William Riley examines the Chronicler’s brief account of Saul in 1 Chronicles 10 ( King and Cultus in Chronicles: Worship and the Reinterpretation of History ). Why does the Chronicler include Saul at all, why place Saul’s story at the beginning of the narrative section of the book, and why tell the story this way? Riley argues that the account sets up the Chronicler’s peculiar theology of king and cult. Saul is the “non-cultic king” whose failures set the backdrop for David’s faithful liturgical presidency.
Saul’s failure is a result of his ma’al , his “trespass” (10:13), which is further specified as a failure to seek the Lord (v. 14). Riley comments, “Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible the root ma’al is linkednegatively with habitation of the land; the Chronicler has retainedthis association in his usage and also used both noun and verb toindicate cultic offences elsewhere in his work. The probability is thatthe term is meant to have the same associations in the Chronicler’sjudgment on Saul. The cultic overtone of this term is significant,since it immediately brings into this paradigmatic passage that visionwhich was common to the ancient Near East of the king as one whohad responsibility and accountability in relation to the cultus” (43).
Other references to Saul and Saul’s house reinforce this theme of cultic trespass.
In 1 Chronicles 13:3, “David’s concern with the Ark is contrasted with Saul’s neglect, usingthe verb darash [seek] once again in a pejorative reference to the reign of Saul . . . A similarly negativerelationship between Saul and the Ark is implied in the disapproval ofSaul’s daughter Michal of David’s cultic dance before the Ark in 1Chron. 15.29” (45).
The Chronicler’s account of the Philistine deposit of Saul’s body in the house of Dagon, which differs from the account in 1 Samuel 31:10, hints in a similar direction: “the Chronicler may be alluding to the Philistineattempt to house the Ark in the temple of Dagon, and giving anironic manifestation of the failure of Saul in the very place where theArk of Yahweh had shown its strength, a strength which would havebeen available to Israel had Saul shown proper concern for the Ark.The struggle with the Philistines is thus shown as a type of cultic warwhich Saul has lost due to his cultic failure” (45).
In sum Saul “he is a king whose failure to seek Yahwehin the cultus amounts to ma’al; the effect of this cultic ma’al is to endangerIsrael’s security in the land and to provoke the anger of Yahweh;in turn, Saul and his dynasty are terminated and the kingship is turnedelsewhere” (52).