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Samuel And His Kings

Shmuel (Samuel) is one of our greatest prophets and Judges.

Shmuel bridges the Era of Judges with that of Kings and Prophets.

Up to Shmuel, the Jewish people were led by Judges who led informal governments. Most of the Judges had no dynasty and they were appointed on the basis of merit or need.

Towards the latter part of his rule, Shmuel appoints two kings. The kings form strong and formal central governments and they establish dynasties. Thus, Shmuel helps the Jewish people transition to a new type of government.

Up to Shmuel, prophets were referred to as people of vision, or seers. They focused on sharing their insight and experience.

In Hebrew, the word for prophet is ‘Navi’. Based on the rules of Hebrew grammar, the word carries with it a connotation of being a spokesman.

At times, the prophets supported the kings by providing them with guidance from G-d. At other times, the prophets served to check the power of kings who tried to lead the Jewish people away from Torah observance. In both instances, the prophet served as G-d’s spokesperson. Thus, Shmuel transitions the role of the seers to that of spokespeople.

Shmuel’s parents, Elkana and Chana, are outstanding individuals. Both are seers (prophets).

In Elkana’s time, the Jewish people are severely oppressed by their neighbors. The surrounding nations harass the nation. Travel is so dangerous that the Jewish people cease to go to the Sanctuary for the three annual pilgrimage festivals.

Elkana forms a one-man campaign to re-institute the pilgrimages. Each festival, he takes his small family and travels in roundabout routes, stopping at many towns and announcing that he is on his way to the Sanctuary. He inspires many to share the risk in this great journey. With G-d’s help, the hazards soon disappear.

Chana is unable to have children. This torments her and she intensely prays to G-d for fertility. She prays in such an exemplary manner. We derive many of the laws of prayer from the way her prayer is described in the Book of Shmuel.

Shmuel is an outstanding individual. The Talmud says that in certain respects, Shmuel is as great in his generation as Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) were in their generation.

Shumel authors the Book of Shoftim (Judges) and the Megilla of Rus (Ruth). He writes the first chapters of the Book of Shmuel, which is later completed by the prophet Gad.

Shmuel serves the Jewish people at no cost. Throughout his career, Shmuel makes a special point of not accepting gratuities of any sort. He sets the example to such an extreme that he never takes water from a public well.

The Jewish people do not come to Shmuel. Rather, Shmuel goes to them. Each year he travels throughout the land (at his own expense) to judge their cases and serve their needs.

With G-d’s help, Shmuel succeeds in uniting the Jewish people and establishing secure borders.

Shmuel ages and Jewish leadership begins to think of his successor. Shmuel’s children are not fit to assume the office and there is no one else of his caliber to replace him.

Leaders think beyond Shmuel’s replacement. They feel that the existing system of government needs to be replaced. Noting that the Torah prescribes monarchy once the Jewish people are secure within the land, they want a king.

Ironically, because Shmuel has done such an outstanding job in securing the land and because he was irreplaceable, the leadership asks Shmuel to appoint a king in his place. In all his greatness, Shmuel agrees to appoint a king and to step down.

G-d directs Shmuel to anoint Shaul (Saul) from the Tribe of Benyamin (Benjamin). Shaul has yet to commit a single sin in his life. He is a perfect person.

The Book of Shmuel provides a fascinating account of of Shaul’s appointment. Of the many anecdotes in the Written and Oral Torahs, the following provides astonishing insight into G-d’s management of the world.

Shaul is helping his father retrieve some lost property. He is on the road and has no inkling that G-d is right now guiding his steps towards Shmuel in preparation of his anointment as the first King of Israel.

Shaul realizes that he is near a town where there is a seer. He thinks that this person may be able to tell him where his father’s donkeys are. As he nears the town, Shaul meets a group of youths and asks them where the seer is. Their response is documented in the Book of Shmuel. It is quite verbose and it seems like trivial detail.

Not so, says the Talmud. Not only does G-d decree who will rule, He also decrees when a person will rule. Moreover, authorities never overlap. You see, Shaul was a bit ahead of schedule. G-d therefore made these youths feel talkative at this moment so that the time of Shaul’s sovereignty would not overlap with that of Shmuel’s.

Shaul is an exemplary person and leader. He insures that the families of every drafted soldier is cared for. He provides dowries for every impoverished bride. With enthusiasm, he honors Torah study and scholars.

In spite of his perfection, because his humility, Shaul fails as a king.

In the name of G-d, Shmuel directs him to annihilate the evil empire of Amalek, including their families. To rid the world of all evil, even their property must be completely destroyed.

As the battle nears, Shaul entertains thoughts of mercy. A heavenly voice calls to him, "Be not too righteous." Later in his short career Shaul will direct the cruel extermination of an entire city of Cohanim (Priests). A heavenly voice will then call out, "Be not too wicked."

Shaul does not heed Shmuel's commandment and the world loses an opportunity to achieve the perfection that we are still waiting for. The Amalekite king, Agag is spared for a night. While in jail he succeeds to propagate.

G-d directs Shmuel to travel to the house of Yishai (Jesse) and anoint another king.

Shmuel is distressed and he is crushed.

We find another fascinating anecdote that could go unnoticed to the untrained eye.

Shmuel remarks to A-lmighty G-d that the mission to anoint Shaul’s replacement is dangerous. Shaul will view it as an act of rebellion and the law will compel him to kill Shmuel.

G-d is not angry that Shmuel questions the mission. He does not even assure Shmuel of His protection. Instead, he gives Shmuel advice on how to cover up the mission. Amazing!

G-d budgets His miracles and He voluntarily keeps to the budget. Since Shmuel didn’t know if this was in the budget, he asked and G-d told him no.

G-d chooses to work primarily within nature and despite this limitation, He always achieves his objectives.

So, Shmuel is off to the Tribe of Yehudah (Judah) to secretly anoint a new king. We provide one more anecdote from the Written and Oral Torahs.

Yishai is another perfect person. He will die without sin and labeling him a religious Jew is an understatement.

Because of certain circumstances and legal technicalities, Yishai comes under a mistaken impression that his new-born child is illegitimate according to Jewish Law. The illegitimacy appears to be of a nature that precludeds the child from marrying within the Jewish people. Yishai determines that it is his responsibility to raise him in a manner that insures he will not be fit for marriage.

From birth, the child is made into a social outcast by his father and brothers. He is caretaker of the animals, left to play alone with his harp and wander off in the fields with the sheep.

Without doubt, this child has every potential of becoming a psychiatric basket case. With G-d’s help, he doesn’t become one. Instead, he privately makes progress as a scholar and as a human being.

G-d takes notice of how he cares for the sheep. The boy goes far into the wilderness to insure that the grazing is done on public land. He divides the flock into three groups by age. He lets only one group feed at a time. The youngest group goes first and they eat the soft grasses. The oldest group goes second. Their teeth are developed but worn, so they are able to chew on much of the remaining grass. Finally the middle group is allowed to pasture. They have the teeth and strength to feed on whatever is left.

G-d says, "If he shows such care for his father’s sheep then he will give good care to mine."

The outcast grows up.

Shmuel arrives in Bais Lechem (Bethlehem) and secretly asks Yishai to assemble his sons before him. He confides that G-d sent him to anoint one of them to be the next king of Israel. G-d has yet to reveal to Shmuel which son it will be.

You must understand that observing a direct command of a Prophet of G-d in the Name Of G-d is a very serious matter. The G-d fearing Yishai can be counted upon to do a simple thing like bringing all of his sons before Shmuel. Right?

Guess who is not invited.

Shmuel sees the oldest and assumes from his countenance that this is G-d’s chosen. G-d tells Shmuel otherwise, as is recorded in the Book of Shmuel, "Man sees to the eye but G-d sees to the heart."

One by one, G-d says no to them all.

In one of the most dramatic human interactions imaginable, Shmuel and Yishai face each other, speechless and completely dumfounded. Shmuel finally asks, "Are there any more sons?" Yishai blinks and mentions that there is another boy who is with the animals. Shmuel insists that Yishai get him.

The family temporarily agonizes over the possibility that G-d is doing this to publicize the dark family secret.

A young man with red hair and fine eyes is brought into the room. Shmuel takes a look at him and says to himself, "No." However, G-d responds, "Arise and anoint him, for this is the one!" By miracle, the oil bubbles out of Shmuel’s horn. In front of his father and brothers, this outcast is suddenly anointed as G-d’s chosen, to head the chosen people.

Thus, G-d demonstrates that the child is not illegitimate.

His name is David.

In the making of our kings, we are impressed that G-d is in total control and that He is the true King.

"You raise up the destitute from the dirt; You lift the impoverished from the waste heaps." (Psalms of King David)

Moshiach (Messiah) is Hebrew for The Anointed. The Messiah that we are all waiting for will come from the Davidic dynasty. We are taught that his coming will be like that of his ancestor. It will be totally unexpected and overwhelming. The surprise will be of such force and extent that it will help bring Mankind to completion.

In the making of the next king we will become greatly impressed that G-d is in total control and that He is the true King.

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