Was It a Mitzvah [Good Deed] Or a Sin Not To Kill King Sha’ul {Saul}?


The Bible Testifies That King Sha’ul Tried To Kill David


Warning! This article is appropriate only for those who believe in Judaism.

I Samuel Chapter 18
7 And the women answered one another as they danced, and said, Sha’ul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
8 And Sha’ul was very angry. And the saying displeased him; and he said, They have given David ten thousands, and to me they have given the thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?
9 And Sha’ul viewed David with suspicion from that day and onwards.

10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that an evil spirit from the L-rd came upon Sha’ul, and he raved in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand like everyday and the spear was in Sha’ul’s hand.
11 And Sha’ul raised the spear; for he said, I will pin David to the wall with it. And David turned aside out of his presence twice.
12 And Sha’ul was afraid of David because G-d was with him, and was departed from Sha’ul.
13 Therefore Sha’ul removed him from him, and made him a captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.

14 And David was successful in all his ways; and G-d was with him.
15 Wherefore saw Sha’ul that he was very successful, he was afraid of him.
16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

17 And Sha’ul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merav {Merab}, her will I give her to you for a wife: but you must be a warrior for me, and fight G-d’s battles. For Sha’ul said, Let not my hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.

18 And David said to Sha’ul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?
19 And so it came to pass at the time when Merav Sha’ul’s daughter should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholati as a wife.
20 And Mikhal Sha’ul’s daughter loved David: and they told Sha’ul, and the matter was upright in his eyes.
21 And Sha’ul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. And Sha’ul said to David, you shall this day be my son in law through the second.
22 And Sha’ul commanded his servants, saying, Speak with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king desires you and all his servants love you: now therefore be the king’s son in law.
23 And Sha’ul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, is it a trivial matter in your eyes to become a son in law to the king? Furthermore, I am a poor man, and insignificant!
24 And the servants of Sha’ul told him saying; in this manner did David speak.

25 And Sha’ul said, this shall you to say to David, the king desires no dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged  of the king’s enemies. But Sha’ul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
26 And when his servants told David these words, and the proposal was upright in David’s eyes to be the king’s son in law. Then, before the days were expired;
27 David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. Then Sha’ul gave him Mikhal his daughter as a wife.
28 And Sha’ul saw and knew that G-d was with David and that Mikhal Sha’ul’s daughter loved him.
29 Now Sha’ul continued to be afraid of David; and Sha’ul became David’s enemy continually.

I Samuel chapter 19
1 And Sha’ul spoke to Yonatan {Jonathan} his son and to all his servants, that they should put David to death; but Yehonatan {here the Bible adds a letter to his name} the son of Sha’ul liked David very much.
2 And Yehonatan told David, saying, “Sha’ul my father seeks to bring about your death, so now be cautious tomorrow morning and abide in a secret place and hide yourself.

I Samuel chapter 19
9 And an evil spirit from G-d came upon Sha’ul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand: and David strummed.
10 Then Sha’ul tried to thrust the spear through David and the wall with the spear; but he slipped away out of Sha’ul’s presence, so that he struck the spear into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

I Samuel chapter 19
11 And Sha’ul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to make him die in the morning: so Mikhal, David’s wife told him, saying, If you don’t save your soul tonight, tomorrow you will be put to death.
12 So Mikhal let David down through a window : and he went and fled and escaped.
13 Then Mikhal took the mannequins, and placed them on the bed, and put the hairy goat skin bottle at its head, and covered it with a cloth.

14 And when Sha’ul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.

15 And Sha’ul sent messengers again to see David, saying, bring him up to me in the bed, that I may put him to death.

I Samuel chapter 22
17 And the king said to the runners that stood about him, surround, and put to death the priests of G-d ; because their hand is also with David and because they knew that he was fleeing and did not reveal it to me; but the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of G-d.

18 So the king said to Do’eg, you circle around and fall upon the priests; so Do’eg the Edomite circled and fell upon the priests, so that on that day eighty-five men that did wear a linen Efod-robe died.
19 So Nov the city of priests he struck with the edge of the sword; man and woman alike; child and suckling alike; ox, donkey and sheep, {all} by the edge of the sword.
20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahituv,  named Evyatar escaped and fled after David.
21 Then Evyatar told David that Sha’ul had killed G-d’s priests.
22 And David said to Evyatar, I knew it that day, when Do’eg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Sha’ul; I have occasioned the death of all the people of your father’s house.
23 Remain with me, fear not, for he that seeks my life seeks your life for you are well guarded by me.

David Chose Not To Kill Sha’ul When Sha’ul Accidentally Neared David’s Hiding Place

I Samuel Chapter 24
1 And it came to pass when Sha’ul returned from pursuit of the Philistines, that they told him saying, behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.

2 Then Sha’ul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
3 And he came to the sheep enclosures by the way, and there was a cave there; and Sha’ul went in to relieve himself: and David and his men remained in the back of the cave.
4 Now the men of David said to him, behold the day of which G-d said to you, behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it shall seem good to you.; then David arose and secretly cut off the corner of Sha’ul’s robe.
5 And it came to pass afterwards, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Sha’ul’s corner.
6 And he said to his men, G-d forbid, that I should do this thing to my master, G-d’s anointed, to send out my hand against him, for he is the  anointed of G-d.
7 So David sundered his men with words and did not permit them to rise up against Sha’ul. So Sha’ul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

8 Then after this David rose, and went out of the cave and cried after Sha’ul, saying, my master the king, and when Sha’ul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the ground and bowed.
9 And David said to Sha’ul, why do you listen to the words of someone who says, “Behold, David seeks your harm”.
10 Behold this day your eyes have seen how G-d had delivered you today into my hand in the cave and  he spoke to kill you and she caused compassion to be brought upon you {translator’s note: the Hebrew word in the Biblical text, ‘Vatachas’ is classified as a feminine word, which is why the word she is emphasized above}; then I said I will not put my hand out against my master for he is G-d’s anointed.
11 Furthermore, my father, see, indeed, see the corner of your robe in my hand: for  when I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you must understand and comprehend that there is no evil or rebelliousness in my hand, nor did I transgress against you, yet you hunt out for my soul to take it away.
12 Let G-d judge between you and me and let G-d grant me vengeance from you but my hand shall not be upon you.
13 As the proverb of the ancients say, from the wicked shall wickedness depart but my hand shall not be upon you.

Was It Permissible According to Standard Torah Law to Kill Sha’ul By Classifying Sha’ul As A Rodef [Someone Pursuing Another Person to Murder Him]?

In the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Brachot 62b:
“and  he spoke to kill you and she caused compassion to be brought upon you” [I Samuel chapter 24], instead of saying and he spoke, it should have said and I had spoken, instead of saying and she caused compassion to be brought upon you, it should have said, I granted you compassion. [In other words it was more fitting for David to say, I spoke to kill you but I  granted you compassion and the text especially should not have used the feminine Hebrew word, ‘Vatachas’ ].
Rabbi Elazar said, David told Sha’ul: From the Torah – you have the status of one who should be killed, for you are a Rodef [a person attempting to murder] and the Torah said: “He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him”. Rather your chastity [which is also a feminine word in Hebrew] was the reason you were granted compassion; now what was this?
For it was written [I Samuel chapter 24] “And he came to the sheep enclosures by the way, and there was a cave there; and Sha’ul went in to relieve himself“: It was taught an enclosure within an enclosure, and a cave within a cave – To relieve himself – Rabbi Elazar said: this is to teach us that he covered himself as a hut [that is to say there is a linguistic connection in Hebrew between the word that is translated  “to relieve himself” and the word which means  to cover himself as a Succah or hut covering].

In a practical halachic ruling the Tashbetz ruled that Sha’ul had the status of a Rodef and here is a translated quote of his words in the responsa of Tashbetz, Volume II, Siman 26 starting with the words “Teshuva Bigmara”:
And Similarly it is permitted to tell the king and his officers that this person is liable to the death penalty according to the law and if the king or the official takes his money it is considered indirect damage and permissible, for definitely it is even permissible to damage the body of the person who gives over Jewish individuals or their property to violent gentiles for such a person is a Rodef as stated by David to Sha’ul, that from the Torah – you have the status of one who should be killed – on what account? –  for you are a Rodef and the Torah said, “He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him” as stated in the chapter of Haroeh [tractate Brachot 62b]. And Rabbi Shila killed a person who wished to hand over Jews  to violent gentiles  as stated there [Brachot 58a] and even one who hands over property to the nations it is permissible to kill him at the time that he attempts to hand over and Rav Kahana killed someone because he attempted to show straw to the king’s men and that person was considered a Rodef, for it is written, your sons have fainted, they lie down at the head of all the streets like a bison in a net…(Yishayahu/Isaiah 51:20); just as a bison once it falls into the net, no one gives it mercy, [so too, befalls the Jewish victim…] as stated in the chapter Hagozel Batra [Baba Batra 117a].

So too did Radak’s commentary to I Samuel chapter 24 verse 11 establish. Namely, that Sha’ul had the status of a Rodef and here is a quotation:
“And he spoke to kill you” – … and the meaning of this is that every one of  David’s men said that they wanted to kill him [Sha’ul] if not for the fact that David sundered them with his words and by this way of interpreting the text did the Targum Yonatan commentary, choose, namely, “and others sought to kill you and my soul had compassion upon you”. And our rabbis of blessed memory explained and said, scripture tells us that,
“He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him”, if a thief be found breaking in [the verse from Exodus 22:1 concludes, and be smitten that he {the thief} die, he is not accountable for his blood.]; that is to say, it would be permissible to kill, if not for the fact that my soul had compassion for you.she caused compassion to be brought upon you” – my soul or my eye {translator’s note: these too are feminine words in Hebrew} and our rabbis of blessed memory explained the chastity that you had  caused you to receive compassion for it was permissible to kill you for you are a Rodef and “He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him.”

And so concurred Ralbag and Malbim that Sha’ul had the status of a Rodef and it was permissible to kill him and I will bring their words later on.

And so too the author of the Shulchan Aruch – in the Beit Yosef commentary, to C.M. 388:16 [the text being in accordance to the version presented by The Bar Ilan Responsa Project on CD-ROM] the words starting with Catav Harosh:
The Rosh wrote in Teshuva, Clal 6, siman 22 concerning the expenses incurred in order to destroy a person that handed Jews over to violent Gentiles that all are obligated to pay for the expenditure for it is for the rectification of the settlement of the city for those that remain will hear and fear and there won’t be any more men of wickedness that emanate from their midst to turn their fellow city dwellers from the proper way; and the members of the city may coerce one another to build a protective wall with doors and a strong lock and regarding every matter which is needed by the city; now there is no greater need for the city greater than this to finish off the evil and to eradicate the rebels, and to destroy the doers of evil. So therefore all that dwell in the city, regardless of whether they pay tax in another place or whether they pay tax in the city are obligated to render their portion regarding all expenses incurred to destroy that wicked person from the world and there isn’t any person in the world who is able to exclude himself from the debt, until here are the words of the Rosh.
And these are the words of the Rashba in a letter that he sent to the sages of France concerning an individual who handed Jews or their property to violent Gentiles, that
Rabbi Yona’s son, the uncle of Rabbi Yona the Hasid of blessed memory  and so too  Rashba told the king that he is liable to the death penalty and the king commanded to kill him. Now the beginning of all this matter is as we stated that he was a Rodef and a Rodef is killed at all times whether he is within the borders of the land of Israel or outside the land and even without being brought to court. This may be derived from the account of Rabbi Shila in the chapter, Haroeh [Brachot 58b] and from what David said to Sha’ul [Brachot 62b] that you are a Rodef and the Torah said, “He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him”. And he if he is attempting to hand over Jewish property from the case of Rav Kahana in the chapter Hagozel Batra (117a). And certainly someone who is not established as one who repeatedly does this crime, we do not kill after he has already done his act. However, he who is established as one who repeatedly does this offense is to be killed whether it is at the time of the act or after the act and he who is the swiftest to do the deed merits reward; and so it was taught [tractate Avoda Zara 26b] that the apostles of heresy and those who hand over Jews to violent Gentiles, etc. we lower them to a pit and do not bring them up and even to directly kill them with one’s hands for they are like a snake. For both of them are obstacles. Likewise it is the practice in most of the places where the children of Israel reside to  directly kill with one’s hands a person who is established as one who repeatedly hands Jews over to violent Gentiles. And so too did Rambam [Maimonides] testify to this and this is his words in his composition:
And who is the one who is established [to repeatedly do this offense]? All that it is known by many that he is such an individual. Not that he is established to be so by a court of twenty three judges and that witnesses testified in front of him, for if such were the case there wouldn’t be anyone who is established [to do this  crime] in our times for we do not have expert judges. And behold the sages that composed books that testified and wrote that the person who hands over Jews is killed at all times and all who become tolerant and have mercy on them becomes cruel towards his generation. In the same manner that they stated in chapter Hanizakin [Gittin 56a], “the tolerance of Rabbi Zecharia son of Avkulos destroyed our Temple”. In addition, because of the iniquity of the generation a few men have started to learn this harmful occupation etc. and all that the hour requires it, we hit and punish outside the normal legal limits in every place and all times such as the case of the person who rode  his horse on the Sabbath, etc. [Sanhedrin 46a]. And so wrote the great men of blessed memory, that composed books. and towards these people and those who are similar, we to do not take care to specifically provide a court of twenty three with judges who have smikha [official biblical ordination from an ordained member of the court of a previous generation] , to testify in his presence nor do we do in general all the things needed for a court case involving capital punishment; for we only go after our knowledge of the truth, to remove damages and to make a fence against the breaches.

What Were David’s Reasons When He Chose Not to Kill Sha’ul?

  1. In the opinion of Ralbag to I Samuel 24:5, he didn’t kill Sha’ul because there would be benefit to the kingdom of the house of David in the future by choosing this choice, and this is a translated quotation of Ralbag:        “Then David arose and cut off the robe’s corner” – It is possible according to the simplest understanding of the text to explain that David already had the desire to kill him but he was only able to reach the corner of his [Sha’ul’s] garment and afterwards David regretted this thought and even though it was permitted to kill him for he was a Rodef [someone attempting to murder] yet he said “G-d forbid, that I should do this thing”. This being part of his extreme piety together with the reason that this would be the cause to take lightly the killing of kings and David knew that the kingdom would be his. Therefore he wanted to distance the matter of killing the kings, the anointed of G-d; and for this very reason did he command to kill the Amalekite youth that reported to him that he had killed Sha’ul, even though Sha’ul had commanded him [the youth] to do this {in Sha’ul’s last moments of life} and for this reason did he [David] command to kill the men that killed Ish-boshet  the son of Sha’ul.
  2. In the opinion of Malbim – David made a test to see if it was G-d’s will to eliminate Sha’ul by cutting off part of Sha’ul’s garment. The bad feeling he had about it was a sign for him that it wasn’t G-d’s desire to eliminate Sha’ul at that time. and this is a translated quote of Malbim.
Malbim on I Samuel 24:5

“And the men of David said to him, behold the day of which G-d said to you” – they thought, that after David was anointed by a prophet and because it is impossible for two kings to use the same crown and in particular because Sha’ul was pursuing him to murder him and definitely he would fall into the hand of David, who was promised the monarchy by G-d, all this was as if G-d had said to him that he would deliver his enemy into his hand. All the more so for by Torah law he was allowed to kill him for he was a Rodef and this is what is meant, “that you may do to him as it shall seem good to you”. “Then  arose “David- even David was in doubt over this, whether the kingdom of Sha’ul was already finished; and if it was G-d’s desire that he should be put to death by the person who he was trying to kill; so he tested this by means of cutting of the corner of his robe, which was an act involving a small bit of rebellion against him and a degradation of his royal garments. Now behold he felt the following:

Malbim on I Samuel 24:6

“And it came to pass afterwards, that David’s heart smote him” – For a heart that is whole will be affected and will have regret if it does any evil act, and from this he understood that the time for Sha’ul’s monarchy to end had not already arrived, and the awe of the monarchy was upon him and that it was an iniquity in his hand to even touch his garments and all the more so his body.

Malbim on I Samuel 24:10

“Why do you listen to someone’s words” – that is to say that one who seeks to hurt his friend but does not carry out the act, it is either because he wasn’t able to do it or because he fears from G-d or from men, and now why do you listen to the speaker that David seeks your harm – for then you are forced to say that the fact that I didn’t harm you was because I wasn’t able to. Now this is not so, for behold today your eyes have seen that G-d has given you over to my hands this day in the cave – and I could have harmed you. Now if you say that I stopped myself for I was afraid from men, concerning this he said, “in the cave” – for there no man was with you. Nor can you say I wasn’t able because I was afraid of G-d. This is not so for he [G-d] said to kill you – namely, has not G-d  said and permitted me to kill you in accordance to the law involving a Rodef, that it is a commandment to kill him and save the pursued…
“Then I said I will not put my hand out against my master for he is G-d’s anointed”. – That even though from the law of the Torah it is permitted, I will not do this to my master, for he is the  anointed of G-d..

  1. 3. According to the opinion of Iyun Yaakov to tractate Brachot page 62, the chastity of Sha’ul testified that the image of the L-rd had not departed from him and this is a translated quotation:
    “Your chastity was what granted you compassion”. For a mitzvah at the time that one engages in it, protects and saves and as stated previously in the tractate “All who are chaste in the bathroom are saved from three things” and all the more so that chastity is fitting to protect him for a man isn’t “gathered in” and killed before his time, all the while that he hasn’t sinned in a matter that causes the image of the L-rd to depart from him and chastity causes the Divine presence to be imparted as stated in tractate Baba Batra page 60, “How goodly are your tents,  Jacob” [Number 24:5] – that he saw that the entrances were not aligned one to another. He said they are worthy that the Divine Presence rests upon them. And so it is written, “Let him not see anything lascivious among you, and turn away from you” [Deuteronomy 23:15]. For chastity causes the Divine Presence to be imparted and as stated in the midrash.

4. According to Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook in his commentary to tractate Brachot page 62 [within his work, Ein Aya], the benefit to the community of Israel by not killing Sha’ul in order to publicize the worth of the attribute of chastity in the eyes of the Holy One Blessed Be He, overcame the benefit that David could have received by killing the Rodef. Now this is a quoted translation of Rabbi Kook’s words:

  •     “and  he spoke to kill you and she caused compassion to be brought upon you” [I Samuel chapter 24], instead of saying and he spoke, it should have said and I had spoken, instead of saying and she caused compassion to be brought upon you, it should have said, I granted you compassion. [in other words it was more fitting for David to say, I spoke to kill you but I  granted you compassion].
  •     Rabbi Elazar said, David told Sha’ul: From the Torah – you have the status of one who should be killed, for you are a Rodef [a person attempting to murder] and the Torah said: “He that comes to kill you, rise up earlier to kill him”. Rather your chastity was the reason you were granted compassion.
    • “The laws of the Torah in matters relating between a man and his fellow man will be established continually on the basis of what is the law in relationship to the two sides in this matter alone, and one does not mix in the value of other subjects in other matters. So if a man becomes liable to be put to death by another person regarding any sin, it is not possible to absolve him because of his general worth. However, the attribute of piety above the strict letter of the law together with “It is a time to act for G-d” [Psalms 119:26] will sometimes grant permission to gaze not only on the point of the relationship between the two subjects alone, but rather on the general ramifications regarding all matters, over the worth of the subject for all affairs of the Torahs’ laws towards humanity. Therefore since the attribute of chastity is a corner stone to a number of good attributes that from them, good alone will reach the nation in general. Therefore, there is no doubt that according to the general calculation [of worth] of this magnificent attribute, the scale should be tilted towards clemency. For the value that goes out to mankind as a whole from learning and being deeply impressed by this attribute of chastity, is greater in worth than the waiving of the strict letter of the law for an individual case. Therefore when relating to David as an individual, considering the relationship between the two sides and the amount of his emotions, it would not be possible  to conclude that Sha’ul shouldn’t be killed. However the attribute of chastity by itself, based on its abstract value which is linked to a number of good morals that bring about abundant good, this [the attribute of chastity], is what granted him [Sha’ul compassion]; in order to extract this precious attribute to realization to the general nation, it and her precious offspring to a quantity without number.

Questions Regarding the Explanations For Not Killing Sha’ul

1 According to the opinions that David didn’t kill Sha’ul because of Sha’ul’s chastity [ when he came to the cave to relieve himself ], one should ask why did David stress to his soldiers that Sha’ul shouldn’t be killed because he is G-d’s anointed? He should have said don’t kill him because he is chaste? And on the second opportunity that David had to kill Sha’ul [see: I Samuel chapter 26] Sha’ul wasn’t involved in an act of chastity therefore why wasn’t he killed then? Furthermore one should ask is the matter of chastity in truth such an important concept that for its sake one should leave a mass murderer to walk around freely? Also see tractate Sotah page 21b where it is stated, “What is a pious idiot? For example, when a woman is drowning in a river, this person says it is not the way of the land to look at her and save her”. That is to say the Talmud is telling us that saving lives takes precedence over the attribute of chastely dress.

2 According to Ralbag’s opinion that David only had compassion on Sha’ul in order to set a precedent that one should not kill the anointed of G-d, one should ask why didn’t David give precedence to solving the definite threat to human life that was before him? But instead preferred some doubtful political benefit that in the light of reality, did not really help in the end at all. For in the end an Amalekite convert did in fact kill Sha’ul and so too was the son of Sha’ul murdered. And similarly a number of times, such as in the rebellion of Avshalom, many tried to kill David. And so too, a number of the kings of Israel and a number of the kings of the house of David in successive generations were killed by assassination or rebellion.
In addition one should ask, does Ralbag completely disagree with the Talmud that states that the chastity of Sha’ul is what saved his life?
3 According to the view of Malbim one should ask are the feelings of the heart the proper tools to decided whether or not to kill a Rodef? In what way is the feelings of the heart superior to a legal “halachic” decision? And also, does Malbim entirely disagree with the Talmud that the chastity of Sha’ul is what saved his life?

Was David Mistaken When He Chose Not To Kill Sha’ul?

    There is room to ask, after Sha’ul carried out the mass murder of the cohanim [priests] of Nov, when he falsely suspected that they were helping David to rebel, maybe there is no place for considerations of piety and chastity, etc. Rather one should jump at the first opening that both Jewish law and the physical reality presents in order to remove the wicked man from this world. And if David had indeed killed Sha’ul, Yehonatan the son of Sha’ul who was destined to inherit his father’s position would have peacefully transferred the monarchy to David as he had promised in I Samuel chapter 23 verse 17. And by this the nation of Israel would have been spared from many tragedies.
In addition one should add that Sha’ul at the time that he reached the cave where David was hiding was indirectly guilty for causing the murder of David’s parents and brothers. For all of them were forced to flee to a dangerous place out of fear that Sha’ul would kill them. There the king of Moav killed them as explained by Rashi in his commentary to I Samuel , chapter 22 verse 4 on the words And they dwelled with all the days that David was in the fortress.
“Close to Moav and when David departed to the forest of Haret, the king of Moav {Moab} killed his father and mother and his brothers, except for one of them that Nahash the Ammonite kept alive and this is the kindness that David spoke of  when he said, “as his father showed kindness to me” [II Samuel 10:2] and all this is found in Midrash Rabbi Tanchuma.

The Following Are A List Of The Tragedies That Resulted From David’s Refusal To Kill Sha’ul.

    1 After the second time that David refused to eliminate Sha’ul, David said to Sha’ul, “If G-d has incited you against me let him accept a flour offering” [ I Samuel 26:19]. Our sages taught in tractate Brachot page 62, that concerning these words, David was punished. And as a result a plague came upon Israel.
Now this is a translated quote of the Talmud:

  • The Holy One Blessed Be He said to David, you call me a inciter, behold I will cause you to stumble over a matter that even school children who learn Torah know about it. For it is written: “When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life. In this manner they shall not be stricken by the plague when they are counted” [Exodus 30,12]. Immediately, “And an adversary angel stood up against Israel” [I Chronicles 21:1]. And it is written, “And he incited David against them, saying go number Israel and Judah” [ II Samuel chapter 24]. Now when he counted them and did not take from them an atonement offering, it is written: “So G-d sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed” [ II Samuel 24:15].

2 The sin of Naval {Nabal}of Karmel [I Samuel, chapter 25] 3 In opposition to Jewish Law, David’s wife Mikhal the daughter of Sha’ul was given to Palti son Layish as a wife. [ I Samuel 26:1] 4 That David and his men suffered from what was written, “for they have driven me out this day from being joined to the inheritance of G-d, saying, go serve other gods” [I Samuel 26:19].
5 Sha’ul sought information from a woman who practiced the sorcery of Ov [I Samuel 28:7].
6 The wives and sons of both David and his soldiers were taken captive by Amalek [I Samuel 30:3].
7 The victory of the Philistines in war at Mount Gilboa, where many of Israel were killed including David’s best friend, Yehonatan as well as other sons of Sha’ul [I Samuel chapter 31].
8 The abandonment of many cities of Israel together with Philistine occupation of those cities [I Samuel chapter 31:7].
9 A civil war where 19 of David’s servants and Asael the brother of Yoav were killed [I Samuel chapter 2].
10 The curse that David gave Yoav, who killed Avner {Abner} [out of the law of the avenger of the blood] against the wishes of David. Our sages, in addition, said in tractate Sanhedrin page 48, “that the curses that David uttered against Yoav were fulfilled upon the offspring of David“.
11 The assassination of Ish-boshet [II Samuel chapter 4].
12 A famine that lasted three years [II Samuel chapter 20, verse 26] that was a punishment because of “Sha’ul and his bloody house that put the Givonites {Gibeonites} to death” [ II Samuel chapter 21:1 ]. Now since there is a principle, that when there is strict justice from below [namely from men] there is no strict justice above [namely, no fierce Divine punishment is given]; see for an example of this in the words of the Ohr Hachayim on Leviticus 20:5, it is reasonable to assume that if David had indeed put Sha’ul to death, G-d would not have brought the famine, nor would he have demanded the execution of 7 descendants of Sha’ul as atonement [II Samuel chapter 21].

  • In light of all that has been said only with great difficulty can we defend David. Namely, by explaining that even though the results of his compassion For Sha’ul were awful, nevertheless, if David had killed Sha’ul, the evils befalling Israel would have been greater.

by Mr. Shlomo Moshe Scheinman (the author of an article on Argaman that appeared in Techumin, Volume 26)

Click Here to Go To Part 2 of this article, where a stronger effort to judge David for the benefit of the doubt will be presented.