Old Testament History by John H. Sailhamer

Old Testament History by John H. Sailhamer

Author:John H. Sailhamer
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Christian
ISBN: 0025986203948
Publisher: Zondervan
Published: 1998-08-10T00:00:00+00:00

The United Monarchy

Saul’s Monarchy

Saul’s name, which means “the one asked for,” epitomized the role he was to play in biblical history. He was the king the people asked for to replace the judges. Saul was a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Not only could little good be said about that tribe from the book of Judges, but also this was not that tribe who was ultimately to provide the royal lineage in Israel.

Saul had all the external qualifications of a great leader. He was physically strong and a great warrior. An important part of his commission was to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam. 9:16). He immediately set out to accomplish that task and enjoyed considerable success (14:15–23). But Saul had some traits that rendered him unfit to serve as Israel’s king.

Primarily he failed to show spiritual leadership. A critical moment came when the Philistines had gathered with 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen to war with Saul and his armies (1 Sam. 13:5). The ranks of Saul’s armies began to abandon their positions when they saw the impending Philistine threat (13:8). Saul had been told by Samuel to wait until he came in seven days and that he, Samuel, would offer a sacrifice before engaging the Philistines in battle. To Saul’s credit he waited six days. But, on the seventh day, when Samuel still had not arrived, Saul disobeyed the word of Samuel and offered the sacrifice himself, thus breaking a fundamental stipulation of the king within Israel’s theocratic rule: The king was, at all times, to obey the word of God’s prophet. In refusing to wait, Saul rejected not only the authority of the prophet, but, more importantly, the authority of the Lord, the true King in Israel. It was, in fact, considered by God as a foolish act of rebellion, and for it, Saul lost his kingship.

The Bible records a second occasion on which Saul revealed that he was ill-suited for the theocratic kingship. When commanded by Samuel to “totally destroy” all that belonged to the Amalekites as an act of divine judgment against them (1 Sam. 15:1–3), Saul relented and saved some of the spoils of war for himself (15:9). When Samuel heard of Saul’s failure to carry out God’s word, he pronounced the end of Saul’s kingship and began seeking a replacement. That process was to culminate in the anointing of David, from the tribe of Judah, as king.

The last years of Saul’s life were marked by an increasing failure to lead God’s people in obedience to God’s word. He experienced a fierce rivalry with David. He spent much of his time trying to hunt down David in order to kill him. Ultimately he took his own life during a humiliating defeat by the Philistines—the very people he had been commissioned to suppress.


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