10

King David is well-known to be positively regarded in Judaism, not only for his great accomplishments and devotion (psalms, if not authored by him, became prominent because of him), but also as the predecessor of the (yet-to-come) Messiah.

Similarly, King Solomon also made great accomplishments (e.g. was the builder of the First Temple of Jerusalem), and some books of the Tanach were allegedly written by him.

However, Saul seems to be relegated to a second tier of importance. Is this really the case? For instance, liturgically speaking, is Saul positively mentioned in prayers and songs, or positively commemorated in religious holidays or celebrations?

1
  • "Saul has killed thousands of enemies, and David tens of thousands...."
    – Gary
    Dec 11 '18 at 1:55
14

There are not very many references to Saul in the liturgy. Here is one that portrays him somewhat negatively, in the context of his failure to destroy Amalek (from Yotser for Zachor):

זָכוֹר נָגִיד לְחָמְלוֹ הִסְכִּים. סָר מִמְּלוּכָה מִבֵּין נְסִיכִים. עוֹלֵל הַנּוֹתָר עָמַד לְשִׂכִּים: ‏

Remember the noble who agreed to have mercy on him [Agag]. He left the kingship from among princes. The remaining child [Haman the Agagite] stood up as thorns.

Other sources portray him both positively and negatively. Here are three sources that explicitly compare him with David. Two of them portray him as inferior:

Eruvin 53a-b (translation modified from link):

דוד גלי מסכתא שאול לא גלי מסכתא דוד דגלי מסכתא כתיב ביה יראיך יראוני וישמחו שאול דלא גלי מסכתא כתיב ביה (אל כל) אשר יפנה ירשיע ‏

King David would disclose the tractate to be studied in advance, whereas Saul would not disclose the tractate to be studied. With regard to David, it is written: “Those who fear You will see me and be glad” (Psalms 119:74). With regard to Saul, who would not disclose the tractate to be studied, it is written: “And wherever he turned himself he did them mischief” (i Samuel 14:47).

Bereshit Rabba 25:3 (my translation):

רַבִּי הוּנָא וְרַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר רַב יִצְחָק עִקַּר אַוְתֶּנְטְיָא שֶׁלּוֹ לֹא הָיָה רָאוּי לִהְיוֹת בִּימֵי דָּוִד אֶלָּא בִּימֵי שָׁאוּל, אֶלָּא עַל יְדֵי שֶׁהָיָה שָׁאוּל גְּרוֹפִית שֶׁל שִׁקְמָה, גִּלְגְּלוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וֶהֱבִיאוֹ בִּימֵי דָּוִד ‏

Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Yirmiya in the name of Rabbi Shemu'el bar Rav Yitschak: The worst part of [the famine in David's time] should have come not in David's time, but in Saul's time. But because Saul was a [fruitless] sycamore branch, the Holy One Blessed is He brought it in the time of David [who was an olive branch and could survive it (words added in Rut Rabba 1:4)].

And one source that portrays him as superior to David, Midrash Tehillim 7:2 (my translation):

(שמואל-ב ג ז) ולשאול פלגש. כד איתעבד שאול מלך הוא עוד זעירא אפיך1 וכתיב (שם ה יג) ויקח דוד עוד נשים ופלגשים מירושלים. ואת מדמה עצמך לשאול. שאול (שם א כג) מנשרים קלו (רגליו) מאריות גברו. ר' לוי אמר ששים מיל היה מהלך שאול ביום אחד. ור' סימון אמר מאה ועשרים. ורבנן אמרי מאה ושמונים. ואימתי כשנשבה הארון. הדא הוא דכתיב (שמואל-א ד יב) וירץ איש בנימין מהמערכה זה שאול ואת מדמה עצמך לשאול. אדם הולך לבית המשתה אינו מוליך בניו עמו מפני מראית העין. ושאול הולך למלחמה ויודע שמדת הדין פוגעת בו ומוליך בניו עמו ואת מדמה עצמך לשאול. ואת אומר (שמואל-ב כא יז) לא תצא עוד אתנו במלחמה. שאול אוכל חולין בטהרה שנאמר (שמואל-א ט כד) וירם הטבח את השוק והעליה. רבי יוחנן אומר השוק והאליה. רבי אומר השוק והחזה שהיה אוכל חולין בטהרה ואת מדמה עצמך לשאול. ‏

