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The Two Sauls: Saul The King of Israel And Saul Of Tarsus

Updated on May 20, 2012

There were two Sauls who played significant roles in the Bible. One Saul is spoken of in the Old Testament, and the other is spoken of in the New Testament. The one in the Old Testament, Saul the King, is probably most remembered as the man who sought to kill David, while Saul of Tarsus, is probably most remembered not as Saul but as Paul the apostle.

These men, besides having the same name, were similar in quite a few ways.

The name Saul means "Prayed for". The meaning of the name is significant because the children of Israel did ask God for a king and Saul was His immediate answer to them.

King Saul was not born a king and neither was Saul of Tarsus born an apostle. Both men were from the tribe of Benjamin and both of them were called by God to become something special. In one's case, it was to become the first king of Israel and in the other's case, it was to become an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ's.

'Saul, Hiding Among The Stuff,' by James Smetham (1866)
'Saul, Hiding Among The Stuff,' by James Smetham (1866)

Saul The King Of Israel

Saul was the son of Kish. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. The Bible says that Saul was a tall, handsome man but he was also a humble man. When Samuel told him that the Lord had chosen him to lead the people, Saul did not understand why he, of all men, was picked.

'David Playing The Harp Before Saul' by Rembrandt
'David Playing The Harp Before Saul' by Rembrandt | Source

Saul was anointed as king of Israel by Samuel, and he was loved by all when it became evident that the Spirit of God was upon him. However, Saul's favor with God did not last very long. The Bible says that Saul's kingship was taken from him because he was disobedient to God and because he knowingly rebelled against God's will.

Just how Saul managed to be disobedient is explained in the first Book of Samuel. Samuel told Saul that he was made king when he was small in his own sight. (See 1 Samuel 15:17) After being made king, Saul began to think more of himself and pride crept in. Therefore it was easier for Saul to see his own judgment as wise and equate it with the judgment of God. In choosing to do what he wished concerning the Amalekites and not what God wished, Saul showed that he valued his decision capabilities over God's.

1 Samuel 15:22

"Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king."

The Spirit of God left him and David was anointed as king in his stead. That was when Saul changed.

The Bible says that King Saul was tormented by an evil spirit and that this spirit was sent by God.

"But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." 1 Samuel 16:14 (K.J.V.)

After that, it was all downhill for Saul. The kingdom was taken from him and given to David and though he tried his best to retain it, he could not fight against the will of God. Saul died in battle but he died by his own spear.

"Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.

So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together." 1 Chronicles 10:4-6 (K.J.V.)

'The Conversion of St. Paul' by Michelangelo Buonarroti
'The Conversion of St. Paul' by Michelangelo Buonarroti | Source

Saul of Tarsus or Paul the Apostle

Saul was a zealot. Of the tribe of Benjamin, he was proud of his heritage and proud of being a Pharisee. Determined to wipe out those who would serve the Lord Jesus Christ, Saul decided to go on a mission to destroy all he could who dared to follow Jesus Christ. The Bible says that he was present at Stephen's stoning and that he held the clothes of those who stoned Stephen.

"And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." Acts 22:20 (K.J.V.)

He was feared by those who followed Christ, and no doubt that his name was on the lips of those believers whose lives were threatened by him when they prayed. Yet God arrested Saul and called him to His service.

He was on his way to Damascus to trouble and torment those who follwed Jesus when Jesus appeared to him on the way and took away his worldly sight in order to give him Godly vision. The proud man was humbled in that instant and he was forever changed.

Saul became known as Paul and he became an apostle of the very same Jesus Christ he had scorned. He went preaching the Gospel far and wide supporting himself by tentmaking and suffered many things and eventual death for the Gospel. His zeal for bloodshed became zeal for the Lord and he did many great things in the name of the Lord. He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. For the rest of his life, he boldly did what was set before him constantly seeking to please God and to do His will in everything.

The two Sauls were very similar and yet very different. One could say that their personalities were similar but at different times in their lives. When Saul the son of Kish was first anointed king, his humility was the blessing which caused him to do the will of God. His pride, which came later, was a hinderence causing him to be blind and deaf to the will of the Lord. The Lord despised him for it (as He despises the sin of pride - See Proverbs Chapter 6) and regretted making him the king. Saul of Tarsus' pride caused him to retaliate against God. His pride had blinded him so much that he could not see that he was fighting with God and not with men. When God opened his eyes, pride fell from him and humility took over. He was able to walk in the will of God and be obedient because he no longer had any pride.

Both men had stature - Saul was king of Israel and Saul was a well known Pharisee.

Both men had humility - Saul at the beginning and Paul at the end.

Both men had pride - Paul at the beginning and Saul at the end.

