Lecture 83: The Sins of the Kingdom of Yarovam

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

Mikdash

 

 

Lecture 83: The sins of the kingdom of Yarovam

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            In this lecture, we will continue to consider the spiritual and religious novelties that Yarovam introduced into his kingdom.

 

THE CALVES IN DAN AND BET-EL

 

            In the previous lecture, we discussed the calves built by Yarovam and their spiritual significance. Another point connected to the calves that we mentioned relates to the location of the calves in Dan and Bet-El. In addition to the fact that Yarovam selected places of religious and spiritual importance in the ancient history of Eretz Yisrael, these holy places were situated on the borders of the kingdom: in the north in Dan and in the south on the border with the kingdom of Yehuda (in the northern part of the tribal territory of Binyamin) in Bet-El.

 

            R. Yoel Bin-Nun[1] demonstrates the striking contrast between the notion that the territory of Binyamin is the territory of the Shekhina and the idolatrous notion of border Temples:

 

Here we finally come to the significance of the fact that the tribal territory of Binyamin was the territory that was sanctified: the difference in conception between an internal temple and external border temples. Border temples are national temples, and they are generally connected to wars fought against external enemies, to the defense of the territory whose borders they mark, and to the differentiation between this territory and all other territories. According to this territorial national-ritual conception, each territory and each nation has its patron god who is the master of that territory. Conquering nations often offered sacrifices to the gods of the lands that they conquered in order to appease them…

 

            According to the idolatrous outlook, every territory has its own god, who is master of that territory. Allusions to such an outlook appear in several places in Scripture:

 

  • Yiftach says to the king of Ammon: "Will not you possess that which Kemosh your god gives you to possess? So likewise that which the Lord our God has dispossessed from before us, that shall we possess" (Shoftim 11:24).

 

  • Similarly, in the words of Amatzya, who offers a sacrifice to appease the gods of Se'ir in the aftermath of his cruel victory: "Now it came to pass, after Amatzyahu came from the slaughter of the Edomim, that he brought the gods of the children of Se'ir, and set them up to be his gods, and prostrated himself before them, and burned incense to them" (Divrei Ha-yamim II 25:14). Amatzya offers a sacrifice to the gods of the land that he had conquered, the lord of that territory.

 

  • An even more striking expression of this point appears in relation to the Kuttim, where we find the formulation "the law of the god of the land" (Melakhim II 17:26).

 

The idea of the sanctity of borders exists in distorted, idolatrous form also among the Pelishtim. When they wish to return the ark of the covenant, it is stated:

 

And see, if it goes up by the way of his border to Bet-Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us. (Shmuel I 6:9)

 

R. Bin-Nun argues that this was the sin of the people of Bet-Shemesh, who saw the ark of God and decided to set up an open sanctuary on a great stone, something like a border stone. Thus, the Israelites accepted the Pelishti idea and committed the same sin as the sons of Eli, who took the ark out to battle at Even-ha-Ezer, thereby leading to the destruction of Shilo. According to R. Bin-Nun, this is what the prophet Amos means when he calls Bet-El "the king's sanctuary" (Amos 7:13), a term that expresses a direct continuation of this idolatrous idea.

 

In contrast, the Jewish notion is one of a sanctified, internal territory of the Shekhina. The Mikdash is internal/priestly, distinguished from the monarchy and its wars, and its borders signify a difference in status within a single system. In contrast, military-political borders express the deliverance that God puts in the hands of the king. War and the places reached through battle are not to be turned into sites of permanent temples. The Temple is internal and the borders of sanctity are graduated.

 

According to this understanding, the borders of the Temple and the territories connected to it are borders of peace – borders connected to sanctity - whereas the borders of the nation and of the land are results of war.

 

One of the best known ideas in this context that is brought by R. Bin-Nun is the connection between the Temple/altar and peace. R. Bin-Nun adduces many proofs in support of this idea. For example, the Torah forbids raising a sword over and dressing the stones of the altar; the selection of the place where God will rest His name will only come after the people of Israel come to "the rest and to the inheritance" and dwell in safety; the tribe of Levi, including the priests, are not part of the fighting army; and the independence of the tribe of Levi and of the priesthood vis-א-vis the monarchy is clearly preserved.

