Subject: The fall of King Saul



  • Israel is coming out of the time of the Judges, a time when there was a vacuum of spiritual leadership. There was no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. God would raise up rulers called judges to deliver the people for a time before they went back to their old ways
  • At the beginning of 1 Samuel God raises up a godly prophet named Samuel who acts as the first real prophet and the last judge. He’s also kind of a priest too.
  • As Samuel was getting older his sons were turning out to be bad news, and the people come to him and say they want a king to rule over them. They are tired of not knowing what comes next.
  • So we saw God gives them King Saul, an impressive physical specimen from a wealthy prestigious family in Benjamin. Last week we saw his rise to the kingship along with some early victories.
  • But what we also saw that that Saul had an inferiority complex, a deep streak of insecurity
    • Calling himself a “nobody”
    • Hiding in the luggage tent at his coronation ceremony
    • Name-dropping and threatening people to get them to follow him
  • This insecurity, which came out as self-doubting and reluctant now becomes proud and power hungry.

In these three chapters we’ll see three failures from Saul that culminate in permanent consequences for him and his family.

1 Sam 13: Saul’s First Failure

1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.

Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home…

Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” …

The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.


We don’t have record of this instruction from Samuel. It’s different than the one in 1 Sam 10:8.

So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.


Insecure people simply cannot wait on the Lord. They take things into their own hands instead.

Q: Why do you think that is?

Contrast with David’s trust in God later in 1 Sam (chapters 24, 26)

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.


Scattering – Men you don’t need because this battle will be won by Jonathan, his armor bearer and one stickful of honey

You didn’t arrive… – Not even true

The Philistines are ready for battle… – The more the merrier, because they are going to panic and start killing each other!

12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”


Insecure people can’t admit wrong or learn from their mistakes

Q: Why do you think that is?

Contrast with David in 2 Sam 12

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Seems kind of harsh. Q: What is your reaction to this verdict?

15 Samuel then left Gilgal and went on his way, but the rest of the troops went with Saul to meet the army. They went up from Gilgal to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. When Saul counted the men who were still with him, he found only 600 were left! … 17 Three raiding parties soon left the camp of the Philistines…

19 There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews…

22 So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.

1 Sam 14: Saul’s Second Failure

1 One day Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to where the Philistines have their outpost.” But Jonathan did not tell his father what he was doing…

“Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” …

“All right then,” Jonathan told him. “We will cross over and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.”

11 When the Philistines saw them coming, they shouted, “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes!” 12 Then the men from the outpost shouted to Jonathan, “Come on up here, and we’ll teach you a lesson!”

“Come on, climb right behind me,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “for the Lord will help us defeat them!”

13 So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. 14 They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre.

15 Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified.

Israel Defeats the Philistines

16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction. 17 “Call the roll and find out who’s missing,” Saul ordered. And when they checked, they found that Jonathan and his armor bearer were gone.

18 Then Saul shouted to Ahijah, “Bring the ephod here!” For at that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod in front of the Israelites. 19 But while Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp grew louder and louder. So Saul said to the priest, “Never mind; let’s get going!”


Insecure leaders might think about praying, but then they think, “I don’t have time for this. I have too much to do!” And they rush off into battle.

20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away…

Saul’s Foolish Oath

24 Now the men of Israel were pressed to exhaustion that day, because Saul had placed them under an oath, saying, “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening—before I have full revenge on my enemies.” So no one ate anything all day, 25 even though they had all found honeycomb on the ground in the forest.

Insecure leaders tend to be angry and bitter and harsh and high control. Hardcore about the wrong things

Q: Why do you think this might be the case?

  • Because you’re living in a world where there is no grace. They have loaded up so much pressure on themselves and others to perform.


Eventually their people give up in exasperation

  • They might have admired Saul, but he could never bring out the best in others. The best he could hope was to turn them into twice the son of hell that he was.


27 But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey. After he had eaten it, he felt refreshed. 28 But one of the men saw him and said, “Your father made the army take a strict oath…

29 “My father has made trouble for us all!” Jonathan exclaimed. “A command like that only hurts us…

32 That evening they rushed for the battle plunder and butchered the sheep, goats, cattle, and calves, but they ate them without draining the blood. 33 Someone reported to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that still has blood in it.”

“That is very wrong,”


So, Saul really upset about the ceremonial impurity. Saul, who doesn’t listen to God. Won’t pray. Completely unspiritual. He’s truly a trendsetter in hypocrisy.

  • If you’ve ever studied the Pharisees in the time of Christ you’ll see a lot of similarities


36 Then Saul said, “Let’s chase the Philistines all night and plunder them until sunrise. Let’s destroy every last one of them.”

His men replied, “We’ll do whatever you think is best.

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Should we go after the Philistines? Will you help us defeat them?” But God made no reply that day.

38 Then Saul said to the leaders, “Something’s wrong! I want all my army commanders to come here. We must find out what sin was committed today. 39 I vow by the name of the Lord who rescued Israel that the sinner will surely die, even if it is my own son Jonathan!” But no one would tell him what the trouble was.

40 Then Saul said, “Jonathan and I will stand over here, and all of you stand over there.”

And the people responded to Saul, “Whatever you think is best.”

41 Then Saul prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, please show us who is guilty and who is innocent.” Then they cast sacred lots, and Jonathan and Saul were chosen as the guilty ones, and the people were declared innocent.

42 Then Saul said, “Now cast lots again and choose between me and Jonathan.” And Jonathan was shown to be the guilty one.

43 “Tell me what you have done,” Saul demanded of Jonathan.

“I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”

44 “Yes, Jonathan,” Saul said, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this.”

45 But the people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.


Well, that’s probably not going to help Saul’s inferiority complex. The whole army steps between Saul and Jonathan and refuses to let him carry out his order.

1 Sam 15: Saul’s Third Failure

1 One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

Brief explanation and defense of the “ban”

  • This was a judgment (Gen 15:16)
    • Why? (Moloch, ritual prostitution)
    • Over 400 years to repent
      • They were also given time to flee
      • A few switched sides (e.g. Rahab, Gibeonites)
    • Also protective for the people of Israel
    • Only holy war commanded in Scripture
    • One big question: Does God have the right to judge? This is nothing compared the eternal judgment that Jesus taught about (Luke 16:22-31; Matt 25:46)
    • We covered this in Deut 7-13 teaching. Refer people to paper on Xenos website for more info too.


Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.

The Lord Rejects Saul

10 Then the Lord said to Samuel, 11 “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the Lord all night.

12 Early the next morning Samuel went to find Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself; then he went on to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!

14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the Lord told me last night!”

“What did he tell you?” Saul asked.

17 And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission


You think too little of yourself. You’re denying what God says about you. You’re denying why you matter and why you are the leader of Israel. You can’t listen to God. You can’t wait for him. You can’t show grace or compassion. You can’t go when you need to go and you can’t stop when you need to stop. Because you’re trying to be somebody. You’re trying to show why you deserve to be in this position.

He’s forgotten why he is king and what he’s supposed to be doing. And that’s something we need to remember in order to avoid this fate.


20 But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21 Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?

Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.

So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

Saul Pleads for Forgiveness

24 Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”

27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

30 Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel finally agreed and went back with him, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

This is sad to see what Saul really wanted. “Yeah I’ve lost the kingship, but please help me save face!”

Samuel Executes King Agag

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring King Agag to me.” Agag arrived full of hope, for he thought, “Surely the worst is over, and I have been spared!” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has killed the sons of many mothers, now your mother will be childless.” And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal.


An expression for killing him. He probably didn’t chop him up into little pieces. It’s a judgment than any jury today would probably give a tyrant like Agag.

34 Then Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel.

Is there anything sadder than an insecure leader?

They presuppose that leadership is the best thing you can have. But it becomes a leadership apart from God. A ministry where I seek to set up a monument for myself.


We want to be spiritually confident Christians. These are the kind of Christians who:

  • Know their identity, don’t need to compare
  • Looking for ways to influence for God (vs. resisting)
  • Stand on the authority God has given them. Flows from a healthy prayer life
  • Admit wrong and learn from failure
  • Forgiving, compassionate, low control, looking to delegate
  • People want to follow them
  • Their littleness doesn’t matter, because that’s not where they are focused.