Both men died fighting - One for his kingdom and one for God's kingdom.

These two Sauls to me, show just how one person can start well and end badly or how one person can start badly and end well. It all has to do with rebellion and submission. It all has to do with the question, 'Whom will ye serve this day?'



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    • profile image

      M.P. Minor 

      2 years ago

      Awesome read providing the description of the two Sauls. Saul the King had pride or was it jealousy of David because he was out to get David. Saul who was called by Jesus Christ in heaven Mark 13:26 would eventually be called Paul use the name of Jesus Christ who saved him but to provide his testimony to others through miracles in the name of Jesus.

    • profile image

      jan McKown 

      2 years ago

      My college book on the New Testament says St. Paul was a 5-star general. His scars mentioned in Galatians were maybe battle scars. Cannot find info on Paul being a soldier.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I'm bless by reading your article thank you so much

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      3 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hello again, lambservant,

      I often think of the two Sauls and their lives. Saul (OT) tried his best to fight against his hate of David but he always sought to end his life. He started out loving David but jealousy took over. There are so many lives in the Bible that show me it is only by the grace of God.

      Thanks for reading and God bless!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I stumbled across this after reading your article on Jonah. The contrast and similarities here are striking. Another interesting topic and very well done.

    • profile image

      The Messenger 

      4 years ago

      Hi followers of Christ. @Eric, Paul performed miracles and preached the gospel of Jesus through the power bestowed on him by Jesus, and not his own power. If that was the case, then he would've performed them and preached before his encounter with Jesus.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you!

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hello Eric,

      I base my claim on Paul's letters to the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Phillipi, Rome, Thessalonica, Galatia etc. He proclaimed Christ in all of those.

      In the Book of Acts it says in Chapter 28 that he preached the kingdom of God and the things which concerned Christ.

      As for Paul not denying that he was a god... he did just that in Acts Chapter 14 when the people were convinced that he was Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus and he was not stoned then for that.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I find it strange that the article claims Saul/Paul did miracles in the Name of Jesus, when in fact, Saul/Paul did these things in his own power without preaching the Name of Jesus. The ONLY account of Saul/Paul using the Name of Jesus to perform miracles or healings or predict the future or avoid death that I can recall was when he cast the spirit of predicting the future from the girl who followed him around annoucing he was a wonderful man come to teach people how to be saved. You would think Saul/Paul would have appreciated that? Peter on the other hand was very careful to preach the Name of Jesus and give credit to Jesus for any miracles. Saul/Paul was not so careful and was more than once mistaken for a god. Saul/Paul did not deny he was a god and accepted gifts from those thinking him to be a god. The one time Saul/Paul denied not being a god, he waited too long to announce this, and the damage was done, and finally he was stoned almost to death.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Am blessed

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Wynn, this knowledge in the Bible. All one simply has to do is read it.

      Thank you for your question.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      where do ou get this knowledge that is not in the bible?

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      8 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Michele,

      Thanks so much for reading. Both Saul and Paul's lives have always intrigued me because both of them changed - one for the better and one for the worse. Pride really can cause man to fall. It is a terrible sin.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      8 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      North Wind, this was a very good teaching on the stories of these two men. Both had pride, but Paul gave his up for God, and Saul died because of his pride. It sort of reminds me of the saying "Pride comes before the fall, and the fall, before destruction." Or something like that. I am not sure it that is the exact way it is said.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      8 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi teaches12345,

      Yes, the two Sauls did have opposite lives. Their similarities were strange, though. Perhaps Paul was even named after King Saul because both were from the tribe of Benjamin and the name Saul would have been an honor to receive as he was the first king of Israel.

      Thanks so much for reading and for the vote up.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      A very detailed and well done comparison on the lives of these two men of the Bible. I see them as almost opposites in all areas of their lives. Paul's writings are so inspirational for me and have helped me through the years to live out my faith. Thanks for posting. Voted up.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      8 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Civil War Bob,

      Ha! Yes I can see how the picture made you think that. I think that it was a little of both. Thank you for reading and for the vote.

      God bless you and yours.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      8 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi gingerka,

      Yes I think that pride is one of the easiest sins that we can fall prey to. I too, will submit.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      8 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thanks Faith Reaper. Take care and God bless you!

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      8 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Good hub, North Wind...voted up, useful, and interesting. Your picture of David playing before Saul made me think that Saul was also a music critic with a bad aim when he threw his spear at David! Or David had great reflexes! Enjoy your day.

    • gingerka profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado

      Pride is a dangerous thing and can certainly cause havoc in our lives. That is a hard lesson to learn. I will submit to and serve the Lord.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      8 years ago from southern USA

      Amen on that question for sure! Very interesting hub and great topic. In His Love, Faith Reaper


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