1 Kings 2 – The Securing of Solomon’s Throne
A. The final acts of King David.
1. (1-4) David’s exhortation to Solomon.
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the LORD may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
a. I go the way of all the earth: David, son of Jesse – Israel’s greatest king, apart from the Messiah – recognized that he was but a man and shared the common destiny of all the earth. Knowing he would soon pass from this life, David gave a final charge to Solomon.
i. An expanded account of David’s charge to Solomon is in 1 Chronicles 28 and 29. It especially emphasizes Solomon’s duty to build the temple.
b. Be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man: Perhaps David sensed some weakness in Solomon. Perhaps he knew Solomon would be tested in far greater ways than before. Whatever the exact reason was, David knew Solomon needed strength and courage (prove yourself a man). Great responsibilities require great strength and courage.
i. From these words of David we sense that Solomon faced great challenges, whether he knew it or not. “The same expression was used by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4:9 as they encouraged one another in their battle against what they assumed to be insurmountable odds” (Patterson and Austel).
c. And keep the charge of the LORD your God: David also knew that Solomon could not be strong or courageous without obedient fellowship with God. In this place of obedient fellowship, Solomon would prosper in all that he did.
d. That the LORD may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me: David had a general reason to exhort Solomon to obedience, but he also had a specific reason, a specific promise of God. God promised David that as long as his sons walked in obedience, they would keep the throne of Israel.
i. This was an amazing promise. No matter what the Assyrians or the Egyptians or the Babylonians did, as long as David’s sons were obedient and followed God with their heart and with all their soul, God would establish their kingdom. He would take care of the rest.
ii. We may envy the sons of David because they had such a promise, but we have a similar promise from God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. God promises that if we put Him first, He will take care of the rest.
2. (5-9) Advice on dealing with friends and enemies.
“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”
a. Do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace: David wanted Solomon to begin his reign in justice, and to first give justice to Joab, who was guilty of the murder of both Abner, the general of Israel’s army under Saul (2 Samuel 3:27) and Amasa, one of David’s military commanders (2 Samuel 20:9-10).
i. Joab is one of the more complex characters of the Old Testament. He was fiercely loyal to David, yet not strongly obedient. He disobeyed David when he thought it was in David’s best interest, and he was cunning and ruthless in furthering his own position.
ii. David didn’t mention Joab’s killing of Absalom, which David commanded him not to do (2 Samuel 18). Perhaps by this time David recognized that Absalom did in fact have to die for his treason and attempted murder against David.
iii. Many people think that David did not command Joab’s execution during his lifetime because Joab knew about the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:14-25). The idea is that Joab used this knowledge as blackmail against David. This may be true, but it seems that others knew of David’s sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah also (such as Nathan the prophet and servants in David’s court). It would seem that Joab’s knowledge was only effective as blackmail if no one else knew it.
iv. At the very least, David knew the complexity of Joab’s character. He knew the loyalty and sacrifices Joab made for David over the years, and he knew his violence and ruthlessness. “David felt under obligation to Joab, and though David was certainly not lacking in courage, he was not able to cope with the mixture of Joab’s loyalty and his misdeeds” (Patterson and Austel).
b. Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite: David also wanted Solomon to do justice by these who had helped David in a time of great need.
i. “To eat at the king’s table was the equivalent of having a pension, the beneficiary receiving a regular royal allowance of food and clothing, with a house and land to support him and his family.” (Wiseman)
c. Shimei… bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood: David vowed that he would not kill the obnoxious rebel Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-13). It was right for David to keep his vow, but it was also right for him to make sure that Shimei received justice without David breaking his vow.
3. (10-12) David’s death.
So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David. The period that David reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.
a. David rested with his fathers: This phrase will become common throughout 1 and 2 Kings to describe the passing of a king from this world. Truly, David passed from this life to eternal rest and reward.
i. So ended the earthly life of one of the greatest men ever to walk the earth. So he died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor. (1 Chronicles 29:28) “Of his adultery and murder we hear not a word, because he had made a thorough peace with God for those sins in his lifetime” (Trapp).
ii. “He was a shepherd, a soldier, an outlaw, a king, a fugitive, a sinner, a saint, a poet… His experiences were the writing of God on his life, making him into a man after God’s own heart.” (Redpath)
iii. “In general he lived well, and it is most evident that he died well; and as a king, a general, a poet, a father, and a friend, he has had few equals, and no superior, from his own time to the present day.” (Clarke)
b. And was buried in the City of David: The tomb of David was known in the time of Jesus and the apostles, according to Acts 2:29. Afterwards, the Christian writer Jerome speaks of it being known in his time. What is currently known in Jerusalem as David’s Tomb is almost certainly not the genuine one that was known in ancient times.
