Did God Forgive King Saul? Was King Saul Evil?

Question from a Site Viewer

Was King Saul forgiven after God removed His Spirit?

Why did God not listen to King Saul anymore? He removed his Spirit from him. Why? Did God forgive King Saul? If not, why?

Tim’s Answer

Thank you for your question. The tragic story of King Saul is set in Scripture as a contrast to the story of King David. Saul was anointed by God to be king over all of Israel. But he was of a disobedient mind.

When Samuel, the prophet and priest of God, told Saul to wait for him for a sacrifice, Saul waited seven days and then took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-9). As you likely know, once the priesthood of Aaron was instituted, only priests were authorized to offer burnt offering according to a ritual set forth in Leviticus 1. Saul’s sacrifice was a direct affront to the commands of God and Samuel called him on this disobedience (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

Thereafter, God told Saul to wipe out the Amalekites and everything they had. Saul saved the king of Amalek and the livestock (1 Samuel 15:9). Again, Samuel confronts Saul about his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Saul then adds to his sins of disobedience by murdering the priests of God (1 Samuel 22:11-18). So, when Saul tells Samuel in 1 Samuel 27:15 that God does not answer him anymore, this is not the statement of a righteous person seeking to find God but finding God non-responsive. Rather, this is a statement by a person who is known for his disobedience to the commands of God and who has not sought God. In other words, it is a lie.

If Saul had sought God like Manasseh did (2 Chronicles 33:12-13), I have no doubt but that God would have responded. God even responded to wicked king Ahab when Ahab humbled himself (1 Kings 21:27-29). But Saul never sought God. There were no words of Saul’s going towards God to which God could have listened. God’s summary of Saul’s life is found in 1 Chronicles 10:13 where God says:

So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD, therefore He (the LORD) killed him (emphasis added).

1 Chronicles 10:13 (NKJV)

The disobedience that marked Saul’s life caused, I believe, God to remove His Spirit from Saul. I note that Saul’s disobedience existed even when God’s Spirit was on Saul’s life. In 1 Samuel 10:6, Samuel tells Saul that the Spirit of the LORD will come on him and he will be turned into a different man. This happens in 1 Samuel 10:9 when God gave Saul a different heart. Again, in 1 Samuel 11:6, the Spirit of God came upon Saul. But the Spirit of God departed from Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14.

This is an interesting study, because after the Spirit of God came on Saul and after he was given a different heart and was a different person, he still disobeyed God in significant ways. Disobedience was bound up in Saul and not even the Spirit’s presence was enough encouragement to lead him to obey. God makes it very clear; God’s rejection of Saul was because Saul had rejected the word of the LORD (1 Samuel 15:23). The Spirit of God will not dwell in a disobedient heart.

You ask whether God forgave Saul. There is no indication in Scripture that God forgave Saul. I think the reason is clear. There is no indication in Scripture that Saul ever sought God’s forgiveness.

God forgives when we confess and forsake our sins. As Solomon states, the one who confesses and forsakes sin will have mercy (Proverbs 28:13). Humility leads to God’s blessings, but pride leads to our fall.

I think Saul is the story of one destroyed by his own pride. In 1 Samuel 15:17, Samuel notes that when Saul was little in his own eyes, God anointed him as king. Samuel notes this as a past frame of mind. That was not Saul’s present frame of mind. While in 1 Samuel 15:24-25, 30, there is a confession by Saul of his sin; it appears to me that this is the confession of one who got caught (much like Achan in Joshua 7:19-21), and not the desire of a man to come clean before God. I think the real motive is found in 1 Samuel 15:30; Saul confessed because he desperately wanted to be honored before the people. He was not as concerned about God. Samuel’s reactions to Saul lead me to conclude that Samuel understood Saul’s repentance was a sham, and not genuine. Thus, we can well understand God’s summary statement of Saul in 1 Chronicles 10:13 that he was an unfaithful man.

Obedience is a path to God’s blessings. Disobedience is a path to God’s judgment. Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 sets this truth out perhaps more succinctly than anywhere else in Scripture. But it is a message found throughout Scripture. I note that even Paul speaks in these terms, telling King Agrippa that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19; see also Romans 1:5; 16:26). The writer of Hebrews uses this same concept when addressing those to whom salvation comes (Hebrews 5:9). And God’s judgment still comes on those who do not obey (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

I trust this helps. Saul’s life is a sober reminder to us of the call of Jesus for us to keep His commandments.

May the Lord Jesus and His spirit guide you in doing His will.

A servant,

knowing vs doing

Check out our related article: Sin and Repentance

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