By this time almost all the Israelite tribes yearned for the peace and stability that they believed could come with re-unification. Accordingly, they appealed to Samuel to select a leader whom they could call King 'like the other nations'. He chose and anointed one Labayu who, after his death, came to be known as Saul. (Shaƻl in Hebrew means 'asked for [by the people]') His people always referred to him as 'Great Lion of Yaweh'. (See Appendix E)

King Saul spent most of his reign fighting the hill tribes and Philistines. A rebel chieftain, called David, became prominent with his large contingent of Hebrew mercenaries who owed allegiance to no particular tribe. David himself was of the tribe of Judah having been born of humble origins in Bethlehem. Eventually, Saul put David to flight and the latter sought refuge in the kingdom Philistia.

As a revenge on Saul, David offered his force to the Philistines whom he knew were about to mount their own attack on Saul, but his gesture was refused as the Philistines did not altogether trust him. The eventual outcome was that, in Saul's final clash with the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, he was betrayed by a section of his own troops which resulted in his total defeat. Three of Saul's sons, including Jonathan, were killed and Saul himself committed suicide. The four bodies were decapitated and their heads suspended from the walls of the nearby city of Bethshean.

Meanwhile, David had moved in and taken control as king of the city-state of Hebron where, some time previously he had married Saul's daughter, Michal. Saul's remaining son, Ishbaal, now inherited the kingdom but he reigned very ineffectually for only seven years before contracting an illness from which he died. Whereupon David promptly exploited his position as Saul's son-in-law and assumed the kingship of the whole of Israel.