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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2989. B.C. 1015.

David’s charge to Solomon. 1-9. His death and burial, with the beginning of Solomon’s reign, 1 Kings 2:10-12 . He puts Adonijah to death, 1 Kings 2:13-25 . Deposes Abiathar from the high-priesthood, 1 Kings 2:26 , 1 Kings 2:27 . Puts Joab to death, 1 Kings 2:28-35 . Confines Shimei to Jerusalem, 1 Kings 2:36-38 . Puts him to death, 1 Kings 2:39-46 .

Verses 1-2

1 Kings 2:1-2. The days of David drew nigh, that he must die As he himself was sensible. And he charged Solomon his son After the example of Abraham, the father of the faithful, Genesis 18:19. I go the way of all the earth Even the sons and heirs of heaven must go the way of all the earth, of all who dwell thereon. But they walk with pleasure in this way, through the valley of the shadow of death. Prophets, yea, kings, must go this way to brighter light and honour than prophecy or sovereignty. Be thou strong For, to govern his people according to the law of God, required great fortitude or strength of mind. And show thyself a man In manly wisdom, and courage, and constancy, though thou art but young in years.

Verses 3-4

1 Kings 2:3-4. And keep the charge of the Lord thy God Here we find David inculcating, in his last moments, the great ruling principle; the foundation-stone of the Hebrew state, and which in some measure distinguishes it from all other governments that have ever subsisted. For the whole strength and stability of that state was built, not upon the riches or forces of the kingdom, but upon a strict observance of the statutes and commandments of the Lord. As it is written in the law of Moses Which the prince was enjoined to transcribe and read, (Deuteronomy 17:11,) that he might govern his own and his people’s actions by it. That thou mayest prosper Or, behave thyself prudently. Hereby he intimates that religion is the truest reason of state, and that all true wisdom and good success depend upon piety. That the Lord may confirm his word Fulfil his promise, the condition upon which it was suspended being performed. Thus, to engage him to keep the charge of the Lord, he represents unto him the gracious promise which God had made him, to perpetuate the kingdom in his family without interruption, provided his children sincerely and heartily cleaved to God in faithful and conscientious obedience to his commandments.

Verse 5

1 Kings 2:5. Moreover, thou knowest, &c. After David had given Solomon this general charge, he proceeded to direct him to do some particular acts of justice and kindness, and first of all, bids him remember how Joab had acted. We must not look upon this admonition of David, on his death-bed, as proceeding from a spirit of private revenge, but as advising the execution of a public piece of justice which the circumstances of things would not permit him to inflict before. Certainly the punishment of Joab was owing both to God and man, for his treacherous and cruel murder of Abner and Amasa; and, therefore, David here, in justice to his people, and the divine laws, ordered his son and successor to do that, when his throne was fully established, which he could not execute himself for want of sufficient power, Joab’s interest being then so great, that it might have thrown the state into a fresh civil war, had any steps been taken to inflict punishment upon him. What Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me That is, against me. For Joab’s murder of Abner and Amasa was a great injury to David, as it was a breach of his laws and peace, a contempt of his person and government, a pernicious example to his subjects, and a great scandal to him, giving people reason to suspect that Joab had been only David’s instrument, to effect what he secretly designed. And shed the blood of war in peace He slew them as if they had been in the state of war, when there was not only a cessation of arms, but also a treaty of peace. And put the blood of war upon his girdle This is added to denote his impenitence, that although by his perfidious manner of killing them, when he pretended to embrace them, he stained his own garments with their blood, yet he was not ashamed of it, but gloried in it, and marched boldly along with the army, with the same girdle and shoes which were sprinkled with their blood.

Verse 6

1 Kings 2:6. Do therefore according to thy wisdom What in reason and justice thou seest to be fit. For though I was forced to forbear him, I never forgave him. Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace Punish him according to his demerits. “This dying order of David,” says Dr. Dodd, referring to Dr. Chandler, “was an order worthy of a good king, and fit to be given in the last moments of his life. The crimes which drew down this punishment upon Joab, have already been expatiated upon. Many reasons concurred to prevent David’s calling him to an account; but it is plain he never forgot nor forgave his crime: nay, he could not, consistently with the law, have forgiven him if he had been inclined to it. His deferring his punishment so long, was no reason why he should always do it. Reasons of state prevented its being inflicted before, and reasons of state required its being put in execution at this juncture. In time of war it was dangerous to attempt it, on account of the power, influence, and military skill of Joab; in time of peace it was safe, because Joab’s power was then upon the decline, and his services were unnecessary. Joab was ambitions, enterprising, and restless, and having not proved very loyal to the father, might have practised the same perfidy against the son; who being young, and scarcely settled in his throne, might have suffered from his treachery, his want of fidelity, and his ambitions views, which were insatiable.”

Verse 7

1 Kings 2:7. Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai David’s gratitude here expressed is remarkable. Barzillai only desired him to show kindness to Chimham, 2 Samuel 19:37; but he extends it to all his sons. Let them be of those that eat at thy table As Mephibosheth had done at David’s table. It is probable Mephibosheth was now dead, for otherwise David would not have forgotten him. For so they came to me Such kindness they showed me; inviting him to Barzillai’s house, who sustained him in his great distress, 2 Samuel 19:32.

Verse 8

1 Kings 2:8. Behold thou hast with thee Shimei, &c., which cursed me with a grievous curse “David,” says Delaney, “when he was importuned to punish Shimei, (2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 19:21,) imitated the mercy of God, who waits that he may be gracious. Had he copied after any lower pattern, he had not spared Shimei, in the very instant of passion and provocation; nor would he afterward have forgiven him, in the fulness of prosperity and power. He very well knew how much the remission of personal injuries became the kingly character, and, therefore, he gave Shimei his life, and confirmed the grant by an oath. But then it must be remembered, that the obligation of the oath was purely personal; for so he himself explains it, saying, I sware unto him by the Lord, I will not put thee to death by the sword. And, therefore, though David was bound, Solomon was at full liberty to vindicate the majesty of kings, in chastising this high insult upon his father in such a manner as he thought fit: nor was there any danger of doing this to excess, when the chastisement was deferred to the calm and cool season of dispassionate justice; when neither passion nor personal resentment could inflame the vengeance. David well knew how much it became the piety of his character to submit himself and his concerns to the divine disposal, throughout the whole course of his life; but could he, for this reason, wholly renounce the interest of justice? Or, if he could, he very well knew how dangerous an example it might be to his successors, to suffer such injuries and insults upon majesty to pass unpunished: and, therefore, when he had acted up to the piety and dignity of his own character, he very wisely admonished his son to act up to the wisdom of his.”

Verse 9

1 Kings 2:9. Now therefore hold him not guiltless Though I spared his life, do not treat him as an innocent person, nor consider him as one reconciled to my family, and to thy succession to the throne. He is Shimei still, and wants nothing but a fair opportunity to declare it. Clear him not, therefore, as I did, if thou findest him guilty of any mal-practices; but his hoar head bring down, &c. Cut him off as an old offender and dangerous enemy, to secure thy own peace, and the safety of thy government. In this sense Josephus understands the words. But, certainly, David’s telling Solomon, that he sware to Shimei he would not put him to death for his outrage and treason, is a demonstrative proof that he did not advise Solomon to put him to death for the crime that he himself had solemnly forgiven; for can any one imagine David would tell Solomon that he had sworn not to put Shimei to death, and in the same breath order him, in defiance of his oath, to be put to death? If he had intended that Solomon should immediately put him to death, there would have been neither reason nor sense in the words, Thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him. For to what purpose was it to tell Solomon that he knew how to behave to Shimei, if David’s command was immediately to cut him off, and Solomon understood him in that sense? But it is certain Solomon did not understand his father in that sense, by his ordering him to build a house for himself in Jerusalem, (1 Kings 2:36,) as well as from the different manner in which he treated Shimei and Joab. The fact is, David advised his son to keep a strict watch over Shimei, and to put him to death only, if, on any new offence, he should again forfeit his life; and this, it is hoped, has been made appear to be the truth of the case. Now, how is this inconsistent with piety, or the advice of a prince on his death-bed? It is true, forgiveness of enemies is a duty, provided they cease to become our enemies; but no man is obliged, by any law, so to forgive an enemy, continuing such, as not to take the proper methods to guard against the effects of his enmity, and bring him to justice, if no other method will prove effectual. Much less is a prince obliged so to forgive an implacable enemy to his crown and government, and one who is likely to disturb the settlement of the crown in his successor, as not to order the successor to be upon his guard against him, and punish him, when guilty, according to his demerits. Such a caution and order is what he owes to his people; he may die as a private person, in charity with all mankind, and forgive every private injury against himself; and yet, as a prince, advise what is necessary for the public good after his decease, and even the execution of particular persons, if, by abusing the lenity and respite they once received, they should be guilty of new and capital offences. Chandler. Doctor Waterland, Le Clerc, and Calmet, give the same interpretation with Doctor Chandler. The reader will probably think that the above reasoning sufficiently justifies David in this particular, even on supposition that the text is rightly translated, which, however, Dr. Delaney is of opinion it is not. The Hebrew particle, ו , vau, he thinks, ought to have been rendered here, as in all similar cases, not connectively, but disjunctively, as it is Proverbs 30:8, and in many other places. “Agur,” says he, “beseeches God to keep him from the extremes of poverty and wealth. If the particle vau were to be interpreted here connectively, the petition would run thus: Give me not poverty and riches. Every one sees the absurdity of this petition; and therefore the translators rightly rendered it, Give me neither poverty nor riches. In the same analogy, the passage in question, rightly translated, will stand thus: Now, therefore, neither hold him guiltless, ( for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him,) nor his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. This advice, in this sense, is full of humanity, as well as wisdom, and Solomon (we see) understood and observed it in this sense, and in no other.”

Verses 10-11

1 Kings 2:10-11. So David slept with his fathers He died with the satisfaction of seeing his own son his successor, the wisest and the hopefulest prince of the whole earth, and with the assurance of God’s peculiar favour to his posterity, from whence he had already, in the clearest light of prophetic vision, seen the Messiah, the Lord of life, to arise; of whose dominion, and the increase of his government and glory, he well knew, by the Spirit of God upon him, there would be no end. And was buried in the city of David In that part of Jerusalem which was called by his name, because he took it from the Jebusites. Seven years reigned he in Hebron More precisely, seven years and six months; (2 Samuel 5:5;) but smaller numbers are often omitted in Scripture computations, and only the larger noticed.

Verse 12

1 Kings 2:12 . Then sat Solomon upon the throne, &c. The kingdom was settled upon him with universal consent and approbation. His kingdom was established He had the hearty affections of his people, which all men know to be a prince’s best and surest establishment.

Verses 13-15

1 Kings 2:13-15. She said, Comest thou peaceably? Or with some evil design against me or my son? which she might well suspect, knowing his ambition and envy at Solomon, and his hatred against her, as the chief cause of his being cast down from his aspiring views and high hopes. He said, Thou knowest that the kingdom is mine Both by right of primogeniture and actual inauguration. And all Israel set their faces on me They looked on me as their king and my father’s successor, and expected that he would confirm my election. He pretends that the generality of the people favoured his views, and wished him to be king. Howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother’s Is translated from me to him by the vicissitude of human affairs, and the changeable humour of the people. For it was his from the Lord Either, 1st, By God’s providence so disposing David’s mind, and the people’s hearts: or rather, 2d, By God’s appointment, and particular designation: wherein he seems to acquiesce, affectionately terming Solomon his brother, that he might deceive both her and him into a belief that he was far from any design of usurping the government.

Verse 17

1 Kings 2:17. That he give me Abishag to wife It is not likely that either Adonijah or Bath-sheba was ignorant that it was unlawful for any man to marry his father’s wife: but they perhaps thought that as David knew her not, the marriage had not been completed.

Verse 19

1 Kings 2:19. The king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself For the high dignity to which he was advanced, did not make him forget the honour due to a parent: an amiable example this, to teach all children to continue to show respect to their parents, how much soever they may be advanced above them in wealth, dignity, or honour. She sat on his right hand The most honourable place, next to the king.

Verses 20-21

1 Kings 2:20-21. I desire one small petition of thee So she esteemed it, because she did not perceive Adonijah’s design in it, nor the circumstances connected with it. I will not say thee nay Supposing thy request can be lawfully and safely granted, and will be productive of no injury to myself or others. Let Abishag be given to Adonijah thy brother That is, thy brother by the father’s side, and whom brotherly affection and relation oblige thee to gratify; at least, in small things.

Verse 22

1 Kings 2:22. Ask for him the kingdom also His design is not upon Abishag, but upon the kingdom; which by this means he hopes to recover. “That Adonijah had such a design is very probable,” says Poole, “both from his temper, for he was an aspiring and designing man, highly discontented with Solomon’s government, and desirous of a change; and from the nature of the thing, because he would not have made so daring and presumptuous a request, if he had not had some great design in it.” For he is my elder brother And therefore looks on the kingdom as his by birthright, and the law of nations, and thinks he may lawfully endeavour to recover his own, and cast me out as a usurper; to accomplish which the seeking Abishag to wife is the first step. Even for him, and for Abiathar and Joab “It is very likely,” says the author last quoted, “though not expressed, that he, and Joab, and Abiathar, were engaged in some design against Solomon, and that Solomon had obtained information of it; and therefore he did, and reasonably might, take this attempt of Adonijah to obtain Abishag, for an indication, and the first overt act of his treason.”

Verse 23

1 Kings 2:23. Then King Solomon sware by the Lord Once here, and again 1 Kings 2:24, which he did to oblige himself irrevocably to perform his resolution, and to prevent all intercession for Adonijah’s life, the matter being, he believed, of the greatest importance to him.

Verse 24

1 Kings 2:24. And set me on the throne of David For, though Adonijah be my elder brother, yet I have an undoubted right and title to the crown, from the promise and appointment of that God who disposes of all kingdoms, and especially this of Israel, to whom he pleaseth; and therefore Adonijah in this and his former attempt is guilty of treason against me, and of rebellion against God. And who hath made me a house Who hath given me posterity, as this phrase often means; see Exodus 1:21; for Rehoboam was probably born before this time: or rather, who hath established me in the house and throne of David, and so hath fulfilled in and to me the promise made to him respecting his house, (2 Samuel 7:11,) and the settlement of the crown in him and his seed. Adonijah shall be put to death this day “Had Adonijah lived under our constitution, he would have had a fair hearing before conviction. But we should remember that in the kingdoms of the East the government was absolute, and the power of life or death entirely in the prince; so that Solomon, without the formality of any process, could pronounce his brother dead; and because he conceived that in cases of this nature delays were dangerous, might send immediately and have him despatched; though we cannot but say that it would have been more to his commendation, had he showed more clemency and spared his life.” Dodd.

Verse 25

1 Kings 2:25. Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah, &c. For the execution of justice was not then committed to obscure persons, as it is now, but to persons of great honour and authority. Notwithstanding what has been observed in the two or three preceding notes, probably the reader will be inclined to think, as certainly many are, that it is far from being clear Solomon acted right in putting Adonijah to death, or that the latter had any ill design in asking Abishag. And yet, what certainly is of great weight, we nowhere find Solomon censured in the Scriptures for this action.

Verses 26-27

1 Kings 2:26-27. Unto Abiathar said the king, Get thee to Anathoth This was a city of the priests, (Joshua 21:28,) where he commanded him to lead a private life; either in that part of the suburbs which fell to his share, or in some land which he had purchased. I will not, at this time, put thee to death He does not fully pardon him, but reserves to himself a liberty of punishing him afterward if he should see occasion. This he does to keep him in awe, that he might not dare to raise or foment discontents or tumults among the people, which otherwise he might have been inclined to do. Because thou didst bear the ark of the Lord before my father When he thought fit to carry it out with him; and when thou, as high-priest, wast called to attend upon it. Thus Solomon shows his respect to the sacred office. Because thou hast been afflicted, &c. Exposed to all the hardships David endured all the time of his exile under Saul, 1 Samuel 22:20, &c. Here Solomon mixes mercy with justice, and requites Abiathar’s former kindness to David; hereby teaching princes, that they should not write injuries in marble, and benefits in sand and water, as they have been too often observed to do. So Solomon thrust out Abiathar Either from his office, or at least from the execution of it. That he might fulfil the word of the Lord Solomon did not do this that he might fulfil the word of the Lord, but because Abiathar had taken the part of Adonijah. But by Solomon’s being moved to do this on account of Abiathar’s rebellion, the word of the Lord was fulfilled, which he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh. And in this sense we are to take the same kind of expressions in the New Testament, where things are frequently said to be done to fulfil certain prophecies.

Verse 28

1 Kings 2:28 . Then tidings came to Joab Concerning Adonijah’s death, and Abiathar’s deposition. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord This makes it appear that Joab had had a hand in the counsel mentioned 1 Kings 2:22, as Solomon suspected. And caught hold on the horns of the altar It appears from this and some other instances, that it was now become a custom among the Israelites, though by no divine law, to flee to the altar of the Lord, as to an asylum; however, by Solomon’s treatment of Joab on this occasion, it appears, that this privilege was only allowed for some misdemeanours, and not for capital offences, especially murder. And Solomon ( 1Ki 2:31 ) showed that the altar had better be stained with the blood of a murderer, than be polluted with his touch, in seeking an asylum from it, and thereby escaping the punishment which the divine laws required to be inflicted on him.

Verses 29-30

1 Kings 2:29-30. Go, fall upon him Namely if he will not come out from thence, as I foresee he will not. Thus saith the king, Come forth That the king gave this command, though it be not mentioned before, is evident, both from the nature of the thing, for Solomon would not pollute the altar without necessity, and from Benaiah’s affirmation of it; for why should he tell a lie without a cause? It appears, also, from his returning to the king for new orders, upon Joab’s resolution not to come out thence, He said, Nay, but I will die here For he supposed, either that Solomon would not defile that place with his blood, but would spare him for his respect to it, as he had done Adonijah; or, he had a superstitious conceit, that his dying there might give his guilty and miserable soul some advantage.

Verse 31

1 Kings 2:31. Do as he hath said Kill him, though he be there; take him from that place, and then kill him: for Exodus 21:14, doth not command the ruler to kill the murderer there, but to remove him thence; to take him from the altar, that he may die. That thou mayest take away the innocent blood from me Kings or judges owe that justice to God, whose vicegerents they are, as to inflict those punishments on offenders which the divine laws require them to inflict: or otherwise, the punishment due to the offenders may with justice fall upon their own heads, as, by not executing the punishment, they, in some measure, give their approbation to the crime.

Verses 32-34

1 Kings 2:32-34. The Lord shall return his blood The guilt of the blood which he hath shed. Upon his own head Shall make him alone bear the punishment of his iniquity. Who fell upon two men more righteous than he Of more ingenuous and generous tempers, abhorring such treacherous practices; and both of them devoted to, and employed in my father’s service. Prejudice, however, and anger seem here too much to have dictated Solomon’s expressions; for, it is certain, Joab had always been a firm friend to David, and had done him considerable service at a time when both Abner and Amasa had acted against him. Upon the head of his seed for ever Either as long as he shall have a posterity, or for a long time, as that phrase is frequently used. So that Solomon here pronounces that Joab’s own death should not expiate his guilt; but that his posterity should suffer for it in future generations, according to what David had said, 2 Samuel 3:28-29. If Solomon spoke by inspiration of God when he uttered these words, no doubt the prediction was fulfilled, and God visited the sins of the father upon the children, as he often does, when the children tread in their progenitors’ sinful steps. But whether, or how far, this was the case, the Scriptures give us no information. But upon David and upon his seed shall there be peace In and by this execution of justice upon Joab and such malefactors, my throne shall be established, and God will bless me and mine with peace and prosperity, He was buried in his own house That is, in some ground belonging and adjoining to his house, and accounted a part of the mansion. In the wilderness So they called those parts of the country which were but thinly inhabited.

Verse 36

1 Kings 2:36. Go not forth thence any whither Solomon, it is likely, suspected Shimei’s loyalty and fidelity, and therefore ordered this, 1st, for his own security. For by confining him to the royal city, he would have him always under his eye, and in a place where, as in a public theatre, all his words and actions would be narrowly observed. And by removing him from that part of the country where his kindred, and estates, and interest lay, to a place where he was almost a stranger, and yet sufficiently odious for his former and never to be forgotten insolence toward his lord and king, he would be rendered utterly incapable of raising any tumults or seditions. Solomon enjoined this, 2d, as a kind of penalty for his former wickedness, wherein yet there was more mercy than justice, and from which David had not promised him any security, but had only given him his life for the present, or during his own life and reign.

Verse 37

1 Kings 2:37. In the day thou passest over the brook Kidron, &c. Which Solomon mentions, because it was in the way to Bahurim, where Shimei’s former and settled habitation was, as appears by comparing 2 Samuel 15:23, with 1 Kings 16:5. But Solomon’s meaning was, and so, no doubt, was understood by Shimei, that if he went out of Jerusalem any way, to a greater distance than Kidron was from thence, he should die for it; for when he went to Gath, after his servants, he went not over Kidron, but the direct contrary way, that city lying westward of Jerusalem, as Kidron did eastward. Thy blood shall be upon thine own head The blame and guilt of thy blood shall lie upon thyself only. In other words, his death should be owing to himself only, as the condition of his holding his life was known to him and accepted by him, as appears from the next verse.

Verse 38

1 Kings 2:38. The saying is good Thy sentence is much more merciful than I expected or deserve. As my lord hath said, so will thy servant do And it appears from 1 Kings 2:42-43, that he not only promised this, but confirmed his promise by an oath, being required by Solomon so to do.

Verses 39-40

1 Kings 2:39-40. Achish king of Gath A king, but subject and tributary, first to David, and then to Solomon: permitted to enjoy the title and honour of a king, but not the full power: whence it was, that Achish could not keep these servants, though they had fled to him for protection; but suffered Shimei to take them away from his royal city. Shimei arose and went to Gath to seek his servants In three years’ time he thought Solomon might have forgotten his injunction, or he presumed he would not hold him strictly to it, especially since he did not go from Jerusalem for his pleasure, but to recover what he had lost, which he thought was pardonable, these servants being probably worth a great deal of money. “By seeking his servants,” says Bishop Hall, “he lost himself. These earthly things either are, or should be, our servants. How commonly do we see men run out of the bounds set by God’s laws, to hunt after them, till their souls incur a fearful judgment!”

Verses 43-44

1 Kings 2:43-44. Why hast thou not kept the oath of the Lord? He lay under the guilt of two crimes: of disobeying the king’s express command, and violating his oath to God, which latter Solomon terms the oath of the Lord, because it was taken in the Lord’s presence, and the Lord was called upon as a witness of it, and as the avenger of all such violations, and because the law of the Lord obliged him to the performance of it. The wickedness which thy heart is privy to For which thine own conscience accuseth thee, and there is no need of other witnesses. The Lord shall return God hath punished thee for thy former wickedness, by suffering thee to expose thyself to thy deserved death.

Verses 45-46

1 Kings 2:45-46 . The throne of David To which Shimei had wished confusion; the royal power and dignity conferred upon him and his heirs. Shall be established By the execution of such righteous judgments as this. Before the Lord for ever In the presence of that God who is both an observer and rewarder of all such righteous actions; or under his inspection, and by his blessing. Which went out Carrying Shimei along with him to the place of execution, which was to be in the king’s presence. The kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon His secret and worst enemies being taken out of the way.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-2.html. 1857.
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