Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Hebrew for postulatus , referring probably to the petition mentioned in 1 Samuel 8:5 .

The first King of Israel, the son of Cis of the tribe of Benjamin (ix, 1, 2). Waiving critical discussion of the parallel, though often divergent, sources underlying 1 Samuel , suffice it to say that the narrative of the life and times of Saul is constructed from two traditional accounts, each of which has its particular viewpoint. This appears especially in the divergent accounts relative to the circumstances attending the election of Saul and his fall from Divine favour. The prophet Samuel, who is counted as the last of the great Judges of Israel, was growing old and the administration of civic and religious affairs had been confided to his sons. These proved unfaithful to their trust and the people being dissatisfied petitioned Samuel to select a king to rule over them after the manner of the other nations. Samuel resents this request, and the Lord, though affirming it to be an offence against Himself, a virtual rejection of the theocratic regime, nevertheless instructs the prophet to accede to the demands of the people. Samuel informs them of the Lord's displeasure and predicts the retributory evils that will come upon them through the exactions of the future king ( 1 Samuel 8 ). The choice of the new ruler is determined by a providential incident. Saul, in quest of his father's strayed asses, happens to consult Samuel the "seer" in the hope of obtaining information as to their whereabouts. The prophet assures him of their safety, and after entertaining Saul, reveals to him his mission with regard to the Chosen People and anoints him king. Forthwith Saul's heart is changed, and to the surprise of many he prophesies in the midst of the company of prophets ( 1 Samuel 10:10 ). A month after these events the newly-chosen king, who had hitherto refrained from asserting his royal prerogatives, justifies his election by defeating the Ammonites and delivering Jabes Galaad. Later he engages in war with the Philistines and being in straits, he presumes to offer the holocaust because of Samuel's unexplained delay in arriving on the scene. For this usurpation of the priestly function he is reproved by the prophet and already the end of his kingdom is announced ( 1 Samuel 13 ).

Illustrative of the composite character of the narrative is the fact that an entirely different motive for his rejection is given in chapter xv, viz. his failure to carry out fully the command of the Lord to utterly destroy the tribe of Amalec. Consequently upon the Lord's disfavour Samuel is directed to anoint David to be a king "after God's own heart," and though merely a shepherd boy he is taken into Saul's household. The many graphic incidents connected with Saul's jealousy and persecution of David are narrated in 1 Samuel 18-27 . The narrative goes on to relate how on the occasion of a new invasion by the Philistines, Saul being now forsaken by Yahweh and still seeking superhuman guidance, has recourse to a witch living at Endor. Through her mediation the spirit of Samuel, who in the meantime had passed to his reward, is recalled. The departed prophet reproaches Saul for his infidelity and announces his impending fate at the hands of the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 28 ). The fulfilment of this dire prediction is related in the final chapter of the First Book of Kings. Saul and his forces are overwhelmed by the Philistines ; the valiant Jonathan and his brothers are slain in the battle, and the king, fearing lest he fall into the hands of the uncircumcised, begs his armour bearer to take his life. The latter, fearing to lay hands on the Lord's anointed, refuses, and Saul being in desperate straits ends his life by falling on his own sword. His head was cut off by the victorious Philistines and sent as a trophy to the various towns of their country, while his body and those of his sons were hung on the walls of Bethsan, but the inhabitants of Jabes Galaad hearing of these things came in the night, and removing the bodies carried them to their own town and burnt them there burying their ashes in the neighbouring woods ( 1 Samuel 31 ). Achinoam is mentioned as the wife of Saul ( 1 Samuel 14:50 ). Three of his sons perished with him ( 1 Samuel 31:2 ), and another, Isboseth, who endeavoured to continue the dynasty of his father's house, was assassinated by two captains of his own army ( 2 Samuel 5:6 ). Thus was removed the last obstacle to the accession of King David.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:32--5:8
32 Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:10-17
10 One Sabbath day he was teaching in one of the synagogues,11 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2016 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was ... Read More