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Saul is a lot like Rodney Dangerfield. He might be the first King of Israel, but he don't get no respect.
The first time Saul's mentioned in this book, we're told he comes from Benjamin's tribe. That's a big point in his favor (remember, the author really digs ancestors of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi). But that's where Saul's good luck ends. The real narrative actually starts with Saul's gory death in battle:
The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard on Saul; and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me." But his armor-bearer was unwilling, for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died. Thus Saul died; he and his three sons and all his house died together. (10:2-6)
That is one bad day. Not only did the king lose three of his sons, he's wounded and forced to commit suicide. We're not 100% sure if we're supposed to think of Saul as a coward here for ending it all or if we're supposed to realize it's a good move to not be taken alive. Given that the Philistines mutilated Saul's body and displayed his head on a stake all over town, he probably made the smart decision.
Okay, so Saul's dead and we don't want to disrespect the dead. But here's why, according to the Chronicler, Saul had to go.
Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord. (10:13-14)
From now on, every time Saul is mentioned it's as a foil for the awesome King David.
• "Even while Saul was king, it was [David] who commanded the army of Israel." (11:2)
• "Let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we did not turn to it in the days of Saul." (13:3)
We get it. Saul's incompetent and unfaithful. David's a superstar. The author even mentions that Saul spent quite a bit of time trying to hunt David down and kill him. He didn't succeed though. Probably because a bunch of his men switched to David's side instead of fighting for their king (12:1-2).
Poor Saul gets the same lousy treatment in the rest of the Bible. After Samuel anoints him the first King of Israel, things go downhill from there. He doesn't follow God's commands, so God stops favoring him. He becomes jealous of David's success and popularity and his behavior becomes increasingly erratic. When Saul tries to have David killed, his own son and daughter side against him and rescue the chosen one.
Maybe Saul was a lackluster king who was outshone by David. But were his actions really that bad? David had the support of the people and was building a name for himself by winning popular wars. Even Saul's family and friends were turning against him. That would make anyone feel a little on edge, especially if the kid started out as your protégé.