Scripture alludes to this when it says, “Etein lecha melech b’api v’ekach b’evrati – I gave you a king in My wrath and I took [him] away in My fury” (Hosea 13:11). This verse means that He gave Israel a king against His own desire and therefore took him away in His wrath. As we know, Saul and his sons were killed and their descendants did not inherit the throne.
The reason G-d objected so strongly to the Jews’ request for a king was because Samuel was a judge and prophet who fought the Jewish people’s wars by the word of G-d and saved them from their enemies (see I Samuel 12:11). They therefore should not have requested a king in his days. As Samuel said (I Samuel 12:12), “Va’ Shem Elokeichem malkechem – But Hashem, your G-d, is your king!” And as G-d said to Samuel (ibid., 8:7), “Lo ot’cha ma’asu, ki oti ma’asu mimloch – It is not you that they have rejected, but it is Me whom they have rejected from ruling over them.”
An obvious difficulty, however, still exists. Scripture states (I Samuel 13:13): “Vayomer Shmuel el Shaul, niscalta, lo shamarta et mitzvat Hashem elokecha asher tzivach, ki atah heychin Hashem et mamlachticha el Yisrael ad olam – Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have acted foolishly! You did not keep the commandment of Hashem your G-d that He commanded you, for had you done so, Hashem would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.’” This verse implies that had Saul not sinned, his descendants would have continued ruling over the Jewish people – even though Saul did not descend from Judah!
The Ramban suggests that – sin or not – Saul’s descendants would never have reigned over all of Israel. Perhaps they would have reigned over the tribes descended from their matriarch Rachel – namely, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh – since Judah and Ephraim are considered two distinct peoples within Israel. Alternatively, Saul’s descendants would have reigned over all of Israel, but only as viceroys under a king from Judah.
The Ramban writes that other kings who reigned over Israel who did not descend from Judah (after David’s rule) violated the wishes of their forefather Jacob. It’s true that Ahijah of Shiloh – a prophet – appointed Jeroboam king with Divine sanction, saying (I Kings 11:39): “V’aneh et zera David… – And I shall afflict the descendants of David [by transferring authority over the 10 northern tribes to Jeroboam, a non-Davidic king]….” However, this permission only referred to Jeroboam. After his reign, the 10 tribes should have submitted to the reign of Judah. When they did not do so, they sinned, violating the last will and testament of their forefather Jacob. For this they were punished, as Scripture states (Hosea 8:4): “Heim himlichu, v’lo mimeni – They enthroned kings, but not from me.”
(To be continued)Rabbi Yaakov Klass
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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