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Commentary on KINGS (or 1 & 2 Kings)

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Book of Kings (Kings 1 & 2).

Introduction.

The Book of Kings was originally one book, but was divided into two when it was translated into Greek. This was in order to fit it onto the available scrolls (unlike primitive Hebrew, Greek had vowels and thus required twice as much space). Like Samuel therefore it should be treated as one book. It covers the four hundred or so years from the last days of David (c.970 BC) to the judgment of the Exile and the subsequent evidence of God’s continuing mercy in the release of Jehoiachin (c.560 BC), which was seen as an earnest of what was to come.

In one sense its opening section can be seen as ‘the turning point’ in Israel’s long history, for, following the gradual growth in Israel’s fortunes which had resulted in the powerful Empire of David, the book describes the gradual slide of Israel and Judah away from outward conformity to God and His ways, (something which had reached its pinnacle in the time of David), into a condition where God could no longer allow them to continue, and would thus bring them to final destruction. One of its major lessons is thus that disobedience to God’s covenant with us, and to God’s Law (here the Law of Moses), can only result in disaster. Another is of God’s continual attempts to win His people over, even when they were least deserving.

In this sense therefore it mirrors the present day. It depicts all the obstacles in the way of the growth of the Kingly Rule of God as those who are supposed to be His people sink into formalism and even heresy, the equivalent of the ancient ‘high places’, while at the same time reminding us that God is at work in His own way behind the scenes, and will finally emerge triumphant. Thus as we read in Kings of the failure to deal with the ‘high places’ or even of the glad and willing acceptance of them, we should ask ourselves, ‘what are our high places today?’ And the answer lies in the realms of overindulgence in, or wrong usage of, sex (which was at the very heart of the religion at the high places), music, sport, and anything else which takes up our minds to the exclusion of God.

It is not, however, to be seen as intended to be ‘a history of Israel’ because too much is deliberately left out. While it does give us valid information about the history of both Israel and Judah, a large part of that history is ignored (and we are actually referred to contemporary history books for the information). The book is rather a prophetic interpretation of that history, (which is why the Jews included it within ‘the former prophets’), using carefully selected events, depicting how God worked within history and through it, in bringing about His judgments, and how He saw men in each age. It is seeking to see everything from God’s viewpoint. It describes history in terms of the working of God through time as He sought to lead His people in the way of righteousness. And it describes the way in which, apart from the few, they refused to follow Him because they were too taken up with their own interests.

Its Place In The Sequence of Prophetic History. .

There is no doubt that it was intended to be a sequel to the history in Samuel, for it commences with an introductory ‘and’, and the first two chapters of 1 Kings describe the death of David, whose life was depicted in Samuel. Furthermore it takes up themes from Samuel (e.g. David’s dealings with Joab, Barzillai and Shimei). And it lays great emphasis initially on YHWH’s covenant with David about the everlasting kingship (2 Samuel 7), and in the fact that David’s ‘lamp’ is being maintained. Thus in a sense it can be said to take up the story of David from where Samuel leaves off. But it should be noted that there is no direct link in the book with any particular point in Samuel, (which ends with David’s kingdom flourishing, if a little chastened), and the closing events of David’s reign prior to his death are only described in Kings in so far as they affect the accession of Solomon. It is thus commencing a new section of history rather than finishing off an old.

One reason for the sense of continuity is that the first two chapters (or parts of them) of Kings are seen by many as using the same source for their information as 2 Samuel 9-20, a source often spoken of as coming from ‘The Court History of David’. We have no objection to that description as long as it is not carried too far. But it is going much too far to suggest that that was all that the court history of David consisted of, for in context 2 Samuel 11-20 is more a history of the troubles that came on David consequent on his sins in connection with Bathsheba and Uriah than a simple court history, while other important events in the latter part of David’s reign are undoubtedly omitted.

In fact the main stress of Samuel was unquestionably very different from that of Kings. Its concentration was on the establishment of the Davidic kingship, with an emphasis on both its successes and its failures, as brought about by the Spirit of YHWH (1 Samuel 16.13). In contrast in Kings we find that the Spirit is still at work. Not, however, through the kings but as passing from one generation to the next through the prophets (1 Kings 18.12; 2 Kings 2.9, 15, 16). The Spirit is nowhere connected with kings (who only connect with lying spirits - 22.22), not even Solomon. On the whole it explains why that kingdom failed. The Spirit of YHWH had to take up a new avenue for His work because the old had been closed to Him through their disobedience. And this comes out in the fact that there are continual reference to prophets throughout the history, whilst the Elijah/Elisha cycle takes up one third of the book.

This brings us to one remarkable fact about the reign of Solomon. Although he was helped to the throne by Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 1) during the life of David, and it is through the writings of Nathan the prophet that we know much about his reign (2 Chronicles 9.29), there is no indication anywhere of the activity of the prophets during his reign. And even though the final verdict on him was that he ‘did evil in the sight of YHWH’, no prophet is depicted as having arisen to give him any warning. In fact throughout the whole account of his life he only has qualified approval, for there are continual indications of something not quite right, and yet no prophetic voice comes to warn him. Given the continual reference to prophets throughout the Book of Kings this must be seen as quite surprising. Was this because he was so confident in his own prophetic ability that he had somehow silenced the prophets? Had they been sidelined and indeed not included within the ministry of the new Temple? Why was the voice of prophecy silent? Towards the end of his reign Ahijah was to be found in Shiloh informing Jeroboam that through him Solomon’s house was to be punished (1 Kings 11.29), and when Rehoboam commenced his reign, Shemaiah the prophet came to warn him against civil war with Israel (1 Kings 12.22), but no prophetic voice ever spoke directly to Solomon. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in some way the prophets were suppressed and prevented from speaking during his reign.

The Relationship Of Samuel To Kings.

In spite of many who think so, there are no real grounds for seeing behind the Book of Samuel the same set of hands as was responsible for Kings, even though Kings does build on Samuel. We would, of course, expect to find some indication of Samuel’s contents simply because Samuel was by then looked on as Scripture, but there is no attempt to refer back, and what are often pointed to as evidences of a single editor can just as easily be seen as resulting simply from the fact that the earlier writings have influenced the later writers so that they worked within the same mode and along the same lines. This comes out, for example, in that the ascriptions to Saul (1 Samuel 13.1) and David (2 Samuel 4.4-5) in Samuel at the commencement of their kingship may appear to be similar to those in Kings. But they are in fact only in an outline form compared with what eventually comes to full fruition in Kings where the name of the mother is regularly also given for kings of Judah, and a verdict is given on the king’s reign (e.g. 15.1-3). The latter has built upon the former. And yet it is noteworthy that even in Kings the ascriptions concerning Solomon and Jeroboam do not follow what would later become the normal pattern, coming rather in connection with their deaths than at their accession (1 Kings 11.42-43; 14.19-20). It is only following this that the ascriptions begin being shown at the commencement of the reign. Thus the writer of Kings may well have utilised the primitive pattern found in Samuel as he planned the final production of his own history, but if he did so it was in order later to develop it into his own more detailed pattern which he began to apply from 14.21 onwards, not because he had consciously taken up and was continuing a pattern. It was because it best suited his purpose. The parallel theology can also be seen as having arisen on a similar basis, with the later inspired prophets simply following up on the earlier ones because they acknowledged the truth of what they said. They would not be the first to tailor their writings to those of their predecessors, and in those days plagiarism was admired rather than discouraged. No single ‘editor’ of both Samuel and Kings is thus required. Such an idea arose from holding a particular view of history which is not justified by the text.

The Sources For The Information In Kings.

The fact that the history in Kings is written from a theological viewpoint does not necessarily make it unreliable (all histories, even the most objective, are written from a particular viewpoint). In reality it suggests that the opposite is the case. For the prophets would have been concerned to ensure that they kept to factual history precisely because the whole truth of their position depended on the fact that what they described really happened like they said, and they were fully aware that what they said could be checked against official records, to which the prophetic author of Kings regularly refers. Nor (unlike the annals of other nations) were they out to exaggerate in order to boost the king’s ego. They were out to reveal the truth, because the truth of the history brought out the truth about YHWH.

Furthermore they were quite well aware that they were open to being contradicted if they strayed from the facts. For the historical facts contained in what they wrote were obtained from detailed records maintained throughout the period of which they speak, such as The Book Of The Acts (Words/Deeds) Of Solomon, The Record Of The Words/Deeds Of The Days Of The Kings Of Judah, and The Record Of The Words/Deeds Of The Days Of The Kings Of Israel (1 Kings 11.41; 14.19, 29 and often). And these were available to their readers, who were specifically referred to them. The original records were thus clearly preserved and available in the author’s time, for like all the nations the kings of Israel and Judah had had their own recorders who had kept a record of their own histories (compare the Assyrian Lists and Annals; the Babylonian Chronicles; and so on), as indeed David had previously (2 Samuel 8.16). It is probable also that there were other prophetic writings which had been written in order to preserve details of the activities of the prophets such as Elijah and Elisha, the writing and maintenance of such being no doubt seen by ‘the sons of the prophets’ as one of their key responsibilities (Isaiah 8.16). It was they who were called on to maintain truth in Israel and Judah.

The Viewpoint Of The Narrative

It is important, however, to recognise that what would have been considered as important by a secular historian is often ignored by the author(s) of Kings. Apart from in the case of Solomon (and even then it was from a religious viewpoint), the writer(s) was not interested in the greatness of the kings from a secular viewpoint, or in their worldly achievements. Omri and Jeroboam II, who were undoubtedly two of Israel’s greatest kings (as evidenced by external sources) were dismissed in a few lines, simply because they were not considered theologically important. And we will soon discover that even in the cases of kings where we are given more detail, it is the religious aspects of the reigns and activities of those kings which are dealt with in detail rather than the secular. The secular only comes in when it results in a theological lesson, and that is why, when we come across a piece of secular history we have to ask, ‘what is the author trying to tell us from this?’

That is also why each reign begins with a verdict on how the king was looked at by YHWH, and on the basis of whether they had done what was good or what was evil in the sight of YHWH, a verdict reached simply by considering their attitude towards pure Yahwism and the covenant, although we may undoubtedly affirm that that attitude would unquestionably have affected their behaviour and how they judged the people, and the behaviour of the people themselves. Under good kings the covenant flourished because their ways and their interest in it caused it to do so, under bad kings it withered. Thus the writer was not out to exalt or debunk the kings of Israel and Judah for their own sake, but to appraise them from YHWH’s viewpoint. To him their history was only important in so far as they either advanced Yahwism, and the keeping of the covenant that went with it, or brought judgment on Israel through their behaviour. And his final message was one of God’s judgment on both Israel and Judah, even though it was with the hint of better things to come.

Accuracy and Chronology.

The writer(s) proceeded on the basis that they would extract their information from the records that they consulted without substantially altering them. This comes out specifically if we compare 2 Kings 18.13, 17-20.19 with Isaiah 36-39 (both probably taken from a common source), and by the fact that when the lengths of reigns were given at different times no attempt was made to reconcile them with the lengths of reigns elsewhere in 1 Kings. Whatever figure was stated to be true by each record from which they were obtaining their information was written down, even if outwardly it conflicted with other figures. This inevitably causes confusion for us (and apparent contradictions) because in regard to dating the lives of kings the recorders of the original sources involved had used different bases on which to assess their information. Thus, for example, their figures were affected by the fact that:

  • Israel and Judah commenced the year at different points.
  • Judah regularly excluded the part year of accession (up to the New Year) from their calculations whereas Israel included it as one year. This was sometimes, however, seemingly not always so where accession took place close to the New Year.
  • Some recorders dated the reigns from when a king commenced a joint regency with his father. This practise of joint-regency appears to have been common practise in Judah and is specifically instanced in the cases of Solomon and Jotham (2 Kings 15.5). It was a lesson learned from what happened towards the end of David’s life. It prevented controversy and upheaval on the death of the king, for it meant that his officially appointed regent was already in place. It thus prevented a great deal of civil strife and dissatisfaction at changeover periods, in total contrast with what happened in Israel.

The application of these basic principles to the reign statistics in Kings on the whole serves to explain why what at first sight appear to be contradictions in statistics concerning reigns do occur, while at the same time enabling us to establish their accuracy.

The Basis Of The Writings.

It has often been pointed out that the writer(s) subscribed to many of the principles referred to in the Book of Deuteronomy. This is, of course, what we would expect if Deuteronomy was looked on as Scripture, for in the writer’s view Deuteronomy would be seen as containing Moses’ words as they were considered to be specifically applicable to the people in a live situation. It was a ‘popularisation’ of the covenant in vivid terms. But we must not overlook the fact that the writer in Kings does also subscribe to the whole of the Law of Moses, and saw that as also needing to be observed (2.3; 3.14; 2 Kings 10.31; 11.12; 14.6; 17.37; 18.6; 21.8; 22.8; 23.3; 23.32; etc). We must beware of becoming too tunnel-visioned in our thinking (or of just excising the verses which get in the way of our theory). The Book of Deuteronomy was very much a popularising, and expanding on, what was written elsewhere in the Law. It was a putting it all into one covenant form, in preparation for Moses’ death and for their entering into the land, and the law of blessing and cursing was typical of all such covenants. But the same principles of choice and retribution that are found in Deuteronomy, are also found in the remaining books of Moses, and the idea of retribution clearly expounded in Leviticus 26.3-45 parallels in some detail anything found in Deuteronomy. While there it is not directly connected with ‘cursing’ (something which arose from the covenant nature of Deuteronomy) it is equally noteworthy that similarly no thought of retribution as ‘cursing’ arises as a principle in Kings. Indeed the only references to cursing in Kings relate to Shimei’s cursing of David (2.8), (someone whom the writer actually sees as blessed), and the reference in 2 Kings 22.19, where Huldah the prophetess informs Josiah of YHWH’s intention to make the inhabitants of Jerusalem ‘a desolation and a curse’. This one reference can hardly be seen as confirming that the curses of Deuteronomy are the pattern for Kings. That is not, of course, to deny a Deuteronomic contribution. We would, of course, expect to find some hints of Deuteronomy in Kings, because there is no good reason for denying that Moses was the source of what was put on his lips in Deuteronomy, even though it was probably put in writing and brought to its completion by his recorder, Joshua (Exodus 24.13; 33.11; Deuteronomy 34.9). It is no accident that Deuteronomy is structured on a 12th century BC covenant form. But much of the language of Kings also presupposes, and contains indications of, the other Mosaic literature (consider, for example, the concept of forgiveness (salach) in Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8, a concept found only in Leviticus and Numbers, but not in this way in Deuteronomy, or the idea of the ‘hallowing of the Sanctuary’ an idea found previously only in Exodus, or the idea of Israel’s being ‘cut off’, which while a prominent feature in Exodus/Leviticus/Numbers does not occur in Deuteronomy).

The Central Sanctuary.

One of the parallels that is often brought out as existing between Kings and the Book of Deuteronomy is the concept of the Central Sanctuary as the only legally acceptable place of worship. Interestingly, however, no such concept is ever clearly stated, either in Deuteronomy or Kings. For while the Central Sanctuary and its legality is certainly prominent in both, once what is said is considered carefully, the doctrine that it was seen as the only legally acceptable place of worship is not specifically taught in either. We must carefully distinguish in this regard between the Central Sanctuary as the focal point of Israel’s oneness in the covenant on the one hand, something which made it unique, and places in Israel where worship to YHWH could legitimately be offered on the other. The one is not to be seen as exclusive of the other. Elijah for one clearly recognised certain sites other than the Central Sanctuary as legitimate places for worshipping YHWH and it is inconceivable that the writer of Kings, who so fully supports Elijah, would want to have been thought of as having denounced him for establishing worship at ‘high places’.

Furthermore, it is a mistake to assume that the concept of the Central Sanctuary first appeared in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy simply accepted that the Central Sanctuary around which Israel was established as a tribal confederacy, would be established at whatever ‘place’ (maqom) YHWH would choose to place it. The Central Sanctuary was in fact a concept that originally arose in Exodus, and was firmly established many years before Deuteronomy was written, for it was assumed in the instructions given for the construction of the Tabernacle to which all Israel should assemble, and at which all Israel were to regularly worship, and this view was confirmed by the reaction of all Israel to the memorial altar set up in Ed where the suggestion of having a multiplicity of central altars was firmly repudiated (Joshua 22.9-34). It was also implicit within the idea of the covenant by which all the men of Israel were to gather three times a year at the Central Sanctuary to worship YHWH together (Exodus 23.17; 34.23; Deuteronomy 16.16), and all in Israel were regularly to gather at seven year intervals to hear the covenant being read out, which again would be at the Central Sanctuary (Deuteronomy 31.10-13; compare Joshua 8.34-35 where ‘the Law’ spoken of certainly included Exodus 20, for which see Joshua 8.31). The men of Israel were also expected to respond to the call to arms made by any of the tribes, a call no doubt often made through or with the authority of the Central Sanctuary, (the call clearly had to come from someone with the authority to make it, not just anyone), when they needed help (consider Judges 3.27; 5.13-23; 6.33-35; 8.1; 19.29-20.1; 21.5; 1 Samuel 11.7). Thus the idea of one unique Central Sanctuary was in no way exclusive to Deuteronomy. It is rather witnessed to everywhere (even if we restrict it originally to primitive forms).

But neither Deuteronomy nor Kings ever specifically exclude worship at any other sanctuaries apart from the Central Sanctuary. What is truer to say is that worship elsewhere was strictly limited to sites ‘where YHWH had recorded His Name’. What Deuteronomy did rather stress was the importance of maintaining the concept of the Central Sanctuary in the life of Israel, wherever it was sited, no matter what other sanctuaries might be recognised because YHWH had recorded His Name there. It nowhere bans other altars at places where YHWH has recorded His Name, but limits itself to explaining how to deal with animals slain where no such altar is available (Deuteronomy 12.15-16), while the author of Kings, for example, certainly approves of Elijah for ‘repairing the altar of YHWH which had fallen down’ on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18.30), which he saw as one of a number of such approved altars (1 Kings 19.10), an altar which unquestionably represented a separate ‘sanctuary’ from Jerusalem. Elijah himself thus approved of certain sanctuaries other than the Central Sanctuary, sanctuaries which were presumably seen by him as ones at which YHWH had recorded His Name (1 Kings 19.10; compare Exodus 20.24), sanctuaries which the Israelites had in fact destroyed! At these sanctuaries worship at different levels would no doubt be conducted in a way which was in line with the teaching and practise of the central Sanctuary.

Indeed with the tribes of Israel so far flung, and separated over long periods by their enemies, such sanctuaries would have been essential. What were being condemned in Kings were not genuine satellite sanctuaries, ‘where YHWH had recorded His Name’, but unregulated high places which had been bastardised, or had been raised up at the instigation of men, or of unruly priests, and the proliferation of Canaanised high places which could only lead men into error, together with the deliberate ignoring of the Central Sanctuary to which all should have continued to come under the covenant regardless of who reigned where. For the aim of the Central Sanctuary was in order to preserve the covenant of YHWH intact, and maintain the purity of worship, and the unity of the people of YHWH.

This concept of the Central Sanctuary was in fact witnessed to regularly prior to the time of Samuel (who himself initially served at the Central Sanctuary). It not only appears regularly in the Law of Moses but there are also indications a number of times in Joshua (5.10; 7.14; 8.30-35; 10.15, 43; 14.1-6; 18.1; 19.51; 24.1-28), Judges (1.1; 2.1-6; 3.27; 6.34-35; 10.10, 16; 11.39-40; 18.31; 20.1-2; 21.2, 4, 12, 19), and the early chapters of Samuel (1.3; etc.) even though it did fall into disuse for a period due to the destruction of the Central Sanctuary at Shiloh by the Philistines and the parallel storage of the Ark in the house of Abinadab. That was something which resulted in Samuel having to arrange for worship in the places chosen for him by YHWH, places where he no doubt saw YHWH as having ‘recorded His Name’, possibly through a prophetic vision. Both Gilgal and Bethel had ancient sacred associations, and the Ark had been present at both places, and Mizpah had been a place where YHWH had come to Samuel within his own lifetime, and was clearly seen as a holy place (Judges 20.1; 1 Samuel 7.5-6, 9-10), while Ramah was where YHWH revealed Himself to Samuel. The Central Sanctuary was later partially restored by Saul (1 Samuel 21), and while the appointment of two High Priests due to Saul’s persecution of the priests of Nob, and David’s setting up of a separate ‘kingdom’, no doubt resulted for a time in two Central Sanctuaries, one at Ziklag and then eventually for Judah at Hebron under Abiathar, the official High Priest by succession, of the house of Ithamar, and the other for Israel under Zadok of the house of Eliezer, the two were eventually reunited by Solomon. The situation under David where there was the Tabernacle at which was found the bronze altar and the other Tabernacle furniture (probably originally at Hebron and then at Gibeon), and also the Sacred Tent in Jerusalem where the Ark was situated, was clearly neither orthodox (on the basis that all the sacred furniture was intended to be together in one Sanctuary) nor on the basis of previous indications expected to be permanent. David intended to unite the two in Jerusalem. Indeed he was probably initially prevented from doing this by the deep-felt conservatism of the people who still saw Jerusalem as not having the right credentials to house the Tabernacle. This situation of two Tents was allowed by YHWH because of David’s eventual intention to unite the two.

Thus all through Israel’s history the concept of the Central Sanctuary was prominent. It was not, however, intended to prevent the erection of altars at places where YHWH ‘had recorded His Name’ (Exodus 20.24; compare 1 Kings 18.30; 19.10, 14). But that these were not over-numerous should be obvious, and it is significant how little mention is made throughout their history of offering sacrifices away from the Central Sanctuary while it was operative, with the exception of times when the Ark was present, or when there was a specific theophany, or when it had been specifically commanded by YHWH Himself (all therefore at places in which YHWH had recorded His Name). Any exceptions to this that we know of are cases were the sacrifices were expressly disapproved of, and therefore not examples of regular practise.

So those which were approved of were either connected with theophanies or with the presence of the Ark or occurred where directly commanded by YHWH. What therefore were being forbidden in Kings were tainted and syncretistic sanctuaries such as that in Judges 18.30-31; and those at Bethel and Dan which had become connected with the golden calves and were clearly syncretistic (1 Kings 12.28-29) and were intended to isolate the worshippers from the Central Sanctuary in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12.27). And it included rejection of the proliferation of syncretistic high places around the country which had resulted by popular demand (and which were very much influenced by Canaanite practise) at places where YHWH had not ‘recorded His Name’.

The places where YHWH could be publicly worshipped, apart from at the Central Sanctuary, were thus to be seen as strictly regulated in terms of being where YHWH had recorded His Name, which included worship in the presence of the Ark wherever it might be, for the Ark represented ‘the Name’ (2 Samuel 6.2). Having the Temple as a Central Sanctuary was not therefore a totally new idea, (except in the fact that by becoming a building it would become totally permanent), being rather a continuation of normal practise, although now in permanent form. And what was abhorrent to many in that case was that it was being established at what they saw as a blatantly Canaanite Sanctuary.

As a matter of fact, as a permanent and grand structure the Temple does not appear to have been fully approved of by YHWH Himself (2 Samuel 7.5-7). He appears rather to have allowed it as a concession to David. For there YHWH was specifically stated to be satisfied with the Tabernacle, and as far more concerned with the building of David’s ‘house’ (his dynasty), than with a building of brick and timber. Nor are there any grounds at all for thinking that the Temple was specifically what Deuteronomy had in mind. The concern in Deuteronomy was simply that of requiring that there always be a Central Sanctuary somewhere, to which all the assembly of Israel would gather at certain times of the year, and which would centralise worship, evidence of the fact that YHWH was present with them in the land.

Incidentally, as regards the Temple, it was not the building of a Temple that was unusual, (every nation had its Temples), it was the building of one as the one and only Central Sanctuary. But that it was not as the only place where YHWH could be worshipped, Elijah made clear.

The Jerusalem Temple.

It is made very apparent in Samuel and Kings that the Temple was not YHWH’s brainchild but David’s. YHWH nowhere at any stage requested the building of a Temple and indeed initially rejected the idea (2 Samuel 7.5-7) and sought to turn David’s thoughts rather towards the importance of his future dynasty through which YHWH would finally introduce His everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7.8-16). But it was an idea that had taken hold of David’s mind, and when he had seen the angel of YHWH poised to destroy Jerusalem, and had been called on to build an altar at the threshingfloor of Ornan, he had determined to build the Temple there. And the result was that YHWH eventually went along with the idea out of His love for David (1 Chronicles 22.1-10). It was to please David that He ‘chose Jerusalem out of all the tribes of Israel to set His Name there’. It had been similar with the kingship in the time of Samuel. That too had been a concession.

The thought of the Central Sanctuary being established in ex-Canaanite Jerusalem, however, went very much against the grain with many of the people. That was why the attempt to establish Jerusalem as the place where the Central Sanctuary would be established had had to take place in stages. It was accomplished firstly by bringing the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH into Jerusalem, and establishing it there for a number of years in its own sacred Tent, at the same time as the official Central Sanctuary was operating in parallel with it, probably at first in Hebron, and then in Gibeon. This was a brilliant concept of David for it would gradually reconcile the people to the idea of Jerusalem as a place where YHWH ‘had recorded His Name’ (because the Ark which represented His Name (2 Samuel 6.2) was firmly established there), an idea which would then later be ‘reinforced’ by bringing the Tabernacle and all its furniture, together with the Ark, into the new Temple at Jerusalem, once Jerusalem had become ‘more acceptable’ religiously.

But even then Solomon apparently had to try to justify the idea to the people, which is why, in his initial ‘blessing’ on the occasion of the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8.15-21), he carefully builds up his argument as to why the Temple should be seen as being established with YHWH’s full agreement. In that blessing he stresses, not that YHWH has chosen a city, but rather that He has chosen a king to rule His people Israel (verse 16). And his justification for building the Temple and making it the Central Sanctuary lies firstly in the fact that he, Solomon, is the duly appointed successor of that king under YHWH’s covenant made with David, which he then connects back to the covenant of Sinai. (verses 20-21), and secondly, by means of using a ‘wide’ interpretation of certain words in the Davidic covenant (verses 19-20).

It is the Chronicler who later brings out how determined David had been to establish a Temple in Jerusalem, and how YHWH had therefore gone along with it to please David (1 Chronicles 22.1-19. Note that it is after the incident of the numbering of Israel), and it is he who describes the words of Solomon by which Solomon reinterpreted the Davidic covenant in terms of the Temple. Once, however, YHWH had graciously gone along with David and Solomon in their desire, and had given them permission to build the Temple in Jerusalem, He then adopted the Temple and Jerusalem into His purposes as comprised within His choice of David. Thus in 1 Kings 11.13 he could declare to Solomon, ‘I will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to your son for David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen’. (Note how the choice of Jerusalem, David’s city, arises out of and results from His choice of David). That was why in 1 Kings 11.32, 36 He could say of Jerusalem, as closely connected with David, that it was ‘the city which I have chosen for Myself out of all the tribes of Israel to put My Name there’, which, of course, He had done from the very moment when He had allowed the Ark to be established in Jerusalem, and even more so when He had allowed the Tabernacle to be removed to Jerusalem, the first at the instigation of David, and the second at the instigation of Solomon. But it should be carefully noted that the emphasis is always on the fact that YHWH had chosen David, rather than on the fact that He had chosen Jerusalem, and that He nowhere sought or demanded the building of the Temple. His choice of Jerusalem was very much secondary, being based on the fact that it was the city of ‘David His chosen’. It had no past history to support it.

Tabernacle Or Temple?

In 2 Samuel 7.5-7 YHWH asks David, “Shall you build Me a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt even to this day, but have walked in a Tent and in a Dwellingplace (shaken - Tabernacle). In all the places in which I have walked with the children of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ” And He then went on to point out rather that He would build a house for David, a house of flesh and blood which would inherit the throne. The emphasis in verses 11-16 is on that house (verses 11, 13, 16). While verse 13 may be slightly ambiguous out of context, in the context it is quite plain. There is not the slightest indication anywhere else in Samuel that a literal Temple was in mind. The ‘house’ that Solomon was to build was to result in the establishing of the kingdom and the permanent occupation of the throne (The Temple accomplished neither).

In view of this lack of positive reference to the building of the Temple we should perhaps compare the two in the light of what we find in Exodus and Kings.

  • 1). The Tabernacle Was To Be Built Of Free-will Offerings From Those Whose Hearts Were Willing. The Temple Was Built Out Of Enforced Taxation.

    A comparison between the Tabernacle and the Temple soon brings out the discrepancy between the two, and is in fact deliberately and patently brought out at one stage by the writer of Kings. Consider for example the Tabernacle. It was to be built of free-will offerings; ‘of every man whose heart makes him willing you will take my offering’ (Exodus 25.2). What a contrast with the building of the Temple where Hiram’s ‘gifts’ turned out to be very expensive indeed (1 Kings 5.10-12), helping to cripple the economy of Israel, and none of the people had any choice in the matter. And there was very little of free-will offering in the levies that Solomon raised out of Israel for the purpose (1 Kings 5.13-18). Indeed we learn very clearly about the ‘goodwill’ involved in 1 Kings 12.4, 14. As the author makes clear they lay at the root of the division that occurred between Israel and Judah.

  • 2). The Tabernacle Was Built At YHWH’s Specific Request According To His Pattern. The Building Of The Temple Was Never Specifically Requested.

    Then YHWH adds, ‘And let them make me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Dwellingplace (Tabernacle), and the pattern of all its furniture, even so shall you make it’ (Exodus 25.8-9). So it was to be made of freewill offerings, gladly given, and was to be made according to YHWH’s pattern, and we have already noted that it was said to be in total contrast to David’s idea for a Temple (see above). Here in Exodus YHWH had asked them to make Him a Sanctuary. In 2 Samuel 7.5-7 YHWH specifically says that He has NOT asked for a Temple, while in 1 Kings 5.5 it is Solomon who says, ‘I purpose to build a house for the Name of YHWH my God’, (with the emphasis on the ‘I’), relying on a misinterpretation of 2 Samuel 7.13.

    Furthermore it will be noted that far from being built on a pattern determined by YHWH, the furniture of the new Temple was very much seen to be a combination of the ideas of Solomon (6.14-36; 7.47-51) and Hiram The Metal-worker (7.13-46) as the author specifically brings out.

  • 3). The Tabernacle Was Built Under The Jurisdiction Of A Trueborn Israelite Who Was Filled With The Spirit Of God, And By Willing, Responsive, Workers, The Temple Was Built Under The Jurisdiction Of A Half-Pagan With The Deliberate Omission Of Mention Of The Spirit Of God, And By Enforced Levies.

