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

In Solomon’s Kingdom – Recipe for an Empire

In Solomon’’s Kingdom

Part I

I Kings 4:1-5:8 – The Economy

4:2-6 lists various positions at the court.  What positions are listed?

What is surprising about v.4b (=the second part of the verse)?

Commentators have tried to solve the problem.  Below are 2 suggestions, which one seems preferable to you?  Why?  Could you bring an argument to refute either one of these commentaries?

רד”ק מלכים א פרק ד

(ד) וצדוק ואביתר כהנים – היו שרי הכהונה. ואם זה אביתר הוא אביתר בן אחימעץ, תמה הוא, כי הנה שלמה גרשהו מהיות כהן גדול ואמר לו “ענתות לך על שדיך” (מ”א ב כו)?! אלא מן הדומה כי כהן אחר היה שמו אביתר:

Radaq (R. David Qimhi) I Kings 4

(4) Zadok and Abiathar priests – they were the ministers of the priests.  If this Abiathar is Abiathar son of Ahimaatz it would be strange, since Solomon had sent him away from being a high priest, and said to him “Go to your estate at Anatot” (I Kings 2:26)?!  Rather, it would seem that there was another priest named Abiathar.

רלב”ג מלכים א פרק ד

(ד) וצדוק ואביתר כהנים – ידמה, כי אף על פי שגרש אותו מהיות כהן לה’, ואמר לו שילך ענתות, הנה הוכרח לעבד בעת היות צדוק בלתי ראוי לעבודה.

Ralbag (R. Levi b. Gershon) I Kings 4

(4) Zadok and Abiathar priests – It would seem that despite having sent him away from being a priest to the Lord, and told him to go to Anatot, he had to serve when Zadok was not fit for serving.

What was the job of the priests?  Reading through the list, did any of the perfects have any link to the court other than their official job?  How does Solomon compare to his father in setting up the people around him and guaranteeing their loyalty?

Try to get an idea of how much was needed to feed the court and those supported by it for 1 day (5:2-3).  A kor =10 Ephah.  An Ephah = 10 Omer.  An Omer is the amount of manna needed to feed 1 person for a day.   On top of this there was need for animal feed.  Keep in mind that each priest had to support the court for a month.

Why are verses such as 4:20 and 5:5 appearing in this section?

Part II

I Kings 5:16-32, 9:10-22 – The cost of the Temple

From where is Solomon getting the wood for the Temple?  How will it reach Jerusalem?  What is the price of the wood?

In addition to the payment to Hiram, Solomon needs workers.  How many people worked on the project as forced labor?  Who was in charge of them?

In addition there was a need for stones, both quarriers and porters worked on this task.  Note their numbers and nationalities.

9:10-13: What else was given as payment to Hiram? (II Chronicles 8:2 seems to have a different version.)

9:20-22:  How did Solomon handle the non Israelites in his reign?  Compare it with David’s approach to the minority population.

I Kings 7:13-23 – Jachin and Boaz,– the copper pillars.

Note who the artisan in charge of the copper work.  Compare to the list of officials at the court.  What difference do you notice?

Where were the pillars placed?  They had no religious function and did not exist in the tabernacle (that preceded the Temple.)  What was their purpose?

Abarbanel commented about these pillars while discussing the perturbing existence of golden calves in the major shrines of the northern Israelite kingdom. What, in his opinion, was their purpose?   What do you think of this idea?  How does it fit with Solomon’s and David’s approach to their dynasty?

Abarbanel I Kings 12:29  (1437 Lisbon -1508 Venice. A late medieval Jewish commentator.)

…This was their [the calves’] 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…

I Kings 10:18-11:10 – The king who was supposed to be the greatest of all…

How did the wealth manifest itself in Solomon’s court?

Look at Deuteronomy 17:16-20, the law of the king.  How does Solomon rank at the end?

What might be the reason for Solomon’s marriages with foreign women?  What was the (unintended but not surprising) result?

Bringing it all together:

Solomon inherited an empire on a silver platter.  The foundations of the kingdom were laid out by David, including a map for Solomon to follow (build a Temple, develop the capital with royal building projects.)  Compare the approaches of David and Solomon to their constituents (Israelites, of course) and to minorities.  How did each view his position as king?  What was the place God, religion and law in the life of each of them?  Who would you prefer as your monarch?

Part III

For Inquiring Minds…..

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

1) Radaq:  R. David Qimhi (or Kimhi) wrote a commentary on several biblical books.  It is noteworthy that unlike many others who write about Tanakh, most of his commentaries are on the books in NaKh.  While he is more ‘wordy’ than Rashi, some people are more comfortable with his commentary, feeling that it is easier to understand.

For more information about Radaq, try the following:

2) Ralbag:  R. Levi ben Gershom wrote on several books in Tanakh, and thankfully spent a great deal of time on the NaKh part.  His commentary is philosophical in nature.

For more information about Ralbag, try the following:

3) Jachin and Boaz:

The images of these imposing copper pillars are sometimes detected as design motif on ark-covers (parokhet) in synagogues.  For example

Go to Next Class – The Kingdom Splits

The Kingdom Splits – Recipe for an Empire

The Kingdom Splits

Part I

I Kings 11:14-25

Check a map of the region to get an idea of the locations mentioned (Edom, Egypt, Judah/Jerusalem).

We were told that Pharaoh gave his daughter to Solomon in marriage (apparently an unusual event.)  Here we are told of another connection by marriage to the Egyptian royal house.  What is Egypt trying to do?

Where does Hadad settle down?  How will this effect the kingdom?

I Kings 11:26-40

What tribe is Jeroboam from?  Where is his tribe located?

What was the cause about which Jeroboam rallied the people against Solomon?  (The Milloh and the breach are understood by many to mean an open public area created by David in the capital, a town’s square of sort, but blocked by Solomon in favor of building a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter.  I Kings 9:24)

The prophet that promises God’s support to Jeroboam is Ahijah of Shilo.  Where is Shilo and what was its biblical time significance?  Could this have effected the loyalty of Ahijah?

Does Jeroboam have a chance from God at emulating the success of the Davidic dynasty?

Jeroboam has to flee from Solomon, where does he go?  Does the relationship of the young Jeroboam with the established king remind you of another biblical story?

Part II

I Kings 12:1-5

What is strange about the coronation of Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) in Shechem?  (Think back to Solomon’s coronation in chapter 1.)  Try to give an explanation for the situation.

How spontaneous was the people’s request for lightening the tax load?  Prove your opinion from the story?

How do you explain Rehoboam’s reaction?  (Was he showing potential to be a king of the masses, or was he prepared for this request?)

What had changed since the happy days described at the beginning of Solomon’s reign that created such widespread discord?

I Kings 12:6-15

The answer of the elder (v.7):  Notice how they try to point Rehoboam in the direction of mutual respect between him and the people.  Their advice is also a thinly veiled criticism of Solomon’s practices.

Who are Rehoboam’s preferred advisors? (Note how the narrator refers to them – the Hebrew literally means ‘children’.) At what point do we find out whose advice Rehoboam plans to follow?

When the biblical narrator repeats something that we were already told (such as the people’s request) it should call our attention to the fine details of how it is repeated.  Compare Rehoboam’s presentation of the request to the elders and to his young advisors.  What have you noticed?

Along the same line: Compare what his young friends suggest that he tell the people, and what Rehoboam actually tells them.

Do you know how old Rehoboam was when he ascended the throne? (I Kings 14:21)  Any thoughts?

I Kings 12:16-20

What was the response of the people to the words of Rehoboam?

Look up II Sam 20:1.  Who coined the phrase used by the people?  What might this point to?

What do you think that Rehoboam hoped that Adoram (in charge of the forced labor) would achieve?

Notice who is involved in the coronation of Jeroboam (v.20).  How do you explain that after 12:1?

Bringing it all together:

After 2 generations David’s grand dream of a dynasty ruling a kingdom that unites all the tribes of Israel both politically and religiously, is shattered.  What went wrong?  Could the dream have succeeded?  Was the nation indeed ever truly united? As David was creating a dynasty (and making the system of ruling by the local elders obsolete,) we should take a hard look at the dangerous pit falls of a dynasty.  Is a child always suited to follow his parent?  What kind of education is required for the system to succeed?  Can future generation of a privileged family indeed be raised to the challenge? Can a parent truly evaluate his own child’s fitness for the job?  Where were the mistakes made in the Davidic dynasty?

Part III

Recommendation:  From this point you will need to keep track of (even more) people.  To ease the task, I suggest that you keep a chart that you can refer to when things get confusing.  The beginning of such a chart is attached here, you can add to it as we progress through the next classes.

United Kingdom (from David): (start at c.1000bce)


Rebels and attempting usurpers

David (of the tribe of Judah) comes to the throne after battle against the house of Saul (tribe of Benjamin)

1) Absalom David’s son

2) Sheva son of Bichri of the tribe of Benjamin

3) (Adonijah son of David, in David’s old age)

Solomon (son of David and Bath Sheba)

1) Adonijah son of David and Hagit

2) Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim (Joseph)


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 Israel

Rehoboam son of Solomon

Start at year 1 of Jeroboam

Jeroboam son of Nebat

Start at year 1 of Rehoboam

Go to Next Class – Beth El: The Northern Kingdom’s Cultic Center

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King – Recipe for an Empire

The King is Dead – Long Live the King

I Kings 1:1-6

What was the relationship between the aging David and the young beautiful Avishag?  Can you support your answer from the text?

What might be Avishag’s official status?  What significance does it have?

What was Adoniah’s claim to the throne?

He is not the first of David’s sons to have a chariot, cavalry, and 50 men running in front of his entourage.  Check II Sam 15:1.  What happened there?  Is the narrator of our story aware of that episode?

While David has, usually, enjoyed the image of a charismatic warrior who is loved by all, this opening paragraph seems to be highlighting some areas where David had shortcomings.  Try to find 3 such areas here.  (The Gemara bellow tries to point to one.)


תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף סב עמוד ב

(שמואל א’ כ”ד) “ויקם דוד ויכרת את כנף המעיל אשר לשאול בלט” אמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא: כל המבזה את הבגדים סוף אינו נהנה מהם, שנאמר (מלכים א’ א’) והמלך דוד זקן בא בימים ויכסהו בבגדים ולא יחם לו.

Talmud Bavli Tractate Berakhot 62b

(I Sam 24)  “David got up and cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak stealthily.”  R. Jose son of R. Hanina said:  Anyone who disrespects the clothing, will not benefit from them in the end, as it is said (I Kings 1) “King David was now old, advanced in years; and they covered him with clothing but he never felt warm.”

I Kings 1:7-10

Make a chart of who is in Adoniah’s camp and who is not.  How many of them have you met before?

Can you think of reasons why some of these people took the sides that they took?

I Kings 1:11-31

In what roles does Bath Sheba appear in this section? (Some are even spelled out by the narrator!)

How does the character of Nathan the Prophet here compare with what we saw of him during the previous class?  What seems to have been his role in the court?

V. 15 is loaded with information, most of which we already know. What is the verse adding to the story?

Does Bath Sheba follow Nathan’s instructions?  Is her behavior a sign of intelligence and shrewdness, or of stupidity?  Explain.

How does Nathan’s speech compare to that of Bath Sheba?

Based on the language in vv.28-31, what kind of a relationship does David have with Bath Sheba at this point?

Note v.29 is a typical oath in the name of God.  The missing, but assumed, piece of such an oath is the penalty that God will inflict upon the oath-taker should he fail to fulfill the oath.

I Kings 2:13-25

V.13 is full of titles.  What is the significance of each? (Titles are often a way for the narrator to draw the reader’s attention to the possible interests and view points of the characters.)

Adoniah is introduced as the speaker at the end of v. 13 and again at the beginning of v.14.  What is strange about that?  Try to offer an explanation.

How does Adoniah understand everything that happened in the previous chapter?

Why does Adoniah ask for Avishag?  How could such a request be interpreted?

Why does Bath Sheba bring his request to Solomon?  ?  Is her behavior a sign of intelligence and shrewdness, or of stupidity?  Explain.

How does Solomon understand the situation?

I Kings 2:26-27

What is Ebjathar the Kohen’s punishment for supporting the usurper?

I Kings 2:28-34

Joab’s case is more difficult.  Solomon was instructed by David (I Kings 2:5-6) to kill him to avenge the blood of 2 deaths that David felt were not warranted (“clean blood”.)

Why does Joab not obey Solomon’s command to leave the alter?

Why did Joab, who was endlessly loyal to David (perhaps more than David wished for,) not honor David’s choice of heir?

Bringing it all together:

Jerusalem is no longer a “start-up” city.  It seems inevitable that the court has reached a certain maturity, complete with political parties and intrigues.  For a change, David is not portrayed as a dashing king and brilliant warrior, his failures as a statesman, a father (and a husband?) are shown.  Why did David not make it clear who is his chosen heir?  Why did he leave Solomon with these clean up missions, rather than take care of them himself?  How does Solomon establish himself as a king?  What is the view of the narrator of his actions?  (Do similar things happen today?)

For Inquiring Minds…..

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

I Kings 1:32-53.

We will not study this passage in depth, but rather try to get the main information it contains:  The coronation of Solomon, the break up of the revolt.  Here are a few things worth noticing:

V.35 is very similar to II Samuel 5:1-3 (go back to the first class).

Jonathan son of Ebjathar gives the rebels an account of the coronation.  The narrator lets the reader listen in:  Note the unpolished speech Jonathan’s breathlessness due to his running.  The instant effect of his speech tells us how correct he was in assuming that the news was worth delivering.

Note Adoniah’’s behavior in v. 50.  What does it mean?  (You may also want to look at Ex. 21:14.)  How does Solomon respond?

Ebjathar the Kohen:

The prophecy referred to in 2:27  regarding the house of ‘Eli appears in I Sam 2:27-36.  It begins to come true in I Sam 4:11-22.

Joab son of Zrujah:

  • The story regarding Abner ben Ner appears in II Sam 2-3.
  • The story of Amasa appears in II Sam 18:9-17, 19:1-14, 20:4-12.
  • For extra complications, check the family tree in I Chronicles 2:12-17.

Go to Next Class – In Solomon’s Kingdom


David And Bath Sheba – Recipe for an Empire

David and Bath Sheba

1) II Sam 11:1

What is the function of this verse?

How is David conducting the current war?  Compare it with the ascent of the ark.  Has anything changed in his approach?

Throughout the reading:

Pay attention to the מילים מנחות milim manhot (guiding words).  Such a word will appear frequently in a unit and highlight a theme of the story.  Since Hebrew works by roots of words, a root may appear in several different verbal forms and be considered a ‘guiding word.’  While this idea is common in Midrash, which will often make linguistic links within and between sections, it is Martin Buber that coined the term.  Look for some such words throughout our reading.  (Try it in the Hebrew as well. Once you think that you have found it, even if not in the Hebrew, look for it in the Hebrew.  You will probably find the root in the Hebrew text.)

2) II Sam 11:2-6

At what time is the story beginning?

In what light is David portrayed here?  Try to pinpoint how the narrator achieved this.

Topography:  Where is David watching from?  Where is the beautiful woman washing herself?  Remember that it is likely that the palace was in the highest point of the city (perhaps rivaled by a sanctuary at a higher location.)

Who is the woman?  The narrator tells us a lot about her family (‘yichus’ is an old Jewish tradition).  Here are some sources that will give you the information that the narrator assumed that you were aware of:  David’s Giborim (his elite soldiers) are listed in II Sam 23.  Check out vv 34-39.  How might this information be relevant to Bath Sheba’s life?

Were the sexual relation coerced (rape) or consentual?  (Forget current day view of the situation.  Focus on the language of the text, try the Hebrew.  You can compare it with Dina in Gen 34:2 and the rape of Tamar in II Sam 13:14.)

What is the guiding word in this section?  What does it add to the story?

3) II Sam 11:5-15

What is David’s initial plan to get out of this problematic situation?

How does he try to make sure that Uriah goes home?

Uriah spends at least 2 nights in Jerusalem, none of which he spends at home.  Could something have happened on the first night that reinforce this behavior for the second night?  Try to prove it from the text.

What makes David’s new plan extra sinister?

What 2 words (a verb and a noun) are the guiding words of this section?  What do they highlight?

4) II Sam 11:16-27

Does Joab follow the instructions sent by David?  Why?

Joab has to get the message to David that Uriah died without awakening suspicion.  What message is the messenger suppose to deliver?  Note how carefully structured it is, and that Joab even anticipates David’s replies.  However, that Uriah’s death will sooth the irate king probably made no sense to the messenger.

Does the messenger deliver the message as he was told to?  Why?

In vv. 26-27 note 3 things:  Bath Sheba appears only by title?  Why?  The narrator makes sure that we know that David is the father of the baby.  How?  We finally have God in the picture.

In light of Uriah in this story and of the role played by Obed-Edom the Gitite (last class):

What is their tribal(?) affiliation?

What does it tell us about David?

5) II Sam 12:1-7

This is one of the most famous parables in the Bible.  What is David’s reaction to Nathan’s parable?

Why did Nathan choose a parable to get the message across?

6) II Sam 12:8-15

What do you imagine was David’s reaction to Nathan’s accusation in v.7?  To David’s credit, what did he not do?

What is the main crime of David?

What will be the penalty?

7) II Sam 12:16-25

What does David’s behavior around the child’s illness tell us about him?

Whose birth do we hear about at the end of the story?

Compare 12:24 with 11:27.  What function do these verses serve in the story?

8) II Sam 12:26-31

What is the function of this passage?

We might not like the war descriptions, but it was probably considered perfectly normal at the time.

9)  If you are interested, the parallel section is found in I Chronicles 20:1-3.  What is missing?  Why?

Bringing it all together:

This class seemed to focus on a very personal story.  But it is the details in such stories that reveal the reality of life. What did you find about David as an individual and as a monarch?  What was life like in Jerusalem of that period?  What in the reality of life made this story possible?  Finally, notice that the story was recorded and entered into the Tanakh.  Why?  By whom?  What could we have expected should have happened to this story?

