The Gemara tells us that Sefer Melachim should be viewed as one large sefer. This sefer was written by the prophet Yirmiya and is full of ups and downs in its recording of an extremely turbulent and eventful approximately 400 year period of Jewish history. Sefer Melachim begins with the reign of Shlomo Hamelech, which was the most tranquil period in our history. The Bnei Yisrael were united, the nations were in awe of Bnei Yisrael, there was no war, and the Beis Hamikdash was built. However, Sefer Melachim then details the splitting of the kingdom into the kingdoms of Yisrael and Yehuda, and also records our incremental exile and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. It was during the span of Sefer Melachim that the prophets Yeshaya, Yirmiya, Hoshea, and Yechezkel prophesied.
The Sefer is called Melachim as it details 41 out of 44 kings of Klal Yisrael (excluding David who died at the beginning of the Sefer) who lead the entire people or either of the two kingdoms. A king of Bnei Yisrael is more than a mere social leader who ensures law and order; he leads the people in the service of Hashem, and is called the ‘Mashiach Hashem,’ (this is the term David used in expressing his unwillingness to kill Shaul Hamelech even when the latter was pursuing him). The king has special laws which pertain both to him and to how the people are to treat him. This is why, the bracha on seeing a king of Klal Yisrael describes the ‘honor’ bestowed on kings as coming from ‘Hashem’s honor’.
In the Introduction to the “Nechmad La’Mareh” edition of Sefer Melachim, there is an interesting distinction drawn between the kings of Yehuda and those of Yisrael. The kings of Yisrael are connected with Yosef (for their first king was Yeravam, who was a descendant of Yosef), while the kings of Yehuda are from the tribe of Yehuda. And since a central trait of Yosef was emotion (regesh; in Bereishis, the Torah gives us three instances of Yosef crying), the kings of Yisrael were also governed by emotion. This trait is also true of Yosef’s sole maternal brother, Binyamin (perhaps this emotion originated from Rachel), which was the root of Shaul’s mistake in his misplaced mercy on the people of Amalek in Shmuel Alef. In contrast, the kings of Yehuda inherited Yehuda’s trait of putting mind (sechel) over emotion, in the same way that Yehuda rose above the emotions displayed by his brothers, and managed to save Yosef from death in the pit by suggesting that he be sold instead. Thus, Shlomo Hamelech, a descendant of Yehuda, was the epitome of this trait of sechel. It is perhaps for this reason that, in general, the kings of Yehuda were more loyal to Hashem than the kings of Yisrael; for they had greater wisdom, and could recognize Hashem’s ultimate control without being blindly led by emotions. We learn that emotions are important, but they have to be tied down and governed by sechel (intelect). Though there is an essential difference and split between the kings of Yehuda and the kings of Yisrael (different laws apply to each of them), in the future there will only be one king and one kingdom, as the prophet Yechezkel (37:19) tells us.
Each generation varied greatly from the generation it preceded and likewise to the generation that preceded it, as we see that Chizkiyah, one of the most righteous kings, bore Menashe, one of the most wicked kings. The ten lost tribes of Yisrael are described, as is the exile in which we remain until today. Sefer Melachim also describes the splendor of the Beis Hamikdash and eventually, its destruction.
