The Holy Spirit in the Reigns of Kings Saul & David

Through to the end of the book of Judges, into Ruth, there is no reference to the Holy Spirit of God. While we have a reference to Samuel being a prophet (1 Sam 3:20), there is no reference to the Spirit acting in some other way. The next series of references to the Spirit are in the life of King Saul, five to be precise…

1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 11:6; 19:20, 23

The first two occasions have to do with Samuel anointing Saul as king over Israel. To establish the truth of Samuel’s behavior, he gives Saul a few signs to look for, a few events that would happen. In this way, Saul could trust Samuel’s word that he would, in fact, be the king of Israel. One of those signs is that Saul would receive the Spirit, prophesy, and be changed to another man. We do not know what or how Saul prophesied on this occasion, only that he did and under the guidance of the Spirit.

Next, we see in 11:6 that, as with the judges, when Israel was threatened by the Ammonites, the Spirit of God takes an active role. Verse 11 informs us that King Saul brought victory to Israel, guided as he was by the Holy Spirit.

While King Saul is pursuing and persecuting David, after his anointing as king and his victory over Goliath, Saul has the Spirit of God come over him one more time, chapter 19:18ff. I have no doubt that this “prophesying” – whatever the message was or how it was delivered – was to persuade Saul to quit following David and trying to kill him. I presume this is God’s way of trying to preserve Saul’s life and get him to focus on being the king of Israel.

In the presence of Samuel, King Saul takes his clothes off, lays down and prophesies all day and all night. If there was not a more powerful message that God could have sent Saul, I do not know what it could have been. King Saul has every opportunity to repent of his antagonism of David, humble his heart toward God, quit pursuing David, and gone back to taking care of the kingdom. But, of course, he does not.

Now we turn to the Spirit in the life of David, with noticeably fewer references:

1 Samuel 16:13, 14; 2 Samuel 23:2

This first chapter deals with Samuel going to Bethlehem, without Saul’s knowledge, so that he could anoint the next king over Israel. Once David was anointed king, the “Spirit of the Lord” came mightily (we saw this verb when we talked about the judges) upon David from that day forward. What the Lord did to / for David in this text is not said. We do know that David did some ungodly things just in 1 Samuel, even before we get to the Bathsheba / Uriah incident in 2 Samuel 11. We will talk in just a moment about David’s inspiration.

In the meanwhile, observe verse 14. We have noted before that the presence of the Spirit does not keep one from sinning and here we see that the Spirit can leave an individual and when we examine the Spirit in the book of Psalms, we’ll see where David prays that the Spirit will not leave leave him as He does here with King Saul.

The only other text that deals with the Spirit and King David here in the historical books is 2 Samuel 23:2. Here is the classic definition, a biblical definition, of inspiration. The English word, “inspiration,” coming from the Latin inspirare, means “to put the breath [Spirit] into.” The Spirit speaks by David, as he did through Balaam in our Numbers 22-24 passage. The Spirit is the Spirit of truth so His words through the mouth of David has to be the truth. The New Testament agrees with this sentiment of David (Acts 4:25).

By way of summary:

  1. In different moments of Israel’s history, the Holy Spirit gave men (and a woman) supernaturally endowed wisdom, knowledge, skill in battle.
  2. There were a few times when men (and a woman) prophesy.
  3. The Spirit did not stop men from sinning (cf. Jephthah & King Saul).
  4. The Spirit could leave an individual.
  5. The definition of inspiration is that the Spirit puts His words in the mouth of His spokesman.

–Paul Holland