Israel’s first king.
I always considered Saul a dodgy sort of a character, but always enjoyed reading about him and hearing about him. Most of what I remember was with his dealings with David.
It’s probably not surprising that those are the parts of Saul’s life we normally focus on, because when you read about his earlier life as King, there are some very bizarre and disturbing things that crop up in scripture.
In Ch 11 Nahash the Ammonite besieged Jabesh-gilhead. Jabesh attempted to come to an arrangement with Nahash, which didn’t go too well, as all Nahash offered were eye gougings for everyone in return for sparing their lives. The elders of Nahash, unbelievably, request a week to go away and see if they can find someone who will deliver them from Nahash, agreeing to return to them for their eye gougings if they can’t.
Even more dumbfounding Nahash agrees to this!
Let’s try to make sense of this shall we? Nahash has won and has beaten Jabesh and he really wants to make them suffer. Let’s for a moment imagine this is taking place in a schoolyard. The bully Nahash has just beaten up a group of Jabeshi juniors and wants to continue to inflict suffering on them. One of the juniors then asks for permission to go and get the teacher to come and deal with him. The bully allows it, knowing full well ifa teacher is found, then he is in serious trouble.
Doesn’t really make sense does it? But we are expected to believe this really did happen.
Luckily for the people of Jebesh-gilhead, they do manage to get themselves a deliverer in the form of King Saul. In verse 6 the spirit of the lord then comes upon Saul and he becomes furious at what has happened to Jabesh.
Now hold on just one cotton-picking minute. The spirit of the lord made Saul furious? How can this be so? The spirit of the Lord is holy and wrath is most definitely not holy, it’s a sin, so how can the spirit of the Lord cause Saul to sin?
After some violent outbursts of anger, dismembering of cattle and making nasty threats to anyone who doesn’t join him, Saul delivers the Jabesh-gilheadians from the Ammonites with his army of terrified soldiers.
Well, I would think twice before I followed a man who had psychotic outbursts like Saul did. One would have to question whether he was worthy to be king.
The more disturbing parts of the story of King Saul come in chapter 15 and these points are well documented by sceptics of the bible.
In verse three, we see a scripture that many claim makes the God of the Old Testament evil. God commands Saul to invade Amalek and kill everything including women, children, and even their animals.
No matter how much you justify God’s behaviour, there is certainly no good reason for him to want to mass slaughter children and animals. Either the God of the Old Testament really is an evil being or God did not demand this mass slaughter. If it is not God, then the bible is wrong to say it was. If this scripture is wrong, then how much more of the bible is wrong and just how reliable is it?
As Christians, we are taught that God is omniscient. He knows all that is going to happen, so nothing should ever be a surprise to him. As Christians, we believe that God is always right and that everything he does is righteous. He doesn’t make mistakes. But yet in verse 10 of chapter 15, we see that God has made a mistake and he even admits to it. It tells us that the lord regretted making Saul King
So is God as infallible as we think? Perhaps “regretted” means something else instead? If so, then we have a mistranslation. If we do have a misinterpretation here, then how many other misinterpretations are there and how can we really rely on what we have?
Probably one of the most disturbing factors in the story of Saul is in chapter 16, verse 14, is when the Lord sends an evil spirit to terrorise Saul. What does this mean? Does it mean God controls the evil spirits and commands them to do their evil work?
Whether he is in charge of the evil spirits or not, for him to do something like that is surely a reprehensible act on his part and puts him in down alongside the devil and his minions. Either that or the bible is wrong and it wasn’t the lord who sent the evil spirits, but perhaps the devil himself. Either way it does not look good for the word of God.
It is hard to escape the apparent evil that God commits in the life of Saul. Well actually, it is easy to escape if we turn a blind eye to it, but looking at it critically we have to ask some serious questions. Is God evil or is the scripture inaccurate? Mistranslation or downright error? I’ll let you conclude the answer for yourself.