36 David Authorizing a Successor
Authorizing a Successor
1 Kings 1–2:11
Men habitually dispute God’s will. This was certainly the case concerning who was to be the successor of David as king of Israel. God had made it plain that Solomon was to be the successor to David, but that did not stop some men from disputing this fact and trying to change the choice of the successor. In earlier studies we saw in the insurrection attempt by Absalom and in the revolt led by Sheba this disputing of God’s will about Israel’s throne. Now we look at the dispute which occurred near the time of David’s death when his son Adonijah tried to gain the throne. This defiance of Adonijah to God’s will forced David to take strong and immediate steps against Adonijah’s action by publicly authorizing Solomon as the next king of Israel.
This problem concerning who was to be David’s successor was the last major problem to confront David before his death, and the problem was not unrelated to his chastisement for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. God had told David via the prophet Nathan that because of David’s adulterous and murderous sins, “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Samuel 12:11). With Adonijah his son causing this successor problem, evil was indeed being raised up against David by one “out of thine own house.” So right up to his last days, David experienced the bitter fruits of his great sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Sin has its moments of pleasure, but they are short, then comes the long and often eternal punishment.
To study this event recorded in Scripture which concerns the authorizing of David’s successor for the throne of Israel, we will consider the call for a successor (1 Kings 1:1–27), the choice of a successor (1 Kings 1:28–37), the crowning of a successor (1 Kings 1:38–53), and the charging of the successor (2 Kings 2:1–11).
A. THE CALL FOR A SUCCESSOR
The call for David to authorize a successor to himself as king became very urgent in David’s last days. The call came in a threefold way. It came in the age of David, in the actions of Adonijah, and in the advising by Nathan.
1. The Age of David
“Now king David was old and stricken in years” (1 Kings 1:1). Age had caught up with David. He was no longer a young, strong, and vigorous man. Rather, he was an old and enfeebled man. Here in our text David was bedridden (1 Kings 1:47) and near his death at seventy years of age. His age is deduced from the fact that he was thirty when he began reigning as king (2 Samuel 5:4), he reigned forty years (Ibid.), and the incidents in our text for this chapter occurred in the last months of his life. With David being old and infirm, the need for authorizing a successor was very urgent as anyone can easily understand.
For our instruction we note three things from our text about David’s problem of aging. They are the certainty of aging, condition of aging, and countering of aging.
The certainty of aging. The problem of old age comes upon every person who has not meet up with death sooner. The body improves with age for a certain amount of time as the babe matures to adulthood, but then the decline sets in for everyone. Men simply are not made to live forever. Aging confirms that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Aging ought to remind us of death, and every death ought to remind us that death (and aging) was introduced into humanity by sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, the curse of physical death came upon every descendent of the first two human beings. Sin is often advertised as “living it up,” but every cemetery exposes that advertisement as false. Sin is what kills. Sin does not give life. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Therefore, in view of the certainty of death, we all need to earnestly prepare for it. And the way to prepare for death is to do what the prophet Amos told the Israelites to do, namely, “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). Scripture informs us that death is followed by a reckoning with God. “After this [death] the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). If ever you need to get prepared for anything, it is the judgment after death! The only way you can adequately prepare for it is through receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior.
The condition of aging. “He gat no heat” (v. 1). One of the conditions of old age is an infirm body. No matter how well you take care of yourself, your body will eventually become infirm. We ought to take the best care we can of our body in order to serve our Lord as well as possible. But the finest of care will not prevent the infirmity of old age. Good care of the body often slows down infirmity, but it will never stop it. Aches and pains and other problems with the body increase with age. The particular infirmity of David’s body mentioned in our text was that “he gat no heat.” This is always true with the elderly. This problem indicates that the furnace of the body is going out. Matthew Henry emphasizes this problem when he says, “Our deliverances from or through diseases and dangers are but reprieves; if the candle be not blown out, it will burn out of itself.”
