The name Saul in the Bible
English Bibles make a distinction between the Hebrew names Saul and Shaul but there's no real call for that, except that Shaul comes closer to the Hebrew pronunciation than Saul.
The name Saul or Shaul is applied five times in the Bible:
- Most famously is Saul the son of Kish, who was anointed as the first king of Israel by Samuel the prophet and last of the judges (1 Samuel 10:1). King Saul never managed to unite the tribes and became a bit of a loser king. His relationship with his future successor David was stormy to say the least. Saul tried to kill him but also offered his daughters Merab and Michal to him as wives (David marries Michal but not Merab). Saul's son Jonathan becomes David's beloved friend, but both Saul and Jonathan die in combat against the Philistines.
- A king of Edom who came from Rehoboth on the Euphrates (Genesis 36:37)
- A son of Simeon and a Canaanite woman who became patriarch of the שאולי, the Shaulites (Genesis 46:10, Numbers 26:13)
- A Levite of the family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 6:24).
- Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish scholar and zealous persecutor of Christians, who famously converted on the road to Damascus and became the apostle Paul (although the name Saul sticks until Acts 13). The name Saul in Greek is written as Σαυλος, Saulos.
Etymology of the name Saul
The name Saul or Shaul comes from the verb שאל (sha'al) meaning to ask, inquire, borrow, beg:
For a meaning of the name Shaul or Saul, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Asked (of God), although God is not referred to in this name. BDB Theological Dictionary interprets our name Saul with Asked (of YHWH). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads a more correct Asked For.