The Book of Joshua
After Yehoshua successfully conquered Canaan he turned control of B'nai Yisroel over to a series of Judges. These judges operated one after another, in very similar patterns. The Shofet would convince the Jews to do Tshuvah, and then he would conquer the enemies of Israel. Shmuel, the son of Chanah, was perhaps the greatest of these judges. He accepted his mission without a fight, and he always did the bidding of Hashem. Unfortunately, Shmuel was an anachronism for his time. B'nai Yisroel wanted to be more like the other nations, and they demanded a king. Although he felt rejected, Shmuel complied with the people's and God's wishes and anointed Shaul as the first king of Israel. Even though Shaul had many positive aspects to his reign, he is more remembered for scandal, and chaos. Eventually Shaul committed suicide on the battle field, officially ushering in the Davidic reign. The question must then be raised as to what Shaul's role actually was? Furthermore, we must investigate into Hashem's motives for choosing Shaul, and into the overall purpose which Shaul served. Throughout history many kings have spent their entire reigns protecting their country's from invasion. Furthermore, most kings have been obsessed in preserving their kingship for the future generations; Shaul was no exception. However, Shaul was from the tribe of Binyomin, and when Yaacov blessed his sons he clearly gave malchot to Yehudah. As it says in Bereishis "The scepter shall not depart from Yehudah" (49:10). How then could Shaul have become the king? An even more pressing question, however, is how could Shaul ever have thought that his sons would continue to occupy his throne? In fact, it seems that Shmuel was actually leading Shaul on to believe that impossibility. When Shaul failed to wait for Shmuel in order to sacrifice to Hashem, Shmuel rebukes him by saying "You have done foolishly, and you have not kept the commandment of Hashem as he commanded you: For Hashem would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, now, however, Hashem has sought a man after his own heart and Hashem has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what Hashem commanded you to keep" (13:13-14). How could Shmuel have told a man from the tribe of Binyomin that he was to rule over Israel forever? In order to answer these questions one must truly realize the role which Shaul was playing, and how it needed to be played out for the benefit of B'nai Yisroel . Although Shmuel was an excellent shofet, B'nai Yisroel was not satisfied. At this point of their development they wanted to be more like the goyim, and therefore have a king. Even though Hashem warned B'nai Yisroel that a king would tax them etc., they still yearned for that type of dominating, intimidating leadership. The reason for this is that B'nai Yisroel were collectively still in their childhood. The shoftim had cradled them through their early development, and now they were ready to move onto the next stage of their lives. This next stage can be compared to the age when children start going full time to school. They are starting to be a little independent, but at the same time they are not ready to be completely on their own. B'nai Yisroel needed someone to lead them into battle at Mizpah. They needed a leader who dominated physically, rather than mentally. They needed someone who they could rally around, with very few strings attached. Furthermore, they were not ready for a multi-faceted leader, like Shmuel, who would demand from them both physically and emotionally. Rather, they needed a leader who could better meet their needs. It is very common for children in school to have one or two dominating leaders. These leaders are usually the biggest, strongest, and handsomest of the group. They allow the children to keep their independence, while at the same time they represent the ones who are underdeveloped - both physically and socially. Usually the teachers dislike this leader and wish for the children to remain independent, however it is very hard to break children away. What I found particularly interesting is that Shaul fits the requirements to be such a leader. As the Navi clearly delineates "and when he [Shaul] stood amongst the people he was taller than any of them, from the shoulders upward" Shaul was the biggest of all of the men (10:23). In fact later on, the Navi also adds that Shaul was the most handsome man in all of Israel (9:2). It is certainly clear why, psychologically at least, Shaul was the perfect leader for the burgeoning nation. Who was Shaul? All we are told originally is that he is the son of Kish, and that he is a considerable physical specimen. As I stated earlier, this is exactly the type of leader that B'nai Yisroel needed. However, as the nation grew they needed more from their leader. Consider for a moment the analogy of the schoolchildren. When kids are young they tend to gravitate towards the best athlete, the strongest, etc. However, when children reach the stage of adolescence they start to demand more and more from their leaders. Suddenly the computer geek, or book worm is thrust into the spotlight, because of the uniqueness of their activities. These adolescents seek more diverse, multi-faceted leaders. Therefore, it is easy to see why Shaul was unable to fit the role of king, once B'nai Yisroel started to mature. After all, Shaul had no inherent leadership abilities. As he himself admits he comes from the smallest family in the smallest tribe. Furthermore, the childhood leader is usually a renegade. He will stop at nothing to defend himself, and his new found "power". So too, Shaul has problems taking the blame for the people. When Shmuel rebukes him for not killing the cattle of the Amelikites Shaul becomes very defensive and blames the people. David, on the other hand, is usually able to have the character to admit to his failures. Shaul is also unable to face the music alone, rather he begs Shmuel to go along with him to answer to Hashem. The first chosen king of B'nai Yisroel (Avimelech was not divinely chosen) was a failure because physically he was a success, but mentally he was underdeveloped. One of the more interesting things to note in the development of children, is the fate of the early childhood leaders. Once everyone else has caught up in both size and competency, his words start to lose their significance. No longer is what he says believed as the ultimate truth. Unfortunately, these children who were told of their greatness too early, still crave attention even though it is not available. They usually start to become "trouble makers", or "clowns" in order to satiate their desires. The can not bare to abdicate their thrones. However, the people want real leaders, and the old ones are generally ignored. In order to make up for this we sometimes see a pattern of these former leaders bullying other children. In fact, who do they bully most? The innocents. People who are just developing, and are starting to surpass the has been, turned bully. The former leader attempts to hide his limitations by bullying. Once again Shaul clearly fits all of these criteria. When it becomes clear that the people favor the more multi-faceted David, over the uni-dimensional Shaul, the king starts to become very jealous. He sends out his entire army searching for the innocent David, bullying him all the way. However, David is not Shaul. David is able to realize ways to remove himself from dangerous situations, and to lead effectively. In a scene where we clearly see the character of David, he out bullies the bully, by merely tearing the cloak of Shaul instead of killing him. David, in that fateful cave, shows Shaul that the people have grown, and that it is time for the real malchot Yisroel to begin. When David is anointed king a new era is ushered in. The people no longer feel dominated by their enemies, and they have matured. David certainly fits the bill in terms of being multi-faceted. As our Navi itself points out "David was successful in all of his ways, and Hashem was with him." Hashem, the teacher, who never approved of the original leader, of Shaul, now gives his full support to David, the new multi-faceted leader. Along these lines it is interesting to note the circumstances behind the crowning of David. When David is crowned it is not a response to the cries of the people, rather, it is a part of the natural course of events. When Shmuel was crowning Shaul Hashem had stressed that Shaul looked very kingly. However, when Shmuel goes to the house of Yishai, Hashem warns him saying "Do not look at his appearance or tall stature, for I have rejected him. For it is not as man sees - man sees what his eyes behold, but Hashem sees into the heart" (16:7). David does not need to be the tallest or strongest, on the contrary he needs to have the complete package, something Shaul sorely lacked. It is now clear as to the role Shaul served for Hashem and B'nai Yisroel. His job was to set the stage for the Davidic reign and the kingdom of Israel. However, there is still one glaring inconsistency in the story of Shaul. Why if he was only serving a temporary purpose, did Shmuel constantly tell him that it was his sinning which would eventually force his family to abdicate the throne? It seems clear that his family never had a chance to continue the malchot. The answer to this is found in a classical machloket between the Rambam and the Ramban. The Ramban holds the popular belief that the crowning of Shaul, a member of the tribe of Binyomin, was allowed because of the concept of haras shah, or a suspension of the usual practice. Therefore Hashem, through the prophets, could continue the line of Shaul until he felt that the need for an haras shah was over. So theoretically the children of Shaul could have led the nation for generations. At first glance the Rambam seems to have a conflicting view. He does not mention the concept of haras shah. Rather, he holds that even though malchot was reserved for Yehudah, Hashem may choose to appoint a king from another tribe. According to the Rambam the difference between these two types of kings, would be concerning their legacies. For example, the children of Shaul would have to be individually appointed in each generation. Once the chain is broken however, the descendants of Shaul would have no claim at all to the throne. However, the descendants of David would forever have a right to the throne. Consequently, if for some reason the chain was broken a descendant of David would not have to be re-appointed by Hashem. Although it seems that the Rambam and Ramban are at ends with each other, I believe that their statements, as I understand them, are not that different. The Ramban explains, halachically how it was possible for a man from the Binyomin to become king. Now although the Rambam does not use the term haras shah, he too believes that in appointing a king from Binyomin, Hashem was breaking from the norm. What the Rambam comes to add to the Ramban is the status of the Davidic line. From the Rambam we learn the important fact that all of the descendants of David, including the mashiach, have a continuous right to the throne of Israel. Regardless, we can now fully understand, how it was possible for Shaul to have believed that not only he was going to rule, but that his sons would also assume his throne. The life of Shaul can be described, at best, as tragic. He had all of the potential, good looks, physical appearance, ahavas Hashem etc. However, he was not able to succeed in leading B'nai Yisroel in the ways of Hashem. B'nai Yisroel was experimenting with their lives, as many youngsters do, and they felt that they needed a dynamic leader, even though Shmuel was a more complete leader than Shaul. The tragedy of Shaul lies in the fact that this man from the rural aristocracy, who never grew up, never really had a chance. Although, as the Ramban and Rambam point out, it was technically possible for him to have succeeded, Hashem chose him on the basis that it was impossible for him to succeed. Shaul was a man who performed a specified role at a specified time, his limitations would not allow him to adjust to the needs of the people. He therefore dies a tragic hero, the bully who never grew up.