Did Biblical King Saul have PTSD?

By | November 14, 2020

[November 14, 2020]  One of my personal interests has been understanding the way successful leaders think.  I do this as a way to improve show up-and-coming leaders how to improve their leadership skills.  A recent article by Andrew Stone, MD, at Eternal Soldier piqued my interest.  It was titled, Did King Paul have PTSD?

Dr. Stone proposed a thought-provoking question with the title of his article.  He begins by asking whether we can even ask such a question of a person who lived 3,000 years ago.

The story of King Saul comes to us across the centuries, from roughly three thousand years ago, and the form we have it in was written down hundreds of years after that time, in what is called the Book of Samuel [from the Bible].

What we do know is that King Saul had long and broad exposure to combat.

14:47 After Saul had secured his kingship over Israel, he waged war on every side against all his enemies, against the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, the Philistines, and the kings of Zobah; and wherever he turned, he worsted [them].

14:52 There was bitter war against the Philistines all the days of Saul.1

Again, from the Bible in the book of I Samuel, we find that the people around King Saul saw that he had changed and was deeply disturbed.

16:14 Now the spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord began to terrify him.2

Of course, the Bible is a long-ago written narrative that has witnessed many changes through translations, changing the meaning of words and selective editing.  While this makes for difficulty in pulling out a medical diagnosis, we do have some indicators that King Saul may have had PTSD.  For example, he showed signs of anger and irritability.

18:10 The next day, an evil spirit of God gripped Saul, and he began to rave in the house, while David was playing [his lyre] as he did daily. Saul had a spear in his hand, and Saul threw the spear, thinking to pin David to the wall. But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him and had turned away from Saul.3

King Saul is an experienced warrior, one who has known constant war for many years. Combat is where he feels most at home.  It is where his suspiciousness and anger make the most sense.  He leads his armies into battle for the last time against the Philistines, who defeated him in battle.  Badly wounded, King Saul asks to be killed but takes his own life.  In that suicide, when the wounds from his enemies have not killed him, he takes his own life.

So, did King Saul have PTSD?   All we can say from here and now is that we hear the story of a man who goes to war over and over again, with sword and spear, hand to hand. King Saul may or may not have had what we now call PTSD, but the man in the story is someone who went to war and came back changed, with wounds and scars on his mind and soul as well as on his body.


  1. Bible Study Tools – https://www.biblestudytools.com/1-samuel/14.html
  2. Bible Study Tools – https://www.biblestudytools.com/1-samuel/16.html
  3. Bible Study Tools – https://www.biblestudytools.com/1-samuel/18.html
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Did Biblical King Saul have PTSD?

    1. Scotty Bush

      That is why we all keep coming back to Gen. Satterfield’s blog on leadership. He calls it a senior leaders blog but I think, IMHO, that he is really just discussing ALL levels of leadership and for ALL people even if you are not in a leader position.

  1. Purse 5

    I consider myself a good Christian. Reading this article made me happy that the Bible is worthy of everyone to read and learn from it. But it is much more because it also provides not must education but inspiration.

  2. Tom Bushmaster

    Good point Otto. I’ve been seeing the same thing as well. These liberals introduce the good fairy of ideas that look good on the surface (so they can genuflect) but have disastrous consequences.

  3. Willie Shrumburger

    “King Saul” we can certainly learn a lot from him. You think?

  4. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, another great article. Very educational. This one gave me the motivation to go back and read I Samuel. I’ll do it later this weekend. Thanks!

  5. Dennis Mathes

    Now this is a great analysis. I went back and re-read the original article you point out. Excellent thinking. It is, indeed, amazing what one can learn from the Bible if we put our heads into it.

    1. Albert Ayer

      The Bible is the greatest book of the psychology of humans ever written AND gives us solutions to common human problems as well. Wow, you can’t get it any better.

      1. J. J. Foxx

        Right. The Bible is still the most read book in the world. It is obviously the best for a reason.

  6. Max Foster

    Another article that hits home the fact that being a leader does not mean you have it easy. Like so many mislead young people, they believe a leader is a white man, sitting back with a big cigar throwing out orders to his minions, drinking Champaign all day long, tossing $100 bills around, and in the company of a dozen hookers. This is not the way the world works but that is the way our liberal, leftist, commie, pinko media believe it to be. They live on stereotypes.

    1. Doug Smith

      Well said, Max and I will add that those same millennials morally lecture others about using stereotypes. How ironic and it shows both their ignorance and prejudice as well.

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Excellent point Max and Doug. I have found, personally, that those I know who are politically liberal are some of the most racist people ever. Now, not in an obvious bigoted manner but in many more subtle ways. Their actions speak loudly.

      1. Tom Bushmaster

        Good point Otto. I’ve been seeing the same thing as well. These liberals introduce the good fairy of ideas that look good on the surface (so they can genuflect) but have disastrous consequences.

    3. JT Patterson

      Well said Max. I have also found that the persons with the least understanding of people are those on the political left. They deeply believe they are both superior to everyone else (and they cannot admit it) and they have a moral solution to every problem (and they are the ones to insist upon it being implemented). We normally would call that delusional.

    1. Eric Coda

      Yep, that is, of course, the main reason that I come to this site almost every day. If I miss an article that day, I’m sure to be back the next to read it. As well, I read all the comments. Why? Because there is a better understanding that comes out of my reading them. Imperfect? Yes, but I do understand these articles better that Gen. Satterfield has given us.

      1. Bryan Z. Lee

        I do believe, Eric, this website and others on leadership help give us a real perspective on what it’s like to be a leader and what’s in the toolbox for making for a better leader. Keep up the great work Gen. Satterfield. As my dad used to say, “keep on trucking.”

      2. Gil Johnson

        Yes, good one. Thanks all. I hope everyone here had a great Veterans Day, I sure did.


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