Saul of Gibeah, and Saul of Tarsus
1 Samuel 31:1-13
Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.…

It is instructive to compare the characters of different men with each other. This is done by Plutarch in his Lives of celebrated Greeks and Romans; and it may be done with advantage in the case of some of the characters described in the Scriptures. There was an interval of a thousand years between Saul of Gibeah and Saul of Tarsus) "who also is called Paul" (Acts 13:9). But if we look at them attentively, "and examine the several parts of their lives distinctly, as we do a poem or a picture" (Plutarch), we shall find in these two illustrious Hebrews, the one under the Old Covenant, the other under the New -

I. RESEMBLANCE in their -

1. Ancestral relation, religious privileges, and outward circumstances. Both belonged to "the tribe of Benjamin" (Acts 13:21; Philippians 3:5), received the name of Saul when "circumcised the eighth day," were brought up "under the law," after early years of obscure diligence held important public posi tions, - the one as first king of Israel, the other as a "chosen vessel" unto the Lord, to bear his name "before the Gentiles, and kings, and the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15), - lived a long life (over sixty years), and died a sudden and violent death.

2. Natural qualities: passionate, impulsive, warlike, zealous, daring even to rash ness, resolute, persistent; inherited from their common ancestor, of whom it was said, "Benjamin as a wolf shall ravin," etc. (Genesis 49:27); and characteristic of their tribe, as appears in Ehud (Judges 3:15). The Apostle of the Gentiles, "in the prompt audacities of his apostolic career, does not allow us to forget of what tribe he was."

3. Sudden conversion: the one on the way to Gibeah, on beholding "a company of the prophets" (ch. 10.); the other on the way to Damascus, overcome by the glorious revelation of the Lord (Acts 9.), whose followers he was persecuting; a startling surprise to all, and the commencement of a different course of life. "Is Saul also among the prophets? They were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple."

4. Energetic enterprises, to which they were called by the Divine Spirit, on behalf of the kingdom of God against its adversaries; in the one case with the sword, in the other with the word (ch. 11.; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:1-3).

II. CONTRAST in still more numerous particulars. They were the opposite of each other; as in physical appearance and mental culture, so also in their -

1. Extraordinary change, which in the one was partial, superficial, and temporary; in the other complete, deep, and enduring.

2. Real character. The one lived unto himself, and did not freely and fully surrender himself to the Divine will; the other lived unto the Lord, not being disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19; Galatians 1:16; Philippians 1:21).

3. Gradual progress: in the one case, after brilliant promise, downward, in "pride, caprice, jealousy, cruelty, excusive avenging of himself, and at last open contempt and defiance of God;" in the other upward, in heavenly mindedness, spiritual power, and higher usefulness.

4. Fierce persecution. "The second Saul for a while followed only too faithfully in the footsteps of the first. If the one persecuted David, the other, with an energy of hate that did not fall short of his, David's greater Son. Presently, however, their lives divide, and one is the Saul of reprobation, the other of election" (Trench). The latter began where the former ended (Galatians 1:23), and became himself an object of the persecution in which he once shared.

5. Representative relation. The one represented, embodied, and pro moted what was worst in his tribe and nation, the other what was best.

6. Tragical end: the one in despair by his own hand, the other in glorious hope as a martyr of Christ (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

7. Lasting memorial: the one is a warning, the other is a pattern (1 Timothy 1:16; Philippians 3:17). The second Saul was "the likeness in the Christian Church" not so much of what the first was as of "what he might have been - the true David, restorer and enlarger of the true kingdom of God upon earth" (Stanley).


1. Religious advantages and eminent positions are of no real benefit unless they be rightly used.

2. The natural qualities which make one man a power for evil, make another, when sanctified, a power for good.

3. The heart must be right with God in order to a proper use of his gifts and a worthy course of life. "If the heart be not upright, whatever favourable beginnings there may be, there cannot be a uniform perseverance in goodness or any happy conclusion" (Robinson).

4. Divine grace when persistently resisted is withdrawn, leaving the soul a prey to the "evil spirit;" when humbly and faithfully received, is followed by more grace.

5. In proportion as a man lives to himself or to God he becomes weak, sinful, and miserable, or strong, holy, and happy.

6. There is no standing still in moral life; if men do not become better they infallibly become worse.

7. As a man lives so he dies. "Think of the end of Saul of Gibeah, and learn in time to be wise." Think of the end of Saul of Tarsus, and "be faithful unto death." - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.

WEB: Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain on Mount Gilboa.

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