Leadership in the Bible
Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Josiah

I Kings

I.       I Kings 2:12-25

12 Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his royal power was well established. 13 Adonijah, Haggith’s son, went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. She said, “Are you coming in peace?”

He said, “Yes. 14 I have something to say to you.”

She said, “Say it.”

15 He said, “You know how the kingdom was mine. All Israel had appointed me as their king. Then suddenly the kingdom went to my brother as the Lord willed. 16 Now I have just one request of you. Don’t refuse me!”

She said to him, “Go on.”

17 Adonijah continued, “Ask King Solomon to let me marry Abishag from Shunem—he won’t refuse you.”

18 Bathsheba said, “Okay; I’ll speak to the king for you.”

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to talk with him about Adonijah. The king stood up to meet her and bowed low to her. Then he returned to his throne and had a throne set up for the queen mother. She sat to his right. 20 She said, “I have just one small request for you. Don’t refuse me.”

The king said to her, “Mother, ask me. I won’t refuse you.”

21 “Let Abishag from Shunem be married to your brother Adonijah,” she said.

22 King Solomon replied to his mother, “Why ask only for Abishag from Shunem for Adonijah? Why not ask for the entire kingdom for him? After all, he is my older brother and has the support of Abiathar the priest and Joab, Zeruiah’s son.” 23 King Solomon swore by the Lord, “May God do to me as he sees fit! Adonijah has made this request at the cost of his life! 24 Now, as surely as the Lord lives—the one who supported me, put me on the throne of my father David, and provided a royal house for me exactly as he promised—Adonijah will be executed today.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah, Jehoiada’s son. He attacked Adonijah, and Adonijah died.

1. The first thing we read of him as king shows his wisdom - in the form of seeing through Adonijah’s motives in seeking Bathsheba’s support to promote his ambitions through a marriage that might inadvertently give him claim to the throne. Solomon honors his mother as she approaches. Yet, Solomon instantly sees what is happening as a continuing threat from a man he had once put “on probation,” sees it is at odds with God’s choice of him as king, and acts on it immediately (by having him killed).

2. Solomon banishes (but does not kill) Abiathar, who, though complicit, had performed risky and loyal duty to his father.

3. Joab apparently had supported Adonijah. David had advised Solomon in some way to punish Joab (out of their very complex relationship). Benaiah, who would be his successor as head of the army, was sent to kill him, he says for the deaths of Abner and Amasa. He does so, as Joab insists, while on the Altar. (This whole saga with Joab, who did so much for David and the Israelites yet was involved in questionable activity, is very odd and deep.)

4. Solomon continues to deal with opposition and likely rebellion by going after the scholarly but disloyal Shimei, to isolate him. Shimei violates the terms of his isolation, his oath, and is killed as a result.

5. “The kingdom was thus established in the hand of Solomon.” As with David, even though the king is selected and anointed, it is not settled until opposition is removed and authority settled.

6. Solomon sets out to solidify his reign in three respects: 1) marrying women from surrounding nations to help establish peace and positive relationships (some say through which he spread holiness into bearers of idolatry), 2) a grant from God of wisdom to govern, and c) judgment, as he showed in the case of the two women and the baby.

A.     It begins with Pharaoh’s daughter. (Lots of debate throughout the ages over the appropriateness of this, but it helps the text says Solomon loved HaShem and the people brought offerings for a great high place to be offered to God. At this time, he went to Gibeon and offered up 1000 elevation offerings on the Altar. Sages say one who does olah also elevates himself to higher degrees of service.

B. God appears to Solomon and asks him to ask for what he needs. This seems so much easier for him than it was for David, whose whole lifetime was devoted to perfecting himself in service of God. Solomon recognizes this is partly an extension of love of David, who “walked before You with truth and justice and with uprightness of heart with You.” 3:6.

C. Solomon prays for an understanding heart, to judge the people, to distinguish between good and evil. God responds with favor, delighted that Solomon requested this, understanding judgment, instead of many years or riches or the lives of enemies, God grants him a wise and understanding heart.

This includes accumulation of knowledge and ability to apply knowledge and reason and deduce facts in service to God and to judge based on right and wrong. Wisdom is achieved through effort, study, and concentration, and I think, too, this gift/blessing of God. More than book knowledge, including understanding of others’ character and needs.

God distinguishes Solomon as unique in these respects, grants him riches and honor, too, and pledges that so long as he walks in His ways, his days will be prolonged.

This happened in a prophetic vision. Solomon then came to Jerusalem with both elevation offerings and peace offerings, and a feast for servants. Tradition sees celebration upon receiving gift of wisdom, as in learning and getting some mastery in Torah, which may explain Solomon’s coming back to the Ark in Jerusalem to make these offerings.

D. The famous story of the two women, in which Solomon proves his wisdom.

I Kings 3:16-28.

16 Sometime later, two prostitutes came and stood before the king. 17 One of them said, “Please, Your Majesty, listen: This woman and I have been living in the same house. I gave birth while she was there. 18 This woman gave birth three days after I did. We stayed together. Apart from the two of us, there was no one else in the house. 19 This woman’s son died one night when she rolled over him. 20 She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep. She laid him on her chest and laid her dead son on mine.21 When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the daylight, it turned out that it wasn’t my son—not the baby I had birthed.”

22 The other woman said, “No! My son is alive! Your son is the dead one.”

But the first woman objected, “No! Your son is dead! My son is alive!” In this way they argued back and forth in front of the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead.’ The other one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and my son is alive.’ 24 Get me a sword!” They brought a sword to the king. 25 Then the king said, “Cut the living child in two! Give half to one woman and half to the other woman.”

26 Then the woman whose son was still alive said to the king, “Please, Your Majesty, give her the living child; please don’t kill him,” for she had great love for her son.

But the other woman said, “If I can’t have him, neither will you. Cut the child in half.”

27 Then the king answered, “Give the first woman the living newborn. Don’t kill him. She is his mother.”

28 All Israel heard about the judgment that the king made. Their respect for the king grew because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him so he could execute justice.

The two women tell their tale, the first in greater detail. As a judge should, Solomon repeats their contending arguments. He plays out his strategy, and on the basis of one woman’s demonstrated compassion and his wisdom in seeing it through to justice, the right result obtained. The people see this, which contributes to better behavior on the people’s part and a deterrence to sin.

7. Solomon’s chief ministers: scribes, appointments secretary, census keeping of the army, overseer of regional commissioners, chamberlain, head of taxes, commissioners who had a variety of assignments including collection of monies and goods. 4. Judah and israel were numerous and profitable and prosperous.

8. Extent of kingdom. 5. Most powerful monarch of time, with wide-ranging kingdom and needs. (One does wonder about how one is to square obvious violations of Torah intent as to women and horses, for example, with God’s blessing of Solomon (?). Some sages argue they were necessary for national security, thus, ok. We’ll see how this plays out.

9. A. God gave Solomon great WISDOM (hochma) and CONSIDERABLE UNDERSTANDING (tevunah), the former to choose between conflicting character traits, and the latter to assimilate and utilize knowledge and general understanding (binah) to compare and draw right conclusions.

B. He also gave Solomon BREADTH OF HEART, which means expertise as immense as the number of grains of sand on the seashore (Radak). Bamidbar Rabbah 19:3 says that just as the sand prevents the ocean from flooding the land, Solomon’s wisdom restrained him (and others?) from indulging wishes opposed by God. Haamek She’eilah says sands restrain the sea from excess as a wise person does not flaunt what he knows and only shows it as needed.

C. Solomon was exceedingly wise, the wisest of all. Or is that Solomon, as the Maggid of Mezritch said, acquired wisdom from all men and took from all the nations the “sparks” their knowledge might have contained.

D. In 12, we get the source for the idea that Solomon was the author of much of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. He communicated in a way all could understand, bridging all gaps in a way all could understand.

E. He spoke of the trees and the animals. He had vast knowledge of living things and their differences, and how they fit into God’s world in nature and in Torah, and ultimately further evidence that wisdom, too, comes from God.

F. All came to hear his wisdom, which has the feel of “being a light to the nations.”

10. Solomon begins to build the Temple as a fulfillment of God’s expectations and David’s desire, now that there is peace and the people are settled and secure, and with involvement of Hiram, king of Tyre, and source of the cedars of Lebanon. This is a Temple for God, not a palace for himself!

It’s a house for the Name of God. 19. Purpose is not for God to be confined in a residence, but rather its purpose is to be a place where God might be served. Metzudos to II Chronicles. 2:5

II Chronicles. 2:5

The temple I am about to build must be magnificent, because our God is greater than all other gods.

The details of the arrangement between Hiram and Solomon, as well as their peace, and the manner of organizing of resources and work, to achieve the aim, in last verses of 5, are worthy of study. (Were the stones hewn by metal implements, for example?)

11. 6. The Temple is built in 832 BCE, over 7 years, based on plans David provided him, based as well generally on descriptions in Torah for the Tabernacle.

12. 11-13. In the midst of all the riches and detail, God’s word comes to Solomon: “This Temple that you build - if you follow My decrees, perform My statutes, and observe all My commandments, to follow them, I shall uphold My word with you that I spoke with David, your father. I shall dwell among the Children of Israel, and I shall not forsake My people Israel.”

Artscroll: God wanted Solomon to realize the physical temple must be a reflection of the nation’s spiritual being. Only if people are in accord with God’s way does God’s spirit reside with them; otherwise, this is just a palace for a human king.

Talmud: to be a builder of God’s Temple, one must be zealous of living true to the mitzvot, because only if one is loyal to Torah will the Temple be “built” in a permanent sense.

13. Solomon builds a grand palace that is described in rich detail. 7.

14. a. Solomon and the nation dedicate the Temple and bring the Ark to the Temple. This apparently occurred around Succot. They brought the Tabernacle from the wilderness journey as well, and it was stored in the Temple precincts. Procession. Many offerings. Notion that staves would still be attached, thought the Ark would not be moved. The traditional view was that once God’s glory filled the Temple in the cloud offerings could only be made here forever.

b. Solomon makes a statement of gratitude to God, mentioning his role and that of David. Solomon then gives a long and moving prayer, including a plea for God’s continued support of the royal line and the people and the king’s and the people’s continuing to preserve their way.

i. Solomon cites words of the various aspects of prayer in his plea, as to say that all will be forthcoming from the people in the Temple and the hope that God will hear and respond to them: the tefilah, the supplication, and the cry. He appears as well to be talking about prayers that will be offered “toward this place,” as if to plea that prayers from anywhere directed here (or to God?) would be heard, and the person, if appropriate, forgiven.

