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Dovid HaMelech - Part 49

For more than a year the siege of Rabbah continued. In fact, Chazal say that after Uriah HaChitti was killed, the war entered a stage of attrition. General Yoav and the Jewish army did not have the strength and will to go back to that critical spot where Uriah had been killed and as a result, the war stalled. But now that news came back from Yerushalayim that a son had been born to the king, Yoav understood that Hashem had forgiven Dovid for what happened to Uriah, and he garnered a renewed sense of strength and encouraged his men to attack that spot again (Abarbanel Shmuel II 12:26). Klal Yisroel was successful in their attack and Yoav finally captured the royal city and the source of the Ammonite’s water supply (Shmuel II 12:26 also see Radak Shmuel II 12:26). Chazal note that it was the custom in those days for the king’s palaces to be situated apart from the population. As such, they were never built inside the city, but rather always outside the city. Therefore, upon breaching the outer city, Yoav captured the palace and the king, as well as the inner city’s water supply –effectively cutting the population off from their two most important means of survival, their leadership and water supply (Abarbanel Shmuel II 12:26).


Quickly, Yoav sent a message to the king detailing their successes and asked that Dovid gather the rest of the army – the soldiers in Dovid’s army who were not meant to serve that month (see Rashi in Kiddushin 76b) – and march forth from Yerushalayim so that they can finish the job (Shmuel II 12:27-28). Chazal say that after pounding the outer royal city for over a year, Yoav finally broke through the first line of defense and captured the royal city (Rashi Shmuel II 12:26).


With the Ammonite people thirsting for water Yoav knew that the next stage in the military campaign would be relatively easy (Malbim Shmuel II 12:26), however, being the righteous man he was, Yoav called Dovid down from Yerushalayim to come and lead the army so that the king would have the honor of being the conqueror when they broke through the inner city (Targum Yonason, Radak Shmuel II 12:28).


Furthermore, Chazal say that Hashem made the siege of Rabbah last for a very long time so that it spanned the entire time of the incident with Bas-Sheva – from before Dovid met Bas-Sheva until after she gave birth to Shlomo (Rashi Shmuel II 12:26).


The king quickly left for Rabbah with a huge army and after linking up with Yoav’s troops, they launched a massive attack against the city of Rabbah. He fought the city ferociously and upon capturing it, he removed the Ammonite monarch’s special crown from his head and placed it on his own (Shmuel II 12:29-30). The crown was called “the crown of Malkam” which was a name derived from the idol Molech – the main idol of the Ammonites. (Tzephanyah 1:5, Yirmiyahu 49:1, 49:3) It’s interesting to note that Dovid still kept the crown even though it had been used for idol worship. Normally, it is unlawful to take spoils from an idol (Divrei Hayamim I 20:2), however Chazal explain that Dovid had a commander in his army named Ittai HaGassi. Ittai wasn’t Jewish, but rather a Pelishti who hailed from the city of Gass, next to Ashkelon and he was the one who actually removed the crown from the king of Ammon’s head. While he grabbed it, he cracked off a piece and renounced it thereby dissolving its status as an object used for idol worship (Avoda Zara 44a, 53a, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 146:1, Biur HaGra Yoreh De’ah 139:9).


Chazal explain that the crown weighed a talent of gold – around 30.2 kg or 66 lb 9 oz – and it had a precious stone or bar right down the center which was set inside (Sanhedrin 21b). This oddly shaped indent and the fact that the crown weighed an incredible amount made it extremely difficult for most people to wear. In fact, some say that the crown was much too heavy to actually be worn and instead was suspended symbolically over Dovid’s head (Radak Shmuel II 12:30).


Either way, Dovid placed the crown on his head, and it sat comfortably conforming to its dimensions (Rashi and Tosafos Sanhedrin 21b). This was a great miracle and Chazal say that only those descendants of Dovid who were destined to become king had an inset in their head to receive the stone – or bar – and were thus able to wear the crown, proving their worthiness to ascend the throne (Rashi in Sanhedrin 21b based on Avodah Zara 44a).


Furthermore, there are those that explain that the heads of those members of Dovid’s family who were worthy of ruling would fill the interior of the crown creating a perfect fit (Yad Ramah Sanhedrin 21b). Interestingly, when Dovid was ill and on his deathbed, his son, Adoniyahu, staged a coup and sought to ascend the throne instead of Shlomo. Adoniyahu attempted to demonstrate his fitness to rule by placing the crown on his head; the crown, however, did not sit properly on his head. In his effort to fit the crown on his head, Adoniyah pushed his head up into the space of the crown, attempting to force it to fit but his head was not large enough (Iyun Yaakov, Ben Yehoyada, Maharsha on Avodah Zarah 44a). Also, many years later, there was a wicked woman named Asalya who was the daughter of the evil King Achav of Malchus Yisroel. She married King Yehoram of Malchus Yehuda as a way of improving relations between the two kingdoms. Following her son, King Achazya’s death, Queen Asalya set out and virtually exterminated all the male offspring of the royal house of Dovid. One child was saved but Achazya’s sister, Yehosheva, who was the mother of Zecharia HaNavi and the wife of the Kohen Gadol, Yehoyada, who managed to secretly hide Yoash, the sole remaining male descendent of Dovid’s family, in the upper portion of the Kodesh HaKedoshim for six years. When Yoash turned seven, Yehoyada and his supporters brought the young king out of hiding and demonstrated his royal pedigree by placing Dovid’s crown on his head – which fit perfectly (Melachim II 11:1-20, Divrei Hayamim II 22:10-12, 23:1-21, Rashi on Avodah Zara 44a).


Dovid burned the cities to the ground, destroyed their tools, and the people were shackled and dragged through the muddy streets in shame (Shmuel II 12:31). Chazal say that the streets were paved with bricks that were covered with a heavy layer of dirt. Dovid wetted the ground and turned the ground into mud (Radak Shmuel II 12:31). Dovid also made the Ammonites pass through brick kilns so that they could experience the pain they had inflicted on the victims of their idol Molech (Malbim, Ralbag Shmuel II 12:31).


Interestingly, Chazal note that Halacha dictates that a city that serves idols must be burnt completely (Avoda Zara 44a). Therefore, Dovid disgraced the idol of Molech by placing all of the Ammonite people’s tools; saws, threshing sledge, axes, knives, iron bars, etc. into the very fires that they worshiped. They were utterly ruined and burned completely (Radak Shmuel II 12:31). According to some, Dovid actually used the tools of the Ammonites to torture (Radak Shmuel II 12:31) and even kill the people (Ralbag Shmuel II 12:31). They were also pressed into forced labor as a punishment for their gratuitous cruelty in how they disgraced Dovid’s messengers. Dovid intended that by publicly belittling and torturing the Ammonites he would create a deterrent for the other enemy countries (Abarbanel Shmuel II 12:31, Daas Mikrah Divrei Hayamim I 20:3).


Dovid had accomplished the conquest of Ammon. He gathered his army and returned to Yerushalayim victorious (Shmuel II 12:31).


to be continued ...

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