The Fall of Saul
(1 Samuel 28:3-25; 31:1-13)
(2 Samuel 1:1-27; 4:4)
(1 Chronicles 10:1-14)
The Shade of Samuel Invoked by Saul
By Bernardo Cavallino
Throughout his tenure as king, Saul demonstrated a dangerous dichotomy of desire and a contrast of character. Although he was the Lord’s chosen as the first king for His people, Saul revealed his own human nature and his ability to be torn between the leading of the Lord and the draw of the enemy.
The life of Saul illustrates the spiritual battle in which we are all engaged, whether we realize it or not. The Lord has a plan and a purpose for each of us. Will we listen and obey, or will we allow pride, resentment, greed and our own insecurities to open us up to perilous influences?
A Double Standard
King Saul, probably with good intentions, outlawed all sorcerers, psychics, mediums and other practices of divination from the land. Certainly, God had spoken clearly on this subject (see Exodus 22:18 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
However, as the Philistine army assembled to attack, Saul realized that the Lord had stopped speaking to him. Because of his rebellion and refusal to listen to the Word of God, Saul was unable to hear the Master’s guidance. No dreams, casting of lots or prophets appeared to guide the king.
So Saul found a seer. In disguise, he consulted a witch at Endor, near Shunem (just south of the Sea of Galilee). Did Saul think the Lord’s instructions, and even his own rules, did not apply to him?
A Scared Seer
Reading the Bible account, we have to wonder whether the witch of Endor actually possessed any power to communicate with the dead, as she claimed. If she did, then surely another power had claimed possession of her instead. In previous sessions, when she would have summoned spirits for her visitors, we might ponder exactly what sort of spirits she might have invited into her home.
God will not be mocked (see Galatians 6:7). Would not the enemy be only too happy to seize such moments and to deceive unwitting participants with his own lies? Do we not open ourselves to such a risk, if we participate even casually in occult practices or seek counsel from shadows?
On this occasion, however, the Lord allowed Samuel to return and speak to King Saul. Theologians have long debated why God would have participated in such a session of sorcery. Certainly, He made His point.
As Samuel appeared, the witch of Endor was truly terrified to behold a real answer to her deceptive session (see 1 Samuel 28:11-12). Perhaps this event proved to be a spiritual turning point in her own life, as she encountered the truth firsthand.
A Prophetic Word
Samuel’s message to Saul was prophetic, lining up neatly with the words the Lord had already spoken through him in the past. The Lord had promised to wrest the kingdom from Saul. David would become king. On this occasion, Samuel also announced that Saul and his sons would die the very next day.
Hearing the news, Saul fell prostrate on the ground, a fearful and broken man. The witch prepared food and fed Saul and his men, and they departed that very night.
A Tragic Loss
The following day, the Philistines pursued the Israelites in battle, killing Saul’s sons. Abinadab, Malki-Shua and Jonathan died. The Philistine archers mortally wounded the king. Awaiting his death, Saul pleaded with his armor-bearer to finish him off, so that the Philistines could not dishonor him by finding him alive. The armor-bearer refused, so Saul fell upon his own sword.
Sadly, Saul brought on his own destruction, as mankind is all too often apt to do.
“So Saul died
because he was unfaithful to the Lord.
He failed to obey the Lord’s command,
and he even consulted a medium
instead of asking the Lord for guidance.
So the Lord killed him
and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
A Messenger Killed
A messenger arrived in David’s camp, identifying himself as an Amalekite and bearing the crown and royal armband of King Saul. The man, who had probably stolen the items from Saul’s body before the Philistines set upon him, claimed to have killed the king. Perhaps he hoped to receive a bounty from David for slaying his apparent rival.
When David heard the news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, he was distraught.
“Then David said to him,
‘How is it you were not afraid
to stretch out your hand
to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’
“And David called one of the young men and said,
‘Go, cut him down.’
So he struck him and he died.”
(2 Samuel 1:14-15, NASB)
Although David had known for many years that the Lord had anointed him to be king over His people, he had dared not stretch his own hand out to make this plan a reality. Instead, he was willing to wait for the Lord’s own timing and purpose.
How difficult must that have been for him, even as Saul had threatened his own life? How hard can it be for us to wait patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promises in our lives as well?
A Leader’s Lament
Heartbroken over the loss of his dearest friend and sorrowing over the tragic and violent death of King Saul, David penned a powerful psalm of lament (see 2 Samuel 1:17-27).
"How the mighty have fallen
The weapons of war have perished!"
The Lord had employed the Philistines to exact His justice and bring an end to the rule of Saul. But this judgment came at a steep cost. David’s beloved companion Jonathan was also lost.
A Faithful God
Throughout the battles and tragedies, the Lord never removed His hand from His people. He protected David, preserving his life and preparing Him for leadership. What lessons did David learn by waiting faithfully on God? What kingly character traits did Jehovah Jireh, the Provider, build into this shepherd boy to transform him into a valiant warrior and a compassionate leader?
How might God be using our own troubles and times of testing to prepare us for times to come?
Will you pray with me?
And fond Father,
What a wonder
That You call us Your own children.
Give us a glimpse,
Of Your workings in our lives.
Whisper a clue
Of the wondrous ways
You lovingly craft
Even our darkest difficulties
Into Your glorious purpose.
May we seek our guidance
Rather than settling
For convenient half-truths,
For You are truth.
Teach us to trust You alone.