27ii. Solomon prays that God condemn the wicked and vindicate the righteous. If the people sin and are punished but seek to return in prayer, repentance, and supplication that God hear, forgive, and allow return, sending rain. 32-35

iii. Solomon pleads that God be open to the prayer of a non-Jew, so, for among other purposes, all the peoples of the world may know Your Name…. 41

iv. Solomon pleads for God’s responsiveness to help in time of war. 44.

v. Solomon pleads that God will accept repentance of those (individuals and the nation) who sin (“for there is no man who never sins”), with special emphasis on those who have been punished and taken captive but still seek to return, with all their heart and soul, though far away. This anticipates such great sin that there will be an exile from which a person can’t come to the Temple to pray in forgiveness. As in our confession today, Solomon mentions unintentional sin, deliberate iniquity, and wickedness (rebellious, defiant) - the three forms of sinfulness in increasing severity. 46

vi. Solomon stresses that this mercy should be shown because “You made them Yours.”

c. Solomon praises God and blesses the people. “May HASHEM, our God, be with us as He was with our forefathers, may He not forsake us nor cast us off, to turn our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways and to observe His commandments…” And to the people: “May your hearts remain perfect with HASHEM our God, to follow his decrees and to observe His commandments as on this very day.” 57-61

d. Offerings were made. Celebration for 14 days.

15. God responds to Solomon affirming covenant commitment to him and the people so long as people remain loyal in Torah. 9. God specifically calls upon Solomon to live as David did with wholeheartedness and uprightness in following God’s commands.

Much discussion of the funds and laborers it took to build the Temple. Solomon maintains the system of offerings at both special and ordinary times and the orders of the priests and Levites.

16. Solomon builds a navy.

17. Visit of Queen of Sheba to meet this wise man (and perhaps to find the sort of answers all nations will one day seek when they come to Zion. 10. She brings riddles. She sees all the wisdom of Solomon - in his solutions to her problems, in ways and designs of the palace, the food and seating of his servants, the place of attendants, drinks, passageways to the Temple. (This suggests that wisdom can be seen in what we do as much as in what we say, and in what we build. Solomon had both theoretical and practical wisdom, philosophical as well as pragmatic.)

This calls to mind the mitzvot of tzara’at of garments and houses. Our surroundings reveal a great deal about us, all the way from sin to wisdom.

It also brings to mind the idea that holiness can be found in the ways we approach food, as with the mitzvot regarding kashrut.

The ordering of the servants hints of the ordering of the priests and the Levites.

The Queen acknowledges his excellence and wishes that God be praised for putting him on the throne, in love for Israel, to establish him as king to do justice and righteousness. Artscroll: “A nation rises or falls according to the quality of its leaders.” She gives Solomon many fine gifts. He gives her gifts. She returns.

The stories of Solomon with Hiram and Sheba demonstrate leadership, especially by a head of state with other nations and peoples. He had no enemies. Also, he had no inner enemy in that he conquered his own evil inclinations (so say most sages). Wealth, yes, (and it is richly described in this chapter), but it’s to be all in service of God. We should be lavish, but true to God’s ways in it, thus rich in celebrating Torah and our fealty to God.

But, perhaps, even more important, it foreshadows the way the world will come together on that day when God’s sovereignty is to spread across the world. “And the whole world wanted to see Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. And each of them would bring his gift…each year’s due in its year.” 10:25

Akiba says that Solomon was holy. Only a holy person could have composed Song of Songs, the holy of holies.

18. Solomon declines. 11.

a) Solomon begins to fall below his high standard. Is this because of violating the 3 mitzvot - not having too many wives, too many horses, too much gold and silver? Some sages think so.

Did he go astray? Was “too much” corrupting? Did he think he could stay above the problems these limits sought to avoid and that being basically righteous was sufficient? Did he think these were special or messianic times, permitting exceptions? Did he think his expansive ambitions for God required or permitted all this? Did it require a lot, yes, but did it also, in excess, corrupt him? Where’s the balance? Hard to say, but he exceeded it. “So it was that when Solomon grew old his wives swayed his heart after the gods of others, and his heart was not as perfect with HASHEM, his God, as it had been with the heart of his father David. 4.

 (As wise as he was and as noble as his intentions may have been, this tradition says that no one, including the loftiest, can exceed the boundaries specified by God. Isn’t this the theme of Ecclesiastes, the last book purported to be written by Solomon, in which the author laments that wisdom is not the be-all-and-end-all. It’s God’s will.)

b) Solomon builds a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab. God becomes angry with him and tells him of the consequences, the tearing away of the kingship. The kingdom would be split, but (in deference to David) not in Solomon’s lifetime, or entirely. God builds up an antagonist to Solomon, in Hadad, the Edomite, as well as Rezon.

c) Then Jeroboam, a mighty man of valor, rises up in protest as well, specifically around the Millo. An Ephraimite, with a complaint. He ends up leading the 10 tribes north and will later secede from Solomon’s son. Rebellious. Seditious, though supposedly a scholar and strong leader. Some sages see his action as justified in that they effected God’s punishment of the wayward Solomon. But others see it as extreme.

d) Ahijah’s prophecy of the split to Jeroboam. This strengthened his hand to act. Solomon seeks to kill him, but he escapes.

19. After 40 years of reign, Solomon dies. Abarbanel: three sources of Solomon’s power: wisdom, power, and wealth. Tragedy at the end was that all diminished. These had been God’s blessings, but, when he fell from the pinnacle of righteousness, he remained king, but God diminished the blessings.

Another view: the diminution began at the beginning when he sowed the seeds of excess in all he did. He was set on a path of excess and crossing the line and ultimately did.

The Two Kingdoms - Rehoboam in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel. 12.

1.      This division was one of our greatest tragedies.

2. Rehoboam is anointed in Shechem amidst complaints about burdens left over from Solomon’s reign. He seeks but ignores the counsel of his elders and instead listened to peers who were largely flatterers. They advised him to be even tougher with the people. This was both disrespectful to the approach of his father and inflammatory to the people. He dispatches a despised official, who, of course, is pelted with stones and is killed. The situation is ripe for rebellion, as Jeroboam returns.

There is a sense in which this split had been ordained by God, as indicated at the end of Solomon’s life.

3. The word of God comes through a man of God, Shemaiah, that there should be no war but instead the split. Benjamin and Judah remained. The other 10 tribes become the Northern Kingdom.

4. Jeroboam established idol worship, mainly to keep the people from deciding to return to God and unitary rule under the designated king from the House of David. He makes it easier for them by creating two sites, one in the north and one in the south of his kingdom. The priests and Levites were stripped of their authority in the north. He invents a new holiday a month after Sukkot and changes the dates of all festivals even that of Shabbat. He proclaims himself a priest.

5. How could the people turn to idolatry just a generation after dedicating the Temple? Oh how fast things can shift! Recall how quick it was after Mt. Sinai or in the garden? Was it the opulence and less study, spirituality, a body without a soul? The poor leadership? A popular king here and an unpopular king in Jerusalem? The appeal of novelty? Coercion? Satan? The result of God’s banishment, if you will?

6. God sends a man of God, Jeddo, to warn Jeroboam, just as he is violating the altar, saying a Josiah of the House of David will overthrow him and his ways. (Yet, this king doesn’t arise for another three centuries.) Jeroboam is punished immediately by a miracle from God as he seeks to have Jeddo grabbed, but his arm is restored at the appeal of Jeddo. He ignores the prophecy and is on a course from which he will not vary, however.

7. A false prophet tries to discredit the true prophet and succeeds to a tragic end. Even perhaps given the chance, Jeroboam does not repent his evil way and appoints commoners as priests, etc.

Double Tragedies - Chapter 14

1. Jeroboam’s family is doomed. Son becomes ill. Ahijah’s prophesies on end, based on new lows of sinfulness, pride, overarching desire for power beyond what was due. Jeroboam’s son dies. Jeroboam dies. Baasa usurp the kingship in the North, killing Jeroboam’s crown prince.

2. Israel will continue to suffer, too.

3. Rehoboam reigns in Judah. The people did evil, which the king either tolerated or supported. God becomes angry. Egypt loots the kingdom, including treasures of the Temple. First case since Saul of a successful invasion. Rehoboam dies. Abijam becomes king in Judah. 15. He goes in way of sin, too, according to Kings (though not in Chronicles), and dies.

4. Asa, a righteous king, rules in Judah for the duration of all Jeroboam’s successors in Israel. Removes prostitutes and idols. Whole with God, though he did not act with faith in failing to take down the high places or going after the North against Baasa, as he could have (w/o foreign ally). Asa dies, w/ Jehoshaphat becoming king. Nadab, son of Jeroboam, becomes king of Israel and does evil. Baasa strikes down house of Jeroboam.

5. Baasa ends up a failure. He is wicked, as were those who preceded him. He gets rid of Jeroboam’s evil, but he will go, too. Elah becomes king over Israel, but he is quickly cut down by Zimri, who assassinates the house of Baasa, but is taken down by Omri.

6. Omri wasn’t righteous but survived as king of Israel, only to pass on the throne to his son, the notorious Ahab, the most evil of all. He married Jezebel and worshipped Baal.

The Prophet Elijah - Chapter 17 (Note literary quality of Elijah showing up in the text after these many chapters of gross, selfish, materialistic, power-driven, anti-God kings. The reader feels saved! Then to go to the oasis of the story of lovingkindness with the widow - this is mercy!)

1.  Elijah arrives to chastise Ahab and Jezebel. Rambam said he was a disciple of Ahijah. Assembles thousands to  Mount Carmel where he decries false prophets and priests, “HASHEM, He is the God.” “As HASHEM, God of Israel lives….” Ascends to heaven alive, leaving Elisha to bringing word of God to recalcitrant kings of Israel. Elijah prays for God’s mercy, helps God’s people, teaches His most righteous servants, and will proclaim the arrival of the Messiah.

2. Elijah prophecies no rain and then goes into hiding to be safe, with God’s help. Lack of water - appropriate metaphor for this spiritually arid world.

I Kings 17:7 After a while the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land.

The Lord’s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. 10 Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” 11 She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that.14 This is what Israel’s God, the Lord, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15 The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as the Lord spoke through Elijah.

 A simply gorgeous story about a very poor widow (with a child) there who gives him drink and food, though it seems as if she might die without it. Yet, because of Elijah and what she does for him, God performs a miracle for her in the form of a continuing supply of food. This little chamber story is such a contrast with the weight and ugliness of all the power, greed, self-seeking of the preceding chapters. This little world is God’s world, what an oasis in the text, full of sweetness, our living as God wants, and God’s salvation. As the story ends, Elijah calls upon God to save her son, and the son is saved.

3.Elijah appears before Ahab to declare God is ending drought, as restorer of waters. 18. Ahab accuses him as “troubler of Israel.”

But a main purpose is that Elijah challenges all to come to Mount Carmel, as a test for false prophets, and a sanctification of God’s name. Both sides put forward bulls. Which would be lit? Those for Baal must choose. They cut themselves, go into ecstasy (proving they were frauds). Elijah makes an altar there for God, put the bull on, and asks for God’s response. After delay and anxiety for Elijah, it seems, God sends the fire that takes up the offering. They seize the prophets of Baal. Elijah appeals to God that the drought end. Rain comes.

4. Jezebel forces Elijah to flee, and he goes to Judah, in Beer-sheba, and then, lonely, into the wilderness. It seems like he was for quite awhile without direction from God. He is afraid of Jezebel. He falls asleep under a tree. An angel of God touches him and tells him to eat and then again and then to move on. For 40 days and nights, he goes to Mt. Sinai, where he stays in the cleft (the cave) where Moses was. This is a remarkable piece of literature, putting Elijah back in the place of Moses, where Moses learned of the Divine Attributes. It’s as if there’s a new dimension to the vision of God. Now at the site of the smoke and the thunder for Moses and the people way back in the past, we’re to learn a more profound notion of God’s presence and nearness through Elijah’s experience. This is a major moment in sacred text. 

B. Read I Kings 19:9-12. This is an account of Elijah’s seeking God’s support on the mountain. It is very important Biblical text. What does it add to our understanding of God, God’s role in our lives, and Elijah’s place in the story we’re reading?

There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a still, small voice.

5. God asks him why he’s there. He says he’s fought for God and against the people’s evil ways and his life is in danger. Lots of interpretations of the gem that follows in 11-12, which really takes our understanding of the Divine to a new and more advanced place.

a) I think it’s designed to comfort and instruct Elijah and all of us as to the principal place where we can go to get God’s support. It’s not in the wind or the fire, though God does bring them about, and there are earlier conceptions of Him in them, both in other and our traditions. God’s presence is in the still, small voice (kol demahmah dahkah) after the fire. God’s presence is in those places where He is served through Torah, prayer, offerings, and performance of the mitzvot.

b) What does this mean to Elijah? Does it guide him on how to be with the people, too, as to what works and what doesn’t? Do we best teach by love and calmness and nearness, not anger and force, and that God did not principally seek the punishment of the people? Was this a lesson to Elijah who may have had that emotion associated with striking the rock? And/or is it simply a blessing for him, them, and us as to the way we can find God’s nearness and where?

c) Yet, Elijah stays; God asks the same question; and Elijah answers the same! This tells me the Q&A was all re-staged with Elijah being re-oriented to listen to the still, small voice. Now he could receive God’s direction properly. (In other words, I largely disagree with the sages who think this has to do mostly with whether to punish the people. But there may have been a weakness in Elijah’s response.) God gives Elijah the mission of whom to appoint as kings and Elisha, his successor prophet, though, as we’ll see, he serves in some ways for many more years.

Battles Between Ahab and Ben-hadad of Aram. 20. Some evidence that as evil as Ahab was, he and the people refused to handle the Torah scroll over, even under great duress. Some see this as cause of a saving (though temporary) miracle for him from God, victory in the battle, though against overwhelming odds. Ahab, mistakenly, lets Ben-hadad off.  Artscroll: “misplaced mercy is cruelty in disguise.” God will punish him for not following through. Ahab was either too weak or unwilling to follow through as directed, so the miracles cease for him. Michtav MeEliyahu” “God helps people realize their potential only as long as they do not close the doors to possibility of growth.”

Ahab and Jezebel Remain Wicked. 21.

1.Dispute over Nahoth’s vineyard. Jezebel schemes to get it, surreptitiously has Nahoth killed, and gets the property for Ahab.

2. Elijah appears to rebuke Ahab on behalf of God for murdering and inheriting. 17-28. The stated punishment for both Ahab and Jezebel is severe, ugly deaths and annihilation of their descendants. Ahab appears to repent and submit to God, so God postpones the punishment.

Jehoshaphat and Ahab ally.

1. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was righteous but allies with Ahab, for which Jehu condemns him for consorting with evildoers. They agree to fight again with Aram, though Jehoshaphat wants God’s assent first and insists upon help of a true prophet, Micaiahu. Prophet tells of Ahab’s demise. Ahab has him jailed.

2. Both kings go forward with war, with Jehoshaphat apparently thinking the prophecy didn’t apply to him. Ahab tricks him, trying to direct his fate to the the other king. He cries out (in prayer?), saving himself. Ahab was killed.

3. Ahaziah will reign in Israel, emulating Ahab and Jezebel (and Jeroboam), evil in the eyes of HASHEM. Jehoshaphat rules in Judah, generally righteously, acting in ways proper in the eyes of HASHEM, as did his father, Asa, but he did make peace with Ahab and still does not remove the high places. He dies, and his son, Jehoram takes the reign in Judah, only to go in wicked direction. 

II Kings 

Elijah’s Prophecy Is Fulfilled, Ascent to Heaven 1-2 

1. The prophecy begins to take effect as Moab rebels against Israel after Ahab’s death, through the death of the rebelling Ahaziah. Jehoram reigns.

2.Elijah is lofted to heaven alive in a whirlwind from Gilgal (where Joshua made first encampment and where Samuel rallied the people to Saul) or from Beth-el or from Jericho or to the Jordan. Disciples show up at each destination. Elijah encourages Elisha to go on, but he stays each time. They cross the Jordan. A chariot of fire and horses of fire came and separated them, and Elijah ascended to heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha took his garments and rent them in two. Elisha picks up Elijah’s mantle, and the spirit of Elijah rested on him.

Much in sacred text about Elijah’s later appearances on earth. Was it just his spirit? Was he just taken some place high and far away to live? Did his body get purified in some way and go to the spiritual world? 

Elisha Becomes the Leading Prophet 

1.  Jehoram becomes the king of Israel, allies with Jehoshaphat to fight Moab, gets into trouble in the desert, and seeks help from a prophet. They have a fascinating encounter with Elisha in 3. One fine part of the narrative is when Elisha, so disturbed by Jehoram, asks “to bring me a musician” so he draw upon himself the prophetic spirit he had lost! Rashi says this was to return him to a state of joy so he could receive prophecy again. Then “the hand of HASHEM came upon him.”

2. Elisha’s prophecy of a miracle - a valley full of water and other developments that lead to victory over Moab.

3. Now we see the compassionate side of Elisha in 4. The widow of a prophet (maybe Obadiah) is in desperate straits (due possibly to unethical behavior of Jehoram) comes to Elisha, seeking help, and he provides her an unending flow of oil. (This is reminiscent of the earlier story of Elijah.)

(There is a fantastic deep, spiritual reading of this story in the notes on pp. 256, 257. It shows the interest of sages at looking at deeper levels of narrative to see the working of God, the soul, and our best decisions and actions.)

4. Another act of generosity - with the Shunammite woman. She’s hospitable to him, and he effects the miracle both of blessing her with a child and then restoring the child to life after he dies. (Also, reminiscent of Elijah)

5. Another miracle. Food for starving prophets. In Gilgal. He now teaches and helps disciples where he first learned Elijah would be taken to heaven.

Read II Kings 5:1, 7-15

Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, “What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me.”

When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel’s king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: “Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he’ll know that there’s a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.10 Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.”

11 But Naaman went away in anger. He said, “I thought for sure that he’d come out, stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. 12 Aren’t the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel’s waters? Couldn’t I wash in them and get clean?” So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger.

13 Naaman’s servants came up to him and spoke to him: “Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.’” 14 So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean.

15 He returned to the man of God with all his attendants. He came and stood before Elisha, saying, “Now I know for certain that there’s no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”

6. The Aramean general, Naaman, is struck with tzara’at (unusual in that tzara’at only affected Jews, though he was an eminent man, well honored, and the one through whom HASHEM granted victory to Aram, including having killed Ahab). (Did he get the condition because of arrogance? Lots of discussion.) He goes first to the king of Israel for relief. But it will take a Divine agent. When Elisha hears of this, he wants to help to sanctify God’s Name through the cure.

Part of the “treatment” is for Naaman to come in all his finery to Elisha’s humble home to seek the cure (dealing with arrogance). Elisha prescribes the bathing, and Naaman is enraged (still a problem!). His servants convince him to acquiesce. He is cured (also of skepticism and haughtiness and sees that his salvation came from God, abandoning idolatry).

(We see in all of Elisha’s activity the service that is due God - helping Israel, promoting the true and opposing the wicked, honoring the memory of people of God, helping the poor and widow, keeping of the mitzvot, promoting life, honoring hospitality, and bringing others away from idolatry and to God.)

Naaman offers a gift, which Elisha refuses, believing it was not due him, for it was God’s miracle. Yet, in a moment of treachery, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, out of greed, seeks out Naaman on his return, and says in a lie that his master wanted some money to give some disciples. Naaman gives it to him. For acting unethically based on the character blemish of greed and deceit, Gehazi is plagued by Elisha with tazara’at, and he is banished. 

Elisha’s Miracles Continue. 6.

1. Concern for a disciple who faced a financial predicament. As the disciples were building an additional dwelling, an axe-head fell into the water and rises in a miracle.

2. Elisha foils Aramean ambushes. Then Aram goes into the famine-ridden Samaria. The king apparently speaks of HASHEM favorably, and Elisha prophecies at God’s word an ultimate end to the famine because of it. But the king returns to wicked ways after there’s food.

3. The tale of the Shunammite woman continues in 9, with her property stolen and ordered to be returned by the king.

4. Elisha goes to Damascus to fulfill the task of Elijah’s to name a new king in Aram. Elisha prophecies the rise of Hazael but grieves over the harm he will do to Israel.

5. The spiritual decline of Judah, as Jehoshaphat dies and his son, Jehoram, takes the reign and goes in wicked directions. Ahaziah, also evil, becomes king next.

6. Elisha anoints Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, as king of Israel, to destroy the remnants of the house of Ahab. 9. Jehu kills both Jehoram and Ahaziah as well as Jezebel.

7. Jehu pursues entire family of Ahab. 10. In doing so, he showed 4 leadership skills: he deflected criticism from himself, he made the leaders of Samaria collaborators, stressed what they had done was in fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy, and established himself as king of Israel.

8. Jehu traps and destroys worshippers and idols of Baal. He removes Baal from Israel over his 4 generation reign, but, partly because he “did not watch to follow the Torah” altogether and turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, the kingdom begins to be carved away by foreign invaders. He’s succeeded by Jehoahaz. (though Elisha installed him, the pick was perhaps better than alternatives but not very good)

9. The bloodthirsty Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, arises and has influence in the south. Wickedness. 11. Joash was hidden. Queen is overthrown, and he is made king of Judah, preserving the Davidic line. Effort led by Jehoiada, the Kohen. Athaliah is executed.

10. Jehoash’s reign. 12. Some sages say he was righteous, but only as long as Jehoida lived. He did restore the Temple. Judah suffered attacks at the end, and he was assassinated. His son, Amaziah became king.

11. In Israel, Jehoahaz becomes king, Joash becomes king. It was during his reign that God, with Elisha, gives some relief from Aram. But, though complicated, Joash turns out mostly evil.

12. Elisha performs his last miracle. Some say since he asked for and was granted by Elijah with a double share of spiritual power he performed 16 miracles to Elijah’s 8. He responds to Joash’s plea in a manner worth studying. 13:14-23. The shooting of the arrows. Elisha dies and is buried, yet another miracle occurs when a body falls into his grave and is strengthened. A temporary victory over Aram. 

Amaziah’s Reign in Judah

1. Righteous to a point. A bit like his father. He becomes overconfident in battle and pays a price. He tries to bring the king of Israel into further exploits, but unsuccessfully. Instead Jehoash of Israel defeats Amaziah.

2. The king of Israel took all the gold and silver and more from the Temple and place in Jerusalem. Jehoash dies (for being arrogant? for looting the Temple?) and is succeeded by Jeroboam. Amaziah has drifted into idolatry and was assassinated.  Aazariah becomes king.

Jeroboam II Becomes King of Israel - Long serving and successful (largely sinful but with some merit), because of God’s mercy to the people, according to the text. 

Azariah Becomes King of Judah. 15.

1. He was king when Jeroboam was king of Israel. Much like his father he started off good, refused to take down the private altars, and turned bad toward the end.

2. He was inflicted with tzara’at, though successful in most ways, for arrogantly offering incense in the Temple. This is Uzziah.

3. Jotham becomes king upon father’s death.

Zechariah Becomes King of Israel, Does Evil, and Is struck Down By Shallum who Becomes King.  Menahem Murders Him. He Dies. Pekahia Becomes King, Killed. Pekah Becomes King, Killed. Hoshea Becomes King.

1. From here on, most kings of Israel seized power wrongfully and were evil. Significant decline.

2. Menahem bribes the king of Assyria to go back. But the way is paved for a return! And Assyria begins its conquest when Pekah is king. The sages see this process of defeat taking place in stages as a way of seeing that God gave the people chances to repent and return, and they didn’t.

Jotham Becomes King of Judah, Dies, and Ahaz Becomes King

1.Righteous, except for allowing offerings from high places. Jotham did build upper gate of Temple.

2. Ahaz brings depravity and idolatry to Jerusalem. Sages say he began a campaign against Torah study, dismantling the education of children in Torah, thus leading Judah in generations to become like idolatrous neighbors.

3. Campaigns of Aram against Judah begin.Even Pekah of Israel attacked. Isaiah tells Ahaz that God will protect them, but Ahaz seeks out help from Assyria. He pays him richly, growing Assyria’s power and further weakening Judah. Ahaz becomes even more depraved, seeking to place a replica of  the Aramean altar in Jerusalem and have it serve instead of the one in the Temple and violates the Temple. 

Hezekiah Becomes King of Judah. Hoshea, Last King of Israel

1.  Hezekiah - one of the greatest kings, though parents had been so antithetical to God.

2. Hoshea - evil. Assyria invades, conquers, and exiles. Sages say Israel was given multiple opportunities and generations to atone and return, but did not. 17:7-23 provide for a superb account of the rebellion of the people and the consequences God imposed on them.

3. Much discussion and debate about the fate of ten tribes.

4. Hezekiah - either “God strengthened him” or “He strengthened Israel in devotion to God.” 18. He did what was proper in eyes of God: removed high places, shattered pillars, cut down Asherah-trees. No one like him afterwards in Judah, nor who preceded him (likely excluding David and Solomon, though a few make the case that he was in some ways greater, i.e., Ralbag.) Josiah, in some ways?

Total trust in God. Clung to God. Observed mitzvot. HASHEM was always with him and gave him security. Beat several opponents, including Philistines.

Miracle > He builds walls to keep Assyrians and without water. Assyria comes. He pays tribute. Yet, they want more - conquest. They strike fear in the people. Hezekiah seeks help of Isaiah and his prayers. Isaiah says God will provide victory. Sennacherib is diverted back home because of an attack, but he returns. Hezekiah prays, essentially asking God to help for the sake of His own Name, if not for the people. Isaiah responds with an encouraging prophecy in 19:22-34, that the Assyrians won’t enter the city. In 35, we learn that an angel of HASHEM strikes down 185,000 of the Assyrian camp, as if by plague. The Assyrian king returned, in shame. Text says he was assassinated upon return.

Hezekiah’s Illness and Beyond

1. Isaiah tells him he’s about to die. He prays to God, pleading that he had followed God wholeheartedly. Isaiah prophecies recovery.

2. After recovery, Hezekiah flatters king of Babylonia, showing them his treasure house. God chastises him, saying one day all this will be captured by Babylonia. What was his sin? Bloat? Obsequiousness? Giving away secrets? Luring the Babylonians’ greed and desire?

3. Much positive about Hezekiah, including bringing water source (spirituality or Torah) into the city. 

Manasseh Becomes King. 21

1. Evil. Undoes the good Hezekiah did, bringing destruction on the Judah.This people was now doing “more evil than the nations that HASHEM had destroyed before the Children of Israel.” This included shedding of innocent blood. God will act now - destruction will come. It’s as if there had been an accumulation over all this time of waywardness that had finally tipped into an irredeemable culture of sorts. Manasseh is mentioned all the way through the Babylonian destruction at the end of Kings as the principal source of God’s wrath.

2. Sages say he endeavored to kill Isaiah.

Amon Becomes King, Then Josiah, a Righteous King of Note

1.Amon walked in the way of his father. He is killed, and Josiah becomes king. He’s righteous, the last great king. His coming was prophesied 3 centuries before to Jeroboam. Josiah launches a repentance movement. Perhaps he represents a spark of holiness in Judaism that is never extinguished, however far off track we go.

2. Josiah Repairs Temple.

II Kings 23:1-3, 21-22, 25, 26-29

II Kings 23:1 the king sent a message, and all of Judah’s and Jerusalem’s elders gathered before him. Then the king went up to the Lord’s temple, together with all the people of Judah and all the citizens of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets, and all the people, young and old alike. There the king read out loud all the words of the covenant scroll that had been found in the Lord’s temple. The king stood beside the pillar and made a covenant with the Lord that he would follow the Lord by keeping his commandments, his laws, and his regulations with all his heart and all his being in order to fulfill the words of this covenant that were written in this scroll. All of the people accepted the covenant.

II Kings 23:21 The king commanded all the people, “Celebrate a Passover to the Lord your God following what is instructed in this scroll containing the covenant.” 22 A Passover like this hadn’t been celebrated since the days when the judges judged Israel; neither had it been celebrated during all the days of the Israelite and Judean kings. 25 There’s never been a king like Josiah, whether before or after him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, all his being, and all his strength, in agreement with everything in the Instruction from Moses.

II Kings 23:26 Even so, the Lord didn’t turn away from the great rage that burned against Judah on account of all that Manasseh had done to make him angry. 27 The Lord said, “I will remove Judah from my presence just as I removed Israel. I will reject this city, Jerusalem, which I chose, and this temple where I promised my name would reside.” 29 In his days, the Egyptian king Pharaoh Neco marched against the Assyrian king at the Euphrates River. King Josiah marched out to intercept him. But when Neco encountered Josiah in Megiddo, he killed the king. 

3. A newfound scroll of Torah! It either is Deuteronomy, or it’s rolled to a passage in Deuteronomy that foretells the doom of a wayward people. There is a prophecy of such that is delivered to Josiah. It appears he won’t see the doom.

4. Nevertheless, even in the face of this, he begins a repentance campaign and endeavors to uproot all the idols. As with Hezekiah, he never thought it was too late. In public, he reads from the Admonition in Deuteronomy, seals a covenant to follow God and cleanses the land of idolatry and the practices associated with idolatry that had become commonplace. They fulfill the prophecy of burning the bones of the idolaters. The people follow him. This culminates in an unprecedented Pesach, a  bringing of the people wholehearted to God, an acknowledgement that power is God’s.

5.All of this was a response to the words in the scroll. 24.

6. “Before him, there had never been a king like him who returned to HASHEM with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his resources, in accordance with the entire Torah of Moses, and after him no one arose like him.” 25. (This was the way he excelled.)

7. Nevertheless, God did not relent. The evil was too entrenched and would re-appear after Josiah. It’s not that it’s ever too late to repent. The people were too steeped in evil to turn back. God will mourn but must act.

8. Josiah dies in battle. Jeoahaz becomes king. Jeremiah mourns over Josiah’s death, seeing it as the first step in the destruction.

9. Deterioration of the monarchy and the nation. It begins with Egypt’s despoiling Israel. Jehoiakim becomes king, collaborating with Egypt. 

Babylonia (Nebuchadnezzar) Takes Down Egypt, Then Conquers Judah

1  The besieging of Jerusalem begins at 24:10. Stripping the Temple. Forces the exile of virtually all, including the scholars and sages, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Mordechai.

One must remember in the utter gloom of this end and its pain that there is survival, even strengthening, for Judaism in the future: in the chastisement, the return, God’s double promise, the revivification in Jerusalem, the Talmud, and even after the Roman destruction Yavneh, etc.

2. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah.

3. The final battle in Jerusalem is recounted in 25. The city and the Temple are burned on the notorious day of the 10th day of the 10th month. It started on the 9th of Av. The treasures were taken away, and most of the people who survived the assault and slaughters were exiled. 

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Leadership in the Bible .    Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Josiah

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