Saul was chosen the first king of Israel after the sons, and potential successors, of the high priest Samuel were rejected by the people as corrupt (1 Samuel 8:1-9). God permitted the establishment of the monarchy, but in speaking to Samuel, The Lord said of it:
After being selected by God (1 Samuel 9:15-17), Saul was secretly anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1) before being publicly chosen by lot:
"Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot; finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they inquired again of The Lord, "Did the man come hither?" and The Lord said, "Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage."
"Then they ran and fetched him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom The Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people." And all the people shouted, "Long live the king!" (1 Samuel 10:17-24 RSV)
Saul's kingship was firmly established upon his victory at Jabesh-Gilead, after which he was proclaimed king at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15). Following initial successes, Saul soon began making a series of very serious blunders, beginning with the offering of a sacrifice, which was to be performed only by the priests (1 Samuel 13:9-12) (see Levites). It was this foolish and presumptuous disobedience to God that cost him the kingship, which would later be taken over by King David:
Saul's behavior then further degenerated from unwise to outright insane, including ordering his military forces to go without food until they had defeated the enemy, and attempting to have his own victorious son Jonathan executed for disregarding the foolish order (1 Samuel 14:24-45). Saul's continued bizarre behavior and disregard of God's instructions resulted in the kingship being taken from him and transferred to David:
Saul remained king for the time needed for the youthful David to prepare and mature. It was during this period that the incident between David And Goliath occurred (1 Samuel 17:1-58), after which David served the king in his palace, becoming a very good friend of Saul's son Jonathan. Saul's jealousy at the sight of David's military success and popularity with the people resulted Saul's trying to murder David with a spear while he was playing the harp (1 Samuel 19:9-10) (in illustration), after which David became a fugitive from the king.
In yet another failure in judgment and obedience to God, Saul consulted the witch of Endor (see Witches And Sorcerers) in which his doom was predicted by an apparent appearance by the dead Samuel (1 Samuel 28:4-25). Saul died during a battle with the Philistines the very next day (1 Samuel 31:1-13).
Fact Finder: Did Saul actually die from the battle, or did he commit suicide after being wounded?
1 Samuel 31:3-4