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

Mamma’s Little Boy – Temples And Temptation

Class 1Mamma’s Little Boy


Video Introduction

Solomon was the son of King David and Bat Sheba, but that did not guarantee him the throne.  He was not the oldest son alive, he might not even have been his mother’s oldest child.  To add to the uncertainty, it was the first time in Israelite history that the throne was to pass in an orderly fashion to – who?

Stop and think:  Who were the possible heirs to the throne?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • The oldest son
  • Any son (how would he be chosen?)
  • A daughter
  • An extension of the daughter in a male dominated society -– a son in law

Note that according to the last option (which was probably practiced in some places), David had a claim to Saul’s throne.  Indeed, as part of the unification of Judah with the supporters of Saul, David demands to get back his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul.  What would be the advantage of a son-in-law as an heir to the throne?

A Brief Background

David had sexual relations with Bat Sheva, Solomon’s mother, while she was still married to Uriah, one of his top officers.  This complicated story (found in II Sam 11-12) ended with the death of Uriah on David’s orders, a severe reprimand by Nathan the prophet, and the death of their illegitimate child.  Later, after they were married, other children were born, including Solomon, whom God called Yedidya; ‘beloved of God.’

Some of David’s older sons (and what happened to them):

Amnon son of Ahinoam, David’s oldest son, raped his half sister Tamar.  David fails to take action against Amnon. (II Sam 13)

Absalom son of Ma’acah, Tamar’’s full brother, took revenge and killed Amnon for the rape. He then fled to his maternal grandfather outside the country.

After a few years Absalom is welcomed back to Jerusalem, only to start a rebellion against his father David.  The rebellion ends with the death of Absalom by Yoab, David’s loyal army chief.  It exposed again the cracks in the united kingdom, as the supporters of Saul saw this as an opportunity to get rid of David.

This brings us to the beginning of I Kings 1.

Please read I Kings 1:1-31.

Adonijah son of Hagit rebels against his father David and crowns himself king.  Why did he not wait for David to die (which seems to be an imminent event)?

There is no answer given in the text.  What is your opinion?

Note who sides with Adonijah.  What reason might these people have (it could be individual reasons) for supporting Adonia and, in effect, supporting a rebellion against David to whom they have been loyal until now?

Again, a lot here is up to your ideas.  Let’s open this in the forum.  Please contribute whatever knowledge you have regarding Joab and Abiathar the Kohen.

In a somewhat unusual step, the Tanakh actually offers an explanation for the rebellion of Adonijah.  No, it does not answer what his motive was, but it is a rare pedagogic comment.  After reading it, check out the following medieval commentators:

רש”י מלכים א פרק א Rashi I Kings 1:6

(ו) ולא עצבו – לא הכעיסו. למדך שהמונע תוכחה מבנו מביאו לידי מיתה:

And he did not upset him – he did not anger him.  [This] teaches you that he who withholds rebuke from his child brings him to death.

(RaSHI=Rabbi SHlomo Itzchaki, Northern France 1040-1105, leading commentator on Tanakh and Talmud)

רלב”ג שמואל ב פרק ח פסוק יח Ralbag II Sam 8:18

ובני דוד כהנים היו – רוצה לומר: שרים ומושלים. והנה זה הענין היה סבה להרבה מהרעות שבאו לדוד. כי אם לא היה הענין כן, לא מרד אבשלום ולא נהרג אמנון ואדניה, כמו שיראה במעט עיון. ובכלל, אם היה משגיח המלך במוסר בניו, לא קרה להם כך:

And David’s sons were Kohanim (priests) – meaning ministers and rulers. And here this is the reason for much of the evils that came upon David.  For if things would not have been so, Absalom would not have rebelled, and Amnon and Adonijah would not have been killed, as one can see by a little studying.  In general, if the king would have paid attention to his sons’ values, this would not have happened to them.

(RaLBaG=Rabbi Levi Ben Gershom, Provence, 1288-1344, scientist, mathematician and philosopher.)

Informing David

The Tanakh records the speech to David 3 times:  Nathan the prophet that approaches Bathsheba about a suggested speech, Bathsheba’s actual speech, and Nathan’s “helpful” speech. Use the chart below to compare the three.  Pay attention to some of the following points:

  • The women involved (highlighted in green):  3 women are involved here.  What are their roles, and what are the dynamics between them. (They show up two at a time.)
  •  The manner in which David is spoken about (highlighted in yellow.)  After all, he is Solomon’s father, Bathsheba’s husband, and Nathan the prophet has dealt with him for many years….
  • The similarities and differences between the words Nathan puts in Bathsheba’s mouth (1), and those that she speaks (2).  How does she have all this information?! (We can hardly expect that she was wandering around Adoniah’s inaugural feast…)
  • The tone of the speech by Bathsheba to David (2) and that of Nathan to David (3).  Which do you think was more effective?  (You can base yourself on the outcome in 1:28-31.)

 (1) נתן לבת שבע

מלכים א פרק א
(יא) וַיֹּאמֶר נָתָן אֶל בַת שֶׁבַע אֵם שְׁלֹמֹה לֵאמֹר
הֲלוֹא שָׁמַעַתְ כִּי מָלַךְ אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ בֶן חַגִּית וַאֲדֹנֵינוּ דָוִד לֹא יָדָע:
(יב) וְעַתָּה לְכִי אִיעָצֵךְ נָא עֵצָה
 וּמַלְּטִי אֶת נַפְשֵׁךְ וְאֶת נֶפֶשׁ בְּנֵךְ שְׁלֹמֹה:
(יג) לְכִי וּבֹאִי אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד וְאָמַרְתְּ אֵלָיו
הֲלֹא אַתָּה אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲמָתְךָ לֵאמֹר
כִּי שְׁלֹמֹה בְנֵךְ יִמְלֹךְ אַחֲרַי וְהוּא יֵשֵׁב עַל כִּסְאִי
 וּמַדּוּעַ מָלַךְ אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ?
(יד) הִנֵּה עוֹדָךְ מְדַבֶּרֶת שָׁם עִם הַמֶּלֶךְ וַאֲנִי אָבוֹא אַחֲרַיִךְ וּמִלֵּאתִי אֶת דְּבָרָיִךְ:
(1) Nathan to Bathsheba
11 Then Nathan spoke to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying:
Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith reigns, and David our lord knows it not?
12 Now therefore come, let me, please, give you couns
el, so that you may save your own life, and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go and come to David the king, and say to him: Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your handmaid, saying: For Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? Why then does Adonijah reign?!
14 Behold, while you talk there with the king, I will come in after you, and fill in your words.’

(2) בת שבע לדוד

מלכים א פרק א
(טו) וַתָּבֹא בַת שֶׁבַע אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ הַחַדְרָה וְהַמֶּלֶךְ זָקֵן מְאֹד
וַאֲבִישַׁג הַשּׁוּנַמִּית מְשָׁרַת אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ:
(טז) וַתִּקֹּד בַּת שֶׁבַע וַתִּשְׁתַּחוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ מַה לָּךְ:
(יז) וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אֲדֹנִי אַתָּה נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ בַּה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַאֲמָתֶךָ
כִּי שְׁלֹמֹה בְנֵךְ יִמְלֹךְ אַחֲרָי וְהוּא יֵשֵׁב עַל כִּסְאִי:
(יח) וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה אֲדֹנִיָּה מָלָךְ
וְעַתָּה אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא יָדָעְתָּ!
(יט) וַיִּזְבַּח שׁוֹר וּמְרִיא וְצֹאן לָרֹב וַיִּקְרָא לְכָל בְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּלְאֶבְיָתָר הַכֹּהֵן וּלְיֹאָב שַׂר הַצָּבָא –
וְלִשְׁלֹמֹה עַבְדְּךָ לֹא קָרָא!
(כ) וְאַתָּה אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ עֵינֵי כָל יִשְׂרָאֵל עָלֶיךָ לְהַגִּיד לָהֶם מִי יֵשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו:
(כא) וְהָיָה כִּשְׁכַב אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ עִם אֲבֹתָיו וְהָיִיתִי אֲנִי וּבְנִי שְׁלֹמֹה חַטָּאִים:
(כב) וְהִנֵּה עוֹדֶנָּה מְדַבֶּרֶת עִם הַמֶּלֶךְ וְנָתָן הַנָּבִיא בָּא:

Bath-Sheba To David

15 And Bath-sheba came to the king into the chamber.—
Now the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered to the king.– 16 And Bath-sheba bowed, and prostrated herself to the king. And the king said: ‘What do you want?’
17 And she said to him: ‘My lord, you did swear by the LORD your God to your handmaid: For Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne. 18 And now, behold, Adonijah reigns; and now you, my lord the king, know it not! 19 And he has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, {P}
and has called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar, the priest, and Joab the captain of the army;
but Solomon your servant he has not called!
20 And you, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are upon you, that you should tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.’
22 And while she was talking with the king, Nathan the prophet came.

(3) נתן לדוד

מלכים א פרק א
(כג) וַיַּגִּידוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה נָתָן הַנָּבִיא
וַיָּבֹא לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ עַל אַפָּיו אָרְצָה:
(כד) וַיֹּאמֶר נָתָן אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אַתָּה אָמַרְתָּ
אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ יִמְלֹךְ אַחֲרָי וְהוּא יֵשֵׁב עַל כִּסְאִי?!
(כה) כִּי יָרַד הַיּוֹם וַיִּזְבַּח שׁוֹר וּמְרִיא וְצֹאן לָרֹב וַיִּקְרָא לְכָל בְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּלְשָׂרֵי הַצָּבָא [יואב] וּלְאֶבְיָתָר הַכֹּהֵן וְהִנָּם אֹכְלִים וְשֹׁתִים לְפָנָיו וַיֹּאמְרוּ יְחִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ:
(כו) וְלִי אֲנִי עַבְדֶּךָ וּלְצָדֹק הַכֹּהֵן וְלִבְנָיָהוּ בֶן יְהוֹיָדָע וְלִשְׁלֹמֹה עַבְדְּךָ לֹא קָרָא!
(כז) אִם מֵאֵת אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נִהְיָה הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, וְלֹא הוֹדַעְתָּ אֶת עבדיך עַבְדְּךָ מִי יֵשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו…: ס

Nathan To David

23 And they told the king, saying: ‘Behold Nathan the prophet.’
And when he came in before the king, he bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said:
 ‘My lord, the king, have you said: Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? 25 For he is gone down this day, and has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the king’s sons, and the captains of the army, and Abiathar the priest; and, behold, they eat and drink before him, and say: Long live king Adonijah.
26 But to me, who is your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not called. 27 Is this thing done by my lord the king, and you have not declared to your servant who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?’


Solomon’s Coronation

I Kings 1:32-40: For the rest of the book of Kings we will not get such extensive descriptions of coronations, so enjoy this one.  Note the steps and symbols being used:

  • A mule that the king rode on – certain things belong strictly to the king (I will mention here also wives, even if we do not like to think of them as “belongings.”)
  • The representation of God by a priest (cultic-hereditary) and a prophet (spiritual – an individual chosen by God.)
  • Blowing the horns
  • Anointed by oil (this is the source of the term Mashiach -– Messiah = he who is anointed.)
  • The people’s proclamation: “May the king Solomon live!”
  • Seeing all this – what (and who) was missing from Adonijah’s self-coronation?

And what about Adonijah?

I Kings 1:41-53

Failure has few friends.  Not surprising, as soon as the news of Solomon’s inauguration gets around, Adonijah’s group disperses. Not only did they fail, they could be considered traitors (they went against the king, be it David or Solomon.)

  1. How does Adonijah react?  Why? (Exodus 21:14 might help shed some light on this.)
  2. How does Solomon react?  In your opinion, was he correct?  Why?

Go to Next Class – Coming Into His Own

Creating Shomron – Recipe for an Empire

Creating Shomron

Omri – I Kings 16:15-28

Position before becoming king:  Chief of army

Length of reign: 12 years, of which 6 are in Tirtzah

Reign starts in Asa’s (Judah) 31st year

Chief of army -– friend or foe?

Omri was the chief of the army under Ela, and possibly under his father Baasha.  Zimri, who killed Ela, did not have a chance to replace him (a 7 day reign doesn’t go far.)

Why is it not surprising that it is Omri that is appointed king by the people?  Who are those people?  (V.16)

The Omrite dynasty will feature 4 kings.  Its demise will come from the hands of a senior army officer named Jehu…  (II Kings 9.)

Is this conflict of trust and suspicion surrounding senior army officers reflected in world history?

How long did the civil war last?

The people’s support is split, creating a period of unrest.  (Try to put yourself in the place of people who lived through it: The king was assassinated, the usurper burnt the palace on himself, and now a civil war!)

How long did the uncertainty last?  Notice the synchronization with Judah in v.15 and v.23, it might solve the question.

While you are at it:  Look at the synchronization in v.29.  How did Omri count his 12 years on the throne?

Shomron (Samaria) – I Kings 23b-24

The capital of the northern kingdom was vague and uninteresting until now.

Compare Omri’s actions to create a capital with those of David.  Notice how the place is obtained and who creates it.

What was Omri trying to achieve?

David does buy one part of his city.  Which part is it?  Is there a comparable section in Omri’s Shomron?  Why?

Where is Omri buried?  Is there any parallel to the Davidic dynasty?

Ahab son of Omri   I Kings 16:15-28

Length of reign: 22 years

Prophet at the time:  Elijah

Reign starts in Asa’s (Judah) 38th year

Of interest:

Ahab’s reign is marked by 2 extreme and conflicting religious powers:  The queen Jezebel and Elijah the prophet.  We will take a closer look at these characters next week.

Ahab is known from non biblical sources, where he appears as A-ha-ab-bu.  He participated in a coalition against the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III in the battle of Qarqar in 853bce.  He is said to have contributed 2000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers.  These numbers may have included forces from nearby countries.  None the less, it gives us an idea of how highly he was regarded in the region.  The Israelite kingdom had power.

A great amount of ivory was found at the excavations at Samaria.  ( will give you some information.) Begrudgingly, even the narrator of the book of Kings has to give some credit to Ahab’s development of the Israelite state, and the grandeur of his capital, Shomron.  (I Kings 22:39)

Ahab seems to die a heroic death in battle, the details are given in I Kings 22:29-37.


The golden calves remain (“the transgressions of Jeroboam son of Nebat”) but something new has happened in the religious sphere.  What is it?

How is this different than the golden calves?

V.32 tells us about a building that Ahab built in Shomron.  What is it?

Ahab and Solomon were both the second generation that got a capital that could still be developed further.  Try to see the similarities, and the differences.

Rebuilding of Jericho: (I Kings 16:34)

Joshua placed a ban on the rebuilding of Jericho (Josh 6:26).  But here we discover that Hi’el of Bet El rebuilt the city, absorbing the full curse of Joshua.

Why did the narrator decided to include this detail in the story of Ahab?

Bellow are the views of Radaq (R. David Qimkhi) and Ralbag (R. Levi ben Gershom).  How would they have answered the above question?

רד”ק מלכים א פרק טז פסוק לד

(לד) חיאל בית האלי – …תחת ממשלתו של אחאב היה, ועשה דבר זה, ולא מיחה בידו אחאב, כל כך הרשיע לעשות! ועד ימיו לא היה אדם שעלה בלבו לבנות יריחו, מפני השבועה שהשביע יהושע: “ארור האיש… אשר יקום ובנה את העיר” וגו’ (יהושע ו כו)

Radaq I Kings 16:34

Hiel the Bethelite…it [the rebuilding of Jericho] took place under the government of Ahab, and he did  this, and Ahab did not protest, that is how wicked he was!  And until his days there was no person who thought of building Jericho, because of the oath that Joshua swore:  “Cursed… be the man who will rise and build the city…” (Joshua 6:26)

רלב”ג מלכים א פרק טז פסוק לד

(לד) בימיו בנה חיאל בית האלי את יריחה -… ונתאמת מה שקלל יהושע אשר יבנה את יריחו. כי כאשר יסדה מת אבירם בכורו, ומתו כל בניו, עד שמת צעירו כאשר הציב דלתיה. ואף על פי ששמע אחאב זה, לא התעורר לירא את ה’, אך שקד על חטאתיו:

Ralbag I Kings 16:34

In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho -…and what Joshua cursed the one that will rebuild Jericho came true.  For when he laid the foundations Aviram his first born died. And all his children died, until his youngest died as he raised its doors.  And despite hearing this, Ahab did not waken to fear Hashem, but rather worked studiously on his sins.

Bringing it all together

Omri realized what David before him had recognized:  To have a strong kingdom, the king needs a capital, devoid of other associations, to centralize his reign and be its symbol.  Unlike David’s Jerusalem, we do not hear about plans for a central state shrine in the capital, uniting state and religion.  But it happens in the days of Ahab anyway.  Like David, it was the second generation that completes the job, including the religious aspects of it.  Solomon built an awe-inspiring temple to eliminate all other shrines.  Ahab brought in the Baal worship as the state religion.  Both introduced religious concepts that were somewhat foreign to the people and were not fully accepted.  And both advanced their state to levels only dreamt about before.

The Chaos before the Calm:

For Inquiring Minds…..

This section is intended to give you some background material.  Enjoy it or ignore it.

Looking at the information below, consider the following:

  • What seems to be a good stepping stone to becoming king?
  • How many of these kings brought about a real change from what was there before them?
  • When does the tribe of the king stop appearing?  What might be the reason?

A quick review of the kings in the northern kingdom from the split through Ahab:

A) Jeroboam son of Nebat of the tribe of Ephraim (22 years)

  • Before becoming king:  Was in charged of the labor of Ephraim, rebelled against Solomon and fled to Egypt.
  • Created the golden calves.

Nadav son of Jeroboam (2 years)

  • Inherited the kingdom from his father
  • Assasinated by Baasha while besieging a Gibton
  • Kept the golden calves

B) Baasha son of Ahiah of the tribe of Issachar (24 years)

  • Before becoming king: Unknown, but present at a military operation
  • Killed everyone in the previous dynasty.
  • Kept the golden calves.

Elah son of Baasha (2 years)

  • Inherited the kingdom from his father
  • Assasinated (while drunk) by Zimri
  • Kept the golden calves.

C) Zimri (7 days)

  • Before becoming king:  Commander of half the chariotry.
  • Killed everyone in the previous dynasty
  • Kept the golden calves.

D) Omri (12 years)

  • Before becoming king:  Chief of army
  • Had to fight a civil war (5 years?) to gain the throne
  • Kept the golden calves, and “did worse than all before him”
  • Bought and built Shomron.

Ahab son of Omri (22 years)

  • Inherited the kingdom from his father
  • Developed Shomron and the country
  • Introduced Baal worship, was worse than all who came before him.

Go to Next Class – Jezebel

Ahia: The Role Of The Prophet – Recipe for an Empire

Ahia:– The Role of the Prophet

Text: I Kings 14:1-18

Ahiah and Jeroboam – Part I

The initial meeting of Ahiah and Jeroboam took place when Ahiah the Shilonite informed Jeroboam (who was one of Solomon’s officials) that he will be king over 10 tribes (I Kings 11:29-39) in effect, preparing the ground for a split in the kingdom.

The next recorded communication between them takes place in 14:1-16.

Setting the stage 14:1-4

What is the background to the story and why does Jeroboam wish to consult Ahiah in particular?

Why does he send his wife?  Why should she disguise herself?

In what capacity does she go? (v.4)  What “title” might we have expected under the circumstances?

What do we find out about the livelihood of a prophet?  Is there any difference in the role of the prophet as presented here and as presented in Ahiah’s prophecy to Jeroboam that he will be king?

Irony and absurdity:

Read carefully vv.2-6.  Look for the irony in the situation.  Was Jeroboam aware of the absurdity in the situation?

The message

(I know, some of this has raised your ire before, but comparisons to the righteous David is a major motif in the qualifications of a king.)

What was the major offense(s) of Jeroboam?  (Try to get past the “David” part.)

What will be the consequence?

What is the role of vv.12-13 for the prophecy?

The Prophet in the Kingdom – Part II

We will start with Ahiah the Shilonite.

Did the history of his town Shiloh play a role in his behavior as a prophet who facilitated the splitting of the kingdom?

Shiloh ID card:

Location:  In the hills of the territory of Ephraim, north of Benjamin and Judah.

History:  It was the resting place of the Tabernacle from the days of Joshua (Joshua 18:1) through the period of the Judges.  It was destroyed in war by the Philistines (I Sam 4, Ps. 78:60) during Samuel’s early period, some years before Saul becomes king.

How might a prophet from Shiloh view the new religious center in Jerusalem?

What tribe might he belong to?  Could this have affected his loyalties to Solomon or to Jeroboam?

Jeroboam establishes the royal religious center in the old shrine of Beth El.  How might this have been taken by Ahiah?

From what we hear (and do not hear) in the communications between Ahiah the Shilonite and Jeroboam of Ephraim, king of the northern kingdom, was Ahiah pleased with the result of the appointment of Jeroboam as king?

Jeroboam is not the only king to have had a prophet around.  Here is a partial look at the relationships that existed between other kings and the prophets of their period.

In each case ask yourself the following:

  1. Did the king allow the prophet the freedom to speak without fear?
  2. Did the king respect the prophet?
  3. Did the prophet take an active interest in the king and the kingdom (from what we know and sense in the text?)
  4. Was the prophet rewarded by the king?

Here are a few pairs to consider: (The sources cited are only a sample.  Add any extra knowledge you have.)

  1. 10th century bce:  David and Nathan (II Sam 12:1-14, I Kings 1:11-35)
  2. 9th century bce:  Ahab and Elijah (I Kings 18:1, 17-18, 46)
  3. 8th century bce: Hezekiah and Isaiah (Isa. 37:1-7, 21-36)
  4. 7th- 6th century bce: Jehoakim and Jeremiah (Jer. 26:1-24)

Of course, there were also state appointed prophets, see I Kings 22 and read Jeremiah carefully.  Such prophets were less likely to cause the king any grief, but their existence made matters more difficult for the independent prophet of Hashem.

Ahia:– The Role of the Prophet – Part III

For Inquiring Minds….

This section is intended to give you some background material.  Enjoy it or ignore it.

A moment of grammar –- good for the reading of any biblical story!

(This will require the Hebrew text for 1 word.)

In v.5 we are told that Hashem had told Ahiah to expect the wife of Jeroboam. 

When did this take place in relation the story before it?  (In other words, is there any chronology in the story?)

Look at the rather unusual past form used for the verb in

“And Hashem said to Ahiahu”.  וה’ אמר אל-אחיהו

as well as the location of the subject before the verb.

This simple past form is common in modern Hebrew, but in Tanakh we usually find ויאמר ה’…  Notice also that the subject usually comes after the verb.

What does it mean?  Prof. Ed Greenstein calls it “meanwhile back on the ranch.”

Here is how Rashi explains the phenomenon:

רש”י בראשית פרק ד

(א) 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:

Rashi Genesis 4:1

And the human knew – already before the events related above, before he transgressed and was driven out of the Garden of Eden, and so also the conception and the birth.  For if it had been written וידע אדם it would imply that after he was driven out he had children.

This form (subject followed by simple past) means the event is concurrent with what preceded it in the text.  I hope that this will shed some interesting light on some biblical stories.  Try it on our story here.

Go to Next Class – Down South After the Split

Down South After The Split – Recipe for an Empire

Down South After the Split

Part 1

Rehoboam son of Solomon I Kings 14:21-31, II Chron.  11:1-12:16

His mother: Naama the Amonite

Length of reign: 17 years

Ascent to the throne at age: 41 years


This section is dripping with sarcasm.  Note the narrator’s description of Jerusalem, and the description of the religious reality.

Compare the religious practices in Jerusalem during the time of Rehoboam with the transgressions of Jeroboam at Beth El.


Shishaq was the first monarch of the 22nd dynasty in Egypt, reigning from 945-924 bce.  By most calculations of the chronology of the book of Kings, the story here is chronologically plausible.

What are the current relations between Judah and the power to the south – Egypt?  How does it compare with Solomon’s period?

Can the story give us an indication of how the treasury is doing?

What are his relations with the northern kingdom?

Avia(m) son of Rehoboam  I Kings 15:1-8, II Chron. 13:1-23

His mother:    Maakha daughter of Avishalom  (I Kings 15:2)  or

Mikhayahu daughter of Uriel (II Chron. 13:2)

Length of reign: 3 years

Reign starts in Jeroboam’s (Israel) 18th year

The right to the kingship:

According to I Kings 15:3-5, how was Aviam in the religious sphere?  Why did Aviam stay on as king?

II Chronicles 13:4-12 records a speech by Avia as part of a battle with the northern kingdom.  What claim does the king of Judah make to weaken the northern kingdom?

Does this support or detract from the fears of Jeroboam that were the basis for making the golden calves?

Relations with the northern kingdom:

What reality is emerging from both the book of Chronicles and from Kings?

The narrator of Chronicles is an obvious supporter of the right of the House of David to the throne.  According to his sense of poetic justice, what happened to Jeroboam (II Chron. 15:20)?  Look at the synchronization chart:  What is the difficulty in this claim?

The book of Chronicles – is, as its name implies, a chronology.  It begins with the family trees of many of the prominent characters of Tanakh, and thereby provides an excellent resource for understanding the relationships of various persons.

It provides the history of the kings of Judah, but ignores the kings of Israel unless they are relevant to the history of Judah. (And there is no synchronization between them.)  Often the information given is a little (or a lot) different from the book of Kings.  It is worth checking out.

Parallels in the Bible, a book arranged by Abba Bendavid and published by Carta, Jerusalem, lines up the relevant (Hebrew) texts side by side, highlighting the differences, for easy comparisons.

Part II

Asa son of Avia(m)   I Kings 15:9-24, II Chron. 14:1-16:14

His mother:    Maakha daughter of Avishalom  (I Kings 15:2)

Length of reign: 41 years

Reign starts in Jeroboam’s (Israel) 21th year

Oh Mother!

Maacha daughter of Avishalom is listed as mother for both Aviam and his son Asa.  How do we resolve this?

Does 15:13 shed any light on Maakha and her position?  How might this help solve the “double motherhood” problem?

Some of you might have noticed that Aviam (Asa’s father who reign for 3 years) has 2 different women listed as his mother.  Could this play a role here?

Religion and state

Coming after 3 generations that allowed, and possibly encouraged, the worship of foreign gods in Jerusalem, Asa seems to signal a change.

How far did his religious reform go?  Compare I Kings 15:12-14 with II Chron. 14:2, 16-17.  Notice the little comment about Asa’s ancestors in Kings (and not in Chronicles.)

Why was his treatment of the Temple (bringing gold and silver) necessary?  Why is it even commented on?

The bamot (shrines) remained.  These were bamot to Hashem, a local shrine when one could not make it all the way to the Temple.  (We might call it our local synagogue.)

Relations with the North:

The battles with the North do not seem to stop.  Which king of Israel is Asa fighting?  At what point in Asa’s reign does this king die? (I Kings 16:8 might help)

With that information, consider II Chron.16:1.  What is the problem?

In order to win the war, Asa enlists the Arameans.  (It took a little gold, but that’s what we have a Temple for…)  How is this action viewed by the narrators of Kings (15:18-22) and Chronicles (16:2-10)?


Both accounts tell us that Asa became ill towards the end of his reign.

How do you think Chronicles views this illness?  What view does the book take concerning medicine?

Kings seems less critical (or at least vaguer.)  What is Kings attitude towards Asa?

Could this story somehow help solve the mystery of Chronicles’ date for the war with Baasha?

Bringing it all together:

The glorious days of David and Solomon were gone.  What remained was a small kingdom.  Whether it is the influence of the narrators or the words of the kings themselves, there seemed to be a strong feeling that the Davidic dynasty was the legitimate one for the People of Israel.  And there was the Temple.  Both kingdoms knew that this was hard to beat.  Judah used it to advance their cause, the Northern kings feared it and tried to diminish its status.  We know who won in the long run.

Synchronizing the first 8 decades – Part III

For Inquiring Minds…..

This section is intended to help you sort out the events and the kings involved in them.  Enjoy it or ignore it.

The synchronization charts from the book of Kings look deceptively simple.

The following chart makes no attempt at placing kings on specific calendar years.  It uses only the information provided in the I Kings 14:1-16:29.

  1. As you use material from Chronicles, check to see if it matches.
  2. Use this chart to follow the stories you read.  Do the stories match the information that is presented here?
  3. Do the math and check if the years add up.
  4. How do you explain the various discrepancies?

Divided Kingdom: (starts at c.930bce)

King of Judah

Length of reign, synchronized to Israel

King of Northern Kingdom (Israel)

Length of reign, synchronized to Judah

Rehoboam son of Solomon

Avia(m) son of  Rehoboam

Asa son of Avia(m)

Start at year 1 of Jeroboam

Reigned 17 years

Start at year 18 of Jeroboam

Reigns for 3 years

Starts at year 20 of Jeroboam

Reigns for 41 years

Jeroboam son of Nebat of Ephraim

Nadav son of Jeroboam

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Baasha son of Ahiah of Issachar

Ela son of Baasha

– – – – – – – – – – – – –


– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Civil war between

Omri (chief of army)

Tivni ben Ginat

Ahab son of Omri

Start at year 1 of Rehoboam

Reigned 22 years

Starts at year 2 of Asa

Reigned for 2 years

(assassinated by Baashah)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Starts at year 3 of Asa

Reigns for 24 years

Starts at year 26 of Asa  Reigns for 2 years

(assassinated by Zimri)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

At year 27 of Asa

Reigns for 7 days

(assassinated by Omri)

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Omri at year 31 of Asa

Reigns for 12 years

(From when are his years counted?)

Starts at year 38 of Asa

Reigns for 22 years

Go to Next Class – Creating Shomron

Beth El: The Northern Kingdom’s Cultic Center – Recipe for an Empire

Beth El – The Northern Kingdom’s Cultic Center

Part I

I Kings 12:25

Jeroboam is quick to establish his kingdom by attempting to build a capital.  To what extent does he follow David?

What is the problem with choosing a city such as Shechem (Nablus) as a capital?  Compare it with David’s choice of Jerusalem.

I Kings 12:26-27

What threat does Jeroboam perceive from the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem?

In your opinion, what is the likelihood that Jeroboam expressed the idea of the people’s hearts returning ‘to their master Rehoboam king of Judah?’  If they are not Jeroboam’s words, then whose are they?

I Kings 12:28-30

In the wording of v.28 we hear an echo of 2 biblical events that took place in the Israelites formative period in the desert.

Echoing other events is not uncommon in Tanakh, and often functions to give and evaluation of the current event, or as an interpretation of the event that is echoed.  This is probably the earliest form of Midrash.  It is a powerful tool in a society that had a strong tradition of oral transmission.  (Printing books so that they are affordable is a recent invention.  How many of us could afford our own Torah scroll, not to mention copies of the rest of the books of Tanakh, copied by hand?)

In our verse, the first event recalled is Korach’s rebellion against the leadership of Moses (‘did God choose only him?!’)  The words רב לכם (too much for you) which appear here are Korach’s opening argument in Numbers 16:3.

The second event is the golden calf, echoed in the words הנה אלהיך ישראל אשר העלוך מארץ מצרים (Here is your God, O Israel, who took you up from the land of Egypt!)  It appears almost verbatim in Exodus 32:4 as the cry to come worship the calf.

What does recalling these stories do for our story here?

Tanakh is full of ironies.  What is the irony in Jeroboam’s taking council, as mentioned in the opening of v.28?

Why are they calves placed in 2 locations (Beth El and Dan)?

Part II

What was the purpose of the calves?

Reading our section, we assume that the calves were intended for worshiping.  However, a strange silence will follow for many years to come, raising the suspicion that their purpose was not cultic.  None of the prophets that follow speak out against the calves, until the 8th century.  Not even a prophet as zealous as Elijah.  So what was their purpose?

The most interesting of the classic commentaries is that of  Isaac Abarbanel (part of which you read in a previous class.)

Abarbanel I Kings 12:29  (1437 Lisbon -1508 Venice.)

The reason why Jeroboam chose to do the calves is not given…. What benefit did he see in adding the calves? …And also I see that it does not say that Jeroboam made an alter before the calves, and not that he bowed and sacrificed to it as the generation of the desert did.

And I did not see that the Man of God that came from Judah to prophesize about the alter [I Kings 13] mentioned the calves at all, and also Ahia the Shilonite when he prophesized to the wife of Jeroboam did not mention them at all [I Kings 14].  And also Elijah was angry because of the Baal that they were worshiping in the days of Ahab, and not because of the calves that existed in his days.

All this should show that the calves were not made for idol worshiping and not to sacrifice and bow to them as they did in the desert.

…Rather, this was their purpose:  Since Jeroboam saw that Solomon made the two pillars [I Kings 7:15-22] and placed them at the temple in memory of David and his son Solomon who built the temple, therefore he thought as well to make a memory and sign of his kingdom.  And since he was from the tribe of Joseph of the sons of Efraim, and Moses said about them “His firstling bull it has splendor…They are the myriads of Efraim… (Deut. 33:17)”, Jeroboam chose to make a calf as a memory of his family that was of the tribe of Joseph.

He placed it in Beth El since he was from the tribe of Efraim [and this was by his tribal territory] and the beginning of its dynasty. And he made it of gold to indicate the eternity of his kingdom and his greatness, as if to say that the symbol of the king of Judah was a copper pillar and the symbol of the king of Israel was golden and the shape of a useful animal – the ox.

And I would think that the calf was in the opening to the house that he made to the shrines of Beth El, just like the pillars were in the entrance to the Temple….

According to Abarbanel, why should we believe that the calves were not intended for worshiping?

Why were they created?

Is his explanation plausible?

I Kings 12:31-33

Why does Jeroboam appoint priests that are not from the tribe of Levi?

As we read through the Tanakh we should ask ourselves what position the tribe of Levi held in society, and exactly who were the Kohanim in the Temple in Jerusalem.  We are well aware of the high socio-economic position the Kohanim held during the Second Temple period, but what were things like during the First Temple period?

What holiday did Jeroboam try to replace?  Why?

Bringing it all together…

Jeroboam was no fool.  He recognized the potential power of the imposing royal temple in Jerusalem that was more compelling than any central shrine before it.  Jeroboam understood the need to replace the stately central shrine in Jerusalem, the one approved by Hashem, with an equally compelling place.  Beth El was a good and logical choice.  It was better than Jerusalem in that it had a tradition of being a holy place.  It would retain its position as the stately shrine for many years, but it would never become the capital.  Would the northern kingdom ever achieve David’s model of intertwining the state and religion in one location?

Part III

For Inquiring Minds…..

This section is intended to give you some background material.  Enjoy it or ignore it J.

Beth El in Bereshit (Genesis)

We meet up with Beth El for the first time in Bereshit (Genesis) 28:10-22.

Jacob is fleeing from Beer Sheva towards Haran – north.  He falls asleep at night and has a dream that involves a ladder, some angels, and a promise from God.

28:16-19:  What conclusions does Jacob draw about the place?

Who names it Beth El (=the house of God/El)?

Is it possible that the place became known as a holy place following Jacob’s experience there?  How would that compare to the status of Jerusalem?

Midrash on that section of Bereshit (2 of them given bellow) comes up with some interesting ideas:

What new location is introduced into the story by the Midrashim?

What is the reason for such a [revised] reading?

To what extent do these Midrashim respond to Jeroboam’s use of Beth El?

בראשית רבה (תיאודור-אלבק) פרשה סט ד”ה (יז) ויירא ויאמר

יז) ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה ר’ אלעזר בשם ר’ יוסי בן זמרא: הסולם הזה עומד בבאר שבע ושיפועו מגיע עד בית המקדש….אמר ר’ יהודה בר’ סימון הסולם הזה עומד במקדש ושיפועו מגיע עד ביתאל.

“He was awestruck and said: How awe-inspiring is this place” R. Elazr in the name of R. Yosse ben Zimra:  This ladder was standing in Be’er Sheva and its incline reaches as far as the Temple…Said R. Yehuda son of R. Simon:  This ladder stands in the Temple and its incline reaches as far as Beth El.

מדרש תהלים (בובר) מזמור צא ד”ה [ז] [נוסחא אחרת

ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה, אין זה כי אם בית אלהים (בראשית כח יז), מכאן אמרו, כי כל מי שהוא מתפלל בירושלים, כאילו מתפלל לפני כסא הכבוד, ששער השמים הוא שם, ופתח פתוח לשמוע תפלה, שנאמר וזה שער השמים (בראשית כ”ח).

“He was awestruck and said: How awe-inspiring is this place, this is none other than the house of God…”  From here it is said that anyone who prays in Jerusalem, it is as if he prayed in front of the throne of God, as the gate to the heavens is there, and an opening open to hear prayer, as it is said “and this is the gate of heaven.”

Beth El Post Jeroboam (8th century, to be more specific)

Amos 7:12-13  (The book of Amos, the 8th century prophet from Judah that spoke in the Northern Kingdom, is found in Trei-Asar – the 12 minor prophets)

Our section is the lines spoken by Amatziah the Kohen of Beth El to Amos.

What position was Beth El still enjoying in the 8th century?

Where was the loyalty of this priest placed?

For more information about Don Isaac Abarbanel:

Go to Next Class – Ahia: The Role of the Prophet

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