Avraham ben Yaakov


Having completed the account of King David's organization of the divisions of the Cohanim and Levites for the Temple services, our text continues with an account of his organization of the Israelite population into twelve divisions that took it in turns to attend to the king's business month by month. Our commentators explain that, unlike the divisions of the Cohanim and Levites, which were instituted in their final form as described in our text (chs 23-26) only in the last year of David's reign, the divisions of the Israelite population as described in the present chapter were in fact instituted at the beginning of his reign. The account of the latter is placed here because the listing of the names of the officers whom David appointed over the Israelite divisions follows on naturally from the previous sections listing the officers he appointed to supervise the building and administration of the Temple (see Rashi and Metzudas David on I Chron. 27:1).

Rashi (ad loc.) also explains that each of the twelve divisions of Israelites included only 24,000 men even though the overall Israelite population was greater than 12 x 24,000. However, David chose only the stronger, more forceful characters and those who possessed sufficient wealth to be able to put aside their own affairs in order to attend to the king's business, but he did not recruit poorer people who were preoccupied with earning a basic living.

The functions of these twelve divisions were to serve in David's army and to attend to all the king's other business (Rashi on v 1). A later section in our chapter (vv 25-21) enumerates the chief officers appointed over David's grain stores, agricultural work, viniculture and winemaking, olive cultivation and oil production, cattle, camels, donkeys and sheep, giving us a picture of some of the main areas comprised under the heading of the king's business. Under the laws of the kingship, the king was not allowed to confiscate other people's private property for himself unless they were traitors, but he was entitled to requisition people, animals and other requirements in return for compensation, and to impose taxes, customs dues and agricultural tithes in order to provide for his own needs and those of his household, staff and armies etc. (see Rambam, Laws of Kings ch 4).

What emerges from our present chapter is that the royal business was conducted not by an entrenched establishment of permanent salaried administrators and workers, but rather by the most talented, able and financially successful members of all of the tribes taking it in turns month by month to run the royal affairs - from the upper levels of the administration down to the actual plowing of the king's fields and the herding of his cattle.

Conceptually, the king is the embodiment of the Sefirah of Malchus, which channels PARNASSAH ("livelihood") by mobilizing all the resources of the twelve tribes of Israel upon which he rides (corresponding to the twelve permutations of HaVaYaH revealed through Malchus), just as the Sea of Solomon (the circular Mikveh in the Temple) rested upon twelve oxen. [See KNOW YOUR BIBLE on I Kings ch 4.]

Vv 2-15: Names of the officers appointed over the twelve divisions of the Israelite population and the months in which they served, starting from the first month of the year (=Nissan). The officers themselves were not drawn from all of the twelve tribes but came mainly from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin and the priesthood.

Vv 16-22 give the names of the leaders of the Twelve Tribes in the time of King David.

V 23: "But David did not count the number of those who were twenty years old and below, because HaShem had said he would increase Israel like the stars of the heavens." This and the following verse help throw a little more light on the mysterious episode in which King David sought to number the Children of Israel, only to cause a plague (above, chapter 21). Our present verse is saying that even when David made his fateful count of the population, he did not count those aged only twenty or below in deference to God's promise to increase Israel like the stars of the heavens - "Just as a man cannot count the stars, so he cannot count Israel " (Rashi ad loc.).

The text (v 24) then goes on to say that even when Yo'av tried to count those above that age, he did not succeed in completing the count because of the anger that broke forth against the people, because the very thought of counting the people runs counter to God's promises to Abraham: " I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered" (Genesis 13:16) and "Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you can count them. so shall your seed be" (ibid. 15:5).

Vv 25-31: Names of the officers appointed over the king's agriculture and livestock.

Vv 32-34: David's inner circle of advisors. "And Houshai the ARKHI, FRIEND of the king" (v 33). The Midrash Rabbah states that after David sinned with Bathsheva, he asked Houshai whether, if he repented, God would accept his repentance and grant him healing (AROUKHAH). Houshai replied in the affirmative (see Rashi on v 33). Encouraging others to return to HaShem is an act of true friendship.


At the end of his life, David assembled the entire leadership of the people, -- the leaders of the Twelve Tribes, those of the twelve divisions of the population who served the king, the higher and lower rank officers over the people and all his warriors - in order to impress in their hearts and that of his successor, the tender twelve year old Solomon, that there was now one item only on the national agenda: building the Temple.

V 2: "And King David rose on his feet." - "As if to say, despite the fact that his strength was diminished on account of old age, he nevertheless determinedly stood on his feet in honor of the leaders of Israel gathered before him" (Metzudas David). "Hear me, my brothers and my people": in his humility, David puts himself on the same level as the people, addressing them as his brothers.

David impresses on the people that his mission was to build the Temple , and that having been unable to do so because his hands were bloodied with war, this mission must now be carried out by his son Solomon, whom God had chosen for this task out of all of his many sons. The success of the mission would depend upon faithful adherence to the Torah by Solomon and by the entire people (vv 2-10).

Vv 11ff: "And David gave to Solomon his son the plan." In the parallel account of the end of David's life and the start of the reign of Solomon at the end of II Samuel and beginning of I Kings, there seems to be no reference to David's having given Solomon the exact plan of the Temple that he was to build. It can easily appear from the account of the building of the Temple in the early chapters of I Kings as if the conception and design of the Temple were essentially Solomon's, incomprehensible as this may seem since he was only 12 years old when he reigned. The missing link is filled in here in DIVREY HAYAMIM, explaining how David already had the exact blueprint of every hall, chamber and courtyard in the entire Temple complex as well as details of the functioning of the Cohanim and Levites and precise specifications for all the different Temple vessels, including the altar, ark, cherubs, candelabra, tables, bowls etc. etc. (vv 11-18).

"All this, [said David], is put in writing by the hand of HaShem, Who instructed me in all the works of this plan" (v 19). Rashi (ad loc.) states that David had received the Temple plan directly from the prophet Samuel, who darshened all the dimensions of the Temple courtyards, buildings and vessels from the Torah through holy spirit (See KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary on I Samuel 19:18-19).

In the presence of the entire leadership of the people, David gave over the precious plans to his wise young son. David had devoted his entire life to making all the preparations necessary to implement the prophetic vision that had been entrusted to him by Samuel. Now it was up to Solomon to take the gold, silver, bronze, timber and stone that David had prepared and mobilize the national apparatus of officers and functionaries that he had established in order to actually build the Temple .



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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