I have always had a negative impression of King Saul because of his behavior, particularly toward David in the latter part of Saul’s reign. But Saul was chosen by the Lord to lead Israel and at the beginning Saul had the Lord’s blessing. And Saul was a type or foreshadow of Jesus, the King of Kings.
The story of Saul starts in First Samuel chapter nine where he is described as an “impressive young man without equal among the Israelites.” Saul was also tall, a head taller than anyone else. Saul is introduced as he is sent out to search for his father’s lost donkeys. After some journey, Saul and his servant went to Shaalim, passed through the land of Benjamin and then went to Zuph. (I Samuel 9:3-5)
This is an interesting journey because Shaalim means “foxes” and Zuph means “honey comb”. This is reminiscent of Samson, who tied torches to the tails of foxes to destroy Philistine crops (Judges 15:4) and who ate honey from the carcass of a lion he had killed earlier.(Judges 14:8) Samson was also a type of Christ. Please see "Samson as a Type of Christ". In addition, Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin which means “son of my right hand”, and is a description of Jesus who will sit at the right hand of God.
On the third day Saul came to Ramah, the village where Samuel lived. Samuel told Saul that the donkeys had been found and invited Saul to be guest of honor at a banquet. Ramah means “height”. So on the third day the donkeys, a type for the stiff-necked Jews (Exodus 33:3 & 5) were found, and Saul went to the heights to be honored at a great banquet. Jesus, according to prophecy, will be honored on the third day in the heights of Heaven at a great banquet - the wedding banquet of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.
We are even given a clue that this is all a foreshadow of things to come because Samuel told Saul that at the village of Zelzah he will meet two men who will inform him that the donkeys were found. Zelzah means “shadow.”
Samuel anointed Saul and gave him instructions about where he should go. First he was to go to the Great Tree of Tabor (on Mount Tabor?). There he would meet three men on their way to Bethel. They would have with them a goat, three loaves of bread and wine. (I Samuel 10:3-4) These men, who were on their way to Bethel, which means “the house of God”, had with them symbols of Jesus the Messiah. The goat is the scape goat, upon which the sins of Israel were placed at the Feast of Atonement. The loaves of bread and wine represent the bread and wine at the Passover Feast which Jesus tells us are representative of His body and blood.
Next, Saul was to go to Gibeah, which means “hill”. There he became a changed person and began to prophesy. Jesus gave His famous prophecy in Matthew 24 and 25 (the Olivet Discourse) from the Mount of Olives. Saul’s next destination was Gilgal, where the Israelites first camped in the Promised Land. This was the beginning of the redemption of that land. Jesus was the beginning of our redemption.
We do not think well of King Saul because of his actions toward David. However, Saul was chosen by the Lord to lead Israel. Saul was the first king of Israel. The life of Saul is in many ways a foreshadow Jesus, the Eternal King of Israel.
Saul was thirty years old when he was chosen by the Lord to lead Israel. He reigned for forty-two years. Jesus was thirty years old (according to tradition) when He began His ministry. According to Matthew, there are forty-two generations from Adam to Jesus.
Samuel gathered all the people of Israel together at Mizpah, which means “watch tower.” There, apparently by the Lord indicating His choice through the High Priest, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. The process was continued down to the choice of Saul - but he could not be found! Saul, in his humility, was hiding. This was Saul’s first appearance as king. Some of the people despised him and said, “How can this fellow save us?” But Saul kept silent. (I Samuel 10:27) At His first appearance Jesus was the humble, suffering Messiah. The Jews said, “How can this fellow save us?” Jesus kept His silence as mere men were sentencing Him, the Son of God.
The next recorded event in the life of King Saul was the great victory he won over the Ammonites. (I Samuel 11:11) This was Saul’s second appearance. After the victory, the people said, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring these men to us and we will put them to death.” (I Samuel 11:12) When Jesus makes His second appearance, he will have won a great victory over the enemies of Israel and will be unquestionably honored by the Jews.
Later, Saul disobeyed the Lord and was told that his kingdom would not endure. (I Samuel 13:14) Saul had fallen from grace with the Lord and had committed many wrongs. But even in death, Saul was a foreshadow of Jesus. Saul and his sons were surrounded by the Philistine army. Jonathon and his two brothers were slain and Saul was wounded. At this point Saul took his own life. (I Samuel 31:1-6) No one killed Saul. He died of his own wish. Afterward his body was hung on a wall in the village of Beth Shan, which means “house of rest.”
No one killed Jesus. Yes, technically, the Jews and Romans crucified Him. But Jesus laid down his own life (I John 3:16) His body was hung on the Cross. He died, but He was resurrected as the firstfruits of death! (I Corinthians 15:20) Praise God that we have that same wonderful hope. When His ministry here was complete, Jesus went to the House of Rest.
Isn’t it amazing how the Lord takes a familiar story and places within it types and shadows of future events. He is an amazing Lord. Praise His Name!