The Talmud in Gittin 88a says that Israel was only destroyed once it had seven courts that worshiped idols. It proceeds to list seven different Northern Kings.

Rashi explains that the Kings of Judah aren't mentioned, because they were in the days of the Kings of Israel and are considered like one court.

I examined Kings and Chronicles, and it seems that up until Hezekiah, when Assyria exiled the Northern Kingdom, there were 7 rulers of Judah whose reigns could have contained idol worship: Rehoboam, Abijam, Jehoram and Ahaziah (v.16 & 25), Athalia (v.3), Jehoash (v.17), and Ahaz. The numbers work out pretty1 well, but the Kingdom of Judah wasn't destroyed by Assyria. In fact, one of our most righteous kings, Hezekiah was in power during and after the last King of Israel's reign, and the Kingdom of Judah itself wasn't destroyed for over a century2!

Furthermore, the Midrash Aggadath Breishith says in ch.48 that there were 7 wicked kings in Judah: Jehoram, Ahaz, Joash, Menashe, Ammon, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. This completely contradicts my reasoning above, and further complicates Rashi, because four of the seven wicked kings of Judah reign after the Assyrian exile!

Why does Rashi include the Kings of Judah in the Talmud's saying?

1. Amaziah was rebelled against by the people when he turned to idols (v.27), so I didn't count him, as he may not have been able to establish a court. Alternatively, you could count Amaziah but exclude Athalia, who may have had the same court as her grandson Ahaziah, as she pushed him toward idolatry in the first place (see citation above). I counted Abijam as separate from Rehoboam his father, because he seems to have a period of righteousness in his reign (see also Seder Olam Rabba 16: Rhoboam and his sons were righteous for 3 years, rebelling on the fourth). Athalia used Ahazia's reign to seize power for herself, so I assumed she made her own court too, and I separated Jehoram and Ahazia.

2. Based on Kings II. Hezekiah's rule began in the 3rd year of Hoseah's. Hoseah reigned for 9 years total, So of Hezekiah's 29 years, 23 of them were after the exile of Samaria. Menasseh- 55 yrs. Ammon - 2 yrs. Josiah - 31 yrs. Jehoahaz - 3 mnths. Jehoiakim - 11 years. Jehoiachin - 3 mnths. Zedekiah - 11 yrs. Gedaliah - less than 2 mnths. 23+55+2+31+11+11+JJ&G= roughly 133.


2 Answers 2


Hosea's removing the roadblocks to Jerusalem made more of an accusation against Northerners still clinging to idolatry and sacrificing to it rather than bringing sacrifice to the Temple.

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In chapter 5 of Canticles, Rashi interprets verse 3 as us giving up and resigning ourselves to our ways of evil, despite Gd's so to speak heartfelt pleas for us to open up the doors of our hearts to him. We gave up on ourselves and our our love with our Beloved.

Rashi then explains verses 4-6. He says that Gd finally began to punish Judah in the times of Ahaz. We at long last repented during the generation of Hezekiah, (and to an extent under Josiah), but He did not rescinde His decree against us (Rashi says even Jeremiah's encouraging words merely sought to lessen the inevitable punishment of our exile). The Nebuchadnezar came and destroyed the Temple.

Rashi's explanation here makes it quite clear that the decree against Judah occurred, in his view, during the reign of Ahaz and his contemporary, Hosea son of Elah, last king of Israel.

Thus Rashi's explanation of the Talmud is consistent with his opinion of when Judah's hope was lost and its fate sealed, even though the destruction proper did not come upon Judah as abruptly as it did upon Samaria.

As far as the number of kings goes, one could potentially count around seven, as I did in my question, however I am inclined to follow the midrash, instead of my own mind, and say that Rashi was wondering why three of the seven, Jehoram, Joash, and Ahaz weren't mentioned alongside the Northern Kings.


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