From our daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 1-2
April 12, 2019
Today we’re starting into 1 Kings, reading the first two chapters, which detail David’s transfer of his kingship to his son Solomon. This is the first time that Israel has had a kingly succession, so as you would expect, it did not go smoothly. But we see some early indications of the wisdom of Solomon, who for a time at least, would lead Israel in its greatest period of prosperity.
Solomon was probably in his late teens when the story takes place, but he has an older brother by a different mother, named Adonijah, who is described in the first two verses as a beautiful but spoiled man, much like his half brother Absalom. Adonijah was the oldest of David’s surviving sons, and likely expected that he should be the ruler.
Solomon crowned as God’s choice for king
However, God had already picked a ruler. Back in Deuteronomy 17:15, when the law predicted the time when the nation would choose a king, the law clearly states that God would choose that king, not man. And when God promised David that he would raise up a son to sit on his throne, we learn in 1 Chronicles 22:9 that He had specified Solomon for that role.
We’re not told, but since David had sworn this to Solomon’s mother Bathsheba, it’s unlikely that this decision was any big secret, and so Adonijah goes on a PR campaign with key members of David’s inner circle in an attempt to sway them and gain their support – which he does.
Notable among them is Joab, the leader of David’s army, who has shown a past history of countermanding the king’s orders when it suited him or when he believed it to be in the kingdom’s best interest. It’s likely he saw an older, charismatic Adonijah as a better fit for kingship.
However, thanks to a warning from the prophet Nathan, David quickly installs Solomon on the throne, and in parting makes some recommendations on what Solomon should do after David dies. The scene is almost reminiscent of a scene from The Godfather, with the aging head of the family advising on cleaning up “family business.”
In this case, that included killing Joab for his multiple murders — which David had so far failed to punish — and also killing Shimei, the relative of Saul who had cursed David during Absalom’s rebellion.
Solomon takes care of family business
This seems almost petty of David, but in the context of establishing Solomon’s kingdom, David seems to be taking the prudent actions. In fact when he addresses Solomon about Shimei, he says “Do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You know what you ought to do to him.” Shimei had rebelled before, and with David gone, he might again cause trouble for the new king. Here Solomon combines wisdom with mercy, allowing Shimei to live provided he stays within the city of Jerusalem.
You could argue that David took an easy way out in leaving Joab’s punishment to Solomon, but here we see David the politician at work. While Joab had at times disobeyed, he had been mostly loyal and had at least been manageable. But without David in place, Joab had already shown his willingness to make his own decisions apart from God’s will on how the kingdom should be run, and David obviously knew that Solomon could not expect to control him. He had essentially outlived his usefulness, and David decided that it was time for him to pay for the murders of – as Solomon puts it – two men more righteous and better than himself.
Solomon also extends mercy to his brother Adonijah, but as in the case of Shimei, Adonijah proved to be too much of a risk. Solomon’s older brother asks for David’s concubine as a wife, which would have given him an even stronger claim to kingship. Solomon rightly saw this as an attempt to start yet another rebellion, and he had his brother put to death.
It’s a bloody beginning to a kingdom, but it begins a stretch of peace and prosperity unmatched in Israel’s history – culminating with the construction of the Temple of the Lord, and advancing us farther along the path to the anointing of God’s true chosen king, Jesus the Christ.
Next reading: 1 Kings 3-5