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This question is not about the shame of nudity we often read in the Bible. It is a question about why King Saul would ever do this (while prophesying). In I Samuel 10:10 we are told that Saul also prophesied, but that was at a time when he had been changed into a new man. We are never told (to my knowledge) that Saul removed any clothing elsewhere. Here are the verses in question:

1 Samuel 19:23-24: "[The] Spirit of God came upon [Saul] also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night" (emphasis added).

Is this not a very strange thing to do? It does not appear to have ever been the case with Saul previously, and certainly not as king.

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    Saul was going mad, and struggling with various mental issues (which is why David would oftentimes come and play the harp for him, as described in earlier chapters of the same biblical book). Him tearing his clothes off, and prophesying (i.e., rambling) all day and night long is just further sign of his continuous downward spiral into insanity.
    – Lucian
    Sep 1 at 23:30
  • the "also" is saying that Saul was behaving as the other men sent to kill Samuel and David, under the control of the spirit of God
    – Robert
    Sep 2 at 6:07
  • @Robert Indeed, I fully recognize that 3 separate groups of messengers were sent to take David, all of which prophesied themselves. Saul's behavior seems contrary to that which the Spirit might direct him. Maybe you would like to post a response on this OP?
    – Xeno
    Sep 2 at 6:30
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And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets? (1 Samuel 19:24, KJV)

וַיִּפְשַׁ֨ט גַּם־ה֜וּא בְּגָדָ֗יו וַיִּתְנַבֵּ֤א גַם־הוּא֙ לִפְנֵ֣י שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל וַיִּפֹּ֣ל עָרֹ֔ם כָּל־הַיֹּ֥ום הַה֖וּא וְכָל־הַלָּ֑יְלָה עַל־כֵּן֙ יֹֽאמְר֔וּ הֲגַ֥ם שָׁא֖וּל בַּנְּבִיאִֽם׃ פ (Hebrew Original)

The word "naked" is a poor translation here, given the context. Other verses using the same Hebrew word show that even the "naked" have clothes. For example:

For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing. (Job 22:6, KJV)

How could one take clothing from someone who was naked if the word actually meant nude?

But it doesn't always mean this. The Hebrew word can imply a level of embarrassment on account of the lack of clothing. Most people would be embarrassed to be seen in only their undergarments. The word "bare" or even "undressed" might be good synonyms here.

In fact, the original Hebrew for this word "naked" is translated as "disrobed" in The Interlinear Bible, by Jay P. Green. In other words, he had laid off his outer garments, which might have included his kingly garments, and laid down in this state of humility.

In another example, consider the case of David, who danced before the ark.

And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:14, KJV)

And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. (2Sam 6:16, KJV)

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! (2 Samuel 6:20, KJV)

David, too, had laid aside his kingly garments, and his wife despised him for this humility.

Understanding that Saul was not entirely without clothes, the question of "Why did King Saul prophesy w/o clothing all day" is unanswerable. The best we can say is that he did not prophesy without clothing, for he still had on his undergarments.

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    Thanks for your response. Perhaps we might understand from 1 Samuel 19:24: “The removal of royal garments and lying [without clothing] portrays a king who has lost his royal position and is now thoroughly humiliated” (Complete Jewish Study Bible). Saul is becoming more unstable at every moment, first tormented by evil spirits from God, then by God Himself. He appears to be afflicted with a grave inferiority complex compounded by a demonic psychosis that is hastening his impending demise.
    – Xeno
    Sep 2 at 12:04
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The first thing to understand is the intent of the passage.

In I Samuel 19:20 Saul sends a posse to arrest David. This posse meets Samuel and his band of prophets and the spirit of God rests on the posse and they become prophets themselves. Saul sends a second, and then a third posse with the same result. Finally Saul himself goes to Nayot and he also becomes a prophet under Samuel.

This story emphasizes the view that God himself is on the side of Samuel and David and is thwarting Saul's intent. Saul prophesizes, but involuntarily in humiliating and comic circumstances.

The narrative continues, "Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?". The Hebrew for this is:

"על כן יאמרו, "הגם שאול בנביאים

The difference between this saying phrased as a question and the same saying phrased as an assertion "Wherefore they say, 'Saul is also among the prophets'" is one letter only, the ה in the word הגם. It is likely that the author added this single letter to mock an original Benjaminite, pro-Saul faction saying that was phrased as an assertive - without the letter ה.

Placing this bent saying in the context of the above comic narrative gives it a further mocking connotation: yes, maybe Saul was a prophet, but only to get him temporarily out of the way.

After understanding the intent, we can look into the detail of the clothes, which adds further insult to the image of Saul.

The cultural context is 2 Samuel 6:20, Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

This is Saul's daughter expressing the values she learned from her father, that for a king to disrobe, even partially, for any reason, is a humiliation. Michal is in effect expressing her father's feeling about what happened to him I Samuel 19:23.

The meaning of ערם "nakedness" in the OT is closer to "uncovered" than "naked".

Isaiah 20:2 NKJV: at the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.” And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

2 Kings 1:8 NKJV: So they answered him, “A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Prophets were then often poor people living on the fringes of society, without the means to acquire respectable clothing and so the public perceived them.

See also Zechariah 13:4: And on that day every prophet who prophesies will be ashamed of his vision, and he will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive.

and Matthew 3:4: Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

and Genesis 39:12: that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

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  • "This was likely a common saying among the supporters of the house of Saul, who believed that Saul was in fact a prophet." So why ask if Saul is indeed a prophet? It seems counterintuitive that a person who believes that Saul is actually a prophet should phrase the question this way (question that is dripping with sarcasm)? If anything this originated with the house of David to mock Saul, it is a a taunt to anyone trying to be a prophet, are you also failed prophet like Saul?
    – Bach
    Sep 2 at 17:38
  • @Bach I edited the post to reflect you comment. The author of the MT text is likely manipulating the original Benjaminite assertion that Saul had the requisite qualifications as a prophet.
    – user17080
    Sep 3 at 6:17

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