1 Kings 2 Study Notes


2:1-3 David’s instructions that Solomon be steadfast, firm, and obedient were the kind of covenant challenges presented to leaders and common Hebrews throughout the OT (cp. Jos 1:9). The result of obedience to the law was made explicit for Solomon: it would bring success in everything (Jos 1:6-8; Ps 1).

2:4 Obedience also assured the permanence of David’s dynasty. Second Sm 7:11-16 did not explicitly state this as the necessary condition for a permanent dynasty. This is another indication that the reader sometimes must examine several passages to get the whole picture. In terms of eternal salvation, this permanence depends on the eternal reign of the NT Messiah, the Son of David. However, 1 and 2 Kings never overtly treated this permanence as anything more than the human, Davidic dynasty, though this concept is enriched and expanded in other parts of the OT.

2:5-6 David counseled Solomon about some real dangers to the state. David was accepted as a man after God’s own heart in the old regime. Even so, as a man of blood David was not allowed to build God’s temple (1Ch 22:7-9). Others, who were properly tolerated in the old days, were now a threat to the new, more peaceful society. David was perhaps warning Solomon against tolerance for men whose character made them too dangerous for this new society. In this counsel David may have recognized a profound change from the ideal of the plundering warrior and conqueror king of yesterday to the mercantile emperor of the new day. Likewise there was a change from the violent, vengeful clan warrior to a professional soldier serving the interests of the centralized state.

Joab, the double murderer, was the first to be dealt with. His first crime, killing Abner, could have been construed as revenge, although blood shed in war was not normally avenged in peace. However, the murder of Amasa could not be justified. David seemed to be unable to act against powerful members of his own clan, although he did publicly distance himself from Joab’s violence (2Sm 3:28-29). The blood on his waistband and sandals graphically indicated Joab’s guilt. Finally, Joab’s siding with Adonijah in what could have been a violent civil conflict outweighed any gratitude David owed to Joab for his past faithfulness.

2:7 David counseled kindness to the house of Barzillai, who supported David in Absalom’s rebellion. The Hebrew word translated “kindness” is the usual word for “covenant faithfulness.” For Barzillai, proper covenant faithfulness meant faithfulness to the king. For David, Barzillai’s faithfulness deserved reciprocal consideration from the king and his house (17:27-29; 19:31-39). David’s counsel illustrated the mutual responsibility or loyalty in covenant relationships. These mutual covenant responsibilities were binding on both kings and God.

2:8-9 This counsel implied that Shimei still exercised some influence. At the time of David’s return, tolerating Shimei may have been beneficial for stabilizing the country. By contrast, Solomon’s power was stable enough that Shimei, and any danger he represented, could be suppressed.

2:10-11 This formula statement, David rested with his fathers, provides a narrative transition from David’s reign to Solomon’s.

2:13-14 This incident is one of many clues (v. 19) that the queen mother was a position of great influence. The frequent listing of this position in the royal formulae of Judah also suggests its influence.

2:15-16 Adonijah’s statement was true to someone who viewed only the human realities. However, it totally ignored the purposes of God.

2:17 One of the customs of the ancient world was for the new king to confirm his position by taking the wives of the former king (2Sm 16:22). Adonijah must have viewed Solomon as very weak to make this dangerous request.

2:18 It seems unbelievably naive for Bathsheba to intercede with Solomon in this request. Or did she see that encouraging Adonijah’s foolishness was a good way to make clear to Solomon the threat Adonijah represented? If so, her decision here moved Adonijah a step closer to his demise.

2:19-21 The protocol and ceremony of this scene again pointed to the influence of the queen mother. And yet her influence went only so far.

2:22-25 Solomon’s words grouped Adonijah . . . Abiathar, and Joab together as joint leaders of the failed coup. Adonijah’s foolish attempt to extract some advantage from the failure gave Solomon the opportunity to deal with Adonijah and all the plotters.

2:26-27 Solomon’s decisive action showed that both Solomon and the Bible writer believed that Solomon was removing major threats to his rule. Abiathar knew that his priestly participation in the abortive coronation was essential to Adonijah’s plot; his participation was neither innocent nor casual. Mere banishment was a gentle penalty; death would have been justified. Banishment prevented him from playing an influential role either at the tabernacle or in the Lord’s temple yet to be built. Removal of Abiathar from office fulfilled the earlier judgment on Eli’s family (1Sm 2:30-36).

2:28-29 As the commander of the army, Joab could have mobilized the old tribal and clan levies in support of Adonijah. Such a threat was virtually treasonous, and the treasonous potentialities remained as long as Joab lived. Furthermore, judging Joab for his murders was a necessary step in repudiating the old violent ways—a step that David never took.

2:30-34 Joab understood perfectly the consequences of his deeds and sought safety at the altar, where Benaiah executed the death sentence against him. In executing the commander in chief of the tribal levies, Solomon was either carrying out a risky deed to remove a popular enemy, or he was so secure in his power that he did not fear any repercussions. Executing Joab at the altar raised other questions. The devotion to the Lord among the masses may not have risen far above the superstition that the horns of the altar provided magical protection. Assuming that Solomon’s faith was real, his disbelief in the magical protection of the horns of the altar was a rejection of popular superstition and an assertion that real moral and social values transcended such superstitious magic (see note at 1:50). Joab might have hoped for sanctuary at the altar, but the right of sanctuary only applied to those who committed accidental manslaughter (Ex 21:12-14).

2:35 Benaiah’s appointment to Joab’s place over the army indicated that Joab remained the commander in chief up to his death. The later restructuring of government to minimize the traditional powers (chap. 4) could have indicated ongoing concerns about the loyalty of the traditional tribal authorities to Solomon.

2:36-46 Shimei’s situation was the opposite of Abiathar’s. Abiathar was a danger in the capital where he could meddle in centralized worship. Shimei was a danger away from Jerusalem where he could stir up trouble in distant locales; therefore, Shimei was placed under house arrest in Jerusalem. When Shimei violated his house arrest, possibly thinking Solomon’s concern had diminished over the three-year period, he was executed. The Kidron Valley, just east of Jerusalem, served as one of the boundaries of Jerusalem.