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If someone is found to have rebelled against the king (mored b'malchut), by say directly disobeying a king's order, does the rebel need to have the crime adjudicated in court or can (should?) anyone take it upon him or herself to kill the rebel without a trial?

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    A third option is adjudication by the King. Meaning only kill him if the king says to
    – Double AA
    Apr 11 at 13:44
  • @DoubleAA by court I meant any body with the authority to pass legal judgement (royal or judiciary) Apr 11 at 13:53

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The way the Rambam describes it, it seems like it is strictly the prerogative of the king to determine whether such a person should be killed. H. Melakhim 3:8:

כל המורד במלך, יש למלך רשות להורגו. אפילו גזר על אחד משאר העם שילך למקום פלוני ולא הלך, או שלא ייצא מביתו ויצא--חייב מיתה; ואם רצה להורגו--יהרוג, שנאמר "כל איש אשר ימרה את פיך" (יהושוע א,יח)

Anyone who rebels against the king, the king has license to execute him. Even if the king orders one of the people to go to a particular place and the latter refuses, or he orders him not to leave his house and he goes out, the offender is liable for death. And if he [the king] wants to execute him - he is executed, as Joshua 1:18 states: 'Whoever rebels against your command ... shall be put to death."

He states that it is the elective right (רשות) of the king and that if he wants (אם רצה) he may do so. This does not sound like it is a right that he shares with others, or that others may usurp, but rather is one strictly and solely reserved to him.

The Zakhur le-Abhraham (ad loc) writes:

מלשון זה משמע דברצונו תליא מילתא ואם אינו רוצה להרגו ומחלו מחול

From this language it sounds like that matter is contingent upon his [the king's] will and if he doesn't want to kill him and rather wants to forgive him, he is forgiven.

Based on the Rambam's restatement of the halakhah, it would seem to me that if someone saw fit to independently decide to kill someone that was mored b'malkhuth he would be usurping an elective right of the king, and possibly robbing the king of the opportunity to pardon the perpetrator.

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  • Not sure I understand. Are you saying only the king can physically kill the person? I assume not, and that the king can allow anyone else to kill the rebel. Are you saying that the king must command the execution and that in the absence of a command it is forbidden? Apr 11 at 16:27
  • I am not suggesting that the king must physically kill the rebel himself - I assume that he may designate someone to perform the execution (via the prescribed method of decapitation). I only suggest (based on the Rambam here) that it is solely the prerogative of the king to determine whether such a person should be killed. It would seem to me to be wrongful to arrogate such a decision to one's self unless the king had previously directed one to do so. Apr 11 at 16:40
  • thank you for clarifying. So if a king says "Reuven is a mored b'malchut" is that enough to allow anyone to kill Reuven, or does the king also have to designate Shimon as the executioner? Apr 11 at 18:02
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    It seems that according to the Rambam it goes like this: 1) Designation as having been mored b'malkhuth, 2) Decision on the part of the king whether to permit the person to live, 3) The perpetrator is either pardoned or executed. So to answer the hypothetical where the king merely says "Reubhen is mored b'malkhuth" without then specifying that he has elected to have Reubhen killed, then Shim'on cannot come along and choose to do so independently. That is not a decision for Shim'on to make, that is a decision for the king. Apr 11 at 19:27
  • So this does not fall under מלך שמחל על כבודו אין כבודו מחול?
    – Alex
    Apr 12 at 16:04
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It seems from Sanhedrin 49a that someone who is considered a mored b'malchut can be killed by anyone. The the gemarah there it explains that Yoav was culpable for killing Amasa because Yoav thought that Amasa was a mored b'malchut but in fact Amasa had relied on a deduction which limited the king's authority.

The implication of the gemarah is that had Yoav been correct, and Amasa was in fact a mored b'malchut it would not require the king to pronounce him as such, it would not require the king to indicate that such a person should be killed and it would not require the adjudication of the Sanhedrin. Cf Megillah 14b

There are some commentaries on that gemarah which indicate that in fact we can prove from the continuation of the gemarah that in fact a Beit Din is required to kill a mored b'malchut because Yoav was one and Shlomo appealed to Benayahu ben Yehoyada (himself, as chazal say, the head of the sanhedrin) to kill Yoav.

See Rashba Responsa 5:238, Hatam Sofer Responsa Even HaEzer 1:151

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