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

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.

Read more at Lehrhaus

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

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security