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A. Solomon’s Succession to David’s Throne 1:1-2:12
The first segment of the writer’s story (1 Kings 1:1 to 1 Kings 2:12) continues the history of Israel’s monarchy where 2 Samuel ended. It records the final events in David’s reign that led to Solomon’s succession to the throne. It answers the question raised in 2 Samuel 9-20, namely, "Who will succeed David?" Similarly, Genesis 12-22 answers the question, "Who will be Abram’s heir?"
3. David’s charge to Solomon 2:1-9
David’s words here state succinctly the philosophy of history the writer of Kings set forth in this book. It is the philosophy David had learned and now commended to his son Solomon. Careful obedience to the Law of Moses would yield success in all areas of his son’s life (1 Kings 2:2). That obedience would constitute his manhood (1 Kings 2:1). Since God made man in the image of God, man can realize his manhood only by placing himself under God’s authority. "Statutes," "commandments," "ordinances," and "testimonies" are all different kinds of precepts in the Law. Solomon’s faithful obedience would also ensure an unbroken line of rulers (1 Kings 2:4; implied in 2 Samuel 7:12-16). Compare other important farewell addresses such as those by Jacob (Genesis 47:29 to Genesis 49:33) and Joshua (Joshua 23:1-16), as well as God’s charge to Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9).
David also gave Solomon advice concerning certain men. Solomon should execute Joab for his murders (2 Samuel 3:22-30; 2 Samuel 20:8-10). David had been merciful to Joab who was living on borrowed time because of his service to David. Nevertheless he deserved to die so justice would prevail. Evidently David had reason to believe Shimei the Benjamite would threaten the throne again (cf. 2 Samuel 16:11). If he did, Solomon was to execute him (1 Kings 2:9; cf. 1 Kings 2:36-46). We see here (1 Kings 2:1-9) another instance of the theme that punishment comes on those who resist the Lord’s anointed and blessing follows those who serve him.
"David was wrong in passing on responsibility to Solomon to execute the judgment he himself should have ordered at the time. This was to cause his son and successors much trouble and feuding." [Note: Wiseman, p. 77.]
4. David’s death 2:10-12
David and Saul each reigned for 40 years (cf. Acts 13:21). The differences in their personal lives and administrations were not due to differences in the time they ruled. The course of their careers sprang from God’s response to them that their response to Yahweh’s will determined. David experienced God’s blessing as a warrior, poet, musician, military commander, administrator, and man of God. His most significant characteristic, I believe, was his heart for God.
David was 70 years old when he died (2 Samuel 5:4). Saul may have been 80 when he died. [Note: See my comments on 1 Samuel 13:1.] However, the deaths of these two kings, as well as their lives, contrast dramatically. David died in peace, Saul in battle. David died in victory, Saul in defeat. When David began to reign, the Philistines dominated Israel. When Solomon began to reign, Israel was at peace and in control of her neighbors (1 Kings 2:12).
This section (1 Kings 1:1 to 1 Kings 2:12) provides a bridge between David and Solomon’s reigns. [Note: For an extended treatment of the two halves of chapter 2, see Jeffrey S. Rogers, "Narrative Stock and Deuteronomistic Elaboration in 1 Kings 2," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50:3 (July 1988):398-413.] Much in it is transitional, dealing with the transfer of power. When Solomon began to reign as sole king in 971 B.C., he had a strong foundation on which to build because of the blessing God had brought to Israel for David’s commitment to God and His Law.
Adonijah’s execution 2:13-25
Adonijah’s professed acceptance of Solomon’s succession overcame Bathsheba’s initial fear of him. He convinced her that he only wanted permission to marry King David’s former nurse. But Solomon saw deeper into Adonijah’s intent. Even though David had not had sexual relations with Abishag, she was part of his harem, one of the women who ministered to his most intimate needs.
"Although Abishag had been only David’s nurse, in the eyes of the people she passed as his concubine; and among the Israelites, just as with the ancient Persians (Herod. iii. 68), taking possession of the harem of a deceased king was equivalent to an establishment of the claim to the throne . . ." [Note: C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings, p. 32.]
Adonijah would also have found popular support among the people because he was David’s oldest living son (cf. 1 Kings 2:22). Solomon correctly regarded Adonijah’s request as an act of treason worthy of death.
1 Kings 2:24 makes it very clear that Solomon, like David, had a proper view of his role under God as Israel’s king. Adonijah’s rebellion was not just against Solomon personally but against the Lord and His anointed whom He had placed on the throne.
B. The Foundation of Solomon’s Reign 2:13-4:34
The writer noted that Solomon’s sole reign began well. The things most responsible were God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon (the central section), his political decisions (the first section), and his administrative ability (the third section).
1. Solomon’s purges 2:13-46
Solomon wrote that the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13; Psalms 111:10). At the very beginning of his reign he gave evidence of being wise by the way he dealt with his political enemies. His wise decisions at this time resulted in peace and prosperity for Israel for the next 40 years (971-931 B.C.).
Abiathar’s dismissal 2:26-27
Solomon granted Abiathar a parole for participating in Adonijah’s rebellion. By removing him from his office, he cut off Eli’s last descendant, thereby fulfilling God’s prophecy to Eli (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Eli’s fertility ended because he had not obeyed God’s Law faithfully. The writer of Kings drew special attention to God bringing this to pass (1 Kings 2:27).
Joab’s execution 2:28-35
Perhaps because Solomon had shown Adonijah mercy when he fled to the altar (1 Kings 1:50-52), Joab sought refuge from Solomon there too, for participating in Adonijah’s rebellion. Joab, however, was a murderer as well as a rebel. Consequently Solomon had him executed in obedience to the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:14). Manslayers, but not murderers, found sanctuary at the altar. David’s house shared the guilt for Joab’s murders as long as he remained alive (1 Kings 2:31). By executing Joab, Solomon cleared the way for God to bless him and his throne. God would punish Joab’s house but bless David’s house (1 Kings 2:33). Solomon honored Joab for his service to David by burying him in his own land in Judah (1 Kings 2:34; cf. 2 Samuel 2:32).
Shimei’s execution 2:36-46
David had warned Solomon to keep Shimei under close observation and to put him to death (1 Kings 2:8-9). Evidently David realized, because of Shimei’s past actions, that it would only be a matter of time before he would do something worthy of death, probably rebel against Solomon’s authority. Solomon therefore made Jerusalem Shimei’s prison. Jerusalem was only "a small acropolis city, whose circumference has been estimated at 4500 feet." [Note: James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Kings, p. 96.] Solomon kept Shimei from reuniting with his Benjamite kinsmen. When Shimei left the city he flagrantly rebelled against Solomon’s authority. Leaving the city in itself was no great crime, but the fact that Solomon had specifically forbidden it made it very serious. Thus Shimei’s disregard for and disobedience to the will of the Lord’s anointed resulted in his death.
All of Solomon’s dealings with these enemies, who had conspired against the Lord’s anointed and violated the Mosaic Law, show that the new king had a firm commitment to keeping that Law. Moreover Solomon was also merciful and wise, traits of God Himself, who blessed Solomon with these characteristics as His son because of Solomon’s commitment to Him. This section also vividly portrays the fate of people who oppose God: disenfranchisement (in the case of Abiathar) and death (in the cases of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei).
"Taken as a whole, 2 Samuel 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2 is one of the most powerful indictments of sin in the Bible. But this material has to do with more than judgment. Running parallel to the nemesis of judgment are the grace and providence of God. The child born of the adulterous union died, but another son was born to David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15-25). David almost lost his kingdom to Absalom, but God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel and David regained his throne (2 Samuel 16:15 to 2 Samuel 17:14). The ultimate good in this tangle of events was the accession of that son of David whom the LORD loved ([chose] 2 Samuel 12:24-25), who ended the disruption in David’s family and established the kingdom in strength and peace. Good and evil mingle together in these events. But God is able to achieve his purposes in the midst of and in spite of evil. Even that which is meant for evil God can turn to good (Genesis 45:8; Genesis 50:20; Psalms 76:9). The supreme example of this, of course, was the turning of Good Friday into Easter." [Note: Rice, pp. 27-28. For a good discussion of the "succession narrative" that begins in 2 Samuel 9-20 and concludes with 1 Kings 1-2, see Patterson and Austel, p. 38.]
"The major canonical and theological issue this section raises is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant." [Note: House, p. 103.]
"Historically, Israel is at a crossroads. From this moment on one sees a drastic shift from semidemocratic tribal rule (maintained to some extent in David’s administration) to a typical despotic city-state." [Note: DeVries, p. 44.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34