Shelomo's Monarchy in Jerusalem (VI):The Milo

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #16: Shelomo's Monarchy In Jerusalem (VI)

The Milo


Rav Yitzchak Levi



            To complete our study of the period of Shelomo, we wish today to discuss the issue of the Milo, one of the most important structures during this period. We shall begin with its identification, continue with an examination of the events connected to it – the building of the royal complex and the house of the daughter of Pharaoh and the rebellion of Yarovam - and conclude with an examination of the significance of the building in the context of Shelomo's overall outlook.




1.         THE SOURCES:


In order to understand the meaning of the term Milo, we must first examine all the sources in which the term is mentioned. The Milo is mentioned during the days of David, Shelomo and Chizkiyahu. The verses which describe David's hold on Jerusalem following its conquest state:


So David dwelt in the stronghold and called it the City of David, And David built round about from the Milo and inward. (II Shemuel 5:9)


And David dwelt in the stronghold; therefore they called it the City of David. And he built the city round about, even from the Milo round about. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 11:7-8)


            During the days of Shelomo, in the framework of the description of the royal buildings, it is stated:


And this is the manner of the levy which King Shelomo raised; to build the house of the Lord, and his own house, and the Milo, and the wall of Jerusalem. (I Melakhim 9:15)


But Pharaoh's daughter came up out of the City of David to her house which he had built for her. Then did he build the Milo. (Ibid. v. 24)


            In the account of Yarovam's rebellion, it is stated:


And Yarovam the son of Nevat, an Efrati… he lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Shelomo built the Milo, and repaired the breaches of the City of David his father. (Ibid. 11: 26-27)


            Regarding King Chizkiyahu, it is stated:


And he strengthened the Milo in the City of David. (II Divrei Ha-yamim  32:5)


            In addition, the Milo is mentioned in two places in the expression, "the house of Milo." Regarding the murder of King Yehoash, it is related:


And his servants rose, and made a conspiracy, and slew Yoash in the house of Milo, on the way that goes down to Sila. (II Melakhim 12:21)


            And in the story of Avimelekh (there we are dealing with the area of Shekhem!), it is stated:


And all the men of Shekhem gathered together, and all the House of Milo, and went, and made Avimelekh king… But if not, fire will come out from Avimelekh and devour the men of Shekhem, and the House of Milo; and fire will come out from the men of Shekhem, and the House of Milo, and devour Avimelekh. (Shoftim 9:6, 20)


            These are all the biblical references to the Milo.




Various explanations have been offered regarding the word "Milo." It is commonly understood in the sense of "filled in" with earth and stones, but there are a number of possibilities regarding the nature of this filling. According to one possibility, we are talking about the filling in and topographical elevation of a certain area. According to another possibility, we are dealing with some type of fortification based on support walls that strengthen and raise a certain area (e.g., an incline), and thus improve the military defense conditions and allow for stable construction above it (which also improves the defense possibilities). It is also possible that it refers to a fortified building – an actual stronghold.


Is it possible to decide between these three possibilities based on the sources? The expression, "house of Milo," suggests that we are dealing with an especially fortified structure which was raised with a filling of earth and stones. From the context of the verse regarding Chizkayahu – preparing the city for Sancheriv's siege – it stands to reason that we are dealing with the fortification of a particular area. The Milo built by Shelomo is mentioned between his house and "the wall of Jerusalem," and therefore it could be a fortification of a certain area filled in with earth. Regarding the other sources, the first possibility is the most appropriate: the filling in of a certain area.


In the Rishonim and in modern scholarship, we find various suggestions similar to the basic explanations presented above. Rashi, Rabbeinu Yeshaya and Mahari Kra all explain that we are dealing with supporting fortifications adjacent to the wall:


A low wall filled in with earth, the high point of the mound being in the middle and sloping in all directions – this is called Milo. Upon it David constructed buildings and that Milo surrounded the stronghold. (Rashi, II Shemuel 5:9)


Milo refers to the earth that is put next to the wall from the inside up to the height of the wall, so that it will be easy for them to climb from the city to the wall. And on that very mound of earth on the inside of the wall he built towers all around. Similar to this is "And they filled them with earth" (Bereishit 26:15). (Rabbeinu Yeshaya, ibid.)


There was a place in Jerusalem in the City of David called Milo because it was surrounded by a low wall and filled in with earth. (Mahari Kra, I Melakhim 9:15)[1]


            A similar approach was taken by the archeologist Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated the steep eastern slope of the City of David. Kenyon discovered along the length of a large part of this slope a series of boxes filled with earth and stones, which served as large supporting walls that raised the slope and strengthened it, thus allowing for stable construction above it. According to her, this was the Milo.[2]


            Radak (and in his wake also the author of the Metzudat David) understood that the Milo was an open square. He suggests the novel interpretation that the word Milo denotes a gathering of people:


The Milo was a place adjacent to the wall, wide enough for the people to assemble there… and from there and further in he built. (Radak, II Shemuel 9:5)[3]


            Prof. Ben-Zion Luria suggests[4] that the Milo refers to a strong fortification that served as the residence of the officers and soldiers of a certain class (according to this, it is possible that the Milo is the "house of the warriors" mentioned in Nechemya 3:16).


            An intermediate possibility might also be suggested that the Milo was a stronghold built on an area that had been raised by a landfill of earth and stones.


            Today, however, one of the most widely accepted understandings (see, for example, the Olam ha-Tanakh commentary on II Shemuel, ibid.) – and we too shall follow in its path – is that the Milo refers to a landfill of earth and stones in the saddle between Mount Moriah to the north and the City of David to the south. It is possible that in an ancient period – perhaps in the days of Shelomo – the king filled in this area with earth in order to turn the eastern ridge into one consecutive entity, and also in order to raise the king's house above the city.[5]




As we have seen, the Milo is mentioned in the days of David, but the intensive royal construction only began in the period of Shelomo. It is possible then that the reference to the Milo in David's days is based on something that would only be built in the future.[6]


            During the days of Shelomo, the Milo played a significant role in two contexts: Shelomo's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter and Yarovam's rebellion. We shall try to demonstrate the connection between the roles played by the Milo in these two incidents.


            As it may be remembered, following his marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, Shelomo brought his wife to the City of David, "until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about" (I Melakhim 3:1). Later, after having completed his two greatest building projects – the house of God and the house of the king – Shelomo built his wife a house as part of the royal complex (Ibid. 7:8). For our purposes, what is important is the next verse, which attests to the connection between the times of the building the house of Pharaoh's daughter and the Milo:


But Pharaoh's daughter came up out of the City of David to her house which he had built for her; then did he build the Milo. (I Melakhim 9:24)[7]


            The nature of the connection seems to be clear. We have already demonstrated (in Shiur no. 14) that the royal complex was situated between the house of God to the north and the city to the south – precisely in the area where the Milo was found according to our understanding! It may be concluded then that the royal buildings, including the house of Pharaoh's daughter, were built on the Milo, and that the Milo, the house of God, the royal palace, and the wall of Jerusalem were effectively a single construction project. Therefore, Pharaoh's daughter had to wait until the project was completed (which, according to our understanding, took place in the twenty-forth year of Shelomo's monarchy) in order to move from the City of David to her house.


            Now we can move on to discuss Yarovam's rebellion. Scripture says about him as follows:


And Yarovam the son of Nevat, an Efrati, of Tzereda, Shelomo's servant, whose mother's name was Tzerua, a widow woman, he lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the matter that he lifted up his hand against the king. Shelomo built the Milo and repaired the breaches of the City of David his father, And the man Yarovam was a mighty warrior. And Shelomo seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the labor of the House of Yosef. (I Melakhim 11:26-28)


Why is the statement, "Shelomo built the Milo and repaired the breaches of the City of David his father," regarded as a lifting up of a hand against the king? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (101b) connects this directly to the daughter of Pharaoh:


Rabbi Yochanan said: Why did Yarovam merit the kingdom? Because he rebuked Shelomo. And why was he punished? Because he rebuked him in public. As it is stated: "And this was the matter that he lifted up his hand against the king: Shelomo built the Milo and repaired the breaches of the City of David his father." He said to him: Your father David made breaches in the wall so that Israel would make pilgrimage visits. But you have closed them in order to make a levy (anagriya) for Pharaoh's daughter!


            Rabbi Yochanan's statement takes us back in a most interesting manner to the difference that we already noted in the past between the house of David and that of Shelomo. David's house was situated in the middle of the city. Therefore, the breaches that he left in the wall – apparently the northern wall – allowed for a direct connection between the city and the Mikdash. This direct approach was closed off by Shelomo, when he built the royal complex to the north of the wall, and this, according to Rabbi Yochanan, in order to make a levy for Pharaoh's daughter. The term used by Rabbi Yochanan, "anagriya," refers to a levy that must be paid to the ruling authority in personal service or the service of one's animal (Ibn Shoshan Dictionary). But what is the idea of an "anagriya" in the context of the daughter of Pharaoh? Rashi (ad loc.) offers three possible understandings:


And you fenced them in to raise a levy – so that they should enter through the gates, and you should know who came in, in order to collect a tax for Pharaoh's daughter…

Another explanation: He closed the gates and made a tower for Pharaoh's daughter above one of the gates, and all pass through there so that they should be near her to show her honor and serve her. All service of the royal house is called "anagriya."

Another explanation: Shelomo was accustomed to close the gates of the Temple courtyard and keep the keys to himself. And it is the manner of the king to sleep the first three hours of the day, and Israel had to stand outside the Temple courtyard until the king arose. And Yarovam said to him: "Do you want them to give you an angriya for your wife the daughter of Pharaoh, so that you should give them the keys!"[8]


The Milo – he sealed one of the breaches, and filled the hole in the wall and built there a tower for the daughter of Pharaoh and the men who served her.


            In effect, Rashi in his commentary continues the midrashic tendency that we discussed in the previous shiur to contrast Shelomo's connection to the daughter of Pharaoh with his connection to God in the Temple. The repair of the breaches was meant to allow for the collection of a tax from those making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the daughter of Pharaoh (a tax upon which the pilgrimage was conditioned!) and force them to honor and serve her. Thus, Shelomo turned the journey undertaken to appear before God into sort of a tool in the service of Pharaoh's daughter, a situation expressed by Yarovam in his cynical remark, "Do you want them to give you an angriya for your wife the daughter of Pharaoh, so that you should give them the keys!"


            Rabbi Yochanan's statement aptly portrays what is described according to the plain sense of the text. Yarovam, the mighty warrior, was put in charge "over all the labor of the House of Yosef," that is to say, over the forced labor – the anagriya – cast upon the House of Yosef. Shelomo's grand construction projects continued for decades, and included not only Jerusalem, but the entire kingdom (Chatzor, Gezer, Megido, and other places as well), and the House of Yosef, so it seems, bore a considerable share of the work. The people were ready to bear the burden of building the Temple and the necessary government buildings. But the demand that they continue to invest such great energy into royal palaces – and especially the house for Pharaoh's daughter, regarding whose marriage to Shelomo the people apparently had reservations (together with the serious spiritual significance of the timing of the marriage and the standing of Pharaoh's daughter in general, as was discussed at length in the previous shiur) – this demand stirred up great resentment among the people. Thus explains the Radak (I Melakhim 11:27):


"Shelomo built the Milo" – the Milo was a place in the city of Jerusalem near the wall, a square where the people could gather… And Shelomo built that place because he needed it when he built a house for the daughter of Pharaoh. It seems, however, that the people did not look favorably upon Shelomo's actions, but they feared to say, Shelomo did such and such. It was the arrogant Yarovam who dared to say, "Shelomo built the Milo," that is to say: "See the evil that he did." And furthermore, he said "Shelomo," and not "the King." This was his rebellion against the king.


