Shiur #11: The Rebellion of Yerovam - Part 1
Sefer Melakhim: The Book of Kings
By Rav Alex
This weeks parsha shiur is dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Harold N. Rosen
This week's shiurim
in memory of Mrs. Cela Meisels, Tzerka Nechama bat Shlomo,
whose yahrzeit falls on the 14th of Tevet.
Shiur #11: The Rebellion of Yerovam - Part 1. (Chapter 11)
In this weeks shiur, we will take a look at Yerovam and the rebellion that he instigated. It is easy to view Yerovam as a wholly negative person and a sinner, in the spirit of the mishna that brands Yerovam a villain condemned to eternal perdition:
Three kings and four commoners have no portion in the World to Come: Three kings - Yerovam, Achav and Menashe. (Sanhedrin 10:2)
However, we will present a more nuanced approach, assessing Yerovam as a complex character with both positive and negative elements to his biography. Chazal reflect this more ambivalent view when they commend Yerovam for speaking out against Shlomo:
Why did Yerovam deserve to be king? Because he denounced Shlomo (Sanhedrin 101b)
Chazal also describe Yerovam as a leading scholar in his generation. Thus, Yerovam is an ambivalent character with virtues and flaws, successes and failures. We will try to discuss them.
WHO IS YEROVAM?
ben Nevat, an Ephraimite of Tzeredah, the son of a widow whose name was Tzerua,
was in Solomon's service; he raised his hand against the king. (27) The circumstances under which he
raised his hand against the king were as follows: Shlomo built the Milo,
repairing the breach of the city of
Many of the commentators switch the order of these pesukim in order to make sense of the information here. We would present the story in the following manner: Yerovam was a man who demonstrated impressive management and leadership skills. His outstanding reputation led him to a high office when Shlomo appointed him as head of the administrative region of Yosef. His role was to collect the tax money that supports the palace expenses. If you recall, we read that "these officers (nitzavim) financed King Shlomo and all those who sat at King Shlomo's table, each one for a month; they let nothing be lacking" (4:7).
However, at a certain point, Yerovam decided to confront Shlomo. We may presume that as tax collector, he was sensitive to the financial burden weighing upon the common people. As the palace expenses burgeoned, the people strained to maintain their financial balance, and Yerovam decided to speak out. Yerovam's interest in the issues of taxation is expressed further in the continuation of the story (see chapter 12), in which Yerovam confronts Shlomo's son, the young king Rechavam. One imagines that the fact that the ruling tribe of Yehuda was exempt from taxation, whereas the tribes of Yosef were harshly taxed, only exacerbated the tension. Yerovam's emphatic demand of Rechavam was a reduction of the tax burden:
Your father put a heavy yoke on us - but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you. (12:4)
It seems obvious that as the nation appealed to the new monarch for a tax reduction, they turned specifically to Yerovam as their representative precisely because he had a history of representing the working class and a track record of protest against the government.
So Yerovam raised his objections to Shlomo. This is described by the pesukim in an extreme way: "He raised his hand against the king." We can surmise that this took the form of a public protest and that Shlomo saw it as a challenge, a provocation, an act of disloyalty, and even an act of treason. We know the result:
Shlomo tried to kill
Yerovam, but Yerovam fled to
A king does not seek to eliminate a political opponent unless he views the protagonist as a significant threat. Yerovam certainly appears to be a person who believed passionately in his cause.
prompted Yerovam to make such a drastic move? We read here that it was the
building of the
The daughter of Pharaoh
ascended from the City of
But there is
more to understand about the
the breach of the city of
suggestions regarding the
1. It is a fortress this is the translation of the Septuagint.
2. It represents a fortification
of the slopes and outer wall surrounding
A low wall filled in with earth, the
two explanations have in common is the sense that the
PEOPLE POWER - RELIGIOUS ACCESS
3. A third option, the
possibility that we shall prefer, is that the Milo refers to the area
that connected the City of
This view sees the
said to him [Shlomo]: Your father David created passageways (peratzot) in
the walls [of
father had left an open space for all of
the passage in the wall of the City of
Three explanations of the breach are offered here:
1. That it gives access from the city to
2. A city square or gathering place for the
people to convene for spiritual occasions at the
3. It allows for the people's access to the king, so that he may act as an appeals commission and a judge.
What emerges from each of these explanations is the sense that this space, which was either designated for the nation or earmarked for spiritual pursuits (access to God or to the courts of justice) has now been appropriated and sequestered for royal purposes. And this is no ordinary royal commission. This central location, representing national spiritual aspirations, has been dedicated to housing a foreign queen.
