The Best of Them All!
Two of the works concerning King Saul we came across have the same title:
"Shaul, Bechir HaShem," by Eliyahu Yedid, Jerusalem, 5764 - 2004.
"Shaul, Bechir HaShem," by Areyeh Lev Friedman, Jerusalem, 5752.
A quick glance at the Internet showed at least two more books under the same heading.
The expression in the Title may be translated as saying, "Saul, Chosen of the Almighty." Its source is to be found in 2-Samuel 21:6 where the Gibeonites demand revenge on descendants of Saul who had harmed them. The Gibeonites were non-Israelites, remnants of the Canaanite peoples. They had been living under a pact of protection with Israel and Saul had broken it.
The Gibeonites had demanded:
2-Samuel (NASB) 21:6 let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD. And the king said, 'I will give them.'
David was king at the time and he acceded to the Gibeonite demands. Why David had done this and what were the rights and wrongs of the case should be discussed at another time.
Saul evidently was commonally referred to as "Saul, the Chosen of the LORD."
We see that Scholars who study the story of Saul and everything around it feel that this term was an apt one. This is despite the madness and bizarre behavior that overcame this king of Israel in his later years.
The first Biblical Passage mentioning Saul is in praise of him:
1-Samuel (NASB) 9:
1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
In the Hebrew text the description of Saul (1-Samule 9:2) may be translated more along the following lines:
# Saul, a young man and a good one. There was no man among the sons of Israel who was better than he. From his shoulders upwards, he was the tallest of all the people. #
Don Issaac Abarbanel (1437-1508) on this verse comments (in paraphrase):
# He was young in years and disposition, full of the needs and drives of youth. Nevertheless, he did not give into them but was good with Good and with people. There was no-one among the Israelites better than he, no-one more reconciled with himself and with what had to be done than he was. #
It is to be noted that the Commentator Don Issaac Abarbanel grew up in the court of the Kings of Portugal and became an advisor to the rulers of Prtuagal, Spain, Venice, and to thers, and these were the leading world powers in his time.
Physically Saul was extremely handsome. Several Midrashim emphasize this point.
The Bible introduces us to Saul as he goes in searches of a herd of asses (she-donkeys) that had strayed from the estate of his father.
The symbolic significance of this and how it indicates that Saul was a prototype of the future Messiah son of Joseph were discussed in previous articles:
Saul & the She-Donkeys.
The Asses of Saul.
Saul as MBJ?
In the Book of Esther, both Mordecai and Esther were descendants of Saul. Esther was known for her modesty and so was Saul.
Modesty emanates from the fear of Heavan as it says,
Micah (NIV) 6:
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
The word translated as "humbly" in Hebrew is "Hatseya" literally "with modesty.
Ultimately Saul was to be replaced as King by David son of Jesse, from the Tribe of Judah.
The Sages said that David was more suited to be king than Saul was but that Saul in some ways was a better person.
After becoming King and reigning well Saul disobeyed the command of God. Consequently he was to have the Kingdom taken from him.
Subsequently he was addressed by Samuel the Prophet:
1-Samuel (NIV) 15:
28 Samuel said to him, 'The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors - to one better than you.
Later Samuel dies and Saul conjures his spirit up from the dead.
The Spirit of Samuel says to him:
1-Samuel (NIV) 1
28 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors - to David.
The Sages noted that when Samuel was alive he did not name which neighbor the Kingdom would be given unto.
He only said,
"given it to one of your neighbors - to one better than you. "
When he was dead he mentioned David by name,
"given it to one of your neighbors - to David."
There are different commentaries on this discrepancy.
When Samuel said "given to one better than you," he was still alive, in this world.
By contrast he was in the next world when he said "given it to one of your neighbors - to David."
The Zohar says that this world is false whereas the Next World is True.
In this world David was better than Saul.
In the Next World such is not the case. In the Next World it does NOT say "better than you" but merely "David."
We will return to these matters.