The Book of Kings is roughly divided into three equal parts, beginning with an account of the end of David's reign, continuing with Solomon's succession and reign, and ending with the disruption of the kingdom at his death. After Solomon's death the kingdom split into two kingdoms of Judah (the south) and Israel (the north) The histories of the two kingdoms are described chronologically and end with the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E.
From Torah to Haftarah: Making the Connection
In this Torah portion, Sarah, the matriarch, has been buried, and the elderly Abraham, her husband, is determined to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, so that God's promise of future generations can be fulfilled. The haftarah tells us of King David's old age and the way in which Solomon was chosen as his successor so that he could fulfill God's promise of future generations.
"Go at once to King David and say,' My lord king, did you not swear to your servant, saying: Your son Solomon will follow me as king and sit on my throne?'" (First Kings, Chapter 1, verse 13)
Of the 42 kings and queens who ruled over Judah and Israel, David was considered the most important. The unique status of David's monarchy resulted in the formation of the House of David as a royal dynasty and as a symbol of hope for future redemption. Jewish tradition designates David as Israel's greatest king and as the ancestor of the Messiah. In the course of time, the rule of the House of David also became the symbol of God's love for God's people. Even those prophets who sharply opposed the kings of their times, saw in the future the destined leadership of a descendant of the House of David. To this day, three thousand years after he lived, Jews still sing of "David, king of Israel, who lives and flourishes" (the song David, melech Yisrael).
The story in 1 Kings is often referred to as the succession narrative. The central concern of the narrative is the question of who will be David's successor. We learn that David has ruled for 40 years and has become frail. David's eldest surviving son, Adonijah, assumed that he was entitled to inherit the kingdom. David, however, had promised his wife, Bathsheba, that he would give his throne to her son, Solomon. Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan remind David of his oath. The Book of Kings goes on to tell how God's promise to David of a continuous succession was fulfilled through the life of his son Solomon and his successors.
In the Aggadah, we are reminded of the unique status of David's monarchy-in contrast to that of the other kings of Israel. The Midrash even declares that God "looks forward to David's being king until the end of the generations" (Gen.R. 88:7), and that "whoever contends against the sovereignty of the house of David deserves to be bitten by a snake." (Sanh. 110a)
To Talk About
- God entered into a covenant with both Abraham and David. In what ways were these covenants alike? In what ways were they different?
- In what ways does our society continue to stress the importance of lineage and inheritance? How are these questions handled in your own family?
- What role did Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, play in ensuring that he would be David's heir? Think back to the story of Sarah and Abraham. What did Sarah do to ensure that her son, Isaac, would be Abraham's heir?
- Even if we believe in the concept of a Messianic Era, rather than a Messiah, in what ways did King David's rule contribute to that vision?
- Talk about a time when someone in your family did something special on your behalf to make sure you received something to which you were entitled.
Chayei Sarah, Genesis 23:1–25:18
The Torah: A Modern Commentary, pp. 156–167; Revised Edition, pp. 153–167;
The Torah: A Women's Commentary, pp. 111–132