We’ve spent the past 5 months in ספר תהילים. It’s time to return to ספר שמואל. To recap where we are, David is king of the united Israel, with his capital in Jerusalem. He has eliminated the Philistine threat, and signed peace treaties with the remaining Canaanites: צור and יבוס. The surrounding nations of מואב, עמון, אדום and צובה (or ארם) were in a state of detente with Israel since the time of Saul (see שמואל א יד:מז). David had moved the ארון to Jerusalem, in an “אוהל”, which we pointed out was probably a stone building but with a cloth roof, like משכן שילה. David has a fancy new palace built by חירם מלך צור, a בית ארזים (which the Targum translates as בֵּיתָא דִי מְטַלֵל בְּכִיוֹרֵי אַרְזַיָא).
David has been planning for this moment all his life. He has one goal:
With that, let’s look at the text:
What is going on here? Rabbi Leibtag points out something interesting. David first goes to נתן to ask a פסק as a חכם: he is “darshening out the pasuk”.
The Torah says הניח לכם מכל איביכם מסביב, and David sees his situation as ה׳ הניח לו מסביב מכל איביו, so it’s obviously time (David of course did not read the words of the תנ״ך; the author here is emphasizing to us, the readers, what the situation was). And נתן, wearing his “Rabbi” hat, agrees: it it time to build the בית מקדש.
Then נתן puts on his “Prophet” hat and gets the נבואה: no, David cannot. And this outweighs the פסק.
But that is very problematic. We have a principle: לא בשמים הוא. A נביא has no say in how we decide halacha (we all know the story of תנור של עכנאי). The obvious answer is that this was a הוראת שעה, a command for the nonce. A נביא has that power; (דברים יח:טו) נביא מקרבך מאחיך כמני יקים לך ה׳ אלקיך; אליו תשמעון.
But it’s not so simple. A הוראת שעה should not be recorded in תנ״ך:
A הוראת שעה is by definition לא הוצרכה לדורות.
But that’s clearly not true, since we do have prophetic הוראות שעה recorded:
In both these cases, במות (altars outside the משכן/מקדש) are forbidden, but the נביא says to make one, so it is allowed. The common factor in the instances of a prophetic הוראת שעה in תנ״ך is that they are related to the sacrifices and the בית המקדש. And this is a specific law of the מקדש:
Rashi makes this law, of מקריב על פי נביא, part of the sugya of הלכות המקדש, not הלכות נביא.
Inherent in the halachot of עבודה is the involvement of the נביא. This manifests in a number of ways. The Chasam Sofer comments:
And the description of the next Temple in יחזקאל is nothing like the laws outlined in the Torah. The Rambam explains:
And Rav Hutner explains that this הוראת שעה in the inauguration of the בית המקדש is necessary:
Rav Kook summarizes:
But why? Why does עבודה need נבואה? We don’t know the טעמי המצוות, but I would suggest that עבודה is the aspect of Judaism that brings G-d into our lives. There are three prongs to our religion (משנה אבות א:ב): על שלשה דברים העולם עומד, על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים. When we learn Torah, we explicitly exclude ה׳’s involvement. ה׳ gave us the Torah 3500 years ago, and now it is up to us to understand and internalize it:
And when we do גמילות חסדים, we also exclude ה׳’s involvement. There’s a famous saying attributed to the Baal Shem Tov:
So our עבודה is where we invite ה׳ into our lives, where we can feel a personal connection to הקב״ה. For us today, this is in our תפילה, but the ideal is the service of the בית המקדש, and the halacha recognizes this by making the voice of ה׳ an active part of the establishment of the בית המקדש.
So why does נתן first give him the psak? Or better, why does ה׳ let נתן make the error of answering without an explicit נבואה?
I would say, based on the משבצות זהב, that this was connected to David’s oath: אשר נשבע לה׳…אם אתן שנת לעיני…עד אמצא מקום לה׳. He swore never to sleep until the בית המקדש was built (or at least founded). He was finally given the good news, and his oath would be fulfilled. The משבצות זהב, citing the חתם סופר, says that David had התרת נדרים after this, but I don’t think so. The gemara says he never really slept:
So I think that ה׳, knowing how David felt about the בית המקדש and how he would respond to being denied the opportunity to build it, had pity on him. ה׳ said, נעבעך, let him get one good night’s sleep. Give him the bad news in the morning.
The next question is, why not? Why does ה׳ tell David that he cannot build the בית המקדש? We all know the obvious answer, that David tells Shlomo and the people:
And that’s how Shlomo saw it:
But note that the line about דם לרב שפכת isn’t actually in נתן's statement to David; that seems to be David’s interpolation. נתן doesn’t explicitly give a reason why David should not build a בית to ה׳, but simply says that והגיד לך ה׳ כי בית יַעֲשֶׂה לְּךָ ה׳. ה׳ will build a בית to David first.
Radak proposes two answers: one, that this was only in David’s mind, and the other is that the text of שמואל simply left that part out:
The idea that ספר שמואל left out the key part of נתן's prophecy seems unlikely. We will have to understand what David means by דם לרוב שפכת, and why he felt that disqualified him from building the בית המקדש.
I would agree with Radak’s first interpretation. I would assume the “real” reason is implied somehow in the prophecy. It would seem that David (and נתן) mis-read the pasuk. והניח לכם מכל איביכם מסביב וישבתם בטח are two different conditions. David was at the point of הניח לכם מכל איביכם מסביב but still could not claim to be ישבתם בטח; that would not be until Shlomo:
Building the בית מקדש requires a מלך:
What makes a מלך different from a שופט is that a שופט is ad hoc. מלך means a procedure for peacefully transferring power. It implies as John Adams said, ”a government of laws and not of men“. But you can’t be sure that the law is real until it happens. Shlomo becoming king after David designated him as such proved that David was a מלך,not a שופט:
But it is clearly not literally true that building the בית מקדש requires a king; the second בית מקדש was built under Persian rule when there was no king. And the Ramban adds a fascinating point:
I would say that building a בית מקדש requires not a מלך, but a ממלכה, a stable society with just laws, of which it can be said, ישבתם בטח.
But why should specifically the בית מקדש be connected to ממלכה? That is because the בית מקדש is different from the משכן: the בית מקדש is universal.
Note how Isaiah starts that perek:
We need to be not only a ממלכה, but a ממלכת כהנים:
Without that ממלכת כהנים there’s no point in a בית מקדש. If we just want a place for the Jews to pray and offer sacrifices, a משכן is fine.
So David could not build his בית מקדש. That would wait for a truly stable government. But what of David’s comment about דם לרב שפכת ומלחמות גדלות עשית? How is that relevant? I think that comes from the rhetorical question at the beginning of נתן's נבואה: האתה תבנה לי בית לשבתי. Understanding that will provide the focus for our study of the rest of ספר שמואל. But that is still to come. Next we will have to look at how David responds to this news.