“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.” 1 Sam. 16:13-14
David and Saul were two men God had chosen to be kings of His chosen people Israel. David was pleasing to God and He promised to establish from David’s descendants, One who would reign forever on the Davidic throne (2 Sam. 7:12-16). Saul greatly displeased God and was permanently cut-off from having a relationship with Him (1 Sam. 13-14a, 15:23, 26, 28) –for these men possessed contrasting hearts. David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14, 16:7, Ps. 89:20, Acts 13:22) and Saul was a man whose heart Satan was after (1 Sam. 16:14). The contrast between the two is stark, and Scripture sheds much light on the many differences. For instance, Scripture states King David had served God with honor: “…because David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kin. 15:5b). King Saul on the other hand, dishonored God in practically everything he had done: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands…I have rejected him from being king over Israel” (1 Sam. 15:11a, 16b).
As the book of First Samuel progresses, it becomes more and more apparent of David’s ever-increasing rise to an exalted position as Israel’s leader and eventual king (2 Sam. 5:1-4), opposed to King Saul’s continual deterioration and demise (1 Sam. 15:23, 28, 1 Sam. 31). David’s godly character is shown when he spared King Saul’s life for the second time (1 Sam. 26, cf. 1 Sam. 24), but afterward was still convinced Saul would seek to kill him (1 Sam. 27:1). Rather than harming King Saul, God’s anointed, the honorable David fled from Saul’s presence. This contrasts with the despicable character of King Saul, who would spend much of his reign seeking to murder David, God’s anointed. David was terrified of Saul so he hastily fled to Israel’s enemy, the Philistines and to Achish the king of Gath to whom he quickly grew in favor with.
While David dwelt peaceably in Ziklag, the Philistine city King Achish gave him to reside in, the Philistines formulated to do battle against Israel and King Saul. Saul was greatly afraid and sought the LORD’s counsel as how to proceed against the Philistines, but God did not answer—for His Spirit had departed from him (1 Sam. 28:4-6, 1 Sam. 16:14). In an act of utter desperation and brazen disobedience, King Saul requested the counsel of a woman medium and her powers of darkness. He desired to contact the deceased prophet Samuel, in the attempt to receive instruction concerning the insidious Philistines (1 Sam. 28:7). Such an evil practice of divination was prohibited by Mosaic law (Lev. 19:31, Deut. 18:11). Obviously, Saul knew it was an abomination to God, perhaps it’s one reason he disguised himself and furtively visited the necromancer at night. (1 Sam. 28:8). Ironic how quickly he forgot that he previously expelled all mediums and spiritists from the land of Israel (1 Sam. 28:3, 9).
By seeking a demonic medium Saul played a harlot to the nth degree, abandoning any remaining allegiance to the God of Israel. In fact, when the medium expressed concern for her own life, King Saul swore by God no harm would come to her: “And Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, ‘As the LORD lives, there shall be no punishment come upon you for this thing.”’ (1 Sam. 28:10). Aside from Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ, King Saul seeking council from the demonic realm, is one of the clearest examples of apostasy found in Scripture! God’s Word has severe warnings for those who apostatize from the faith: “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Pet. 2:21, cf. Matt. 26:24, Mark 14:21, Heb. 6:4, 10). Interestingly, Samuel made a prophetic declaration regarding the disobedience of King Saul: “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:23—emphasis added). In God’s omniscience, He knew Saul’s wicked heart would stray far from Him in disobedience.
Furthermore, not only was Saul given an “evil spirit” in place of God’s departed [Holy] Spirit, but he was obsessed with pursuing David and foolishly believed God delivered David over to him: “…Saul said, ‘God has delivered him [David] into my hand’” (1 Sam. 23:7). It is difficult to imagine God would deliver “a man after His own heart”, into the hands of an apostate! Tragically, Saul spent his final days as king of Israel, unproductively hunting David which would prove to be a futile quest indeed, for God was always with David (1 Sam. 16:13, 18:12, 14, 28). Moreover, Saul engaged in the unthinkable as he repeatedly cursed God’s “chosen” and “blessed” servant, who would be Israel’s next king (Gen. 12:3, 1 Sam. 5:1-4).
A clear example of David’s and Saul’s contrasting heart is when David was away from his home in Ziklag, it was plundered, burned, and his two wives (Abigail and Ahinoam) were taken captive by the marauding Amalekites. David found himself in a dire situation and wisely sought the LORD’s counsel, on how to proceed against the Amalekites: “And David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them? And He [God] said to him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them, and you shall surely rescue all.’” (1 Sam. 30:8). As always God keeps His promises, as a strengthened David aided by the mighty hand of God, attacked and crushed the Amalekites. Not one person or possession of David’s was lost –all of what the Amalekites had pillaged was recovered. (1 Sam. 30:17-19).
On the other hand, when Saul foolishly consulted with the medium and the power of darkness (as previously referenced), the conjured-up prophet Samuel declared: “Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the LORD will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1 Sam. 28:19). Samuel’s words, even stated in that chthonic circumstance came true; King Saul, his sons, and Israel was decimated by the Philistine army at Mt. Gilboa. Attempting to flee the battle, Saul were shot by an archer’s arrow and mortally wounded. Rather than facing torture and eventual execution at the hands of his enemies, he cowardly committed suicide by falling on his sword. (1 Sam. 31:1-4). Moreover, Saul’s corpse was dishonored when the Philistines stripped his body of its armor, cut off his head, and ignominiously displayed his torso in their pagan temple. Saul’s heinous death and the desecration of his corpse, by the Philistines was divinely ordained: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7).
Scripture provides the reader with two simultaneous and yet contrasting hearts. The book of First Samuel ends with scenes switching between the respected David performing God’s will, to the disrespected King Saul behaving sinfully. The glorious military success of David is contrasted with the dismal military failure of King Saul. David’s annihilation of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 30:1-18) is juxtaposed with the bitter defeat of King Saul by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:1-10). Additionally, David valiantly rescued his two wives unharmed from the hands of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 30:18). Conversely, Saul’s three sons (Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua) were slaughtered while under his charge (1 Sam. 31:6). One could say, “not a hair” of David’s head was lost, but King Saul ended up losing his entire head (1 Sam. 31:9).
In conclusion, God knows the heart of every man (1 Sam. 16:7, 1 Chr. 28:9, 2 Chr. 6:30); the area where no human being can search: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Sam. 16:7). God knew David possessed a heart very pleasing to Him and in Saul saw a heart that greatly displeased Him. In essence, David had a heart of flesh and Saul a heart of stone (cf. Ezek. 36:26).