    Having commanded the building of His Sanctuary YHWH later then called to Moses again and said, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship’ (Exodus 31.2; compare 35.31). And Moses then called men in order to give instructions as to how the work was to proceed, ‘and Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every wise-hearted man, in whose heart YHWH had put wisdom, even everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to the work to do it’ (Exodus 36.2). Note how voluntary it all was.

    In contrast the account in 1 Kings 7.13-14 commences with Solomon sending for a man named Hiram (not the king) whom he fetches out of Tyre. And here there appears to be a deliberate attempt in the description of him to bring to mind Bezalel, the skilled worker who made the Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35.30-33), for Hiram is described as being ‘filled with wisdom (chokmah), and understanding (tabuwn), and skill (da’ath) to work all works in bronze’. With this we can compare the description of Bezalel, ‘He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom (chokmah), and in understanding (tabuwn), and in knowledge (da’ath), and in all manner of workmanship --.’

    But it is the differences that are significant:

    • Bezalel was called by YHWH from among His people Israel, from the very heart of the camp, Hiram was sent for by Solomon out of pagan Tyre, being only half Israelite.
    • Bezalel was ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ in wisdom, understanding and knowledge, Hiram was simply filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge (mention of the Holy Spirit is consciously dropped).

    It will be noted indeed that the author of Kings makes no attempt to pretend that Hiram was filled with the Spirit of God.

  • 4). The Tabernacle Was Built Of Freely-given Cloth And Jewels Which Displayed All Their Pristine Glory, The Temple Was Built Of Blood-stained And Sweat-stained Stones, Which Were Then Covered Over With Timber And Gold, Bought With Taxation or Resulting From Tribute And Trade.

    Especially in view of the facts in 3). we find it very difficult to avoid in all this the suggestion that these contrasts were all in the mind of the author of Kings. He wanted us to see the distinction. They would appear to reveal that as a prophet he was not so entranced by the Temple as many of his compatriots appear to have been, seeing rather within it the seeds of its own destruction. Nowhere does he suggest that it was their attitude towards the Temple itself which lay at the root of the failure of the kings of Israel and Judah. His theme with regard to both was rather their attitude towards the setting up of false high places in contrast with the true. In view of the fact that Elijah set up genuine high places which the author clearly saw as acceptable, we cannot argue that his generally expressed attitude towards ‘high places’ necessarily reflected on their attitude towards the Temple. It reflected on their deviation from the truth. And in so far as it did reflect on the Temple it was not because of the Temple per se, but because of its position as the Central Sanctuary.

    By his day, of course, an open attack on the Temple would not have been wise (as Jeremiah discovered), but what he was certainly doing was laying seeds of doubt as to how much its building had really been of God. The only Temple which YHWH is in fact specifically said to have required was the Second Temple, outwardly a far inferior version to Solomon’s, but built with willing hands and hearts (Haggai 1.2, 14; compare how the author of Kings would appear to approve of this approach - 2 Kings 22.4).

The Structure And Framework Of Kings.

Standing amidst the ruins of a collapsing nation, a prophet of YHWH looked back on the history of his people, and as he did so he could only ask himself, how have we come to this? Four hundred years earlier, in the time of David, the future had seemed so bright. The living God, the Redeemer from Egypt, had made a firm covenant with David as he ruled over his large empire (in terms of his day), and had promised that through his seed the throne of the kingdom would be perpetuated, until it issued in the everlasting kingdom. And when this had resulted in what had seemed like a golden era in the time of the mighty Solomon it must have appeared, at least to the better off amongst God’s people, as if they were almost on top of the world. It had seemed that nothing could go wrong. A glorious future lay before them.

But now all had turned sour. Israel was no more, with its people scattered, and Judah had almost reached its nadir as a mere petty vassal state of Babylon, taxed to the hilt, and experiencing much turmoil. Looking back on their history there had been times when things had appeared bright, but somehow their progress at such times had always resulted in their going even further backwards. And now they had come to this present state, when the land was drained of hope, and they themselves felt utterly bruised and battered and simply awaiting possible disaster.

It was possibly then that the prophet who was the main author of Kings arose. Making use of the sources that were available to him through the state records and the writings of the prophetic schools which had come down to them, the prophet sought to give an answer to the questions that were bewildering YHWH’s people. He sought to bring home to them that what had happened to them was precisely what Moses in the Law had warned. He based his argument on five things;

  • 1). The exclusive right of YHWH as their Deliverer from Egypt, and as the One Who had chosen them from among all people to be His own, to their unqualified obedience and worship (Exodus 3.7, 10; 4.22; 6.7-8; 19.5-6; 20.2-18; 22.31; Leviticus 11.44-45; 19.2; Deuteronomy 7.6-8 (which has Exodus 19.5-6 in mind); compare Amos 3.2). This also comes out in YHWH’s continued reiteration throughout the Torah that they should obey His Laws because ‘I am YHWH your God’.
  • 2). His requirement that they maintain that worship free from all idolatrous connections, especially with regard to ‘high places’ (Leviticus 26.27-30; Numbers 33.52; compare Exodus 20.3-5; 23.24, 32-33; 34.12-17; etc. etc.).
  • 3). The need for them to look to the Central Sanctuary as the means by which they would all unite in worship towards YHWH in accordance with the Torah of Moses (established through the making of the Tabernacle and assumed in all the main ordinances with regard to feasts and official daily offerings found throughout the Torah, and stressed in Deuteronomy 12.5).
  • 4) The necessity for them to observe the whole Law of Moses (2.3; 3.14; 2 Kings 10.31; 11.12; 14.6; 17.37; 18.6; 21.8; 22.8; 23.3; 23.32; etc).
  • 5). The dire warning of the repercussions that would come on them if they failed to respond rightly to YHWH (Leviticus 18.25-28; 20.22; 26.14-45; Deuteronomy 28.15-68; ).

In a very real sense the fourth incorporates the previous three. Moses had pointed out to them in Exodus 19.6 that they were YHWH’s holy nation, and that as such YHWH had brought them into covenant relationship with Himself (Exodus 20.1-18). But that was something already demonstrated by His unique deliverance of them from Egypt. Indeed in their history they looked back to how YHWH had chosen them for Himself as ‘the God of their fathers’ (Exodus 3.7, 10, ‘MY people’; 4.22, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn’; 6.7-8, ‘I take you to Me for My people’). And He had stressed that they were His special treasure, His chosen people (Exodus 19.5). If they would but respond to Him and remain faithful to Him, then their future would be secure. On the other hand if they turned away from His Law, and looked to other gods, then they would have no hope. They would simply be bringing on themselves the retribution that their rebellion deserved.

YHWH was freely giving them an inheritance in the land of Canaan, but it would only become theirs, and would only remain theirs, if they eschewed the worship of the people of the land, avoiding worshipping at their high places (bamoth), and keeping themselves true to YHWH (Leviticus 26.27-30; Numbers 33.52; compare Exodus 23.24, 32-33; 34.12-17; Leviticus 18.5) otherwise certain retribution would follow (Leviticus 20.22; 26.1-45). It was accepted that there were genuine altars of YHWH other than the Central Sanctuary (1 Kings 18.30; 19.10), but these were only at places where YHWH had recorded His Name, and worship at general ‘high places’ was forbidden. Deuteronomy gives similar warning but without reference to the ‘high places’ which are such a central feature of the warnings in Kings.

The maintenance of the Central Sanctuary, not as the only sanctuary at which YHWH could be worshipped, but as the central one around which would be fulfilled the requirements of the cult, was clearly required in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, and reinforced in Deuteronomy.

It is on this basis that the writer of kings has built up his narrative around a central framework delineating the course taken by the various kings of Israel and Judah in direct contravention of Moses’ warnings. This was in order to explain the decline and fall of the people of God, which had occurred in spite of His covenant made with David after what had outwardly appeared to have been a promising beginning, although the author subtly brings out the cracks that were appearing.

Thus from one viewpoint the book can be seen as divided up into two sections. The first section, a kind of introductory section, is one which takes up their ‘history’ from the final days of David and deals with the establishment and splendour of the kingdom of Solomon, a kingdom which is depicted as outwardly gloriously successful as he is established on the throne of David. But even that success is always looked on by the author with clear reservations, and these reservations include from the beginning the fact that Solomon turns to the old ‘high places’ (3.3), something which later becomes his besetting sin (11.1-8), and that he gets involved with ‘strange wives’ (3.1; 11.1-3), resulting finally in the verdict that he did ‘evil in the sight of YHWH’. They also include reservations about the Temple and about the unnecessary pain that Solomon inflicted on the people as a result of his own ambitions. And the inevitable consequence of all this he sees as the subsequent division of the kingdom into two kingdoms under Rehoboam and Jeroboam, something which arises out of the fact of Solomon’s waywardness and extravagance.

In each of these two kingdoms the king is then called on to recognise and serve YHWH with all his heart, something which in both cases they will fail to do. And the second section, the remainder of the book, will deal with the response of the various kings of Israel and Judah to these demands of YHWH in view of their situation.

So the whole second section deals with the subsequent failure of the kings of Israel and Judah who followed on after Solomon to live up to YHWH’s requirements, some more, some less (and with some bright spots), and stresses how they failed to live up to YHWH’s demands upon them, and why judgment followed. From 14.21 onwards this is especially brought out in an opening formula which commences the reign of each king, and measures them up against the Davidic or Mosaic standard.

In the case of kings of Judah this is expressed as - ‘(he) was -- years old when he began to reign, and he reigned --- years in Jerusalem, -- and his mother’s name was --.’ The verdicts on their reigns then follow in terms of how they behaved in the sight of YHWH, with special concentration being laid on what they did about worship at false ‘high places’, a concept referred to only in Leviticus/Numbers (and later in the inscription of Mesha of Moab). In a number of cases they are directly compared with David. One reason for the mother’s name being given was because it was important that they were seen to be rightly born of the house of David. Indeed, Isaiah’s great threat on the house of Ahaz was that God would ensure that the Coming Expected King would be miraculously born outside the expected channel (Isaiah 7.14).

The kings of Israel, who would only survive for two centuries, were more easily dealt with. The formula with regard to them was simpler, explaining how long they reigned, and passing a judgment on that reign, but on the whole they were condemned because of their failure to even attempt to respond to the Central Sanctuary, and because they encouraged worship at syncretistic high places (following the example of Jeroboam the son of Nebat). They were thus necessarily in breach of YHWH’s commandments. But the presence of Elijah and Elisha suggests that some solution could have been found if only they had remained faithful to YHWH.

This then brings us to another aspect of Kings and that is the emphasis of the writer on the activities of the prophets. Throughout the book he continually brings out how both true and false prophets sought to affect Israel’s destiny. Fortunately he had a good basis for this in the Elijah/Elisha cycles, which had no doubt been preserved in the prophetic circles, but he also appears to have had access to other records describing the activities of various prophets throughout the period, no doubt from similar sources. Thus we must always carefully observe the two streams, the one describing the behaviour of the kings, and the resulting downward slide, and the other keeping constantly in mind the activities of the prophets which maintained the hope of Israel.

What Major Lessons Does The Book Have For Us Today?

The first lesson learned from the book of kings is that the Kingly Rule of God could never be successfully introduced by human kings and authorities. While sometimes there was seeming potential for the establishment of the Kingly Rule of God under an earthly king, for example during the early years of Solomon, and at times in the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, it never came to fruition, simply because it could not. The book in fact demonstrates most clearly that force of arms and human authority could never result in the Kingly Rule of God, because for the Kingly Rule of God to be introduced on earth hearts have to be changed. That is why when the true King came He would not come in armed power but would work through preaching, teaching and revealing the spiritual power of God. He above all knew that the Kingly Rule of God could never be applied from outside. It had to result from the work of God within the hearts of men. And that is why He called on men to respond to the Kingly Rule of God by obeying God’s word and His own teaching, and sent out His Apostles and disciples to proclaim it throughout the world. It was a Kingly Rule of God entered by faith, but the outward test of whether men and women were in the Kingly Rule of God was they ‘do what He said’ (Matthew 7.21-27; Luke 6.46). And today the Kingly Rule of God on earth is found wherever there are men and women whose hearts are right towards Him. But even now we have this treasure in earthen vessels which is why in the end the final manifestation of the Kingly Rule of God can only be in the new Heaven and the new earth in which dwells righteousness. It can never be truly established on earth.

The second lesson of the book is that failure to respond rightly to God can only result in judgment. Again and again the lesson comes over that if we disobey God we can in the end only expect punishment.

The third lesson of the book is that while God is longsuffering, and gives men every opportunity, in the end he will deal with men in final judgment. Jerusalem and the Temple, which appeared to offer so much hope at the beginning of the book, both ended up as smoking ruins.

Chiasmus In Kings.

Chiasmus is when written material is presented in a structured form following the pattern a b c d e d c b a. It will be noted that in the commentary we have sought to demonstrate that like so many books of the Old Testament Kings is throughout divided up into such chiasmi. This was not just a passing fancy. It was an important element of the text. Ancient Hebrew had no punctuation and many writers therefore made use of chiasmus in order to indicate where ‘paragraphs’ began and ended. It was used to divide up the material in a continuous text. The parallels in the chiasmus were, however, not so much literary parallels (they did not have sentences or verses) as parallels in subject matter (either similar or by way of contrast). However, in order to try to bring this out we have had to do so by literary structure which can produce an unfortunate over-emphasis on the wrong thing and to some extent disguise the main pattern which is of comparative subject matter, something which the trained reader learned to look out for.

Analysis Of The Book.

SECTION 1. The Last Days Of David And The Crowning Of Solomon.

  • a David’s Condition In Old Age And His Association With Abishag (1.1-4).
  • b Adonijah’s Attempt To Seize The Kingship (1.5-28).
  • c David Arranges For The Crowning Of Solomon (1.29-40).
  • b The Conspirators Disperse And Adonijah Obtains Mercy (1.41-53).
  • a David’s Final Dying Exhortation (2.1-12).

Note that in ‘a’ David is clearly dying, and in the parallel we have hid dying exhortation. In ‘b’ Adonijah seeks to seize the kingship, and in the parallel he obtains mercy from the true king. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the crowning of YHWH’s chosen king.

SECTION 2. The Life Of Solomon, Its Triumphs And Disasters (2.13-11.43).

  • a Adonijah seeks surreptitiously to supplant Solomon and is sentenced to death (2.13-25).
  • b Solomon banishes Abiathar to his estate in Anathoth and passes judgment on Joab because of their act of rebellion and attempt to cause trouble and do mischief to Solomon, reducing the status of Abiathar and sentencing Joab to death (2.26-35).
  • c Shimei is confined to Jerusalem but breaks his covenant with Solomon by visiting Gath, from which he returns and is sentenced to death (2.36-46a).
  • d An introductory snap summary of Solomon’s glories, which does, however, contain criticism on the religious level because of worship in high places (2.46b-3.4).
  • e A description of the divine provision of God-given wisdom to Solomon by YHWH, which is then illustrated by an example (3.5-28).
  • f A description of the magnificence of Solomon’s court, and the prosperity enjoyed by Judah and Israel as a whole, which is brought out by a description of his administration of Israel and of the quantity of provisions resulting from its activities, which were regularly consumed by the court, followed by a brief summary of Judah and Israel’s prosperity (4.1-28).
  • g A description of the great practical wisdom of Solomon as contrasted with that of the great wise men of the Ancient Near East (4.29-34).
  • h A description of the building of Solomon’s grand and magnificent Temple, a venture which was one of the ways in which great kings regularly demonstrated their greatness, which however resulted in his calling up compulsory levies of Israelites for the work, including a description of the building of Solomon’s own magnificent palace (5.1-7.12).
  • i A further expansion on the building of the Temple in terms of Hiram the meatl-worker and his innovations (7.13-51).
  • j A description of the dedication of the Temple in which Solomon refers to YHWH’s covenant with David (8.1-21).
  • k A description of Solomon’s intercession before YHWH which made all the people rejoice and be glad (8.22-66).
  • j A description of the renewal of the conditional everlasting covenant by YHWH concerning the everlastingness of his family’s rule which was, however, accompanied by warnings of what the consequences would be of falling short of YHWH’s requirements (9.1-9).
  • i A description of Solomon’s generosity towards Hiram in giving him cities, which was linked with the building of the Temple but was, however, at the same time depleting Israel of some of its own prosperous cities which were a part of the inheritance of YHWH (9.10-14).
  • h A description of Solomon’s further magnificent building programme, which involved making slave levies on tributary nations (9.15-25).
  • g A description of Solomon’s trading activities which included a visit from the Queen of Sheba to test out the wisdom of Solomon, which resulted in him giving her splendid gifts (9.26-10.13).
  • f Further details of Solomon’s great wealth and prosperous trading (10.14-29).
  • e A description of Solomon’s folly with examples illustrating his lack of wisdom (11.1-8).
  • d YHWH’s anger is revealed against Solomon because he worships in illicit high places and he is warned that YHWH will reduce the kingdom ruled by Solomon’s house down to Judah and one other tribe (11.9-13).
  • c Hadad the Edomite flees to Egypt and returns to Edom on hearing of the deaths of David and Joab in order to ‘do mischief’ (11.14-22).
  • b Rezon become leader of a marauding band and becomes king in Damascus and reigns over Syria causing trouble and mischief for Solomon (11.23-25).
  • a Jeroboam becomes Solomon’s taskmaster over Judah and is informed by Ahijah the prophet that he is to supplant Solomon and become king over ten of the tribes of Israel at which Solomon seeks to kill him but he escapes to Egypt until the death of Solomon (11. 26-43).

We note first that the section opens with a description of three rebels and how Solomon disposed of them, and closes with a description of three rebels and how Solomon failed to deal with them. In ‘a’ Adonijah sought to supplant Solomon, and in the parallel Hadad is promised that he will supplant the house of Solomon in regard to ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel. In ‘b’ Abiathar and Job sought to cause mischief for Solomon, and in the parallel Rezon caused mischief for Solomon. In ‘c’ Shimei went abroad and returned to be treated as a traitor, and in the parallel Hadad the Edomite went abroad and returned to cause Solomon continual trouble. In ‘d’ YHWH was angry because Solomon and Israel worshipped in illicit high places, and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘e’ we have a description of Solomon’s wisdom and an example of his wisdom, and in the parallel we have a description of Solomon’s folly and examples of his folly. In ‘f’ we have a description of the wealth that poured into Solomon’s court from taxation, and in the parallel we have a description of how wealth poured in through trading. In ‘g’ the great wisdom of Solomon is described in comparison with other wise men, and in the parallel the Queen of Sheba tested out and admired the wisdom of Solomon. In ‘h’ we have a description of Solomon’s building projects and in the parallel a description of further building projects. In ‘i’ we have a description of Hiram the builder’s contribution towards the building of the Temple, and in the parallel Hiram the king received his reward for the building of the Temple. In ‘j’ Solomon reminded the people of the covenant that YHWH had made with David and in the parallel he himself is reminded of God’s covenant with David. Centrally in ‘k’ we have a description of Solomon’s great prayer to YHWH on the dedication of the Temple.

SECTION 3 The Division Of The Kingdom - Jeroboam I and Rehoboam (12.1-14.31).

  • a Rehoboam’s Intransigence Alienates Israel (12.1-16).
  • b Rehoboam Is Rejected By Israel And Jeroboam Becomes King of Israel In Accordance With YHWH’s Covenant (12.17-24).
  • c In Disobedience Jeroboam Sets Up The Golden Calves, Appoints Alien Priests And Establishes Alien High Places (12.25-32).
  • d The Alien Altar Is Condemned By A Man Of God (12.33-13.10).
  • c In Disobedience The Man Of God Eats And Drink In Israel And Is Slain (13.11-32).
  • b Jeroboam’s House Loses The Kingship Because Of The Sins of Jeroboam (13.33-14.20).
  • a The Unhappy Reign Of Rehoboam Which Is The Consequence Of His Intransigence (14.21-31).

Note that in ‘a’ Rehoboam’s reign commenced unhappily and in the parallel it continued unhappily. In ‘b’ Jeroboam received the Kingship through YHWH’s covenant, and in the parallel his house loses the kingship because of his sin. In ‘c’ Jeroboam acts in disobedience against YHWH and in the parallel the man of God acts in disobedience against YHWH. Central in ‘d’ is the condemnation of the alien altar by the man of God.

SECTION 4 Seven Kings From Abiyam To Omri (15.1-16.28).

  • The Short Reign Of Abiyam, King of Judah c. 913-911/910 BC (15.1-8).
  • The Longer Reign Of Asa, King of Judah c. 911/910-870 BC (15.9-24).
  • The Short Reign Of Nadab, King Of Israel c.910-908 BC (15.25-31).
  • The Longer Reign Of Baasha, The Usurper Of Israel c.908-885 BC (15.32-16.7).
  • The Short Reign Of Elah, King of Israel c. 885-884 BC (16.8-14).
  • The Seven Day Reign Of Zimri, King Of Israel c. 884 BC (16.15-20).
  • The Longer Reign Of Omri, King of Israel c. 884-872 BC (16.21-28).

Apart from the appearance of Jehu the son of Hanani to Baasha (16.1-7), this was a period of prophetic silence in Kings, which explains the brevity of the accounts of their reigns. However, we do know from Chronicles that the prophets were active (e.g. 2 Chronicles 15.1; 16.7).

SECTION 5 The Reign Of Ahab And His Conflicts With Elijah (16.9-22.40).

  • a 1). Initial summary of the reign of Ahab (16.29-34).
  • b 2). WARNING OF FAMINE. Elijah Warns Of The Coming Famine Which Duly Occurs. The First Flight Of Elijah (17.1-18.2a).

    A. Elijah flees and is fed by ravens indicating YHWH’s control of the living creation in the midst of famine (17.2-7).

    B. Elijah is sustained by the miraculous provision of meal and oil indicating YHWH’s control over the inanimate creation in the midst of famine (17.8-16). |

    C. Elijah raises the dead son of the widow to life indicating YHWH’s control over life and death in the midst of famine and death (17.17-24).

  • c 3). AHAB’S FIRST REPENTANCE. The Contest on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah indicating YHWH’s power over storm and lightning (purportedly Baal’s forte) (18.2b-40). This leads to Ahab’s first change of heart (although not repentance).
  • d 4). Elijah flees from Jezebel and meets God at Horeb leading on to the command to anoint of Hazael, Jehu and Elisha as symbols of YHWH’s judgment and mercy on Israel through war, assassination and ministry (19.1-21).
  • e 5). Two wars with Benhadad of Aram (Syria) before each of which a prophet of YHWH promises that YHWH will give him victory (19.22-20.34).
  • d 6). YHWH’s final declaration of judgment on Ahab through a third prophet for failing to execute the captured king who had been ‘devoted to YHWH’ (20.35-43).
  • c 7). AHAB’S SECOND REPENTANCE Naboth is falsely accused and murdered in order that Ahab might take possession of his vineyard, an incident that brings home how YHWH’s covenant is being torn to shreds and results in Elijah’s sentence of judgment on Ahab’s house, which is delayed (but only delayed) because of his repentance (21.1-28).
  • b 8). WARNING OF DEATH. Micaiah warns Ahab of his coming death. War over Ramoth-gilead results in Ahab’s death as warned by Micaiah the prophet of YHWH and the humiliation of his blood by contact with scavenger dogs and common prostitutes (22.1-38).
  • a 9). Ahab’s Obituary (22.39-40).

SECTION 6. The Reigns Of Jehoshaphat And Ahaziah (1 Kings 22.41-2 Kings 1.18).

  • The Reign Of Jehoshaphat King Of Judah c. 870-848 BC - co regent from 873 BC (1.22.41-50).
  • The Reign Of Ahaziah King Israel c. 853-852 BC (1.22.51-2.1.18).

SECTION 7. Commencement Of Elisha’s Ministry After Elijah Is Taken Up Inot Heaven (2.2.1-2.3.27).

  • 1). The entry of Elisha into Canaan against a rebellious Israel, and his provision of fresh water for the believing, and his cursing of the unbelieving (2.1-25).

    A. The taking up of Elijah and entry into Canaan of Elisha (2.1-18).
    B. The purifying of the waters at Jericho (2.19-22).
    C. The cursing of the mockers at Bethel (2.23-25).

  • 2). The entry of Israel Judah and Edom into Moab against a rebellious Moab and the provision of fresh water by YHWH for His people, while the king of Moab had to offer up his own son as a burnt-offering bringing a curse on himself and wrath on Israel (3.1-27).

    A. Introduction To The Reign of Jehoram, King Of Israel (2.3.1-3).
    B. Mesha of Moab Seeks To Free Moab From Being Tributary To Israel (2.3.4-7).
    C. The Invasion Plan Goes Wrong And The Invaders Find Themselves In Jeopardy Through Lack Of Water With The Result That Jehoshaphat Desires The Advice Of A Prophet Of YHWH (2.3.8-14).
    D. YHWH’s Provision For The Alliance Forces And The Subjugation Of Moab Which Has However An Unfortunate Consequence In Mesha’s Child-Sacrifice (2.3.15-27).

SECTION 8. The Ministry Of Elisha (2.4.1-8.6).

  • a A prophet’s widow comes to Elisha in her destitution and Elisha multiplies oil for her (4.1-7).
  • b Elisha raises to life and restores to a Shunammite her only son (4.8-37).
  • c Elisha restores a stew for his followers and feeds a hundred men on twenty small cakes of bread (4.38-44).
  • d The skin of the skin-diseased Naaman of Aram, who comes seeking Elisha in peace, is made pure as a babe’s (5.1-27).
  • e The borrowed axe-head is made to float, a symbol of the need for Israel to have its sharp edge restored by Elisha (6.1-7).
  • d The Aramaeans, who came seeking Elisha in hostility, are blinded (6.8-23).
  • c Elisha restores food to the people at the siege of Samaria, and feeds a large number on Aramaean supplies (6.24-7.20).
  • b The king restores to the Shunammite her land (8.1-6).
  • a Benhadad of Aram sends to Elisha in his illness and is assured that he will not die of his illness, but Elisha declares that nevertheless he will die, as it turns out, through assassination by Hazael (8.7-15).

Commentary.

SECTION 1. The Last Days Of David (1.1-2.12).

The ‘and’ with which the book begins is clearly intended to link the book to the earlier books. The writer wanted it to be seen that he was carrying on the sacred history of YHWH. And he commenced his narrative by describing the events which established the kingship of Solomon, the one whom God especially loved (2 Samuel 12.24-25), as David’s life was coming to its close. But there is no direct continuation of any previous incident in Samuel. The ‘and’ is very general. What he was about to describe were the necessary events that would lead up to Solomon’s coronation. There are no real grounds for suggesting that 2 Samuel 11-20 were specifically a ‘succession narrative’ which is being rounded off here, even though what they describe may possibly, at least theoretically, have affected the succession. For the writer of Samuel the stories of Amnon and Absalom had more to do with the consequences of David’s gross sins being reflected in his sons than with explaining a succession which was already clear in his mind, although undoubtedly any death of a king’s son would appear to some extent to affect the succession. But the chapters certainly do not read like a succession narrative might be expected to read, while they do very much read like a judgment on David’s sins, and in fact the Book of Samuel almost certainly saw Solomon as YHWH’s appointed heir from the time of his birth, something which comes out from 2 Samuel 7.12 with 12.24-25. YHWH could have given no broader hint to David, as David (and probably Absalom and Adonijah) recognised. (A succession narrative may, of course, have been one of his sources, but if so he has carefully selected his material).

Analysis.

  • a David’s Condition In Old Age And His Association With Abishag (1.1-4).
  • b Adonijah’s Attempt To Seize The Kingship (1.5-28).
  • c David Arranges For The Crowning Of Solomon (1.29-40).
  • b The Conspirators Disperse And Adonijah Obtains Mercy (1.41-53).
  • a David’s Final Dying Exhortation (2.1-12).

Note that in ‘a’ David is clearly dying, and in the parallel we have hid dying exhortation. In ‘b’ Adonijah seeks to seize the kingship, and in the parallel he obtains mercy from the true king. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the crowning of YHWH’s chosen king.

Chapter 1.

The chapter begins with the delineation of the king’s sad situation, and what was done about it, and continues by describing Adonijah’s attempt at a pre-emptive coup carried out in a way which makes quite clear that he knew in his heart that Solomon was destined to be king, something which resulted in Solomon himself being crowned at David’s command. Adonijah then sought, and was granted, Solomon’s pardon.

David’s Condition In Old Age (1.1-4).

The importance of this initial passage lies in the fact, firstly that it indicates the king’s poor state of health, and secondly that it introduces Abishag who will play an important part in what follows. It makes clear exactly what her position was. She was there mainly to keep the king warm, and to look after him, but did not have sexual relations with him. She was, however, seen as his concubine (common wife) as is evident from 2.22. She would probably not have been expected to take up the position otherwise, for her later position would have been untenable.

Analysis.

  • a Now king David was old and stricken in years, and they covered him with clothes, but he generated no warmth (1.1).
  • b For which reason his servants said to him, “Let there be sought for my lord the king a young woman, and let her stand before the king, and cherish him” (1.2a).
  • c “And let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may obtain warmth” (1.2b).
  • b So they sought for a beautiful young maiden throughout all the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king (1.3).
  • a And the damsel was very beautiful, and she cherished the king, and ministered to him, but the king knew her not (had no sexual relations with her) (1.4).

Note that in ‘a’ David needed to be ‘cherished’ (made warm), and in the parallel Abishag did cherish him. In ‘b’ they stated their intent to seek out a young unmarried woman, and in the parallel they sought her out and that young unmarried woman is described. Centrally in ‘c’ her duties are laid out.

1.1 ‘Now king David was old and coming in of days (reaching the end of his life, stricken in years), and they covered him with clothes (or ‘covers, sheets, blankets’), but he generated no warmth.’

The sad state to which David had come is made clear, and while partly due to old age, must surely also have resulted from some illness. For him to have been feeling cold when we consider the heat of the climate must have had some medical condition at the back of it as its cause. He was after all only about seventy years of age. His state, and no doubt his shivering, naturally perturbed his faithful ‘servants’.

1.2 ‘For which reason his servants said to him, “Let there be sought for my lord the king a young woman, and let her stand before the king, and cherish him, and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may obtain warmth.’

