Monday, July 13, 2009

King Saul: The Man Whom God Touched

The question that generally perplexes readers is: how did King Saul become a man totally obsessed with hunting David, overcome by melancholia, totally ruled by his desire to be King?

Well, in order to understand what happened when the spirit of God left King Saul and was replaced by a spirit of evil, one must first realize that King Saul became King Saul because of that spirit of God.

To understand this, one should look at the verses in Ezekiel 36: 26-27.

כו וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב חָדָשׁ, וְרוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם; וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת-לֵב הָאֶבֶן, מִבְּשַׂרְכֶם, וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם, לֵב בָּשָׂר. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

כז וְאֶת-רוּחִי, אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם; וְעָשִׂיתִי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-בְּחֻקַּי תֵּלֵכוּ, וּמִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם. 27 And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them.

The implication here is that when God replaces the heart of stone with a heart of flesh and puts a new spirit within us that will enable us to walk in His statutes, keep His laws and otherwise fulfill them.

You know who had a new heart given to him, and a new spirit?

King Saul did. Except that was before he became King. Indeed, the implication is that in order for him to become King he needed a different spirit and heart to be given to him. And once these things were taken from him, he was no longer capable of being king.

Take a look at the Book of Samuel I, Chapter 10.

Samuel predicts:

ו וְצָלְחָה עָלֶיךָ רוּחַ יְהוָה, וְהִתְנַבִּיתָ עִמָּם; וְנֶהְפַּכְתָּ, לְאִישׁ אַחֵר. 6 And the spirit of the LORD will come mightily upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.

But not only does the spirit of God come upon Saul and transform him into another man; he is actually given another heart.

ט וְהָיָה, כְּהַפְנֹתוֹ שִׁכְמוֹ לָלֶכֶת מֵעִם שְׁמוּאֵל, וַיַּהֲפָךְ-לוֹ אֱלֹהִים, לֵב אַחֵר; וַיָּבֹאוּ כָּל-הָאֹתוֹת הָאֵלֶּה, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא. {ס} 9 And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. {S}

In both of these cases the word used is la'hafoch- to transform, to change. God literally changed Saul in order to make him the kind of man who could rule and be King. When God removed this from Saul, He truly removed the qualities that made him king. He left behind the man Saul originally had been and worse, hounded him through an evil spirit so that he was driven by melancholy and his lust for David's blood.

In contrast, David needed no such change in order to rule. From the onset, God informs Samuel that David is the right candidate for the kingdom: "Anoint him, for this is he." David is not touched by God; he does not become another person and is not given another heart. Perhaps this is the reason the Davidic dynasty lasts forever. Saul's dynasty was a gift of God; it required changing the man and giving him tools he did not originally have. David's dynasty was his by right; he forged himself (even at the times that he failed, he admitted guilt and pressed on) and the monarchy was not dependant upon God's giving him a different heart or spirit.

This brings to mind the proverb regarding the two types of love, one dependant upon external factors and one independant of them. Tamar and Amnon's love, once satiated, turned to hatred. David and Jonathan's lasts forever. The monarchy of Saul was dependant upon the spirit of God and the different heart that was given to him. Once removed, that monarchy fell. The monarchy of David is independant of gifts or changes, thus it lasts for eternity.

So when Ezekiel predicts that God shall give us a new heart and a new spirit, we should pray that it should be a lasting gift of a heart and spirit, and that God never has cause to remove these gifts from us.


Unknown said...

Really nice, original thought. Kol Hakavod.

Baruch said...

I enjoyed this,too.
Good job Chana!

Beth said...

God's spirit left Saul, leaving behind an evil spirit. Saul's servants said to him, "Let us seek a man skilled in playing the lyre. Then, whenever the evil spirit comes upon you, he shall play on the lyre, and you will be well." Saul replied, "Find such a man and bring him to me." And this is how David entered his service of King Saul.

Chana,this supports the content of your refreshing post nicely.

Anonymous said...

Chana! This was brilliant!

The only thing I would think to mention is David too was worried that God would take His spirit from him after his affair with Bathsheba...

This somewhat hints to the fact that God's spirit, if it can leave David, had also come upon him at some point... Thusly, God's spirit may not have always been upon David in the same measure as we see upon him when he was annointed king; much like the Shechinah, it may come to be present, but must also lift when God is offended.

I really did enjoy this article!


Thomas D said...

Fabulous; I very much enjoyed this post.



duby said...


some thoughts:

1. see Sotah 3a, about the verse in Nasso (I think its chapter 5) "viovar alav RUACH kino", and see there in the gemara about the argument whether "ruach" here is the Ruach Tahara or Tuma. See there also on the same daf "ain adam over avaira ela im kain nichnas bo RUACH shtus.

2. re Dovid Hamelech: see Tehilim 51 "v'ruach nachon chadeish bkirbi"

3. perhaps u can make the argument that by Shaul there was just one action "vayaihaphech" G-D gave a new heart, but didn't remove the old one; hence the possibility of reverting to the evil ruach, as it was never removed
in contrast to Yechezkiel's prophecy there are 2 actions: 1) removing the heart of stone ("v'hasirosi VG") and 2) I will give you you a new one (v'nasati vg"). thus perhaps the prophecy guarantees that we won't fall prey to evil.

Anonymous said...

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