Saul the King

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Saul (שאול המלך) (or Sha'ul) (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Standard Šaʾul Tiberian Šāʾûl ; "asked for" or "borrowed") is a figure identified in the Books of Samuel as having been the first king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.

Contents

[edit] Nativity

According to the Books of Samuel, when taken at face value, Saul was the son of a man named Kish, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. However, according to several Talmudic scholars, the Books of Samuel originally stated that Saul was the son of Hannah and Elkanah. According to the Books of Samuel as they now stand, Hannah, who had been childless, had asked God for a son, and when she later became pregnant named the son Samuel to reflect this; meaning this pasage now refers to a different person, the last of the Hebrew Judges, rather than the person who would become king.

Some scholars of Hebrew, however, find Samuel (literally name of God) an odd name to be explained by this etymology; the traditional translation heard of God (i.e. God heard) requires a linguistically awkward rendering, as heard of God is actually Shamael; Saul, on the other hand, would have fit the explanation near-perfectly, since the Hebrew term used for asked is sha'ul.

Some Talmudic scholars therefore think that the text originally spoke of Saul as being the child of Hannah that she dedicated to God, and brought up in God's tabernacle; scholars think that a later scribe censored the narrative (by swapping Saul's name for Samuel's) due to the religious sensibilities that would have been offended by the latterly negative figure of Saul having been divinely appointed and raised. The Song of Hannah, a poem interrupting the prose text at this point, supposedly being Hannah's response to the birth of her son, is according to textual scholars more realistically a song of praise directed towards a monarch, and hence more likely to have been inserted into a narrative about the birth of a future king (Saul) than of a prophet (Samuel).

[edit] Appointment as King

The Books of Samuel give three distinct accounts of how Saul came to be appointed as king:

  • (1 Samuel 9:1-10:16) Saul was sent with a servant to look for his father's she-asses, who had strayed; leaving his home at Gibeah, the eventually wander to the district of Zuph, at which point Saul suggests abandoning their search. Saul's servant however, remarks that they happened to be near the town of Ramah, where a famous seer was located, and suggested that they should consult him first. The seer (later identified by the text as Samuel), having previously had a vision instructing him to do so, offers hospitality to Saul when he enters Ramah, and later anoints him in private.
  • (1 Samuel 10:17-24 and 12:1-5) Desiring to be like other nations, there was a popular movement to establish a centralised monarchy. Samuel therefore assembled the people at Mizpah, and despite having strong reservations, which he made no attempt to hide, allows the appointment of a king. Samuel uses cleromancy to determine who it was that God desired to be the king, whittling the assembly down into ever smaller groups until Saul is finally identified. Saul, hiding in baggage, is then publicly anointed.
  • (1 Samuel 11:1-11 and 11:15) The Ammonites, led by Nahash, lay siege to Jabesh-Gilead, who are forced to surrender. Under the terms of surrender, the occupants of the city would be forced into slavery, and have their right eyes removed as a sign of this. The city's occupants send out word of this to the other tribes of Israel, and the tribes west of the Jordan assemble an army under the leadership of Saul. Saul leads the army to victory against the Ammonites, and, in both gratitude and appreciation of military skill, the people congregate at Gilgal, and acclaim Saul as king.

According to some scholars of textual criticism, the existence of three different explanations here is the result of the biblical narrative being spliced together from a number of originally distinct source texts. This is clearer in the Septuagint version of 1 Samuel 11:15, which describes Saul being publicly anointed as king by Samuel at Gilgal, rather than the crowd simply acclaiming him as such; i.e. Saul gets anointed three times, and twice publicly. Textual scholars consider the cleromancy narrative to be part of the so-called republican source (which takes an anti-monarchial spin), while the battle-victory narrative, and sometimes also the lost-sheep narrative, is assigned to the pro-monarchial source (which views the Israelite monarchy through rose-tinted glasses). The pro-monarchial source is generally thought to be the older, reflecting court records from the times of strong kings, while the republican source is considered to have a date more in tune with the times when writers, such as Jeremiah, were willing to openly criticise their weaker rulers.

[edit] The Story in the Qur'an:

The story is mentioned in the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, as follows:

"Did we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" But when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah has full knowledge of those who do wrong.

[247] Their Prophet said to them: "Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?" He said: "Allah hath chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah is All-Embracing, and He knoweth all things."

[248] And (further) their Prophet said to them: "A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the Covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Musa and the family of Harun, carried by angels. In this is a Symbol for you if ye indeed have faith."

[249] When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream; if any drinks of its water, he goes not with my army; only those who taste not of it go with me; a mere sip out of the hand is excused." But they all drank of it, except a few. With they crossed the river, he and the faithful ones with him, they said: "This day we cannot cope with Jalut and his forces." But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere."

[250] When they advanced to meet Jalut and his forces, they prayed: "Our Lord! Pour out constancy on us and make our steps firm: help us against those that reject faith."

[251] By Allah's will they routed them: and Dawud slew Jalut: and Allah gave him Power and Wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.

[252] These are the Signs of Allah: We rehearse them to thee in truth: verily thou art one of the Messengers

[edit] Michmash

The Philistines had placed a garrison at Geba, in order to suppress the Israelites. After Saul was appointed king, according to Samuel, he amassed an army to throw off the Philistine yoke, and entered into battle against the Philistines at Michmash. Saul's army was small, numbering around 600 men, a reasonable army for a small kingdom. The text portrays the Philistine army as vastly outnumbering this, with 30,000 chariots for example, but the numbers are unrealistic - the entire Roman Empire only had about 150,000 men[citation needed], so a small group such as the Philistines couldn't be expected to fit anything near this number into their small territory. Also considered unrealistic by historians is the suggestion by the text that Saul and Jonathan were the only men apart from the Philistines that had weapons; textual critics also believe that this suggestion (1 Samuel 13:19-22) is a later addition to the text, particularly as the narrative flows more naturally from the end of verse 18 onto the start of verse 23.

The text also states that during the early part of the battle the Hebrews, who the text treats as a distinct group separate from the Israelites, had sided with the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:21) and thus been enemies of the Israelites; a few modern translations insist that only some of the Hebrews did this, but both the masoretic text and Septuagint refer to the Hebrews as a whole. The text states that a man named Jonathan led the Hebrews, and that he was the son of Saul. Scholars of biblical criticism, however, have proposed that this is simply an ethnology - indicating that the Hebrews were a branch of Israelites (and distinct from the others), rather than that they were led by a son of the Israelite King.

The text explains that Jonathan and a small group of Hebrews left the Israelites and sneaked into the Philistine camp to attack them from within, without the Israelites noticing the absence; many scholars of biblical criticism regard this as simply being an editorial excuse to justify the Hebrews' initial presence among the Philistine army. It would appear that the Hebrews betrayed the Philistines and changed sides, the text adding that Jonathan had started attacking the Philistines from within their own camp, causing panic. When the Israelites noticed the chaos, Saul consulted the Ephod for advice, and then decided that the Israelites should join in the attack on the Philistines.

In the text, having pushed back the Philistines, Saul makes a vow that no Israelite would eat until the battle is over, in order to ensure divine support for a victory. Jonathan, who has not heard the vow, consumes honey from a honeycomb that he found on the ground. Although one of the soldiers tells Jonathan about Saul's vow, Jonathan remarks that Saul's vow was militarily unwise since lack of food physically weakened the army. When the battle was over, the Israelites, being famished, killed the livestock they had taken from the Philistines, and ate the meat on the spot, without first draining the blood (an offense to the religious sensibilities of the Israelites, who considered that blood should never be consumed).

The people wanted to continue to pursue the Philistines by night, and commit genocide, but the priest said they should consult God for advice. According to the text, God was silent, and Saul, deciding that someone must therefore have sinned, used cleromancy to find the guilty party, Jonathan. Saul decides that Jonathan should die for his violation of Saul's rash vow, but the commanders of the Israelite army prevent Saul from doing this, as Jonathan had in their view brought them victory over the Philistines. According to biblical critics, this narrative concerning Saul's vow originates with an underlying tension between the Hebrews (represented by Jonathan) and the Israelites, with the Hebrews being seen, to an extent, as heroes by the general population, but a thorn in the side by rulers such as Saul.

[edit] Rejection

According to the text as it stands, Samuel had told Saul to wait for him for seven days before attacking, but as Samuel did not arrive within the time and the Israelites became restless, Saul started preparing for battle by offering sacrifices; when Samuel does finally arrive he criticises Saul for not waiting and curses him to fall from God's favour.

After the battle with the Philistines was over, the text describes Samuel as having instructed Saul to commit total genocide against the Amalekites, in accordance with the mitzvah to do so. Having forewarned the Kenites living among the Amalekites to leave, Saul went to war and won against the Amalekites, but only killed all the babies, women, children, poor quality livestock, and men, leaving alive the king and best livestock.

When Samuel finds out that Saul has not committed total genocide, he becomes angry and launches into a long and bitter diatribe about how God regretted making Saul king, since Saul is disobedient. When Samuel turns away, Saul grabs Samuel by his clothes tearing a small part of them off, which Samuel states is a prophecy about what would happen to Saul's kingdom. Samuel then commands that the Amalekite king (who, like all other Amalekite kings in the Hebrew Bible, is named Agag) should be brought forth, and when he is, Samuel kills him himself. Samuel then leaves, forever.

According to textual critics, both the earlier passage about Saul's impatience (1 Samuel 13:7b-15a) and the later narrative of the Amelekite war (1 Samuel 15) are later redactions of the text that belong together. These are both designed to justify the later fate of Saul and division in his kingdom, when Saul had seemingly been divinely chosen to be king, and simultaneously portray ancient Israel as more of a theocracy than it would otherwise have appeared to be, making a king appear to take orders from a prophet.

[edit] David's introduction

It is at this point that David, a son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, enters the story. According to the narrative, David comes to prominence on three occasions:

  • (1 Samuel 16:1-13) Samuel is surruptitiously sent by God to Jesse. Pretending to simply be offering a sacrifice in the vicinity, Samuel includes Jesse among the invited guests. Dining together, Jesse's sons are brought one by one to Samuel, each time being rejected by him; running out of sons, Jesse sends for David, the youngest, who was tending sheep. When brought to Samuel, David is anointed by him in front of his other brothers.
  • (1 Samuel 16:14-23) Saul is troubled by an evil spirit sent by God (some translations euphemistically just describe God not preventing an evil spirit from troubling Saul). Saul requests soothing music, and a servant recommends David the son of Jesse, who is renowned as a skillful harpist and soldier. When word of Saul's needs reach Jesse, he sends David, who had been looking after a flock, and David is appointed as Saul's armour bearer. David remains at court playing the harp as needed by Saul to calm his moods.
  • (1 Samuel 17:1-18:5) The Philistines return with an army to attack Israel, but, having amassed on a hillside opposite to the Israelite forces, suggest that to save effort and lives on both sides, it would be better to have a proxy combat between their champion, a Rephaim from Gath named Goliath, and someone of Saul's choosing. David, a young shepherd boy, happens to be delivering food to his three eldest brothers, who are in the Israelite army, at the time that the challenge is made. David, who is somewhat cocksure, talks to the nearby soldiers mocking the Philistines, but is told off by his brothers for doing so. David's speech is overheard and reported to Saul, who does not know David, but summons David, and on hearing David's views decides to kit him out with his (Saul's) own armour. Saul then appoints David as his champion, and David defeats Goliath with a mere shot from a sling.

Textual scholars see these three narratives as coming from three distinct sources, the first, in which David is anointed, being a late redaction into the text so as to portray David as having been divinely appointed, and to insert a prophet into the role of kingmaker, to be more suggestive of theocracy. The second narrative, which mocks Saul as being afflicted by an evil spirit, is thought to come from the republican source.

The third narrative, which is the most famous, is thought to come from the monarchial source. It sits uneasily with the second; David, a renowned warrior who has just been appointed in court as Saul's armour bearer (narrative 2), is very shortly afterwards an unknown unarmoured young shepherd boy delivering food to his brothers (narrative 3). An attempt to smooth over elements of these difficulties of the masoretic text appears to have been made by the Septuagint, which excludes the passages referring to David delivering food to his brothers, and Saul not having known him (specifically 17:12-31, 17:41, 17:50, 17:55-18:5) - these passages are marked with brackets in some translations.

The third narrative also sits uneasily with 2 Samuel 21:19, which says that Elhanen, a soldier working for David, slayed Goliath (a few translations smooth over this by claiming that Elhanen slayed a brother of Goliath). Scholars of biblical criticism generally consider the older tradition to be the one in which Elhanen slayed Goliath, the tradition in which it was David, and in which it was the reason for defeat of the entire Philistine army, coming into existence to make David appear even more skilled/historically important than he actually was in reality. The use of a slingshot to cause Goliath's death is not as remarkable as it at first seems; many soldiers in the ancient near east were equipped with slings as their main weapon, for example there are several Assyrian carvings of their use, though by the 7th century BC (around which time the biblical text is thought to date by critical scholars) better weapon technology would have been available.

[edit] Saul's enmity with David

Image:Saul Throws Spear at David by George Tinworth.png
"Saul Throws Spear at David" by George Tinworth

In the text, after David is introduced at court, Jonathan becomes extremely fond of him, to the extent of loving him as himself, and stripping naked (or nearly naked) in front of him (1 Samuel 18:4) to give his military clothes to David; some scholars think that the text here, and elsewhere, refers to them having had a homosexual relationship. After David returns from killing Goliath, the women heap praise upon him, and refer to him as a greater military hero than Saul, driving Saul to jealousy, fearing that David constituted a rival to the throne.

Another day, while David was playing the harp, Saul threw a spear at him, due to having been possessed by an evil spirit, but missed, on two occasions. Saul resolved to get David out of the court, and appointed him an officer, but David became increasingly successful, making Saul resentful of him. Saul schemed to rid himself of the problem by offering David the hand of his daughter, Merob, in return for being his champion, but David turned the offer down claiming he was too humble, and Merob was married to another man instead. Another daughter, Michal, had fallen for David, so Saul repeated the offer in regard to her, but again David turned it down claiming he was too poor; Saul persuaded David that the bride price would only be 100 foreskins from the Philistines, hoping that David would be killed trying to achieve this. David managed to obtain 200 foreskins, and was thus married to Michal.

The narrative continues with Saul making further plots against David, but Jonathan dissuades Saul from this course of action, and tells David what had occurred. Saul then seemingly tries to have David killed during the night, but Michal helps him escape and tricks his pursuers by using a household idol to make it look like David was still in bed. David flees to Jonathan, who seemingly wasn't living near Saul, and Jonathan agrees to return to Saul and find out his ultimate intent. When dining with Saul, Jonathan pretends that David has been called away to his brothers, but Saul sees through this and castigates Jonathan for being the companion of David, and it becomes clear that Saul wants David dead. The next day, Jonathan meets with David at a pre-arranged spot, and tells him Saul's intent, and the two friends say their goodbyes, David fleeing into the country. Saul later causes Michal to marry another man instead of David.

Saul is later informed by an Edomite named Doeg that he had witnessed David hiding in a place named Nob, and that the priest of Nob, Ahimelech, had helped David with food, and by consulting God for him. Saul therefore summons Ahimelech, and criticises him for his assistance to David, then orders henchmen to kill Ahimelech, and the other priests of Nob. None of Saul's henchmen is willing to do this, so Doeg offers to do it instead, killing 85 priests, and Saul also kills every man, woman, and child living in Nob.

David had left Nob by this point and had amassed about 400 disaffected men together a group of outlaws. With his men David launched an attack on the Philistines at Keilah, and evicted them from the city, but when Saul heard about this, Saul led his army there, so that he could trap David and his men inside the city and besiege it. David however heard about this, and having received divine council (via the Ephod) that the citizens of Keilah would betray him to Saul, decided to leave, and fled to Ziph. Saul finds out about this and pursues David there on two occasions:

  • Some of the inhabitants of Ziph betray David's location to Saul, but David hears about it and flees with his men to Maon. Saul follows David, but while Saul travels along one side of the gorge, David travels along the other, and Saul is forced to break off pursuit when the Philistines invade. This is supposedly how the place became known as the gorge of divisions. David hid in the caves at Engedi, and after fighting the Philistines, Saul went to Engedi to attack him. Saul eventually enters the cave in which David had been hiding, but as David was in the darkest recesses Saul doesn't spot him. David swipes at Saul and cuts off part of his garment, but restrains himself and his associates from going further due to a taboo against killing an anointed king. David then leaves the cave, revealing himself to Saul, and gives a speech that persuades Saul to reconcile with David, and the two make an oath not to harm one another.
  • Shortly afterwards some of the inhabitants of Ziph betray David's location to Saul, and so Saul goes to Ziph with his men. When David hears of this he sneaks into Saul's camp by night, and thrusts his spear into the ground near where Saul was sleeping. David prevents his associates from killing Saul due to a taboo against killing an anointed king, and merely steals Saul's spear and water jug. The next day, David stands at the top of an oppositing slope to Saul's camp, and shouts out that he had been in Saul's camp the previous night (using the spear and jug as proof). David then gives a speech that persuades Saul to reconcile with David, and the two make an oath not to harm one another.

According to textual scholars, this narrative is the result of the splicing together of two earlier narratives - the republican source and the monarchial source; the republican source being responsible for the passages involving Jonathan, the first pursuit to Ziph and the first reconciliation; the monarchial source being responsible for the passages involving Michal, Nob, the second pursuit to Ziph and second reconciliation. Michal essentially plays the same role in the monarchial source as Jonathan does in the republican source - as David's protector in Saul's court.

Both narratives are interesting to scholars of biblical criticism, who, for example, view the republican source as having incorporated a folk etymology for the gorge of divisions into the narrative. The monarchial source mentioning a household idol is of interest as it indicates that such things existed and were not regarded as inappropriate in early Yahweh-religion; archaeology confirms a large number of household idols existed in early Israel, particularly statues of Asherah, Yahweh's wife (according to inscriptions on a number of surviving Asherah statues).

David's relationship with Jonathan, and David's subsequent flight, is seen by some as being an eponym-type narrative, in which nations are treated as people - David representing the Kingdom of Judah, and Jonathan representing the Hebrews (who the text of the books of Samuel appears to treat as distinct from Israel or Judah). David's 400 strong army thus would constitute the army of Judah (compare Saul's 600 strong army of Israel), while Jonathan's visits and association with David reflects an alliance between the Hebrews and Judah which became more important than the alliance between the Hebrews and Israel. In essence the narrative of David's flight and reconciliation with Saul becomes one of a rebellion by Judah, assisted by the Hebrews, that eventually became an uneasy truce.

[edit] Is Saul among the prophets?

The phrase is Saul among the prophets, is mentioned by the text in a way that suggests it was a popular phrase or proverb in later Israelite culture, perhaps in a similar way to is the Pope a Catholic. It is given an etymology on two separate occasions:

  • (1 Samuel 10:11 etc.) Having been anointed by Samuel, Saul is told of signs he will receive to know that he has been divinely appointed. The last of these signs is that Saul will be met by an ecstatic group of prophets leaving a high place and playing music on lyre, tamborine, and flutes. The signs come true (though the text skips the first two, suggesting that a portion of the text has been lost, or edited out for some reason), and Saul joins the ecstatic prophets, hence the phrase.
  • (1 Samuel 19:24 etc.) Saul sends men to pursue David, but when the men meet a group of ecstatic prophets playing music on lyre, tamborine, and flute, they become overcome with a prophetic state and join in. Saul sends more men, but they too join the prophets. Eventually Saul himself goes, and also joines the prophets, hence the phrase.

According to textual criticism, the reason for these two quite different explanations is that they come from two different sources - the first from the monarchial source, which portrays the phrase as casting Saul in a positive light, while the second is considered to come from the republican source, and suggests the phrase was a mockery of Saul. Which of these is the true origin of the phrase, or whether another explanation is the genuine one, is unknown.

[edit] Battle of Gilboa

Despite the oath(s) of reconciliation, the biblical text states that David felt insecure, and so made an alliance with the Philistines, becoming their vassal. Emboldened by this, the Philistines prepared to attack Israel, and Saul led out his army to face them at Gilboa, but before the battle decided to secretly consult the witch of Endor for advice. The witch, unaware of who he is, reminds Saul that the king (i.e. Saul himself) had made witchery a capital offence, but after being assured that Saul wouldn't harm her, the witch conjures up the ghost of Samuel. Samuel's ghost tells Saul that he would lose the battle and his life.

Broken in spirit, Saul returns to the face the enemy, and the Israelites are duly defeated. To escape the ignominy of capture, Saul asks his armour bearer to kill him, but is forced to commit suicide by falling on his sword, when the armour bearer refuses. An Amalekite then kills Saul, upon his request, and when the Amalekite tells David, he has him killed. The body of Saul, with those of his sons, was fastened to the wall of Beth-shan, and his armor was hung up in the house of Ashtaroth. The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead (the scene of Saul's first victory) rescue the bodies and take them to Jabesh-gilead, where they burn them, and bury the ashes.

According to critical scholars, this, like much of the narrative of Saul's life, is essentially the splicing together of two originally distinct sources - the republican source and monarchial source. To the republican source is assigned the narrative of the witch of endor, which clearly mocks Saul, and Saul's suicide, while the monarchial source has the Amakelite as Saul's killer. The narrative of the witch of Endor is considered to simply be a satire by the author of the republican source against Saul, rather than being based on any tradition, and Saul's death at the hands of another is considered more likely than suicide, which seems to be an attack on his character.

[edit] Classical Rabbinical Views

Two opposing views of Saul are found in classical rabbinical literature. One is based on the reverse logic that punishment is a proof of guilt, and therefore seeks to rob Saul of any halo which might surround him; typically this view is similar to the republican source. The passage referring to Saul as a choice young man, and goodly (1 Samuel 9:2) is in this view interpreted as meaning that Saul was not good in every respect, but goodly only with respect to his personal appearance (Num. Rashi 9:28). According to this view, Saul is only a weak branch (Gen. Rashi 25:3), owing his kingship not to his own merits, but rather to his grandfather, who had been accustomed to light the streets for those who went to the bet ha-midrash, and had received as his reward the promise that one of his grandsons should sit upon the throne (Lev. Rashi 9:2).

The second view of Saul makes him appear in the most favorable light as man, as hero, and as king. This view is similar to that of the monarchial source. In this view it was on account of his modesty that he did not reveal the fact that he had been anointed king (1 Samuel 10:16; Meg. 13b); and he was extraordinarily upright as well as perfectly just. Nor was there any one more pious than he (M. Ḳ. 16b; Ex. Rashi 30:12); for when he ascended the throne he was as pure as a child, and had never committed sin (Yoma 22b). He was marvelously handsome; and the maidens who told him concerning Samuel (cf 1 Samuel 9:11-13) talked so long with him that they might observe his beauty the more (Ber. 48b). In war he was able to march 120 miles without rest. When he received the command to smite Amalek (1 Samuel 15:3), Saul said: For one found slain the Torah requires a sin offering [Deuteronomy 21:1-9]; and here so many shall be slain. If the old have sinned, why should the young suffer; and if men have been guilty, why should the cattle be destroyed? It was this mildness that cost him his crown (Yoma 22b; Num. Rashi 1:10) —the fact that he was merciful even to his enemies, being indulgent to rebels themselves, and frequently waiving the homage due to him. But if his mercy toward a foe was a sin, it was his only one; and it was his misfortune that it was reckoned against him, while David, although he had committed much iniquity, was so favored that it was not remembered to his injury (Yoma 22b; M. Ḳ 16b, and Rashi ad loc.). In many other respects Saul was far superior to David, e.g., in having only one concubine, while David had many. Saul expended his own substance for the war, and although he knew that he and his sons would fall in battle, he nevertheless went boldly forward, while David heeded the wish of his soldiers not to go to war in person (2 Samuel 21:17; Lev. Rashi 26:7; Yalḳ., Sam. 138).

According to the Rabbis, Saul ate his food with due regard for the rules of ceremonial purity prescribed for the sacrifice (Yalḳ., l.c.), and taught the people how they should slay cattle (cf 1 Samuel 14:34). As a reward for this, God himself gave Saul a sword on the day of battle, since no other sword suitable for him was found (ibid 13:22). Saul's attitude toward David finds its excuse in the fact that his courtiers were all tale-bearers, and slandered David to him (Deut. Rashi 5:10); and in like manner he was incited by Doeg against the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:16-19; Yalḳ., Sam. 131) - this act was forgiven him, however, and a heavenly voice (bat ḳol) was heard, proclaiming: Saul is the chosen one of God (Ber. 12b). His anger at the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:2) was not personal hatred, but was induced by zeal for the welfare of Israel (Num. Rashi 8:4). The fact that he made his daughter remarry (1 Samuel 25:44), finds its explanation in his (Saul's) view that her betrothal to David had been gained by false pretenses, and was therefore invalid (Sanhedrin 19b). During the lifetime of Saul there was no idolatry in Israel. The famine in the reign of David (cf 2 Samuel 21:1) was to punish the people, because they had not accorded Saul the proper honours at his burial (Num. Rashi 8:4). In Sheol, Saul dwells with Samuel, which is a proof that all has been forgiven him ('Er. 53b).


House of Saul
Cadet Branch of the Tribe of Benjamin
New Title
Elected king to
replace Judge Samuel
King of the United Kingdom
of Israel and Judah

Albright: c.1021 BC – 1000 BC
Galil: c.1030 BC – 1010 BC
Succeeded by:
Ish-bosheth
in Israel
Succeeded by:
David
in Judah

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

[edit] References

  • Wellhausen, Der Text der Bücher Samuelis
  • K. Budde, Die Bücher Richter und Samuel, 1890, pp. 167-276;
  • S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, 1890;
  • T. K. Cheyne, Aids to the Devout Study of Criticism, 1892, pp. 1-126;
  • H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, 1903, ch. vii.;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica

[edit] External links

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Saul the King

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