I Kings 2

The Word Made Fresh

1When David’s time to die had come, he gave his son Solomon these instructions: 2“My time has come to go the way of everyone on earth,” he said. “Be strong. Be brave. 2Obey the LORD your God and do what God wants you to do: keep God’s rules and laws and decrees, and everything recorded in the law of Moses. If you do that you will be successful in every endeavor you undertake, 4and the LORD will keep the promise given to me, that if my children are careful to walk in the way of the LORD faithfully, heart and soul, all of the kings of Israel who come after you will be your descendants.”

            5Then David said, “You know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me; he murdered my two commanders — Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He sheathed his sword with their blood on it, and walked in their blood as if in wartime, but it was in a time of peace. 6Do what you think is best, but don’t let him grow old and grey and die peacefully. 7Be loyal to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite. Give them an open-ended invitation to your table. They were faithful to me when I had to flee from your brother Absalom. 8Then there is Shimei son of Gera, that Benjaminite from Bahurim who spat out awful curses at me the day I left to flee to Mahanaim, and then came down to the Jordan to welcome me back. I told him then that I would not put him to death, 9but that doesn’t mean he is without guilt. You’re a wise man. You’ll know what to do about him, but by all means don’t allow him to go peacefully to the grave.”

10Then David joined his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11He had ruled Israel for forty years; seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12Solomon was king after him, and the kingdom was secure.

13David’s son Adonijah, born to Haggith, approached Solomon’s mother Bathsheba. 14“Do you come in peace?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered. 14“May I speak with you?” She agreed, 15and he said, “You know that the kingdom belonged to me, and everyone in Israel expected me to be the king. But things changed and my brother was made king in my place. The LORD gave it to him. 16But I want to ask you for a favor. Please say ‘yes.'”

“Go on,” Bathsheba said.

17“Please ask king Solomon to allow me to have Abishag the Shunammite as my wife. He will not refuse you.”

18Bathsheba agreed and promised to speak to the king. 19She went to king Solomon with Adonijah’s request. The king rose to meet her, bowed down to her, and when he sat on his throne, he had another brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. 20She said, “I come to ask a small favor of you.”

The king replied, “Please ask, mother. I cannot refuse you.”

21She said, “Allow Abishag the Shunammite to be given in marriage to your brother Adonijah.”

22But king Solomon retorted, “Why do you ask this? You may as well ask for me to turn the kingdom over to him because he is my older brother! It would not only elevate him but also Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!” 23Then he said, “May the LORD deal harshly with me if I don’t repay Adonijah for this scheme with his life! 24As the LORD lives who placed me on my father David’s throne to carry on my family’s dynasty, Adonijah will die today!”

25Then Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoida to kill Adonijah, and Adonijah died.

26Then the king summoned Abiathar the priest and told him, “Go to Anathoth to your home there. You deserve to die but I won’t have you put to death now, because you brought the covenant chest of the LORD God before my father David, and you shared in all his troubles.” 27Solomon banished Abiathar from the priesthood, according to what the LORD had commanded about the descendants of Eli in Shiloh.

28Joab had joined with Adonijah, though he had not supported Absalom, and when he heard the news about Abiathar he fled to the LORD’s tent and clung to the horns of the altar there. 29When king Solomon was told he sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada to kill him. 30Benaiah went to the LORD’s tent and told Joab, “The king orders you to come out.”

Joab refused. “I’ll die here!” he said.

Benaiah returned to the king and told him what Joab had said, 31and the king replied, “Then do as he said. Kill him and bury him and remove from me and my father’s house the guilt of all the blood Joab shed without reason. 32The LORD will lay the blame on his head because he killed two men who were better and more righteous than he without my father’s knowledge — Abner son of Ner who commanded Israel’s army and Amasa son of Jether who commanded Judah’s army. 33Their blood will be charged to Joab and his children forever, but David’s family and David’s throne will enjoy the peace of the LORD from now on.”

34So, Benaiah son of Jehoiada went and put Joab to death. He was buried at his own house at the edge of the wilderness. 35The king made Benaiah head of the army in Joab’s place, and Zadok priest in Abiathar’s place.

36Then the king summoned Shimei. He said, “Build a house in Jerusalem and live there, and do not leave the city for any reason. 37The day you leave the city and cross over the Kidron will be the day you die, and your death will be your own doing.”

38Shimei replied, “What the king has said is fair enough, and your servant will obey,” and he lived in Jerusalem for a time, 39but three years later two of his slaves ran away to king Achish son of Maacah at Gath, and when Shimei learned of it 40he saddled a donkey and headed to Achish to search for them. He found them and brought them back.

41When Solomon was told that he had left Jerusalem and returned, 42he sent for Shimei. He said, “Didn’t you agree before the LORD that you would stay in Jerusalem? Weren’t you clearly told that the day you left the city to go anywhere else would be the day you die? Didn’t you agree to that ruling? 43Why haven’t you kept the promise you made before the LORD to obey the order I gave you? 44You know very well the wrong you did to my father David. Now the LORD will repay you for your evil deeds. 45But king Solomon will be rewarded and the throne of David shall stand before the LORD forever!”

46Then the king ordered Benaiah son of Jehoida to carry out the sentence, and he took Shimei outside and struck him dead. The kingdom was then secure in Solomon’s hands.


1-4: Knowing he doesn’t have much time, an old and often disoriented King David gives instructions to his heir apparent, Solomon. First, he says, be strong. Second, be courageous. And third, keep the Law of Moses. Be strong, be brave, be righteous; a pretty good formula for success. If Solomon can do that, David’s dynasty will last.

5-9: But now down to specifics. He tells Solomon to deal with Joab (why had David let that man get away with so much?). He tells him to treat the sons of Barzillai well because of Barzillai’s kindness to him when Absalom had sought to overthrow him (2 Samuel 17:37, 19:31-34). And he tells Solomon to repay Shimei for his offenses (2 Samuel 16:5-13, 19:16-23).

10-12: David breathes his last. Curiously, there is no mention of mourning rites or even the place of burial. The text flows smoothly from the reign of David to the reign of Solomon without so much as a sigh of remorse.

13-18: Adonijah wastes no time in challenging Solomon. He tries a clever plan to gain access to the inner workings of the palace by asking the Queen Mother, Bathsheba, to ask Solomon to let him marry Abishag. Abishag is the young beauty who had been David’s attendant in his dotage.

19-25: Perhaps Bathsheba was too naïve to think ill of Adonijah or perhaps custom required that she report the requests of any member of the royal family to the king. In any case she brings the request to Solomon, who immediately perceives a threat and reacts angrily, suspecting it to be a plot hatched by Abiathar and Joab. He has Adonijah executed by Benaiah (Solomon himself never personally kills anybody, by the way, unlike David).

26-27: Next he deals with Abiathar and banishes him to his estate in Anathoth. The writer sees this as a fulfillment of the word God gave to Samuel concerning old Eli the priest, whose sons had acted so blasphemously (way back in 1 Samuel 3:11-14).

28-35: Joab gets his due next. Having heard that Solomon has banished Abiathar, he seeks refuge at the altar of the LORD. Solomon is not about to honor the tradition of the altar as a refuge and orders Benaiah to kill him there. Benaiah tries to talk Joab away from the altar, but Joab clings to it. Benaiah is more reluctant than Solomon to kill a man at the altar and goes back to make sure that’s what the king wants him to do. Solomon sends him again, and Benaiah puts Joab to death. They bury him at his own house. So ends the career of one of Israel’s most powerful and unscrupulous generals. He is replaced by Benaiah as commander of Israel’s armies, and Zadok replaces Abiathar as high priest.

36-38: Shimei is summoned next and ordered to build a house in Jerusalem and never to leave the city. Shimei is happy to agree.

39-46: But, after three years I guess he figures one quick trip will be overlooked. After all, a man has a right to reclaim his slaves, doesn’t he? At least, so Shimei thought. Solomon wastes no time in having him put to death.


So, by using Benaiah as his “hit man” and thus never getting blood on his own hands, Solomon has carried out all David’s orders — except maybe the one about being righteous. Keep in mind that these all-too-human foibles are used by God to move history along to the place where God will be ready to personally enter the scene. As a baby, of course.