Congregation Ohave Shalom - Young Israel of Pawtucket

On-line Tanach Class
Binayahu ben Yehoyada


This time, we looked at the life of Binayahu ben Yehoyada. Binayahu ben Yehoyada was a critical figure in the courts of King David and King Shlomo. He was both a scholar and a warrior, and he was involved in battles of the Earthly variety and of the supernatural variety.

There is some confusion regarding Binayahu ben Yehoyada's identity. The Tosafot (Sanhedrin 16b) were troubled by references in Tanach to a warrior named Binayahu ben Yehoyada in the beginning of King David's reign (Divrei haYamim I 11:22) and in the time of King Shlomo (such as Melachim I 2), with an intervening Yehoyada ben Binayahu (Divrei haYamim I 27:34) . To resolve this oddity, Tosafot suggest that there was a family dynasty involved with the Jewish royal courts. There was Binayahu ben Yehoyada, then he named his son Yehoyada, and Yehoyada named his son Binayahu. We'll see more about "our" Binayahu ben Yehoyada's ancestry later.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada Under King David
Divrei haYamim I 11 mentions a "Binayahu ben Yehoyada" among the great warriors who backed King David's rise to the throne. As mentioned above, Tosafot believed that this was an earlier Binayahu ben Yehoyada than the one we are discussing today.

King David's staff is listed in Shemuel II 8, and here we find Binayahu ben Yehoyada mentioned as being "with" the "Kereisi UPeleisi." The commentators take the text to mean that Binayahu ben Yehoyada was actually the head of the Kereisi UPeleisi. Later we'll come back to who these "Kereisi UPeleisi" were. [It is possible that this is also a reference to the elder Binayahu ben Yehoyada. Later, we will show that the younger Binayahu ben Yehoyada held this same position with the Kereisi UPeleisi; perhaps it was an inherited post.]

Shemuel II 23 enumerates King David's warriors, and includes mention of a "Binayahu ben Yehoyada" among the elite three warriors. The verses there describe his great deeds, as well; we'll go into this somewhat, further along. [It is worth noting that this may be a reference to the elder Binayahu ben Yehoyada, as these mirror the ones in Divrei haYamim which Tosafot said refer to an elder Binayahu ben Yehoyada. The same may be said for ]

Divrei haYamim I 15-16 mentions Binayahu ben Yehoyada playing trumpets in the celebration when the Ark was returned from Oveid Edom to King David. Binayahu ben Yehoyada was a Kohen, and he served in that capacity here.

Finally, Binayahu ben Yehoyada was a critical player in the succession of Shlomo to King David. King David had a charismatic, handsome, powerful son named Adoniyahu. We are told that King David never rebuked Adoniyahu. Adoniyahu assumed that he would be the king after David's demise, and he attempted to arrogate the throne for himself by having himself coronated during King David's lifetime (Melachim I 1). Bas Sheva, Shlomo's mother, came to Nasan the Prophet, who had not been included in Adoniyahu's plot, and told him about this. They came up with a plan to speak to King David.

Bas Sheva came to King David and told him about Adoniyahu's coronation, pointing out that King David had guaranteed to her that Shlomo would succeed him. Nasan the Prophet then entered the room and corroborated her story. King David then called for the "Triangle of Power" to come to him - Tzadok (the Kohen Gadol), Nasan (the Prophet), and Binayahu ben Yehoyada in his capacity as the head of the Sanhedrin (see Ralbag Melachim I 1:38). He told them to go coronate Shlomo by the Gichon river. It is interesting to note that Binayahu ben Yehoyada spoke for the three of them when he responded, "Amen, may HaShem, Gd of the King, make it so," to the king's command.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada Under King Shlomo
Binayahu ben Yehoyada also served under Shlomo. As we will see, Gd-willing, next week, Shlomo sent Binayahu ben Yehoyada to execute various pretenders to the throne and challengers of the monarchy (Melachim I 2).

Lastly, Binayahu ben Yehoyada is part of an odd set of Midrashim dealing with the topic of "Sheidim."

We don't truly know what Sheidim are. They are mentioned in various Talmudic and Midrashic passages, and even are relevant to certain Halachos. They seem to be, or to have been, creatures Gd created who are physical, but are not limited to a single form; they may shift shapes, and are not necessarily visible to the naked eye. Their "king" is Ashmedai, and a few Midrashim record battles between Ashmedai, Binayahu ben Yehoyada and King Shlomo.

More on Binayahu ben Yehoyada's family
We then expanded somewhat on Binayahu ben Yehoyada's ancestry. As we mentioned above, Tosafot indicates that Binayahu ben Yehoyada's father and grandfather were members of the royal court of King David. In addition, they may have held an inherited position with the "Kereisi UPeleisi," whom we have yet to explain.

Divrei haYamim I 12:27 mentions that a "Yehoyada" was a military leader in the tribe of Levi in the time of King David, and that he served Aharon. Rashi seems to take this literally - he had survived from the time of Aharon. Radak does not think so, though; he says Yehoyada was a leader among the descendants of Aharon, ie the tribe of Levi.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada's Righteousness, and his Physical Prowess
In Shemuel II 23:20-22, we are told that Binayahu ben Yehoyada was "Ben Ish Chai," which is actually read aloud as "Ben Ish Chayil." Literally, "Ben Ish Chai" means, "Son of a Living Man." The Gemara (Berachos 18a-b) asks, "Does this mean that everyone else are children of the deceased?" Rather, the righteous are called "living" even when they are dead, and this is a reference to his righteousness.

The Ralbag says that the term, "Ben Ish Chayil," is "some of a man of strength." The purpose of these words is to say that the source of Binayahu's strength was his ancestry. The word is written as "Chai" because vigor and life are more apparent in a powerful person.

Those same verses continue to say that Binayahu ben Yehoyada was "Rav Pealim," a man of many deeds. The Gemara (Berachos 18b) renders this as "he brought many workers [Poalim] to Torah."

The verse continues, "And he defeated the two Ariel of Moav." This is rendered literally as a reference to a battle against two powerful Moabite commanders. The Gemara comments that Binayahu had no equal in the first or second Temples; the Beis haMikdash is known as "Ariel."

Binayahu ben Yehoyada is also mentioned there as having "defeated the lion in the well on the day of snow." Radak and Ralbag take this literally, as a reference to a battle in the snow. The Radak takes this as a battle with a lion in the cold, which is when a lion becomes stronger. The Ralbag says it is a reference to a battle for a tower in Moav, and should be read with the line above about "Ariel." Binayahu was able to take the tower, despite the wintry conditions.
The Gemara (Berachos 18b) takes it as a reference to Binayahu ben Yehoyada immersing himself in ice-covered water on a winter day, or to learning difficult Midrashic subjects on winter days.

The verse there then mentions a titanic battle between Binayahu ben Yehoyada and a powerful Egyptian. Binayahu ben Yehoyada grabbed the Egyptian's sword, and killed the Egyptian with that sword. [The use of "VaYigzol" in describing his forceful taking of the sword is brought in the Gemara as a source for our definition of "Gezel" as forceful theft.]

Ralbag (Shemuel II 24:25, Lesson 13) writes that Binayahu ben Yehoyada is mentioned in Tanach among King David's warriors in order to show that those warriors were also scholars. One may be a warrior, and still be a Torah sage. This is also why he is termed "Nichbad;" he is a warrior who is honored and respected, and not just known for physical abilities.

The "Kereisi UPeleisi"
As we mentioned above, Binayahu ben Yehoyada was associated with the Kereisi UPeleisi. It is not clear who these people were. At first blush, based on context, they appear to have been warriors. Targum Yonasan (Shemuel II 8:18) renders the translation, "arrows and catapults."

This translation is difficult, though. As Ralbag (Shemuel II 20:23) points out, Binayahu ben Yehoyada wasn't the head of the army at the time when he was mentioned with the Kereisi UPeleisi; Yoav was the head of the army! This is the rationale which Ralbag presents for the Gemara's explanation. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 16b) seems to read "Kereisi UPeleisi" as a reference to the Sanhedrin, the "Supreme Court," and Binayahu ben Yehoyada was at its head. [It is worth noting that some of our sages, such as Radak (Shemuel II 8:18), took this Gemara to be saying that the Kereisi UPeleisi were the Urim veTumim, the Kohen Gadol's oracular breastplate. In that case, Binayahu ben Yehoyada was not in charge of the Kereisi UPeleisi at all, but this requires a difficult reading of the Gemara and the verses.]

Rashi (Divrei haYamim I 18:17) and Radak (Shemuel II 8:18) also suggest that the Kereisi UPeleisi may have been specific families who served the king.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada's role at the head of the Sanhedrin placed him in a key national decision-making position. The Gemara informs us (Berachos 3b-4a, Sanhedrin 16b) that Binayahu ben Yehoyada was one of the people who had to give his approval before the nation was allowed to go to war.

The "Amen" Corner
Finally, we noted an interesting set of Midrashim regarding a statement Binayahu ben Yehoyada made. When King David told Tzadok, Nasan and Binayahu ben Yehoyada to coronate Shlomo, Binayahu ben Yehoyada responded for them, "Amen, may HaShem, Gd of the King, make it so."

The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 7:1) picks up on this, and says that "Amen" is one of three things - an oath, acceptance of a command, or a statement of belief.

One Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 76:2) says that Binayahu ben Yehoyada's "Amen" was meant to add his support to King David's order. Another Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 9), though, says that it was meant to be "May Gd make your words true."

Next week, Gd-willing, we'll learn about Binayahu ben Yehoyada's role as a general under Shlomo, how Binayahu ben Yehoyada dealt with being a Kohen and a warrior at the same time, and the Midrashim about Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Ashmedai.

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner



This week we continued our look at Binayahu ben Yehoyada, by examining his role as King Shlomo's general. Specifically, we looked at three assignments which King Shlomo gave him.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Adoniyahu
As we learned last week, Adoniyahu was King Shlomo's older brother. He was charismatic and powerful, and King David had never scolded him (Melachim I 1:6). He expected to inherit the throne after King David's demise, and he tried to pre-empt Shlomo's rise to the throne. He had himself coronated before King David died, and it was only through the intervention of Bas Sheva (Shlomo's mother) and the assistance of Tzadok the Kohen Gadol, Nasan the prophet and Binayahu ben Yehoyada as head of the Sanhedrin, that Shlomo was made the next king and Adoniyahu was thwarted.

After Adoniyahu's attempted coup, Shlomo said that he would allow Adoniyahu to live if Adoniyahu would perform no further acts against him.

In Melachim I 2, we find that Adoniyahu was unable to restrain himself. He met with Bas Sheva, Shlomo's mother, and asked her to grant him one request - to give him Avishag the Shunamitess as a wife.

Avishag was a woman who was in an odd position. King David married 18 women, the legal limit for a king. In his old age, he suffered from a debilitating condition which left him constantly cold, and the doctors decreed that he would need bodily warmth to warm him. King David was not prepared to divorce an older wife in order to take a younger woman, and so he came up with an alternate plan. He took Avishag the Shunamitess and lay with her in bed, without interacting with her sexually, and without improper contact.

This made Avishag a quasi-concubine, a status which made Adoniyahu's request difficult. No one could marry a king's wife, other than another king. On the other hand, Avishag was clearly more than a common citizen. Adoniyahu's marriage to her would bolster his position, and form an excellent base from which to launch another coup.

Bas Sheva conveyed Adoniyahu's request to Shlomo. He responded, "Why not just ask me to give him the monarchy?! After all, he is my older brother, and he has Evyasar the Kohen and Yoav on his side! (Melachim I 2:22)" King Shlomo called for Binayahu ben Yehoyada, and had him execute Adoniyahu. This was done under the general law that a Mored biMalchus - a person who rebels against the monarch - is liable for the death penalty on the king's order. There is no need, even, for a full trial.

King Shlomo then sent for Evyasar the Kohen, and warned him that as a co-conspirator of Adoniyahu he was also, technically, subject to the death penalty. Nonetheless, he allowed Evyasar to live, and banished him. He did not kill Evyasar, due to Evyasar's history of distinguished service as a prominent Kohen.

King Shlomo then dealt with Yoav, who had been Adoniyahu's other ally:

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Yoav
Yoav ben Tzeruyah presented an interesting problem, even before his alliance with Adoniyahu.

Yoav had been King David's general in the days when David was fleeing then-King Shaul, as well as when David was fleeing Saul's son, Ishboshes. At the time, King Saul's and Ishboshes's general had been Avner ben Ner. During a contest between Ishboshes's forces and King David's forces, Asahel, Yoav's brother, had sought to kill Avner. Avner had tried to turn him back without killing him, but Asahel had continued to pursue him; Avner killed Asahel.

Yoav took his time about taking revenge, but eventually, in peacetime, he lured Avner into dropping his guard and he killed Avner. It was not widely known that Yoav had done this on his own; there were those who assumed that King David had ordered this, despite the peace which reigned at the time.

In a second instance, Yoav killed another military officer named Amasa for failing to recruit soldiers when King David had told him to do so. Yoav had considered Amasa a rebel against the king, although Amasa had some justification for his decision (for more, see Sanhedrin 49a). Again, there were those who blamed King David for this bloodshed.

Before King David died (Melachim I 2), he ordered Shlomo to "take care" of Yoav. He mentioned Yoav's double murders, and told Shlomo, "Act according to your wisdom; do not let him go to Sheol (die) of old age."

Coming back to the "present," then, Yoav heard that King Shlomo had killed Adoniyahu, and banished Evyasar. Yoav presumed he was next, and he fled to the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Yoav grabbed the altar, even though he knew that Judaism has no rule against taking a man from the altar itself if he is liable for the death penalty (Exodus 21:14).

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 49a) presents two possible explanations for Yoav's act:
1. There is a view that a person who is executed for rebellion against the throne loses all of his assets to the king. According to this view, Yoav thought that if he were executed in the Tabernacle, without being brought out and formally charged, then his assets would go to his children.
2. The second view is that Yoav simply sought to prolong his life, knowing (as in fact happened) that it would take time for them to figure out what to do with him.

King Shlomo sent Binayahu ben Yehoyada to get Yoav. Yoav said, "I will not leave; you will have to kill me here!" Shlomo responded, to Binayahu ben Yehoyada, "Do as he says."

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 49a) outlines a lengthy conversation between Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Yoav, with Yoav justifying his acts and Binayahu ben Yehoyada debating with him, until Binayahu ben Yehoyada finally executed Yoav. Binayahu ben Yehoyada then took over as the sole head of the army.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Shimi ben Gera
King Shlomo then called for Shimi ben Gera.

Shimi, a blood relative of King Shaul, had been the head of the Sanhedrin in the early days of King David's reign. [He was also Shlomo's Rebbe (Berachos 8a).]

At one point during King David's reign, he faced a challenge from his son, Avshalom. The challenge was so dangerous that he was forced to flee, and en route he passed a place where he met Shimi. Shimi called King David a bloodthirsty man, and cursed him powerfully and publically.

At the time, King David told his men not to kill Shimi. He accepted the curse as a message from Gd, and said that he hoped Gd would see the pain this caused him. Before King David died, though (Melachim I 2), he told Shlomo, "You know what he did to me…You are wise, you will know what to do to him…have him die with blood."

As I mentioned above, King Shlomo summoned Shimi. He ordered Shimi to buy a house in Jerusalem, and to stay there - if he would cross the Kidron Valley, he would die. Shimi accepted this (knowing that he had been a candidate for death since the time he had cursed King David, anyway).

Three years later, some of Shimi's slaves ran away and made it to the Philistine city of Gas. Word got back to Shimi, and he went to get them - leaving his home in Jerusalem. King Shlomo called for him, and reminded him of the covenant to which he had agreed. King Shlomo also reminded Shimi of the evil he had done to King David, and then King Shlomo ordered Binayahu ben Yehoyada to kill Shimi. Binayahu ben Yehoyada did it.

One Problem
All of these executions are consistent, of course, with Binayahu ben Yehoyada's dual role as Judge and General. However, we have one significant problem - as we mentioned last week, Binayahu ben Yehoyada was a Kohen, and a Kohen may not come into contact with the dead! He may not even be under the same roof!

Gd-willing, we will address this and other issues next week.

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner



This week we concluded our look at Binayahu ben Yehoyada, by dealing with two issues:
1. How Binayahu ben Yehoyada could have been General and Executioner, as he was a Kohen;
2. Binayahu ben Yehoyada's adventures with the Shaidim.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and Impurity
As we discussed last week, Binayahu ben Yehoyada served as Head General under Shlomo, after he executed Yoav. Further, Binayahu ben Yehoyada took care of three executions for Shlomo. Our problem is that a Kohen is not permitted to come into contact with the dead - this is a direct biblical prohibition!

The traditional commentators dealt with this in two ways:

A. Binayahu ben Yehoyada was permitted to do this, as he was performing an overriding Mitzvah.
Radak is the one who suggests this possibility. He points out (Shemuel II 23:20) that a Kohen serves in a "Milchemes Mitzvah," a type of war which is considered a Mitzvah. Such wars include the wars conducted at Gd's command to take the land of Israel, as well as the war against Amalek, and wars of self-defense. [It does not include wars conducted purely for the sake of expansion. When such wars are sanctioned by the High Court, they are termed "Milchemes haReshus."]
Radak (Melachim I 2:25) adds that the same logic applies to Binayahu ben Yehoyada's function as an executioner. Carrying out the king's order, to punish Adoniyahu, Yoav and Shimi, was considered a Mitzvah and overrode the Torah's prohibition against coming into contact with the dead.

B. Binayahu ben Yehoyada stayed away from actual impurity.
Metzudas Dovid (Shemuel II 23:39) suggests that Binayahu ben Yehoyada did not actually go to war, as a regular practice. Metzudas Dovid bases his statement on the fact that Binayahu ben Yehoyada is listed as a warrior separately from the scriptural mention of King David's other warriors.
As for the executions, Ralbag (Melachim I 2:31) shows that one may read the verses to indicate that Binayahu ben Yehoyada did not take care of the burial of his victims. As to their actual deaths, Radak (Melachim I 2:25) suggests that Binayahu ben Yehoyada left before they finished dying.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and the building of the Temple
Just parenthetically, the Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:2) mentions that Binayahu ben Yehoyada was instrumental in helping King Shlomo build the Beis haMikdash [Temple].

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and the Shaidim
There are two stories involving Binayahu ben Yehoyada, King Shlomo, and Ashmedai, the king of the Shaidim. After careful consideration, I don't believe it appropriate to include these stories in the e-mail; it is difficult to convey these stories properly in the relatively clumsy form of e-mail.

Binayahu ben Yehoyada and the Lioness
There is one other story involving Binayahu ben Yehoyada, and his intrepid work in serving King Shlomo (Midrash Tehillim 39:2).

The king of Persia fell ill, and became very weak; his doctors told him that he would be cured by drinking the milk of a lioness. The king sent a messenger to Shlomo, asking his assistance. Shlomo turned to Binayahu ben Yehoyada to do the job. Binayahu ben Yehoyada asked for ten goats, and he went off to a den of lions.

On the first day, Binayahu ben Yehoyada gave one goat to a lioness, from a distance. Each day, he gave another goat and came closer to the lioness, until he was able to get close enough to handle the lioness, and milk it.

That's it for our study of Binayahu ben Yehoyada. Gd-willing, next week we will begin to study Michal, the daughter of Shaul.

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner

E-mail our Webmaster/Rabbi