Don’t Let Saul’s Downfall Be Yours

Posted on December 8, 2020


By David Ettinger

Everything Going for Him
If the word “potential” ever applied to one man of the Bible, it was Saul.

Physically, Saul had everything going for him. Scripture tells us he was “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel” (1 Samuel 9:2). If that were not enough, Saul “was a head taller than anyone else” (same verse). And if those two attributes were insufficient, add to this that God appointed Saul, at the young age of 30, as Israel’s first king.

king saul

His first two years on the throne were remarkable, culminating with the rescue of the city of Jabesh Gilead, a town east of the Jordan River in the tribal territory of Manasseh. The wicked Ammonites had come to attack the outnumbered city. The people of Jabesh Gilead offered to subject themselves to the Ammonites in return for their lives.[1] This was not good enough for Nahash, Ammon’s king, who blustered: “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel” (1 Samuel 11:2).

Jabesh Gilead told Saul about its dilemma and he responded in a stunning way: “The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together” (v. 11).

It was Saul’s first military victory and it was spectacular. All of Israel celebrated[2] and the people loved their new king. It was Saul’s finest moment. Indeed, Saul had everything going for him. The problem with this was that Saul was still in his early 30s and would remain king until age 70. A little early to be hitting one’s peak.

His Downfall
However, Saul crumbled. Over the years, he became an arrogant, egotistical, and murderous monarch who lived only to serve his own interests. Though he began humbly, his pride and ego got the better of him, and he constantly fueled them. He defended his kingship at all costs and imposed his will as he saw fit, God’s wishes but a distant consideration.


It all came to a head about 27 years into his reign when he disobeyed God’s explicit command to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:3, italic added).

Despite this clear charge, Saul spared Amalek’s king Agag[3] and the best of the animals.[4] Regarding Agag, it is likely Saul wanted to parade the defeated monarch before his subjects, as if to say, “See what I have done? I have defeated the Amalekites, and I have their king to prove it.” Sparing the choice animals was a sign of covetousness – he saw, he desired, he seized.

It was the final straw for the Lord, who announced that Saul’s “dynasty” would end with him and be given to someone else.[5] Saul would spend the final 13 years of his reign tirelessly attempting to preserve the throne by assuring it go to his son Jonathan, and seeking to hunt down and kill his God-anointed successor, David.

Learn From Saul
So, where did Saul go wrong? The answer lies in his relationship with God – which was nil. Whereas his son Jonathan honored God, and his general David was a man after God’s own heart,[6] Saul never showed any such inclination. Instead, he believed that God’s mercy could be secured by one timely sacrifice, his wrath appeased by one well-placed prayer of supplication.


Saul was called to great things, but pettiness, envy, hatred, disregard for God and destructive egotism proved his tragic undoing.

Don’t let Saul’s downfall be your downfall. Keep your relationship with the Lord alive and vibrant through daily prayer and reading of His Word. Never let spiritual victories go to your head, and never regard your salvation as something earned or deserved. Always look to accomplish God’s will, not yours, and live your life to please Him, not yourself.

Whenever you begin to think just a little too much of yourself, take some time out and reflect on Saul and his fate. This ought to sober you up in a hurry!

[1] 1 Samuel 11:1

[2] 1 Samuel 11:15

[3] 1 Samuel 15:8

[4] 1 Samuel 15:9

[5] 1 Samuel 15:28

[6] 1 Samuel 13:14