Avraham ben Yaakov


David and Solomon had been the spiritual as well as temporal leaders of the people, but with the split in the kingdom the spiritual authority of the kings was undermined, and from now on the voice of truth and reproof came from the prophets.

The "man of God" who came from Judah to Beit El was Ido the Prophet (Sanhedrin 89b; cf. II Chronicles 9:29). At the very beginning of the rebellion of the Ten Tribes, Ido already prophesied that a king of Judah would later arise who would destroy the idolatrous altars of Israel (verse 2). This was the saintly King Josiah, who lived three hundred years later and came to the throne at the tender age of eight years old, bringing the people of Judah to one final flowering of repentance and national revival a generation before the destruction of the First Temple. Josiah was one of six who were given their name before they were even born (the others being Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Solomon and Melech HaMashiach - Yalkut Shimoni #200). Josiah was mourned by the prophet Jeremiah as "the breath of our nostrils, HaShem's anointed Mashiach" (Lam. 4:20; II Chron. 35:25).

The length of the time between Jeraboam's building of his idolatrous altar and its final destruction by King Josiah 300 years later shows God's great patience. This is also illustrated by the fact that even as Jeraboam served at his idolatrous altar in defiance of Heaven, nothing whatever happened to him until the moment when he tried to seize Ido the Prophet. This was when Jeraboam's hand "dried up" (v 4), showing that God avenged the honor of the Tzaddik more than He avenged the affront to His own honor (Rashi ad loc.).

Ido had been instructed not to eat or drink in Beit El because it is forbidden to enter a city of idolaters except for the purpose of giving them a warning: it would have created the wrong impression if people had seen the prophet enjoying himself in the course of his mission, and if he had left the city by the same route he had taken to get there, it would have given unnecessary prestige to the road leading to the city.

"And a certain old prophet dwelled in Beit El" (v 11). Some rabbis identify this prophet with Michah or Jonathan son of Gershom the son of Moses (Judges 17-18; RaDaK on I Kings 13:11). Those who find it hard to believe that Michah and/or Jonathan could have lived so long may prefer to think that perhaps the soul or spirit of Michah/Jonathan was somehow incarnated again in this old prophet. Targum Yonasan (on v 11) states explicitly that he was a FALSE prophet, yet our text indicates that he was a sociable fellow. Despite the fact that he lied (v 18) when he told Ido that he had been prophetically instructed to feed him bread and water, he momentarily attained true prophecy in the merit of having showed hospitality: "We see the greatness of giving someone a little refreshment from the fact that it caused the Divine Presence to rest even on the prophets of Baal" (Sanhedrin 104a).

For eating this bread and water in defiance of his own prophetic instructions, Ido was punished with death at the hands of Heaven (i.e. by the lion), because the Torah states that "whoever will not listen to the words of the prophet who speaks in My name, I shall require it of him" (Deut. 18:19). If this applies to one who hears true prophecy from another, how much more does it apply to the one who receives the prophecy himself (RaDaK on v 18; see Rambam, Hilchos Yesodey HaTorah 9:3).

The lion killed Ido yet did not eat him or even his donkey (v 24), showing that God exacts retribution with the utmost accuracy and fairness. The prophet had defied His word and had to pay with his life, yet since he was a Tzaddik in all other respects his body was left intact, as was the donkey he had ridden upon in his lifetime. Ido's body was laid to rest in the grave which the old prophet of Beit El had prepared for himself, and when he died he too was buried there at his side. This gave the false prophet protection three hundred years later when King Josiah had all the graves of the prophets of Baal dug up (II Kings 23:17-18).

Even though Jeraboam had directly witnessed God's providence when his hand dried up on his altar, and he doubtless heard how Ido was killed by the lion, this did not deter him from his rebellious path. He now established his own alterative priesthood, "and this thing became a sin to the house of Jeraboam, even to cut it off and to destroy it from off the face of the earth" (v 34). Jeraboam was "cut off" in this world and "destroyed" in the world to come: this verse is the foundation of the rabbinic teaching that Jeraboam was one of those who had no share in the world to come (Sanhedrin 101b).


Jeraboam originally had the soul of Joseph, but it left him when he sinned, as it is written, "And he sinned with the Baal and he DIED" (Hosea 13:1; ARI, Sefer HaLikutim on I Kings ch 11). Despite his dogged obstinacy, Jeraboam was so distressed by the illness of his son (ch 14 v 1) that he sent his wife to Ahiyah the Shiloni, who had been the one who originally told him that he would reign over Israel . The rabbis said that Ahiyah had become blind on account of having raised a wicked disciple (Bereishis Rabba 65). This blindness did not prevent Ahiyah from seeing the terrible decree that was hanging over the house of Jeraboam and which initiated the bloody history of violent regime change that afflicted the kings of Israel ever after.


For the whole of the remainder of the book of Kings (Parts I and II) until the exile of the Ten Tribes a few generations prior to the destruction of the First Temple, the narrative swings back and forth repeatedly from the exploits of the kings of Judah to those of the kings of Israel and back again in order to give a full account of what happened in each generation during those tumultuous times.

According to the time-frame of the rabbinic Midrash SEDER OLAM ("Order of the World"), which is based on a combination of tradition and acute analysis of all the years enumerated in the biblical texts, Solomon came to the throne in the year 2928 (= -836 B.C.E.). He started building the Temple in the fourth year of his reign, and the 410 years that it stood are counted from the year in which the building commenced, 2928 (-832 B.C.E.). The First Temple thus stood until the year 3338 (-422 B.C.E.). Solomon's son Rehavam came to the throne in 2964 (-796 B.C.E.) and reigned until 2981 (-779 B.C.E.), initiating the period in which even Judah strayed ever deeper into idolatry (vv 22-3) and sexual immorality (v 24).

When Joseph had been ruler of Egypt , he sucked all the wealth of Egypt and the surrounding countries into the coffers of the Egyptian kings (Gen. 41:57 and 47:14). When the Children of Israel came up out of Egypt , they took all this wealth with them (Exodus 12:36). It remained in Israel 's hands until the time of Rehav'am, when "Shishak king of Egypt went up to Jerusalem and took the treasures of the House of God and the treasures of the House of the king." (v 26). According to the rabbis, this wealth was subsequently seized by Zerach king of Kush, from whom it was taken back by King Asa who sent it as a bribe to the king of Aram . It was taken back again by King Jehoshaphat, and remained in the hands of Israel until the time of King Ahaz, from whom it was taken by Sennacherib, from whom it was taken in turn by the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks, from whom it was seized by the Romans, who took it to Rome, where it remains until today (Pesachim 119a).



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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