Posts Tagged ‘Judah’

Once again I offer a new, narrative presentation of the 3rd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, incorporating classic commentaries into the text. The color coding is as follows: 





My own words (for clarity)

Please enjoy, comment and share. And without further ado:

Jeremiah continued speaking in the name of HaShem. (1) “I could say you are no longer worthy of me, for if a man sends away his wife, and she goes from him and becomes the wife of another man, will the first husband return to her again? Behold, the land would surely be corrupted by such an act! And you have been unfaithful with many lovers! Nevertheless, return to Me! (2) Lift up your eyes upon the high places and see! Where have you not lied down? Upon the ways you have sat, ready for your lovers, like an Arab in the wilderness, and you have corrupted the land with your unfaithfulness and your evil. (3) The early rains have been held back, and the latter rains did not occur, yet you have had the brazenness of an unfaithful woman, you have refused to be ashamed. (4) If only from this moment you would repent of your wickedness and call to Me, ‘My Father, You are the Teacher of my youth!’ (5) Would your Lord bear against you forever that which you sinned toward Him? Would He hold onto it for eternity? He would not hold onto it! Behold, you have declared, ‘We will not come to You again,’ and that evil you will perform, paying no mind to repentance, and you will succeed in rebelling absolutely.

(6) In the days of King Josiah, HaShem commanded Jeremiah to bring back the Ten Tribes of Israel. A portion of them returned in the 18th year of Josiah (Rashi, v. 12). HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Did you see what the wayward Ten Tribes of Israel did? They would go up on every high mountain, and under every fresh tree and act unfaithfully to Me there, serving idols. (7) And I said through My prophets Amos and Hoshea son of Be’eri and others, after she (Israel) had done all this, ‘Return to Me!’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw that Israel was exiled, but Judah did not learn their lesson. (8) And I saw that Judah saw everything that happened because wayward Israel was unfaithful, that I sent Israel away, and I gave to Israel her document of divorce, but treacherous Judah, Israel’s sister, did not fear that I would send her away also, and did not consider repentance, rather, Judah went and acted unfaithfully also. (9) Because her unfaithfulness was light in her eyes, the land became corrupt; in her unfaithfulness she served stone and wood. (10) And even with all this, having seen the downfall and punishment of Israel, her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, rather falsely.” The generation of Josiah showed themselves to be righteous while they were actually wicked. They made images of idols on the insides of their doorways, half on one side and half on the other, so that when those seeking to eliminate idolatry would inspect the homes, the door would be open and the images were not recognizable.

(11) HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Wayward Israel has exonerated herself of judgment, for she did not have from whom to learn, as opposed to treacherous Judah. (12) Go and call out these words to the north, to the places where Israel was exiled, to Assyria, and say, ‘Return O Wayward Israel! I will not send my wrath against you, because I am abundant in kindness. I will not hold your sins against you forever. (See v. 6 above.) (13) But know your sin, for you rebelled against HaShem your God, and you were unfaithful to HaShem, spreading your legs for strangers under every fresh tree, and you did not listen to My voice. (14) Return, O rebellious sons! For I have been your master, and you have therefore been called by My name, and for you to remain among the nations takes away from My honor. Therefore, I will take you out of exile, even though you remain one in a city of gentiles, or two among an entire gentile nation, and I will bring you to Zion. (15) I will give you leaders who perform My will, and they will lead you with knowledge and wisdom. (16) And it will be, when you multiply and increase in the land in those days, they will no longer say, ‘The Ark of the Covenant of HaShem,’ nor will it even be a thought, nor will they remember it, nor will they consider it, nor will that be done with it which was done in Shiloh, when the Ark was brought out to war against the Philistines in the days of Eili the High Priest, for whole congregation will be holy, and I will dwell in the congregation as though it is the Ark. (17) At that time they will call Jerusalem the Throne of HaShem, and all the nations will gather to it for the sake of HaShem’s name, to Jerusalem, and they will not go anymore after the thoughts of their wicked heart. (18) In those days, the House of Judah will walk with the House of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to their forefathers, becoming one kingdom.

(19) “I had thought, ‘How can I place you, My daughter, My congregation and My nation, among sons, among other nations, among idol worshippers?’ Therefore I set aside a better portion for you, giving you a desirable land, a portion that is the envy of the host of nations, and I said, ‘Call me Father, and do not turn away from Me.’ (20) However, you did not do as I wished, rather like a woman who betrays her beloved because he is unable to provide her needs, so you betrayed Me, O House of Israel, though I provide you with every good thing. (21) Over the rise, in the near future, the sound of the begging cries of the Children of Israel can be heard, for they have perverted their ways, they have forgotten HaShem their God. (22) Return O rebellious sons! I will forgive your rebellion!’”

Yirmiyahu then instructed the people to confess to HaShem and say, “Behold, we have come to You, for you are HaShem our God! (23) Indeed, for naught we hoped for salvation from false gods that we worshipped upon hills and in multitudes upon mountains! Indeed, by HaShem our God is the salvation of Israel! (24) Because of our shame, that we worshipped false gods, the toil of our fathers has been consumed from our youth, their sheep and their cattle, their sons and their daughters. (25) We will lie down in shame because of our sins, and our degradation will cover us, for we and our fathers have sinned to HaShem our God from our youth until this day, and we did not listen to the voice of HaShem our God.”

Yehoash did what was upright in the eyes of the Almighty all his days, as Yehoyada the Kohen taught him.”


‘All his days, as Yehoyada taught him’ — But once Yehoyada died, then ‘the officers of Judah came to prostate themselves to the king’ (II Chronicles 24:17), and they deified him. They said to him: ‘One who enters the Holy of Holies for even one moment is in danger of death, but you hid there for six years! You are fitting to be a god!’ ‘Then he listened to them’ (ibid).

Seder Olam Rabah 18:

After the death of Yehoyada the Kohen, Yoash made himself into a deity, as it says, ‘They prostrated themselves to the king… Then the king listened to them’ (II Chronicles 24).

Shemoth Rabah 8:3:

From where do we know that Yoash made himself into a deity? As it says: ‘And after the death of Yehoyada, the officers of Judah came and prostrated themselves to the king. Then the king listened to them’ (II Chronicles 24). What is the meaning of, ‘and they prostrated themselves to the king’? That they made him into a deity. They said to him: ‘If you were not a god, you would not have come out after seven years in the Holy of Holies.’ He said to them, ‘It is so!’ And he accepted upon himself to become a deity.

Matenoth Kehunah (comments to Sh”R):

‘After seven years’ – from his birth. But he was only hidden six years, for so it is written in II Chronicles 24.

‘You would not have come out…’ – As it is written, ‘And the stranger who approaches shall die,’ and even the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would only enter on Yom Kipur (the Day of Atonement), and with incense, and prayer and immersion, and if you were not a god, you would not have been able to remain alive there.

B’Midbar Rabah 23:13 (also Tanchuma Masey 12):

You find as long as Yehoyada was alive, Yoash acted according to the will of his Creator, as it says, ‘Yoash did what was upright in the eyes of the Almighty all his days that Yehoyada the Kohen guided him.’ ‘After the death of Yehoyada, the officers of Judah came and prostrated themselves to the king. Then the king listened to them’ (II Chronicles 24), accepting upon himself to made into a deity.

See also Agadath B’Reshith 49


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!


Part 2 in a series exploring the widely held belief that Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet) is synonymous with the character of Pinchas, grandson of Aharon (Aaron).

Sh’moth Rabah 40:

[Betzalel] was one of seven people who were called [several] names. Eliyahu (Elijah) was called four names… Rabbi Elazar ben Pedath said: [Eliyahu] was a Jerusalemite, and one of those who sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (i.e. a member of the Great Sanhedrin, or High Court), and he was from a city of Judah, and his portion was in two tribes (Benjamin and Judah).

The Midrash proceeds to cite verses demonstrating Eliyahu’s several names. Notably, not of these names are Pinchas. Secondly, the names cited are all individuals belonging to the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), which would not allow Eliyahu to be Pinchas since Pinchas was a Kohen, a grandson of Aharon (Aaron), the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Furthermore, since Eliyahu appears to possess a portion of land, this would seem to preclude him from being a Kohen since the Kohanim (priests) were not granted a portion of land, rather, “the Almighty is their portion.”

One of the cities the Midrash cites as belonging to the “portion” of Eliyahu is called Migdal Gad. The Midrash asks why the city was called by this name. The Midrash answers that it is from there that one would go forth who would cut down (megaded) the foundation of the idolators. This is a reference to Eliyahu himself. Therefore, the name of the town was given in accordance with Eliyahu’s destiny. This will become significant when we explore another source that contends that Eliyahu is from the tribe of Gad, offering a similar linguistic connection between the tribe’s name and Eliyahu’s role in history.

Summary thus far:

Source 1: Pirkey d’Rabi Eliezer — Compares Pinchas and Eliyahu but implies they are too unique individuals, just with great similarities.

Source 2: Shemoth Rabah — Clearly indicates Eliyahu derives from the Tribe of Benjamin, precluding the possibility that he is the same person as Pinchas, the Kohen.

So that makes two strikes against the view that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same.


We have already written here of the righteous King Asa and his bold acts to restore the glory of G-d to Judah after it had fallen into idolatry. He certainly built a legacy as one of Judah’s greatest and most righteous kings. However, the prophet nevertheless records (I Kings 15:23):

…but in the time of his old age [Asa] became ill in his legs.

Why did G-d visit this unpleasantness upon the righteous Asa? The Talmud (Sotah 10A) explains:

Why was Asa punished? Because he forced the Sages into [national] service, as it says (I Kings 15:22): ‘And the king, Asa, called up [into service] all of Judah; none were excused’ …even a groom from his chamber and a bride from her wedding canopy.

As the debate rages in Israel over the drafting of yeshiva students into the army, and legislation moves forward to make the induction of budding scholars into the military a reality, those of us who study the past shake our heads in sad disbelief as a society repeats its past mistakes that may lead, G-d forbid, to a set of harsh consequences. I hope our legs stand firm through this.

For more on this topic, see this post, and this one.

In the book of Melachim (Kings), we are told the sad story of the descent of the Kingdom of David, from its original grandeur under righteous kings such as David and his son Shelomoh (Solomon), to the split during the reign of Shelomoh’s son Rechavam, when ten tribes of Israel seceded to form a new kingdom under the rule of the once righteous, turned wicked king Yeravam ben Nevat. Yeravam leads the Kingdom of Israel into idolatry, as do the subsequent kings of Judah, until the rule of Asa. We are told:

“Asa did what was upright in the eyes of Ha-Shem (the Almighty), like David his father (i.e. forefather). He caused the harlots to pass from the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. Even Maachah his mother, who made an abominable image (‘miphletzeth’ — מפלצת) for an asherah, he removed from her position of power. Asa cut down her abominable image and burned it [and cast its ashes] into the brook of Kidron.” (I Kings 15:11-13)

An asherah is a tree that was worshipped by idolatrous cults in ancient times. Maachah, Asa’s mother seems to have gone one step further, making a “miphletzeth” for her asherah. What is a miphletzeth? The translation here, “abominable image,” I took from the JPS Tanakh and appears to be the understanding of Radak. But miphletzeth is an extremely rare term in Tanach and its meaning is mysterious. In modern Hebrew, the word is used to mean “monster.”

Rashi, to explain the word miphletzeth, quotes the Talmud in Avodah Zarah (44A). The Talmudic sages viewed the word miphletzeth as a compound word based two Hebrew roots: פ-ל-א (P-L-A), meaning “wondrous,” and ל-צ (L-Tz), meaning “scoffing.” As such, they explained the above verse to mean that Maachah acted “exceedingly scoffingly” (מפליא ליצנותא) with her asherah. How so? The Talmud goes on to say that she fashioned (presumably carved) for her asherah a male genital appendage and would have relations with the idol daily.

How did the Talmudic sages know that this bizaare behavior is what is intended here? Was this purely an oral tradition or is there a more clear textual clue?

I wonder if this understanding is based on a perceived linguistic linkage between the פ-ל-צ root of ‘miphletzeth’ and the Latin “phallus” or Greek “phallos” (meaning the same); indeed in some traditions the letter tzadi (צ) is pronounced ‘s’ (‘sadi’) rather than ‘tz’ as in the Ashkenazic tradition. Some research (i.e. “googling”) has yielded that indeed wooden carvings of the phallus were used in cultic worship of deities such as Dionysus. This type of worship, known to the Talmudic sages, may have been a clue regarding the nature of Maachah’s worship here.

Isaiah 48:1-2:

Hear this, House of Jacob, who are called the name Israel, and who went forth from the waters of Judah, those who swear in the name of the Lord, and who make mention of the God of Israel, not truthfully and not justly. For  from the Holy City are you called, and upon the God of Israel have you relied, the Lord of Hosts is His name.

Rashi (ad loc):

‘You were not worthy to be redeemed except because you were called those from the Holy City (Jerusalem).’ It was she (Jerusalem) that caused them not to be exiled in the days of Sancheriv with the Ten Tribes… who have no redemption.