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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying,

David ... charged ... his son. The charge recorded here was given on his deathbed to Solomon, and is different from the farewell address delivered in public some time before (1 Chr. 28:29 ). It is introduced with great solemnity.

Verse 2

I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man;

I go the way of all the earth - a beautiful and impressive periphrasis for death.

Be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man. This counsel is similar to the apostolic direction, 1 Corinthians 16:13, and refers to the fortitude or strength of mind that was required to discharge the onerous functions of king.

Verse 3

And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:

Keep the charge of the Lord thy God - i:e., the divine law, in all its ceremonial as well as moral requirements. But particular reference was intended to its political institutions, since it was only by strictly maintaining the conduct that became the Hebrew monarch (Deuteronomy 17:16-20) that he should secure the blessing of peace and prosperity to his reign (see the notes at Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 29:9-21).

Verse 4

That the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.

There shall not fail thee ... a man on the throne of Israel - a reference to the promise made to David, of his sovereignty being vested perpetually in his lineage (2 Samuel 7:11-16), which was confirmed to Solomon afterward (see the notes at 1 Kings 9:5), and repeated with reference to its spiritual meaning long after (Jeremiah 33:17).

Verse 5

Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. Thou knowest also what Joab ... did. The insolent and imperious conduct of that general had not only been deeply offensive to the feelings (2 Samuel 18:5-15; 2 Samuel 19:5-7), but calculated to bring reproach on the character, to injure the prospects, and endanger the throne, of David. Passing over the injuries committed directly against himself, David dwelt with strong feelings on the base assassination of Abner and Amasa.

Shed the blood of war in peace ... The obvious meaning is, that in peace he acted toward them as if they had been in a state of warfare; but perhaps these graphic expressions might be designed to impress Solomon's mind more strongly with a sense of the malice, treachery, and cruelty by which those murders were characterized.

Verse 6

Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.

Do therefore according to thy wisdom. Joab's immense popularity with the army required that any proceedings instituted against him should be taken with great prudence and deliberation. But that ruthless and perfidious man should be doomed to expiate his crimes by his blood.

Verse 7

But shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table: for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother.

Show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai. The devoted loyalty of that venerable chief and his family made upon David an impression which could not be effaced by time.

Verse 8

And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.

Thou hast with thee Shimei. Though David promised him a pardon, which, being enforced by the presence of a thousand followers, could not have been well refused, he warned his son against Shimei as a turbulent and dangerous character.

Verse 9

Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.

Now therefore hold him not guiltless. He has the turbulent spirit of sedition, and may be of treason; do not regard him as an innocent, harmless person.

For thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do. I would have you to act toward him according to your discretion.

But his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. This latter clause seems to revoke the former part of the counsel, and instead of the discretionary power with which David had at first invested his son and successor, to lay him under an obligation to put Shimei to death. But there is no real discrepancy between the two parts of the sentence, when its grammatical construction is properly, attended to. 'It is not uncommon in Hebrew,' says Kennicott ('Dissertation,' p. 131), 'to omit the negative in a second part of the sentence, and to consider it as repeated, when it has been once expressed, and is followed by the connecting particle' (Psalms 1:5; Psalms 9:13; Psalms 75:5). Applying this principle, the verse before us will run thus: 'Behold, thou hast with thee Shimei, who cursed me; but I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him NOT guiltless; because thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do, but bring NOT down his hoar head to the grave with blood.' It must not be supposed that in these dying instructions David was evincing a fierce, vindictive spirit. He is rather to be considered as acting in the character of a king and magistrate, in noticing crimes which he had not been in a condition to punish, and pointing out persons of whom Solomon would be under a necessity to rid himself, as dangerous to the state.

There are three different descriptions of character to whom Solomon's attention as a monarch is specially directed by his dying father. The first is Joab, who is very plainly consigned to the awards of public justice; the second is the family of Barzillai, who were entitled to the highest tokens of royal favour; and the third is Shimei, who was neither doomed to punishment nor recommended to favour, but on whom, as a dangerous character, the young king was counseled to keep a strictly vigilant eye, to steer a middle course, but observe him, and put him under a certain measure of restraint; and then, if he violated the conditions imposed on him, treat him as a malefactor. Solomon's subsequent conduct shows that this was the real spirit and purport of the parental advice. The grateful mention of Barzillai's kindness was, however, a personal feeling that does honour to the warmth of David's heart; and his silence as to Mephibosheth, the son of his beloved Jonathan, would imply the previous death of that prince. "For thou art a wise man." Solomon had given early indications of wisdom before his miraculous endowment with the heavenly gift (see the notes at 1 Kings 3:11); and his own sagacity would dictate the course that should be followed in any new offence Shimei might commit.

