Melachim Bet

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

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ch.13- 14. Article by Prof. Avraham Grossman

Avraham Grossman - a leading History Professor at Hebrew University - writes a beautiful article that echos our previous post.
It's in Hebrew but well worth the effort.

ch.14-15 Questions

פרק י"ד
14:1-22 Amatzia ben Yoash (מלך יהודה)
#5 Why is this the first act that we see from Amatzia?
#6 He doesn’t kill their children (why would he?) on the basis of the passuk in Devarim 24:16. Explain.
#7 The defeat of Edom. What was the political situation in Edom prior to this? See מל"ב ח:כ"ב

#8 "לכה ונתראה פנים" - What is the implication of this phrase? And thus, what is Amatzia’s message to Yoash, the king of the northern kingdom? See passuk 11-12
#9-10 Explain the mashal. What is the balance of strength between Yisrael and Yehuda at this time? (remember, Yoash melech Yehuda gave all his money to the king of Aram!)
#12-14 The war.

· How does Amatzia die?

Fill in extra information from Divrei Hayamim II ch.25
Do you see any background to the tension between Yisrael and Yehuda that might have lead to the civil war between them?
25:14 Amatzia gets involved in Avoda Zara after his war against Edom. See the response of the Navi.
25:17 See how the call to war against the northern kingdom was a “calculated move.”

מל"ב י"ד:כ"א-כ"ב
Who ascends the throne in Yehuda after Amatzia?
What is the significant detail mentioned here? What does this tell us?

י"ד:כ"ג-כ"ט- ירבעם בן יואש
#25 In the area of national security, what is Yerovam’s achievement?
Geographically locate the places and explain the significance of a border מלבוא חמת עד ים הערבה
· Which prophet prophesied about this?
· Why does God help the Jewish people at this point? – see 13:23 – and note the pattern that is being revealed in regard to Malchut Yisrael.

Back to Azaria.
#5 Azaria/Uzzia’s Tzara’at. See Divrei Hayamim for the full story of Uzzia’s reign. Study ch.26 in its entirety.
· How does Uzzia’s reign appear in terms of socioeconomics/national security. Note a parallel in this regard with the state of things in Yisrael at this time.
· What motive prompted Uzzia to enter the Temple and offer Ketoret? This is characterised as a sin. What sin?

The rest of Chapter 15
Chart the kings which are listed in this perek.
· Note the religious and political information which is included in connection with each king.
· How do these kings come to the throne? Look over the last few chapters here and remind yourselves how many kings have risen to leadership via political assassination. (This will be important as we read Hoshea and other Sefarim of the Trei Assar.
· Just to orientate ourselves at this point regarding Trei Assar, see the opening lines of the following Sefarim:
o ישעיהו
o הושע
o עמוס
o מיכה
Identify the periods in which each of them prophesised. We shall be reading these Nevi’im as a commentary to the period. (It is the Gemara in Pesachim פ"ז עמ' א and בבא בתרא י"ד עמ' ב which refer to these Neviim as בפרק אחד נתנבאו ארבאה נביאים .)
· As you read through the perek, jot down the names of the Assyrian (Ashur) leaders that attack Am Yisrael. This will come in useful so that we can identify a particular period not just by the kings of Yehuda/Yisrael, but by their Assyrian adversaries.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ch.13-14 The Northern Kingdom Hits Rock Bottom! And Then … The Turnaround!

We have spent some time in Yehuda (Athalia and Yoash). Now let us return to the Northern Kingdom – Yisrael. To remind ourselves. We just had the bloody rebellion of Yehu. Now we see the reign of his son Achazyau. Today we shall talk about three kings – all from the north:
- YehoAchaz ben Yehu (17)
- Y(eh)oash (16)
- Yerovam ben Yoash

The main point to be made here is the fact that in these times, the nation suffered from the dominance of Aram under Hazael (as predicted by Elisha.) We know that Hazael was extremely strong because in 12:18-19 we read of his attack on Jerusalem. It would appear that whereas Yehuda managed to fend off Aram, Yisrael was totally dominate by her.

"3 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael, continually… 7 For there was not left to Jehoahaz of the people save fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Aram destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing."

Here we witness an awful situation in which Aram allows only 50 cavalry and ten chariots; in other words, he allows a ceremonial guard but essentially insistes on full demilitarisation. And apparently Yisrael are two weak to resist his demands.

This difficult situation continued during the reign of Yehoachaz

"22 And Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz."

But this was the start of the turnaround:

"24 And Hazael king of Aram died; and Ben-hadad his son reigned in his stead. 25 And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash smite him, and recovered the cities of Israel. {P}"

Apparently the new king is unsuccessful in leading Aram. Now Yehoash begins to regain
Some control, and even regains territory that has been taken from Yisrael.

In the reign of Yehoash's son, Yerovam, things improve further:

"25 He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke by the hand of His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher."

In other words, in Yerovam's time, Israel controls Aram!


Now, we may ask – what caused this turnaround? Obviously the Historian will point to the change of king in Aram, and yet, we know that Sefer Melachim is a spiritual book, not a book of political-military History. This is a book of Nevuah! It gives us God's commentary on the Historical events. The thesis of Sefer Melachim is clear. Sin breeds war, poverty, defeat, invasion, the fall of kings, and the exile of nations. Keeping the Torah and remaining committed and devoted to God stimulates economic prosperity, peace and calm, and a nation state in which Israel can live normally.

So if I see a turnaround of this sort – from foreign control, and military defeat to peace and prosperity, I would imagine that a process of Teshuva had taken place. That am Yisrael had engaged in radical soul-searching or something. This was not the case.

A different process was underway. See these pesukim:

13:4 And Jehoahaz besought the LORD, and the LORD hearkened unto him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, how that the king of Aram oppressed them.-- 5 And the LORD gave Israel a deliverer, so that they went out from under the hand of the Arameans; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as beforetime

13:22 And Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither hath He cast them from His presence until now.

14:23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke by the hand of His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter; for there was none shut up nor left at large, neither was there any helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD said not that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

Here let me focus upon TWO features of this phenomenon.


In these stories we do NOT see Teshuva. Yehoachaz beseeches God, but we fail to see the eradication of Avoda Zara in his time – passuk 6 tells us that the Ashera stood in Shomron at that time!

Likewise with Yerovam ben Yoash. The Tanach describes his "evil". He makes no strides to abandon the pagan culture of the Northern Kingdom.

So why does God assist? Why does he rescue Yisrael?

With YohoAchaz, "the Lord hearkens to him." Why? "for He saw the oppression of Israel." Am Yisrael is in such a sorry state, so pathetic and helpless, that God restores a state of national normalcy. Not because we deserve it!. It is simply because God cares.

God saves us because he sees that Am Yisrael are on the brink of disaster, the brink of exile and decimation. He wants to give us a "last chance". It is not our good deeds, but God's mercy, the power of His relationship with Israel - "that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven" - that saved us. It was the covenant of the Avot – the Historic legacy of Am Yisrael that allow God to grant us a reprieve despite the fact the we didn't deserve it.

But God's patience, his caring and mercy do not last forever.

When the passuk refers to God not "blotting out" the name of Israel, it is true! We should realise that after the reign of Yerovam ben Yoash, the Northern Kingdom is quickly dominated by Ashur-Assyria and destroyed, exiled. This really is the last chance! God is very patient. But even God's patience runs out at a certain point.

And this brings us to our second point.


In this section, as we read of the reversal of fortunes of the Northern Kingdom, we are informed, not once, but twice that this process of national rehabilitation is being chaperoned by a prophet.

With Yerovam (14:23), we read of the prophecy of a certain Yona Ben Amitai (maybe the very same Yona as Sefer Yona) who predicted Israel's return to independence and its control over Aram.

Earlier on, in Chapter 13, we read of Yoash's visit to the great Prophet Elisha as he lies on his death bed[1]. And in this meeting, Yoash is given a message[2] of the victory of Israel against Aram.

Why do we see Elisha and Yona heralding the victory of Israel?

I think that this relates directly to our earlier observation. Spiritually Am Yisrael are at an all time low. God has predicted that the kingdom will rise once more breaking the shackles of Aramean control and dominance.

How will the king, the nation relate to these victories, this upturn in the national fortune? Is a fluke, a chance political occurrence? As a gift from Baal and Ashera? What will be the effect of this turnabout in the national situation? Will it lead people to appreciate God? Their fellow man? Will it lead to an increase in standard of living along with hedonism, corruption, materialism, continued abuse of the poor? Or will people use the gifts of wealth, calm and security to better the ills of society?