Kings of the entire Jewish people
|2. Ish Boshes: Son of Shaul||2 years||Good|
|4. Shlomo: Son of Dovid||40 years||Good|
Kings of Yisroel
|Summary of Perakim:Perek 1:The Haftara for Chayei Sarah is from Melachim 1 1:1-31David was 70 and began to feel cold; he was no longer warmed by his clothes. (Rashi 1:1 explains that this was either a punishment for cutting off a corner of Shaul’s cloak, or he became cold from fright when he had seen a vision of an angel brandishing a sword ready to destroy Yerushalayim). His servants suggested employing a female attendant, Avishag, to make the King warm. Adoniyah (the fourth son of David) rebelled and received the backing of Yoav and Evyasar; they feared that David or his successor would kill them (Radak 1:6). The Ralbag writes that Hashem caused Yoav and Evyasar to join Adoniyah’s rebellion so they would receive the punishments they deserved for their previous sins. Adoniyah made a large feast and invited all his supporters to proclaim him as King. Nassan HaNavi and Batsheva informed David of Adoniyah’s rebellion, and David instructed Tzadok, Nassan, and Benayahu to announce that Shlomo – just 12 years old at the time (Rashi and Radak 3:7) – was to be the next king. They anointed Shlomo publicly and Bnei Yisrael celebrated. Adoniyah’s supporters dispersed and, fearing for his life, he grasped onto the corners of the altar and pleaded to be kept alive. Shlomo agreed that if Adoniyah remained loyal to his leadership, his life would be spared.Perek 2:The Haftara for Vayechi is from Melachim Alef 2:1-12Before David died, he instructed Shlomo to follow in the ways of the Torah; this would ensure that his descendants would retain the throne. David instructed Shlomo to punish Yoav in a fitting manner for killing two innocent individuals, to treat Barzilai (a wealthy supporter of David) well, and to punish Shimmi ben Gerah for cursing the king. David then passed away after a forty year reign; seven years of ruling over Yehuda in Chevron, and 33 years of ruling over all of Bnei Yisrael in Yerushalayim. Adoniyah requested that Batsheva ask Shlomo to allow him Avishag as a wife. Shlomo realized that this was an attempt to gain the throne, and had Adoniyah killed and his supporters exiled. Yoav fled and grasped onto the altar to try and save his life (the altar offers refuge from killers; see Shemos 21:14), but Shlomo had him killed him there (see Gemara Makkos 12a for two reasons why the passuk in Shemos did not apply here). Shimmi ben Gerah was told to build a house in Yerushalayim and not to leave on pain of death. After three years, Shimmi left Yerushalayim to chase after two servants, and was then put to death.Perek 3:The Haftara for Mikeitz is from Melachim Alef 3:15-4:1Shlomo made an alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and married his daughter, thus guaranteeing assistance from his neighbors: Shlomo felt that he was spiritually resilient enough to avoid the negative influence of Egypt. We are informed that Shlomo obeyed his father David and followed the Torah. Hashem came to Shlomo in a dream and offered to grant him whatever he desired; Shlomo chose wisdom, and in addition, Hashem granted Shlomo wealth, success, and a long life. Two women came before Shlomo, in a dispute over who was the rightful mother of a certain child. Shlomo announced that he was going to cut the live baby in half. The real mother protested and offered her child to the other woman, rather than have her child be killed. As a result, Shlomo ruled that the baby should be returned to the woman who had mercy on the child, as that woman was the real mother. Bnei Yisrael were in awe of their King’s wisdom.Perek 4:Shlomo ruled the entire nation, who were happy with their king and respected his divine wisdom (Rashi and Radak in their explanations of 4:1). Shlomo’s ministers are listed. Shlomo instituted an innovative method of taxation that divided Bnei Yisrael into 12 equal portions and each would have a representative to collect tax to support the king for one month of the year. The representatives’ names are written. Bnei Yisrael became prosperous, the population grew and there was peace (Radak 4:20).Perek 5:The Haftara of Terumah is from Melachim 1 5:26-6:13A description of Shlomo’s huge kingdom and wealth is given, and we are told that he received gifts from the surrounding nations. His provisions for one day are described; the sheer quantity of these provisions shows the extravagance of the meals Shlomo hosted for those who would eat at his table (Metzudas David). He had a vast number of horses, contrary to the laws of the king in Parshas Shoftim (Radak 5:6). Shlomo was the wisest of all men-even wiser than ‘Eitan HaEzrachi’ (5:11), referring to either Eitan ben Zerach, Adom HaRishon, or Moshe. Shlomo was renowned for his wisdom even among the nations. He proposed to build the first Beis Hamikdash and requested that King Chiram of Tzor, a good friend of David, send cedar and cypress wood. Chiram agreed to this request and so Shlomo sent a group of 10,000 workers out of 30,000 to assist Chiram and work for him once every 3 months on rotation. Shlomo employed a further 150,000 workers, and preparations to build the Beis Hamikdash began.Perek 6:Shlomo began the construction of the Beis Hamikdash. This was in the 4th year of Shlomo’s reign, in Iyar 2928 (480 years after leaving Egypt). The measurements and materials used are detailed. Hashem promised Shlomo that if he would follow the Torah, Hashem would keep the covenant he had made with David. He would not abandon the Bnei Yisrael, and He would dwell in the Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash was completed after 7 years, in Cheshvan 2935.Perek 7:After building the Beis Hamikdosh Shlomo built a palace for himself over 13 years. Its size and splendour is described at great length. Chirom was an exceptional architect and designed complex parts of the palace e.g. the intricate pillars and many vessels. Shlomo, himself built the Mizbeach Hazohov and the Lechem Haponim out of gold and he spared no expense. The materials which Dovid assigned for building the Beis Hamikdosh were placed into the treasury of the Beis Hamikdosh.Perek 8:They transported the Aron from Ir Dovid to the Beis Hamikdosh and Shlomo placed it under the Keruvim. Every Jew gathered to celebrate Succos together with great jubilation in front of the Sanhedrin and leaders of the nation and many sacrifices were offered up. The people were enveloped by the ‘cloud of Hashem’ and Shlomo declared that this is Hashem’s dwelling place. Shlomo addressed the people and praised Hashem for fulfilling His covenant with Dovid and enabling the Beis Hamikdosh to be built. He begged that the covenant should be observed in the future and that Hashem listen and forgive anyone (even gentiles) who prays at the Beis Hamikdosh in any circumstance. Shlomo blessed the people and urged them to continue serving Hashem and to keep the Torah. Shlomo offered many sacrifices. Shlomo made a celebration for two weeks for the entire congregation.Perek 9: Hashem told Shlomo that He would listen to his prayer, reside in the Beis Hamikdosh and enable Dovid’s descendants to rule providing they follow in the way of the Torah. Chirom supplied Shlomo with an abundant supply of gold, cedar and cypress trees; Shlomo gave Chirom 20 cities in the Galil. However Chirom was not happy with them. He sent the King 120 talents of gold. The gifts that Shlomo received from other countries are listed. Shlomo conscripted many foreign builders but did not conscript any Jewish workers. On the three Chagim- festivals, Shlomo offered up many sacrifices. Shlomo established a fleet of ships to transport valuables to Israel.Perek 10:Queen of Sheba heard of Shlomo’s wisdom and wanted to see it for herself. She brought many riches as a present for Shlomo and asked him many questions. Shlomo answered them all and told her secrets about herself that only she knew. She was astounded and overwhelmed by his wisdom and praised Shlomo and Hashem. She gave an even greater amount of valuables to Shlomo and, in return Shlomo gave her whatever she wished and gifts. The amount of gold Shlomo received was 666 talents excluding taxes within Israel and he used the gold for different types of shields. Shlomo built a magnificent throne for himself and was considered the wealthiest and wisest King worldwide. All the fixtures and drinking vessels were gold as silver was not considered valuable. Shlomo gathered 1,400 chariots and 12,000 riders.Perek 11:Shlomo loved many non-Jewish women (Rambam and Radak disagree whether this actually occurred). These wives persuaded him to serve idols and offer sacrifices to their various idols. Hashem punished Shlomo for disobeying Him and punished Shlomo that his descendants would only rule over the kingdom of Yehuda (including tribes of Yehuda and Binyomin) in Dovid’s merit. Hadad was originally from Edom and lived in Egypt and married the Queen of Egypt’s sister and returned to Israel to cause strife. Rezon was also sent by Hashem to antagonise Shlomo; he had led a group of warriors against Dovid. Yerovom ben Nevot also embarrassed Shlomo publicly (Rashi). Achiyoh the Novi tore a cloak into 12 pieces and gave him 10 and he informed Yerovom that he would rule over the 10 tribes. Shlomo attempted to kill Yerovom, so he fled to Egypt. Shlomo died and was buried in Ir Dovid and his son Rechovom ruled in his stead.Perek 12: Rechovom went to Shechem to be appointed King by the entire Jewish people. Meanwhile Yerovom returned to Israel from Egypt. The people approached Rechovom and requested he lighten their heavy taxes; he asked for 3 days to consider their proposal. Rechovom took advice from the Elders who proposed that he be sympathetic and gain the people’s trust. The youngsters disagreed and suggested Rechovom be tough and make the taxes even greater. Rechovom foolishly ignored the advice of the Elders. On the third day, Rechovom responded to the people; they were greatly angered and stoned Adorom, Rechovom’s Head of Tax, to death. The 10 tribes of Israel felt disillusioned with Rechovom’s leadership and backed Yerovom, nevertheless Yehuda (and Binyomin) followed Rechovom. Rechovom gathered his troops to start a civil war against Yerovom for rebelling against his leadership. Shemayoh the Novi told Rechovom that it was the will of Hashem for the kingdom to be split and to disband his army and he obeyed. Yerovom set up two golden calves in Beis El and Don and he appointed non- Levite priests and established a new festival.Perek 13: A novi called Ido (according to the Redak) went to the Altar at Beis El whilst Yerovom was offering up incense on it. He informed the people that Yoshiyohu the new King of Yehuda would offer up the idolatrous priests on the altar; his proof was that the altar would be split and ashes would spill out. Yerovom stretched out his hand and instructed his men to seize the Novi. His arm froze in its place, then the altar split and ashes spilled out of it. Yerovom asked the Novi to pray that he should regain the use of his hand and he did so, Yerovom invited the man for a meal and offered him a gift, the man refused as he was instructed not to. A false Novi was aware of all the happenings and invited the man for a meal. He claimed that he was told by an angel to invite him for a meal. Hashem told the genuine Novi that he would die before arriving home. On the way home, a lion mauled him to death. The false Novi buried him and requested his children bury him next to the dead Novi. Yerovom continued behaving sinfully.Perek 14: Aviyoh Yerovom’s son became deathly ill. Yerovom told his wife to disguise herself and go to Achiyoh the Novi with a few gifts, so they would find out what would happen to their child. Hashem had informed Achiyoh that Yerovom’s wife would come. Achiyoh criticised her for concealing herself. He informed her that due to Yerovom’s wickedness, Hashem would wipe out all of Yerovom’s offspring and possessions and appoint a new ruler of Israel. Additionally, her son would die when she entered the city; this occurred and all of Israel mourned his death. Yerovom ruled for 22 years, Nodov replaced his father as King of Yisrael (meaning 10/12 tribes). Rechovom ruled over Yehuda for 17 years and died, his reign was also evil (influenced by his mother Naamoh) there was immorality and idolatry throughout the land. King Shishak of Egypt took all the treasures of the Beis Hamikdosh and Dovid’s palace.Perek 15: Aviyom became King of Yehuda, he ruled for 3 years and did not follow in the way of Hashem. Then Asoh took over and reigned for 41 years, however he observed the Torah properly. He removed idols and prostitutes from the Land of Israel and contributed valuables to the Beis Hamikdosh. Asoh fought with Basoh King of Yisrael and Basoh built up Romoh to isolate Asoh. Asoh bribed the King of Aram who sent his soldiers; eventually Basoh retreated from Romoh. Asoh died and his son Yehoshofot ruled in his stead. Nodov son of Yerovom was King of Yisrael for two years, but did not follow Hashem. Basoh killed him and eradicated all of Yerovom’s descendants. Basoh ruled over Yisrael for 24 years and did not keep the Torah properly.Perek 16: Hashem came to Yehu and told him that as Basoh did not abide by the Torah, his descendants would be wiped out like Yerovom. Elioh son of Basoh was King of Yisrael for two years and went in the evil ways of his father. Zimri struck a drunk Eiloh killing him and he ruled over Yisrael next. The people appointed Omri as King, as they doubted the dubious circumstance that Zimri seized power. Omri the previous ‘Commander of the Army’ besieged Tirtzoh where Zimri sought refuge. Omri burnt the palace where Zimri was hiding and killed him (Redak. Abarbanel argues that Zimri burnt himself to death). For 6 years Yisrael had two rulers: Omri and Tivni who each ruled over half of the people, upon Tivni’s death Omri was King of the whole of Yisrael for a further 6 years. Omri did not serve Hashem, but the most wicked King, was his son Achov who served idols and intermarried; he ruled for 22 years. Chiel broke the vow of Yehoshua not to rebuild Yericho and the promise came true, his sons died throughout the construction.Perek 17: Eliyohu vowed that there would be no rain unless he would sanction it. Hashem directed him to the Brook Cris where there would be water from the brook and ravens would provide him with food. After a year the water dried up, so Hashem sent Eliyohu to a widow’s house and asked for some water. She agreed, but when Eliyohu requested bread, she refused saying that she had only minimal supplies which was merely sufficient for her and her son. Eliyohu insisted she bake for him first and made a miracle whereby the flour and oil supplies replenished themselves. This continued for a year. Her son suddenly became deathly ill and died (according to most). The mother ran to Eliyohu He took the boy to his room and stretched over him three times and prayed. The boy came back to life and the jubilant mother said “now I realise you are a man of G-d!”Perek 18: Hashem instructed Eliyohu to go to Achov and that rain would be sent. Ovadyoh was the manager of Achov’s household; he feared Hashem and saved and sustained 100 Neviim when Izevel tried to kill them. Achov and Ovadyohu were separately scouting the land for food for the animals. Eliyohu appeared to Ovadyohu, Ovidyohu feared that Achov would put him to death for encountering Eliyohu, as Achov searched relentlessly for Eliyohu. Eliyohu reassured him that he would go directly to Achov. Eliyohu and Achov met, Achov called him ‘Troubler of Israel’, Eliyohu told him it was his sinful activities which troubled Israel. Eliyohu demanded that Achav gather the 450 ‘Priests of Baal’ to Har Carmel’s Asherah tree the Jewish People and 400 prophets of the Baal. Eliyohu encouraged the people to come and watch the proceedings. Eliyohu challenged the ‘Priests of Baal’ for their god to consume their offering with fire. They called out to the Baal fruitlessly all day and even cut themselves; Eliyouhu encouraged them to shout louder. Eliyohu took 12 stones representing the 12 tribes and erected an altar and threw water over the wood. He prayed to Hashem and a fire descended from the heaven and consumed the offering. The people were stunned and proclaimed “Hashem is the G-d” (this is the source used in the end of Neilah). Eliyohu instructed the people to massacre the false Baal prophets and they carried this out. Eliyohu forecasted that there would be rain and this occurred in great abundance.Perek 19: Achov updated his wife Izevel about how Eliyohu slew all the false Baal prophets. Izevel threatened to kill Eliyohu and he fled to Beer Sheva and voyaged into the wilderness. Eliyohu asked Hashem that he should die and went to sleep under a tree. An angel awoke him to eat and drink twice. He then walked for forty days and night. Eliyohu travelled to Chorev and Hashem came to him in a cave and asked him why he was there. Eliyohu explained that he was in hiding, as he was the only one fulfilling the will of Hashem, protecting Hashems’s covenant and now his life was at stake. Eliyohu was told to go outside on a mountain. He saw a powerful wind, earthquake and raging fire, yet a voice proclaimed that Hashem is not in either of these (according to the Malbim this means that Eliyohu was too violent and harsh with the people and had to treat them with more restraint.) Hashem instructed Eliyohu to appoint Chazoel as King of Aram, Yehu as King of Israel and Elisha as the next Novi. Every single idolater was to be killed by Yehu (leaving over just 7,000 Jews) and those that evaded him, would be killed by Elisha. He appointed Elisha who bade farewell to his parents and cooked Eliyohu a meal (this signifies his acceptance of being an attendant, not just a Novi).Perek 20: King Ben Hadad of Aram besieged the Shomron with his entire mighty army and requested that Achov give him all his valuables, the best women and children. Achov agreed, but Ben Hadad added another request the King’s personal Sefer Torah (Sanhedrin 102b); Achov refused. Ben Hadad threatened to go to war and based on advice from the Elders, Achov decided to go to war. A Novi- Michoyohu (according to Rashi) told Achov he would be successful in battle and that the 7,000 jewish people should be lead by the 232 regional leaders under the command of Achov. At noon Ben Hadad was with the 32 Kings who supported him and was drunk, he was informed by his guards that a band of men (the regional leaders) escaped from the Shomron. Ben Hadad ordered his men to capture the cohort alive, but these men slew the Aramean camp. The Novi warned Achov that in one year, the Arameans would attack again. Aram figured that Hashem was only effective on the mountains and decided to instigate war on regular land. They replenished their army, weaponry and chariots. The Novi assured Achov that yet again Hashem would help the Jewish nation. Israel killed 100,000 Arameans and a further 27,000 when the city wall collapsed. Ben Hadad’s men begged Achov for mercy, Ben Hadad made a covenant that he would return the land his father took and would would control the Aramean market. Michoyohu (Rashi) asked a man to strike him, the man refused; he was killed by a lion for disobeying a Novi. He asked another man who obeyed him and hit him. The Novi disguised himself with a scarf and pretended to be an injured soldier and asked the King for advice. During the war, he was instructed to look after a man with his life, yet he lost him. The King responded that he was to be killed. The Novi revealed himself and criticised Achov for letting Ben Hadad go and said “Your life will be instead of his life and your people instead of his people”. Achov was deeply saddened and angered by this.Perek 21: Novos owned a vineyard next to the Achov’s palace. Achov requested the vineyard and offered to pay, but Novos refused saying “Far be it from me to give you the family property”. Achov was enraged and refrained from eating. Izevel devised a plan to give the vineyard to her husband. Using her husband’s signet ring, she declared a fast and ordered for Novos to be seated at the head of the people. Then, she prepared 2 false witnesses who testified that Novos cursed Hashem and the King and therefore was stoned to death. Immediately when Izevel heard Novos had died, she seized the vineyard (when someone is killed by Beis Din, the King inherits the field). Eliyohu appeared to Achov in the field and told him that “in the place where dogs licked Novol’s blood, Achov’s blood would also be licked by the dogs”. All of Achov’s descendants and property would be wiped out, as he caused Israel to sin. He was the greatest sinner, due to his wife Izevel. When Achov heard this he tore his clothes, put sackcloth upon his skin, went barefoot and fasted. Due to his repentance, Hashem decided that Achov would not be punished in his lifetime, rather it would be in the days of his son.Perek 22: There was peace for 3 years between Israel and Aram. Yehoshofot King of Yehuda visited Achov King of Israel and Achov tried to gain Yehoshofot’s support for going to war against Aram, as it was “rightfully theirs”. 400 prophets assured them that they would be victorious in battle. Yehoshofot insisted that a genuine Novi must be consulted. Achov suggested Michiyohu “who only gives negative prophecies” (the only true Novi). Michoyohu told them that only Achov would die, the rest would be defeated, but not harmed (Rashi). He added that Hashem attempted to draw Achov into war and the 400 prophets were false. Tzidkiyohu (a false Novi) challenged Michoyohu, Michoyohu retorted that it would become apparent who was delivering the correct prophecy. Achov put Michoyohu in prison and demanded he only receives minimal food and water. Both Kings went to war and Achov disguised himself but Yehoshofot wore the Kings garments. The Arameans pursued after Yehoshofot, but retreated as they were targeting Achov. An archer shot an arrow at Achov unaware he shot at the King and the King said he was ill and was taken back to the camp and he died that evening. The army disbanded and Achov was replaced by his son Achazyohu. Yehoshofot became King at 35 and reigned for 25 years, he followed Hashem and prevented immorality, but did not remove all of the idolatry. Yehorom became King when his father died.