This is a follow-up question to: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/30959/would-saul-actually-have-killed-samuel-if-he-found-out-that-samuel-had-annointed

Again, from 1 Samuel 16:1-3 (NASB):

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.”

My previous question was "would Saul actually have killed Samuel?" There's a fair amount of textual evidence that suggests that he would have, given his later violent and erratic behavior (combined with the fact that God gave Samuel a cover story rather than contradicting his prediction).

With that said, why did Samuel think that Saul would kill him? He was apparently correct to do so, but the violent and erratic behavior that the text records happened later. Still, the text doesn't directly mention any kind of threat against Samuel.

Verse 14 says "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him." (NIV) This verse is after Samuel had anointed David, but it's written in past tense (meaning that this may have happened before Samuel went to see David). Is this possible? If so, would Samuel have known about it, given that he wasn't seeing him at the time? Would this explain why he thought that this was a possibility?

  • The narrative presents this situation as fact, without background. Whether or not Saul would have killed Samuel is not important to the narrative. What is important to say is that the recognized national prophet Samuel feared for his life and that God takes this into account. That in itself is the statement. Most of the questions in this post are unanswerable by hermeneutic methods.
    – user17080
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 7:15
  • I like your follow-up question. And I think I have an answer for it.
    – user20490
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 5:17
  • 1
    I hope I have answered your question. Not all of Saul's erratic behavior happened later. The killing of the Gibeonites happened earlier but was not recorded until 2-Sam 21. The Gibeonites were covered by oath and they served alongside Samuel in the tabernacle of meeting. By killing them, Saul was going against God and samuel. Samuel would have tried to stop him but to no avail. This would later cause Samuel to fear for his life when asked to anoint a new king.
    – user20490
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 6:22

3 Answers 3


There are about three explanations for Samuel's ability to predict Saul's murderous tendencies.

1) The slaughter of the Gibeonites:

2-Samuel 21:1-3 (NKJV)

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, "It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites." So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.

Notice that God refers to the house of Saul as bloodthirsty. The Gibeonites served as labourers in the tabernacle of meeting which was at Shiloh. Samuel grew up knowing them and their history in Israel. Yet he couldn't stop Saul from slaughtering them. Since the days of Joshua (Jos 9:16, 20), Israel had sworn protection to the Gibeonites. Samuel was obviously not in support of this unnecessary slaughter nevertheless, Saul went ahead to violate Israel's ancient oath irreverently. It is at a point like this that Samuel may have begun to fear Saul.

2) Saul ripped Samuel's clothing disrespectfully:

1 Samuel 15:27 (NKJV) And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore.

This action by Saul is important for reasons I will give below.

a) One of the most important events in Samuel's early life was that his mother used to sew him a new robe yearly. The writer includes this detail deliberately. 1-Sam 2:19

b) Samuel used to wear a linen ephod from his childhood. 1-Sam 2:18

c) When Samuel's ghost was called up by the witch of Endor, Saul was able to identify him by his mantle.

1 Samuel 28:14 (NKJV) So he said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle." And Saul perceived that it was Samuel

As a prophet, seer and priest, his garments were sacred but Saul ripped them off mistakenly but unapologetically. Samuel responded to this by saying.

"The Strength of Israel will not lie nor change his mind"

He counters the Saul's aggression and show of strength with a reminder about the strength of God.

3) Saul was very self absorbed as king:

a) He built a monument to himself after failing to obey the command concerning Amalek. 1-Sam 15:12

b) After being rejected by God all he cared about was that Samuel would honor him before the elders of Israel. 1-Sam 15:30

A person who thinks like this would never tolerate another anointed king. This much was clear.


Saul might try to. He showed himself one who'd sacrifice others for personal glory. He tried to sacrifice religiously, which is only allowed to be done by religious people such as priests and prophets, so he be worshipped. And he chose to preserve stock for personal gain and to hold the king for ransom to get money. And his aggressive assault on Samuel's robe was more proof he'd sacrifice one of his own people for personal gain. So yes. He'd try to.

  • 1
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    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 0:40

There's actually a lot packed into 1 Samuel 15, in the aftermath of Saul's partial obedience in destroying the Amalekites:

1 Samuel 15:17-31 NASB2020‬

17 So Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were insignificant in your own eyes, that you became the head of the tribes of Israel? For the Lord anointed you as king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are eliminated.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Instead, you loudly rushed upon the spoils and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord!” 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, for I went on the mission on which the Lord sent me; and I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have completely destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took some of the spoils, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things designated for destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 Samuel said, “Does the Lord have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than a sacrifice, And to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as reprehensible as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as reprehensible as false religion and idolatry. Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have violated the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25 Now then, please pardon my sin and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 Then Samuel turned to go, but Saul grasped the edge of his robe, and it tore off. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. 29 Also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor change His mind; for He is not a man, that He would change His mind.” 30 Then Saul said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before all Israel, and go back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

Samuel did the dangerous job of a prophet: he told the most powerful man in the country that God had rejected him as king. If Saul had agreed, he could have gone home and lived a long life as retired king. But Saul argued repeatedly, then demanded that Samuel honor him in front of the people. They aren't his people, in the sense that he's not the valid king anymore. Samuel tries to walk away, but Saul persists, and tears his robe.

This is why Samuel is afraid for his life in the next chapter:

  • Saul is the tallest man in the country.
  • Saul is much younger and (probably) stronger than Samuel, who is old.
  • Saul refused to abdicate his position as king immediately after Samuel told him repeatedly that God has rejected him.
  • Saul demands to be honored in front of the people.

The threat to Samuel's life is palpable.

P.S. This is in agreement with, and an expansion of Part 2 of the answer provided by User20490.

  • Hey Martin! Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. We are glad you are here. Please take a moment to take the site tour and check out what we are looking for in answers and the FAQs. Again, welcome and thank you for your contribution!
    – Jason_
    Commented Jun 16 at 20:35

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