The Gemara (Sanhedrin 102a) says Jeroboam I was almost as great as King David:

וירבעם יצא מירושלים אמר ר' חנינא בר פפא שיצא מפיתקה של ירושלים (מלכים א יא, כט) וימצא אותו אחיה השילוני הנביא בדרך והוא מתכסה בשלמה חדשה ושניהם לבדם בשדה מאי בשלמה חדשה אמר רב נחמן כשלמה חדשה מה שלמה חדשה אין בה שום דופי אף תורתו של ירבעם לא היה בה שום דופי ד"א שלמה חדשה שחידשו דברים שלא שמעה אזן מעולם מאי ושניהם לבדם בשדה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שכל תלמידי חכמים דומין לפניהם כעשבי השדה ואיכא דאמר שכל טעמי תורה מגולין להם כשדה

Did the other wicked kings, like Ahab and Shallum, know how to learn Torah?

  • 1
    Where is that Midrash?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 19:44
  • 1
    When this mysterious medrash you quote says Jeroboam was almost as great as King David, do they mean in Torah knowledge or in kingly affairs?
    – ezra
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 19:46
  • @DoubleAA I think he meant this. It doesn't say he was as great as Dovid Hamelech, but greater than most (?) or all of the rest of the generation (pretty good in my eyes). Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 19:56
  • @ezra ping...... Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 19:56
  • I seem to recall a guy told a Rav about himself that he was an Apikores. The Rav replied that he's an Am Ha'aretz. You have to really know your stuff to be an Apikores. But more to the point, Achav famously tried shutting down the Batei Midrashos, reasoning that if there was no place to learn, there would be no talmidim, and thus there would be no Rebbeim for the future, and thus Torah would die out.
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


I think this varies from king to king. Clearly there were some outstanding scholars among reshaim-kings, as you see openly from Sanhedrin 102b about Menashe. You also see in midrashim about Eliyahu haNavi that Achav was learning (sefer Yehoshua in the midrash).

I am sure generally people in those generations were much more aware of the mikra than we are today.

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