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The Book of Joshua

The Book of Joshua Perek Yomi The Book of Joshua Study Questions A Project of MACC,

Perek Yomi The Book of Joshua

Study Questions

A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative Council

Questions prepared by Steven Chervin, Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal,

and Jill Jarecki

Edited by Steven Chervin

MACC (Metro Atlanta Conservative Council)

MACC is an association of the Conservative institutions in Atlanta,

The Book of Joshua

including The Epstein School, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. A central element in the mission of MACC is to promote Jewish education in the greater Atlanta community. MACC is co-chaired by Cheryl Finkel, Head of The Epstein School, and Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council (PYCC)

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Toby Goldman and Debra Wolff (AA Synagogue), Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim), Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal (Beth Shalom), Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom), and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).

The Book of Joshua


The Book of Joshua opens the second part of the Tanakh known as Nevi’im or Prophets. It continues the story found in the Torah, with G-d designating Joshua to succeed Moses as leader of the Israelites. We read here about the conquest of the Land of Israel, the division of the Land for each of the tribes, and Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelites.

The Book of Joshua

The major theme of the book is the holiness or kedusha of the Land of Israel: the Israelites can only merit this holy Land if they observe G-d’s commandments. Their military fortunes wax and wane according to whether or not they are faithful to G-d.

The book also raises a fundamental moral dilemma: how can we justify the Israelites’ invasion of the Land and their destruction of the peoples living there?

Chapter One: Joshua receives his command from G-d

G-d emphasizes to Joshua that he must observe the Torah of Moses faithfully because "only then will you be successful."

1. What do you think "observing the Torah faithfully" means?

2. Why is "observing the Torah faithfully" a prerequisite to Joshua’s and the Israelites’ success?

3. How might "observing the Torah faithfully" affect our own success today, both as individuals and as a people?

4. What do we mean by "success"?

Steven Chervin teaches Tanakh at the New Atlanta Jewish Community High School and is a member of Ahavath Achim Congregation. Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal is a former Tanakh teacher at The Epstein School, and is a member of Congregation Beth Shalom. Jill Jarecki is Associate Director of Ramah Darom and a member of Ahavath Achim Congregation.

Chapter Two: The mission of the spies to Jericho

The Book of Joshua

The spies are hidden and protected by a prostitute in Jericho by the name of Rahab.

1. Why do you think Rahab offers to protect the spies’ identity from the king of Jericho?

2. Do you believe her when she says "the Lord your G-d is the only G-d in heaven above and on earth below"?

3. Rahab says that G-d’s show of power – performing wonders and miracles in Egypt – convinces her that He is the Lord. What does it take today to convince people to believe in G-d?

Chapter Three: Crossing the Jordan River

In the Book of Exodus we learn that G-d splits the Red Sea so that the Israelites can cross through on dry land and escape the Egyptians. Now G-d stops the waters of the Jordan River so that the Israelites can cross through on dry land. Rather than escaping from an enemy chasing them however, this time they are preparing to meet their adversaries – the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, etc.

1. Why do you think G-d needs to perform this miracle again for the people?

2. How do you think the people felt as they were preparing to cross the Jordan?

3. Why did the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant lead the people?

4. How do we prepare ourselves for entering a new phase or experience in our lives? What special teachings and instructions do we take with us to help us navigate our way through new and unfamiliar transitions?

5. How do we as Jews prepare ourselves for turning points in our annual cycle of holidays, e.g. Yom Kippur?

Chapter Four: The 12 stones

1. Why do you think the 12 stones had to be taken from the exact middle of the Jordan River, where the priests’ feet were standing?

2. Which Jewish holiday is recalled by verse 21: "in time to come when your

children ask their father, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ tell your



3. How do we teach our children today to remember important events in our past?

The Book of Joshua

Chapter Five: The camp at Gilgal

Just as Rahab had said earlier (chapter two), the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites "lost heart and no spirit was left in them because of the Israelites."

1. How do you think the Israelites showed their "spirit"?

2. Why do you think G-d chose this moment for the circumcision of all those males born after the Exodus?

3. The commander of G-d’s army echoes G-d’s words to Moses from the Burning Bush: "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." How is this holy place different from the one where Moses saw the Burning Bush?

Chapter Six: The fall of Jericho

The Israelites are told in verse 8 not to "take anything from that which is proscribed (banned)", meaning things were to be dedicated to G-d by being destroyed.

1. How does destroying something consecrate it to G-d?

2. Why do you think the Israelites were forbidden to take the booty of Jericho for themselves?

3. Why does G-d command the people to rescue the "silver and gold and objects of copper and iron" and deposit them in G-d’s treasury? What will they be used for?

Chapter Seven: Achan’s sin

This chapter introduces the central spiritual and moral dilemma found in the Book of Joshua: does G-d’s promise to give this Land to the Israelites justify the displacement of the peoples who live there? Do the beliefs and practices of these peoples justify their destruction by the Israelites?

1. Does G-d’s ban against the Israelites’ plundering Jericho represent an ethical standard of warfare? If so, how do we reconcile this with the

The Book of Joshua

Israelites’ utter destruction of all the people of Jericho (except for Rahab and her family)?

2. Do you think that all Israel should have suffered (especially the 36 men who were killed by the men of Ai) for Achan’s sin?

3. Should a nation’s military fortunes be determined by the moral righteousness of all of the members of that nation?

Chapter Eight: The conquest of Ai

After the battle, Joshua built an altar to G-d and he wrote a copy of the Torah "in the presence of the Children of Israel." Then "all of the congregation of Israel" stood there to hear the Torah read.

In chapter 7, "all of the people" were involved in punishing Achan. In this chapter, "all of the people" are present to see the Torah being written and to hear the Torah being read.

1. Why do you think there is a continuing emphasis on the presence and participation of "all of the people?"

2. Do you think this is a value in our modern Jewish communities, as it was in our Biblical community?

3. If this is a value for us today, how do we express this value? Are there programs, people, and places, which reach out to the entire community?

4. If this is not a value for us today, why not? What changed? Should this be a priority for us?

Chapter Nine: The treaty with the Gibeonites

In this chapter, Joshua is developing and testing his leadership skills. Like any new leader, he must decide when to ask for help and when to make his own decisions. Here, we are specifically told that Joshua and the men of Israel "did not ask counsel of the Lord." In this case, Joshua and the men of Israel misjudged the situation and made the wrong decision. Joshua then comes up with a plan to minimize the damage.

1. Why do you think Joshua decides not to seek counsel? Should leaders always seek counsel? How do leaders develop?

The Book of Joshua

2. How does Joshua respond to those who deceived him? What action does he take to protect the people? Does he keep his word? What kind of leadership qualities does he display in his response?

3. What has Joshua learned from this incident? What do we learn from Joshua about personal growth and development? How can we apply those principles to our own lives?

Chapter Ten: The sun stands still

1. Why do you think Joshua asked God to have the sun and moon stand still?

2. Why does the text tell us that there has never been and never will be another day like that?

3. What does that imply about that miracle and about the consistency of our natural world?

4. How does that affect our view of miracles? Should we request miracles that go against the flow of nature?

Chapter 11: Victory over the northern coalition

In this chapter we hear Moshe’s name six times. The line is firmly established from G-d to Moshe and from Moshe to Joshua.

1. Why do you think this chain needs to be emphasized so often in this chapter?

2. Who, in your opinion, needs to be reminded of the origin of the commands? The Israelites? The other nations? Future generations?

3. The last pasuk (verse) says, "and the land had rest from war." Why do you think this is phrased that way? Why "the land" rather than "the people?" What message does this send about the significance of the land?

Chapter 12: Summary of the conquest

1. Why do you think we are presented with this list?

2. What effect does it have on the reader to see the list of kings that the Israelites have defeated?

3. How do we feel when we "list" our own accomplishments? How do others feel when we list their accomplishments? What might this list teach us about

The Book of Joshua

our encounters with others?

Chapter 13: The land remaining to be conquered

In chapter 12, we just read a long list detailing Joshua’s conquest of the land. Indeed, the number of kings conquered equals 31! And yet, two verses later, in

13:2, we read: "This is the territory that remains:


1. To what do you think the author is alluding?… Is Joshua’s job good, but not good enough?

2. How does this verse clue us into both G-d’s and the peoples’ roles in the conquest?

3. Is the Tanakh calling for human perfection, or does it recognize that perfection is beyond our reach?

4. If perfection is beyond our grasp, what is it that we are striving toward?

Chapter 14: The nine and a half tribes divide the land

In 14:6-14, Caleb receives Hebron as his portion of land.

1. Why do you think he receives it? Is it because he was promised it or because he spoke up for himself, reminding Joshua that he was promised land?

2. What does this text come to teach us about personal responsibility for one’s future?

3. What happens to those people who are either unable or afraid to speak up for their needs?

4. Do others in society have an obligation to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves?

5. How can one learn to use one’s own voice to help one’s self?

Chapter 15: Judah’s portion

Unfortunately, in the Tanakh we hear too little from the voices of women. Thus, each reference is precious, offering us insight into the life of our foremothers.

1. What kind of woman is presented to us in Caleb’s daughter?

2. For this question the translation of 15:18 is pivotal. The New JPS translates

The Book of Joshua

it as "When she came [to him], she induced him to ask her father for property." However, as relayed in the notes, a Greek translation reads that "he induced her," (to ask her father for property.)

3. Which reading makes the most sense to you?

4. How does each reading influence the way in which Caleb’s daughter is portrayed?

5. Which portrayal do you prefer? Why?

6. Why do you think that we hear so little from the female voice in the Tanakh?

7. Has the lack of our foremothers’ voices influenced your relationship to the text and to Judaism?

Chapter 16: Ephraim’s portion

1. We read in verse 10 that the tribe of Ephraim failed to dispossess the Canaanites. What is the importance of this detail? Why did they fail?

Chapter 17: Manasseh’s portion

1. Why do you think the fact that Manasseh is Joseph’s first-born is

underscored in this text: 17:1?

2. Do we have a tendency to treat our children differently based on their birth order?

3. What do we learn from the Josephites’ complaint to Joshua of having too little land, 17:14-18?

4. What does Joshua’s reply subtly tell the Josephites regarding the threat of the Canaanites and how to handle them?

Chapter 18: Joshua’s call to complete the division

1. In order to "receive one’s portion" does one wait to be given it, or is one obligated to go after it on one’s own? (18:1-3)

Are you more comfortable in letting someone else take the lead, or would you rather be in control?

The Book of Joshua

Which choice does the text advocate and why?

2. Land is an extremely important commodity in the Book of Joshua. Thus, casting lots to determine which tribe gets which piece of land seems to be too random a decision making tool.

Is the apportionment of land random in your view, or somehow divinely ordained?

To what extent does G-d direct the Israelites’ world?

To what extent does G-d direct our world today?

Are we aware of the types of roles that G-d plays in our lives?

Chapter 19: The portions of Simeon, Zevulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan and Joshua

1. Why would Joshua or G-d divide the land so another’s surrounds that one tribe’s portion? In 19:1, Simeon’s portion lay inside the portion of Judah. Indeed, 19:9 reveals that Simeon received land that had already been given to Judah.

2. Wouldn’t this arrangement create enmity between the two tribes?

3. Why do you think that G-d would create this possibly problematic situation?

4. What can this text come to teach parents about conflict among children and how parents can handle it?

Chapter 20: The cities of refuge

1. What is a city of refuge according to the text?

2. The elders are entreated not to hand the manslayer over to his blood avenger since he killed without intent and he was not the victim’s enemy in the past.

What does it mean to be someone’s enemy?

3. How would it feel to have your town designated as a city of refuge?

4. What is the ethical principle at work behind the city of refuge system?

The Book of Joshua

5. What do you think this text comes to teach us?

Chapter 21: The Levitic cities

Here, in chapter 21, verses 1-3, is another example of someone getting what is his due only after speaking up for it.

1. Can you recall two other examples of groups or individuals getting what is rightfully theirs only after asking for it.

2. What does this repetitive theme come to teach us?

3. What themes are repeating lately in your own life? What do they come to teach you?

4. In verses 41-43, what is the process of taking over the land?

6. What part does G-d play and what part do the people play?

In verse 42, we read that "Not one man of all their enemies withstood them."

5. How do you reconcile this statement with the Danites’ experience in 20:47?

6. Do these two accounts conflict, or can you reconcile them? If they conflict, how

do you account for it in this sacred text?

If the Tanakh was written by G-d, how can there be a conflict?

If the Tanakh was written by people, allowing for textual conflicts, how can we view the Bible as Divine…sacred…?

Chapter 22: The transjordan tribes build an altar

1. How does Joshua summarize the Teaching that Moses taught to the people of Israel? Is there anything you would add to Joshua’s description?

2. The tribes on the east side of the Jordan build an altar to G-d. Why does the

The Book of Joshua

building of an altar to G-d cause so much strife? What does the PROCESS of settling this issue come to teach us?

Chapter 23: Joshua’s admonition

1. Why does Joshua emphasize that G-d is the One fighting Israel’s battles, and that G-d has fulfilled all of G-d’s promises? Haven’t the people worked hard alongside G-d? Does G-d need G-d’s ego stroked? Does G-d even have an ego? What role does this image of G-d play for the Israelites?

2. What do the people of Israel have to do in order to maintain G-d’s presence and protection? What does it mean to deviate, (vs. 6), from the Teaching? Is interpretation deviation? Do we, today, deviate from the Teaching?

3. Verses 9-13 can be read as a dictum against intermarriage and assimilation. Do you think the dangers of intermarriage and assimilation are the same today?

Chapter 24: Joshua’s farewell address

1. Why does Joshua feel a need to review ALL that G-d had done for the children of Israel? Verses 11-13 emphasize that the Israelites took other peoples’ towns and vineyards. What sense of justice is there in attaining power over the land at the expense of thousands of others’ lives? What is the driving force behind attaining land and power?

2. In verses 16-18 the people openly declare their choice to serve

3. G-d. Why do they make this decision? Why is it important for the people to make their own choice about serving G-d?

4. Do we, today, make our own decision in this matter, or do we simply and somewhat blindly follow the decisions of our ancestors?

5. In your opinion, what is the significance of The Book of Joshua? What is its purpose, and how well does it achieve its goal?

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Perek Yomi Perek Yomi Shoftim: The Book of Judges Study Questions A Project of MACC, the

Perek Yomi Shoftim: The Book of Judges

Study Questions

A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative Council

Questions prepared by these staff members of The Epstein School, Solomon Schecter School of Atlanta: Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel, Rabbi in Residence; Myrna Rubel, Director of the Middle School; Cheryl Finkel, Head of School. Edited by Steven Chervin

MACC (Metro Atlanta Conservative Council)

MACC is an association of the Conservative institutions in Atlanta, including The Epstein School-Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. A central element in the mission of MACC is to promote Jewish education in the

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greater Atlanta community. MACC is co-chaired by Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School, and Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Toby Goldman and Debra Wolff (AA Synagogue), Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim), Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark- Blumenthal (Beth Shalom), Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom), and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).

The Book of Shoftim (Judges)


This book opens an era of transition for the Jewish nation. Joshua and Moses are gone, but the age of greatness under David lies far ahead. Without a single national leader each tribe concentrates on settling its area, struggling against and succumbing at times to local Canaanite influence. Despite threats from without and within, a new community and a new pattern of life in keeping with the principles of God’s Torah was emerging. The judges, chosen by God, led the people in this time when "…there was no king in Israel; every man did what was proper in his own eyes…" (17:6, 21:25). The period of the judges lasts for 400 years. Throughout the book the Israelites experience a repeating cycle of sin, disaster, repentance and rescue.

Chapter 1: Conquest

The Tabernacle is situated in Gilgal during the fourteen years of conquest of the land. This chapter deals with the geography of the land.

1. What do you think is the significance of putting the tribe of Judah in charge of the conquest?

2. Israel now becomes the "conqueror" – how do the Israelites treat the tribes

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who are already living in Canaan? Why are some tribes allowed to exist? Can you make any predictions about the future?

3. Read verse 19 – How do you think modern technology has changed warfare?

Chapter 2: Introduction

A prophet is sent to warn the people not to make treaties with idol worshippers.

1. Does collective punishment work?

2. What circumstances would cause the people to forsake God?

3. How would you define ‘idol worship"

4. Why is God always testing his people?

Chapter 3: Judges 1 and 2 - Othniel and Ehud

The Israelites live among 5 great nations and must remain true to their God or be conquered by others. The first few Judges continue with the conquest of the land by defeating the Moabites.

1. What was a Judge’s job? What leadership qualities did a Judge need?

2. Describe the cycle of events that take place within each Judge’s career.

3. Why do you think the story of Ehud is given so much detail?

Chapter 4: Deborah

The conquest continues with war against the Canaanites. Deborah and Barak unite the people into an army and defeat Sisera. They rule for forty years.

1. What do we know about Deborah? Why do you think that she is the only female Judge?

2. Is it significant that this victory is won by two women – Deborah and Yael?

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3. What is Barak’s role?

Chapter 5: The Song of Deborah

The miracle of defeating the Canaanites is put into a poem. This is one of ten such songs found in the Tanakh. The poem is a historical song of victory to inspire the people to be grateful to God and to understand why war is necessary.

1. Notice the effects of the rich imagery in the poem.

2. Deborah compares her role as Judge with the role of a mother. What do you think she means?

3. What acknowledgements and warnings are given to the tribes?

Chapters 6/7: Gideon

The Israelites are now under the rule of Midian. Gideon is selected by God to be a Judge and to fight the Midianites; he is remembered as a warrior. Both chapters detail the war and victory.

1. Why do you think Gideon is reluctant to assume leadership?

2. Why isn’t God angered by the "tests" Gideon has made?

3. Was it easy for Gideon to go against his father and community?

4 God wants a small army; can you predict any reactions among the Israelites?

Chapter 8: Strife in the Israelite camp

1. Why do you think Gideon leaves the Ephramites out of the battle?

2. How did the Ephramites react?

3. Why did Gideon have a hard time finding support for his

campaign against the kings of Midian?

4. What was Gideon’s response to those who refused to help him?

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5. Why was it so important to Gideon to capture and kill the kings of


Chapter 9: Abimelech; The Man Who Would Be King

1. As you read Jotham’s analogy of the trees attempting to anoint a

king over themselves, think about what point he was trying to make

2. Do you believe that God was with Abimelech?

3. What do you think causes someone to thrive on power and might?

Chapter 10: The Battles with Ammon

1. What part of the "Shoftim" cycle are we in at the beginning of

Chapter 10 (cf. Question #2, Chapter 3)?

2. How does God respond to the cries of the Israelites?

Chapter 11: Jephtah to the Rescue

1. Why do you think Jephtah was reluctant to help his fellow Israelites?

2. What was the dialogue between Jephtah and the king of Ammon? Why did the diplomatic approach fail?

3. What deal does Jephtah strike with God?

4. What is the ultimate tragedy of that deal?

Chapter 12: Brother Against Brother

1. Why would the Ephramites attack their fellow Israelites (look

back to chapter 8)?

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2. What would cause a brother to want to kill another brother?

3. Do you think that Jephtah handles the situation in the best possible


Chapter 13: Will They Ever Learn? or The Beginning of Samson

1. What part of the Shoftim cycle are we in at the beginning of chapter

13 (cf. Question #2, Chapter 3)?

2. What do you think it would be like to be a Nazir? Could you see

yourself devoting your whole life to God? Could you give up the modern vices to which we have become so accustomed?

3. What is missing in the story that Manoach’s wife tells about her

encounter with the angel? Why does she leave this part out?

4. Why are we never told the name of the wife of Manoach?

Chapter 14: Samson meets Delilah

1. What reason does Samson give to his parents for his desire to

marry a non-Israelite?

2. In verses 5-6 we read how Samson is able to rend a lion with his

bare hands like a small goat. The verse tells us that he is able to do this because the spirit of God sits with him. Why do you think that God continues to support Samson, even after Samson requests to marry a heathen?

Chapter 15: Samson’s Revenge on the Philistines

Samson aims to reclaim his wife, but her father has given her to another man. Samson uses his physical might to take revenge against the whole Philistine nation.

1. In verse 3, Samson says, "This time, when I do evil to the Philistines, I will be without blame." What evil has he done them before and why does he

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consider himself guilty for it?

2. Why do the men of Judah bind Samson and hand him over to the Philistines?

3. Verse 20 indicates that Samson judged Israel "in the days of the Philistines for twenty years." What does the phrase "the days of the Philistines" indicate about the status of Israel at that time?

Chapter 16: Samson’s Downfall

1. How does the introductory subplot of Samson’s visit to the prostitute in Gaza and his uprooting of the city gate (verses 1-3) serve to advance the rest of the story of Samson and Delilah?

2. Samson keeps the secret of his strength from Delilah until in verse 17 he "told her all his heart," and reveals the reason he doesn’t cut his hair. Why does shaving his hair cause Samson’s strength to "depart from him?" When it begins to grow back (verse 22), why doesn’t he automatically become strong again?

3. Samson regains one last burst of strength to destroy his enemies and himself. Why does God grant him this strength?

Chapter 17: The Shrine of Micah

1. Micah’s mother seems confused; she intended to "consecrate the money to God…for my son to make an idol…" an action forbidden to Israelites. What is the author of the story trying to say about the people’s observance of God’s commandments at this time?

2. Is Micah establishing his unauthorized shrine -- even installing in it a Levite priest -- in a spirit of rebellion or of reverence for God?

Chapter 18: The Migration of the Tribe of Dan

1. What connection might there be between the Danites need to find a new territory, and the long history of strife between Samson and the Philistines told in chapters 13-16?

2. What is the implication of the tribe of Dan founding its new capital on the ashes of the destroyed city of Laish? Why do they establish in Laish their house of worship with the idol that they stole from Micah?

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Chapter 19: The Rape of the Concubine at Gibeah

1. Compare the sexual attack of the Gibeites upon the Levite man and his concubine in verses 20-25 with the sexual attack of the people of Sodom upon Lot’s guests in Bereishit (Genesis) 19: 1-11.

2. Why was the old man, the host, more prepared to let the wicked townspeople molest his virgin daughter and the Levite man his concubine, than to let them attack the Levite man himself?

3. The atrocity at Gibeah is announced to all of Israel when the Levite man

sends each tribe a limb of the concubine’s murdered body (!). Was he justified in desecrating her corpse in order to rouse the people against such

a crime?

4. Compare this message to Saul’s very similar call to war in I Samuel 11:7.

Chapter 20: The War Against Benjamin

1. Why did the people of Benjamin refuse to turn over the Gibeite criminals to the federation formed by all the rest of the tribes?

2. The Israelite federation seeks God’s military support twice (verses 18 and 23) and are defeated twice. Their third approach to God (verses 26-28) is

followed by victory over the Benjamites. What about this third entreaty made

it more acceptable?

Chapter 21: Reinstatement of Benjamin

1. After the tribe of Benjamin has been almost completely wiped out in this civil war, the men of the other tribes swear not to intermarry with Benjamites in the future. What picture do we get of an Israelite society prepared to let one of the twelve tribes become extinct?

2. How do you understand verse 15,"The people had compassion upon Benjamin because God made a breach in the tribes of Israel." Did God cause the breach among the tribes? Was God the source of this (somewhat belated) compassion?

3. Do you read verses 23-24 as a relatively happy resolution to the story?

4. Why do you think the book ends with a final restatement of the recurring chorus, "In those days there was no king in Israel; a man would do whatever seemed right in his eyes"?

The Book of Samuel Aleph

The Book of Samuel Aleph Perek Yomi Shmuel Aleph: I Samuel Study Questions A Project of

Perek Yomi Shmuel Aleph: I Samuel

Study Questions

A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative Council

Questions prepared by Miriam Rosenbaum, Middle School Tanakh teacher at The Epstein School and member of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Edited by Steven Chervin

MACC (Metro Atlanta Conservative Council)

MACC is an association of the Conservative institutions in Atlanta, including The Epstein School-Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. A central element in the mission of MACC is to promote Jewish education in the

The Book of Samuel Aleph

greater Atlanta community. MACC is co-chaired by Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School, and Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Toby Goldman and Debra Wolff (AA Synagogue), Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim), Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark- Blumenthal (Beth Shalom), Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom), and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).

The Book of Shmuel Aleph: First Samuel

Background Material:

According to tradition, the book of Samuel was written by the prophet/judge Samuel who lived around the year 1000 B.C.E. Modern analysts of the Tanakh state that the Book of Samuel was probably written by a member of King David’s court. This makes the entire narrative of Samuel all the more wonderful in that it shows David with both his good and bad sides.

Samuel is part of our sacred history, the third book of the middle section of the Tanakh known as Neviim. Though no absolute archeological finds have shown us that Samuel was an actual historic character, recent discoveries in Israel have found proof of the existence of the House of David.

Samuel is a bridge book, connecting the period of the Judges to the period of the monarchy. Samuel is the last of the judges and stands second only to Moses as a prophet and leader of Israel.

The Book of Samuel Aleph

The book opens with the Mishkan, the traveling sanctuary created in the desert stationed in the city of Shiloh. Samuel’s family travels to the site of the Mishkan regularly to make sacrifices in honor of the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Chapter 1: Hannah’s Prayer

Chapter One starts with the birth of Samuel. It follows the tradition of miraculous births we have seen before, including the birth of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and Samson. These men were all born to barren women and became great leaders of the people of Israel.

1. Why was it so important to Hannah to have a son even when her husband, Elkanah, told her he loved her more than if she had born him ten sons?

2. Why does the High Priest Eli rebuke Hannah for being a drunkard and what does this teach us about how we are to "daven (pray)" today?

3. Why do you think there is so much animosity between Hannah and Penina?

Chapter 2: Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

Hannah returns to Shiloh with her young son, Samuel, to return him to God by having him give service in the Mishkan. We are also reintroduced to the High Priest’s sons, Hophni and Pinchas. A man of God comes to Eli to give him a message/prophecy from God.

1. What do you think of Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving?

2. What do the sons of Eli do, which categorizes them as "base men"? (Are their actions worse because they are kohanim/priests?)

3. Is the punishment of the prophecy given to Eli equitable with what his sons have done? Do you think the whole house of Eli should be punished because of these two "rotten apples"?

Chapter 3: God Calls Samuel

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Samuel receives his calling from God. Eli is the first to perceive what is happening and demands to know what God has revealed to Samuel.

1. What kind of a relationship do you think Eli and Samuel share?

2. Why is it that Samuel doesn’t realize what is happening to him? Why does Samuel leave out the word "God" when he first responds to God’s call?

3. Why do you think it is so important for Eli to know what God has said to Samuel?

Chapter 4: The Capture of the Ark and the Death of Eli’s Sons

For the next three chapters, you will be reading about one of the wars between the people of Israel and the more technologically advanced Philistines. Though the Philistines win the war, they seem to lose the overall battle in their confrontation with Israel due to God’s intervention. This is a theme which is repeated a number of times in the book of Samuel.

1. Why do you think the warriors of Israel demand that the Ark of the Covenant be brought to the battlefield? Were they right in bringing it there?

2. How is the prophecy of the Man of God fulfilled?

3. How does the name of Pinchas’ son reflect/summarize the events of the chapter?

*The name of the child in Hebrew is pronounced – Ee Kavod. This is where the name of Ichabod Crane comes from – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Chapter 5: The Ark and the Philistines

The Philistines return to their own territory with the Ark of the Covenant as a prize of their victory. They place it in the Temple of Dagon, the chief god in their pantheon. Here we can begin to understand one aspect of paganism – the Philistines saw the Ark as an idol, a representation or embodiment of the Hebrews’ God. By putting the Ark in Dagon’s temple, they are showing that their god has been victorious over another nation’s god.

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1. What is the significance of the fallen statue of Dagon?

2. How do the Philistines of Ashdod decide to deal with the problems that possession of the Ark has brought them? (How do we often deal with similar problems today – in the same manner?)

3. How do the Philistines perceive God? Can pagans understand the concept of a universal God?

NOTE: Many modern commentaries on this chapter state that the plague discussed in chapters 5 and 6 was the Black Death - Bubonic Plague, the piles being the boils that appeared on the bodies of those infected. This would make sense because of the references in these chapters to mice – in Medieval Europe the Black Death was carried by rats, whose bodies were infested with the fleas that carried the disease.

Chapter 6: The Return of the Ark

The Philistines make a very logical decision on what to do with the Ark of the Covenant, although it is not in keeping with their general attitude toward the Israelites – that we were inferior and therefore our God must also be inferior.

1. Why would the priests and diviners of the Philistines prescribe a return of the Ark to the Israelites?

2. Why do they tell the leaders of the Philistines to send a guilt offering with the Ark – verse 3, "If you send away the Ark of the God of Israel, send it not away empty…"

3. Why does God kill the people of Bet Shemesh? What sin do they commit that antagonizes God? – This will come up again in various chapters involving Saul and his battles with the enemies of Israel.

4. Try to locate Bet Shemesh as well as the Philistines’ territory. Did the Philistine war on Israel accomplish their goal of domination of the Israelites as they had hoped? (This question can be further answered with a look at the end of Chapter 7)

Chapter 7: The Israelites Repent

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According to some commentaries, over the 20 years the Ark resided in Kiryat Yi’arim the Jewish people reverted to pagan practices as they had during the cycle of events in the Book of Judges. In order for God to protect the people in the land of Israel, the people must fulfill their part of the contract/brit, which was to follow the mitzvot. Once they show remorse over their assimilation and do teshuvah, God returns in full power to protect the people from their enemies.

1. Why do the people gather at Mitzpah? Why is there a need for communal teshuvah? How does this relate to Yom Kippur today?

2. What is the symbolism of pouring water onto the ground? (Think of tashlich, the Rosh Hashanah ceremony in which we use bread crumbs to symbolically cast our sins into the water)

3. How does God respond to the people’s collective act of teshuvah?

4. How does Samuel’s role shift now that there is peace in the land and the people are again following the mitzvot?

Chapter 8: the Israelites Demand a King

As in other parts of the Tanakh, this chapter teaches us that hereditary leadership is not always the best choice. If we look at the book of Genesis, we see that the first born son never inherited the leadership of the original (Jewish) clan. Isaac not Ishmael became the leader of the people after Abraham. Jacob, not Esau, Isaac and Rebecca’s first born, became the next leader and depending on how you look at it, Joseph or Judah become the next leader(s) – not the first of the twelve sons – Reuben.

Even in the priesthood, inheritance did not always guarantee a good leader. Neither Hophni nor Pinchas proved worthy of the position of High Priest after Eli. Now we come to Samuel, a great judge and leader of the people, but his sons prove unworthy of leadership. This leads the people of Israel to ask Samuel for a king. This is not a request out of the blue, since God has already foretold of a king for the people in the Book of Deuteronomy – see chapter 17:14.

1. What marks Samuel’s sons as evil? How does this compare with what Hophni and Pinchas were doing?

2. How does Samuel feel about anointing a king for the people? How will he know whom to choose?

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3. What does God tell Samuel? Is this good advice? Is it good advice to consider today in modern politics?

Chapter 9: Saul Seeks his Father’s Animals

How does one choose a king for a nation like Israel? Samuel has no guidelines other than God’s voice. A man is chosen from among all the men of Israel and we need to look into the chapter to see what criteria God goes by to make a choice.

1. Why are we given this genealogy of Saul? Why only go back 6 generations?

2. Why are only Saul’s physical qualities mentioned? What do we learn about Saul (by reading between the lines) at the end of verse 2? (Could this relate to the common saying, "He/She is head and shoulders above the rest"?)

3. What does the conversation between Saul and his servant tell us about Saul’s personality?

4. What does the conversation between Saul and the young women in the city tell us about relations between men and women at this time in the biblical period?

5. What else do we learn about Saul’s personality from his reply to Samuel in verse 21?

6. At this point, what is your opinion of Saul?

Chapter 10: Saul is Anointed King

Samuel anoints Saul king. The anointing process was a simple procedure of pouring olive oil over the head of the anointed one. This process was used for all future kings of Israel.

Two important words come out of this chapter – Nagid, the title with which Samuel first addresses Saul after the anointing. It is translated as prince, and has been used for centuries since as a title of honor among the people of Israel. In Spain during the Golden Age (800-1200 C.E.) the leaders of the Jewish community were referred to as Nagid – see Shmuel/Samuel HaNagid (or Samuel ibn Nagrela) in the Encyclopedia Judaica. The other term is Mashiach. It is currently translated as messiah, but it literally means anointed one. The term appears many times in

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Samuel relating to what we would call the coronations of Saul and David.

In this chapter we again witness Saul’s reluctance to accept the role of king. Samuel tells him what will happen to him the first few days after he has been anointed and Saul simply follows instructions. When Saul returns to his home in the territory of Benjamin, he does not tell his family what has transpired. When the people are gathered together for the formal coronation, Saul is so bashful he hides and has to be brought to Samuel.

1. Why does Samuel give Saul such a detailed account of what

will happen to him when they part company?

2. What do you think Samuel means by his predictions of what

will happen to Saul?

3. What is the meaning of verse 9, "God gave him (Saul) another

heart"? Do the legitimate rulers of Israel receive some kind of

grace from God? Keep this in mind for chapter 16.

4. What does the expression from 10:12, "Is Saul also among the

prophets" mean?

5. Why does Saul hide among the baggage during his own


6. Why would some people of Israel "despise" Saul as king when

they don’t even know him and have not given him a chance to prove himself? (Does this relate to our own attitudes toward new community leaders and/or newly elected politicians?)

Chapter 11: Saul’s First War

In this chapter Saul proves himself as a solid military leader. We meet a notorious individual, Nahash the Ammonite, who desires to take over some of Israel’s territory and make the people of Israel his slaves. His name Nahash, means snake and he proves himself to be one in the following reading.

1. Why does Nahash allow the people of Yavesh-Gilad to send out a

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messenger to ask for help from the other tribes? Does he have so much contempt for Israel that he feels they are all such cowards that none would come to help?

2. What is Saul’s immediate reaction to the messenger from Yavesh- Gilad? How would you react as a leader if you were sent a piece of an ox and told to rally for battle?

3. Why does the text differentiate between the men of Israel and the men of Judah – verse 8?

4. How do the men of the army feel about Saul after the battle/victory with the Ammonites? What do they want to do with those that originally opposed Saul as king?

Chapter 12: Samuel’s Farewell Address

Now that Samuel has succumbed to the wishes of the people of Israel and given them a king, and that king has proven himself worthy of their loyalty, Samuel decides it is time to "retire". He calls the people together for two reasons: 1) to announce his retirement and charge any member of the community to come forward with any complaints about his term of leadership; and 2) to admonish the people to behave properly and honor their covenant with God. This chapter is similar in character to the chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy that warn the people of Israel how they are to behave once they enter the Land of Israel.

As we read through the Tanakh, it is interesting to note that there are recurring themes as well as repetitions of specific commandments and warnings of what will happen to us as a nation if we break those laws.

1. Look carefully at verse 3. What is Samuel saying to the people? What do you think would happen to the American political process if all politicians knew that they would have to open themselves up to this kind of public critique at the end of their careers?

2. Who is the anointed one that Samuel refers to in his closing speech? Why does Samuel include this person as a witness for himself?

3. What is Samuel’s closing message to the People of Israel? How do these admonitions apply to our lives today?

Chapter 13: Saul’s First Act of Disobedience

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How have you imagined Saul up to this point? Was he a young man when he became king? Now that Samuel has retired as the leader of the people, we discover that Saul has a son, named Jonathan and he is old enough to fight in the army of Israel. Does this mean that many years have passed or that he was a mature man when he was anointed king?

In this chapter we also discover the seeds of God’s discontent with Saul. Saul makes a sacrifice without benefit of kohen/priest or prophet because he fears loosing control over his army at a crucial moment in time. The Philistines have once again risen to try and take over the Land of Israel and indenture the people, but Saul shows a lack of faith in God and God’s messengers/prophets. It is this lack of faith, which eventually leads to the end of Saul and his house (keep this in mind when you go on to II Samuel and start to judge David in his actions).

1. How is Jonathan introduced to us?

2. Why does the Israelite army scatter?

3. Is Saul’s sacrifice a means by which he hopes to endear himself and the people to God and assure a victory, or does Saul make the sacrifice to gain favor in the eyes of his troops?

4. What does Samuel say to Saul, which shows that Saul’s sacrifice was ill advised?

5. Why make mention of the fact that there were no smiths in Israel (who could forge or work with iron) but there were such men in the land of the Philistines?

Chapter 14: Victory over the Philistines

What is a heroic act? In this chapter, Jonathan proves himself a true hero, although some of you may think his actions were foolhardy. Jonathan sees an opportunity to raid the Philistine camp and thereby cause the Philistines some discomfort and confusion. As in many other places in the biblical text, the protagonist states that if a certain thing should come to pass then it is God’s will and must be followed up.

Through his actions, Jonathan creates circumstances leading to an Israelite victory over their enemy. But in order to keep the army going and make the battle truly victorious Saul commands a fast. When he hears that his own son, Jonathan,

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has broken the command, Saul threatens to kill his son, but the troops back Jonathan and Saul sees it would be foolish to punish his son.

The last part of the chapter gives some background on Saul’s military accomplishments, his family members and his officers.

1. What is the "sign" which Jonathan uses to assure that his actions against the Philistines are guided by God? Why do you think he chooses these words?

2. Why does Saul feel it is necessary to call a fast for the remainder of the day’s fighting? Will this be a benefit to the troops or a detriment?

3. Why do you think God doesn’t answer Saul’s prayer for guidance (verse 37)?

(Keep in mind that Saul already has one strike against him for offering

a sacrifice without benefit of a kohen)

4. How do the troops persuade Saul not to kill Jonathan? What do you think Saul was trying to accomplish by announcing his intention to execute Jonathan?

5. is most unusual for the Tanakh to mention the names of wives and daughters. Why do you think Merav, Michal and Ahinoam are mentioned at the end of the chapter?


Chapter 15: Saul’s Second Act of Disobedience

This is one of the most dramatic chapters of the entire Tanakh. Through Samuel, God gives Saul a specific order to destroy all the Amalekites. Saul thinks he has fulfilled that order, but he is wrong and it costs him his kingship, his hopes of dynasty and eventually his sanity.

1. What is the specific order, which Saul receives from Samuel?

2. How does Saul fulfill that order?

3. How does Saul explain his "interpretation of God’s command to Samuel?

4. In verses 22 and 23 how does Samuel explain to Saul how he did not follow God’s command?

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5. How does this incident relate back to chapter 13?

6. Do you feel that God was right in rejecting Saul at this point, or was God being overly harsh?

7. What is Samuel’s reaction to God’s decree against Saul?

** This chapter is used as the haftarah on Shabbat Zachor – the Shabbat before Purim

** If you look at Megillat Esther, when Haman is introduced in chapter 3 you will see that his ancestry includes an Agagite – the rabbis infer that this is Agag the king of the Amalekites mentioned in this chapter of I Samuel.

Chapter 16: David is Anointed King

In this chapter we are first introduced to David. Samuel is commanded by God to find a new king now that Saul and his house have been rejected. God gives Samuel specific directions on who the next king is to be, but Samuel is afraid to travel on such a mission because of what Saul may do to him if the king finds out Samuel’s mission. David is finally anointed and almost simultaneously, Saul loses God’s grace and begins to lose his sanity.

1. What does God tell Samuel to do in order to hide his true mission to Bet-Lechem? How can we reconcile the fact that God instructs one of God’s prophets to deceive someone?

2. Samuel asks Jesse to bring forth all his sons. How does Samuel know which one is to be chosen as the next king?

3. Why do Saul’s advisors urge him to find a harp player to ease his spirit?

4. Of all the harp players in Israel at the time, why do you think David is chosen to come to Saul’s court – is this a coincidence? Is it ordained by God? Is it part of the master plan to make David king? Is it a test for Saul? for David?

Chapter 17: David and Goliath

This is the timeless narrative of David and Goliath, the fight between good and evil. Read Goliath’s physical description carefully and his taunt/challenge to the

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men of Israel. As you read try to consider if Goliath is truly evil, if he is simply a large man being put to use by the Philistines, or if he is a mercenary.

For a wonderful visual depiction of this "scene" from the Tanakh, check out the movie, King David, with Richard Gere. This particular scene is very well done and follows the biblical narrative very closely.

1. Goliath’s challenge is obviously an attempt to humiliate the Israelites but is it also a more efficient and less bloody way to wage war – a champion from each side fighting it out?

2. How does David end up at the battlefield?

3. What is the reaction of David’s brothers to David taking up the challenge? Why do you think they feel this way?

4. How does David actually win the battle? Is his faith in God the key to this and all his future victories?

Chapter 18: David, Jonathan and Saul

In this chapter, David goes from being Saul’s trusted military commander, Jonathan’s beloved friend and the light of Michal’s life, to becoming an enemy of Saul. Why does Saul begin to distrust and dislike David – make sure to give a moment extra to the reading of verses 6 – 8.

1. What is it that David does to endear himself so completely to Jonathan?

2. Many feel that the relationship between Jonathan and David was homosexual in nature, do you agree? (Don’t make up you mind completely until you have read a few more chapters)

3. Why does Saul become angry/unhappy with David? How do we know that Saul becomes angry/unhappy with David?

4. Why does Saul offer Merav in marriage to David and then allow her to marry another?

5. What is David’s reaction to Saul’s offer of Merav and then Michal in marriage?

6. What is the dowry that Saul demands of David? Why does Saul choose this "gift"?

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Chapter 19: Saul’s Plot and David’s Escape

Jonathan is able to quell Saul’s desire for David’s death for the time being, perhaps because the Philistines again rise up against the Israelites and Saul needs David. David is again successful and when he returns to Saul’s court he finds that Saul has once again turned against him. Michal proves herself a loyal wife and helps David escape from her father’s wrath.

1. How does Jonathan defend David to Saul? Why?

2. Why does an evil spirit come upon Saul AFTER the victory over the Philistines – should he not have been pleased with David at that point?

3. Why does Michal help David to escape from her father?

4. How do you think Michal and Jonathan felt being caught in the middle between two people they both really loved? How does a person find a path to follow in such a situation?

Chapter 19: Saul’s Plot and David’s Escape

Jonathan is able to quell Saul's desire for David's death for the time being, perhaps because the Philistines again rise up against the Israelites and Saul needs David. David is again successful and when he returns to Saul's court he finds that Saul has once again turned against him. Michal proves herself a loyal wife and helps David escape from her father's wrath.

1. How does Jonathan defend David to Saul? Why?

2. Why does an evil spirit come upon Saul AFTER the victory

over the Philistines - should he not have been pleased with David at that point?

3. Why does Michal help David escape her father?

4. How do you think Michal and Jonathan felt being caught in the

middle between two people they both really loved? How does a person find a path to follow in such a situation?

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Chapter 20: David and Jonathan

Part of this chapter is the haftarah reading for those Shabbatot which immediately precede a New Moon/month. The reason for this is the content of the chapter - it takes place the day before and the first two days of a new month.

In this chapter we see the great love that Jonathan has for David, even to the point of betraying his own father. Jonathan and David work out an elaborate plan to inform David, safely, of what will transpire if David returns to Saul's court. It is almost as if Ian Fleming had read this chapter of Samuel before starting his famous James Bond series of novels.

1. Why is David so confused about Saul's attempts to kill him?

2. Why do you think David and Jonathan need such an elaborate

set of plans? Are they both really that frightened of Saul? What would Saul do to the two of them if he found them conspiring against the king?

3. Try to map out the actual series of events as planned by David

and Jonathan. Try putting it on paper to see just how detailed the plan is. Are there any contingency plans? Do David and Jonathan need any?

4. How do David and Jonathan part company? (Make a

prediction) Do you think this will be the last time they both see one another?

Chapter 21: David and Ahimelech

In this chapter the break between David and Saul becomes completely irreconcilable. David flees Saul, knowing that he will never again be safe in the man's presence. On the other hand as future chapters will illustrate, David continues to hold Saul in respect because Saul is God's anointed.

Over the next few chapters it might be worthwhile to consider why and how Saul has fallen from grace. What has he done which is so much worse than what David

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will do in II Samuel when David commits adultery and murder?

1. Why does David lie to Ahimelech - the High Priest - about his

business in Nov?

2. Why does Ahimelech hesitate in giving David bread - what

kind of bread is it, that can only be eaten by those who are "tahor" - ritually clean?

3. What else does Ahimelech give to David - of what significance

is it?

4. Of all people, why does David choose to go to Achish, the king

of Philistine Gat? (consider David's track record with the Philistines to date)

5. Why pretend to be mad? Of what use could that be to David in

the presence of the Philistine king?

*Remember Doeg the Edomite, he will appear again in the next chapter. Interesting to note that in Hebrew, doeg means "worry".

Chapter 22: The Destruction of Nov

In Chapter 22, Saul reaches the lowest point in his madness. The actions he takes make a final and unresolvable break with God. Saul is so lost in his own delirium, that he no longer understands the difference between right and wrong.

1. Why would all those in Israel who were in distress come to

follow David? Is this similar to those on the fringe of American society who create supremacy groups and blame the American government for their predicament or is it more closely related to those of us who try to change the political process by forming new political parties or lobby groups?

2. In chapters 6-8 whom is Saul blaming for his hatred of David?

What does he think David has actually done to him to cause him

such anger?

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3. Why do you think Doeg volunteers to kill the priests when the

others (Israelites) won't raise their swords?

4. How does David react to the news brought to him by Avyatar

the priest? How is this different from Saul's reactions to David's escape? - What does this tell us about the two men?

Chapter 23: Saul Hunts David

Here Saul begins an obsessive search and destroy mission to catch David. Each time Saul is close to catching David, something occurs and David escapes. Ironically it is the Philistines who save David at the end of the chapter.

1. Why does David bother to help to people of Keiilah? Is this a

politically motivated action, or is the text showing us one aspect of David's character?

2. In the previous chapter, David had 400 men; now he has 600;

how/why do you think his army grew?

3. How are David's preparations for battle and his life in general

different from Saul's - think about David's relationship to God as


is portrayed in this chapter.


The only thing that dissuades Saul from his pursuit of David is


call to arms against the Philistines. Do you sometimes become

so obsessed with one thing that nothing but an impending

catastrophe will draw you away?

Chapter 24: David Spares Saul

David is provided with the perfect opportunity to do away with Saul. He refuses to take it! Through his actions, David makes Ein Gedi, a place of great beauty, into a place name that we connect with great respect, love and honor.

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1. What are the reasons which David gives his men (in the cave)

for not harming Saul?

2. Why does David take a piece of Saul's robe?

3. What epiphany does Saul have at Ein Gedi, after hearing

David? Does Saul make his covenant with David out of fear, humiliation and/or self-realization?

4. How can the humiliation/anger we sometimes feel when

someone else receives honors, a promotion, a raise, etc. help us to understand human nature and ourselves?

**Note: a) When the text says that Saul was "covering his feet" verse 4, it means going to the bathroom

b) When reading chapter 26 you will experience some deja vu - it is very similar in character to this chapter

Chapter 25: David, Naval and Abigail

This chapter reads almost like a parable, one will, literally, reap what one sows. It is interesting to note that the name of the "villain" is Naval, which in Hebrew means villain or scoundrel - a base person. Also, this is the second time that a woman plays a major role in David's life – helping him and eventually becoming his wife. Remember Michal.

1. Why would David's men bother to help out a local (wealthy)


2. Why do you think Avigail tries to stop an attack on her

husband by David - is it only out of self-preservation or is there

another reason(s)?

3. Reread verse 37; how would you describe Naval's reaction to

the news that Avigail gave David such a large payment for his

services to Naval?

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4. How often does greed overtake us? Would it literally kill us to

put an extra 5, 10 or 25 dollars into the tzedakah envelope?

Chapter 26: David Spares Saul Again

In this chapter we have the opportunity to do some biblical analysis from the literary standpoint. The narrative here is almost identical in nature to that of Chapter 24. As you read, make two columns to compare and contrast the events of this chapter with those of 24. When you are finished look over the similarities and the differences.

1. Are these two narratives the same story with different


2. Why would the same basic narrative occur twice in such close

proximity in the text?

3. Are these two chapters given to us to show that Saul will never

learn his lesson, or that Saul is so out of control of his emotions and his mind that he doesn't even realize that this has all taken place before?

Chapter 27: David Joins Achish

David now admits to himself that he will never be free of Saul's wrath. Whether he understands Saul's hatred of him or not we will never really know. David resigns himself to the fact that he has only one choice left if he does not want to confront Saul and that is to move into the land of the Philistines.

1. Why does David return to Achish? Why not go to Moav (his

great-grandmother was a Moabite - Ruth) or one of the other surrounding tribes?

2. Why do you think Achish gives David sanctuary in Philistine

lands and even gives him and his followers their own city?

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3. When David raids other towns, caravans and cities does he

raid Israelite cities? Ho does he prevent Achish from hearing about his raids? Of what use would these raids be to Achish?

4. Do we sometimes need to one thing, which is uncomfortable

for us, in order to gain a more important goal?

Chapter 28: Saul Consults the Medium of En Dor

Here we meet one of the more unique personalities of the Tanach, the Witch of En-Dor. In the text, she is not referred to as a witch but rather as a woman. The character of the woman - who remains nameless as so many women in the Bible do, seems to be a combination of Shakespeare's trio of witches in Macbeth and a stereotype of a Jewish mother, before she allows Saul to leave her house, she insists that he eat something. We see in this chapter the desperate levels, which Saul has sunk to in his desire to remain king

even though he has already admitted to David that his household will no longer be the kings of Israel.

1. Why does Saul need to ban sorcery and witchcraft when it was

clearly stated in the books of the Torah that soothsayers, witches and necromancers are not to be tolerated in the community of Israel?

2. Why does God remain silent when Saul inquires if he is to go

and fight the Philistines? (remember that Saul is no longer king in the eyes of God)

3. Even with the disguise that Saul puts on, the woman

recognizes him. Why do you think she calls up Samuel's spirit anyway?

4. What does Saul ask of Samuel and what is the answer - how

does Saul react?

5. What do you think Saul thought to gain by calling upon

Samuel's spirit?

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Chapter 29: The Opposing Forces are Mobilized and David is Sent Away

The Philistines are once again rallying for war against Israel. The problem for Israel this time, is that David is not with them. David is with Achish, the king of Gat, who brings David and his men to the battlefield. It is interesting to note that when Achish is forced to defend David to the other Philistine lords he, swears by God's name. The Philistines do not believe in the one God, but perhaps this is because they do believe in the one God as one in their pantheon of gods.

1. What do the other Philistine lords fear David and his men will

do once they are in the heat of battle against Israel?

2. Do you think David is upset or relieved not to have to fight

against his own people? Would he and his men have fought against Israel or was he planning to do just what the Philistines were afraid of?

3. When we doubt someone's loyalty what is the correct way to

confront the person about it?

Chapter 30: The Destruction of Ziklag

We are taken from the battle waiting to be fought between Israel and the Philistines back to Ziklag and a problem, which David must deal with on a personal basis. The Amalekites once again appear on the scene. This proves that Saul did not fulfill God's command to utterly destroy them (back in chapter 15). They again strike "to the rear" as they did in the Torah, attacking and capturing women, children and the aged, proving their reputation as scum.

1. Do you think the Amalekites waited for David and his men to

leave Ziklag and planned their attack accordingly?

2. Why would the Amalekites "mess" with David's people - did

they not know his reputation? Wouldn't they be afraid of retaliation? How does this contribute to your opinion of the

Amalekites as a people?

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3. Why does the Egyptian agree to help David find his people?

Does this add to/or change your opinion of the Amalekites?

4. Why does David send the spoils he claims from the

Amalekites to Judah and not to Achish, his overlord? Wouldn't this confirm the Philistines' opinion of David as someone who cannot be trusted when it came to Israel and her welfare?

Chapter 31: Saul’s Death

Here the first book of Samuel ends in a very sad and disturbing way. The army of the Israelites is defeated and the House of Saul is slain. The matter of suicide is very difficult here, as suicide is against Jewish law.

1. Is the Philistines' victory over Israel a punishment of some kind

– for following Saul, to punish Saul, or as a way to destroy the House of Saul? Or was it just bad planning on Saul's part?

2. Why does Saul commit suicide? Keep in mind that in ancient

warfare and even today, those who are victorious will often mutilate the dead and torture the captured - especially the leaders of the enemy. Is Saul's act one of self-preservation, from the standpoint that he fears torture and humiliation at the hand of the Philistines, or is it a way to keep the ultimate humiliation of the Israelites at a minimum?

3. What kind of courage was necessary for the men of Yavesh-

Gilad to go to Bet Shean and take Saul's body back to his home for a proper burial? (Keep this act in mind when you enter II Samuel and see what David has to say about it.)

4. What motivates us to do the right thing even when doing that

thing might put us in political, social, or physical danger?

Hazak, Hazak, VaNithazek

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The Book of Samuel - Bet

The Book of Samuel - Bet Perek Yomi: Second Samuel Study Questions A Project of MACC,

Perek Yomi: Second Samuel

Study Questions

A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative Council

Questions prepared by Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal, Tanakh teacher and member of Congregation Beth Shalom.

Edited by Steven Chervin

MACC (Metro Atlanta Conservative Council)

MACC is an association of the Conservative institutions in Atlanta, including The Epstein School-Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. A central element in the mission of MACC is to

The Book of Samuel - Bet

promote Jewish education in the greater Atlanta community. MACC is co- chaired by Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School, and Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Toby Goldman and Debra Wolff (AA Synagogue), Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim), Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal (Beth Shalom), Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom), and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).

The Book of Shmuel Bet: Second Samuel


When we study about King David, a continuing motif is one of relationships. How he deals with God, his people, his friends, and his family, define David the servant… the king… the father… the man. We see the development of his character throughout I and II Samuel. In I Samuel, we learned of David as one who has a deep respect for God. Indeed, though given the opportunity several times to kill the vengeful Saul, David restrains himself. David did not want to take the life of God’s anointed one, despite Saul’s attempts to kill him. How will David’s expressed respect for God fare in II Samuel?

David’s virtues are clearly established. His military leadership is secured as he battles the House of Saul, finally conquering it in Abner’s defection and subsequent death. When he triumphantly brings the Ark to Jerusalem, his exuberance and joy flow out to the entire people. His capacity for deep friendship is exhibited in his relationship with Jonathan in I Samuel; his later mourning over

The Book of Samuel - Bet

Jonathan’s death is heart felt. In addition, his desire to provide for Jonathan’s son, as well as the actuality of his making a place for Mephiboshet at his table, presents David as a friend who is true to his word.

David’s faults however are equally clear and deeply troubling. As a father, he is insensitive at best to his children. He does nothing for example, to help his daughter Tamar after his son Amnon rapes her. He abuses his political power and advances his own interests at the expense of others, such as Uriah and Obed- edom.

That David is not perfect is clear. But is he able to rise above his mistakes? How are we to understand this king who, in tradition, stands on such lofty heights? How are we to judge him as a person and as a leader? How does God judge David? How might David judge himself?

Chapter 1: David learns of Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths

An Amalekite tells David of King Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths. Mortally wounded, Saul tells the Amalekite to "finish him off."

1. Is this account of Saul’s death, verses 6-10, in conflict with what we just read in I Samuel, chapter 31, verses 3-5? If so, how do you resolve it?

2. Is there a difference in how David grieves for Saul and for Jonathan?

3. Why do you think David has such outward displays of grieving for King Saul? After all, it was Saul who tried to kill David.

4. Is it necessary for David to order the Amalekite’s death?

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Chapter 2: The tribe of Judah anoints David king

The power relationships and conflicts are set up for us here. David appears to be in control, having direct communication with God. Indeed, David is able to reach God on his own, whenever he desires God’s counsel. David’s control is underscored when the people of Judah anoint him as their king. However, David’s rise to power continues to be challenged by the House of Saul: Saul’s army commander, Abner, sets up Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, as king over Israel. In addition, Joab and Abner’s conflict emerges as symbolic of Judah and Israel’s ongoing antagonism.

1. Why does David suggest that he go to one of the towns of Judah first?

2. God already anointed David king in I Samuel. What is the significance of having David anointed again here?

3. What is your assessment of David’s leadership abilities thus far?

4. In Joab and Abner’s battle and ensuing chase, what do you make of the two leaders’ personalities?

Chapter 3: Abner’s defection and subsequent death

The House of David overcomes the House of Saul in battle as well as in politics. David’s strength blazes on the battlefield, and is accompanied by the numerous births credited to David. In addition, David’s political strength rises greatly not only when Abner defects to David’s side, but also when David openly grieves over Abner’s death.

1. Why would Abner leave the House of Saul, given his past loyalty to it?

2. Does David demonstrate wisdom or naivete in his dealings with Abner?

3. Why does the text underscore 3 times that David does not harm Abner?

4. What is your assessment of Joab’s punishment for killing Abner? Does it fit the crime?

5. Once again, women are integral to the Biblical story. How do you understand the roles that Ritzpah and Michal play in the rise of King David? Take note that "ritzpah" translates as "floor."

Chapter 4: The death of Ish-bosheth

The Book of Samuel - Bet

Upon hearing of Abner’s death, Ish-bosheth loses hope in his struggle for power.

1. How did Abner’s death affect Ish-bosheth’s credibility as king?

2. What does Ish-bosheth’s low self-esteem come to teach us about politics?

3. What are Rechab and Baanah trying to gain by killing their "leader," Ish- bosheth?

4. There has been a lot of inner strife among the Israelites. How does David attempt to unite Judah and Israel?

Chapter 5: David’s attainment of power over all Israel

David’s ability to unite Israel and Judah is a testimony to the kind of leadership encouraged by the Biblical text. In order for a king of Israel to be successful, he must find a way to satisfy both God’s commands as well as the people’s interests.

1. What is the difference between how David and Saul arrive at their respective kingships? What is the significance of this difference?

2. How does David demonstrate his faith in God in his battle with the Philistines?

Chapter 6: David brings the Ark to Jerusalem

In an attempt to bring God to the people by bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, the people, David, and perhaps, even God, falter. Uzzah touches the Ark, despite the fact that only Levites are permitted to touch it. Following Uzzah’s death at the hand of God, David steps back, away from God, by sending the Ark to the home of Obed-edom.

1. Uzzah touches the Ark because the oxen shook it. What was Uzzah trying to prevent? What does Uzzah’s action say about his faith in God?

2. David has a working relationship with God. We witnessed this in chapter two, when David suggests to God that he first go to Hebron for support of his kingship. Should we all have a working relationship with God? Was Uzzah trying to have such a relationship in which he has a voice in what happens around him?

3. What does God’s punishment come to teach the people?

4. In verse 8, we read that "David was distressed because the Lord had

The Book of Samuel - Bet

inflicted a breach upon Uzzah." According to David, did God act too rashly in dealing with Uzzah? What does David learn from this experience?

5. In response to Uzzah’s death, why does David send the Ark to the home of Obed-edom? Is David willingly putting an individual and his family at risk in order to save the larger community in Jerusalem? If so, is this a wise leadership decision or not?

6. Is this story a metaphor for how to handle one’s relationship with God? Is it possible for us to get too close to God, and in turn, for God to get too close to us?

7. What is David’s political and religious statement as he dances with and feeds the populace upon the Ark’s arrival in Jerusalem?

8. Michal is very much a pawn, moved back and forth by those in power. She does finally speak up for herself – for her dignity – when she sees David dancing like a commoner. How do you understand the punishment of barrenness inflicted upon Michal?

Chapter 7: A change in the relationship between David and God

Until now David has had an open line of communication with God. Here in Chapter 7, Nathan appears as an intermediary between the two.

1. What happened in Chapter 6 to change the relationship between David and God?

2. Who needs Nathan’s voice to speak to the other party, God or David?

3. David wants to build God a house, but God refuses. Why?

4. God turns the table on David, promising to build up David’s house. What is God trying to explain to David, symbolically, through this promise?

5. In verse 13 we read that it will be acceptable for David’s son to build a house for God. Why will it be acceptable then and not now?

Chapter 8: David’s political power grows

David conquers regions, subjugating the people, while gaining fame, and monetary resources.

1. According to verse six, how does David achieve victory?

2. How would you describe David and God’s relationship at this point?

The Book of Samuel - Bet

3. It states in verse 15 that "David executed true justice among all his people." Yet it is noteworthy that Joab remains commander of the army, despite his grievous act of killing Abner. Is it "true justice" to have retained him in his position of authority?

Chapter 9: David keeps his vow made to Jonathan

Here, in Chapter 9, David seems to stop for a moment to take a breath. He recalls his vow made with Jonathan in I Samuel, and inquires about living relatives of Saul and Jonathan. Here he meets Mephiboshet, Jonathan’s son.

1. Why does it take David such a long time before he tries to fulfill with his vow?

2. What is the significance of Mephiboshet being handicapped?

3. What is Mephiboshet’s response to being before the king?

4. Why does the text emphasize that Mephiboshet ate at King David’s table?

Chapter 10: David’s victory over the Ammonites and Arameans

David fails in his attempt to retain good political relations with the Ammonites after their king’s death. His reputation as a conqueror precedes him, influencing the new Ammonite king to flex his own muscles first.

1. Why doesn’t David allow his servants to return to Jerusalem, after they are abused by the Ammonite king?

2. What is your assessment of David’s leadership skills here?

3. Where is God’s voice in the battle plans?

Chapter 11: Uriah’s death

Despite knowing that Bath-sheba is Uriah’s wife, David sends for her to meet with him privately. Learning that Bath-sheba is pregnant with his baby, David calls for Uriah to come home from the battlefield. After his attempt to cover up the pregnancy fails, David orders Uriah’s death.

1. What is David’s relationship with the military in verse 1?

2. Does Bath-sheba willingly engage in sex with King David?

3. How would you describe Bath-sheba? (Look at verse 5)

4. How would you describe Uriah?

The Book of Samuel - Bet

5. Why is David intent on making sure that no one discovers that he impregnated Bath-sheba?

6. How would you describe King David’s relationship with the people, and the law, here?

Chapter 12: Nathan’s parable; David’s punishment

God sends Nathan to reprimand David. Nathan corners David into the truth by presenting him with a parable, which parallels his own actions with Uriah and Bath- sheba.

1. Why doesn’t God speak directly with David?

2. Why is David’s punishment the death of his child rather than his own death? Does this seem right? Indeed, once again David’s actions are effecting the life of another.

3. It seems that God has a vested interest in maintaining David’s kingship. Why?

4. What is the rest of David’s punishment?

5. What do you imagine Bath-sheba’s thoughts to be?

6. At the end of this chapter we see a hint at the decaying relationship between David and Joab… between David and the military. Why might Joab want to split away from David?

Chapter 13: Amnon rapes Tamar

David’s son Amnon plots to rape his half sister Tamar. Though Tamar uses words to negotiate her way out of the situation, Amnon persists.

1. What are Amnon’s feelings for Tamar?

2. How would you describe Tamar?

3. What are Amnon, Tamar, Absalom and David’s respective reactions to the rape?

4. In this chapter David loses three of his children. What does he do about his

The Book of Samuel - Bet


Chapter 14: Absalom returns to Jerusalem

After being presented with a parable of a fight between two brothers, which ends in one of the brothers’ deaths, King David agrees to allow Absalom back into Jerusalem. Yet it takes the king two years to permit a meeting between himself and Absalom.

1. Who arranges for the clever woman to present David with a parable, and why?

2. What do these words mean: "We must all die; we are like water that is poured out on the ground and cannot be gathered up"? (verse 14)

3. Why does King David decide to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem?

4. Why does King David choose not to see Absalom for two years after he has already returned to Jerusalem?

5. Would you describe King David as passive or active in his relationship with Absalom?

Chapter 15: Absalom’s attempted coup

In chapter 14 we read that after being ignored for two years by his father, Absalom finally reacts with enough negative behavior to be noticed by King David, his father. In their meeting, Absalom exhibits great emotion by flinging himself face down before the king. David responds by kissing him. But things are not as they seem. For as we meet Absalom in this chapter, he is actively working against the king, against his father.

1. Why does Absalom choose to denigrate King David in the eyes of the people, and how does he do so?

2. Apparently it takes 40 years for Absalom to build up his following to the point where he feels capable to confront the monarchy, his father, militarily. Why does it take so long? What does this tell us about David’s relationship with the people?

3. David’s first reaction to Absalom’s military action against him is to flee from Jerusalem…to flee from Absalom! Why? David is an accomplished warrior and leader. Why would he give up his city at the first word of physical

The Book of Samuel - Bet

conflict with his son? How does this speak of David as both a military leader and as a father?

4. After his initial response to flee from Absalom, David seems to regroup. What are his plans? What do you think enabled him to change direction?

5. King David’s relationship with God also climaxes at this point: David orders that the Ark of God stay in Jerusalem, rather than with David and the people during their flight. What does David’s decision tell us about his relationship with God?

6. Why would David leave his concubines behind in Jerusalem?

Chapter 16: Reactions to David leaving Jerusalem

Now that David is "gone," the truth about the people’s loyalty becomes apparent.

1. According to verses 1-4, how does Mephiboshet see his place in the conflict between David and Absalom?

2. The servant tells David that Mephiboshet expects Israel to appoint him (Mephiboshet) king as the rightful heir to Saul’s (i.e. his father’s) throne. How does David react?

3. David allows Saul’s relative to cast both insults and stones at him, without retaliating. Why?

4. What is David’s view of his own mistakes, his role as king, and his relationship with God?

5. Does Absalom actually accept Hushai, David’s friend, into Absalom’s counsel? Of what does this remind you? What does this tell us about Absalom, the man and military leader?

6. Absalom’s first act is to have intercourse with all of David’s concubines left behind in Jerusalem. We already saw that such an act brought down not only Abner, but also Ish-bosheth’s reign. Why does Absalom want the people to know that he has committed such a brazen act?

Chapter 17: Ahitophel’s and Hushai’s battle plans

Ahitophel and Hushai present two different plans to wipe out King David.

1. In what two ways do Ahitophel’s and Hushai’s battle plans differ from one another?

The Book of Samuel - Bet

2. What situation is Hushai helping David to create with his son?

3. In protecting King David, women play an integral role. Why is this role reserved for women?

4. How does King David actually conquer Absalom? Could the king have done

it alone?

5. Ahitophel’s reaction to the rejection of his battle plan is quite extreme. He kills himself. Why is this his response?

6. According to the following verses, to what extent does God play a role in this conflict between Absalom and David: Ch.12, vs.11-12; ch.15, vs. 25-26; ch.16, vs. 11-12; and ch.17, vs. 14? Are we merely puppets playing out God’s will? Where does our free will come into play?

Chapter 18: David’s pursuit of Absalom

David has a conflict of interest in that while he wants both to salvage his kingship and save his people, he also wants to be able to deal gently with his son, Absalom.

1. The war itself was quite consuming in that at least 20,000 men died. What alternative could David had taken in order to avoid such bloodshed? Is there

a point in family relations when diplomacy can no longer work?

2. What do you think it was like for King David to stand beside the gate while the troops marched out in pursuit of Absalom?

3. All of the troops hear that David wants to deal gently with Absalom, verse 5. What are their thoughts?

4. Why doesn’t Joab follow David’s instructions to deal gently with Absalom, instead of torturing him to death?

Chapter 19: David learns of Absalom’s death and returns

After learning of his son’s death, King David is shaken. A man of expression, David openly mourns before both his people and the army.

The Book of Samuel - Bet

1. Why does Joab rebuke King David for mourning over Absalom?

2. Are you surprised that David replaces Joab with Amasa as army commander? Why or why not?

3. While on his way back to Jerusalem, David meets not only Shimei son of Gera, who earlier insulted and threw stones at David, but also Mephiboshet, who David understood to be working against him. How does David deal with these individuals? What do his rulings signify about his own development as a person and as a king?

Chapter 20: Loyalty to King David

In 19: 41-44, the men of Judah receive the honor of escorting King David back to Jerusalem. Meanwhile the men of Israel resent their being supplanted for this role. However, in chapter 20, these same people – the men of Israel - leave David yet again: they follow Sheba son of Bichri in a revolt against King David.

1. What do we learn from Israel’s lack of loyalty to King David and Judah’s steadfast loyalty to him? Indeed, recalling Ish-bosheth and Absalom, this is the third time that Israel acted against the King.

2. Joab has been dismissed by David. One would expect him to retaliate by killing his replacement, Amasa. Instead he pursues and kills Sheba, in the name of David. Why?

3. Why is it that we hear nothing of David’s responses, either to Joab killing Amasa, or to Joab’s reassuming his position as commander of the military?

4. Again we read of a clever woman, verses 16-22. What role does the clever woman play here and elsewhere in our text? Why is this role played by a woman and not a man?

Chapter 21: David seeks help from God for his people

In an effort to restore the crops to the land, David follows through with the Gibeonites’ request to impale seven of Saul’s sons.

1. Why does David respond to Ritzpah’s guarding the dead bodies of her sons by burying them with Saul and Jonathan’s bones?

2. There is a sense that war will never cease and that bloodshed will not stop. Indeed the king’s relationship with the military is an important one. How

The Book of Samuel - Bet

would you describe it here? Look at verses 15-17.

3. David is aging. What is the impact of his reaching his senior years?

Chapter 22: David’s song of praise to God

Ever thankful for his life, and for his kingship, David creates this song of praise to God.

1. How does David envision God?

2. What is David’s understanding of his and God’s relationship?

3. In verses 22-28, David calls himself "blameless." What do you think of David’s self-perception?

Chapter 23: A listing of David’s military officials

1. Why do we read of the exploits of several of David’s head soldiers?

2. Do you find it strange that Uriah is among this list?

Chapter 24: God’s anger; David’s response

God’s anger with Israel causes God to incite David against Israel.

1. How does taking a census help God and/or David deal with being angry with Israel?

2. Why does David react by feeling badly about taking the census—about numbering the people?

3. Again, God does not speak directly with David. What happened to change their relationship?

4. What is the point God is making by killing 70,000 people?

5. David’s reaction to this mass destruction is to label himself as guilty, while the people were innocent. Of what is David guilty?

6. Why must an offering to God cost one something?


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1. Why has God shown such favor to David, wanting his monarchy to succeed?

2. How do you judge David in his roles as: king, military leader, father, friend, role model?

3. How would you characterize his relationships with women? With God?

4. Who is David, the friend?

5. Why does the Tanakh ordain that the Messiah will be a descendant of David?


I KINGS Perek Yomi: First Kings Study Questions A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative

Perek Yomi: First Kings

Study Questions

A Project of MACC, the Metro Atlanta Conservative Council – soeast/atlanta

Summaries and questions prepared by Janice P. Alper, Executive Director of Jewish Educational Services, Atlanta, and member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Edited by Steven Chervin

member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue. Edited by Steven Chervin (1 of


MACC (Metro Atlanta Conservative Council)

MACC is an association of the Conservative institutions in Atlanta, including The Epstein School-Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. A central element in the mission of MACC is to promote Jewish education in the greater Atlanta community. MACC is co- chaired by Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School, and Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Toby Goldman and Debra Wolff (AA Synagogue), Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim), Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal (Beth Shalom), Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom), and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).



The Books of Kings, the last of the Earlier Prophets in the Tanakh, were originally one book known as Sefer Melachim. The text was divided into two parts by the translators of the Septuagint sometime between 250-100 BCE. As is often the case, there is some controversy regarding the authorship of the book. The Talmud attributes the text to Jeremiah. Modern scholars however, attribute Kings primarily


to Jeremiah, and secondarily to other authors who succeeded him.

Both I and II Kings continue the history of the monarchy already begun in I and II

Samuel. They tell how God’s promise to David of a continuous succession was fulfilled in the life of Solomon and his successors, right through to the end, where there is a record of a surviving prince of the Davidic line held captive in Babylon.

I Kings begins with the story of Solomon and his succession to the throne of Israel. The account of his rise and fall drives home the lesson that as long as a person pursues the path of righteousness all will be well with him. When one deviates from this path he becomes the object of divine retribution. This is true of everyone, no matter what his station in life. A people who follow the path of righteousness are rewarded with national security and prosperity. Disobedience is punished by national calamity.

The first 11 chapters of I Kings tell the story of Solomon. He ascends to the throne in glory. His adversaries are removed, he is granted great wisdom, wealth and fame. He succeeds in expanding his empire and building the Temple and palace in Jerusalem.

Solomon abandons the path of righteousness and devotion to God. He marries many different women and worships their idols. We see his decline and his death in chapter 11.

The subsequent chapters of I Kings, 12-22, tell the stories of the divided kingdom. The Davidic line continues to reign in Judah. While not as loyal to God as their ancestor, David’s descendants are still rewarded with the monarchy. A few of the kings remain loyal to the God of Israel themselves, however, they cannot contain or restrain the people from building personal shrines and worshipping foreign gods.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel is full of idolators. The text is quick to note that each king is more evil than the one who preceded him. Thus, there is little or no


succession to the throne of Israel by the reigning kings. In II Kings we learn that the kingdom is destroyed, the people taken into captivity and the land is colonized by foreign settlers.

The appearance of Elijah in chapter 17 is an important element in the narrative. The world at the time is full of advisors, seers and prophets, yet no one of them has the status and credibility of Elijah. His performance of wonders and miracles is not just for the kings, but for all the people, thus providing them with hope from their miserable existence. This is especially true with his interaction with the widow.

On a historical note, Israel in the biblical world was a major caravan route from north to south and vice verse. It was also a corridor for warring factions from the north, such as Syria and Lebanon; and the south, such as Egypt. In I Kings there is constant war and a struggle for survival. The people are attacked one time by enemies from the north and at other times by enemies from the south. Alliances are not long lasting and dependent on the economic situation of the times.

There is reference to the book the "Annals of the Kings." This is probably a record of the exploits of the kings that have been lost over time. Subsequent books in the Tanach, such as Chronicles retell many of the stories, however, there is still the belief that other records have been lost to us.

There is also reference to Solomon’s "slaves." These were not people who were enslaved as our ancestors in Egypt or even as the Negroes brought to America from Africa. They were similar to what we know as indentured servants—people who were expected to work for a period of time and then acquire their freedom. There is some evidence that they may not have been treated in the most humane manner.

Finally, a word about the "prophets." It seems that there was a proliferation of "prophets" living in the land at that time. These were probably individuals who were social critics and whose voices were suppressed by the reigning monarchs. We learn that Jezebel sets out to kill many of them and Obadiah saves them in chapter 18.

Chapter 1: The Final Days of King David


First Kings opens in the waning days of King David. We see a man who is old and advanced in years. A young woman is brought to him to give him comfort.

The palace intrigue that was taking place during the days of David’s monarchy continues. While it is known to the appropriate people that David’s son Solomon, also son of Bathsheba, has been designated heir apparent, a struggle emerges. Adonijah, son of Haggith appoints himself king. He gives a banquet and invites a number of important people.

Nathan, trusted advisor to David, hears of Adonijah’s proclamation and tells Bathsheba to report the event to David. She appeals to David. Nathan comes to validate her story and proclaims Solomon king.

Solomon is taken to the spring of Gihon and anointed king. There is much pomp associated with this. When Adonijah learns of this he is afraid and begs Solomon for his life. Solomon spares his life and sends him home.

1. Why do you think Adonijah thought he was going to ascend to the throne? Do you think his actions reflect a person worthy of leadership as exhibited in his guest list for his feast and other actions?

2. Look at the verses which describe Solomon’s coronation—38-40 and the second half of verse 45. Compare the ceremony of the crowning of a king of Israel with the way we inaugurate a president of the United States today. What kinds of things are similar/what is markedly different? What does this tell you about the monarchical society as compared to a modern democracy?

Chapter 2: David’s Death and Solomon’s First Acts

This chapter records the death of David. Before he dies David gives his son Solomon final instructions.

As the chapter proceeds, Solomon avenges all the wrongs that were done to the King. The traitors to David are killed one by one. The chapter ends with the statement, "…Thus the kingdom was secured in Solomon’s hands."

1. Why do you think Bathsheba intervenes on behalf of Adonijah? How would you describe the relationship between Solomon and his mother in light of his


actions toward Adonijah?

2. What do you think of the actions of Shimei? Did he believe that three years were enough for the king to forget his directive and allow him to travel freely throughout the land, or is this part of some kind of divine plan?

3. In today’s world, how would we deal with those who inflict punishment leading to death, both pre-meditated and accidental? Is there a parallel between our legal system and Solomon’s behavior?

Chapter 3: Solomon, the Wise King

The chapter opens with Solomon solidifying the first of his many alliances by marrying a daughter of Egypt.

Solomon has a dream that he is granted a wise and discerning mind. When he awakens he makes sacrifices to God and fetes his courtiers. The chapter proceeds with the famous story of the two women who claim one child. We see the first overt example of Solomon’s wisdom in how he handles this incident to the satisfaction of the true mother and the approval of all the people.

1. Dreams are a common occurrence in the Tanakh. Compare Solomon’s dream to those of Yaakov (Gen. 28:10-15) and Joseph (Gen. 37:6-7, 9). How do the dreams come about? What subsequent situations emerge as a result of all of these dreams?

2. Solomon is confronted with a very difficult situation when the women approach him. What happens when you are confronted with a situation where you have to make a decision that may not be looked upon favorably by one party? How do you feel about it? What might the consequences be?

Chapter 4: The Organization of the Kingdom

This chapter delineates the geographic boundaries of Solomon’s kingdom. In verse 7 we see that Israel is divided into 12 prefects and each one is required to provide food for the king for one month of the year.

1. Look at a map of modern Israel and see if you can identify some of the areas named in this chapter. If you look in the Jewish History Atlas by Martin Gilbert, page 5, you will have a map of the area cited in this chapter.


2. In looking at the area, what do you think is at the root of the conflict for the current Palestinian state regarding the territories of Solomon?

Chapter 5: A Momentous Decision—Solomon Plans to Build the Temple

The chapter opens with a description of Solomon’s prosperity. The land is safe, "… everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree." (v. 5)

Solomon decides he wants to build a house to the Lord. He enters into a treaty with Hiram, King of Lebanon. Hiram sends him cedar and cypress logs and in return Solomon provides him with food. There is a description of the "forced labor", people who go to Lebanon to bring back the wood and also a description of those who are hewing the stone for the foundations of the Temple.

1. Why do you think Hiram was so eager to enter into an agreement with Solomon? What was Solomon’s motivation in seeking out Hiram?

2. How would this chapter go over in the current peace talks? What would you exchange for peace? How do you think the Israelis feel about this?

Chapter 6: The Temple in all its Glory

In this chapter we have a description of the Temple. It is an impressive building of many stories. The inside is paneled with cedar wood. There are many decorations, including carvings of gourds and calyxes and cherubim over the ark. Pure gold is overlaid on the entire altar of the shrine (v. 22). We see gold overlaid on floors and in other areas as well. The entry doors are of olivewood.

1. Look at verse 7. Why do you think it was important or necessary to use only finished stones and not have tools present in the House while it was being built?

2. Why does the historian go to such lengths to describe the House? Compare the description here with the synagogue you attend. What elements are similar/what has been adapted? What is different?

3. How has synagogue architecture been influenced by the areas and times we live in?

Chapter 7: Construction of the Palace and Temple Equipment


Here we have an extensive description of some of the elements that are contained in Solomon’s palace. Hiram is brought to Jerusalem to construct several items, notably the column and the lavers, among other things. As the description unfolds, it becomes apparent that the House of the Lord and the palace are all part of the same compound. The chapter concludes with a description of the Holy of Holies.

1. What do you think is the purpose of going to such great lengths to describe the construction and design of this building? What were the rabbis attempting to tell us by including this chapter in the book?

2. How do the actions of Solomon, particularly in verse 51, reflect the relationship and the regard he had for his father David?

3. Throughout history kings have been criticized for building and living in dwellings that are opulent and decorative while the people live in more humble circumstances. Imagine for a moment that you were living in the time of Solomon, how would you feel about having such an opulent edifice erected around you? Compare this to Versailles.

Chapter 8: Dedication of the Temple

The Temple is finally completed. In verse 2 we learn that the people of Israel gathered in the month of Ethanim—the seventh month. Modern commentators tell us that is the time of Sukkot. Solomon comes out to bless the people. He reminds them that while David intended to build a House to the Lord, the actual task of doing so was left to him.

Beginning in verse 23 and concluding in verse 53 we see a special supplication to God to look over His chosen people. In this prayer for the people, Solomon acknowledges the shortcomings of human beings, reminding God that the people may stray. He says specifically in verse 46: "When they sin against You—for there is no man who does not sin…"

1. Read through verses 23-53 carefully and note the various times God is asked to forgive His people Israel. Can you make a connection between this prayer/supplication and some of the confessions or prayers we recite on Yom Kippur? What are the similarities?

2. Modern psychology teaches us that when we remove someone from a


social situation because of inappropriate behavior, we need to find a vehicle to allow him back into the group. This is particularly true in educational settings. How are people allowed to come back into the group if they have sinned against God or other people? Does this work today?

3. In verses 41-43 there is discussion about the foreigner who comes to be part of the people. How do you regard these verses in light of modern movements to proselytize Jews or even among Jews themselves?

Chapter 9: Solomon’s Public Works

God appears to Solomon a second time and reinforces His commitment to Solomon and the people. The alliance between Solomon and Hiram is reinforced. Solomon gives Hiram twenty towns in the region of Galilee, with which Hiram is not pleased. However, at the end of the chapter we see that Hiram continues the alliance by joining seaworthy forces with the Israelites.

In this chapter, Solomon continues to safeguard his land and watch over Jerusalem. He enslaves the remnants of the Amorites, Hittites and Perizites (vs. 20, 21) and the Israelites who remain loyal to him he promotes to higher ranks (v.


In v. 24 Pharoah’s daughter moves into the palace Solomon has built for her and he builds a citadel.

1. We are told that Hiram is displeased with his gift of the towns from Solomon (vs. 11, 12), but he still sends him gold and remains allied with him. Why do you think Hiram continues the alliance despite his displeasure?

2. Solomon builds a citadel (millo) in Jerusalem and fortifies Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. What is Solomon’s motivation in fortifying these places? How do these acts of fortification contribute to his reign as King of Israel?

3. At the end of the chapter there is the establishment of the royal navy. Given Israel’s strategic place in the world, which would you build up today, the infantry/ground forces or a navy? Why?

Chapter 10: A Visit from the Queen of Sheba

In this chapter we see the extent of Solomon’s reputation in the world. He is


visited by the Queen of Sheba who brings numerous gifts including camels, spices, gold and precious stones. We also see the opulence of Solomon’s household. There is a description of an ivory throne (vs. 18-20) as well as treasures that are brought to the land from all parts of the world. Solomon is described as excelling all the kings on earth in wealth and wisdom (v. 23).

1. The Queen of Sheba comes to see Solomon and his kingdom for herself and is left breathless (v. 5). Do you think she may have had an ulterior motive for coming to see him? Was she genuinely overwhelmed and returned to her own country without acting on a previous plan?

2. In v. 21 we read that silver did not count for anything in Solomon’s days, yet in v. 27 we are told that the king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones. What does this imply to you regarding silver?

3. Solomon is visited by other royalty who bring him gifts and pay homage to him. With the decrease in royal houses of the world, how is this played out today?

Chapter 11: The Last Days of Solomon

In this chapter we learn of the final days of Solomon’s life. Solomon’s philandering leads him to a lifestyle where he abandons the God of Israel. God is angry with Solomon and tells him that He will tear the kingdom apart. The descendants of Solomon will be granted one piece of tribal land, ultimately Judah, while the adversaries of Solomon will be granted the land of ten tribes. There is a description of the adversaries who rise up against Solomon. Jeroboam emerges victorious and inherits the ten tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, with Jerusalem at the center, remains in the hands of the descendants of David.

1. In earlier chapters we see Solomon telling the Israelites to remain faithful to the God of Israel and the Covenant. However, in this chapter we are told that Solomon himself did not heed his own advice. What do you suppose led to this turnabout? Do you think there were other mitigating factors than those described in verses 1-5?

2. Solomon appears to be unable to live a Covenantal life after he acquires great wealth and many wives. Do you


know of people who have similar conflicts in today’s world? How is it possible to live in the contemporary world and still be an observant Jew? What compromises or adjustments are necessary to do this? 3. When the break in the kingdom finally takes place, why do you think the most important piece was left to the direct descendants of David and not given to a group of people who may not have sinned at all?

Chapter 12: The Split in the Kingdom

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, confronts Jeroboam and attempts to fight him to retain control of the kingdom. He goes to Shechem (Nablus in modern Israel) assuming he is King over all Israel and confronts Jeroboam. Eventually Rehoboam is chased out of Israel and flees to Jerusalem. There he is told by God not to make war on the House of Israel but to remain in Judah along with the tribe of Benjamin. The chapter ends with a description of Jeroboam’s fortification of Shechem and a festival that takes place in the eighth month of the year at Bethel.

1. We see that the people ask for mercy from Rehoboam, but he refuses to grant it. What do you think of his actions? Was he acting in a human fashion or was there a Divine Plan for these events?

2. Jeroboam, in fortifying Shechem, also builds shrines and cult places at various sites. Why do you think the authors make a point of giving us this information along with his military fortification of the land?

3. Do you think the people actually would have been united if Jeroboam had not fortified Shechem and provided them with places of worship? What do you make of the festival in the eighth month?


Chapter 13: The Man of God from Judah

A Man of God comes before Jeroboam to warn him that if he does not repent from his evil ways his kingdom will be destroyed by a member of the Davidic line. The rest of the chapter is an allegory which underscores what can happen to someone who scorns the word of God.

The Man of God is lured to the house of a local prophet and given sustenance even though he was commanded not to accept any. He ultimately is killed by a lion on the roadside fulfilling the prophecy that he will not be buried with his people. The prophet, however, recovers the body and buries the Man of God among his people. The prophet requests of his children to bury him beside the bones of the Man of God.

1. Why do you think this story is presented here as a means of encouraging Jeroboam to repent from his evil ways?

2. What do the Man of God, the prophet and the lion represent?

3. Why do you think Jeroboam continues to appoint priests for the shrines from among those who requested it (v. 33) even though he had a warning?

Chapter 14: Death of Abijah, Jeroboam and Rehoboam

Ahijah’s prophecy begins to come true in this chapter, the House of Jeroboam starts to be wiped out. His son Abijah takes ill and eventually dies as a result of his father’s sins. Jeroboam dies and is succeeded by his son Nadab.

Meanwhile, in Judah, Rehoboam, as king, continues to imitate the abhorrent practices of the surrounding nations (v. 24). King Shishak, who had been allied with Jeroboam marches against Jerusalem and carries off many of the valuable artifacts in the Temple and the palace. Rehoboam casts shields in bronze in order to insure protection for himself. After his death he is succeeded by his son Abijam.


1. Jeroboam’s wife is sent to seek counsel from Ahijah at

Shiloh and to ask for the recovery of her son. Why do you think she is sent in disguise even though Ahijah is blind? What does Ahijah’s blindness symbolize?

2. In this chapter there is mention of the name of the

mother of Rehoboam, Na’amah the Ammonitess (v. 21 and v. 31). Why do you think the authors mention her by name, when other women are generally referred to as the wife of someone or the mother of someone? What is the significance of this?

3. Both Jeroboam and Rehoboam commit acts in violation

of God’s laws. Yet it is the line of Jeroboam that is selected for annihiliation here and not the line of Rehoboam. Why do you think this is so?

Chapter 15: Reign of Abijam and Asa in Judah and

Nadab in Israel

Asa, great grandson of David, ascends to the throne after the death of his father Abijam. The text says he was wholehearted with the Lord his God all his life (v.14). Despite his good intentions, expelling the male prostitutes, and deposing his mother because of her sins, he still cannot fully cleanse the land.

Like other kings of his time, Asa has to fight a war with King Baasha of Israel. Ben-hadad of Damascus forms an alliance with Asa and together they defeat Baasha.

Baasha became king of Israel after killing Nadab, son of Jeroboam. With the death of Nadab the line of Jeroboam is finally eliminated and the prophecy of Ahijah is at last fulfilled. Baasha continued in the evil ways of Jeroboam.

1. Asa emerges as a man who is faithful to the God of


Israel, yet he cannot completely eliminate all of the evil from the land of Judah. Why do you think this is the case?

2. Why do you suppose Ben-hadad of Damascus formed an alliance with Asa? What is the history between them?

3. Baasha succeeds in killing of the line of Jeroboam, yet he still continues in the evil ways that came before him? Why doesn’t he take the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start all over again?

Chapter 16: Reign of Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri and


Jehu prophesies the fall of Baasha. This comes true when Zimri, an officer in the army of Baasha commits treason against him. Zimri succeeds to the throne for only 7 days after which Omri is proclaimed king. Zimri commits suicide and the kingdom splits into two factions. One group follows Omri and another group follows Tibni; however, Omri prevails and remains king over all Israel.

Ahab, son of Omri, succeeds him as king. He marries Jezebel, a Phoenician and a worshipper of Baal. During the reign of Ahab, the city of Jericho is fortified as promised to Joshua.

1. Some commentators tell us that Baasha’s destruction of the House of Jeroboam was motivated by personal ambition, thus making him equally impious and worthy of destruction. Do you agree or disagree with this? What happens today when a person dies and leaves no descendents?

2. It seems unimaginable that someone who ruled only 7 days could be worthy of the condemnation cited in verse 19. On what basis do you


think the authors make this judgement?

3. How would you describe Ahab’s character, especially in relation to

his wife?

Chapter 17: The Appearance of Elijah

In this and the next two chapters, Elijah is the dominating personality. He appears on the scene very suddenly. The rabbis in the Talmud attempted to establish a connection between him and the incident related at the end of the preceding chapter. Ahab refuses to see the hand of God and cites Israel’s worshipping of idols as a curse put upon the people by the words of Moses to Joshua.

Elijah’s spectacular appearance in this chapter is marked by two miracles, thus establishing him as an important prophet of the time and subsequently for all time.

1. Elijah appears very suddenly in this chapter; yet those who are

familiar with even minimal ritual aspects of Jewish life recognize his name as important. Take a few moments to make a list of the various

occasions or places where we create or ask for a presence from Elijah. See how many you can count. Compare your list with a friend.

2. How would you describe the relationship between the widow of

Zeraphath and Elijah? Why do you think she blames him for the death of her son?

3. What is Elijah’s role in Israel now that he is on the scene? Why does

he appear in Israel and not Judah?

Chapter 18: God’s Vindication on Mt. Carmel

Obadiah, the steward of the palace, defies the evil Jezebel by rescuing a hundred prophets from being killed by her. Elijah appears before Obadiah and tells him to give Ahab a message. However Obadiah, who knows of Elijah’s sudden


appearances and disappearances, is afraid and protests, fearing he will be killed. Obadiah delivers the message and Ahab challenges Elijah to meet him at Mt. Carmel.

The confrontation between Elijah and Ahab involves the potency of Baal. As expected, Elijah triumphs and Ahab returns to his home in Jezreel.

1. Obadiah performs a heroic act in the face of adversity by rescuing the prophets. How does this compare with the rescuers of the Holocaust - the righteous Gentiles - and others in your mind?

2. If you were to meet Elijah face to face, what would your inclination be if you were requested to do something on his behalf?

3. In verse 31 we see Elijah take 12 stones and build an altar. This is a sign of unity for all of Israel. Contrast his actions in this verse with his actions in verse 40 where he kills the worshippers of Baal. Were there alternatives to the killing? What might they be? If not, why not?

Chapter 19: Elijah’s Reaction and his Commission from God

Jezebel threatens Elijah and Elijah flees to Beersheva. In Beersheva an angel touches Elijah and bids him to eat. This is followed by a conversation with God where Elijah swears his allegiance to God. Elijah is sent back to the North to anoint a new king, Jehu, son of Nimshi. He is also directed to seek out Elisha.

1. Contrast the vision of Elijah in Beersheva with Jacob’s dream in Gen. Chapter 28:10-21. What are the similarities/differences? How does each one react?

2. Why do you think God appears as a small voice/soft murmuring sound in verse 12? What does this tell you about the relationship God may want to establish with Elijah?

3. In verses 19 and 20 we see that Elijah overtly recognizes Elisha as his disciple, yet Elisha goes back to say goodbye to his parents/family. What does this tell you about Elisha’s character? What do you think of Elijah’s reaction to this act of "delay?" How do you feel at moments of "separation" from family members/close friends/other loved ones?

Chapter 20: Ahab’s War with the Syrians


King Ben-hadad confronts Ahab with a number of demands and threatens to overtake him. The elders of Israel caution Ahab from capitulating to the demands of Ben-hadad. Ben-hadad is cocky about his victory and gets drunk. While he is drunk Ahab receives a prophetic message of encouragement and pursues the Syrians and defeats them.

Ben-hadad regroups and is defeated once again. The two men enter into an agreement. However, in the end Ahab is punished for letting Ben-hadad live and entering into a treaty with him.

1. Why do you think Ben-hadad wanted to attack Israel? What did he have to gain by defeating his neighbor?

2. It is clear that the army of Ben-hadad is stronger than that of Ahab, yet Ahab prevails. Why do you think this is so? How would you contrast this incident as depicted in verses 26-30 with the story of the Maccabees?

3. What is the role of the prophets and the men of God in this chapter? How does it reflect the times? Who are our "prophets" and "people of God" today? What role do they play in our lives?

Chapter 21: The Vineyard of Naboth

Ahab makes an offer to acquire Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth refuses to relinquish it. Ahab tells this to Jezebel who concocts a scheme to get Naboth killed so that Ahab can get the vineyard. She succeeds!

Elijah learns of Jezebel’s deceit and Ahab’s acquisition of the vineyard. He confronts Ahab and tells him he will destroy his line. Ahab is distraught, rents his clothes and fasts. He is temporarily exonerated. His house will not be wiped out with him, but with his sons.

1. Why does Naboth refuse to give the vineyard to Ahab even for a larger piece of land? Why would Ahab crave this specific piece of property when, as king, he probably has access to many places?

2. What do you think of Jezebel’s actions? Do you think that Ahab was ignorant of her deeds or did he just look the other way?

3. What lesson can be learned from Ahab’s actions at the end of the chapter and God’s reconsideration of his punishment?


Chapter 22: Rest of Ahab’s Reign and his Succession by Ahaziah

This is the last chapter in I Kings. It opens with a temporary peace, three years, between Judah and Israel. It is an alliance against Syria. They consult their prophets who predict victory. However, Jehoshaphat asks if there is not one prophet on whom they can rely. Ahab tells him there is a man, Micaiah, who never prophesies good for him, only misfortune. Michaiah predicts victory, but in the process he also describes the demise of Ahab. Michaiah’s prophecy, which is really Elijah’s, is fulfilled (vs. 37-38).

Jehoshaphat rules for 25 years. He was like his father, Asa, in that he did things that were pleasing to the Lord. Despite this, there was still idol worship and illegal sacrifices in Judah.

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, becomes king after the death of his father. Like those before him, he continues to be an idol worshipper and commit acts that are displeasing to the Lord.

1. Why do you think Jehoshaphat does not want to attack Ramoth-gilead before consulting with the prophets? Why doesn’t he accept the verdict of Ahab’s prophets?

2. Why does the king go disguised in battle?

3. Read verses 43-45. What does this tell you about Jehoshaphat’s character?

Hazak, hazak, v’nithazek!

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II Perek Yomi: Second Kings Study Questions A Project of MACCJ

Perek Yomi: Second Kings

Study Questions

A Project of MACCJ

the Metro Atlanta Council for Conservative Judaism

Summaries and questions prepared by Jill Jarecki, Associate Director – Director of Education, Ramah Darom, and member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Edited by Steven Chervin

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II MACCJ (Metro Atlanta Council for Conservative Judaism) MACCJ is the

MACCJ (Metro Atlanta Council for

Conservative Judaism)

MACCJ is the umbrella organization for Conservative synagogues and organizations in Atlanta, including The Epstein School - Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. A central element in the mission of MACCJ is to promote Jewish education in the greater Atlanta community. MACCJ is co- chaired by Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim, and Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch and Sue Rothstein (Etz Chaim); Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark-Blumenthal (Beth Shalom); Jill Jarecki (Ramah Darom); and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II


II Kings

The Second Book of Kings continues the monarchy begun in

I Samuel. This volume traces the line down to the Babylonian captivity. God’s promise to David is fulfilled as this book chronicles the Davidic line. The three main elements recurring throughout this book are the Temple, prophecy, and the Davidic dynasty.

The rewards of living a life according to God’s word are emphasized, as we see that the kings who "did what was pleasing" merited national security and personal fulfillment. The kings who "did what was displeasing" suffered personal loss and fell victim to conquerors. The book ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people to Babylon.

The ability to convey God’s message is explored here through the prophets as well as through the kings themselves. The prophets repeatedly try to remind the kings and the people of the covenant, and to warn them of the consequences of disobeying the word of God. The prophets meet with mixed success. Some of the kings attempt to return to God’s teachings and to lead the people toward the path of the mitzvot. They, too, meet with limited success.

This book is a lesson in the transmission of knowledge and values from generation to generation. As we watch the kings, prophets, and people struggle with how to worship God, we identify with them. In our own day we continue to struggle with how to worship God, with trying to understand what God wants from us, and with how to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.

Chapter 1 – Elijah and the Messengers of the King

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, is now the king of Israel. He displeased God. This chapter starts with Ahaziah falling and getting injured. He then sends messengers to a

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

foreign god, in order to inquire whether or not the King will recover. But the prophet Elijah is told to go and confront the messengers of the King.

1. Why doesn’t Elijah come down to talk to the King’s captain the first time he is


2. Look carefully at the wording of the demand: "Man of God – by the order of the

King, come down!" What might the phrasing of this demand have to do with

Elijah’s refusal?

3. How does the request of the third captain differ in tone and in implication? Why

do you think Elijah agrees to the third request?

Chapter 2 – Elijah’s Ascent in a Whirlwind

In this chapter, Elijah and Elisha begin a journey as God is about to take Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot.

1. If Elisha and Elijah both know that God is going to take Elijah on this day, why

do they both pretend and continue traveling? Why don’t they confront the information directly?

2. What actions of Elisha’s reflect his grief over losing Elijah, his master?

3. Why do you think the verses describing Elisha’s "healing the water" are

followed by his cursing of the children who jeered at him?

4. What can we learn from these passages about how to comfort a person in grief?

Chapter 3 – Elisha and the Three Kings

In this chapter, Jehoram, Ahab’s son, becomes King of Israel. He does what is displeasing to the Lord. However, unlike his father and mother, he removes the pillars of Baal that his father had made. In this chapter, the king of Israel, the king of Israel, and the king of Edom set out against the king of Moab.

1. What is Elisha’s reaction to the presence of the kings of Israel, Judah, and


Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

2. Why does Elisha respect King Jehoshaphat?

3. In the last verse, verse 27, why do you think a "great wrath came upon Israel?"

4. How do you think each of the kings reacted to Elisha’s words and the events

which followed? How would you have reacted?

Chapter 4 - Miracles

This chapter describes four miracles in which Elisha participates. They involve oil, the life of a child, stew, and bread.

1. Why do you think the text describes these miracles?

2. How do you react to the miracles described here?

3. Do you believe in modern miracles? Can you think of any? Who are the people

who participated in these miracles?

4. If you were to write out a description of a modern miracle, how would you

choose to describe it? Would it be similar to or different from these descriptions? Why do you think these miracles are described this way?

Chapter 5 – The Affliction of Leprosy

In chapter 5, we see Elisha participating in another miracle. This time, he cures a man of leprosy. At the end of this chapter Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, becomes afflicted with leprosy.

1. Why does Elisha refuse any gifts from Naaman?

2. What does Gehazi think of his master’s decision? Why does Gehazi run after


3. Why do you think Gehazi is so severely punished for this action?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

4. What do you think is the message of this chapter?

Chapter 6 – The King’s Anger

This chapter begins with Elisha and his disciples setting out on a journey to collect logs to build bigger living quarters. While they are chopping wood, an iron ax head falls into the water.

1. Why do you think Elisha bothers to retrieve the ax head? Do you think that the

fact that the ax head was borrowed influences Elisha’s response?

2. In verses 15-23, why does Elisha have the invading armies served a lavish

feast? How does this compare with the response to other invaders?

3. Why does the King of Israel want Elisha’s head? What provokes his anger at

Elisha? Do you think this anger is justified?

Chapter 7 – A Lack of Faith

In this chapter, four lepers help the king to defeat the Aramean army. In the process, the king’s aide is trampled, as Elisha predicts.

1. How does Elisha respond to the aide of the King?

2. How do Elisha’s words come to pass?

3. Why is the aide punished?

4. What do you think is the message of this chapter?

Chapter 8 – An Eternal Lamp

In this chapter, despite the sins of the people, the Lord refrains from destroying Judah.

1. Why do you think we are "re-introduced" to the woman whose son Elisha

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

revived? Why is it important for the reader to know this piece of the story?

2. Why does Elisha weep?

3. Why does God refrain from destroying Judah, even though the king did what

was "displeasing to the Lord?"

4. Do you think God has "maintained a lamp for his descendants for all time," as

God promised David?

5. How can we each "add light" to that lamp?

Chapter 9 – The Anointing of King Jehu

Jehu is chosen to strike down the House of Ahab and Jezebel.

1. How does Jehu become King?

2. Why does Jehu treat Joram as he did?

3. Why is Jezebel’s death recorded?

4. Why do you think there is such an emphasis here on fulfilling the words of the

Lord, as spoken by Elisha and Elijah?

Chapter 10 – A Brutal Accounting

Jehu kills many people who were considered enemies of the people and unfaithful to God. However, he ultimately does carefully follow the Teaching of the Lord.

1. What do you think motivates Jehu to commit so many actions which serve to

"fulfill God’s word?"

2. In what way is Jehu not so careful?

3. What evidence do we have from this chapter that Jehu did not follow the

"teaching of the Lord," (verse 31) with all his heart?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

4. What do we learn about "following the letter of the law" from this chapter?

Chapter 11 – The Covenant Between the King, the People, and God

In this chapter, Joash becomes King. The priest Jehoiada solemnizes the triangular covenant between the King, the people, and God. The people smash the idols to Baal and they rejoice.

1. How does Joash become King?

2. Why does Athalia tear her clothes when she hears the news?

3. How do the people show that they are "people of the Lord?"

4. Do we show that we are "people of the Lord" today? How and when?

Chapter 12- Honest Men

Jehoash does "what was pleasing to God"; he initiates a repair project for the House of the Lord.

1. What kind of a king is Jehoash?

2. Do you think he was a role model as a leader? Why or why not?

3. Why do you think we are told, in verse 16, that the men dealt honestly with the

money they were given?

4. Do you think that honesty reflects upon the king, as well as those men?

5. Who do you think is a role model in this chapter? Why?

Chapter 13 – The Death of Elisha

In this chapter, Elisha dies and is buried. A few verses later, in verse 21, we learn of what happens when a band of Moabites approaches Elisha’s grave.

1. Why does the man being buried "stand up?"

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

2. Why do you think this is included in this chapter?

3. Why is the Lord merciful to the Israelites?

4. Why is Joash only able to defeat Ben-hadad three times?

Chapter 14 – Parents, Children, and Responsibility

King Amaziah becomes king and takes care to follow one specific mitzvah from the Torah quoted here in verse 6.

1. According to the text, how does King Amaziah compare to King David? How

was King David different?

2. What is the significance of the quote of a verse from the Torah, in verse 6?

Whose reputation benefits from the quotation of this verse?

3. This text implies that the actions of parents and children reflect upon each

other. How do you see this in terms of your own personal experience? What behaviors of yours do you hope have affected your children and/or your parents?

4. Why does God decide at the end of this chapter against blotting out the name

of Israel?

Chapter 15 – The Kings Are Judged

In this chapter, we read a rather bloody account of the transition of kings in Israel and in Judah. In this account, many of the kings are punished. However, there is a distinction made between the kings who "do what is pleasing to the Lord" and the kings who do "that which is displeasing to the Lord."

1. King Azariah does "what was pleasing to the Lord" and acts "just as his father

had done." However he does not remove the shrines. What is his punishment for

this transgression?

2. Why do you think King Azariah was punished with a disease that forced him

into isolated quarters? Do you feel that the punishment fits the crime?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

3. What happens to all of the other kings in this chapter, the kings who do "what

was displeasing to the Lord?" Are their punishments public or private? What is the significance of a private punishment versus a public punishment? Do any of them die a natural death?

4. According to the text, some information about each of these kings is recorded

here and the rest is recorded in the "Annals of the Kings of Israel." Why do you think these particular episodes are recorded here? Do you see a particular pattern of behavior from which we are to learn?

Chapter 16 – The Evil Deeds of King Ahaz

King Ahaz follows the abhorrent practices of other nations. He also "loots" the House of the Lord in his attempt to please the king of Assyria.

1. What is included in the list of things that Ahaz does which are "displeasing" to

the Lord?

2. The text specifically notes that Ahaz does something forbidden by Torah law –

"he passes his son through the

God had drawn out before the Israelites." According to this text, what is his


the same abomination as the nations which

3. How does Ahaz’s behavior compare with the behavior of the kings described in

the previous chapter?

4. Why do you think Ahaz does not appear to meet the same end?

Chapter 17 – The Israelites Do Not Keep Their Part of the Covenant

In this chapter the Israelites as a whole are punished for their sins. This chapter reiterates the words of the Torah in order to show how far the people have strayed from those words.

1. In verse 7, we are given the direct cause and effect relationship between the

people’s actions and their political state of affairs. Why do you think we are

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

reminded here that God freed the people from Egypt, from the hand of Pharaoh?

2. In verses 13-17, we are told of how the people disobeyed God’s laws. We are

also told that God sent many prophets to remind the people of the right path, but they spurned the laws and the covenant. Why do you think the people did not listen, despite these reminders?

3. In verse 16, we read that "they went after delusion and were deluded; they

imitated the nations that were about them." Why is the pull of the surrounding culture so strong? Why did the people continue to follow these forbidden practices, even with reminders from prophets?

4. Does the description in this chapter apply to us today as well? If not, how are

we different? If so, what changes can we each make to return to our covenant?

Chapter 18 – The Ray of Light from King Hezekiah

In this chapter, Hezekiah, son of King Ahaz becomes King and does "what was pleasing to the Lord." He emulates King David in that he behaves in accordance with God’s word, and he abolishes the pagan shrines. We are told that King Hezekiah "clung to the Lord."

1. Why does King Hezekiah break the bronze serpent that Moses had made?

2. According to the text, why were the Israelites deported to Assyria?

Look at the phrasing in verse 12. We are told that the people "did not listen and they did not do" their part of the covenant. The words that are used to state this reflect the exact opposite of what the Israelites promise. In the desert, after leaving Egypt, the Israelites say, "we will do and we will listen."

3. What is the original covenant between God and the Children of Israel? Why do

you think the Israelites are unable to keep the promises of their ancestors? Should they be obligated to keep those promises?

4. The depth of the betrayal is felt as we read the same words " do and listen" and

we see that the Israelites did not "do or listen" as they had promised. Do you think being forced from their land will cause the Israelites to turn back to the covenant?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

5. Do you think that we, the Jewish People today, are keeping the promises of our

ancestors? How? Do you think God considers us loyal to the promise? Why or why not?

Chapter 19 – Meet Isaiah, the Prophet

The King of Assyria tells the people not to listen to King Hezekiah and not to count on God to save them. The people are silent and rend their clothes, the traditional sign of mourning.

We are then introduced to the prophet Isaiah. The King’s ministers go to Isaiah to see if Isaiah will pray on behalf of the people.

1. Why do the people go to Isaiah? Why don’t they all just begin praying on their


2. Why do you think Hezekiah offers his prayer?

3. Isaiah reports God’s words to Hezekiah. Why do you think God’s word here

appears in the form of a song? Think of other "songs" in the Bible. One is the song that is sung after the people safely pass through the Red Sea. Another song is sung by Devorah, after the Israelites defeat an enemy. Thinking about those two songs, what do you think is the message of these words being spoken in the form of a song? What affect do you think this message has on the people, both in terms of its form and its content?

4. What happens to the King of Assyria? Do Isaiah’s words come true?

Chapter 20 – The Recovery of Hezekiah

In this chapter Hezekiah becomes ill. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that he is not going to recover from this illness – he is going to die. Hezekiah prays to God. God hears the prayers of Hezekiah and is then healed by God.

1. Why do you think Hezekiah asks Isaiah for a sign?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

2. Why does Hezekiah show his treasure house to the guests from Babylon?

What is Isaiah’s reaction to this? What is God’s reaction?

3. Why does Hezekiah reply that this message is "good?"

4. Is Hezekiah’s reaction to Isaiah’s words consistent with the other behaviors we

have seen? Is it consistent with how Hezekiah is described?

5. There is an allusion here to how Hezekiah brings water into the city.

"Hezekiah’s tunnel" was a major engineering feat that had a lasting impact on Jerusalem. Perhaps some of you have been to Israel and walked through this tunnel. Why do you think this significant development is not elaborated upon in this text?

Chapter 21 – The Most Evil King - Manasseh

Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, succeeds him as king. He leads the Jews astray to do even more evil than the nations that God had destroyed from before the Israelites.

1. Manasseh is described as following abhorrent practices and killing so many

innocent people that he "filled Jerusalem with blood." How is it possible for a God- fearing man to have such a godless son?

2. We don’t know very much about Manasseh’s upbringing – only that he was

twelve years old when he becomes King. Based on what we do know about Manasseh, what do you suppose his young childhood was like? What kind of a relationship do you think he had with his father?

3. According to the descriptions above, Hezekiah was not successful in

transmitting his values to his son. Why do you think Manasseh did not follow in his father’s footsteps? What could Hezekiah have done differently to teach his son his values?

4. What do we do to teach our children to be the kind of people we want them to

be? What kinds of examples do they see? What do our behaviors, rituals, and priorities say to our children? What actions of ours declare our values to our children?

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

5. What lessons do we learn from King Hezekiah and his son, King Manasseh?

Chapter 22 – The Lost Scroll

In the next two chapters we read about King Josiah, the son of King Amon, the grandson of King Manasseh. He was a righteous King, despite having an evil father and grandfather. During his reign, the High Priest found a "scroll of the Teaching." When Josiah hears what was written in the scroll, he rends his clothes. He realizes how far the people have strayed from the teaching of the Lord, and tries to lead them back to the commandments.

1. Why do you think these teachings were lost? (Many believe that the scroll

found was the Book of Deuteronomy) How is it possible that these teachings, these scrolls, were not carefully and respectfully guarded?

2. Based upon this scroll, Josiah initiates reforms. He destroys the idolatrous

temples, ends child sacrifice and male prostitution at the Temple. However, his reforms seem to die with him. Why do you think these reforms don’t last? What does it take to change an institution? What lessons can we learn from this short- lived reform?

3. Speaking through the prophetess Huldah, God foretells the destruction of

Jerusalem. However, Josiah is rewarded for his efforts by not having to witness this destruction. Do you think this is a reward?

4. It seems as if the people, including Josiah, are unfamiliar with the

commandments and rituals, many of which had not been performed for centuries. Should these people be punished for straying from laws with which they were unfamiliar? Who is responsible for the education of the people? Isn’t the previous generation responsible for educating the current generation? Where does the break in the chain begin? How do we prevent such a break today?

Chapter 23 – The Josianic Reformation

King Josiah holds a public reading of the scroll that had been found. He then destroys all of the idolatrous temples.

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

1. King Josiah has the people "enter into the covenant" after they hear the entire

scroll. How did they enter into the covenant? What did they say or do, to show their commitment to these laws? What would you have done? What do we do today to show our commitment?

2. The King commands the people to offer the Passover sacrifice. It had

apparently not been offered for many years. How do you feel knowing that this important ritual was ignored? What was this ritual like for this generation? What did they miss by not having someone to pass down the tradition of the Passover offering?

3. The text states that "there was no king like Josiah…who turned back to the

Lord with all his heart and soul and might…." Do you think Josiah was a good leader? While we know that he himself was good, how able was he to influence the people? What qualities enable one to lead others to action? What Jewish leaders today possess these qualities?

Chapter 24 – Sin and Forgiveness

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captures Jerusalem, taking back with him all of the inhabitants of the city along with the treasures from the Temple. Only the poorest people are left in the land. The text states that all of this befalls Judah because of Manasseh’s sins.

1. Do you think this generation should have been punished for the sins of

Manasseh? In what way was this punishment a consequence for Manasseh’s behavior? What is King Nebuchadnezzar’s role in this punishment? What responsibility does he bear?

2. What responsibility do the people have for the sins of the kings? What

responsibility do they have the kings’ repentance? Who is ultimately responsible for the people’s actions, in each generation?

3. It states in verse 4 that Manasseh "filled Jerusalem with the blood of the

innocent, and the Lord would not forgive." This seems to indicate that there are sins which are unforgivable. Do you agree? Who decides when one can return in repentance and when one has committed deed that are unforgivable? What are

Perek Yomi Questions – Kings II

the results of forgiveness? Who benefits from forgiveness?

4. How do we apply this text to atrocities committed in our own times?

Chapter 25 – Three Fast Days

This chapter details the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the people to Babylon. This chapter is also one of the sources for three fast days on the Jewish calendar.

The beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar’s forces is recorded as occurring on the tenth of the Hebrew month of Tevet. Today, that is a minor fast day on the Jewish calendar.

The saddest day on the Jewish calendar is the ninth of Av – Tisha B’Av. This is a major fast day and is considered the day on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Other tragedies in Jewish history are also recorded as having occurred on this day.

On the third day of the month of Tishrei (immediately following the two days of Rosh Hashana) is the Fast of Gedaliah. This minor fast commemorates the slaying of Gedaliah, recorded in this chapter.

1. How do you feel when you read of the destruction of the Temple and of

Jerusalem? What do you think about the three fast days that were added to our calendar as a result of the events recorded in this chapter?

2. Throughout the Book of II Kings, many people die at the hands of others. Why

do you think the death of Gedaliah warrants a fast day? What is unique about the

circumstances surrounding his death?

3. How would you summarize this book? Is there a single theme that threads

throughout this book? What do we learn from this book that we can apply to our

lives today?

Hazak, hazak, v’nit-hazek!

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22 Perek Yomi: Isaiah Chapters 1-22: Study Questions A Project

Perek Yomi: Isaiah

Chapters 1-22: Study Questions

A Project of MACCJ

the Metro Atlanta Council for Conservative Judaism

Summaries and questions prepared by Arnold M. Goodman, Rabbi, and E. Noach Shapiro, Assistant Rabbi, of Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Edited by Steven Chervin

MACCJ (Metro Atlanta Council for

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

Conservative Judaism)

MACCJ is the umbrella organization for Conservative synagogues and organizations in Atlanta, including The Epstein School - Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. A central element in the mission of MACCJ is to promote Jewish education in the greater Atlanta community. MACCJ is co- chaired by Sue Rothstein of Congregation Etz Chaim, and Cheryl R. Finkel, Head of The Epstein School.

Perek Yomi Coordinating Council

The Perek Yomi Coordinating Council is co-chaired by Steven Chervin (Epstein School and AA) and Janet Schatten (Epstein School and AA). Its members include Rabbi Shalom Plotkin, Steve Birch, Sue Rothstein, Randy Gorod and Nancy Seifert-Gorod (Etz Chaim); Eileen Cohn and Jennifer Stark- Blumenthal (Beth Shalom); Jill Jarecki and Rabbi Adam Frank (Ramah Darom); and Steve Horn (North Fulton Jewish Center).



Found in the middle portion of the Tanakh known as Nevi’im or Prophets, the Book of Isaiah opens the section known as the Later Prophets (Nevi’im Achronim). With its 66 chapters, this book is the Bible's largest collection of prophecies. Isaiah lived in the days of Kings Uziah and Hezekiah, a period of forty- five years in the eighth century before the Common Era. He lived through a

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

variety of significant events in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judea, some of which are recorded in the first and second Books of Kings. He played a major role in the political life of the kingdom of Israel.

Though he provided moral guidance and harsh rebukes to the people, Isaiah is the supreme prophet of consolation. After taking the people to task for their sins – oppressing the poor and vulnerable, worshiping idols, acting in an unrighteous manner – he sought to comfort them. A member of the royal family who was also knowledgeable about the lives and concerns of ordinary residents, Isaiah was able to communicate with all members of society on their own terms. Perhaps because of this, he was privileged with a vision of God as He was enthroned in His Temple as King.

The themes of the book include: the salvation of Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, the Jews’ return from the Babylonian exile, God’s judgment against the nations, and the Messianic era. The Prophet is clear that God does not necessarily desire sacrifices even in the Holy Temple. To God, prayer and fasting must take place in conjunction with good deeds and acts of loving kindness. This theme proclaimed in many of his prophecies is the Haftara of Yom Kippur Morning. The Prophet is perhaps best known for his vision of the end of days: the sword will disappear from the land, nation will not lift up swordagainst nation, humanity will be ruled by our King of RighteousnessWho is filled with the spirit of God.

(These references to the future King of Righteousness is seized upon

by Christian theologians as foretelling the birth of Jesus. We, of

course, read these passages very differently.)

The Book can be divided into three parts: chapters 1 to 35; 36 to 39; and 40 to 66. The first part (1 to 35) has three basic sections of prophecies:

(a) 1 to 12 - A collection of prophecies in which the Prophet chastises the Kings of

Israel and Judea, as well as those nations that have oppressed Israel.

(b) 13-27 - Prophecies of doom of various nations.

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

(c) 28-35 Prophecies of both chastisement and hope for the end of days.

The second section in the book (36-39) contain events which happened in the days of Hezekiah, and Isaiah's role in these events.

The third section (40 to 66) includes prophecies of consolation in whichthe Prophet describes the redemption of the People by God,

Who is zealous for His people. He describes Zion's future greatness after the redemption, and the ultimate glory of Israel, the true

Servant of the Lord, after the days of exile. It concludes with a

proclamation of hope that all nations will ultimately come to

Jerusalem after judgment has been visited upon the evil kingdoms.

Most Biblical scholars agree that this third section (40-66) was

written by an anonymous Prophet who attached his writings to the Book of Isaiah. This author is commonly referred to as Deutero-Isaiah (the Second Isaiah). It is believed he lived during the Babylonian Exile and brought hope to his people by telling them that God had not

abandoned them. Many Biblical scholars insist that references to the destruction of Babylonia (chapters 13 and 14 ) were not written by the original Isaiah.)

Chapter titles and some background notes are taken from the Living Nach: Later

Prophets, a part of the Living Torah Series.

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

Chapter One: Sin and Repentance

In this, the opening chapter of the book, we find many powerful and memorable verses such as: "Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for God has spoken Cleanse and purify yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight, and cease doing evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, and support the oppressed. Demand justice for the orphan, and plead the cause of the widow!"

1. In Isaiah's eyes what is the sin of the people? Why does he call Jerusalem a


2. What does the Prophet see as the difference between Sodom Gomorrah and


3. Who in Isaiah's day does he see as the leaders of Sodom and the

nation of Gomorrah?

4. What does Isaiah reject? What does God reject? Why does God reject

their sacrifices, their rituals, and their prostrating before Him?

5. Why is this chapter chosen as the Haftara for the Shabbat before

Tisha B'Av? That Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon from the opening word in Chapter one: Chazon Yeshayahu - the vision of Isaiah.

Chapter Two: The Messianic Age

Here we find perhaps the most famous verse in the entire Tanakh – "And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more. (vs. 4)" This chapter also contains a verse which we sing in the synagogue as we take the Torah out of the Ark.

1. What is Isaiah's vision for the end of days?

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

2. Which verse is quoted in our Torah service?

3. What is the Prophet's verdict on hubris [excessive pride bordering

on arrogance] and how does he express it?

4. In verse 18, what is the Prophet's verdict in regard to idols and


5. How does the Prophet conclude this chapter? Note the standard of

evaluating human effort in the concluding verse of the chapter.

Chapter Three: The Collapse of Israelite Society

1. Who and what are the supports upon which the community relies and how have

they failed Zion?

2. What is God's agenda with the leaders and what is the Prophet's

warning to them? (See verses 12 and 15.)

3. What is the Prophet's description of the physical appearance of

the women he calls the daughters of Zion? Why is he critical of them?

4. What does he predict will be their ultimate fate? [See verse 24.]

Chapter Four: Jerusalem’s Future Glory

1. What is the force of the prophecy that there will be seven women

for one man? What is it that women desire in the relationship and why

is it being withheld from them? Why do they see their unmarried status as a form of shame?

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

2. Verses 2-6 in this brief chapter is a prophecy of restoration. In

verse 5, the Prophet makes references to a cloud by day and a pillar

of fire by night and in verse 6 to a symbolic sukkah or tabernacle. To

what previous experience in the history of his people is the prophet

alluding to?

Chapter Five: God’s Judgment Against the Wicked

1. The song of the farmer and his vineyard. He struggles and farms

the land with great diligence hoping for wonderful grapes. What grows,however, are wild or unripe grapes. What is the interpretation of this metaphor? Who is the farmer? What is the vineyard? Who and what are the unripe grapes?

2. Verse 7 reflects God's frustration that He had hoped for mishpat

[justice] and in its place there was mispach [oppression] and in place

of tzedaka [righteousness] there was tze'akah [crying out]. Note the

play on the Hebrew words of mishpat and tzedaka.

3. Verses 8, 11, 18, 20, 21, and 22 begin with the Hebrew word hoy

[woe], an exclamation of sorrow and frustration. What is the cause of

this anguish in each instance where the Prophet cries out hoy?

3. In the second exclamation of hoy, the Prophet affirms the power of

justice and righteousness. Verse 16 is included in the High Holiday

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

liturgy. What is the power behind this verse?

4. What is the force of the Prophet's exclamation in verse 20? What

does it say about unwarranted pessimism or optimism? What does the Prophet expect his people to embrace? How does the Prophet summarize the moral failure of the people, and what does he see as their fate? [see verses 24 through


Chapter Six: Isaiah’s Call to Prophecy

1. What heavenly scene does Isaiah see?

2. The angels call out to one another in the words we repeat today, in the blessing

found in the Amidah known as the Kedusha. They call out: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the

Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory. (Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh


3. What is the Prophet saying about God's power and His presence in

the world? In the Prophet's vision, what physical act stamps him as a


4. Does the Prophet accept his call willingly, or is he a reluctant

Prophet like Moses and Jonah?

5. What is God's charge to Isaiah? When will Isaiah’s mission be successful?

6. Note that the Prophet concludes with some words of comfort assuring the

People that they will return after the destruction. What is the percentage of those who survive? Note that he compares the survivors to trees that are sturdy and hardy, and even if cut down, their roots remain from which future trees will come into being.

Chapter Seven: God’s Sign to Ahaz; The Assyrian Invasion

In this chapter God tells Ahaz (through Isaiah) to request a sign that He will save

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

Ahaz from the tribes of Aram and Ephraim. When Ahaz declines, Isaiah says "God will give you a sign. The young woman will conceive and bear a son. She will call him Immanuel." (vs. 14)

1. What is God's command to Isaiah? How was he to approach Ahaz, King of

Judea, and who was to accompany Isaiah?

2. What was to be his message to the King? Look at the power of the

assertive forceful affirmation of verse 7.

3. How is verse 14 interpreted in the Christian tradition? Note:

Christian sources translate alma as virgin; however the Hebrew word for virgin is betulah. Alma means "a young woman" who could certainly be married. Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Malbim, three Jewish commentators, say the reference is to Isaiah’s wife; Radak (another Jewish commentator) says it refers to Ahaz’ wife.

4. The son's name Immanuel is the Hebrew Imanu El [God is with us]. As he

matures he will be able to choose between good and evil. What does the Prophet

insist will happen by the time when this child has so matured?

5. What is the force of the prophecy in verse 22 that they would live

only on butter and honey? What has happened to the crops? What can the land hope to send forth in the future? Is survival possible with only butter and honey? Note the repetition of butter and honey in verses 15 and 22. What connection is there between the diet of Immanuel and the prophesied diet of the People?

Chapter Eight: Don’t Follow the People

This chapter is a prophecy against Rezin, King of Aram, and Pekach,

King of Israel, who united to attack Judea. Isaiah contends that had

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

Judea and Israel united, Judea would have been able to withstand

Aram's invasion. Isaiah prophesies that Judea's foes will be devoured

by Assyria; this is the work of God's hand.

1. Why is the Prophet told to take a great tablet and to write the message clearly

in common script? Why does the written word have

greater force than the oral statement?

2. The Prophetess (v. 3 ) is believed to be the wife of the Prophet.

Once again a new son is born and named - Maher Shalal Chash Baz (the booty speedeth the prey hastens.) The end will come for the evil

kingdoms who are Judea's adversaries.

3. The waters of Shiloah (v. 6) a fresh water pool in the southern

part of Jerusalem, is the city's water source. To the Prophet, it is a

metaphor for the Kingdom of David, which began at Hebron at the south of the city, and is a source of strength and inspiration.

4. Verse 10 is the text of a song sung on Purim. Why is this verse

applicable to the Megillah story? Notice it ends with the words:

EmanuEl (God is with us). Refer back to chapter 6:14 where the

Prophet proclaims that a child, born unto the young woman, shall be

called Emanuel.

5. In verse 18, who are the Prophet's children? His flesh and blood or

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

his disciples? Does faith in the Prophet's message make one his


6. The Prophet concludes with a warning not to turn to the ghosts and

to the spirits that chirp as birds. What are the consequences of

turning to soothsayers for direction, solace, guidance? (Verses 20-23)

Chapter Nine: Civil War Among Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah

1. Who are those who walk in darkness? What is the great light?

2. Verse 3 refers to Midian and the confrontation with this tribe.

See Judges chapters 6 and 7.

3. Verse 4 refers to weapons of war being totally consumed in fire.

The proof of this is the birth of another child. Note specifically the reference to the last two words of his name, Sar Shalom - Prince of Peace. Why has this become an important verse in the Christian reading of the Bible? Refer to verse 6.

Verses 9:7 through 10:4 are a series of prophecies on the

Kingdom of Israel, each ending with the words: "Through all of this

His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still."

The first prophecy is verses 9 to 11; the second 12 to 16; the third

17 to 20; and the fourth 10:1-3.

4. Against whom was the Prophet venting his anger, and what is the force of

saying that God's hand is not to be turned away and His hand is stretched out

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

still? Note that the word n'tuyah (outstretched) is the word used in the Book of Exodus describing how God redeemed us with a z'roa n'tuyah (an outstretched arm). Can we always be certain that the outstretched arm of the Lord will be a weapon on our behalf ?

Chapter 10: Assyria is the Rod of God’s Anger

1.Verses l to 4 condemns those Judges who pass judgement against the poor, the underprivileged, the widows and orphans, those who were especially vulnerable in days gone by. (Has this changed in our day?) When these Judges face their punishment, they will look for help, but to no avail.

2. Verse 10:5 through 12:6 is a unit combining words of comfort to

Judea and to Israel while foretelling the destruction of Assyria and

its arrogant King Sencherab. There are seven distinct sections : (a)

10:5-15 Assyria which is an instrument of God to punish Israel will

be punished for not recognizing that it is an agent of God. Assyria

delights in its glory, and relishes destroying Israel as it has other

lands. The powerful opening of verse 5: "Assyria is the rod of My

anger" is a reminder that God uses those who are evil in order to

punish the righteous. (There are many who believe that the Nazis were such an instrument to punish Jews for their sinful ways. Do you accept that Nazi Germany was the rod of God's anger?)

Verse 15 is a powerful metaphor. The Prophet compares, an axe

perceiving itself as more significant than the hand that wields it, to

Assyria regarding itself as more powerful than God.

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

b. Verses 16 to 19: God will cause the fat to suddenly become lean,

and the light of Israel will be a bright flame.

c. Verses 10:20 - 23: The remnants of Israel will return to their

former glory, but sadly. The people once as plentiful as the sand of

the sea shore will become very few in number.

d. Verse 10:24-27: The Prophet turns to his people and tells them not

to fear Assyria. In verse 26 he makes reference to miracles that took

place in the war against Midian - through the use of a staff believed

to be a reference to the miracle at the Sea of Reeds. Why?

e. Verse 10:20-34: Assyria will conquer a great deal of Judea's land

and lay siege to Jerusalem, but the campaign will fail. The Prophet

traces Sencherab's route from North to South reaching Nov on the

outskirts of Jerusalem, but to no avail. God will frustrate Sencherab

and bring him and his force low.

Chapter 11: "A Shoot Will Grow Out of the Stump of Jesse"

1.Verses 1-10: The Kingdom of Judea will now be under the hegemony of the righteous and God fearing King, the seed of David. Chapter 11, opens with the famous text: "a shoot will grow out o the stump of Jesse and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him." We take this as a reference to the Messiah who is yet to come; whereas Christians interpret this as referring to Jesus. Verses 2-5 describe his strengthof character. Verse 6 is the very famous prophecy that the lamb and the lion shall lie together, a time when all of nature will be at

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

peace. This section ends with the prophecy that the branch of Jesse

will be a banner for the nations, and all the nations shall seek God.

2. Verses 11 to 16: Judah and Ephraim will no longer be enemies and

the exiles will come together. There will be miracles equal to those

performed at the Exodus. The Prophets have faith that unity will bring

about the ultimate salvation. Such unity was elusive in Isaiah's day;

it continued to plague us throughout history -even to this very day.

Chapter 12: Israel’s Song in Messianic Times

This is essentially a hymn of Thanksgiving, thanking God for having

saved His people.

1. Verses 2 and 3 are the text of the first two verses introducing the

Havdallah . The second part of the second verse: "God is my strength

and my song, and He has been my salvation" is taken from the Song of Moses following the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. Why are verses 2 and 3, which depict a great military and spiritual victory, recited

immediately after the Shabbat? Verse 4 has the words hodu l'Adonai, give thanks unto God. The word Hodu repeated often in the Book of Psalms is a proclamation of thanksgiving. We give thanks to God for all the good that has come our way. The Psalm concludes urging the dwellers of Zion to "rejoice for the Great One, the Holy One of Israel, is in your midst."

Chapter 13: A Prophecy About Babylonia

1. Babylonia was already a powerful force in Isaiah's day, but he

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

foresees their future destruction. Babylonia, like all super powers,

relied upon military might, but it would ultimately be superceded by

another super power. (This is a lesson for our day, living as we do in

a super power.)

2. In Verses 2 to 5 the Prophet describes the many nations that will

rise up against Babylonia. In verses 7 and 8, he describes the

condition of the land following its destruction. What is Isaiah's

metaphor for describing God?

3. Verses 6 to 8: The consequences of the coming of the Day of the

Lord. For Babylon it would not be a day of rejoicing, but of

destruction and desolation. What will happen to the heavenly constellations on the Day of the Lord?

4. Verse 17: God indicates that Media ( the fore runner of Persia

Media) will be awakened to do battle and will engage Babylonia,

but not for loot. This will be a war without an economic component and any desire for economic gain. Would Marxists believe this? In verse 19, the Prophet makes reference to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and of the total desolation of Babylon. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Why were these cities destroyed? How do their sins apply to Babylonia?

Chapter 14: A Song About the King of Babylonia

1. In striking terms, Isaiah continues his prophecy about Babylonia's

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

doom. With a pen dripping with sarcasm, he powerfully contrasts the

glory of its king while in life, and his fate after death.

2. Verses 1 to 3 contain a prophecy of the people's return to their land.The

nations of the world will unite in making this possible, and they will do so gladly as the servants and hand maidens of Israel. The Midrash picks up on this theme in the teaching of the statement that the Messiah will not come until the Children of Israel have returnedto their land. Do you agree that peace for the world hinges upon peace for Israel?

3. Verses 3 to 21 describe the terrible fate of the king, high and

mighty in life, and absolutely leveled in death. Biblical texts make

no reference to life after death. The dead are gathered in a place,

Sheol, beneath the earth.

4. Verses 16 and 17 speak of the King's power when he was with his

forces. Verse 19 speaks of his ultimate down fall. Note the Rabbinic

teaching: there is no dominion the day of death.

5. The power of these prophecies is captured in verse 27: "The Lord of Hosts has

proposed and who shall annul it? His hand is stretched out and who shall turn it back". Once God has spoken, His edict cannot be challenged or nullified.

Chapter 15: A prophecy About Moab

1) Why the reference to balding and beardlessness in 15:2?

2) Since Moab was no particular friend of Israel, why would the Hebrew prophet say (vs. 5), "My heart cries out for Moab" ?

3) Along the lines of question #2, what is the narrative tone of the prophet here in this chapter - triumphant or neutral?

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

4) In verse 9 there is a word-play with the name of the place, "dimon" and the noun which soon follows which is "dam" (blood) - The waters of Dimon are filled with 'Dam', blood." Where else in the Bible have we read about blood filling up waters, and what can we learn from the allusion?

Chapter 16: The Moabites Seek Aid from Judah

Vs. 1-6 - The Moabites, fleeing the "intruders", arrive in Edom, and appeal to the powers that be in Jerusalem for asylum.

1) Looking at verse 6, do you think Moab was granted asylum? Why not?

2) In describing the destruction of Moabite cities, why would the prophet emphasize the destruction of vineyards so strongly (vs. 8-10)? What is it about that particular destruction which seems to be a

metaphor for loss and destruction?

3) In verse 14, the prophet reports verbatim God's pronounced judgement that Moab will be destroyed in three years. Why the reference to a "hired laborer?" What is the image supposed to convey?

Chapter 17: A Prophecy About Damascus and the Fall of the Kingdom of


1) In verse 5, what is the analogy with a "reaper" meant to convey?

2) In verses 7 and 8, the prophet is making some clear predictions about what our 'spiritual' response will be to the devastation of Israel. How would you characterize that response?

3) Is it your sense that the attack described in this chapter is being

characterized as a Divine punishment for our spiritual lapses or simply a natural consequence of our behavior? Do you think there is an important difference between the two?

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

4) In the context of question #3 and given the content of verses 10 and 11, what do you make of the apparent hope in verses 12-14?

Chapter 18: A prophecy About Ethiopia

In this chapter, Ethiopia is assured that they are safe from the attacks of Assyria.

1) Although it's nice that Ethiopia is being reassured that she remains in safety, how do we feel about the ongoing graphic detail of the horror that other nations face?

2) Are we theologically comfortable with an image of God who seems to weigh in quite heavily on one side or another in conflict?

3) As a reader, do you find reading these passages which talk a lot about very real, Divine retribution, comfortable? If yes, how? If not, why not?

Chapter 19: A Prophecy for Egypt

1) Why would God choose to create civil strife (verse 2), to punish instead of straightforward Divine destruction? What would be the different messages in those two approaches?

2) Respond to the image of women offered in Verse 16.

3) "…several towns speaking the language of Canaan and swearing loyalty to the God of Hosts" (19:17) is a clear reference to Jews. What does this suggest about the relationship between Jews and the Egyptians at that time?

4) The next verses (19-22) imply that because of the presence of "loyal" Jews in Egypt, that Egypt will be saved from total decimation by God. Are we comfortable with the notion of Jews as a "light unto the nations" which these verses seem to imply?

5) At the end of this chapter, Jews seem to have facilitated a peace between three warring parties. Are there still ways in which Jews can be facilitators of peace in our world? Our local communities? Do we still have the talent or "obligation" to

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

bring world peace?

Chapter 20: The Exile of Egypt and Ethiopia

1) Verses 3-4 talk about a kind of a quid pro quo between Isaiah's

"humiliation" and the humiliation of the Egyptians -"young and old"-by the Assyrian conquerors. There seems to be unabashed collective punishment going on here-could all the "young and old" been personally responsible for humiliating Isaiah? As modern readers, how do we respond?

Chapter 21: Prophecies About babylon, Edom and Arabia

In general these are sympathetic, grief-stricken characterizations by Isaiah of the suffering of these nations.

1) What do you think the 'shomer", the guard, could have meant in verse 12 when he said: "the morning came and so did night". What if "morning" meant deliverance and "night", oppression? What theological truth would he be articulating?

2) There are commentators who think that "come back again" in verse 12 refers to doing tshuvah, or repenting. In other words, "go and repent, then inquire about your destiny." What do you think of this reading? Does it seem in this situation that repentance would have a significant effect on the reality being described here?

3) Do you think collective punishment can only be redressed by collective repentance? Or can an individual save him/herself from a collective punishment by way of individual repentance?

Chapter 22: Calamities to Befall Jersualem

1) How might the phrase 'valley of vision' as a description of Jerusalem be ironic as it is used here?

2) How is the phrase "the slain are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle" (verse 2) taken to be a further example of suffering? What is the message

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 1 - 22

in that?

3) In verses 12 and 13, God takes as a particularly grievous sin that the people, upon hearing their impending fate, instead of responding by repentance and grief, simply fell deeper into their revelry and debauchery, thinking, "we're doomed anyway, why not have fun before we go?"

4) Why would God take particular offense at this 'what the heck' reaction (see verse 14)? How would we characterize the Israelite's fatalistic reaction in modern terms? Is this response of the people really heretical or just realistic?

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 23 - 39

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 23 - 39 Perek Yomi: Isaiah Chapters 23-39: Study Questions A Project

Perek Yomi: Isaiah

Chapters 23-39: Study Questions

A Project of MACCJ

the Metro Atlanta Council for Conservative Judaism

Summaries and questions prepared by Arnold M. Goodman, Rabbi, and E. Noach Shapiro, Assistant Rabbi, of Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Edited by Steven Chervin

MACCJ (Metro Atlanta Council for

Perek Yomi: Isaiah ch 23 - 39

Conservative Judaism)

MACCJ is the umbrella organization for Conservative synagogues and organizations in Atlanta, including The Epstein School - Solomon Schechter School of Atlanta, Ramah Darom, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Beth Shalom, North Fulton Jewish Center, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. A central element in the mission of MACCJ is to promote Jewish education in t