Thursday, July 12, 2007

Illegitimate Origins of King David's Dynasty

Maimonides writes[1] that once King David was anointed as King, his family acquired the right to remain the kings of Israel forever. Only descendants of the Davidic dynasty have a legal claim to the kingship in Israel. However, there was a king who preceded David, namely, Saul. The Talmud asks[2] why Saul was king for only two years (and his son for an additional two years), while David and his family maintained the rights to the kingship, Malchus, forever. In answering this question, the Talmud says that there is a difference between the backgrounds of the two kings. King Saul came from impeccable lineage and because his genealogy was so pure, G-d did not want him and his family to become the kings, while David, who was of questionable lineage many times over, was appointed as the eternal king of Israel. The Talmud explains that had King Saul remained king for too long, he and/or one of his descendants would have become too arrogant and conceited and would rebel against G-d. However, by establishing the Davidic dynasty as the only legitimate heirs to the throne, G-d insured that no king would rebel against Him because all descendants of King David could easily be suppressed should they revolt against Him, by being reminded of their dubious lineage. This is why G-d specifically founded the Israelite kingdom through the man of tainted progeny, King David. Furthermore, G-d established the Davidic dynasty in a way that it could not have natural occurred, and at every step along the way toward the establishment of King David's lineage, miracles had to have occurred.

Although all of humanity descends from the union of one man, Seth, and his sister[3], the Torah specifically describes[4] the birth of two nations who descend from the illicit union between one man and his two daughters. After Lot and his two unmarried daughters survived the destruction of Sodom, they lived together in a cave. The two sisters thought that the world was destroyed and they were the only remnants of humankind. Therefore, they decided to impregnate themselves from their father in an effort to repopulate the world. For two consecutive nights, the women intoxicated their father Lot and on each night one engaged in sexual intercourse with their father. The Talmud teaches[5] that although the two girls acted with proper intentions, their father was a perverted man who secretly always fantasized about committed incest with his two daughters. This explains why Lot accepted the intoxicating drinks the second night, even though he knew what his daughters did to him the previous night[6]. So noble were the intentions of these two girls that the Talmud considers them as having committed a sin with "good intentions". A proof to the fact that the girls acted gallantly is the fact that although the Talmud maintains that a virgin cannot conceive upon her first intercourse, these girls conceived upon their first intercourse because they each self-deflowered themselves by removing their hymen to allow conception[7]. Had the girls acted out of pure lust, without proper intentions, they could have each merely engaged in intercourse with their father twice to insure the possibility of conception. The eldest daughter lied with her father the first night, conceived, and eventually bore a son whom she named Moav, meaning "from [my] father". The second daughter lied with her father the second night, conceived, and eventually bore a son whom she named Ben Ami, meaning "son of my nation". The Talmud says that because of her zealousness in preceding her sister, the older daughter's descendants merited to become part of the founding members of the Davidic dynasty four generations before her sister. This is because Ruth, a woman of Moabite descent, was the great-grandmother of King David, while Na'ama, a woman of Ammonite descent was the wife of King David's son, King Solomon. Nonetheless, the Talmud says that as reward for the noble intentions of these women in committing their acts of incest, they merited to become the ancestors of the Davidic Dynasty.

The Midrash says[8] that as Judah sought to marry a wife to create his family[9], G-d was busy creating the Messiah (King David and his monarchal dynasty). The Torah says[10] that Judah married the daughter of Shua[11], a prominent merchant. Judah married eldest son, Er, to a girl named Tamar, but this son never consummated the marriage[12], rather he merely engaged in anal intercourse with his wife. Since he did not act in accordance with G-d's wishes, therefore Er died young. Judah's second son, Onan, was expected to perform the levirate marriage with Er's widow, Tamar, but refused to consummate this marriage as well because he feared that pregnancy would spoil Tamar's good looks. Therefore, Onan merely spilled his seed on the ground, instead of completing the coitus[13]. This too was not in accordance with G-d's wishes, so Onan was punished with an early death. Although it was known that Judah was destined to become the patriarch of the Davidic Kingdom, he did not become so through Er and Onan, for they were evil.

The twice-widowed Tamar was expected to be wed to Judah's youngest son, Shelah; however, Judah thought that Tamar was a black widow because both of her husbands died, so he did not wish to give his youngest son to her as a husband[14]. Tamar, however, was steadfast in her determination to birth children from the Abrahamic family, so she dressed as a prostitute and waited at the crossroads when she heard that the newly widowered Judah was traveling to his sheep as a means of consolation for his dearly departed wife. The Midrash relates[15] that as Judah walked passed the lady in disguise, he certainly did not consider hiring the prostitute, yet a heavenly angel called out "From where shall the kings come?" This rhetorical question from Above is what prompted Judah to allow himself to accept the services offered by the prostitute. A proof to Tamar's sincerity is the fact that although the Talmud maintains that a virgin cannot conceive upon her first intercourse, Tamar conceived the twins, Peretz and Zerach, upon her first intercourse[16] because she self-deflowered herself by removing her hymen in front of Judah to allow conception[17]. Had Tamar acted out of pure lust, with proper intentions, she could have each merely engaged in intercourse with her father-in-law twice to insure the possibility of conception. The Talmud says[18] that Judah did not recognize that the prostitute was his own daughter-in-law Tamar because when she was married to his sons, she dressed so modestly that he never really saw her. Before engaging in sexual relations with the disguised Tamar, Judah made sure that there were no prohibitions involved in his act of intercourse; he made sure that the "prostitute" was a gentile nor was she married, nor betrothed to be married, nor a menstruating woman[19]. The Talmud says that in the merit of her tznius, modesty, Tamar was rewarded by mothering the Davidic Dynasty. The Talmud also says[20] that because Tamar committed an act of prostitution with noble intentions, she merited propagating the Davidic Dynasty. Perez, the eldest of the twins resulting from the union of Judah and Tamar, was the paternal great great-great- great-great-great-great-grandfather of King David because Peretz fathered Chetzron, who fathered Ram, who fathered Amminadab, who fathered Nachshon, who fathered Salmon, who fathered Boaz, who fathered Oved, who fathered Jesse, the father of King David[21].

The Talmud says[22] that because Miriam aided her mother Jochebed in saving the Jewish babies in Egypt, Miriam merited that King David's dynasty should descend from her. The proves that Miriam was a foremother to King David by explaining that Miriam is called Efrat[23], after Caleb nursed her back to health following her deadly illness[24], and King David is known as an Efrati[25]. Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels (1555-1631) asks[26] that the lineage of King David is traced in the end of the book of Ruth (as mentioned above), yet neither Miriam nor her husband Caleb are listed as being ancestors of King David. Rabbi Eidels offers the possibility that Ram son of Chetzron, a great-grandson of Judah, was the same person as Caleb. However, he disproves such a possibility because Caleb was actually a brother of Ram, as is evident from Chronicles 1 2:9 which lists Yerachmiel, Ram, and Caleb–referred to there as "Celuv"—as the sons of Chetzron. Rabbi Eidels assumes that the Caleb referred to in that verse is identical with the Caleb who married Miriam, however this assumption is debatable[27], and so it is possible according to some explanations that Ram indeed is identical with Caleb and "Celuv" mentioned in the above-cited verse is another person. Rabbi Eidels concludes that since the family of Elimelech (the father of Machlon) is also called Efrati[28], it must be that Ram or one of his descendants (Aminadav or Nachshon) married a female descendant of Miriam and Caleb and the resulting offspring fathered the Davidic Dynasty.

After the exodus, when the Israelites traveled through the wilderness on their forty-year journey towards the Land of Canaan, Balak the son of Tzipor, the King of Moab, realized that the Jews posed a danger to his kingdom. He therefore sought the professional services of a Midianite named Balaam, the son of Beor, to curse the Jewish nation[29]. In order to carry out the curse, King Balak was required to offer sacrifices to G-d. The Talmud says[30] that because of the forty-two sacrifices that King Balak of Moab offered to G-d, the Moabite monarch merited that he should father the Davidic dynasty. The Moabite King Eglon, who was deservingly assassinated[31] by the Jewish Judge Ehud, son of Gera, was a descendant of King Balak of Moab[32] and ancestor of Ruth[33]. Elimelech, one of the leading figures within the Jewish community during the times of the Judges[34] married his son Machlon to the daughter of the monarch of Moab, Ruth. After Ruth became widowed, she formally converted to Judaism and married Boaz, the nephew of Elimelech, by fulfilling a form of the levirate marriage.

Although the Torah outlawed marrying a Moabite[35], Boaz was still allowed to marry Ruth because on the day that Ruth came to the land of Israel looking to marry into Elimelech's family, the Halacha was decided that an Israelite is only forbidden from marrying a male Moabite, but not a Moabitess[36]. That was also the same day that Boaz became a widower[37]. Just a Judah made sure that Tamar was halachikly permitted to him before he lied with her, Boaz also made sure that Ruth was not a demoness, married woman, or menstruating woman before he consummated his marriage with her[38]. The night that Boaz consummated his marriage to Ruth, he died; yet Ruth lived to see her great-great-grandson, King Solomon, sit on his throne in Jerusalem and she even had a throne seated next to his[39]. The Midrash relates[40] that although Ruth never conceived from her first husband Machlon because she did not physically have a womb[41], she immediately became pregnant upon her relations with Boaz because of the power of the latter's prayers which caused G-d to miraculously create for her the physiological means for bearing children .

The Midrash relates[42] that as he aged, Jesse, the leader of the Jewish Nation[43], stopped engaging in intercourse with his wife, Nitzeves[44]. Nonetheless, after a while, Jesse was no longer able to control his sexual desires, and therefore he propositioned another woman with whom he would engage in sexual relations[45]. This woman told Nitzeves about the proposed relationship and Nitzeves decided that she would secretly take the place of the other woman and Jesse would actually end up consorting with her, not the other woman. Indeed, Jesse unknowingly consorted with his own wife, instead of the other woman, and so Nitzeves conceived and bore a child. Jesse, not knowing that he had engaged in relations with his own wife, assumed that Nitzeves had committed adultery when he found that she was pregnant. The sons of Jesse wanted to kill Nitzeves and her "illegitimate" son, but Jesse convinced them to allow them to remain alive, while the "illegitimate" son would serve as a servant to his brothers. This story about the conception of King David explains the Midrash[46] in which David tells G-d that his father only created him because of his own physical pleasure. When G-d deemed Saul unfit for the position of king, He commanded Samuel to go anoint a new king[47]. He directed the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse, where Jesse's seven sons[48] were. After Samuel thought that each consecutive son would have been the king, G-d finally tells Samuel that the meek and ruddy David, the youngest, smallest, and weakest of the sons would be king of Israel.

Even after King David was born, the controversy concerning the halachik permissibility for a Jew to marry a Moabitess remained[49]. Nevertheless, in the end, a Masoretic tradition taught by the prophet Samuel justified the progeny of the union between Ruth and Boaz. However, controversy regarding familial issues still plagued the House of David for many generations. King David has been accused of committing adultery with Bathsheba, although the prophet had already proven that the marriage between the two was legal[50]. Furthermore, King David's son, King Solomon, married Na'ama, an Ammonite princess. Furthermore, Jehoram married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab king of Israel and Isabel, the daughter of the king of the Zidonites. Nonetheless, the scion of the Davidic Dynasty, the Messiah, will come of this controversial seed and will lead the Jewish People towards the ultimate triumph with the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Laws of Kings 1:10
[2] Yoma 22b
[3] Whose name is given in the Book of Jubilees as "Azura", although see Sefer Kushyos §230, ft. 395 which records her name as "Peturah"
[4] Genesis 19:30-38
[5] Nazir 23a
[6] Horayos 10a
[7] See Genesis Rabbah §51:9, see also Minchas Yehuda by Rabbi Yehuda Fatiyah (1859-1942) on Parshas Vayera
[8] Genesis Rabbah §85:1
[9] See Genesis, Chapter 38
[10] Genesis 38:2
[11] According to some explanations, her name was Ayeles (see Sefer HaYashar quoted by Seder HaDoros, Year 2217), while other sources maintain that Bas Shua or Bas Shufi was her actual name (see Sefer Kushyos §230 and the footnote there in the name of the Book of Jubilees).
[12] See Yevamos 34b
[13] This explains the term Onanism
[14] See Seder HaDoros who explains that Judah knew that his first two sons died because of their sins, and that he did not wish for Shelah to suffer the same fate, so Judah intended to marry off Shelah to Tamar when Shelah was older and more mature so that he would not succumb to the same temptations as Er and Onan did which caused Er and Onan to die in their youth. (They were seven years old).
[15] Genesis Rabbah §85:8
[16] With Er she only engaged in anal sex and with Onan the coitus was never completed so her hymen had never been broken until she engaged in her first experience of vaginal intercourse with Judah
[17] See Yevamos 34b and Hagahos Yaavetz there who explains that she must have removed her hymen in front of Judah for otherwise he would have reason to suspect that she committed adultery.
[18] Megillah 10a
[19] This is in stark contrast to Lot who did not question his daughters at all when they propositioned him for sex
[20] Nazir 23b
[21] See Ruth 4:18-22
[22] Sotah 11b
[23] Chronicles 1 2:19
[24] Sotah 12a
[25] Samuel 1 17:12
[26] Maharsha to Sotah 11b
[27] See the commentary Divrei HaYamim by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann (published by Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.) Section 1 and Section 2 to Chronicles 1, Chapter 2, which discusses the multiple Calebs at great length.
[28] See Ruth 1:2
[29] See Numbers, Chapters 22-24
[30] Sanhedrin 105b
[31] See Judges 3:12-30
[32] Tosafos (to Yevamos 48b) have a version of the Talmud that says that King Eglon was a son of King Balak, while most editions of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 105b, Horayos 10b, and Nazir 23b) state that Eglon was his paternal grandson.
[33] In one place, the Talmud (Nazir 23b) says that Ruth was the daughter of King Eglon, while in another place the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 105b) she was the daughter of the son of King Eglon. Tosafos (to Nazir 23b and Yevamos 48b) prove that both passages are not meant literally, for Eglon predated Ivtzan (a synonym for Boaz, who married Ruth, see Bava Basra 91a) by many generations, and Boaz was eighty years old when he married Ruth (Ruth Rabbah §6:2) and the Talmud (Yevamos 48b) seems to imply that Ruth was a pre-pubescent girl when she converted (albeit another Midrash says she was forty—see Ruth Rabbah §4:4), so obviously she was not a daughter or granddaughter of Eglon, but was rather a more distant direct descendant.
[34] Bava Basra 91a
[35] Deuteronomy 23:4
[36] See Jerusalemic Talmud, Yevamos Chapter 3
[37] Bava Basra 91a
[38] Ruth Rabbah §6:1
[39] Bava Basra 91b
[40] Ruth Rabbah §6:2
[41] Ruth Rabbah §7:14
[42] This Midrash is recorded in two different variations. According to one version (Sefer Kushyos §151), Jesse simply "hated" his wife for whatever reason. According to another version of this Midrash cited by Rabbi Chanoch Zundel ben Yosef of Bialystok (Anaf Yosef to Leviticus Rabbah §14:5), Jesse began having doubts concerning the halachik permissibility of him marry a Jewess despite the fact that he was a descendant of a Moabite (Ruth).
[43] See Brachos 58a
[44] According to Bava Basra 91a, her name was Nitzeves bas Ada'el, although see Sefer Kushyos §230 which gives her name as Nitzevet bas Amiel. Interestingly, Rabbi Chaim Yoseph Dovid Azulai (1724- 1807) writes in the name of an old manuscript (Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim §240:4) that her name was Hatzlelponit which is the same as the name of the mother of Samson (see Bava Basra 91a).
[45] According to Sefer Kushyos (cited above) this woman was an unmarried woman with whom Jesse intended to consort. However, according to the version of this Midrash quoted by Rabbi Chanoch Zundel, Jesse devised a plan in order for himself to halachikly have a wife. Jesse reason that if he is of illegitimate lineage, then he is not allowed to marry a Jewess, but could marry a Canaanite maidservant, and if he is a proper Jew, then he is not allowed to marry a Canaanite maidservant but, could marry a proper Jew. Therefore, Jesse decided to free one of his Canaanite maidservant on condition that he is a proper Jew and then marry her. Therefore, if he is a proper Jew, then she is a freedwoman and a proper Jew is allowed to marry a freedwoman; and, if he is not a proper then she is not a freedwoman because the stipulation was not fulfilled and thus he is allowed to marry her because as a man of illegitimate lineage, he would be allowed to marry a Canaanite maidservant.
[46] Leviticus Rabbah §14:5
[47] See Samuel 1, Chapter 16
[48] Although Samuel 1 16:10-11 and Chronicles 1 2:13-15 seem to imply that Jesse had seven sons of whom David was the youngest, Rabbi Dovid Kimchi (1160-1235) points out (Radak to Chronicles 1 2:15) that Jesse actually had eight sons, with David being the seventh and Elihu (Chronicles 1 27:18) being the youngest.
[49] See Yevamos 76b-77a
[50] See Shabbos 56a

1 comment:

Uncle Pinchy said...

The mideast says "... [Yishai] couldn't control his sexual desires?!"

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