King Saul and the Prophet Samuel: A Dramatic Reading for Shabbat Zachor by David Hartley Mark

Scene: After Saul’s Triumphant Battle against King Agag of Amalek. King Saul’s two sons, Ishboshet and Eshbaal are sitting on the ground, using flat-sided stones to buff and polish their swords. Their clothing is torn and bloodstained. The air is filled with the stench of burning houses, as well as barbecued meat.

Ishboshet: I tell you, Brother, it’s a bad business, an evil business.

Eshbaal: Why, Brother? We beat the Amalekites, and, with the help of our God, Father took their king, the mighty Agag himself, into captivity.

Ishb: But that’s the thing, you see—

Eshb: What? Speak plainly.

Ishb: I recall standing outside Father’s tent when Prophet Samuel was speaking to him. Father is a little deaf, you know, and he asked Samuel to speak loudly and slowly—you know that Father is a mighty warrior, but he’s—well, he’s—

Eshb: Careful, now, Ishbi—you’re speaking, not only of our father, but our king—

Ishb: (looks about, a little fearfully)—not too bright. I can say it to you, now, can’t I? You know, when he gets that sort of, of, vacant stare in his eyes, like he’s not-all-there—(A sound in the bushes, like someone approaching)

Eshb: Silence, now. (Enter Samuel, the Prophet: though aged, he walks uprightly a Man on a Mission, and carries a twisted, blackened staff. He does not smile. The Two Sons snap to attention instantly.)

Both: Hail, Samuel, Prophet-Priest-Judge-Chieftain!

Samuel (Nods): Boys. Good to see you. I know how the battle went; I’m glad that we won. Our Lord God, He-Who-Is already told me. Where is Your Father Your King?

Eshb: In his Royal Tent, Your Grace.

Samuel (Nods again): I will speak with him. (Ishb exits; returns with Saul. Saul, King of Israel, does not appear very royal; his eyes dart from side to side; though he carries a mighty iron sword, looted from Agag, and a spear the length of a weaver’s beam, taken from Goliath, the Philistine Giant, his shoulders quiver, and he walks in little steps as he approaches his mentor and Chief Adviser, as well as conduit to God, Samuel). Well, Saul?

Saul: Your Grace, I have done all that you and the Lord commanded. I defeated, with God’s help, the Amalekites, and my men put to the sword all men, women, and children; all cattle as well, without mercy; and we burned their city to the ground; nothing remains but ashes.

Samuel (shaking his head, and wagging a finger): Saul, Saul, Saul (the Sons, sensing what follows, wisely exit). Though you are but small in your own eyes, are you not, still, King of Israel, General-in-Chief of God’s Army, and the Chosen One of Our God? How could you disobey the express command of God?

Saul (desperately): It was not I—it was the troops, Samuel! I could not control them—they swarmed all over the loot—and some chose the finest cattle, and—and—I could not stop them. I am at fault, O’ Samuel, O’ Mighty Prophet, O’ my Spokesman and Teacher. Please, ask God to forgive me. Ask God—

Samuel: Though you be but little in your own eyes, you did not fulfill the Express Command of God: and God does not want sacrifices, not the sounds of lowing cattle does God wish; God wants the heart; God only wants the heart, and to have His Commands fulfilled, to the letter. And now, God has expelled you from the Throne, as I have (he turns, pulling his cloak over his shoulders; Saul, seeing him leaving, makes a desperate move, reaching for the cloak; Saul pulls it, and it tears–)

Samuel (pulling the torn portion out of Saul’s hand, and pointing a finger at him): And so has God torn away the Kingdom of Israel from you this day, and given it to Someone better and wiser than you: farewell, Saul; farewell….

(As Saul departs the stage, it blacks out: we hear the death-cries of Agag, King of Amalek, as Samuel puts him to the sword. But Agag is not alone, and there will always be more enemies of Israel, and of civilization.)

Remember, Reader: God wants the heart, more than the fat of cattle and the blood of rams. God wants those who will serve Him, more than those who perform Commandments mechanically and without meaning, from this day forth, and forever.

David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

Enjoyed this archived service or article? Click here to donate $3 to OneShul (care of PunkTorah).

Support OneShul on GoFundMe

Leave a Reply