—Biblical Data:

In the strictest sense there is no record in the Bible of an attempt to betray one's country, nor is there any mention of an unsuccessful attempt at regicide, which is high treason; but there are numerous instances of successful attempts to overthrow the government by killing its head. Abimelech, the son of Jerubbaal, slew his half-brothers, the seventy sons of Gideon, and proclaimed himself ruler of Israel (Judges ix. 1-5). Athaliah annihilated all those of royal blood and made herself Queen of Judah (II Kings xi. 1).

Saul evidently considered David's action as treasonable and deserving of death (I Sam. xx. 31), and he executed Abimelech and his family of priests for aiding David (I Sam. xxii. 11-18), though Samuel, by God's command, had already anointed David as Saul's successor. Nevertheless, David killed the Amalekite who assisted Saul in committing suicide, "for stretching forth his hand to destroy the Lord's anointed" (II Sam. i. 14). Baanah and Rechab, two captains, killed Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, in the expectation of being rewarded by David; but the latter charged them with treason and executed them (II. Sam. iv. 2-12). Joab killed Absalom for having attempted to overthrow the government and to depose his father, David, in the kingship (II Sam. xviii. 14). Shimei, the son of Gera, was guilty of treason in insulting and cursing David (II Sam. xvi. 5-8). When Shimei begged David's forgiveness, the latter pardoned him (II Sam. xix. 21), but King Solomon found a pretext to avenge his father (I Kings ii. 46). Sheba, the son of Bichri, raised the standard of rebellion against David, and was killed by those he had misled (II Sam. xx. 22). Adonijah was found guilty of treason, and was finally executed (I Kings i. 5, ii. 25).

Zimri, a captain in the army of Elah, the son of Baasha, killed his king, and after a reign of seven days, fearing capture, committed suicide (I Kings xvi. 9-18). His action became proverbial, and was recalled in Jezebel's remark, "Zimri, . . . who slew his master" (II Kings ix. 31). Pekahiah, the son of Menahem, King of Israel, was killed by his captain Pekah, the son of Remaliah, who succeeded him. In return, Hoshea, the son of Elah, conspired against Pekah, killing and replacing him (II Kings xv. 25, 30). Ishmael killed Ahikam's son Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor (II Kings xxv. 25).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The Rabbis find the penalty of death for disobedience to the king in Josh. i. 18 (see Sanh. 49a). A Jewish king may inflict death upon those guilty of revolt. Even if the king orders one of his subjects to go to a certain place, or forbids him to leave his own house, he must obey or become liable to capital punishment. The king also has the right to kill one who insults or disgraces him, as in the case of Shimei ben Gera. Death for treason is by the sword only. The king may also punish the offender otherwise, but he may not confiscate his property, as this would be robbery (Maimonides, "Yad," Melakim, iii. 8). David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra defines a king as one chosen by a prophet or elected by the people, but not a self-appointed ruler who has acquired his kingdom by usurpation. No one can be guilty as a "mored be-malkut" in the case of such a king (commentary on the "Yad," ad loc., ed. Wilna, 1900). R. Joseph partly justifies David's action against Uriah by the latter's reference to "my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord" (II Sam. xi. 11), which placed Joab on equal terms with the king, an offense which amounted to treason (Shab. 56a). Others are of the opinion that Uriah deserved death because he disobeyed David's command to go home (Tos. ad loc., s.v. ). David adjudged Nabal guilty of disrespect to the king; but Abigail pleaded that Saul was still living and that David was not yet recognized generally as king: David admitted the force of her argument (I Sam. xxv. 33; Meg. 14b). Amasa was guilty of disobedience when he "tarried longer than the set time which he [David] had appointed him," and thereby earned his death at the hands of Joab (II Sam. xx. 5, 10; Sanh. 49a).

J. J. D. E.
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