"And Saul had a concubine" (2 Samuel 3:7). When Saul became king, you were still unimportant, and yet it is written "And David took more wives and concubines from Jerusalem" (ibid 5:13), and you compare yourself to Saul?! Saul was "lighter than eagles, stronger than lions" (ibid 1:23) [...] and you compare yourself to Saul?! A person going to a feast doesn't bring his sons with him for fear of onlookers, and yet Saul goes to battle knowing that the attribute of judgment will strike him, and he brings his sons with him, and you compare yourself to Saul, while [David's soldiers] say "Don't go out to battle with us any more" (ibid 21:17)?! Saul ate ordinary food in purity, as it is said "The cook lifted up the thigh and what was on it" (1 Samuel 9:24) [...] and you compare yourself to Saul?!

1 Typo corrected from אפילו in accordance with this edition.

10

Shaul was great beyond the imagination of the people in his Generation (and how much more so ourselves) and cannot be Judged. Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel II 157:

שגיון לדוד אשר שר לה' על דברי כוש בן ימיני (Tehilim,9,1),
א"ל הקב"ה לדוד דוד שירה אתה אומר לפני על מפלת של שאול אלמלא אתה שאול והוא דוד אבדתי כמה דוד מפניו והיינו דכתיב שגיון לדוד אשר שר לה' על דברי כוש בן ימיני. כתיב כוש והלא שאול שמו, אלא מה כושי משונה בעורו אף שאול משונה במעשיו ובמראיו שנאמר משכמו ומעלה גבוה מכל העם
When Dovid was being chased Hashem told him if Shaul had Dovid's Mazel and Dovid had Shaul's Mazel Shaul would have killed many people like Dovid, i.e Shaul was the greatest man at the time as it says "Head and Shoulders above everyone" (even more great than Dovid at the time) but because he had a bad Mazel he couldn't remain the King and Dovid had to take over the Kingship.

Shaul was forgiven for all his sins and had a Place on the same level as Shmuel Hanavi in the world to come (Brachos 12b):

ומנין דאחילו ליה מן שמיא שנא' (שמואל א כח, יט) (ויאמר שמואל אל שאול) [ו] מחר אתה ובניך עמי וא"ר יוחנן עמי במחיצתי

3

There are many sources that speak about Shaul Hamelech's righteousness.

To add to what has already been said, I will base the bulk of my answer from a Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer, but will also add other sources that support the points.

In Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer 10 (starts at the bottom of the page) it notes Shaul's overarching humility. At the time that Shmuel said to Shaul, "And for whom is all of Israel yearning" (Shmuel I 9:20), Shaul answered "But I am only a Benjaminite...". And at the time that they sought to anoint him as king, he went and hid himself (Shmuel I 10:22).

As a result it quotes Rav Yanai who notes 12 separate character attributes for which Shaul deserves praise:

  1. Humility - (as per his answer above about being "only" בֶן־יְמִינִ֤י אָ֙נֹכִי֙).

Also worth noting the Yalkut Shimoni, Shmuel 117 that says that he initially refused to accept the kingship, but when he heard that a chacham (a sage), a chassan (a bridegroom) and king are forgiven for all their previous sins he accepted.

  1. He listened to the reproach of others and remained silent - See Shmuel I 10:27

וּבְנֵ֧י בְלִיַּ֣עַל אָמְר֗וּ מַה־יֹּשִׁעֵ֙נוּ֙ זֶ֔ה וַיִּבְזֻ֕הוּ וְלֹֽא־הֵבִ֥יאוּ ל֖וֹ מִנְחָ֑ה וַיְהִ֖י כְּמַחֲרִֽישׁ׃

But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” So they scorned him and brought him no gift. But he pretended not to mind.

