Melachim Bet

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

Friday, July 28, 2006

ch.8 Yehoram, Achazyahu, Kings of Yehudah

The Names Get Complicated

Reading the end of ch.8, the names can get very complicated. Here is the list of kings:

Yehuda: Yehoshafat (25) – Yehoram (8) – Achazyahu (1)

Yisrael: Achav (22) – Achazyahu (2) – Yoram ben Achav (12)

Chapter 8 describes the two Judean kings who succeeded Yehoshafat. We have already "caught up" with Yisrael, as we described Yehoram ben Achav at war (against Moav) in ch.3. However we need to update the history of Yehuda now, by describing Achazyahu and Yoram.

Here, a few points are worth mentioning:

1. Spiritual : These are bad times in the kingdom of Yehuda. The family ties between Achav and the Judean royal House have influenced Judea detrimentally. Jerusalem now becomes yet another center for Baal worship. In the role of Izevel stands Izevel's daughter Athalia, and "like mother like daughter," she rules the roost! Yehoram "… walked the path of the Kings of Israel, like the House of Achav, for Achav's daughter was his wife, and he performed evil in God's eyes" (8:18)

The import of foreign norms manifests itself also in Yehoram's killing all his brothers! See Divrei Hayamim II 21:2 where all Yehoram's brothers are mentioned. Then see in 21:4 that he killed them all! (as Athalia does later – see 11:1)

2. Geopolitical : The extent of Israelite control in this period diminishes considerably. Here in Melachim, we hear that Edom rebel – the end of Judean hegemony that existed for the last generation – see Melachim I 22:28. But in Divrei Hayamim it is much worse. Divrei Hayamim describes a joint Pelishti-Kushite invasion that appears to have swept Jerusalem itself, and had virtually the entire royal family killed. This sudden fall from the heyday of Yehoshafat to the depths of Yehoram is reminiscent of the mighty fall from Shlomo to Rechavam (and the invasion of Shishak) many generations earlier.

3. Unity.
At the end of the chapter we see the Unity between Israel and Yehuda as the King of Yehuda - Achazyahu – pays a visit to his wounded cousin - Yehoram King of Israel - in Yizrael. This unity of family and spirit which would be so wonderful in other circumstances is a recipe for disaster here, as Yehuda becomes totally infected with the deviance of Yisrael. Maybe that is the reason that Hazal criticize Yehoshafat so severely for his association with Achav. Sometimes, "achdut" can carry a weighty price-tag!

4. The role of the Gevira, or "First Lady"
We see that at times the wife of the king held sway in the Palace in a most powerful manner. It would appear that this is the meaning of the title Gevira. To investigate this title see the following mekorot:

- Melachim I 11:19 – referring to the wife of Pharaoh
- Melachim I 15:2,13 – referring to Ma'acha, wife of Aviya(m) King of Yehuda. She influenced the nation , even years after she was queen, in the direction of Avoda Zara, and eventually here Grandson, Assah, rids Jerusalem of her "monster" (idol) and REMOVES her from her status of Gevira.
- See Divrei Hayamim II 22:3-5. Athalia holds a special advisory role in he country.
- Melachim II 10:13 arefers to Izevel as Gevira.

(See also Yirmiyahu 13:18, 32:2)

How does this role function exactly? From the evidence, it appears to be that an old queen, the "Queen Mother" functions in a disproportionately influential manner. Is this role a legislated "position" in other societies? (- after all, one example is in Egypt, another is Athalia whose influences are Phonecian.) One theory says that the Gevira functioned when there was a very young king who arose to the throne. In this case, effectively the mother took power. Alternatively, after her husband's death, she gains special status as the former Queen, or Queen Mother (as there once was in the UK!) This works pretty well with most of the cases in Tanach.

5. An All Time Low, North and South.
The weakness then, both spiritually and militarily is true both for the South AND the North. All the stories of Elisha describe the poverty and defenselessness of the Northern Kingdom. Now the South gets caught in the same trap. This should really make us understand that in almost every sense: religiously, economically and militarily, the country is at an all time low. The Wars Against Aram continue, now against Hazael instead of Ben Hadad. Yoram king of Yisrael (North) will be seriously wounded in this battle.

The defeat of Israel in battle at the hands of Aram and Achazyahu's visit to Yoram provides the backdrop for the next chapter.