Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

About Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Vered Hollander-Goldfarb received her M.A. in Judaic Studies and Tanach from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliyah, she taught at Ramaz School and Stern College in New York. She teaches Tanach and Medieval Commentators.

Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Introduction To Temples And Temptation


Solomon had it all: Wisdom, riches, wives, peace, and he lost it all:  Following his death, the United Kingdom split into Judah and Israel, a reality that has remained with the Jewish people until today.  How could such a wise king go so wrong?  We are not the first to wonder.  As we study the story let us keep this question in mind.

Solomon’s reign was the best of times, but also the worst.  The Tanakh divides the story in a manner that is not necessarily chronological. In our study we will follow more or less the order chosen by the narrator, but will occasionally glance forward or back.   The ‘big picture’ of I Kings chapters 1-11 looks something like this:

  1. Solomon ascends the throne during his brother’s rebellion
  2. God grants Solomon wisdom
  3. The effective kingdom: Administration and foreign relations.
  4. The building of the Temple
  5. The dedication of the Temple
  6. God warns about what will happen if they stray from God’s way
  7. The rich kingdom, including many horses, many wives, a lot of gold
  8. A threat of rebellion against him, and some international trouble
  9. Solomon dies, his son Rehoboam is supposed to be king after him
  10. As you see, the general layout of the Solomon narrative in the book of Kings is loosely chiastic, focusing our attention at the center where the item of the greatest importance is placed.

Now, onto the practical:

How does learning online work?

Text – The Hebrew text of the narrative is an integral part of its content.  However, you are welcome to use any translation that you are comfortable with.  If we are studying language-sensitive issues, the Hebrew will be accompanied by an English translation (if the English is “funny,” it is just to try to bring it in line with the biblical or mideval Hebrew, as needed).

Written class material – The material is posted both as word documents and in PDF format.  You can use whichever format is most comfortable for you, they are identical in content.

Each PDF includes questions that are colored blue, and are intended to help you study the material.  The questions are often followed by some further thoughts or things that you might want to consider.  You may think about the questions by yourself before reading the “extra pointers.”  Outside sources (mostly Rabbinic) are sometimes included to enrich the learning. These are often also followed by questions.  When needed, background material is provided.  It is your choice how much time to spend each week.

Video clips:  The classes have an audio-visual component.  This may be used to discuss a topic that appears in the posted material.  I suggest that you try to work on it yourself before opening the video.

Havruta (Study-buddy) – Not obligatory, but is there a better way to study than to have another mind to challenge you and push you forward?  You can meet in person (if physically possible,) over the telephone, over the internet, whatever works for you.  It is sure to enhance your learning.

Looking forward to learning together,


Begin Class – Mama’s Little Boy

Temptations – Temples And Temptation

Class 7: Temptations


As we approach the later part of the narrative about Solomon, we begin to feel farther away from the enthusiastic king that asked God for wisdom to judge his people well, and built a magnificent Temple for all to worship at.  We hear the temptations that this very wise and talented king faced.  Why are they considered “wrong?” At least in part because of the Law of the King in the Torah:

The Law of the King – Deut. 17:14-20:

טז רַק לֹא-יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ סוּסִים וְלֹא-יָשִׁיב אֶת-הָעָם מִצְרַיְמָה לְמַעַן הַרְבּוֹת סוּס,
וַה’ אָמַר לָכֶם לֹא תֹסִפוּן לָשׁוּב בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה עוֹד.
יז וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ נָשִׁים וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ,
וְכֶסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ מְאֹד.  ….
לְבִלְתִּי רוּם-לְבָבוֹ מֵאֶחָיו וּלְבִלְתִּי סוּר מִן-הַמִּצְוָה יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול,
לְמַעַן יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים עַל-מַמְלַכְתּוֹ הוּא וּבָנָיו בְּקֶרֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל.
16 Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, so not to cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses;
forasmuch as the LORD has said to you: ‘Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.’
17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart not turn away;
neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. …
20 that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left;
to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.

Gold and Silver: 10:14-25

What was the source of the gold in Solomon’s kingdom?

Some seems to come from trade with the Horn of Africa (9:28, 10:22) some from tributes and gifts that various nations brought.  Are we to assume, based on the story of the Queen of Sheba that not only gold arrived from those places, but also ideas and contacts with other cultures?

What was the problem with accumulating gold?

This is the only restriction from those mentioned in the Torah section above for which no reason is given.  We might have a hint of the answer that the narrator would provide in the end of v.21: “silver counted as nothing in the days of Solomon.”   What is the danger of the king coming to lose respect for the value of things in the general population?

Horses:  10:26-29

This is the most concentrated description of Solomon’s horses (and horse-business.)  We have already been told that there were chariots and horsemen, now we find out how the horses got to Solomon’s kingdom.

מלבי”ם מלכים א פרק י פסוק כחMalbim I Kings 10:28    

(כח) ומוצא הסוסים. הסוסים של שלמה היה מוצאם ממצרים, שם היו הסוסים המובחרים, וגם היה לו מקוה, הוא מקום שמגדלים שם את הסוסים ונקוים שם סוסים רבים. ומפרש כי סוחרי המלך יקחו מקוה במחיר שלא קנו סוסים לאחדים רק קנו כל הסוסים שבמצרים כל המקוה והאוסף של הסוסים היו שייכים לסוחרי שלמה, וכל הסוסים הנולדים שם במקוה ההוא היה שלהם והיה בידם להרבות המקח.

And the source of the horses:  Solomon’s horses came out of Egypt, there were the finest horses.  He also had a Mikveh – that is a place where they raise the horses and many horses are gathered (Nikvim) to there. It explains that the kings merchants would buy a Mikveh
at a price, for they would not buy individual horses, rather they bought all the horses in Egypt, the whole Mikveh, and the collection of horses belonged to the merchants of Solomon, and all the horses born there in that Mikveh would be theirs, and they were able to increase the demanded price.

(Note:  The term Mikveh for a ritual bath also means a place where something gathers into.  In that case it is water.)

Reading this explanation (similar ones are offered by medieval commentators,) what was wrong with having many horses? You may want to glance again at the reason offered by the Torah in the Law of the King.

In order to have a large quantity of the best horses, it is not enough to send a few merchants to Egypt once in a while. It becomes necessary to keep some merchants there all the time.  Actually, if you are the biggest exporter of horses, why not become the exporter to the entire region?  It requires merchants relocating to Egypt to handle the business.  They will bring their families with them, start a small colony…

Women and Temples:   11:1-10

מלכים א’ פרק יא פסוק אI Kings 11:1  

וְהַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה אָהַב נָשִׁים נָכְרִיּוֹת רַבּוֹת…

And king Solomon loved many foreign women…

Let’s pay some attention to biblical Hebrew grammar.  The verb אהב (loved, appears in bold letters) is in an unusual form for biblical Hebrew.  It is a simple past tense, not the normal form ויאהב.  What does it mean?  Rashi explains it in the first instance of such a structure in Gen. 4:1:

וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד אֶת קַיִן…

And the human/Adam knew Eve his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain…

רש”י בראשית פרק ד פסוק א Rashi Genesis 4:1 

והאדם ידע – כבר קודם הענין של מעלה, קודם שחטא ונטרד מגן עדן, וכן ההריון והלידה, שאם כתב ‘וידע אדם’ נשמע שלאחר שנטרד היו לו בנים:

And the human/Adam knew – prior to the episode told above [the banishing from the Garden of Eden.]  Prior to his sin and the banishing from the garden of Eden; so too the pregnancy and the birth.  If it would have been written “וידע אדם” [as is the normal verbal form] it would suggest that he had children after he was banished.

Without going in depth into what Rashi is saying about the story of the Garden of Eden, his grammatical rule is correct and holds throughout Tanakh: This verb form indicates that the event that is currently being told, took place alongside another event that we have already read about.  Prof. Ed Greenstein calls this “meanwhile back on the ranch.”

So, how do we understand v.11:1?

Solomon did not marry his many wives at the end of his life.  If we think about it, it is unreasonable to assume that.  The marriages took place throughout his reign.  The consequences may have become more pronounced in his later days, as we see in 11:4.  The narrator chose to arrange Solomon’s story thematically, placing great emphasis on the building of the great Temple in Jerusalem.  The blatant criticism is saved for the end as an explanation for the great breakup of the kingdom, but the problems were ongoing for a long time.

What were the disastrous consequences of Solomon’s marriages with many foreign women?

A single foreign woman might integrate into the Israelite society (see the story of Ruth) but what happens when there are several women who keep to their own tradition?  Solomon, probably in a mixture of keeping his wives happy and having developed a cosmopolitan world view, allows worship areas for other gods to be built in Jerusalem.  Solomon might have viewed this as tolerance, prophets viewed it as breaking the covenant with God.

How did the wisest king of all fail so miserably?! Now the man knew: [This took place], prior to the above episode, before he sinned and was banished from the Garden of Eden. Also the conception and the birth [took place before], for if it were written: וַיֵּדַע אָדָם it would mean that after he had been banished, he had sons. — [from Sanh. 38b] Now the man knew: [This took place], prior to the above episode, before he sinned and was banished from the Garden of Eden. Also the conception and the birth [took place before], for if it were written: וַיֵּדַע אָדָם it would mean that after he had been banished, he had sons. — [from Sanh. 38b]Now the man knew: [This took place], prior to the above episode, before he sinned and was banished from the Garden of Eden. Also the conception and the birth [took place before], for if it were written: וַיֵּדַע אָדָם it would mean that after he had been banished, he had sons. — [from Sanh. 38b]

This question has always been troubling readers.

Before proceeding, what is your answer?

Now let’s take a look at an attempt by the rabbis to address this issue:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף כא עמוד ב  Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 21b

ואמר רבי יצחק: מפני מה לא נתגלו טעמי תורה? שהרי שתי מקראות נתגלו טעמן, נכשל בהן גדול העולם. כתיב (דברים י”ז) “לא ירבה לו נשים”, אמר שלמה: אני ארבה ולא אסור! וכתיב (מלכים א’ י”א) “ויהי לעת זקנת שלמה נשיו הטו את לבבו”.

וכתיב (דברים י”ז) “לא ירבה לו סוסים”, ואמר שלמה: אני ארבה ולא אשיב! וכתיב (מלכים א’ י’) “ותצא מרכבה ממצרים בשש” וגו’.

R. Isaac said:  Why were the reasons for the Law not revealed? Since two [law] texts for which the reasons were revealed, the greatest in the world was tripped up by them.  It says (Deut. 17) “he shall not multiply wives for himself [that his heart not turn-aside],” so Solomon said:  ‘I will multiply and not turn aside!’ But it says: (I Kings 11:4) “and so it was that in the time of Solomon’s old age his wives turned his heart.”

And it says “he shall not multiply horses… [not to cause the people to return to Egypt,]” and Solomon said ‘I will multiply but not [cause the people to] return!’ But it says (I Kings 10:29) “and a chariot coming out of Egypt would be 600 [silver].”

To what does R. Isaac attribute Solomon’s failure?

As in many rabbinic/midrashic texts, the issue being discussed is greater than the specific situation being considered.  In other words:  Solomon’s case raises a human issue, that of the double edged sword of having information.  Solomon failed to comply with laws that the Torah, in an unusual step, gives a specific reason for.  (And his failure brought about the result predicted by the Torah.) What might we learn about human nature?

Go to Next Class – Coming To A Close

Coming To A Close – Temples And Temptation

Class 8: Coming to a Close


The Result:  I Kings 11:11-13

This brief section functions as a heading and an explanation for all that is about to come.

This penalty sounds familiar from I Sam 15:28 (there it applies to Saul.)  Why use a similar language? How does Solomon’s fate differ from that of Saul?

Things have developed since Saul was ousted by God.  The risk of punishment is there, but it has to be reconciled with God’s promise to David II Sam 7:14-16 “…and My favor will not be removed from him [David’s offspring] as I removed from Saul, whom I removed from in front of you…Your seat will be established until eternity.”

The Adversaries -– destructive forces from outside:  I Kings 11:14-25

When reading this section we realize that Solomon’s peaceful reign was not without conflicts.  David’s conquests had secured a large and rich kingdom, but also created enemies that would not disappear so fast.  No one is born into a “clean slate,” so Solomon inherited the consequences of his father’s military ability.

Why and How do Hadad (or Adad) the Edomite and Razon manage to become a problem for Solomon?

Both regain power for states that David managed to defeat and bring into his empire.  However, how these leaders gain their power is different.  Hadad is of the royal family, he seeks his backing in the royal court of Egypt.  Razon is a fugitive from within Aram (a result of the battle in II Sam 8) and seeks his power from others who became outcasts of society. (His background carries some similarity to David’s story.)  Hadad puts cracks in Solomon’s control of the south, Razon pulls the northern Aramean alliance away from the Israelite United Kingdom.  (The Arameans remain a power to be considered through most of the history of the Northern Kingdom.)

Why is Hadad’s sojourn in Egypt, including his marriage into Pharaoh’s family, told extensively here?

The Talmud often sees in punishments מידה כנגד מידה (Midah Keneged Midah) a measure for a measure; meaning that the source of the problem becomes the source of the punishment.  For example: Absalom took great pride in his beautiful looks (which helped convince him that he should be king) especially his hair, and it was his hair that did him in.  We have followed Solomon’s attraction to Egypt, his alliance with Pharaoh and his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter.

It is hard to avoid noticing the bitter irony in Pharaoh lending a hand to Solomon’s enemy in a manner similar to what he did for Solomon.  Later, the Assyrian Rabshakeh will describe Egypt as “a staff of bruised reed” (II Kings 18:21) which punctures the hand of those who lean on it for support.  This untrustworthy support has typified Egypt’s relationship with those around them.

The Adversaries -– destructive forces from inside:  I Kings 11:26-40

There may have been more than one source of trouble in the kingdom, but we are only told about the one that actually develops into a real threat:  Meet Jeroboam son of Nevat.

What traits did Jeroboam posses that made him potentially suitable to be a leader in Israel? Consider mainly 11:26-28.

Here are some suggestions:

a) A tough start. His mother was a widow.  The Tanakh’s repeated warnings about oppressing the widow can give us a fairly good idea of the widow’s place in society.  In other words, Jeroboam probably did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. What he had he achieved on his own merit.

b) His leadership ability (and organizational skills?) was noticed already by Solomon, who gave him an opportunity to become a leader in his tribe.

c) He is from the tribe of Ephraim – a large, strong and centrally located tribe. As the tax collector, he is in charge of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.  These 2 tribes (the sons of Joseph) comprise the population of what is today known as Samaria – the northern part of the central hill region and the eastern part of the large valleys just north of these mountains.

He acted against Solomon because “Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father.”  What was this about?

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף קא עמוד ב Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 101b

אמר רבי יוחנן: מפני מה זכה ירבעם למלכות? – מפני שהוכיח את שלמה. ומפני מה נענש? – מפני שהוכיחו ברבים. שנאמר )מלכים א’ י”א כז) “וזה הדבר אשר הרים יד במלך שלמה בנה את המלוא סגר את פרץ עיר דוד אביו.” אמר לו: דוד אביך פרץ פרצות בחומה כדי שיעלו ישראל לרגל, ואתה גדרת אותם כדי לעשות אנגריא לבת פרעה?!

R. Yohanan said:  Why did Jeroboam receive the kingship? Because he admonished Solomon.  But why was he punished?  Because he admonished him in public, as it says: “And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father.” (I Kings 11:27) He said to him: David your father breached breaches in the wall so that [the people of] Israel would come as pilgrims for the festivals, and you fenced them in in order to take possession of the area for the daughter of Pharaoh?!

What was it that Solomon did wrong and Jeroboam felt the right to admonish him about?

As the result of this admonishing seems to be a certain popularity gain (as seen very clearly in the beginning of chapter 12) the Talmud looks for an issue that is likely to have angered a great many people.  Sacrificing the good of the public (especially of those who are practicing their religious obligations) for what was seen as a private issue of the king (and a foreign princess!) that is never a good combination. Jeroboam manage
d to verbalize the people’s righteous indignation with Solomon’s frivolous life at their expense.

For further discussion on this topic see the video for this class.

Jeroboam paid for his actions (exactly how is debated in the Talmud, but in the Tanakh we see that he was forced to flee.)  What might R. Yohanan have been trying to say?

Rabbinic statements are often interested in “human truths,” not historic accuracies.  R. Yohanan states an important rule about admonishing any person:  The way counts as much as the content.  In dealing with powerful people this is even more so.  Solomon might have accepted the criticism if voiced in private, but once the issue was public, it became a power struggle.

A look at Ahiah the Shilohnite

What significance could there be to Ahiah the prophet being a Shilohnite?

Shiloh was located in the territory of Ephraim, the tribe of Jeroboam.  Perhaps more significant was that Shiloh had the last site of the tabernacle before it was destroyed.  As we see in I Sam 1, it served as a religious center for the people.  How might a Shilohnite have felt about the Jerusalem Temple?

Ahiah tears the coat (whose coat?) to symbolize the tearing of the kingdom.  Again we are brought back to the episode of Samuel and Saul in 15:27-28.  How does Ahiah’s ceremony compare with that one?

The symbolism is similar – a kingdom being torn.  But Samuel is leaving Saul, while Ahia sought out Jeroboam.  Saul is in a public setting, while Ahiah meets Jeroboam in the field and they are alone.  Most significant:  Saul is being informed of the end of his dynasty and the start of a new line, elsewhere.  Jeroboam is told he is the new line that will take away most of the nation from the dynasty of David.

At this point I suggest that you read I Kings 12:1-24.

A look at the bigger picture…

At this point everything is in place for the rest of biblical Jewish history.  Jeroboam is waiting in Egypt (did we mention the broken reed?!) and Solomon will reign his full 40 years.  But at the coronation of Solomon’s son a split that will take place (chapter 12) that will divide the nation into Israel and Judah. While prophets said that it will end,  it seems that most of Israel disappeared in exile, while Judah held on and became the Jews (the tribal name is used as a national name already in the story of Esther.)

But the story did not begin in the books of Samuel and kings.

As the book of Genesis draws to a close two clear leaders emerge among Jacob/Israel’s sons: Judah and Joseph.

Let’s review briefly some relevant details of the family of Jacob. Rachel had 2 sons: Joseph and Benjamin.  King Saul came from Benjamin; Jeroboam (king to be) is of the tribe of Ephraim, son of Joseph.  On the other hand, David is a descendent of Judah.  Ahiah’s prophecy brings back the kingship to Rachel’s line, while leaving some of it in Judah’s hands.

Midrash Tanhuma (a midrash written in the land of Israel at about the 5th-6th century) had the following comment on the confrontation between Judah and Joseph in Gen. 44:

מדרש תנחומא ויגש סימן ד  Midrash Tanhuma on Vayigash 4

אמר רבי יונתן: בשעה שהיו יהודה ויוסף מתוכחין זה עם זה, אמרו מלאכי השרת זה לזה: בואו נרד למטה ונראה שור וארי* מתנגחין זה עם זה. בנוהג שבעולם שור מתירא מפני ארי, ועכשיו שור וארי מתנגחין ועומדין, והקנאה ביניהן עד שבא משיח.

Said R. Jonathan: When Judah and Joseph were arguing with each other, the angels said to each other:  Let us go down and watch an ox and a lion* butting each other.  By the way of the world, an ox is afraid of a lion, but here an ox and a lion are goring each other continuously, and the envy between them will remain until the coming of the Messiah.

*The ox is the symbol of Joseph; the lion is the symbol of Judah in Jacob’s blessings to his sons in Gen 49. (For those of you who have visited Jerusalem, you might have noticed that the municipality’’s emblem is a lion.)

 Video Summary


End of Course, Go Back To Descriptions

Grand Buildings – Temples And Temptation

Class 6: Grand Buildings


Solomon spent the first quarter of his reign focusing on building the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem.  It was not the only building he built, nor did the building projects end with the Temple and the palace.  Other than appreciating the building technique and materials, what can we learn about Solomon and his period from these buildings?

The Palace

Solomon invested a great deal in the Temple.  He also invested a great deal in the royal buildings, as seen in 7:1-9, several buildings are mentioned, starting with Solomon’s house.

How long did it take to build Solomon’s house?

13 years. This seems simple. But if you go back a few verses and check how long it took to build the Temple some other questions begin to crop in…

Let’s have 2 commentators weigh in on this question to help us appreciate the possible readings of this verse:

רש”י מלכים א פרק ז פסוק א Rashi I Kings 7:1 

(א) ואת ביתו בנה שלמה שלש עשרה שנה – שבמלאכת גבוה נזדרז ובשלו נתעצל ובשבחו סיפר הכתוב:

And Solomon built his house thirteen years: because in work [of the] Most High he hurried, and in his own way he was sluggish. The text tells of his praiseworthiness. And Solomon built his house thirteen years – In the work for the Most High he hurried, but with his own he was sluggish, so the text told his praiseworthiness.And Solomon built his house thirteen years: because in work [of the] Most High he hurried, and in his own way he was sluggish. The text tells of his praiseworthiness.And Solomon built his house thirteen years: because in work [of the] Most High he hurried, and in his own way he was sluggish. The text tells of his praiseworthiness.

מלבי”ם מלכים א פרק ז פסוק א Malbim I Kings 7:1

(א) שלש עשרה שנה – שאחר בנין בית המקדש התחיל בנין ביתו, וכמו שכתוב למטה (להלן ט, י) “ויהי מקץ עשרים שנה אשר בנה שלמה את שני הבתים”: ויכל את ביתו. אף על פי שנמשך הבנין ימים רבים מכל מקום לא קץ בטורח הבנין עד שכלהו:

Thirteen years – After the building of the Temple he began building his own house, as it says below (9:10) “For it was at the end of twenty years [in which] Solomon built the two houses.  And he completed his house – Although the building took many days [years,] none the less he did not tire of the burden of the building until he completed it.

We are faced with 2 ways of understanding the verse.

How did each of the commentators understand the reason for the building of the palace lasting 13 years while building the Temple lasted 7?

Rashi (R. Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105) goes out of his way to tell us to read the verse as praise for Solomon, suggesting that he was aware that another reading was possible.  Why did he feel that this was meant as praise?  Perhaps because of its the location in the narrative.  We have not yet reached the point in the narrative of open criticism, so Rashi prefers to read this in a positive light.

Malbim (Meir Loeb ben Jehiel Michael, 1809-1879) takes a different view on why the work lasted for 13 years.  Indeed, it could not have taken less, and Solomon invested himself wholeheartedly into the building of his own house. Is this praise?

What question does Malbim address while Rashi ignores?

Chronology, or:  Did Solomon build the Temple and the palace simultaneously or consecutively?  Those who have studied Rashi for the length of the book of Kings know that he is very interested in chronology, trying to solve the timeline difficulties arising from the text.  He did not ignore the issue of when each house was built; he addressed it in 9:10 when the verse mentioning that the building lasted 20 year was found.  Rashi will usually comment where the question arises directly from the text.

Along with the palace (or as part of the complex) other royal buildings were built as well.  Let’s focus on an interesting building, the ramifications of its existence far exceeding its physical structure:

The House of the Daughter of Pharaoh

None of the other wives received their own palace, and even this woman did not merit it on her own right.  If she had, we might have been told her name.

Pharaoh, and by extension his daughter, seem to receive a different consideration than any other dignitary in the region.  Why?

Here we begin to touch on the “temptations” side of Solomon.  If you have followed the biblical text in Hebrew you might have been struck by language associated strongly with Egypt and slavery.  Here are a few examples:

מצרים ועבדות בתורה

מלכים א’

שמות פרק א

י הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ  פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹׂנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ.  יא וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלָיו שָׂרֵי מִסִּים לְמַעַן עַנֹּתוֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיִּבֶן עָרֵי מִסְכְּנוֹת לְפַרְעֹה אֶת-פִּתֹם וְאֶת-רַעַמְסֵס. …  יג וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ.  יד וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת-חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה …אֵת כָּל-עֲבֹדָתָם אֲשֶׁר-עָבְדוּ בָהֶם בְּפָרֶךְ.

שמות פרק יד

כג וַיִּרְדְּפוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיָּבֹאוּ אַחֲרֵיהֶם כֹּל סוּס פַּרְעֹה רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו  אֶל-תּוֹךְ הַיָּם.  …כו וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה אֶת-יָדְךָ עַל-הַיָּם וְיָשֻׁבוּ הַמַּיִם עַל-מִצְרַיִם עַל-רִכְבּוֹ וְעַל-פָּרָשָׁיו.

שמות טו

ד מַרְכְּבֹת פַּרְעֹה וְחֵילוֹ יָרָה בַיָּם  {ס}  וּמִבְחַר  {ר} שָׁלִשָׁיו טֻבְּעוּ בְיַם-סוּף.

ויקרא פרק כה

וְכִי-יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ וְנִמְכַּר-לָךְ לֹא-תַעֲבֹד בּוֹ עֲבֹדַת עָבֶד.  …מג לֹא-תִרְדֶּה בוֹ בְּפָרֶךְ וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ.

פרק ה’

ו וַיְהִי לִשְׁלֹמֹה אַרְבָּעִים אֶלֶף אֻרְו‍ֹת סוּסִים לְמֶרְכָּבוֹ וּשְׁנֵים-עָשָׂר אֶלֶף פָּרָשִׁים.

י וַתֵּרֶב חָכְמַת שְׁלֹמֹה מֵחָכְמַת כָּל-בְּנֵי-קֶדֶם וּמִכֹּל חָכְמַת מִצְרָיִם

ל לְבַד מִשָּׂרֵי הַנִּצָּבִים לִשְׁלֹמֹה אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַמְּלָאכָה שְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת הָרֹדִים בָּעָם הָעֹשִׂים בַּמְּלָאכָה.

פרק ט’

יט וְאֵת כָּל-עָרֵי הַמִּסְכְּנוֹת אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ לִשְׁלֹמֹה וְאֵת עָרֵי הָרֶכֶב וְאֵת עָרֵי הַפָּרָשִׁים…  כ כָּל-הָעָם הַנּוֹתָר מִן-הָאֱמֹרִי …וַיַּעֲלֵם שְׁלֹמֹה לְמַס-עֹבֵד עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.  כב וּמִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא-נָתַן שְׁלֹמֹה עָבֶד  כִּי-הֵם אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה וַעֲבָדָיו וְשָׂרָיו וְשָׁלִישָׁיו וְשָׂרֵי רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו.  {ס} כג אֵלֶּה שָׂרֵי הַנִּצָּבִים אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַמְּלָאכָה לִשְׁלֹמֹה חֲמִשִּׁים וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת הָרֹדִים בָּעָם הָעֹשִׂים בַּמְּלָאכָה.

פרק י’

כח וּמוֹצָא הַסּוּסִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹה מִמִּצְרָיִם…

פרק יא

כח וְהָאִישׁ יָרָבְעָם גִּבּוֹר חָיִל וַיַּרְא שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת-הַנַּעַר כִּי-עֹשֵׂה מְלָאכָה הוּא וַיַּפְקֵד אֹתוֹ לְכָל-סֵבֶל בֵּית יוֹסֵף.

Egypt and Slavery in Torah

I Kings – Solomon

Ex. Chapter 1

10 come, let us out-smart [wise] them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.’ 11 Therefore they did set over them servant-levy masters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses… 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard service…in all their service, wherein they made them serve with rigour.

Ex. Chapter  14

23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen… 26 And the LORD said to Moses: ‘Stretch out thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.’

Ex. chapter 15

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea, and his chosen captains are sunk in the Reed Sea.

Lev. Chapter 25

39 And if thy brother sinks down in poverty beside you, and sell himself to you, you are not to make him to serve as a bondservant…43 You shalt not bear-rule over him with rigour; rather, you shalt fear your God.

Chapter 5

6 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 10 And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt.

30 besides Solomon’s chief officers that were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, who bore rule over the people that wrought in the work.

Chapter 9

19 and all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen…20 All the people that were left of the Amorites… of them did Solomon raise a levy of bondservants, unto this day. 22 But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bondservants; but they were the men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots and of his horsemen. {S} 23 These were the chief officers that were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who bore rule over the people that wrought in the work.

Chapter 10

28 And the horses which Solomon had were brought out of Egypt…

Chapter  11

28 And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the burden of the house of Joseph.

What have you concluded?

While our associations with Egypt of biblical times might be mainly as a country that enslaved the Children of Israel and from where God had to take them out by miracles and a show of power, Solomon’s thoughts were probably different.  Egypt was the Cultural center, an advanced country that influenced all around it.  It was a superpower.  Pharaoh was not a villain; he was a hero to be emulated.  The text suggests that Solomon aspires to be like Pharaoh, the leader of a superpower.

This cultural dependency, with all its ramifications, was understood by the rabbis.  Here is one comment:

ילקוט שמעוני משלי רמז תתקסד Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on Proverbs 964

אמר ר’ ישמעאל: באותו הלילה שהשלים שלמה מלאכת בית המקדש נשא בתיה בת פרעה. והיה שם צהלת שמחת בית המקדש וצהלת בת פרעה, ועלתה צהלת שמחת בת פרעה יותר מצהלת בית המקדש….ובאותה שעה עלתה במחשבה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא להחריב את ירושלים.

Said R. Ishmael: On the night that Solomon completed the work of the Temple, he married Batya the daughter of Pharaoh.   And there were there the joyous celebration cries from the Temple, and the joyous celebration cries from the daughter of Pharaoh, but the cries  from the celebration of the daughter of Pharaoh exceeded those of the Temple… At that time The Holy One Blessed is He had a thought to destroy Jerusalem.

This is obviously not an attempt at an historic account of the events.

What statement is the Midrash making about Solomon, noticed most starkly through his building of the Temple and Pharaoh’s daughter’s house?

Midrash often tells in story form a truth that we might not have liked to hear if it was said plainly.  Solomon was a great king.  All his actions were on a grand scale.  His great devotion to God was matched with his great investment in earthly matters.  Such involvements sometimes collided with the values and laws that God demanded of him. As king, such collisions had potential far reaching consequences, therefore he (and the people) was judged much more severely than a private person whose actions do not carry national ramifications.

What were those ramifications?

One suggestion is brought in the forum.  How do you understand it?

On what does the Midrash base itself?

Go back to the warning that Solomon received in 9:2-9.  It is not by chance that this was placed in the narrative immediately following the dedication of the Temple.  Before, during, and after the building of the Temple we are told about Solomon’s plenty. The cracks in our perfect story were there, but they become more visible as we go along.

Some other building projects: (Just to get an idea of how busy he was)

The list that the Tanakh attributes to Solomon is long, so here is an incomplete list:

Royal buildings and development of Jerusalem:

  • Bet Yaar Halevanon (a ‘cooling house?’)
  • The Milo (we will study this one next week)
  • The walls of Jerusalem

Development around the country:

  • Some building in Lebanon(?)
  • Hatzor in the north
  • Megido (a strategic point on the Via Maris trade route),
  • Gezer in the Shefela (between coastal plain and Judean hills),
  • Storage cities
  • A Port in Eilat

Video Summary

Go to Next Class – Temptations

Building The Temple – Temples And Temptation

Class 5: Building the Temple


Solomon’s Temple, known in Jewish history as ‘the First Temple’, was supposed to have been a magnificent building.  David was prevented from building it (the reasons, if given, differ in the various biblical sources) but began preparing for its building.  The plan for Jerusalem as a combined state-religious center began already in the days of David who conquered Jerusalem, built his palace there and brought the Ark to the city. (For more details read II Sam 5-7)

Now we will look at the peak of Solomon’s work during his reign – the building of the Temple in Jerusalem:

Getting the Materials – I Kings 5:15-5:32

We have looked at this section from the foreign relations point, but let’s now revisit some of the details of building the Temple.

Shlomo asked Hiram for cedar trees.  What do you know about such trees?  In what other setting are they mentioned as building material?

Cedars (in Hebrew ארזים) were not completely foreign to Jerusalem.  In II Sam 5:11 we are introduced to the palace that David had built.  There, too, the source of the cedars and the artisans working with the wood and (special?) stones was Hiram king of Tyre.  (It is possible that at some point over these 2 generations a new king ascended the throne of Tyre.  Hiram might have been a royal name-title.)

What was the cost of the materials?

This is somewhat difficult to answer. In chapter 5 v.25 we are told that Solomon fed the palace of Hiram to the tune of 20,000  Kor wheat and 20 Kor of virgin olive oil per year.  A Kor seems to be 220 liters, or 55 gallons.  I am leaving the math to you…

In addition, we find out in 9:10-13 that Solomon also paid Hiram 20 towns in the Galilee.  This seems to be a payment for all the building help, Temple included.

What was the labor cost for constructing the Temple?

Taxes were not only monetary or produce based.  People were recruited for the labor force that built the Temple.  If you look at the Hebrew text, you may notice that only the labor tax is termed “mas” (tax), the rest fall under the heading of ‘feeding’ or “minha” (gift) if brought by outsiders. 5:27-32 tells us how heavy the labor burden was.  Those sent to Lebanon worked there for a month and then spent 2 months at home.  Considering that this was an agricultural society, this could not have been simple.

A final point to contemplate: This is not the first time that the Israelites are building a house for God. How does the involvement of the people differ here from their involvement in building the Tabernacle? (Ex. 35:21-29, 36:3-7)

Has there ever been another case of fundraising were people had to be asked NOT to bring more?  The level of enthusiasm for the building of the tabernacle does not seem to be matched in the building of Solomon’s Temple.  Why?  The reasons are probably many; people were busy with their own livelihood, the sense of coercion rather than volunteering, the sheer scope of the project, and others.

Building Calendar – I Kings 6:1, 6:37-38

2 dating systems are in use in 6:1.  According to which systems was the building of the Temple dated, and why?

Dating events to the year in a king’s reign is understandable.  It also helps us realize when in his reign Solomon felt ready to embark on this monumental task.  The second dating system is connected to the exodus from Egypt.  This is not a common calendar.  Why is it used here?

How long did it take to build the Temple?

The simple answer is found in 6:37-38. Once you have reached the number, think of its implications in terms of the cost (both human and monetary.)

An interesting item that is worth noticing in the Temple is that the months have names, not only numbers. Which names did you find?

The Torah (Ex. 12:2) designates the month of the exodus as the First month, and all other months get their name/number from there.  Similarly, the days of the week in Hebrew are simply numbered from 1 to 7; only the 7th day has a special name – Shabbat. The names of the months are probably Canaanite.  It seems that both the names and the numbers were used.

Here are the names found in the Temple narrative in Kings: 6:1 Ziv – 2nd month, 6:38 Bul – 8th month, 8:2 – HaEitamim – the 7th month.

The Pillars – Jakhin and Boaz II Kings 7:13-22

There were many dazzling details in the Temple, but most were not visible to the common worshiper. While our texts shares with us the tremendous riches of the Temple (gold coated floors…) among the most impressive visual elements were probably the two copper pillars at the entrance to the sanctuary, Jakhin and Boaz. Let’s look at some things in this section:

Who was the copper artist?

Similarly to the tabernacle, the artist is chosen based on his talents and abilities, not his connections to leadership, political or spiritual.  Betzalel was the artist chosen by God to construct the tabernacle, not Moses.  Here, too, credit is given to the artist that was able to create such glorious things.  You may note that his “yichus” (lineage that brings honor) is not impressive.  His mother, a widow, was from the northern tribe of Naphtali, while his father was from Tyre. He could hardly have been commissioned by Solomon based on well placed contacts.

What was the size of the pillars?

They seem to be at least 23 Ama long – about 11.5 meters (about 35 feet or more).  This must have been very impressive.  (You might have done the math on some of the other measurements.  At about half a meter = ama the building was about 30 meters long, 20 meters wide and 15 meters high creating a narrow and tall building.

If you had trouble accessing it through the course website, here is the link to the video that takes you through a virtual tour of a suggested 3D reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple:

The Inauguration: I Kings chapter 8

It was a grand event, complete with a very long prayer by Solomon.  But who was there?

Comparing 8:2 and 8:3 one is left to wonder if it was indeed an event for all the people.  From 8:3 we are told that the elders were there for the bringing of the ark into the Temple, and act that was carried out by the priests.  This is a very different atmosphere than the popular one in David’s days (II Sam 6) were the king was dancing energetically among the masses “before God.”  We might begin to understand the hidden warning in God’s refusal to allow David to build a Temple, saying that He had dwelled in a tent by choice.

The Warnings:

In the early stages of the construction of the Temple (6:11-13) and after its completion (9:2-9) God warns Solomon that the Temple is a building whose existence is conditional.

Who is responsible for the behavior that could cause the destruction of the Temple and sending the nation into exile?

The Torah warns the people not to worship other gods for the consequences will be destruction and exile, but here the warning is to the monarch and his offspring.  This is a foreshadowing for what will come throughout the book of Kings and reach its conclusion in its closing chapters – the destruction of the Temple and the exile to Babylon.  Here the reader gets a glimpse into the agenda of the narrator of the book of Kings; the kings were responsible for the destruction. (If you wish to see this ‘in practice,’ read about King Manasseh in II Kings 21, the book found in the Temple and the prophecy of Hulda in II Kings 22:14-20, and the beginning of the execution in 24:2-4.)

Go to Next Class – Grand Buildings

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