Although the Yalkut Shimoni, Remez 117 points out - "אמר רבי יהודה אמר רב מפני מה נענש שאול מפני שמחל על כבודו שנאמר ובני בליעל אמרו מה יושיענו זה ויהי כמחריש" that it was this fact that led to his ultimate punishment.

  1. He forgave insults - See Shmuel I 11:12-13

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הָעָם֙ אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל מִ֣י הָאֹמֵ֔ר שָׁא֖וּל יִמְלֹ֣ךְ עָלֵ֑ינוּ תְּנ֥וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים וּנְמִיתֵֽם׃ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שָׁא֔וּל לֹֽא־יוּמַ֥ת אִ֖ישׁ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֥י הַיּ֛וֹם עָשָֽׂה־יְהוָ֥ה תְּשׁוּעָ֖ה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל

The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it said, ‘Shall Saul be king over us?’ Hand the men over and we will put them to death!” But Saul replied, “No man shall be put to death this day! For this day the LORD has brought victory to Israel.”

  1. He was cautious with the mitzvah of tzitzis - see Shmuel I 24:5

וַיָּ֣קָם דָּוִ֗ד וַיִּכְרֹ֛ת אֶת־כְּנַֽף־הַמְּעִ֥יל

David went and stealthily cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak.

  1. He cared for the poor daughters of Israel, in that all those who did not have dowries, he supplied them with -see Shmuel II 1:24

בְּנוֹת֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶל־שָׁא֖וּל בְּכֶ֑ינָה הַמַּלְבִּֽשְׁכֶ֤ם שָׁנִי֙ עִם־עֲדָנִ֔ים הַֽמַּעֲלֶה֙ עֲדִ֣י זָהָ֔ב עַ֖ל לְבוּשְׁכֶֽן

Daughters of Israel, Weep over Saul, Who clothed you in crimson and finery, Who decked your robes with jewels of gold.

  1. He demonstrated the virtue of shame - See Shmuel I 15:25

'וְעַתָּ֕ה שָׂ֥א נָ֖א אֶת־חַטָּאתִ֑י וְשׁ֣וּב עִמִּ֔י וְאֶֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה לה

Please, forgive my offense and come back with me, and I will bow low to the LORD.”

  1. He was tznua (modest) - See Shmuel I 24:4

וַ֠יָּבֹא אֶל־גִּדְר֨וֹת הַצֹּ֤אן עַל־הַדֶּ֙רֶךְ֙ וְשָׁ֣ם מְעָרָ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֥א שָׁא֖וּל לְהָסֵ֣ךְ אֶת־רַגְלָ֑יו וְדָוִד֙ וַאֲנָשָׁ֔יו בְּיַרְכְּתֵ֥י הַמְּעָרָ֖ה יֹשְׁבִֽים

And he came to the sheepfolds along the way. There was a cave there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the back of the cave.

[Refer to Gemara Brachos 62b which brings this instance and teaches that there was a fence within a fence, and a cave within a cave, and thus Shaul entered to defecate in the interest of modesty.

In addition, this attribute of modesty is also highlighted in masechta Megilla 13b where it notes that this modesty resulted in him being the ancestor of Esther. The gemara goes on to explain that this modesty was the fact that he did not reveal to his uncle that he had been anointed as king (Shmuel I 10:16).

  1. He wasted his own money so that the rest of the nation wouldn't have to - Refer to Shmuel I 11:6-7

וַתִּצְלַ֤ח רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹהִים֙ עַל־שָׁא֔וּל בשמעו [כְּשָׁמְע֖וֹ] אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיִּ֥חַר אַפּ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃ וַיִּקַּח֩ צֶ֨מֶד בָּקָ֜ר וַֽיְנַתְּחֵ֗הוּ וַיְשַׁלַּ֞ח בְּכָל־גְּב֣וּל יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ בְּיַ֣ד הַמַּלְאָכִ֣ים...

When he heard these things, the spirit of God gripped Saul and his anger blazed up. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them into pieces, which he sent by messengers throughout the territory of Israel...

Also refer to the Midrash Shocher Tov 7:2 which notes that he freely spent money on Israel's wars.

  1. He ate chullin in a state of purity - See Shmuel I 20:26

וְלֹֽא־דִבֶּ֥ר שָׁא֛וּל מְא֖וּמָה בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא כִּ֤י אָמַר֙ מִקְרֶ֣ה ה֔וּא בִּלְתִּ֥י טָה֛וֹר ה֖וּא כִּֽי־לֹ֥א טָהֽוֹר

That day, however, Saul said nothing. “It’s accidental,” he thought. “He must be unclean and not yet cleansed.” (Refer to Rashi there)

This point is repeated in the Midrash Shocher Tov 7:2 above.

These last two points are brought in Bamidbar Rabbah 11:3 - שֶׁהָיָה עָנִי וְאוֹכֵל חֻלִּין בְּטָהֳרָה, וּמְבַזְבֵּז אֶת מָמוֹנוֹ וְחָס עַל מָמוֹנָן שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל

  1. He sanctified all that he dedicated - Divrei HaYamim I 26:28

וְכֹ֨ל הַֽהִקְדִּ֜ישׁ שְׁמוּאֵ֤ל הָרֹאֶה֙ וְשָׁא֣וּל בֶּן־קִ֔ישׁ

All that Samuel the seer had dedicated, and Saul son of Kish,

  1. He equated his own honour to that of his servants - Shmuel I 20:25

וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב הַ֠מֶּלֶךְ עַל־מ֨וֹשָׁב֜וֹ כְּפַ֣עַם ׀ בְּפַ֗עַם אֶל־מוֹשַׁב֙ הַקִּ֔יר וַיָּ֙קָם֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְנֵ֖ר מִצַּ֣ד שָׁא֑וּל וַיִּפָּקֵ֖ד מְק֥וֹם דָּוִֽד

When the king took his usual place on the seat by the wall, Jonathan rose and Abner sat down at Saul’s side; but David’s place remained vacant.

See Bamidbar Rabbah 11:3 above - וְשֶׁשָּׁקַל כְּבוֹד עַבְדּוֹ לִכְבוֹד עַצְמוֹ

  1. He was quick to do teshuva - Shmuel I 26:21

וַיֹּאמֶר֩ שָׁא֨וּל חָטָ֜אתִי שׁ֣וּב בְּנִֽי־דָוִ֗ד

And Saul answered, “I am in the wrong. Come back, my son David Thus, were it not for his informants coming and telling him the whereabouts of Dovid, he would never have chased after him.

0

In some rabbinic literature I’ve heard him speak of very well, it’s said he was destroyed because he was too humble.

It’s also written that he only had one wife unlike David who had many, he also went to war when David’s did not, Saul also went to war on his own expense when David did not.

One Rabbi on YouTube (Yosef Mizrachi) said that when Samuel spoke to Saul he said tomorrow you’ll be with me, by that he meant Paradise as that was where Samual was.

The reason he killed himself was that he feared what would happen if he was prisoner in the hands of his enemies.

It’s also said that Saul was forgiven for slaying the priests

Also it is said under Saul there was no idolatry in Israel

https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13224-saul

-2

King saul is regarded as not so positive figure as he disobeyed a direct order to eliminate all Amalek.

Instead he spared Amalek's king and by doing that he allowed Haman to be born later. Samuel the prophet was furious and said that his kingdom will be torn apart and as a result Saul lost his sanity and even tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him.

King saul also used an oracel to bring Samuel from the dead which is strictly vorbidden by moses's laws. But a king is a king and there is a beautiful Rashi comment on this which says that when the oracel brought people from the dead they were hanging upside down and samuel came normal becuase of king's respect according to moses's laws.

That's why the oracel was frightend in the story and knew that he was King saul.
He also commited suicide on the battle and dropped on his sword which is also vorbidden.

But, king saul was elected because the people wanted a king and he was crowned by force by Samuel in a direct order from god so I can't blame him for anything as he didn't want all this.

1
  • Sources would greatly improve this answer.
    – ezra
    May 27 '19 at 2:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .