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DAVID’S DYING CHARGE TO SOLOMON, AND HIS DEATH, 1 Kings 2:1-11.
2. I go the way of all the earth “Pale death,” says Horace, “with impartial footstep knocks at the hovels of the poor and the palaces of kings.” It is appointed unto man once to die, whether he be king or slave.
Be thou strong That is, be firm, decided, and courageous in all thy administration. Compare Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9.
Show thyself a man Be in righteous words and deeds a royal godly man. There have been those, and royal personages too, who ill deserved the name of men. Better to call them ravenous beasts, or vipers. Solomon’s youth may have been one reason for David’s utterance of these words. He was “but a little child,” (1 Kings 3:7,) probably nineteen or twenty years of age; and with many turbulent elements in the nation, there was need on his part of a pre-eminently firm and manly spirit.
3. Keep the charge of the Lord That is, take care of God; charge thyself with the responsibility of guarding his name and honour. See the Divine charge to kings, in Deuteronomy 17:16-20. The manner of doing this is immediately designated.
Walk in his ways To have the whole life in conformity to his revealed will.
Keep his statutes Observe them in thine own conduct, and see that they are properly respected by all thy people. Statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies are probably not to be sharply defined and distinguished from each other, but rather, as Keil observes, they serve to denote collectively the whole law of Moses in its various aspects and bearings on human life and conduct. Statutes denote more particularly those divine decrees which show the relations of right and wrong in the abstract. Commandments are the revealed laws which, like the decalogue, are designed to regulate the daily life. Judgments point rather to the rewards of human conduct as meted out by God himself, and revealed in the history of the Divine administration, all serving to impress men with the infallibility and justice of the decisions of Jehovah. Testimonies comprehend statutes, laws, judgments, ceremonies, every thing in the history of Israel that conveys declarations against sin and in favour of holiness.
4. His word which he spake concerning me See 2 Samuel 7:11-16, and notes there.
5. Thou knowest… what Joab… did For the facts, see marginal references. This charge concerning Joab is but a particular application of the more general charge in 1 Kings 2:3. A strict regard for the honour of Jehovah, and for his statutes, laws, judgments, and testimonies, required that the crimes of the bloody Joab should receive their merited penalty; but David seems to have felt that his own hands were too full of blood, and his own heart had been too deeply stained with “blood-guiltiness,” (Psalms 51:14) to allow him to be the instrument of Joab’s punishment. His own unworthiness made him feel that the son of Zeruiah was too strong for him, and hence this charge to Solomon. It was not “a dark legacy of long-cherished vengeance,” as Stanley avers, though personal feelings were no doubt involved, but a solemn responsibility resting on the king of Israel as the guardian of Jehovah’s honour. He that “keeps the charge of Jehovah” must, if he regard the safety of the kingdom and the honour of its laws, show that “he beareth not the sword in vain.” See Romans 13:4. “David does not mention, among Joab’s sins, that one which caused him personally the most poignant grief the murder of Absalom. Not for sins committed against David as a father, but for sins committed against the law and majesty of God, does David advise Solomon the king, as the keeper of God’s law and the guardian of God’s honour, to punish the guilty offender.” Wordsworth.
Shed the blood of war in peace Shed in time of peace, blood which should have been shed only in warfare. As in the case of Abner, with whom David had made a treaty of peace, but whom Joab treacherously slew at the gate of Hebron. 2 Samuel 3:12-30.
Put the blood of war upon his girdle… and in his shoes That is, he stained his garments with innocent blood, the blood of those whom he could have lawfully slain only in battle. The words are to be taken literally, and with special reference to the case of Amasa. See 2 Samuel 20:8-10. When Joab, after the murder of Amasa, returned his sword to its girdle he doubtless stained the girdle, and probably his feet also, with the blood of the slain captain. Or we suppose that the one fearful thrust that disembowelled Amasa caused the blood to spurt out, and spatter Joab from his girdle to his feet.
6. His hoar head Gray hairs are venerable, but the hoary headed sinner is not to be saved by his whitened locks. Joab was doubtless younger than David, but still far gone in years. We need not deny that David had feelings of personal revenge towards this man who had injured him so much, for we are not to look for the saintliness required by the New Testament in even the noble David. This dying charge, however, was evidently not the offspring of personal revenge, but a measure of administrative wisdom.
7. Barzillai the Gileadite See marginal references, and notes on 2 Samuel 19:31-39.
8. Shimei the son of Gera The same remarks which show the nature of David’s charge concerning Joab, 1 Kings 2:5, apply here also. It is not so much the charge of a dying father to a son as of a righteous ruler to his successor on the throne. David feels that in some things his hands have been too feeble in the punishment of crimes. In the case of Shimei he had allowed the royal majesty of Israel to be insulted and the offender to go unpunished.
I sware to him… I will not put thee to death But David’s oath was not binding on Solomon.
9. His hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood Dr. Kennicott tries to make this passage mean precisely the opposite of what it says by connecting it with the first sentence of the verse, and understanding the negative in that sentence to be carried over and implied in this. But the passages he quotes as grammatical parallels are not at all relevant, for their connexion is so close that no one can mistake the meaning, whilst here the two sentences he proposes to link together in the same way are separated by two intervening affirmative sentences. Then, the ground of this untenable criticism is the assumption that David desired to bind Solomon under the same oath to protect the life of Shimei that he himself had made at Jordan. 2 Samuel 19:18. But if the honour and dignity of the kingdom called for the life of the bloody Joab, so did it also for the punishment of this blasphemous Benjamite; and this David’s words most clearly imply. He leaves it, however, to Solomon’s wise judgment to decide what his penalty shall be; and Solomon, though at first disposed to let him live and die in peace, was at length obliged in justice to bring down his gray head to the grave with blood. See 1 Kings 2:36-46.
10. David slept with his fathers These words are properly supposed by many to teach the separate conscious existence of the soul after death. They may, indeed, denote that common sleep which all the dead are sleeping; but beyond this they seem to point to that spiritual and blissful association in Paradise which the New Testament revelation brings more clearly to light, and are equivalent to being gathered to one’s people. Compare Genesis 25:8. It cannot be urged, however, that these words at all determine the actual state of the dead.
Was buried in the city of David That is, in Jerusalem, “the city which he had made his own, and which could only be honoured, not polluted, by containing his grave. It was, no doubt, hewn in the rocky sides of the hill, and became the centre of the catacomb in which his descendants, the kings of Judah, were interred after him. It remained one of the landmarks of the ruined city after the return from the captivity, (Nehemiah 3:16,) and was pointed out down to the latest times of the Jewish people. ‘His sepulchre is with us unto this day,’ says Peter at Pentecost, (Acts 2:29;) and Josephus states that Solomon, having buried a vast treasure in the tomb, one of its chambers was broken open by Hyrcanus, and another by Herod the Great. It is said to have fallen into ruin in the time of Hadrian. The vast cavern, with its many tombs, no doubt exists under the ruins of Jerusalem, and its discovery will close many a controversy on the topography of the Holy City. But down to this time its situation is unknown.” Stanley. Among the Orientals, in ancient as in modern times, it was not customary to bury within the gates of a city; but here, says Wordsworth, “was a glimpse of a better time, when death would no longer be regarded as an unclean thing, and when the grave would be hallowed and beautified by the burial of Christ, the Son of David, the King of the true Zion.”
FALL OF ADONIJAH, 1 Kings 2:12-25.
12. His (Solomon’s) kingdom was established greatly By the fact that he was chosen of God, and inaugurated and anointed in his father’s lifetime, and instructed by the wise counsels of David. He was also confirmed in his kingdom, as the writer proceeds to show, by the destruction of those who had conspired against him, and were at heart his enemies. Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab, and Shimei could not be trusted; and the kingdom was not safe with them at liberty. So the sacred writer at once informs us how these dangerous persons were taken out of the way.
13. Came to Bathsheba As Nathan had succeeded through the powerful influence of this woman in securing the throne to Solomon, (see 1 Kings 1:11-31,) so Adonijah now hopes through her to gain his ends.
Comest thou peaceably With no hostile or sinister designs? (Compare 1 Samuel 16:4.) His recent usurpation was a sufficient reason for her to imagine some new evil design.
15. The kingdom was mine By the right of primogeniture.
All Israel set their faces on me A multitude of people had followed the ambitious youth, as we may learn from chapter 1 Kings 1:9; but it was a stretching beyond the bounds of truth to call that seditious crowd all Israel.
It was his from the Lord By these cautious words he seeks to allay suspicion, and win the favour of Bathsheba.
18. Well; I will speak for thee But did not Bathsheba perceive the treasonable project hidden under Adonijah’s petition? Probably not in all its consequences. She doubtless had some fear of him, and was anxious as far as possible to conciliate him, for she knew that his hereditary right to the throne had been set aside by Jehovah’s choice of her son Solomon.
19. The king rose up to meet her Here we see with what respect and honour the “queen mother” was treated. Bathsheba now, as mother of the reigning king, has more power and influence in court than she had while David lived. See note on 1 Kings 15:13.
Caused a seat to be set The word here rendered seat is the same as that rendered throne in the preceding sentence. It was evidently a royal seat, and placed on the king’s right hand the place of honour.
20. One small petition These words show that Bathsheba did not clearly comprehend the treasonable import of Adonijah’s request.
22. Ask for him the kingdom also To marry Abishag, who was virtually a concubine of the deceased king, (see note on chap. 1 Kings 1:3,) was ostensibly to invade the royal harem, and thus assume royal prerogatives. So in the case of Absalom. See note on 2Sa 12:8 ; 2 Samuel 16:21. The wary Solomon detects at once the far-reaching plot of his rival brother, and at once implicates him with Joab and Abiathar in a conspiracy against his throne. We have, indeed, no evidence that these three had entered together into such conspiracy, but it is not improbable that they had concerted with each other, and concluded if Abishag were but granted in marriage to Adonijah, the right of the latter to the kingdom would be tacitly acknowledged, and the way opened for successful rebellion.
24. Adonijah shall be put to death this day To the charge of those interpreters who condemn this vigorous severity of Solomon as a needless act of cruelty, the following words of Keil are an excellent and all-sufficient reply: “All attack or censure depends on un-biblical views of law and right, and on a complete misunderstanding of the theocratic point of view, according to which alone the question can be decided. By the attempt to usurp the throne Adonijah had already rebelled against Jehovah, who had appointed Solomon as the successor of David. Now if, after Solomon had forgiven his transgression, he comes out with a new attempt at rebellion, duty to God and the theocracy demanded of Solomon not to have respect to consanguinity, but to act according to the rigour of the law.”
DEPOSITION OF ABIATHAR, 1 Kings 2:26-27.
26. Anathoth The modern Anata, four miles northeast of Jerusalem. See on Joshua 21:18. It was a city of the priests and the home of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:1.
Thou art worthy of death By being an accomplice in the conspiracy of Adonijah. See note on 1 Kings 1:7. But Solomon’s respect for his holy work and office, and his knowledge of Abiathar’s association with David in his afflictions, led him to change his punishment from death to banishment.
Thou barest the ark That is, superintended the bearing of it. See note on 2 Samuel 15:24.
27. That he might fulfil the word of the Lord See 1 Samuel 2:33-36, and notes there. “This word had been partly fulfilled by the death of Hophni and Phinehas, (1 Samuel 4:11,) and by the destruction of the priests by Saul, (1 Samuel 22:18,) and now it was fully accomplished, and therefore the author here uses the words, ‘that he might fulfil.’” Wordsworth. But Eli’s posterity were not to be utterly cut off; and after the exile we find descendants of Ithamar returning from Babylon. Ezra 8:2.
DEATH OF JOAB, 1 Kings 2:28-35.
28. Tidings came to Joab Woful tidings to the old commander old, but ambitions still. Knowledge of Adonijah’s death and Abiathar’s banishment left him no room for hope, for he saw at once that he was implicated in the guilt of treason. Strange that the stern old warrior, who had been so nobly loyal to his king during Absalom’s rebellion, should now be implicated in conspiracy! But his ambition paved his way to ruin. See note on 1 Kings 1:7.
Fled unto the tabernacle Which was at Gibeon. This seemed to be his only hope of safety. See note on chap. 1 Kings 1:50. At Gibeon he slew Amasa, (2 Samuel 20:8,) and there he is himself slain.
30. Come forth Such criminals as Joab even the altar would not defend, but the law required that they be taken from the altar to be slain. “If a man come presumptuously on his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar that he may die.” Exodus 21:14.
Nay; but I will die here He knew that to leave that sacred spot was to go to certain death, and he seems to have hoped that Solomon’s reverence for the altar would prevent his being slain there. But his bloodguiltiness was, in Solomon’s mind, too great to admit him to the least compassion. Compare Numbers 35:30-33 and Deuteronomy 19:13.
33. Upon… his seed for ever So the bitter curse of David had long before predicted. See 2 Samuel 3:29. On that archaic jurisprudence which visited the sins of the fathers upon the children, see note on Joshua 7:24.
34. Buried in his own house in the wilderness The old soldier was laid to rest among his native hills near Bethlehem: probably in his father’s sepulchre, where his brother Asahel had been buried. 2 Samuel 2:32. This was in the wilderness of Judah. See note on Joshua 15:61. He had been a mighty and valiant warrior, and Solomon allowed him an honourable burial.
35. Zadok the priest… in the room of Abiathar Thus was fulfilled another part of the prophecy to Eli. See 1 Samuel 2:35, and note. “The ark and tabernacle had never been united since the capture of the ark by the Philistines in the days of Eli. Hence a double exercise of priestly functions in two different places ensued. Even at this time there was one altar of burnt offering at Gibeon, and another before the ark on Mount Zion. See note on 2 Samuel 6:17. But now, under Solomon, the prince of peace, the type of Christ, this confusion was about to cease, and unity of worship was to be established by the erection of the temple.” Wordsworth.
DEATH OF SHIMEI, 1 Kings 2:36-46.
36. Sent and called for Shimei Who was probably still residing at Bahurim. Compare marginal reference.
37. The brook Kidron This way was probably specified because any attempt of Shimei to escape would be quite likely to lead him first in the direction of his home, which lay beyond the Kidron.
Thy blood… upon thine own head A common expression to denote the punishment of death. Compare marginal reference.
40. Went, and brought his servants from Gath This some might think a slight offence, and not worthy of such bitter punishment as Solomon inflicted. But by this offence he broke his solemn oath, (compare 1 Kings 2:43,) and so was guilty of perjury. He also showed a reckless and restless spirit. When his slaves escaped he ought to have informed the king, and received from him permission to bring them back; but his neglect to do even that showed an incorrigible recklessness.
44. The king said moreover to Shimei It is to be noticed respecting all these four enemies of the king that their last offence was but the immediate occasion, not the sole cause, of their sudden ruin. It was previous guilt, contracted by former crimes or disloyalty, that now returned upon them, and by further aggravation made them ripe for destruction.
46. The kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon By the utter crushing out of treason in the removal of those who alone were disposed to rebellion. Solomon might say from his own experience: “Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.” Proverbs 25:5.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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