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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 2

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 6

1 Kings 2:6. Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace David's dying order 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 in the course of these notes. Many reasons concurred to prevent David's calling him to an account; but it is plain, that he could not, consistently with the law, have forgiven him, if he had been so inclined. 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 a time of peace it was safe, because Joab's power was then upon the decline. Joab was ambitious, enterprising, and restless, and, not having 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 ambitious views, which were insatiable. We may consider this transaction in another light: we may consider Joab as relative to David in his public capacity. Now David, in his public capacity, was king of Israel: Joab, in his public capacity, stood related to him as his general, and assisted him, and adhered to him in his extremities. David therefore, in his public capacity, was obliged by the laws of God and man to punish assassinations and murders; and Joab in his public capacity too, as general, was an assassin and murderer; and therefore, David in his public capacity, as king, was obliged to punish Joab with death in his public capacity as general, assassin, and murderer. Though Joab had been his faithful general, and frequently assisted David in his extremities, private obligations are in their nature inferior, and ought to give way to public ones; and the yielding up of such an offender to public justice, when personal obligations might have been pleaded in his favour, was a nobler sacrifice in its nature, and renders David's character as a prince the more illustrious. In this light we must commend the master, who died meditating and ordering the punishment of a servant, who, by basely stabbing two worthier men than himself, forfeited the protection of his king and country, and cancelled all the obligations which could arise from his former services. It should be added, that whatever Joab's past services were to David, and however faithfully he had formerly been attached to him, yet he had now been engaged in a conspiracy to depose him, and to set aside the intended succession to the crown, and had actually proclaimed Adonijah king, during his father's life. This was adding rebellion to murder. What was David to do? Was he to have forgiven him at his last hours, in order to manifest his own charity? No! For if a prince's charity influences him, living or dying, to pardon repeated offences, inconsistent with the public safety, it is folly and weakness, and not virtuous charity; it is cruelty to his people, instead of real generosity and goodness. David had not this charity, and it heightens his character that he had not. His last charge to Solomon shews his inviolable regard to justice, by positively ordering the execution of a murderer too powerful for himself to punish; and he would neither have been a wise nor a righteous prince had he forgotten or failed to do it.

Verses 8-9

1 Kings 2:8-9. Thou hast—Shimei—his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood The reader will not forget who Shimei was; see 2 Samuel 16:5; 2 Samuel 19:16. It appears by the expression, Behold, thou hast with thee, that he was now in Jerusalem; and therefore David thought this a proper opportunity for confining him, that he might not spread disaffection to Solomon's government among those of his own tribe, or of any of the other tribes of Israel: a precaution the more necessary in the infancy of Solomon's reign, as some of his brethren were inclined to dispute with him the succession to the crown; and it is far from being improbable, that he was in the party with Adonijah against Solomon, as he was in that of Absalom against David: and this is the true reason of those words, But do not thou hold him guiltless; 1:e. "Though I forgave him, and swore to him that he should not die, do not thou look on him as an innocent man, that is reconciled to my family, and thy succession to the throne of Israel: he is Shimei still, and wants nothing but a fair opportunity to shew it. Clear him not, therefore, as I did, if thou findest him guilty of any malpractices; 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: "He then," says he, "obtained a promise of security from me; but do thou, when thou canst find a just cause, punish him." Farther, David telling Solomon that he sware to Shimei, that 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 which he himself had solemnly forgiven: for, can any one imagine that David would tell Solomon 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 intended that Solomon should have immediately put him to death, there would be neither reason nor sense in the words, thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him. Now 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, that Solomon did not understand his father in this 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. By the way, let it be observed, that after Shimei's confession of his fault, Abishai asked, shall not Shimei be put to death, because he cursed the Lord's anointed? meaning "be put to death instantly," as appears from David's answer, shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? Do not I know that I am this day king over Israel? Therefore the king said to Shimei, Thou shalt not die; and the king sware to him; viz. that he should nor then, or that day, or at that time, be put to the sword. And it is observable, that the Arabic version expressly mentions this circumstance: "Thou shalt not die this day." This was certainly all that the king declared to Abishai, that as he was that day restored to the exercise of his regal power, no man should that day be put to death; and therefore he swore to Shimei, that he should not then die. So again, in David's direction to Solomon, the same version has the same word: "I sware to him by God, I will not put thee to the sword this day." And indeed nothing farther can certainly be collected from the words, as they stand connected, but that David reprieved Shimei from immediate execution, and left himself at liberty at any other time to call him to an account for the outrage and treason he had been guilty of; and therefore David violated no oath, if he actually ordered Solomon to put him to death as a dangerous enemy to his person and government; and much less still if, for the same reason, he advised him to keep a strict watch over Shimei, and put him to death only if, on any new offence, he should again forfeit his life: and this I hope has been made appear to be the truth of the case. 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: 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. 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; and 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 to 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. Dr. Delaney thinks this verse should be rendered, 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. See Waterland's Script. Vind. part 1: p. 100. Le Clerc and Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—David, the great, the good, now feels the approaches of death, and improves the moment which remains by giving instructions to his son.

1. He prefaces his charge to him with the mortality of his condition; and, while he mentions his own death, reminds him that it was the way of all flesh. Kings must die, and after death is judgment, where they must answer for their administration before the King of kings.
2. He urges him to a strict adherence to God and his blessed service, and not to be discouraged by any difficulties, but approve himself a man of God, faithful and true, and then he might be assured of prosperity, and the continuance of the Divine blessing upon himself and his posterity, according to the promise that God had made him. Note; (1.) They who would be faithful to God, have need of courage; and a king who would be a man of God, needs a tenfold portion of strength and grace. (2.) If we are obedient to God's commands, we may confidently expect the fulfilment of his promises. (3.) The best advice that dying parents can give their children, and the surest to promote their happiness, is, to charge them to walk in God's ways, the end of which will be peace and joy.

3. He gives him particular directions concerning Joab, Barzillai's sons, and Shimei. Joab, though too great for David to punish, is referred to Solomon's wisdom and justice. His treacherous murders ought not to be forgotten. Shimei's crime also, though during David's life, for his oath's sake, passed by, must not be forgotten. His very grievous curse shewed what spirit he was of, and his turbulent spirit would probably again provoke the judgment that he had once escaped. The death that he had deserved would then overtake him, and his grey locks must be no protection for his guilt. Note; (1.) Though long impunity may make the sinner vainly think that the bitterness of death is past, yet the day of recompence is at hand. (2.) The cry of blood, though long stifled, after many years strangely breaks out at last.—Barzillai's kindness is never to be forgotten, and his son must study to make his children an ample return, and place them among his best friends at his table. Note; A grateful heart never forgets old kindnesses: even the children of our friends, for their sakes, should share our regard.

4. When he had finished his charge, David closed his eyes, and slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city where he dwelt, after a reign of forty years, the odd six months not being reckoned. He died, according to Bishop Usher, A.M. 2990, and before Christ's birth 1014. Note; (1.) The sweetest sleep of a good man is the sleep of death, where all his troubles are for ever forgotten. (2.) Kings who build palaces, should not forget their tombs; a small space must shortly contain all their greatness.

Verse 19

1 Kings 2:19. And she sat on his right hand Nothing can be more respectful than the behaviour of Solomon to his mother; nor could he have shewn her more honour than to seat her on his right hand: for in those times to seat a person on the right hand, was to equal them with one's self, and to make them partakers of the same rank, dignity, and power. See Psalms 110:1.

Verse 22

1 Kings 2:22. Ask for him the kingdom also That is, "Ask, I say, the kingdom for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah, by whose counsel he endeavours to invade the kingdom:" which is as much as to say, "If Abishag be given to him, all the people will conclude that the kingdom belongs to him." The Hebrews say, it is not lawful for any man to take a woman who has belonged to a king, unless he be a king. It is evident from the 28th verse, (where we are told that Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom,) that he was privy to this counsel, and therefore as conscious of his guilt, he fled to the horns of the altar; and as Solomon, doubtless, very well knew the evil purposes of Adonijah and his brother conspirators, no imputation of cruelty can be laid against him for taking off an incorrigible rebel. Adonijah indeed, had he lived under our constitution, 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, he might send immediately and have him dispatched; though we cannot but say, that it had been more to his commendation, had he shewed more clemency, and spared his life.

Verse 25

1 Kings 2:25. Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada It was formerly very customary among princes to employ their officers, or greatest confidants, in such executions. Among the Romans, the soldiers were always the persons who carried to prison, to torture, or to execution, such as were found guilty of any offence; and this Tertullian makes an argument to dissuade Christians from engaging in the wars, lest thereby they should be obliged to imprison, punish, or execute malefactors. In Dan 2:24 we read, that Nebuchadnezzar sent Arioch, who was chief commander of his troops, to destroy the wise men of Babylon, because they could not interpret his dream; and therefore we need less wonder, that we find Solomon employing Benaiah, the captain of the guard, on the like office: but whether he did not first drag Joab (1 Kings 2:34.) from the altar, before he slew him, for fear of polluting the holy place with blood, or whether Solomon did not rather think fit to have him killed even at the altar, and let all men see that no place, though never so sacred, should secure any man from the hand of justice, commentators have not agreed. See Exodus 21:14.

Verse 26

1 Kings 2:26. And unto Abiathar—said the king, Get thee to Anathoth, &c.— How far the high-priest Abiathar was concerned in the plot against Solomon, the sacred history does not particularly inform us: but such was the reverence paid to the sacerdotal character, that Solomon would have hardly dared to have deposed such a one, had not the constitution of the nation authorized him to do so. When Abiathar, by his conspiracy, had merited severe punishment, Solomon might lawfully take from him all the revenues of his place, as well as the liberty of officiating in it: but the sacerdotal office, which he received from God, and to which he was anointed, he could not alienate; and therefore we may observe, that after his deprivation, and even when Zadok was in possession of his place, he is nevertheless still mentioned under the style and title of the priest; ch. 1 Kings 4:4. The truth is, there is a great deal of difference between depriving a man of the dignity and of the exercise of his function in such a determinate place, and taking from him an authority which was given him by God, and the profits and emoluments of which were the gifts of the crown or the nation. The former of these Solomon could not do; and the latter, it is probable, he was the rather incited to do, out of regard to the prophesy of Samuel, wherein he foretold Eli, from whom Abiathar was descended, that the Lord would translate the priesthood from his to another family; as he now did in the person of Zadok, who was of the house of Eleazar, as Eli was of that of Ithamar; so that in this way did the priesthood revert to its ancient channel. See Calmet and Stackhouse.

REFLECTIONS.—1. Abiathar is degraded, though indeed he deserved death, for his treason and opposition to the declared will of that God at whose altar he served: and thus at last was the threatening against the house of Eli fulfilled, and the priesthood translated from his family into the line of Eleazar. Note; (1.) God's word will be fulfilled in its season, though sometimes he endures long. (2.) Rebellion in a priest, who should teach loyalty, is doubly criminal.

2. Joab is executed. Justly expecting that his lot would fall next, he seeks to save his life by flying to the horns of the altar. Thither Benaiah is ordered to follow him, and (because Joab refused to depart thence) to slay him there. Such an exemplary piece of justice, Solomon well concludes would be the removal of the guilt of blood from his own house, which, if unpunished, would cry against the negligent sword of the magistrate; and the removal of so turbulent a spirit as Joab's would conduce also to the peace of the kingdom. Thus fell Joab, according to David's orders, and was buried at his country-seat, which lay in the wilderness. Note; (1.) Nothing can appease the cries of innocent blood, but the blood of the murderer. (2.) Wicked men entail a curse on their posterity. (3.) A negligent magistrate will bear the sin of the blood that he is not careful to avenge. (4.) Though human laws cannot be satisfied with any thing less than blood for blood, yet if the greatest sinner, if even a murderer, fly to the horns of the true altar, to the atoning blood of the bleeding Lamb of God, he shall never be dragged thence.

Verse 46

1 Kings 2:46. Went out, and fell upon him The reader is desired to recur to the defence of David's charge relating to Joab and Shimei, as given above. It is there asserted, that the charge was different, as it respected each of them. This difference is farther evident from the different manner in which Solomon treated them. If the charge had been the same in respect to Shimei, as it was as to Joab, what should have prevented Solomon from immediately executing Shimei as well as Joab? But this Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that he could not do; for David told him, that he had pardoned Shimei to prevent his execution; because his offence was personal, and David had a right to forgive it. But he had never pardoned Joab, nor in justice could do it, because he was deserving of death for repeated murders, by the laws of God and man. Solomon, therefore, acted wisely and justly in reference to Shimei by sparing him, but honourably confining him, that he might have the proper security for his future good behaviour. Shimei, sensible of the king's kindness, tells him, 1 Kings 2:38. The saying is good, &c. And when, upon breaking his oath, he was sent for by Solomon, the king reproached him with his perjury, in acting contrary to the condition of life which he himself had owned to be just and equitable, and for the wickedness which his heart was privy to, in his conduct to his father David; the mercy which had been shewed him in the pardon of that offence aggravating his fresh crime in violating his oath, and in transgressing the king's command; a crime which shewed that he was of a restless spirit, and incapable of being restrained within due bounds by the most solemn oaths, or any sense of interest, gratitude, or duty whatsoever. Solomon adds, 1 Kings 2:44-45. The Lord shall return thy wickedness, &c. plainly intimating, that Solomon now cut him off, as an act of prudence and justice to a restless implacable enemy to his person and government, and saw it necessary for establishing the throne of David before the Lord. Note; (1.) Perjury is a crime for which the avenging God will visit. (2.) The heart is privy to much more wickedness than ever appeared without. (3.) God knoweth the secrets of the heart, and will call men to account for their secret sins. (4.) The execution of the wicked is the establishment of the king's throne. (5.) When the Lord Jesus Christ shall arise to judgment, he will remember the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against himself, his cause, and people, and their own tongues shall fall on them to their eternal ruin.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/1-kings-2.html. 1801-1803.
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