Q: What does it mean a ‘distressing spirit’ from the Lord troubled Saul?

When Saul was anointed king of Israel, the prophet Samuel predicted the Spirit of God would come on Saul, giving him the needed skill and wisdom to rule the nation (1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 11:6). But Saul later disobeyed God’s direction as given by Samuel, so the Lord rejected him and eventually removed him as king (13:1–14; 15:1–35).

God chose David to replace Saul. When Samuel anointed David, God’s Spirit departed from Saul and came on David from that day forward: “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him” (16:14). It seems that, after David was anointed king, Saul’s mental instability and outrageous behavior worsened.

What does it mean, a “distressing [bad or evil] spirit from the LORD” came upon Saul? First, we know God does not cause moral evil (Jas. 1:13–17). Second, we know all beings God created are under His sovereign control. Since God is morally perfect and unchangeable, He cannot cause or be involved in evil.

Although the text doesn’t elaborate, it seems God simply removed His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) from Saul and allowed an evil spirit from Satan to come upon him, causing Saul to think illogically about spiritual matters. Deep psychological problems plagued him the rest of his life.

Scripture says Saul at times suffered from deep, depressive mood swings, which made him mentally unstable and caused him to exhibit wild behavior of extreme wickedness throughout his rule. This behavior manifested itself in uncontrollable jealousy of David, compelling Saul to pursue David continually to injure or kill him. Given Saul’s uncontrollable fits of anger, it seems demonic forces motivated him at times.

From the symptoms expressed in Scripture, many Bible scholars have theorized on the theological and psychological particulars pertaining to Saul’s situation and the type of illnesses from which he might have suffered. Saul seemed to suffer from melancholia mania (extreme manic depression) and paroxysmal mania (violent emotional outbursts of rage), often described as paranoid schizophrenia.

The story of Saul is one of the sorriest and most ignominious in the Bible. It reveals what disobedience toward God and unchecked sin can do in an individual’s life. Saul entered his kingship with great potential and ended his reign 40 years later with the most grievous personal disasters recorded in biblical history.

24 thoughts on “Q: What does it mean a ‘distressing spirit’ from the Lord troubled Saul?

  1. Dear sir,
    Thank you for the explanation.
    Dear brothers and sisters, I read the chat and I saw myself in your shoes for I have been and in some ways still battling similar issues. Jesus knows our every weakness and will not cast us off. One example, I was for a very long time battling with an addiction. I was in a constant cycle of sin and repentance and absolutely hated myself. God gave grace to keep confessing and coming back to Him and one day (after 10 years) it disappeared all together from my life. And I was free from my chains and I pray the same for you too. Did this mean I did not have thoughts come into my mind – absolutely not. Thoughts did come and there was a constant battle but this time around the thoughts no longer resulted in sin because when they arose, God gave grace to shut them down. Have you read the scripture where apostle Paul talks about his battles and how God allowed him to be tried by evil for God said – “My grace is sufficient for you” (2nd Corinthians 12:7-10). May I encourage you to keep up the fight and not give up for “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mathew 24:13)
    Deliverance will come from Our God though it seems delayed. I pray O Lord Jesus that all who are in trial and tribulations may have grace and strength from your mighty presence to overcome the evil they face. Amen

  2. Thank you for answering my question.

    Praying, reading the Bible and listening to Christian music helps me when I start to feel a depressing spirit.

    1. Hello, may I share that I have went through the very experience you have. One question arised as I kept reading the Word of God is “ They overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony “. I searched on the Blood ? of Jesus Christ…The Power of the Blood ?. Did you know there is Healing, Deliverance, Restoration, Wholeness, Safety, Perseverance, Forgiveness and the end result is PEACE OF MIND AND HEART ❤️. when I learned this, at anytime ugly thoughts or ugly behaviors or hurtful words want to come out or even happened… I repent and I put those thoughts, behavior under the Blood of Jesus !!! It’s Covered, it’s wiped away from your mind ??

      1. How is it wiped away from your mind? I keep getting plagued by lustful desires repeatedly no matter how many times I confess and tell God I want to be done with it.

        1. You have to fear God without being afraid of him. A healthy fear. But also Love Him because He sacrificed His son Jesus Christ for us. When you sin view it as a disrespect or dishonor to God our Heavenly Father.
          Just know if you’re fully aware you’re disrespecting your father or Father in this case He’s going to correct you or discipline you but don’t confuse discipline as punishment it’s two different things.

        2. Tgirl, It’s about soul ties from your past. You need to break them. I just watched a video last night from a Pastor Signorelli on YouTube. He explains what they are and how you can break them. Please check him out as he has a lot of good information on demonic strongholds. I’m praying you to get set free.

  3. So I understand how sin works and how distressing spirits come over you when you are not obedient. But what about a curse? I feel like I am a good Christian person with a good heart and one that loves God. I spend time with the Lord daily, go to church, teach Sunday school, have memorized many verses in his word all because I love the Lord, not because of obedience or reward. But I have distressing spirits come up on me a lot and sometimes I feel they could Conquer me. Is there any relief from this or is this the remainder of my life. I can’t seem to figure out what I am doing wrong. Although I know my family has been conflicted with this through generations. Can you advise any help?

    1. Hello Brendah, being good and Godly is a Christian virtue, but you need to do self deliverance, Hosea 4:6 states that my people perish because of lack of knowledge. A curse may have come upon your family through sin or evil, you need to seek the Lord and repent on their behalf then go into spiritual warfare.

    2. Brenda, in my experience, the only thing that can conquer a distressing spirit is to stay close to the Lord and to cling to Him with everything I have. He is my peace and safety. Make sure there is no sin anywhere in your life and that you stay “confessed up.” I try not to sin because when I do, the distressing spirit and accuser comes back to attack. The Lord uses Satan to perfect us in our walk. If God has allowed a distressing spirit, it is only because He wants to use it to drive us closer to Him! He’s working all things for good when we put it all in His hands. I had a distressing spirit come upon me because I turned away from God in my younger years. It took me so long to figure out how to conquer the thing. Clinging to God, pursuing goodness, righteousness, and holiness and making sure God stays number One in my life is the only thing that keeps the distressing spirit away. If I start slipping up, the distressing spirit comes back. I hypothesize that Saul also could have conquered his distressing spirit if he would have turned back to the Lord with everything He had. When David played music, the distressing spirit would leave him. I hope this helps.

      1. Hi Brenda! I went through a difficult time in my marriage and lost a lot of weight. I was very vulnerable to suggestions from the enemy especially the spirit of suicide. I heard a voice telling me to jump out of a moving car at one very stressful point in my life. I then heard the Lord strongly tell me to rebuke that spirit and he left. I heard someone teach about how an enemy lays seige to a city. Once the walls are broken down, you have no recourse. In your times of rest, seek the Lord fervently and aggressively. This will protect your walls when you are weak❤️

    3. Hi brenda,
      Its good that you love the Lord and all his teachings. Im sorry for your situation, if i may advice you also see a psychologist. God has given us great knowledge and understanding of our minds , and to these psychologists the grace to study it, i suggest you visit one and talk about your worries and also your family struggles with it. And also , listen to gospel music alot, hillsong, sinach. Lionel Peterson – peace is a great song that has brought me out of many dark moods.

      1. Psychologists do not have the answer for spiritual problems. Tormenting spirits are allowed in our life if we are holding on to unforgiveness toward another or even ourselves. Read Matthew 18:21-35. Also you need to study spiritual authority..we can’t stop birds from flying over our head but we can stop them from making a nest on our head..In the same way demons come but they have to go in Jesus’ name. Luke 10:19

      2. I agree with you, Chi Chi. While we must do our part and wholeheartedly submit ourselves to God, and put on the whole army of God to defeat attacks from the devil, a good Christian psychologist may also help. God has blessed us with earthly resources as well.

    4. Yes, I echo the comments… “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

      Whenever a depressing spirit comes over me again, I call to Jesus and say no to the spirit. “Submit yourself to the Lord; Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

      So take heart, even the early church members struggled with these spirits returning to cause them trouble. Keep on running after God, keep sending the bad spirit away in Jesus name. The Lord Jesus Himself is praying for you. He has you in His hand. He is preparing a perfect place for you. Don’t give up❤️❤️❤️❤️

    5. Plead the blood of Jesus daily. Pray Spiritual Warfare Prayers daily. Praise God, thank God, count your blessings, play worship music, smile, fast. The demon will leave. It must leave.

  4. Thanks for your answer to the question regarding distressing Spirit from the Lord. Pray me that the Holy Spirit will give me more understanding of His words and well

  5. Good morning to you all. Praise God today as we learn our bible lesson and life of people in the bible. This is a most useful tool
    Knowing what obedient and sacrifice mean. As a leader we are held more accountable for our actions. We need to be on guard and sober minded. It’s not always that easy. So let us pray for our leader. As we teach and preach and reach out . Love is the answer and doing God’s will. I pray for you all. Love ya, Pastor Gerald from Platform ministry.back to the basics.

  6. Yeah, the presence of GOD left him and an evil spirit came upon him and this could not be from GOD bc GOD has nothing to do with evil. And again, will not afflict Saul and deliver him again through music from David bc we know that whenever David played the instrument, the presence of GOD came and sent away the evil spirit.

  7. What I take from this is that the Lord removed His Spirit from Saul leaving him with a “reprobate mind” which in turn, gave full reign to his flesh. Without the power of God to help us keep our flesh subdued, people are subject to every ungodly and immoral thought with no power to resist acting those thoughts out.

    1. Glory! Amen. I do agree. More believers need to grasp this anointed understanding. We deny God’s presence and evil . Is there, however God continues “ to send A David . To comfort and sooth Us.
      Hallelujah!!! More Blessings,
      ❤️ Brenda, Jesus Christ, servant.

    2. I appreciate this insight. Mainly because it aligns with what I received while reading the passage and reflecting on it for several days. It would seem that with Christ we have the Spirit of the Lord upon us but as we continually step aside from that path in sin or disobedience, without responsibility for our own doing, we are left (as you said) without the power of the Spirit to shield and counsel us against the atrocities of the world and what we come against on a daily basis.

      Correction, is something I feel we do receive from God (and shouldn’t fear it) is a showing of Gods care and love for us. It is us that makes the decision as to whether we will align our free will with His or the world.

      If He loves us enough to correct us then would He not love us even more to forgive us as we ask for forgiveness?

      The passage speaks directly to the Spirit having once been upon Saul, now departing from Him as a showing of how we can either align our selves with God or…not. Just as much as the Spirit departed from Saul, did Saul not also depart from God?

      Anyway. I appreciate everyone’s insight. Thank you for helping me see through this passage. Peace be with you….

    1. 1 John 1;9…So true..We don’t have the death we should have had. Jesus blood sacrifice freed us from the bondage of sin in our heart felt repentance in our prayers, because of our disobedience to Him. Glory to God!🙌😊

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