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Saul, first king of the ancient Hebrews. He was a Benjamite and anointed king by Samuel. Saul's territory was probably limited to the hill country of Judah and the region to the north, and his proximity to the Philistines brought him into constant conflict with them. The Bible tells his story dramatically, for it is really the story of David, first the protégé, then the rival, and finally the successor, of the king. Saul's son Jonathan was David's friend—a fact that adds pathos to the story of Saul's attempts to destroy David. David would not harm Saul, who nevertheless met a melancholy end after he went to the witch of Endor and heard his defeat and death prophesied. Saul, defeated and wounded in battle with the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa, committed suicide rather than be captured. Though Saul was unsuccessful in defeating the Philistines, he paved the way for enhanced national security and unity under David. The Saul of the Book of Genesis is elsewhere called Shaul.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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