If you were so inclined, the two books of Samuel could be read solely as historical literature. No doubt that is how many would approach them. But that would entirely miss the primary Divine reason for these works ever being included in the books of the Bible.

Books I and II of Samuel are Spiritual Documents

The two books of Samuel are first and foremost spiritual documents. It is true that they are real history, that it all actually happened. But the fact that they are history is secondary to their didactic (teaching) function in the Word of God. Paul the Apostle tells us that there are other purposes than the mere conveyance of historical facts in the books of the Old Testament: “For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). There is a teaching element, “for our learning” and, through that teaching, comes the engendering of hope.

Books I and II of Samuel are Full of “Types”, Warnings, and Exhortations

Another radical element in these Old Testament history books is that of warning, or exhortation. If we listen to “the music behind the words” of the Bible, we can look at what happened to the characters of the Old Testament and see them serving as “types”. A “type” is a pattern or a kind of example or a forerunner, a symbol, a very powerful symbol — so powerfully symbolic that it carries many lessons for those who will learn from the example; and the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is full of “types”. Again, Paul specifically refers to these typological examples when he says: “Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

In other words, the principal characters of the Old Testament and the historical events in which they were involved contain a spiritual significance which must be understood properly if one is to grasp the deep things of God in His word. The Greek word translated as “examples” in the above Scripture verse is tupos, from where our word “type” is derived. Therefore, these things happened to them so that they could serve as “types” or patterns — spiritual examples from which we can learn.

Examples of this sort of “typology” can be seen over and over again in the life of numerous key Old Testament characters. For instance, look at Moses. His life and experience was a model of Scripture typology. As but one example, he leads the children of Israel to freedom out of the house of bondage under Pharaoh, through the wilderness into the promised land. The typological significance of this is parallel with the fact that Christ leads His people out to freedom from being under bondage to Satan, then leads them through the wilderness of this world into the heavenly life to come. Moses was thus a “type” of Christ, as also were Samuel and David.

The three central characters of the two books of Samuel — Samuel, Saul, and David — provide us with hugely important general typological lessons for our spiritual life, our growth as children of God and our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world around us and our fellow professing Christians. Familiarising ourselves with these three men and the events surrounding them provides a key to grasping not only our salvation in Christ but also the actual outworking of it in our lives.

In an earlier CyberSermon, I looked at the great, symbol-laden story of David and Goliath and we saw how the little man David, who is deliberately said to have had no sword or spear, conquered the three-meter-tall giant, Goliath. [That CyberSermon was called “Lessons from the Conflict Between David and Goliath”. Just click on that title to read it]. In this present message, our text is 1 Samuel, chapter 18, in which we are now looking at David’s conflict with Saul.

NB: David and Jonathan Were not ‘Gay’!

Immediately, when we look at 1 Samuel 18, I am forced to mention David’s relationship with Jonathan. It is a very well-known relationship, and it furnishes us with a great example of an honourable, faithful, trusting, and beautiful relationship that can exist even between two men whose hearts are in the right place.

As you may be aware, this relationship has been seized upon by homosexuals to prove that sodomy is a perfectly legitimate activity, even for a Christian person who walks closely to God. If you ask any well-versed homosexual person, they will tell you without any hesitation that David and Jonathan “were gay” and provide proof that God’s people can practise guilt-free sodomy. I think that is not only playing fast and loose with Scripture, but it is also an insult to the very idea that two men can have a close relationship without engaging in homosexuality. I think we need to recognise that and rejoice in it — that two men can be extremely close without a trace of sexuality being involved.

Very often, men are portrayed as being unable to have close relationships other than a casual one over a glass of beer in a bar. But it is a fact — and it has biblical authorisation here — that it is good for men to be close to one another if that is possible and it should be encouraged.

However, my purpose here is not to concentrate on the relationship between David and Jonathan; I will save that for another time. I am here contrasting Saul and David as two very different individuals.

  • First, there is Saul — an unbeliever who has some religious tendencies but never learns from his mistakes, never really honours God, disobeys Gods commands, often defies God’s word, and even engages in activities, feelings and actions which encourage the presence of evil spirits.
  • Second, there is David — a flawed believer, a very spiritual man, but who suffers a great deal, especially in this early part of his life.

The contrast between these two men tells a hugely significant backstory, and we need to take the lessons on board for our own comfort and in order to provide us with explanations about the circumstances in which we can so often find ourselves.

I want to look first at those actions of Saul’s which betray the true state of his heart, followed by showing what are David’s responses to Saul’s actions. Then I will look at what it is that actually provokes Saul to jealousy, because this tells us a great deal. Remember, we are supposed to be learning lessons here for ourselves. Above all, we are supposed to be applying these things to our own lives. If we fail to do that then we are wasting our time going through these Scriptures.

Then I will present a revealing summary of Saul’s character followed by some of the overarching spiritual lessons that we can receive from this portion of God’s word.


The first action of Saul which betrays what is really in his heart is that…

1) He is Willing to Sacrifice the Happiness of both of his Daughters (and also Get his Son-in-Law Killed!)

 “Then Saul said to David, ‘Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage. Only be valiant for me and fight the LORD’s battles’. But Saul was thinking, ‘I need not raise my hand against him; let the hand of the Philistines be against him’… ‘I will give [Michal] to David’, Saul thought, ‘so that she may be a snare to him, and the hand of the Philistines may be against him’”.1 Samuel 18:17,21

We see here that Saul is perfectly willing to sacrifice both of his own daughters’ happiness. He is going from bad to worse. You can see by this that the spirit of God has left him. He is no longer empowered to act in his role as king and it has left him very open and vulnerable.

He is filled with dangerous feelings and jealousy towards David. And even here, in verse 17 of our chapter, we see that Saul was perfectly willing for his own daughter to marry somebody who he was hoping would get killed off by the Philistines and who would therefore be widowed. This is the kind of thinking that was going on in Saul’s mind. Is that the mind of a man of God?

Again, in verse 21, he is not at all concerned about his daughter’s happiness. Any father, when he gives away his daughter’s hand in marriage, wants her to be happy more than anything else in the world. You want the very best person for your daughter — you want the very best situation for her. But he is totally unconcerned about his daughters’ happiness. He is willing to sacrifice their happiness in order to pursue his own hateful ends. This is Saul.

