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Saul—a Portrait of Pride and Insecurity


Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.



King Saul's life, chronicled in I Samuel chapters 9-17, is an example of how his lack of faith in God, coupled with his low opinion of himself, was the fodder for his pride and insecurity that led to his demise. The Biblical account of Saul's life can illustrate for us the problems and pitfalls of prideful self-reliance.

All of Scripture is written for our example, as Paul states in his letter to the Corinthian church.

Now all these things happened to them (Old Testament characters) as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

— I Corinthians 10:11

The intention of this example is that as we examine the narrative, we also examine ourselves.

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!
Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!
Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,
then lead me on the eternal path!

— Psalm 139:23-24

Handsome King Saul

Beginning in chapter nine of first Samuel, we are introduced to Israel's first king. During this time period, Israel was struggling morally, spiritually, and militarily. They concluded that perhaps a king like all the other nations had would save them. Up until this time, the time of the Judges, "there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 17:6, 21:25)

God is displeased by their request, as it implies that they are rejecting His leadership. Rather than repent of their wrongdoing and live under the dictates of God's will and His ways, they determine that a human government would better serve their wishes. God agrees to let them have it their way.

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

— I Samuel 8:7

Collectively Israel was exhibiting their own insecurity and prideful solution in this scene. Pride is evident when we reject God and seek to save ourselves through human agencies rather than submit to God.

While a tall and handsome Saul from the tribe of Benjamin is out looking for some lost donkeys for his father, God informs Samuel, the prophet, that Saul is the man who will be Israel's first king. Note that the chapter begins with a description of Saul's physical appearance. God knows they are looking for superficial characteristics.

And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

— I Samuel 9:2

The purpose of this type of presentation is to connect us with the idea that God's people are unfaithful. They are people who want anything and everything but their God. They are shallow and desiring what looks good on the outside, and God knows all too well where this will lead them.

Samuel the prophet explains to Saul that he has been chosen to be king over Israel, and Saul's reply reveals that Saul is entirely intimidated by the calling:

And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?”

— I Samuel 9:21

It appears that Saul is a bit insecure despite his good looks and stature. He was taller than all the people around him, but he felt smaller than all of them. It also reveals that Saul's sense of security is centered, not on God's ability to enable Him, but on his tribe and family's size and value. He is hyper-focused on the opinions of men, which will eventually become a great snare to him.

The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

— Proverbs 29:25

Pride wants us to believe that our value and success depend on our abilities and not God's.

Next, Samuel holds a ceremony to introduce Saul to the nation as their king, but Saul is nowhere to be found.

. . . And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”

— I Samuel 10:21-22

Saul understands his smallness despite his tallness. He appears greatly intimidated by the position. This scene is in sharp contrast to David, who confronts his assignments head-on in the name of the Lord.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

— I Samuel 17:45

When Saul finally becomes king and steps into the role of a leader of Israel, he begins to make tragic mistakes rooted in his deep-seated insecurities and how he chooses to appease them.


The First Scene

In I Samuel chapter eleven, Saul returns from the field where he had been tending his herd. He hears the people of Jabesh Gilead crying. At his inquiry, he is informed that the people were threatened by Nachash the Ammonite.

Now there was Saul, coming behind the herd from the field; and Saul said, “What troubles the people, that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused. So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.”

— I Samuel 11:5-7

Although the Spirit of God comes upon him and moves him to act, it appears that rather than muster an army by command, he injects himself into the plan by using a fear tactic to scare the people into serving him by sending pieces of a cut-up cow throughout the tribes. He threatens that if they do not act, they will become like the cow. This is not a sign of confidence on his part. He's scared they will not come. According to theologian L. Daniel Hawk, this misuse of God-given authority is attributed to humans who function outside of God's will for its use.

. . . fallen human agents characteristically use divine power imperfectly.1


The Blame Game

The next exhibit Begins in I Samuel, chapter thirteen. Saul is in a battle with the Philistines at Michmash, and he is waiting for Samuel to show up to make the required sacrifice and offer him some counsel from the Lord concerning the battle.

Saul's first encounter with Samuel in I Samuel chapter nine involved Saul waiting for Samuel to make a sacrifice. This informs us that Saul is very familiar with this requirement.

As soon as you come into the city, you will surely find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat.

— I Samuel 9:13

Waiting for Samuel to sacrifice was also promoted and practiced in another Saul/Samuel scene as a second witness that Saul knows what he is supposed to do.

You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.

— I Samuel 10:8

Back to the narrative, Saul needs guidance from the Lord concerning the battle and becomes fearful. It was the seventh day, and Samuel had not shown up yet.

Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.

— I Samuel 13:8

He, therefore, decides to go ahead and make the sacrifice himself. Only those appointed by God (prophet and priest) were allowed to do this.

So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him.

— I Samuel 13:9-10

When Samuel arrives, he completely ignores Saul's fake friendly greeting. Saul hides his pretentious decision by pretending that there is nothing wrong. Instead, Samuel is greatly disturbed by Saul's arrogant "I'll take care of it myself" presumptuous and faithless act.

And Samuel said, “What have you done?”

— I Samuel 13:11

Saul replied with excuses and an accusation against Samuel himself.

When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash . . .

— I Samuel 13:11

Saul's greatest fear was that he would look bad in the people's eyes. He displayed no confidence in God concerning the matter. Fear of failure, a need for public approval, and being humiliated plagued him, so he took matters into his own hands rather than seeking God and remaining loyal to His instructions to wait.

When Samuel confronts Saul about his disobedience, Saul's pride leaps into action to cover up the real issue. The first thing he does is blame Samuel.

"because you did not come within the days appointed."

He does admit that he was worried about the people who were leaving him but claims that if Samuel just would have shown up on time, this would have never happened and makes himself appear as the victim. Pride will convince us that it is in our best interest to make ourselves the victim through blame when confronted with our moral failures.

He also puts the responsibility on Samuel's lateness by implying that it left him (Saul) with no other choice.

. . . therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not yet implored the face of Yahweh.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.”

— I Samuel 13:12

Pride prevents us from taking responsibility for our actions. It convinces us that we are forced into making unfaithful poor decisions.

This similar blame game is also displayed in Genesis chapter three, with Adam blaming his wife and Eve blaming the serpent for their disobedience.

Saul, like Adam, forfeited a great deal to maintain his prideful and rebellious position.

Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have behaved foolishly! You have not kept the command of Yahweh your God which he commanded you. For then, Yahweh would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.

— I Samuel 13:13

The Snare of the Fear of Man

The next tragic mistake happens in I Samuel, chapter fifteen. The Lord had given the Amalekites, noted for their cruelty, into the hands of Israel's army. God made it abundantly clear that they were not to spare anyone or take the spoil of anything of the Amalekites. He was especially not to spare King Agag,

But Saul and the people spared Agag (the king of the Amalekites) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.

— I Samuel 15:9

Samuel comes to confront Saul once again.

Take note in the next portion of Scripture, where Saul arrogantly sets up a monument to himself. This tribute to himself is a giant fig leaf disguising what is really going on in Saul's heart.

So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

— I Samuel 15:12

The deception of pride will try to convince us that our selfish motives are for God's benefit. Samuel's response uncovers the deep insecurity lying underneath Saul's audacious reply:

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?”

— I Samuel 15:17-19

Samuel goes right to the very root of the problem, he was little in his own eyes, and he even shows Him that he had no business trusting in his abilities anyway because God had anointed (empowered) him to be the king.

Saul's pride can't cover him anymore, and he finally admits the real reason for his disobedience.

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

— I Samuel 15:24

Saul was attempting to win his peers' approval as a remedy for the insignificance he felt inside. We see how Saul attempted to esteem himself by building himself up in the eyes of man. We see God behind the scenes trying to lift him up if he would only humble himself and obey.

The situation goes from bad to worse when Saul begs Samuel to return with him to the people to at least save face with them.

Then he (Saul) said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.”

— I Samuel 15:30

Spirit Life Bible notes comments on the following scene, as it concerns Saul's root issue.

"Saul is concerned with his image and having Samuel with him would make it appear as though everything is alright"

Notice that Saul refers to God as Samuel's God and not his own. There is no change of heart or repentance. Saul keeps trying to cover himself.


The Golden Calf Example

We also see this same fear of man and prideful excuse, illustrated in Exodus chapter two. Moses confronted his brother Aaron about making a golden calf that the people were worshipping when Moses went up on the mount and delayed in coming back. The people harass Aaron to make them a "god" because they were tired of waiting for Moses and didn't necessarily believe that he was coming back.

The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.”

— Exodus 32:1

Aaron, much like Saul, rather than wait, takes matters into his own hands.

Aaron said to them, “All right, take out the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took out the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He collected them and tied them up in a cloth. Then he made a metal image of a bull calf, and the people declared, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

— Exodus 32:2-4

In the confrontation, Aaron plays the victim by blaming the pressure of the people. He takes no responsibility for even forming it in claiming that the calf just came out of the fire by itself.

So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

— Exodus 32:22-24

Aaron feared the people more than he feared God.


A Pictograph Understanding of Pride

Gesenius' Lexicon defines the Hebrew root word for pride as "ge-ah." Several words built from it come with the idea of lifting oneself to a position that should only be held by God.

The Hebrew word picture definition is quite simple and agrees with this definition.

"Gimel," the first letter of the Word "ge-ah," is a picture of a camel and carries the idea of "lifting," which can be seen as a symbol of pride. Except for giraffes, camels are the tallest land-living animals. When the camel lifts itself, it is head above all the rest, as we saw in Saul's story; he was a head taller than the others. Pride wants us to see ourselves as above anything or anyone else, including God.

Camels are also noted for their ability to kneel. Camels kneeling can be a picture of humility as they bow down to receive their master's burdens. It's a form of submission.


Pride Can Strongly Lead Us

The second letter of the word for pride "ge-ah" is "Aleph." An ox represents the letter "Aleph" and carries the idea of something strong and leading. This letter also connects to the concept of one's will. When our will is exalted over God's will, we are in a state of pride and getting ready for a fall.

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

— Proverbs 16:18

The deceitfulness of sin convinces us that we will be exalted and raised by lifting ourselves, but the Bible tells us otherwise.

A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.

— Proverbs 29:23


Where Does Pride Originate?

"Hey" is the final letter of "ge-ah," a Hebrew word expressing pride, and it is a picture of a window relating to the concept of revelation. When positioned at the end of a word, it makes the word female indicating "what comes" from or "what is produced" from the word.

Taken all together, we can see that pride is what comes from strongly lifting our own will and wishes over God's will and wishes.


Pride Has Far-Reaching Consequences

By treating Agag, from the I Samuel chapter fifteen narrative, as a trophy rather than slaying Him, Saul's attempt at self-exaltation had horrific consequences for God's people. King Agag was a Hitler type of enemy to the Israelites.

Centuries later, the evil Haman arrives on the scene in the book of Esther. He is identified as an Agagite, meaning descended from Agag, which means that there were still descendants alive that Saul was instructed to kill and did not.

Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews.

— Eshter 8:3

The scheme against the Jews was to annihilate all of them. Saul's self-preoccupation and disobedience left an open door for future persecution.

Flesh and Spirit

There is also an interesting pattern in Old Testament Scripture that can be relative to this same principle. Many times when God presents two men either together or in succession, one is a picture of flesh and self-dependence, and the other is that of spirit as in one who depends on God. This pattern can be seen with Cain (image flesh dependence) and Abel (image of spirit - God dependence). Ishmael (flesh), Isaac (spirit), Esau ( flesh), and Jacob (spirit), King Saul (flesh), and King David (Spirit).

Cain, Ishmael, Esau, and Saul give us a picture of insecure, self-reliant flesh and a great lesson that there is no security or confidence to be found in our flesh. Paul writes.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.

— Romans 7:18

Paul exhorts the Philippians as to where our confidence ought to lie.

. . . rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh . . .

— Philippians 3:3



From these examples, we can see that insecurity, depending on how we deal with it, and pride goes hand in hand and that there is only one cure for that insecurity, that being faith and confidence in God and not our self and flesh.

Our esteem is to be is built from the love God has for us alone. The knowledge of that love ought to provoke our love loyalty and obedience to God.

Building our security-based upon peer acceptance, public opinion, or the way we look is building a house and life on the sand, which will inevitably fall and will have far-reaching consequences for future generations. Building our esteem through a humble relationship with our creator builds our house (a metaphor for life) on the rock that will stand through eternity.

. . . be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

— I Peter 5:5-7

And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.

— I Samuel 12:21


1The Violence of the Biblical God by L. Daniel Hawk, William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan. Copyright 2019

© 2010 Tamarajo


Tamarajo (author) on June 04, 2012:

Agreed drpastorcarlotta The Bible is so full of relevant life lessons that have so much to teach us about ourselves and God.

I thank you for reading voting and visiting. Will be by soon.

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on June 03, 2012:

I agree with Dave Mathews a he stated: The Bible offers so many great examples to teach. Thanks be to God. I voted-Up on this Hub!!!!! I pray that thing are going well with you!! Plz visit me when you have a chance. God Bless....

ladyjojo on February 01, 2011:

You are ever so welcomed. The old testament really have lovely stories to read. I have some of them on CD

May God reward you for all your efforts

Tamarajo (author) on January 10, 2011:

Hi ladyjojo,

I agree. I like how you put that "self love" it is true that this is our greatest battle.

I appreciate your visit and your insightful comment.

ladyjojo on January 08, 2011:

Saul was a great King, but a bit heady his problem was he was not ready to gave over kingship "SELF LOVE" he didn't care who or what he hurt. Yet the Lord save his soul although he turned out to be so bad in the end. Thanks for sharing

Tamarajo (author) on December 20, 2010:

Thank you daydreamer for stopping by and commenting. : )

daydreamer13 on December 19, 2010:

Inspiring, thank you!

Tamarajo (author) on November 30, 2010:

Yes Dave Mathews, The Bible speaks to anything and everything we could need and addresses all the core issues of any situation or circumstance we find ourselves in.

His Wisdom is awesome!

Thank you for your visit and comment.

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on November 30, 2010:

The Bible offers so many great examples to teach. Thanks be to God.

Brother Dave.

Tamarajo (author) on November 27, 2010:

Nobody, excellent insight and additional wisdom into the life of Saul.

Saul is a great example what will happen when we reject the King of Kings from being enthroned in the kingdom of our hearts.

Thanks for the insightful comment. I learn stuff even from the comments.

Tamarajo (author) on November 27, 2010:

I appreciate your visit Cristina327.

Agreed,Putting our confidence in anyone or anything other than the God who created us most generally results in a lot of disappointment and lost esteem that can lead to prideful behavior and ultimately a fall.

Confidence in Him through humility results in Him lifting us up.

Thank you for the thoughtful comment as well.

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on November 27, 2010:

I believe the Lord picked Saul because he was a good example of what He said would happen when God Himself was rejected as King. He gave Saul a chance to improve himself and said he would have given him the promise but instead Saul fulfilled every bad thing God said kings would do. However, Jesus would come and bring a King that WAS God Himself and would do what men couldn't do being sinners - totally glorify God. David came close and so didn't a few others but only Jesus is the King of kings. Great article. I enjoyed it and I learned a whole bunch.

Cristina Santander from Manila on November 27, 2010:

What an excellent hub it is which presents timeless truths relevant to christian living. Truly we should rest our security only in God and in our relationship with Him and never depend our confidence on people's approval. Thank you for sharing these precious truths in the light of God's Word. Remain blessed always. Best regards.

Tamarajo (author) on November 23, 2010:

Hi Betty,

Welcome back again. I too identified with the Saul syndrome and am glad as well these character issues have not been printed for generations of people to read about me.

I actually gleaned this study at a time when my youngest was running 90 miles an hour in the wrong direction. I was trying to find the roots of the whole thing and the Lord led me to Saul's account which was helpful to understand the behind the scenes spiritual condition effecting the actions and reactions.

We all experience a certain degree of insecurity. It is all about who we run to for our cure for that. If its anyone or anything other than God Himself we will end up in pride and headed for a fall.

Blessed by your visit and comment as well. : )

Tamarajo (author) on November 23, 2010:

Hi lcg4jc,

Yes, I love the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. Even the letters of His words confirm His thoughts and intentions. How loving of Him to provide so many ways for us to clearly understand Him, His will, and His ways.

blessed by your visit and comment : )

Betty Johansen on November 23, 2010:

You've made Saul so real and understandable. He could be anybody around me today. And his fate reveals the urgency of sharing Jesus with today's "Sauls" so they don't end up in the same kind of ruin.

Thank you for helping me see Saul so clearly. I can identify with him and understand him better than I ever did before. I really enjoy getting an insight into Bible characters. But I have to tell you, I also thank God I wasn't one of them - having my life go down as a lesson and warning to all the generations to come.

You rock!

lcg4jc on November 23, 2010:

Tamarajo thank you again for another beautiful study on God's word. I just love how you bring in the Aleph-Bet into the studies and align them with God's word to bring an even deeper spiritual meaning to what has been written. May God bless you always

Tamarajo (author) on November 22, 2010:

Yes, I agree His daughter. God desires obedience rather than sacrifice. So many times we are holding on to our own agendas in pride forfeiting all the good He wants to do for us. A sacrifice ends up being made on one end of it or the other.

Thank you for sharing your relevant insights.

Blessed by your visit.

His daughter on November 22, 2010:

There are so many lessons we can learn from this one man's life. His pride affected his obedience to God. Because he was not 100% obedient, he suffered the consequences. We can't obey 99% and expect it to be okay. It's 100% and nothing less.

Great hub, Tamarajo. If we would only be wise to learn from those in God's Word.

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