Bible: What Does 1 Kings 1-3 Teach Us About the Early Reign of Solomon?
King David and Abishag
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THE BOOK OF FIRST KINGS
Old King David cannot keep himself warm the conventional way (that is, with covers), so his servants bring him a young Shunamite virgin to attend to this need (vv. 1-4).
This opening scene lends itself well to Adonijah's presumptuous maneuvers. Anticipating David's soon "departure" too eagerly, he persuades Joab and Abiathar to support him in his ambition to become the next king.
[His elder brother, the late Absalom, once had the same desire; their father said nothing negative about either son's inordinate aims] [vv. 5-7].
Failing to convince other prominent figures to support him, Adonijah nevertheless coordinates a victory celebration, inviting all the king's other sons except Solomon (vv. 8-10).
Seeing more trouble brewing Nathan the prophet, one of David's staunchest advocates, counsels Bathsheba to inform the king about Adonijah's attempt to steal the kingdom from the promised heir, her son Solomon (vv. 11-13).
To make Bathsheba's entreaty appear more credible (and not merely the rantings of a frantic, power-hungry mother), the wily, old seer also decides to substantiate her claim before the king immediately (v. 14).
As planned, Bathsheba reiterates Nathan's words (and adds some more of her own), urging David to announce to Israel officially the name of his successor; namely, Solomon (vv. 15-21).
While she is finishing her story, the prophet humbly approaches the king, and cleverly relates many of the same details as Bathsheba did without divulging their joint-plan.
Nathan does not disclose his knowledge of David's original choice of Solomon; instead, he expresses surprise (that David had decided to make Adonijah king) and hurt (that the old and new king have snubbed him and other bigwigs, including Solomon, whose name he slips in at the end), because he was not invited to the celebration.
Nathan, in effect, forces David to make a state proclamation (vv. 22-27).
Recalling Bathsheba, the king swears again to her to "make good" on his original promise concerning Solomon; in response to his word, she bows down to him (vv. 28-31).
Solomon Anointed King of Israel
Immediately, David assembles protection for his priest and prophet, and commands them to anoint Solomon at Gihon (a spring outside the walls of Jerusalem).
The true, new king would then take David's place on the throne (vv. 32-35).
Benaiah adds a hearty "Amen" to this decision, and asks that the LORD prosper Solomon even more than He has David (vv. 36-37).
The entire company rides to Gihon, where Zadok the priest anoints Solomon; afterwards, they all rejoice greatly in their new ruler (vv. 38-40).
Adonijah and his party hear this uproar, but not until Abiathar's son Jonathan enters and announces the news do they know what caused it (vv. 41-45).
When Jonathan completes the message, glowing with words in praise of Solomon and the LORD, the party quickly scatters, fearing the worst (vv. 46-49).
Frightened out of his wits, the would-be ruler flees to the altar where he takes hold of its horns and pleads for his life (vv. 50-51).
Solomon wisely issues Adonijah an ultimatum: "If you submit, you will live; if not, prepare to die" (vv. 52-53a). The latter chooses rightly and remains alive . . . for the present (v. 53b).
Solomon's "Hit Man"
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1 Kings 2
In a heart-to-heart, deathbed exhortation to Solomon, David admonishes the new king in two major areas.
First, he tells him to be obedient to Yahweh's Law in all its instruction, knowing that such righteous behavior will not only bring prosperity but also preserve the dynasty (vv. 1-4).
Second, David also encourages his wise son to complete unfinished business with three individuals: Joab, Barzillai, and Shimei (vv. 5-9).
Bloodthirsty Joab must not die peacefully (vv. 5-6), but the sons of loyal Barzillai will fellowship around Solomon's table (v. 7).
As for the curse-filled, yet temporarily remorseful Shimei, he must not live to a ripe, old age (vv. 8-9).
Having served forty years on the throne, David dies soon thereafter in Jerusalem, and Solomon establishes himself as Israel's king (vv. 10-12).
Still maneuvering behind the scenes, Adonijah attempts to acquire Abishag, David's Shunamite nurse, as his wife (vv. 13-18).
However, by using Bathsheba to persuade the king to give this woman to him, the schemer reveals his ambition (at least to Solomon's mind) to wrest the throne from him (vv. 19-22).
Consequently, Solomon orders Benaiah to execute this wannabe king (vv. 23-25).
The new ruler continues to establish his authority, exiling Abiathar the priest to Anathoth (vv. 26-27) and again commissioning Benaiah to put to death another traitor, Joab (vv. 28-35).
Solomon sends away, but does not execute, the first man, thus fulfilling Yahweh's word regarding Eli's house (v. 27; cf. 1 Sam. 2:27ff).
On the other hand, he does not hesitate to obey his father's dying request regarding the second.
Although the old general does his best to avoid the sword, fleeing to the tabernacle horns (as did Adonijah earlier, see 1:50), the new commander slays him where he clung (vv. 28, 34).
The purge continues, though mercy delays it. Solomon puts Shimei under city arrest in Jerusalem, not permitting him to cross the Kidron (vv. 36-38).
However, the escape of two of his slaves moves Shimei to retrieve them in Gath (vv. 39-40).
When the king hauls the guilty party into court, Shimei hopes against hope that Solomon would consider the extenuating circumstances, and continue to extend mercy to him (vv. 41-42).
But with the line crossed and the oath broken, no credit remained to preclude full payment; Benaiah again collects what is due (vv. 43-46).
Jerusalem, The City of Solomon's Reign
1 Kings 3
By bringing Pharaoh's daughter into Jerusalem as his wife, Solomon establishes a political alliance/peace treaty with Egypt, and buys himself sufficient time to fortify the city (v. 1).
Although he believes in Yahweh and walks in most of David's ways, his pragmatism trickles down to his devotional life as well; unfortunately, Israel follows his lead (vv. 2-3).
Nevertheless the LORD, gracious as ever in these pre-temple days, reveals Himself to the king in a dream at Gibeon and offers him a blank check, so to speak (vv. 4-5).
[Gibeon was the location of the great high place, perhaps because it was the scene of one of God’s great miracles during the time of Joshua (cf. Josh. 10)].
Solomon thoughtfully and gratefully considers God's kindness toward faithful David and him (v. 6), then acknowledges both his inexperience and the awesome responsibility facing him as ruler of Israel (vv. 7-8).
Greatly concerned about preserving justice among God's people, the king humbly asks the LORD for an understanding heart (v. 9).
Pleased with Solomon's request, Yahweh grants him not only a wise and discerning heart with which to judge His nation, but also those temporal commodities—riches and honor—for which he could have asked but did not (vv. 10-13).
The LORD, however, makes the king abide by another principle related to long life: Solomon will survive only if he obeys the Law (v. 14).
In an act of worship and thanksgiving, the king then travels to Jerusalem where the ark stood and offers sacrifices there (v. 15).
Immediately (or so it seems), God gives Solomon an opportunity to practice his new gift.
Faced with deciding a dispute between two harlots/mothers over a live baby and a dead one, he must determine which baby belongs to which woman.
One woman contends that the other accidentally killed her own newborn and then kidnapped the other child.
Disputing that claim, the second harlot takes the issue to the “Supreme Court” (vv. 16-22).
Wise Solomon first states the matter clearly, showing everyone present that neither side is willing to budge (v. 23).
He, therefore, seeks to discover which harlot truly cares for the life of the baby; undoubtedly, that woman would qualify as the child's true mother.
The king’s unique order—that a soldier divide the child with a sword—forces the real mother to choose to give her son to the other woman in order to save his life (vv. 24-26a).
Out of anger and bitterness, the loser demands the child's death (v. 26b).
Because of the king’s amazing display of wisdom and its outcome, all Israel comes to fear him (vv. 27-28).
© 2013 glynch1