Saul was the first king of the ancient Israelites. His tragic story is recounted in the First Book of Samuel. A fierce warrior, Saul waged battle against the enemies of Israel. He initially triumphed, but his failure to obey a divine command led to his abandonment by God. Saul became afflicted by a dark melancholy or, as written in I Samuel 16, “an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.” Alarmed, his courtiers summoned David, a young shepherd from Bethlehem who was renowned as a musician. David’s harp playing temporarily calmed the king’s mental anguish. Unfortunately, after David’s defeat of Goliath, Saul grew jealous of the youth’s popularity. When Saul was again afflicted by a dark mood and David was called to pacify him, he found the king sitting in his palace “with his javelin in his hand.” Saul attempted to impale David, but the young man escaped. The king’s murderous pursuit of David ended only with the Saul’s death in battle. As a subject for art, Saul is relatively rare.
Gift of Anne Faircloth and Frederick Beaujeu-Dufour in honor of John W. Coffey