The Hidden Meanings of Scripture. Project Benjamin
Saul & the She-Donkeys. A Project Benjamin Article
Samuel the Prophet from the Tribe of Levi had been the Judge and Ruler over all Israel. His home was in Ramah in the territory of Ephraim. Samuel (in Hebrew, "Shmu-el") would make a circuit around the country and judge the people. When he grew old he appointed his two sons as judges to lighten the load. They deviated from the straight path so the people were dissatisfied.
1-Samuel (NIV) 8:
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel's leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, 'You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.
Samuel was not pleased that the people demanded a King. The Almighty was also angry with them. Nevertheless, it was decided in Heaven that a King should be given them. Samuel understood that on a certain day the person chosen to be king would come to him. He was to make a sacrifice followed by a feast at which the Chosen One would be guest of honor. After that he was to take him aside and anoint him as monarch. Later this private anointing would be ratified by the people.
Meanwhile Saul, who was a "Mighty Man of Valor," i.e. a known hero and warrior, had (together with his servant) been traversing the country. They had been searching for three days in vain for some she-asses that had gotten lost. Finding themselves in the vicinity of Samuel the Seer, i.e. one who sees, they decided to consult with him. When they came to him, Samuel realized that Saul was the Chosen One who was to made King of Israel.
Saul was to receive the Kingship over Israel through going to search for the asses of his father. The Commentary "Kli Yakar" (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz of Prague, 1550 - 1619) points out that in looking for the she-donkeys Saul was fulfilling the commandment of "Honor your Father [and mother]" (Exodus 20:12).
1-Samuel (Yair) 9:
3 Now the asses were lost that belonged to Kish, father of Saul. Then Kish said to his son Saul, 'Take one of the servants with you and get yourself up and look for the asses.'
The translated expression "get yourself up" in Hebrew is "KUM-LEK." A Commentary notes that these words contain the Hebrew letters "Melek" meaning "king" and that the father of Saul was unconsciously prophesying that Saul by searching for the she-asses would raise himself up and become the monarch.
The verses (says the Commentator,"Mishbetsot Zahaav" - Shavtei Veiss, 5764 - ca. 2003) may be read to say the donkeys that belonged to Kish were lost because Kish was the father of Saul. Divine Providence wanted Saul to receive the Kingdom as a result of searching for the asses therefore the asses of his father had gotten lost in order to cause him to go and look for them.
"Mishbetsot Zahav"says that Saul was concerned for the asses. This showed he cared about minor matters and therefore could be relied to take care of more important ones
Rabbi Moshe Valley comments that "searching for the asses" symbolized the effort to overcome the Powers of Negative Impure Adversity meaning those of Evil.
Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Epstein (1889 - 1971 the Ozharover Rebbe) in his book "Beer Moshe" (Well of Moses) says that the "asses" represent the lost souls of Israel. Saul had attempted to repair the sins of that generation.
Other commentators make similar observations.
This does not mean that the simple literal meaning of the passage was not as written. It means that in addition to what actually was taking place in the Spiritual Realms of Reality there was an ongoing struggle in which Saul had come to embody on this earth the Forces of Righteousness and Right-Doing.
We realize that these kind of insights are not the "cup of tea" of everyone of us. One may take it or leave it. Nevertheless, there may be something to them.
Notes Concerning Benjamin and Saul:
The book "Seder Ha-Dorot" (Chronology of the Generations), by Yechiel Halperin, Bnei Brak, Israel, 5763 (ca. 2002), quoting from old sources:
Benjamin was born when his mother Rachel died in the year 2208.
Benjamin was born on Cheshbon 19, lived 109 years (Rabeinu BeChai).
Fri, 1 November 1553 B.C.E.
Hebrew date Conversion:
Midrash Yalkut Benjamin lived 115 years.
Saul (no date of day given for birth), consecrated as king at the age of 59.
Halperin estimates Saul was born in the year 2813 i.e. ca. 948 BCE.
The Bible says he reigned 2 years but many opinions say this intends something else and that he actually reigned longer:
Ralbag says 20 years.
Maor Ainayim says 17 years.
Ben Gurion says 18 years in the lifetime of Samuel and another 2 years after Samuel died.
Non-Jewish sources say 40 years.
"Safer Ha-Gilgulim" (Book of Reincarnations) says Saul was a reincarnation of Lamech, the father of Noah (Genesis ch.5).
Rabbi Modhe Valley says he was a reincarnation of Benjamin his forefather.
Note: If you are interested in the Rabbis Quoted short biographical sketches are to be found at: