Click to donate today!
THE LAST WORDS AND DEATH OF DAVID.—The death of David, and of course the charge which preceded it, did not follow immediately (as the casual reader might be tempted to suppose) on the events related in 1 Kings 1:1-53. We find from 1 Chronicles 23-29:23, that the aged king recovered sufficient strength to leave his sick room, to gather round him the princes of Israel (1 Chronicles 23:9), to make a number of fresh arrangements respecting the priests and Levites and the services of the sanctuary, and even to "stand up upon his feet" (1 Chronicles 28:2) and address a large assembly respecting the erection and adornment of the Temple. And once more, in strains which are among the noblest and sweetest which the sweet singer of Israel ever penned, he "blessed the Lord before all the congregation" (1 Chronicles 29:10. sqq.); he also instituted festal sacrifices on a scale of great magnificence, and witnessed a second and probably more formal and public consecration of his son to the kingly office (1 Chronicles 29:21, 1Ch 29:22; cf. 1 Samuel 11:15; 2 Samuel 5:3). But the recovery cannot have been otherwise than transient—it was but the sudden brightening of the flame before it dies out in the socket—and we see him in this second chapter, once more in the ante-chamber of death. Now, he has already given his parting charge to the princes of the realm, and has publicly exhorted Solomon to discharge his duties faithfully (2 Chronicles 28:9, 2 Chronicles 28:10); but as he feels the end approaching, he summons him to his side to impart to him his last and private instructions, and addresses him thus:
1 Kings 2:1
I go the way [lit; I am walking (same word as in 1 Kings 2:3) in the way] of all the earth [i.e; of all the sons of earth, all mankind (of. 1 Samuel 17:46; 1 Kings 10:24; Psalms 66:4, etc.) The path to Sheol, the path which all his forefathers, and untold millions more, have trod, he is treading it now. The words sound like a reminiscence of Jos 23:1-16 :24. Perhaps, too, the thought of Joshua suggested to his mind the next words]: but be thou strong, and be a man. [Similar, though not identical, words were four times addressed to Joshua (Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18), and David may well have thought that his son, in entering upon his difficult duties, was not at all unlike Joshua when he succeeded Moses in the leadership of Israel, and that he needed similar encouragement. It is not necessary to suppose, as Canon Rawlinson does, that in the words, "show thyself a man," we have a reference to Solomon's youth; for words precisely similar were addressed to each other by the Philistines at Aphek (1 Samuel 4:9). The age of Solomon at his accession is very doubtful. David said, "Solomon my son is young and tender" (1 Chronicles 22:5; 1 Chronicles 29:1); and Solomon says of himself, "I am a little child" נַעַר קָטֹן (1 Kings 3:7). Josephus, probably reflecting the tradition of his time, fixes his age at fourteen; Eupolemus at twelve. I incline to think that the words "young and tender" almost forbid the favourite opinion that he was about twenty.]
1 Kings 2:3
And keep the charge [lit; "watch the watch" (custodies custodiam Jehovae), or, "serve the service." Bähr paraphrases, "be a true watcher in the service of Jehovah." The words are constantly employed to denote a strict performance of the service of the tabernacle or of the duties of the priests and Levites (Le 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 18:30; Numbers 1:53; Numbers 3:7, Numbers 3:8, Numbers 3:25, Numbers 3:28, Numbers 3:32, Numbers 3:38; Numbers 31:30; 1 Chronicles 23:32, etc.; also Genesis 26:5). "The reference," says Rawlinson, "is to the charge given to all the kings in Deuteronomy 17:18-20." But there is no necessity for restricting it to that one injunction. What the charge is is explained presently] of the Lord thy God to walk in His ways, to keep [same word] His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and His testimonies [it is impossible to draw any clear and sharp distinction between these four words, as the older expositors do. "The phrase is derived from the Pentateuch" (Wordsworth). The force of the accumulation of practically synonymous terms is to represent the law in its entirety ("Die Totalitat des Gesetzes," Keil); cf. Deuteronomy 5:31, Deuteronomy 8:11, and especially Psalms 119:1-176.], that thou mayest prosper. [The marginal rendering, "do wisely," is preferred by some (Keil, e.g.); but the translation of the text has the authority of Gesenius and others on its side, and gives a better meaning. "The context evidently requires 'prosper' here, as in Joshua 1:7" (Rawlinson). "That thou mayest … do wisely" is a very lame and impotent conclusion to Joshua 1:3. We have here an evident reminiscence of Joshua 1:7; possibly also of Deuteronomy 29:9. David was unquestionably well versed in the Scriptures of that age, of which every king was commanded to make a copy.
1 Kings 2:4
That the Lord may continue [rather, "establish" (ut confirmet), as it is rendered in 2 Samuel 7:25, where this same word of promise is spoken of. Cf. 1 Kings 8:26] His word which He spake concerning me [by the mouth of Nathan, 2 Samuel 7:12-17 (cf. Psalms 89:4); or David may refer to some subsequent promise made to him directly. In the promise of 2 Samuel 7:1-29. there is no mention of any stipulations, "If thy children," etc. But both here and in Psa 122:1-9 :12, and in 1 Kings 8:25, special prominence is given to the condition (dum se bene gesserint), which no doubt was understood, if not expressed, when the promise was first made], saying, If thy children take heed to [lit; "keep," same word as in 1 Kings 8:2, 1 Kings 8:3] their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul there shall not fail thee [lit; "be cut off to thee," as marg. (cf. 1 Samuel 2:29; Joshua 9:23). This word does not occur in the original promise made through Nathan. But it does occur in subsequent versions of the promise, 1Ki 8:25, 1 Kings 9:5, as well as here—a strong presumption that the promise must have been repeated to David in another shape], said he, a man on the throne of Israel.
But this thought—that the permanence of his dynasty depended on the faithful observance of the law as it is written in the book of Moses (i.e; in all its details), seems to have reminded the dying man that he himself had not always kept the statutes he was urging his successor to keep. It had been his duty as king, as the power ordained of God, to visit all violations of the law of God with their appropriate penalties; and this duty, in some instances at least, had been neglected. For the law of Moses, reaffirming the primaeval law which formed part of the so called "precepts of Noah" (Genesis 6:1-22)—that ix. blood must be expiated by blood—enjoined, with singular emphasis and distinctness, the death of the murderer (Numbers 35:16, Numbers 35:17, Numbers 35:18, Numbers 35:19, Numbers 35:30-33; Exodus 21:14). It declared that so long as murder remained unpunished, the whole land was defiled and under a curse (Numbers 35:33). And it gave the king no power to pardon, no discretion in the matter. Until the red stain of blood was washed out "by the blood of him that shed it" the Divine Justice was not satisfied, and a famine or pestilence or sword might smite the land. Now, David knew all this: he could not fail to know it, for he had seen his country, a few years before, visited by a famine because of the unavenged blood of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1). And yet, one notorious and infamous murderer had not been put to death. The assassin of Abner and of Amasa still polluted the earth, still occupied a distinguished position, and defied punishment. But if the law of Moses was to be kept, then, whatever it might cost, and however painful it might be (Deuteronomy 19:13), he must die; and David, for the welfare of his kingdom, the stability of his throne, and above all, the honour of God, must require his death. No doubt it had often burdened his mind, especially during these last days of feebleness, the thought that punishment had been so long delayed; and therefore, as he sees the end approaching, he feels that he must enjoin upon his successor the fulfilment of that duty which he had been too "weak" to discharge (2 Samuel 3:39). Hence he proceeds,
1 Kings 2:5
"Moreover, thou knowest also what Joab, the son of Zeruiah [there is no "emphasis on these words: he who was mine own sister's son," as Wordsworth, see on 1:113, did to me and [this last word has no place in the original, and should be left out, as it is misleading. It makes David demand the death of Joab partly because of the private injuries he had suffered at his hands, and partly because of his two brutal murders mentioned presently. But this is just what David did not do; for he is careful to exclude all mention of his private wrongs. It is true, he says, "what Job did to me," but that is because "the sovereign is smitten in the subject" (Bp. Hall), and because the first of these murders had caused David to be suspected of complicity, while each had deprived him of an able officer. And the words that follow] what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel [these words are clearly explicative of the "what he did to me." Only thus can we explain the absence of the "and"] unto Abner the son of Jether [2 Samuel 3:27. This was one of those foul murders to which the law expressly denied any right of sanctuary, for it was "with guile" (Exodus 21:14). Joab "took Abner aside in the gate to speak with him peaceably, and smote him there in the abdomen"], and unto Amasa the son of Jether [or Ithra. In 2 Samuel 27:24, Ithra is called "an Israelite," an obvious mistake for "Ishmaelite," as indeed it stands in 1 Chronicles 2:17. Amasa's mother, Abigail, was sister of David and Zeruiah; Amasa, consequently, was Joab's first cousin. This murder was even fouler than that of Abner. Here there were ties of blood; they were companions in arms, and there was no pretence of a vendetta], whom he slew and shed [lit; "put," a somewhat strange expression. It almost looks as if עָלָיו, "upon him," had dropped out. The meaning "make," which Keil assigns to שִׂים is not borne out by his references, Deuteronomy 14:1; Exodus 10:2. "Showed," "displayed," is nearer the original], the blood of war in peace [the meaning is obvious. Blood might lawfully be shed in time of war, in fair fight; and Joab might have slain the two captains in battle without guilt. But he slew them when they were at peace with him and unprepared, by treachery], and put the blood of war [the LXX. has αἷμα ἀθῶον, "innocent blood"] upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet [we are not to suppose that the girdle and sandal are mentioned as "die Zeichen des Kriegerstandes" (Bähr), i.e; military insignia; nor yet that the idea is "from the girdle to the sandal" (Ewald), i.e; copiously. These are, usual (hardly "principal," as Keil) articles of Eastern dress, of the civilian's as well as of the soldier's, and these two are mentioned because, no doubt, the horrible details of the two murders, and especially of the last (see 2 Samuel 20:8), had been reported to David. He had been told at the time how the blood of Amasa had spurted on to the girdle of Joab, and streamed down into his sandals, and these details, which no doubt made a deep impression upon his mind, are recited here to show how dastardly and treacherous was the deed, and how thoroughly Joab was stained with innocent blood, blood which cried to heaven for vengeance (Genesis 4:10)].
1 Kings 2:6
Do therefore according to thy wisdom [cf. Proverbs 20:26. It needed great discretion in exacting the punishment of death in the ease of one who was so powerful, who had such influence with the army and the people, whose crimes had been passed over for so long a time, to whom David was so much indebted—Joab had partly won and had twice preserved for him his crown—and to whom he was allied by ties of blood. To act precipitately or unwisely might provoke a revolution], and let not his hoar head [see on Proverbs 20:9. Joab, though David's nephew, could not have been much his junior, and David was now seventy] go down to the grave in peace. [He must die a violent, not a natural death, as Corn. a Lap. This expression, no doubt, looks vindictive, but that is solely because we forget the character of the Old Testament dispensation, the position of David as king (as the authorized dispenser of punishments, and as responsible to God for dispensing them without fear or favour), and the principles of the Mosaic code (as a lex talionis, demanding blood for blood, and requiring the magistrates and people to purge themselves of the guilt of blood by demanding "the blood of him that shed it"). Let these considerations be borne in mind, and there is absolutely no warrant for charging David with malevolence. Wordsworth lays stress on the fact that Joab had not repented of his crimes. But we need have recourse to no such suppositions. The Jewish law afforded no place of repentance to the murderer. No amount of contrition would cleanse the land of blood. The temporal penalty must be paid. In the case of David himself, it was only commuted by special revelation (2 Samuel 12:10, 2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:14), not remitted.
1 Kings 2:7
And to the sons of Barzillai [the "Beni-Barzillai" would include son, or sons, and all other descendants. It is highly probable, though it is not expressly stated, that Chimham was the son of Bar-zillai (2 Samuel 19:37). Rawlinson says, "Who the other sons were is not known." It would be more correct to say that we do not know whether there were any other sons. The family was still existing temp. Ezra (Ezra 2:61), where, it is worth noticing, we read of the daughters of Barzillai (cf. Nehemiah 7:63). In Jeremiah 41:17, we read of the "habitation (גֵּדוּת, caravanserai, khan) of Chemoham," where the Keri has Chimham. It has been argued from the mention of this name, and the fact that their khan was near Bethlehem, that David or Solomon gave the family land there], and let them be of those that eat at thy table [i.e; of those who have their sustenance from the royal table, not necessarily at it (Keil); cf. Daniel 1:5; 2 Kings 25:29. Presence at the table is expressed by עַל שֻׂלְחָן (2 Samuel 11:1-27, 2 Samuel 12:1-31). It was esteemed an essential part of royal munificence throughout the East that the king should feed a large number of retainers and dependants. Cf. the account of Solomon's daffy provision in 1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23; also 2 Samuel 19:28; Judges 1:7]; for so [i.e; in like manner, with food]; they came to me [lit; "came near." The Hebrew קָרַב often includes, as here, the idea of succour. Cf. Psalms 69:19; Lamentations 3:57. Barzillai certainly came (2 Samuel 17:27), and probably Chimham, but the Speaker's Commentary is mistaken when it says that "Chimham is mentioned as present." He was present at the return of David (2 Samuel 19:31, 2 Samuel 19:38, but not necessarily before] when I fled because of [lit; "from the face of "] Absalom thy brother.
The mention of Absalom, and those terrible days of revolt and anarchy, when he was constrained to flee for his life, seems to have reminded the dying king of one of the bitterest ingredients of that bitter cup of shame and suffering—the cruel curses of Shimei. He remembers that the sin of Shimei, which was nothing else than treason and blasphemy, has so far escaped punishment. In a moment of generous enthusiasm, he had included Shimei in the general amnesty which he proclaimed on his return (2 Samuel 19:23). He had thought, no doubt, at the time only of the offence against himself; he had forgotten his sacred and representative character as "the Lord's anointed;" or if he had remembered it (2 Samuel 19:21) the emotions of that memorable day had obscured or perverted his sense of justice and duty. But he has since realized—and the thought weighs upon his conscience in the chamber of death—that he then pardoned what he had no power to pardon, viz; a sin to which the Mosaic law attached the penalty of death. For blasphemy, as for murder, there was no expiation short of the death of the blasphemer (Le 2 Samuel 24:14-16; cf. 1 Kings 21:10, 1 Kings 21:13); and blasphemy, like murder, though not perhaps to the same extent, involved those who heard it in its guilt, until they had discharged themselves of their sin upon the head of the guilty (Le 2 Samuel 14:14; cf. Le 2 Samuel 5:1). But Shimei, so far from having suffered the penalty of the law, had been twice protected against it; twice preserved alive, in defiance of law, by the supreme magistrate, the executor of law. And David, who has been charging his son to keep the law, now realizes that he himself has been a law breaker. He has kept his oath, sworn to his own or his people's hurt, and he will keep it to the end. But Solomon is under no such obligation. He can demand the long arrears of justice, none the less due because of the time that has elapsed and the royal laches ("nullum tempus occurrit regi"); he can deal with the blasphemer as the law directs, and this David now charges him to do.
1 Kings 2:8
And, behold, thou hast with thee [Bähr understands by עִמְּךָ, "near thee," (in deiner Nahe) because Bahurim was near Jerusalem. Keil gathers from this word that Shimei "was living at that time in Jerusalem," and refers to 1 Kings 2:36, which, if anything, implies that he was not. But it is worth suggesting whether Shimei may not be the Shimei to whom reference is made in 1 Kings 1:8. We there find Shimei and Rei mentioned as firm adherents of Solomon at the time of Adonijah's rising, and in these words, they "were not with Adonijah." Surely it is not an unfair presumption—if there is nothing to rebut it—that the Shimei subsequently mentioned as "with" Solomon is the same person. But it has been objected (e.g; by Kitto) that the false part that Shimei played at the time of Absalom's revolt would have forever prevented his being recognized and mentioned as one of Solomon's supporters. I very much doubt it. The great influence which Shimei possessed must be taken into account. Nothing shows that influence more clearly than the fact that on the day of David's restoration, despite the part he had taken, and the possible disgrace and danger that awaited him, he could still command the attendance of one thousand men of Benjamin (2 Samuel 19:17). Probably the secret of his influence lay in the fact that he was "of the family of the house of Saul," and possibly, owing to the insignificance of Saul's descendants, was the mainstay and chief representative of that house. And if so, there is nothing at all surprising in the mention of the fact that he was "not with Adonijah," and was subsequently "with" Solomon. It may have been a matter of great consequence at that critical time, which side Shimei—and the thousand or more Benjamites at his back—espoused. And if he did then declare for Solomon, it could hardly fail to procure him some amount of favour and consideration. He would thenceforward rank amongst the friends of the young king, and the words "thou hast with thee" would accurately describe his position] Shimei, the son of Gera [another Shimei, the son of Elah, is mentioned (1 Kings 4:11) as Solomon's officer in Benjamin. Gera must not be thought of as the "father" of Shimei, except in the sense of ancestor. He was removed from him by many generations, being the son of Bela and the grandson of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21; cf. 1 Chronicles 7:6). Ehud, three hundred years earlier, is also described as "a son of Gera," Judges 3:15], a Benjamite [lit; the Benjamite, meaning that Gera, not Shimei, was the Benjamite. He was well known as the son of Benjamin's firstborn (1 Chronicles 8:1-40 :l), and the head of a house in Benjamin. Professor Gardiner, following the LXX. and Vulg; insists that, בֶּן־הַיְּמִינִי (with the article) can only mean "son of the Jaminite, i.e; of the descendants of Jamin, a son of Simeon." But this is directly contrary to what we read 9 Samuel 16; viz; that Shimei was of "a family of the house of Saul," i.e; a Benjamite. And to this the grammar agrees. Judges 3:15 is an exact parallel, and compare בֵּית־הַלַּחְמִי, 1 Samuel 6:14, 1 Samuel 6:18, and בֵּית־הַלַּחְמִי, 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 17:58] of Bahurim [the name means "The young men." It was some six miles distant from Jerusalem, in Benjamin, and on (or off, as Josephus, Ant. 7.9, 7, implies) the main road to Jericho and the Jordan valley. It may have lain in one of the waddies branching out from the ravine which runs continuously alongside the steep descent to Jericho. The event narrated in 2 Samuel 3:16 as happening at Bahurim may well have served to inflame Shimei's hatred. In spite of his rancorous hostility, however, we gather from 2 Samuel 17:18, that David had some faithful adherents there], which [lit; "and he"] cursed me with a grievous [acc. to Gesenius, al; "strong," i.e; sweeping; Keil, vehement; Thenius, "heillos," flagitious. LXX; κατάραν ὀδυνηρὰν. Vulg; maledictio pessima] curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim [2 Samuel 16:5]; but he came down to meet me at Jordan [lit; the Jordan, i.e; the descender, so called from the rapidity of the stream or from the steep descents which lead to it. The word always has the defin. art.], and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword [2 Samuel 19:23].
1 Kings 2:9
Now therefore [lit; "and now." Possibly the "now" is a note of time in apposition to the "day" of 1 Kings 2:8, or rather the time of David's oath. "I then unadvisedly swam unto him, but now the law must have its course." Probably it is merely inferential,—quae cum ita sint] hold him not guiltless [rather, thou shalt not leave him unpunished (Vatablus, Gesen; Bähr, al.); cf. Exodus 20:7; Jeremiah 30:11]; for thou art a wise man [φρόνιμος rather than σοφός (LXX.) Gesen. renders here, "endued with ability to judge." David clearly desires that wisdom and justice, not malice or passion, should be Solomon's guide], and knowest what thou oughtest to [lit; shalt or shouldest] do to him; but [Heb. and] his hoar head [mentioned, not maliciously, but with the idea that punishment, which had been long delayed, must overtake him nevertheless. The age of Joab and Shimei would make the Divine Nemesis the more conspicuous. Men would "see that there was a God that judgeth in the earth"] bring thou down to the grave with blood. The Auth. Version here needlessly alters the order of the original, which should be followed wherever it can be (and it generally can) without sacrifice of idiom and elegance. In this case the alteration, by the slight prominence it gives to "hoar head" and to "blood," gives a factitious harshness to the sentence. The Hebrew stands thus: "And thou shalt bring down his hoar head with blood to Sheol." This order of the words also exhibits somewhat more clearly the sequence of thought, which is this: "Thou art wise, therefore thou knowest what by law thou shouldest do. What thou shalt do is, thou shalt bring down," etc. It is clear from these words that if David was actuated by malice, by a "passionate desire to punish those who had wronged him" (Plumptre, Dict. Bib; art. "Solomon"), or by "fierce and profound vindictiveness", he was profoundly unconscious of it. If it was "a dark legacy of hate" (ibid.) he was bequeathing to Solomon, then he stands before us in these last hours either as an unctuous hypocrite, or as infatuated and inconsistent to the last degree. That the man who, in his opening words (verse 3), enjoined upon his son, in the most emphatic manner, a strict and literal obedience to the law of Heaven, should in these subsequent words, delivered almost in the same breath, require him to satiate a long-cherished and cruel revenge upon Joab and Shimei (the latter of whom he had twice delivered from death), is an instance of self contradiction which is almost, if not quite, without parallel. But as I have showed elsewhere, at some length, it is a superficial and entirely erroneous view of David's last words, which supposes them to have been inspired by malice or cruelty. His absorbing idea was clearly this, that he had not "kept the charge of the Lord;" that he, the chief magistrate, the "revenger to execute wrath," by sparing Joab and Shimei, the murderer and the blasphemer, both of whose lives were forfeited to justice, had failed in his duty, had weakened the sanctions of law, and compromised the honour of the Most High. He is too old and too weak to execute the sentence of the law now, but for the safety of his people, for the security of his throne, it must be done, and therefore Solomon, who was under no obligation to spare the criminals his father had spared, must be required to do it. Of the Jewish king it might be said with a special propriety, "Rex est lex loquens," and seldom has the voice of law spoken with greater dignity and fidelity than by David in this dying charge. To say, as Harwood does, that "nothing but sophistry can justify his [David's] charge to Solomon, not to let the unfortunate man [Shimei] die in peace," merely shows how imperfectly the writer has entered into the spirit of the theocratic law, that law under which David lived, and by which alone he could be governed and govern others.
1 Kings 2:10
So [Heb. and] David slept [Heb. lay down]. The idea of שָכַב is not that of sleep so much as of the recumbent posture of the dead. It points to the grave rather than to Sheol (Gesen.), though the latter idea is not excluded. Wordsworth (after a Lapide) finds here "an assertion of the doctrine of the existence of the soul after death, and of the resurrection of the body," but it is not in the text] with his fathers, but down to the age of the apostles (Acts 2:29). Probably owing to a misunderstanding of St. Peter's words, "his sepulchre is with us," etc; the Coenaculum is now shown as David's tomb. Josephus says Solomon placed a vast quantity of treasure with the body, three thousand talents of which were taken out by Hyrcanus (Ant. 13.8. 4). He has also a curious story of an attempted plunder of the tomb by Herod (Ant. 16.7. 1)
1 Kings 2:11
And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem [as elsewhere (1 Chronicles 29:27), the historian has disregarded the fraction of a year in giving the length of David's reign. He reigned at Hebron, according to 2 Samuel 5:5, "seven years and six months."
1 Kings 2:1-11
A Jewish deathbed.
A brilliant poet and essayist once summoned his stepson, the young Earl of Warwick, to his bedside, and with perfect dignity and composure bade him mark "how a Christian man can die." In this section, one far greater, and yet in one sense far less, than Addison,—greater as a poet, as a statesman, as a patriot; less, inasmuch as "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,"—beckons us to the chamber of death, and bids us witness the departure of a pious Jew—of a typical Hebrew of the Hebrews. In one sense, David is the greatest figure in the Old Testament. He alone, of all that are born of women, has been called a "man after God's own heart." And more: If Solomon is of all Old Testament characters the most secular, certainly David is by far the most spiritual. Proof: His songs are still chanted in church as well as synagogue, and Christian souls find no fitter expression for their devout longings and aspirations than in the language of his exquisite Psalms. Let us hear his last recorded words. The last utterances of great men are allowed to have a special interest. They have often been intensely characteristic. Let us listen to "the last words of David." Let us carefully notice
(1) What he does say, and no less carefully
(2) What he does not say.
I.. WHAT HE DOES SAY.
1. He says he is not afraid to meet death. His conduct, his demeanour says this. See how calmly he looks it in the face. "I go the way," etc. He hardly knows what death means; knows but little of the life beyond; his hopes and fears are bounded by the pale and shadowy realm of Sheol, but he can trust the living God, and he thinks—he believes—"they cannot cease to live whom God does not cease to love." And so he goes into the gloom and the shadows with the trust of a child that holds the father's hand; he approaches the grave
"As one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
We have a far nobler creed—a livelier hope than his. Jesus Christ has "brought life and immortality to light." We have heard of the rest of Paradise; of the resurrection; of the beatific vision. Shall we then dread to die? Shall we be put to shame by a Jew? The Mohammedan calls death the "terminator of delights and the separator of companions." Socrates said, "Whether it is best to live or die, the gods only know." Shall we act as if we had no better belief? Surely our beneficent religion, and its gospel of immortality, should make us brave to die.
2. He bids us be mindful of our mortality. There are Christians who will not think, will not speak of death. Not so David. He saw the end approaching, and he faced it. It is well we should have from time to time, as we constantly have in daily life, in the dispensations of God's providence, a memento mori. Pagan and Moslem monarchs have had their heralds daily and publicly remind them of their frailty. The ancient Egyptians would bring a mummy to their feasts. The Kaffars ever keep the boards for their coffins in their houses. With their dismal and often hopeless creeds, they yet remember death. Shall we, who know that death is but the gate of life, ostrich like, shut our eyes to it, and all "think all men to be mortal but ourselves?"
3. He teaches us in death to think of duty; to remember those who will come after us—our friends, enemies, church, and country. He leaves a son "young and tender." He is concerned for his piety, for his prosperity; and through him, for the piety and prosperity of the nation. He knows that the words of the dying have weight. He will not depart without a solemn dying charge. It is the last best gift he can bestow. The Christian must not die selfishly. Even in pain and feebleness, he must care for others. If he can, he ought to charge his children and connexions; to warn them, to bless them. Should he be less jealous for their present and eternal welfare, or less concerned for the honour and glory of God, than was this dying Jew?
4. He reminds us that men die as they have lived. David has kept the law, "save in the matter of Uriah," etc. His death is of a piece with his life—it is the natural outcome, the good fruit from a good tree. During life, he has been very zealous for the Lord God of Israel. The ruling passion displays itself in death. The great desire of the man who has kept the law is that his son may keep it. To die well, one must live well. The last struggle works no change in the character. Deathbed repentance is generally delusive. They deceive themselves, who,
"Dying, put on the weeds of Dominic,
Or as Franciscans think to pass disguised."
5. He warns us to set our house in order, to pay our debts and square our accounts before we die. David, we read, "prepared abundantly (for the temple) before his death." He has made royal provision for the house that should be built. But he remembers at last that three debts of his are still undischarged; a debt of gratitude to the sons of Barzillai, a debt of retribution to Joab, and another to Shimei. "Due punishment of malefactors is the debt of authority" (Bp. Hall). He will not, like some, "go on sinning in his grave;" he will have these debts discharged. He cannot depart in peace while they burden his conscience. And we, too, go where "there is neither work, nor device, nor knowledge," where wrongs cannot be redressed, where accounts cannot be settled. Have we any crime unconfessed, or injury unrepaired, any enemy unforgiven? "What thou doest, do quickly." But let us now consider—
II. WHAT DAVID DOES NOT SAY. The silence of Scripture is often golden, is sometimes as instructive as its voices. Here is a case in point. The most spiritual of Old Testament saints—the man after God's own heart—is dying, and he knows it. He gives his son his parting counsels, and what are they? They are all of this world. Observe—
1. There is no mention of a future life; no "hope full of immortality," no talk of reunion, but rather a sad "vale, vale in aeternum vale." The most remarkable feature in David's last words is, that there is not one word about another ]fie. The Christian could not die thus. Even "half-inspired heathens" have expressed a livelier hope—witness Cicero's "O praeclarum diem cum ad illud divimun animorum concilium coetumque proficisear"—and how immeasurably higher than this, again, is St. Paul's desire to depart and be with Christ! "I go the way of all the earth"—it is like the sound of the clods upon the coffin, without the faintest whisper of a "Resurgam." What a contrast between this and the apostle's exultant cry, "Death is swallowed up in victory!" And the very humblest Christian could hardly depart as David did, with absolutely no reference to the realm of the future. There would assuredly be some comforting word about the many mansions, the rest for the weary, the gates of pearl, the streets of fine gold. Of all this David said nothing, neither in life nor death, because he knew nothing. He had hopes, anticipations, convictions almost, as some of the Psalms show, but he had not what the Christian has, the "full assurance of faith," the "sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life." In this respect how much greater was Addison, how much more "full of all blessed conditions" his death. In this respect, every Christian deathbed has a glory and a consecration and a triumph which we miss in the death chamber of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the most saintly and spiritual of an the Jews. As Coleridge,
"Is that a deathbed where the Christian lies?
Yes, but not his; 'tis death itself there dies."
2. There is no idea of a future recompense. Hence, partly, his urgent demand for the punishment of Joab and Shimei. He does not know of a "judgment to come;" of any distribution of rewards and punishments after death. He has been taught that the righteous and the wicked alike are to be "recompensed in the earth," and therefore Joab and Shimei, albeit old and greyheaded, must not die in peace. If they do, justice, he thinks, will be robbed of its due. How different the conception of the Christian! He views with calmness the miscarriage of justice; he sees the wicked in great prosperity; he "bears the whips and scorns of time," "suffers the stings and arrows of outrageous fortune," knowing that this world is not all; that "God is patient because he is eternal," and that "the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain," at the judgment seat of Christ.
3. There was no hope of a kingdom and a crown. David's idea was that he was leaving a kingdom; St. Paul's that he was going to one. "Remove the diadem and take off the crown"—this was the message of death to the Hebrew kings. And to us death brings a crown (Revelation 2:10, Revelation 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12, etc.), a throne (Romans 3:21), a sceptre (Revelation 2:27), a kingdom (Daniel 7:18; Luke 22:29; Hebrews 12:28, etc.) To the Jew death was practically the end of life and of glory; to the Christian it is the beginning of both.
1 Kings 2:1-11
The king, the close of whose chequered and romantic career is narrated in this section, was the pattern king of the Hebrew people, and is in many respects a model for all kings. The portrait drawn here and in the Psalms is a veritable Eikon Basilike, both truer and worthier of regard than that "Portraiture of his sacred Majesty," so famous and so influential in the history of our own country. We see him gathered to his fathers. Let us honestly frame his eulogium.
I. HE WAS ONE OF NATURE'S KINGS. The first king of Israel seems to have been chosen because of his physical, the second because of his moral, qualifications. His was a kingly soul. "Kind hearts are more than coronets"—yes, and more than crowns. Few nobler and greater men have ever lived. Witness his magnanimity, his chivalry, his loyalty, his bravery, his tenderness, his forgiveness of wrongs. See the records of 1 Samuel 16:12, 1 Samuel 16:21; 1Sa 27:1-12 :32-37, 50; 1 Samuel 18:14-16; 1 Samuel 22:23; 1Sa 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:22; 1 Samuel 25:16; 1 Samuel 26:9-25; 2Sa 1:11-15; 2 Samuel 2:5, 2Sa 2:6; 2 Samuel 3:31-39; 2 Samuel 4:9-12; 2Sa 9:1; 2 Samuel 16:10, 2 Samuel 16:12; 2 Samuel 18:33; 2 Samuel 19:22. Such a man, had he lived and died among the sheepfolds, would have been "king of men for all that."
II. HE WAS ONE OF HEAVEN'S KINGS. "The powers that be are ordained of God." All legitimate monarchs reign de jure divino. But not all equally so. He was expressly chosen of God (1 Samuel 16:1; Psalms 89:20), was taken from the sheepfolds and from perilous watches against the lion and the bear to be the viceroy of Heaven. And he proved himself a king after God's own heart. He is the standard with which subsequent monarchs are compared, and by which they are judged, (2 Kings 11:4, 33; 2Ki 15:3-5, 2 Kings 15:11; 2 Kings 14:3, etc.)
III. HE WAS FAITHFUL TO THE KING OF KINGS. "He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only," etc. (1 Kings 15:5). "His heart was perfect with the Lord his God" (1 Kings 11:4). He kept God's commandments and statutes (2 Samuel 19:34). He was qualified to govern by having learnt to obey. He required nothing from his subjects which he did not himself render to his sovereign Lord.
IV. HE FAITHFULLY EXECUTED THE JUDGMENTS OF A KING. The powers that be are appointed "to execute wrath on him that doeth evil." The Church at her altar prays "that they may truly and indifferently minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice." "A wise king scattereth the wicked and bringeth the wheel over them." "The execution of justice on the guilty is essential even to the exercise of mercy to those whose safety depends on the maintenance of the law" (Wordsworth). David was never more kingly than when he "cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD" (Psalms 101:8).
V. HE WAS A KING TO THE LAST. "David did never so wisely and carefully marshal the affairs of God as when he was fixed to the bed of his age and death" (Bp. Hall). It is the king speaks in this dying charge. It was because he was king, and as such owed obedience to the King of kings, and owed protection and the vindication of law to his subjects, that he could not pardon Joab and Shimei. A private person can forgive private wrongs; a king may not forgive public injuries, for he may not give away what is not his to give. It is true the son of David prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers. It is true that we are to forgive those who have wronged us. But we are not to defeat the ends of justice, and bid the malefactor go free. Nor will the Son of David forgive conscious and inveterate rebellion. He it is, the fount of all mercy, who will say, "Those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27).
VI. HE SOUGHT AND FOUND MERCY FROM THE KING OF KINGS. He was not perfect, not sinless. "Save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." It is not the "fierce light that beats upon a throne" discloses David's imperfections; it is his own confessions. In Psalms 51:1-19. he has himself recorded his sin and his profound penitence; in Psalms 32:1-11, he tells us of his pardon. The king of Israel tells us how the King of Heaven forgives. And here most of all, perhaps, is he a pattern for all kings, for all men, to the end of time. This Eikon Basilike has many goodly and noble features, but the fairest lineament of all is the story of his sin and its forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:1-18).
HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE
1 Kings 2:1-11
Holy Scripture gives us many a touching and pathetic description of the death of the father of a family, showing how it at once sanctions and sanctifies natural affection. The farewells of David remind us of those of Jacob. Death sometimes seems to fill the men of God of the old covenant with the spirit of prophecy, as if the summit of the earthly life was illuminated with a purer radiance falling upon it from a higher sphere. Death is indeed to all the messenger of God to reveal to us great truths; it is a great prophet.
I. Death shows to us WHERE ENDS THE WAY OF ALL THE EARTH (1 Kings 2:2). Pascal says, "However brilliant the tragedy may have been, the end is always death. From every grave which is dug comes a voice crying, Memento mori."
II. DEATH TEACHES US TO LOOK AT OUR PAST EXISTENCE AS A WHOLE, as from a height we look down on the plain below. It brings out the great object of life, the essential truth too often drowned in the busy hum of the world. David thinks no more at this hour of the glory or of the pleasures of life. Its one great end stands out more clearly before him to walk in the ways of the Lord, to keep His statutes and His commandments. This is wisdom and prudence.
III. DEATH REMINDS THE SERVANTS OF GOD THAT THEIR WORK DOES NOT PERISH WITH THEM; that none of them, not even the greatest, is an indispensable instrument of the work; that they are only links in the chain. Thus the torch which is to enlighten the world is passed from hand to hand.
IV. THE INHERITANCE OF A HOLY WORK TO BE CARRIED ON is the best of those blessings which, according to God's promise, are to rest upon His people to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:6). A great responsibility rests upon a Christian family, and their education ought to be conducted with a view to it. This succession in piety, in living and acting faith, is more important and more real than the succession by means of official ordination.
V. Every servant of God, in his death, may say with Jesus Christ, "IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR YOU THAT I GO AWAY;" "YE SHALL DO GREATER THINGS THAN THESE." It is well to know, when our work is done, that it will be carried on by another. With Solomon, the Jewish theocracy received a new development, such as it had never known in the time of David. It is well for us to die, even for the sake of the work of God, which we are called to accomplish up to a certain point, but no further.
VI. How much BETTER STILL IS IT FOR US TO DIE, when we look at it in the light of eternity. "David slept with his fathers (1 Kings 2:10), but only like them to be carried home to God, to rest in Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22). For ourselves, we may say with St. Paul, "To depart, and be with Christ is far better" (Philippians 1:18).—E. DE P.
1 Kings 2:2
Show thyself a man.
The religion of God is the religion of man. True religion is the perfecting of our humanity.
I. MAN WAS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. This is His essential characteristic. The more He reflects this image, the more truly manly He is. The religion of the Bible restores His manhood.
II. THERE IS NO FACULTY IN MAN WHICH DOES NOT FIND ITS COMPLEMENT AND ITS DEVELOPMENT IN GOD. His reason finds in God alone the truth which it seeks. His heart only finds an object adequate to its power of loving in the God who is Love. His conscience has for its ideal and its law the Divine holiness. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). His will derives its power alone from God.
1. The Son of God was the Son of man, and realized the true idea of humanity in His holy life.
2. The religion of God honours and exalts man, even as falsehood and error degrade and debase him.
3. The Divine morality is in profound harmony with true human morality, that law which is written in the natural conscience. The petty religiousness which says, "Touch not, taste not, handle not" (Colossians 2:21), and creates all sorts of artificial duties, is not in accordance with true piety, the one great commandment of which—love to God and man—approves itself at once to the gospel and to the conscience.
4. Be a man means, finally, Do thy duty like a man. Be one of the violent who take the kingdom by force. Let us be careful not to effeminate our Christianity by a soft sentimentalism. Let us learn from the Son of God to be truly men "after God's own heart."—E. DE P.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Kings 2:1-4
A royal father's last words.
David's eventful life is drawing to a close. He has proved himself to be "a man after God's own heart." Not perfect man, for he had grievous defects. But, in the main, he recognized the grandeur of his position as "the Lord's anointed." He lived by the inspiration of a Divine purpose. He "served his own generation by the will of God" (Acts 13:36). His very faults bore witness to the native force of his character. The height of the precipice measures the depth that frowns beneath it. Great natures are most capable of great temptations, great sorrows, and great sins. But now great David dies, and the sovereignty of Israel must pass into other hands.
I. THE CALMNESS OF A GOOD MAN IN THE FACE OF DEATH. "I go the way of all the earth." There is a tone of quiet composure and satisfaction in these words—remarkable feature of the way in which most of the Old Testament saints confronted death. More than mere Oriental courage, mere passive submission to the inevitable,—faith in the Unseen and Eternal—fortitude of a soul that has found nobler inheritance than earth supplies—peaceful self surrender into the hands of the Living God. Yet not like the clear and certain vision of Christian faith. Compare this, "I go the way," etc; with St. Paul's "I have fought a good fight," etc. (2 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:8). He who has a living hold on Christ can say, not merely "I go the way of all the earth," but "I go my way to the eternal home of the redeemed." "Absent from the body; present with the Lord." Composure in the face of death very much a matter of natural temperament—dependent on physical conditions—to be distinguished from the higher, triumph of faith. Men of faith sometimes in "bondage through fear of death." Live much with Christ, and when the fatal hour comes the sting and the terror shall be taken away.
II. THE CARE OF A GODLY FATHER FOR THE WELL BEING OF HIS SON. Often in the life of David we see, through the garb of his kingly character, the throbbing of the true fatherly heart. The spirit of fatherhood here takes the form of wise and solemn counsel befitting the time. Fine touch of nature in this. The true father desires that his sons should be nobler, better, happier than himself. He lives over again in their life, and would have them to avoid the errors and evils into which he has fallen. David's yearning for Solomon is at once intensified and hallowed by the remembrance of his own wrong doing. "Be strong and shew thyself a man." Solomon's youth, gentle disposition, heavy responsibilities, alike demanded such counsel. Supreme lesson of life for the young—the path of obedience to the Divine law is that of safety and prosperity. The wisdom and strength God gives will enable the "little child" in the noblest sense to "play the man." Each generation on a vantage ground as compared with those that went before it—children "heirs of all the ages," Best legacy the fathers leave them—the great principles of truth and righteousness, as illustrated by their own living history. Chart of the ocean of life in the children's hands; rocks and shoals and hidden currents traced by the care and toil and suffering of those who sailed before them. Let them use it wisely if they would have a safe and prosperous voyage.
III. THE STEADFASTNESS OF GOD'S PURPOSE AMID ALL THE CHANGES OF HUMAN HISTORY. David dies in the faith that "the Lord will continue His word." The "everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure" is not fluctuating and perishable as the things and beings of earth. Steadfast order of the heavenly bodies and of the seasons a symbol of the sure covenant (Jeremiah 33:20). The frailty of man often serves to deepen our impression of the eternity of God. Human life a tale soon told, but "the counsel of the Lord standeth fast," etc. This is our security for the triumph of the cause of truth and righteousness in the world, "All flesh is grass," etc. (1 Peter 1:24). Man dies, but God lives; and the hope that stays itself upon His word can never be put to shame.
IV. THE CONDITIONAL NATURE OF DIVINE PROMISES. "If thy children take heed," etc. All Divine promises are thus conditional. Faith and practical submission needed to place us in the line of their fulfilment. God "continues His word" to those who continue in His ways. The promises are "Yea and amen" in Christ. Be "in Him" if you would realize them.—W.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
1 Kings 2:2, 1 Kings 2:3
A charge from a dying king.
The utterances of dying men naturally have weight. Those who stand on the border line between time and eternity have less temptation to disguise the truth, and are more likely than others to see things in their true relations. When those who speak to us thence are men who have long loved us, and who have ever proved worthy of our love, we must be callous indeed if their words are powerless. Exemplify by the mention of any whose whole future destiny turned upon the wish and the counsel of a dying father or friend. David's counsel to Solomon had this double value. He spoke as a dying man, and as a wise and loving father. Happy would it have been for the son had this counsel always been the law of his life.
1. The anxiety of David for the moral and spiritual welfare of his son. Some parents deem their duty done if they see their sons and daughters fairly "settled in life," without much consideration for character. David cared first for character, and next for circumstances. He believed that if the heart were right with God, things would of themselves go right with men.
2. The willingness of Solomon to receive such counsels. How different was his spirit from that of Adonijah (1 Kings 1:5). Though young, high spirited, of princely rank, and already anointed king, he bows to listen to his aged father. Lessons of reverence for age, and respect to parents, to be drawn from this. In his charge to Solomon, David inculcates—
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE TO GOD. He had seen the terrible effects of partial obedience in Saul, his own predecessor. (Illustrate from Saul's life.)
1. This implies the recognition of God as King. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and even princely Solomon was to remember that he had a Master in heaven. This would be net only for his own good, but for the welfare of his kingdom. The tyrannies, the exactions, the cruelties of an ordinary Eastern despot would be impossible to one who habitually acknowledged that he was responsible to God, and that wrongs which no human court could avenge would receive just retribution from "the Judge of all the earth." The wishes of his dying father might somewhat restrain him, but these could not have the abiding power of the law of the ever-living and ever-present God. What safety belongs to him who, like Joseph, says in the hour of temptation, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" That thought may be ours in the darkness as well as in the light, amid strangers as well as in the precincts of home. To the lad setting out from his father's house, to the man undertaking new responsibilities, the message comes, "Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways."
2. This Involves thoroughness in obedience. David uses no vain repetitions when he speaks of "statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies." The whole, law, not part of it only, was to be remembered. We are all tempted to partial obedience. It is easy, natural, profitable to obey some commands. Disobedience will bring disease, or shame, or loss of reputation, and, fearing such penalties, some refrain from transgression. But there are other laws of God, obedience to which brings dishonour rather than glory, impoverishment and not advantage; and these also are to be obeyed if we would "walk before God in truth, with all our heart." Again there are some precepts which seem of trifling value, and we are tempted to say we need not be too precise. But we forget that God's laws, even the least of them, are terribly precise. Science is proving this in every department of nature. The tide, for example, will not stop short a foot in space, nor a moment in time, to save the life of the helpless man penned in between the rocks. And are moral laws less inexorable? Besides, the crucial test of obedience is found in relation to little things. If your child obeys your important command, because he sees its importance, you are glad; but you are much more pleased when he does something you told him to do, merely because you wished it, for this is a higher proof of genuine obedience than that.
II. THE NECESSITY OF PERSONAL RESOLUTION. "Be thou strong, therefore, and show thyself a man." This sounds like an echo of God's own words to Joshua (Joshua 1:7). The occasions too were similar. Joshua was entering on his leadership, and Solomon was on the steps of his throne. David would evoke the manly resolution of his son. There was the more necessity for this, because his honoured and heroic father could no longer stand beside him. One of God's reasons for taking away our parents by death is to develope and strengthen our character. When the saplings grow under the shelter of the parent tree, they are weakly; but when the giant of the forest falls, and the winds of heaven begin to buffet those which have had its protection, their strength becomes greater, and their roots strike deeper. "Show thyself a man," says David to Solomon. Some suppose they show their manhood by aping the airs of the elders (smoking, swearing, etc.) But in David's sense, to show yourself a man is to prove yourself wise, valorous, virtuous, and above all, loyal of heart to God. This exhortation then implies the manifestation of moral courage and strength. These are required in order to the obedience we have described, for such obedience implies struggle.
1. There is conflict with self. We have to cheek the uprising of passion, to fight against the pride which would make us refuse to submit to the revelation, and to the righteousness of God, etc.
2. There is resistance to the evil influences of others. When Solomon was misled by his wives, and began to worship their gods, he was forgetting the command, "Be strong and show thyself a man." Point out the necessity for moral courage, and for the renewal of strength, by waiting on God, to those surrounded by evil associates.
3. There is antagonism to popular customs. In school, in business, in national policy, in church routine, it is easier to float with the stream than to contend against it. He must needs "be strong, and show himself a man," who would say, "We must obey God rather than man!" Show where Solomon found this strength, and where he lost it. Give examples of both from sacred history. E.g; the disciples were cowards when Christ was away, but they became heroes when the promise was fulfilled at Pentecost: "They were endued with power from on high."
III. THE ASSURANCE OF RESULTING BLESSEDNESS. "That thou mayest prosper," etc. As an historical fact, this promise was fulfilled. The kingdom of Solomon prospered as long as he was faithful to the God of his father. His apostasy sowed the seeds of its decay. God's promises are contingent, not absolute. They have attached to them implied conditions. This, which was shown in material blessings under the covenant of the old economy, is abidingly true. It is not that man merits the blessings of God by his obedience, but that he unfits himself to receive them by disobedience. This is yet more clearly seen under the light of the new dispensation. God gives a man that which he is fit for, on earth and in heaven. In and through Jesus Christ He has broadened our views of recompense. Beyond death the fulfilment of this promise extends, and he who is faithful with the few things shall be at last a ruler over many. In a spirit of humble obedience and prayerful dependence, let us seek to keep the charge and win the blessedness revealed in these dying words of the sweet Singer of Israel.—A. R.
1 Kings 2:12
And Solomon sate on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom [i.e; dominion, sway] was established greatly. [Cf. 2 Chronicles 1:1, 2 Chronicles 1:2. This verse serves as a kind of heading or introduction to the rest of the chapter. It was principally by the removal of rivals and disaffected persons that his sway was established.
1 Kings 2:13
And Adonijah, the son of Haggith, came to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. [The LXX. adds καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτη, but the words are probably inserted from 1 Kings 2:19. The historian now relates the plot of Adonijah and its defeat. Foiled in his purpose to mount the throne by direct means, Adonijah and his advisers have recourse to intrigue and subtlety. By the aid of Abishag, he hopes to accomplish what his chariots and horsemen (1 Kings 1:5) had failed to effect. And he first addresses himself to the queen mother ("Aggreditur mulierem, ut regnandi ignaram ira amoribus facilem." Grotius). The position of the queen dowager m the Hebrew kingdom was an influential one; not unlike that of the Valide sultana amongst the Ottomans. Hence the constant mention of each king's mother (1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:10, where notice 1 Kings 15:13; 2Ki 11:1; 2 Kings 12:1; 2 Kings 14:2; 2 Kings 15:2, etc.; hence, too, the part which such a queen mother as Athaliah found it possible to take. This pre-eminence was a natural result of the polygamy of Eastern sovereigns (and the consequent intrigues of the harem), coupled with the high estimation in which the mother was held in the East.] And she said, Comest thou peaceably. [Heb. Is it peace thy coming! Bathsheba was evidently surprised by his visit. Owing to the part he had taken against her son, there would naturally have been but few dealings, if not positive alienation, between them. Her first thought, consequently, is, "What can this coming mean?" The prominence of the idea of peace in all Eastern salutations has often been noticed. Cf. 1 Samuel 16:4; 2Ki 9:22; 2 Kings 4:26; 2 Kings 5:21; Luke 10:5; John 20:19-21, etc.] And he said, Peaceably [Heb. peace.]
1 Kings 2:14
He said moreover [Heb. And he said] I have somewhat to say unto thee [lit; "a word to me (cf. est mihi) for thee." This expression throws some light on the New Testament phrase, τί ἐμοι καὶ σοί, John 2:4, etc.] And she said, Say on.
1 Kings 2:15
And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine [schon so gut wie mein (Bähr). Adonijah evidently made much of the right of primogeniture (cf. 1 Kings 2:22), which was not unrecognized amongst the Jews. There is possibly in these words, too, a hint at the part Bathsheba had taken in defeating his claims] and that all Israel set their faces [i.e; eyes] upon me that I should reign [Heb. upon me all Israel set, etc. The "me" is emphatic by its position. So is the "mine" just before used. Several commentators remark that Adonijah's words were not strictly true. But we hardly expect to find truth on such an occasion. Adonijah was adroit and diplomatic, and puts the case as it best serves his purpose. In order to propitiate Bathsheba, he exaggerates his loss and disappointment, just as in the next words, in order to put her off her guard, he plays the saint and obtrudes his piety and resignation ]: howbeit [lit; and], the kingdom is turned about and is become my brother's, for it was his from the Lord. [This verse shows pretty clearly that Adoni-jah had not renounced his pretensions to the throne. Despite the pitiful failure of his first conspiracy, and notwithstanding Solomon's generous condonation of his treason, he cannot forget that he was, and is, the eldest surviving son, and had been very near the throne. And as to the kingdom being his brother's by Divine appointment, he cannot have been ignorant of that long ago (2 Samuel 12:25), yet he conspired all the same. And it is not difficult to read here between the lines, that he has not relinquished his hopes, and does not acquiesce in Solomon's supremacy.]
1 Kings 2:16
And now I ask one petition of thee [Heb. request one request] deny me not [marg; "turn not away my face." Better, Turn not back, i.e; repulse not. Rawlinson paraphrases, "Make me not to hide my face through shame at being refused;" but this is not the idea of the original, which means, Reject me not; send me not away. In the Heb. "face" often stands for "person," for eyes (verse 15), looks, mien]. And she said unto him, Say on.
1 Kings 2:17
And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the ring; for he will not say thee nay, [will not repulse thee. Same words as 1 Kings 2:16. There is a spice of flattery in these words. He now exaggerates her influence with the king] that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife. [We are hardly justified in concluding, as some commentators have done, that love had nothing to do with this request. It is not improbable, on the contrary, that a passion for the beautiful Shunamnite, perhaps the fairest woman of her time, may have first given a powerful impulse to Adonijah's ambition (see on 1 Kings 1:5). At the same time, he must have had ulterior motives (see on 1 Kings 2:22).
1 Kings 2:18
And Bathsheba said, Well [there is no reason why the strict rendering "good," should not be preserved here. The A.V. follows the LXX. καλῶς. Similarly Luther, wohl; but Bähr, gut], I will speak for thee [LXX. περὶ σοῦ] unto the king.
1 Kings 2:19
Bathsheba therefore [lit; And Bathsheba] went unto king [Heb. the king] Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, [the LXX. reads, "and kissed" her (καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτὴν). There is not necessarily a pregnant construction, as Keil insists: "rose up and went down to meet her." We get here a glimpse of the stateliness of Solomon's court] and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat [lit; throne, same word] to be set [most probably the servants of Solomon placed the seat for the queen mother, as the LXX. (ἐτέθη θρόνος) and most translators. The reception was clearly a public one, if the interview was private. But the original is simply, "and he set," etc; suggesting that Solomon may have done it, as a mark of respect, with his own hands. He "received his mother as גְּבִירָה" (1 Kings 15:13). Bähr] for the mother of the king, and she sat on his right hand. [The place of honour. Cf. Psalms 110:1; Matthew 20:21; Matthew 25:33; Acts 7:56; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1, etc. It was also the place of honour amongst Arabians (Keil), Greeks, and Romans, as the very names εὐώνυμος—an euphemism for ἀριστερός—and sinistra, show.
1 Kings 2:20
Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee. [So it seemed, no doubt, to her, in her inexperience and ignorance of Adonijah's real motives. She thought she held the threads of a love story in her hands, and that it would be a small thing for Solomon to make these handsome lovers happy]: I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay. [The readiness of the king to grant whatever she asked proves that the reasons which induced him to deny her request must have been weighty; i.e; Adonijah's suit cannot have been devoid of political consequences.
1 Kings 2:21
And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to wife. [For the construction (אֵת with a nominative, or, as some think, יֻתַּן used impersonally—man gebe), cf. Genesis 27:42; Exodus 10:8; and especially Numbers 32:5; and see Gesen; Lex. s.v. אֵת, and Ewald, Syntax, 295 b.]
1 Kings 2:22
And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? [Professor Plumptre (Dict. Bib; art. "Solomon") says this "narrative is not a little perplexing." He then specially remarks on the strangeness of Bathsheba's interceding for Adonijah, and also on Solomon's "flashing into fiercest wrath" at her request. He explains the facts, however, by "Mr. Grove's ingenious theory identifying Abishag with the Shulamite (Song of Solomon 6:13), the heroine of the Song of Songs." It is "the passionate love of Solomon for the fairest among women' that has made Bathsheba, "hitherto supreme, to fear a rival influence, and to join in any scheme for its removal." The king's vehement abruptness is in like manner accounted for. He sees in the request at once an attempt to deprive him of the woman he loves and a plot to keep him still in the tutelage of childhood. Of the ingenuity of this theory no one can doubt, nor yet that it may possibly represent the actual facts. But it is not necessary, nor does it help much to the explanation of the narrative. Bathsheba's intervention may easily be accounted for by
(1) her desire to conciliate her son's most formidable rival;
(2) her feminine interest in a love match; and
(3) her pride, which could not but be flattered, on being assured that her influence with the king was so great.
Nor is it any more difficult to assign a reason for Solomon's sudden outburst of anger. This request is evidence to him of a fresh plot against his throne, a plot so skilfully laid that its abettors have been able to deceive his own mother, and have made her a tool for its advancement. Surely this is quite enough to account for Solomon's indignation. And the theory of a love story has this disadvantage, that the young king completely ignores it in what follows, all his concern being about the kingdom, and not one word being said about the woman; and again—and this is almost fatal—his mention of Joab and Abiathar, and his subsequent dealings with them, prove conclusively that he suspected a conspiracy against his crown, not a scheme, in which these latter could have had no interest, and therefore no part, to rob him of a mistress] ask for him the kingdom also [Heb. and ask for him = and (you will next) ask for him; or, Aye, ask for him, etc. It was quite natural that Solomon should see in Adonijah's suit for Abishag an indirect, but none the less real or dangerous, attempt to compass his own downfall. For it was one of the customs of Oriental monarchies that the harem of a sovereign descended to his successor. Thus the impostor Smerdis took possession of the harem of Cambyses (Herod. 3:68), while Darius in turn had some of the wives of Smerdis (3:88). And what is much more to the point, a similar custom obtained amongst the Jews. David, for example, succeeded to the wives, along with the kingdom, of Saul (2 Samuel 12:8). And we see from the case of Abner and Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:8), and still more from that of Absalom (ch. 16:22), that to "take possession of the harem was the most decided act of sovereignty" (Lord A. Hervey, Speak. Com. on 2 Samuel 16:21). Now all these instances were of too recent a date, and had attracted far too much attention at the time, to have made it possible for them to have escaped either Solomon's or Adonijah's observation. They manifest "such a close connection in public opinion between the title to the crown and the possession of the deceased monarch's wives, that to have granted Adonijah's request would have been the strongest encouragement to his pretensions" (Rawlinson in loco). It may be said that Abishag had not really been the concubine of David (Hebrews 1:4), which is true, and which explains what would otherwise have been the astonishing impiety of Adonijah (Leviticus 18:8, Leviticus 18:20:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1), and the wonderful complaisance of Bathsheba. There is no warrant for charging Adonijah (as is done by a Lapide, Wordsworth, al.) with defying the Divine law and seeking an incestuous alliance, for the historian is careful to represent Abishag as David's attendant, and not as his wife. But it is hardly probable that the nation at large knew this. People generally could only suppose that this fair young girl, chosen out of all the thousands of Israel because of her beauty, had become to all intents and purposes one of the royal seraglio. It is almost a certainty, therefore, that Adonijah's request concealed a plot for using Abishag as a stepping stone to the throne, and Solomon certainly is not to be blamed if he interpreted it by the light of contemporaneous history, and by the usages of his time and country. He knew that his brother had made one deliberate effort to supplant him, and therefore he could only conclude that this was a second, though veiled, attempt to deprive him of his kingdom]; even for him and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah. [The LXX. and other translators appear to have had a slightly different text before them. The LXX. renders, καὶ αὐτῷ ̓Αβιάθαρ καὶ αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ.; the Vulgate, "et habet Abiathar," etc. The Chald. paraphrases, "nonne in cansilio fuerunt ille et Abiathar," etc. Keil well remarks that "the repetition of answers entirely to the emotional character of the words." We can hardly believe, however, that in these conversations we have the ipsissima verba of the speakers If so, how were they preserved and handed down to the author? Even a "court scribe" would hardly catch every turn of expression. And possibly this interview with Bathsheba was private. It would almost seem, from the immediate mention of Joab and Abiathar, as if Solomon had received some prior intimation of this second conspiracy. Possibly his remarkable penetration had divined that mischief was brewing from the bearing of the three, who no doubt would be narrowly watched. Or he may have heard of frequent meetings on their part. Anyhow, Adonijah's suit is to him conclusive proof of a plot].
1 Kings 2:23
Then king Solomon sware by the Lord, saying, God do so to me, and more also [a common form of adjuration (Ruth 1:17; 1Sa 14:44; 1 Samuel 20:13; 2 Samuel 3:9; 2 Samuel 19:13, etc.) = Gott soil mich fort und fort strafen. Bähr], if [or "that." כִי constantly follows formulae of swearing, as in all the passages just cited. Cf. the use of ὅτι in New Testament. The order of the next words in the Hebrew is noticeable] against his life spake Adonijah this word. [בְּנַפְשׁו, "at the peril or cost of his life." Cf. 2 Samuel 23:17; Joshua 23:11.]
1 Kings 2:24
Now therefore [Heb. and now], as the Lord liveth, which hath established me, and set me [a יhas here crept into the text; obviously owing to the fact that this same letter both precedes and follows] on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house [Keil and Wordsworth understand by this expression, "hath given me issue." "Solomon," says Keil, "had already one son, viz; Rehoboam, about a year old." But some doubt seems to attach to the "forty and one years" mentioned as the age of Rehoboam at his accession. Bähr says Solomon's "marriage did not occur till afterwards (Hebrews 3:1). And we find from 1Ki 11:38; 2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Samuel 7:27, that to 'make,' or 'build an house,' means to found a lasting dynasty"], as he promised [Heb. spake, i.e; at 2 Samuel 7:11-13], Adonijah shall be put to death this day.
1 Kings 2:25
And King Solomon sent by the hand [i.e; the instrumentality; not necessarily eigenhandig, as Thenius. Cf. Exodus 4:13; 1 Samuel 16:20, Hebrews; 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Kings 14:18; Jeremiah 37:2 ("which he spake by the hand of Jeremiah"), etc. The same expression is found in verse 46 of this chapter] of Benaiah [in the East the captain of the king's bodyguard has always been the "chief of the executioners," the title given to Potiphar, Genesis 37:36, Hebrews; in 2 Kings 25:8 to Nebuzar-Adan; and in Daniel 2:14 to Arioch "the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men, etc.] and he fell upon him so that he died. [Solomon has been accused of "a coldblooded vengeance" and of "that jealous cruelty so common in Oriental despots," in ordering the execution of his brother. But unjustly. It is to be remembered that on the occasion of Adonijah's first rebellion the young monarch had displayed the greatest magnanimity towards him. He might then have justly decreed against him the death which no doubt the conspirators had designed against him (1 Kings 1:12.) Adonijah, by fleeing to the altar, showed that he had good grounds for fearing the avenging sword. He was clearly conscious that he had merited the death of the traitor. But Solomon spared him, during good behaviour. He warned him that "if wickedness were found in him" he should die (1 Kings 1:52.) His first treason, consequently, was not to be lost sight of, in case he were guilty of a fresh offence. And now that he is found conspiring again; now that he abuses the royal clemency, and seeks by chicanery and intrigue to snatch his brother's crown, the sentence of death takes effect. This renewed attempt, after failure and forgiveness, must have convinced the king that Adonijah's pretensions would be a standing menace to the peace and prosperity of his empire, and therefore he owed it to himself, to his subjects, and above all to God, who had entrusted him with the crown, to put this restless and dangerous plotter out of the way. To pass over a second offence would be a virtual encouragement of sedition, for it would show that the king was weak and might be trifled with. Adonijah therefore must die, not only in expiation of his treason, but as an example to the subjects of Solomon, that the disaffected, including all Adonijah's partizans, might be awed into obedience.
1 Kings 2:22-25
It may be instructive if, after the manner of ancient writers, we draw out a comparison between the two brothers whose history is recorded in part in this section, and who here appear as rivals. Their careers were very different. The one reigned with almost unparalleled magnificence for forty years; the other fell in the very May-morn of his life by the sword of the executioner. What were the causes which produced such different results? Let us consider some few of them.
I. ADONIJAH WAS ENDUED WITH BEAUTY, SOLOMON WITH WISDOM. The first had goodliness; the second goodness. Men admired Adonijah; the Lord loved Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24). To the elder brother the Allwise Providence allotted the gifts of face and form—exterior advantages—to the latter He gave "wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart"—the quiet, unobtrusive adornment of the spirit. Wisdom is better than rubies; yes, and better than beauties.
II. ADONIJAH WAS AMBITIOUS; SOLOMON WAS PIOUS. The first loved self, and sought his own advancement. The second "loved the LORD" (1 Kings 3:3). The first, by his own showing, resisted and defied the will of Heaven (1 Kings 2:15); the latter "walked in the statutes of David his father." Adonijah desired riches, honours, the life of his enemies; Solomon asked for none of these things, but for an understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9, 1 Kings 3:11). Their lives consequently were regulated on totally different principles. The first acted as if he were master (1 Kings 1:5); the second remembered he was but a servant (1 Kings 2:9). And Adonijah lost everything, even his life, while Solomon gained everything—the wisdom for which he asked; the "richest honour" for which he did not ask. Verily "godliness is profitable unto all things (1 Timothy 4:8).
III. ADONIJAH SOUGHT TO FORCE EVENTS; SOLOMON WAITED PATIENTLY FOR THE LORD. Adonijah would not wait till his father was dead; he would snatch the sceptre from the old man's feeble grasp; he would be king at any cost, and at once. It is worth noticing that Solomon on the other hand took no part in the measures which placed him on the throne. "He that believeth shall not make haste." The one sought to frustrate the designs of Providence, the other "committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." And he was crowned and Adonijah was executed.
IV. ADONIJAH REBELLED AGAINST HIS FATHER; SOLOMON REVERENCED HIS MOTHER. Treatment of parents is a test of character. To honour father and mother is "the first commandment with promise." Adonijah repaid his father's indulgence with treason against his throne; Solomon, when seated on his throne, had a throne set for his mother. If he were king, his mother should be queen. He received her with the profoundest respect, though she was his subject; for he "counted her uncrowned womanhood to be the royal thing." The fortunes of these two brothers were not more diverse than their characters, as revealed by their treatment of their eiders. And their histories accorded with their principles; their lives and deaths illustrated the commandment.
V. GOD CHOSE SOLOMON AND REFUSED ADONIJAH. As in the case of Esau and Jacob, as in the case of Manasseh and Ephraim, the younger is preferred to the elder. And yet the elder was apparently the popular favourite. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Load looketh on the heart." It is the case of David and his brethren over again. In all these cases "the Lord hath set apart him that's godly for himself." The meek, pacific Solomon, the rejected of Joab and Abiathar, is the accepted of Jehovah. And the brilliant and beautiful Adonijah, his advantages, his influence, his efforts, all these avail him nothing, for "the proud"—and we may add, the selfish, the disobedient—"the LORD knoweth afar off" (Psalms 138:6), while "the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth" (Psalms 11:5).
THE DEPOSITION OF ABIATHAR AND THE DEATH OF JOAB.
1 Kings 2:26
And unto Abiathar the priest [see note on 1 Kings 1:8. The historian now relates the end of Adonijah's confederates] said the king, get thee to Anathoth [The Heb. is extremely curt and authoritative, corresponding well with the anger and determination of the speaker. Anathoth, the home of Abiathar, was also the residence of another high priest, Hilkiah (Jeremiah 1:1). It was in Benjamin, a priests' city, and had suburbs (Jer 21:1-14 :18, 17, 18). It has been identified by Robinson with Anita, a village 1.25 hrs. N.N.E, of Jerns. The name (= Answers) according to Gesenius, means, "answers to prayer," but according to the Talmud, "echoes"], unto [עַל is here almost the equivalent of אֶל. Cf. 2Sa 15:4, 2 Samuel 15:20, Hebrews etc.] thine own fields [the patrimony of his family] for thou art worthy of death; [Heb. a man of death; LXX. ἀνὴρ θανάτου, i.e; ἔνοχος θανάτου, Matthew 26:66.] but I will not at this time [Heb. in this day] put thee to death [i.e; the sentence of death was deferred during good behaviour. It is hardly correct to say that Abiathar was "spared for a time, but only for a time" (Stanley). More correctly Corn. a Lapide: "Misit eum in patriam ut ibi vitam, quam ei condonabat, quiete traduceret." For aught we know, he died in peace because thou barest the ark of the Lord God before David my father [Thenius, quite needlessly would read for "ark," .... "ephod" (1 Samuel 23:6). Zadok and Abiathar had borne the ark (not of course in person, but per altos, viz; the Levites Uriel, Joel, etc.: 1 Chronicles 15:11), when David brought it up to Jerusalem, and also during his flight from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:24-29). Abiathar had thus been associated both with David's joys and sorrows] and because thou hast been afflicted in all wherein my father was afflicted. [See 1Sa 22:17-23; 2 Samuel 15:24, etc.]
1 Kings 2:27
So Solomon thrust out Abtathar from being priest unto the Lord, that he might fulfil [Heb. to fulfil "An addition of the narrator, not the intention of Solomon. It is the ἵνα πληρωθῇ of the New Testament." Bähr] the word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh [1 Samuel 2:31-35. Abiathar was the last descendant of the house of Ithamar. With his deposition the high priesthood reverted to the house of Eleazar, and so another "word of the Lord" had its fulfilment (Numbers 25:15).]
No one can justly accuse Solomon of unnecessary severity or of cruelty in his treatment of Abiathar. On the occasion of his first conspiracy, Abiathar seems to have escaped even censure. And yet that conspiracy, had it succeeded, would almost certainly have involved Solomon's death (1 Samuel 1:12). He is now found plotting again, for the action of Solomon proves that there had been a second plot. Oriental usages would have justified his death. He is simply warned and banished.
1 Kings 2:28
Then tidings [Heb. And the report, etc. Not necessarily of Abiathar's deposition, but certainly of Adonijah's death] came to Joab, for Joab had turned after [same expression as in Exodus 23:2; Judges 9:3] Adonijah, though [lit; and] he turned not after Absalom. [The LXX. (Cod. Vat.), Vulg; and all ancient versions except the Chald; here read Solomon, which Ewald and Thenius adopt. This reading is perhaps too summarily dismissed by most commentators, as involving a statement which would be self evident and superfluous. But it is not so. The meaning would then be that Joab had inclined to Adonijah, and had not, subsequently, gone over to the side of Solomon—information which is much less obvious than that he had not "gone after Absalom." The Arabic version may thus be nearest the truth, which reads, "Neither did he love Solomon." Somewhat similarly Josephus.] And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold of the horns of the altar. [As Adonijah had done before him (1 Kings 1:50). His flight is almost certain evidence of his guilt. ("Joab vero seipsum prodidit." Munster.) Why should he flee, if conscious of innocence? Solomon had acted generously before, and Joab would not be aware of David's dying instructions. His two assassinations had remained so long unpunished that he would hardly expect to be called to an account for them now. We have here, therefore, another indication of a second conspiracy, and it is an old belief (Theodorot, al.) that Joab had suggested to Adonijah the plan of marriage with Abishag. Some have asked why Joab should flee to the altar when his crimes deprived him of the right of the sanctuary. But a drowning man grasps at a straw. It is probable that he never thought of his murders, but only of his treason. According to the Rabbis, death at the altar ensured him burial amongst his fathers (Munster). But, if this were so, it would hardly enter into his calculations.
1 Kings 2:29
And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord; and, behold, he is by the altar. [The LXX. here inserts, "And Solomon the king sent to Joab, saying, What has happened thee, that thou art fled to the altar? And Joab said, Because I feared before thee, and I fled to the Lord." This is only a gloss, but it is an instructive one. It shows that the author regarded Joab's flight as betraying a guilty conscience.] Then Solomon sent Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. [The LXX. adds, "and bury him."]
1 Kings 2:30
And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said unto him [Benaiah evidently "hesitated to stain the altar with blood." It was only the sanctity of the altar which made it an asylum. There was strictly no "right of sanctuary"], Thus saith the king, Come forth. [Probably Solomon bad directed that Joab should, if possible, be induced to leave the altar. Every Jew would dread its profanation by strife and bloodshed.] And he said, Nay; but I will die here. [Heb. "here will I die." Joab may possibly have thought that Solomon would hardly venture to put him to death there, and that so he might somehow escape with his life. But it is more probable that he counted on death, and that a feeling of superstition, or of defiance, had decided him to meet his doom there. It should be borne in mind that gross superstition not uncommonly accompanies irreligion and brutality; and it is quite conceivable that Joab hoped for some indefinable benefit from the shadow of the altar, much as the poor Polish Jew expects from burial in Jerusalem. Or his motive may have been defiance, thinking he would "render Solomon odious to the people, as a profaner of the Holy Place" (M. Henry). It can hardly have been to put off forever so short a time the execution, as Bishop Hall imagines.]
1 Kings 2:31
And the king said unto him do as he hath said, and fall upon him [the law decreed (Exodus 21:14) that, if a man had slain his neighbour with guile, he should be taken from the altar to die. Possibly the desperate character of Joab made literal compliance with this command well nigh impossible. The attempt to drag him from his place of refuge might have led to a bloody encounter. And the king evidently felt that Joab's crimes justified exceptional measures], and bury him [why this injunction? Possibly because the spirit of Deuteronomy 21:23 seemed to Solomon to require it. Both Bähr and Keil think it was that Joab's services to the kingdom might be requited with an honourable sepulture. Was it not rather that the corpse might be removed with all possible haste from the sanctuary, which it defiled, and hidden from view, as one accursed of God, in the earth? So Bishop Hall: "He sends Benaiah to take away the offender both from God and men, from the altar and the world"]; that thou mayest take away [LXX. "today," σήμερον] the innocent blood [for the construction cf. 1 Samuel 25:31; Nehemiah 2:12; and Ewald, 287d. Innocent blood, i.e; blood not shed in war, or forfeited to justice, rested upon the community, or the authorities responsible for its punishment (Numbers 35:33; Deuteronomy 19:10, Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 21:9. Cf. Genesis 4:10) until satisfaction was made. See on Nehemiah 2:5], which Joab shed, from me, and from the house of my father. [Heb. "from upon me." Solomon evidently believed that the guilt of blood was upon him and his house so long as Abner's and Amasa's blood remained unavenged ("The blood that is not required from the murderer will be required from the magistrate." Henry), and that he and his seed might have to answer for it, as Saul's seed had done (2 Samuel 21:1, 2 Samuel 21:9). This is one of the many considerations which show that both David and Solomon were actuated not by "cold-blooded vengeance" or "long-cherished resentment" (Stanley), but by a sense of duty. In fact, Jewish law imperatively demanded the death of Joab, and to spare him was to violate all law, and to imperil the throne and the people. "Only a superficial observer," says Ewald, "can here reproach Solomon with needless severity."]
1 Kings 2:32
And the Lord shall return [LXX. ἐπέστρεψε, returns, or returned] his blood [LXX. τὸ αἷμα τῆς ἀδικίας αὐτοῦ, i.e; the blood he had shed. Cf. 1 Kings 2:33, 1 Kings 2:44] upon his own head, who fell upon [same word as in 1 Kings 2:29, 1 Kings 2:31. So that it was strictly a retaliation. The lex talionis was carried out to the letter] two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing. [Heb. "and my father David knew not," i.e; was not privy thereto. Solomon thinks of the unjust suspicions which these crimes cast upon his father.]
1 Kings 2:33
Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Josh, and upon the head of his seed [according to Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Le Exodus 20:5; Exo 26:1-37 :39. There is an obvious reference to David's curse 2 Samuel 3:29, which thoroughly agreed with the spirit of the Old Testament in comprehending the children in its sweep. And it is to be noticed that the sins of the fathers are still, by the operation of natural laws, and by the constitution and laws of society, visited upon the children, to the third and fourth generation] forever: but upon [Heb. to] David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be [or "be," optative; LXX. γένοιτο] peace [i.e; prosperity] forever from the Lord. [So persuaded is Solomon that he is fulfilling a religious duty in decreeing the execution of Joab; so little thought has he of malice, revenge, or any baser motive, that he counts on the Divine blessing m perpetuity for the deed.]
1 Kings 2:34
So Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, went up [not because the altar" stood higher up Mount Zion than Solomon's house" (Keil), but because Gibeon, where the tabernacle and brazen altar then were, stood higher than Jerusalem. It is remarkable that retribution thus overtook Joab on the very scene of his last murder, for it was "at the great stone which is in Gibeon" (2 Samuel 20:8), that he slew Amasa. Cf. 2 Kings 9:26 : "I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord"], and fell upon him, and slew him: and he was buried in his own house [possibly in the courtyard: hardly in the garden. The same is recorded of Samuel (1 Samuel 25:1). It was evidently an exceptional occurrence. Remembering the estimation in which the Jew held the corpse and the grave (Numbers 19:11, Numbers 19:16, Numbers 19:22; cf. Matthew 23:27), it must have been a singular honour to make of the house a mausoleum. No doubt it was designed to be such in Joab's case. Whatever his crimes, his services had deserved well of his country. Possibly his friends were led to pay him this special honour as a kind of counterpoise to the ignominy of his death] in the wilderness [i.e; of Judah. Joab's mother was of Bethlehem, which was on the border of the desert. The "wilderness of Tekoah" (2 Chronicles 20:20), according to Jerome, was visible from Bethlehem, being but six Roman miles distant.
1 Kings 2:35
And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his room over the host: and Zadok the priest did the king put in the room of Abiathar. [It is hardly likely that Joab would be retained in command of the army after the conspiracy of 1 Kings 1:1-53; nor is this implied in this verse, the meaning of which is that Benaiah took the place of Josh, and that Zadok henceforward was sole high priest.]
1 Kings 2:26, 1 Kings 2:27
The Degraded High Priest.
We may find in this section a sermon on Caesarism. The relations of the world power to the Church; the province of the State and the prerogatives of the clergy; what are the proper limits of the temporal power and what is the exclusive domain of the spiritual; these have been vexed questions for many centuries. They are prominent topics at the present day. We may perhaps find in this history a few principles to guide us. For we learn
I. THAT PRIESTS HAD BETTER NOT MEDDLE WITH POLITICS. No one can deny their abstract right to do so. They are men, if they are clergymen, and "nihil humani," etc. As citizens, they may have convictions. Having convictions, they may surely give effect to them. No one can deny again that they have often interfered to good purpose. Witness the case of Jehoiada. It may sometimes be a duty to interfere. But all the same, their plane is not the plane of politics. Their πολίτευμα is the Church. And what is lawful, is not always expedient. Their meddling has often cost not only them, but the Church, dear. Well had it been for Abiathar; well for the Wolseys, Richelieus, and many more, had they never given up "to party what was meant for mankind." There are questions—imperial questions of right and wrong—where the clergy must speak out; there are other questions—party questions -- where, for their own and their flocks' sake, they had better hold their peace.
II. THAT PRIESTS ARE MEN OF LIKE PASSIONS WITH OTHER MEN. Abiathar apparently was not free from that "last infirmity of noble minds." It was probably jealousy of Zadok impelled him to conspire against Solomon, and to join hands with the murderer Josh against the prophet Nathan. Neither the holy anointing oil nor the discharge of the priest's office destroys the phronema sarkos (see Art. IX.) It is worthy of note that the first high priest was guilty of idolatry, envy, and murmurings; that the sons of Eli committed abominable crimes; and that the high priests Annas and Caiaphas condemned the Lord of Glory. Every high priest needed to "make atonement for his own sins (Le 1 Kings 16:6, 1 Kings 16:11). Abiathar, the minister of God, was a traitor against God and His anointed. Having the frailties, temptations, and passions of other men, priests often commit sins, sometimes commit crimes.
III. THAT PRIESTS MAY BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR CRIMES BY THE SECULAR POWER. For centuries the Latin Church contended with our forefathers for the exemption of ecclesiastics front the authority of civil tribunals. But the Jewish priests enjoyed no such exemption. Abiathar was threatened by Solomon with death, and was thrust out of his office. Our Great High Priest respected the tribunal of Pontius Pilate. And His apostle answered for himself before Felix and Festus, and before great Caesar himself. (Cf. Art. 37, of the "Articles of Religion.") But
IV. PRIESTS ARE TO BE TREATED WITH THE REVERENCE DUE TO THEIR OFFICE. "Because thou barest the ark of the LORD GOD." Criminous clergy are not to be so punished as to bring their sacred calling into contempt (not, e.g; to be set to sweep the streets, as General Butler forced one of the American bishops to do in New Orleans). If the man is entitled to no consideration, the office is. He wears the livery of the Great King. The vessel is "earthen," but the treasure "heavenly" (2 Corinthians 4:7). "As men are to God's ministers, they will find Him to them."
V. PRIESTS MAY BE DEGRADED FROM THEIR POSITION, BUT CANNOT BE DEPRIVED OF THEIR PRIESTHOOD. They did not derive their authority from the civil power. It did not give, and it cannot take away. David did not make Abiathar priest, and Solomon could not unmake him. We find from 1 Kings 4:4 that he was still called "priest." He that is "called of God, as was Aaron," can only be recalled of God. When Solomon "thrust out Abiathar," he "deprived him of his dignity, but did not strip him of his priesthood" (Theodoret). The state may fine, imprison, banish, put to death Christ's ambassadors according to their deserts, but it may not alter their message, tamper with their creeds, confer their orders, or prescribe their ordinances. "To Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
VI. IN REMOVING THE UNWORTHY PRIEST THE CIVIL POWER IS FULFILLING THE WILL OF THE LORD. The "sure word of prophecy"—indeed a double prophecy—had its fulfilment when Solomon banished Ahiathar. The secular power thereby accomplished the good pleasure of God declared four hundred years before (Numbers 25:13). And the magistrate who, in the exercise of the authority conferred on him by God for the punishment of evil doers, degrades the criminous priest, silences him, visits him with appropriate pains and penalties, is doing God service; is fulfilling the will of God, who would have evil ministers above all others brought to justice and chastised; the more influential their example, the more need of conspicuous and exemplary punishment.
1 Kings 2:26-35
The Death of Joab.
"Know ye not that there is a prince and great man fallen this day in Israel"—so might men say as they heard, so may we say as we read, the history of Joab's death. After David, he was by far the greatest man—the ablest general, the bravest soldier, the most capable statesman—of that age. He was "the Marlborough, the Belisarius of the Jewish empire." He had fought David's battles, won his conquests, captured his citadel, and twice preserved for him his crown. It is a sad and tragic ending of such a brilliant career. The idol of the army, the man who was first in the deadly breach (2 Chronicles 11:6),the ever victorious hero, dies miserably, by the thrust of an old comrade. For him the sanctuary of God has no protection. Though he clings to the horns of the altar, it avails him nothing. No, the blood of the white-headed warrior, winner of a hundred well-fought fields, streams round the consecrated structure and stains the place of the Divine Presence. What are the lessons, let us ask, of such a death? And, first—
I. WHY IS HE HERE? It is
(1) because his conscience has made him a coward. He who never turned his back on the foe, has fled before a breath, a mere rumour. He has not been attacked, not even threatened; but the secret is out, the conspiracy is discovered, his head is forfeited. He betrays his guilt by his flight. Time was when he would have faced almost any danger, when he would have died rather than fled. But then he had a support and stay, in the consciousness of rectitude, which he has not now. Now, his own heart denounces him.
"None have accused thee; 'tis thy conscience cries."
The man whose conscience is burdened with crime has an enemy, a traitor, within the camp. But why has he fled to the sanctuary; why chosen the tabernacle of God for his refuge? For Joab has not loved the habitation of God's house. The tabernacle of the Lord could not be "amiable" to that guilty heart. His choice would be "the congregation of evildoers." A stranger to the tabernacle and its services, why is he here? It is
(2) because men often betake themselves in adversity to the religion they despised in prosperity. Yes, Joab's is no solitary case. It is too common. Witness the so called deathbed repentances; witness the cries and prayers which go up in the hour of peril from lips which never prayed before. Men who have neglected God and contemned the ordinances of religion in health often turn to Him and to them in sickness. "It is the fashion of our foolish presumption to look for protection where we have not cared to yield obedience." But
(3) the altar of God is for sacrifice, not for sanctuary. The purpose of the altar, its raison d'etre, was that sacrifices, i.e; that worship, might be offered thereon. It was an accident, so to speak, that made of it a sanctuary; the accident of its sacredness. Because it was ordained of God, fashioned after a Divine pattern and employed in the Divine service, it was naturally and rightly regarded as holy, as a structure not to be profaned, and hence the manslayer fled thither for protection. But this use of the altar was quite beside its original intention. It was made for worship, for the service of God, not for the defence of man. Joab disregarded its proper use; he used it for his own convenience. And have we not seen something like this in our own days? Religion is ordained for man to live by. Its primary purpose is the glory of God. It exists that man may offer "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God;" that man may be himself "a living sacrifice." But there are those who would use it only as a sanctuary, as a place to flee to when they can sin no longer. They want the benefits of religion without its obligations; they pervert it from its proper and holy, to a purely selfish purpose; they want it for death and it was meant for life. They act, i.e; much as Joab did, and it is to be feared their last end will not be unlike his. The altar they have slighted will not shelter them in the day of evil.
II. But let us now ask, secondly, WHY IS HE PUT TO DEATH HERE? The altar was never meant to be stained with human blood. If it was not for sanctuary, still less was it for slaughter. And it has sheltered many; why may it afford him no asylum? It is
(1) Because he has come to it too late. Had he come before, and come as a worshipper, he would not have needed to come now as a fugitive. Had he even come, after his great crimes, as a sincere penitent, he might, perchance, have found forgiveness. David was delivered from blood guiltiness, and why not Joab? But he only comes to the altar because he is driven to it; because he can do nothing else. Yes, "it is too late to cry for mercy when it is the time of justice." Those who put off repentance fill they can sin no longer find that such feigned repentance profits them nothing. There is a time when "the door is shut."
2. Because "he shall have judgment without mercy that shewed no mercy." Joab's murders could not have been more treacherous, more cruel. "The blood of wax in peace." "Took him aside in the gate to speak with him peaceably". "Took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him" (2 Samuel 20:9). There is a lex talionis which governs the dealings of God with transgressors. The cruel murderer shall be cruelly murdered. The assassin shall be executed at the altar. He that "showed no pity" shall receive none.
3. Because God pays sure, even if he pays slowly. It was thirty-four years—an entire generation—since Abner's blood first cried from the ground. Eight years had elapsed since Amasa's death. And Joab, meanwhile, had maintained his position. Still "over all the host of Israel," still second only to the king. If ever he or others had dreamed of punishment, they must by this time have given up all fear, or all hope. David had died and Joab stir lived. Joab had conspired once and yet he was spared. Is there, men would ask, a retributive Justice? is there a "God that judgeth the earth"? Yes, though Joab has "hoar hairs," though he has all but gone down to the grave in peace, his sin has found him out. And the blood which reddens those gray hairs, the blood which crimsons the sanctuary, proves that there is a Nemesis for crime: that if Justice has a halting foot, she nevertheless overtakes the fleetest offender; that "if the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small."
4. Because "without shedding of blood there is no remission." Only the blood of Joab could expiate the bloodshed he had wrought. Nothing else could cleanse the land. For innocent blood guilty blood; this was the law. How different is the gospel. The blood of Christ speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, ay, than the blood of Joab. The blood of Joab made an atonement for the land. There the guilty died because of the innocent. The blood of JESUS made an atonement for the world. Here the innocent dies because of the guilty. The blood of Joab tells of vengeance, of retribution, of death. The blood of JESUS speaks of mercy, of restitution, of life and love and peace. Yes, the death of Joab may surely speak to us, but it speaks to little purpose, unless it tells us of "the precious blood of Christ."
THE END OF SHIMEL.—This fresh intrigue of Adonijah's warns the king that he must be on his guard and keep a watch over suspected persons. Prominent among these, from his antecedents and connexions, would be Shimei.
1 Kings 2:36
And the king sent and called for Shimei [probably from Bahurim. But see on 1 Kings 2:8] [Not necessarily as "a guarantee for his residence there" (Wordsworth). Jewish law would make a purchase difficult. Leviticus 25:23. Cf. 1 Kings 21:3] an house in Jerusalem and dwell there [where he would be under surveillance and where his sinister influence with the men of Benjamin would be neutralized] and go not forth thence any whither [or, "hither and thither." Weder dahin noch dorthin. Bähr.]
1 Kings 2:37
For it shall be, on the day thou goest out and passest over the brook [lit; watercourse, wady. The Kidron is quite dry, except during and for a short time after the winter rains] Kidron [The Kidron is mentioned specially because that was the direction which, it might be presumed, Shimei would take, his old home being at Bahurim], thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die [The Hebrew is, if possible, still more striking and emphatic, "To know thou shalt know that to die thou shalt die." Shimei could not say that he had not been plainly warned]: thy blood shall be upon thine own head. Cf. Le 1 Kings 20:9, and especially Joshua 2:19; also verse 31 of this chapter.
1 Kings 2:38
And Shimei said to the king, The saying [or thing, matter, דָּבָר, like λόγος̈́́ ῥῆμα, in Greek (cf. Sache, in Germ; from sagen) means (1) word and (2) deed] is good [Shimei cannot complain of the condition, remembering what he had done (2 Samuel 15:5-7) and that Solomon was not bound by his father's oath (2 Samuel 19:23)] as my lord the king hath said, so will thy servant do. And Shimei dwelt [in obedience to this behest] in Jerusalem many days.
1 Kings 2:39
And it came to pass at the of three years that two of the servants of Shimei ran away [it has been thought by some that their flight was preconcerted with their master. But the narrative does not favour this supposition] to Achish, son of Maachah, king of Gath. [This may well have been the "Achish, son of Maoch" (1 Samuel 21:11; 1 Samuel 27:2), to whom David fled fifty years before. Longer reigns than this are not unknown to history. Or it may have been his grandson]. And they told Shimei, saying, Behold, thy servants be in Gath.
1 Kings 2:40
And Shimei arose and saddled his ass [not necessarily himself. Qui facit per alium, facit per se. Matthew Henry thinks Shimei did it himself for the sake of secresy. Many expositors also think that he went by night. The text rather suggests the idea that both the going and the return were perfectly open and undisguised] and went to Gath. [It is impossible to avoid the question, What can have led to this infatuated disregard of his oath and life? Now his perversity may of course have been judicial—quos Dens vult perdere, prius dementat—but as to the means which led to this issue, it is enough if we may believe he had been dared to it either by his servants or others. The fierce Benjamite would naturally be galled to the quick by the thought that his slaves could thus openly set him at defiance; he may have heard from those who came from Gath that they were exulting over him; and he may have resolved at all hazards to teach them a lesson. He cannot have forgotten either Solomon's explicit warning or his own solemn oath (verse 42); he must have gone to Gath with his eyes open, and nothing but a great provocation, such as mockery and defiance, will account for his going.] And Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath.
1 Kings 2:41
And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and was come again. [He, no doubt, persuaded himself that his immediate return, especially when taken in connexion with the object of his journey, would excuse him to the king. He would perhaps argue that a magnanimous sovereign like Solomon could never deal hardly with one who thus placed his life in his hands. He can hardly have built his hopes on his not having crossed the Kidron, for he must have perfectly understood that he was to go "no whither."
1 Kings 2:42
And the king sent and called for Shimel, and said unto him, Did I not make thee swear by the Lord [it thus comes out quite incidentally that Solomon had bound Shimei by an oath. The LXX: embodies this information as a direct statement in the text of 1 Kings 2:37, κὰι ὥρκισεν αὐτὸν ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ, but it is obviously a gloss] and protested unto thee, saying, Know for a certain, on the day that thou goest but and walkest abroad any whither, that thou shalt surely die? and thou saidst unto me, The word that I have heard is good. [The LXX. (Vat.) omits "And thou saidst," etc. This last sentence has been punctuated thus: "Good is the word. I have heard." Probably אֲשֶׁר, "which," is to be understood.
1 Kings 2:43
― Why them halt thou not kept the oath of the Lord and the commandment that I have charged [Heb. commanded] thee with. ["Shimei ought to have been warned against trifling with Solomon's forbearance by the punishment already inflicted on Adonijah and Joab." Wordsworth.]
1 Kings 2:44
-- The king said, moreover [Heb. And the king said] Thou knowest all the wickedness which thine heart is privy to [Heb. knoweth] that thou didst to David my father [Solomon brings a threefold charge against Shimei. He has violated a solemn oath, "by the life of Jehovah," and so has "profaned the name of his God" (Leviticus 19:12). He has broken his parole and set at naught the king's commandment. He has defied and blasphemed the Lord's anointed. He must die] therefore the Lord shall return ["hath returned," or "returns." LXX. ἀνταπέδωκε, aor. The king regards himself as merely the instrument and dispenser of the Divine Justice. According to him, it is God, not spite, demands and has brought about Shimei's execution] thy wickedness upon thine own head [Every Jew, taught to expect that "every transgression and disobedience" would receive its "just recompense of reward" in this life present would see in Shimei's almost unaccountable infatuation the finger of God. To them he would seem delivered up to destruction.
1 Kings 2:45
And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord forever. [It is inconceivable that Solomon could have spoken thus if he had been conscious either of sharp practice, or spite, or cruelty. The words are those of one who is sure that he is doing God service.]
1 Kings 2:46
So the king commanded Ben-aiah the son of Jehoiada, which went out and fell upon him that he died. [The execution of Shimei has, perhaps, on the whole given more offence than that of Joab or even Adonijah. He, at any rate, was not "a murderer whom vengeance suffereth not to live," nor had he taken any part in recent conspiracies. On the contrary, he seems to have lived quietly enough under the eye of the king. And it consequently has the appearance of cruelty and malevolence that Solomon should "press the letter of a compact against him," especially when, by returning to Jerusalem, he placed his life at Solomon's mercy. But it is not difficult to offer a complete justification of Solomon's action in this matter. In the first place, it is to be remembered that cruelty had no part in his character. In his long reign of forty years there are absolutely no evidences of a brutal and tyrannical disposition. There is a strong presumption, consequently, that he was not actuated by cruelty on this occasion, a presumption which finds support in the consideration that Solomon was much too sagacious to prejudice himself in popular estimation at the commencement of his reign by proceedings which would have the least suspicion of vindictiveness. And
(2) with this probability the facts of the case entirely agree. Shimei's life, as we have seen, was forfeited to Jewish law. As he had so long been spared, however, the king gave him a gracious respite. The conditions imposed were not onerous. Shimei had but to keep his parole and he would live; to break it and he would assuredly die. He did break it; not without provocation, it may be, but he broke it, and broke too his solemn oath. It may be said it was hard he should lose his slaves, but better, surely, lose them than his life. Besides, there were other ways of recovering them; or, if he must pursue them in person, his proper course was evidently to ask the king's permission. That he did not do so is in itself a suspicious circumstance, and Solomon might reasonably think that the flight of the slaves was but a feint, and that Shimei's visit to a foreign court had really a political object. But, be that as it may, the king had protested unto him that if he went any whither, he should most certainly die. When he went, when he despised the royal command and disregarded his sacred oath, how was it possible for Solomon to break his word? To do so would have been inevitably to compromise himself with his subjects, and to forfeit their reverence and trust. Besides, there was a duty he owed to his dead father, and above all, one which he owed to the living God. He had now the opportunity for which his father bade him wait, of putting into force the provisions of the Mosaic law, of requiring the death of the blasphemer, of showing his subjects that the law could not be defied with impunity, that though vengeance was not executed speedily against evil works, still retribution was certain in the long run, and so of teaching them a much needed lesson of obedience and respect of authority. Every consideration, therefore, of justice, morality, filial piety, and religion warranted him in putting Shimei to death. Every imputation of weakness, irresolution, disregard of his plighted word, compromise of his royal dignity, and indifference to religion might justly have been levelled against him, had he interfered between Shimei and the sword of Justice.
1 Kings 2:44-46
The End of the Transgressor.
Such was the end of Shimei—violent, sanguinary, shameful. Old man as he is, he may not die in peace: his hoar hairs must be crimsoned with his blood. What does this teach? what its message to Christian men? It is twofold. It speaks
(1) OF THE SIN,
(2) OF THE RETRIBUTION.
I. It teaches
(1) The sin of treason. He had offered insult and defiance to his lawful king. Rebellion against constituted authority can only be justified by intolerable tyranny and outrage. He who
"dares to wield
The regicidal steel"
must answer to Him by whom kings govern. We are to "honour the king," to "be subject to the higher powers." "They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation," as did this rebel Benjamite.
2. The sin of blasphemy. "A grievous curse." Aimed at the king, it reached the King of kings. It was not only destructive of authority; not only an affront offered to the majesty of law; it was an indirect blow at the Majesty of Heaven. Men cannot "speak evil of dignities" without sin. Those who "curse God" will "die" (Job 2:9). How little do men make of blasphemy! But Shimei had to pay for it with his life.
3. The sin of perjury. It was this in the strict sense of the word. He broke through his oath. Though he said, "the Lord liveth," he swore falsely. He thus profaned the awful incommunicable name, and incurred the Divine curse (Zechariah 5:4). Perjuries are plentiful in our days, our police courts being witness. (Some kiss the thumb, and not the book.) "The Lord will not hold him guiltless," etc.
4. The sin of disobedience. The king had adjured him, had "protested," had said "know for certain," etc.; and even if the Kidron were mentioned arbitrarily, still it served to test his obedience. The prohibition, therefore, could not have been plainer. He disregarded it, and died. "Fool," does any one say? Stay! The great King has said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." He has solemnly testified what will be the doom of disobedience, and yet how often have we crossed our Kidron—the bound of His law—have gone after our own lusts and pleasures, and it is only because He is God and not man, only because
"the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind,"
that we have not died.
5. The sin and folly of presumption. Whatever may have led Shimei to go after his slaves, it was certainly presumption brought him back. He would hardly have returned had he not counted on forgiveness. No doubt he had persuaded himself either that Solomon would never know, or that, if he did, he would be magnanimous. "Allowance will be made for me," he had said; "my return will disarm suspicion and ensure clemency." But the sword of Benaiah soon undeceived him. And such will be the end—death, shame, everlasting contempt—of those who presume on the mercy of God. How many say, "God is so good, He will never be hard upon us," etc. But is God true? Can He deny Himself? Even Solomon could not go back from his word; and can the Holy One? Alas, if despair has slain its thousands, presumption has slain its ten thousands. It is a significant fact that since the invention of the safety lamp there have been more accidents in mines than there were before.
II. As to the RETRIBUTION, we are reminded,
1. That curses commonly come home to roost. The "grievous curse" of Shimei did not hurt David. But it was his own destruction. The poisoned arrow missed its mark, but it recoiled on the archer. The engineer is hoist by his own petard. A curse rests on those who curse the king (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:20).
2. That respite does not mean release. When David "sware" to him, Shimei thought himself safe. Surely the bitterness of death was past. We would die in his nest. We often mistake God's forbearance for forgetfulness. He is long suffering, and men ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Because "He does not settle His accounts once a week" (Goethe) the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. But the day of retribution comes as a thief, as the flood, as the sword, as the snare.
3. That if we die, it is our own fault. Shimei had his life in his own hands. It rested with him. alone whether he lived or died. He should live, if he would but live at Jerusalem. But he chose death. Men cause their own destruction. God has no pleasure in their death. "Thou hast destroyed thyself."
4. That warnings are commonly lost on the wicked. "How could Shimei be so infatuated?" we ask. What, have we not seen his infatuation paralleled? Have we never seen repeated warnings repeatedly neglected? Yes, souls, sins, warnings, results, are the same in all ages.
5. That when God reckons, He reckons for all. The sword avenged the sin of eight years before. And in the Great Assize, everything—both cup of cold water and idle word—will receive its just recompense of reward.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Kings 2:41-46
This is one example of the way in which Solomon carried out David's dying command, as given in 1 Kings 2:5-9. Shimei's violation of his promise in reference to not leaving Jerusalem, though the immediate occasion, was thus not the real reason of his punishment. He had been all along a doomed man. A great deal in David's command in reference to these men that we cannot regard with complacency; so far as there was anything of personal vindictiveness in it, our moral sense condemns it. Would it not have been more magnanimous if with his dying breath he had freely forgiven these old offenders? Solomon's conduct, however, wears a different aspect. A father's word would be to him an imperious authority; to vindicate a father's honour the instinctive impulse of filial affection; to avenge the innocent blood a sacred obligation. Moreover, these men deserved their fate. Joab had been a traitor and murderer; Abiathar had abused the sanctity of his priestly office by helping the cause of the usurper; Shimei had "cursed the Lord's anointed." This incident suggests—
I. THE ETERNAL LAW THAT WRONG DOING MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ITS DUE RECOMPENSE. Recognise the Divine element in this act of human retribution. There is a Nemesis that tracks the steps of the transgressor, and sooner or later overtakes him; not a natural law merely, but an intelligent Divine will and power. The superstition of the Melitans had a deep and solemn truth in it (Acts 28:4). Striking correspondence often between the sin and the penalty. Men suffer in forms resembling the injury they inflict. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. "All they that take the sword," etc. The weapon used wrongfully recoils upon the head of him who wielded it. "Curses, like birds, come home to roost." In the teaching of Christ and His apostles, however, the law of retribution appears, not in its old Bare, crude form, but in a more vital and spiritual form. New Testament idea—sin bears within itself the germ of its own punishment. The penalty is a development rather than an arbitrary infliction. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Sin may be divinely forgiven, and yet go on to produce in this world all sorts of bitter fruits. "May one be pardoned and retain the offence?" No; but the pardoned ruin may retain in himself the evil effects of what he has done, and see, with infinite remorse, the evil effects in others. The sin, as a "finished" fact, takes its place in the general procession of cause and effect, independently of God's mercy to the transgressor. On the other hand, the worst retribution is in the moral nature of the sinner himself.
"There is no future pang
Can deal that justice on the self condemn'd
He deals on his own soul." (Manfred.)
(E.g; SHAKESPEARE'S Macbeth; MILTON'S Satan.)
No escape from this retribution but in "the cross." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son," etc. It will not wipe out all the effects of transgression, but it will arrest the eternal penalty, and perfectly cleanse the fountain from which the evil springs.
II. THE NOBLENESS OF A TRUTHFUL AND FEARLESS DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Solomon's deed a homage to the sense of duty. Magnanimity blended with severity. He spares Abiathar, but has no mercy on Joab and Shimei. Note the reasons of this distinction. As a "man of peace" he had no love for this retributive work. It might involve him in trouble. But he shrinks not from doing the thing he conceives to be right. Men often constrained by force of circumstances, or persuasion of a Divine voice within them, to do what they have no natural inclination for doing. Essence of all moral nobleness to make duty rather than inclination or policy the law of one's life. In men of highest nature conscience is the ruling power. However it may appear, that Life is the most blessed which is the most perfect homage to the law of right
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS ABOVE THE MORAL STANDARD OF OLDEN TIMES. In following the chronicles of these old Hebrew kings we feel that we are moving in a moral region of somewhat dim light and low level. It must needs be so if there is a real law of development in Scripture and the dispensations of God. We may recognise the working of Divine principles of truth and righteousness amid the confusions of the time, and yet feel that we have in the law of Christ a far higher rule of conduct. We admit what is good in David and Solomon, but HE is our model who, on the cross of sacrifice, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."—W.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13