It was pointed out last time how Saul’s ויבקשהו כל הימים (שמואל א כג:יד) is ambiguous; בקש (”wanted“) can be positive or negative. The דעת מקרא points out that the word בקש comes up a lot in Saul’s history, making this even more ironic. When Saul first met David, it was with בקש:
And when we first meet Saul, it is in the context of בקש
And his life ends with a בקשה:
So this בקשה becomes a sort of leitwort in Saul’s life. It brings out the tragedy even more: he is always seeking something, never at peace.
Before we go on, I want to look at the rectitude of the people of Keilah in attempting to turn David over to Saul.
There are a few other examples of turning Jews over to the authorities in תנ״ך; one is שמשון, where the איש יהודה did not turn him over involuntarily:
And the most relevant example, when שבע בן בכרי rebels against David:
This is taken as the correct הלכה:
But there is a qualification: the fugitive must be in the hands of the city; they cannot go out and capture him:
So it would seem that the people of Keilah were technically correct in turning David over to Saul (or at least trying to). We will see the contrast with the people of Zipf coming up.
The place he runs to, מדבר זיף, is in the east of the territory of יהודה:
We will see these places again as the story progresses.
Now, Jonathan has sworn to a ברית twice before:
But this is different, since it is לפני ה׳:
And here Jonathan explicitly vows to serve David. This is the point that he in fact betrays his father. חז״ל saw this as an act of supreme humility on his part:
The gemara does not answer its question, and none of the classical commentators say anything. But the משבצות זהב offers an profound insight:
As we said, the people of Ziph betrayed David when they were not being threatened. They were from David’s tribe but loyal to Saul (we will see members of Benjamin who came to join David as well). Saul tells them חמלתם עלי; he really sees himself as the wronged one here, just as he berated his own court (שמואל א כב:ו) אין חלה מכם עלי וגלה את אזני. His description of David’s cleverness, כי אמר אלי ערום יערם הוא, is left anonymous (who said it?):
But the Radak attributes it to David himself:
This is one of the few the only explicit miracles on David’s behalf in the entire ספר (another is the victory over Goliath), and even this is a נס נסתר, a “hidden” miracle that could easily be attributed to a lucky chance. That establishes one of the themes of David’s life: he is able to see the hand of ה׳ in everything, and that is the link between the David of שמואל and the David of תהילים. Ironically, we will see the only time with an explicit נס נגלה, when נבל dies, allowing him to marry אביגאל—(שמואל א כה:לז) ויגף ה׳ את נבל וימת—David is led badly astray.
There a number of explanations of סלע המחלקות:
But I think the most profound explanation is Rashi’s: the מחלקת was in Saul’s mind:
There is a chapter of תהילים about this incident:
The striking thing about this is that it seems to have nothing to do with the incident at hand. It’s a very short, general prayer. Rav Hirsch describes what it means to be בנגינת:
This is meant to be a משכיל , a bit of practical advice, for dangerous situations where there isn’t time for elaborate poetry or deep כוונה. Keep calm and pray for ה׳'s salvation.
The Zohar (תקוני זהר, תקונא תליסר, כח,א) connects נגינת with the ספירה of גבורה, or דין. This is reflected here is David’s exclusive use of the name אלקים, until the end when he acknowledges ה׳'s personal salvation with אודה שמך ה׳.
And this little chapter does exemplify one aspect of all our תפילות. It is divided into two parts, 3 psukim asking for help and 4 psukim thanking ה׳ for that help. The Rambam says that is part of what true prayer is:
It’s not clear where Rambam gets this halacha; the gemara merely makes an observation about the text of the amidah:
Why turn this observation into a law?
The principle that בקשה has to be preceded by praise, we learn from Moshe:
But the principle that בקשה must be followed by thanks (even before the request is fulfilled) we learn from here.