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It's intentionally ambiguous. It may be that Saul was lying injured on the battlefield when the Amalekite came across him; it may be that the Amalekite totally fabricated the story. Either way, he knew that Saul viewed David as a threat, and therefore he could earn points with the new king by saying, "I killed your competitor!"


Just heard a lecture on this yesterday from Yael Ziegler. She theorized that the Amalekite is hoping for a reward from David. He assumes that David will be pleased at his "promotion". (Also as a member of Amalek he does not value human life as highly, and thus doesn't assume that David will have such strong positive feelings for Saul - there isn't space to ...


The Midrash Rabbah (Noach 34:13) says אך להביא את החונק עצמו, יכול כשאול, ת"ל אך--in other words, the prohibition of suicide does not apply in the case of King Saul. Although the Midrash does not explain why the prohibition does not apply to the case of Saul, the simplest explanation would be fear of torture. This is the view cited in the Otzar ha-Geonim ...


I don't have sources at the moment, but I seem to recall that some explain that Saul had specific license to kill himself because of he would have been captured, a tremendous chillul Hashem would have followed. (Remember Samson's torture at the hand of the Philistines; something like that happening to the king of Israel would have been very bad)

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