And let me say this: He was not “a carnal believer” — as some people actually claim, with those ridiculous words, for there is absolutely no such thing! The conceit that there can be a “carnal believer” is to fail completely to understand the Spirit’s work in the heart of Christ’s disciples. Carnality — wallowing the mere fleshly aspects of life — is not an indulgence of a genuine disciple of Christ. In fact, Saul was a complete hypocrite masquerading as a believer. He talks about “fighting the Lord’s battles” out of one side of his mouth while out of the other side he is scheming to have the commander of God’s troops slaughtered.

He is willing to use his daughter to entrap David into a horrible situation. Already, we see that he has an attitude problem in a major way, and it comes through in all his activities. Such people — and there are always many all around us, even in churches! — are unstable and highly dangerous.

Another action of Saul which betrays his heart is

2) His Jealousy

 “Saul was furious and resented this song. ‘They have ascribed tens of thousands to David’, he said, ‘but only thousands to me. What more can he have but the kingdom?’ And from that day forward Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day a spirit of distress sent from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house while David played the harp as usual. Now Saul was holding a spear, and he hurled it, thinking, ‘I will pin David to the wall’. But David eluded him twice… When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, he grew even more afraid of David. So, from then on Saul was David’s enemy”.1 Samuel 18:8-11, 28-29

It is important to look at Saul’s jealousy because this is one of the main driving forces in the man’s life. If you just look at the above verses, you will see that Saul’s life is now empowered totally by jealousy. It has become his all-consuming passion. I want to talk a little bit here about jealousy. Because jealousy is very prominent in many areas of life. It is even very prominent in the life of many churches. Sibling rivalry among those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ is a real problem, as any perceptive pastor will concur.

The interesting thing about jealousy is that it very often does not reveal itself publicly. It is something that a person can hold within their heart. Fortunately (or unfortunately from the jealous person’s point of view), jealousy has a tendency to come out in certain obvious ways. And people who are discerning can notice it in other people from time to time. Thus, jealousy is something that gets harboured in the heart; and as we will see very shortly, there is nothing more dangerous for a person than to harbour something of this kind in their heart. This is one of the main fuels behind all Saul’s actions towards David — his abiding jealousy.

A Serious Question for You

At this point, I want to ask you a serious question here. When you see somebody else that you know — and this needn’t necessarily be in the church, it could be anywhere; it could be at your place of work, it could even be in your family — maybe you see your wife or husband or even a child, somebody that you know who is much better at something than you are, shining in something in which you would like to shine, receiving congratulations from other people for something that you want to have but haven’t got… what do you feel in your heart? How do you respond to that? This is very important because jealousy arises from pride. That is the root-cause of jealousy; and pride is the first sin. It is the primal sin that came into this universe. Jealousy results directly from that.

It would be interesting to speculate here about what it was that fuelled Satan’s original rebellion. Was it jealousy of God’s status as God? I put it to you that it was. When he came to Eve and said, “has God really said…”, what lay behind that contemptuous question? Surely, Satan, the mere angel and creature, was jealous of God’s position as God. I put it to you that the sin of jealousy very possibly fuelled the rebellion that happened at that early point in history.

Jealousy is something that lies at the very root of pride in the human heart. I think it is something that we can all harbour in ourselves. So, I ask again, how do you respond, how do you feel when you see somebody excelling at something at which you want to excel? Does it fill you with joy or with jealousy.

Many years ago, a man came to my house who was going to lead a service for me in the church in which I was being installed as pastor. At one stage, he turned to my wife and said, “How do you feel about your husband’s ordination?” She said “well, I feel very happy about it, why do you ask?” He replied: “When I was being ordained I discovered later that my wife was seething with rage in the congregation because she felt that it was she who ought to be ordained in my place”.

Apart from the mistake of the lady wanting to be a pastor herself, how bizarre it was to be jealous of her husband’s pastorship. But it just shows what an awful thing it is for someone to be eaten up by jealousy in that way. This was not the only time that I became aware of such an Amazonian element in a pastor’s wife. And jealousy can so easily eat any of us up.

I want to warn you seriously against jealousy with all my heart because when you see somebody else who is shining at something at which you would like to shine, you should be only too pleased. You should want to follow their example. You should find them an inspiration. You should be happy for them. You should see them as someone to emulate and copy rather than someone of whom to be jealous. Saul’s jealousy was all-consuming. And it IS an all-consuming thing. I want to counsel you never to let jealousy even have a moment’s place in your heart. You will shortly see why I counsel you about this so earnestly.

What about David’s responses to Saul’s actions?


The primary response that we see from David to Saul’s actions is

1) His Continuing Respect for His King

Well, first, you find David responding here like a gentleman. You see him behaving with continuing respect for his king. In spite of all that Saul has done — even throwing a spear at him when all David was doing was playing a harp in order to try and encourage him to feel better, using music as a form of medicine — we always find that David’s behaviour is immaculate towards him. He shows great humility and graciousness, and that should be an example for us whenever we are under any kind of persecution and attack. Jesus commands this all the time, saying that you are blessed when you suffer for righteousness sake. And in such a situation you must, as Jesus says, “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39).

The True Meaning of “Turn the Other Cheek”

Incidentally, this does not mean that if any young punk comes up to you in the street and tries to slit your throat with a razor you should just stand there and offer it to him meekly. The law of non-retaliation when someone slaps you “does not repeal the law of self-preservation”, as Matthew Henry puts it so succinctly. In such an instance, the law of good order must be upheld, and you have a right to defend yourself — although without becoming a vengeful vigilante. In Matthew 5:38-42, the Lord Jesus is speaking against the automatic use of vengeful action (the “eye for an eye” mentality).

When it comes to persecution for our faith, we are encouraged to “heap coals of fire on their head” as the Proverb puts it (Proverbs 25:22; cf. Romans 12:20). Do you know that phrase? What it means is this: the nicer you are in the face of persecution, the more the symbolic “coals of fire” are heaped on that other person’s head. It is their problem, they are going to have to deal with it, and you must simply maintain your integrity, because once you respond in a negative way, they’ve got a moral case against you.

The book “1984”, by George Orwell, was designed to show what the world is really like under a totalitarian regime (and also to provide a glaring depiction of betrayal on multiple levels). It is an interesting book for Christians to read because it gives a little glimpse of what the world will be like under the Antichrist. At one point, the main protagonist of the book, Winston, is being interrogated by the state police in ‘Room 101’. All the interrogator wants to do is demonstrate that Winston is actually just like him — a nasty person with no moral scruples. He manages to do it — he breaks him and proves his point. And that is what they want to do to you too: they want to break us — they want to be able to say: “You see! You are just like us! When the veneer of peace and love is stripped away, you behave in the same way as us. You are just as morally repugnant as we are!” That is why it is so important, when we are being persecuted for our faith, that we must respond in as gracious a manner as possible, at all costs. And that is David’s response here with Saul. He shows continuing respect for his king, in spite of all that he is undergoing at his hands.

Another of David’s responses to Saul’s actions is

2) His Constant Humility

His constant humility throughout all these difficult situations. The king wants him as his son-in-law. Some people could get swell-headed at that point. But not David; not at all. Instead, he says ‘But I’m just a little nobody’ (1 Samuel 18:18). David’s humility in his dealings with Saul is something we observe continually.


We need to look at this because it tells us a great deal more about Saul. First of all, Saul is provoked into jealously by

1) David’s Popularity, Talents, and Abilities

When Saul hears that the women are all singing ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”, his anger is aroused:

 “And as the women danced, they sang out: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’. And Saul was furious and resented this song. ‘They have ascribed tens of thousands to David’, he said, ‘but only thousands to me. What more can he have but the kingdom?’ And from that day forward Saul kept a jealous eye on David”.1 Samuel 18:7-9

David was very good at his job. He won campaigns. He was a great soldier. Saul also used to be the great soldier. Now David is an even greater solider. In verses 14-16 of our text we see Saul’s jealousy consolidated:

“David continued to prosper in all his ways, because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw that David was very successful, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he was leading them out to battle and back”.

The Sauls of this world will always refuse to recognise the true talents of other people. That is one of the main problems in jealousy: A refusal and a failure to recognise the greatness of others and honour the talents of others. The mark of a truly big person is one who can find a welcome space for anybody’s talent, no matter how great. There should be no question of ever having to be jealous about it.

Another thing which provokes Saul to jealousy is

2) God’s Obvious Presence with David

Secondly, Saul was jealous of the fact that God’s presence was clearly with David. This is the very last thing that a believer needs to be jealous about. An unbeliever, yes; but a believer? Never! If you see somebody who looks very obviously as if they have the Lord’s presence with them, what feelings do you have? Just imagine, here is Saul who is jealous and filled with hate and enmity because of David’s clear spirituality: “Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12).

If the Lord has ‘left you’ for a time and you see somebody else who the Lord is with, what do you do? Do you set out to destroy that person through spreading nasty rumours about them? You might think, “well no-one would do that”My friends, I can assure you that they would do so, and I have seen it many times. It happens repeatedly, even in churches — especially in churches. This is the sad truth.

When you see somebody who plainly has God’s presence with them, who is obviously a godly person, and you feel as if the Lord has left you, then you should say, “I must make that person my teacher. I must make that person into one whom I must follow and find out why they’ve got what they’ve got. I’m going to follow that person and take them as my example in my Christian faith”. That is the response of the true believer — the David. However, the false professor — the one who is merely playing the role of a believer, the Saul — will indeed be jealous and embittered when they meet a person of true faith.

A Little Anecdote on this Subject

Here’s a little anecdote: I remember a time when I was preaching at an evangelical church in Scotland and I was having a conversation with a woman after the service while we were all quietly sipping tea in the genteel environs of a well-furnished, restored 17th century hall attached to the church. She was a lawyer of some repute and a big wheel in the congregation. You could tell by the way that she swaggered around. It all proceeded calmly until she suddenly asked me the question: “You’re not one of those fundamentalists are you?” I replied politely: “Well if by that you mean do I believe that the Bible is the word of God and that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to take the penalty for our sins on the cross, then yes I am”. In an instant the calmness gave way to a violent tirade in which she began to yell at me, saying: “You people make me sick with your arrogance and narrow-mindedness. Who DO you think you are?” The word “do” was king-sized. She went on for a few sentences more of similar invective while the conversation in the hall stopped and all were in rapt attention on the unfolding scene. My wife was standing next to me open-mouthed. You could have heard the smallest sugar-lump fall to the floor. When she had finished, I said to her very gently and quietly: “I simply responded to your question. Do you not think that it is you who has been arrogant and narrow-minded in your quick condemnation of someone who you do not even know?” At that point the minister intervened and tried to smooth it all over, as ministers are wont to do, and everything soon returned to normal with the quiet sipping of tea and scattered hushed conversations. She then calmed down and continued to talk to someone else as if nothing untoward had ever taken place. However, in the car park as we were just about to get into our car, she came rushing up to me, grabbing my arm, and said, with a manic, desperate look on her face, “Where do you people get your faith?” There was the key. She was a Saul. She went to church each week; she sang the hymns; she prayed the prayers; she put her cheque in the bag; she carried her Bible; she called herself a believer. But when a genuine Christian had come to her church and preached a sermon which revealed her heart, instead of humbly embracing the Lord herself, she had to attack the one responsible for showing the wretchedness of her situation. I said to her that I would be happy to talk to her in depth about my faith whenever she wanted, but I could see that her question was rhetorical rather than desiring a real answer. We gave her our phone number and said she could phone us anytime. Needless to say, she never did.

If you are lacking God’s presence in your life and you meet a person of faith, it is so ludicrous to go down the road of jealousy because what happens is that God’s presence will go even further away from your life! This is the loop in which faithless people find themselves when they belittle the faithful. Do you see here how blind a person becomes? Once they go down the pathway of hardening their own hearts and then God hardening their hearts even more, and them then hardening their hearts even more, it gets increasingly difficult to get back on the true pathway once more.

This is why I say to all Christians, look out for somebody who is obviously more mature in the faith than you and follow them, make them your role model, attach yourself to them and find out what makes them tick. How do they actually work? And make sure that it all rubs off on you — as it always does. Whenever you hang around with spiritual people, it rubs off on you. Just the same as when you hang out with evil people, it will rub off on you. No doubt about that.

Another thing that provokes Saul to jealousy is

3) His Daughter’s Love for David

This, again, is ridiculous. There is nothing more that a father wants than to see his daughter fall genuinely in love with somebody noble and upright — especially an admirable person such as David, and a humble person such as David was. You notice how he said, “I am a poor man and lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 18:23). He hadn’t even got enough money for a dowry. What father could possibly be grieved by his daughter falling in love with and marrying a humble and brave man? Yet we read that “When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, he grew even more afraid of David. So from then on Saul was David’s enemy” (1 Samuel 18:28-29).

What ludicrous grounds to be jealous of, or at enmity towards, David. The fact that his own daughter loved him. Amazing. That was a threat to Saul of course. Saul just wanted to use his daughters to marry David so that he could have power over David and use them to get at him, as you will see later on in the Scripture. However, if his daughter was going to be “in love” with David, that was going to cause severe problems, because she wasn’t going to be able to be manipulated by her father. And in fact, Michal was not able to be manipulated by him, as we discover later.

Here we must ask ourselves some questions: Are these the signs of a true believer in the Lord? Would such behaviour characterise a genuine disciple of the Lord? Many say that Saul was merely a “carnal believer” who had not matured. But he never did! He remained David’s enemy “the rest of his days”.

There is no such thing as a “carnal believer”. There are certainly immature believers; but the Christian life is an upward path from the beginning — gently sloping to start with and steepening throughout our lives. Far from being worldly and superficial, all the immature believers I have known have been actually extremely keen and almost over-the-top in their dedication to the Lord, still buzzing on their new-found faith. Yet the kind of enmity and jealousy, coupled with the desire for manipulation, which we see in Saul is endemic in so many churches today, primarily because there are so many false professors — so many Sauls — masquerading as the faithful.

Another thing which provokes Saul to jealousy is

4) His Deep Fear

We see here what is, at root, the main cause which lies at the back of of jealousy. Yes, pride is there. But pride too is a result of fear. This is what you can say about yourself or about any other jealous person that you know of: What ultimately lies behind jealousy is fear. In verse 12, we see that fear is intimately linked in with jealousy, which is very psychologically acute here. “So Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had departed from Saul”. The Lord was with David, so Saul was filled with jealousy. But it was fear which undergirded that jealousy.

Again, in verse 15: “When Saul saw that David was very successful, he was afraid of him”. And that is what fuels jealousy: fear. Afraid that this other person will look better in the eyes of the world than we look.

Again, in verse 29, we see that when Saul realised that the Lord was with David and that his daughter loved David, “Saul grew even more afraid of David. So from then on Saul was David’s enemy”. There is fear right there. Three times it is mentioned very plainly that behind Saul’s jealousy lay fear. You will surely have found all this out for yourself.

Have you ever worked in an office where the manager or boss is clearly an incompetent person who doesn’t even deserve to have that job? Everyone knows it, although no one would ever dare broach the subject. So he looks at you, an underling, just a little person in the firm and sees somebody of integrity, intelligence, ability and so on. What happens next? Does he seek to promote you and even benignly regard you as his protégé — a future successor to his job? No. Instead he becomes filled with jealousy. Why? Because he’s afraid that you will expose the fact that he doesn’t deserve to have that job and that you might actually be deservedly in line for his job. There is a fear there, an insecurity. But instead of improving himself, the boss sets out trying to undermine your work and even to destroy you.

All this is classic behaviour. I have seen it so many times (mainly because the world is full of incompetent bosses). I have even seen it in many churches (mainly because the visible church is so full of puffed-up pastors!).

Another thing which provokes Saul to jealousy is

5) The Presence of an Evil Spirit

There was something else which lay at the back of Saul’s jealous actions. Two verses are pivotal to the whole story of the life of Saul: “from that day forward Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day a spirit of distress sent from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house while David played the harp as usual” (1 Samuel 18:9-10). Saul’s jealousy takes a quantum leap in his heart at that point. It is no coincidence that this happened, as the Scripture plainly shows. From the moment that Saul began to keep a jealous eye on David, the very next day an evil spirit from God came powerfully upon Saul. (Regarding Saul’s “prophesying”, see the special Excursus on this subject further below).

Notice that this was an evil spirit sent from God. It always is. No one is afflicted by an evil spirit unless the Lord condones it. In the Book of Job we see that He outright directed it! (Job 1:6-12; 2:3-6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

It is God who is in control of everything. Satan cannot just go around afflicting anybody he wants, anytime he wants, at random, at his own will, whenever he likes to do so. He is subject to the will of God. He is subject to the sovereignty of God. We see that very plainly here. But God allows people to be afflicted by evil spirits when they do things which are deserving of such affliction. As William Green put it:

“If you steadfastly resist the devil, confiding in the grace of God and the salvation of Jesus, he cannot touch a hair of your head. Temptation and sin, if you bravely resist them, will react to your everlasting welfare: your position is impregnable, the protection is ample, the armament is invincible, the supplies abundant, and the fortress can never be entered by the enemy, unless betrayed into his power by your own treacherous hands”.W.H. Green, The Argument of Job Unfolded, Klock & Klock, 1978), pp.68-69

“Unless betrayed into Satan’s power by your own treacherous hands”. This is just to let you know that evil spirits do not go around doing exactly what they want to do; they are under the judgement, sovereignty, and permissive hand of God. This is an evil spirit sent from God which came forcefully upon Saul because Saul himself already provided the foothold for this to happen. Gradually, Saul is being set loose to be overwhelmed by the destructive power of his own sinful madness.

In case there are any readers who may still imagine that Saul was simply a wayward believer, I will now give a summary of Saul’s character.


Saul is not a “carnal believer”, as some would put it. I do not believe that he was a believer at all. When we compare David and Saul, they are as different as chalk and cheese. We are seeing the difference between the devout believer and the carnal professor — someone who is of the world but who professes to be a believer. It is to demonstrate this difference that I am writing this piece at all. This is why I ask the question: “Are you a Saul or a David?” Are you a genuine disciple of Christ, or are you someone who merely professes to be a Christian — a charlatan?

The centrepiece of chapter thirty-one is the suicide of Saul. This is really the climax of the contrast we see between Saul and David. Saul is an object-lesson in the essential difference between the unbelieving but quasi-religious carnal man and the believing spiritual man (David).

In Saul, we have an awesome study of a nominal believer — a believer in name only. There is a pattern to Saul’s life. His downfall did not happen in a vacuum. One sin never terminates in itself. It always leads to greater sins, and so on, down the line. One sin opens the door for another. It always involves progressive disintegration ultimately leading to destruction (which is complete separation from God, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is plainly shown in the Scriptures. As one example, we see that a refusal to acknowledge the reality of God and subsequently indulge in in idolatry leads inexorably to sexual perversion (Romans 1:21-27).

So how can we summarise Saul’s character? What brought him to the wretched point of consulting a witch and then committing suicide? If you look back over his life you will see that the futility of his dying moments was rooted in all that had progressively deteriorated in the previous years of his life. Let us just trace some of the events which shaped Saul’s life.

1) He was the People’s Choice

Saul was not made king as a result of spiritual deliberation and Divine consultation. The people of Israel merely wanted a physically big man — a mere warrior, an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Robocop — at their head so that they could be like all the unbelieving nations. He was the people’s choice, and the Lord merely gave them what they wanted in order to show them the foolishness of their ways. You can read all about this in this example here:

“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us’, their demand was displeasing in the sight of Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you. For it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. Just as they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you’… Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We must have a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to judge us, to go out before us, and to fight our battles’”.1 Samuel 8:6-8, & 19-20

Saul as king was the result of a petulant ‘democracy’ — people power being exercised in defiance of God’s will being expressed through the prophet. Need I say more?

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

2) He was Just a Military King and Nothing More

Because he was not chosen on the basis of spiritual deliberation and Divine consultation, Saul was merely a military king over the Lord’s people. He was good at smiting Amalek, but he could never provide the people with spiritual nourishment. Even in the last event of his life, he was a total failure.

This was because God had forsaken him; and you can guarantee that God had forsaken him because he had already forsaken God. The one is the natural fruit of the other.

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

3) He Set Himself up as a Priest

Saul, through impatience, arrogated to himself the priestly office, offering sacrifice at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:7-10). For this sacrilege his rejection from the kingship was prophesied by Samuel.

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

4) He was a Wanton Murderer of the Lord’s Priests

In Saul’s fanatical desire to find David and kill him, he paranoically presumed the conspiratorial guilt of the priests in harbouring David. As a result, off his own bat, he not only had eighty-five priests put to death (1 Samuel 22:18) but also “Nob, the city of the priests, he struck with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and donkeys and sheep — with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 22:19). Do you really consider that to be the work of a devout follower of the Lord?

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that…

5) He was Only a Religious Man

He had a complete lack of genuine spirituality. He certainly participated in religious festivals (e.g. 1 Samuel 20:5,24) but such participation was so empty that Saul was willing to kill someone on that very feast day! (1 Samuel 20:31, David; & 33, Jonathan). One is reminded of the Pharisees seeking to kill Christ on the Passover (John 18:28)!

The Sauls of this world always busy themselves with religious activities. They love to be seen to be doing “the right thing”. They thrive on public shows of religion. True spirituality, however, does not reside in such externalities, as David knew very well and expressed in his psalms:

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise”.Psalm 51:16-17

It is true that Saul is said to have prophesied, but again that is no proof that he was a spiritual man or a believer. (See the Excursus on this subject of Saul prophesying a little further below).

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

6) He Often Behaved as if he was Demon-Possessed

As we can see very well from these verses:

  • 1 Samuel 16:14: “After the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, a spirit of distress from the LORD began to torment him”.
  • 1 Samuel 18:10: “The next day a spirit of distress sent from God came upon Saul”.
  • 1 Samuel 19:9: “But as Saul was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, a spirit of distress from the LORD came upon him”.

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

7) He was an Inconsolably Jealous Man

This we have already shown in looking at 1 Samuel 18 & 19.

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was that

8) He was very Disobedient

A classic example occurred when Saul was given the Divine command to destroy Amalek (Samuel 15:3) and he decided to pursue a different pathway (1 Samuel 15:9). In fact, that all went back to a stark original prophecy in Deuteronomy 25:19 which Saul was supposed to faithfully fulfil:

“Therefore, it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget”.Deuteronomy 25:19; cf. Exodus 17:14-16

We see here how God deals with subsequent generations of nations just as He deals with subsequent generations of families “of them that hate Me” (cf. Deuteronomy 7:2-6; 12:2-3; 20:10-18).

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was his

9) Failure to “Take the Rap”

The classic example of this occurred in 1 Samuel 15 after Saul had been found out for not having obeyed the Lord’s commandment to destroy Amalek. He made numerous excuses, even lied (1 Samuel 13:9) and blamed everyone else but himself (1 Samuel 15:13-15). Are those the actions of a man of God?

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was his

10) Fear of Man

The key to this entire incident in 1 Samuel 15 lies in Saul’s own ghastly admission: “I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24). Just has he himself had been “the people’s choice” rather than the Lord’s, so he tended to play to the desires of the people rather that find out what the Lord wanted. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

Another betraying aspect of Saul’s character was his

11) Phony Repentance

Again, we see this typified in the incident in 1 Samuel 15. On two occasions Saul made out that he was repenting. The first time (1 Samuel 15:24) was so obviously just to get himself off the hook; the second time (1 Samuel 15:28-30) it was an act of hypocrisy in order to avoid any shame before the people.

These are a few of the aspects of Saul’s character which should demonstrate to us that the man was not a believer but a false professor. Obviously, all believers do stumble from time to time; but the key is that they always learn from their mistakes and grow accordingly. We never even once see that in Saul’s life but always in David’s. This is the key difference between the two men which demonstrates the fact that the one was a true believer while the other was a false professor.

Before continuing our study with some spiritual lessons to be gleaned from our text in 1 Samuel 18:1-30, here is a


On three occasions in the First Book of Samuel, we read that Saul prophesied (1 Samuel 10:10; 18:10; 19:23-24). Many assume that this shows that he was a true believer; but this is not the case at all.

We need to understand what is meant here by prophesying, and what is meant by the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him. We must never have a stereotyped idea of prophesying. Prophecy is not merely speaking God’s word about the future — making divinely-appointed predictions. That is a very limited view of prophecy. For prophecy is also just as much about singing and praising God with thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 25:1-3). It is also about strengthening, encouraging and comforting God’s people (1 Corinthians 14:2-4). Sometimes, as we see in the New Testament, this sort of prophesying was given in other languages (though never in gibberish), e.g., Acts 2:11: “We hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God”.

This is plainly what was happening to Saul in 1 Samuel 10 when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. In saying this, it doesn’t mean that Saul was regenerated and had the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit. Rather, he was receiving a temporary ‘anointing’ for the purpose of being transformed into an aggressive warrior and leader of the Lord’s ancient Covenant people.

We see these special anointings with God’s Spirit in other places in Scripture. For example, Bezalel son of Uri was “filled with the Spirit of God” by the Lord, “with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of craftsmanship to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut gemstones for settings, and to carve wood, so that he may be a master of every craft” (Exodus 31:1-5).

Again, we see that the LORD “raised up Othniel son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz as a deliverer to save them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge and went out to war” (Judges 3:9-10).

Thus, when the Scripture says that God changed Saul’s heart, and that he was changed into a different person, this was a complete change of personality to equip him for his kingly role. It was not regeneration or conversion.

Many claim that Saul was indeed regenerated but was a carnal believer who never matured. This is a woefully inadequate view. “By their fruits you shall know them”. A survey of Saul’s life reveals it all, as we have shown in our main text. He was repeatedly and wilfully disobedient to both Samuel and the Lord; he had an evil spirit; he was consistently jealous and murderous towards his rival David; and the last religious act of his life was the consultation of a known witch. If that is what it means to be a believer, then we might as well go and live on the planet Zargon!

This idea of the “carnal believer” who persistently behaves like an unbeliever is just an excuse for professing ‘Christians’ to live how they want, and it is one of the biggest delusions in the history of the Church. The play-off between Saul and David, which takes up so much of Bible history in this book is not the play-off between a “carnal” believer and a more “spiritual” believer, as some would claim. It is the play-off between an unbeliever masquerading as a believer and a genuine believer who is flawed.

So, what was Saul doing when he prophesied? Nothing happened of any spiritual significance. Even after all his prophesying Saul was still the same wicked man as before — worse even. In 1 Samuel 18:10, here was a man who was rejected by God, empowered by an evil spirit, expending all his energy on killing a servant of God and is now engaged in prophecy! He was entranced but he was not truly changed. In 1 Samuel 19, he was a madman who picked up in a contagious way what his servants experienced. One can see this in church meetings. The same contagious madness which characterised the “Toronto Blessing” and other Charismatic atrocities came upon Saul when he saw others engaged in this ‘prophesying’.

We have here something corresponding to mesmerism. It was like a contagion which he contracted. Remember, the gift of prophecy has sometimes been given to men who knew nothing whatsoever of the grace of God, such as Balaam (Numbers 22-24), and even the evil high priest Caiaphas (John 11:51).

Why did the Spirit of God come upon Saul?

Firstly, the Spirit of God came upon Saul to give him a further opportunity to repent of his wicked ways? The Lord often places people in certain circumstances which can affect their lives to such an extent that they come to Him. A marriage, a bereavement, a change of circumstances, etc.

Secondly, the Spirit of God came upon Saul to show him that it was God with whom Saul was dealing, not David.

Thirdly, the Spirit of God came upon Saul to restrain Saul so that David could get away (1 Samuel 20:1a). The Lord uses many varieties of means and instruments to bring about the safety of His servants.

We must bear in mind that religious experience or activity do not indicate spiritual standing before God. In 1 Samuel 19, what happened to Saul was that he was riding on the crest of an emotional wave. He was like the man in the Parable of the Four Soils who received the Word with joy, but who had no real root, and so withered away (Matthew 13:18-23). Saul is like the man who received the seed that fell on rocky places who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. Riding on a religious and psychological high, he was carried away here. But it was not to last. Outwardly he was changed in order to fulfil his office, but there was no real work of the heart happening.

If you want an explanation of Saul prophesying, you need turn no further than to the following searing statement of the Lord Jesus, who shows that even the manifestation of prophecy in a person is no witness to their true spiritual condition:

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. ‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”Matthew 7:17-23

What a warning that is to us too. Has a real work been done in us, or is it just a pretence, as with Saul? So ends this excursus.

As we bring this study to a close, after that brief excursus, let us examine some of the spiritual lessons we can learn from the relationship between David and Saul and their lives.


The first lesson that you will notice relevant to your Christian life is that…

1) Blessing and Affliction Follow as Surely as Night follows Day

Look at the context in 1 Samuel 18. David has just scored an enormous victory over Goliath. This is a highpoint in the history of Israel, and surely in David’s life; the little man conquers the great big warrior who nobody in Israel would take on. The possibility is there for David to feel very pleased with himself. So you find that whenever you have great blessing like this, a great victory, just to prevent you from getting any grand ideas about yourself and beginning to imagine that you are the greatest thing that has ever been invented on this planet, the Lord comes in there and pulls the carpet out from underneath you, just to keep your growth going and to remind you of His motto: “Without Me, you can do nothing”.

David becomes a huge hero in Israel and then is humbled. This is repeated so many times in Scripture, where the Lord has somebody who is an absolutely remarkable person, a hero in every sense of the word, humbled. The Lord humbles that person for a reason. We have looked at this phenomenon many times. It happened to the Apostle Paul. Paul had vision of heaven — more than a vision, he went to heaven, he saw it. Any normal person would have come back saying “Hey guys, you’ll never guess what I’ve seen. I’ve been to heaven, and I’ve seen the whole thing”. Well Paul says, “just to keep me in my place and prevent me from the sin of pride, God gave me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

We are dealing with the same thing here with David. It is a pre-emptive action on God’s part so that one of his saints doesn’t become filled with pride. And so it is here. Hot on the heels of his victory over Goliath and the subsequent hero-worship of the people, we find that David begins to be persecuted by Saul. Just look the sequence. First, we read:

“As the troops were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs, and with tambourines and other instruments. And as the women danced, they sang out: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”.1 Samuel 18:6-7

Then, two verses later, we read: “From that day forward Saul kept a jealous eye on David”. Blessing and affliction follow as surely as night follows day. All the way through here, you find that whenever David has great blessing in his life and has great victory, the Lord tempers it with affliction. That is why David could say in a song; “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word”, and “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:67 & 71). David learned his lessons; Saul didn’t. That is the fundamental difference between the believer and the false professor. Forgive me for asking but which one are you?

The true disciple of Christ has a wholly different understanding of affliction from the rest of the world. That is why James says at the very beginning of his letter the most remarkable thing: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). “Hold on a minute”, you may say, “what can possibly be joyful about that?” It is a different perspective, a different mindset, a different way of looking at things altogether. The Lord is afflicting me, He wants me to learn… He is teaching me a lesson… He is keeping me humble… He is keeping me faithful… He is keeping me close to Him… He is reminding me that He is present with me. When I’m being afflicted, I know that the Lord is with me. That is the rule. And that was the rule for David here.

Look at Jesus’ temptation. We can see the pattern very powerfully there:

“Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him”.Mark 1:11-13

That is a pattern in all our lives. Victory and blessing, immediately followed by humbling affliction — but always with the Lord keeping us and ministering to us (even through His angels!).

So that is the first lesson that we can draw from here: blessing and affliction follow as surely as night follows day.

You see it in Revelation 12:16, where you read in symbolism that “the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth”. Then at that point, straight away, in the very next verse (breath), we read that “the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). The woman is a symbol of God’s people, receiving help in the wilderness of this world in various situations, and then, next minute — boom! — the dragon, the symbol for Satan, was enraged at them and began to persecute them savagely. For the man or woman of God, where blessing is, affliction will surely follow.

However, the last thing you should think is “well that must mean that God has left me”. Quite the reverse is true in the Christian’s life. Affliction is God’s school for the saints and a sure sign of His presence rather than abandonment. It is God’s gymnasium, where the saints are exercised. That very word “gymnasium” is the one that is used in Hebrews 12:11, where it says that whenever you are afflicted through God’s chastisement, it is not pleasant at the time, but grievous, very painful, “but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”, or exercised by it. The Greek word for trained/exercised there is “gumnadzo”, from where we get our very word “gymnasium”. Affliction is God’s gymnasium, to exercise us spiritually — and it really works, every time! (For an in-depth discussion of the presence and purpose of evil and affliction in the world, please read my free-to-download article, “Tested by Fire — The Origin & Purpose of Suffering and Evil”. You can click on the title to go there.).

David actually provides for us a model of how to deal with affliction:

“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”.1 Samuel 30:6

But David strengthened himself in the Lord. When do we read that Saul ever did such a thing? Never. For that is the hallmark of the spiritual person and Saul is not a spiritual person.

Another spiritual lesson that we can draw from this part of God’s word is that

2) All the Scheming of Satan Always Comes to Nothing

Satan must have really hated David here, and I mean really hated him. Do you remember how Goliath looked at David, at this nice ruddy fresh-faced little boy. Instead of saying “I can’t fight this child, this is totally unfair”, the Scripture says that he looked at David and despised him (1 Samuel 17:42). Well that is Satan, when he looks at believers, looks at Christians, we pathetic little people on the face of this earth, he despises us. He doesn’t ever feel compassion for us. There is no point in asking him to show mercy to you; he despises us. But yet, all the schemings, anything that he can do, have to come to nothing, because he is completely under God’s control. And in fact, the Lord uses them to His advantage, especially with those who are His.

Here was David being persecuted. Saul has an evil spirit which is making him do all sorts of nasty things to David, but ultimately this is going to work out to David’s advantage, because it is training him for his future office as king. That is what is happening. Affliction is the very best training one can receive for a position of leadership in the Lord’s work. Moses knew it. Paul knew it. All true leaders know it.

Satan must have thought he was being very cool when he had Christ put to death; but in doing so he undid everything that he had worked towards down through all the ages on this earth. All of it came to nothing, backfired on him. This was what happened with Christ’s crucifixion. Satan made a total fool of himself (as did his human earthly agents). “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, God made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). All the schemings of Satan always ultimately come to nothing. Remember that fact. It will serve you well to do so.

Another spiritual lesson we can glean is the importance for us to

3) Understand the Vile Lengths to which Wicked People will Go in Order to Achieve their Goals

 Saul’s speech in 1 Samuel 22:6-8 is the master work of manipulation and paranoia which we typically find in the words and behaviour of all the Sauls of this world. First, he appeals to their personal interests in v.7 (neat move that; always works). Then he falsely accuses them of conspiring against him, v.8. Then he makes out that Jonathan has encouraged David to lie in wait for him, v.8, when nothing could be further from the truth. The Sauls of this world always project their own rubbish onto the people they envy. It was actually Saul who was lying in wait for David, not the other way round! What a classic case of projection that was. Then he accuses the priests of conspiring against him with David, v.13, which was not true. Finally he orders Doeg to kill all the priests, eighty-five of them, and gives orders to destroy the priestly town of Nob, including the women and children and babies.

There is nothing worse than a cornered Saul in this world. They will stop at nothing to achieve their own selfish ends. So always beware of cornered Sauls.

Another spiritual lesson we can glean here is that

4) David is a ‘Type’ of Messiah

Finally, we see David as a type of the Messiah who was yet to come. I have mentioned this many times. David is a type of Christ; he brings pictures to us of Christ. What we see here concerning David in his humiliation and his affliction on the way to taking the throne mirrors exactly the Lords humiliation on His way to his Ascension to heaven and taking his rightful place next to the Father. “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting for God, for whom and through whom all things exist, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10). Completion comes through suffering.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth, the beginning of His humiliation was his incarnation and it just goes down… and down… and down… increasingly persecuted and then eventually killed, buried, raised from the dead and ascended to heaven once more to sit at the right hand of the Father. That is the way of growth in the Christian life, through the refining fire of suffering.

But the awful irony is this: That later, David would take a leaf out of Saul’s book, when he arranged to have Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed in battle because he was physically attracted to Bathsheba. He had seen her bathing in the nude from the roof, and he thought “I’ll get her husband bumped-off and then I can have her all to myself”. That was a leaf straight out of Saul’s book on powermongering. Isn’t it remarkable? But how did this happen? Well, so long as David walked with the Lord, he remained with the Lord, and he remained out of trouble. But you’ll see that David virtually brought it on himself because of the state of his life at that time.

The big difference though is this: Saul never did repent. Never at any time did he feel any genuine, lasting remorse for any of his actions. He never repented of what he wanted to do to David, but yet David did repent, and we have it clearly laid out in Psalm 51 in Scripture. That is the crucial difference between a believer and an unbeliever. It is the difference between a true believer and the one who only plays at being a believer.

 Before our conclusion to this message on 1 Samuel 18:1-30, here is a


Saul’s consultation of the witch at En-Dor (1 Samuel 28:7-25) has often proven to be a difficult text for many. Did Saul break God’s law because it was only Samuel who appeared? How could a believer consult a witch? Was it really Samuel who appeared? The questions are many on the lips of many.

