Two of the most prominent Kings of Israel in the Scripture are Saul and David. These two men are given the most attention in 1 and 2 Samuel. David and Saul are foils of one another. Saul was rejected by God while David was a man after God’s own heart. However, if you’ve studied their lives carefully both of the men had some incredible failures in their life. Saul failed to obey the Lord in his commands and David committed adultery with Bathsheba. If both men had grievous sin in their lives, why was one rejected and the other blessed? What is the difference between these two men?

P.s. How could David still be a man after G-ds Own Heart.

  • can't be bothered looking up the source, but David immediately accepts his sin; Saul tries to palm it off on others.
    – user15253
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 13:35

3 Answers 3


David's sin was a personal matter, Saul's was national.

King Saul was personally commanded to eradicate Amalek. This was a national interest which was under his authority as king. When he sinned and didn't obey, it was in his position as king, and so God punished him as a king (i.e. by losing his monarchy).

King David sinned in something everyone was commanded against, not just him personally. It also had nothing to do with him being king; he could have done the same thing if he was a peasant (in theory). So his sin was personal, not national. Therefore God punished him as He would any person.

I have heard this explanation in a couple shiurim, and also see it explained in this article on daat.co.il.

In the article it provides a parable to two notaries, one counterfeits a document, one commits adultery. The king punishes each according to their crime, but in addition, the counterfeiter loses his job, because he can't be trusted with it. Same with King Saul, he didn't uphold the responsibilities of the kingship, so he lost it.

  • You’re headed in the right direction, but you need to focus on and clarify this distinction between communal obligation (חיוב הצבור) and individual obligation (חיוב היחיד). Within the Torah these are two different legal entities. If you are looking for search words, you might try (ציבור לא מת) and the discussion in Gemara. (Particularly the Rosh) Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 13:11

This question is addressed in the Responsa of the Sages of Provence # 71. Essentially the answer is that although David's sin was much more serious than Saul's, David immediately confessed when confronted by the prophet, while Saul did not confess but instead made excuses:

ודע באמת שכל גזר דינו של שאול נתחתם שלא נמשכה מלכותו ועונו היה נכתם ונקרע גזר דינו של דוד ולא עלה בכף מאזנים ואע"פ שגדול חטאו בענין בת שבע כפלי כפלים ואע"ף שרבותי' ז"ל הפכו לזכות משפטו שכרם הרבה אבל אין מקרא יוצא מדי פשוטו ומפני מה זכה שנמחל לו ושאול מת במעלו ואע"פ שלא הקל אלא בדבר עמלק להיות משרש אחריהם ולא להיות בדברי הנביא חולק גם שמואל צעק עליו כל הלילה ולא נענה והשם אל תפלתו לא פנה אלא שאול לא הודה כדרך המתודים אלא בא בעקיפין ואחר דרך בימו וחמד בדבר לצון ואמ' כי חמלו על מיטב הצאן חייב העם הנגדר וזכה עצמו כמתהלך בתומו על זה הקפיד עליו השם ללמדך כמה קשה בעיניו עון החוטא ואין מכיר את עוניו ומראה עצמו כמי שאינו חוטא מפני היותו מתפטה אבל דוד השלם תכף שהוכיחו נתן הנביא והמשיל משל העשיר וההלך הודה ולא בוש ואם הוא רך ומשוח מלך ולא מצא עקיפין ועלה אל נגד זקני עמי וזקני פתה ואמר חטאתי ליי' ראה מה השיב לו נתן על ההודאה ועל התמימות גם יי' העביר חטאתך לא תמות

  • My reaction during that haftarah every year (and every time I learn Shmuel, which unfortunately isn't quite as often) is "Shaul, just close your mouth, you're digging yourself deeper and deeper."
    – Heshy
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 21:22

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz has a sicha on this (Sichos Mussar § 53) which I translated and summarized. You can read it there.

In short, the explanation is that the sins of King David were the transgressions of mitzvos, for which he repented and was forgiven. He therefore didn’t lose the kingship. King Shaul on the other hand, the root cause of his sin was his middos (his character traits). Even though he repented for the transgression itself, he lost the kingship. This is because the underlying motivator for the sin, his misplaced humility, wasn’t corrected. This trait was a contradiction to his being King, so he lost the kingship to David.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz adds that he also incorrectly waived the honor due to him, another trait inappropriate for a king.

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