If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 2, Galatians 6, Ezekiel 33, Psalms 81–82. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 2.
In today’s passage, David formally passed the baton of leadership to his son Solomon, the one he had chosen to be his successor as king. Along with the privilege of becoming king, Solomon would now bear the responsibility of leading the nation. David began, therefore, by charging him to take his responsibility seriously, with the maturity of a man (v. 2). This meant living in obedience to God’s word as recorded in the law of Moses (v. 3). If Solomon would lead this way, David explained that he would “prosper in all you do.” This is a reminder of God’s covenant promise in the law of Moses to bless any and all Israelites who obeyed his word.
Then David finished this part of his instruction by reminding Solomon of the Davidic covenant; namely, the Lord had promised an unbroken line of succession on Israel’s throne to David’s family if they lived in faithful obedience to the Lord (v. 4). No pressure or anything, Solomon, but you’d hate to be the first and only successor to David, the one who messed up an eternal covenant.
Having charged Solomon with the important principles of serving as king, David turned now to some unfinished business. He charged Solomon to:
- punish Joab for his ruthless killings (vv. 5-6).
- reward the descendants of Barzillai (isn’t that a brand of pasta?) for their loyalty to David (v. 7).
- deal with Shimei son of Gera (vv. 8-9). More on him in a few paragraphs.
Before he could go about completing David's to do list, however, Solomon was confronted wth an immediate challenge to his rulership. Solomon’s brother Adonijah, the very one who tried to take a shortcut to the throne, requested Solomon’s permission to marry David’s, um, platonic companion Abishag the Shunamite (vv. 12-21). Adonijah even used Solomon’s own mother, Bathsheba, to make the request. Maybe she was just a kind-hearted soul or maybe she was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but somehow she did not see what a dangerous move this was politically. Solomon did see it, however (v. 22), and had Adonijah killed (vv. 23-25). Solomon was gracious to Adoniah's co-conspirator Abiathar, letting him live out of respect to his service to the Lord (v. 26), though removing him as priest. This, incidentally, fulfilled God’s prophecy to Eli (v. 27). Finally, Solomon executed Joab (vv. 28-35), the final co-conspirator of Adonijah. This last act both fulfilled David’s charge to Solomon (cf. vv. 5-6) and brought punishment on Joab for backing Adonijah.
Finally, Solomon turned his attention to Shimei. You will remember that Shimei was from the same tribe as Saul and that he cursed David as David was fleeing Jerusalem from Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 16). David had mercy on Shimei, both at the time he cursed David (2 Sam 16:8-13) and when David returned to power after defeating Absalom (2 Sam 19:9-12). Although David had been merciful to Shimei for many years, David had not forgotten what Shimei did. That’s why he commanded Solomon to deal with him (vv. 8-9).
Some have argued that David carried a grudge against Shimei but that he held off on following through on that grudge during his life time. I’m not sure I agree that David held a grudge, but he certainly remembered him. By charging Solomon to deal with Shimei, David was appealing to the king for justice. It is the responsibility of a king to deal justly with people. David had a legitimate complaint with Shimei. While he was king, however, if he were to deal with Shimei himself, David risked losing the confidence of the people by acting (or appearing act) in vindictiveness. So instead of being both the plaintiff and judge in Shimei’s case, David waited until there as a king that HE could contact about death with Shimei, namely Solomon. So what we have here, as I see it, is an appeal for justice to Solomon from Davod. David recused himself during his lifetime and administration as king but when David’s rulership effectively ended, it was appropriate for David to ask the next king for justice, even if the next ruler was his own son.
Like his father before him, Solomon was gracious to Shimei, allowing him to live under a sort of house arrest (vv. 36-38) in Jerusalem. But when Shimei broke Solomon’s rule, Solomon did what he promised David he would do—he took Shimei’s life. I see David's instructions and Solomon’s actions here as not vindictive but as merciful. They gave Shimei time and space to live and work in. However, it was only after he broke Solomon's very reasonable rules that justice fell on him. This leaves me thinking about Jesus’ command to love our enemies. Whenever life is unfair and seemingly unjust to so, Christ commanded us to commit our cause to God and to expect him to repay. But that does not forbid one from seeking justice from the appropriate governmental ruler. That's what David did in this case. He showed mercy when he was the ruler, then asked for justice when another man served as king. His patience was extraordinary.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.