His ‘servants’ therefore determined to find for him a young woman to lie close to him and warm him. ‘Bethulah’ does not technically mean a virgin, and for that reason often need to be qualified by the phrase ‘and had not known a man’ where virginity is in mind. (Anath, the sister of Baal, was a bethulah, but could by no means be seen as a virgin. She was a fertility goddess. Compare also the ‘virgin daughter of Babylon’ who was also a widow (Isaiah 47.1, 9) and see Joel 1.8). Here no doubt a young unmarried woman is indicated, one who was therefore reputedly a virgin as any reputable young unmarried woman in Israel would be expected to be. Her purpose was to be to be in the king’s presence, to serve his needs, and to lie with him in order to warm him. She was thus more than an attendant. She was a concubine wife.

To ‘obtain warmth’ may well have included the thought of sexual relations if the king wished for it (the Old Testament regularly uses similar euphemisms), but a more physical warmth was undoubtedly the main factor in mind. The king simply could not get warm. This was probably seen as a standard method of keeping the wealthy, who could afford another ‘wife’, warm when they grew old. It is testified to elsewhere, and was experimented with by the famous physician Galen. In fact the poor also no doubt regularly ‘cuddled up’ with other members of the family so as to keep warm on cold nights, while preserving decency. It was only more unusual for kings, for they usually had other means of keeping warm.

‘His servants.’ This is a term which can have a wide variety of meaning from signifying high court officials, to signifying king’s physicians, personal servants, the common people, or bondslaves, depending on the context All were servants to the king. Here it is probably high court officials who are in mind, although the king’s personal servants may be included.

1.3 ‘So they sought for a beautiful young maiden throughout all the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.’

They sought throughout the kingdom for a suitable beautiful young woman, and chose a Shunammite named Abishag. There is no indication anywhere that she was connected with the Shunammite in the Song of Solomon, but the parallel may suggest that the Shunammites were well known for their beauty, as well as being the kind who could keep a king warm. Shunem was eleven kilometres (seven miles) south east of Nazareth in the territory of Issachar.

1.4 ‘And the damsel was very beautiful, and she cherished the king, and ministered to him, but the king knew her not (had no sexual relations with her).’

Note how the beauty of the young woman is stressed, which appears to be in contrast to the fact that ‘the king knew her not’ (had no sexual relations with her). It certainly stresses how ill the king was, and some have suggested that it was a virility test in order to indicate his state of health. In other countries failure in such a test could result in the king being deposed, or replaced by a regent, but there is no hint of that in this case. There is no suggestion that Solomon was crowned because David had failed a virility test. He was crowned in order to counteract Adonijah’s attempted coup. Thus his lack of sexual activity was simply an indication of his failing condition. But it does possibly explain why Adonijah saw Abishag as still available to be his wife on the grounds that David had not had sexual relations with her (although David’s sons do not appear to have been too fussy about such things).

The main importance of all this was firstly in order to emphasise the king’s poor health, and secondly in order to prepare for Abishag’s part in what was coming. But it is also a reminder to us that even in such a situation God looks after His own servants in His own way and makes provision for each of them according to their need.

Adonijah’s Attempted Coup About Which Nathan The Prophet Warns David (1.5-28).

There can be no doubt that Adonijah was here making an attempt to become king, knowing perfectly well that it would not meet with David’s initial approval, and aware that David really saw Solomon as his heir. His hope was presumably that once it had become an accomplished fact and had gained the approval of the people David would become reconciled to it. All this is brought out when we peruse the names of those who were not invited to his feast, for those who were excluded were those who were closest to the king and would want to see that his will was done, while the only one who was excluded of the king’s sons was Solomon, a significant fact in itself. It was a pre-emptive strike which was being attempted in view of the king’s illness, but it was mainly nipped in the bud as a result of Nathan’s astuteness.

Adonijah had no real grounds for thinking that he was especially due to inherit the throne, apart possibly from considering the example of nations round about. There was no established tradition in Israel’s history which could have caused him to expect it. And it is significant that at no stage is he said to have sought the will of YHWH about it. It was simply that, as often happened in the Ancient Near East, he considered that there was a vacancy and was determined to make a push in order to obtain it, and this because no official declaration had been made. And he did it even though he knew what the king’s real intentions were.

It will be noted that he was supported in his endeavour by Joab, commander of the armies of all Israel (but not of David’s bodyguard and of the mighty men in Jerusalem), Abiathar, who was probably High Priest at the Tabernacle at Hebron/Gibeon in contrast with Zadok who presided at the Sacred Tent in Jerusalem, and the leading people of Judah, who were seen as separate from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jerusalem being David’s private possession. His support was thus from outside Jerusalem. Within a certain area he was the popular candidate, and we may note that it was the people of Judah who had initially supported Absalom, who now supported Adonijah.

It will be noted that the people invited were all ones whose absence would not necessarily be noticed by the king. The king’s close attendants were excluded.

In contrast Solomon was supported by Nathan, the prophet of YHWH in Jerusalem, Zadok, the High Priest in Jerusalem, Benaiah the commander of the king’s bodyguard, and the mighty men who lived in Jerusalem. It would have required huge popular support from all Israel (which Adonijah may have felt that he could obtain) to supplant such a powerful combination.

Analysis.

  • a Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king,” and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him (1.5).
  • b And his father had not crossed him at any time in saying, “Why have you done so?”, and he was also a very goodly (well built and handsome) man, and he was born after Absalom (1.6).
  • c And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest, and they, following Adonijah, helped him. But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David, were not with Adonijah (1.7-8).
  • d And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fatlings by the stone of Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel, and he called all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants, but Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he did not call (1.9-10).
  • e Then Nathan spoke to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith reigns, and David our lord does not know it? Now therefore come, let me, I pray you, give you counsel, that you may save your own life, and the life of your son Solomon (1.11-12).
  • f “Go and get yourself in to king David, and say to him, “Did not you, my lord, O king, swear to your handmaid, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son will reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne? Why then does Adonijah reign? Look, while you are yet talking there with the king, I also will come in after you, and confirm your words.” And Bath-sheba went in to the king into the inner chamber, and the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering to the king. And Bath-sheba bowed, and did obeisance to the king. And the king said, “What is your desire?”
  • g And she said to him, “My lord, you swore by YHWH your God to your handmaid, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne” (1.15-17).
  • h “And now, see, Adonijah reigns, and you, my lord the king, do not know it, and he has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host, but Solomon your servant he has not called” (1.18-19).
  • g “And as for you, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, that you might tell them who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him, otherwise it will be that, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders (1.20-21).
  • f And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, saying, “See, Nathan the prophet.” And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground” (1.22-23)
  • e And Nathan said, “My lord, O king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne?’ ” (1.24).
  • d “For he is gone down this day, and has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has called all the king’s sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest, and, behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and say, ‘Long live king Adonijah’.” (1.25).
  • c “But me, even me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon, has he not called” (1.26).
  • b “Is this thing done by my lord the king, and you have not shown it to your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” (1.27).
  • a Then king David answered and said, “Call to me Bath-sheba.” And she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king (1.28).

Note that in ‘a’ Adonijah made a great open display, and declared publicly that he would be king, while in the parallel it was Bathsheba who was privately called into the king’s presence by the king. In ‘b’ David was too easy about his son’s behaviour, and in the parallel Nathan questioned whether all this meant that David has acted on his son’s behalf behind his servants’ backs. In ‘c’ Nathan, Benaiah and Zadok were not invited to Adonijah’s feast, and in the parallel Nathan gives precisely this information to the king. In ‘d’ the details of the feast are described and the details given of those who were not called, and in the parallel the details of the feast are described and the details of those who were called. In ‘e’ Nathan declared that ‘Adonijah reigns’, and in the parallel asked David if he had said that Adonijah should reign. In ‘f’ Nathan said that while Bathsheba was with the king telling him about the situation he would come in, and Bathsheba then went in and did obeisance to the king, and in the parallel he did come in, and he also did obeisance to the king. In ‘g’ Bathsheba reminded David that he had sworn that her son Solomon would reign and would sit on the throne, and in the parallel she called on him to tell Israel who was to sit on the throne, and pointed out that she and Solomon were in danger of becoming seen as ‘offenders’ (traitors). Centrally in ‘g’ the whole current situation is described.

1.5 ‘Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king,” and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.’

Having determined to become king, Adonijah’s first step towards obtaining the kingship was to improve on what Absalom had done before him and prepare for himself chariots (in the plural) and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him (compare 2 Samuel 15.1). This should in itself have been seen as a danger signal to all concerned. He was seeking to win the people of Jerusalem over by his magnificence and open authority. The ‘fifty’ men (a small military unit) would also act as his bodyguard, and be the foundation for his attempt on the kingdom.

1.6 ‘And his father had not crossed him at any time in saying, “Why have you done so?”, and he was also a very goodly (well built and handsome) man, and he was born after Absalom.’

The fact that David had foolishly not questioned his intentions when he had done this had probably encouraged him. A wise word from David might well have nipped his action in the bud. But David seems to have been unable to bring himself to discipline his sons. And Adonijah was further encouraged in his ambitions by his good looks, and by the fact that he was now the eldest son (Chileab (2 Samuel 3.3) had probably died in childhood as he is never again mentioned), even though there was no precedent in Israel for the eldest son becoming king. Notice the likeness to the case of Absalom who had also depended on his good looks and had been the eldest surviving son (2 Samuel 14.25; compare 1 Samuel 16.7).

1.7 ‘And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest, and they, following Adonijah, helped him.’

So he began to sound out what support he could raise, and was no doubt delighted to discover that both Joab, the commander-in-chief of the army of Israel, and Abiathar, one of the High Priests, were prepared to support him. Joab was probably aware that he was out of favour with David over the affairs of Abner and Amasa, and was also not in Solomon’s favour, and was as ever trying to establish his own position. Abiathar was possibly won over by Adonijah’s grandeur, or even by the promise that he would be given precedence over Zadok, the other High Priest. He was probably aware that Solomon favoured Zadok, the High Priest in Jerusalem (compare 2 Samuel 15.24). Note how Zadok is always named before Abiathar (2 Samuel 8.17; 15.24; 20.25). Both Joab and Abiathar had their main spheres of influence outside Jerusalem, Joab being over the host of Israel/|Judah and Abiathar being Priest at the Tabernacle.

1.8 ‘But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David, were not with Adonijah.’

However, Zadok the other High Priest, Benaiah the captain of the king’s bodyguard, Nathan the prophet who had been so faithful to David, Shimei (probably the son of Elah mentioned in 4.18, who would later be one of Solomon’s twelve administrators), Rei (unknown, but apparently important) and the mighty men did not support him. Elah and Rei were clearly important officials in Jerusalem. Had Adonijah known it, this was the death knell to his hopes. Benaiah, over the king’s bodyguard, and the mighty men, who were the main officers over the standing army, represented the power base present in Jerusalem which had always upheld David. They were a formidable combination. With this in mind Adonijah’s only hope was to speedily win the confidence and support of the people outside Jerusalem by a coup. This was now what he attempted to do.

Nathan the prophet followed in the line of prophets who in Israel had great influence (Deuteronomy 18.15-22; Judges 6.8-10; 1 Samuel 3.20; 19.24; 22.5; 28.6; 2 Samuel 7.2; 12.25; 24.11). They were the spokesmen of YHWH and the king’s conscience, and even ‘evil’ kings listened to them, although they did not always do what they said. Other nations had ‘prophets’ but they did not have the same status as those in Israel. This sidelining of Nathan by Adonijah was a clear indication that Adonijah was not seeking the will of YHWH. He was thus minimising the importance of the covenant. And it is this fact that underlies this first chapter of Kings, that YHWH finally ensured that the man of His choice became king.

In spite of the feelings of some there are no firm grounds for suggesting that Zadok was connected with the Canaanite priesthood that had previously been operative in Jerusalem, an idea fostered on the grounds that zdk appeared in such names as Melchi-zedek (Genesis 14). But the word zdk (‘righteousness’) was in common use in Israel, and the names Zadok and Zedekiah were common Hebrew names. Furthermore Zadok is only ever (and continually) connected with the ancient priesthood of Israel (see 1 Samuel 2.35; 2 Samuel 8.17; 1 Chronicles 6.12, 53; 18.16; Ezra 7.2; Nehemiah 11.11; Ezekiel 40.46). In fact, if anyone was to take over the Canaanite high priesthood of Jerusalem it would have been David as the king-priest, and he probably did in fact take the title of ‘priest after the order of Melchizedek’ (Psalm 110.4), as well as also appointing his sons as ‘priests’ (2 Samuel 8.18 - probably official ‘intercessory priests’). In view of the indications apparent from David’s inability to make the Tent in Jerusalem the Central Sanctuary in spite of the presence within it of the Ark (for the Central Sanctuary continued to be maintained first at Hebron and then at Gibeon), it is clear that there must have been a strong current of feeling among the people outside Jerusalem against seeing Jerusalem as the Central Sanctuary (many consider that Solomon composed the Song of Solomon in order to try to legitimise it among countryfolk). They would certainly not, therefore, at this stage have countenanced a High Priest who was not a true Israelite and descendant from Aaron, and there is no hint of it anywhere in the narrative.

1.9-10 ‘And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fatlings by the stone of Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel, and he called all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants, but Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he did not call.’

With the intention of pre-empting the matter of the kingship Adonijah held a great feast at the stone of Zoheleth (‘the serpent’s stone’, or ‘stone of slipping’), which was at En-rogel (‘the spy’s fountain’ or ‘the fuller’s fountain’ or ‘the spring of the stream’), to which he invited all the king’s sons (who thus appear to have favoured his becoming king) apart from Solomon, and all the prominent men (the king’s servants) of Judah (or possibly the Judean military leaders). He was clearly aware that Solomon was the heir apparent, and that Solomon was supported by the mighty men and the establishment in Jerusalem because he was David’s choice. Adonijah’s idea would appear to have been the obtaining of the kingship by popular acclamation in Judah while David was out of action without any thought as to whether it was the will of YHWH. If he could turn the tide in his favour it would be difficult for a sick David to repudiate it.

The purpose of the feast was in order that men might demonstrate their loyalty to Adonijah, and their oneness with him in his endeavour, by eating together, so cementing their union. The hope then being that all Israel would hear and respond. It was not necessarily a sacrificial meal. The slaughter of sheep and oxen could take place without their being sacrificed as long as the proper ritual was observed (compare Deuteronomy 12.20-25; 1 Samuel 14.33-34). The exclusion of Solomon was an act of open hostility, and a declaration of the fact that he was not seeking to make peace with him. Refusal of hospitality had great significance in the Ancient Near East. There is thus no doubt that he saw Solomon as his only rival.

En-rogel was just outside Jerusalem, some 200 metres (650 yards) south of where the Valleys of Hinnom and Kidron met (Joshua 15.7-8). It was on the borders of Judah and Benjamin from where he clearly hoped to gain his main support. It is known today as Job’s well.

1.11 ‘Then Nathan spoke to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith reigns, and David our lord does not know it?”

Meanwhile news of what Adonijah was attempting to do inevitably arrived in Jerusalem, but it took a brave man to do something about it, for if Adonijah succeeded in his attempt to become king such a person knew that he would be a marked man. And that brave man was Nathan, the prophet of YHWH. He was apparently aware of the sworn promises that David had made to Bathsheba that Solomon was to be the heir (verse 13), and himself knew of YHWH’s special seal put on Solomon at his birth (2 Samuel 12.25). Furthermore when YHWH had declared His covenant to David it had been in respect of a son yet to be born (1 Chronicles 22.7-10). Nathan also knew that David never broke his sworn oath. Thus he would see himself as, by his action, seeking to bring about the will of YHWH. That is why he approached Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asked her if she had heard that Adonijah had pronounced himself as prospective king without the knowledge of David. His pointed description of Adonijah as ‘the son of Haggith’ (Bathsheba would know very well whose son he was) may indicate that there was a certain antagonistic rivalry between Haggith and Bathsheba. Note the reference to Bathsheba’s possible prospective death in verse 12.

1.12 ‘Now therefore come, let me, I pray you, give you counsel, that you may save your own life, and the life of your son Solomon.’

He then urged her to listen to his advice if she was to avoid certain death for herself and Solomon at the hands of Adonijah. He knew that Adonijah could never allow Solomon to live once he had taken the throne simply because so many knew that Solomon was David’s choice as heir, and Adonijah had in fact indicated his hostile intentions by excluding Solomon from his list of invited guests. While Solomon was alive Adonijah would know that his throne could never be secure, and it was common practise among ancient kings to liquidate their near rivals once they had become king.

1.13 ‘Go and get yourself in to king David, and say to him, “Did not you, my lord, O king, swear to your handmaid, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son will reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne? Why then does Adonijah reign?” ’

Nathan then urged Bathsheba to go to the sick king and point out that David had sworn that Solomon would be his heir and would reign after him and sit on the throne, and to ask him if he was aware of Adonijah’s attempt on the throne.

1.14 “Look, while you are yet talking there with the king, I also will come in after you, and confirm your words.”

Then he promised that while she was thus speaking with the king, he himself would enter and confirm her words. Thus would the king know that these were not just the hysterical fears of a woman and mother. It is apparent that Nathan was acting in order that the king might be crowned whom he knew to have been appointed by YHWH (2 Samuel 12.24-25), but that he recognised that the reminder to the king about his oath came best from the person to whom he had made it and who could thus vouch for it.

1.15 ‘And Bath-sheba went in to the king into the inner chamber, and the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering to the king.’

So Bathsheba approached the inner chambers of the sick king. She would be one of the few who had easy access. We are then reminded that the king was very old, and that he was being ministered to by Abishag. It is noteworthy that Abishag was permitted to be present at all the audiences sought with the king, even though, when Nathan arrived, Bathsheba was excluded. Abishag’s relationship with the king was clearly very close, with the result that she was therefore privy to all the state’s secrets. All would see her as one of his wife-concubines, and we can therefore see why later Solomon took Adonijah’s attempt to marry her as a political move. He had after all good reason to be suspicious of Adonijah.

1.16 ‘And Bath-sheba bowed, and did obeisance to the king. And the king said, “What is your desire?” ’

In spite of her position Bathsheba had to make a formal approach. And when she entered the inner chamber she bowed and did obeisance. It was thus more than a curtsey, but possibly not the full length obeisance required from others. The king then asked her what it was that she wanted.

1.17 ‘And she said to him, “My lord, you swore by YHWH your God to your handmaid, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne.” ’

Bathsheba then reminded the king that he had sworn by YHWH his God that Solomon would rule after him, and would sit on his throne. The serious form of the oath excludes the idea that Bathsheba was making it up. To have suggested this, had it not been true, would have been high treason.

1.18-19 ‘And now, see, Adonijah reigns, and you, my lord the king, do not know it, and he has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host, but Solomon your servant he has not called.”

She then explained why she was disturbed. It was because Adonijah was basically taking the co-regency for himself, without the king’s knowledge, and had made clear his intentions by a special feast to which he had called all those who were supporting his cause, including all the sons of the king apart from Solomon. This latter fact was pregnant with significance, as David would immediately realise. He was not senile. The special mention of Abiathar and Joab would also make clear who was not supporting him (Nathan, Zadok and Benaiah).

1.20 ‘And as for you, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, that you might tell them who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.’

Then she urged him to make the true position about who was to succeed him crystal clear, in view of the fact that all Israel were awaiting his instruction as to who should be his heir, and be king after him.

1.21 ‘Otherwise it will come about that, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.’

And she drew attention to Adonijah’s clear indication that once he became king, and David was dead, Solomon, and therefore his mother, would be liquidated as ‘offenders, lawbreakers, sinners’ (those who missed the mark). In other words some technicality would be utilised so as to put them to death. She was thus playing on the affection and loyalty that she knew that David had for her, and for all his sons, including Solomon. We must not play down the situation. She was fully aware that she and Solomon (the one whom YHWH loved and to whom He had given a special, unique name - 2 Samuel 12.24-25) undoubtedly faced elimination if Adonijah became king.

The description of death as ‘sleeping with his fathers’ theoretically meant being placed in the family tomb. But it had become just a loose way of describing death. David would not in fact be placed in his family tomb, any more than Ahab would be, of whom the same thing could be said (1 Kings 22.37).

1.22-23 ‘And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, saying, “See, Nathan the prophet.” And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground.”

While Bathsheba was talking with David he was informed that Nathan had come to see him. Such an important visitor had to be given preference and at this point Bathsheba was required to leave (verse 28), prior to Nathan being invited in to David’s inner chamber. David recognised the right of Nathan to both precedence and privacy (apart that is from the presence of Abishag). And when Nathan came in he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. Even prophets had to abase themselves before the king when on normal visits.

1.24 ‘And Nathan said, “My lord, O king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne?’ ”

Nathan then asked the king to confirm whether it was genuinely his intention that Adonijah would reign after him, and sit on his throne, and whether he had actually stated the fact?

1.25 “For he is gone down this day, and has slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has called all the king’s sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest, and, behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and say, ‘Long live king Adonijah.’.”

Then he explained that Adonijah was giving precisely that impression. Did David know that ‘this day’ he had gone down and had slain oxen, fatlings and sheep, and had invited the king’s sons, the captains of the host of Israel, and Abiathar the Priest, to a feast. And they were eating and drinking in his presence and saying, ‘Let king Adonijah live’, which was a regular way of acclaiming a new king. The idea of ‘live’ was of a full and successful life, not simply of a long life.

1.26 “But me, even me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon, has he not called.”

He also explained that as well as Solomon, he, Zadok and Benaiah had not been called to the feast. Was this also of the king?

1.27 “Is this thing done by my lord the king, and you have not shown it to your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

Then he politely asked the king whether this thing had been done by the king himself. Was it that he had simply omitted to tell his servants what he was doing, and had failed to inform them who it was who was to sit on his throne after him? The implication was, ‘or was there more to it than that?’ He was probably perfectly well satisfied in his own mind that David knew nothing about it, but that was not for him to say. That was for the king to say.

1.28 ‘Then king David answered and said, “Call to me Bath-sheba.” And she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king.’

David’s reply was quick and firm. Let his servants call Bathsheba to come back into his presence. And the result was that Bathsheba came back into his presence and stood before the king.

A major lesson behind this story lies in the warning it gives against the dangers of prevarication. If David had only made his intentions known earlier all this might never have happened. But while he himself knew that Solomon was YHWH’s choice as king he had failed to make that clear to His people or establish him as his heir. (Like many powerful men he did not want to appear unable to fulfil his responsibilities, and did not therefore wish to delegate supreme power to anyone else). And where a vacuum is left, someone or something will always come in to fill it. We should therefore learn from this that, once we know the will of God, we should put it into effect and make sure that all know about it. For if we delay we can be certain that something that is not the will of God will take its place. And that will cause problems for everyone.

David Repeats His Oath To Bathsheba And Arranges For The Anointing And Crowning Of Solomon (1.29-40).

What David has learned had got the adrenalin flowing in his old body and had awoken him out of his lethargic state with the result that he confirmed his vow to Bathsheba and then called on his faithful servants Zadok the Priest, Nathan the Prophet, and Benaiah, commander of the king’s bodyguard, to arrange for the anointing and coronation of Solomon in all splendour. Such short term stirrings can often happen in old or sick people when something particular arouses their interest or concern. They then shortly lapse back into their old lethargic state. But it was enough to ensure that YHWH’s will was done, and that Solomon became king after David.

Analysis.

  • a And the king swore, and said, “As YHWH lives, who has redeemed my soul out of all adversity, truly as I swore to you by YHWH, the God of Israel, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son will reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my stead, truly so will I do this day” (1.29-30).
  • b Then Bath-sheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “Let my lord king David live for ever.” And king David said,” Call to me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” And they came before the king (1.31-32).
  • c And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon, and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel, and blow you the ram’s horn, and say, “Long live king Solomon” (1.33-34).
  • d “Then you shall come up after him, and he will come and sit on my throne, for he will be king in my place, and I have appointed him to be prince over Israel and over Judah” (1.35).
  • c And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, “Amen, YHWH, the God of my lord the king, say so too. As YHWH has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David” (1.36-37).
  • b So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride on king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon (1.38).
  • a And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the ram’s horn, and all the people said, “Let king Solomon live.” And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them” (1.39-40).

Note than in ‘a’ David’s assertion was that Solomon would reign, and in the parallel Solomon was anointed and announced as king. In ‘b’ Zadok, Nathan and Abiathar were called for with a view to the coronation, and in the parallel it was they who caused Solomon to ride on the king’s mule and brought him to Gihon. In ‘c’ Solomon was to be made to ride on the king’s mule, and was to be anointed and hailed as king, and in the parallel Benaiah prayed that Solomon as king would be even greater than David. Centrally in ‘d’ Solomon was to sit on the throne in David’s place and was to be prince (nagid) over Israel and Judah.

1.29-30 ‘And the king swore, and said, “As YHWH lives, who has redeemed my life (soul) out of all adversity, truly as I swore to you by YHWH, the God of Israel, saying, “Assuredly Solomon your son will reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my stead, truly so will I do this day.” ’

Once Bathsheba came back into David’s presence he swore to her by the living vitality of YHWH that what he had sworn to her would be done. The oath was strengthened by his indication that YHWH was the One Who had redeemed his life out of all adversity, and was thus of prime significance to him. The idea of ‘redemption’ always involves some ‘cost’ being involved. The idea was that YHWH had expended His energy on David’s behalf, as against others, at some cost to Himself, and in spite of David’s unworthiness and undeserving.

And he confirmed that what he had sworn was that Solomon would reign after him, and would sit on his throne in his place, and that he would ensure that it would happen that very day.

1.31 ‘Then Bath-sheba bowed with her face, to the earth, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “Let my lord king David live for ever.”

At his words Bathsheba, no doubt both grateful and relieved, bowed with her face to the earth and did obeisance to the king, crying, “Let my lord king David live for ever.” In view of his advanced age and medical condition her words may well simply be seen as the kind of platitude expected by the king, but she may have also been intending to convey her hope for the everlasting continuance of his house (initially through her son) as a reminder of YHWH’s covenant with him.

1.32 ‘And king David said,” Call to me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” And they came before the king.’

Then David told her to call to him the powers in Jerusalem, Zadok, the Priest in Jerusalem, serving at the Tent containing the Ark, Nathan the prophet who was the king’s close adviser and conscience, and Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, who commanded David’s large bodyguard and his standing army. And they came in before the king.

1.33-34 ‘And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon, and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel, and blow you the ram’s horn, and say, “Long live king Solomon.” ’

Then he gave instructions that they were to take with them the high officials of the court and his own personal bodyguard (‘the servants of your lord’), and were to cause Solomon to ride on his own mule. This last would in itself indicate the favour of the king. No one could ride the king’s mule without the king’s express permission. The mule was the favourite peace time mount of the king and his sons (compare Judges 5.10; 10.4; 2 Samuel 13.29; 18.9; Zechariah 9.9), and indeed riding on horseback was probably still not practised in Israel at this time. Horses were seen as for pulling chariots. (It was Solomon who would introduce cavalry - 10.26).

Then, mounted on the king’s mule, they were to bring Solomon to the spring Gihon (‘gusher’, and thus an intermittent spring), and there he was to be anointed as king over Israel by the two prime representatives of YHWH, at which point the ram’s horn would be blown and the cry go out, “Let King Solomon live”. In other words let him enjoy fullness of life. The High Priest would perform the actual anointing, but the involvement of the combination of High Priest and acknowledged Prophet in the anointing by YHWH would confirm to the people that here was YHWH’s choice for the kingship. The blowing of a ram’s horn would indicate that a significant official event was taking place.

The main idea behind anointing was of being totally separated to YHWH and set apart for Him. Both the priests (Exodus 29.7, 21) and the Tabernacle furniture and instruments (Exodus 30.30) were anointed. The king thus by this became ‘the Anointed of YHWH’ and therefore sacrosanct. It signified that he was a vassal of YHWH, and therefore under His protection. The Pharaohs are known to have anointed vassal kings, as did all Great Kings, but they themselves were not anointed. Thus Solomon was being seen as a vassal king of YHWH.

There are no real grounds for thinking that it necessarily indicated an enduement with power, although such an enduement would be expected to accompany it in certain circumstances, simply because if the anointing was done at the command of God in preparation for some special duty, any power required would necessarily be provided (thus we find such a combination in 1 Samuel 16.13). Where God sets men apart to a task requiring such power He would also endue where necessary, but it will be noted that God’s special gift to Solomon of wisdom comes well after his anointing. It was not given at his anointing.

The spring Gihon was in the upper part of the Kidron valley under the northern section of the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem. It is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32.30; 33.14 and was the spring the water from which was carried within the fortress by the tunnel which was probably excavated by Hezekiah’s men in preparation for the siege by Assyria (2 Kings 20.20). ‘Running water’ (literally ‘everflowing stream’) was seen as important in Israel (compare Deuteronomy 21.4). It indicated a place of life, and of fruitfulness from YHWH. It was also important that the anointing took place in a public place with many witnesses so as to ensure public acclamation, and that could always be guaranteed at a prominent spring.

1.35 “Then you shall come up after him, and he will come and sit on my throne, for he will be king in my place, and I have appointed him to be prince over Israel and over Judah.”

Once the anointing was completed they were to come up with Solomon to the throne room, and there Solomon was to sit on his throne, indicating that he was king in David’s place, i.e. acting initially as his co-regent. This would indicate to all that David had appointed him as Nagid (war-leader, prince) over Israel and Judah. Nagid was the term that had been applied to both Saul and David. It was a title that indicated that the true king (melek) was YHWH, and that they were His servants. Once this enthronement had taken place at the king’s command the matter would be settled. If Adonijah now continued with his attempt to gain the throne, what had initially been a bold but not illegal attempt to assert his position would become high treason.

1.36-37 ‘And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, “Amen, YHWH, the God of my lord the king, say so too. As YHWH has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David.”

Benaiah then made clear his agreement with the king, and expressed his desire that YHWH would see things in the same way as David did, and conjoin His voice with David’s, adding to it his desire that YHWH would be with Solomon as He had been with David, and would make him even greater than his father had been.

‘Amen.’ Compare Deuteronomy 27.15 ff. This was expressing an oath of loyalty on behalf of his men. A similar word was used by Hittite soldiers when they swore their oath of loyalty.

1.38-39 ‘So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride on king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the ram’s horn, and all the people said, “Let king Solomon live.” ’

David’s commands were carried out exactly as David had demanded. The writer repeats the details in order to indicate that this was so. The continual repetitions that will have been noted in this chapter are, however, typical of ancient literature, much of which was designed to be read out in public.

