Not long after after Shaul begins to reign he sins, and within a span of just three chapters, he is told twice that his kingdom will be torn away from him. In Chapter 13, he fails to wait the allotted seven days for Shemuel in Gilgal, opting instead to bring a sacrifice on his own. Shemuel rebukes him:
(יג) וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל שָׁאוּל נִסְכָּלְתָּ לֹא שָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת מִצְוַת י"י אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר צִוָּךְ כִּי עַתָּה הֵכִין י"י אֶת מַמְלַכְתְּךָ אֶל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד עוֹלָם. (יד) וְעַתָּה מַמְלַכְתְּךָ לֹא תָקוּם בִּקֵּשׁ י"י לוֹ אִישׁ כִּלְבָבוֹ וַיְצַוֵּהוּ י"י לְנָגִיד עַל עַמּוֹ כִּי לֹא שָׁמַרְתָּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ י"י.
(13) And Samuel said to Saul: 'Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. (14) But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the Lord hath sought him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath appointed him to be prince over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.'
Just two chapters later, Shaul once again blunders, not fulfilling Hashem's command to destroy Amalek. Here, too, he is told:
(כו)...כִּי מָאַסְתָּה אֶת דְּבַר י"י וַיִּמְאָסְךָ י"י מִהְיוֹת מֶלֶךְ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל. (כז) וַיִּסֹּב שְׁמוּאֵל לָלֶכֶת וַיַּחֲזֵק בִּכְנַף מְעִילוֹ וַיִּקָּרַע. (כח) וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו שְׁמוּאֵל קָרַע י"י אֶת מַמְלְכוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵעָלֶיךָ הַיּוֹם וּנְתָנָהּ לְרֵעֲךָ הַטּוֹב מִמֶּךָּ.
(26) And Samuel said unto Saul: 'I will not return with thee; for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.' (27) And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his robe, and it rent. (28) And Samuel said unto him: 'The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
Shemuel's words are perplexing. If Shaul had lost the kingship already in Chapter 13, how can he lose it again? What is the relationship between the two punishments?
Other References to the Punishment
In two other places in Tanakh, reference is made to Shaul's sin and punishment. When Shemuel is revived by the Ba'alat Ha'Ov,1 the prophet tells Shaul of his imminent death and that David is soon to inherit the monarchy:
(יז) וַיַּעַשׂ י"י לוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּיָדִי וַיִּקְרַע י"י אֶת הַמַּמְלָכָה מִיָּדֶךָ וַיִּתְּנָהּ לְרֵעֲךָ לְדָוִד. (יח) כַּאֲשֶׁר לֹא שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקוֹל י"י וְלֹא עָשִׂיתָ חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ בַּעֲמָלֵק עַל כֵּן הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה עָשָׂה לְךָ י"י הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
(17) And the Lord hath wrought for Himself; as He spoke by me; and the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thy hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David. (18) Because thou didst not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and didst not execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day.
Here, Shemuel attributes the punishment to one sin only, Shaul's actions in the battle against Amalek, not mentioning his deeds at Gilgal at all. Why not? Were they not also a cause of the tearing away of the monarchy?
In Divrei HaYamim, too, the narrator speaks of the reason for Shaul's death and loss of kingship:
(יג) וַיָּמׇת שָׁאוּל בְּמַעֲלוֹ אֲשֶׁר מָעַל בַּי"י עַל דְּבַר י"י אֲשֶׁר לֹא שָׁמָר וְגַם לִשְׁאוֹל בָּאוֹב לִדְרוֹשׁ. (יד) וְלֹא דָרַשׁ בַּי"י וַיְמִיתֵהוּ וַיַּסֵּב אֶת הַמְּלוּכָה לְדָוִיד בֶּן יִשָׁי.
(13) So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord, which he kept not; and also for that he asked counsel of a ghost, to inquire thereby, (14) and inquired not of the Lord; therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
These verses are ambiguous. What is "מַעֲלוֹ אֲשֶׁר מָעַל בַּי"י? Which directive of Hashem did Shaul defy - waiting in Gilgal, destroying Amalek, both, or a different command altogether? When the verse says that one of the reasons that Shaul was killed was because he "did not seek God" is this referring to the fact that he visited the necromancer, or to a more general omission?2 Which of Shaul's deeds does the narrator believe was the real cause of the loss of kingship?