King Saul’s Murderous Mania

Drawing on interpretations offered by Moshe Halbertal and Stephen Holmes in their recent study of the politics of the book of Samuel, Peter Leithart analyzes the corrupting influence of power on Israel’s first king and his disintegration into an obsessive envy of the young David, whom at first he had loved like a son:

[Saul] cannot abide the fact that David is praised more highly than he: “Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands.” In fact, David’s success is Saul’s success, but Saul can’t see it. . . .

Saul’s dread of his younger rival transforms Saul into a power-grasping tyrant. Ignoring the Philistine threat, he wastes time, energy, military resources, and public trust chasing David around the countryside. He slaughters the priests at Nob because they assist David, even though the priests are innocent. . . .

More subtly, as Halbertal and Holmes point out, maintaining power becomes the end of Saul’s reign. Power is supposed to be a means to the substantive ends of justice, harmony, and good order, but Saul inverts means and ends. Everything that should be an end becomes a tool for holding the throne. Saul is even willing to use his daughter Michal’s love for David to trap him. . . .

[Saul’s] is the paranoia of the old toward the young, the pathetic, inverted ambition of those who have arrived and don’t want others to catch up. Teachers experience it as they watch former protégés surpass them in productivity and acclaim. Parents become Sauls, and pastors are notorious for keeping a death-grip on their pulpits long after they have passed their use-by dates. It’s a virulent form of envy, when the old resent rather than rejoice in the success of the young.

Read more at First Things

More about: Book of Samuel, Hebrew Bible, King David, King Saul, Moshe Halbertal, Religion & Holidays

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan