Melachim Bet

We just can't stop learning! ...The Bekiut Nach class of 5766 in a quest to complete Nevi'im Rishonim

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My shiurim on Melachim Aleph

This year I wrote shiurim on Melachim Aleph for Yeshivat Har Etzion's VBM.

You can find all 29 shiurim on Melakhim Aleph here.



Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Archeological Finds in J-lem

here is an article about new finds in Jerusalem, that may stretch back even to the period following Athalia! The excavations at Ir David are very exciting, and are constantly changing. Make sure you take a visit there next time you are in Jerusalem/Israel!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Yotam Ben Uzziah - the view from Daf Yomi

Daf Yomi a day or two ago, had a facinating line on the next King of Yehuda; Yotam ben Uziah. In this piece of Massechet Sukka, Rabbi Shimon bar Yoachai is talking about the manner in which the greatness of a few lone individuals can hold sway for the entire world:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוכה דף מה עמוד ב
ואמר חזקיה אמר רבי ירמיה משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי: יכול אני לפטור את כל העולם כולו מן הדין מיום שנבראתי עד עתה, ואילמלי אליעזר בני עמי - מיום שנברא העולם ועד עכשיו, ואילמלי יותם בן עוזיהו עמנו - מיום שנברא העולם עד סופו.
Hizkiyah quoted Rav Yirmiyah in the name of R. Shimon b. Yochai: I could save the world from judgement from the time I was born unto the present moment; and together with my son Eliezer, from the moment of creation until the present time; and in conjunction with Yotam ben Uzziah we could exempt the world from Judgement from Creation until the end of time."
Now, if we may ignore the apparent self congratulatory nature of this statement; we find the name of Yotam ben Uzziahu mentioned here in an enormously positive context. Who was this man?

יותם בן עוזיהו - צדיק היה, ועניו יותר משאר מלכים, וזכה בכיבוד אביו, ועליו נאמר בן יכבד אב (מלאכי א), שכל הימים שהיה אביו מצורע והוא היה שופט עם הארץ, כדכתיב (מלכים ב טו), ויותם (בנו) +מסורת הש"ס: [בן המלך על הבית]+ שופט וגו' לא נטל עליו כתר מלכות בחייו, וכל דינין שהיה דן - אומרן בשם אביו.
The Rabbeinu Channanel takes this further and states that this group of 3 people all failed to receive the rewards of this world in this world. (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son lived for 12 years in a cave denying themselves worldly pleasures for an extended period. Likewise, Yotam did not reap a this-worldly reward. Maybe this has something to do with Yotam missing his chance , so to speak, to rule during the period in which his father was in a state of leprosy.) Steinsaltz adds that in the Tanach account of Yotam, nothing negative is mentioned about him; no qualifiers or minus points. All that is mentioned is that he "did that which was right in God's eyes... and he built the (upper) gate of the House of God."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ch.15-17 : The Four Concurrent Prophets.

The Assyrians are Coming! This is a second introductory post which should set the tone for the next 5 or so chapters.
The post Yerovam-Uzziah period is turbulent to the extreme. The forces of Assyria that dominate the region cannot be ignored and form the backdrop for every policy decision. Without understanding the broad perspective here, we cannot understand the Navi.

The Gemara discusses four prophets that prophecies concurrently[1]: Yishayahu, Amos, Michah and Hoshea. It is quite easy to figure out why they would be seen as contemporaries – Just look at the opening line of their Nevuot!

ישעיהו פרק א
חֲזוֹן יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶן אָמוֹץ אֲשֶׁר חָזָה עַל יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָם בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּהוּ יוֹתָם אָחָז יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה:

הושע פרק א
א) דְּבַר יְדֹוָד אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל הוֹשֵׁעַ בֶּן בְּאֵרִי בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּה יוֹתָם אָחָז יְחִזְקִיָּה מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה וּבִימֵי יָרָבְעָם בֶּן יוֹאָשׁ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל:

עמוס פרק א
דִּבְרֵי עָמוֹס אֲשֶׁר הָיָה בַנֹּקְדִים מִתְּקוֹעַ אֲשֶׁר חָזָה עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּה מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה וּבִימֵי יָרָבְעָם בֶּן יוֹאָשׁ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל

מיכה פרק א
א) דְּבַר יְדֹוָד אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל מִיכָה הַמֹּרַשְׁתִּי בִּימֵי יוֹתָם אָחָז יְחִזְקִיָּה מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה אֲשֶׁר חָזָה עַל שֹׁמְרוֹן וִירוּשָׁלִָם:

In other words, starting with the Yerovam-Uzzia period, there is a BURST of prophecy. Usually we do not see multiple prophetic voices in a single period. For such a cacophony of prophecy to be sounded, there must be something momentous going on. It continues throughout the next kings: Yotam, Achaz and Hizkiyahu (all Kings of Yehuda.) Now if God is sending Navi after Navi, we can induce that there must be some rather significant events happening that God would like to comment upon. Obviously, these historic events are the rise of an enormous empire – Assyria – the likes that the Middle East has never seen. Assyria were truly a superpower and no kingdom could ignore them.

From the perspective of Yisrael/Yehuda, the very existence of the kingdom was hanging in the balance. In hindsight we know that the Assyrian invasion was devastation for Yisrael and Yehuda – mainly during the reign of King Hizkiyahu. It destroyed and exiled the Northern Kingdom. And it almost vanquished Yehuda as well; after the Assyrians, only Yerushalayim was spared – 46 walled cities had been attacked, penetrated and looted!

So these warnings coming in such a concentration are God's way of sounding an alarm. We clearly comprehend the rationale behind all this prophecy as it comes to warn the people, to guide them, to place their current events in a spiritual context; and maybe – just maybe – to avert the looming disaster.

What is the approach of the nation as they see the advance of the supepower, Ashur? We just read last Shabbat – Shabbat Shuva – the final chapter of Hoshea:

הושע פרק יד
(ב) שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי כָשַׁלְתָּ בַּעֲוֹנֶךָ:
(ג) קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל יְדֹוָד אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו כָּל תִּשָּׂא עָוֹן וְקַח טוֹב וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים שְׂפָתֵינוּ:
(ד) אַשּׁוּר לֹא יוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ עַל סוּס לֹא נִרְכָּב וְלֹא נֹאמַר עוֹד אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ יְרֻחַם יָתוֹם:

Let us just focus upon passuk 4 here. If the Navi has to say to the nation that "Assyria will not save us," and then "We shall not mount horses," then that means that the Navi's words are coming to object to, to argue with certain popular opinions current in society at his time. Apparently there were opinion makers – political leaders and advisors, popular movements - who believed and propagated one of two views:

1. The only way to deal with Assyria was to create an alliance, a protectorate with them. (The Liberal Left.)
2. That a resistance be mounted, a coalition of forces to fight and distance Ashur. (The Hawkish Right Wing.)

Everyone agreed about the threat. Everyone wanted to save the Jewish State. The question was the appropriate policy. We shall see, when we study the reign of Achaz, that there were people who backed BOTH of these approaches and they BOTH proved to be disastrous.
We shall now turn our attention to the events of this period in our upcoming posts in the following order:
1. King Achaz
2. The fall of Shomron and the Exile of the Northern Tribes
3. King Chizkiyahu
[1] תלמוד בבלי מסכת פסחים דף פז עמוד א +הושע א+ דבר ה' אשר היה אל הושע וגו' בימי עזיהו יותם אחז יחזקיה מלך יהודה. בפרק אחד נתנבאו ארבעה נביאים, וגדול שבכולן הושע, שנאמר +הושע א+ תחלת דבר ה' בהושע. וכי בהושע דבר תחלה? והלא ממשה עד הושע כמה נביאים! אמר רבי יוחנן: תחלה לארבעה נביאים שנתנבאו באותו הפרק, ואלו הן: הושע, ישעיה, עמוס, ומיכה.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Uzziah Burial Tablet?

Uzziah Tablet

In 1931 an archeological find, now known as the Uzziah Tablet was discovered by Professor E.I. Sukenik of the Hebrew University. He came across the artifact in a Russian convent collection from the Mount of Olives. The origin of the tablet previous to this remains unknown and was not documented by the convent. The inscription on the tablet are written in ancient Hebrew with an Aramaic style. This style is dated to around AD 30-70, around 700 years after the supposed death of Uzziah of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Nevertheless the inscription is translated, "The bones of Uzziah, king of Judah, rest not open!" It is open to debate whether this really is the tomb of King Uzziah or simply a later creation. Many seem to claim that it was a later reburial of Uzziah after the Second Temple Period.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ch.15 - The Decline and Fall of the Northern kingdom.

From the heights of the period of Yerovam, the Northern Kingdom falls rapidly. In approximately 40 years the Kingdom is invaded, destroyed and exiled.

Here is the timeline as described by ch.15 and 17.

Zecharia (ben Yerovam) – 6 months


Shalum ben Yavesh – 1 month


Menachem ben G'di – 10 years
Pekachia (ben Menachem) - 2 years


Pekach ben Remaliahu – 20 years


Hoshea ben Ella - 9 years.

Destruction of Shomron. Exile of the Ten Tribes!

Just from this timeline, you can see that the sense of stability has totally fallen apart. No king lasts too long and there is a feeling of opportunism and pessimism as each king is clearly deemed an unpopular leader and others imagine that if they take his place they will fare better!

At the same time we can feel the slow approach of the mighty superpower of Assyria - Ashur.

15:19 - Pul makes a threatening approach and is bribed by Menachem to leave the kingdom intact
15:29 - The advance of Tiglat-Palesser and the conquest of the Northern Gallilee.
17:3 - Shalmanesser finds that Israel have rebelled against him and he sets siege against Shomron ultilately destroying the city.

Seal of Megiddo

This seal of Yerovam's servant was found 100 years ago in Megiddo!

This seal was discovered in 1904 during the earliest excavation of Megiddo, led by Gottlieb Schumacher. This was a seal belonging to a royal minister in the 8th century BC. It is engraved with the figure of a roaring lion (symbol of the kingdom of Judah) with a beautiful curved tail and was skillfully executed. The inscription reads "Shema" on top, and "Servant of Jeroboam" on the bottom.

BTW nice table of archeological finds alongside the period when found can be accessed at

Ch. 15 Uzziah and Yerovam

The reign of Yerovam ben Yoash and Uzziah
The Best of Times; The Worst of Times

We are now going to move on to the next period; that of Yerovam ben Yoash in the North (Yisrael) and Uzziah (or Azariah) in the South (Yehuda.)

All our information points to the fact that from many respects this was a period of great wealth and influence for the region. Sefer Melachim gives sparse evidence both for Uzzia and Yerovam, so to fill in the gaps we have to look elsewhere.

UZZIA – the evidence in Divrei Hayamim.

Uzzia reigned 52 years. This is a span of time in which one can creat real achievements. Uzzia seems to have been a very positive king – supporting correct service of God, expanding the kingdom and building significantly.
Divrei Hayamim II 26:6-8 talks about his conquests against the Pelishtim, Ammon, and the Sinai all the way to Egypt. What we can glean from this is that Uzziah truly controls the region. The borders and beyond are safe. The country can turn its attention to other issues rather than defense. And now they can also charge levies and tolls which bring significant government income.
26:8 – his renovation of the walls and towers of Jerusalem.
26:9 – his "love" of farming and agriculture, irrigating new pasture land and arable areas.
26:13-15 His large army, and their hardware, including new technology – חשבונות מחשבת חושב – some sort of new firing mechanism.
All in all it seems like the times were very good indeed.

Unfortunately the reign of Uzziah ends with his becoming a leper. Again, Sefer Melachim is silent about this. In Divrei Hayamim the story is reported how he wanted to offer incense in the Temple. He was warned against this by the Kohein Gadol and yet persisted. And in the middle of the act he was struck with Tzaraat. The Talmud comments upon this:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ערכין דף טז עמוד א

א"ר יוחנן על שבעה דברים נגעים באין: על לשון הרע, ועל שפיכות דמים, ועל שבועת שוא, ועל גילוי עריות, ועל גסות הרוח, ועל הגזל, ועל צרות העין...ועל גסות הרוח, דכתיב: +דברי הימים ב' כ"ז /כ"ו/+ ובחזקתו גבה לבו עד להשחית וימעול בה' אלהיו, +דברי הימים ב' כ"ז /כ"ו/+ והצרעת זרחה במצחו.

Maybe all the power went to his head and he sought to become not only king but also High Priest bringing the Ketoret. Whatever way, the Talmud accuses him of arrogance or brazenness in this act.

The Midrash Tanchuma sees this as a product of his preoccupation with material matters and his relative disregard of the spiritual:

מדרש תנחומא פרשת נח סימן יג

בעוזיה כתיב כי אוהב אדמה היה (ד"ה =דברי הימים= ב כו) שהיה מלך והפקיר עצמו לאדמה ולא נזקק לתורה, יום אחד נזקק לבית הועד, אמר להם במה אתם עוסקין אמרו לו בהזר הקרב יומת (במדבר א) אמר להם עוזיה הקב"ה מלך ואני מלך נאה למלך לשמש פני מלך ולהקטיר לפניו, מיד ויבא אל היכל ה' להקטיר על מזבח הקטרת

During the period of Uzziahu there was a significant earthquake that was remembered long into the future – see Amos 1:1 and Zecharia 14:5. Chazal connect it with Uzziah's act of bringing the Ketoret. One wonders why this act specifically should generate an earthquake rather than Achav's Avoda Zara or Menashe's Molech. And yet Chazal tie a third event together here: Yishayahu ch.6 in which Yishayahu receives his initial Nevua warning about the destruction of the land.

In other words, Uzzia's act belies a certain mode of behaviour: putting oneself above God's rules, seeking personal grandeur, the desire to follow one's desire despite the convention and authority that restricts a person. All of this is a sign of a materialistic indulgent society. Now is this the atmosphere that lead God to warn Yishayahu about a future Galut?.

This leads us neatly to Yerovam. Again Sefer Melachim is extremely sparse. It simply informs us that the border with Aram in the North, and in the East too was restored, indicating Israel regaining its military edge. And yet archeology reveals enormous building works at Shomron during Yerovam's reign. The city wall was built so strong that it resisted 3 years of siege by the mighty Assyrian army some decades later.

However the true atmosphere is found in the prophecies of Amos who functioned in the Northern kingdom at this time. Amos prophecised during the reign of Yerovam as can be seen by the opening passuk of the book (1:1-2) and by his prophecy in 7:11.The book of Amos reveals a situation in which there was enormous wealth in the Northern kingdom and yet there were massive inequalities of income with the rich-poor gap at startling proportions.

" So says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, yea,
for four, I will not reverse it (the Destruction): because they sell the
righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; 7 That trample the dust
of the earth upon the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the humble;
and a man and his father go unto the same maid, to profane My holy name; 8 And
they lay themselves down beside every altar upon clothes taken in pledge, and in
the house of their God they drink the wine of them that have been fined."

Here is a society that is deaf to the plight of the poor. People build massive wealth on the backs of the poor, eating the fines they take from the desperate honest hard-working peasants and enjoying the pledges that they have seized in exchange for loans. Here we are dealing with the haves and the have-nots, with loan-sharking systems that make the rich richer and leave the poor in desperation. Here Amos addresses the super-rich living in their palaces:

"They lie on ivory beds;
lolling on their couches,
Feasting on lambs from
the flock
And on calves from the stalls.
They listen to song to the tune
of the lute –
They account themselves musicians like David
They drink
straight from wine bowls
And anoint themselves with the choicest oils

But they are not concerned with the ruin of Joseph.
Assuredly, right
They shall head the column of exiles;
They shall indulge no more at
festive meals

My Lord swears by Himself;
I loathe the Pride of
And I detest his palaces.
I will deliver (to the enemy) the city
and its inhabitants alike." (6:4-8)

Amos talks to a society that is wealthy and complacent. They believe in their own military might (6:13). They insist – on religious principle (9:10)- that God will do them no harm, that if there will be a day of God's retribution, the Jews as God's chosen people will escape unscathed (see 3:2 and 5:18).

Amos delivers a biting critique of society. His major complaint is the oppressive economic environment that has the rich living in luxury and the poor are worse off than ever before. He warns that:

"4 Hear this, O ye that would swallow the needy, and destroy the poor of the
land, 5 Saying: 'When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? and the
sabbath, that we may set forth corn? making the ephah small, and the shekel
great, and falsifying the balances of deceit; 6 That we may buy the poor for
silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and sell the refuse of the corn?' 7
The LORD hath sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of
their works. 8 Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that
dwelleth therein? Yea, it shall rise up wholly like the River; and it shall be
troubled and sink again, like the River of Egypt. {P}"

These are people who cannot wait for Shabbat to be out so they can oppress the poor even more. He warns that the "land will tremble for this." IS this the cause of the earthquake during the generation of Uzziah and Yerovam. IS the sin of the people – the economic disparity, the guise of high society when the workers wallow in absolute misery and hopeless despair – that caused the earth to quiver?

And maybe Uzziah's arrogance and the people of Shomron's indulgence are two sides of the same coin.

How terribly sad that in times of good, in periods of wealth calm and plenty, we could not have found a way to practice kindness, justice , community and support. Why is it that in good times we forget our needy brother. How can it be hat God-given wealth is not used in order to better the lot of all of Society? How can we be so blind?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ch.14 part 2 - The complicated story of Amatzia

אמציה בן יואש מלך יהודה

Amatzia is certainly a puzzling personality.

When we look at Sefer Melachim, Amazia appears to be loyal to God, and successful in conquering Edom.

But there is another story. He makes a disastrous military advance against Yisrael, attacking what seems to be a far stronger kingdom (Yeshuda = the thistle; Yisrael = the Cedar see 14:9.) He loses the battle, allowing Jerusalem to be attacked, penetrated and looted. And he pays for his lack of judgement by his own death - he is assassinated.

In Divrei Hayamim (ch.25) , the story is even more complicated and ambiguous, although some aspects of the story are given greater shape.

1. One thing that IS explained is the source of the tension between Yehuda and Yisrael. In other words, Divrei Hayamin explains how relations deteriorated between teh south and the North.

When Amatzia went to war against Edom, he hired 100,000 mercenary soldiers from the Northern Kingdom – Yisrael. However, the Navi instructed him to let them go, to "fire" them. Why? Maybe because he already has a sizeable force and it is enough might. There are many sources in Tanach where God reduces the size of the fighting force in order that the king not think that all victory is based upon human initiative. Alternatively, God wishes to censure an association with Yisrael. In the past any friendship with Yisrael has resulted in teh spiritual collapse of Yehuda. Better to be friends from afar! Indeed, Amatzia listens to the Navi! He sends the troops home. Now clearly this is very commendable. In addition, when Amatzia expresses his concern as to the wasted money- after all, he has paid a great sum of money to hire 100,00 soldiers - the prophet reassures him that God will more than recompense the loss.

However, on their way home, these soldiers, insulted by the rejection, take out their frustration and insult upon the cities of Yehuda killing 3000 people and pillaged widely. Clearly an ifraction of this sort upon the sovereignty and security of Yehuda cannot go without some response. And hence the seeds of conflict are sown.

This explains the tension with Yisrael.

But how is it that Amatzia declares war with Yisrael? For the past century, there has been peace and harmony between the two kingdoms! Does Amatzia not realise the enormous cost of engaging in internal (civil) warfare? Why does he actually take it to an armed conflict?

2. Amatzia demonstrates unusual cruelty as he seems to throw 10,000 Edomite soldiers off a cliff! (25:12) - and this, after he is already victorious. He gains nothing strategically from this act. Now, this action is a stratling contrast to his compassion to the children of his father's assassins – (see the previous post!) Is Amatzia hard-hearted or is he generous and kind.

3. Religion. On the one hand, Amatzia listens to the Navi even though it will cost him dearly (see above).
On the other hand, Divrei Hayamim (II:25) reports that Amatzia returned from the Edomite conquest with gods of Edom as his trophy and he began to serve them. Idolatry!

When the Navi rebukes him, the King suggests to him that it is in his best interests to remain silent. In other words, he is threatening the Navi!

And hence a king who pays a great price for listening to God (in rejecting the 100,000 northern troops,) now fails to accept the Navi, and indeed succumbs to the temptations of ignoring the Navi and rejecting him.