 

The separation between kingdom and priesthood is somewhat similar to the separation of the judicial and legislative authorities from executive authority in a democratic state. According to this, the entire Temple system is independent of the ruling regime, which cannot order it around in any way with respect to ritual matters.

 

It is also clear that setting up the calves on the borders of the kingdom, in addition to the connection between the god of Israel and the kingdom of Israel (without the kingdom of Yehuda), constitutes a challenge to the selection of Jerusalem as the only place where God chose to rest His name.

 

In addition, according to this understanding, there is no sanctity of a sanctuary – a central site that radiates of its sanctity upon the entire country - but just the opposite: the sanctity is found on the edges, in the border temples of Dan and Bet-El. The sanctified area is the territory found between the two calves.

 

An interesting idea in this context is the possibility of seeing the two calves as substitutes for the two keruvim. (It should be remembered that the ox, father of the calf and symbol of the tribe of Yosef, appears in the vision of the Chariot in Yechezkel 1:10 in place of the keruv in the vision of the Chariot in Yechezkel 10). It may be possible to say that according to this approach, God reveals Himself to His nation in the expanse between the two calves, that is to say, all across the kingdom between Dan and Bet-El, this being the sanctified land, parallel to the Divine revelation to Moshe from between the two keruvim.[2]

 

BLURRING OF THE SEPARATION OF POWERS

 

            In this context, I wish to continue the line of thought developed by R. Bin-Nun in his article and demonstrate that Yarovam not only failed to distinguish between the kingdom and the priesthood, but just the opposite:

 

And Yarovam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Yehuda, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bet-El, sacrificing to the calves that he had made; and in Bet-El he placed the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bet-El on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast to the children of Israel; and he went up to the altar to burn incense. And, behold, there came a man of God out of Yehuda by the word of the Lord to Bet-El: and Yarovam stood by the altar to burn incense. (Melakhim I 12:32-33 – 13:1)

 

            Scripture repeatedly emphasizes the fact that Yarovam himself went up to the altar to burn incense. This is a continuation of the tendency that is expressed in the fact that Yarovam appointed priests who were not of the descendants of Levi, thus abolishing the uniqueness of the priesthood.

 

            Through these actions, Yarovam, on the one hand, freed the people from having to give the tithes and other priestly gifts, but on the other hand, he opened this role to all, as is stated explicitly in the continuation:

 

After this thing, Yarovam returned not from his evil way, but made again of all ranks of the people priests of the high places. Whoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. (Melakhim I 13:33)

 

Yarovam created a new class – the priests of the bamot - in place of the traditional priests and Levites. In this sense, there is a direct connection between the rejection of the selection of Jerusalem and the rejection of the selection of the priests, the sons of Aharon, from the tribe of Levi, from the priesthood. Yarovam argues that just as there is no single place chosen by God to rest His name, there is no single tribe fit for Divine service, but rather all people are fit for that task.

 

In the wake of Yarovam's making all ranks of people into priests, the traditional priests and Levites left the kingdom of Israel and moved to the kingdom of Yehuda:

 

And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their districts. For the Levites left their pasture lands and their estates and came to Yehuda and Jerusalem, for Yarovam and his sons had cast them out from serving as priests to the Lord; and he ordained for himself priests for the high places, and for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made. (Divrei Ha-yamim II 11:13-15)

 

            The new priests served at the bamot, and in the worship of the satyrs and calves. As part of his abolition of the priesthood, the king himself went up to the altar, burned incense upon it, and conducted himself like a priest.

 

            Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews V, p. 230) writes that Yarovam appointed himself High Priest. This does not indicate a blurring of the boundaries between the priesthood and the kingdom, but rather the kingdom's total takeover of the priesthood, as if they were not distinct realms. This demonstrates absolute submission of worship to the kingdom.

