The Saul Cycle is primarily concerned with promoting the descendants of Jonathan over all of Israel, forming a strong Israelite military force, and showing that Yahweh was Israel’s God. If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Saul Cycle. If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.
Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative
Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.
For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.
Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary
1. The descendants of Jonathan were trying to establish a kingship over all of Israel. There was no history to support this though, so N took Saul and spliced him into Jonathan’s family history, and then promoted Saul as someone who was king over all of Israel. This is in stark contrast to the history we typically think of, because we are more familiar with the Yahwist account which added in a Davidic agenda.
2. N repeatedly refers to Saul and Jonathan in terms of father and son.
3. The opposing narrative said that Saul was a different person than the son of Kish. N responds to this by telling of how Saul’s heart was changed and when he prophesied he was like a different person.
4. Jonathan was from the line of Kish, so N splices Saul in as the son of Kish.
5. The actual son of Kish and Saul were physically different looking. N adds a physical description to support that they are the same person.
6. Given that Ephraim was the tribe that had dominated over the other tribes, it’s likely that Saul was actually an Ephraimite. One scholar speculates that Saul was of Edomite ethnicity:
Though Saul’s home town is not mentioned here, his usual house was in Gibeah (1 Sam. 10:26; also see on 10:10). However he was buried in his family tomb (“in the grave of Kish his father”) in Zela, which is near Gibeon; see on 2 Sam. 21:14. Therefore Toorn guesses that Saul’s family could have been from the vicinity of Gibeon, since “people are generally buried on the land of their ancestors.” Based on this hypothesis he speculates that Saul was related to the Gibeonites, who belonged to “an ethnic strain represented also among the early Edomites”
Tsumura, D. (2007). The First Book of Samuel (p. 263). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
N needs to change Saul’s tribe of origin because Jonathan was from the tribe of Benjamin.
7. The same as #4, N splices Saul into the line of Kish in order to make him a Benjaminite.
8. Since Saul may have been an Ephraimite, N provides an alternative explanation of how he came from that land by telling of how the search for the donkeys took him through the hills of Ephraim. N may have been trying to associate Gibeah (in Benjamin) with Saul by calling it the Gibeah of Saul.
9. Saul and Jonathan may have been enemies given there different locations (see item #10), and that Saul had said he would kill Jonathan. N provides an alternative explanation by telling how Jonathan ate the honey, and so Saul was honor bound to kill Jonathan, but the people of Israel save him by recounting his military victory and ransoming him.
10. N provides an alternative explanation for the different locations of Saul and Jonathan by saying they had divided their military forces.
11. Since the tribe of Benjamin had no history of having power over the tribes of Israel (unlike Ephraim), N has Saul admit that Benjamin has no claim to rule over Israel, “the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin”, but Samuel anoints him regardless.
12. It’s questionable that Saul ever met with Samuel. There seems to be some basis that Saul or the son of Kish met with someone, it may not have been Samuel.
13. The opposing narrative said that Saul or the son of Kish never ate with Samuel. N responds by saying that they did, and that the food provided to him had been set aside earlier.
14. Since Samuel’s anointing of Saul took place in secret, there were no witnesses to corroborate that it actually happened. N has Samuel provide 3 signs as validation of the anointing.
15. The boy the was with Saul or the son of Kish never saw the anointing because he had been sent ahead.
16. The son of Kish’s uncle never knew about the anointing because he was never told about it.
17. Saul or the son of Kish may have met with a prophet, but Samuel was a seer (or vice versa). N responds by equating the two terms.
18. N repeatedly refers to “all of Israel” or “Israel” when referring to Saul’s leadership. In the Samuel Cycle, N stresses that Samuel had led all of Israel, so being anointed by Samuel, increases Saul’s status over all of Israel.
19. N repeatedly talks about how Saul fought enemies on all sides of Israel, which N is using to solidify Saul’s (and the line of Jonathan’s) rule over all of Israel.
20. N echoes the objections of some of those in Israel but explains that things had changed after Saul’s military victory. How did this phrase endure if Saul was king over all Israel. N explains that is was because Saul said, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel."
21. N has Samuel declare that all Israel desired Saul to lead them.
22. Saul had threatened violence against those who did not accept his kingship. N provides an alternative explanation by providing a noble cause for the threat to be made: to save those in the transjordan, who may have been among the most reluctant to accept a kingship from Saul (and the line of Jonathan).
23. It appears that Israel had been a loose confederation of tribes that had been led by a series of prophets and/or priests (typically from Ephraim) like Moses, Deborah and Samuel. For Saul to lead all of Israel, the opposing narrative may have been stipulating that Saul should be a prophet. N provides an alternative explanation for the saying by telling of how Saul prophesied.
24. Why did Saul have such a small army if he ruled over all of Israel? N explains that it was because he sent most home.
25. N attributes the victory over the Philistines to Jonathan.
26. The opposing narrative was saying that Jonathan was not the one to kill the Philistines at the garrison.
27. The opposing narrative was saying that it was the armor-bearer that had killed the Philistines. N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it was Jonathan that had struck them down, and the armor-bearer finished them off behind him.
Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary
1. As with the other cycles of N, Yahweh is injected into the history of Israel. The Spirit of Yahweh possesses Saul, and Yahweh is credited with defeating Israel’s enemies.
Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary
1. Saul, Jonathan and the Israelites are victorious in their battles against all of Israel’s enemies. N highlights battles against the Ammonites and the Philistines. Yahweh is also presented as a strong God of war, helping the Israelites defeat their enemies.
The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above. For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.