Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Fifth Study.—The Reign of Saul.

[The material of this " study " is furnished by Professors Beecher and Burroughs. by Professor Harper.]



1. Those students whose time is limited may omit the sixth "study," and divide the present one into the two parts indicated by the two parts of the Biblical Lesson.

2. The present "study" should be considered, not so much in its details, as in its unity. The student should exercise the synthetic method, as distinguished from the analytic.1 An opportunity is afforded in its use to do what has not been done sufficiently in Bible-study, viz., rise from the variety, through induction, to grasp the unity.

3. The present "study" is a biographical one. The revelation found in the Scriptures, and in the Old Testament in particular, is concrete. Its teaching is through life. Practical instruction is found, not so much in deductions from the narrative, as in the narrative itself. One should place himself in the atmosphere of Bible-life, under the play of concrete Scripture teaching, and note the effect.

4. This "study" affords good opportunity for constructive work, in a limited way and sphere, in Biblical Theology. What were the religious conceptions and beliefs of the times of Saul and David ? What were their personal conceptions and beliefs ?2

5. This "study" also emphasizes the need of a knowledge of biblical geography and the true method of obtaining this knowledge, viz., by studying the geography of the Bible in connection with historical personages and historical movements. Let the text be read with a map in hand.


1. Prepare for recitation 1 Sam. 13:1-31:13, including the account

(1) of the first part of the reign of Saul, ch. 11 (review) and 13:1,2;3

(2) of the second part, after Jonathan was grown to be a warrior, including

(a) the great Philistine invasion, 13:3-23,

(b) the battle of Michmash, 14:1-46,

(c) the general statements in 14:47-52,

(d) the Amalekite war, 15:1-85;

(3) of Saul's relations to Samuel (see last "study");

(4) of the Philistine wars in the third part of Saul's reign, 14:52; 17:1-58 (cf. 1 Chron. 11:12-14); 18:25-30; 19:8; 23:1-5,27; 24:1; 28:4; 29:1; 31.

2. Read the remaining parts of 1 Sam. 16:1-31:13, and study the account

(1) of of Saul's evil spirit, 16:14-23; 18:10,11; 19:9,10;

(2) of the anointing of David, 16:1-13;

(3) of the more important incidents of Saul's relations to David, 18:1-27:12;4

(4) of the witch of Endor, 28:1-25;

(5) of Saul's death, 31:1-2 Sam. 1:27.5


A. In connection with the first part of the Biblical Lesson:—

1. The Hebrews. 13:4,7; see also 4:6,9; 13:19; 14:11,21;29:3; and consult further the concordance.

(1) By whom, in general, is the name employed ? What contrast does it imply ?

(2) Is it a patronymic (Gen. 10:21,24)? or a derivative from the Hebrew word signifying beyond? If the latter, what is its meaning ?

(3) Compareits use with Israel, Israelite; see concordance.

2. Moab. 14:47; 22:3,4.

(1) What was the location, and what the territory of the Moabites?

(2) Their character as a people, e. g., as contrasted with the Ammonites (14:47; see f6urth "study")?

(3) Their relations, in general, with Israel? See concordance and dictionary.

3. Edom. 14:47; 21:7; 22:9,18. Answer (1), (2), (3), as above.

4. Amalek. 15:2; 14:48; 27:8; 30:1; 2 Sam. 1:8.

(1) Origin?

(2) Location?

(3) Previous relation to Israel? See Ex. 17:8-16; Num. 14:45; 24:20; Jud. 3:13; 6:3, etc.

(4) Later history ?6

5. The Kenites. 15:6; 27:10; 30:29. Answer (1), (2), (3), as above, from concordance.


(1) Observe the R. V. marginal readings from the LXX. (see Third "Study") on 13:1; 14:18; 17:6; and especially 17:12; 28:16.

(2) Note further readings, e. g., those mentioned in Kirkpatrick's 1 Sam. on 13:15; 14:7,14,16,24,41,42,etc.; and see, in particular, Note VI., p. 241, on text of chs. 17 and 18.

7. Character of Saul and Jonathan.

(1) State the blemishes and faults discoverable in Saul's religious character as seen (a) in 14:18,19, and (b) in 14:24 in connection with 14:31-35 and 14:36b-44.

(2) Contrast the character thus disclosed with that of Jonathan as shown in 14:6,8-12,28-30,43.

(3) Distinguish, in regard to each, between what appears to be the result of the surrounding religious atmosphere and what appears to be the outcome of personal traits.

8. Saul's Sins.

(1) The sin described in 13:8-14. Did Saul personally perform the sacrifice ? What was the relation of Israel's king to the prophet of Jehovah? Does this relation cast light on the sin of Saul? How?7

(2) Compare Saul's sin of ch. 15 with 13:8-14, and show the change for the worse in Saul's character in the interval.

9. Samuel and Saul.

(1) Samuel's conception of religion as shown in 15:22,23 and 24-29, as contrasted with Saul's.

(2) The development of this conception of heart service as distinguished from external ceremonial in the later prophets; e. g., Amos 5:21-24; Hos. 6:6; add passages from Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and show their application to the times of these several prophets. 

(3) Contrast Saul's feelings toward Samuel, to be inferred from 15:30 and 28:15, with Samuel's toward Saul, 15:10,11,35; 16:1, and draw inferences as to the depth of character of each.

B. In connection with the second part of the Biblical Lesson:—

1. Saul's Evil Spirit. Study the passages cited, and decide, if possible, as to the malady and its cause.

2. The Witch of Endor.

(1) Study with care the expressions of the narrative, 28:3-25.

(2) Ascertain the various opinions regarding it.8

(3) Decide as to which opinion is most reasonable.

3. Relations of Saul and David. 18:1-27:12.

(1) State concisely and in order the events in the life of David from the time of his flight from the court of Saul until the latter's death.

(2) Describe the court life of Saul as disclosed by 13:2; 16:19-23; 18:10,11(spear ?); 22:6, etc.

(3) Show the educating force of events in the life of David,

(a) at home,

(b) at court,

(c) in his life of wandering. State particulars.

4. David, Saul and Jonathan.

(1) Compare David in his religious views and character

(a) with Saul; see 17:26,36,45-47; 18:17; 19:18-24; 19:4-7; 24:16-22; 26:9-12; chs. 19-25;

(b) with Jonathan; see 20:8,11-16,22, etc.; complete passages (see topic A, 7, (2)).

(2) Compare Saul with Jonathan; state passages.

(3) Contrast the extent to which each lived up to his convictions.

(4) Endeavor to distinguish between such religious opinions and traits in these three men as were common to their time and such as were individual.

5. Religious Condition of the Times. Form some general conception of the religious condition and thought of the times from the above topic (4.), and also from 16:1-6; 19:18-24; 19:13 (cf. 15:23, teraphim ?); 20:18,24-29; 21:1-9; 22:6-19, and other statements, e. g., 23:6; 30:26; 25:26-31; 2 Sam. 1:12,14, etc.

C. In connection with the Biblical Lesson as a whole:—

1. Comparison of Pentateuch-passages. Compare the following passages with those cited, in connection with each, from the Pentateuch:

(1) 14:32 with Gen. 9:4; Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-14; 19:26; Deut. 12:16,23,24;

(2) 19:5 with Deut. 19:10-13;

(3) 20:26 with Lev. 7:20,21;

(4) 21:6 with Lev. 24:5-9;

(5) 28:3 with Lev. 19:31; 20:27; Deut. 18:10 seq.;

(6) 30:24,25 with Num. 31:27. Give results.

2. Special Difficulties. Note, and, if possible, explain

(1) 16:19 seq. as compared with ch. 17,9

(2) 23:19-24:22 as compared with ch. 26,10

(3) the apparent moral difficulties in 15:3;11 16:2,3; 19:13,14; 20:6; 21:2; 27:10,11; 29:8;

(4) state some of the principles which should be adopted in dealing with what may seem to be moral difficulties in the Scripture records.

3. Friendship of David and Jonathan.

(1) Note the facts of this friendship, and

(2) compare it with other remarkable friendships, of somewhat like character, disclosed either in classical or later literature and history.

4. Poetical Passages.

(1) Cast the prediction 15:22,23 into the poetic form; see 2 Sam. 1:19-27 in the R. V.;12 and

(2) point out and characterize the parallelisms, e. g., synonymous, synthetic, antithetic.

(3) Make a more complete study of Hebrew poetry in connection with the Bowsong of David, 2 Sam. 1:18-27;13 characterize it briefly

(a) in itself,

(b) as distinguished from the poetry of other tongues.

5. Saul's Reign as a Whole.

(1) Its character;

(2) As influenced by his personal character;

(3) A preparation, good and bad, for the reign of David.


1. In connection with part 1 of the Biblical Lesson, point out Gibeah; Bethlehem; Saul's route in and after the Amalekite war.

2. In connection with part 2, identify, as far as possible, the localities referred to in the wanderings of David, chs. 21-30; also describe the plain of Esdraelon and the valley of Jezreel; the movements of the Philistines, and those of David, in connection with the battle of Gilboa, 28:1-2; 29; 30:1; 31:7,10.


1. According to Acts 13:21Saul reigned forty years. This accords with all the known facts in the case, without making the forty years overlap any part of the time of either Samuel or David. The numbers given by Josephus must either be made to fit this state of things or be rejected. Apparently Saul is described as a young man, somewhat under the tutelage of his trusty servant, when he comes to the kingdom, 1 Sam. chs. 9,10. The tradition (or conjecture) incorporated into the R.V., 13:1,makes him to have been thirty years old, which is possible. At the time of his death, his grandson, Mephibosheth, was five years old; and one of his younger sons, Ish-bosheth, was forty years old, 2 Sam.4:4; 2:10. It follows that Jonathan must have been a little child in the second year of his father's reign, and that the interval of time between the event recorded in 13:2and that recorded in the next verse was long enough for the growing up of the child into a warrior.

2. The three parts of Saul's reign embrace, first, the time when we may presume him to have been in amicable relations with Samuel; second, the time during which their relations were disturbed; and third, the time after their relations were broken off, 15:35. The first probably lasted until Jonathan was grown. After the second year, we have no account of it except that in 13:1,2, unless possibly, it included some of the wars mentioned in 14:47,48. All we are told is that Saul stationed 1000 men " with Jonathan," the little crown-prince, at his home in Gibeah, while Saul himself, with 2,000 more, reigned from a military camp near by. Doubtless Samuel largely controlled the policy of the government. That it was prosperous we may infer from the magnitude of the preparations made by the Philistines for attacking Israel, 13:5.14 That the time was peaceful we may perhaps infer from the fact of prosperity and from the silence of the narrative.15

3. The account of the second part of Saul's reign begins with 13:3. For some reason the Philistines have established a post at Geba, and Jonathan precipitates the war by attacking it. Owing to disagreements between Samuel and Saul (13:8-15) the army of Israel apparently dispersed without a battle, and the Philistines disarmed and plundered the country, 13:17-23. This condition of things perhaps lasted some years, and was followed by the battle of Michmash and then by a series of wars. There is no note as to the duration of this part of Saul's reign, except that the third part lasted while David was growing from a stripling to thirty years of age, 16:11,18,and ch. 17,compared with 2 Sam. 5:4. So far as appears, this last third of Saul's reign was a time of misgovernment and disaster, the record dealing mainly with Saul's attempts against David, alternating with Philistine campaigns.

4. The representation that there was a priestly and a prophetic party in Israel, opposing each other, the one favoring Saul and the other favoring David, has no ground in the statements of the Bible. Both the priests and the prophets favored David, and both were loyal to Saul, 19:18; chs. 21, 22.

5. Saul's symptoms in connection with his evil spirit are those of insanity. Whether the term evil spirit is to be regarded as merely a descriptive phrase for insanity, or as describing a personal agent who caused the insane symptoms, is another question.


1. Show how solicitations to evil accompany even opportunities for getting good and doing good.

2. Show the undermining influence of single sins.

3. Show how the moral man is in danger because he is a moral man and not spiritual.



1) See Briggs, " Bible Study," p. 13 seq.

2) Ibid., p. 390 seq. Biblical Theology.

3) The technical translation of 13:1 is "Saul was a year old in his reigning." This is the earliest instance where the phrase "in his reigning" occurs. In all the subsequent instances it clearly means " when he began to reign." But this instance may have been written before the technical meaning became attached to the phrase. At all events, the sense requires a different meaning here, namely, that given in the old English version. The defeat of Nahash occurred just at the close of Saul's first year, and at the beginning of the second year he made the arrangements described.—W. J. B.

Another interpretation would understand the text of this phrase to have become corrupt.—W. R. H.

4) These chapters are so full and graphic in their descriptions that their study will not occupy the time which might be supposed. Their contents will fasten themselves upon the mind. They afford opportunity for the exercise of the imagination, an important element in Bible-study.

5) On the topics covered in this Biblical Lesson, see Smith, "Dict.," vol. 1, art. David, first part; vol. 4, art. Saul,—both by Dean Stanley; McClintock & Strong, vol. 2, art. David, first part; vol. 9, art. Saul; Stanley, "Jewish Church," lects. 21, 22, Saul, The Youth of David; Geikie, vol. 3, pp. 92-122; Delitzsch, "Hist. of Redemption," p. 84 seq.; Blaikie, "Bible History," pp. 222-239; von Orelli, p. 148 seq.; Oehler, "O. T. Theology," ? 164, ? 194seq., etc.

6) See a valuable summary in Young's Concordance.

7) On the relation of the monarchy to the theocracy see especially Ewald, " History of Israel," vol. 3, p. 4 seq.

8) See Kirkpatrick's 1 Sam., Note VIII., p. 244, for a valuable summary of the evidence and of opinions.

9) See, in particular, Note VI., p. 241, Kirkpatrick's 1 Sam.

10) Ibid., Appendix, Note VII.

11) See on this command Ibid., Note V., p. 240.

12) See Smith, Schaff-Herzog, arts. Poetry, Hebrew.

13) See Briggs, "Biblical Study," ch. 9, Hebrew Poetry.

14) These numbers are credible on the supposition that the Philistines, in order to overcome the power of Israel, now growing so rapidly as to endanger his neighbors, had formed a confederacy with other peoples, perhaps including those mentioned in 14:47. The accounts of successive Hittite leagues, found in the Egyptian and Assyrian writings, show that there is no improbability in this supposition.—W. J. B. According to another view the numerals are altogether wrong.

15) It is not fair to understand from 14:52 that the Philistine wars began with Saul's reign or before, but only that, after they had once begun, they continued to the end of his reign. Cf. 7:13and Jud. 14:17.

16) This "study" abounds in patent practical lessons. It is almost superfluous to make suggestions in this direction.