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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 21a

    And anointed him [Solomon] unto the Lord to be prince, and Zadok to be priest.1  Thus, the prince is compared with Zadok: just as in the case of Zadok [High Priest], half belonged to him, and half to his brethren, so also in the case of the ruler. And whence do we know it of Zadok himself? — As it has been taught, for Rabbi said: And it [the shewbread] shall be for Aaron and his sons;2  this means, half belonged to Aaron and half to his sons.



GEMARA. Are we to assume that R. Judah interprets Biblical law on the basis of its reason,6  and R. Simeon does not?7   But we find the reverse; for it has been taught: A pledge must not be taken from a widow, whether poor or rich, as it is written, Thou shalt not take the widow's raiment to pledge:8  this is R. Judah's view. R. Simeon ruled: We may take a pledge of a rich widow but not of a poor one, for [in the latter case] thou art bound to return [the pledge] to her daily, and [thereby] cause her an evil name among her neighbours. Whereon we asked: What does he mean? [And the answer was:] Since thou hast taken a pledge of her, thou must return it to her [each evening]9  and so [by her frequent visits to thee] thou wouldst get her an evil name among her neighbours. Hence we see that R. Judah does not interpret the Biblical law according to its reason, while R. Simeon does!10  — Generally, indeed, R. Judah does not interpret Biblical law on the basis of its reason; here, however, it is different, for here he merely expounds the reason stated in the text. Thus: Why the command, he shall not multiply wives to himself? It is that his heart be not turned aside.11

And R. Simeon? — He could answer you: Let us see: Generally we interpret the law according to the reason implied;12  then Scripture should have read, He shall not multiply wives to himself, and nothing further, and I would then have known that the reason was that his heart turn not away. Why then state: That his heart turn not away? — To imply that he must not marry even a single one who may turn away his heart. Then how am I to explain, he shall not multiply?13  — [As meaning that he may not marry many] even though they be [women like Abigail.

Whence do we deduce the number eighteen? — From the verse, And unto David were sons born in Hebron; and his first-born was Ammon of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second, Chileab of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; the third Absalom the son of Maacah; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shefatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream of Eglah, David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.14  And of them the Prophet said: And if that were too little, then would I add unto thee the like of these, [Ka-hennah] and the like of these, [we-kahennah],15  each 'kahennah' implying six, which, with the original six, makes eighteen in all. Rabina objected: Why not assume that 'kahennah' implies twelve,16  and 'we-kahennah', twenty-four?17  It has indeed been taught likewise: 'He shall not multiply wives to himself beyond twenty-four.' And according to him who interprets the redundant 'waw',18  it ought to be forty-eight. And it has been taught even so: 'He shall not multiply wives to himself, more than forty-eight.' Then what is the reason of the Tanna of our Mishnah? — R. Kahana said: He parallels the second 'kahennah' with the first; thus, just as the first 'kahennah' indicates [an increase of] six, so does the second. But there was Michal too!19  — Rab said: Eglah is Michal. And why was she called Eglah? Because she was beloved by him, as an Eglah [calf] by its mother. And thus it is said, If ye had not ploughed with my heifer etc.20  But did Michal have children? Is it not written, And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.?21  — R. Hisda said: She had no child until the day of her death, but on the day of her death she did.22

Let us see then: His children are enumerated [as born] in Hebron, whereas the incident with Michal23  occurred in Jerusalem,24  as it is written, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.25  And Rab Judah, or according to others, R. Joseph, said: Michal received her due punishment?26  — But we might argue thus: Prior to that incident she did have [children], but after it she did not.

[Now as to the number eighteen:] Is it not stated, And David took him concubines and wives out of Jerusalem?27  — To make up the eighteen. What are 'wives', and what are 'concubines'? — Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Wives have 'kethubah'28  and 'kiddushin';29  concubines have neither.

Rab Judah also said in Rab's name: David had four hundred children, and all born of yefoth to'ar;30  they had long locks31  and all drove32  in golden carriages. They used to march at the head of the troops and were men of power in the household of David.

Rab Judah further said in Rab's name: Tamar was a daughter of a yefath to'ar, as it is written, Now therefore I pray thee,33  speak unto the King, for he will not withhold me from thee.34 Now, should you imagine that she was the offspring of a legitimate marriage, how could his sister have been granted him [in marriage]? We must infer therefore, that she was the daughter of a yefath-to'ar.

And Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, and Jonadab was a very subtle man etc.35  Rab Judah said in Rab's name: 'Subtle' to do evil. And he said unto him, Why, O son of the king, art thou thus becoming leaner … And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed and feign thyself sick … and she dress the food in my sight … And she took the pan and poured them [the cakes] out before him.36  Rab Judah in the name of Rab said: She made for him some kind of pancakes.37

Then Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred etc.38  For what reason? — R. Isaac answered: A hair becoming entangled, mutilated him privily. If this happened of itself, what was her part in it? — But we might rather say that she entangled it and caused, mutilation. But is this so? Did not Raba expound: What is meant by the verse: And thy renown went forth among the nations for thy beauty.39  It is that the daughters of Israel had neither under-arm nor pubic hair?40  — It was otherwise with Tamar, for she was the daughter of a yefath to'ar.

And Tamar put ashes on her head and rent her garment of many colours.41  It was taught in the name of R. Joshua b. Korha. In that hour Tamar set up a great fence [about chastity]. They42  said: if this could happen to kings' daughters, how much more to the daughters of ordinary men; if this could happen to the chaste, how much more to the wanton?

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: On that occasion, they made a decree

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I Chron. XXIX, 22.
  2. Lev. XXIV, 9.
  3. Deut. XVII, 17.
  4. Ibid. From which it might be inferred that he may marry a lesser number even if they should corrupt him.
  5. I.e., even of the most virtuous, only eighteen are permitted, and not a single one who misleads is permitted. Abigail was the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. (I Sam. XXV, 3.) She is regarded in the Aggadah as one of the most remarkable women in Jewish history. V. Meg 15a.
  6. Lit., 'he searches out the reason of the verse'.
  7. Therefore, notwithstanding the explicit statement that the king must not multiply wives, R. Judah permits it, where the feared consequences will not follow; whilst R. Simeon keeps to the letter of the law.
  8. Deut. XXIV, 17.
  9. Ibid. 13.
  10. By differentiating between poor and rich widows.
  11. Therefore in his opinion, Scripture itself restricts the law to these conditions.
  12. [Ms M. omits, 'Generally … implied.']
  13. From which it is inferred that a small number is permissible.
  14. II Sam. III, 2-5.
  15. Ibid. XII, 8.
  16. I.e., as many again, six and six.
  17. He increases the number in geometrical progression, i.e., 6: 12: 24.
  18. In 'we-kahennah'. The prefix 'waw' between two words or sentences at the beginning of a chapter, which does not necessarily express their relations to one another, is used for interpretation by some Sages. v. infra 51b.
  19. Additional to the six wives enumerated.
  20. Of Delilah, Judges XIV, 18.
  21. II Sam. VI, 23.
  22. I.e., she died in child-birth.
  23. As a consequence of which she was punished with childlessness.
  24. That is, later.
  25. II Sam. VI, 16.
  26. Childlessness. [H], lit., 'debt matured for collection by seizure' (Jast.).
  27. II Sam. V, 13. Hence it appears that he had many.
  28. V. p. 34, n. 4.
  29. Legal and legitimate marriage. V. Glos.
  30. Captive woman taken as concubines by the king because of their beauty. V. Deut. XXI, 10-13.
  31. [Lit., 'they grew a belorith' (etym. obscure), a heathen fashion of growing locks from the crown of the head, hanging down in plaits at the back; v. Krauss, TA. I, 645].
  32. Lit., 'sat'.
  33. Amnon.
  34. II Sam. XIII, 13.
  35. Ibid. 3.
  36. Ibid. 4 et seq.
  37. [G] frying-pan.
  38. II Sam. XIII, 15.
  39. Ezek. XVI, 14.
  40. Before they sinned. (Rashi.)
  41. II Sam. XIII, 19.
  42. All the other women.

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Sanhedrin 21b

against yihud1  with [a married] or unmarried woman. But surely the prohibition of yihud with a married woman is a Biblical law! For R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Jehozadak: Where is [the prohibition of] yihud alluded to in the Biblical text? It is written: if thy brother, the son of thy mother entice thee.2  Is it then only the son of a mother that can entice, and not the son of a father? But it is to teach that only a son may be alone with his mother; but no other man may be alone with women Biblically interdicted on account of incest!3  — Say rather that they enacted a decree against yihud with unmarried women.

And Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying:' I will be king.4  Said Rab Judah in the name of Rab: This teaches us that he attempted to fit [the crown on his head] but it would not fit him.5

And he prepared him chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him.6  What is there remarkable in this?7  — Rab Judah said in Rab's name: They all had their spleen8  and also the flesh of the soles of their feet cut off.9


GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: He shall not multiply horses to himself [lo]:15  I might think, [this meant] not even such as are required for his horsemen and chariots. Scripture therefore states: 'lo' [to himself]: for himself16  he may not multiply, but he may multiply as many as are required for his chariots and horsemen. How then am I to interpret the word horses?17  — As [referring to] horses that stand idle.18  And whence do we know that even a single idle horse comes under such a prohibition? — Scripture states: that he should multiply sus [a horse].19  But if even a single idle horse involves [the prohibition,] He shall not multiply, why state horses [plural]? — To show us that with each single idle horse he transgresses anew the prohibitory command.

[Reverting to chariot horses:] Thus, it is only because Scripture wrote 'lo' [to him]: but otherwise, might we have thought that even those necessary for his chariots and horsemen are forbidden?20  — It is necessary here to permit a large number.21


Our Rabbis taught: And silver and gold he shall not multiply 'lo' [unto himself]:22  I might think [this meant] even for 'aspanya'. Therefore Scripture writes, 'lo'; only for himself [i.e., his own use] may he not multiply silver and gold, but he may do so for 'aspanya'. Thus, it is only because Scripture wrote 'lo': but otherwise, might we have thought that the prohibition extended even to money for 'aspanya'?23  — [the word] is necessary here only to permit him a more generous provision.

Now that you say that 'lo' [to him] is for purpose of exegesis, how will you interpret, He shall not multiply wives 'lo' [to himself]?24  — As excluding commoners.25

Rab Judah raised a point of contradiction [in the following passages:] It is written, And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots.26  But elsewhere we read, And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots.27  How are these [to be reconciled]? Thus: If he had forty thousand stables, each of them must have contained four thousand horsestalls; and if he had four thousand stables, each of them must have contained forty thousand stalls.

R. Isaac raised the following point of contradiction: It is written, Silver was nothing accounted for in the days of Solomon,28  and further, And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem [as plentiful] as stones.29  [Hence it had some value?] But these verses present no difficulty; the former refers to the period before he married Pharaoh's daughter; the latter, to the period after he married her.30

R. Isaac said: When Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter, Gabriel31  descended and stuck a reed in the sea, which gathered a sand-bank around it, on which was built the great city of Rome.32

R. Isaac also said: Why were the reasons of [some] Biblical laws not revealed? — Because in two verses reasons were revealed, and they caused the greatest in the world [Solomon] to stumble. Thus it is written: He shall not multiply wives to himself,33  whereon Solomon said, 'I will multiply wives yet not let my heart be perverted.' Yet we read, When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart.34  Again it is written: He shall not multiply to himself horses;35 concerning which Solomon said, 'I will multiply them, but will not cause [Israel] to return [to Egypt].' Yet we read: And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six [hundred shekels of silver].36

AND HE SHALL WRITE IN HIS OWN NAME A SEFER TORAH. A Tanna taught: And he must not take credit37  for one belonging to his ancestors.

Rabbah said: Even if one's parents have left him a Sefer Torah, yet it is proper that he should write one of his own, as it is written: Now therefore write ye this song38  for you.39

Abaye raised an objection: 'He [the king] shall write a Sefer Torah for himself, for he should not seek credit40  for one [written] by others:' [Surely, this implies] only a king [is thus enjoined], but not a commoner? — No, it is necessary here to teach the need for two Scrolls of the Law [for the King], even as it has been taught: And he shall write him the repetition41  of this law,42  [i.e.,] he shall write for himself two copies, one which goes in and out with him and the other to be placed in his treasure-house. The former which is to go in and out with him, [he shall write in the form of an amulet43  and fasten it to his arm, as it is written, I have set God always before me, surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.]44  He may not, while wearing it, enter the bath house, or the closet, as it is written: And it shall be with him and he shall read therein45  — in places appropriate for reading it.

Mar Zutra or, as some say, Mar 'Ukba said: Originally the Torah was given to Israel in Hebrew characters and in the sacred [Hebrew] language; later, in the times of Ezra,46  the Torah was given in Ashshurith script47  and Aramaic language. [Finally], they selected for Israel48  the Ashshurith script and Hebrew language, leaving the Hebrew characters and Aramaic language for the hedyototh. Who are meant by the 'hedyototh'? — R. Hisda answers: The Cutheans.49  And what is meant by Hebrew characters? — R. Hisda said: The libuna'ah script.50

It has been taught: R. Jose said: Had Moses not preceded him, Ezra would have been worthy of receiving the Torah for Israel. Of Moses it is written, And Moses went up unto God,51  and of Ezra it is written, He, Ezra, went up from Babylon.52  As the going up of the former refers to the [receiving of the] Law, so does the going up of the latter. Concerning Moses, it is stated: And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments;53  and concerning Ezra, it is stated: For Ezra had prepared his heart to expound the law of the Lord [his God] to do it and to teach Israel statutes and judgments.54  And even though the Torah was not given through him, its writing was changed through him, as it is written:

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Private meetings of the sexes.
  2. Deut. XIII, 7.
  3. Incest includes adultery. Hence the prohibition of yihud with married women originates in the Bible.
  4. I Kings I, 5.
  5. An Aggadah quoted by Rashi runs as follows: A golden rod passed through the hollow of the crown, from one end to the other, which fitted into a cleft or indenture in the skull — a mark peculiar to some in the house of David. Only he whom the crown fitted was deemed worthy to be king.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Surely, fifty men for a prince is no exception.
  8. The spleen causes a feeling of heaviness (Rashi). [The old belief that the removal of the spleen facilitates fast running is also recorded by Plinius, v. Preuss, Biblischtalmudische Medizin, p. 249.]
  9. So that they might be fleet of foot and impervious to briars and thorns.
  10. Deut. XVII, 16.
  11. Ibid. 17.
  12. The Aruch and the TJ render it 'Afsanya' from [G], soldiers' pay, v. p. 95, n. 1.
  13. Book of the law.
  14. Deut. XVII, 19.
  15. [H] Ibid, 16.
  16. I.e., for his own private use.
  17. Ibid. Which are generally harnessed to chariots, so implying a restriction of them even for that purpose, otherwise it should have read his horses.
  18. And which bring only personal grandeur.
  19. Deut. XVII, 16.
  20. Surely not — a king without these would be a nonentity.
  21. I.e., he may have many for that purpose.
  22. Deut. XVII, 17.
  23. Which latter surely is essential
  24. Ibid.
  25. Who are not so restricted in wives.
  26. I Kings V, 6.
  27. II Chron. IX, 25.
  28. I Kings X, 21.
  29. Ibid. XXVII, 3.
  30. In punishment for which the prosperity of the country waned; hence silver assumed some value.
  31. V. p. 99, n. 6.
  32. By this, his moral weakness, he laid the foundations of a hostile world symbolised by the Talmud as Rome, which overthrew Israel.
  33. 'That his heart turn not away', Deut. XVII, 17.
  34. I Kings XI, 4.
  35. So as not to cause the people to return to Egypt, the great horse market. Deut. XVII, 17.
  36. I Kings X, 29. Israelites went to and fro, trading with Egypt.
  37. Lit., 'adorn himself with'.
  38. The Book of the Law which includes the Song (Deut. XXXII): Maim. Yad, Sefer Torah VII, 2. In Aggadah we meet frequent references to 'Song' as the symbol of the Torah. Cf. Hul. 133a.
  39. Deut. XXXI, 19.
  40. Lit., 'adorn himself with'.
  41. [H] (E.V. 'copy').
  42. Deut. XVII, 18.
  43. In minuscule (Rashi).
  44. Ps. XVI, 8. Rashal deletes the whole of the bracketed passage.
  45. Deut. XVII, 19.
  46. Neh. VIII, 1ff.
  47. Assyrian; modern Hebrew square writing.
  48. [R. Han. reads, 'Israel chose for themselves'.]
  49. 'The Samaritans', so called because they were brought by Sargon, king of Assyria, from Cuthea, to take the place of the exiled Israelites. (V. II Kings XVII, 24 ff.). The reason for the change from Hebrew to Assyrian characters, was to build a greater barrier between the Samaritans and the Jews. V. Weiss, Dor, v. I, 59.
  50. Rashi: Large characters as employed in amulets. R. Tam, in Tosaf. s. v. [H] recognises in 'libuna'ah' an adjective from the name of some locality (Lebanon, or Libya). Another opinion is that libuna'ah is derived from 'lebenah', brick; hence writing found on clay-tablets. V. J.E. I, p. 445.
  51. Ex. XIX, 3.
  52. Ezra VII, 6.
  53. Deut. IV, 14.
  54. Ezra VII, 10.
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