"And the soul of Jonathan was bound with the soul of David" (ch 18 v 1).

The ARI (Likutey Torah I Samuel 18) explains: Jonathan's love for David was "more wondrous than the love of women" (II Samuel 1:26). For it was from Jonathan that the flow of blessing (SHEFA) came to David, because the first three letters of Jonathan's name are Yud-Heh-Vav, the first three letters of the Tetragramaton, the "essential" name of God, while the last three letters are NaTHaN, "he gave", indicating the MASHPIAH, who influences another. The gematria of NaThaN is 500, because Jonathan's soul was rooted in Tiferet of the Kings that Died (Genesis 36:31-39), and Tiferet receives the influence of Binah, "understanding", whose Fifty Gates each contain 10 Sefiros: 50 x 10 = 500. Being rooted in the Seven Kings that Died, Jonathan's kingship could not endure. Understanding that his role was to give over his influence to David, he embraced his destiny with love and "made a covenant" with him, giving him his coat and all his symbols of royalty - his sword, bow and belt (ch 18 v 4).


The song of the women who came out dancing with instruments to hail Saul could have been construed as an honor to Saul - that while Saul only needed to go out with thousands to conquer the Philistines, David had to go out with tens of thousands. However, when a person has already been "bitten" by an evil spirit, he tends to construe everything negatively, and thus Saul took the women's song as an insult to his honor, and from that time on the poison of his jealousy of David festered and grew.

"And it was on the next day that an evil spirit from God swelled in Saul, and HE PROPHESIED in the house" (v 10). The Hebrew word VAYIS-NABEI is from the same root as NAVIE, a "prophet", but here Targum Yonasan renders it not as "he prophesied" but "he went mad" (VE-ISHTATI). For without the perfect discipline required of the prophet, his prophetic spirit easily turns into madness. "A prophet and a madman both speak in hints that are not understood" (Rashi ad loc.).

Saul's jealousy was only increased when he saw that David was divinely protected from all his efforts to spear him, making Saul afraid and even more full of hatred. Saul's mix of jealousy, fear and hatred is very reminiscent of similar syndromes found in many Jews who have gone more or less off track in relation to those who remain genuinely faithful to the Torah pathway, whose joyous determination and success cause them profound vexation and irritation. Just as Saul tried every method, direct and indirect, of killing David, so too some lapsed Jews are tireless in their efforts to thwart the Torah community - and they will fail just as Saul failed to harm David.

Saul's stratagems to try to get David killed are reminiscent of the kinds of stratagems often used today by those in positions of great power in order to get their enemies knocked off indirectly or seemingly by accident.

Saul hoped that by dispatching David to bring the foreskins of 100 Philistines as the "dowry" for his daughter, he was sending him to a quick death - yet with typical loyal obedience, dauntless courage and great alacrity, David brought back DOUBLE the number of foreskins. Cutting off the enemies' foreskins may seem to be a particularly gruesome way of humiliating them and taking vengeance - though the same was practiced on Israel by their enemies (see Rashi on Deut. 25:17). Perhaps a less gruesome modern equivalent would be the endeavors of contemporary outreach workers to outdo each other in removing the mental and emotional "foreskins" from as many irreligious Jewish hearts as possible and turning them into BAAL TESHUVAHs!


The vicious cycle of Saul's jealousy and hatred for David deteriorated into a mad paranoia that had him telling all his ministers and servants and even Jonathan to kill him. Jonathan succeeded in temporarily mollifying Saul, who exhibited all the symptoms of severe mood-swing. The fact that Saul's son Jonathan and his daughter Michal continued to show the utmost loyalty to David proves that they saw clearly that he was completely guiltless. David did nothing to provoke Saul: all the suffering that came upon him was sent to him from God to prepare him for leadership, for the broken heart of one who has suffered is filled with compassion for others who are suffering. David gave expression to his pain and search for fortitude in God in his Tehilim (Psalms), which speak for all Israel and are our greatest source of solace in face of the jealousy of the nations.

