Saul was 30 when he takes the crown and lives another 42 years.
Saul’s son, Jonathan, leads a raid that destroys a Philistine military outpost, and it brings war. The Philistines bring out their army and the numbers are probably an exaggeration, as most ancient stories of battles include inflated numbers, but the point being that the Israelites are outnumbered.
So Saul’s sitting around with the army at Gilgal waiting to get the blessing of Yahweh, but Samuel is late. And when Sam doesn’t show, the army starts to desert. So Saul kills some animals himself and offers them to God, and then Sam shows up.
Sam: You didn’t follow the commandments of God. Only a Levitical priest is supposed to offer a sacrifice to the Lord.
Okay, technically, you’re not a Levite, Sam, so you shouldn’t be offering sacrifices either, and offerings were supposed to be made at the altar in the Tabernacle, and not in the high places or all willy nilly. God was pretty specific about where he wanted those critters killed, so you haven’t really been obeying the commands of God either.
But apparently, it’s super double-plus not okay for the king to take on priestly functions, so Sam promises that Saul is going to lose the kingdom because God would rather have it run by a warlord who will rape a woman and murder her husband, but knows his place when it comes to the cult of Yahweh. Spoiler alert.
And the Philistine subjugation of Israel was so complete at the time that Israel had no proper weapons, save for Saul and Jonathan. Everyone else was brining farm tools.
Ooooo… I wonder if the scrappy underdogs will be able to defeat the overwhelming favorites in this fight.
So, Jonathan is hanging out in camp with his armor bearer and gets bored.
Jon: Hey, let’s go over to the Philistine garrison. Don’t tell dad.
So they go over and the Philistines are on the hill and see them coming. So Jon says, “So if there’s a God and He’s on our side, He can like do anything, right? So if those guards up there say, “We’re coming down to you” we’ll know that God isn’t going to do anything, but if they say, “come up to us” then we’re going to charge and kill them all because God will be with us.”
Armorbearer: I don’t see how your conclusion follows from your faulty premises, but sure, let’s do that.
So the Philistines invite Jon to come up to them, and he kills 20 of them.
Philistines: We were… just going… to ask you… to join us… for… tea… Ack!
There’s a big uproar, maybe an earthquake, Philistines freak out and start killing each other for some reason. Saul sees it and says, “Hey, who is over there winning this war?” They count everyone and Jon is missing. So Saul gets up and takes the army and joins the killing, and Israelites come out of their homes and hiding places to join in.
Saul: Cursed is the man who eats any food before nightfall.
Soldier: Dude? Really? Do you know how much energy you spend fighting? You really think not eating is going to help us kill more Philistines?
Saul: I don’t see a problem.
So all of the Jewish soldiers are getting tired and hungry and worn out, and they’re drooling over some honey just lying on the ground in a pool. Jon wasn’t around to hear his dad’s order, so he takes some honey.
Soldier: You’re dad said not to do that under penalty of death.
Jon: That was stupid. We’re all tired and hungry and if we had eaten, we could have kept killing Philistines all day.
So the soldiers are apparently so hungry, that as night falls, they just start slaughtering the animals the Philistines left behind and eating the flesh bloody and raw. So the priests are horrified and tell Saul, and Saul sets up a stone so he can kill the animals there and drain the blood. And he builds an altar dedicated to Yahweh.
So Saul wants to go on a night raid and the priests tries to divine God’s will, but can’t. So Saul assumes that it’s because of Jonathan.
Jon: Yeah, I ate some honey, are you going to kill me?
Soldiers: No. We’re not going to let you do that. He’s the hero of the battle. Not going to let you kill him, your majesty.
So everyone goes home.
And Saul fought a lot of battles and kept the rival tribal bands from plundering Israel. And he had kids. And a draft was active all the days of his life.
Sam: Okay, Saul, God wanted me to make you king, though if he really wanted David, I’m not sure why He didn’t just pick him. Or if he knew you were going to not do the cult of Yahweh good, he picked you in the first place, but anyway, God wants you to go genocide some people because hundreds of years ago, their ancestors attacked our ancestors as we were wandering in the desert. Sure that generation of Amalekites are all dead and the people they sinned against are dead too, and this generation hasn’t actually done anything against us, but you go ahead and kill all the men, women, children, and infants. Yes, infants. Innocent, little babies. God wants you to dash them on rocks or stick a sword in them and this is not an awful, immoral command that you should absolutely refuse because… uh… LOOK OVER THERE!
Sam: Nothing… anyway, don’t forget to kill the animals too.
So Saul goes down with the army and warns one racial group to get out of town. Then Saul genocides the hell out of the place, but he doesn’t quite genocide it enough to make God happy, because Saul doesn’t kill all of the animals, cause some of them looked tasty. I think I played an Orc Barbarian named Agag in D&D. Agag was cool. He drank like a fish, sang karaoke very badly, and had an Elf fetish. I can see why Saul would spare him.
God: I regret making Saul king because he’s not obeying me and genociding enough!!!!
Sam: Well, why’d you pick him then? You’re God. You know everything. You literally know he’s not going to obey you and genocide everyone, why pick him?
God: LOOK OVER THERE!
Sam: Saul, you didn’t genocide good enough for God, so God’s pissed at you and you’re dynasty will end with you. God’s going to pick another guy who… well, actually does a lot more immoral stuff than you’ve done so far, but, he gets it, you know?
Saul: I’ve sinned. Forgive me, please.
Sam: What do you think this is? The New Testament? No. There’s no forgiveness here, you know… unless you rape a woman and murder her husband or something…
Saul: Okay, but can you come back and make it look like you still like me, so the people don’t think that there’s a split between the monarchy and the priest- actually, you’re not part of the priesthood, you’re just some guy. But they think you’re a priest, so come and worship God with us.
Sam: Fine. Give me a sword though, I’m going to go finish the genociding on Agag.
Sam and Saul have a bitter break up and Sam goes home to cry it out. Saul goes on being king, and the omnipotent, omniscient God of the Universe regrets choosing a man to be king that He knew beforehand would screw up the whole genociding thing.