It is not uncommon to hear facetious comments about the fractious nature of the Jewish people and how challenging it is to be a community leader. Many have heard the quip, “Two Jews, three opinions!” Even a cursory familiarity with Jewish history going back to Biblical times leads to the conclusion that this is not a new thing. Being a Jewish leader has never been easy, and even the most famous leaders in Jewish history faced derision, unrest and mutiny from the people.

The first king of Israel, Saul, was actually appointed under contentious circumstances after the Israelites grumbled to the prophet Samuel and demanded a king like all the other nations. Samuel, with God’s approval and guidance, appointed Saul to be king. No sooner had he been anointed, however, when “certain base fellows said: ‘How shall this man save us?’ And they despised him, and brought him no present. But he was as one that held his peace” (I Samuel 10:27).

Not long thereafter, the Ammonites led an attack against a group of Israelites, sending an ultimatum to the entire nation. When Saul heard their threat, he immediately rallied soldiers from all of Israel, laying down a hard line and demanding that they come and fight.

After the fight, when the people demanded to know which men had spoken out so disrespectfully toward him, Saul magnanimously declared “‘There shall not a man be put to death this day; for today God has brought deliverance in Israel.’ Then Samuel said to the people: ‘Come and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there’” (ibid 11:13-14).

In his first act of leadership, King Saul ignored his detractors and focused on bringing the nation together to defend their fellow Israelites.

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