Zadok, the High Priest in Jerusalem, Nathan, the Prophet, and Benaiah and the king’s bodyguard made a powerful combination and they did precisely what David asked. They caused Solomon to ride on the king’s own mule, brought him to Gihon, arranged for Zadok as YHWH’s High Priest to anoint him with a horn of oil taken from the sacred Tent in Jerusalem, (a horn which would be reserved for anointings), and blew the ram’s horn, the indication that an important official event was taking place. Solomon’s coronation was now official and public. And at the sounding of the ram’s horn all the people cried out, “Let king Solomon live.” The indication from all this was that YHWH’s will was being done.

The ‘Cherethi and Pelethi’ may simply indicate ‘David’s men’ who had been with him in Gath, (as supplemented by their successors who may well have been their sons), and who had lived for some time in ‘the Negev of the Cherethi’ (compare 1 Samuel 29.14), thus being seen as Cherethites. Some see the terms as indicating Philistine mercenaries, but if that is so what happened to David’s own faithful men, his ‘six hundred’? Some consider that the term Cherethi may indicate those who had come from Crete (although not necessarily native Cretans) but if so the term had clearly become connected with the land of Canaan as the above indicates. The derivation of the term Pelethites is uncertain. Some have argued that the philisti were made into the pelethi in order to rhyme with cherethi, but this does not sound very convincing. However, cherethi and pelethi may in fact simply indicate the ‘executioners and runners (i.e. messengers)’ (of the king), thus emphasising two of the main functions of his bodyguard. This is the last mention of them in Kings. Under this description they appear to have had a personal loyalty to David.

‘All the people.’ Word would soon pass around about what was happening and the result was that the local people quickly gathered, leaving their work in order to join in with such important celebrations.

1.40 “And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth shook (rent) with the sound of them.”

Then they all went back up into Jerusalem, and the people came up after them, and the people played on their pipes, no doubt hastily collected from their houses, and they greatly rejoiced to such an extent that the earth shook (‘rent’, i.e. behaved as though there was an earthquake). This very fact indicated the large number of people who had come together from Jerusalem and its surrounds. It indicated that there could be no doubt about ‘the people’s choice’. This confirmation by the popular voice of the people was a feature of kingship in Israel/Judah (compare 1 Samuel 10.24; 2 Kings 11.12 and the constant connection of ‘the people of the land’ with matters affecting the kingship).

The first thing that we learn from this passage is God’s faithfulness to His promises. What God had promised in 2 Samuel 7 had now begun to come about. God’s Kingly Rule was being established in the person of Solomon, and this brought with it the assurance that his line would go on as God had promised, until that glorious day when the everlasting King would come and take His throne. Solomon’s enthronement was a preview of the anointing of the Coming King.

The second lesson that we learn is that if, once we know God’s will, we do it, we will not only bring blessing to ourselves but to everyone connected with us as well.

The third lesson is that nothing can thwart the will of God. Adonijah had tried his best with a view to his own self interest, but in the end God had ensured that, in what mattered most, His will was done. Thus we learn that whatever happens we can rest in the will of God, while at the same time ensuring that we ourselves do all that we can to bring it about. (It would humanly speaking not have happened if David had not stirred himself to action)

The Rebels Learn Of Solomon’s Coronation And Disperse Quietly While Adonijah Seeks Sanctuary At The Altar And Finally Receives Mercy (1.41-53).

In view of the silence about the succession those who had gone with Adonijah had not as yet committed any specific offence. They had simply been guilty of presumption. (It was not an attempt to dethrone David, but to make clear who was suitable to be his co-regent). But now that Solomon had been officially anointed as king with the clear confirmation of David himself any further proceedings would have been seen as high treason. Thus on hearing the celebrations from the city, and learning what their significance was, the party broke up. No one wanted to be seen as a traitor. Adonijah, however, no doubt feeling guilty about what he had intended to do to Solomon, fled for sanctuary at the altar, presumably at the Tabernacle (probably by now in Gibeon), for he would not have wanted to take the risk of entering Jerusalem. But Solomon was not seeking vengeance and assured him that as long as he remained fully loyal in the future no harm would come to him.

Analysis.

  • a And Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the ram’s horn, he said, “What is the cause of this noise of the citadel being in an uproar?” (1.41).
  • b While he yet spoke, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came, and Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man, and bring good tidings” (1.42).
  • c And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, “Truly our lord king David has made Solomon king, and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and they have caused him to ride on the king’s mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon, and they are come up from there rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that you have heard” (1.43-46a).
  • d “And also Solomon sits on the throne of the kingdom, and what is more the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, “Your God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and make his throne greater than your throne” (1.46b-47a).
  • e And the king bowed himself on the bed (1.47b).
  • d And also thus said the king, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, who has given one to sit on my throne this day, my eyes even seeing it” (1.48).
  • c And all the guests of Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way. And Adonijah was afraid because of Solomon, and he arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar (1.49-50).
  • b And it was told to Solomon, saying, “Behold, Adonijah is afraid king Solomon, for, lo, he has laid hold on the horns of the altar, saying, “Let king Solomon swear to me first that he will not slay his servant with the sword.” And Solomon said, “If he shall show himself a worthy man, there will not a hair of him fall to the earth, but if wickedness be found in him, he shall die” (1.51-52).
  • a So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and did obeisance to king Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house” (1.53).

Note that in ‘a’ Adonijah was supping confidently with his friends and wondered what the uproar in the city was, and in the parallel Adonijah was brought cravenly before the king, having discovered what the uproar was all about. In ‘b’ Jonathan was welcomed by Adonijah as a worthy man, and in the parallel Adonijah learned that as long as he himself was a worthy man he would be allowed to live. In ‘c’ the news of the coronation and of Solomon’s success was announced to the rebels in detail, and in the parallel the result was that the rebels slipped away and Adonijah sought sanctuary at the altar. In ‘d’ the servants of David blessed David because Solomon was now seated on the throne and in the parallel David blessed YHWH because he has lived to ‘see’ one of his house sitting on the throne. Centrally in ‘e’ David on his sick bed had bowed himself before YHWH at the great news, acknowledging that the will of YHWH had been done.

1.41 ‘And Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the ram’s horn, he said, “What is the cause of this noise of the citadel being in an uproar?” ’

The noise being caused by the celebrations was so loud that it reached the ears of Adonijah and his guests as they were coming towards the end of their period of feasting, a period which may have lasted some days. Joab’s trained ear, however, picked out the sound of the ram’s horn. This caused him to make a general query as to what might be going on. Why should the ram’s horn be sounding in the citadel? And why should there be such an uproar there? It was a question to which they all wanted an answer. The word for ‘citadel’ is a rare one, but it was an ancient word for it was also attested at Ugarit.

1.42 ‘ While he yet spoke, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came, and Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man, and bring good tidings.” ’

But then at that very moment they received the answer to their questions, for Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, arrived, bringing news. The fact that, as Abiathar’s son, he had not been at the feasting suggests either that he had been on duty with the king and unable to get away, or that he had been asked to remain in Jerusalem as a kind of spy in order to keep his ear open to what was happening. He had fulfilled a similar function for David (2 Samuel 15.27; 17.17). The latter seems more likely as, had he been on official duty, absenting himself from the celebrations would have been heavily frowned on. This in itself would suggest some apprehension on Adonijah’s part right from the start.

The fact that he arrived himself rather than sending a servant suggested to Adonijah that he brought good news. People usually only delivered news in person when it was good. Compare 2 Samuel 18.27. ‘Worthy’ indicates a man of property, a man whose word was trustworthy and reliable, and who was a freeman and not a servant. Such a man would not want to destroy his reputation by bringing bad news.

1.43-46 ‘And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, “Truly our lord king David has made Solomon king, and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and they have caused him to ride on the king’s mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon, and they are come up from there rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that you have heard. And also Solomon sits on the throne of the kingdom.” ’

But Jonathan had probably taken into account the fact that suggesting that his news was bad by using a servant could have been taken as treasonable. For strictly the news should have been seen as good news. It was purportedly indicating that David had ensured the peaceful continuation of the kingship.

He described in some detail the essential elements of his news, and of the reason for the noise. The make-up of the powerful group who had been involved, combined with the fact that Solomon had ridden on the king’s own mule, and had been anointed by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet (Zadok would of course have done the anointing, but Nathan was there as adding prophetic authority), said all that needed to be said. Solomon’s was not an attempt at a counter-coup carried out at his own instigation (as Adonijah’s had been) but was something carried out on the personal orders of the king. ‘Rang again’ may have been looking back to when the Ark had been brought into the citadel which had rung with joyous cries and the sound of a ram’s horn (2 Samuel 6.15), or to when David had returned after defeating Absalom, when no doubt the same thing had happened. Both were momentous royal occasions.

That then was the reason for the noise that they had heard. And its consequence was that Solomon now sat on the throne of the kingdom (as co-regent with David).

1.47 ‘And what is more the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, “Your God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and make his throne greater than your throne,” and the king bowed himself on the bed.’

And what was more, when the king’s servants (Zadok, Nathan, Benaiah and all the court officials) had arrived back in the citadel, they had entered the king’s presence in order to bring blessing on David by praying that God would make the name of Solomon (his position and reputation, and recognition of his person) even greater than David’s, and Solomon’s throne even greater than David’s throne. This was an expression of approval of David’s choice, but deliberately going over the top and not intended to be taken too literally, except in the fact that it would lead on to the everlasting kingdom. And then at their words David had bowed himself before YHWH on his bed and had added his praise and prayer to theirs. All were clear that it was YHWH Who was at work.

1.48 ‘And also thus said the king, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, who has given one to sit on my throne this day, my eyes even seeing it.” ’

For the king himself had praised YHWH, the God of Israel, because He had Himself provided someone to sit on David’s throne while David was alive to see it. He had fulfilled His promise to David of a trueborn seed who would follow after him (2 Samuel 7.12), thus establishing a dynasty. Note that all were acknowledging that the choice was of YHWH. It is the fact that YHWH’s will was being accomplished in spite of the activities of man that lies at the heart of this narrative.

1.49 ‘And all the guests of Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way.’

The news shattered the party spirit, and filled the guests with apprehension. What they were now doing had taken on a new perspective. And they all with one accord left the feast and slunk away. They no longer wanted to be seen as involved with Adonijah.

1.50 ‘And Adonijah was afraid because of Solomon, and he arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.’

Meanwhile Adonijah was terrified. He was fully aware of what he had intended to do with Solomon, and now it would be open to Solomon to do the same to him. For what he had been doing could now be given the appearance of being high treason. Everything would depend on how Solomon looked at it. Consequently he arose and went to the Tabernacle at Gibeon and took hold of the horns of the altar in order to claim ‘sanctuary’. (It was not likely that he would venture into Jerusalem in order to do this. He would consider in his panic-stricken condition that Solomon might well already have had men out on the watch for him).

The right to sanctuary as a result of being in physical touch with a holy object was a widely recognised one. The idea was probably, in Israel’s case, that the person became holy to YHWH as a result of the contact and therefore untouchable, unless and until his guilt was proved (see Exodus 21.12-14. Compare Numbers 35.6). He was thereby claiming the protection of the Deity as one who was innocent. Proof of his guilt would, however, nullify his status and turn him into a blasphemer in that he would then be seen as obtaining YHWH’s protection under false pretences.

The ‘horns’ of the altar were the four projections on the altar going upwards from each corner. Such horned altars have been discovered at Beersheba, Gezer, Megiddo, and Dan. It was to these projections that sacrifices were tied (Exodus 27.2). Later the breaking off of such ‘horns’ from the altar at Bethel would be an indication to Israel that they no longer enjoyed the deity’s protection (Amos 3.14).

1.51 ‘And it was told to Solomon, saying, “Behold, Adonijah is afraid king Solomon, for, lo, he has laid hold on the horns of the altar, saying, “Let king Solomon swear to me first that he will not slay his servant with the sword.” ’

The news of what Adonijah had done was brought to Solomon along with Adonijah’s assertion that he would not leave his place of sanctuary until ‘king Solomon’ had sworn that he would not have him executed. Note the reference to Solomon as ‘king Solomon’. He was thereby acknowledging Solomon as his liege lord.

1.52 ‘And Solomon said, “If he shall show himself a worthy man, there will not a hair of him fall to the earth, but if wickedness be found in him, he shall die.” ’

Solomon’s reply was to the effect that he would be given a pardon with a sting in its tail. While he showed himself loyal and behaved honourably as a ‘worthy and free man’ he would be safe from harm. Should he, however, at any stage act dishonourably or prove disloyal he could be sure that he would die.

1.53 ‘So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and did obeisance to king Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.” ’

With these words Solomon sent escorts and had Adonijah brought to the palace, presumably in all honour as a son of David, where Adonijah made obeisance to the king. Peace was restored between them and Solomon then sent him ‘to his house’. It will, however, be noted that he did not add the words ‘in peace’ (see 2 Kings 5.19; Judges 18.6; 1 Samuel 1.17; 20.42; 29.7). That was a reminder that questions still hung in the air. He was on probation. Adonijah was being restored to his former position, conditionally on good behaviour, but he would from now on have to avoid even a whiff of treachery. That he was fully restored comes out in that he was later easily able to approach Bathsheba and receive a comparatively friendly welcome (2.13-18).

Solomon’s magnanimity was in line with the previous practise of kings of Israel on their being enthroned or restored to the throne through the goodness of YHWH. Compare the example of Saul in 1 Samuel 11.13; and of David in 2 Samuel 19.22. General amnesties were often given at coronations, although not to those who actively continued to oppose the king.

One obvious lesson from this passage is, ‘be sure your sin will find you out’. It is a reminder that if we involve ourselves in things that are chancy we must not be surprised if we get our fingers burnt. And this is especially so if they are contrary to the will of God. If only Adonijah and his friends had sought to ascertain God’s will before acting in the first place, they would not have found themselves in this situation.

A second lesson is that God ever provides for us a place of sanctuary where we can flee when we have sinned. In our case we do not cling to the horns of an altar, but to our Lord Jesus Christ Who is our Altar, and our Sacrifice (Hebrews 13.10, 12). In Him we can find a perfect refuge, and find cleansing from all our sins (1 John 1.7).

David’s Final Exhortations And Death With Solomon Firmly Established On The Throne (2.1-12).

In his final charge to Solomon David was concerned firstly that Solomon walk fully in accordance to with the commands and statutes of YHWH as laid out in the Law of Moses, and linked this with the covenant promise concerning the permanence of his dynasty as given in 2 Samuel 7. Both now formed part of the covenant of YHWH. Faithfulness to YHWH and His promises was to be paramount. He then followed this advice up with further advice in respect of Joab and Shimei on the one hand, and the sons of Barzillai on the other. Joab and Shimei were to be watched because they would ever pose a danger to the throne, while the loyalty of the sons of Barzillai was being confirmed and should be rewarded. Having given his final charge David then died, and the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon. This took place some time around 971 BC.

Analysis.

  • a Now the days of David drew near that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying (2.1).
  • b “I am going the way of all the earth. Be you strong therefore, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of YHWH your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn yourself, that YHWH may establish His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, “If your children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there will not fail for you (said He) a man on the throne of Israel” (2.2-4).
  • c “Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, even what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war on his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. Do therefore according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoar head go down to Sheol in peace” (2.5-6).
  • d “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother” (2.7).
  • c “And, behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim, but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by YHWH, 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 you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his hoar head down to Sheol with blood” (2.8-9).
  • b 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; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and he reigned thirty three years in Jerusalem (2.10-11).
  • a And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was established greatly (2.12).

Note that in ‘a’ David gave his solemn charge to Solomon, in the light of the fact that he was on the throne of Israel, and in the parallel Solomon was established on David’s throne, presumably because he was ready to obey David’s instructions (at least at first). In ‘b’ David was ‘going the way of all the earth’, and he gave his farewell admonition as to how his son was to rule, and in the parallel he ‘sleeps with his fathers’, and the details of his own reign were given. In ‘c’ he gave charge concerning the need to deal with Joab, and in the parallel he gave charge concerning the need to deal with Shimei. Centrally in ‘d’ he recommended that the sons of Barzillai continue to be encouraged and to be granted their seat at the king’s table as his loyal subjects.

2.1 ‘Now the days of David drew near that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying,’

We have already had ‘the last words of David’ given in 2 Samuel 23.1-6 where he celebrated the covenant that YHWH had made with him, and indicated that any thorns should be thrust away by means of iron instruments and the staff of a spear. Now he explicitly charged Solomon concerning that covenant, and warned him concerning the thorns that needed to be removed (Joab and Shimei).

2.2-3 “I am going the way of all the earth. Be you strong therefore, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of YHWH your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his ordinances, and his testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn yourself.”

David was now aware that his death was fast approaching, and as we would expect from a man who was ‘after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13.14) he urged Solomon in terms reminiscent of Scripture to be faithful to God’s Instruction (torah - Law - of Moses). His opening words were based on Joshua 23.14, ‘and now I am about to go the way of all the earth’, and his following words were very reminiscent of those spoken to Joshua by God in Joshua 1.7, “Be strong and very courageous that you may observe to do according to all the Law which Moses commanded you --- that you may prosper wherever you go”. It is clear then that David had the injunctions in Joshua mainly in mind. He was well versed in the Scriptures. But the words are fashioned by him to suit the present situation, being altered and expanded on. Note the emphases. Solomon was:

  • To be strong (Joshua 1.6, 9; compare Deuteronomy 31.6, 7, 23).
  • To show himself a man (compare 1 Samuel 4.9; 2 Samuel 10.12).
  • To keep the charge of YHWH his God (Joshua 22.3; compare Genesis 26.5; Leviticus 8.35; 18.30; Numbers 9.23).
  • To walk in His ways (Joshua 22.5; compare Genesis 5.24; 17.1; Leviticus 18.4-5; 26.3; Deuteronomy 5.33; 8.6; 26.17; 30.16).
  • To keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances and His testimonies (compare Genesis 26.5; Exodus 15.26; Leviticus 18.4-5; 20.22; 26.3, 15; Deuteronomy 5.28, 31; 6.1, 2, 17; 8.11; 11.1; etc.; 2 Samuel 22.23). There is no previous verse which contains all four nouns. It was thus a combination of verses, probably half remembered).
  • To do according to all that was written in the Law of Moses (Joshua 1.8; compare Exodus 24.3; Leviticus 20.22; Deuteronomy 30.10).
  • In order that he might prosper in all that he did and wherever he turned himself (Joshua 1.7, 8; compare Deuteronomy 29.9).

Solomon can therefore be seen as being called on to fulfil the requirements for the ideal king as outlined in Deuteronomy 17.18-20. But it is noteworthy that David made no clear reference to that passage. He saw Solomon more as entering onto a new adventure like Joshua.

2.4 “That YHWH may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there will not fail for you (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.”

And what David had in mind was that by Solomon walking in the way that he had described YHWH would establish the word that he had spoken concerning David and his house. The quotation cited here is not found in 2 Samuel 7, but the gist of it certainly is (consider 2 Samuel 7.12-16). It reflects the promise of the everlasting kingship. It may in fact well be that 2 Samuel 7 was but a summary of the prophecy actually given and that these words were a part of the fuller prophecy conveyed to David, and remembered by him, but not recorded in writing by the annalist (note the emphatic ‘said He’). ‘Take heed to yourselves’ is found in Exodus 19.12; 34.12 and Deuteronomy 4.9, 23; 11.16; etc. ‘With all their heart and with all their soul’ reflects Deuteronomy 6.5. For ‘walking in truth’ see Psalm 86.11 which is a Davidic Psalm.

On the other hand these words may simply be David’s own interpretation of what God had said, for we may note that what God had said about the everlasting kingship was unconditional, whereas here it is expressed conditionally. There are, of course, always two sides to every promise of God. On the one side is the certainty that what God has determined to bring about will be accomplished whatever man may do. But on the other is the recognition of our responsibility, made even greater by His grace, to cooperate fully in obtaining the fulfilment of His promises.

2.5 “Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, even what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war on his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.”

David then went on to give advice about individual matters where he felt that his experience could be a guide to his son. David was well aware that Joab had supported Adonijah, and he knew perfectly well what Joab was capable of. He feared that a man who could catch out two experienced generals and kill them in cold blood would think little of doing the same to a less experienced king who was getting in the way of his ambitions. And he knew that while he had himself known that he could always count on Joab’s loyalty, because there had been a bond forged between them by the hardship which they had suffered together, he could not be so confident that Solomon would be able to do so, especially as Joab would know that by supporting Adonijah he had, as far as Solomon was concerned, almost certainly said goodbye to any ambitions for the future he might have had. David was well aware that Joab, found in that situation, would be a very dangerous man, a man who could stoop to anything.

But David, in warning Solomon, would not want to raise the spectre of Adonijah’s actions again, for Adonijah was his son, and he wanted peace between his sons, and so he chose a different tack. He reminded Solomon of what Joab had done to David himself in the past, when he had slain two men in a way which had brought part of the blame on David. There were indeed still men, and Shimei was probably one, who believed that David himself had been responsible in some way for Abner’s death, while others, especially of the house of Judah, no doubt held Amasa’s death against him. And it was all because of Joab’s willingness to spill blood so easily.

Of course Joab had had a good excuse in both cases. In the case of Abner he could justifiably claim that he was avenging the shedding of the blood of his brother. And that was unquestionably true. He was strictly within his rights to slay the killer of his brother when that killer had not sought ‘refuge’ and a fair trial. Especially when the killing had taken place in a civil war provoked by Abner. In the case of Amasa he had no doubt claimed with some justification that Amasa had been acting treacherously. And there can be no doubt that Amasa’s failure to do his duty had merited severe punishment. But in both cases, as both he and David well knew, he had acted over and above what he had known David wanted him to do, and partly did it because the two men stood in the way of his ambition to continue as commander-in-chief of all Israel. Both men had come openly to make peace with David and Joab, and Joab’s response had been to strike them down. He had ‘shed the blood of war in peace’ without trial. Technically he had been justified (compare Gideon’s act in Judges 8.18-21), but, as Joab had been aware, both men had been under David’s protection, and the result was that Joab’s actions had thus brought dishonour on David and had revealed what kind of a man Joab, was. And the result was that the girdle that held his sword was seen as stained with blood that could never be washed off, as were the shoes on his feet. He was a man of blood. He was a man who shed blood and trod blood wherever he went, and that could not be good news for Solomon. Thus the warning.

2.6 “Do therefore according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoar head go down to Sheol in peace.”

He therefore advised Solomon to act wisely in accordance with the situation as he knew it and, as soon as he reckoned that he had acceptable grounds, to ensure that Joab was executed. He was not to allow him to reach old age, or die naturally (i.e. he was not to allow his hoar head go down to the grave world in ‘peace’, that is, in a state of wellbeing) for he was too dangerous an enemy to have around. He would need to be watched carefully and dealt with the moment he stepped out of line (an attitude that Joab himself had demonstrated towards others)

There is no good reason for doubting that David did actually give this advice. No one knew Joab like David did, and he was clearly fearful of what he knew Joab to be capable of, especially as, by siding with Adonijah without consulting the king, he had shown whose side he was on (that too had been a betrayal of David). And he wanted Solomon to know it as well. He was not going into details on the rights and wrongs of the matter. He was simply indicating what kind of a man Joab was. He wanted Solomon to be fully aware that Joab was a man of blood, and that now that he had revealed his hand as a supporter of Adonijah it could only act as a danger signal for Solomon. It indicated that Joab had no sense of loyalty towards Solomon, in contrast with his attitude towards David.

In view of Joab’s loyal, if somewhat stained, service to David these words of David might appear somewhat surprising. But we should note that David was not calling for his immediate execution. He was simply warning Solomon that here was a man who needed to be closely watched and despatched if and when (as he had no doubt that he would) he stepped out of line. For we must remember that Joab had been commander-in-chief of the hosts of Israel for many years, and still was (2.35), and was thus a man of great influence and power in the kingdom. He was thus capable of doing great harm. He was the kind of man who, if he did not feel a sense of total loyalty, would be an ever constant danger, able almost to stir up rebellion at will. That was why Solomon, while leaving him in his exalted position, was to be sure that he watched him carefully and acted decisively if he strayed out of line. David did not want Solomon to be think that because of the relationship that he himself had with Joab, he was a man to be trusted (in contrast with Benaiah).

2.7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.”

In contrast to his advice concerning Joab was his advice concerning the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, the man who had supplied him and his men with provisions when they had sought refuge from Absalom’s rebellion in Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17.27-28). It was Solomon’s solemn duty to show them kindness (literally ‘covenant love’) for David’s sake, by allowing them to continue having the privilege of sitting at the king’s table when David had gone, because of the loyalty and kindness that they had shown to David, a loyalty and kindness which had had no strings attached. The importance of this in David’s eyes is brought out by this being the central theme of the chiasmus. To be allowed to eat at the king’s table was widely seen in royal courts as a kind of permanent pension of the richest kind, even though their permanent presence in court would, of course, also help to guarantee the continuing loyalty of the men of Gilead.

2.8 “And, behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim, but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by YHWH, saying, “I will not put you to death with the sword.”

David’s thoughts then turned to another very dangerous man, and that was Shimei, the man who had cursed him when he was fleeing from Absalom (2 Samuel 16.5-14). He was clearly conscious that Shimei’s hatred still smouldered behind what might have appeared to be a compliant attitude, and that once he was gone Shimei would again become a danger to the kingdom. He knew full well the powerful influence that Shimei had among the Benjaminites (2 Samuel 19.16-17). Here was a man who would undoubtedly seek to take advantage of the young king’s inexperience, so that while he lived the Benjaminites as a whole would be constantly soured against Solomon. He was another who had proved that he could not be trusted.

David’s own hands had been tied with regard to him, by the oath that he had sworn when Shimei had come to meet him at the Jordan and had welcomed him back accompanied by a full unit of warriors. And he had not had any fear that he could control him, and had no doubt kept a watchful eye on him. But it was a very different matter for the young Solomon. He did not want Solomon to have to be watching his back all the time, and he was all too aware that Shimei was totally untrustworthy and unreliable. Furthermore his own oath did not apply to Solomon.

2.9 “Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man, and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his hoar head down to Sheol with blood.”

Thus Solomon was not to look on Shimei as an ‘innocent’, as though there was no guilt in him, for he was guilty through and through. And being a wise man Solomon would know what he ought to do to him whenever the opportunity arose, because he was a latent rebel who could never be trusted. It was true that he was already old (‘his hoar head’), but Solomon was not to make that an excuse for delay. He was to arrange for his execution as soon as he had legal reasons for doing it. It should be noted that in the case of both Joab and Shimei David did not order their immediate execution. He simply warned Solomon of what dangerous men they were, and advised him to watch them like a hawk, and if the time ever did come when it became necessary, to deal with them in his wisdom as soon as there was any sign of disloyalty. If we feel a little uneasy about David’s words we must remember that his agents would have kept him fully in touch with the current behaviour of both men, and that he therefore no doubt had sound grounds for his advice.

Those who are familiar with 2 Samuel will recognise that David’s advice has been limited to persons fully described there, which is probably why they are mentioned in detail here. We may presumably assume that there were other names on David’s list whom Solomon was also warned against, but we are not told about them. He was seeking to warn Solomon about all the ‘dangerous men’ in his kingdom.

2.10 ‘And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.’

Shortly after giving this advice to his son David died. ‘Slept with his fathers’ simply means the same thing as ‘gathered to his fathers’ in Genesis. It indicated that he had ‘joined’ them in the grave. But it does not mean that they necessarily shared the same tomb, for David was buried in the city of David. It is a euphemism for death. He had gone like all who had gone before him.

Jerusalem was ‘the City of David’ because it had been captured by David’s private army. It was thus seen as his personal possession, and it is regularly spoken of independently of Israel and Judah, even at the time of Jesus (Matthew 3.5). As for the tomb of David Josephus tells us that John Hyrcanus and Herod the Great both rifled the outer chambers of David’s tomb but left the central part where the body lay intact. The tomb was referred to as still existing in Acts 2.29.

2.11 ‘And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and he reigned thirty three years in Jerusalem.”

We have reiterated in these words what we learned in 2 Samuel 5.4-5, that David had reigned for ‘forty years’, seven of those being in Hebron and thirty three in Jerusalem. It will be noted that all the numbers are significant, seven indicates divine perfection, thirty three indicates intensified completeness (a multiple of three), and forty signifies a full generation. It is telling us therefore that on the whole David enjoyed a complete and full reign before YHWH (his actual period of reign in Hebron was seven years and six months - 2 Samuel 5.5). An important chapter in Israel’s history was over.

2.12 ‘And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was established greatly.’

But an equally important chapter in Israel’s history had also begun. Solomon now sat on the throne of his father, and his kingdom was firmly and strongly established. (Summary verses like this are regularly found from Genesis onwards. They were a normal literary form in Israel. There is nothing especially ‘Deuteronomic’ about them).

One important lesson of this passage is that whatever we are appointed to do we should seek in it to serve God with all our being, and ensure that we do it in a way that is pleasing to him. We should indeed note the contrast between the charge given to Solomon and the behaviour of men like Joab and Shimei. It is a reminder that what a man sows he will also reap, whether for good or bad.

A second lesson we learn from this is that we should ensure that we take the trouble to warn one another where there might be danger threatening of which someone might be unaware, in our case it refers especially to spiritual danger. Many a person could have been saved from grief if they had been duly warned of the dangers of sin and of the untrustworthiness of others. The New Testament letters are full of such warnings.

SECTION 2. The Life Of Solomon, Its Triumphs And Disasters (2.13-11.43).

This section commences with a planned rebellion against Solomon’s kingdom on behalf of three people and closes with two rebellions and a potential rebellion against Solomon’s kingdom. After the initial rebellion it then goes on to build up a picture of Solomon’s successes and splendour, interwoven, however, with indications of how they carried within them the seeds of their own destruction, and ends with explaining the major reasons that led YHWH to desert him. On the one hand therefore the picture is one of great success. On the other there are indications that all is not quite well.

This brings us to one remarkable fact about the reign of Solomon, and that is that although he was helped to the throne by Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 1) during the life of David, and it is through the writings of Nathan the prophet that we know much about his reign (2 Chronicles 9.29), there is no indication anywhere of the activity of the prophets during his reign, even though the final verdict on him was that ‘he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH’ (11.6). Throughout the account of his life he only has qualified approval, for there are continual indications of something not quite right, and yet no prophetic voice comes to warn him. Nor is any prophetic voice connected with the building or dedication of the Temple. Given the continual reference to prophets throughout the Book of Kings this must be seen as quite surprising. Was this because he was so confident in his own prophetic ability that he had somehow silenced the prophets. Had they been side-lined and indeed not included within the ministry of the new Temple? Why was the voice of prophecy silent? Towards the end of his reign Ahijah was to be found in Shiloh informing Jeroboam that through him Solomon’s house was to be punished (1 Kings 11.29), and when Rehoboam commenced his reign, Shemaiah the prophet came to warn him against civil war with Israel (1 Kings 12.22), but no prophetic voice ever spoke directly to, or gave warning to, Solomon. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this indicates that in some way the prophets were suppressed and prevented from speaking during his reign, possibly because, with his great wisdom, he saw them as unnecessary.

Overall Analysis.

  • a Adonijah seeks surreptitiously to supplant Solomon and is sentenced to death (2.13-25).
  • b Solomon banishes Abiathar to his estate in Anathoth and passes judgment on Joab because of their act of rebellion and attempt to cause trouble and do mischief to Solomon, reducing the status of Abiathar and sentencing Joab to death (2.26-35).
  • c Shimei is confined to Jerusalem but breaks his covenant with Solomon by visiting Gath, from which he returns and is sentenced to death (2.36-46a).
  • d An introductory snap summary of Solomon’s glories, which, however, contains criticism on the religious level because of worship in high places (2.46b-3.4).
  • e A description of the divine provision of God-given wisdom to Solomon by YHWH, which is then illustrated by an example (3.5-28).
  • f A description of the magnificence of Solomon’s court, and the prosperity enjoyed by Judah and Israel as a whole, which is brought out by a description of his administration of Israel and of the quantity of provisions resulting from its activities, which were regularly consumed by the court, followed by a brief summary of Judah and Israel’s prosperity (4.1-28).
  • g A description of the great practical wisdom of Solomon as contrasted with that of the great wise men of the Ancient Near East (4.29-34).
  • h A description of the building of Solomon’s grand and magnificent Temple, a venture which was one of the ways in which great kings regularly demonstrated their greatness, which however resulted in his calling up compulsory levies of Israelites for the work, including a description of the building of Solomon’s own magnificent palace (5.1-7.12).
  • i A further expansion on the building of the Temple in terms of Hiram its builder and his innovations (7.3-51).
  • j A description of the dedication of the Temple in which Solomon refers to YHWH’s covenant with David (8.1-21).
  • k A description of Solomon’s intercession before YHWH which made all the people rejoice and be glad (8.22-66).
  • j A description of the renewal of the conditional everlasting covenant by YHWH concerning the everlastingness of his family’s rule which was, however, accompanied by warnings of what the consequences would be of falling short of YHWH’s requirements (9.1-9).
  • i A description of Solomon’s generosity towards Hiram in giving him cities, which was, however, at the same time depleting Israel of some of its own prosperous cities which were a part of the inheritance of YHWH (9.10-14).
  • h A description of Solomon’s further magnificent building programme, which involved making slave levies on tributary nations (9.15-25).
  • g A description of Solomon’s trading activities which included a visit from the Queen of Sheba to test out the wisdom of Solomon, which resulted in him giving her splendid gifts (9.26-10.13).
  • f Further details of Solomon’s great wealth and prosperous trading (10.14-29).
  • e A description of Solomon’s folly with examples illustrating his lack of wisdom (11.1-8).
  • d YHWH’s anger is revealed against Solomon because he worships in illicit high places and he is warned that YHWH will reduce the kingdom ruled by Solomon’s house down to Judah and one other tribe (11.9-13).
  • c Hadad the Edomite flees to Egypt and returns to Edom on hearing of the deaths of David and Joab in order to ‘do mischief’ (11.14-22).
  • b Rezon becomes leader of a marauding band and becomes king in Damascus and reigns over Syria causing trouble and mischief for Solomon (11.23-25).
  • a Jeroboam becomes Solomon’s taskmaster over Judah and is informed by Ahijah the prophet that he is to supplant Solomon and become king over ten of the tribes of Israel at which Solomon seeks to kill him but he escapes to Egypt until the death of Solomon (11. 26-43).

We note first that the section opens with a description of three rebels and how Solomon disposed of them, and closes with a description of three rebels and how Solomon failed to deal with them. In ‘a’ Adonijah sought to supplant Solomon, and in the parallel Hadad is promised that he will supplant the house of Solomon in regard to ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel. In ‘b’ Abiathar and Job sought to cause mischief for Solomon, and in the parallel Rezon caused mischief for Solomon. In ‘c’ Shimei went abroad and returned to be treated as a traitor, and in the parallel Hadad the Edomite went abroad and returned to cause Solomon continual trouble. In ‘d’ YHWH was angry because Solomon and Israel worshipped in illicit high places, and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘e’ we have a description of Solomon’s wisdom and an example of his wisdom, and in the parallel we have a description of Solomon’s folly and examples of his folly. In ‘f’ we have a description of the wealth that poured into Solomon’s court from taxation, and in the parallel we have a description of how wealth poured in through trading. In ‘g’ the great wisdom of Solomon is described in comparison with other wise men, and in the parallel the Queen of Sheba tested out and admired the wisdom of Solomon. In ‘h’ we have a description of Solomon’s building projects and in the parallel a description of further building projects. In ‘i’ we have a description of Hiram the builder’s contribution towards the building of the Temple, and in the parallel Hiram the king received his reward for the building of the Temple. In ‘j’ Solomon reminded the people of the covenant that YHWH had made with David and in the parallel he himself is reminded of God’s covenant with David. Centrally in ‘k’ we have a description of Solomon’s great prayer to YHWH on the dedication of the Temple.

To some extent this description of the life of Solomon is based on 2 Samuel’s description of the life of David in that, playing down chronology, they both commence their descriptions of their reigns with incidents that eulogise the two monarchs and end by describing incidents that bring them into disrepute. But there is a subtle difference between the two, for while in the account of David’s life we are given the impression that underlying all that he did was a great love for YHWH, so that he truly repented his failings, in the case of Solomon there are continual hints that his love for YHWH is more on the surface, and that his greatest love was himself.

Consider, for example, the following;

  • Solomon is accused from the beginning of worshipping in disapproved high places (3.3).
  • The writer deliberately omits the name of Solomon’s Egyptian princess presumably as a sign of disapproval of his marriage to her (3.1).
  • The seven years of building the Temple is deliberately contrasted with the thirteen years taken over Solomon’s palace complex (6.38-7.1).
  • The writer indicates that Solomon did not introduce the Egyptian princess into apartments in his own house until that had ceased to house the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (2 Chronicles 8.11), presumably because he recognised that it would not be fitting in view of her penchant for pagan religion (9.24; 11.1-8).
  • He keeps emphasising the need for Solomon to continue to walk rightly before YHWH with a warning of the consequence if he fails to do so (8.25, 58; 9.4), knowing perfectly well that he did fail to do so.
  • There was no prophetic voice to warn him when he failed or went astray.

King Solomon Firmly Establishes His Rule By Removing All known Rebellion From His Kingdom (2.13-46).

Having been warned by his father David as to who had to be watched as he sought to establish his kingdom (the powerful but unreliable Joab, the son of his sister Zeruiah, and the belligerent but influential Shimei, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite - 2.5-9), and having himself given sufficient warnings to them which were not heeded, Solomon proceeded to eliminate Adonijah, Joab and Shimei, while at the same time removing Abiathar from any sphere of influence. Such removal of men who were a danger to the peace of the kingdom were a regular feature in the Ancient Near East when a new king succeeded to the throne, for it was a time when powerful men became over ambitious. It is to Solomon’s credit that he did not act until their subversion was openly revealed, having previously issued warnings to Adonijah and Shimei.

There is a reminder in this to us that with the Kingly Rule of God firmly established in our own hearts we also should proceed to remove from our lives all that is contrary to God, for if we do not it will surely bring us down.

Adonijah, Abiathar And Joab Plot Against Solomon Who Brings Judgment On Them By Removing Them (2.13-25).

At first sight we have here what appears to us to be a quite innocent, and even rather romantic episode. Initially it even appears to be rather sweet, and we begin to wonder why it is mentioned at all. But then, all of a sudden, we discover that underneath the surface things are not quite as they seem. For beneath what appears to us at first sight to be an almost trivial request, we discover that deep plots are to be discerned, which have behind them some of the most powerful figures in the kingdom.

Had just Adonijah and Joab been involved we might have taken what happened ‘at face value’ and have seen it simply as an indication that Solomon was willing to use any expedient in order to get rid of them. But the involvement of Abiathar as well as them, and his subsequent banishment, indicates that much more lies beneath the surface, for apart from his initial support for Adonijah, (a support also demonstrated by the king’s sons and many Judean officials), there had been no hint of any wrongdoing by him. After all Adonijah had appeared to be the natural and genuine successor to David in many people’s eyes. Why then should Solomon suddenly speak out and act against Abiathar so strongly, an Abiathar who was certainly not without considerable religious influence (removing him from acting as priest at the Tabernacle was a huge step) and was an old friend of his father’s? The answer can surely only lie in the fact that Solomon knew more than we do, and that his secret agents were keeping him informed of what was going on, with the result that he was aware of more than appears to lie on the surface and was already on his guard in readiness for a coup, knowing many of the names involved.

There is much to confirm this suggestion. After all Adonijah was no fool. He must therefore have been quite well aware that in asking for Abishag to be his wife he was going outside reasonable bounds and taking a great risk. To seek to marry a dead king’s concubine would undoubtedly be seen by most as an attempt to establish a position from which he could make another bid for the throne. Compare Abner’s similar action in 2 Samuel 3.7-10, and its repercussion, and note Absalom’s action in 2 Samuel 16.21-22. It would seem that he was depending on the young Solomon not being as wise as everyone was saying, and not recognising the sinister motive behind his action, for the fact that he was still dissatisfied at the state of things comes out in his rather bitter words to Bathsheba, ‘you know that the kingdom was mine and all Israel set their faces on me that I should reign’. It was a rather optimistic assessment, for he had not been supported by all Israel, but he seemingly did himself believe it, and clearly felt very disgruntled about the situation. His comment that Solomon had been granted the throne by YHWH was really bringing out that in his view most humans saw the situation otherwise, and was simply a necessary palliative to Bathsheba. To have even made these comments in the circumstances brings out the bitterness of his feelings.

As we soon discover, Bathsheba suspected nothing, and she probably felt even a little sorry for Adonijah. She would not be aware of the undercurrents that Solomon was constantly being primed about by his intelligence service. The writer was also in the same position as Bathsheba. He had only the king’s annals to go by, and they would not necessarily reveal what information had been received by Solomon from his intelligence service. But that Solomon had that intelligence comes out in the fact that the moment that Adonijah’s request was made known to him he linked it without hesitation with the names of Joab and Abiathar. It appears therefore that he had good cause to know that they were involved in the plot.

Adonijah’s guilt is suggested by the following:

  • 1). His very attempt to marry the wife with whom David had been closest in his last days, a woman who had been privy to many state secrets, and whom all the people associated with David, was a prime target for suspicion. In the thinking of those days it could only enhance his right to the throne in the eyes of the people.
  • 2). His approaching of Solomon through Bathsheba. Had he not suspected that Solomon would not approve he would surely have approached Solomon himself and made clear that his request was totally innocent. Thus it would appear that he was fully aware of the incongruity of his request, and was hoping to take advantage of Bathsheba’s innocence and influence in order to get his way without raising suspicions. He could not possibly not have known how significant what he was attempting to do was.
  • 3). The bitterness that he seemingly could not help revealing when he claimed that everyone but YHWH thought that he should have been king brought out what was in his inner thoughts. Had he simply been wanting to marry a beautiful woman he would have been much more conciliatory. He had no need to reveal his open resentment at the situation. It indicated that it was clearly eating him up.
  • 4). The way in which Solomon immediately connected Joab and Abiathar with the attempt suggests that Solomon had intelligence that linked them with the request. It would appear that Joab was still in position as commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel, and that Abiathar was still an acting High Priest. This would suggest that Solomon was continuing to take them at face value and considered that he had no overt reason for acting against them, otherwise he would certainly have moved earlier to replace Joab as commander-in-chief. It was precisely because Solomon had no firm grounds to present to the people that these two still enjoyed their positions. Outwardly therefore they both appeared to the majority of people to be loyal to Solomon. Thus it must have been something out of the ordinary which had alerted Solomon to their present guilt.
  • 5). The removal of Abiathar from the revered position of High Priest, something totally unprecedented apart from in the case of a maddened Saul (and even he did it by execution) demands a very serious cause, especially in view of Solomon’s own genuine expression of appreciation for him. It could only have been brought about by something extremely serious and damaging, certainly more damaging than simply having been involved in Adonijah’s attempt to gain popular support prior to David having made his position clear. It was something that Solomon would certainly have found difficult to do unless he was able to demonstrate very specific grounds for it. And it will be noted that Abiathar made no attempt to defend himself. It suggests that he knew perfectly well why he was being treated in this way.

On these grounds it is our view that Solomon was justified in his actions, and that to suggest that he was just finding an excuse for getting rid of them is to seriously misjudge him.

Analysis.

  • a Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably” (2.13).
  • b He said moreover, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say on.” And he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom is turned about, and has become my brother’s, for it was his from YHWH” (2.14-15).
  • c “And now I ask one petition of you. Do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say on.” And he said, “Speak, I pray you to Solomon the king (for he will not say you nay), that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife” (2.16-17).
  • d And Bath-sheba said, “Well. I will speak for you to the king.” Bath-sheba therefore went to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah (2.18).
  • e And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself to 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 you, deny me not.” And the king said to her, “Ask on, my mother, for I will not deny you” (2.19-20).
  • d And she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife” (2.21).
  • c And king Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah” (2.22).
  • b Then king Solomon swore by YHWH, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore as YHWH lives, who has established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death this day” (2.23-24).
  • a And king Solomon sent by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell on him, so that he died (2.25).

Note that in ‘a’ Adonijah claimed to have come peaceably while in the parallel he was executed because his approach had not been seen as peaceable at all. In ‘b’ Adonijah expressed his bitterness at the fact that the kingdom has been taken from him, and in the parallel Solomon sentenced him to death because he recognised that he was out to get it back. In ‘c’ Adonijah asked Bathsheba to request from Solomon that he be given Abishag as his wife, and in the parallel Solomon asked her why she made that request, and pointed out that she might as well have asked for the kingdom for him as well. In ‘d’ Bathsheba promised to make the request, and in the parallel she made the request. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon revealed his compassionate heart when he assured his mother that he would not withhold anything from her.

2.13 ‘Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably.”

Adonijah’s approach to Solomon’s mother clearly indicated that he was wanting to obtain something that he knew that Solomon on his own would not grant. In Israel the queen mother seemingly had great influence, as is evident from the fact that later the queen mother’s name is given at the accession of kings of Judah (e.g. 15.2). But he should have considered that such an approach could only antagonise Solomon and suggest to him that something nefarious was going on. Even Bathsheba was somewhat surprised at his approach and was not sure how peaceable his intentions in approaching her were. It is apparent that harmony had not yet been fully restored in the royal family.

2.14 ‘He said moreover, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say on.”

Then he explained to her that he had a request to make, to which she replied that she was willing to hear what he had to say.

2.15 ‘And he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom is turned about, and has become my brother’s, for it was his from YHWH.”

His next words were hardly conciliatory. They revealed how bitterly he felt the situation. The suggestion that all Israel thought that he should have been king and had supported his cause (certainly an exaggeration) could hardly have been seen by him as likely to endear him to Bathsheba as it reflected on her son. Nor would the thought that Solomon had only become king because it was YHWH’s will, and in spite of the people, have pleased her. Furthermore we have not in the past gained the impression that YHWH’s will was of first importance in Adonijah’s life, and Bathsheba would have known that. It would not therefore have been likely to impress her. It was not really the best way of gaining her sympathy.

His point was, that in his view, the kingdom was due to him because he was the oldest living son of the king, and secondly because the people themselves had accepted him as the natural and rightful heir, and that all had been going swimmingly, until it was all suddenly turned about by David’s action in putting Solomon forward as his heir. But he now wanted her to know that he humbly accepted that that was YHWH’s will, and that it had been given to him by YHWH.

This statement was, of course, intended by the writer to make clear that that was precisely the position. He wanted all to know that in the enthronement of Solomon it was YHWH’s will that had been done, and that Solomon was the chosen and beloved of YHWH (2 Samuel 12.24-25).

2.16 “And now I ask one petition of you. Do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say on.”

Having tried rather clumsily to arouse Bathsheba’s sympathy Adonijah now informed her that he had a favour to ask her, and begged her not to deny him. It says much for Bathsheba that she was happy for him to continue. Note the repeat of ‘say on’. The writer is trying to bring out the slow, careful and long-winded way in which Adonijah was putting forward his request. It makes clear that he was playing on her kindness of heart, but was uncertain as to what her response would be.

2.17 ‘And he said, “Speak, I pray you to Solomon the king (for he will not say you nay), that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife.”

Then he put forward his request. It was that he might be given Abishag the Shunnamite to be his wife. This approach made clear that he was very uncertain that Solomon would approve of the suggestion and that he was depending on Bathsheba’s support in order to obtain his wish.

In ancient days, far more than today, marriage was seen as a means by which influence and status could be obtained, and to marry the former king’s wife would be seen by all as advancing the claim of the husband to be in line for the kingship (if not more), and especially so in the case where a new king had just been enthroned and might be thought of as vulnerable and still not secure, and where there were probably a number of areas in the land where dissatisfaction still reigned. For the harem of the old king always became the possession of the new king. Thus for Israel to learn that Abishag was Adonijah’s wife could raise significant questions in people’s minds. It was made even more significant when the husband to be had already had a lot of public and official support revealed towards his claim for kingship, was the former king’s eldest son, and where the dynastic succession was not firmly regulated. Such a step could only have fomented trouble, and might even have suggested to many that Solomon’s position was untenable. It indicated how desperate the conspirators had become that they were willing to take this huge risk in order to try to achieve their ends.

The truth, of course, is that Abishag was probably not marriageable to anyone (except Solomon). We can compare how David’s misused concubines were in a similar situation (2 Samuel 20.3). Indeed Abishag was probably already being kept ‘in ward’, for it is doubtful if Solomon would have been willing to take the risk of her being married to anyone or of anyone influencing her. She was positive dynamite. Certainly Adonijah could hardly have been ignorant about the position. His act of gross folly can only be seen as resulting from his own belief in Solomon’s naivete. Unless he himself was naive in the extreme he must have known precisely what he was about. It is an indication of his desperation to be king that he even took the risk.

While it is certain that he must have known that he was breaching convention and playing with fire, it is, however, possible that Adonijah did not consider that he was breaching the Law in what he was doing (marrying his dead father’s wife), simply because he knew that Abishag had not had sexual relations with David, for the Law forbade a son to marry his father’s wife (Leviticus 20.11). So he cannot be blamed on that score. On the other hand it may be that, like Amnon and Absalom, he simply did not care. Gross sexual sin was a mark of David’s house as a result of his sin with Bathsheba. On the other hand, to the majority of Israelites who were not in on the royal secret, Adonijah having sexual relations with his father’s wife would have been seen as little different from the action of Absalom in 2 Samuel 16.22, and therefore have been seen as a claim to kingship. And had it been seen to have been carried through with Solomon’s agreement it would have put Adonijah in a very strong position, as though Solomon was acknowledging his prior rights. It could have been taken advantage of by any disaffected persons.

2.18 ‘And Bath-sheba said, “Well, I will speak for you to the king.”

It is a sign of how little Bathsheba had become involved in politics that she did not immediately recognise the problems connected with his request, although perhaps that was due to the fact that as a woman she saw Abishag’s position as not having been strictly that of a wife. Whatever was the case she was clearly unaware that what she was handling was dynamite. So in her compassion for Adonijah (what older woman is not swayed by a handsome young man speaking of romance?) she promised him that she would see what she could do.

2.19 ‘Bath-sheba therefore went to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself to 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.’

Bathsheba therefore went to king Solomon to speak with him on Adonijah’s behalf. Being his mother she would have had special access, and the good relationship that she had with her son comes out in the fact that he rose to meet her, and then arranged for a throne to be placed for her on his own right hand, the position of highest honour. The position of queen mother was clearly seen as being worthy of the highest honour in Judah, and this will come out later in that the opening descriptions of kings of Judah will mention the name of the queen mother. See for example 14.33; 15.1, 9 etc.

2.20 ‘Then she said, “I ask one small petition of you, deny me not.” And the king said to her, “Ask on, my mother, for I will not deny you.”

The queen mother approached her task carefully, preparing the way delicately. Without revealing what her request would be (we should always be wary of people who try to make us commit ourselves without knowing what it is that we are being committed to) she asked the king to grant it to her, and received the assurance from Solomon that whatever it was he would not deny her. He had no perception of what was coming, and in the event would actually have to refuse her.

2.21 ‘And she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife.”

She then put her request plainly. “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother to wife.” The request must have shaken Solomon to the core. For young though he was, he knew precisely what lay behind it.

2.22 ‘And king Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.”

Bathsheba was probably equally shaken by Solomon’s reply, for he had immediately seen all the implications behind the request. No doubt Solomon had already had reports about Adonijah, Joab and Abiathar getting together secretly, and now he recognised that his worst fears were being realised. There could be no doubt now that they were planning some kind of coup. So he pointed out to his mother that by asking for the hand of Abishag for Adonijah she was wanting him to grant to Adonijah the kingdom as well, both to him and his fellow-conspirators, Abiathar and Joab. Did she not realise that his status as Solomon’s eldest brother, and therefore the eldest son of David, combined with his being married to David’s newest wife, would be seen as giving him rights to the throne? It was clear to him now what the full significance of the plots that he had heard about actually was. And that being so it was clear that the kingdom would not be safe until the conspirators were permanently silenced.

2.23-24 ‘Then king Solomon swore by YHWH, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore as YHWH lives, who has established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death this day.”

Solomon had, as we know, previously warned Adonijah what would happen if he failed to live worthily and be loyal to Solomon (1.52). And now wickedness had been found in him. Thus he would have to die. So Solomon swore by YHWH that the traitorous words that Adonijah had spoken would result in him losing his life. As surely as Solomon’s being established, and set on the throne of David his father, and being given a dynasty, was of YHWH and according to His promises, so was it of YHWH that such conspirators who were trying to supplant the Anointed of YHWH should die. For by it they were rebelling against YHWH.

2.25 ‘And king Solomon sent by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell on him, so that he died.’

So king Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to carry out Adonijah’s judicial execution. And accordingly Benaiah set on Adonijah and killed him. It was one of his responsibilities as commander of the king’s bodyguard. We should remember that Adonijah was on probation and had had a warning. No trial was therefore necessary.

Apart from the obvious lesson of the seriousness of going against YHWH’s will, another important lesson that comes out of the whole incident is that before doing something we should carefully consider how our actions will be interpreted. We are wise to abstain from all appearance of evil.

Solomon Deals Firmly With Adonijah’s Fellow-Conspirators, Abiathar and Joab (2.26-35).

In this passage judgment falls on Adonijah’s fellow-conspirators. That they were genuinely so comes out in that Abiathar is included in the judgment in spite of Solomon’s kindly feelings towards him. In his case judgment involved being removed from his influential position as High Priest (a huge step for Solomon to take), and banished to live on his own estates. In the case of Joab, however, it involved the death penalty. This latter was no doubt because, as a powerful military figure and cold-blooded killer, he was adjudged the more dangerous. At the same time the verdict on Joab was used as a way of diverting blame from the house of David for the deaths of Abner and Amasa, the blame for the former emanating from the tribe of Benjamin, the blame for the latter from the tribe of Judah. The fact that in both cases Joab had had some justification for his actions, (even if they did also involve a lot of self-interest), was possibly not widely known. Such things are not usually judged on the facts but on local prejudice and tribal loyalty.

Analysis.

  • a And to Abiathar the priest said the king, “Get yourself to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are worthy of death, but I will not at this time put you to death, because you bore the ark of the Lord YHWH before David my father, and because you were afflicted in all in which my father was afflicted.” So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest to YHWH, that he might fulfil the word of YHWH, which he spoke concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh (2.26-27).
  • b And the news came to Joab, for Joab had turned after Adonijah, although he had not turned after Absalom. And Joab fled to the Tent of YHWH, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told king Solomon, “Joab is fled to the Tent of YHWH, and, behold, he is by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall on him” (2.28-29).
  • c And Benaiah came to the Tent of YHWH, and said to him, “Thus says the king, Come forth.” And he said, “No, but I will die here” (2.30a).
  • d And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” And the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and fall on him, and bury him” (2.31a).
  • e That you may take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father’s house” (2.31b).
  • d “And YHWH will return his blood on his own head, because he fell on 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” (2.32).
  • c “So will their blood return on the head of Joab, and on the head of his seed for ever, but to David, and to his seed, and to his house, and to his throne, will there be peace for ever from YHWH” (2.33).
  • b Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell on him, and slew him, and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness (2.34).
  • a And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the host, and Zadok the priest did the king put in the place of Abiathar (2.35).

Note that in ‘a’ Abiathar was thrust out from being Priest to YHWH, and in the parallel his position was taken by Zadok. In ‘b’ Solomon commanded Benaiah to ‘fall on Joab’ and in the parallel he did so. In ‘c’ Joab said that he would die at the altar, and in the parallel Solomon declared that thereby the blood of his victims would return to his own head. In ‘d’ Solomon told Benaiah to fall on Joab and bury him, and in the parallel that is how his blood would fall on his own head. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon stressed that it would remove from his father’s house the blood that Joab shed without cause.

2.26 ‘And to Abiathar the priest said the king, “Get yourself to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are worthy of death, but I will not at this time put you to death, because you bore the ark of the Lord YHWH before David my father, and because you were afflicted in all in which my father was afflicted.” ’

Anathoth was about three and a half miles (five kilometres) north east of Jerusalem. It was a Levitical town in Benjaminite territory (Joshua 21.18). That Abiathar was known to be guilty of more than just attendance at Adonijah’s attempt to pre-empt the reception of the kingship comes out here. Solomon’s sympathy undoubtedly ran deep towards Abiathar because he recognised the loyalty that he had demonstrated towards his father, and clearly also took account of his ‘holy’ status (in contrast with Saul’s attitude revealed in 1 Samuel 22.17-18). And yet he still selected him out for severe punishment and considered him worthy of death. Solomon apparently therefore had specific knowledge about his activities as a continuing conspirator. We note also that there was no protestation of innocence from Abiathar.

His punishment was removal from the office of High Priest, and banishment to live on his own estates where his influence would be limited. There was to be no possibility of his repeating his high treason. While the High Priest always had to be an Aaronide in accordance with the Law, it is apparent from this, and the example of Saul in slaughtering the High Priest and appointing Zadok, and of David in originally appointing Abiathar, that the king was seen as having overall control over who should be High Priest within the limits set by the Law. It was different with the prophets who were seen as more directly responsible to YHWH.

Reference to bearing the Ark of YHWH has in mind the time when the Ark was borne into Jerusalem to be placed in the sacred Tent that David had erected there. Abiathar would not, of course, have carried it himself as it required a number of bearers. But it was Abiathar who had ensured the safe establishment of the sacred Ark in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), something which would be an important factor in the eventual ensuring of the acceptability of the Temple as the Dwellingplace of YHWH, which was something for which Solomon had cause to be grateful. It is mentioned first because it gave Abiathar a special significance. It was he who had established YHWH’s worship in Jerusalem, something which meant a great deal in Solomon’s plans for the future. (There are no justifiable reasons for altering ‘Ark’ here to ‘ephod’). Abiathar’s sharing of the afflictions of David has in mind the fact that, after the slaughter of his family at Nob, he had been with David in all his wanderings. Joab, of course, also shared with him in the latter commendation, but in contrast with Abiathar he was far too dangerous a man to be treated lightly, as David himself had made clear. There were very powerful elements who would be loyal to Joab for he had been commander-in-chief for many years.

2.27 ‘So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest to YHWH, that he might fulfil the word of YHWH, which he spoke concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.’

The writer draws our attention to the fact that this treatment of Abiathar was also a fulfilment of YHWH’s prophecy concerning the house of Eli, the descendant of Ithamar, the son of Aaron (1 Samuel 2.27-36). According to that prophecy the High Priesthood was to be taken from that house and transferred to the house of Eliezer, Aaron’s other son. Zadok was descended from the house of Eliezer, a fact to which the Scriptures continually testify. Originally, in the time of Joshua, Eliezer had been the High Priest (‘the Priest’), but at some stage the High Priesthood had transferred to the other branch of Aaronides, the house of Ithamar, presumably because at that stage no male member of the house of Eliezer had been of age to take up the position. It had then remained in that house by passing from father to son. Now the situation was being reversed because of Abiathar’s treachery, and in accordance with the will of YHWH.

2.28 ‘And the news came to Joab, for Joab had turned after Adonijah, although he had not turned after Absalom. And Joab fled to the Tent of YHWH, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.’

As soon as Joab learned what had happened to Abiathar, and to Adonijah, he revealed his guilt for his own part in the plots against Solomon by fleeing for sanctuary to the horns of the altar in the Tent of YHWH. This was probably a reference to the Tent in Jerusalem. (While we ourselves have been told that he was listed with the conspirators, he would not necessarily have known of that fact had he not himself actually have been involved. Thus this confirms that he recognised that their plot had been uncovered). ‘Turning after Adonijah’ involves more than just his having sought to make Adonijah king while David was still alive, for the aim had then only been to make him co-regent with David, so that it had not been parallel in seriousness with the rebellion of Absalom. What had made it as serious as the rebellion of Absalom was his subsequent involvement in the direct plots against Solomon.

The horns of the altar were a regular place of refuge for men who were in danger of being arrested, in order for them to ‘buy time’ so as to present their cases before the justices (see on 1.50). It would appear that they had a somewhat similar function to the Cities of Refuge, to which menslayers could flee in order to ensure that their case was properly heard (Numbers 35.9-34). It was thus a plea for their case to be properly heard under the protection of God. That it was not more in this case comes out in Solomon’s subsequent reaction. (In later times such sanctuary would be seen as wholly inviolable in many countries, until it was brought under tight control, at least in the Roman Empire, in order to prevent its misuse on the grounds that it had filled the temples with evil men).

2.29 ‘And it was told king Solomon, “Joab is fled to the Tent of YHWH, and, behold, he is by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall on him.” ’

The news was brought to Solomon that Joab had sought sanctuary at the horns of the altar, and as a consequence he sent Benaiah to execute him. This was presumably because he argued to himself that sentence had already been passed on Joab by David, so that two justices (David and himself) had already made their decision on the basis of the evidence. That then justified him in ignoring the sanctuary of the altar on the grounds that in both their eyes Joab was guilty of shedding innocent blood, something that he will shortly attempt to argue.

2.30 ‘And Benaiah came to the Tent of YHWH, and said to him, “Thus says the king, Come forth.” And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”

When Benaiah approached the Tent of YHWH and called on Joab to come out, Joab refused, and in essence admitted his guilt, declaring that if he was to die, he would die at the altar. It would seem that he was admitting that he knew that he would have to die, and was wanting to do so in the place of atonement. Such men of violence often get superstitious ideas when they are facing their end. But it was also a challenge as to whether Solomon would have the nerve to do it.

2.31 ‘And the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and fall on him, and bury him, that you may take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father’s house.” ’

Solomon then told Benaiah to grant Joab’s request. If he wanted to die at the altar, he should die there. And he justified this on the grounds of Joab’s blood-guiltiness (see Exodus 21.12-14; compare Deuteronomy 21.1-9). After that he was to be buried. The aim of this was in order to remove the guilt of the blood which Joab had shed without cause (the blood of Abner and Amasa) from David and Solomon and his father’s house. The death, and burial of the guilty party before nightfall, was looked on as removing the guilt of the blood shed from the land (Deuteronomy 21.1-9, 22-23). It would also divert the blame for the deaths from Solomon himself and from his whole house, for the facts of the verdict would be publicly proclaimed so that all would know that Solomon and his house disassociated themselves from these deeds of Joab and were placing the guilt where it belonged. It would appear from this that there were still undercurrents of feeling in Judah and Benjamin about the way in which Abner and Amasa had died, and that the blame was being laid on David. Compare Shimei’s verdict on David in 2 Samuel 16.8.

‘Shed without cause’ is not strictly true. Joab did consider that he had cause. He was claiming the right of blood vengeance against Abner, killing him before he had entered the City of Refuge (Hebron), and in the case of Amasa was carrying out a field execution of an officer who had failed in his duty. Had he not done the latter there might well have been dangerous delay while seniority was being disputed. He thus no doubt felt completely justified. The fact that we suspect that he had deeper motives as well must not disguise these facts from us. Indeed these explanations by Joab were probably accepted by David at the time, and demonstrate why at that stage he did nothing further about the cases. But what David had clearly not been able to forgive was that by his actions Joab had brought blame on David himself, who was thus suspected of treachery by the two tribes to whom Abner and Amasa belonged. He presumably felt that Joab should have recognised that both men were under the king’s protection, and should have acted accordingly.

The truth appears to be that Solomon was taking Joab’s actual and definite guilt of high treason, something which undoubtedly deserved the death penalty in those days (as Solomon had already stated to Abiathar - verse 26), and was using the verdict on him as a means of removing the taint that still lay on the house of David for the deaths of Abner and Amasa.

2.32 “And YHWH will return his blood on his own head, because he fell on 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.”

Solomon then resorted to special pleading in order to obtain his ends. It was in our view simply not true to say that Abner and Amasa were necessarily better men than Joab, although it is seemingly true that Joab slew them without David’s knowledge or permission. Consider the facts:

  • Abner had taken up arms against David as YHWH’s Anointed when it was not strictly necessary (2 Samuel 2.12). In contrast Joab had always supported YHWH’s Anointed.
  • Abner, an extremely experienced warrior, had slain Joab’s brother, Asahel, when he could easily have disarmed or wounded him and spared his life, (note how easily Abner did slay him), and actually admitted himself at the time that Joab would have cause for vengeance against him for his action (2 Samuel 2.22-23). While we may justify Abner to some extent, we must not avoid the fact that he knew exactly what he was doing.
  • Abner had committed high treason by turning treacherously against Ishbosheth over a quarrel because of a woman, which was why he was at Hebron in the first place (2 Samuel 3.7-8). Joab never at any time turned treacherously against David (although he had against Solomon).
  • Amasa was clearly and blatantly disobedient to David’s orders at a time of crisis for the kingdom, something which, had Sheba’s rebellion taken hold more successfully, could have had devastating results, as David himself had pointed out (2 Samuel 20.6). Joab certainly never let David down like this. Amasa thus certainly deserved severe punishment (and in those days death). We must remember that it happened while Joab was on active service and was urgently acting in order to nip a rebellion in the bud. Otherwise disputes with Amasa could easily have caused further delay.
  • Joab on the other hand was always loyal to David, and was indeed owed a great deal by David. He was almost certainly with David during his days of fleeing before Saul’s vengeance (Abishai, his brother, specifically was - 1 Samuel 26.6), continually acted faithfully as his commander-in-chief (2 Samuel 2.13 and often), something which necessarily involved him in having to shed much blood and execute many people, and yet in the process regularly showed mercy on fleeing enemies (2 Samuel 2.27-28; 20.20-22). Furthermore he saved David from the results of his own folly when he was distraught at the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 19.1-8), and sought to do the same when he numbered Israel (2 Samuel 24.3). He even covered up for David over the affair of Uriah, and was certainly not as guilty as David over that affair. His great failing was undoubtedly his determination to hold on to his position as commander-in-chief at all costs. But overall it cannot be said that he let David down. What David apparently could not forgive was that through his rash acts against people under David’s protection he had brought dishonour on David himself. That David found himself unable to forgive.

Thus while we must acknowledge that Joab certainly deserved to die for his act of high treason against Solomon, and that David did have some grounds for warning Solomon against him (especially as he knew, as turned out to be the case, that he might not be as loyal to Solomon as he was to David), the reasons for the verdict against him explained in this verse were lacking in accuracy. It was special pleading.

2.33 “So will their blood return on the head of Joab, and on the head of his seed for ever, but to David, and to his seed, and to his house, and to his throne, will there be peace for ever from YHWH.”

Solomon’s hope by this was that, as a result of Joab’s execution, the blame and blood guilt for both these deaths should fall squarely on Joab, and on his descendants, and be fully removed from David and his descendants, with the consequence that David’s house would receive wellbeing from YHWH. The house of Joab was to bear the guilt, relieving the house of David from all responsibility. He was clearly hoping by this means to quieten any feelings of resentment among Abner’s and Amasa’s sympathisers. And he may well have felt the blame that was being placed on the house of David to be a heavy burden.

2.34 ‘Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell on him, and slew him, and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness (grazing land)’

Benaiah then went, as Solomon had said, and slew Joab and arranged for him to be buried in ‘his own house’, the burial to take place in land not suitable for producing grain (wilderness, grazing land). Here too Solomon showed mercy. Joab’s body was disposed of with honour, and not treated like that of a traitor. Solomon was not being vengeful. He was simply doing what was necessary for the good of the kingdom.

2.35 ‘And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the host, and Zadok the priest did the king put in the place of Abiathar.’

Benaiah was then given the position of commander-in-chief, while Zadok replaced Abiathar, moving from being joint High Priest to sole High Priest. (While rarely used up to this point this alternative title of ‘High Priest’ cannot seriously be denied to ‘the leading Priests’ of Israel. The position of ‘the Priest’ is described as that of High Priest in Numbers 35.25, 28, and in those days every nation had its ‘High Priest’. There are therefore no grounds for seeing Israel as an exception).

It was a sad day when these two loyal servants of David had to be swept aside because of their disloyalty to his son. It should be a reminder to us constantly that ‘he who does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father Who has sent Him’ (John 5.23). Now that our Lord Jesus Christ has come, and has taken His throne we must ensure that our total loyalty is to Him, and that we do not allow ourselves to be drawn aside to other things. And this warning especially applies when we are growing old in the service of God. We must ensure that we hold fast the confession and manifestation of our faith without wavering.

The Execution Of Shimei. The Man Who Had Cursed David (2.36-46a).

Having demonstrated the folly of Joab, and following his subsequent execution, (in accordance with David’s advice in 2.5-6), the writer then describes (topically and not necessarily chronologically) the execution of Shimei in accordance with David’s advice in 2.8-9. Shimei had been confined to Jerusalem so that he could be carefully watched, both because he was a known plotter with great influence among the tribe of Benjamin, and because he was known to be very bitter about how the house of Saul had been dealt with by David. He was therefore an acknowledged troublemaker and, because of his widespread influence in Benjamin, dangerous. There is, however, no reason for linking him with the plotting described above, and what follows probably occurred over two years afterwards.

Simei was warned that if he ever left Jerusalem, especially in the direction of Benjamin over the Wadi Kidron, he would certainly die. But the ban was not just about going to Benjamin, it was against ‘going anywhere’, for no one would know where he had gone once he left Jerusalem. This would not have been welcome news to Shimei for it separated him off from his family, fellow-tribesmen and lands, and therefore from the security of local custom and tribal loyalty, making him instead subject to the clear cut laws of Jerusalem as determined by the king, and therefore more vulnerable. But it did at least ensure him of his own personal safety. No blame, however, can rest on Solomon for this restriction, for he was newly made king over a kingdom which was certainly not fully united, and he had to guard against very possible danger, especially so close to Jerusalem. Indeed it could be argued that he was being more merciful to a known troublemaker than many kings in neighbouring countries would have been. Within wider Jerusalem Shimei had complete freedom.

For three years Shimei obediently remained in Jerusalem, leaving his family and servants to watch over his lands and their produce, free from worries, and as far as we know free from harassment. Solomon was as good as his word. But then news reached Shimei that two of his bondservants had fled to Aachish, king of Gath, (who was probably the grandson of the Aachish whom David had been familiar with). It was in those days normal practise for many countries to extradite bondsmen who had fled to their country, because it was seen to benefit everyone (except the bondservants), although Israel was an exception, probably on the grounds that they themselves had been bondservants in Egypt (Deuteronomy 23.15-16; compare 1 Samuel 30.15). Shimei therefore rather foolishly set out from Jerusalem in order to negotiate for their return, something in which he succeeded, although unfortunately for him, without consulting king Solomon. Perhaps he thought that his innocent reason would automatically be accepted, or he may even have thought that his absence might not be noted (a rather foolish hope in view of Solomon’s spy system), for an innocent man often feels that what he is doing in innocence cannot possibly be blamed. But he was undoubtedly breaking the terms of his probation, the conditions of which were quite clear. He no doubt went himself so that he could use his undoubted influence in order to obtain the extradition of the bondservants.

We should recognise in Solomon’s defence that Shimei might well (at least in theory) have been negotiating with the king of Gath about something very different, such as an agreement to invade Israel. Such things were constantly happening when people were disgruntled, and Solomon had no reason for thinking differently of a man like Shimei. And there is no doubt that Shimei had breached his probation, and knew what the penalty would be. Thus we should not be surprised at what followed when Solomon carried out the terms of his probation and executed him, even if we feel that it was a little harsh in the circumstances. Solomon may well have felt that no one would have taken the risk that Shimei had, merely over a couple of slaves (and he may have been right).

Analysis.

  • a And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and do not go forth from there anywhere, for on the day you got out, and pass over the brook Kidron, know you for certain that you will surely die. Your blood will be on your own head” (2.36-37).
  • b And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days (2.38).
  • c And it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, “Look now, your servants are in Gath” (2.39).
  • d 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 (2.40).
  • e And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again (2.41).
  • d And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not adjure you by YHWH, and protest to you, saying, ‘Know for certain, that on the day that you got out, and walk abroad anywhere, you will surely die?’ And you said to me, ‘The saying that I have heard is good’. Why then have you not kept the oath of YHWH, and the commandment that I have charged you with?” (2.42-43).
  • c The king said also to Shimei, “You know all the wickedness which your heart is privy to, that you did to David my father, therefore YHWH will return your wickedness on your own head” (2.44).
  • b “But king Solomon will be blessed, and the throne of David will be established before YHWH for ever” (2.45).
  • a So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out, and fell on him, so that he died (2.46a).

Note that in ‘a’ Shimei was warned that if he left Jerusalem he would die, and in the parallel he was executed for that reason. In ‘b’ Shimei dwelt permanently in his house in Jerusalem, and in the parallel Solomon was sure that the throne of his house would be permanent before YHWH for ever. (It is significant that the writer knew that by the end of his writing even Solomon’s ‘house’ would not be dwelling in Jerusalem). In ‘c’ the description of the wickedness of the servants of Shimei is described, and in the parallel the wickedness of David’s servant, Shimei. In ‘d’ Shimei left Jerusalem and went to Gath, and in the parallel he was questioned as to why he had not obeyed the king. Centrally in ‘e’ Solomon learned of Shimei’s gross disobedience.

2.36 ‘And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and do not go forth from there anywhere.”

In the case of Shimei Solomon had called for him (possibly not long after David had given his warning) and informed him that he was to build a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and not leave Jerusalem to go anywhere. It was a clear indication to him that he was ‘on probation’ and was being watched.

2.37 “For on the day you got out, and pass over the brook Kidron, know you for certain that you will surely die. Your blood will be on your own head.”

And he was warned that on the day that he left Jerusalem he ‘would surely die’. He could thus be in no doubt of the situation. As Solomon warned him, if he did so ‘his blood would be on his own head’. He was especially warned against crossing the Wadi Kidron, which would mean that he was going in the direction of Benjaminite territory.

2.38 ‘And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days.’

There was nothing unreasonable about this in view of Shimei’s reputation as a curser of the house of David, as he himself acknowledged. He might well have been relieved that he was being treated so mildly. And he agreed that as the king’s servant he would do what the king commanded. Thus he dwelt in Jerusalem many days, no doubt being well provisioned by his family from his own lands. ‘The saying is good’ was an official acceptance of the covenant being made with him.

2.39 ‘And it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, “Look now, your servants are in Gath.” ’

But then after about three years news was brought to him that two of his bondsmen had run away to Achish, the king of Gath, no doubt seeking refugee status as David had before them. But unlike David they did not have six hundred mercenaries at their command. Thus they were vulnerable to extradition. It was common practise for a grandson to be given the same name as his grandfather, and this Aachish was probably the grandson of the one known to David, Maacah being a common name in Philistia, especially among royalty.

A number of examples are known of the extradition of bondsmen who had fled to another country, although not usually if they had fled back to their own homeland. The Ugaritic texts tell of a charioteer of the king of Ugarit who had absconded to Alalakh, for whom the king requested extradition. Israel were, however, according to the Law of Moses, to refuse to extradite bondslaves who had fled to Israel, no doubt on the grounds that Israel had themselves been bondslaves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 23.15-16).

2.40 ‘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.’

To be fair to Shimei he probably felt that it would require all his authority as head of his family (and possibly his clan) in order to influence Aachish, and he no doubt took a sweetener with him. So he saddled his ass and set off himself for Gath in order to get back his bondservants, possibly thinking that as he did not intend to go near Benajaminite territory his action would be acceptable. Time can easily dim the seriousness of a requirement and he had been living in Jerusalem without harassment for three years. He may well have hoped that his absence would not be noted. And once he had obtained the return of his bondservants he no doubt felt that he had been justified. But his action was very foolish given the seriousness of his position.

2.41 ‘And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again.’

Meanwhile Solomon learned (possibly through his intelligence system) that Shimei had left Jerusalem, had visited Gath, and had then returned. We can immediately understand what effect that news would have on Solomon. A known and influential troublemaker had gone to visit the king of a country which in the past had only caused trouble for Israel. It was a recipe for disaster.

2.42 ‘And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not adjure you by YHWH, and protest to you, saying, ‘Know for certain, that on the day that you got out, and walk abroad anywhere, you will surely die?’ and you said to me, ‘The saying that I have heard is good.’ ”

Consequently king Solomon called for Shimei and reminded him of how he had adjured him in the name of YHWH not to leave Jerusalem, and had declared that if he did so he would surely die. And furthermore that Shimei had consented to this requirement as ‘good’, a formal way of accepting a covenant.

2.43 “Why then have you not kept the oath of YHWH, and the commandment that I have charged you with?”

Then he asked him why he had not kept the oath of YHWH with which he had charged him, and the commandment that he had given him. Did he not realise that by breaking that oath and flagrantly disobeying the king’s commands he had committed the most serious of offences for which there could only be one penalty? It was high treason.

2.44 ‘The king said also to Shimei, “You know all the wickedness which your heart is privy to, that you did to David my father, therefore YHWH will return your wickedness on your own head.” ’

He then reminded him of how in the wickedness of his heart he had cursed his father David, and had wished him ill from YHWH. Therefore, he prayed, let his wickedness now return on his own head. He was making quite clear that the penalty was cumulative. He was pointing out that as a previous transgressor he should have been more careful.

2.45 “But king Solomon will be blessed, and the throne of David will be established before YHWH for ever.”

And in contrast king Solomon and the throne of David, rather than being cursed would be especially blessed, and the throne established before YHWH for ever. For now through Shimei’s death any remnants of the curse would die with him, because the house of David would be removing wickedness from the land.

2.46a ‘So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out, and fell on him, so that he died.’

Once Shimei had left his presence, aware that he was sentenced to death, the king commanded that Benaiah once more act as executioner, and he went out and slew Shimei where he stood. In this way all the people about whom Solomon had been warned by David had been dealt with, having been given a fair opportunity to go straight, and having failed.

Shimei is the example of the person to whom every opportunity is given to truly serve the King, but who constantly fails to take advantage of the opportunity. In the end there can only be one result. Mercy comes to an end and judgment strikes. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The Glory Of Solomon (2.46b-10.29).

The reign of Solomon having been firmly established the writer will now expand on the glories and successes of Solomon’s reign, in a similar way to that in which the writer in Samuel had initially expanded on David’s successes (2 Samuel 4-10), before moving on to the downside of his reign. The events that follow in 2.46b-10.29 are therefore not chronological but topical in order to bring out the overall glory and prosperity which Israel ‘enjoyed’ under Solomon, but with the proviso that we have mentioned that it is tinged with criticism.

With this in mind we have:

  • An introductory snap summary of Solomon’s glories, which does, however, contain a tinge of criticism on the religious level (2.46b-3.4).
  • A description of the divine provision of God-given wisdom to Solomon by YHWH, which is then illustrated by an example (3.5-28).
  • A description of the magnificence of Solomon’s court, and the prosperity enjoyed by Judah and Israel as a whole, which is brought out by a description of his administration of Israel and especially of his taxation system which produced a large quantity of provisions which were regularly consumed by the court, followed by a brief summary description of Judah and Israel’s prosperity (4.1-28).
  • A description of the great practical wisdom of Solomon as contrasted with that of the great wise men of the Ancient Near East (4.29-34).
  • A description of the building of Solomon’s grand and magnificent Temple, a venture which was one of the ways in which great kings regularly demonstrated their greatness, which however resulted in his calling up compulsory levies of Israelites for the work, which disaffected many in Israel (5.1-6.38).
  • A description of the building of Solomon’s own magnificent palace (7.1-12).
  • A further expansion on the details of the building of the Temple, including details of Hiram its main architect and his innovations (7.3-51).
  • A description of the dedication of the Temple and of Solomon’s intercession before YHWH which made all the people rejoice and be glad (8.1-66).
  • A description of the renewal of the conditional everlasting covenant by YHWH concerning the everlastingness of his family’s rule which was, however, accompanied by warnings of what the consequences would be of falling short of YHWH’s requirements (9.1-9).
  • A description of Solomon’s generosity towards Hiram in giving him cities, something which was, however, at the same time depleting Israel of some of its own prosperous cities which were a part of the inheritance of YHWH, which would have caused concern to many in Israel (9.10-14).
  • A description of Solomon’s further magnificent building programme, which involved making slave levies on tributary nations (9.15-25).
  • A description of Solomon’s trading activities which included a visit from the Queen of Sheba to test out the wisdom of Solomon, which resulted in him giving her splendid gifts (9.26-10.13).
  • Further details of Solomon’s great wealth and prosperous trading (10.14-29).

So there is great emphasis on Solomon’s magnificence. Some of this magnificence can be discerned archaeologically, especially in terms of building work in Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer, but much of it would be hidden archaeologically by the fact that later centuries made use of his earlier buildings as raw materials for their own building programmes, and by the fact that on the whole Jerusalem remains unexcavated so that any traces there are undiscovered.

There are, however, no solid grounds for denying the outward magnificence of his reign, which can partly be accounted for by the fact that at this time Egypt was weak and inward looking, and Assyria was busy within its own borders. There was therefore no restraint on Solomon’s advancement from these quarters. Taking with this the fact that the kingdom straddled the two great trade routes, the first along the coastal road, and the second along the King’s highway, east of Jordan, to say nothing of the trade routes from Arabia, so that the world’s trade passed through his kingdom, and that he himself appeared to have had a good business brain, taking advantage of his friendship with Tyre and Sidon, and his control of the port of Ezion-geber, to trade by sea with the wider world, and we understand why he and the kingdom became so wealthy. What with tribute, tolls, and exploitation of business opportunities there is no reason for doubting that gold and silver flooded into his kingdom, with the result that ‘silver was not accounted of in the days of Solomon’.

Outwardly then all was splendour, but continually underneath we see elements which would cause the disaffection of the people, and demonstrate that such magnificence had a real cost to it, and this would be further exacerbated by Solomon’s own consequential disloyalty to YHWH. Prosperity regularly has this effect of reducing spirituality, as men cease to feel dependent on God and the world is allowed to take over the place that should be held by God.

Solomon had so much, and he could have used it for the glory of God. But once he had built the Temple his mind began to wander away from God and to be concentrated on his own glory. And the result was that what had begun in such a promising way, ended up in failure and disaster.

In A Brief Summary of His Reign Solomon Becomes The Son-In-Law Of The Pharaoh of Egypt, Builds Up Jerusalem, And Erects The House Of YHWH, While Meanwhile He And The People Sacrifice In High Places (2.46b-3.4).

Each reign from now on throughout the book of Kings will commence with a summary of that reign, having in mind especially how the king behaved towards Yahwism and maintained its exclusivity, and in this passage we have the writer’s summary of Solomon’s reign. As with most of even the best kings, what was good was weighed up against their failings, and the same is also true of Solomon. For from the start the writer leaves us in no doubt that Solomon did not live up to the standard of his father David, even though this would not necessarily become apparent in the beginning.

After all the initial hiccups that were behind him, the kingdom was now firmly established in the hands of Solomon, and Solomon thus began to build on what he had begun. He married Pharaoh’s daughter, giving him a position of great prestige in the eyes of the world, built up Jerusalem, erected the house of YHWH, and in general demonstrated his full initial loyalty to YHWH. But while humanly speaking his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter was a high point in his reign, for Pharaohs of Egypt would only allow the greatest of foreign kings to marry their daughters, it was already an indication of the compromises in which Solomon was prepared to involve himself for the sake of glory and pleasure, which would result in his later decline.

The writer certainly on the one hand wants us to see that Solomon was so great that he was even seen as an equal by Pharaoh, and yet on the other, in the back of his mind is a recognition of the fact that Pharaoh’s daughter would be a part of Solomon’s later downfall (11.1). This negative aspect especially comes out:

  • In that the name of the princess is not given.
  • In that Solomon did not introduce her into his own house until that had ceased to house the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (2 Chronicles 8.11), presumably because he recognised that it would not be fitting.
  • In that the description here is paralleled in the chiasmus with the fact that he sacrificed and burned incense in high places in a way that the writer frowned on.

    For the one major scar on what was otherwise an idealistic picture was the fact that the people, and clearly the king, sacrificed in the high places, many of which were syncretistic, mingling Canaanite practises with the true worship of YHWH, something which would then lead on to Solomon involving himself with all kinds of gods. And it is clear that this was all on a par with his having married an influential foreign princess to whom he would have to make concessions.

The Egyptian princess was not his first wife. He had already married Naamah the Ammonitess before ascending the throne, and had had a son by her (compare 14.21 where Rehoboam her son was forty one when he ascended the throne with 11.42-43 where Solomon’s reign lasted ‘forty years’), which was another marriage which may well have sealed a treaty and ensured the good behaviour of Ammon. But while an Ammonite princess could (at least in theory) be expected to tow the line, an Egyptian daughter of Pharaoh was another matter.

Analysis.

  • a And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon (2.46b).
  • b And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David (3.1a).
  • c Until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of YHWH, and the wall of Jerusalem round about (3.1b).
  • d Only the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of YHWH until those days (3.2).
  • c And Solomon loved YHWH, walking in the statutes of David his father (3.3a).
  • b Only he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places (3.3b).
  • a And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place, a thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer on that altar (3.4).

Note that in ‘a’ the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon, and in the parallel Solomon showed suitable gratitude to YHWH his Overlord. In ‘b’ Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, which would probably mean introducing foreign gods into Jerusalem for her own private worship, and in the parallel there is the reservation concerning him that he sacrificed in high places. In ‘c’ Solomon built the house of YHWH, and in the parallel he loved YHWH. Centrally in ‘d’ we discover that meanwhile the worship of the people was not on a fully satisfactory basis, something that was partly Solomon’s fault because of his poor example.

2.46b ‘And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.’

After a number of early hiccups the kingdom was now established in the hands of Solomon. All traces of uprising and rebellion had been sufficiently dealt with, and all appeared well. It was a regular feature of life in those days that when a new king came to the throne there would be initial unrest as rival claimants fought or manoeuvred for the right to rule, often resulting in bitter civil wars that lasted for years. It was one of the penalties of polygamy. But Solomon had got off fairly lightly, thanks largely to David’s wise, if delayed, intervention.

3.1a ‘And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David.’

Indeed so great was Solomon in his rule over the whole area from the Euphrates down to the River of Egypt that the Pharaoh of Egypt entered into a treaty with him, and gave him one of his daughters to be his wife. Such marriages, made in order to seal international treaties, were a common feature of life in those days (compare 11.1), although the Pharaoh’s of Egypt were very particular about who married one of their daughters. It will, however, be noted that her name is not given. This was probably because, in spite of its high honour as seen from a worldly point of view, the writer was seeking to bring home his overall disapproval of Solomon’s act (which would help him on his way to disaster - 11.1-2).

It should also be noted that the Pharaoh allowed his daughter to live in the City of David, and not remain in Egypt, an indication of the warmness of the mutual relations between Egypt and Israel, for this meant that the daughter was a kind of ‘hostage’ for Egypt’s good behaviour. There is no suggestion that she tried to openly install the worship of Egyptian gods in Jerusalem, but it is very probable that she brought her own gods with her, something that is confirmed by the fact that Solomon did not take her into his own house until after the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord had been moved to the new Temple that he built (2 Chronicles 8.11). It would appear later that she may well have been one of the wives who encouraged him to dabble in idolatry (11.1-8).

Pharaohs rarely gave their daughters in marriage to any but the greatest of kings, so that this marriage indicated the high esteem in which Solomon was held in Egypt. And while this was not, of course, under one of the greatest Pharaohs, and occurred at a time when Egypt’s fortunes were at a relatively low ebb, it was undoubtedly an honour nevertheless, for Egypt had a great reputation in the ancient world.

We do not know for certain which Pharaoh this was. When Rehoboam, Solomon’s successor, had reigned for five years, Egypt would raid the area over which Solomon had reigned, under the great Pharaoh Shishak (Shishonq of the twenty second dynasty - see 14.25). He had previously plotted to undermine Israel’s stability by harbouring Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, with the end in view of destabilising Israel, but he had done nothing further while Solomon was alive. The Pharaoh in view here, however, was probably not Shishak, but the preceding Pharaoh but one, Siamun, a Pharaoh of the weak twenty first dynasty, who ruled around 978-959 BC. The weakness of the twenty first dynasty is known from external sources but is apparent here in that it is clear that Egypt were making no claims on ‘Canaan’, an area which, in their strongest periods, they had looked on as containing vassal city states. They did, however, continue to conduct local actions against the Philistines in protecting their borders from supposed incursions, in the course of which they ‘smote Gezer’ (9.16), so that they were not totally quiescent. A damaged triumphal relief scene at Tanis depicts Siamun smiting a foreigner, seemingly a Philistine judging by the Aegean type axe in his hand, which confirms that Siamun did engage in such ‘police action’ in Philistia. But with regard to the area of Canaan as a whole Siamun was apparently quite content to make his northern border safe by means of a treaty with the powerful Solomon, something which would be to their mutual benefit, especially tradewise. One of the obvious benefits of this treaty to Solomon was seen in the multiplicity of horses that he later possessed, for Egypt was a well known source of such horses (10.26-29).

3.1b ‘Until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of YHWH, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.’

Solomon then proceeded with many building works, a favourite occupation of great kings in times of peace, for they left behind a permanent memorial of the greatness of those kings. (Compare Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in declaring, ‘Is this not great Babylon that I have built?’ - Daniel 4.30). He built his own palace (7.1-12) and the house of YHWH (5.1-6.38) and strengthened the walls of Jerusalem, along with other building work (9.15-19).

It is significant that he does not appear to have brought the Egyptian princess into his own palace until he had completed the Temple and housed the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord there, possibly for the very reason that he did not want the sanctity of the Ark to be defiled by the princess’s private gods.

3.2 ‘Only the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of YHWH until those days.’

However, according to the writer there was one major blot on his reign and that was that the people sacrificed in ‘high places’ (bamoth), because there was no house built for YHWH in those days. This can hardly be intended to be a criticism of the worship at the Tabernacle (probably now in Gibeon) or at the sacred Tent in Jerusalem, for neither have been criticised before, but have been looked on with approval. The criticism must therefore be seen as involving worship at other ‘high places’ not approved of by YHWH, which had mainly become syncretistic. In the past YHWH worship was approved of:

  • 1). At the Tabernacle (the Central Sanctuary).
  • 2). In the presence of the sacred Ark wherever it was, for it was ‘the Ark of God, which is called by the Name, even the name of YHWH of Hosts Who sits on the Cherubim’ (2 Samuel 6.2). See Judges 20.26-27; 21.4; 1 Samuel 1.3; 2.13-17; 6.14; 2 Samuel 6.13, 17-18.
  • 3). At places where YHWH had ‘recorded His Name’ (Exodus 20.24), e.g. where there was a theophany or prophetic guidance (Joshua 8.31; Judges 2.5; 6.24-26; 13.16-23; 1 Samuel 8.9, 10, 17; 9.12-14; 10.8; 11.15; 16.2, 5; 2 Samuel 24.25).

It was approved of nowhere else. Thus the high places mentioned here clearly did not come within these categories.

We know from a combination of archaeology and Scripture what these high places consisted of. They were local cult sites, often in the form of a rock-hewn platform, containing an altar or sacrificial block. It was possibly the fact that they were regularly on a raised platform that gave them the name ‘high places’. Or it may be because originally they were mainly built on hills. But if so by this time they could be found not only on the heights (which were often seen as the abode of the divine), but also in towns, and even in valleys. Examples of high places found on the heights have been discovered at Megiddo and Arad (compare 14.23; Numbers 22.41; 1 Samuel 9.13; Jeremiah 2.20; Ezekiel 6.13). Examples of high places in towns, mentioned specifically in 2 Kings 17.9, 29, have been discovered at Jerusalem, Hazor and Dan. An example of high places in valleys is found in Jeremiah 7.31.

Not all high places were disapproved of. Samuel worshipped at designated high places, presumably because he considered that YHWH had recorded His Name there in some way, perhaps through a prophetic oracle (and there was at the time no Tabernacle). Elijah rebuilt the altar of YHWH on Mount Carmel (18.30), and spoke of other such altars (19.10), where again presumably there had been a revelation of YHWH. These had been torn down and replaced by idolatrous shrines used for syncretistic worship, combining Yahwism with Canaanite worship, the kind of thing that had presumably happened at Bethel and Dan where Jeroboam introduced his golden calves. But the vast number of high places were probably old Canaanite sanctuaries, (or strongly influenced by them), and might well have contained, besides an altar, pillars and Asherah poles or images. These were the high places that were mainly being condemned, but were clearly at this time popular in Israel. The writer’s original source clearly hoped that the building of the Temple would help to resolve the problem.

The word bamoth ‘high places’ as used technically here is found only in Leviticus 26.30; Numbers 21.28; 22.41; 33.52. It is not used in this way by any other book prior to Kings. In Deuteronomy 32.13 the term indicates prosperity and blessing, while in Deuteronomy 33.29 it probably signifies their best and most influential cities, although some translate bamoth there as ‘backs’ on the basis of discoveries at Ugarit. Thus we should beware of suggesting that the framework of Kings is ‘Deuteronomic’. It is rather Mosaic.

3.3 ‘And Solomon loved YHWH, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’

The writer then stresses that Solomon truly loved YHWH, and walked in the statutes of David his father (i.e. the law of Moses - see 2.3), but had this against him, that he also got involved with, and sacrificed and burned incense at, high places. Some high places were often used for genuine worship of YHWH, but in the main their syncretism was seen as being a danger that could drag men down, as indeed Solomon was later dragged down (11.1-8). That was why they were to be limited to places where YHWH had recorded His Name’.

It is salutary to recognise that in the end the verdict on Solomon’s reign will be that ‘he did evil in the sight of YHWH and did go fully after the ways of his father David’ (11.6), and that that will be mainly because of his over-indulgence and carelessness towards high places.

3.4 ‘And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place, a thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer on that altar.’

But meanwhile the king demonstrated his loyalty to YHWH by going to the Tabernacle at Gibeon (the Tabernacle being there made it ‘the great high place’ - 2 Chronicles 1.3), and there offering a multiplicity of burnt offerings to YHWH. ‘A thousand’ was regularly used in order to indicate ‘a great many’ (for such use of ‘a thousand’ compare 4.32; Deuteronomy 1.11; 7.9; 2 Samuel 18.12; 1 Kings 4.32; Psalm 50.10; 84.10; 90.4; 105.8; Ecclesiastes 6.6; Song of Solomon 4.4; Isaiah 7.23; Daniel 5.1; 2 Peter 3.8; Revelation 20.3, 5).

Thus Solomon’s kingdom was seen as ‘established in his hand’, from an earthly point of view by his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter (verse 1), and from a heavenly point of view by his obedience to YHWH and by his worshipping in abundance at His Sanctuary (verses 3-4).

The site of Gibeon is el-Gib where the handles of jars have been excavated bearing the name Gib‘n. It was in the territory of Benjamin and a designated Levite city (Joshua 18.25; 21.17).

This summary of Solomon’s spiritual life comes to each of us as a stark warning. He sought to walk in the ways of the Lord, but still married Pharaoh’s daughter. He worshipped in abundance in the way provided by God, and yet he could not resist responding to the lure of the ‘high place’. His life was thus a continual compromise. And that is why when it came to its end all its promise had faded away. It is a sad reflection of his reign that the most popular examination question concerning his life is, ‘Why can Solomon be described as the wisest fool in Jewry?’

Because Of Solomon’s Heartfelt Worship YHWH Offers Him Anything That He Might Wish For, And Solomon Chooses To Have Wisdom (3.5-15).

One night while Solomon was in Gibeon for worship at the Tabernacle, probably at one of the great feasts, YHWH appeared to him in a dream and offered him anything that he chose. Solomon, aware of the huge task of ruling his empire therefore asked Him for the wisdom to rule and judge His people rightly. This pleased God so much that He promised him also long life, great honour and wealth, victory over his enemies and wisdom of every kind.

We will discover later that Solomon was in fact given many different kinds of wisdom, not only the wisdom to judge rightly but also wisdom with respect to the natural world and the making of proverbs and sayings with the result that he became famous, so much so that people would come from far and near to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

During the course of this dream Solomon drew out the important fact that his kingship was firmly based on the covenant that YHWH had made with David in 2 Samuel 7.11-17, even though he himself was but as ‘a little child’, which was why he especially needed YHWH’s continuing guidance. (He was very young to be king, being anywhere between sixteen to twenty two) That was why he wanted an understanding heart in order that he might rule and judge YHWH’s people rightly. This then was why he was given such wisdom, and more.

In response to God’s revelation to him Solomon ‘came to Jerusalem’ and offered up many burnt-offerings, and peace offerings. The burnt offerings were dedicatory offerings, but the meat from peace offerings was seen as available to be shared with family, friends and neighbours in a feast, so that Solomon was able to make a feast for ‘all his servants’, thereby uniting them with himself before YHWH in giving thanks for YHWH’s great promise.

Analysis.

  • a In Gibeon YHWH appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you” (3.5).
  • b And Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great covenant love, according as he walked before You in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You, and You have kept for him this great covenant love, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day” (3.6).
  • c “And now, O YHWH my God, you have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in, and Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, who cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude” (3.7-8).
  • d “Give Your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to judge this Your great people?” (3.9).
  • c And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing, and God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your word. Lo, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there has been none like you before you, nor after you shall any arise like you” (3.10-12).
  • b “And I have also given you what you did not ask, both riches and honour, so that there will not be any among the kings like you, all your days, and if you will walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (3.13-14).
  • a And Solomon awoke, and, behold, it was a dream, and he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the Ark of the covenant of YHWH, and offered up burnt-offerings, and offered peace-offerings, and made a feast to all his servants (3.15).

Note that in ‘a’ YHWH appeared to Solomon in a dream in Gibeon, and asked what He could give Solomon, and in the parallel Solomon awoke from his dream and in view of that revelation went to Jerusalem and made gifts to both God and his servants in Jerusalem. In ‘b’ Solomon spoke of how his father David walked before God, and in the parallel YHWH called on Solomon to walk in the same way. In ‘c’ Solomon expressed his need for wisdom, and in the parallel God promised him great wisdom. Centrally in ‘d’ Solomon’s request was for wisdom so that he could rule God’s people rightly.

3.5 ‘In Gibeon YHWH appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” ’

While Solomon was at the Tabernacle in Gibeon, possibly attending at one of the great feasts, YHWH appeared to him in a dream during the night and offered to give him anything that he asked for. The dream would be seen as a confirmation of the approval of his kingship by YHWH.

Such dreams at the commencement of a new reign were regularly seen in the ancient world as a confirmation of the approval of a new king by the deity, being then communicated by the king to his leading servants at a feast arranged for the purpose. An account is given in Egyptian inscriptions of a dream revelation (possibly drug induced) given to Thothmes IV at the Sphinx at Giza (which was, of course, a holy place) stressing his election by the gods to his kingship before he was born, and giving him their assurance that they would continue with him into his reign. The great kings of Assyrial also stressed their election by the gods. It was a way by which the kings sought to ensure that their people recognised their divinely given authority.

So YHWH was ensuring that Solomon, His chosen king, was not to be one whit behind the kings of other nations. He too would receive his divinely given authority in such a way that all his servants would recognise that it was so. As so often God used established patterns through which to reveal Himself. Revelation through dreams at unique times in history had been a feature of the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 15.12-17; 28.12-16; 31.10-13, 24; 37.5-8, 9-10; Numbers 12.6).

3.6 ‘And Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great covenant love, according as he walked before you in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you, and you have kept for him this great covenant love, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day” ’

Solomon began his reply by expressing his gratitude to God for all that He had done for his father David in showing him ‘great covenant love’, the love that, having been initially set on His chosen people by God’s grace, choice and favour through the covenant, continued to respond generously to their obedience within that covenant. Note the emphatic connection with the covenant. Solomon wanted the connection of his kingship with both of the divine covenants (Exodus 20 and 2 Samuel 7) to be quite clear And Solomon knew that YHWH had shown His covenant love for David because, apart from certain sad lapses, he had walked faithfully before Him in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart. He had constantly held fast to God’s truth, had continually done ‘rightly’ by the covenant and had specifically obeyed His Instruction given through the Torah (Law, Instruction), and had had an open and honest heart towards God. That was why God had especially shown His covenant love to David by giving him a son to sit on his throne (2 Samuel 7), the throne where he, Solomon, was at this present time seated (in great contrast to what had happened to the covenant-ignoring Saul). Men in those days had no greater delight (apart, at least in David’s case, from that of pleasing YHWH) than that their sons should prosper and do well. Thus having Solomon seated in peace and security over his empire could be seen as one of God’s great covenant gifts to David.

But equally importantly the words made clear to the people that Solomon held his position from YHWH in accordance with a divinely revealed covenant. For ‘uprightness of heart’ see Deuteronomy 9.5.

3.7 “And now, O YHWH my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.”

But having received his authentication by YHWH Solomon recognised what his great problem was, and that was that he was ‘but a little child’ when it came to running an empire. He was openly acknowledging that as a very young and inexperienced man the task was too big for him and that he did not know how precisely to go about it (thus revealing that he already had some wisdom). The idea of ‘going out’ and ‘coming in’ refers to a person going out of the house or city in order to fulfil his purposes in life and do his duty and fulfil his responsibilities, and then returning, both to rest from his labours, and also to see to the internal problems at home in order also to fulfil his responsibilities there. It thus referred to all aspects of life both near and far. And he was admitting that he needed help with regard to all of them.

An interesting example of a similar humility shown by a king, and vividly depicted, is found in a sculpture at Pi-Rameses of Rameses II where he is portrayed as squatting like a young child and sucking his thumb under the protection of an image of Horus depicted as a giant stone falcon. It was an indication that in the hearts of all men, however great, there is a recognition of their own inadequacy and need for supernatural help, which if not met by trust in God, will find other avenues by which to express itself such as in Nature, ‘Evolution’ or the occult.

3.8 “And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, who cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.”

Furthermore Solomon felt the burden of having responsibility for so many people, a people who were so numerous that they were beyond counting, and who were all the chosen of YHWH. This was especially so as he was aware that for this huge mass of people he himself was accountable to God. It was a huge responsibility indeed.

3.9 “Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to judge this your great people?”

So he prayed to YHWH from the bottom of his heart that He would give him an understanding heart so that he could rightly judge and rule over His people. The ‘heart’ was regularly seen in the ancient world as the source of thought and mind, as well as of emotion. With the heart man thought, and willed, and experienced. Solomon wanted to be able to judge ‘between good and evil’, both between right and wrong, and between what was wise and unwise. For how else could anyone judge this great people of YHWH?

‘Good and evil’ can refer to moral good and evil, or to the good and bad things that can come on mankind, e.g. sun, rain, storms and earthquakes. Thus it often indicates ‘everything’. We should note for example that when Isaiah said that ‘God creates evil’ he meant that God was overall responsible for bad things that happened to the world as well as good things, not that He was responsible for creating sin. (Compare ‘shall evil come on a city and YHWH has not done it?’ - Amos 3.6).

3.10 ‘And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.’

Solomon’s reply ‘pleased the Lord’ (adonay). It gave Him great joy that Solomon’s first concern was to serve Him satisfactorily, by ruling His people righteously. Note the rare use of ‘Lord’ (adonay) in 1 Kings (not apparent in most English translations where YHWH is regularly translated as LORD). It occurs twice in the phrase ‘Lord YHWH’ (2.26; 8.53), once of ‘the Ark of the covenant of the Lord’ (3.15), and once on the mouths of false prophets (22.6) and only here, when used by itself, of YHWH. In 2 Kings it occurs twice, once where it refers to ‘the Lord’ causing a noise to be heard by means of a ‘miracle’ (7.6) and once where YHWH rebukes the king of Assyria through Isaiah on the grounds that he has ‘reproached the Lord’ by what he had said (19.23). Thus it is used in order to indicate God as the Sovereign Lord over creation and all men, and its use here must be seen as significant. It is emphasising that it was the Great One, Who was over all things and from Whom he could have asked anything, to whom he had made his request. Well is it for us to remember also, that when we pray for things we are praying to our Sovereign Lord and Creator as those who are His servants as well as His sons. Then, like Solomon, we might be more thoughtful about what we ask.

3.11-13 ‘And God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your word. Lo, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there has been none like you before you, nor after you shall any arise like you. And I have also given you what you did not ask, both riches and honour, so that there will not be any among the kings like you, all your days.”

The use of the divine names in the passage is interesting. In verse 4 his dream comes from ‘YHWH’, his covenant God, but it is ‘God’ (Elohim) the Lord of all the world Who speaks to him and desires Solomon to tell Him what He should give him, thus not binding him in his reply to keep in mind the covenant. In verse 7 Solomon replies to ‘YHWH my God’, recognising Him from both viewpoints and acknowledging that he has covenant responsibilities. In verse 10 it is ‘the Sovereign Lord’ (adonay) who was pleased at what Solomon had asked for. Here now it is ‘God’ Who addresses him and confirms that He will give him much more than what he has asked for, because his request had only had in mind being able to serve God fully and rightly.

And God informed him that because he had asked for wisdom to rule rightly, rather than for long life, wealth or glory in warfare, He would not only give him understanding in order that he might discern what was just and right, but would also give him such a wise and understanding heart that none before or after him would stand comparison with him, and would furthermore also give him the wealth and glory that he had not asked for, so that none in his day would be able to compare with him.

The wisdom that Solomon was given will be expanded on in the narrative, it would include:

  • The wisdom to make right judgments on behalf of the people (3.16-28).
  • Wisdom in respect of speaking proverbs which give wisdom; instruction; discernment; ability to deal rightly in righteousness, judgment and equity; prudence to the simple; and deeper understanding (see Proverbs 1.2-6), and wisdom concerning nature and natural things, both of which were universally respected (4.29-34).
  • Wisdom as regards the decision to build the Temple (5.7).
  • Wisdom to seek peace rather than conflict (5.12).
  • Wisdom concerning YHWH as revealed in his prayer in 8.22-53.
  • Wisdom to answer all the Queen of Sheba’s hard questions with which she came to test him (10.1-8).

His wisdom thus covered all aspects of existence.

3.14 “And if you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

What was more, if he would continually walk in YHWH’s ways and keep His statutes and His commandments, thus remaining faithful to the covenant, he would also have length of days and live to a mature old age. For ‘keep my statutes’ see Leviticus 19.19; 20.8, 22. For ‘keep my commandments’ see Leviticus 26.3. For walking before God and keeping His statutes and commandments see especially 2.3; 6.12; 8.58; 9.4; Joshua 22.5; Leviticus 18.3-4; 26.3; Deuteronomy 5.33; 8.6; 10.12; 11.22; 26.17; 30.16; Judges 2.22; and compare Genesis 17.1; 24.40; 26.5; 48.15; Exodus 15.26; 18.20; Leviticus 26.21-41; Deuteronomy 6.1-2; etc. Thus the citations conform with various Biblical books.

3.15 ‘And Solomon awoke, and, behold, it was a dream, and he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of YHWH, and offered up burnt-offerings, and offered peace-offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.’

Then Solomon awoke and recognised that he had received a supernatural dream confirming the covenant and his own acceptability to YHWH as king within it (3.14), and in consequence he came to Jerusalem, to the Sacred Tent where the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH was to be found, and standing before it (although it would, of course, be unseen behind its curtain), dedicated himself and his people to YHWH, and offered up on the altar there burnt offerings and peace offerings, the former being for dedication, the latter being in respect of wellbeing, peace with God and thanksgiving. The burnt offerings were for dedication and atonement (Leviticus 1), and would be fully consumed, but the peace-offerings were for acceptability, well-being, thanksgiving and atonement, and meat from them could be consumed at a feast (Leviticus 7.11-21). Consequently Solomon made a feast to all his servants, and it may presumably be assumed that at that feast he communicated to his servants all that YHWH had said to him, thus making them one with him in it and assuring them that he had received the divine seal to his kingship.

The move to Jerusalem for this purpose was necessary because that was where the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, containing the two tablets of ‘commandments’, was to be found. It was emphasising how much the covenant was to be seen as involved in what had been said.

One vital lesson that all of us can draw from the above narrative is the necessity of ensuring that when we make choices in our lives, we do so with the prosperity and blessing of the Kingly Rule of God in mind.

Solomon’s New God-given Wisdom Is Revealed In His Judgment Concerning Two Prostitutes Who Claimed The Same Baby (3.16-28).

Solomon’s new God-given wisdom was soon to be tested out when two women came before him, each claiming that of two new-born babies, one dead and one living, the living was hers. The way in which he solved the case was seen as evidence by all that here truly was one who enjoyed the wisdom of God and could thus dispense His justice. This was a further seal on the fact that he was YHWH’s chosen king.

Sadly this was an example of what was a common experience throughout the world, and similar stories about swapped babies are known from elsewhere. The suggestion that they must all have one source is laughable. Such a situation must often have happened where the circumstances allowed it. In the case of the closest parallel, an Indian version, both the mothers were wives of one husband. The narrative style here, with its vivid direct speech expected at a hearing (compare 2 Samuel 14.4-20), is typical of Samuel and Kings.

It was common practise for Mesopotamian kings to have unusual examples of their judgments recorded so that they could present them before their deity for His approval and commendation. This would appear to be one such example in Israel, in which case it would underline the fact that it was genuine.

Analysis.

  • a Then there came two women who were prostitutes to the king, and stood before him (3.16).
  • b And the one woman said, “Oh, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came about on the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only we two in the house” (3.17-18).
  • c “And this woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while your handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom” (3.19-20).
  • d “And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead, but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, whom I had borne” (3.21).
  • e And the other woman said, “No, but the living is my son, and the dead is your son.” And this one said, “No, but the dead is your son, and the living is my son” (3.22a).
  • f Thus they spoke before the king (3.22b).
  • e Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead, and the other says, ‘No, but your son is the dead, and my son is the living’ ” (3.23).
  • d And the king said, “Fetch me a sword.” And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other” (3.24-25).
  • c Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and on no condition slay it.” But the other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours, divide it” (3.26).
  • b Then the king answered and said, “Give her the living child, and on no condition slay it. She is its mother” (3.27).
  • a And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice (3.28).

Note that in ‘a’ the two women came before Solomon for his judgment, and in the parallel all wondered at the judgment given. In ‘b’ the true mother claimed the baby as her own, and in the parallel she was to be given the baby. In ‘c’ the problem of two claimants to the baby, the true mother and the false mother, was laid before Solomon, and in the parallel the true mother was prepared to relinquish her child rather than see him killed, while the false mother was perfectly willing for him to be killed. In ‘d’ the true mother looked at the dead baby and recognised that it was not her son, and in the parallel Solomon ‘decided’ to kill her living son so that both would be dead. In ‘e’ the two women wrangled, and in the parallel Solomon summed up their wrangling. Centrally in ‘f’ the presentation of the case was concluded and awaited Solomon’s decision.

3.16 ‘Then there came two women who were prostitutes to the king, and stood before him.’

We have in this incident evidence of the way in which, like many ancient kings, there was provision for common people to approach Solomon in order to obtain his verdict on their case (compare 2 Samuel 14.3 onwards where the same was true for David; see also 2 Kings 8.3-6), possibly on one specific day of the moon period. It was even the practise of many Pharaohs. The fact that the women were prostitutes and lived on their own together explains why the incident could happen. They were not surrounded by loving families who would have prevented any possibility of the babies being mixed up. They may, in fact, have been innkeepers (the same Hebrew word is used for both innkeepers and prostitutes, who in fact often doubled up) who would often also be prostitutes as well (in a similar way perhaps to Rahab in Joshua 2). That would explain the reference in verse 18 to no strangers being present in the house at the time. The story rings true at every point.

Prostitution was frowned on for native Israelites, but it was nevertheless tolerated, presumably as an unpreventable evil. Compare Genesis 38.15. Fathers were forbidden to make their daughters into prostitutes (Leviticus 19.29) lest the land become ‘full of wickedness’, but there was no actual specific ban on women choosing that way of life for themselves (Deuteronomy 23.17 refers to cult prostitutes which were forbidden), although its unsavouriness was made clear both by the above statement, and from the fact that the children thus produced were banned from the house of YHWH for ‘ten generations’ (Deuteronomy 23.2). No son of Aaron could marry a prostitute (Leviticus 21.7, 14) and if their daughters became prostitutes they were to be ‘burned with fire’ because they had profaned themselves (Leviticus 21.10). A prostitute’s gifts were not to be accepted by the Tabernacle (Deuteronomy 23.18). However, many women who were left husbandless and without close family support probably often had little alternative.

3.17-19 ‘And the one woman said, “Oh, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came about on the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it.”

The first woman gave the details of the case, which were that they both lived together as prostitutes in one house, with no other company, and that they had both had a child within days of each other. But the second woman’s child had died because the woman was careless and lay on it during the night while she was sleeping. The reference to no stranger being in the house at the time may suggest that they were innkeepers (see on verse 16).

3.20 “And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while your handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.”

So the woman whose child had died arose at midnight and took the first woman’s baby son, replacing it with her own dead son.

3.21 “And when I rose in the morning to breast feed my child, behold, it was dead, but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, whom I had borne.”

Consequently when the first woman arose in order to feed her baby she had thought that it was dead, but once she had examined it in the morning light she had realised that it was not her baby at all.

3.22a ‘And the other woman said, “No, but the living is my son, and the dead is your son.” And this one said, “No, but the dead is your son, and the living is my son.”

The second woman then spoke up and declared that the truth of the matter was that her son was the living son, while the dead son was the first woman’s, at which the first woman said that that was not true but that the opposite was the case.

3.22b ‘Thus they spoke before the king.’

This then was the case that they had brought before the king.

3.23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead, and the other says, ‘No, but your son is the dead, and my son is the living.’ ”

The king no doubt eyed them both up and down, and then repeated the situation as described by the women. It appeared insoluble. One said one thing, and the other another. How could one possibly decide who was telling the truth when there was no evidence either way apart from the two women’s opposing testimony?

3.24 ‘And the king said, “Fetch me a sword.” And they brought a sword before the king.’

But the king had not been given divine wisdom for nothing, so he called for a sword to be brought to him, which was immediately done.

3.25 ‘And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.”

The king then gave his verdict that there was only one way in which to be fair to both and that was to divide the child up between them. Needless to say the living child would no longer then be living.

3.26 ‘Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and on no condition slay it.” But the other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours, divide it.” ’

The thought of this happening to her son was more than the true mother could bear, and she cried to the king, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and on no condition slay it.” The other woman was, however, nonchalant about the situation and agreed wholeheartedly with the king. This immediately resulted in Solomon recognising which of them must be the true mother.

3.27 ‘Then the king answered and said, “Give her the living child, and on no condition slay it. She is its mother.” ’

And he accordingly gave instructions that the living son be given to the woman who was prepared to do anything rather than see her son die.

3.28 ‘And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.’

All around were filled with awe, and the story began to filter out to the whole of Israel, with the result they too were filled with awe at the king’s wisdom. And all recognised that it demonstrated that the wisdom of God was with him and that they could therefore depend on him in the future for true justice. There would be no more questioning his right to rule.

One lesson for us from this story is that we are always judged by the choices that we make. Like the false mother, false Christians will always give themselves away in the end, whatever their protestations, by the options that they subscribe to, and the choices that they make. As Jesus said, ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?’ (Luke 6.46).

Details of The Administrative Organisation Of Solomon As King Over All Israel (4.1-21).

The splendour of Solomon’s reign is now brought out by reference to the wisdom of his administrative appointments, and concluding with a picture of the general prosperity of the land. The description includes both the appointment of his chief officers (4.2-6), and of his district fiscal governors (4.7-21), together with the nature of their tasks. Comparison may be made with David’s chief officers in 2 Samuel 8.15-18. The repeated reference to ‘priests’ in both may suggest that old Jebusite titles had been taken over in Jerusalem which in fact indicated that previously such offices had been held by priests (cohanim) of the old Jebusite religion, possibly the worship of El Elyon (Genesis 14.18), overseen by the priest-king himself. That was why David and Solomon saw themselves as being ‘a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Psalm 110.4), and some of their appointees as similar ‘priests’. They were probably seen, along with their other duties, as having intercessory responsibilities before YHWH on behalf of God’s people.

Now, therefore, the new appointees would be worshippers of YHWH. Azariah, the son of Zadok, was probably the prime minister (described under the ancient Canaanite title of ‘cohen’) with Elihoreph and Ahijah being the two secretaries of state, Jehoshaphat being the Chancellor, Benaiah being the commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel, Zadok and Abiathar still being High Priests (a position the status of which was for life even though Abiathar’s authority to act may have been removed), Azariah the son of Nathan (probably the Nathan who was the son of David) being the superintendent of the district officers, Zabud the son of Nathan being the king’s chief adviser (his ‘friend’) and also designated by the ancient title of ‘cohen’, thus possibly being also a priestly intercessor (compare how the king’s sons had been ‘priests’ in 2 Samuel 8.18), Abishar being over the king’s household, and Adoniram being over the forcibly enlisted labour.

It will be noted that under David the leading official who had been mentioned first had been the commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel (2 Samuel 8.15). The change to a Prime Minister thus now indicated emphasises that things had moved away from the necessity of being on a war footing to a period of more peaceful coexistence and consolidation, albeit with the commander-in-chief still being very important.

These appointments were then followed by the appointing of ‘officers’ over the twelve districts into which Israel/Judah was divided up, one of their purposes being to ensure provision of ample supplies of food and drink for the royal court.

It will be noted that the first four, and the sixth, of these officials are simply described as ‘son of’ (ben), which is unusual. It has been surmised that that was because one edge of the tablet on which their names had been recorded had either been broken off or had become unreadable. It is important to note, if that is the case, that no attempt was made to invent names to make up for the loss. The writer was scrupulous about sticking with the facts that he had, (thus underlining the reliability of the narrative). An alternative possibility is that they were so named because their positions were seen as hereditary, as with the similar situation pertaining at Ugarit, with each successor bearing the name of the original holder of the position. A third alternative is that in some circles naming oneself in this way had become the latest craze.

Analysis.

  • a And king Solomon was king over all Israel (4.1).

  • b And these were the princes whom he had:

    Azariah, the son of Zadok, (was) the priest;
    Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, (were) scribes;
    Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, (was) the recorder;
    And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host;
    And Zadok and Abiathar were priests;
    And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers;
    And Zabud the son of Nathan was priest, and the king’s friend;
    And Ahishar was over the household;
    And Adoniram the son of Abda was over the men subject to taskwork. (4.2-6).
  • c And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided victuals for the king and his household, each man had to make provision for a month in the year (4.7).
  • b And these are their names:

    Ben-hur, in the hill-country of Ephraim;
    Ben-deker, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth-shemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan;
    Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him pertained Socoh, and all the land of Hepher);
    Ben-abinadab, in all the height of Dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife)
    Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan, beneath Jezreel, from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as beyond Jokmeam;
    Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; even to him pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars);
    Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim;
    Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon to wife);
    Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth;
    Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar;
    Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin;
    Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer who was in the land (4.8-19).
  • a Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry, and Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute, and served Solomon all the days of his life (4.20-21).

Note that in ‘a’ it is emphasised that Solomon was king over all Israel, his chief domain, while in the parallel he also ruled from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt, but in some cases through kings of some of these areas who were his vassals. In ‘b’ we have the list of leading officials, and in the parallel the list of the governors of the administrative districts. Centrally in ‘c’ we have indicated the means of provisioning the royal court.

4.1 ‘And king Solomon was king over all Israel.’

Solomon now reigned in glory over all Israel. The details that follow are not, however, to be seen as signifying the situation at the beginning of his reign. As ever the account is not chronological but topical. It will be noted, for example, that some of the officials were married to Solomon’s daughters. It is true, of course that they might have been appointed before they did marry them, and that the daughters may only have been twelve years of age with their husbands as older men, but nevertheless at least a few years would appear to be required. When Solomon came to the throne he may have been anywhere between, say, sixteen to twenty two. We are never told his age at the time when he came to the throne.

4.2-6 ‘And these were the princes whom he had:

Azariah, the son of Zadok, (was) the priest;
Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, (were) scribes;
Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, (was) the recorder;
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host;
And Zadok and Abiathar were priests;
And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers;
And Zabud the son of Nathan was priest, and the king’s friend;
And Ahishar was over the household;
And Adoniram the son of Abda was over the men subject to taskwork.’

We have here a list of the chief officials (sarim - compare Judges 8.6, 14, and the Egyptian sr.w) in the land. First comes Azariah, the son of Zadok. He was ‘the cohen’ (priest). As we have seen this title was probably taken over from the old Jebusite officialdom, where all the leading officials were ‘priests’ under the ‘king-priest’. Thus ‘the priest’ would come next in authority to the king-priest. Solomon, as David before him, had taken on himself the title ‘priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Psalm 110.4), for both he and David acted as intercessory priests (see 8.22-53; 2 Samuel 24.10, 17). Thus his chief official was also given the title of ‘the priest’. He was basically the Prime Minister, but may well also have had intercessory duties.

‘The son of Zadok.’ He was possibly the grandson (‘son of’ is always vague and often means ‘descendant of’) of Zadok the Priest, being the son of Ahimaaz (1 Chronicles 6.8-9). Or he may have been another Azariah (a common name in the priestly families) who was brother to Ahimaaz. It will be noted how many of the leading officials we are dealing with are descended from previous leading officials. There had in fact been such ‘princely families’ from the earliest days (e.g. Numbers 1.4-16).

‘Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, were scribes.’ The title ‘scribe’ could be given both to the highest officials in the land, and to humble copyists and letter writers. There were probably two Scribes (secretaries of state) because one saw to ‘home affairs’ to do with Israel/Judah and the other with ‘foreign affairs’ to do with the wider empire. The one who took the latter position may well have been required to be an expert in ‘foreign languages’ (compare 2 Kings 18.26). By the time of Hezekiah there was one ‘Scribe’ who was one of the three leading officials in the land (2 Kings 18.18) because by then there was no empire.

‘Elihoreph.’ The name could mean ‘God of Autumn’ (the God Who provides through harvest) or it may have been a Canaanite name ‘borrowed’ by Shisha who, of course, lived in the former Canaanite city of Jerusalem. It need not indicate Canaanite descent, although Shisha may have taken a Jebusite wife who had become a Yahwist. Alternatively it may have been given to him on appointment, as being seen as suitable for someone engaged in foreign correspondence. It is similar to the Hurrian name E(h)liarip. Ahijah (Yah is my brother’) was a relatively common Hebrew name.

‘The sons of Shisha.’ Shisha was probably the same as ‘Seraiah the scribe’ (2 Samuel 8.17). In 2 Samuel 20.25 he was called Sheva. In 1 Chronicles 8.16 this becomes Shavshah. These are probably simply variants of his official name received on appointment. Ancient names were very flexible. Alternately Shisha (compare Egyptian ss) may simply mean ‘official scribe’, with Seraiah being his original name Thus these also are at least semi-hereditary appointments.

‘Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, (was) the recorder.’ This was as he had been under David (2 Samuel 8.16). The recorder is ‘he who causes to be heard’. Thus he was responsible for disseminating the king’s will vocally among the people and ensuring that it was responded to. He may also have recorded the day to day events related to the king. A similar figure in Egypt regulated the ceremonies of the palace and gave audience to people with the king, and transmitted and explained royal commands.

‘And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host.’ As we know he had been commander of David’s bodyguard and had taken over the position of commander-in-chief from Joab (2.35).

‘And Zadok and Abiathar were priests.’ These were both official High Priests, the former, descended from Aaron through Eliezer, appointed, probably by Saul, over the Tabernacle, and later presiding at the Sacred Tent in Jerusalem, the latter by David, for he was descended from Aaron through Ihamar and was the only surviving son of the previous High Priest slain by Saul at Nob, and had fled with the Ephod to David, and would for a time have been High Priest in Ziklag, then in Hebron, and then in Gibeon. The High Priesthood was for life, so that once appointed a man remained High Priest until death (Numbers 35.25, 28), even though he had been relieved of his duties as Abiathar had been (2.35).

‘And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers.’ He was probably Solomon’s nephew, being the son of his brother Nathan (2 Samuel 5.14). He presumably had responsibility over the district ‘officers’ mentioned below.

‘And Zabud the son of Nathan was priest, and the king’s friend.’ Another nephew of Solomon’s, Zabud (‘bestowed’) was also called ‘cohen’ and was the king’s chief adviser (‘friend’, compare Hushai the Gittite in 2 Samuel 16.16, 17-19; 1 Chronicles 27.23). The title ‘king’s friend’ is also mentioned in Amarna (Canaanite) texts. As ‘cohen’ he may well also, like Azariah above, have shared in the intercessory responsibilities which fell on the king.

‘Ahishar was over the household.’ Solomon’s household was huge, as what follows indicates. Ahishar therefore had responsibility for overseeing the whole. The non-mention of his father’s name may suggest that he was a ‘commoner’, appointed because of his special abilities having in mind the needs of the king’s household. The title would later be applied to the Prime Minister (see 2 Kings 15.5; 18.18; Isaiah 22.20-22 with 36.3), replacing the title ‘cohen’ (see on Azariah above), but we must not read that into Ahishar’s role. The title has been found on a seal impression excavated at Lachish.

‘Adoniram the son of Abda was over the men subject to taskwork.’ This may be the same man as the one who was appointed by David (2 Samuel 20.24) and survived up to the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign (12.18). At one time he had ‘five hundred and fifty’ slave-masters (9.23). Enforced labour was a necessary part of being a great king, for it was the only means by which large building projects could go forward (compare the warning in 1 Samuel 8.16). The worst aspect of this kind of servitude was limited to ‘foreigners’ (9.15, 21-22; 2 Samuel 12.31; 2 Chronicles 2.18) but the need became so great that native Israelites were also drafted in (5.13 ff), although in their case on a part time basis, and it was this, and their treatment while involved, as much as anything else that resulted in the disaffection that caused the later division of the kingdom.

4.7 ‘And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided victuals for the king and his household, each man had to make provision for a month in the year.’

Solomon also divided up Israel (excluding Judah) into twelve regions over whom he placed district ‘tax collectors or governors’ (literally ‘those appointed’). One of their major responsibilities was that of collecting the king’s taxes, mainly in the form of produce, and in each case it included ensuring that sufficient provisions were made available to the king’s vast household for one moon period out of twelve. But this would undoubtedly also have required the official to exercise control in other spheres, for they would not act directly themselves, delegating the main collection to others, and would require a wide authority in order to carry out what would not have been something welcomed by the Israelites. They were learning what having a king really involved.

The situation in Israel was by this time far too complicated to allow a simple division of the Israelites into tribes, and the divisions were thus not simply based on tribal divisions, even if that had been possible with the situation as it was, with so many movements and counter-movements of sections of tribes having taken place since the Conquest. On the other hand tribal divisions undoubtedly played their part with regard to tribes that had maintained their own independent identity. Solomon was not trying to break down tribal identity. He was seeking to efficiently (from his point of view) organise the whole area of Israel so as to ensure that the needs of his court were continually met, taking into account the complexities or otherwise of each area. On the other hand there were also the great Canaanite cities such as Taanach and Megiddo, and other similar large Canaanite enclaves, which had to be taken into account, and had to be brought into the system. These had in many cases been brought within Israel more by absorption than conquest as a result of the activities described in Judges 1.27-36, and by such as Saul and David, and had probably in the course of it been forced to submit to Yahwism. All these had to be brought within the sphere of Solomon’s administration. They would also be more used to such tight administration having suffered under kings for centuries.

The list commences with the hill country of Ephraim, which being situated where it was, and being the land first settled by the Israelites (if we ignore Judah) in comparatively virgin territory, was the most secure and prominent area among the northern tribes, and this is then followed by six areas mainly designated in terms of Canaanite cities, after which come areas named after tribes which had clearly not been so affected by having Canaanite cities among them, and had maintained their prominence and independence in the face of all the changes that had taken place, and were seen as administratively capable. Thus Ephraim, Naphtali, Asher, Issachar and Benjamin were seen as still compact enough, and independent enough, to form their own units, whereas other areas were more fragmented and had to take in the Canaanite conclaves, and be run from them.

Transjordan had three ‘appointed officers’, but the division was not simply on the basis of tribal boundaries. The first was stationed in Ramoth-gilead, which was in the upper territory of Gad, and the district covered the northern part of the country, including the area allocated to the half tribe of Manasseh. The second was in Mahanaim, from where Ish-bosheth had ruled Israel, and where David had established himself during Absalom’s rebellion. This was also located in the territory of Gad, and covered the central section of Transjordan. The third covered the larger southern area and gathered up all parts not covered by the other two, the area being described as ‘the land of Gilead’ (ever a vague description to us due to the many geographical uses of the term Gilead), and was so complex an area that it had to be explained in terms that sound as if it contained the whole of Transjordan, with the result that it had to be explained that he was the only officer in that particular area.

Alternately, the latter phrase ‘and one officer over the land’ might refer to the ‘officer’ over Judah (the Assyrians spoke of their homeland as ‘the land’) which is otherwise not mentioned. It could, however, be argued that Judah may rather have been centrally controlled directly from Jerusalem by one of the ‘chief officials’ described above. It may have been responsible for the thirteenth moon period which had to be inserted at regular intervals through the years in order to keep the seasons under control (twelve moon periods not making up a full year).

The remaining nine appointed officers were set over nine regions west of the Jordan Rift Valley, partly on the basis of principle cities or other regional descriptions, and partly on the basis of tribal designation. Thus we have the well known ‘hill country of Ephraim, followed by designations in terms of leading cities in different central areas, and finalised by designations in terms of the principle independently surviving northern tribes such as Naphtali, Asher and Issachar, and in terms of Benjamin.

4.8-19 ‘And these are their names:

Ben-hur, in the hill-country of Ephraim;
Ben-deker, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth-shemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan;
Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him pertained Socoh, and all the land of Hepher);
Ben-abinadab, in all the height of Dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife)
Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan, beneath Jezreel, from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as beyond Jokmeam;
Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; even to him pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars);
Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim;
Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon to wife);
Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth;
Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar;
Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin;
Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan;
And there was one officer who was over the land’ (i.e. of Judah).’

As previously mentioned it will be noted that the first four names and the sixth name are given in terms of the names of their fathers only (Ben-hur, Ben-deker, Ben hesed, Ben-abinadab, Ben-geber), for ‘ben’ means ‘son of’. This may because it had become a fad in certain circles to be known in this way (such usage certainly does occur later, although not in such profusion. Compare ‘Ben-chanan’ in 1 Chronicles 4.20 and the well known ‘Bar-timaeus’ in the New Testament), or because the office was hereditary (such a usage is evidenced at Ugarit), or it may even have been a case where the official tablet containing the record had been broken off at the edge, or become partly obliterated, through much use, so that the initial names were lost.

‘Ben-hur, in the hill-country of Ephraim.’ The name ‘Hur’ is attested to elsewhere (Numbers 31.8; 1 Chronicles 2.19). This area would include the tribal area of Ephraim combined with some of Manasseh up to the plain of Jezreel. Its southern border would be about fifteen kilometres (ten miles) north of Jerusalem and its northern border just beyond Shechem. To the east would be the Jordan and to the west the lower foothills about twenty two kilometres (fifteen miles) from the sea.

‘Ben-deker, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth-shemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan.’ This probably indicates the four border cities, or central regional cities, of the area over which Ben-deker had responsibility. It includes the eastern Shephelah (lower hills), the south-eastern section of Ephraim, and the territory originally assigned to Dan. Makaz is unknown but would mark the eastern border, Shaalbim is modern Selbit, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south east of Lydda and is within the northern part of the Valley of Aijalon (Joshua 19.42; Judges 1.35) which would mark the northern border, Beth-shemesh marked the southern border and is modern Tell el-Rumeilah, twenty four kilometres (sixteen miles) west of Jerusalem, Elon-beth-hanan marked the western border. The name Deker may possibly be attested to it the name ‘Bidkar’ (shortening of ‘ben Deker’? - 2 Kings 9.25).

‘Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him pertained Socoh, and all the land of Hepher).’ This was the coastal area which included Sharon and part of Manasseh. Arubboth was probably modern Arrabeh on the coastal plain, south of the valley of Dothan, and seventeen kilometres (twelve miles) north east of Khirbet Suweikeh; Socoh is mentioned in Egyptian records as on the high road that led through the coastal plain and is Khirbet Suweikeh, three kilometres (two miles) north of Tulkarm. ‘All the land of Hepher’ may refer to the area occupied by the Manassite clan of Hepher (Joshua 17.2), although a Canaanite city of the name is mentioned in Joshua 12.17.

‘Ben-abinadab, in all the height of Dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife).’ Ben-abinadab was one of Solomon’s sons-in-law, having married his daughter Taphath. This very fact indicates the high status of these ‘officials’. He was quite possibly the son of Abinadab, David’s brother, and exercised his office in ‘all the foothills of Dor’ (or ‘Naphath-dor’). Compare Joshua 12.23, ‘the king of Dor in Naphath-dor’. He was thus responsible for the coastal plain from below Dor up to Carmel. The port of Dor may have been his administrative centre.

‘Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan, beneath Jezreel, from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as beyond Jokmeam.’ Baanah, the son of Ahilud, was seemingly the brother of Jehoshaphat, the son of Ahilud, the recorder (verse 3). His territory included the southern Jezreel plain, the territory of Issachar and the west Jordan Valley. It included the great Canaanite cities of Taanach and Megiddo, which were clearly associated (here and Judges 5.19). Taanach was on the southern edge of the valley of Jezreel, with Megiddo opposite it on the northern part of Carmel, across the pass which guarded the way to the plain of Esdraelon. ‘all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan’ is puzzling to us because Zarethan was in the Jordan Valley near the ford of the Jordan at Adamah, whereas the city of Beth-shean was situated where the valley of Jezreel met the Jordan Valley, but the geographical terminology ‘all Bethshean’ indicates a district which presumably stretched as far as Zarethan, and the situation was probably very plain then. The area is then defined as being ‘from (the city of) Beth-shean to Abel-meholah’, the latter also being in the Jordan Valley. ‘Beneath Jezreel’ distinguished his territory from that in Issachar, which included Jezreel, but may have in mind the height of Jezreel which has been described as “comparatively high, and commands a wide and noble view, extending down the broad low valley on the east of Beisan (Bethshean) and to the mountains of Ajlun beyond the Jordan.”

‘Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (to him pertained the tent villages of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; even to him pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars).’ With this description we move to the east side of the Jordan, and this description basically covers northern Transjordan. For ‘the tent villages of Jair’ compare Numbers 32.41; Deuteronomy 3.14; Judges 10.3. For the region of Argob with its sixty ‘great walled cities’ compare Deuteronomy 3.4. Ramoth-gilead was in Gad.

‘Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim.’ This was the region below Ben-geber’s, in central Gilead, and centred on Mahanaim, (also in Gad) which was the royal city of Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel 2.8 ff), and, during the short period of his flight from Absalom, of David (2 Samuel 17.24).

‘Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon to wife).’ This was probably Ahimaaz the son of Zadok (2 Samuel 15.27, 36; 17.17 ff), and he became the son-in-law of Solomon. He administered Naphtali in the eastern part of Galilee.

‘Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth.’ Baanah was presumably the son (or grandson) of Hushai the Archite, David’s ‘Friend’, who had served David so faithfully (2 Samuel 15.32-37; 16.16-19; 17.5-14). He administered ‘Asher and Bealoth’ in Western Galilee. ‘Be-aloth’ is possibly ‘in Aloth’, and may be another name for Zebulun.

‘Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar.’ This territory ran from the central Jezreel plain to the River Jordan.

‘Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin.’ For this Shimei compare 1.8. He was responsible for administering fiercely independent Benjamin which still remembered its Saulide days when it had been ‘king-pin’. The Shimei who had cursed David and had been executed by Solomon had also been a Benjaminite. This area lay north of Jerusalem and covered the southern central Ephraim highlands.

‘Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan.’ This description could be seen as covering the whole of Transjordan, but is presumably intended to cover that part not administered by Ben-geber and Abinadab above.

‘And there was one officer who was over the land’ (i.e. of Judah?).’ This could be a note indicating that Geber administered his own administrative section, or it could explain why Judah is nowhere mentioned. ‘The land’ was how Assyria described their homeland, and Judah was David’s ‘land’. Thus this may refer to an officer over the land of Judah, whose contribution would fill in the gaps resulting from the calendar (the thirteenth month which had to be inserted regularly), and from any lack arising from what was provided by the other districts. (We would expect a reference to Judah because of verse 20).

4.20 ‘Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry.’

The writer then emphasises the prosperity of all Judah and Israel under Solomon’s rule. They multiplied in numbers, and they continually ate, drank and made merry. And this in spite of the burden of Solomon’s taxation. It was a time of peace and great prosperity for all. (But such prosperity led to a decline in loyalty to YHWH, with their worship becoming more syncretistic. They no longer felt the same loyalty to the wilderness God Who had led His people out of Egypt. They preferred to give Him local colour as One fitted to a static and more sophisticated people).

Some have tried to suggest that naming Judah and Israel in this order is an indication of a late insertion, but the argument does not hold. Judah and Israel are only mentioned as a unit three times in Kings, in 1.35; 4.20 and 4.25, and twice it is as Judah and Israel. In 1.35 it is as ‘over Israel and over Judah’ when David is talking about the receiving of the kingship, and the order is probably dependent on the source. Thus the order here is almost certainly because the writer saw Judah as having the precedence at this point, having in mind the future separation of the kingdom, and the prominence of Judah thereafter. It therefore simply indicates the author’s preference. The use in Samuel is therefore irrelevant. That was the emphasis of a different writer. The separateness of Judah and Israel has, however, been constantly in mind in both and is certainly not something new. See 1 Samuel 11.8; 17.52; 18.16; 2 Samuel 3.10; 5.5; 11.11; 12.8; 20.2; 24.1.

4.21 ‘And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute, and served Solomon all the days of his life.’

Meanwhile Solomon ruled over a wide area, thanks mainly to the previous activities of David, which on the whole had been forced on him. He ruled over an area from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt. This did not include the whole of that area for it excluded, for example, Tyre and Sidon, with whom, however, he had a firm treaty, so that there was peace on every side. The reference to the land of the Philistines was emphasising the fact that the ‘ancient enemy’ were so no more, but were at peace with Israel, (while themselves, unlike Israel, being subject to attack from Egypt). And the area that he ruled brought tribute and presents to him, and served him all the days of his life. The glowing picture (if not strictly accurate, especially towards the later part of his reign, although his curbing and containment of insurgents may have been seen as signifying that they were still seen as under his general jurisdiction) is emphasising his great and continuing success and prosperity. Compare for its range Genesis 13.14-17; 15.18; Exodus 23.31; Deuteronomy 11.24; Joshua 1.4).

There is a lesson for us all in this in that it demonstrates that of we are to make the most of our lives we must ensure they are administered properly. It is not sufficient to allow our lives to drift on. We need to organise them to the best advantage so that we can make the best use of our time and money, with a view to being pleasing to the Lord.

The Prosperity, Safety And Security Of Solomon’s Reign (4.22-28).

There were few periods in Israel’s history when they enjoyed unbroken peace with no enemies coming over the horizon to spoil them, but Solomon’s long reign was one of them. For the common people there was not even a whiff of danger. Such battles as there were occurred far away. And so they prospered and felt secure. And that prosperity was reflected in the quantity of supplies constantly provided to the king for his wide household, the level of which demonstrated the greatness of their king. When they considered what Solomon had brought to the kingship they must have felt that the golden age was almost upon them. And they may well have felt that providing for his table was a price worth paying.

Analysis.

  • a And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and gazelles, and roebucks, and fatted fowl (4.23).
  • b For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings on this side the River, and he had peace on all sides round about him (4.24).
  • c And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon (4.25).
  • b And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen (4.26).
  • a And those officers provided victuals for king Solomon, and for all who came to king Solomon’s table, every man in his month. They let nothing be lacking. Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds brought they to the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge (4.27-28).

Note that in ‘a’ we have details of the provisions for Solomon’s household, and in the parallel we have confirmation of those provisions to the household and a description of the details of the provisions for Solomon’s horses. In ‘b’ we learn of his complete dominion and control over the whole land and its kings from the Euphrates to Gaza, and in the parallel we learn of the source of that peace in his mighty armaments. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the idealistic picture of every man throughout the whole of Israel and Judah dwelling freely and without fear in possession of their own personal land. In centuries to come it would be that hope and dream that would keep men looking forward to the coming of the everlasting king, when all would enjoy such a situation permanently.

4.22-23 ‘And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures (kors) of fine flour, and threescore measures (kors) of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and gazelles, and roebucks, and fatted fowl.’

The size and prosperity of Solomon’s magnificent court comes out in the daily provisions required to keep them. There is no reason to doubt that these details come from official records. There was nothing limited about the extent or variety of their diet. It reflected one continual festival. But there is nothing grossly excessive about the details either. They are in fact directly comparable with the range of supplies for other royal courts in the ancient Near East as far apart as Mari and Egypt. The ‘kor’ was a large dry measure of around 220 litres/6.3 imperial bushels, (the equivalent of a ‘homer’ which was about 220 litres or 48 gallons).

Note the fattened oxen for the king’s own table in contrast to the oxen out of the pastures for the lesser participants. We are not sure what kind of ‘fowl’ were in mind, possibly geese or hens, or even more exotic birds which were seen as titbits.

4.24 ‘For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River (or ‘of Beyond-the River’), from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings on this side the River, and he had peace on all sides round about him.’

‘Dominion’ was either as Overlord, or by peace treaty in which he was a dominant partner. ‘Beyond the River’ was looking at it from the Mesopotamian aspect, i.e. ‘south of the River’. Tiphsah (Thapsacus) was ‘the ford’ at the Euphrates crossing, forming the north east boundary of the province. It was placed strategically on the great east-west trade route. Gaza represented the south western boundary. The idea is possibly that there was not an enemy in sight, the later troubles being conveniently sidelined, or alternately that he controlled (and benefited from) ‘all who passed through’ his area.

4.25 ‘And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.’

This was ever seen by Israel as a description of ideal conditions when every man was free and possessed his own fruitful land (compare Micah 4.4), and it would have been looked back on enviously by future centuries. It was a picture cited semi-mockingly by Sennacherib’s henchmen to the Jerusalem of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18.31), possibly suggesting that his intelligence service were well aware that it was a favourite way in Israel/Judah of describing the ideal life. This was their idea of what life should be like, a picture of freedom and security and pleasant living (compare Micah 4.4; Zechariah 3.10, and see Deuteronomy 8.8). In reality there would, of course, be many in the kingdom not enjoying such freedom, (there are always the poor among us), and large numbers of these ‘free citizens’ would themselves be required to participate in the building of the Temple as we shall shortly learn (something no doubt justified on religious grounds). But it does express how most in Israel probably saw themselves at the time, especially before Solomon began work on his grandiose schemes. ‘From Dan (in the north) to Beersheba (in the Negev)’ is a common description of Israel/Judah as a whole (e.g. Judges 20.1; 1 Samuel 3.20; etc.).

4.26 ‘And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.’

Israel’s safety from attack was guaranteed by their military power. Solomon had stalls containing forty ‘thousands’ (eleph, military units) of horses for his chariots, and twelve military units of horsemen (chariot drivers). The Chronicler conveys the same idea when he speaks of ‘four thousand’ which signifies ‘forty hundreds (military units)’ (2 Chronicles 9.25). The size of a military unit of chariots would necessarily be much less than a military unit, say, of chariot drivers or footmen.

The numbers are not in any way excessive however we take them. Three or four centuries before Solomon, the king of the small, but wealthy, state of Ugarit was described as negotiating for 2,000 horses on just one single occasion, no doubt in addition to what he already possessed. It is not therefore surprising that Solomon should have full stables. The charioteers would not be standing by all the time. They would spend part of their time at home, living in their home cities and seeing to their fields, being called upon when necessary. We can compare for this the situation in Ugarit, where the literature contains lists of towns together with the names of the charioteers living in them, waiting to be called on when needed.

4.27 ‘And those officers provided victuals for king Solomon, and for all who came to king Solomon’s table, every man in his month. They let nothing be lacking.’

The tax officers appointed by Solomon faithfully carried out their responsibilities, providing victuals for Solomon and all who came to his table, and ensuring that no lack of provision ever occurred. Every good thing was provided.

4.28 ‘Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds brought they to the place where they were, every man according to his charge.’

The tax officers also fulfilled the responsibility with which they had been charged and ensured that that there was sufficient barley and straw for the horses, and ‘swift steeds’ (horses for the use of messengers?), although the latter may signify ‘horses alongside’, i.e. trainee chariot horses.

The prosperity of the kingdom always depends on faithful servants, often unsung, for we are all called on by our Lord Jesus Christ to ‘feed my sheep’. It is as we faithfully fulfil this task that the Kingly Rule of God will advance and spread. But let us once fail in this responsibility and the kingdom will suffer. That is why in His parable our Lord Jesus Christ constantly urged on us the need to be ‘faithful servants’ (e.g. Luke 12.35-48; 19.12-27).

Solomon’s Great Reputation For Wisdom (4.29-34).

As the picture of Solomon’s magnificence grows we now learn more about the wisdom that YHWH gave him. It included wisdom which was revealed both in wise sayings, and in his careful consideration of natural things. He himself learned lessons from the wise, and expanded on them, and discovered important lessons from nature. (It was not, of course, scientific enquiry. It was in order to learn lessons from nature). He may well have generally encouraged the study of ‘wisdom’ in his court, and it could therefore well be that these wise men whose names are given here visited his court and admitted him to be their superior. We can compare with their ‘sudden appearance’ the sudden appearance of ‘wise women’ (although having ‘wisdom’ of a somewhat different kind) who appeared now and again during the life of David (2 Samuel 14.2; 20.16 and note 20.18 where Abel is noted for its wise people). We know of them simply because the political history required it. Otherwise we would have known nothing of them.

‘Wisdom’ in a number of forms was, however, a major and continual preoccupation in the Ancient Near East, and wisdom literature (dealing, for example, with the question of how to live successfully) was found in many countries over many centuries. Consider for example: the Egyptians Hardjedef and Ptah-hotep and the Old-Sumerian Shuruppak (third millennium BC); the Egyptian (Dua)Khety, ‘Sehetepibre’, ‘Man to his Son’, and Amenemhat I, plus classical Sumerian and Akkadian versions of Shuruppak (all early second millennium); the Egyptians Aniy, High Priest Amenemhat, Amenemope, Amennakht, the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom, and Shube-awilim (late second millennium); the Egyptian Amenothes and Ankh-sheshongy and the Levantine/Mesopotamian (Aramaic) Ahiqar (first millennium BC). Solomon was thus in good and notable company, and there is no good reason (apart from prejudice) for denying that he could participate with the best of them. He was seen as responsible for a large part of the book of Proverbs, and it is noteworthy that the section of Proverbs (1-24) which is directly associated with him follows a similar ‘form’ to other ancient wisdom writers, namely commencement with a formal title, followed by a prologue which was very often devoted to exhortations, a later sub-title, and then the main body of the work. This format is well attested at all periods in the biblical world. Consider such examples as the Egyptian Ptahhotep and Old-Sumerian Shuruppak (third millennium BC); the Egyptian (Dua)Khety, ‘Sehetepibre’, Man to his Son, and Amenemhat I, plus classical Sumerian and Akkadian versions of Shuruppak (all early second millennium); Egyptian Aniy, High Priest Amenemhat, Amenemope, Amennakht, and the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom (late second millennium); Egyptian Ankh-sheshongy and Levantine/Mesopotamian (Aramaic) Ahiqar (first millennium BC).

Analysis.

  • a And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart (mind, thought), even as the sand that is on the seashore, and Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt (4.29-30).
  • b For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the nations round about (4.31).
  • c And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five (4.32).
  • b And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop which springs out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fishes (4.33).
  • a And there came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (4.34).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon excelled all his contemporaries in wisdom, and in the parallel all the world came to hear his wisdom. In ‘b’ those above whom he excelled are listed, and in the parallel the subjects in which he excelled. Centrally in ‘c’ we are given details of his specific productivity.

4.29-30 ‘And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart (mind, thought), even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt.’

Solomon’s wide breadth of knowledge impressed his contemporaries. He was a man of large mental vision (the heart was seen as the source of mind and thought), and knew so much that it could be compared with the sand on the seashore, so much so that he excelled over all the wisdom of either Arabia (compare Judges 6.3, 33; 7.12; 810; Job 1.3; Isaiah 11.14 etc.), or Mesopotamia (compare ‘the one from the east’ in Isaiah 41.2: ‘the land of the people of the east’ in Genesis 29.1) and Egypt. The point is not, of course, that there was a scholarly examination of all wisdom literature from all ages, with points being awarded accordingly. It was rather expressing the feeling and sense that men had in his day about his wisdom. (We usually see someone from our own generation as ‘the best ever’ even though the judgment cannot really be seen as reliable. How do you measure ‘the best’ when you have no real acquaintance with people of the past?).

4.31 ‘For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the nations round about.’

His wisdom exceeded that of all contemporary figures known to people in Palestine, and an indication of the finest of such is given. We do not know anything about these people but that is more due to our ignorance than their lack of substance (see, however, the headings to Psalms 88, 89 and 1 Chronicles 2.6). Had we lived in that day we would undoubtedly have had no problem in recognising their names and their status. They were the leading scholars of their day. Thus his fame was acknowledged in all nations round about.

In 1 Chronicles 2.6, assuming the people there to be identical, they are called ‘the sons of Zerach’ (Ezrachites), but that is because Zerach was their tribal ancestor not because he was their father. In that case they would have been selected for mention in the genealogy precisely because of their fame. Some see ‘the sons of Mahol’ (literally ‘sons of dancing’) as signifying Tabernacle/Temple professional singers and worshippers, but in view of the context here in Kings that is very questionable, although the headings in the Psalms do indicate that, like Solomon, they composed ‘songs’.

4.32 ‘And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five.’

He was especially famed for his proverbs (some of which we can find in Proverbs) and his songs. We would in fact have expected a son of David to be musical so that the number of songs is not difficult to understand. But, unlike David’s, they were not preserved, possibly because of their content (or lack of it). See, however, Psalm 72; 127. ’Three thousand’ indicates simply a large and complete collection (three for completeness, a thousand for a large number). A thousand and five is probably the equivalent of our ‘a thousand and one things to do’, indicating not so many songs as proverbs.

4.33 ‘And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop which springs out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fishes.’

Had we known of Ethan, Heman and the others it is quite probable that we would have discovered that they ranged over these subjects too. But they seemingly had to give best to Solomon. The descriptions are intended to cover the whole range of nature. For the use of cedars of Lebanon in this way compare the use in Psalms 92.12; 104.16. But the emphasis in this particular case is not so much specifically on the cedars as on indicating ‘from the largest and most important (the cedars of Lebanon) to the smallest and most insignificant’ (the local hyssop that abounds in walls) of vegetation in nature. He also covered all aspects of living creatures. Note, for examples of this, Proverbs 6.5-8; 7.22; 14.4 ; 20.2; 23.31-32; 26.2-3, 11, 17; 27.8, 26-27; 28.15. Beasts, birds, creeping things and fishes cover the whole sphere of such living creatures (Genesis 1.26).

4.34 ‘And there came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.’

And the result was that visitors from far and near came to hear the wisdom of Solomon. It was a new interest, and a bright light, that had appeared in an all too mundane world. And it was from God.

It is not given to all of us to have the wisdom of Solomon. But even Solomon’s wisdom depended on him applying his mind to what was about him. It is therefore given to us also to ‘study to show ourselves approved to God, workmen who do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2.15). The sad thing about Solomon’s wisdom was that it became so diverse that he lost sight of the fact that ‘the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding’ (Job 28.28). We must beware lest the same happen to us.

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