For Inquiring Minds…..

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

  1. About Bath Sheba’s Yichus; two more links in the treasure hunt:
    1. I Chronicles 27:33 should give you some more information about Bath Sheba’s grandfather.
    2. II Sam 16:20-17:14, 23 gives his role during the rebellion of Absalom, David’s son, against David.  What is odd about his involvement?
  2. About Joab’s reference to other biblical-military events:
    1. The story referred to in II Sam 11:21 is found in Judges 9:50-57.
    2. After having read the story in Judges, what is ironic about Joab’s retelling of the story (to the messenger to deliver to David)?
    3. In what subtle way(s) is the story in Judges relevant to our story?
  3. The penalty that David declares fitting for the man who took the poor man’s sheep is a four-fold payback.   To see whether all of it comes true you will have to read until the end of II Samuel. (I highly recommend reading it if you have never done so.)  As you examine that material notice the four children that David will lose:
    1. Bath Sheba’’s first baby.
    2. Tamar who is raped by her half brother, Amnon.
    3. Amnon who is killed by Absalom in revenge for having raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar.
    4. Absalom, who is killed by Joab and his men as a result of his rebellion against his father, David.

Go to Next Class – Long Live the King

Conclusion To Recipe for an Empire

Conclusion To Recipe for an Empire

Bringing it all together…

We have followed our history from the time of a loosely united tribal nation to 2 well structured kingdoms.

We covered the time from David, the charismatic-warrior-turned-king, to Jezebel, the foreign princess who became a super-queen.

We followed the creations of both Jerusalem and Shomron.

This last part is intended to tie together some of all the information that stretched across great parts of the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

It is an attempt to draw some parallels and highlight some differences.

It is a beginning.  Please add your insights.

The start of the dynasty:

The Davidic dynasty is started by a charismatic military leader who unifies the people and expands the territory of the state greatly.

The Omrite dynasty is started by the head of the army who is enthroned by the people around him and goes on to defeat his opponent.

A capital without Israelite history:

Both David and Omri decide to create a capital that has no previous Israelite history.  It will be associated with them.  David conquers the city but buys the temple mount.  Omri buys the land of Shomron.

The religious center:

It is very important for David to have the religious center in his capital.  Despite setbacks, he brings the Ark to his city.  He plans a capital that would be as much of the religious center as a political one.  He participates (as perhaps did his sons) in the religious practices.

The northern kingdom has a religious center; the old and venerable Beth El.  But it was never the capital of the state.  During the Omrite dynasty there is an attempt to create a religious center in Shomron… for Baal (perhaps an attempt at a religious reform.) As a state-sponsored religious center, it does not survive into the next dynasty.  Beth El does.

The connection of religion and royalty (a God-chosen dynasty):

David is not only interested in glorifying God in his city, he does his best to create an inseparable link between his dynasty and the national religion.

Jezebel fulfills this function in Shomron.  She is sponsoring the prophets of Baal while hunting down the prophets of Hashem.  Would she have succeeded the Omrite dynasty, too, would have been viewed as god-chosen.

Women in the formative years of the kingdom:

How would Jerusalem have looked like without Bat Sheva influencing events both in David’s and Solomon’s lives?  The relatively new institution of monarchy might not have known what role to give her, but Bat Sheva carved out her own place.

By the time we reach Jezebel the position of the leading female figure has a name: The Gevirah.  But unlike Bat Sheva, Jezebel does not wait for her son to take the throne to reach a position of power. She rules alongside Ahab, shaping the growing kingdom at least as much as her husband did.  Apparently she did not give up her position when her husband died.  Jezebel and Maakha (mother of Aviam?) seem to both stay on, wielding ever greater power.

Women entered the world of the monarchy by marriage.  Both kingdoms made important alliances through marriage: Jezebel, the Phoenician princess, married Ahab.  The daughter of Pharaoh married Solomon, bringing as a dowry several Canaanite towns.

The son, the first great king

Neither David nor Omri got a chance to finish their work.  Both left the rest to a son that would become a great king, developing his father’s work to new levels.  But there were differences:  Omri reigned many fewer years than David, leaving it up to Ahab to firmly position the country as a powerful player in the region. Ahab left behind a strong country.  Solomon received an empire, and lived accordingly.  But he left behind a kingdom that was collapsing under the tax burden and heading towards  a split.

In the long run…

Looking at it from today’s perspective, who came out ahead: David or Omri?  Jerusalem or Shomron?  Why?

End of Course, Go Back To Descriptions

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