1 Kings 2 Commentary: Solomon’s Rise and David’s Legacy

1 Kings 2 Commentary

1 Kings 2 unfolds with David imparting crucial final advice to Solomon, stressing adherence to God’s laws as key to a successful reign.

The chapter then navigates through Solomon’s early decisions as king, including his handling of lingering issues from David’s reign, such as the fates of Joab and Shimei, while also touching on Solomon’s strategic moves in securing his throne, notably through his response to Adonijah’s request and the realignment of religious leadership by removing Abiathar from priesthood.

These actions not only demonstrate Solomon’s emerging wisdom and authority but also set a definitive tone for his rule in Israel.

1 Kings 2:1-4, David’s Final Instructions to Solomon

As David’s life draws to a close, he imparts wisdom to his son, Solomon. These moments are crucial, as they lay the foundation for Solomon’s reign.

David emphasizes the importance of faithfulness to God, aligning this with the success of Solomon’s reign. He underscores the need for Solomon to walk in God’s ways, keep His statutes, commandments, and rules, and act with faithfulness.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn

1 Kings 2:2-3, ESV

David’s advice is more than just a father’s guidance; it’s a charge to uphold a covenantal relationship with God. This aligns with the Deuteronomic theme of blessings being tied to obedience.

David’s instructions aren’t merely practical; they are deeply spiritual and covenantal.

1 Kings 2:5-9, David’s Advisements about Joab and Shimei

In these verses, David recalls past events involving Joab and Shimei. He reminds Solomon of Joab’s actions, which included the killing of two commanders, actions that violated the laws of warfare and stained David’s reign with bloodshed.

“Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet.

1 Kings 2:5, ESV

David then turns to the matter of Shimei, who had cursed him. He leaves the judgment to Solomon’s wisdom, indicating a need for discernment in governance.

This reflects the complexity of leadership – balancing justice with wisdom.

And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.”

1 Kings 2:8-9, ESV

David’s counsel here is intricate. It’s not just about settling scores but about establishing a righteous and wise rule. The instructions to Solomon intertwine personal history with the broader needs of the kingdom.

1 Kings 2:10-12, David’s Death and Solomon’s Establishment as King

David’s death marks the end of an era. His reign had been turbulent yet transformative for Israel. His passing signifies a shift in the biblical narrative, from the establishment of the kingdom under David to its expansion and consolidation under Solomon.

Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

1 Kings 2:10-11, ESV

With Solomon’s ascension, there’s a sense of continuity yet a fresh start.

Solomon’s reign begins on the foundation laid by David, but it will soon take its own course, shaped by Solomon’s actions and decisions.

1 Kings 2:13-25, Adonijah’s Request and Solomon’s Response

Adonijah, David’s son who had previously attempted to become king, makes a request through Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother.

He asks for Abishag, David’s concubine, as a wife. This request, though seemingly personal, had political implications. In ancient times, taking a king’s concubine was often seen as a claim to the throne.

Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” He said, “Peacefully.” Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Speak.” He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” And he said, “Please ask King Solomon – he will not refuse you – to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”

1 Kings 2:13-18, ESV

Solomon’s response is swift and decisive. He perceives the political threat behind the request and acts to secure his reign. This incident highlights Solomon’s emerging political acumen and the ruthless nature of ancient Near Eastern politics.

King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! Now therefore as the Lord lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today.” So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died.

1 Kings 2:22-25, ESV

Solomon’s action here is not just about quelling a potential rebellion. It’s a strategic move to consolidate his kingship, demonstrating his understanding of the complex interplay between personal relationships and political power.

1 Kings 2:26-27, Abiathar’s Removal from Priesthood

Solomon’s next action involves the priesthood. He removes Abiathar from his position, fulfilling a prophecy given in the time of Eli. This move is significant as it marks a shift in the religious leadership of Israel.

And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you shared in all my father’s affliction.” So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.

1 Kings 2:26-27, ESV

By removing Abiathar, Solomon not only fulfills a divine prophecy but also consolidates his power by aligning the religious establishment with his reign. This reflects the intertwined nature of religion and politics in ancient Israel.

1 Kings 2:28-35, Joab’s Execution

Joab’s fate is sealed by his past actions and his recent allegiance to Adonijah. Solomon orders Joab’s execution, carried out by Benaiah.

This act removes a powerful and potentially dangerous figure from the scene, further stabilizing Solomon’s reign.

When the news came to Joab – for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom – Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and caught hold of the horns of the altar. And when it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.”

1 Kings 2:28-29, ESV

Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and put him to death. And he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.

1 Kings 2:34, ESV

Joab’s execution, while violent, is portrayed as an act of justice and a necessary step in establishing a peaceful and stable reign, reflecting the harsh realities of power consolidation in a tumultuous period.

1 Kings 2:36-46, Shimei’s Breach of Oath and Consequent Death

Finally, Solomon deals with Shimei. He restricts Shimei to Jerusalem, creating a situation where Shimei’s obedience would prove his loyalty. However, Shimei eventually violates this command, leading to his downfall.

Then the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there to any place whatever. For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die. Your blood shall be on your own head.” And Shimei said to the king, “What you say is good; as my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.

1 Kings 2:36-38, ESV

the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the Lord and solemnly warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and go to any place whatever, you shall die’? And you said to me, ‘What you say is good; I will obey.’ Why then have you not kept your oath to the Lord and the commandment with which I commanded you?”

1 Kings 2:42-43, ESV

Solomon’s handling of Shimei demonstrates a blend of wisdom and strategic foresight: By setting terms that test Shimei’s loyalty, Solomon creates a justifiable context for his eventual action against Shimei.

This incident underscores Solomon’s skill in governance, blending wisdom with a firm hand.

Key Themes and Messages in 1 Kings 2

1 Kings 2 is rich in themes and messages that are still relevant in today’s society, including:

The Importance of Obedience to God

One of the central themes in 1 Kings 2 is the importance of obedience to God.

David’s dying words to Solomon emphasize this point, warning him to keep God’s commands and decrees in order to prosper in his reign. We see the consequences of disobedience in Adonijah’s rebellion and Joab’s execution, both of which resulted from their refusal to follow God’s will.

The message is clear: those who honor and obey God will be blessed, while those who rebel against Him will face punishment.

Justice and Judgment

Another major theme in 1 Kings 2 is justice and judgment.

David charges Solomon with avenging the wrongs done to him, particularly by Joab and Shimei. Solomon’s swift and decisive action in executing both Joab and Shimei demonstrates his commitment to upholding justice and ensuring that wrongs are made right.

This serves as a reminder that God is a just and righteous God who will punish those who do wrong and reward those who do right.

The Importance of Wisdom

Yet another significant theme in 1 Kings 2 is the importance of wisdom.

David repeatedly admonishes Solomon to be wise in his rule and to follow the counsel of those who are wise.

We see this in action in Solomon’s handling of the Adonijah situation, where he is cunning and shrewd in dealing with his half-brother’s attempted coup. This serves as a reminder that wisdom is essential in all areas of life and that seeking wise counsel and using discernment can help us make better decisions.

The Consequences of Sin

Finally, 1 Kings 2 emphasizes the consequences of sin.

The chapter is filled with examples of the consequences of sin, including David’s regret and punishment for his affair with Bathsheba and Joab’s execution for the blood he shed.

This serves as a reminder that sin has consequences and that we must be cautious not to give in to temptations that can lead us down a path of destruction.