Between Jacob and King David

On Saturday mornings, after the Torah is read, another biblical selection called the”Haftarah” (Hebrew for “to conclude”) is read. This reading traditionally comes from one of the books of the Prophets and is strongly connected to the weekly Torah portion (“parashah”). Yesterday we discussed the Twelve Tribes of Israel and we began with Jacob’s blessing of his children (among them also Joseph’s sons: Ephraim and Manasseh). This week “Haftarah” is found in the book of I Kings (chapter 2) and is about King David’s will to his son Solomon.

I would like to draw a short comparison between the opening statements of both Jacob and King David. Jacob: “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years. And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him.” (Genesis 47:28-29) King David: “When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying:” (I Kings 2:1) As you probably noticed in both cases the term “time drew near” is used. In the original Hebrew the word “Va-ykrevuo”{ויקרבו} (literally means “coming closer” or “coming near”) appears in both passages and these are the ONLY two times in the entire Hebrew Bible this specific word appears with this specific meaning. The famous 11th century Bible commentator Rashi (Hebrew acronym for RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki) noticed this unique case too and came up with his own very interesting explanation. Rashi said, in his commentary on Genesis, that both of these biblical figures died at a younger age than their fathers before them. In other words, Jacob lived less years than Isaac and David lived less years than Jesse and we can learn this fact from the biblical usage in the exact same Hebrew word to describe the two figures: Jacob and King David!