 

            According to this, we can understand the words of God in the mouth of the man of God who comes from Yehuda and prophesies about Yarovam's punishment:

 

And, behold, there came a man of God out of Yehuda by the word of the Lord to Bet-El, and Yarovam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born to the house of David (Yoshiyahu by name), and upon you shall he slay the priests of the high places that burn incense upon you, and men's bones shall they burn upon you.” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.” And it came to pass, when the king heard the saying of the man of God who had cried against the altar in Bet-El, that he put out his hand from the altar, saying, “Lay hold on him.” And his hand, which he put out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back. (Melakhim I 13:1-4)

 

            These actions are a direct consequence of Yarovam's outlook, according to which his monarchy maintains absolute control over worship. As stated, this outlook certainly accords with the idea of border temples, according to which the borders of the kingdom also mark the borders of the sanctified territory, and the sanctified site on the border of the kingdom is located on the border of the kingdom's expansion as a result of war.

 

MAKING A FEAST IN THE EIGHTH MONTH

 

And Yarovam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Yehuda, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bet-El, sacrificing to the calves that he had made, and in Bet-El he placed the priests of the high places which he had made. (Melakhim I 12:33)

 

It would seem that the feast referred to here is the feast of Sukkot, which Yarovam established a month after its fixed day in Tishrei in the kingdom of Yehuda.

 

            The juxtaposition of the feast to the placement of the priests of the bamot in Bet-El and to the king's going up to the altar alludes to the possibility that Yarovam meant to celebrate a feast in honor of the dedication of the bamot. Like Shlomo, who joined the dedication of the Temple to the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishrei, Yarovam made a feast for the dedication of the bamot that he built in Bet-El and joined that feast to the festival of Sukkot, which he postponed for a month to the fifteenth of Cheshvan. It is reasonable to assume that he expected all the inhabitants of the kingdom of Israel to make the pilgrimage for this feast and celebrate the feast with him in Bet-El.

 

            Over and beyond the desire for independence and separation in all realms (new sites of worship, new priests), Yarovam set up a new calendar. While it is very possible that the feast that was celebrated was, with respect to its content and nature, the festival of Sukkot as it was practiced in Yehuda, setting a new date created an entirely different system and absolute separation between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Yehuda. As soon as the times of the pilgrimage festivals were no longer the same, the sites of worship were different, and the priests at the bamot and at the altar in Bet-El were no longer the traditional priests a whole new religious establishment was created as an alternative to the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

            R. Margaliot[3] suggests that the postponement of the festival of Sukkot by a month was accomplished through the intercalation of the year. Thus, there was no invention of a new festival, but merely the postponement of an existing festival.[4] In this way, it was relatively easy to employ halakhic arguments to persuade the inhabitants of the kingdom of Israel to celebrate Sukkot a month late.

 

            It is reasonable to assume that following the intercalation of the year, the calendar of the kingdom of Israel differed from the calendar of the kingdom of Yehuda by a month. It may be surmised that out of a desire to preserve the distinction between the two kingdoms, Yarovam set the calendar in the kingdom of Israel according to the calendar in the kingdom of Yehuda, so that if a the year was intercalated in Yehuda, it was intercalated in Israel as well.

 

            In this context, it should be noted that Zev Ehrlich[5] argues that the common expression "sins of Yarovam" relates to the prohibition that existed in the days of Yarovam to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. This expression also appears in connection with several other kings after Yarovam; only in connection with king Hoshea ben Ela does it not appear, because it was he who removed the guards that Yarovam ben Nevat had set up to prevent pilgrims from reaching Jerusalem. The assumption is that in Hoshea’s days, the calendars of the two kingdoms became equated because Chizkiyahu, who ruled at that time in the kingdom of Yehuda, intercalated the year during the month of Nissan with the objective of uniting the people of Israel. That way, the northern tribes – Efrayim, Menasheh, Yissachar and Zevulun – would also be able to celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem together with the people of the kingdom of Yehuda.

 

            The Yerushalmi in Avoda Zara (1:1) says as follows: "R. Yose bar Yaakov said: Yarovam began to rule as king over Israel in the year following the Sabbatical year." It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that all the important events mentioned in connection with this pilgrimage took place in the context of a hakhel convocation (when the king went up to the altar to burn incense).

 

THE SIN OF THE BAMOT

 

            In this section, we will continue our description of the spiritual situation at the time of the split of the kingdom in the days of Yarovam and Rechav'am, and we will deal with one of the central elements among the sins of Yarovam – the sin of the bamot.

 

            As stated above, the man of God from Yehuda rebukes Yarovam about the bamot, and over the course of the first Temple period, this issue serves as an important criterion even in the kingdom of Yehuda for the prophetic evaluation of the various kings. Accordingly, the prophet Yirmiyahu – in the summary of the kingdoms of the kings – relates to the fact that the bamot had still not been removed.

 

            In the kingdom of Israel as well, the explicit summary in Melakhim II 12 of the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and the exile of Shomron relates to the sacrificial service at the bamot as a direct continuation of the sins of Yarovam.

 

            We will briefly examine the history of the bamot from the time of Israel's entry into the land and during the course of the period of the kings:[6]

 

  • As we mentioned in the previous lecture, there is testimony to the existence of additional altars in Eretz Yisrael, besides the Mishkan (e.g., at Giv'on and at Bokhim).

 

  • In the days of Yehoshua, in addition to the altar that the people of Israel were commanded to build at Mount Eival, mention is made of an altar built by the two and a half tribes along the Jordan River (Yehoshua 22:10). From the reaction of the two and a half tribes to the harsh objection raised by the rest of Israel, we learn that the main problem in what they did was the very establishment of an additional altar outside the Mishkan:

 

God forbid that we should rebel against the Lord and turn this day from following the Lord to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meal offerings, or for sacrifices, besides the altar of the Lord our God that is before His tabernacle. (Yehoshua 22:29)

 

  • There is no evidence from the period of Yehoshua of altars/sacrifices in other places outside the Mishkan.

 

  • In Shekhem, a large stone is set up under the oak by the sanctuary of God:

 

And Yehoshua wrote these words in the book of the Torah of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. (Yehoshua 24:26)[7]

 

Beginning in the period of the Shoftim, we find altars and temples in various places outside the Mishkan (in Bokhim [Shoftim 2:5], in the time of Gid'on [ibid. 6:24-26], in Yiftach's vow [ibid. 11:31], in the time of Mano'ach [ibid. 13:19-20], at the carving of Mikha and in the temple at Dan). This reality emphasizes the diminished status of Shilo during this period and the fact that parallel to the Mishkan in Shilo, sacrifices were brought in forbidden manner outside of it.

 

            In the book of Shmuel, when the great bama was in Nov and afterwards in Giv'on[8] and when the ark was in Kiryat-Ye'arim and afterwards in the City of David, we find sacrifices being brought in various places: in Bet-Shemesh (Shmuel I 6:14), in Mitzpa (ibid. 7:9), in Rama (7:17), and in Gilgal (11:15). Similarly, in the days of Shaul (ibid. 13:9-10; 14:35; 15:21), in the days of David (Shmuel II 15:2-5), by Avshalom (ibid. 15:8-9), David's sacrifice in the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi (ibid., 24:25), and the great bama in Giv'on (Melakhim I 3:4).

 

            From the prophetic evaluation of the kings of Yehuda, it also follows that, with the exception of Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu, all the kings from Rechav'am on sinned with bamot.

 

            Upon closer examination of the verses, however, we see that the sin of the bamot was not regarded as a great offense. Let us bring several examples:

 

  • With respect to kings who committed more severe sins, both in the kingdom of Yehuda and in the kingdom of Israel, no mention is made of the sin of the bamot. The sin of the bamot is mentioned among the sins of Yarovam and in the summary of the kingdom of Israel (Melakhim II 17).

 

  • When Ravshakeh turns to the soldiers in Jerusalem in the days of Chizkiyahu, he says to them as follows:

 

And Ravshakeh said to them, “Speak now to Chizkiyahu: Thus says the great king, the king of Ashur: What confidence is this in which you trusted? You say [that] a mere word with the lips will serve as counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom do you trust, that you rebel against me… But if you say to me, We trust in the Lord our God, is not that He, whose high places and whose altars Chizkiyahu has taken away, and has said to Yehuda and Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem? (Melakhim II 18:19-22)

 

It would seem from these verses that the people objected to Chizkiyahu's removal of the bamot.

 

  • Similarly, we see from the words of Eliyahu on Mount Carmel:

 

And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword; and I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (Melakhim I 19:10)

 

It would seem from here that the destruction of the altars is included in the breaking of the covenant, together with the killing of the prophets!

 

            In light of these points, Dr. Noach Chakham arrives at two conclusions:

 

1)     The bamot were widespread among the people from the period of the Shoftim and on (to the exclusion of the entire period of Yehoshua).

 

2)     It would appear that until the time of Chizkiyahu, sacrifice on the bamot was not regarded as a sin.

 

Scripture itself attests to the first point, and in great measure, so do the archeological findings. In the findings that have been uncovered, we are not always dealing with an actual bama, and sometimes we are only dealing with structures similar to the Temple, with three rooms, one opening into the other – parallel to the Ulam, the Heikhal, and the Devir. Thus, for example, such a structure was found in Arad, which according to the archeological evidence was closed down in the days of Yoshiyahu.

 

This seems to testify to the fact that people who lived at a distance from the Temple were not prepared to give up on serving God by way of sacrifices. Even though this was forbidden, they did this out of a desire to turn to God, in a structure that was forbidden to be built and in a place where it was forbidden.

 

It is possible to argue, based on various opinions in Chazal, that this was not really forbidden. Thus, for example, the Sages disagree about how to understand the verses in Parashat Re'eh:

 

Our Rabbis taught: "For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance." "Rest" alludes to Shilo; "inheritance" to Jerusalem. And thus it says: "My inheritance is become unto Me as a lion in the forest" (Yirmiyahu 12), and it says: "Is My inheritance unto Me as a speckled bird of prey?" (ibid.); these are the words of R. Yehuda. R. Shimon said: "Rest" alludes to Jerusalem; "inheritance" to Shilo, as it is said: "This is My resting-place for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it" (Tehillim 132), and it says: "For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation" (ibid.)… The school of R. Yishmael taught: Both [words] allude to Shilo. R. Shimon ben Yochai said: Both allude to Jerusalem. (Zevachim 119a)

 

            Rashi (ad loc.) explains the words of R. Shimon ben Yochai: "'Both allude to Jerusalem' – but until the Temple was built, bamot were not forbidden." According to this understanding, from the time of Israel's entry into the land and until the days of Shlomo, there was no prohibition of bamot whatsoever. According to this, regarding all the instances in which sacrifices were offered outside the Mishkan during the period of Shilo, bamot were permitted, and thus there was no problem. All the instances in which the prophets come with the criticism, "only the bamot were not removed," relate to the period following the building of the Temple, from the period of Rechav'am and on.

 

            Another possibility brought in the Yerushalmi[9] states as follows:

 

R. Yosa said in the name of R. Yochanan: This is the sign – whenever the ark is inside, bamot are forbidden; if it went out, bamot are permitted.

 

            The continuation of the gemara implies that what is stated here may refer even to short periods of time. In other words, even when the ark is removed for a certain period of time (such as for the battle in Even-ha-Ezer), bamot are permitted during that time.

 

            The idea underlying this principle is that when God chooses to rest His name in a particular place, this finds expression in the fact that the ark is inside it. Accordingly, the Mishkan serves in perfect manner as the seat of the King, King of kings, and therefore in such a situation it is forbidden to serve Him in any place other than that where He rests His name. However, the moment that the ark is not inside, but rather outside the Mishkan, even for short time, God's permanent revelation in a particular place is imperfect, and therefore it is permissible in such a situation to worship him in all places.

 

            According to this understanding, it may be assumed that while the Mishkan was in Shilo, wherever we find the offering of sacrifices outside the Mishkan, the ark had been removed from the Mishkan (thus explains the Meshekh Chokhma mentioned in note 9 above).

 

            Thus, it follows that there are various aspects to the question of the bamot:

 

  • On the one hand, we find that the prophets themselves relate to the phenomenon, and that they voice harsh criticism against the priests of the bamot (e.g., in the words of the man of God coming from Yehuda, Melakhim I 1:13).

 

  • On the other hand, various prophets do not deal explicitly with the severity of the sin of the bamot.

 

Modern research also demonstrates different attitudes to the basic issue. According to Oppenheimer,[10] there were three stages that accord with accepted Halakha:

 

  • In the first stage, when the house of God was in Shilo, the entire service had to take place in Shilo itself. Further study is required to determine how service at the bamot spread so extensively and spontaneously during this period – was this a sin (this is the way the book of Shoftim relates to the efod in the days of Giv'on [8:27] or to the carving of Mikha [Shoftim 17:4-6]), or was it permitted in certain cases (either because of a special Divine revelation in that place or in order to rid a particular place of idolatry).[11]

 

  • In the second stage, from the destruction of Shilo (Shmuel I 4) and until the building of the house of God by Shlomo (Melakhim I 6:8), the ark was separated from the Mishkan: the ark was in Kiryat-Ye'arim, whereas the great bama – the Mishkan – was found in Nov and, following its destruction, in Giv'on.

 

  • With Shlomo's building of the house of God, bamot became permanently forbidden. Therefore, in the book of Melakhim, we find harsh criticism against the bamot from the moment that the permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem.

 

Dr. Noach Chakham leaves unanswered the question regarding the exceptional cases during the period of the Shoftim. How is it possible that during the period of the Shoftim sacrifices were offered in all kinds of places? On the other hand, according to Dr. Chakham, the very fact that there is no absolute prohibition, and that in certain cases it is even permitted, as opposed to the period when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, teaches that there was no absolute prohibition during this period. This situation accords with the view of R. Shimon ben Yochai, who understands that both terms, the "rest" and the "inheritance," refer to Jerusalem -but until then bamot were permitted.

 

The question arises, how it was possible that sacrifices were offered at bamot when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. It seems that two possible directions can be proposed:

 

First, it is possible that it took time until everyone recognized the fact that Jerusalem had been sanctified as the permanent site of worship selected by God, and that therefore all other places were forbidden. This was a process that took a long time.

 

Another possible way of explaining this phenomenon is that with the split of the kingdom, the selection of Jerusalem was cancelled. The very fact that calves stand in Dan and Bet-El permitted the worship of God in additional places. Instructive in this context is the fact that the first king to remove the bamot was Chizkiyahu - following the destruction of the kingdom of Shomron. According to what has been suggested here, this is very understandable. After the people of Israel once again constituted a single kingdom, the service of God was permitted in only one place, the house of God in Jerusalem, and therefore Chizkiyahu destroyed the bamot at which God was served in other places.

 

IS THERE AN OBLIGATION TO DESTROY BAMOT THAT WERE USED IN THE SERVICE OF GOD?

 

            The words of Ravshakeh intensify the question of how it was possible to destroy a place that had been used for the service of God. It is possible that this is precisely the reason that the kings recoiled from enforcing the ban on bamot by destroying the bamot. Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu remove the bamot and prevent the conducting of the sacrificial service there, but they do not destroy them. Similarly, in the temple in the city of Arad, the altar was buried, but not destroyed.

 

            Prof. Elitzur, z"l, conjectures that the tens of mounds of stones located in the southwestern outskirts of Jerusalem (in the vicinity of Kiryat Menachem, Ora, and Aminadav) are bamot that had been used in the worship of the God of Israel and later buried by king Yoshiyahu. Yoshiyahu did not destroy the bamot at which the priests served God during the period of Menasheh, a period during which it was impossible to serve in the Mikdash itself owing to the idols set up in the sanctuary.[12]

 

            As for the intensity of the prohibition of bamot:

 

            According to Grintz,[13] the prohibition of bamot in Devarim 12:13 applied to the first generation of those who entered into the land, and this was to prevent them from offering sacrifices on all the altars that they found upon their entry into the land. According to this explanation, this is the meaning of the verse, "Take heed to yourself that you offer not your burnt offerings in every place that you see" (Devarim 12:13). That is to say, with Israel's arrival in the land, it fell upon them to build altars in the place chosen by God, and not in the places chosen by the nations that they conquered.

 

According to Cassuto,[14] the meaning of the prohibition accords with the plain sense of the verses. There is a prohibition against each person independently establishing his sites of Divine service; God, by way of the prophets, chooses the place where he will rest His name.

 

SUMMARY

 

            Let us try to summarize Yarovam's actions in the religious and spiritual realm (in addition to the national and political split):[15]

 

            Yarovam wanted to present an alternative to the accepted worship in the united kingdom in the Mikdash in Jerusalem.

 

            If we adopt R. Yehuda HaLevi's approach in his Kuzari (I:96 and IV:13), Yarovam presents an alternative approach to Divine worship – an approach that runs counter to the Torah, but nevertheless is directed at the God of Israel – that is based on ancient traditions (ancient sites of worship, service conducted by representatives of all of Israel, and not just the priests) and popular modes of service that were common among the tribes of Israel (e.g., the carving of Mikha in Dan).

 

            Yarovam's actions included: prohibiting pilgrimages to Jerusalem; building two calves, in Dan and in Bet-El; building a house of bamot in Bet-El in which there stood, in addition to the calf, a large, central altar; appointment of priests from all sectors of the people; changing the calendar and postponing the holidays for a month, while dedicating the house of bamot in Bet-El, with the king himself serving as high priest on the altar.

 

            These e actions of Yarovam created an absolute break from Jerusalem, a break from dependence upon the tribe of Levi and the descendants of Aharon the priest, and a break from the calendar set in the kingdom of Yehuda. Yarovam brought a new creation into being, one in which the people of the kingdom of Israel served God in new ways (calves, a house of bamot), through new representatives (priests from the entire people), in new places (Dan and Bet-El as public border temples and houses of bamot in other places), and at new times.

 

            We are not dealing here with idolatry in the classic sense of the term; it would appear that the contents of the worship remained basically unchanged. But all these changes created a new reality, one in which the service assumed a new form and differed from the old service with respect to its most fundamental components (time, place, people, and the nature of the service).

 

            It is important to emphasize that the detachment from Jerusalem impacted upon all the components mentioned.

 

            We are dealing here with a system directed from above by a king that impacts upon the entire kingdom from the beginning of the split and until the destruction of Shomron and of the entire kingdom of Israel.

 

            In the next lecture, we will analyze the next stage in the kingdom of Israel from a spiritual perspective, in addition to the innovations of Yarovam - namely, the idol worship in the days of Achav, which impacts upon the kingdom of Yehuda as well.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] In his article, "Nachalat Binyamin Nachalat Shekhina,” in Lifnei Efrayim U-Binyamin U-Menasheh (Jerusalem, 5745), pp.25-46. The article is also available at R. Yoel Bin-Nun's website: http://www.ybn.co.il/mamrim/m47.htm.

[2] Thus suggests Zev Ehrlich in his article, "Le-Beirur Hevdelim bein Mamlekhet Yisra'el Le-Mamlekhet Yehuda (Bi-Yemei Yarov'am ben Nevat)" in Sefer Ya'akov Leslau (Tel-Aviv, 5745 [1985]), pp. 215-235.

[3] In his book, Ha-Mikra Ve-Ha-Mesora (Jerusalem, 5725), pp. 54-56.

[4] According to this explanation, however, the intercalation took place in Elul, contrary to Halakha, according to Tosefta Sanhedrin 2/3 and the gemara in Sanhedrin 12.

[5] In the article mentioned above in note 2.

[6] We related to this issue in brief in the lecture: http://vbm-torah.org/archive/yeru/12yeru.htm - "The Place that God will Choose."

[7] We related to this earlier this year in lecture no. 63: "The Assembly at Shekhem."

[8] During this period, there was permission to offer sacrifices on bamot according to the mishna in Zevachim 14.

[9] Yerushalmi Megilla (1:11), cited by the Meshekh Chockhma in his commentary to Devarim 12.

[10] D. Oppenheimer, "Li-She'elat Rikkuz Ha-Pulchan be-Yisra'el, Tarbitz 28 (5719), pp. 138-155.

[11] Hoffman argues that the offering of sacrifices outside of Shilo was only permitted in places that had been sanctified through Divine revelation or through the ark of the covenant having been located there.

[12] Yehuda Elitzur, "Le-Mahut Ha-Regamim Be-Ma'arav Yerushalayim," in Yisra'el Ve-Ha-Mikra (Bar Ilan, Ramat Gan, 1999), pp. 164-171.

[13] Y.M. Grintz, Ha-Kippur al Ha-Reforma shel Yoshiyahu Ve-Sefer Devarim (Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uchad, 5769), pp. 222-241.

[14] Cassuto, Devarim, Encyclopedia Mikra'it II, pp. 608-615.

[15] Which in some cases had far-reaching ramifications with respect to the relationship between the two kingdoms and between the kingdoms and the surrounding powers.