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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-46

1 Kings 2:5 . Thou knowest what Joab did to me. David does not mention Absalom, but that was the deed that touched his heart; the blood of Abner and of Amasa still cried to heaven.

1 Kings 2:9 . But his hoary head bring thou down to the grave with blood. Hebrews אל al; the conjunction should be read here disjunctively, as Proverbs 30:8. “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Then the sense of David is, Neither pardon nor punish him; but if thou shalt find any fresh cause against him, his hoary head bring thou down with blood to the grave. Such was the exact conduct of Solomon, in bidding Shimei build a house in Jerusalem. The LXX and the Vulgate have led many of the versions into a total mistake, which involves the king’s character in a cloud, even in dying moments.

1 Kings 2:11 . David reigned over Israel forty years. Of the chronology of David’s reign, Dr. Lightfoot affords more satisfaction than any other Hebrician. Let us hear this great and venerable critic speak for himself. “His reign is certainly fixed in the gross sum of forty years; but for the particular passages to distinguish the particular years, there is very little certainty; or if there be certainty, it is very obscure. I was once of opinion, with many jews and christians, that Saul reigned but three years in all. 1 Samuel 13:1. And that the forty years mentioned at the breaking out of Absalom’s rebellion, 2 Samuel 15:7, were to be reckoned either from the time of Saul’s first anointing, or from the time when the Israelites first asked a king; so that the rebellion happened in the thirty seventh year of David’s reign. But now, having a second time considered the subject, and as seriously as I can view the times, and finding so many occurrences between the time of his anointing and his death, as cannot be imagined to have happened in three years, and especially as David was one year and four months in the country of the Philistines, previous to Saul’s death, 1 Samuel 27:7; and from the order in which the chapters are disposed, it appearing most probable that the three years of famine for the blood of the Gibeonites occurred after the rebellion of Absalom; I cannot, I say, upon these second thoughts but retract my first, and conceive of those times as I now lay down.

(1) That David numbered the people, appointed the officers of state, and arranged the priests and levites in his fortieth year. 1 Chronicles 26:31.

(2) That this was begun immediately after the LORD had designated the scite of the temple, by the fall of fire from heaven, which occurred in David’s thirty ninth year. 2 Samuel 24:8.

(3) That he numbered the people the year after the three years of famine. 2 Samuel 24:13.

(4) That the first of those three years follows the year of Absalom’s rebellion.

(5) That the rebellion happened the fortieth year after David’s first anointing in Bethlehem.

(6) That Saul reigned but three years before that anointing of David; and though he lived five years after, yet those years are not reputed a reign, the Lord having cast him off.”

1 Kings 2:21 . Let Abishag be given to Adonijah. Solomon saw in a moment that this was a disguised step towards the throne, and that he who could take a woman from his father’s bosom to his own bed, would be regardless of all oaths of allegiance.

1 Kings 2:28 . Joab caught hold on the horns of the altar. Moses had directed to take murderers away from the altar. Exodus 21:14. Had Joab lain still, and not joined the rebels, he had not come to this tragic exit; but the blood of Abner and Amasa pursued him.

1 Kings 2:35 . Zadok in the room of Abiathar. The Jesuits suppose here that the king consulted Zadok; for a king to expel a highpriest is a mortal blow at the assumptions of Rome. No doubt Solomon had a divine right to drive a rebel from the altar, or to put him to death.


We approach now to the bed of state, and see the psalmist and the hero of his country die, in a manner worthy of the signal mercies which the special regards of heaven had heaped on his head. He was favoured so far with a recovery from his palsy or chill, as in his last hours to be perfectly recollected and composed. He saw the revolt stifled in its bud, and a way opened for the child of God’s choice peaceably to ascend the throne: for Solomon, it is supposed, was not more than twelve or eighteen years of age. From the contemplation of this hopeful son, David’s eyes ran quickly back to the sheep cotes of Bethlehem. He looked at the covenant of God with him and his family. His heart being impressed with all those riches of grace, he charged his son to keep the ways and commandments of the Lord, with a fervour and an unction which those only could feel who stood in the royal presence; yea, and to keep them exactly as Moses had laid them down. Let aged men and dying fathers learn in this chamber how to speak to their children, and how to enforce the maxims of past experience with all the weight of wisdom.

David’s next charge was to administer justice: and in doing this he acknowledged his own weakness in twice sparing the life of Joab for shedding the blood of his equals, because Joab, with the aid of Abishai his brother, had the ascendency of the army. But this being a moment of grateful recollection to David, and of signal joy to his friends, he pardoned all the rebels except Joab, the principal in the plot. Joab alone was devoted to die, and more for his former crimes than for his present wickedness. Shimei also was indeed devoted so as to be held not guiltless; and that Solomon understood his sire in the conditional sense, is apparent from the sequel. Thus his sins also found him out; for men whose hearts render them unworthy of mercy, presently commit other faults, and bring upon themselves the long merited destruction. Thus David died in peace, after having accomplished the pleasure of the Lord; he died the best and greatest of kings that ever filled the throne of Israel. He was also a very striking type of Christ. Like the Saviour he was born at Bethlehem, and fair and ruddy in his countenance above the sons of men. He vanquished Goliath, as Jesus vanquished death; and the kingdom and house of Saul grew weaker and weaker before him, as the reign of wickedness and idolatry diminished before the influence of the gospel. The innocent priests of Nob suffered for his cause, as the innocents of Bethlehem for Jesus. Ahithophel, his friend and counsellor, actuated by worldly interest, betrayed his cause, and wickedly plotted against him; but smitten with terror of conscience he immediately hanged himself, like Judas the traitor. David conquered Zion, made it a royal city, and filled it with honour; yet all the nobles of every city, except a few, plotted against him in the hour of death. So though the nobles of Jerusalem had seen the miracles and glory of the Messiah, they all except a few conspired for his destruction: but as they were frustrated at the death of David, so even now they were all confounded by the Lord’s resurrection. Surely all these similarities did not happen by accident and chance. No, for God said of his Christ, “I will give him the sure mercies of David;” and he is raised up to sit on the throne of his father David for ever.

Returning now to Adonijah, Solomon gave him only a conditional pardon: “If he show himself a worthy man.” For want of an adequate acquaintance with the manners and customs of early nations, we are not at first struck with the implied treason of his request, in asking Abishag in marriage. By attending David during his palsy she had, though still a virgin, acquired the honour of a royal relict. Hence the piercing eye of Solomon, God having divinely endowed him with wisdom, at once saw in this request a latent aim at the crown. For this very reason Ishbosheth also came to a rupture with Abner, because he had lain with Rizpah, Saul’s concubine. Hence if any one had claims on Abishag, it was Solomon, as appears from Nathan’s speech to David: “I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom.” 2 Samuel 12:8. Hence with a severe prudence Solomon nipt the treason in its bud, by ordering Adonijah for execution. What can we say? Let every sinner be instructed by the terrors of justice.

Shimei also, after three years and two months, broke his parole, and received the just reward of all his wickedness. Thus all David’s enemies fell for their sins; but his own iniquity being purged, he lifted up his head in righteousness and eternal joy.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-kings-2.html. 1835.
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