i. “According to 2 Kings 11:10, David’s weapons were preserved as relics in the sanctuary, while, according to Josephus, other representative treasures of his reign were buried with him in his tomb.” (Dilday)
c. Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established: This is phrased to show that it was a fulfillment of the promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. That promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of David; but it also had a definite and partial fulfillment in Solomon.
i. “With Solomon began, in some senses, the most splendid period in Israel’s history. The splendor, however, was largely mental and material. The spiritual is noticeably absent.” (Morgan)
B. Solomon secures his throne.
1. (13-18) Adonijah asks Bathsheba to make an appeal on his behalf.
Now Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. So she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably.” Moreover he said, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say it.” Then he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their expectations on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom has been turned over, and has become my brother’s; for it was his from the LORD. Now I ask one petition of you; do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say it.” Then he said, “Please speak to King Solomon, for he will not refuse you, that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as wife.” So Bathsheba said, “Very well, I will speak for you to the king.”
a. Do you come peaceably: This was a valid question. Adonijah attempted to succeed David as king over Israel, but was kept from establishing his reign when Nathan and Bathsheba warned King David of Adonijah’s attempt. Adonijah had reason to wish revenge on Bathsheba.
b. You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their expectations on me, that I should reign: Adonijah seemed to suffer from delusions of grandeur. He imagined that there was widespread popular support for him as king. In reality, he only had a handful of influential malcontents to support him, and they quickly deserted him when it was evident that David favored Solomon (1 Kings 1:49).
c. That he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as wife: In all likelihood, Abishag was a concubine of David’s and therefore legally bound to him. David’s death broke that bond, and now Adonijah wanted to take the concubine widow Abishag as wife.
i. We can surmise that Adonjiah wanted more than Abishag’s beauty (1 Kings 1:3-4). In 2 Samuel 16:20-23 Absalom, the brother of Adonijah, asserted his rebellious claim on David’s throne by taking David’s concubines unto himself. Adonijah wants to declare or build a claim to Solomon’s throne by taking David’s widowed concubine as his wife.
ii. This idea has historical examples. Among the ancient Persians and Arabs, the new king took the harem of the previous king.
2. (19-21) Bathsheba brings the request to Solomon.
Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. Then she said, “I desire one small petition of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” So she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as wife.”
a. Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon: She knew that this was an outrageous request, yet she still agreed to bring it to Solomon. Bathsheba probably believed that it was best that Solomon knew what Adonijah wanted to do.
b. One small petition: Bathsheba knew this was not a small petition at all. She was at least a little sarcastic, to make the request of Adonijah seem even more offensive to the ears of Solomon.
3. (22-25) Solomon has Adonijah executed for his challenge to the throne.
And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, “Now why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also—for he is my older brother—for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “May God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life! Now therefore, as the LORD lives, who has confirmed me and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has established a house for me, as He promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today!” So King Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he struck him down, and he died.
a. Ask for him the kingdom also: Solomon understood the situation perfectly. He knew that this was Adonijah’s attempt to declare or build a claim to the throne of Israel.
b. As the LORD lives, who has confirmed me and set me on the throne of David my father: Solomon was zealous to give justice to Adonijah because he knew that God gave him the throne of Israel.
c. Adonijah shall be put to death today: Solomon simply acted according to the “terms of parole” granted to Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:52: If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die. Adonijah made a wicked, treasonous request and is executed because of it.
i. We wonder why Adonijah – after hearing the warning Solomon made in 1 Kings 1:52 – would make such an outrageous request. Perhaps he felt that Solomon was too young, too inexperienced, or too timid to do the right thing. He soon found out that Solomon was a wise and decisive leader.
4. (26-27) The exile of Abiathar.
And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are deserving of death; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you were afflicted every time my father was afflicted.” So Solomon removed Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, that he might fulfill the word of the LORD which He spoke concerning the house of Eli at Shiloh.
a. You are deserving of death: Abiathar deserved death because he supported Adonijah as the next king, in defiance of the will of God and the will of King David (1 Kings 1:7). This was treason against both God and the King of Israel.
b. I will not put you to death at this time: Solomon showed mercy and wisdom to Abiathar. Mercy was shown in sparing Abiathar’s life in light of his past standing as a chief priest and supporter of David. Wisdom was shown in exiling him and saying, “I will not put you to death at this time.” Solomon let Abiathar know that he could still be executed.
c. That he might fulfill the word of the LORD which He spoke concerning the house of Eli at Shiloh: This refers to the prophecies found in 1 Samuel 2:27-36 and 1 Samuel 3:11-14. In removing Abiathar from the priesthood, Solomon, without direct intention, fulfilled the promise of judgment against the house of Eli, made some 100 years before Solomon took the throne.
5. (28-35) The execution of Joab.
Then news came to Joab, for Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the LORD, and took hold of the horns of the altar. And King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the LORD; there he is, by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said to him, “Thus says the king, ‘Come out!’” And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” Then the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed. So the LORD will return his blood on his head, because he struck down two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword—Abner the son of Ner, the commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, the commander of the army of Judah—though my father David did not know it. Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab and upon the head of his descendants forever. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the LORD.” So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck and killed him; and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the army, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.
a. And took hold of the horns of the altar: Joab supported Adonijah in his treasonous attempt to gain David’s throne. Now, he imitated Adonijah’s attempt to find refuge by taking hold of the horns of the altar (as Adonijah did in 1 Kings 1:50-53).
i. “He did not know where to fly except he fled to the horns of an altar, which he had very seldom approached before. As far as we can judge, he had shown little respect to religion during his lifetime. He was a rough man of war, and cared little enough about God, or the tabernacle, or the priests, or the altar; but when he was in danger, he fled to that which he had avoided, and sought to make a refuge of that which he had neglected.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The laying hold upon the literal horns of an altar, which can be handled, availed not Joab. There are many – oh, how many still! – That are hoping to be saved, because they lay hold, as they think, upon the horns of the altar by sacraments.” (Spurgeon)
b. Go, strike him down: Although it was almost a universal custom in the ancient world to find sanctuary at a holy altar, Solomon knew that this ancient custom was not used in Israel to protect a guilty man. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die (Exodus 21:14). Since Joab refused to leave, Solomon had him executed right at the altar.
i. “It would have been an insult to justice not to have taken the life of Joab. David was culpable in delaying it so long; but probably the circumstances of his government would not admit of his doing it sooner.” (Clarke)
c. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the LORD: This was only true as David’s descendants followed the LORD. Our destiny is not determined by our ancestors, but by our current relationship with God.
i. David reinforced this principle with Solomon earlier in this chapter by reminding him what the LORD promised: If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul… ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel (2 Kings 2:4).
6. (36-46) Solomon settles the past with Shimei.
Then the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there anywhere. For it shall be, on the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head.” And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so your servant will do.” So Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days. Now it happened at the end of three years, that two slaves of Shimei ran away to Achish the son of Maachah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, “Look, your slaves are in Gath!” So Shimei arose, saddled his donkey, and went to Achish at Gath to seek his slaves. And Shimei went and brought his slaves from Gath. And Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and had come back. Then the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the LORD, and warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and travel anywhere, you shall surely die’? And you said to me, ‘The word I have heard is good.’ Why then have you not kept the oath of the LORD and the commandment that I gave you?” The king said moreover to Shimei, “You know, as your heart acknowledges, all the wickedness that you did to my father David; therefore the LORD will return your wickedness on your own head. But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.” So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he went out and struck him down, and he died. Thus the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.
a. Do not go out from there anywhere: Shimei was associated with the household of the former King Saul, and showed himself as a threat to the House of David (2 Samuel 16:5-8). David instructed Solomon not to allow Shimei to die in peace (1 Kings 2:8). Solomon began dealing with Shimei by placing him under house arrest.
b. The saying is good: Shimei knew that Solomon was merciful and generous to him. He not only agreed with the arrangement, he was also grateful for it.
c. Why then have you not kept the oath of the LORD and the commandment that I gave you: Solomon extended mercy to Shimei, but Shimei abused it and took advantage of it. It seems to have been mainly a matter of neglect or forgetfulness, but it was criminal to neglect or forget a royal covenant.
d. Thus the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon: This chapter demonstrates that Solomon’s throne was secure at an early date, not like the reign of David or Saul.
i. This initial demonstration of justice was important for Solomon to perform. “He seems to think that, while such bad men remained unpunished the nation could not prosper; that it was an act of justice which God required him to perform, in order to the establishment and perpetuity of his throne” (Clarke).
ii. “It is interesting to compare his position now with that of his two predecessors, Saul and David, at the start of their reigns. Both had faced a measure of suspicion or opposition from their own countrymen; both had met this problem with resolute action, coupled with understanding and leniency. Solomon, however, eliminated his potential enemies swiftly and ruthlessly.” (Payne)
iii. “Oh that we would be as quick in slaying our arch-rebels, those predominant sins that threaten our precious souls!” (Trapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission