is mentioned as his grandfather. This may be caused by a scribal error, in which a yodh may have slipped out of one word in it into another word. This means that Kish is first mentioned in 1 Chro. 9:39 as a scribal error for Abner. Besides, it states that both Abner and Ner were sons of Abiel. These apparent inconsistencies may be arised by Hebrew's customs, as well as in Arab. Normally, "son" is often used in the sense of grandson. Since, the divorce prevalents, "brother" and "sister" may in most cases means half-brother and sister. Moreover, Saul's mother might have been the wife of Kish and his brother Ner, due to levirage marriage custom, which is very common in that time.
Saul's hometown was Gibeah. The tribe Benjamin was a Israelite tribe renowned as a brave fighting one. Kish seems to have been one of its important leaders. The circumstance of Saul's career is well-known of requiring recapitulation.
2. REASONS FOR SAUL 'S ELECTION
Israel is under the oppression of the Philistines, who control the skill of making steel. Under the military pressure of this people, Israelites elected Saul, a Benjamite of Gibeah, to be a king. It is required reasonably for her to select a ruler. She needs a leader to lead the people to fight against the strong enemy. Though monarchy was an institution totally foreign to Israel's tradition, she was forced to try this.
3. PROCESS OF SAUL'S ELECTION
Saul was elected by prophetic and popular acclamation; though he was just a Benjamite, which was a small tribe among the Israelite. However, it was also an advantage, it was so small that jealousies would be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, it lies in the central location of the land.
Before Israelites were governed by theocracy, but now they demanded a king and pressed on Samuel the Judge. Samuel tried to warn them, but they did not listen to him.
Three reasons were given in the text for the abolition of the theocracy and installation the elective monarchy. Firstly, the incapacity and corruption of Samuel's sons were the important factors. In 1 Samuel, the Judge's sons took over his duty; but their wicked behaviour made the people angry. Secondly, the invasion of the Ammonite caused
a real threat to them. Thirdly, the military threat from the Philistines caused fear among them. These three reasons were not mutually exclusive. The Philistines formed an existing danger to the Israelite existence; which aroused the need for more united political power--- the monarchy. The other two factors contributed to the hopelessness of expecting future. Since the future judges are so depraved, that they were forced to seek for new solution.
Conflicting election narratives were found in 1 Samuel. Some said he was annointed in Ramah,(1 Sam.10:1 to 10:16) at Gilgal,(ch.11) or at Mizpah.(chs. 8; 10:17-27;12). There were so many diversity, that John Bright expressed the following ideas:
" In view of these varying accounts, we cannot undertake to reconstruct the sequence of events. But it is unsound to dismiss the last of these narratives as a reflection of subsequent bitter experience with the monarchy, as so many have done. Whatever the date of the passage, it can hardly be doubted that a step as drastic as this, and involving such a break with tradition, evoked opposition from the beginning."
4. THE REIGN OF SAUL
As we knew in the time of Saul, Israel's situation was spent at war. (1 Sam. 14:47f) Besides his battles with the Philistines, a victory over the Amalek is discribed in an isolated narrative.
He established his capital at Gibeah, which may be at some stage shifted to Gibeon. Saul's monarchy was founded in a situation of military necessity, and this determined its nature and function. It was for leadership of war and so complex monarchy structure was unnecessary.
Saul arose as the contingent leader of the Israelites. Perhaps he is drawn only from his native tribe of Benjamin in order to relieve the city of Jabesh-gilead of the threat posed by the Ammointes.
Saul was like the judges before him had risedn in the old-fashioned way, as a charistmatic hero. It was indeed unlikely that he would ever have been followed, had he not shown himself as such. Saul's charistmatic qualities marked him, not as a king, but as a Yahweh's warrior-leader. Saul's reign though began in the oppression by enemies, but brought Israel to a life-giving process and new courage.
5. THE FAILURE OF SAUL AND THE RISE OF DAVID
It must be said in all conscience that Saul faced that would have taxed the capacity of the most balanced of minds. His very position placed him under the fearful strain of having to exihibit charismatic quality not one in a dramatic effort, but continuously. The Philistine threat continued, in spite of occasional success. Saul could not deal the knok-out blow reuired to end it. The fierce independence of the tribes, moreover prevented the exercies of any real authority. Saul could never build an independent fighting force. Worst of all was his quarrel with Samuel.
This undoubtedly accelerated Saul's disintegration. His position was cast in doubt before Israel. When the falling began, he lost his charisma; and sometimes lost his sanity.
It was however the popularity of the yound hero David, that drove Saul beyond the bounds of rational behavior. David from Bethledhem, was a musciain. He came to serve Saul when he got angry by the spirit. He exploited in particular, by killing the Philistine gaint Goliath and in any event won fame and love from Saul's son Jonathan and daughter Michal. His fame increased the hatredness from Saul. If the Israelites treated David as their new charismatic leader, then Saul's position would be shaken. By insane jealousy, he turned completely against David and repeatedly tried to kill him. Saul used his energies to chase David, rather than fighting against the Philistines.
6. THE DEATH OF SAUL
After a few years that Saul chased David. The Philistines waited the chance to kill Saul.
Finally, they moved to the plain of Esdraelon. Saul prayed to God, but with no answer. He asked the ghost of Samuel, through a spiritual mediator. He was told that he would die in the battle. And it was what happened!
Saul was elected because his tribe Benjamin was a small tribe which caused little jealousy. Besides it lay on a central location. He was elected out of the needs: the military pressure from the Philistines, Amalek and the incapacity of Samuel's sons. The process of election was so conflicting that it was impossible to reconstruct it. Saul's falling was connected with his loss of sanity and David's appearance. Finally, he was killed in a battle against the Philistines.
It is suggested by T.H.Weir and D.F.Payne in International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol 4. p.345.
see A History of Israel p.166.
see 1 Sam 10:1f; 11:14f.
This idea is proposed by John Bright in p.167.
quoted in John Bright p.167.
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Saul was the son of Kish who was a Benjamite. His geneaology is given in 1 Sam 9:1, showing his?
Sompong's article on SaulSaulYim Kwok HungYim Kwok Hung