the above, we can better understand Yerovam's view of taxes and finances. As we have proposed, Yerovam was a
passionate and determined advocate on behalf of the nation. But his democratic tendencies go further
than that. Seeing the central area,
And so, Yerovam publicly opposed the emperor, King Shlomo. Make no mistake - this was no sedate, gentlemanly disagreement. Yerovam offered fierce critiques of Shlomo's style of government. He ended up being banished from the kingdom for fear of his life.
juncture, let me just add that in order to properly understand the geography and
layout of Jerusalem, as well as the city contours and the distances involved,
there is nothing better than properly touring Ir David (The City of David,) and
the Southern Wall excavations next to the Kotel. I lead tours for all my
Tanakh students there, and I believe that it is invaluable, both for the
intellectual information, and for the experience of being in this unique place
at the hub of so much Jewish History. Next time you are in
STAGE TWO: ACHIYA'S PROPHECY
We have yet to discuss one critical element; the prophecy of Achiya Hashiloni that gives divine backing to Yerovam's actions.
time, Yerovam went out of
The dramatic image of Achiya tearing the new robe into twelve shreds and asking Yerovam to take ten of them is a deliberately traumatic scene. The tearing of clothes always indicates shock or trauma. Moreover, the symbolic imagery of the kingdom being ripped into pieces is highly evocative. The word used for the robe or garment here is the relatively unusual word, "salma." With different vowels, this word reads "Shlomo"! This deliberate play on Shlomo's name is designed to illustrate the ripping of Shlomo himself.
We have already mentioned the numerous parallels that may be found between the rejection scene of King Shaul and the tearing of the Kingdom from Shlomo. But it is significant that in this scene, it is not Shlomo the accused who is subject to the tearing of the coat, but Yerovam, who is to take up the new kingdom. Maybe this is because Yerovam has to "take" the ten pieces rather than be handed them by Achiya, to signal to Yerovam that he was going to have to seize the ten tribes; they would not be handed to him.
It is unclear at what point in the storyline Yerovam received this prophecy. There are two possibilities:
1. Achiya communicated this nevua
AFTER Yerovam had denounced the king and publicly expressed his opposition. On his way out of
2. The Radak and other mefarshim suggest that this prophecy was relayed at the start of Yerovams career, when he was first appointed to high office.
At that time - BEFORE he had rebelled against the king, Achiya found him and gave him the news of his kingship. (Radak)
that time - When he was newly appointed and left
"at that time" as it is used in Tanakh frequently indicates a disruption in the
historical flow, pointing to an EARLIER event.
These commentators propose that the encounter with Achiya preceded Yerovam's
insurrection, and possibly took place on the very day of his appointment to a
government position. In this
context, we may note the fact that the garment that is ripped is described as a
"new robe." Chazal debate whether it was Achiya or Yerovam's robe (see
Radak). But we might propose that
this new robe was a symbol of Yerovam's fresh appointment as governor of the
If we can
reconstruct the scene, it would be the day of Yerovams installation to his now
position. He would have travelled,
probably with family and friends, to
If we read the story this way, we have to say that Achiya's prophecy had a Machiavellian influence upon later events, functioning as a prime instigator and confidence booster that induced Yerovam to flex his political muscles and publically oppose Shlomo.
CONCLUDING NOTES: SEFER DIVREI SHLOMO
Chapter 11 ends with an official form conclusion of the Shlomo era, recording the years of his reign and his burial place. We will see these sorts of summary lines for most of the kings in this sefer. In addition, we are informed that more information about Shlomo may be procured in a book entitled "Sefer Divrei Shlomo." This is not the only time that Tanakh refers to outside works. Elsewhere, we have seen reference to Sefer Ha-Yashar and Sefer Milchamot Hashem. Sefer Melakhim frequently refers to the Sefer Divrei Ha-Yamim of the kings of Yehuda or Yisrael. This tells us something quite fundamental - Sefer Melakhim is NOT the royal archive. There were other historical records that publicized the achievements and prowess of kings, but that is not Sefer Melakhim! This book is a work of prophecy, of the word of God, and hence it has a very different tone and objective. No royal sponsored work would ever record the flaws and sins of a monarch in the manner of Sefer Melakhim. In fact, this is a most subversive version of history. What king would ever allow a book of this sort to be published? The same is true of Sefer Shmuel, which records the sins and failures of Shaul and David more than their virtues and successes. What Sefer Melakhim does is to offer a spiritual commentary on history, interpreting events and evaluating them against the yardstick of Torah. We will discuss this theme more when we engage in an interim introduction to Sefer Melakhim in a few weeks. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to dwell upon the difference between Sefer Divrei Shlomo and Sefer Melakhim.
Next week's shiur will complete our discussion of the Yerovam rebellion.
 See also Rosh Hashana 17a
 Sanhedrin 102a: "Just as the new robe had no flaw, so Yerovam's Torah had no flaw They [Yerovam and Achiya] innovated [Torah] the likes of which had never been heard previously All the scholars of the generation were compared before them to the grass of the field."
Needless to say, the peshat does not indicate that Yerovam was a Torah scholar. This is the aggadic style of Chazal, who also introduce David Ha-Melekh as a talmid chakham and posek halakhot, at variance with the impression that one may find in Tanakh.
 JPS translation; in Hebrew, "gibor chayil." We don't find Yerovam serving in a military capacity, like David or Naaman, who were also described with this appellation. The other Biblical figure who functions in a civilian context and is given this title is Boaz (Rut 2:1). It is possible that gibor chayil represents some form of social status, as we see in Melakhim II 15:19-20; Menachem ben Gedi requires all "giborei chayil" to pay 1,000 talents of silver. In that context, it refers to people of higher class or financial means.
Recall that other potential kings - both Shaul (Shmuel I 9:1) and David (Shmuel I 16:18) - are given this title in their introductory descriptions.
 See Rashi, Radak, and Ralbag.
 Yehuda is absent from the list of tax-paying tribes in chapter 4.
 The gemara (Sanhedrin 101b) tells us that Yerovam was wrong in making his differences with Shlomo public, but it is difficult to assess how these issues could have been resolved behind closed doors.
Olam Ha-Tanakh on 9:16 for a good summary of references in Tanakh
and archeological perspectives on the topic. R. Yitzchak Levi also wrote a very
useful piece on the
This may be the meaning of the phrase in Shoftim 9:20 which speaks
 See Shmuel II 5:9; Divrei Ha-Yamim II 32:5.
 We will demonstrate in our upcoming shiur how these elements the democratic and religious perspectives - find their way into the religious reforms that Yerovam makes.
 Abarbanel: "There is no doubt that this was not a rebuke of public critique but "hidden love;" there was hatred and vulgarity. Were it not for that, Shlomo would not have sought to have him killed."
 For just a few of many numerous examples: Reuven tears his coat when he realizes that Yosef is gone (Bereshit 37:29); Kalev and Yehoshua tear their clothing in response to the report of the spies (Bamidbar 14:6); Yiftach tears his clothing upon understanding that he has vowed to kill his daughter (Shoftim 11:35); The king of Israel in a crisis tears his clothing (Melakhim II 5:7); as do Yoshiyahu (Melakhim II 22:11) and Mordechai (Esther 4:1).
 The similarities include the act of tearing the coat itself, as well as the similar pronouncements:
So says the Lord, God of Israel
Behold I will tear the kingdom
and I have given to you
the ten tribes (11:31)
The Lord has this day
torn the kingship of
and given it to another who is worthier than you." (Shmuel I 16:28)
In both case, the contender for the throne (David or Yerovam) find
themselves under death threat. This induces them to defect from the country and
to take protection with foreign aggressors of
 See, for example, Devarim 1:9, 10:1, and 10:8
 In Tanakh, as well as what we know in wider society, special regalia are a sign of high office. Obvious examples are Yosef (Bereishit 41:42) and Mordechai (Esther 8:15).
 Shmuel II 1:18
 Bamidbar 21:14
 See Melakhim I 14:19,29; 15:7,23,31; 16:5,14,20; 22:40