SOLOMON TAKES A STAND

1 Kings 2, assorted verses, 1 Chronicles 29:26—28

Most people who read the Bible have noticed the similarity between the books of Kings and Chronicles. There is a very good reason for this: both books (4 in our English Bibles) cover essentially the same material from slightly different perspectives. Often details missing in one version of a story may be found in the other account. Such is the case of the account of Solomon’s first few days as solo king of Israel. For an unspecified period of time, a co-regency existed in Israel; Solomon reigned alongside his father, David.

As we begin our study, David has passed away and Solomon has become the king of Israel in earnest. The account in 1 Chronicles makes the transition sound simple and uneventful:

David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. He ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king.

As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer, together with the details of his reign and power, and the circumstances that surrounded him and Israel and the kingdoms of all the other lands. (1 Chronicles 29:26—28)

This brief account screams out for more details, which are thankfully provided in 1 Kings 2.

1. David’s charge to Solomon, verses 1—12

Hebrews 9:27 is a verse that we think of as we read David’s charge to his son:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (KJV)

Even though this verse was written many centuries later, David knew his final appointment was near, so he took his son, Solomon, aside to share from his heart the things that the old king thought were important. His charge is easily divided into two sections. The first section, verses 2—4, covers Solomon’s spiritual life, and the second section, which covers verses 5—12, deals with practical political advice.

The very first thing David tells Solomon is this:

So be strong, show yourself a man. (verse 2b)

In other words, David encouraged his son to “act like a man.” David, even in his last days, had discernment; he knew that Solomon was not much of a man. In fact, Solomon was nothing like his father. David was strong, rugged, and a decisive man of action. Solomon was raised in luxury by surrounded by women. This seems to explain why, later on life, he had a thousand wives and concubines; all he knew was women! However, with David’s life ebbing away, it was time for Solomon to “grow up” and “put on the long pants.” Israel needed a strong leader, not a “girlie man” who would be easily swayed and influenced.

In David’s mind, what constituted a “man?” The answer might surprise you:

[O]bserve what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go. (verse 3)

It is interesting, is it not, that the warrior-king considered devotion to God the mark of a true man? David’s legacy to Solomon was much more than just a kingdom with a strong military, secure borders, prestige and wealth. Of infinitely more value was the love for God which he instilled in Solomon. Though David must be considered a failure as a father throughout his life, at his death he provided Solomon with the proper orientation to life and leadership. Everything Solomon would do as king must find its foundation on and motivation in the Word of God.

No father could give his son more than David gave Solomon: a heart that truly beat for God. It reminds of what Jesus would later say in Mark 8:36—

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Solomon had everything; what he needed was a relationship with God. Thanks to his father’s charge, Solomon now had that.

2. Following his father’s advice: taking the stand.

David gave Solomon some very specific advice about dealing with the traitorous Joab and Shimei. But we shall see that the first thing Solomon had to do as sole regent was deal with his traitorous brother, Adonijah.

(a) Another plot, verses 13—25

You will recall that Adonijah had attempted to “steal” the throne from David and Solomon, with the help of two of David’s good “friends,” Joab and Abiathar. The coup failed and Solomon, exercising mercy and grace told Adonijah this:

“If he shows himself to be a worthy man, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.” (1 Kings 1:52, 53)

It was not long before Adonijah showed himself anything but worthy. Even though he admitted in verse 15 that God had given the kingdom to Solomon, Adonijah was still not satisfied. He stubbornly continued to advance his rebellious and selfish agenda.

Adonijah is the perfect example of a rebellious believer: knowing exactly was God’s will is but not accepting it. In asking for the hand of Abishag, his late father’s concubine, he was not interested in romance, but in trying once again to secure for himself a legitimate claim to the throne. Here is where understanding the rather odd cultural traditions of that time is helpful. At this time in Hebrew history, the king’s harem used to pass on to his successor. For example, David received the wives of Saul when he was given the throne (2 Samuel 12:8). When Absalom attempted to wrest the throne from David, one of the ways he asserted his claim to the throne was to publically approach the concubines of David in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 16:21—22). Possession of that harem was literally viewed as a clear title to the throne.

What Adonijah was doing must not be viewed as innocent in any way. This man was fueled with overweening ambition and was looking for a way to circumvent God’s will. Whether or not Bathsheba understood this is not known, but Solomon was smart enough to see through his half-brother’s request:

Then King Solomon swore by the LORD : “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the LORD lives—he who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as he promised—Adonijah shall be put to death today!” So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died. (verses 23—25)

To our touchy-feely feminized culture of today, what Solomon did may seem harsh and over-the-top. However, it was a necessary action since to leave Adonijah alive would have meant leaving an open, festering sore in the land. Adonijah had proved that he was not to be trusted; he himself had forced on Solomon the action the king took.

Furthermore, it must also be pointed out that Solomon was not out for revenge nor was he being vindictive. There is no mention in this detailed account any punitive actions taken toward the other brothers, who most certainly had, at the very least, passively supported Adonijah (see 1:9).

(b ) A little temple-cleaning, verses 26—27

With Adonijah removed as an opponent, Solomon turned to Adonijah’s main supporters, Abiathar and Joab. Even though he is not mentioned in David’s charge to Solomon, the priest Abiathar’s opposition to Solomon did not go unnoticed. Abiathar was, at one time, a close friend and associate of David’s. He was anointed of the Lord to be priest over Israel. Though he could have been put to death for his treasonous acts, Solomon showed this priest a measure of clemency. He was forcibly removed from office and banished to his home in Anathoth.

What many do not realize is that Solomon directly fulfilled a prophecy in what he did this day. Not only did Abiathar cease to be a priest, but his banishment ended the line of Eli, as foretold in 1 Samuel 2:27—36.

Once again, Solomon took the hard-line approach, but what he did was precisely what the Lord had intended. With Abiathar out of the picture, Zadok assumed the role of high priest in the land. David had avoided this thorny issue for some time, but God’s will came to pass, thanks to Solomon.

(c) The execution of Joab, verses 28—34

This was part of David’s charge to Solomon: take care of the traitor Joab. As with the previous incidents, personal revenge was not the motive; it was a matter of justice. As long as Joab went unpunished, there was guilt on David, and this guilt was passed on to Solomon, since David had not, for whatever reason, been able to remove it. The only way to remove this guilt was to deal with Joab properly, as prescribed by law.

Then the king commanded Benaiah, “Do as he says. Strike him down and bury him, and so clear me and my father’s house of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed.” (verse 31)

“May the guilt of their blood rest on the head of Joab and his descendants forever. But on David and his descendants, his house and his throne, may there be the LORD’s peace forever.” (verse 33)

When we look at the judgment of both Abiathar and Joab, a couple of points jump out at us. First, one’s position before God does not dictate how they will be treated if they sin. Abiathar was a high priest, yet he was apparently unrepentant for his sin and therefore punished accordingly. We might think that he got off easy because he was basically fired instead of being executed. However, that is not the case. Imagine the shame of being fired from what should have been a lifetime position. For the rest of his days, this one-time priest was known as an unfaithful traitor and unfit priest. That would have been a heavy burden to bear.

Second, while the horns of the altar provided Adonijah with refuge, not so with Joab. Joab ran to the altar but it did him no good. The lesson here is two-fold: what worked for one does not always work for another. God treats us individuals. God is also sovereign. It was His will to give Adonijah chance, but Joab’s fate was sealed. The sin Joab was being punished for not only struck at the integrity of David, but also that of Solomon because the murders he committed were not a private matter, but public. In a sense, they were not really murders but political assassinations! Therefore, the whole nation had a stake in his punishment.

(d) The sad case of Shimei, verses 36—46

Who was this Shimei? Back in 2 Samuel 16, we learn that he had blasphemed God’s anointed, David, and was part of Absalom’s treasonous revolt. David did not deal with Shimei at all because he had given him his word that he would not. This piece of unfinished business needed to be dealt with, however.

At first, Solomon showed this rebellious man great mercy by allowing him to live in Jerusalem. Essentially the king would keep him close by, thus keeping an eye on him. The problem with Shimei was that he was a troublemaker, and all troublemakers are the same: they continually sow seeds of discontent wherever they go. While Shimei was not one of the conspirators in league with Adonijah, he had great potential for stirring up trouble for the House of David. He couldn’t stand anybody related to the late king.

Solomon, perhaps out of respect for his father, cut Shimei some slack and placed him under a kind of house arrest. This was a second chance for life! Apparently he behaved himself for three years:

But three years later, two of Shimei’s slaves ran off to Achish son of Maacah, king of Gath, and Shimei was told, “Your slaves are in Gath.” At this, he saddled his donkey and went to Achish at Gath in search of his slaves. So Shimei went away and brought the slaves back from Gath. (verses 39, 40)

How seriously did Shimei take his oath to the king? What was his life worth? Instead of doing the right thing and acting like an honest man and going to the king for permission to chase down his slaves, he barged ahead and broke his word. He staked his life on the value of two slaves and lost.

Solomon called Shimei to account for his breach of an oath to God:

“Did I not make you swear by the LORD and warn you, ‘On the day you leave to go anywhere else, you can be sure you will die’? At that time you said to me, ‘What you say is good. I will obey.’ (verse 42)

Shimei did not disrespect the king, he disrespected the King! This man had been shown mercy upon mercy but now justice had to be extracted because Shimei by his actions showed that he was not worthy of another pardon.

The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the LORD will repay you for your wrongdoing.” (verse 44)

The final opponent to the House of David was eliminated and the throne firmly established. All his life, David had his detractors, but God caused him to prevail and prosper, not only during his own rule, but that blessing carried over onto his son, Solomon. The covenant God made with David was well on its way to toward fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ. Solomon was given a kingdom of peace and prosperity, and in his amazing wisdom and insight he will become a type of another Son of David, the Messiah.

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