Verse 10

So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.

So David slept with his fathers - about six months after the coronation of Solomon (cf. 2 Samuel 5:5 with 1 Chronicles 29:27). The interval was spent in developing his ideas and plans for the future glory of the kingdom, and providing for the permanent worship of God, (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 22:1-19, et seq.)

And was buried in the city of David. Graves were not allowed within the precincts of cities. Jerusalem, however, formed an exception; and yet even there the privilege was reserved chiefly for the royal family (Acts 2:29). Tradition says that the bones of David rest on Mount Zion, and the minaret of a small mosque points out the spot which tradition has fixed. In the year 1853 M. de Saulcy in his tour examined the tombs of the kings of Judah on the north side of Jerusalem, and among other extraordinary discoveries which he claims to have made, is that of a sarcophagus, which he brought to France, depositing it in the gallery of the Louvre, where, with matchless assumption, it is exhibited as the identical sarcophagus of King David!

Verse 11

And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem.

The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years ... His was a noble, a wondrous, and an humbling history. He was a good man, yet his life was deformed by various crimes of a very gross character. But there were many bright and noble traits in his character. He was an earnest lover of the divine law, his reign was signalized by many important services that contributed to the glory of God and the exaltation of his kingdom, and his name, as the sweet psalmist of Israel, will be held in honour to the latest age of the Church. But as a king of Israel, he, with all his great qualities, fell short of raising his kingdom to the influential position assigned to it in the moral and religious education of the world. 'It had been appointed that in and through the Hebrew nation all the families of the earth should be blessed; and when David had subdued his territory up to the covenanted limits, he should with this view, and in fulfillment of what he knew to be the divine intention respecting Israel's national calling, have applied himself to consolidate his conquests.

These various races, instead of being formed into one compacted people, were merely tied and joined together by a common allegiance, like the widely scattered tribes of the great kingdom-empires on the east. And instead of being rallied at some central point, where they might have all been convened in the name of their common Lord, the subjects of his vast dominion were compelled to look away to Jerusalem, which was far remote from many of them, as the metropolitan center of their government and worship. For David still adhered to his purpose, that this should be the chief city of his territory. It was central and well fitted for its purpose when the kingdom was comprised within its former limits; but now there were many sites further north that were far more eligible for the building of his capital, whither the tribes might have "gone up" from all sides of the consecrated land, "unto the testimony of Israel," and the selection of which might have averted the jealous enmities by which the kingdom was afterward rent in twain' (Drew's 'Scripture Lands,' p. 146).

Verse 12

Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established greatly.

Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father. His ascension to the royal dignity was made under the happiest auspices. Having been born after his father became monarch of the whole kingdom, his claim, according to the notions of Oriental people, was preferable to that of all, even his older brothers. The Hebrew kingdom enjoyed internal prosperity; it was respected and renowned abroad; and Solomon well knew how to improve these advantages.

Verse 13

And Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably.

Adonijah ... came to Bath-sheba. Her question to him, "Comest thou peaceably?" betrays an apprehension which his recent conduct might well warrant; but his pious acknowledgment of the divine will seemed apparently to indicate so entire an acquiescence in the settlement of the succession, that, in her womanly simplicity, she did not perceive not the deep cunning and evil design that was concealed under his request, and readily undertook to promote his wishes.

Verses 14-18

He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said, Say on.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.

Bath-sheba therefore went unto king Solomon. The filial reverence and the particular act of respect which Bath-sheba therefore went unto king Solomon. The filial reverence and the particular act of respect which Solomon rendered was quite in accordance with the sentiments and customs of the East. The right bend is the place of honour; and as it is expressly said to have been assigned to "the king's mother," it is necessary to remark, that when a husband dies, his widow acquires a higher dignity and power, as a mother over her son, than she ever possessed before. Besides, the dignity of "king's mother" is a state office, to which certain revenues are attached. The holder has a separate palace or court, as well as possesses great influence in public affairs; and as the dignity is held for life, it sometimes happens, in consequence of deaths, that the person enjoying it may not be related to the reigning sovereign by natural maternity. Bath-sheba had evidently been invested with his honourable office.

Verses 20-21

Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 22

And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother; even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.

Why dost thou ask Abishag? ... ask for him the kingdom also - (see the notes at 2 Samuel 16:11; also at 12:8.) Solomon's indignation was roused; he in a moment penetrated the artful scheme; and, from Adonijah's associating the names of Abiathar and Joab, he seems to have suspected or known that those deep schemers had been his prompters.

Verse 23

Then king Solomon sware by the LORD, saying, God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life.

God do so to me, and more also. The common form of introducing a solemn oath. Adonijah ... spoken this word against his own life. Whether there was a treasonable design concealed under this request or not, the act, according to Eastern notions, was criminal, and of dangerous consequence to the state. There is no ground of censure upon Solomon for cruelty or precipitation in this instance. He had pardoned Adonijah's former conspiracy; but this new attempt was rebellion against the viceroy appointed by the Divine King, and called for condign punishment. The office of executioner was, among the Hebrews, as in other ancient countries of the East, performed unceremoniously and privately-often without any previous warning-by the captain of the guard, or one of his officers (Matthew 14:10).

Verses 24-25

Now therefore, as the LORD liveth, which hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 26

And unto Abiathar the priest said the king, Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields; for thou art worthy of death: but I will not at this time put thee to death, because thou barest the ark of the Lord GOD before David my father, and because thou hast been afflicted in all wherein my father was afflicted.

Unto Abiathar ... said the king. This functionary, as the counselor or accomplice of Adonijah, had deserved to share his fate. But partly from regard to his priestly dignity, and partly from his long association with the late king, Solomon pronounced on him the mitigated sentence of banishment to his country estate at Anathoth, about three miles distant from Jerusalem ('Anata), and thereby, as God's vicegerent in the theocratic kingdom, deprived him of his office and its emoluments, for opposing the declared will of God in the settlement of the succession (1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 1 Chronicles 28:4-5: cf. 2 Samuel 12:25). The sacred writer notices the remarkable fulfillment, in Abiathar's degradation from the high priesthood (see the notes at 1 Kings 4:4), of the doom denounced against the house of Eli and the ancestral house of Ithamar (1 Samuel 2:30).

Verse 27

So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the LORD; that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 28

Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.

Then tidings came to Joab. The execution of these sentences respectively on Adonijah and Abiathar prepared Joab for his fate. Death, due to his great crimes (Numbers 35:33), would long ago have been inflicted had not his power and popularity with the army been too formidable for the old king. He now fled to the altar, which, though a recognized asylum, afforded no sanctuary to the rebel and murderer (Exodus 21:14). And, as he refused to leave it, he seems to have cherished some faint hope that a religious scruple would have been felt at the thought of violating the sanctity of the place by bloodshed. Benaiah, not liking to assume any responsibility, referred the matter to Solomon, who determined that the law should take its course (Deuteronomy 19:13).

Verses 29-32

And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 33

Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever from the LORD.

Their blood shall therefore return ... A reference is here made to the curse publicly and solemnly pronounced by king David (2 Samuel 3:28-29).

Verse 34

So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him: and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.

Benaiah ... went up, and fell upon him. According to the terms of the statute (Exodus 21:14), and the practice in similar cases (2 Kings 11:15), the criminal was to be dragged from the altar and slain elsewhere. But the truth is, that the sanctity of the altar was violated as much by the violence used in forcing the criminal from the place as in shedding his blood there: the express command of God authorized the former, and therefore by implication permitted the latter.

Was buried in his own house - or family vault, at his property in the wilderness of Judah. His interment was included in the king's order, as enjoined in the divine law (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Verse 35

And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his room over the host: and Zadok the priest did the king put in the room of Abiathar.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 36

And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Build thee an house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and go not forth thence any whither.

The king sent and called for Shimei. He was probably residing at Bahurim, his native place. But, as he was a suspicious character, Solomon condemned him henceforth to live in Jerusalem, on the penalty of death for going without the gates. He submitted to this confinement for three years, when, violating his oath, he was arrested and put to death by Solomon for perjury, aggravated by his former crime of high treason against David.

Verses 37-45

For it shall be, that on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 46

So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; which went out, and fell upon him, that he died. And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

The kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon - now that, by the death of Shimei, all the leaders of the rival factions had been cut off. This episode of Shimei embraces a period of three years. The narrative having been begun, is finished, and the thread of the history is resumed, relating to some events that occurred prior in time to the death of Shimei.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-kings-2.html. 1871-8.
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