Haftarah for Korah

Having a king won't necessarily make life easier for the 12 tribes of Israel.


The haftarah selection is from Samuel I, 11:14-12:22.

In the Book of Samuel, when the Israelites demand a king, God grants their request, and directs the prophet Samuel to find a young man named Saul and anoint him as king (Samuel I, chapter 9). The haftarah for Parashat Korah, which tells the continuation of this story, begins with Samuel preparing to travel to the town of Gilgal to perform Saul’s official crowning.

At this ceremony, after the Israelites offer sacrifices and celebrate, Samuel reminds the tribes that this coronation was their idea, not his–"I have listened to your pleas and done everything you asked of me, and set a king over you" (12:1).

Samuel proceeds to reflect on his own leadership, asking the assembled for their judgment. "Testify against me in the presence of the Eternal and in the presence of God’s anointed," he challenges them. "Have I taken anyone’s ox or anyone’s donkey? Have I maltreated or oppressed anyone? Have I taken a bribe to turn a blind eye to anyone? Tell me, and I will return it!" (12:2-3)

The people assure Samuel that he has committed no wrong.

Then Samuel relates the history of God and the Children of Israel, beginning with Jacob and his family entering Egypt and continuing to his present moment. Samuel praises God’s "victorious acts" (12:7) and bemoans how, when the Israelites forgot God, Sisera and the Philistines defeated Israel (which we read about in the Haftarah for Beshalah).

Samuel explains that God redeemed the Israelites from their enemies after they expressed regret for their idolatrous ways and cried out to Him for help. And yet the Israelites still requested a king to keep them safe–even though God had repeatedly saved them from their enemies.

Samuel cautions the Israelites’ that their newly-appointed king is neither a substitute nor a replacement for God. He emphasizes that the people must continue to follow God and obey His commandments if they want themselves and their king to be successful.

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