The role of the prophets is to realise that these gifts are from God. They are not a product of the winds of chance. And if they are God-decreed, even though the nation is far from deserving God's kindness, then maybe, just maybe, it might generate a positive reaction from the nation. Possibly the carrot will work instead of the stick; the good times as heralded by the prophet will draw people closer to God.


And so, we have charted the fall and rise of the Northern Kingdom. We have discovered that this is undeserved; an expression of the God-Israel relationship and God's beneficence. And we have understood that the prophet was designated to accompany these events in order to assist the people to interpret the events around them, to understand the ways for God, his love for Israel and his great mercy.

[1] There is a certain poetic irony here, as Elisha visited Ben Hadad as he was on his death bed. That lead to Hazael's rise to power. Now on Elisha's death-bed, he predicts Aram (Hazael)'s decline and fall.

[2] In typical prophetic style, the message is delivered via a figurative/symbolic act. More about this in our next post.

ch.12 A final word. Integrity of Public Officials.

Appendix to the Yoash Story

Communal Trust and Financial Abuse.

As I write these lines, Israel is in the midst of a series of scandals that have been leveled at government ministers, the Prime Minister and the President. One of the issues that are weighing upon my mind then is the question of moral integrity of public officials and the communal measures taken to ensure full honesty especially in financial matters. All institutions need safeguards against impropriety. And yet, no institution can function without creating relationships of trust and allowing its workers to contribute their unique skills and talents unhindered, to the service of the institution.

In this context, two pesukim in our story come to mind:

[7] Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests , and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house.[8] And the priests consented to receive no more money of the people, neither to repair the breaches of the house.

Here it would appear that the priests are somehow collecting money from friends and associates. This in turn leads to an abuse of the system in place for funding the Mikdash!

What is going on? It would seem (see Radak) that the original system was that Koahnim would collect contributions from their friends, or "acquaintances." This system, that probably worked for many decades or even centuries, was an opening for corruption (similar to that which we saw in the past in Israel's central party committees.) Certain Kohanim would become "activists" lobbying for extra funds, and then having greater power to decide on the designation of those funds.

And even if the system was not corrupt, it certainly was ineffective! The question as to whether the system worked lay in the results. The Beit Mikdash was dilapidated! The system was not working well.

Were they corrupt or just inept? We don't know. But whether it was their fraudulent handling of the money or their amateur approach, the money failed to reach the desired destination.

Interestingly the pesukim suggest the latter. They were simply ineffective at financial affairs and fundraising. Sometimes, communal organizations do suffer from this. Well meaning individuals who have little training in money-management handle immense budgets and due to their relative ignorance of finance and investment, they make costly mistakes at significant loss to public funds.

[In Divrei Hayamim there is a slightly different explanation, but once again, there it would appear that the Kohanim were rather unmotivated it when it came to financial concerns. Maybe, being men of the spirit, they felt a lack of confidence in demanding money from the rank an file of Bnei Yisrael]


On the other hand:

[15] Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully.

Despite the earlier misappropriation of Temple funds, the treasurers who paid all the builders and craftsmen in the Temple, were given a free hand to write the cheques and make the orders for the Mikdash renovations seemingly, without accountability.

Indeed. The Gemara in Bava Batra bases a Halakha on our chapter:

"Our Rabbis taught: The collectors of charity are not required to give an account of the moneys entrusted to them for charity, nor the treasurers of the Temple of the moneys given for holy purposes. There is no actual proof of this (in Tanakh), but there is a hint of it in the words: 'They reckoned not with the men into whose hand they delivered the money to give to them that did the work, for they dealt faithfully.'"

Now, this after the Talmud has already established that there need to be no less than 2 and preferably 3 treasurers who may not distribute or collect charity except in the others' presence, and so there are some safeguards. Moreover the Talmud mandates that the Tzedaka treasurer be a person of impeccable reputation. On the other hand, if every charity official is summoned for a cheque misplaced, then few people will be willing to take the task upon themselves.

When is it appropriate to express trust, and when is it advisable to investigate and express criticism?


In our chapter the solution involes a number of elements:
1. Now the money management is taken away from the control of the Kohanim.
2. Donation is now anonymous, breaking the power of the people who mismanaged the Temple funds.
3. Transparency and joint management: There are two "supervisors" (#11) – one from the government and another from the Temple – allowing for full transparency. The money is managed by both sources allowing for the interests and skills of both groups.

And yet, as reported in passuk 16, there is always a certain degree of discretion when running a project. Do you take the cheaper or more expensive craftsman? Which fabric or material do you choose? Do you take standard goods or have them especially crafted by a designer? When it comes to these questions , it would appear that license was given to the trustworthy work-managers to appropriate the funds as needed be. And t would appear that part of their professional pride was precisely that trait of integrity and honesty – כי באמונה הם עושים.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ch.12 - Y(eh)oash, King of Yehudah

The figure of Yoash burst in to the public limelight a year or two back when a tablet surfaced that was said to have been excavated on Har HABayit itself. It quoted almost verbatim, certain lines from Divrei Hayamim that relate to Yoash. Unfortunately, the widespread assessment was that it was a fraud. (See the discussion.)

But in truth, Yoash doesn't need a modern day sensation to sell his story. Yoash's history is incredible: A prince who is snatched as an infant from the midst of a massacre, raised in secret and becomes a child king. He dedicates his life to the Mikdash, and then in his old age, for no obvious reason, turns away from God, and serves the Baal. His biography is colourful, interesting and intriguing. For me, the looming question relates to his unexpected attraction to Avoda Zara in his later life. Why would a person so entrenched in Avodat Hashem suddenly revoke his life's commitment? What happened?

We shall engage in a study of Yoash's life to seek some answers. To follow the story as told in our Tanach, we shall give it some structure. Broadly, we can divide it into THREE sections:
1. His infancy
2. His renovation of the Mikdash
3. Yoash's demise: Hazael's attack, and Yoash's assassination..

Reviewing the Story

1. Yoash, the Child King (age 1-7)
Athalia massacres all the male heirs to the throne. Yoash's aunt – Yehosheva - saves his life, somehow hiding the little prince and his wet-nurse. Now, this effort was not simple at all, after all, the baby's body would have had to be accounted for. There was certainly a team of conspirators who backed the "old-guard" and subverted Athalia. The most prominent ally of Baby Yoash was Yehoyada, the Kohein Gadol who certainly knew that the Yoash, heir to the House of David, was being raised in secret. Chazal reinforce this (see Rashi and other mepharshim) by suggesting that he was hidden in the Mikdash itself – in the secret chambers above the Kodesh Kodashim! At age 7 the secret is revealed. Yehoyada stages a revolution within the Beit Mikdash, (the depiction is very dramatic,) Yehoash is crowned king, and they depose of Athalia. Yoash is now king.

2. The reinforcing of the building funds for the Mikdash. – 23rd year of Yoash's reign.

In this story, Yehoash orders the Kohanim to take more care in the upkeep and maintenance of the Mikdash. He finds the Temple in a state of disrepair, and summons Yehoyada, accusing the Kohanim of negligence towards the Mikdash.

Up to this point, the Kohanim would receive donations. They were supposed to forward the funds to the Mikdash, but they apparently used it towards other purposes. Yehoyada's solution is to bypass the Kohanim by setting up a donation box into which every visitor to the Mikdash would deposit a donation. In this manner, the Israelite gives directly to the Temple without the intermediary of the Kohein.

Indeed this is the Haftara for Parashat Shekalim – a tradition that relates to annual contribution for the Korbanot Zibbur of the Mikdash.

3. Yoash's demise and Death

In Sefer Melachim we now hear of an attack by Hazael and the kingdom of Aram. To avert disaster, Yoash cleans out the Royal treasury and also the funds of the Mikdash and bribes/ offers a tribute in order to persuade Hazael to leave. And the next we hear, certain political opponents - government figures apparently - assassinate Yoash. Were they opposed to his war "strategy"?

But in Divrei Hayamim (II, ch.24), events far more sinister are described, and we understand a major political fight:
Here are the main points:

- Yehoyada dies and is given a royal burial.
- The king then selects a new group of advisors (In today's terms; a new bureau chief, political advisor, PR team etc.) He accepts their advise.
- The next we know, we find Yehoash serving Baal and Asheira. Apparently this trun to Avoda Zara is part and parcel of the new "image" suggested by the new "management team".
- As a result, Zecharia – son of Yehoyada – stands in the Mikdash and in a spirit of prophecy, rebukes the king for the idolatry. People in high positions have him killed by stoning, just in the courtyard of the Temple.
- As a punishment for this, God sends Hazael. Nothing is mentioned about Yoash paying him off. In fact it would appear that Yoash was seriously injured in battle with Aram.
- While he is bedridden from his wounds, loyalists of the Yehoyada family and the Kohanim come and assassinate Yoash.

A Political-Religious Analysis

Now let us at least put some shape to this intrigue. I would suggest that essentially there are two factions here , each seeking to exert influence upon the king. In fact, these factions represent very different philosophies, both political and religious.

We have the Right Wing – the religious, Temple faction of Yehoyada. These represent traditional Jewish values, with, I imagine, a more insular cultural worldview. This group has been Yoash's main support since his childhood.

And we have the Left Wing – a more cosmopolitan approach, more worldly. These people are still the residue from the Athalia period. Like her, they value other cultures – the Phoenician progress – and wish to see Israel culturally in-step with the rest of the world. They don't view Judea as an island that needs to fight against the world. Accommodation with enemies is just fine. After all, what do we have to lose?


Maybe we can talk about Yoash's story as a saga of "growing up."

As a child, he is cared for and influenced by the Mikdash. His mentor and surrogate father is Yehoyada.

Maybe let me take this to a further extreme. A seven year old king cannot govern! Effectively, during Yoash's childhood, youth and early adulthood, Yehoyada functions as the ruler, the governing power. He always tells Yoash how he acts in his better interests etc. But we can only imagine that as Yoash grows up, there are differences of opinion on certain policy issues. I imagine that Yehoyada sometimes tries to manipulate things in a direction different to that of Yoash, and that there are times when Yoash wishes that Yehoyada were less powerful.

So skip a few years ahead. Now Yoash is age 30. He wishes to strike a reputation of his own. He begins within his "safety zone," first flexing his muscles in the arena of the Mikdash. He accuses the Kohanim of abuse of funds. He begins to wrest away the control of the Mikdash from priestly hands and to begin to exert his influence and power of the institution of the Mikdash.

What is happening here is that both politically and personally, Yoash is trying to create his own sphere of influence, his own independence. He does not wish to see the central institution of the Mikdash with its enormous power - especially after many years with Yehoyada as surrogate King - unless it is under is thumb. He knows that if he is to govern, he must hold sawy in the Mikdash. Hence he instigates the crisis of the Mikdash and its run-down state to begin to circumvent Kohein control and to show that he can also control the purse fo the Mikdash and the designation of finances, and hence the priorities and direction of the Mikdash. He discredits the Koahnim and accuses them of financial indiscretion and irresponsibility. And he emerges as the primary financial conduit to the Mikdash with rennovations and repairs credited to the King rather than to the High Priest.

As time goes on, these processes intensify.

Yehoyada dies. While he was alive, we can suppose Yoash began to resent his presence. And yet, he is indebted to him, faithful to him. He respects him and will give to Yehoyada's more traditional leanings. During his life, he towed the party line.

But now, after his death, Yoash feels that he is un-tethered and he looks for a new political coalition; an alliance with which to strike ties and to build a new power base. He finds this in the Left Wing faction, who also have experience in government. Always open to world culture, even paganism – at the time the most progressive religious approach, the most popular religious reality. They persuade Yoash to widen his perspective, allowing his kingdom to accommodate the wider culture, and very soon, Baal is de riguer in Jerusalem.

The opponent, Zecharia , son of Yehoyada, accuses the king of selling out on Jewish values. He is stoned to death by government sanction. The new advisors are firmly in control.

We now understand that the people who killed him were the Koahnim loyalists – people who became his bitter enemy a he moved away from traditional values. They felt that he had betrayed God and the Jewish values which were the essence of the state. This faction had deposed the previous queen for her religious betrayal. Now they attack another king who followed idolatry! After all, these people also knew the corridors of power that they had walked for over 20 years.

What happened to Yoash? As a King who had taken the throne as a child, controlled by the decisions of others he simply needed to find his own space, to grow up, to make his independent decisions. He was concerned as he grew up to govern independently, to be seen as a strong King - not the Koahnim's puppet, but his own status as a policy maker, as a statesman and leader. Maybe psychologically, as a young adult, Yoash felt crushed, intimidated under the tutelage of Yehoyada. He yearned for his own voice. Religiously, as he grew up he found his room for independence specifically beyond the tradition within which he was raised. He resented the control of the Kehuna and the Mikdash.

And yet, ironically, in emancipating from its influence, he failed to achieve independence. He found his contribution to the country in the offerings of progress and trade, culture and development, the promises of the Athalia loyalists who most probably explained how the new direction would open the gates of trade and world approval for the State of Judea.

Ironically Yoash suffered from his abnormal upbringing. As he tried to shape an independent identity and a new political course, he brought the country into a new dangerous religious direction.

Monday, August 07, 2006

ch.11-12 Questions

מלכים ב' פרק י"א-י"ב

#1-3 Why did Athalia perform the strange act of killing all the royal family? Search for clues! Passuk 1,3,17-18.
· For how many years was she queen?
· Who saved Yoash? How did they keep him alive? See also Divrei Hayamim II 22:11 for more details.

· How does Yehoyada act in an unusual way for a Kohen, in the light of what we have seen so far in Sefer Melachim

#4-12 Explain how they performed the revolt. Cross reference the story in Divrei Hayamim.

Explain the following words/phrases/concepts by learning the Radak:
· באי השבת
· משמרת הבית
· מסח
· שער סור
· שדרות

What weapons did the rebels use?
#12 What is the עדות? See Rashi, Radak.

#17-20 What religious atmosphere did Athalia sustain
What religious priorities did the new regime set for itself?

פרק י"ב
(Haftara for Parshat Shekalim)

· What priorities does the new king demonstrate in this perek? What about his biography would have lead him in this direction? Why was there a need for renovations? –see Divrei Hayamim II 24:4-7.

What happens in this episode?

To fill in the spiritual gap between passuk 17 and 18, see Divrei Hayamim II 24:14-22

· Who treats the store-rooms of the Beit Hamikdash in the same way as Yoash? See Melachim I ch.15:18

How does Yoash die? Can you explain possible motives?

Chapter 11 - Rav Steinsaltz on Athalia

Chapter 11 describes the reign of Queen Athalia who presumed the throne after the death of her son, and then killed the entire royal family. Unbeknown to her, Yoash, a little baby, and a male heir to the monarchy, is secretly kept away from harm and lives in secret until he can presume the throne.

In his book Biblical Images (Based on the Galei Tzahal radio lecture series – Nashim BaTanach) Rav Steinsaltz discusses Athalia. First he notes that Athalia rules specifically in the Kingdom of Yehuda:

"Queen Athaliah's rule was possi­ble …only because she ruled in the Kingdom of Judah, where a single dynasty had reigned for many years, and where there had not been a single real revolt or serious attempt to overthrow the royal dynasty. Thus, Athaliah, who in fact had no real claim or right to rule, could, in the absence of other claimants to power, govern the state for six years-a fairly long period. In the Kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, there would have been no possibility of a woman retaining power for any length of time. In that unstable state, even the legitimate kings were fairly likely to be toppled by others."

There is also the question of timing:

"There is another aspect to Athaliah's "case." If she had come to power a few years earlier, it would have been claimed that the queen was getting political help and support from the members of the ruling house of Israel, to whom she was related. The surprising thing is that Athaliah took up the reigns of government after her family and her power base in the Kingdom of Israel were destroyed to the last man. At such a time, there should have been a popular response against foreign rule (it should be remembered that Athaliah may have been Jezebel's daughter and, in any case, was not from Judah but from Israel and was thus, from every viewpoint, a foreign transplant). Nevertheless, despite all these strikes against her, Athaliah maintained control of the government for a considerable length of time. Her removal from power was the result of a conspiracy in the highest circles of the-kingdom, and not as the result of a popular revolt."

But what motivated Athalia? Rav Steinsaltz raises a single thesis:

"On the one hand, it is clear that Athaliah, like Jezebel, was not just a strong personality but a woman who yearned to rule; a woman with a real ambition, an intense passion for power... Her passion was simply for power itself, and this drive of hers was so strong that it caused her to carry out a series of extreme acts, even to the point of destroying the royal heirs. The strange and inexplicable element in all this is: Why did Athaliah destroy the royal progeny? … she tried totally to destroy the children of the royal house in order to acquire full control and power without fear of any contenders to her throne and with no need to hide behind someone else. "

And he continues:

"She did not even make any serious political or religious changes within the country. She became simply a manifestation of this one drive: to rule."

"As long as her son was alive, she remained somehow within the human sphere, not only because he was the rightful king, but also because of her emotional contact with the child. She hungered for power and probably wielded real power, but she did not yet need all its external trappings. The downfall and destruction of her father's house was the event that broke Athaliah's last ties with the rest of humanity. What remained was simply this one drive: the lust to rule."