            The Milo (which, in our opinion, was a grand construction project) represented for the people decades of forced labor and the injustice of the continuation of this suffering in favor of construction projects, the whole purpose of which was to glorify Shelomo's kingdom with his foreign wife. This criticism, which the people kept to themselves owing to their fear of Shelomo, was voiced openly and bluntly by Yarovam, who daringly broke the silence.


            Thus far we have dealt with the significance of the sealing of the breaches of the City of David according to Rabbi Yochanan, and the connection between the construction of the Milo and the daughter of Pharaoh according to this explanation. The Radak (ibid.) suggests another understanding of Shelomo's sealing of the breaches of the City of David:


David made a breach in the wall of Zion, so that if Israel rebels against him, he would leave through there and flee without their knowledge, as is the custom today among the kings of Yishmael to make a breach in their fortifications, so that if the people of the city rise up against him, he can run away through there, and they call it, "the Gate of Treachery." And Shelomo sealed this breach. And so Yarovam said: See his arrogance, for he sealed the breach. That is to say, he is confident, having no fear of rebellion.


            This explanation as well sharpens the difference between David and Shelomo: David, in his modesty and humility, was unsure of himself and felt constant dependence on the tribes, and therefore he left himself an escape hatch in case of a rebellion, whereas Shelomo in his arrogance, had no fear of rebellion, and therefore he sealed the breaches. According to this, the rebellion expressed itself in Yarovam's bringing Shelomo's arrogance to the public's attention.


            The Ralbag (ad loc.) proposes a third explanation:


There was a place where the wall was breached so that Israel could come to the king when they wished to present him with their quarrels.


            The Ralbag's explanation also emphasizes the difference between David's extreme closeness to the people, including the easy and direct access that he provided them in order that they should be able to present their complaints before him, and Shelomo's distance and sense of superiority that did not allow for such availability.


            We can summarize then that the issue of the Milo well exemplifies Shelomo's outlook regarding the standing of the kingdom, so different from that of David, both with respect to his attitude toward the people and with respect to his attitude to God and the Temple. On the one hand, Shelomo felt detached from the people and superior to them, and in his great arrogance, he sealed the breach made by his father David and erected a barrier between him and the nation. The special status that this sealing gave to Pharaoh's daughter is another expression of this idea. On the other hand, the sealing of the breach put an end to the direct passage to the Temple and allowed for the imposition of a tax upon those who arrived for the pilgrimage festivals. In this way the monarchy turned into a barrier between the people and the Mikdash, rather than a bridge between them. Like other issues that were discussed earlier, the issue of the Milo also illustrates the terrible price exacted by turning the eternal status of the monarchy into a goal of its own: the creation of a barrier before the people on the one hand, and before God on the other.




The location of the Milo between the city and Mount Moriah – above the city but below the Temple Mount – dictated its nature as a passageway between the city and the Temple.


In the early periods this region was outside the fortified area of the city. During the days of David, this region was not settled, and it separated between the northern part of the city and the residence of Arvana, the Yevusi king, on Mount Moriah (Yo'av may have spared the lives of those living in the area, outside the wall, as part of his sparing "the rest of the city"; see I Divrei Ha-yamim 11:8).


The acquisition of Mount Moriah from Arvana the Yevusi and the building of the altar on the threshing floor on the mountain created a connection between the city and Mount Moriah, and bestowed new meaning upon the area in between: From now on this was the place through which one would go up from the city to the altar on the mountain – the area that connected the city to Mount Moriah.


During the days of Shelomo there was a change in the way that the area was used. Shelomo built up the area (apparently after artificially raising it with landfill), and encircled it with a wall, and from that time on, it was included, together with Mount Moriah, within the city, serving as the house of the king: a royal compound surrounded by its own wall, connected to the house of God above it, and including both the public royal buildings (the house of the Levanon, the porch of the throne, the porch of justice, and the porch of pillars) and the private royal buildings (the house of the king, the house of the daughter of Pharaoh). While during the period of David, the area connected the city to Mount Moriah, during the period of Shelomo it comprised an independent unit located between them.


The location of the house of the king between the city and the house of God – above the city and at the foot of the Temple – raises in the sharpest form the question regarding the relationship between the people, the king, and God. Does the king properly lead the people, who live in the city below him; does he serve as a bridge between the people and God; and is he indeed subject to the kingdom of God, at the foot of whose Temple he resides?


In their words concerning Yarovam's rebellion, Chazal emphasize the second possibility. Shelomo used the house of the king and the Milo as a tool to glorify his kingdom in and of itself. Thus the place through which the people had been accustomed to go up to the house of God turned into a barrier zone between the people and the house of God, on account of the sins of the king who resided there with his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh.


The location of the Milo determines its duel nature. The geographic and topographic conditions of the place can emphasize the close connection between the people, headed by the king, and the house of God, as was the case in the days of David; but they are also liable to negatively emphasize the king's feelings of superiority over the people, and his independent standing, as it were, and thus break the natural connection between the people and their God, as in the days of Shelomo. The region of the Milo symbolizes the great opportunity afforded by the unmediated connection between the king and the house of God, through self-nullification and subjugation to Him, but also the great danger that in his arrogance, the king will impair the connection between the people and the house of God. As Yechezkel stated:


And He said to me, Son of man, behold the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever; and the House of Israel shall no more profane My holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their harlotry, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places, In their setting of their threshold by My thresholds, and their doorpost by My posts, and only the wall between Me and them, they have defiled My holy name by their disgusting deeds which they have committed: and so I have consumed them in My anger. Now let them put away their harlotry, and the carcasses of their kings, far from Me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever. (Yechezkel 43:7-9)



            With this shiur, we have completed our study of the period of Shelomo. In next week's shiur, we will move on to the days of Achaz and Chizkiyahu.


(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] Mahari Kra's description is not sufficiently detailed and clear, but it certainly fits in with archeological findings familiar to us from other places in Israel: wall supports that are found inside the wall of a city and that strengthen it.

[2] K.M. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, Thames & Hudson, 1967, pp. 49-50.

[3] In support of his interpretation regarding the word Milo, the Radak cites the verse, "Cry, gather together (mil'u) and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities" (Yirmiyahu 4:5). By referring to this verse, the Radak may be suggesting that he understands the Milo as a fortified square, the purpose of which was to protect the masses during times of war.

[4] B.Z. Luria, "Beit Milo," Pirkei Yerushalayim – Mehkarim be-Kadmoniyot Yerushalayim ve-Yosheveha, Ha-Chevra le-Cheker ha-Mikra be-Yisra'el, Kiryat Sefer, 1980, pp. 70-74.

[5] Indeed, in the excavation in area M (between the Giv'ati parking lot of today and the southern Turkish wall, namely, the southwestern edge of the Milo according to this proposal), Kenyon found a series of ancient landfills that could be attributed to the times of Shelomo.

[6] The expression, "from the Milo and inward (va-vaita, lit. 'toward the house')," which implies that there is some "house" adjacent to the Milo, strengthens the possibility that we are dealing with an area outside the city and north of it. The parallel term in Divrei Ha-yamim, "even from the Milo round about," requires further study.

[7] The formulation of the parallel verse in II Divrei Ha-yamim 8:11, is very interesting, for it implies that the daughter of Pharaoh was brought to her house not in order to place her in the house of the king, but rather to distance her from the house of David on account of the sanctity of the Ark that sat therein. It seems that this is yet another allusion in Scripture itself to the problematic nature of Shelomo's marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh and her dwelling in the City of David.

[8] The narrative in the third explanatin is very similar to that which appears in Midrash Vayikra Rabba (12, 5) that we cited in the previous shiur: "Rabbo Chunya said: That night, the daughter of Pharaoh danced eighty kinds of dances, and Shelomo slept until the fourth hour of the day, and the keys to the Temple were under his head…" And indeed, the Midrash there concludes: "His mother went in and rebuked him. And some say: Yarovam ben Nevat went in and rebuked him."