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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 KINGS 2

THE CONSOLIDATION OF KING SOLOMON'S AUTHORITY

The events of this chapter did not follow immediately after those of the previous chapter. David recovered from his serious illness and performed a number of important deeds prior to his death as witnessed by the parallel account in 1 Chr. 23--29. And, although David's sinful numbering of Israel is included in the events reported there (which event occurred prior to the serious illness of David reported in 1 Kings 2:1), it is quite evident that a number of things reported in Chronicles were undoubtedly subsequent to that illness.

Hammond gave an analytical summary of those events.

"The aged king left his sick room, gathered around him the princes of Israel (1 Chronicles 23:2), and made a number of specific arrangements for the priests and Levites in their tabernacle services, and was even able to 'stand upon his feet' (1 Chronicles 28:2) and address a large assembly respecting the erection and adornment of the Temple. He blessed the Lord before all the congregation (1 Chr. 29:10ff). He ordered festal sacrifices upon a tremendous scale and also witnessed a second and more formal anointing of Solomon as king. Nevertheless, his recovery was only temporary, the sudden brightening of the flame before it dies. In this chapter, David again appears near death; and we have a record of his double charge to Solomon."F1

Another important feature of this chapter is the inclusion by David of God's Law regarding Israel's kings found in Deut. 18:17-20, indicating, absolutely, the prior existence of the Pentateuch, a truth which unbelieving critics have never been able to refute except by their false weapon of last resort, namely, that of declaring the passage to have been "a Deuteronomic addition,"F2 or "an insertion by a later editor";F3 but there are far too many instances of David's perfect familiarity with the Five Books of Moses, commonly called "The Law," for any knowledgeable Christian to accept any such critical denials of the Bible, which, without exception, are based upon the fairy tale that imagines a late date for the Pentateuch.

DAVID'S LAST WORDS TO SOLOMON

It is extremely important that this passage is based upon the "last words" of King David; because that fact destroys any supposition that these last words would have been edited, changed, or any manner perverted. "In the O.T., a man's daring words were especially significant."F4 This lends all the more credibility to David's reference to "The Law of Moses," in the very terminology of Deut. 18:17-20. No "editor" who ever lived would have dared to tamper with "the last words of David."

DAVID'S SOLEMN CHARGE TO SOLOMON TO OBEY GOD'S LAW


 
Verses 1-4
Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I am going the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; and keep the charge of Jehovah thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, [and] his commandments, and his ordinances, and his testimonies, according to that which is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself. That Jehovah may establish his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.

(See my remarks above regarding David's quotation from the Law of Moses.)

The latter part of this charge regarded the conditional promise of God regarding David's earthly dynasty. There were two things prophesied in 2 Sam. 7: (1) the promise of Messiah who would reign on David's throne forever, and (2) the continuity of David's earthly dynasty. The promise of the Messiah was unconditional, but the promise of the continuity of David's posterity upon the throne in Jerusalem was conditional. (See our full discussion of this in Vol. 3 of the Historical Books (1 Samuel) in chapter 7.)

The Book of Kings spells out in the most dramatic record the shameful and rebellious apostasy of David's dynasty, beginning with Solomon himself, and ending in the tragic death of Zedekiah, who, along with a predecessor Jeconiah who survived him in Babylon, was the earthly termination of David's wicked dynasty.

That Law of Moses which David cited for Solomon specifically forbade him to "multiply wives," or to amass "horses" as the bulwark of his military establishment. The very next chapter reveals Solomon's utter disregard of the divine Law.

DAVID'S FINAL WORD REGARDING JOAB, BARZILLAI, AND SHIMEI


 
Verses 5-9
Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did unto me, even what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to Sheol in peace. But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom thy brother. And, behold, there is with thee Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim; but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I sware to him by Jehovah, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man; and thou wilt know what thou oughtest to do unto him, and thou shalt bring his hoar head down to Sheol with blood.

There are conflicting interpretations of this passage, all of the older and more conservative scholars taking the view that David was fully justified in these instructions for Solomon to execute Joab and Shimei. God's law specifically demanded that murderers should be put to death (Genesis 9:6); and that, as long as murder remained unpunished, the whole land was defiled and under a curse (Numbers 35:33); and Hammond believed that David here ordered Joab's execution as a means of removing such a curse from the land of Israel,F5 affirming that, "The law gave the king no power' to forgive such an offense."F6

Also, with reference to Shimei, his execution is justified on the basis that the king had no power to forgive him of his capital offense in blaspheming the Lord's anointed (Lev. 24:14ff), and that, "David on his death bed then realized that he was a law-breaker in forgiving Shimei,"F7 and that he resolved to correct his error by ordering Solomon to execute Shimei. Attractive as such explanations may be to many scholars, this writer finds it impossible fully to agree with them. If Israel was under a curse by the shedding of innocent blood until that curse was removed by the death of the murderer, how was the curse that followed the murder of Uriah removed?

And, with regard to David's forgiveness of Shimei, David's remembrance of his oath to Shimei does not correspond with what David was reported to have said in 1 Sam. 19:23, where the text declares that David said, "Thou shalt not die"; but on his death-bed David changed that promise into the proposition that David himself personally would not execute him. In the light of the prior Biblical revelations regarding David's character, and in view of what is plainly stated here, this writer finds it very difficult to disagree with the evaluation of this passage which, "Judged by any standard, (it) places David's character in an unamiable light."F8

What is really visible here is the evil system that inevitably accompanied Israel's fate under that king which they had demanded. God had warned them that their monarchy would result in all kinds of abuses by their kings. What David was really concerned about on his death bed was the destruction of all potential enemies of Solomon, among whom Joab and Shimei were most certainly included. Our own conviction is that David's genuine hatred of Joab had nothing to do with his shedding "the blood of war in the time of peace," but to his killing Absalom.

If David had been all that interested in the shedding of innocent blood by Joab, he should have mentioned Joab's ruthless murder of Uriah. Yes, Nathan said that God had remitted the penalty of death as it regarded David; but was not Joab equally guilty? Where is the promise that God remitted the penalty due for that act of Joab?

To sum it all up, David received for himself a forgiveness for murdering Uriah the innocent; but he refused to extend it to Joab who was guilty of the same murder, as well as those of Abner and Amasa. The human frailty and imperfection of that man who had once been "the man after God's own heart" are clearly visible in this tragic scene.

THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF DAVID


 
Verses 10-12
And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. 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. And Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established greatly.

Josephus reported that vast treasures were buried with David; and that these were later looted "by John Hyrcanus,"F9 and "by Herod."F10 Both of these statements by Josephus were accepted as true by James Montgomery.F11 On the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter mentioned the tomb of David as being "still with us" in that day (Acts 2:29).

ADONIJAH'S FOOLISH REQUEST TO MARRY ABISHAG


 
Verses 13-18
Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably. He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said, Say on. And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign: howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother's; for it was his from Jehovah. And now I ask one petition of thee; deny me not. And she said unto him, Say on. And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king (for he will not say thee nay), that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife. And Bath-sheba said, Well; I will speak for thee unto the king.

There are two ways of explaining Adonijah's request: (1) He was extremely naive and ignorant of the political implications of his request, perhaps being blinded by a passionate infatuation with the beautiful Abishag, or (2) he, in league with Abiathar and Joab, was involved in a conspiracy to take the throne away from Solomon. Montgomery accepted the first of these explanations, calling the affair "an innocent love affair."F12 It is immaterial and irrelevant that such might indeed have been the true explanation of Adonijah's actions; because Solomon interpreted it as a wicked conspiracy; and Solomon's opinion was the only one that made any difference. He immediately ordered the execution of Adonijah, who apparently was waiting near the throne for an answer. Of course, according to the opinions of that time, taking one of the king's harem was the equivalent of demanding his throne, as we observed in the actions of Absalom (2 Samuel 16:20-23).

SOLOMON'S ANGRY RESPONSE AND EXECUTION OF ADONIJAH


 
Verses 19-25
Bath-sheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, I ask one small petition of thee; deny me not. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother; for I will not deny thee. And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to wife. And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother; even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah. Then king Solomon sware by Jehovah, saying, God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah hath not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore as Jehovah liveth, who hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me a house, as he promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death this day. And king Solomon sent by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him, so that he died.

Solomon at once interpreted Adonijah's request as the first move in a plot supported by Abiathar and Joab ordered his immediate execution.

DEMOTION AND EXPULSION FROM JERUSALEM OF ABIATHAR


 
Verses 26, 27
And unto Abiathar the priest said the king, Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields; for thou art worthy of death: but I will not at this time put thee to death, because thou barest the ark of the Lord Jehovah before David my father, and because thou wast afflicted in all wherein my father was afflicted. So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto Jehovah, that he might fulfil the word of Jehovah, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.

Solomon lost no time in moving against others whom he considered members of the conspiracy. It is not even stated here that he sent for Abiathar, for he had evidently done that when he ordered the execution of Adonijah.

It should be noted that Solomon did not promise to execute Abiathar, but merely that he would not then do so. He banished the last of Eli's posterity to Anathoth a village of priests, which later became known as the residence of Jeremiah. It was not very far from Nob and only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem.

The great significance of 1 Kings 2:27 here should be stressed. Solomon's action against Abiathar is here stated by the author of Kings to have fulfilled the prophecy uttered by the "man of God" against the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:27-36). This emphasis is repeatedly stressed throughout Kings, because one primary purpose of the inspired narrator was that of demonstrating in the history of Israel the utmost dependability of prophecies spoken through the prophets of the Lord. With this removal of Abiathar, the last descendant of the house of Ithamar served as a high priest in Israel.

In a practical sense, however, Solomon's appointment of Zadok (related in 1 Kings 2:35, below) to the position formerly held by Abiathar was loaded with evil consequences for Israel. "This established a precedent of the high priesthood's being at the disposal of the king, another step down the slippery slope of being like the nations around them."F13 In N.T. times it will be remembered that this very thing led to the Roman procurator's privilege of removing Annas and appointing Caiaphas (and others) in his place.

SOLOMON'S EXECUTION OF JOAB


 
Verses 28-35
And the tidings came to Joab; for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the Tent of Jehovah, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told king Solomon, Joab is fled unto the Tent of Jehovah, and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. And Benaiah came to the Tent of Jehovah, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me. And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon him, and bury him; that thou mayest take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father's house. And Jehovah will return his blood upon his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, and my father David knew it not, [to wit], Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah. So shall their blood return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever: but unto David, and unto his seed, and unto his house, and unto his throne, shall there be peace for ever from Jehovah. Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him; and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. 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.

Although Zadok is called merely "the priest" in this passage, it is clearly the office of the High Priest that was given to Zadok. "The Qumran community of the Dead Sea Scrolls claimed to be descendants of Zadok. The office of the High Priest was supposed to be hereditary, and not subject to political appointment; Solomon, therefore, here introduced a principle of grave (and evil) consequences."F14

"Joab's flight to the Tent of Jehovah is almost certain evidence of his guilt."F15 Having heard of the death of Adonijah, he very accurately understood that he also was certain to be executed.

Solomon's accusation here that Joab's murder of Amasa was a crime against a man more righteous and better than himself was hardly accurate; because Amasa had led Absalom's army of more than forty thousand men against David with the avowed purpose of killing him; and none of Amasa's subsequent actions proved, in any sense, that he had indeed become loyal to David. It is by no means impossible that his delay in obeying David's orders to muster the army might have been due to his toying with the idea of supporting the rebellion of Sheba. At any rate, Solomon's charges against Joab were, in a large degree, fully deserved by that evil man.

SOLOMON'S SEVERE RESTRICTIONS UPON SHIMEI


 
Verses 36-38
And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Build thee a house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and go not forth thence any whither. For on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, know thou for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head. And Shimei said unto the king, The saying is good: as my lord the king hath said, so will thy servant do. And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days.

These restrictions which Solomon imposed upon Shimei were more onerous than might appear. Jerusalem, at that time, was a city of less than thirty-five acres; and for a man who commanded a thousand followers in Barhurim, along with what was probably a very extensive estate, such a restriction was indeed severe. Nevertheless, Shimei agreed to the conditions upon which Solomon spared his life and strictly observed them for three years. We have already noted that David had promised that Shimei should not die; but in ordering Solomon to find some good reason for killing Shimei, David revised that promise to mean merely that David would not personally kill him. The real reason, no doubt, for the projected execution of him was the potential danger to the throne of Solomon which David foresaw in a powerful Benjamite like Shimei.

SHIMEI WAS ALSO EXECUTED BY KING SOLOMON

Israel was getting a remarkably effective lesson in the customs of their kings "like the nations around them." The ruthless and often arbitrary murder of all enemies, whether real or imagined, was the modus operandi of all the kings of those ages; and the pattern would never vary in Israel.


 
Verses 39-46
And it came to pass at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away unto Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, Behold, thy servants are in Gath. And Shimei arose, and saddled his ass, and went to Gath to Achish, to seek his servants; and Shimei went, and brought his servants from Gath. And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again. And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Did I not adjure thee by Jehovah, and protest unto thee, saying, Know for certain, that on the day thou goest out, and walkest abroad any whither, thou shalt surely die? and thou saidst unto me, The saying that I have heard is good. Why then hast thou not kept the oath of Jehovah, and the commandment that I have charged thee with? The king said moreover to Shimei, Thou knowest all the wickedness which thy heart is privy to, that thou didst to David my father: therefore Jehovah shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head. But king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before Jehovah for ever. So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he went out, and fell upon him, so that he died. And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

And the throne of David shall be established before Jehovah forever
(1 Kings 2:45). It is quite likely that the inspired writer of Kings, and especially Solomon himself, appropriated this promise from 2 Sam. 7 as personally applicable to the earthly dynasty of David without realizing the CONDITIONAL NATURE of that promise as it applied to David's temporal dynasty.

And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon
(1 Kings 2:46). Indeed it was! But the reader feels exhausted rather than satisfied. What a sad contrast is here with the magnanimity of the first king (1 Samuel 11:11-15). But Israel should have expected this change. Kingdoms `like the nations' cannot be run on sentiment; and Solomon the son of the palace harem had not come up the hard way, as had Saul and David..F16


Footnotes for 1 Kings 2
1: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5a, p. 23.
2: Arthur S. Peake's Commentary, p. 295.
3: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 325.
4: Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 163.
5: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 24.
6: Ibid.
7: Ibid, p. 26
8: Arthur S. Peake's Commentary, p. 295.
9: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 237.
10: Ibid, p. 487.
11: International Critical Commentary, Kings, p. 90.
12: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 92.
13: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 430.
14: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 326.
15: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 42.
16: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 430.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1ki&chapter=002>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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