Lecture 71: Davidӳ Efforts on Behalf of the Temple (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

Mikdash

 

 

Lecture 71: David’s efforts on behalf of the temple (part I)

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

In order to complete our discussion of the period of David, in this lecture, we will summarize David’s efforts on behalf of the Temple. Our main thesis is that the first Temple was built by two kings, father and son – David and Shelomo.

 

The soul of the construction – the initiative, the search for the location of the proper site, the acquisition of the property and erection of an altar, the planning and preparation of the materials, craftsmen, mishmarot and ma’amadot – all this was done by David, and for the most part after he already knew that the actual construction would not be carried out by him, but by his son. Moreover, while it was undoubtedly Shelomo who actually built the Temple, as this was forbidden to David,[1] Chazal indicate that certain aspects of the building were done by David himself.

 

We already noted that in a certain sense, the construction of the Temple by two kings lessens the possibility that either one of them would feel as if he, out of arrogance and haughtiness, was preparing a place for the House of God. On the other hand, the first king over all of Israel not only chooses the capital city for future generations, but also determines in many senses its eternal connection to the site of the Temple.

 

It is interesting that Scripture connects three prophets to the building of the Temple: Shemuel – who established and divided up the mishmarot and, according to Chazal, also sought the site of the Temple; Natan – who asked to build the Temple after the ark was brought up to the city of David; and Gad – who located the site. This phenomenon may be explained in two ways: 1) In each period, David worked together with the most prominent prophet of the time;[2] 2) Each prophet occupied himself with a different aspect of the construction of the Temple.[3]

 

            It is also possible to suggest that parallel to the two kings who built the Temple, several prophets prophesied about the Temple. The eternal House of God does not belong to a single person, and not even to a single prophet.[4]

 

It is interesting to examine the relationship between the books of Shemuel and Divrei Ha-yamim on this issue. The book of Shemuel describes the events connected to the Temple with extreme succinctness. As we already saw in the lecture regarding the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem, the description of the incident in the book of Shemuel is short and concise in comparison to the parallel description in Divrei Ha-yamim. The book of Shemuel does not relate in any way to the moving of the Mishkan from Shilo to Nov and Giv’on. The story of the census appears, but there is no discussion of the preparations for the building of the Temple that followed in its wake. The book of Divrei Ha-yamim, in contrast, describes these events at great length, while emphasizing David’s praises and the details of his efforts on behalf of the Temple. Chapters 23-29, which follow the story of the census, are devoted entirely to the preparations for the construction of the Temple.[5] In this context, mention should also be made of the many psalms of Tehillim that describe David’s longings and yearnings to build the Temple.

 

II. David’s preparations for the building of the Temple

 

1) establishing the priestly mishmarot

 

In Divrei Ha-yamim I 9:22-23, following the list of the Levite gatekeepers, we read:

 

All these who were chosen to be keepers in the thresholds were two hundred and twelve. They were reckoned by their genealogy in their settlements, whom David and Shemuel the seer did establish in their office of trust [be-emunatam].

 

The Radak explains (ad loc.):

 

David and Shemuel established the watches of the priests and Levites and they established that they be no fewer than two hundred and twelve. The word be-emunatam means be-kiyumam – that they established and confirmed this. As in, “And the decree of Esther confirmed [kiyyem] these matters” (Esther 9:32). Here too it means that they established and confirmed the matter, that it would be that way for all time…

 

Chazal also related to the establishment of the priestly watches by Shemuel and David:

 

R. Chama bar Gurya said in the name of Rav: Moshe established eight watches for Israel, four from El’azar and four from Itamar. Shemuel came and reduced them to six watches. David came and expanded them to twenty-four.

An objection was raised: Moshe established eight watches for Israel, four from El’azar and four from Itamar. David and Shemuel came and expanded them to twenty-four watches. As it is stated, “Whom David and Shemuel the seer did establish in their office of trust.”

It means as follows: From the foundation of David and Shemuel of the Rama, they set them at twenty-four. (Ta’anit 27a)

 

We began our discussion of this topic with the establishment of the priestly watches because it is in that connection that the prophet Shemuel is explicitly mentioned in the context of the Temple. Although the focus of this lecture is David’s efforts on behalf of the building of the Temple, we wish to expand here somewhat on Shemuel’s efforts – independently and together with David – which naturally relates to the early period of David’s life.

 

On one other occasion, Scripture mentions Shemuel in connection with the Temple, as one who together with other leaders of Israel dedicated property for the Temple:

 

This Shelomot and his brethren were over all the treasures of the dedicated things, which David the king, and the heads of the fathers’ houses, the captains over thousands and hundreds, and the captains of the host had dedicated. Out of the spoils won in battle did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord. And all that Shemuel the seer, and Shaul the son of Kish, and Avner the son of Ner, and Yo’av the son of Tzeruya had dedicated, and whoever had dedicated anything, it was under the hand of Shelomit and of his brethren. (Divrei Ha-yamim I 26:26-28)

 

Chazal and the Rishonim make additional references to Shemuel’s contribution to the Temple.

 

Rava states (Zevachim 54b):

 

What is that which is written: “David and Shemuel went and stayed in Noyot in the Rama”? What is the connection between Noyot and the Rama? Rather, they were in the Rama and occupied themselves with the beauty of (noyo) the world [Rashi: The beauty of the world – to locate the Temple's site from the Torah].

 

The gemara there brings Shemuel and David's derasha on the passage dealing with the tribal territory of Binyamin. The verse expounded by Rava refers to the period during which David ran away from Shaul to Shemuel. In other words, this took place in the early part of David’s life, after he had been anointed king, but before he actually ascended to the throne.

 

Bamidbar Rabba (15:11) attributes an enactment regarding the song sung in the Temple to Shemuel and David:

 

How many strings were on the harps played by the Levites? R. Yehuda said: There were seven strings on the harps… And who established it for them? Shemuel and David. As it is stated, “Whom David and Shemuel the seer did establish in their office of trust.” And they established the divisions of the songs.

 

One verse summarizes David’s plans for the Temple: “All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me, all the works of this pattern” (Divrei Ha-yamim I 28:19). Rashi comments as follows:

 

All the works of this pattern – He edified and enlightened me about the pattern of the house, that is, the length, the width, and the height. All of this Shemuel expounded from the Torah with the holy spirit… and taught to David.

 

Shemuel was a Levite, son of Elkana and Chana (whose deep connection to the Mishkan needs no elaboration); he trained with Eli in the Mishkan and served there (according to the Zohar [II, 148b], Shemuel served in the priesthood as a temporary, emergency measure). Without a doubt, these things had a decisive impact on Shemuel's special connection to the sanctuary and its service. This family connection continued in the person of Heman son of Yo’el, Shemuel’s grandson, who was one of the most prominent singers, among those "whom David set over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark had rest. And they ministered before the dwelling place of the Tent of Meeting with singing, until Shelomo built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they performed their office according to their order" (Divrei Ha-yamim I 6:16-17).[6]

 

            In summary, Scripture, and especially Chazal and the Rishonim, attribute to Shemuel an important role in the fashioning of the future Temple together with David - in the search for the site, the planning of the building and dedication of property to it, the foundation of the priestly watches, and the establishment of the singing routine.

 

2) Dedication of the spoils of war to the temple

 

The chapter that describes the wars of David states as follows:

 

And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. And from Betach, and from Berotai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took very much brass. When To'i King of Chamat heard that David had smitten all the army of Hadadezer, then To'i sent Yoram his son to king David to greet him and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and smitten him; for Hadadezer had wars with To'i. And Yoram brought with him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass, which also king David did dedicate to the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all the nations which he had conquered; from Aram, and Mo'av, and the children of Ammon, and from the Pelishtim, and Amalek, and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rechov, king of Tzova. (Shemuel II 8:7-12)

 

            The Radak (ad loc.) explains (as do other Rishonim): "It says 'he brought them to Jerusalem,' to teach you that he gave them to the treasury of the House of God for consecration."[7] This is clear from the addition found in the parallel passage in Divrei Ha-yamim I 18:

 

Likewise from Tivchat, and from Kun, cities of Hadadezer, David took very much brass, with which Shelomo made the brazen sea, and the pillars, and the vessels of brass. (Divrei Ha-yamim I 18:8)

 

            It is important to emphasize that David's search for the site of the Temple (according to the gemara in Zevachim), his establishment along with Shemuel of the priestly watches, and his dedication of the spoils of war were all done during the early period of David's monarchy. The search for the site of the Temple and the establishment of the watches took place even before he actually reigned as king, and the dedication of the spoils of war happened at the beginning of his kingship over all of Israel. Thus, from the very outset David planned to turn his kingdom into the foundation of the Temple.

