The first king of Israel. He came from the tribe of Benjamin, and was probably chosen as king by popular acclaim on account of his military leadership (1 Sam. 14: 47–8) and in an economic situation that was moving forward towards greater centralization. Saul united the Israelite tribes and even incorporated some Canaanite and other minority groups into the emerging state. There are two accounts in 1 Samuel of the institution of the monarchy; in one Saul is well regarded, but in the second he is overshadowed by the prophet Samuel and loses God's favour, which is transferred to David. The main enemies during Saul's reign were the Philistines, who were defeated at Michmash (1 Sam. 14: 31). In later life Saul was tormented by an evil spirit and obsessed by jealousy and suspicion, and he visited his hatred on David. In the feud that developed between them, David twice spared Saul's life (1 Sam. 24: 6). On Mount Gilboa Saul died in battle (he fell on his own sword, 1 Sam. 31: 4. But cf. 2 Sam. 1: 10), along with his son Jonathan (1 Sam. 31: 2), who had been the close friend of David (2 Sam. 1: 26).

The Hebrew name of Paul of Tarsus.