Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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In the Old Testament, what exactly did King Saul do to anger God? Why did God forgive the Prophet David’s sins of murder and adultery but not Saul's sins?

A number of reasons had led God to deal with Prophet David and King Saul differently:
  • In the Holy Book of Hebrews Chapter 11 St. Paul did not place Saul's name on the list of the men "with faith", whereas verse 32 asserts David's faith. This can be considered the first clue as to why the Prophet David was saved, through "his faith."

  • In the Holy Book of II Samuel 7:12-15 God makes this promise to David the Prophet regarding Solomon..."I will set up your seed after you...he shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom...I will be his father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But my mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul." However, God did not show mercy to Saul.

  • Saul's history found in the Holy Book of I Samuel gives us a clue as to why God did not show mercy to Saul:
    Saul was the first king of Israel. Although he did not want to be selected, he was anointed by Samuel and was filled with the Spirit of the Lord. As king, Saul found himself facing an overwhelming Philistine army with his soldiers deserting him. He looked to Samuel for guidance. Samuel told him to wait for seven days and he would come and offer a sacrifice to ensure God's favor. In hastiness, he did not wait but offered the sacrifice himself fearing an imminent Philistine attack (lack of faith). Thus, Saul did not find favor with the Lord; and though He had given him victory, yet the Lord "sought out a man after his own heart" to later replace Saul as king.
  • Despite his many victories in battle, Saul did not completely obey the Lord’s command that every man, woman, child and animal be killed in the war against the Amalekites. In disobedience, Saul brought back the Amalekite king alive as well as many sheep and oxen for sacrifice. He did not have faith in God's wisdom. The Holy Book of I Samuel 15:22-23 states, "To obey is better than sacrifice.... Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king." From that day on, Samuel refused to see Saul. But more important, "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him."

  • Saul started out with a good relationship with David, which soon turned into jealousy and hatred. This jealousy and hatred led to the execution of all the priests of the sanctuary of Nob whom he had suspected of supporting David.

  • In his last battle with the Philistines he sought the blessing of God, but "the Lord did not answer him" (I Samuel 28:6). Saul then sought the council of a necromancer in the Village of Endor. Saul had fasted with fear and trembling before this encounter, but upon learning from Samuel of his impending death, he ate a large meal to strengthen himself for battle. We are not told that he became repentant and sought out forgiveness.

  • During battle, Saul was badly wounded by Philistine archers and fell upon his own sword rather than face capture. We are not told that he became repentant here nor that he sought out forgiveness. Thus, his tragedy ended with his self-inflicted death; and his  failures led to the rise of King David.
Perhaps Saul's lack of faith and repentance were the main reasons for his many failures in life. The Holy Bible tells us that God in His mercy accepts and forgives every repentant person; as He said, "The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). Therefore, if a person dies in his sin without repentance, he will perish, as the Lord said, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). Applying this spiritual truth to Saul's life, we can affirm that it was the  lack of repentance till death that incurred lack of forgiveness upon him.

God is always ready to forgive and nothing hinders His forgiveness, provided a person repents. In repenting we become worthy of being forgiven. God will wait for repentance until the last breath as He did with the thief on the Lord's right side. If a person refuses to repent all his life rejecting the work of the Spirit in him until the time of his death; he will be held responsible for the perishing of his soul. If a person refuses to repent all his life and refuses the work of the Spirit in him until the time of his death, then he will be held responsible for the perishing of his soul.

Saul reigned for approximately twenty years. Although his rule ended in failure, the Holy Book of 1 Samuel 14:47-48, states, "He fought against all his enemies on every side.... And he did valiantly...and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them."
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