Saul – Short of the Task

A lack of spiritual susceptibility was at the root of Saul’s failures.[1] His ingenuous character, only at introduction, provided tremendous growth potential towards serving God through kingship over Israel, but he clearly fell short of the task.

With the exception of Samuel, Saul is more easily compared to the Judges that preceded him rather than the Kings that came after him. The Judges were used as temporary deliverance for Israel, and God used Saul much in the same manner.[2] Although Saul was the first king of Israel, he was not part of God’s chosen dynasty, which was introduced in King David.[3]

Contrasting Foundations

Spiritual upbringing must be considered when contrasting foundations between Saul and David. They both existed during a time when the Israelites were still influenced by old religious concepts. Canaanite polytheism was unrestrained in Israel, which possibly resulted in a very tentative monotheism.[4] It is evident that Saul’s foundation was steeped within this environment and it affected his lack of spiritual growth greatly. This is seen in Saul’s irreverence and disregard of what God expected of him as King.

In contrast to Saul, David’s roots were apparently spiritual, even amongst the cultural backdrop of the times. God preserved families of faith through the seemingly spiritual drought documented in Judges. God’s preservation of faith is witnessed in the book of Ruth, of which is David’s ancestry. Robert Hubbard pointed out, the preservation of this family shares many motifs with God’s preservation of the patriarchs.[5]

Many other contrasts can be drawn between Saul and David. Some are quite easily seen while others require a deeper character study. Most of these contrasts, however are spiritually rooted as all things are. It’s what defines the difference between Saul’s lack of guilt and King David’s repentant heart. Spirituality was the threshold of judge and kingship in which Samuel was the transition.[6]


We cannot be so favorable to King David as to not mention the similarities between the two. Like us, both were human, fully under the consequences of the fall.

David, at times much like Saul, allowed his emotions to direct his actions. They both plotted out the killing of innocents in order to protect agenda and self. (1 Sam. 22:11-19; 2 Sam. 11:6-21). They both did not consider the consequences of their actions many times. They both lied which cost people their lives and both of them fell prey to their pride. Ultimately, they both experienced the consequence of their actions directly from God.[7] Unfortunately for Saul, spirituality and love for God was the one similarity that they did not share. It is unfortunate for Saul, because that is the root of it all.

A Contrite and Repentant Heart

It is the character of David that we all would prefer to be, but we all tend to sway back and forth between the two. The tension between both David and Saul is fought in our hearts and minds everyday. The difference lies in a contrite and repentant heart. (Ps. 51:17)

[1]. Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, ©2009), 262.

[2]. Hill and Walton, 263

[3]. Ibid., 259

[4]. Ibid., 245

[5]. Ibid., 251-252

[6]. Ibid., 261

[7]. Ibid., 273-274