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SECTION 1. The Last Days Of David (1:1-2:12).
The ‘and’ with which the book begins is clearly intended to link the book to the earlier books. The writer wanted it to be seen that he was carrying on the sacred history of YHWH. And he commenced his narrative by describing the events which established the kingship of Solomon, the one whom God especially loved (2 Samuel 12:24-25), as David’s life was coming to its close. But there is no direct continuation of any previous incident in Samuel. The ‘and’ is very general. What he was about to describe were the necessary events that would lead up to Solomon’s coronation. There are no real grounds for suggesting that 2 Samuel 11-20 were specifically a ‘succession narrative’ which is being rounded off here, even though what they describe may possibly, at least theoretically, have affected the succession. For the writer of Samuel the stories of Amnon and Absalom had more to do with the consequences of David’s gross sins being reflected in his sons than with explaining a succession which was already clear in his mind, although undoubtedly any death of a king’s son would appear to some extent to affect the succession. But the chapters certainly do not read like a succession narrative might be expected to read, while they do very much read like a judgment on David’s sins, and in fact the Book of Samuel almost certainly saw Solomon as YHWH’s appointed heir from the time of his birth, something which comes out from 2 Samuel 7:12 with 2 Samuel 12:24-25. YHWH could have given no broader hint to David, as David (and probably Absalom and Adonijah) recognised. (A succession narrative may, of course, have been one of his sources, but if so he has carefully selected his material).
a David’s Condition In Old Age And His Association With Abishag (1 Kings 1:1-4).
b Adonijah’s Attempt To Seize The Kingship (1 Kings 1:5-28).
c David Arranges For The Crowning Of Solomon (1 Kings 1:29-40).
b The Conspirators Disperse And Adonijah Obtains Mercy (1 Kings 1:41-53).
a David’s Final Dying Exhortation (1 Kings 2:1-12).
Note that in ‘a’ David is clearly dying, and in the parallel we have hid dying exhortation. In ‘b’ Adonijah seeks to seize the kingship, and in the parallel he obtains mercy from the true king. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the crowning of YHWH’s chosen king.
The chapter begins with the delineation of the king’s sad situation, and what was done about it, and continues by describing Adonijah’s attempt at a pre-emptive coup carried out in a way which makes quite clear that he knew in his heart that Solomon was destined to be king, something which resulted in Solomon himself being crowned at David’s command. Adonijah then sought, and was granted, Solomon’s pardon.
“ That YHWH may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there will not fail for you (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.”
And what David had in mind was that by Solomon walking in the way that he had described YHWH would establish the word that he had spoken concerning David and his house. The quotation cited here is not found in 2 Samuel 7:0, but the gist of it certainly is (consider 2 Samuel 7:12-16). It reflects the promise of the everlasting kingship. It may in fact well be that 2 Samuel 7:0 was but a summary of the prophecy actually given and that these words were a part of the fuller prophecy conveyed to David, and remembered by him, but not recorded in writing by the annalist (note the emphatic ‘said He’). ‘Take heed to yourselves’ is found in Exodus 19:12; Exodus 34:12 and Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 11:16; etc. ‘With all their heart and with all their soul’ reflects Deuteronomy 6:5. For ‘walking in truth’ see Psalms 86:11 which is a Davidic Psalm.
On the other hand these words may simply be David’s own interpretation of what God had said, for we may note that what God had said about the everlasting kingship was unconditional, whereas here it is expressed conditionally. There are, of course, always two sides to every promise of God. On the one side is the certainty that what God has determined to bring about will be accomplished whatever man may do. But on the other is the recognition of our responsibility, made even greater by His grace, to cooperate fully in obtaining the fulfilment of His promises.
“ Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, even what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war on his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.”
David then went on to give advice about individual matters where he felt that his experience could be a guide to his son. David was well aware that Joab had supported Adonijah, and he knew perfectly well what Joab was capable of. He feared that a man who could catch out two experienced generals and kill them in cold blood would think little of doing the same to a less experienced king who was getting in the way of his ambitions. And he knew that while he had himself known that he could always count on Joab’s loyalty, because there had been a bond forged between them by the hardship which they had suffered together, he could not be so confident that Solomon would be able to do so, especially as Joab would know that by supporting Adonijah he had, as far as Solomon was concerned, almost certainly said goodbye to any ambitions for the future he might have had. David was well aware that Joab, found in that situation, would be a very dangerous man, a man who could stoop to anything.
But David, in warning Solomon, would not want to raise the spectre of Adonijah’s actions again, for Adonijah was his son, and he wanted peace between his sons, and so he chose a different tack. He reminded Solomon of what Joab had done to David himself in the past, when he had slain two men in a way which had brought part of the blame on David. There were indeed still men, and Shimei was probably one, who believed that David himself had been responsible in some way for Abner’s death, while others, especially of the house of Judah, no doubt held Amasa’s death against him. And it was all because of Joab’s willingness to spill blood so easily.
Of course Joab had had a good excuse in both cases. In the case of Abner he could justifiably claim that he was avenging the shedding of the blood of his brother. And that was unquestionably true. He was strictly within his rights to slay the killer of his brother when that killer had not sought ‘refuge’ and a fair trial. Especially when the killing had taken place in a civil war provoked by Abner. In the case of Amasa he had no doubt claimed with some justification that Amasa had been acting treacherously. And there can be no doubt that Amasa’s failure to do his duty had merited severe punishment. But in both cases, as both he and David well knew, he had acted over and above what he had known David wanted him to do, and partly did it because the two men stood in the way of his ambition to continue as commander-in-chief of all Israel. Both men had come openly to make peace with David and Joab, and Joab’s response had been to strike them down. He had ‘shed the blood of war in peace’ without trial. Technically he had been justified (compare Gideon’s act in Judges 8:18-21), but, as Joab had been aware, both men had been under David’s protection, and the result was that Joab’s actions had thus brought dishonour on David and had revealed what kind of a man Joab, was. And the result was that the girdle that held his sword was seen as stained with blood that could never be washed off, as were the shoes on his feet. He was a man of blood. He was a man who shed blood and trod blood wherever he went, and that could not be good news for Solomon. Thus the warning.
“ Do therefore according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoar head go down to Sheol in peace.”
He therefore advised Solomon to act wisely in accordance with the situation as he knew it and, as soon as he reckoned that he had acceptable grounds, to ensure that Joab was executed. He was not to allow him to reach old age, or die naturally (i.e. he was not to allow his hoar head go down to the grave world in ‘peace’, that is, in a state of wellbeing) for he was too dangerous an enemy to have around. He would need to be watched carefully and dealt with the moment he stepped out of line (an attitude that Joab himself had demonstrated towards others)
There is no good reason for doubting that David did actually give this advice. No one knew Joab like David did, and he was clearly fearful of what he knew Joab to be capable of, especially as, by siding with Adonijah without consulting the king, he had shown whose side he was on (that too had been a betrayal of David). And he wanted Solomon to know it as well. He was not going into details on the rights and wrongs of the matter. He was simply indicating what kind of a man Joab was. He wanted Solomon to be fully aware that Joab was a man of blood, and that now that he had revealed his hand as a supporter of Adonijah it could only act as a danger signal for Solomon. It indicated that Joab had no sense of loyalty towards Solomon, in contrast with his attitude towards David.
In view of Joab’s loyal, if somewhat stained, service to David these words of David might appear somewhat surprising. But we should note that David was not calling for his immediate execution. He was simply warning Solomon that here was a man who needed to be closely watched and despatched if and when (as he had no doubt that he would) he stepped out of line. For we must remember that Joab had been commander-in-chief of the hosts of Israel for many years, and still was (1 Kings 2:35), and was thus a man of great influence and power in the kingdom. He was thus capable of doing great harm. He was the kind of man who, if he did not feel a sense of total loyalty, would be an ever constant danger, able almost to stir up rebellion at will. That was why Solomon, while leaving him in his exalted position, was to be sure that he watched him carefully and acted decisively if he strayed out of line. David did not want Solomon to be think that because of the relationship that he himself had with Joab, he was a man to be trusted (in contrast with Benaiah).
“ But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.”
In contrast to his advice concerning Joab was his advice concerning the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, the man who had supplied him and his men with provisions when they had sought refuge from Absalom’s rebellion in Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:27-28). It was Solomon’s solemn duty to show them kindness (literally ‘covenant love’) for David’s sake, by allowing them to continue having the privilege of sitting at the king’s table when David had gone, because of the loyalty and kindness that they had shown to David, a loyalty and kindness which had had no strings attached. The importance of this in David’s eyes is brought out by this being the central theme of the chiasmus. To be allowed to eat at the king’s table was widely seen in royal courts as a kind of permanent pension of the richest kind, even though their permanent presence in court would, of course, also help to guarantee the continuing loyalty of the men of Gilead.
“ And, behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim, but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by YHWH, saying, “I will not put you to death with the sword.”
David’s thoughts then turned to another very dangerous man, and that was Shimei, the man who had cursed him when he was fleeing from Absalom (2 Samuel 16:5-14). He was clearly conscious that Shimei’s hatred still smouldered behind what might have appeared to be a compliant attitude, and that once he was gone Shimei would again become a danger to the kingdom. He knew full well the powerful influence that Shimei had among the Benjaminites (2 Samuel 19:16-17). Here was a man who would undoubtedly seek to take advantage of the young king’s inexperience, so that while he lived the Benjaminites as a whole would be constantly soured against Solomon. He was another who had proved that he could not be trusted.
David’s own hands had been tied with regard to him, by the oath that he had sworn when Shimei had come to meet him at the Jordan and had welcomed him back accompanied by a full unit of warriors. And he had not had any fear that he could control him, and had no doubt kept a watchful eye on him. But it was a very different matter for the young Solomon. He did not want Solomon to have to be watching his back all the time, and he was all too aware that Shimei was totally untrustworthy and unreliable. Furthermore his own oath did not apply to Solomon.
“ Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man, and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his hoar head down to Sheol with blood.”
Thus Solomon was not to look on Shimei as an ‘innocent’, as though there was no guilt in him, for he was guilty through and through. And being a wise man Solomon would know what he ought to do to him whenever the opportunity arose, because he was a latent rebel who could never be trusted. It was true that he was already old (‘his hoar head’), but Solomon was not to make that an excuse for delay. He was to arrange for his execution as soon as he had legal reasons for doing it. It should be noted that in the case of both Joab and Shimei David did not order their immediate execution. He simply warned Solomon of what dangerous men they were, and advised him to watch them like a hawk, and if the time ever did come when it became necessary, to deal with them in his wisdom as soon as there was any sign of disloyalty. If we feel a little uneasy about David’s words we must remember that his agents would have kept him fully in touch with the current behaviour of both men, and that he therefore no doubt had sound grounds for his advice.
Those who are familiar with 2 Samuel will recognise that David’s advice has been limited to persons fully described there, which is probably why they are mentioned in detail here. We may presumably assume that there were other names on David’s list whom Solomon was also warned against, but we are not told about them. He was seeking to warn Solomon about all the ‘dangerous men’ in his kingdom.
1 Kings 2:10
‘ And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.’
Shortly after giving this advice to his son David died. ‘Slept with his fathers’ simply means the same thing as ‘gathered to his fathers’ in Genesis. It indicated that he had ‘joined’ them in the grave. But it does not mean that they necessarily shared the same tomb, for David was buried in the city of David. It is a euphemism for death. He had gone like all who had gone before him.
Jerusalem was ‘the City of David’ because it had been captured by David’s private army. It was thus seen as his personal possession, and it is regularly spoken of independently of Israel and Judah, even at the time of Jesus (Matthew 3:5). As for the tomb of David Josephus tells us that John Hyrcanus and Herod the Great both rifled the outer chambers of David’s tomb but left the central part where the body lay intact. The tomb was referred to as still existing in Acts 2:29.
1 Kings 2:11
‘ And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and he reigned thirty three years in Jerusalem.”
We have reiterated in these words what we learned in 2 Samuel 5:4-5, that David had reigned for ‘forty years’, seven of those being in Hebron and thirty three in Jerusalem. It will be noted that all the numbers are significant, seven indicates divine perfection, thirty three indicates intensified completeness (a multiple of three), and forty signifies a full generation. It is telling us therefore that on the whole David enjoyed a complete and full reign before YHWH (his actual period of reign in Hebron was seven years and six months - 2 Samuel 5:5). An important chapter in Israel’s history was over.
1 Kings 2:12
‘ And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was established greatly.’
But an equally important chapter in Israel’s history had also begun. Solomon now sat on the throne of his father, and his kingdom was firmly and strongly established. (Summary verses like this are regularly found from Genesis onwards. They were a normal literary form in Israel. There is nothing especially ‘Deuteronomic’ about them).
One important lesson of this passage is that whatever we are appointed to do we should seek in it to serve God with all our being, and ensure that we do it in a way that is pleasing to him. We should indeed note the contrast between the charge given to Solomon and the behaviour of men like Joab and Shimei. It is a reminder that what a man sows he will also reap, whether for good or bad.
A second lesson we learn from this is that we should ensure that we take the trouble to warn one another where there might be danger threatening of which someone might be unaware, in our case it refers especially to spiritual danger. Many a person could have been saved from grief if they had been duly warned of the dangers of sin and of the untrustworthiness of others. The New Testament letters are full of such warnings.
SECTION 2. The Life Of Solomon, Its Triumphs And Disasters (1 Kings 2:13 to 1 Kings 11:43 ).
This section commences with a planned rebellion against Solomon’s kingdom on behalf of three people and closes with two rebellions and a potential rebellion against Solomon’s kingdom. After the initial rebellion it then goes on to build up a picture of Solomon’s successes and splendour, interwoven, however, with indications of how they carried within them the seeds of their own destruction, and ends with explaining the major reasons that led YHWH to desert him. On the one hand therefore the picture is one of great success. On the other there are indications that all is not quite well.
This brings us to one remarkable fact about the reign of Solomon, and that is that although he was helped to the throne by Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 1:0) during the life of David, and it is through the writings of Nathan the prophet that we know much about his reign (2 Chronicles 9:29), there is no indication anywhere of the activity of the prophets during his reign, even though the final verdict on him was that ‘he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH’ (1 Kings 11:6). Throughout the account of his life he only has qualified approval, for there are continual indications of something not quite right, and yet no prophetic voice comes to warn him. Nor is any prophetic voice connected with the building or dedication of the Temple. Given the continual reference to prophets throughout the Book of Kings this must be seen as quite surprising. Was this because he was so confident in his own prophetic ability that he had somehow silenced the prophets. Had they been side-lined and indeed not included within the ministry of the new Temple? Why was the voice of prophecy silent? Towards the end of his reign Ahijah was to be found in Shiloh informing Jeroboam that through him Solomon’s house was to be punished (1 Kings 11:29), and when Rehoboam commenced his reign, Shemaiah the prophet came to warn him against civil war with Israel (1 Kings 12:22), but no prophetic voice ever spoke directly to, or gave warning to, Solomon. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this indicates that in some way the prophets were suppressed and prevented from speaking during his reign, possibly because, with his great wisdom, he saw them as unnecessary.
a Adonijah seeks surreptitiously to supplant Solomon and is sentenced to death (1 Kings 2:13-25).
b Solomon banishes Abiathar to his estate in Anathoth and passes judgment on Joab because of their act of rebellion and attempt to cause trouble and do mischief to Solomon, reducing the status of Abiathar and sentencing Joab to death (1 Kings 2:26-35).
c Shimei is confined to Jerusalem but breaks his covenant with Solomon by visiting Gath, from which he returns and is sentenced to death (1 Kings 2:36-46 a).
d An introductory snap summary of Solomon’s glories, which, however, contains criticism on the religious level because of worship in high places (1 Kings 2:46 to 1 Kings 3:4).
e A description of the divine provision of God-given wisdom to Solomon by YHWH, which is then illustrated by an example (1 Kings 3:5-28).
f A description of the magnificence of Solomon’s court, and the prosperity enjoyed by Judah and Israel as a whole, which is brought out by a description of his administration of Israel and of the quantity of provisions resulting from its activities, which were regularly consumed by the court, followed by a brief summary of Judah and Israel’s prosperity (1 Kings 4:1-28).
g A description of the great practical wisdom of Solomon as contrasted with that of the great wise men of the Ancient Near East (1 Kings 4:29-34).
h A description of the building of Solomon’s grand and magnificent Temple, a venture which was one of the ways in which great kings regularly demonstrated their greatness, which however resulted in his calling up compulsory levies of Israelites for the work, including a description of the building of Solomon’s own magnificent palace (1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 7:12).
i A further expansion on the building of the Temple in terms of Hiram its builder and his innovations (1 Kings 7:3-51).
j A description of the dedication of the Temple in which Solomon refers to YHWH’s covenant with David (1 Kings 8:1-21).
k A description of Solomon’s intercession before YHWH which made all the people rejoice and be glad (1 Kings 8:22-66).
j A description of the renewal of the conditional everlasting covenant by YHWH concerning the everlastingness of his family’s rule which was, however, accompanied by warnings of what the consequences would be of falling short of YHWH’s requirements (1 Kings 9:1-9).
i A description of Solomon’s generosity towards Hiram in giving him cities, which was, however, at the same time depleting Israel of some of its own prosperous cities which were a part of the inheritance of YHWH (1 Kings 9:10-14).
h A description of Solomon’s further magnificent building programme, which involved making slave levies on tributary nations (1 Kings 9:15-25).
g A description of Solomon’s trading activities which included a visit from the Queen of Sheba to test out the wisdom of Solomon, which resulted in him giving her splendid gifts (1 Kings 9:26 to 1 Kings 10:13).
f Further details of Solomon’s great wealth and prosperous trading (1 Kings 10:14-29).
e A description of Solomon’s folly with examples illustrating his lack of wisdom (1 Kings 11:1-8).
d YHWH’s anger is revealed against Solomon because he worships in illicit high places and he is warned that YHWH will reduce the kingdom ruled by Solomon’s house down to Judah and one other tribe (1 Kings 11:9-13).
c Hadad the Edomite flees to Egypt and returns to Edom on hearing of the deaths of David and Joab in order to ‘do mischief’ (1 Kings 11:14-22).
b Rezon becomes leader of a marauding band and becomes king in Damascus and reigns over Syria causing trouble and mischief for Solomon (1 Kings 11:23-25).
a Jeroboam becomes Solomon’s taskmaster over Judah and is informed by Ahijah the prophet that he is to supplant Solomon and become king over ten of the tribes of Israel at which Solomon seeks to kill him but he escapes to Egypt until the death of Solomon (11. 26-43).
We note first that the section opens with a description of three rebels and how Solomon disposed of them, and closes with a description of three rebels and how Solomon failed to deal with them. In ‘a’ Adonijah sought to supplant Solomon, and in the parallel Hadad is promised that he will supplant the house of Solomon in regard to ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel. In ‘b’ Abiathar and Job sought to cause mischief for Solomon, and in the parallel Rezon caused mischief for Solomon. In ‘c’ Shimei went abroad and returned to be treated as a traitor, and in the parallel Hadad the Edomite went abroad and returned to cause Solomon continual trouble. In ‘d’ YHWH was angry because Solomon and Israel worshipped in illicit high places, and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘e’ we have a description of Solomon’s wisdom and an example of his wisdom, and in the parallel we have a description of Solomon’s folly and examples of his folly. In ‘f’ we have a description of the wealth that poured into Solomon’s court from taxation, and in the parallel we have a description of how wealth poured in through trading. In ‘g’ the great wisdom of Solomon is described in comparison with other wise men, and in the parallel the Queen of Sheba tested out and admired the wisdom of Solomon. In ‘h’ we have a description of Solomon’s building projects and in the parallel a description of further building projects. In ‘i’ we have a description of Hiram the builder’s contribution towards the building of the Temple, and in the parallel Hiram the king received his reward for the building of the Temple. In ‘j’ Solomon reminded the people of the covenant that YHWH had made with David and in the parallel he himself is reminded of God’s covenant with David. Centrally in ‘k’ we have a description of Solomon’s great prayer to YHWH on the dedication of the Temple.
To some extent this description of the life of Solomon is based on 2 Samuel’s description of the life of David in that, playing down chronology, they both commence their descriptions of their reigns with incidents that eulogise the two monarchs and end by describing incidents that bring them into disrepute. But there is a subtle difference between the two, for while in the account of David’s life we are given the impression that underlying all that he did was a great love for YHWH, so that he truly repented his failings, in the case of Solomon there are continual hints that his love for YHWH is more on the surface, and that his greatest love was himself.
