Chapters 9 and 10 of the book of II Kings (Melachim II) detail the career of Yehu, a soldier turned renegade turned king, who, at the command of Elisha the Prophet, mounts a campaign to annihilate the house of the evil (former) King Achav (Ahab), whose son Yehoram then sat on the throne. Along the way, Yehu also kills Achazyah, the king of Judah, who, although Davidic by paternal lineage, was of the house of Achav through his mother’s side.
In Chapter 11, this mother of the house of Achav, whose name was Athalyah, upon the death of the king of Judah, commences exterminating the male offspring of the king so that she may succeed to the throne with no opponent. One child, Yoash, is rescued and hidden in the Temple for six years, guarded and attended to by the High Priest, Yehoyada. When the boy is seven years old, Yehoyada, together with a band of his loyal followers, brings the young heir out of hiding and announts him. Verse 12:
They brought forth the son of the king, and they put upon him the crown and the testament, and they coronated him and anointed him, and they clapped hands and said, ‘May the king live!’
What is this “testament” that they “put upon him”?
Rashi offers two suggestions:
The first is that “the testament” refers to the scroll of the Torah that a king is commanded in Deuteronomy (Devarim) 17:19 to keep with him and read daily.
The second suggestion is based on a fascinating opinion in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 44A) that this crown would only fit upon the head of one who was fit to be the king. Here, a king’s crown miraculously fit itself to the head of this seven year old child, thus testifying that he was fit to be king of Judah.
Let us examine the origin of this crown more closely.
In II Samuel 12, we read of a military victory of Israel over Amon. Verse 30 tells of a remarkable crown among the spoils:
[David] took the crown of Malkam (מלכם) from upon his head, and its weight was a kikar of gold, with a precious stone, and it was upon the head of David…
The translation of the Hebrew word “malkam” here is controversial. The word appears plainly to be a composite of the word “melech” (“king”) with the “-am” ending meaing “their.” The verse would then read, “He took the crown of their king from upon his head.” This makes perfect sense. Rashi, however, notes that “Malkam” is actually the name of the Amonite deity, synonymous with the false god Molech mentioned in the Torah that was commonly worshiped by local peoples in those days, including the people of Amon.
If so, the crown would have been an adornment of an idol. This is the opinion of the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 44A).
The crown is described as weighing a kikar. Well, how much is a kikar? According to this handy-dandy biblical measurement conversion table, a kikar weighs either 27kg or 34kg (depending on which scholarly opinion you follow). For us Americans, that’s the same as around 60lbs or 75lbs. To make it even more graphic, 60lbs is like 3 car tires or 5 bowling balls. 75lbs is about the weight of an 11 year old child, or 2 and 1/2 cinderblocks. If that was the weight of this crown, it is certainly not reasonable to think any human king actually wore this! Rather, it makes more sense to be an adornment for an idol, as the Talmud understands.
The next question, however, should be obvious. The verse in II Samuel says the crown was on David’s head! If it was so impossibly heavy, how could David have worn it!
The Talmud offers several possibilities:
1. The verse doesn’t literally mean that David wore it, but that David was so great as to be fitting to wear such a valuable crown.
2. The verse means that the crown was suspended over David’s head. Specifically, a magnet caused the crown to float above the throne so that when David sat it hovered above his head.
3. The crown did not actually weigh a kikar, but the value of the stone in the crown was the equivalent of a kikar of gold.
Finally, the Talmud tells of the miracle of the crown fitting itself to its bearer as a testament to the worthiness of said bearer. The crown served as a testament to David’s worthiness then, and once again as a testament to the worthiness of Yoash in our chapter. The implication is that all worthy royal descendants of David wore this crown.
As a matter of fact, the Talmud goes on to relate that Adoniyah, the son of David who declares himself king at the end of David’s life in the beginning of I Kings, tried wearing this crown to prove his worthiness for the throne, but was unsuccessful; the crown would not for him.
But was this a “magical” property of the crown, or a unique miracle that G-d brought about for the sake of David and his righteous offspring?
The answer may lie in an episode from I Samuel.
In I Samuel, Chapter 17, as David is about to confront Goliath, King Saul offers David his own implements of war, including his armor. Now, Saul was much larger than David, in fact, the text describes Saul as “head and shoulders” above the rest of the nation, i.e. he was very tall. How could the vestments of a much larger man fit on David? The hint is in v. 38. The word מדיו in Hebrew is translated as “his apparel,” as in, “Saul dressed David in his apparel.” But the word מדיו has the same root as the word מדה, meaning “measure.” The verse could then read, “Saul dressed David to his measure,” i.e. the vestments of Saul fit David, though they were not at all the same size.
Indeed, the Talmud in Yevamoth 76B, as well as the Midrash in VaYikra Rabah 26:8 and Tanchuma Emor 4 explain that this is exactly what happened. Rashi’s comments to I Samuel 17:38 reflect this view of our Sages.
Rashi explains (in accordance with the view of the Sages in the above sources) that since David had been anointed by Samuel to be king, the king’s clothing miraculously fit themselves to David’s measure.
So returning to the crown, it appears that it was not the unique quality of this crown to “magically” choose its bearer based on whether or not that person was worthy to be king. Rather, it appears that it was the unique quality of the righteous Davidic kings that any clothing fit for a king miraculously fit them.
Let us end off on a beautifully positive note. Rabbi Yoseph Chayim of Baghdad, in his commentary to the agadic passages of the Talmud, Ben Yehoyada, connects the passage in Avodah Zarah to a section of Zachariah (4:7).
Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubavel you will become a flatland. And he shall bring forth the even haroshah with shouts of, ‘Grace! Grace!’ for it.
The Hebrew words “even haroshah” here are usually translated as, “cornerstone,” “foundation stone,” “keystone,” or “top stone.” The prophecy is understood by many to refer to messianic times, meaning that not even the mightiest power will be able to stand in the way of the Messiah. Rather, he will bring forth the “even haroshah” as the Jewish people cheers on. If translated as above, the reference is to the construction of the Third Temple. However, Ben Yehoyada offers another understanding:
“Even haroshah” literally means “head stone” (not the kind that goes over a grave), i.e. “stone of the head.” Well, what kind of stone did we just learn about that goes on the head? It is the precious stone that featured prominently in David’s crown!
If so, the prophecy here is that this very same crown will be worn by the King Messiah, scion of David, for whom it will be a testament that he is the true Messiah! May we see this speedily in our days!