Saul came from a wealthy family and was said to be physically attractive. “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” (1 Samuel 9:2) When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord pointed him out. “There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people.” (1 Samuel 9:17) Samuel anointed Saul and soon he was recognized by all of Israel.
Saul had only reigned two years when he began a series of presumptuous actions that demonstrated his arrogance. His flagrant disobedience to God's commands resulted in God rejecting Saul as king of Israel. Saul disobeyed God's instructions regarding annihilating the Amalekites, and God told Samuel that Saul was finished as king. “Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1) Saul was king for 40 years (1 Samuel 11:15-31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:1-14), but most of his reign as king was fraught with spiritual oppression and insanity.
David was anointed to be king (1 Samuel 16:13) but did not officially reign until after Saul's death (2 Samuel 2:4). Abner, the captain of Saul'ss army, made Saul's son, Ishbosheth, king over Israel, but the house of Judah followed David. (2 Samuel 2:10) There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger while the house of Saul grew weaker. (2 Samuel 3:1) With the murder of Ishbosheth, all the elders of Israel came to David at Hebron and anointed him as king.
“David was 30 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 40 years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned 33 years over all Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 5:4, 5) David's life was colorful, filled with wars, wives, worship and weeping, and his sons competing for the throne. But of all the kings, there was none like David, to whom the Lord promised that “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 33:17) He was the one to whom God revealed the blueprint for the temple. David was a versatile man who enjoyed and also suffered a multiplicity of life's experiences, but in the end was the most beloved king of all time. (2 Samuel 4-1 Kings 2:11; 1 Chronicles 11-29)
The reign of Solomon showcased Israel at its zenith, the glory days of Israel. Early in his reign, the Lord asked Solomon in a dream, “What shall I give you?” Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge God's people, wisdom and knowledge, and the ability to discern between good and evil. (1 Kings 3:9; 2 Chronicles 1:10) “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. So the Lord exalted Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel.” (1 Kings 3:5; 4:29; 1 Chronicles 29:25)
In the fourth year of Solomon's reign, he began building the temple of the Lord according to David's blueprints. It was constructed in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. God blessed the temple and told Solomon, “I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (2 Chronicles 7:16) (1 Kings 4:32, 34) Solomon reigned 40 years (1 Kings 1:39-11:43; 2 Chronicles 1-9), “spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.”
The kingdom under Solomon reached its apex. Handed down to his son, Rehoboam, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. Rehoboam became king over Judah and Benjamin, and Jeroboam was king over the rest of the tribes of Israel. Israel never recovered spiritually, but God kept His promise to David, that his descendants would keep the throne.