Consider, for example, the following;
Solomon is accused from the beginning of worshipping in disapproved high places (1 Kings 3:3).
The writer deliberately omits the name of Solomon’s Egyptian princess presumably as a sign of disapproval of his marriage to her (1 Kings 3:1).
The seven years of building the Temple is deliberately contrasted with the thirteen years taken over Solomon’s palace complex (1 Kings 6:38 to 1 Kings 7:1).
The writer indicates that Solomon did not introduce the Egyptian princess into apartments in his own house until that had ceased to house the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (2 Chronicles 8:11), presumably because he recognised that it would not be fitting in view of her penchant for pagan religion (1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 11:1-8).
He keeps emphasising the need for Solomon to continue to walk rightly before YHWH with a warning of the consequence if he fails to do so (1 Kings 8:25; 1 Kings 8:58; 1 Kings 9:4), knowing perfectly well that he did fail to do so.
There was no prophetic voice to warn him when he failed or went astray.
Adonijah, Abiathar And Joab Plot Against Solomon Who Brings Judgment On Them By Removing Them (1 Kings 2:13-25 ).
At first sight we have here what appears to us to be a quite innocent, and even rather romantic episode. Initially it even appears to be rather sweet, and we begin to wonder why it is mentioned at all. But then, all of a sudden, we discover that underneath the surface things are not quite as they seem. For beneath what appears to us at first sight to be an almost trivial request, we discover that deep plots are to be discerned, which have behind them some of the most powerful figures in the kingdom.
Had just Adonijah and Joab been involved we might have taken what happened ‘at face value’ and have seen it simply as an indication that Solomon was willing to use any expedient in order to get rid of them. But the involvement of Abiathar as well as them, and his subsequent banishment, indicates that much more lies beneath the surface, for apart from his initial support for Adonijah, (a support also demonstrated by the king’s sons and many Judean officials), there had been no hint of any wrongdoing by him. After all Adonijah had appeared to be the natural and genuine successor to David in many people’s eyes. Why then should Solomon suddenly speak out and act against Abiathar so strongly, an Abiathar who was certainly not without considerable religious influence (removing him from acting as priest at the Tabernacle was a huge step) and was an old friend of his father’s? The answer can surely only lie in the fact that Solomon knew more than we do, and that his secret agents were keeping him informed of what was going on, with the result that he was aware of more than appears to lie on the surface and was already on his guard in readiness for a coup, knowing many of the names involved.
There is much to confirm this suggestion. After all Adonijah was no fool. He must therefore have been quite well aware that in asking for Abishag to be his wife he was going outside reasonable bounds and taking a great risk. To seek to marry a dead king’s concubine would undoubtedly be seen by most as an attempt to establish a position from which he could make another bid for the throne. Compare Abner’s similar action in 2 Samuel 3:7-10, and its repercussion, and note Absalom’s action in 2 Samuel 16:21-22. It would seem that he was depending on the young Solomon not being as wise as everyone was saying, and not recognising the sinister motive behind his action, for the fact that he was still dissatisfied at the state of things comes out in his rather bitter words to Bathsheba, ‘you know that the kingdom was mine and all Israel set their faces on me that I should reign’. It was a rather optimistic assessment, for he had not been supported by all Israel, but he seemingly did himself believe it, and clearly felt very disgruntled about the situation. His comment that Solomon had been granted the throne by YHWH was really bringing out that in his view most humans saw the situation otherwise, and was simply a necessary palliative to Bathsheba. To have even made these comments in the circumstances brings out the bitterness of his feelings.
As we soon discover, Bathsheba suspected nothing, and she probably felt even a little sorry for Adonijah. She would not be aware of the undercurrents that Solomon was constantly being primed about by his intelligence service. The writer was also in the same position as Bathsheba. He had only the king’s annals to go by, and they would not necessarily reveal what information had been received by Solomon from his intelligence service. But that Solomon had that intelligence comes out in the fact that the moment that Adonijah’s request was made known to him he linked it without hesitation with the names of Joab and Abiathar. It appears therefore that he had good cause to know that they were involved in the plot.
Adonijah’s guilt is suggested by the following:
1). His very attempt to marry the wife with whom David had been closest in his last days, a woman who had been privy to many state secrets, and whom all the people associated with David, was a prime target for suspicion. In the thinking of those days it could only enhance his right to the throne in the eyes of the people.
2). His approaching of Solomon through Bathsheba. Had he not suspected that Solomon would not approve he would surely have approached Solomon himself and made clear that his request was totally innocent. Thus it would appear that he was fully aware of the incongruity of his request, and was hoping to take advantage of Bathsheba’s innocence and influence in order to get his way without raising suspicions. He could not possibly not have known how significant what he was attempting to do was.
3). The bitterness that he seemingly could not help revealing when he claimed that everyone but YHWH thought that he should have been king brought out what was in his inner thoughts. Had he simply been wanting to marry a beautiful woman he would have been much more conciliatory. He had no need to reveal his open resentment at the situation. It indicated that it was clearly eating him up.
4). The way in which Solomon immediately connected Joab and Abiathar with the attempt suggests that Solomon had intelligence that linked them with the request. It would appear that Joab was still in position as commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel, and that Abiathar was still an acting High Priest. This would suggest that Solomon was continuing to take them at face value and considered that he had no overt reason for acting against them, otherwise he would certainly have moved earlier to replace Joab as commander-in-chief. It was precisely because Solomon had no firm grounds to present to the people that these two still enjoyed their positions. Outwardly therefore they both appeared to the majority of people to be loyal to Solomon. Thus it must have been something out of the ordinary which had alerted Solomon to their present guilt.
5). The removal of Abiathar from the revered position of High Priest, something totally unprecedented apart from in the case of a maddened Saul (and even he did it by execution) demands a very serious cause, especially in view of Solomon’s own genuine expression of appreciation for him. It could only have been brought about by something extremely serious and damaging, certainly more damaging than simply having been involved in Adonijah’s attempt to gain popular support prior to David having made his position clear. It was something that Solomon would certainly have found difficult to do unless he was able to demonstrate very specific grounds for it. And it will be noted that Abiathar made no attempt to defend himself. It suggests that he knew perfectly well why he was being treated in this way.
On these grounds it is our view that Solomon was justified in his actions, and that to suggest that he was just finding an excuse for getting rid of them is to seriously misjudge him.
a Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably” (1 Kings 2:13).
b He said moreover, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say on.” And he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom is turned about, and has become my brother’s, for it was his from YHWH” (1 Kings 2:14-15).
c “And now I ask one petition of you. Do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say on.” And he said, “Speak, I pray you to Solomon the king (for he will not say you nay), that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife” (1 Kings 2:16-17).
d And Bath-sheba said, “Well. I will speak for you to the king.” Bath-sheba therefore went to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah (1 Kings 2:18).
e And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself to her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, “I ask one small petition of you, deny me not.” And the king said to her, “Ask on, my mother, for I will not deny you” (1 Kings 2:19-20).
d And she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife” (1 Kings 2:21).
c And king Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah” (1 Kings 2:22).
b Then king Solomon swore by YHWH, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore as YHWH lives, who has established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death this day” (1 Kings 2:23-24).
a And king Solomon sent by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell on him, so that he died (1 Kings 2:25).
Note that in ‘a’ Adonijah claimed to have come peaceably while in the parallel he was executed because his approach had not been seen as peaceable at all. In ‘b’ Adonijah expressed his bitterness at the fact that the kingdom has been taken from him, and in the parallel Solomon sentenced him to death because he recognised that he was out to get it back. In ‘c’ Adonijah asked Bathsheba to request from Solomon that he be given Abishag as his wife, and in the parallel Solomon asked her why she made that request, and pointed out that she might as well have asked for the kingdom for him as well. In ‘d’ Bathsheba promised to make the request, and in the parallel she made the request. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon revealed his compassionate heart when he assured his mother that he would not withhold anything from her.
1 Kings 2:13
‘ Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably.”
Adonijah’s approach to Solomon’s mother clearly indicated that he was wanting to obtain something that he knew that Solomon on his own would not grant. In Israel the queen mother seemingly had great influence, as is evident from the fact that later the queen mother’s name is given at the accession of kings of Judah (e.g. 1 Kings 15:2). But he should have considered that such an approach could only antagonise Solomon and suggest to him that something nefarious was going on. Even Bathsheba was somewhat surprised at his approach and was not sure how peaceable his intentions in approaching her were. It is apparent that harmony had not yet been fully restored in the royal family.
1 Kings 2:14
‘ He said moreover, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say on.”
Then he explained to her that he had a request to make, to which she replied that she was willing to hear what he had to say.
1 Kings 2:15
‘ And he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom is turned about, and has become my brother’s, for it was his from YHWH.”
His next words were hardly conciliatory. They revealed how bitterly he felt the situation. The suggestion that all Israel thought that he should have been king and had supported his cause (certainly an exaggeration) could hardly have been seen by him as likely to endear him to Bathsheba as it reflected on her son. Nor would the thought that Solomon had only become king because it was YHWH’s will, and in spite of the people, have pleased her. Furthermore we have not in the past gained the impression that YHWH’s will was of first importance in Adonijah’s life, and Bathsheba would have known that. It would not therefore have been likely to impress her. It was not really the best way of gaining her sympathy.
His point was, that in his view, the kingdom was due to him because he was the oldest living son of the king, and secondly because the people themselves had accepted him as the natural and rightful heir, and that all had been going swimmingly, until it was all suddenly turned about by David’s action in putting Solomon forward as his heir. But he now wanted her to know that he humbly accepted that that was YHWH’s will, and that it had been given to him by YHWH.
This statement was, of course, intended by the writer to make clear that that was precisely the position. He wanted all to know that in the enthronement of Solomon it was YHWH’s will that had been done, and that Solomon was the chosen and beloved of YHWH (2 Samuel 12:24-25).
King Solomon Firmly Establishes His Rule By Removing All known Rebellion From His Kingdom (1 Kings 2:13-46 ).
Having been warned by his father David as to who had to be watched as he sought to establish his kingdom (the powerful but unreliable Joab, the son of his sister Zeruiah, and the belligerent but influential Shimei, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite - 1 Kings 2:5-9), and having himself given sufficient warnings to them which were not heeded, Solomon proceeded to eliminate Adonijah, Joab and Shimei, while at the same time removing Abiathar from any sphere of influence. Such removal of men who were a danger to the peace of the kingdom were a regular feature in the Ancient Near East when a new king succeeded to the throne, for it was a time when powerful men became over ambitious. It is to Solomon’s credit that he did not act until their subversion was openly revealed, having previously issued warnings to Adonijah and Shimei.
There is a reminder in this to us that with the Kingly Rule of God firmly established in our own hearts we also should proceed to remove from our lives all that is contrary to God, for if we do not it will surely bring us down.
“ And now I ask one petition of you. Do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say on.”
Having tried rather clumsily to arouse Bathsheba’s sympathy Adonijah now informed her that he had a favour to ask her, and begged her not to deny him. It says much for Bathsheba that she was happy for him to continue. Note the repeat of ‘say on’. The writer is trying to bring out the slow, careful and long-winded way in which Adonijah was putting forward his request. It makes clear that he was playing on her kindness of heart, but was uncertain as to what her response would be.
1 Kings 2:17
‘ And he said, “Speak, I pray you to Solomon the king (for he will not say you nay), that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife.”
Then he put forward his request. It was that he might be given Abishag the Shunnamite to be his wife. This approach made clear that he was very uncertain that Solomon would approve of the suggestion and that he was depending on Bathsheba’s support in order to obtain his wish.
In ancient days, far more than today, marriage was seen as a means by which influence and status could be obtained, and to marry the former king’s wife would be seen by all as advancing the claim of the husband to be in line for the kingship (if not more), and especially so in the case where a new king had just been enthroned and might be thought of as vulnerable and still not secure, and where there were probably a number of areas in the land where dissatisfaction still reigned. For the harem of the old king always became the possession of the new king. Thus for Israel to learn that Abishag was Adonijah’s wife could raise significant questions in people’s minds. It was made even more significant when the husband to be had already had a lot of public and official support revealed towards his claim for kingship, was the former king’s eldest son, and where the dynastic succession was not firmly regulated. Such a step could only have fomented trouble, and might even have suggested to many that Solomon’s position was untenable. It indicated how desperate the conspirators had become that they were willing to take this huge risk in order to try to achieve their ends.
The truth, of course, is that Abishag was probably not marriageable to anyone (except Solomon). We can compare how David’s misused concubines were in a similar situation (2 Samuel 20:3). Indeed Abishag was probably already being kept ‘in ward’, for it is doubtful if Solomon would have been willing to take the risk of her being married to anyone or of anyone influencing her. She was positive dynamite. Certainly Adonijah could hardly have been ignorant about the position. His act of gross folly can only be seen as resulting from his own belief in Solomon’s naivete. Unless he himself was naive in the extreme he must have known precisely what he was about. It is an indication of his desperation to be king that he even took the risk.
While it is certain that he must have known that he was breaching convention and playing with fire, it is, however, possible that Adonijah did not consider that he was breaching the Law in what he was doing (marrying his dead father’s wife), simply because he knew that Abishag had not had sexual relations with David, for the Law forbade a son to marry his father’s wife (Leviticus 20:11). So he cannot be blamed on that score. On the other hand it may be that, like Amnon and Absalom, he simply did not care. Gross sexual sin was a mark of David’s house as a result of his sin with Bathsheba. On the other hand, to the majority of Israelites who were not in on the royal secret, Adonijah having sexual relations with his father’s wife would have been seen as little different from the action of Absalom in 2 Samuel 16:22, and therefore have been seen as a claim to kingship. And had it been seen to have been carried through with Solomon’s agreement it would have put Adonijah in a very strong position, as though Solomon was acknowledging his prior rights. It could have been taken advantage of by any disaffected persons.
1 Kings 2:18
‘ And Bath-sheba said, “Well, I will speak for you to the king.”
It is a sign of how little Bathsheba had become involved in politics that she did not immediately recognise the problems connected with his request, although perhaps that was due to the fact that as a woman she saw Abishag’s position as not having been strictly that of a wife. Whatever was the case she was clearly unaware that what she was handling was dynamite. So in her compassion for Adonijah (what older woman is not swayed by a handsome young man speaking of romance?) she promised him that she would see what she could do.
1 Kings 2:19
‘ Bath-sheba therefore went to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself to her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand.’
Bathsheba therefore went to king Solomon to speak with him on Adonijah’s behalf. Being his mother she would have had special access, and the good relationship that she had with her son comes out in the fact that he rose to meet her, and then arranged for a throne to be placed for her on his own right hand, the position of highest honour. The position of queen mother was clearly seen as being worthy of the highest honour in Judah, and this will come out later in that the opening descriptions of kings of Judah will mention the name of the queen mother. See for example 1Ki 14:33; 1 Kings 15:1; 1 Kings 15:9 etc.
1 Kings 2:20
‘ Then she said, “I ask one small petition of you, deny me not.” And the king said to her, “Ask on, my mother, for I will not deny you.”
The queen mother approached her task carefully, preparing the way delicately. Without revealing what her request would be (we should always be wary of people who try to make us commit ourselves without knowing what it is that we are being committed to) she asked the king to grant it to her, and received the assurance from Solomon that whatever it was he would not deny her. He had no perception of what was coming, and in the event would actually have to refuse her.
1 Kings 2:21
‘ And she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife.”
She then put her request plainly. “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife.” The request must have shaken Solomon to the core. For young though he was, he knew precisely what lay behind it.
1 Kings 2:22
‘ And king Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.”
Bathsheba was probably equally shaken by Solomon’s reply, for he had immediately seen all the implications behind the request. No doubt Solomon had already had reports about Adonijah, Joab and Abiathar getting together secretly, and now he recognised that his worst fears were being realised. There could be no doubt now that they were planning some kind of coup. So he pointed out to his mother that by asking for the hand of Abishag for Adonijah she was wanting him to grant to Adonijah the kingdom as well, both to him and his fellow-conspirators, Abiathar and Joab. Did she not realise that his status as Solomon’s eldest brother, and therefore the eldest son of David, combined with his being married to David’s newest wife, would be seen as giving him rights to the throne? It was clear to him now what the full significance of the plots that he had heard about actually was. And that being so it was clear that the kingdom would not be safe until the conspirators were permanently silenced.
1 Kings 2:23-24
‘ Then king Solomon swore by YHWH, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore as YHWH lives, who has established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death this day.”
Solomon had, as we know, previously warned Adonijah what would happen if he failed to live worthily and be loyal to Solomon (1 Kings 1:52). And now wickedness had been found in him. Thus he would have to die. So Solomon swore by YHWH that the traitorous words that Adonijah had spoken would result in him losing his life. As surely as Solomon’s being established, and set on the throne of David his father, and being given a dynasty, was of YHWH and according to His promises, so was it of YHWH that such conspirators who were trying to supplant the Anointed of YHWH should die. For by it they were rebelling against YHWH.
1 Kings 2:25
‘ And king Solomon sent by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell on him, so that he died.’
So king Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to carry out Adonijah’s judicial execution. And accordingly Benaiah set on Adonijah and killed him. It was one of his responsibilities as commander of the king’s bodyguard. We should remember that Adonijah was on probation and had had a warning. No trial was therefore necessary.
Apart from the obvious lesson of the seriousness of going against YHWH’s will, another important lesson that comes out of the whole incident is that before doing something we should carefully consider how our actions will be interpreted. We are wise to abstain from all appearance of evil.
Solomon Deals Firmly With Adonijah’s Fellow-Conspirators, Abiathar and Joab (1 Kings 2:26-35 ).
In this passage judgment falls on Adonijah’s fellow-conspirators. That they were genuinely so comes out in that Abiathar is included in the judgment in spite of Solomon’s kindly feelings towards him. In his case judgment involved being removed from his influential position as High Priest (a huge step for Solomon to take), and banished to live on his own estates. In the case of Joab, however, it involved the death penalty. This latter was no doubt because, as a powerful military figure and cold-blooded killer, he was adjudged the more dangerous. At the same time the verdict on Joab was used as a way of diverting blame from the house of David for the deaths of Abner and Amasa, the blame for the former emanating from the tribe of Benjamin, the blame for the latter from the tribe of Judah. The fact that in both cases Joab had had some justification for his actions, (even if they did also involve a lot of self-interest), was possibly not widely known. Such things are not usually judged on the facts but on local prejudice and tribal loyalty.
a And to Abiathar the priest said the king, “Get yourself to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are worthy of death, but I will not at this time put you to death, because you bore the ark of the Lord YHWH before David my father, and because you were afflicted in all in which my father was afflicted.” So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest to YHWH, that he might fulfil the word of YHWH, which he spoke concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh (1 Kings 2:26-27).
b And the news came to Joab, for Joab had turned after Adonijah, although he had not turned after Absalom. And Joab fled to the Tent of YHWH, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told king Solomon, “Joab is fled to the Tent of YHWH, and, behold, he is by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall on him” (1 Kings 2:28-29).
c And Benaiah came to the Tent of YHWH, and said to him, “Thus says the king, Come forth.” And he said, “No, but I will die here” (1 Kings 2:30 a).
d And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” And the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and fall on him, and bury him” (1 Kings 2:31 a).
e That you may take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father’s house” (1 Kings 2:31 b).
d “And YHWH will return his blood on his own head, because he fell on two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, and my father David knew it not, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah” (1 Kings 2:32).
c “So will their blood return on the head of Joab, and on the head of his seed for ever, but to David, and to his seed, and to his house, and to his throne, will there be peace for ever from YHWH” (1 Kings 2:33).
b Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell on him, and slew him, and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness (1 Kings 2:34).
a And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the host, and Zadok the priest did the king put in the place of Abiathar (1 Kings 2:35).
Note that in ‘a’ Abiathar was thrust out from being Priest to YHWH, and in the parallel his position was taken by Zadok. In ‘b’ Solomon commanded Benaiah to ‘fall on Joab’ and in the parallel he did so. In ‘c’ Joab said that he would die at the altar, and in the parallel Solomon declared that thereby the blood of his victims would return to his own head. In ‘d’ Solomon told Benaiah to fall on Joab and bury him, and in the parallel that is how his blood would fall on his own head. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon stressed that it would remove from his father’s house the blood that Joab shed without cause.
1 Kings 2:26
‘ And to Abiathar the priest said the king, “Get yourself to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are worthy of death, but I will not at this time put you to death, because you bore the ark of the Lord YHWH before David my father, and because you were afflicted in all in which my father was afflicted.” ’
Anathoth was about three and a half miles (five kilometres) north east of Jerusalem. It was a Levitical town in Benjaminite territory (Joshua 21:18). That Abiathar was known to be guilty of more than just attendance at Adonijah’s attempt to pre-empt the reception of the kingship comes out here. Solomon’s sympathy undoubtedly ran deep towards Abiathar because he recognised the loyalty that he had demonstrated towards his father, and clearly also took account of his ‘holy’ status (in contrast with Saul’s attitude revealed in 1 Samuel 22:17-18). And yet he still selected him out for severe punishment and considered him worthy of death. Solomon apparently therefore had specific knowledge about his activities as a continuing conspirator. We note also that there was no protestation of innocence from Abiathar.
His punishment was removal from the office of High Priest, and banishment to live on his own estates where his influence would be limited. There was to be no possibility of his repeating his high treason. While the High Priest always had to be an Aaronide in accordance with the Law, it is apparent from this, and the example of Saul in slaughtering the High Priest and appointing Zadok, and of David in originally appointing Abiathar, that the king was seen as having overall control over who should be High Priest within the limits set by the Law. It was different with the prophets who were seen as more directly responsible to YHWH.
Reference to bearing the Ark of YHWH has in mind the time when the Ark was borne into Jerusalem to be placed in the sacred Tent that David had erected there. Abiathar would not, of course, have carried it himself as it required a number of bearers. But it was Abiathar who had ensured the safe establishment of the sacred Ark in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:0), something which would be an important factor in the eventual ensuring of the acceptability of the Temple as the Dwellingplace of YHWH, which was something for which Solomon had cause to be grateful. It is mentioned first because it gave Abiathar a special significance. It was he who had established YHWH’s worship in Jerusalem, something which meant a great deal in Solomon’s plans for the future. (There are no justifiable reasons for altering ‘Ark’ here to ‘ephod’). Abiathar’s sharing of the afflictions of David has in mind the fact that, after the slaughter of his family at Nob, he had been with David in all his wanderings. Joab, of course, also shared with him in the latter commendation, but in contrast with Abiathar he was far too dangerous a man to be treated lightly, as David himself had made clear. There were very powerful elements who would be loyal to Joab for he had been commander-in-chief for many years.
1 Kings 2:27
‘ So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest to YHWH, that he might fulfil the word of YHWH, which he spoke concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.’
The writer draws our attention to the fact that this treatment of Abiathar was also a fulfilment of YHWH’s prophecy concerning the house of Eli, the descendant of Ithamar, the son of Aaron (1 Samuel 2:27-36). According to that prophecy the High Priesthood was to be taken from that house and transferred to the house of Eliezer, Aaron’s other son. Zadok was descended from the house of Eliezer, a fact to which the Scriptures continually testify. Originally, in the time of Joshua, Eliezer had been the High Priest (‘the Priest’), but at some stage the High Priesthood had transferred to the other branch of Aaronides, the house of Ithamar, presumably because at that stage no male member of the house of Eliezer had been of age to take up the position. It had then remained in that house by passing from father to son. Now the situation was being reversed because of Abiathar’s treachery, and in accordance with the will of YHWH.
1 Kings 2:28
‘ And the news came to Joab, for Joab had turned after Adonijah, although he had not turned after Absalom. And Joab fled to the Tent of YHWH, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.’
As soon as Joab learned what had happened to Abiathar, and to Adonijah, he revealed his guilt for his own part in the plots against Solomon by fleeing for sanctuary to the horns of the altar in the Tent of YHWH. This was probably a reference to the Tent in Jerusalem. (While we ourselves have been told that he was listed with the conspirators, he would not necessarily have known of that fact had he not himself actually have been involved. Thus this confirms that he recognised that their plot had been uncovered). ‘Turning after Adonijah’ involves more than just his having sought to make Adonijah king while David was still alive, for the aim had then only been to make him co-regent with David, so that it had not been parallel in seriousness with the rebellion of Absalom. What had made it as serious as the rebellion of Absalom was his subsequent involvement in the direct plots against Solomon.
The horns of the altar were a regular place of refuge for men who were in danger of being arrested, in order for them to ‘buy time’ so as to present their cases before the justices (see on 1 Kings 1:50). It would appear that they had a somewhat similar function to the Cities of Refuge, to which menslayers could flee in order to ensure that their case was properly heard (Numbers 35:9-34). It was thus a plea for their case to be properly heard under the protection of God. That it was not more in this case comes out in Solomon’s subsequent reaction. (In later times such sanctuary would be seen as wholly inviolable in many countries, until it was brought under tight control, at least in the Roman Empire, in order to prevent its misuse on the grounds that it had filled the temples with evil men).
1 Kings 2:29
‘ And it was told king Solomon, “Joab is fled to the Tent of YHWH, and, behold, he is by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall on him.” ’
The news was brought to Solomon that Joab had sought sanctuary at the horns of the altar, and as a consequence he sent Benaiah to execute him. This was presumably because he argued to himself that sentence had already been passed on Joab by David, so that two justices (David and himself) had already made their decision on the basis of the evidence. That then justified him in ignoring the sanctuary of the altar on the grounds that in both their eyes Joab was guilty of shedding innocent blood, something that he will shortly attempt to argue.
1 Kings 2:30
‘ And Benaiah came to the Tent of YHWH, and said to him, “Thus says the king, Come forth.” And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”
When Benaiah approached the Tent of YHWH and called on Joab to come out, Joab refused, and in essence admitted his guilt, declaring that if he was to die, he would die at the altar. It would seem that he was admitting that he knew that he would have to die, and was wanting to do so in the place of atonement. Such men of violence often get superstitious ideas when they are facing their end. But it was also a challenge as to whether Solomon would have the nerve to do it.
1 Kings 2:31
‘ And the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and fall on him, and bury him, that you may take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father’s house.” ’
Solomon then told Benaiah to grant Joab’s request. If he wanted to die at the altar, he should die there. And he justified this on the grounds of Joab’s blood-guiltiness (see Exodus 21:12-14; compare Deuteronomy 21:1-9). After that he was to be buried. The aim of this was in order to remove the guilt of the blood which Joab had shed without cause (the blood of Abner and Amasa) from David and Solomon and his father’s house. The death, and burial of the guilty party before nightfall, was looked on as removing the guilt of the blood shed from the land (Deuteronomy 21:1-9; Deuteronomy 21:22-23). It would also divert the blame for the deaths from Solomon himself and from his whole house, for the facts of the verdict would be publicly proclaimed so that all would know that Solomon and his house disassociated themselves from these deeds of Joab and were placing the guilt where it belonged. It would appear from this that there were still undercurrents of feeling in Judah and Benjamin about the way in which Abner and Amasa had died, and that the blame was being laid on David. Compare Shimei’s verdict on David in 2 Samuel 16:8.
“Shed without cause” is not strictly true. Joab did consider that he had cause. He was claiming the right of blood vengeance against Abner, killing him before he had entered the City of Refuge (Hebron), and in the case of Amasa was carrying out a field execution of an officer who had failed in his duty. Had he not done the latter there might well have been dangerous delay while seniority was being disputed. He thus no doubt felt completely justified. The fact that we suspect that he had deeper motives as well must not disguise these facts from us. Indeed these explanations by Joab were probably accepted by David at the time, and demonstrate why at that stage he did nothing further about the cases. But what David had clearly not been able to forgive was that by his actions Joab had brought blame on David himself, who was thus suspected of treachery by the two tribes to whom Abner and Amasa belonged. He presumably felt that Joab should have recognised that both men were under the king’s protection, and should have acted accordingly.
The truth appears to be that Solomon was taking Joab’s actual and definite guilt of high treason, something which undoubtedly deserved the death penalty in those days (as Solomon had already stated to Abiathar - 1 Kings 2:26), and was using the verdict on him as a means of removing the taint that still lay on the house of David for the deaths of Abner and Amasa.
“ And YHWH will return his blood on his own head, because he fell on two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, and my father David knew it not, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah.”
Solomon then resorted to special pleading in order to obtain his ends. It was in our view simply not true to say that Abner and Amasa were necessarily better men than Joab, although it is seemingly true that Joab slew them without David’s knowledge or permission. Consider the facts:
Abner had taken up arms against David as YHWH’s Anointed when it was not strictly necessary (2 Samuel 2:12). In contrast Joab had always supported YHWH’s Anointed.
Abner, an extremely experienced warrior, had slain Joab’s brother, Asahel, when he could easily have disarmed or wounded him and spared his life, (note how easily Abner did slay him), and actually admitted himself at the time that Joab would have cause for vengeance against him for his action (2 Samuel 2:22-23). While we may justify Abner to some extent, we must not avoid the fact that he knew exactly what he was doing.
Abner had committed high treason by turning treacherously against Ishbosheth over a quarrel because of a woman, which was why he was at Hebron in the first place (2 Samuel 3:7-8). Joab never at any time turned treacherously against David (although he had against Solomon).
Amasa was clearly and blatantly disobedient to David’s orders at a time of crisis for the kingdom, something which, had Sheba’s rebellion taken hold more successfully, could have had devastating results, as David himself had pointed out (2 Samuel 20:6). Joab certainly never let David down like this. Amasa thus certainly deserved severe punishment (and in those days death). We must remember that it happened while Joab was on active service and was urgently acting in order to nip a rebellion in the bud. Otherwise disputes with Amasa could easily have caused further delay.
Joab on the other hand was always loyal to David, and was indeed owed a great deal by David. He was almost certainly with David during his days of fleeing before Saul’s vengeance (Abishai, his brother, specifically was - 1 Samuel 26:6), continually acted faithfully as his commander-in-chief (2 Samuel 2:13 and often), something which necessarily involved him in having to shed much blood and execute many people, and yet in the process regularly showed mercy on fleeing enemies (2 Samuel 2:27-28; 2 Samuel 20:20-22). Furthermore he saved David from the results of his own folly when he was distraught at the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 19:1-8), and sought to do the same when he numbered Israel (2 Samuel 24:3). He even covered up for David over the affair of Uriah, and was certainly not as guilty as David over that affair. His great failing was undoubtedly his determination to hold on to his position as commander-in-chief at all costs. But overall it cannot be said that he let David down. What David apparently could not forgive was that through his rash acts against people under David’s protection he had brought dishonour on David himself. That David found himself unable to forgive.
Thus while we must acknowledge that Joab certainly deserved to die for his act of high treason against Solomon, and that David did have some grounds for warning Solomon against him (especially as he knew, as turned out to be the case, that he might not be as loyal to Solomon as he was to David), the reasons for the verdict against him explained in this verse were lacking in accuracy. It was special pleading.
“ So will their blood return on the head of Joab, and on the head of his seed for ever, but to David, and to his seed, and to his house, and to his throne, will there be peace for ever from YHWH.”
Solomon’s hope by this was that, as a result of Joab’s execution, the blame and blood guilt for both these deaths should fall squarely on Joab, and on his descendants, and be fully removed from David and his descendants, with the consequence that David’s house would receive wellbeing from YHWH. The house of Joab was to bear the guilt, relieving the house of David from all responsibility. He was clearly hoping by this means to quieten any feelings of resentment among Abner’s and Amasa’s sympathisers. And he may well have felt the blame that was being placed on the house of David to be a heavy burden.
1 Kings 2:34
‘ Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell on him, and slew him, and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness (grazing land)’
Benaiah then went, as Solomon had said, and slew Joab and arranged for him to be buried in ‘his own house’, the burial to take place in land not suitable for producing grain (wilderness, grazing land). Here too Solomon showed mercy. Joab’s body was disposed of with honour, and not treated like that of a traitor. Solomon was not being vengeful. He was simply doing what was necessary for the good of the kingdom.
1 Kings 2:35
‘ And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the host, and Zadok the priest did the king put in the place of Abiathar.’
Benaiah was then given the position of commander-in-chief, while Zadok replaced Abiathar, moving from being joint High Priest to sole High Priest. (While rarely used up to this point this alternative title of ‘High Priest’ cannot seriously be denied to ‘the leading Priests’ of Israel. The position of ‘the Priest’ is described as that of High Priest in Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28, and in those days every nation had its ‘High Priest’. There are therefore no grounds for seeing Israel as an exception).
It was a sad day when these two loyal servants of David had to be swept aside because of their disloyalty to his son. It should be a reminder to us constantly that ‘he who does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father Who has sent Him’ (John 5:23). Now that our Lord Jesus Christ has come, and has taken His throne we must ensure that our total loyalty is to Him, and that we do not allow ourselves to be drawn aside to other things. And this warning especially applies when we are growing old in the service of God. We must ensure that we hold fast the confession and manifestation of our faith without wavering.
The Execution Of Shimei. The Man Who Had Cursed David (1 Kings 2:36-46 a).
Having demonstrated the folly of Joab, and following his subsequent execution, (in accordance with David’s advice in 1 Kings 2:5-6), the writer then describes (topically and not necessarily chronologically) the execution of Shimei in accordance with David’s advice in 1 Kings 2:8-9. Shimei had been confined to Jerusalem so that he could be carefully watched, both because he was a known plotter with great influence among the tribe of Benjamin, and because he was known to be very bitter about how the house of Saul had been dealt with by David. He was therefore an acknowledged troublemaker and, because of his widespread influence in Benjamin, dangerous. There is, however, no reason for linking him with the plotting described above, and what follows probably occurred over two years afterwards.
Simei was warned that if he ever left Jerusalem, especially in the direction of Benjamin over the Wadi Kidron, he would certainly die. But the ban was not just about going to Benjamin, it was against ‘going anywhere’, for no one would know where he had gone once he left Jerusalem. This would not have been welcome news to Shimei for it separated him off from his family, fellow-tribesmen and lands, and therefore from the security of local custom and tribal loyalty, making him instead subject to the clear cut laws of Jerusalem as determined by the king, and therefore more vulnerable. But it did at least ensure him of his own personal safety. No blame, however, can rest on Solomon for this restriction, for he was newly made king over a kingdom which was certainly not fully united, and he had to guard against very possible danger, especially so close to Jerusalem. Indeed it could be argued that he was being more merciful to a known troublemaker than many kings in neighbouring countries would have been. Within wider Jerusalem Shimei had complete freedom.
For three years Shimei obediently remained in Jerusalem, leaving his family and servants to watch over his lands and their produce, free from worries, and as far as we know free from harassment. Solomon was as good as his word. But then news reached Shimei that two of his bondservants had fled to Aachish, king of Gath, (who was probably the grandson of the Aachish whom David had been familiar with). It was in those days normal practise for many countries to extradite bondsmen who had fled to their country, because it was seen to benefit everyone (except the bondservants), although Israel was an exception, probably on the grounds that they themselves had been bondservants in Egypt (Deuteronomy 23:15-16; compare 1 Samuel 30:15). Shimei therefore rather foolishly set out from Jerusalem in order to negotiate for their return, something in which he succeeded, although unfortunately for him, without consulting king Solomon. Perhaps he thought that his innocent reason would automatically be accepted, or he may even have thought that his absence might not be noted (a rather foolish hope in view of Solomon’s spy system), for an innocent man often feels that what he is doing in innocence cannot possibly be blamed. But he was undoubtedly breaking the terms of his probation, the conditions of which were quite clear. He no doubt went himself so that he could use his undoubted influence in order to obtain the extradition of the bondservants.
We should recognise in Solomon’s defence that Shimei might well (at least in theory) have been negotiating with the king of Gath about something very different, such as an agreement to invade Israel. Such things were constantly happening when people were disgruntled, and Solomon had no reason for thinking differently of a man like Shimei. And there is no doubt that Shimei had breached his probation, and knew what the penalty would be. Thus we should not be surprised at what followed when Solomon carried out the terms of his probation and executed him, even if we feel that it was a little harsh in the circumstances. Solomon may well have felt that no one would have taken the risk that Shimei had, merely over a couple of slaves (and he may have been right).
a And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and do not go forth from there anywhere, for on the day you got out, and pass over the brook Kidron, know you for certain that you will surely die. Your blood will be on your own head” (1 Kings 2:36-37).
b And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days (1 Kings 2:38).
c And it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, “Look now, your servants are in Gath” (1 Kings 2:39).
d And Shimei arose, and saddled his ass, and went to Gath to Achish, to seek his servants, and Shimei went, and brought his servants from Gath (1 Kings 2:40).
e And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again (1 Kings 2:41).
d And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not adjure you by YHWH, and protest to you, saying, ‘Know for certain, that on the day that you got out, and walk abroad anywhere, you will surely die?’ And you said to me, ‘The saying that I have heard is good’. Why then have you not kept the oath of YHWH, and the commandment that I have charged you with?” (1 Kings 2:42-43).
c The king said also to Shimei, “You know all the wickedness which your heart is privy to, that you did to David my father, therefore YHWH will return your wickedness on your own head” (1 Kings 2:44).
b “But king Solomon will be blessed, and the throne of David will be established before YHWH for ever” (1 Kings 2:45).
a So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out, and fell on him, so that he died (1 Kings 2:46 a).
Note that in ‘a’ Shimei was warned that if he left Jerusalem he would die, and in the parallel he was executed for that reason. In ‘b’ Shimei dwelt permanently in his house in Jerusalem, and in the parallel Solomon was sure that the throne of his house would be permanent before YHWH for ever. (It is significant that the writer knew that by the end of his writing even Solomon’s ‘house’ would not be dwelling in Jerusalem). In ‘c’ the description of the wickedness of the servants of Shimei is described, and in the parallel the wickedness of David’s servant, Shimei. In ‘d’ Shimei left Jerusalem and went to Gath, and in the parallel he was questioned as to why he had not obeyed the king. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon learned of Shimei’s gross disobedience.
1 Kings 2:36
‘ And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and do not go forth from there anywhere.”
In the case of Shimei Solomon had called for him (possibly not long after David had given his warning) and informed him that he was to build a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and not leave Jerusalem to go anywhere. It was a clear indication to him that he was ‘on probation’ and was being watched.
“ For on the day you got out, and pass over the brook Kidron, know you for certain that you will surely die. Your blood will be on your own head.”
And he was warned that on the day that he left Jerusalem he ‘would surely die’. He could thus be in no doubt of the situation. As Solomon warned him, if he did so ‘his blood would be on his own head’. He was especially warned against crossing the Wadi Kidron, which would mean that he was going in the direction of Benjaminite territory.
1 Kings 2:38
‘ And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days.’
There was nothing unreasonable about this in view of Shimei’s reputation as a curser of the house of David, as he himself acknowledged. He might well have been relieved that he was being treated so mildly. And he agreed that as the king’s servant he would do what the king commanded. Thus he dwelt in Jerusalem many days, no doubt being well provisioned by his family from his own lands. ‘The saying is good’ was an official acceptance of the covenant being made with him.
1 Kings 2:39
‘ And it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, “Look now, your servants are in Gath.” ’
But then after about three years news was brought to him that two of his bondsmen had run away to Achish, the king of Gath, no doubt seeking refugee status as David had before them. But unlike David they did not have six hundred mercenaries at their command. Thus they were vulnerable to extradition. It was common practise for a grandson to be given the same name as his grandfather, and this Aachish was probably the grandson of the one known to David, Maacah being a common name in Philistia, especially among royalty.
A number of examples are known of the extradition of bondsmen who had fled to another country, although not usually if they had fled back to their own homeland. The Ugaritic texts tell of a charioteer of the king of Ugarit who had absconded to Alalakh, for whom the king requested extradition. Israel were, however, according to the Law of Moses, to refuse to extradite bondslaves who had fled to Israel, no doubt on the grounds that Israel had themselves been bondslaves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).
1 Kings 2:40
‘ And Shimei arose, and saddled his ass, and went to Gath to Achish, to seek his servants, and Shimei went, and brought his servants from Gath.’
To be fair to Shimei he probably felt that it would require all his authority as head of his family (and possibly his clan) in order to influence Aachish, and he no doubt took a sweetener with him. So he saddled his ass and set off himself for Gath in order to get back his bondservants, possibly thinking that as he did not intend to go near Benajaminite territory his action would be acceptable. Time can easily dim the seriousness of a requirement and he had been living in Jerusalem without harassment for three years. He may well have hoped that his absence would not be noted. And once he had obtained the return of his bondservants he no doubt felt that he had been justified. But his action was very foolish given the seriousness of his position.
1 Kings 2:41
‘ And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again.’
Meanwhile Solomon learned (possibly through his intelligence system) that Shimei had left Jerusalem, had visited Gath, and had then returned. We can immediately understand what effect that news would have on Solomon. A known and influential troublemaker had gone to visit the king of a country which in the past had only caused trouble for Israel. It was a recipe for disaster.
1 Kings 2:42
‘ And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not adjure you by YHWH, and protest to you, saying, ‘Know for certain, that on the day that you got out, and walk abroad anywhere, you will surely die?’ and you said to me, ‘The saying that I have heard is good.’ ”
Consequently king Solomon called for Shimei and reminded him of how he had adjured him in the name of YHWH not to leave Jerusalem, and had declared that if he did so he would surely die. And furthermore that Shimei had consented to this requirement as ‘good’, a formal way of accepting a covenant.
“ Why then have you not kept the oath of YHWH, and the commandment that I have charged you with?”
Then he asked him why he had not kept the oath of YHWH with which he had charged him, and the commandment that he had given him. Did he not realise that by breaking that oath and flagrantly disobeying the king’s commands he had committed the most serious of offences for which there could only be one penalty? It was high treason.
1 Kings 2:44
‘ The king said also to Shimei, “You know all the wickedness which your heart is privy to, that you did to David my father, therefore YHWH will return your wickedness on your own head.” ’
He then reminded him of how in the wickedness of his heart he had cursed his father David, and had wished him ill from YHWH. Therefore, he prayed, let his wickedness now return on his own head. He was making quite clear that the penalty was cumulative. He was pointing out that as a previous transgressor he should have been more careful.
“ But king Solomon will be blessed, and the throne of David will be established before YHWH for ever.”
And in contrast king Solomon and the throne of David, rather than being cursed would be especially blessed, and the throne established before YHWH for ever. For now through Shimei’s death any remnants of the curse would die with him, because the house of David would be removing wickedness from the land.
1 Kings 2:46 a ‘So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out, and fell on him, so that he died.’
Once Shimei had left his presence, aware that he was sentenced to death, the king commanded that Benaiah once more act as executioner, and he went out and slew Shimei where he stood. In this way all the people about whom Solomon had been warned by David had been dealt with, having been given a fair opportunity to go straight, and having failed.
Shimei is the example of the person to whom every opportunity is given to truly serve the King, but who constantly fails to take advantage of the opportunity. In the end there can only be one result. Mercy comes to an end and judgment strikes. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The Glory Of Solomon ( 1 Kings 2:46 to 1 Kings 10:29 ).
The reign of Solomon having been firmly established the writer will now expand on the glories and successes of Solomon’s reign, in a similar way to that in which the writer in Samuel had initially expanded on David’s successes (2 Samuel 4-10), before moving on to the downside of his reign. The events that follow in 1 Kings 2:46 to 1 Kings 10:29 are therefore not chronological but topical in order to bring out the overall glory and prosperity which Israel ‘enjoyed’ under Solomon, but with the proviso that we have mentioned that it is tinged with criticism.
With this in mind we have:
An introductory snap summary of Solomon’s glories, which does, however, contain a tinge of criticism on the religious level (1 Kings 2:46 to 1 Kings 3:4).
A description of the divine provision of God-given wisdom to Solomon by YHWH, which is then illustrated by an example (1 Kings 3:5-28).
A description of the magnificence of Solomon’s court, and the prosperity enjoyed by Judah and Israel as a whole, which is brought out by a description of his administration of Israel and especially of his taxation system which produced a large quantity of provisions which were regularly consumed by the court, followed by a brief summary description of Judah and Israel’s prosperity (1 Kings 4:1-28).
A description of the great practical wisdom of Solomon as contrasted with that of the great wise men of the Ancient Near East (1 Kings 4:29-34).
A description of the building of Solomon’s grand and magnificent Temple, a venture which was one of the ways in which great kings regularly demonstrated their greatness, which however resulted in his calling up compulsory levies of Israelites for the work, which disaffected many in Israel (1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 6:38).
A description of the building of Solomon’s own magnificent palace (1 Kings 7:1-12).
A further expansion on the details of the building of the Temple, including details of Hiram its main architect and his innovations (1 Kings 7:3-51).
A description of the dedication of the Temple and of Solomon’s intercession before YHWH which made all the people rejoice and be glad (1 Kings 8:1-66).
A description of the renewal of the conditional everlasting covenant by YHWH concerning the everlastingness of his family’s rule which was, however, accompanied by warnings of what the consequences would be of falling short of YHWH’s requirements (1 Kings 9:1-9).
A description of Solomon’s generosity towards Hiram in giving him cities, something which was, however, at the same time depleting Israel of some of its own prosperous cities which were a part of the inheritance of YHWH, which would have caused concern to many in Israel (1 Kings 9:10-14).
A description of Solomon’s further magnificent building programme, which involved making slave levies on tributary nations (1 Kings 9:15-25).
A description of Solomon’s trading activities which included a visit from the Queen of Sheba to test out the wisdom of Solomon, which resulted in him giving her splendid gifts (1 Kings 9:26 to 1 Kings 10:13).
Further details of Solomon’s great wealth and prosperous trading (1 Kings 10:14-29).
So there is great emphasis on Solomon’s magnificence. Some of this magnificence can be discerned archaeologically, especially in terms of building work in Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer, but much of it would be hidden archaeologically by the fact that later centuries made use of his earlier buildings as raw materials for their own building programmes, and by the fact that on the whole Jerusalem remains unexcavated so that any traces there are undiscovered.
There are, however, no solid grounds for denying the outward magnificence of his reign, which can partly be accounted for by the fact that at this time Egypt was weak and inward looking, and Assyria was busy within its own borders. There was therefore no restraint on Solomon’s advancement from these quarters. Taking with this the fact that the kingdom straddled the two great trade routes, the first along the coastal road, and the second along the King’s highway, east of Jordan, to say nothing of the trade routes from Arabia, so that the world’s trade passed through his kingdom, and that he himself appeared to have had a good business brain, taking advantage of his friendship with Tyre and Sidon, and his control of the port of Ezion-geber, to trade by sea with the wider world, and we understand why he and the kingdom became so wealthy. What with tribute, tolls, and exploitation of business opportunities there is no reason for doubting that gold and silver flooded into his kingdom, with the result that ‘silver was not accounted of in the days of Solomon’.
Outwardly then all was splendour, but continually underneath we see elements which would cause the disaffection of the people, and demonstrate that such magnificence had a real cost to it, and this would be further exacerbated by Solomon’s own consequential disloyalty to YHWH. Prosperity regularly has this effect of reducing spirituality, as men cease to feel dependent on God and the world is allowed to take over the place that should be held by God.
Solomon had so much, and he could have used it for the glory of God. But once he had built the Temple his mind began to wander away from God and to be concentrated on his own glory. And the result was that what had begun in such a promising way, ended up in failure and disaster.
In A Brief Summary of His Reign Solomon Becomes The Son-In-Law Of The Pharaoh of Egypt, Builds Up Jerusalem, And Erects The House Of YHWH, While Meanwhile He And The People Sacrifice In High Places (1 Kings 2:46 to 1 Kings 3:4 ).
Each reign from now on throughout the book of Kings will commence with a summary of that reign, having in mind especially how the king behaved towards Yahwism and maintained its exclusivity, and in this passage we have the writer’s summary of Solomon’s reign. As with most of even the best kings, what was good was weighed up against their failings, and the same is also true of Solomon. For from the start the writer leaves us in no doubt that Solomon did not live up to the standard of his father David, even though this would not necessarily become apparent in the beginning.
After all the initial hiccups that were behind him, the kingdom was now firmly established in the hands of Solomon, and Solomon thus began to build on what he had begun. He married Pharaoh’s daughter, giving him a position of great prestige in the eyes of the world, built up Jerusalem, erected the house of YHWH, and in general demonstrated his full initial loyalty to YHWH. But while humanly speaking his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter was a high point in his reign, for Pharaohs of Egypt would only allow the greatest of foreign kings to marry their daughters, it was already an indication of the compromises in which Solomon was prepared to involve himself for the sake of glory and pleasure, which would result in his later decline.
The writer certainly on the one hand wants us to see that Solomon was so great that he was even seen as an equal by Pharaoh, and yet on the other, in the back of his mind is a recognition of the fact that Pharaoh’s daughter would be a part of Solomon’s later downfall (1 Kings 11:1). This negative aspect especially comes out:
In that the name of the princess is not given.
In that Solomon did not introduce her into his own house until that had ceased to house the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (2 Chronicles 8:11), presumably because he recognised that it would not be fitting.
In that the description here is paralleled in the chiasmus with the fact that he sacrificed and burned incense in high places in a way that the writer frowned on.
For the one major scar on what was otherwise an idealistic picture was the fact that the people, and clearly the king, sacrificed in the high places, many of which were syncretistic, mingling Canaanite practises with the true worship of YHWH, something which would then lead on to Solomon involving himself with all kinds of gods. And it is clear that this was all on a par with his having married an influential foreign princess to whom he would have to make concessions.
The Egyptian princess was not his first wife. He had already married Naamah the Ammonitess before ascending the throne, and had had a son by her (compare 1 Kings 14:21 where Rehoboam her son was forty one when he ascended the throne with 1 Kings 11:42-43 where Solomon’s reign lasted ‘forty years’), which was another marriage which may well have sealed a treaty and ensured the good behaviour of Ammon. But while an Ammonite princess could (at least in theory) be expected to tow the line, an Egyptian daughter of Pharaoh was another matter.
a And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon (1 Kings 2:46 b).
b And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David (1 Kings 3:1 a).
c Until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of YHWH, and the wall of Jerusalem round about (1 Kings 3:1 b).
d Only the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of YHWH until those days (1 Kings 3:2).
c And Solomon loved YHWH, walking in the statutes of David his father (1 Kings 3:3 a).
b Only he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places (1 Kings 3:3 b).
a And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place, a thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer on that altar (1 Kings 3:4).
Note that in ‘a’ the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon, and in the parallel Solomon showed suitable gratitude to YHWH his Overlord. In ‘b’ Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, which would probably mean introducing foreign gods into Jerusalem for her own private worship, and in the parallel there is the reservation concerning him that he sacrificed in high places. In ‘c’ Solomon built the house of YHWH, and in the parallel he loved YHWH. Centrally in ‘d’ we discover that meanwhile the worship of the people was not on a fully satisfactory basis, something that was partly Solomon’s fault because of his poor example.
1 Kings 2:46 b ‘And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.’
After a number of early hiccups the kingdom was now established in the hands of Solomon. All traces of uprising and rebellion had been sufficiently dealt with, and all appeared well. It was a regular feature of life in those days that when a new king came to the throne there would be initial unrest as rival claimants fought or manoeuvred for the right to rule, often resulting in bitter civil wars that lasted for years. It was one of the penalties of polygamy. But Solomon had got off fairly lightly, thanks largely to David’s wise, if delayed, intervention.
1 Kings 3:1 a ‘And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David.’
Indeed so great was Solomon in his rule over the whole area from the Euphrates down to the River of Egypt that the Pharaoh of Egypt entered into a treaty with him, and gave him one of his daughters to be his wife. Such marriages, made in order to seal international treaties, were a common feature of life in those days (compare 1 Kings 11:1), although the Pharaoh’s of Egypt were very particular about who married one of their daughters. It will, however, be noted that her name is not given. This was probably because, in spite of its high honour as seen from a worldly point of view, the writer was seeking to bring home his overall disapproval of Solomon’s act (which would help him on his way to disaster - 1 Kings 11:1-2).
It should also be noted that the Pharaoh allowed his daughter to live in the City of David, and not remain in Egypt, an indication of the warmness of the mutual relations between Egypt and Israel, for this meant that the daughter was a kind of ‘hostage’ for Egypt’s good behaviour. There is no suggestion that she tried to openly install the worship of Egyptian gods in Jerusalem, but it is very probable that she brought her own gods with her, something that is confirmed by the fact that Solomon did not take her into his own house until after the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord had been moved to the new Temple that he built (2 Chronicles 8:11). It would appear later that she may well have been one of the wives who encouraged him to dabble in idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-8).
Pharaohs rarely gave their daughters in marriage to any but the greatest of kings, so that this marriage indicated the high esteem in which Solomon was held in Egypt. And while this was not, of course, under one of the greatest Pharaohs, and occurred at a time when Egypt’s fortunes were at a relatively low ebb, it was undoubtedly an honour nevertheless, for Egypt had a great reputation in the ancient world.
We do not know for certain which Pharaoh this was. When Rehoboam, Solomon’s successor, had reigned for five years, Egypt would raid the area over which Solomon had reigned, under the great Pharaoh Shishak (Shishonq of the twenty second dynasty - see 1 Kings 14:25). He had previously plotted to undermine Israel’s stability by harbouring Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, with the end in view of destabilising Israel, but he had done nothing further while Solomon was alive. The Pharaoh in view here, however, was probably not Shishak, but the preceding Pharaoh but one, Siamun, a Pharaoh of the weak twenty first dynasty, who ruled around 978-959 BC. The weakness of the twenty first dynasty is known from external sources but is apparent here in that it is clear that Egypt were making no claims on ‘Canaan’, an area which, in their strongest periods, they had looked on as containing vassal city states. They did, however, continue to conduct local actions against the Philistines in protecting their borders from supposed incursions, in the course of which they ‘smote Gezer’ (1 Kings 9:16), so that they were not totally quiescent. A damaged triumphal relief scene at Tanis depicts Siamun smiting a foreigner, seemingly a Philistine judging by the Aegean type axe in his hand, which confirms that Siamun did engage in such ‘police action’ in Philistia. But with regard to the area of Canaan as a whole Siamun was apparently quite content to make his northern border safe by means of a treaty with the powerful Solomon, something which would be to their mutual benefit, especially tradewise. One of the obvious benefits of this treaty to Solomon was seen in the multiplicity of horses that he later possessed, for Egypt was a well known source of such horses (1 Kings 10:26-29).
1 Kings 3:1 b ‘Until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of YHWH, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.’
Solomon then proceeded with many building works, a favourite occupation of great kings in times of peace, for they left behind a permanent memorial of the greatness of those kings. (Compare Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in declaring, ‘Is this not great Babylon that I have built?’ - Daniel 4:30). He built his own palace (1 Kings 7:1-12) and the house of YHWH (1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 6:38) and strengthened the walls of Jerusalem, along with other building work (1 Kings 9:15-19).
It is significant that he does not appear to have brought the Egyptian princess into his own palace until he had completed the Temple and housed the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord there, possibly for the very reason that he did not want the sanctity of the Ark to be defiled by the princess’s private gods.
1 Kings 3:2
‘ Only the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of YHWH until those days.’
However, according to the writer there was one major blot on his reign and that was that the people sacrificed in ‘high places’ (bamoth), because there was no house built for YHWH in those days. This can hardly be intended to be a criticism of the worship at the Tabernacle (probably now in Gibeon) or at the sacred Tent in Jerusalem, for neither have been criticised before, but have been looked on with approval. The criticism must therefore be seen as involving worship at other ‘high places’ not approved of by YHWH, which had mainly become syncretistic. In the past YHWH worship was approved of:
1). At the Tabernacle (the Central Sanctuary).
2). In the presence of the sacred Ark wherever it was, for it was ‘the Ark of God, which is called by the Name, even the name of YHWH of Hosts Who sits on the Cherubim’ (2 Samuel 6:2). See Judges 20:26-27; Judges 21:4; 1Sa 1:3 ; 1 Samuel 2:13-17; 1 Samuel 6:14; 2 Samuel 6:13; 2 Samuel 6:17-18.
3). At places where YHWH had ‘recorded His Name’ (Exodus 20:24), e.g. where there was a theophany or prophetic guidance (Joshua 8:31; Judges 2:5; Judges 6:24-26; Jdg 13:16-23 ; 1 Samuel 8:9-10; 1 Samuel 8:17; 1 Samuel 9:12-14; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 16:2; 1 Samuel 16:5; 2 Samuel 24:25).
It was approved of nowhere else. Thus the high places mentioned here clearly did not come within these categories.
We know from a combination of archaeology and Scripture what these high places consisted of. They were local cult sites, often in the form of a rock-hewn platform, containing an altar or sacrificial block. It was possibly the fact that they were regularly on a raised platform that gave them the name ‘high places’. Or it may be because originally they were mainly built on hills. But if so by this time they could be found not only on the heights (which were often seen as the abode of the divine), but also in towns, and even in valleys. Examples of high places found on the heights have been discovered at Megiddo and Arad (compare 1 Kings 14:23; Numbers 22:41; 1 Samuel 9:13; Jeremiah 2:20; Ezekiel 6:13). Examples of high places in towns, mentioned specifically in 2 Kings 17:9; 2 Kings 17:29, have been discovered at Jerusalem, Hazor and Dan. An example of high places in valleys is found in Jeremiah 7:31.
Not all high places were disapproved of. Samuel worshipped at designated high places, presumably because he considered that YHWH had recorded His Name there in some way, perhaps through a prophetic oracle (and there was at the time no Tabernacle). Elijah rebuilt the altar of YHWH on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:30), and spoke of other such altars (1 Kings 19:10), where again presumably there had been a revelation of YHWH. These had been torn down and replaced by idolatrous shrines used for syncretistic worship, combining Yahwism with Canaanite worship, the kind of thing that had presumably happened at Bethel and Dan where Jeroboam introduced his golden calves. But the vast number of high places were probably old Canaanite sanctuaries, (or strongly influenced by them), and might well have contained, besides an altar, pillars and Asherah poles or images. These were the high places that were mainly being condemned, but were clearly at this time popular in Israel. The writer’s original source clearly hoped that the building of the Temple would help to resolve the problem.
The word bamoth ‘high places’ as used technically here is found only in Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 21:28; Numbers 22:41; Numbers 33:52. It is not used in this way by any other book prior to Kings. In Deuteronomy 32:13 the term indicates prosperity and blessing, while in Deuteronomy 33:29 it probably signifies their best and most influential cities, although some translate bamoth there as ‘backs’ on the basis of discoveries at Ugarit. Thus we should beware of suggesting that the framework of Kings is ‘Deuteronomic’. It is rather Mosaic.
1 Kings 3:3
‘ And Solomon loved YHWH, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’
The writer then stresses that Solomon truly loved YHWH, and walked in the statutes of David his father (i.e. the law of Moses - see 1 Kings 2:3), but had this against him, that he also got involved with, and sacrificed and burned incense at, high places. Some high places were often used for genuine worship of YHWH, but in the main their syncretism was seen as being a danger that could drag men down, as indeed Solomon was later dragged down (1 Kings 11:1-8). That was why they were to be limited to places where YHWH had recorded His Name’.
It is salutary to recognise that in the end the verdict on Solomon’s reign will be that ‘he did evil in the sight of YHWH and did go fully after the ways of his father David’ (1 Kings 11:6), and that that will be mainly because of his over-indulgence and carelessness towards high places.
1 Kings 3:4
‘ And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place, a thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer on that altar.’
But meanwhile the king demonstrated his loyalty to YHWH by going to the Tabernacle at Gibeon (the Tabernacle being there made it ‘the great high place’ - 2 Chronicles 1:3), and there offering a multiplicity of burnt offerings to YHWH. ‘A thousand’ was regularly used in order to indicate ‘a great many’ (for such use of ‘a thousand’ compare 1 Kings 4:32; Deuteronomy 1:11; Deuteronomy 7:9; 2 Samuel 18:12; 1 Kings 4:32; Psalms 50:10; Psalms 84:10; Psalms 90:4; Psalms 105:8; Ecclesiastes 6:6; Song of Solomon 4:4; Isaiah 7:23; Dan 5:1 ; 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:5).
Thus Solomon’s kingdom was seen as ‘established in his hand’, from an earthly point of view by his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 2:1), and from a heavenly point of view by his obedience to YHWH and by his worshipping in abundance at His Sanctuary (1 Kings 2:3-4).
The site of Gibeon is el-Gib where the handles of jars have been excavated bearing the name Gib‘n. It was in the territory of Benjamin and a designated Levite city (Joshua 18:25; Joshua 21:17).
This summary of Solomon’s spiritual life comes to each of us as a stark warning. He sought to walk in the ways of the Lord, but still married Pharaoh’s daughter. He worshipped in abundance in the way provided by God, and yet he could not resist responding to the lure of the ‘high place’. His life was thus a continual compromise. And that is why when it came to its end all its promise had faded away. It is a sad reflection of his reign that the most popular examination question concerning his life is, ‘Why can Solomon be described as the wisest fool in Jewry?’
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany