Saul and the Evil Spirit
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Imagine you are a general commanding an army. Your army has a strong advantage. No one can see your soldiers. They wage war sight unseen. They seek to destroy the enemy and take everyone prisoner. Once captured, they enslave those prisoners to do all kinds of evil. Without knowing it, the world lies under the rule of the devil, and his invisible army attacks everyone all the time. The devil enslaves people to sin, and entices them to sin more. His invisible army of evil spirits influence the lives of all people. Without Jesus, no one escapes the domain of darkness ruled by the devil.
Many people today do not give much thought to the spiritual world. What they cannot see does not cross their minds. Such lack of perception amounts to spiritual blindness. Just because people cannot see the evil spirits, they still live among us and indwell people. Jesus taught that the we struggle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). We must learn about how spirits affect our lives and the way they influence our emotions in particular.
Saul and the Spirits
The story of Saul illustrates how evil spirits influence our lives. Most people remain oblivious to the power the of the evil spirits coming upon them. Evil spirits come into people and influence behavior. Yahweh sends evil spirits to go into evil people. In the case of Saul, King of Israel, the Holy Spirit came upon Saul and remained with him. The Hebrew text indicates that the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Saul. 1The Hebrew phrase was “וְצָלְחָ֤ה עָלֶ֨יךָ֙ ר֣וּחַ יְהוָ֔ה וְהִתְנַבִּ֖יתָ עִמָּ֑ם וְנֶהְפַּכְתָּ֖ לְאִ֥ישׁ אַחֵֽר” and described the relationship to the spirit. The Holy Spirit was not an abiding presence with Saul, but the Holy Spirit would come upon Saul. 2In 1 Samuel 10:6, Samuel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would rush upon (“עָלֶ֨יךָ֙“) Saul. The preposition “upon” does not mean to indwell, because the Holy Spirit is not entering into him, but came upon him. Consider John 14:17 where Jesus described the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as abiding “with you” (“παρ’ ὑμῖν”), but prophesied that in the future the Holy Spirit would be “in you” (“ἐν ὑμῖν”). Notice that Jesus used the word “abides” (“μένει”) to describe the continuing relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Old Testament believer. Centuries after Saul reigned, the Holy Spirit began a new relationship with saints alive on earth. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a rushing wind in cloven tongues of fire and indwelt believers for the first time. Today, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the life of every believer at the moment of salvation. Jesus baptizes each believer with the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, Jesus cast demons out of people, showing that some evil spirits reside in some people. 3For example, see Luke 8:29, where Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man (“ἐξελθεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου”). See also Acts 16:18 You may recall that the Holy Spirit did not indwell people in the Old Testament, but He did come upon people for a particular task. 4Consider John 14:17 where Jesus described the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as abiding “with” (“παρ”) you, but prophesied that in the future the Holy Spirit would be “in” (“ἐν”) you. Notice that Jesus used the word “abides” (“μένει”) to describe the continuing relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Old Testament believer. That relationship dramatically changed in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a rushing wind in cloven tongues of fire. Yet, in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon some people and abided with them. Saul, for example, had the Holy Spirit come upon him for the purpose of prophesying and ruling Israel. 5In 1 Samuel 10:6 we read “and came upon” (“וְצָלְחָ֤ה“) Saul the Holy Spirit. The root term there often means to rush upon. See 2 Samuel 19:18 where warriors rushed (“וְצָלְח֥וּ”–and they rushed) to the Jordan before the king. See Acts 2 where suddenly a sound out of heaven being carried as violent breath and filled all the house. Compare the breath of life in Genesis 2:7) The Holy Spirit came upon Saul and remained upon him for a period of time. 6The writer of Samuel always used the term “rushed” (“וְצָלְח֥וּ”–and they rushed) to describe the Spirit of Yahweh coming upon a person, except once where the evil spirit sent from Yahweh came upon Saul (1 Samuel 18:10).
When Nahash the Ammonite besieged Jabesh-gilead, Saul heard the news. The Spirit of Elohim rushed upon him, and he burned with nose anger exceedingly. 7The Hebrew text provides: “וַתִּצְלַ֤ח רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹהִים֙ עַל־שָׁא֔וּל בְּשָׁמְעֹו אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיִּ֥חַר אַפֹּ֖ו מְאֹֽד” (1 Samuel 11:5-6). See The Angers of God to learn more about nose anger. Therefore, we see that holy anger rose up in Saul after the Spirit of Elohim rushed upon him. Nose anger burns against people who attack the children of God. The Spirit of Elohim stirs up emotions so that we feel what He feels.
When Saul sinned against Yahweh, He rejected Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 15). Then Yahweh directed Samuel to anoint David as King and the Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13). 8The Hebrew text provides that the Spirit of Yahweh (“וַתִּצְלַ֤ח רֽוּחַ־יְהוָה֙ אֶל־דָּוִ֔ד“) then remained upon him from that day (“מֵהַיֹּ֥ום הַה֖וּא“). Then the Spirit of Yahweh turned away from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh terrorized him (1 Samuel 16:14). 9The Hebrew text provides that the Spirit of Yahweh “turned away from” (“סָ֖רָה”) from Saul. Then an evil spirit (“רֽוּחַ־רָעָ֖ה”) came from Yahweh (“מֵאֵ֥ת יְהוָֽה“) and terrorized (“וּבִֽעֲתַ֥תּוּ”–Piel stem) Saul. See Psalm 18:4 and the cords of death terrorizing David. Saul lost the kingdom because he disobeyed Yahweh by not killing Agag the king of the Amalekites and not killing the livestock, causing Yahweh to regret having made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:1-17). Notice that Saul did not obey the voice of Yahweh, but rushed upon the spoil, doing evil in the sight of Yahweh (1 Samuel 15:19). 10The Hebrew text provides: “and darted upon” (“וַתַּ֨עַט֙”) the spoil, doing “the evil” (“הָרַ֖ע” in the sight of Yahweh. Notice the similarity of Saul “darting upon” the spoil and the Spirit of Yahweh rushing upon Saul at first. Notice also the similarity of the evil (“הָרַ֖ע”) Saul did in the eyes of Yahweh with the “evil spirit” sent from Yahweh to terrorize him. This passage shows that Yahweh commands evil spirits and they obey Him. Yahweh can send evil spirits to terrorize people for their sinful behavior.