So who is Amatzia? Is he God-fearing or idolatrous? Callous or kind? How do we reconcile these contradictory tendencies, these personality swings?

DAAT MIKRA (DM) distinguishes between two periods.
BEFORE the campaign against Edom, Amatzia listens to the Navi, follows God, demonstrates compassion, seeks unity.
AFTER the campaign we see idolatry, rejection of the prophet and ambitious bombastic war campaigns.

One wonders why that war against Edom changed him so much? What was the couse?

(DM also points out the similarities between Yoash, his father, and Amatzia whereby Amatzia, like Yoash, starts loyal to God and the Kohein/Navi. And then, in later life, rejects Him and His laws. They both get assassinated!)

Rav Yigal Ariel (מקדש מלך) suggests that since we are in a geo-political power vacuum – Aram is not particularly powerful, there is no Ashur yet etc. - and these circumstances create a power scarmble. Where there is no superpower, there is room for smaller states to fill the void. Now every nation looks to capitalise where he can. A weak monarch is fearful of invasion, of his own neighbours. Aspiring kingdoms will prey upon weaker neighbours to expand their power base and their wealth and security. This is an environment in which one is vulnerable., especially if you are a weak leader.

Amatzia is a weak leader (see his war record!) He could turn to God and thereby ask God to keep him secure and independent, and this he does at the start. He could retain a low profile, an attitude generally recommended by the prophets. But in the middle of his reignhe makes a policy decision to secure his position by acting as a power-broker. Part of this might even be his hiring of foreign forces. He wishes to be the one that calls teh shots in the region. He wants to demonstrate his own, power, to flex his muscles. He attcks Edom. And tries to send a message regarding his strength and resolve by killing 10,00 troops with great cruelty. He is trying to build a reputation. It would appear that this activity is so incongruous with a Jewish world-view that he seeks another "address" religiously, a god who will back his meglomania, his desire to seek security via conquest and attack. This might also be his motivation in demonstrating that he will not be insulted or humiliated as he attacks the Northern Kingdom, Yisrael. He feels a need to exhibit strenth. But in the final event, he fails at this. He is weak inside. It is all a pose. In the end it is a catalyst for his downfall.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ch. 14 - Amatzia, King of Yehudah. Part 1.

Here we have a king that is described as following God. His reign is a significant 29 years. In addition, Sefer Melachim relates that he conquers Edom on the Southern border. We can see from this description that this is a period of calm and stability in which YEhuda can flourish. As we have seen with Yisrael, the pressure from Aram has waned. There is no enemy on the horizon, no superpowers. And so we shall see that for a period of 80 years - the reign of Amatzia and Uzziah - we have a period which is good, economically, religiously and in terms of national security.

Amatzia's father - Yoash - was assasinated. The Tanach tells us that whereas Amatzia executed the perpetrators of the assasination,:

"he did not put to death the children of the assassins, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Teaching of Moshe, where God commanded, 'Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents; a person shall be put to death only for his own crime." (14:6)

To investigate this topic further, see the article by Rav Yonatan Grossman on the VBM:

here is an excerpt:

"The question that begs itself is, why would a monarch or judge consider punishing an individual on account of his parents' sins? Even the most superficial knowledge of the Torah's justice system leads one to recognize the inconceivability of such a provision. For the court to administer punishment, guilt must be established beyond any shadow of a doubt and the defendant must have clearly been warned just prior to the crime. As we know, these requirements render a death sentence almost impossible, even for the perpetrator himself. So why would the Torah need to warn against the execution of his son?!

The Seforno implicitly raises this question in his commentary:

"Parents shall not be put to death for children - even for the sin of rebellion, where the practice of kings was to kill even their children so they wouldn't rise up as enemies of the monarchy... In any event, the Torah prohibited our kings from killing one on account of the other, out of God's compassion for His nation."

In the specific instance of rebellion, it may occur to a king to adopt the practice of the foreign monarchs who, in their effort to solidify their rule in the aftermath of a failed coup d'état, eliminate the families of the dissidents. Our verse outlaws this practice."

In our next post, Amatzia and the Civil War.