This year we will embark on a journey through 1 & 2 Kings. We will cover the period of time from the end of King David’s life through times of conflict resulting in a divided kingdom, to the fall of Israel to the Assyrians and finally to the exile of Judah to Babylon.
The Author of Kings is unknown; the writer does not name himself nor give definitive clues to his identity. Jewish tradition holds that the compiler and editor of Kings is the prophet Jeremiah, an alternate view is that a “Deuteronomistic school” of priests, prophets and court recorders from Judah assembled what we study today. Whoever did this work was very familiar with Deuteronomy, the Covenant and they had access to official court sources quoting from other kingdom records. Additionally they were familiar with prophetic writings making note of the prophecy and recording its fulfillment. However, the stylistic and linguistic features in 1 & 2 Kings reads like the product of a single writer. An example: the writer evaluates the kings from different kingdoms on the same consistent basis, using the same phrases and terms.
1 & 2 Kings is a sequel to Samuel, a continuation of the history of Israel from Judges to Kings to the exile over a span of 400 years. The continuing theme is how God’s people were keeping the Covenant; this includes the leadership of Israel, the kings and priests, and the people. The author continually reminds us of the consequences of the Covenant, the blessings and curses. If you keep the Covenant, blessings will follow: peace, security, prosperity and deliverance. If you break the Covenant, curses will follow: oppression, war, famine and exile to foreign lands. Additionally we will trace the line of godly kings like David who are blessed when they keep God’s commands and contrasted to those kings who did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
We begin with the golden age of a united kingdom under King David, always remembering that God is the Lord of history, actively involved in the lives of men, whether they are kings or paupers.
Kings begins with the announcement that King David is very old and cold, so his servants acquire a new companion who is young and strong to tend to his every need and to keep him warn with her body. We are told that her name is Abishag and that she is very beautiful. These events recorded here happened about a year before David’s death, he is approximately 69 years old and his struggles to gain and keep his throne including family problems have left him fatigued and failing in health.
It is at this time that Adonijah, David’s oldest surviving son launches a plan to take the throne. He begins by promoting himself, boasting that he would soon be king and gathers a military force to accomplish this coup d’état. The only problem is that the LORD and King David have already proclaimed that Solomon will rule after David and that Solomon will be the king to build God’s Temple according to God’s plan. “From all the many sons the LORD has given me, he chose Solomon my son to rule on his behalf over Israel.” 1 Chronicles 28:5
One sad commentary recorded in these verses is that David never corrected Adonijah when he made these false boasts, he allowed Adonijah to continue with his false delusions. Adonijah gathered men around him who praised him for his good looks, fed his ego and encouraged palace intrigues. Adonijah proceeds by gathering his supporters for a grand feast inviting all his brothers, the king’s sons, the men of Judah and the servants of the king, but he did not invite the prophet Nathan, Benaiah the commander of David’s army and his brother Solomon. A cultural note: if Nathan, Solomon and David’s other supporters had been included in the banquet, therefore eaten with Adonijah, he would have been honor bound to protect them having extended the fellowship of such a meal.
As Adonijah proceeds with his coup attempt Nathan the prophet goes directly to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother to report on Adonijah’s actions warning her that this was threat to their life. An undercurrent to notice, Nathan took the initiative to counter Adonijah’s rebellion; this suggests that God may have moved His prophet to this action as He had done before. Together they come up with a plan; first Bathsheba goes to David to tell him of Adonijah’s actions, then Nathan arrives to confirm what she said. Nathan presents it in the form of a question; did you announce that Adonijah would be king after you? Because right now he is having a feast and they are shouting long live King Adonijah, did you order this?
David confirms his oath made by the LORD that Solomon would be king after him, and then lays out a careful plan that would both defuse the rebellion and confirm Solomon as his heir. David summons Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the commander of the army to take Solomon on David’s mule and lead him to Gihon, then anoint him King over Israel, followed by the blowing of the trumpets announcing Solomon as King. They would follow Solomon as he returns to the palace and proceeds to sit on David’s throne. Note: anyone who saw Solomon on David’s mule would have understood the implied kingship associated with that ceremony. Nathan the prophet’s presence would symbolize the divine choice of Solomon as king in a way that Zadok the priest alone could not. Blowing the trumpets signaled the official nature of the anointing, shouting long live King Solomon expressed both the people’s acceptance and their prayer for the new king’s reign to be long and prosperous.
As David’s supporters finished their ceremony and parade, Adonijah and his guests heard the trumpets and shouting while they were eating and began to ask about the noise. At that moment the son of Abiathar the priest arrives to tell the crowd that King David has made Solomon King and he is seated on David’s throne. Then all of Adonijah’s guests panic and quickly rush off abandoning Adonijah.
Adonijah rightly feared Solomon, who now had the authority to do to him what Adonijah had planned for Solomon. Adonijah ran to the Tabernacle to grab hold of the horns of the altar. The symbolism of taking hold of the altar’s horns seems to have meant that as God had been gracious to man, as seen in accepting man’s offerings to atone for his sins, so one man should be gracious to another man who had offended him. He wanted a promise from Solomon, that he would not kill him. Solomon graciously allows Adonijah his safety and freedom, exacting a promise that he would be a loyal subject and not rebel against Solomon again.
About one year later, David is dying and calls Solomon to him for his final instructions. The first and most important was to “Do the job the LORD your God has assigned you” by obeying the LORD’s rules, commandments, laws and regulations as written in the Law of Moses. If you do this “then you will succeed in all you do and seek to accomplish and the LORD will fulfill his promise to me”, that a descendant of King David will always be on the throne of Israel.
Then David gave Solomon instructions about certain people:
First Joab, David’s commander, the same Joab that joined in the attempted coup needed to be dealt with, “do what you think is appropriate but don’t let him live long and die a peaceful death”. This was not a vindictive spirit or a cowardly refusal of David to execute his commander. It was a statement of fact, blood guilt clung to Joab, he had murdered people, justice must be done and Solomon had the responsibility to deliver that justice. Joab had been living on borrowed time; soon he will pay for his crimes.
Second the sons of Barzillai of Gilead, Barzillai helped David when he was fleeing from Absalom, he provided food and shelter for David in the wilderness. Now David has instructed Solomon to continually give a great reward for their father’s actions, his sons would always have a seat at Solomon’s banquets – thus his protection and influence.
Last, Shimei son of Gera, who had threatened David’s life and called down a horrible judgment on him while David was fleeing from Absalom. Apparently David sensed a continuing threat during Solomon’s reign. David said, “But now don’t treat him as if he were innocent. You are a wise man and you know how to handle him; make sure he has a bloody death.” After this David died, he was buried in the city of David, David ruled for 40 years, 7 years in Hebron and 33 years in Jerusalem.