King Saul’s Downfall Stemmed from His Transactional Approach to Serving God

March 15 2019

In 1Samuel 15, read in synagogues tomorrow, King Saul leads the Israelite army into victorious battle with the Amalekites at the behest of the prophet Samuel. But rather than destroy their enemies’ livestock, as God had commanded, the hungry Israelite soldiers plunder it for food. For this act of disobedience, as well as for failing to slay the Amalekite king, Saul is rejected by God. Shlomo Zuckier explains the mistaken attitude that lies behind Saul’s actions:

[Saul insists to Samuel] that he did follow God’s word, and that the people took the animals, adding the qualification that the animals were meant for sacrifices. As God did not request any such sacrifices, this line might best be read as Saul’s attempt at bribing God. Utilizing a transactional logic, he effectively [declares], “I made a mistake, God, but surely You’ll be happy if I give you these offerings? I’ll give you a cut of the spoils!” Thus, not only in not following the divine command properly, but even in responding to [Samuel’s rebuke], Saul disregards God’s will, . . . trying to pay God off instead of coming to terms with his failure. . . . Samuel responds that God desires not sacrifices but heeding the divine word; one can influence God neither with magic nor with bribes. . . .

[Saul] sees God as an obstacle to be navigated around. . . . As he learns all too well, what God really expects is that His will be followed; no bribe can be efficacious, and there is no divine workaround.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, King Saul, Religion & Holidays, Sacrifice, Samuel

By Arresting Foreigners and Detaining Ships, Iran Reverts to Its Favorite Method of Diplomacy

July 23 2019

On Friday, Iranian naval vessels seized an oil tanker flying the British flag, along with its crew. Taking foreigners hostage has long been a preferred tactic of the Islamic Republic, as Bobby Ghosh writes:

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More about: Emmanuel Macron, France, Iran, United Kingdom