When indirect methods of assassination did not work, Saul sent a squadron of messengers directly to David's house to capture him in order to kill him. In this Saul was criticized for being even worse than Jezebel, who was not Jewish (she was the daughter of idolatrous priests) yet when she sent to Elijah saying "At this time tomorrow I will make your soul like the soul of one of them [i.e. the prophets she had already killed]" (I Kings 19:2) she at least gave him a day's notice so that he had the opportunity to flee. (Yalkut).

The present-day Israeli government does indeed normally give advance notice to Arab terrorists of their intent to conduct bombing operations against specific hide-outs etc. thereby enabling the occupants to flee or take other precautions. However this same government tends not to display a similar indulgence when sending police in to deal with protesting Jewish settlers, haredim, disenchanted Ethiopian immigrants, etc. Thus it is that those who show kindness where it is unwarranted end up showing cruelty where it is unwarranted.


After Michal let David down through the window to escape, she put the TERAPHIM in his bed to seem like a body together with a goatskin to seem like hair, so that Saul's guards would think it was David. When Jacob fled from Laban, Rachel took her father's TERAPHIM (Genesis 31:19), which were clearly idolatrous statues. In the case of the TERAPHIM taken by Michal, most of the commentators agree that they were some kind of statue or mannequin in human form but bring a variety of interpretations as to what such a statue was doing in the house of David. RaDaK (on v 13) states that it is quite unthinkable that David would have had any kind of idolatrous statue in his house and inclines to Ibn Ezra's opinion that these TERAPHIM were a diagrammatic emblem of the human form that could be used for channeling angelic power. According to this interpretation, Michal would have used them to bring some kind of protection against Saul's messengers. Metzudas Tzion's explanation is that while some TERAPHIM were indeed idolatrous statues, others were made my devoted wives in the form of their husbands so that they could look upon them lovingly.


David fled to Samuel, who had anointed him king. And at this moment of supreme crisis, when his very life was hanging in the balance, how did David occupy himself with Samuel? The rabbis said that in this one night when he fled from Saul, David learned more from Samuel than a seasoned student could learn from his teacher in a hundred years. They could find nothing better to do than determine the site of the Temple and lay plans for its building. [Similarly, in the 1720's, at the very height of the persecution of the 22 year old R. Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, Ramchal, by the rabbis of Italy and Germany, he could find nothing better to do than write MISHKENEY ELYON, "Secrets of the Future Temple", explaining the meaning of the form of the Third Temple as prophesied by Ezekiel ch's 40ff.]

"And he and Samuel went and they sat in NOYOUS" (v 18). The rabbis taught: "What connection does NOYOUS have with Ramah? What the text means is that they sat in Ramah and engaged in the BEAUTY (NOYO) of the world. [The Hebrew word BE-NOYOUS in vv 18 and 19 is written in the parchment - KSIV -- differently from the way it is pronounced - KRI. The KSIV has the connotations of both BEAUTY and BUILDING.] They said that since the Torah writes that 'you shall go up to the place' (Deut. 17:8), it must be that the Temple is higher than all the land of Israel and the Land of Israel is higher than all the lands, but they did not know the exact site of the Temple, so they brought the book of Joshua. In all the descriptions of the territories of the tribes it says the border 'goes down. and goes up.' but in the case of the territory of Benjamin it is written that 'it goes up' but not that 'it goes down' (Joshua 15:8). They said that from this we can infer that this is the proper place of the Temple . They discussed whether to build it in Eyn Eytam, which is high, but they said they should go down just a little, as it is written, 'He dwells BETWEEN HIS SHOULDERS' (Deut. 33:12)" (Talmud Zevachim 54b).

The presence of Samuel and his students, the "sons of the prophets" engaged in such exalted prophecy brought even Saul to the level of true prophecy. In verse 23 the word VAYISNABEI is rendered by Targum Yonasan as referring to true prophecy: "also on him there dwelled the spirit of prophecy from HaShem". Saul's stripping off his clothes and falling "naked" (v 24) does not mean that he was literally without any clothes, but that in his prophetic ecstasy he removed his royal robes - for at this moment of truth and prophetic lucidity, he knew then that David was the true king of Israel.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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