 

3) Bringing up the Ark from Kiryat-Ye'arim to the city of David and leaving it in Jerusalem during Avshalom's rebellion (Shemuel II 6; Divrei ha-Yamim I 13 and 15; Shemuel II 15:25-26)[8]

 

4) the request to build the Temple and the search for the site of the temple (Shemuel II 7; Divrei ha-Yamim I 17)

 

About four hundred years after the Israelites entered the Land, David was the first to seek the site of the Temple, request permission to build it, and do whatever he could possibly do to further that end.

 

Psalm 132 in Tehillim describes David's afflictions prior to his discovery of the site of the Temple. The precise time of the composition of the psalm cannot be determined,[9] but the mention of Efrat and Sedei Ya'ar ("Lo, we heard of it at Efrat: we found it in Sedei-Ya'ar;" v. 6) – which alludes to Kiryat Ye'arim – suggests that it was composed after the ark had been transferred to Jerusalem.

 

The midrash emphasizes seeking the site of the Temple without waiting for a prophet:

 

"But to the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes" (Devarim 12:5) – seek out through a prophet. You might say you should wait until a prophet tells you. Therefore, the verse states, "There shall you seek out his dwelling, and there shall you come" (ibid.) – seek and find and afterwards the prophet will tell you. And so you find regarding David, as it is stated, "Lord, remember to David's favor all his afflictions, how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the mighty God of Yaakov: Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house… I will not give sleep to my eyes… until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty One of Yaakov" (Tehillim 132:1-5). (Sifrei, Devarim 62)

 

            This is one of the most important points in David's relationship with the Temple - the initiative, the desire, and the self-sacrifice to uncover the site and engage in building.

 

            The midrash argues that owing to David's great distress about the Temple, God sent the prophet Gad to answer his request:

 

"He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him" (Tehillim 145:19). Why? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not foil his prayer, but rather gives him what he asks for. This is David, about whom it is written, "I am a companion of all those who fear Me" (ibid. 119:63). When [David] was distressed about the Temple, as it says, "Lord, remember to David's favor all his afflictions… Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house… I will not give sleep to my eyes… until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty One of Yaakov" (ibid. 132:1-5). When the Holy One, blessed be He, saw him standing in distress about the Temple, he immediately sent the prophet Gad to him and showed him the site of the Temple. As it is written, "And Gad came that day to David, and said to him, ‘Go up, rear an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusite" (Shemuel II 24:18). And immediately David went. This is what is written, "And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded" (ibid. v. 19). And he found there the altar upon which Adam had offered a sacrifice, and upon which Noach had offered a sacrifice, and upon which Avraham had offered a sacrifice. As soon as he found it, he began to measure, saying, From here to here is the [Temple] courtyard, from here to here is the Holy of Holies. As it is written, "Then David said, ‘This is the house of the Lord God’" (Divrei Ha-yamim I 22:1). And "This is the altar of the burnt offering" (ibid.). For the Holy One, blessed be He, does not foil the spirit of the righteous, but rather he gives them whatever they ask for, to fulfill that which is stated, "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him." (Pesikta Rabbati 43)

 

            In order to fully appreciate the meaning of the seeking, the yearning, and the searching, it should be noted that nowhere in the Torah, nor in the books of the Prophets, do we find a separate command to build the Temple. The only command in this regard is the command to build the Mishkan, from which Chazal learned: "'According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle… even so shall you make it' (Shemot 25:9) – for future generations" (Sanhedrin 16b). The Torah leaves the seeking to man - "There shall you seek out his dwelling, and there shall you come" (Devarim 12:5) – and therefore David's stirrings, his yearning, his afflictions, and all his efforts on behalf of the Temple are quite admirable when we compare him to all the leaders who had preceded him.

 

5) The purchase of the threshing floor with the money of all of Israel and the erection of an altar on the site (Shemuel II 24; Divrei Ha-Yamim I 21)

 

6) The preparation of the materials and the craftsmen (Divrei ha-Yamim I 22:2-4, 14-19; 29:1-9)

 

7) THe preparation of the priests and the levites and their division into watches for the temple service (Divrei ha-Yamim I 23-26)

 

8) The preparation of a plan for the Temple (Divrei ha-Yamim I 28:1-19)

 

            David testifies about the basic plan for the Temple:

 

All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me, all the works of this pattern (Divrei Ha-yamim I 28:19)

 

            The Radak explains (ad loc.):

 

"All this is put in writing by the hand of the Lord" – this means: Here you have it all in writing, arranged in order as if it were from the hand of the Lord, all the works of this pattern, for it was said by way of prophecy … by Shemuel the seer.

 

            Chazal relate that this prophecy was handed down from generation to generation in the Temple scroll:

 

R. Yirmiya said in the name of R. Shemuel bar Rav Yitzchak: The Temple scroll which the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to Moshe while standing. This is what is written, "Now stand you here with Me" (Devarim 5:28). Moshe stood and gave it to Yehoshua while standing. This is what is written, "Call Yehoshua and stand" (ibid. 31:14). Yehoshua stood and gave it to the Elders while standing. This is what is written, "And Yehoshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shekhem… And they stood before God" (Yehoshua 24:1). The Elders stood and gave it to the Prophets while standing. This is what is written, "Now, stand" (Shemuel I 12:7). The Prophets stood and gave it to David while standing, but there is no verse. David stood and gave it to Shelomo while standing: "But You, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up" (Tehillim 41:11). "All in writing" (Divrei Ha-yamim I 28:19) – this teaches that he gave it by way of tradition. "Who instructed me" – this teaches that he gave it by way of prophecy. (Midrash Shemuel 15:3)

 

            And in Aggadat Bereishit, chap. 38:

 

Our Rabbis said: For thirteen years David was sick and bedridden… until he asked for mercy from the Holy One, blessed be he, saying before Him: Master of the Universe, raise me up for the sake of the Temple that the prophet Shemuel handed over to me… And I will complete for them the scroll of the building of the Temple. As it is stated, "But You, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up that I may complete it" – raise me up from the illness and I will complete for them the scroll of the building of the Temple. Immediately, God heard his prayer and he stood up from bed… for he was cured and made healthy, and he stood on his feet after all those years, and he gave them the Temple scroll.

 

SUMMARY

 

            In this lecture, we surveyed David's efforts on behalf of the Temple as they find expression in Scripture. In the next lecture, we will complete our examination of David's efforts in the words of Chazal, as part of an overall examination of the chapters dealing with David and the Temple.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] According to Abarbanel (Melakhim I 7:51), it was for this reason that Shlomo was forbidden to use what David had prepared. See note 5.

[2] In this context, note should be made of the relationship in time between Gad and Natan. The prophet Gad is already mentioned in David's early days – during his wanderings (Shmuel I 22:5), prior to the death of Shmuel (25:1). He is mentioned again in the story of the census, many years later. Only afterwards do we meet Natan for the first time (Shmuel II 7), and we encounter him again during the days of Shelomo (Melakhim I 1; Divrei Ha-yamim I 9:29).

[3] This possibility requires further examination. It may be suggested that the prophet Gad expresses the stage of yearning, whereas Natan expresses the stage of actual establishment of the site.

[4] I thank R. Yoni Grossman for this insight.

[5] It is perhaps possible to understand this in light of the difference in the objectives of the two books and the time of their composition. See this year's Lecture no. 67, "Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem (part I)," note 1.

[6] Some of Shmuel's actions relate to the Mishkan. It is possible that some of them are directed at the Mikdash that was to be built in the future. Chazal mostly use the term Mikdash.

[7] There are two important elements in the consecration of the spoils of war to the Mikdash. First, it expresses the recognition that the war was fought on behalf of God. Second, it involves a repair and elevation of the world; instead of being used to kill, the metal is transferred into holy service. It should also be mentioned that according to the Midrash (Pesikta Rabbati 6:7), in the end, Shlomo made no use of what had been prepared by David.

[8] See shiurim nos. 67-68, which were dedicated to this issue.

[9] We noted in the past that according to the Radak, this psalm was composed at the time of the revelation of the site in the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi.