Saul was the son of Kish and of the tribe of Benjamin. He was Israel’s first king, the man that God chose to institute the monarchy. He was responsible for some great acts of heroism, amongst which are:
1) The victory over the Ammonites who had besieged the people of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 11:1-11). He brought deliverance to the town. After this event Saul was publicly recognised as King.
2) He undertook to freeing Israel from the power of the Philistines at Geba, defeating them with 3,000 men (13:1-2).
3) He waged war against the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites (14:24-47).
4) Saul also went to war against the Amalekites (Chapter 15).
Saul also succeeded in unifying the nation and organising the fighting men into a dedicated army. He was responsible for ridding the nation of occult practices (28:3). He did have a faith in God (though sometimes misguided) (14:35). To some degree he did fulfil God’s appointed role for him. His greatest successes were when he was obedient to the Lord.
Saul his character
This man’s character is one of deep contrasts. On one hand he was someone whom Israel could be proud of (1 Samuel 9:2) and yet on the other do that which would bring disgrace to himself and his people.
He could be meek and humble, especially seen when he did not seek revenge when certain people rejected him (10:11; 10:22: 11:13; 15:17), but would then become proud and self-centred. Even though Saul was a courageous man he found himself in positions where his weaknesses were evident, so that instead of trusting God, he would give-in under pressure and yield to his impulses. Because of this he often appears to be insecure. He could be a caring person who was worried about his father getting anxious over him, but then go all out to destroy those who were close to him (Jonathan and David).
There are times, as we read about them in Scriptures, when it does not appear that Saul thought through his plans before he put them into practice, nor did he consider beforehand the consequences of his acts of disobedience. It was this impetuosity that was a part of his downfall and the very thing for which he is remembered.
At the beginning of his reign, as he is meek, mild, and humble, it seems that all is going to be well for the kingdom and that Saul is going to be a great blessing for Israel. But soon he is seen as a man who could not be trusted with power and authority. This part of his character is evident in various incidents, including intending to have his own son put to death because of a rash vow he himself had made; his decision to intrude into the priestly office and offer sacrifices to God; the murder of the priests.
His whole life seems to be dominated by mood swings. Scripture calls these mood swings “an evil spirit from the LORD”; it is unlikely to have been a possessing spirit, but one that caused Saul to go into a state of confusion, maybe nervous breakdown (Chapter 16). From being obedient to God he became a man who was self-willed, and this got the better of him in his final days. His disobedience to God brought him into contact with the very people he put away from the country. Now he saw nothing wrong with consulting witches to receive advice concerning his future (Chapter 28). We would not recognise him as the same person who was “turned into another man” when the Spirit of God came upon him (10:6,10).
It is almost as if, and maybe there is some truth in it, that Saul had a dual personality. One which could love God with all his heart, but then another that was obsessed enough to kill others for no real reason, or disobey God so dramatically. One moment he could be proud of David, the next he would be jealous enough to kill him. Today he would be called pathological since he was unnaturally defensive and over-reactive. He had the potential to be a great leader one that Israel and Heaven could be eternally proud of but instead he became a tragic figure who died a rejected man at his own hand, a victim of his own self-will.