Firstly, it must be acknowledged that consulting mediums is contrary to God’s Law (Exodus 22:8; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). The increase of such mediums is a sign of a corrupt and unclean nation. They bring a curse down upon a nation. Sorcerers “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8; 22:15). Was it Really Samuel who appeared? Some have said that it was, that God permitted this in order to bring judgement on Saul. Another more satisfying explanation is that this is a demonic manifestation — as are all alleged spirits of dead people. Some reasons which can be given to show that it could not have been the actual Samuel who appeared are as follows:

1) There is a vast unbridgeable gulf between the living and the dead: “As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore” (Job 7:9-10). “But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).

In Luke 16:19-31, Abraham refuses the rich man’s request to send Lazarus to his father’s house to preach to his remaining brothers: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them”. And it is said there that a great chasm has been fixed between the living and the dead (v.26). Just as there is a gulf fixed between heaven and hell, so there is also one fixed between this place and that of the dead, good or bad.

2) If it had been the real Samuel, it would give credence to the power of a witch and to the effectiveness and usefulness of sorcery. In fact, it would virtually have legitimised sorcery. Would God want that to be the case recorded in His word?

3) If it had been the real Samuel, the apparition would not have been said to have come “out of the earth”.

4) God had never answered Saul by the living prophets or in any other manner (see 1 Samuel 28:6), so why should he do so now with the dead prophet Samuel?

5) The real Samuel would not have received such homage as this from Saul (1 Samuel 28:14), which even angelic spirits have refused (cf. Revelation 19:10; 21:9-10).

6) The apparition only appeared to the witch and not to Saul himself, as is plain from 1 Samuel 28:13-14. Clearly, she conversed with an evil spirit and thus by its assistance pretended to bring up a dead person.

7) If it had been the real Samuel it would lend credence to the reality of ghosts. But alleged ghosts are all about trickery and delusion on the part of demons; for there is an unbridgeable gulf between the living and the dead.

8) If it had been the real Samuel, the prophet would not only have accused Saul of failing to kill Agag (1 Samuel 15:18), but he would also have accused him of consulting a witch instead of the Lord!

9) There is no disturbance (see 1 Samuel 28:15) which could be worked on the departed in heaven by people such as Saul.

10) The real Samuel would not have said to Saul “tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (1 Samuel 28:19). For Saul would surely not go to the same place as Samuel after death (although Jonathan no doubt would). This is a horrible lie of the devil, who continually tries to make all people think that they will go to heaven.

For these reasons, I do not believe that the apparition conjured up by the witch could have been the real Samuel. There is also an important spiritual lesson to be learned here: Demons can speak the truth when it suits their cause. With God’s permission, this demon neatly sets out the reality of Saul’s situation: 1) Abandonment by God; 2) Taking of the kingdom from him and the giving of it to David; 3) Failing to kill Agag; 4) Forecasting defeat in the battle.

Like all demonic entities, his purpose is to make people despair. But you see here how demons are even willing to highlight men’s sins for their own purposes. In the final analysis, it was Saul’s consultation of a witch which was one of the principal reasons for the Lord killing him (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

Yes. That’s right. God kills people. Are you shocked? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Even life itself. So you had better get over it. He is the Potter, and we are the clay (Romans 9:20-21). He moulds as He wishes and discards as He desires. Let that be a major warning to us all.

So ends this excursus on Saul’s consultation with the witch at En-dor.


The question remains: Are you a Saul or a David? You now have enough data to give an intelligent response to that question.

When we sum it all up, we simply have to say that Saul was not a saved man. For there is no evidence of a relationship with the Lord. There is no evidence of learning from his mistakes. There is no evidence that he did anything other than follow his own course in life without any thought for where the Lord wanted him to go and what He wanted him to do.

So when he was confronted with the choice between being tortured by the Philistines and taking his life, he took that latter course. If he had been a believer, what do you think he would have done? His epitaph tells it all:

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a spirit medium for guidance, and he failed to inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse”.1 Chronicles 10:13-14

Saul’s history is the product of that pivotal verse in the First Book of Samuel which says: “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30). As Matthew Henry puts it in his comment on this verse:

“Not only God will lightly esteem them… but they shall be lightly esteemed by all the world; the very honour they are proud of shall be laid in the dust; they shall see themselves despised by all mankind, their names a reproach; when they are gone, their memory shall rot, and, when they rise again, it shall be to everlasting shame and contempt. The dishonour which their impotent malice puts upon God and his omnipotent justice will return upon their own heads”.

Such is the fate of all active atheists — of all those who do not love God and His truth, all those who have open or secret contempt in their hearts for things Divine and for the true people of God.

Saul was a man who professed outwardly a concern for the things of the Lord, but inwardly he was in opposition to the real intent of the Lord. He was for himself rather than the Lord. He was the perennial pretend-believer. The Lord Jesus warned us about these “tares” (or ‘Zizania’, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). The world is full of them, and churches are brimming over with them. Many churches are even run by them! They are the leaders of denominations. They even head up ministries on the internet. And the corridors of political power are clustered with them as they overlay their strange understanding of Christ and the Bible on their bellicose governmental machinations.

Remember this: Sauls always spell trouble for believers. But what the Sauls of this world will never understand is that — by a masterstroke of the Lord — whatever trouble they bring into the lives of true believers, it can only strengthen the faith of those believers. Saul’s persecution of David drove him ever closer into the arms of God. As he says so eloquently in a Psalm, plainly in reference to this Saul-stricken period in his life:

 “In God alone my soul finds rest; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress; I will never be shaken. How long will you threaten a man? Will all of you throw him down like a leaning wall or a tottering fence? They fully intend to cast him down from his lofty perch; they delight in lies; with their mouths they bless, but inwardly they curse. Selah. Rest in God alone, O my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor rest on God, my strong rock; my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge”.Psalm 62:1-8

Not only did David predict the death of Saul in v.3 of that psalm, but he provided us with a model for our devotional life in times of affliction. But be warned: when the Sauls of this world see your increased devotion, they will only increase their malice. In the final analysis, your only defence is to do what David did in his seemingly hopeless situation: To strengthen yourself in the Lord your God, who is your refuge.

Alan Morrison

© Copyright, Alan Morrison, 2023
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