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I Kings (Studies in Tanakh) Hardcover – 1 Oct 2013

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Recommendations for the book 3 Oct. 2013
By Student of Rav Alex - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In transforming his vibrant classroom into book form, Alex Israel demonstrates that Tanakh study is not only interesting but relevant as well. He provides the intelligent reader with new insights, blending the rigor of peshat with traditional commentary, all within the framework of a realistic historical context. You will enjoy this book because he's teaching, not preaching.

Rabbi Menachem Leibtag
Founder of the Tanakh Study Center

Alex Israel has written an enthralling analysis of one of the most dramatic books of Tanakh, and one deeply relevant to Israel at the present time. His insights into the dilemmas and temptations of power, and the conflict between Israel's particular identity and its universal aspirations, are masterly. You will learn much from this book, not least in seeing how the depth and subtlety of Judaism's ancient texts are a continuing source of moral, political and spiritual wisdom.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Chief Rabbi of Great Britain
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Seamless integration of classical sources with contemporary sensibilities 26 May 2014
By Rick J. Strassman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I am partial to the medievalists’ Tanakh commentaries, I found Israel’s commentary on 1 Kings as captivating, enlightening, relevant, and astute as any of those by Rashi, ibn Ezra, Maimonides, or Nachmanides. While drawing on their theological, philological, and ethical insights, he also effortlessly incorporates psychological, archaeological, social, and political insights belonging to our contemporary world. I am a picky reviewer and admit it’s hard to find any significant faults in this book. If other Maggid Tanakh commentaries are of comparable quality, this bodes extremely well for modern Tanakh studies for the entire gamut of students and scholars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Bible Commentary on First Kings 21 Oct. 2013
By Dov P Elkins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I Kings: Torn in Two. Alex Israel. Koren Publishers ([...] 350 Pages. Hardcover. $29.95. ISBN: 9781613290040.

Another outstanding volume in the "Maggid Studies in Tanakh" series, published by Koren Publishers. The current volume, and one on Jeremiah, have been published. The next, on Joshua, is due soon.

The distinguished author makes it easy to get behind the scenes and understand the crucial biblical period of the Tanakh.

The Book of Kings narrates the vivid and turbulent history of Israel and its monarchs. In I Kings: Torn in Two, master educator Alex Israel uncovers the messages hidden between the lines of the biblical text and draws rich and indelible portraits of its great personalities. Revealing a narrative of political upheaval, empire building, religious and cultural struggle, national fracture, war and peace, I Kings: Torn in Two depicts the titanic clashes between king and prophet and the underlying conflicts that can split apart a society.

Using traditional commentaries and modern literary techniques, the author offers a dynamic dialogue between the biblical text and its interpretations. The result is a compelling work of contemporary biblical scholarship that addresses the central themes of the Book of Kings in a wider historical, political and religious perspective.

Rabbi Alex Israel is a master educator whose teaching over the past two decades has inspired thousands of students in the US, Israel and the UK to engage deeply with Biblical texts. He currently teaches at Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi and is Director of Community Education at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. An active writer, he also contributes regularly to Yeshivat Har Etzion's Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash. Born and raised in London, Rabbi Israel moved to Israel in 1991 and gained rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate following several years of study at Yeshivat Har Etzion. Rabbi Israel holds degrees from London School of Economics, the Institute of Education, London, and Bar Ilan University. He has lectured widely at campuses and communities on three continents.

Dov Peretz Elkins
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 23 Nov. 2013
By CommentsToHelp - Published on
Format: Hardcover
True to tradition but does not ignore historical sources. You get a taste of being in a seminar and listening to his voice. Completely approachable text. Highly recommend the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Superb discussions on a very interesting biblical book 26 Aug. 2014
By Israel Drazin - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Too few people read the early historical books of the Hebrew Bible – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings – and those who do fail to get as much out of the books as they can. Alex Israel’s new book focuses on the first half of the book Kings, called I Kings because the Greek translation of the book divided the book in two, a convention that was accepted by Jews in 1517. I Kings is comprised of twenty-two chapters and covers the history of ancient Judah and Israel from the coronation of King Solomon in 967 BCE through the reign of King Jehoshaphat who died in 846 BCE. The book of Kings as a whole deals with “the four hundred years of history from Solomon to the exile, from the advent of the Temple to its destruction” in 586 BCE. It describes the kings of the two nations, Judah and Israel, the politics, wars, and a significant problem of the era, idolatry.

Alex Israel’s book is subtitled “Torn in Two” because after Solomon’s death in 928 BCE, his son Rehoboam refused to accept the demands of the ten northern tribes to reduce taxation. When he rebuffed them, they withdrew from the nation of Judah and formed their own country, which they called Israel. In the final chapter of I kings, King Ahab of Israel formed a short-lived alliance with King Jehoshaphat of Judah, but a prophet criticized the alliance. Israel lasted for about 200 years until it was conquered by Assyria. The ten tribes were driven into exile, and became known in history as “the ten lost tribes,” although some of the inhabitants escaped south to Judah; so all the tribes continued to exist, although only Levites and the family of Aaron, the priests, know their lineage today.

This book describes the reign of thirteen kings, five from Judah and eight from Israel. Three of the thirteen stand out; one from Judah, Solomon, and two from Israel, Jeroboam, who organized the split from Judah, and Ahab, the husband of Jezebel who repeatedly repented his wrongs and then, perhaps provoked by Jezebel, reverted to the performance of improper acts. Solomon attempted to strengthen the unity of Israel, but his son destroyed his goal. Solomon began his reign as a man devoted to God, he built Israel’s first temple, but he ended his life seduced by his foreign wives to worship idols. “Each of these kings suffered from divided loyalties, finding religious orientation at variance with his national agenda…making singular adherence to God’s law impossible.” Additionally, quite a few chapters in I Kings as well as II Kings deal with the famed prophet Elijah, the only prophet who resigned his prophetic position, an overly-zealous man, who begged God to kill him, who is described with great insight by Alex Israel. The biblical Elijah is radically different than the Elijah known through post-biblical legends.

Alex Israel offers readers an explanation of each of the twenty-two chapters, discussing each in turn, in an easy to read, comprehensive, and insightful manner. For example, among much else, in explaining chapter 1, Israel answers why it was necessary to seek a virgin from “the entire country” to lay in King David’s bed to warm him; couldn’t “a suitable candidate have been found in a more limited local – the province of Judah, for instance?” Israel explains that this was part of the plot of one of David’s sons who wanted to succeed him; he was publicizing David’s infirmity.

In his explanation of chapter 2, again among much else, Israel explains why this son of David felt he could escape Solomon’s attempt to kill him by seeking asylum by leaning on the altar. The Torah states that the altar is not an asylum for a murderer. He also explains why Solomon felt he had to kill his brother.

In his discussions of chapters 9 and 10, which describe the wealth and opulence of Solomon’s reign, Israel warns readers that the Solomon chapters “bear a double reading.” In an initial reading, readers are “impressed and overwhelmed by the power and accomplishments of this king…. But as one revisits these chapters a second time, especially with the awareness of Solomon’s failures at the end of his reign, one appreciates that he did not fail overnight; darker strands are revealed, indicating the deep flaws that threatened the impressive national enterprise.” For example, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, the country that had been so rich was now suffering a deficit and Solomon had to buy food from the kingdom of Tyre and had to pay for it by giving the Tyre king twenty cities.

In chapter 11, Israel gives readers an insightful even-handed picture of Jeroboam who rebelled against Solomon’s son and established a new kingdom for ten of the twelve tribes. In chapter 12, he shows that the rivalry between Judah and Joseph - Jeroboam was from Joseph - goes back unabated to the time of Jacob’s sons. “The fiercest manifestation of their feud is the terrible sale of Joseph to Egypt, instigated by Judah.” In 12, he also discusses whether the two temples that Jeroboam established in Dan and Beth El, placing calves at the entrances to the temples, changing the date of Sukkot, and allowing the general public to function as priests was idolatry.

While all the kings of Judah were descendants of David, the kings of the northern kingdom came from various tribes and repeatedly suffered untimely ends through bloody assassinations. Jeroboam’s son succeeded him but was assassinated by Baasha after ruling only two years. Baasha’s son followed him as king but was also assassinated by Zimri after two years, and Zimri lasted only seven days. The history of these kings of Israel as well as the kings of Judah is a fascinating tale, especially with Alex Israel’s explanations of the events. Readers will enjoy this book and look forward to its sequel.
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