While we cannot stop the decay of our bodies physically, it is much different spiritually. Too many senior saints allow their spiritual lives to decay with age as their physical bodies do. This is inexcusable. We may “gat no heat” physically with age, but spiritually we can still be on fire for God!
The countering of aging. “Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin; and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat” (1 Kings 1:2). It is certainly proper and wise to use legitimate means to restore bodily health and prolong our days; but we must not use unholy means which promote sin. David’s servants failed here in that they resorted to an unholy means to treat David’s condition of deficiency of bodily heat, for they proposed another woman for him to remedy the problem. They promoted sin by this remedy. This promoting of sin to counter David’s deficiency of bodily heat provides a very instructive picture of the way sin works in the lives of men. We note ten characteristics of sin from this proposal to get David another woman. These ten characteristics include the ardor of sin, the attractiveness of sin, the acceptance of sin, the advocating for sin, the attempts of sin, the artfulness of sin, the acquaintance with sin, the absurdity of sin, the affects of sin, and the analysis of sin.
First, the ardor of sin. “They sought for a fair damsel throughout all the costs of Israel” (1 Kings 1:3). Sin is earnest. This is evident in this incident by the fact that the servants of David ordered an intensive search to find a beautiful young woman for David. The ardor of the searching is seen in their searching “throughout all the coasts of Israel” to find the right woman. If we are going to combat sin successfully, we will have to be just as earnest in combating sin as sin is in conquering us. Treat sin passively and you will be past history.
Second, the attractiveness of sin. They sought for a “fair damsel” (1 Kings 1:3) for David. The word “fair” indicates a person of beauty, a person who was very attractive. Evil does not want to look ugly to the one it is trying to seduce. It wants to look extremely attractive. This is one of the most effective tactics of sin to seduce people to sin. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, this appeal of attractiveness was very prominent; for one reason Eve was attracted to the forbidden was that it was “pleasant to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). The outward beauty of sin has snared many a soul.
Third, the acceptance of sin. This practice of using a young woman to stir up the heat of a man was an accepted, though ineffective, method of the world. It was not some unique method thought up by David’s servants. Their suggestion of this method only reflected their awareness of an acceptable habit of the world. General acceptance of evil by people often beguiles people into sinning. If it is popular, many cannot think that it is wrong. But it is not how many approve something, but who approves it. If God does not approve of it, all the popularity the world can muster up for it will not make the deed righteous.
Fourth, the advocating for sin. David’s servants (1 Kings 1:2) were the ones who advocated this sin of another woman for David as a remedy for the heat problem of his aging body. These were not men who hated David, who were plotting his downfall, or who wanted to ruin him. These were men who supported him and were loyal to him. This is another reminder in Scripture that sometimes it is our close and trusted friends who encourage us to do evil. That makes the temptation to sin extremely strong. Beware that you are not tripped up by this snare. It is God’s Word, not our friends, which determines right and wrong.
Fifth, the attempts of sin. The attempts of sin to defile us are continuous. Sin attempts to defile us no matter what our circumstances are. Here sin attempted to ensnare David even though he was seventy and in his last days on his death bed. Not until we depart from this earthly life will sin cease attempting to defile us. Even when we are old and infirm, temptation will still pursue us. Hence, we need to always keep our guard up against evil. Fortunately for David, he was not seduced by this latest attempt of sin to defile him, for “the king knew her not (did not have sexual relations with her)” (1 Kings 1:4). In his last days, he battled this sin better than he had earlier in his life.
Sixth, the artfulness of sin. This sin of getting another woman for David was done under the guise of health (Abishag was to improve David’s health by providing heat for his body) and under the guise of marriage (Abishag was to be a new member of David’s harem—but the harem business was all sin). Sin is so artful in the way it sneaks into our lives. It does not knock on the door and introduce itself as sin. Rather, it knocks on the door and introduces itself as such things as a health need or as some other necessity in life or as some good cause one ought to support. Sometimes it comes in the sanctified appearance of religion which we will see later in Adonijah’s rebellion. Beware of the disguises of sin.
Seventh, the acquaintance with sin. David’s servants were not acquainted well with Divine remedies; all they seemed to know was worldly remedies. Therefore, they prescribed another woman for David which was the world’s remedy. Many professing Christians have this same deficiency, for they are more acquainted with the world’s remedies than God’s remedies. When any problem comes along, they propose worldly solutions which only promote the flesh and not the spirit. If the church is not warm enough spiritually, they promote fleshly schemes and gimmicks to enliven things; but all that this does is make the church more carnal. And if the lives of divorced people are not warm enough with affection, they advise another marriage for them; but such advice pampers the flesh and opposes the commands of the Scripture. Folk need to be acquainted with God’s Word more than with the guileful world if they are going to know which remedies are holy and which are unholy.
Eighth, the absurdity of sin. The remedy the servants of David proposed for David was very stupid to put it mildly. For one thing, as Matthew Henry said, “They foolishly prescribed nuptials to one that should rather have been preparing for his funeral.” How often the world leaves out God and thus prescribes the dumbest of remedies. As an example, to supposedly counter the problem of sexual promiscuity, the so-called intellectuals and educational experts propose that we give sex education to school students from the time they enter school till they get out of school. This is an absurd remedy, for all this has done is encourage more promiscuity and perversion. Also some in the world prescribe sexual affairs outside of marriage as a means of helping people with their anxieties and problems. Of course, all that does in multiply problems abundantly.
Ninth, the affects of sin. Sin has long tentacles that reach far beyond the initial sin. The affects of sin reach into an ever widening circle of people and time. This was very true regarding Abishag. She not only was a sin problem in David’s life, but her being brought to David resulted in more problems even after David died. Shortly after David’s death, Adonijah tried to get her for his wife which led to the death of Adonijah (1 Kings 2). The sin of bringing Abishag to David produced evil affects into the lives of David’s children.
Tenth, the analysis of sin. The meaning of the word “Abishag” helps us to analyze sin. The word means “Father of error” (J. Hammond). Indeed sin is error. It is not right; it is not truth. Sin is error which means it is wrong. The meaning of Abishag’s name underscores the unholiness of this supposed remedy for David’s heat problem.
2. The Actions of Adonijah
“Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5). Another situation which called for David to take urgent action about authorizing a successor for the throne was the actions of Adonijah. Adonijah tried to take over the throne which was not his to have. He tried to advance himself as the next king. To examine these actions of Adonijah, we will look at the period of Adonijah, the pride in Adonijah, the parents of Adonijah, the perpetrators with Adonijah, the piety of Adonijah, the place for Adonijah, and the people of Adonijah.
The period of Adonijah. “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5). “Then” tells us the period of time in which Adonijah tried to secure the throne. “Then” follows the text which speaks of David’s failing health because of his age. Thus, when David was on his death bed with not many days left in his life, Adonijah took action to put himself on the throne in contradiction of the will of God. Adonijah was an evil opportunist. He evilly used the infirmities of others to advance his own cause. He took advantage of the disadvantages of others. How low in character Adonijah was to take such a wicked advantage of his own father’s infirmity. Adonijah’s evil in taking advantage of other people’s problems is not unique to Adonijah. Multitudes in every age stoop to such degradation. Many folk make their fortunes by exploiting those who have suffered misfortune. Many gain advantage in this world by exploiting the disadvantaged. Many exploit the poor to make themselves rich. When sin grips the heart, man will trample over anyone in order to get gain.
The pride in Adonijah. “Then Adonijah . . . exalted himself, saying, I will be king; and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Kings 1:5). The pride of Adonijah in this action is very prominent. His pride is seen in the promoting of self, the position he sought, and the pomp he showed.
First, his pride is seen in the promoting of self. Our text says, “Adonijah . . . exalted himself.” This is the work of pride in a person. When pride controls you, you will be busy exalting yourself; you will be continuously bragging about your performances; you will be very self-centered; you will be the hero of every story you tell; and you will in your mind think you are better than others and with your mouth proclaim this personal esteem of your superiority. But Scripture does not think much of this promoting of self. It says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips” (Proverbs 27:2). Today, the world, of course, would not criticize Adonijah’s action; for they are so taken up with self-esteem. Adonijah had lots of self-esteem. That, in fact, was his trouble. Self-esteem is another word for pride. And pride is not a noble characteristic. God highly condemns it.
Second, this pride is seen in the position he sought. Adonijah said, “I will be king.” Adonijah’s pride made him think he ought to be king. It was great pride that caused him to exalt himself as the new monarch and successor to David. Many others are like Adonijah who in pride think they ought to be in some exalted position. We have this trouble in church, for it seems in every church there are members who think they ought to hold some office or position of authority much higher than their qualifications merit. But this desire is all of pride, and it will cause much trouble everywhere it shows up. Pride always causes trouble. Scripture warns that pride causes contention (Proverbs 13:10). It certainly did in Adonijah’s case.
Third, his pride is seen in the pomp he showed. “He prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.” This is the same tactic that Absalom used to promote himself when he aspired evilly to be king (2 Samuel 15:1). The pomp made Adonijah look important. It made him look better than he was. Politicians still use a lot pomp to aid their quest for votes. They do so in the form of publicity men, self-exalting press releases, organized cheering crowds, and high-powered TV advertisements which portray the politician as a wonder-boy and great problem solver. The notorious philosophy of the notorious Joe Kennedy which he repeatedly emphasized to his notorious, politician sons was that it does not matter what you are but rather what people think you are. A lot of politicians embrace the same philosophy. But it is the wrong philosophy, for the important thing is not what others think of you, but what you are. And what you are is what God is chiefly concerned about.
The parents of Adonijah. Adonijah did not have good parental influence in his life. His parents did not help Adonijah to have good character. We see this in the defilement of their marriage and in the discipline of their boy.
First, the defilement of their marriage. Adonijah was “the son of Haggith” (1 Kings 1:5) and the fourth son of David (2 Samuel 3:4). Each of the first six sons of David came from a different woman (2 Samuel 3:2–5). David was a polygamist. We have examined this problem earlier in our study. While it was an accepted practice in David’s day—and kings especially multiplied their wives (Solomon was the champion in multiplying wives, for he had seven hundred wives plus three hundred concubines [1 Kings 11:3] in his harem)—the practice was still evil and extracted a painful price from the participants. David’s polygamy created much of the intrigue and competition among his sons for position. The defiled marriage with Haggith resulted in much pain for David, for it produced this attempt to illegally secure the throne by Adonijah. Follow God’s rules of morality and marriage or you will find much pain in life.
Second, the discipline of their boy. “His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:6). Adonijah was a spoiled brat! David did not discipline him at all. That will definitely result in much trouble. “Children that are indulged learn to be proud and [evilly] ambitious” (Henry). It is a great mistake to be lenient with a child. It hardens the child for evil for the rest of his life. So much has to be done in the matter of character when a child is young. Folk recognize that much needs to be done for the child early in his life regarding physical needs, but seldom do they recognize this same principle regarding character. They recognize that good nutrition is very important to a youngster, for it can help him the rest of his life. Also, they recognize that if a young babe has some serious physical defect, doctors need to operate and correct the defect when the child is very young otherwise it will be uncorrectable later in life. But these same people do not seem to recognize that early in life a child needs to be disciplined or he will have behavior problems when he gets older. Many discipline problems in school are a result of a lack of discipline in the home when the child was young. Many crime problems in society are a result of a lack of discipline in the home when the criminal was young. David reaped a sorry crop from his failure to discipline Adonijah. It is a warning to every parent.
The perpetrators with Adonijah. “And he conferred with Joab . . . and with Abiathar the priest; and they following Adonijah helped him” (1 Kings 1:7). One may be surprised at first at these defections from David’s men, for they were longtime followers of David. Neither of these men had followed Absalom either, but they stayed true to David in that crisis of loyalty. Here, however, they defected. And it is rather obvious why they defected and helped perpetrate Adonijah’s evil quest for the throne. They defected because they were looking out for their own selfish interests. “Joab and Abiathar tarnished a life’s devotion and broke sacred bonds, because they thought of themselves rather than of God’s will” (Maclaren).
Joab would not want to serve under Solomon because he knew he was in disfavor with David, and this disfavor would be passed on to Solomon who would replace Joab (as he did when he named Benaiah in Joab’s place, see 1 Kings 2:35). So though Joab knew the right way, he preferred his selfish desires above God’s will. But it cost him his life (1 Kings 2:28–34).
Abiathar would not want to serve under Solomon either because, alas, another priest was becoming prominent and promised to be competition with Abiathar for the position of High Priest. That priest was Zadok who was later appointed by Solomon as High Priest (1 Kings 2:35). Abiathar could obtain selfish promotion by associating with and aiding Adonijah. He made a great mistake of looking to corrupt man rather than to a holy God for his position in religious service. As a result he was later kicked out of the priesthood by Solomon. And significantly, the rejection of Abiathar from the priesthood fulfilled a prophecy about the house of Eli. “Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord: that he might fulfill the word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh” (1 Kings 2:27). Eli had permitted much corruption in the priesthood; hence, God condemned the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:31–36). God’s judgment may be long in coming, but it will not be stopped in coming. Sin always brings Divine judgment upon men. Sooner or later that judgment will be forthcoming.
The piety of Adonijah. “Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by Enrogel” (1 Kings 1:9). Adonijah, like Absalom before him, used the guise of religion to promote his exaltation as king. Showing piety in one’s political ambitions gives the appearance of nobility and character and deceives many innocent and naïve people. It makes them think the politician is a good guy. This practice is still a favorite of politicians today. Catholic politicians show up for mass in a conspicuous way when religious appearance will garner votes. Protestant politicians show up conspicuously in their church services when it promises to gain them votes. Some politicians even carry a Bible to church when trying to impress folk they are pious. But all of this is a disgusting, nauseous, and hypocritical show. The religion of these politicians is as phony as a three dollar bill. They have no interest or intent to live what they profess religiously. Furthermore, their false but ostentatious piety is a great insult and dishonor to God.
The place for Adonijah. “Enrogel” (1 Kings 1:9) was the place where Adonijah did his sacrificing and feasting to celebrate his self-appointment to the throne. Enrogel is a name referring to a well or spring which is located in the valley of Kidron on the southeast side of Jerusalem. Interestingly, it is the place where Jonathan and Ahimaaz, two of David’s spies, stayed when Absalom rebelled against David (2 Samuel 17:17). The location obviously had the facilities to accommodate the sacrificing and feasting which Adonijah did there. Absalom went all the way to Hebron to get his monarchy going, but Adonijah stayed on the outskirts of Jerusalem, for David was on his death bed and was not considered much of a threat to Adonijah.
Enrogel is located only a short ways from another well named Gihon where Solomon was crowned king when Adonijah was feasting at Enrogel. Gihon is located on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem in the Kidron valley and is only “a few hundred feet” (R. L. Alden) north of Enrogel—which is close enough for those feasting with Adonijah to hear the trumpet sound (1 Kings 1:41) announcing Solomon’s coronation.
These two locations, while being very close geographically, were far distant from each other in terms of character. One place represented rebellion, the other obedience. One place spoke of truth, the other of falsehood. One place reflected the will of God, the other reflected the will of man. Sometimes in life truth and error seem to look much alike and be close in appearance; but like Gihon and Enrogel, appearances are very deceiving. Two churches in a town may look similar and even be located near each other. The world says we ought to combine them and try and get along together. But doctrinally these churches are as different as Enrogel and Gihon in what they represent. They cannot be combined; for one represents apostasy, the other fundamentalism. One represents the word of man, the other the Word of God. One refuses to honor God’s Anointed Son, Jesus Christ; while the other majors in exalting God’s Anointed Son.
The people of Adonijah. “Adonijah . . . called all his brethren the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah the king’s servants. But Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not” (1 Kings 1:9,10). To analyze those included and excluded in Adonijah’s crowd, we have divided them into three groups of people. They are the unwholesome, the unwary, and the unwanted.
First, the unwholesome. Some who followed Adonijah, such Joab which we noted above, belonged in the “unwholesome” category. They were deficient in character and did not hesitate to rebel against God. Such folk are not interested in exalting God’s anointed (unless, of course, it appears to promote their own selfish interests) but in going their own ways. They prefer the unholy lifestyle to the holy lifestyle. Adonijah will, therefore, appeal to them. We see this very frequently even in our day. Evil politicians attract evil men.
Second, the unwary. Those in the unwary category we especially consider to be “the men of Judah the king’s servants” (1 Kings 1:9) whom Adonijah “called” to the feast. They remind us of the two hundred men whom Absalom “called” to his feast in Hebron who “went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing” (2 Samuel 15:11) when Absalom was revolting against David. We have many of that kind today, too. These people do not act with much wisdom. They soak up whatever the news media says, believe the political advertisements, and are taken in by the religious charlatans on TV and radio. They are not criminals and men seeking to promote evil, but they are ignorant of the evil of crafty politicians and apostate religious leaders and are often hard to convince that these evil politicians and religious leaders are in fact very evil men. These “unwary” flow with the traffic and are easily beguiled. They could correct their unwariness, however, if they got as interested in the Word of God as they are in other things in life.
Third, the unwanted. Our text states plainly who Adonijah did not want in his crowd. They were Nathan, Benaiah, and Solomon. These men represented character—truth, gallantry for right causes, loyalty, and God’s anointed. Adonijah’s movement represented just the opposite. If you have character, you will be excluded from a lot of things. Sometimes you will even be excluded from church office or as a pastor be run off by a church. But if you are excluded from these things, do not get upset; for it puts you in company with some very good people including Jesus Christ Himself.
The fact that Adonijah did not invite Solomon makes it plain that Adonijah knew the truth about who was really suppose to be king. Adonijah was not walking in ignorance but in willful rebellion to God’s will. That Adonijah was not to be king was made plain many years earlier when God promised David that a future son, whose name would be Solomon, would be the one to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:9,10). Since Adonijah was already born at that time, this Divine prediction excluded him from the throne as would the plain announcement of the new son’s name. Adonijah even admitted that he knew Solomon was ordained by God to be king. He admitted this to Bathsheba when he later sought her help to intercede with Solomon for Abishag as Adonijah’s wife. He said then, “It [the throne] was his [Solomon] from the Lord” (1 Kings 2:15). Adonijah had no excuse for his rebellion regarding the throne of Israel.
3. The Advising by Nathan
A third factor which urgently called for David to authorize a successor to himself was the advising of Nathan. This factor was not a negative situation like the other two factors which also called for David to authorize a successor. This advising by Nathan was a positive situation which involved strong advice from Nathan urging David to authorize a successor to his throne. The advising by Nathan involved both advising the mother of Solomon (Bathsheba) and the monarch of Israel (David).
Advising the mother. Nathan did not go to David first about the need of David authorizing a successor to the throne. He first went to Bathsheba and advised her about the need. Going to Bathsheba first was wise because her son Solomon was the one who should be the next king and David had promised her the throne for Solomon (1 Kings 1:17). We note here the proclamation, peril, precept, and promise involved in Nathan’s advice to Bathsheba.
First, the proclamation. “Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not?” (1 Kings 1:11). Nathan had learned about the action of Adonijah to take over the throne. Now he proclaims to Bathsheba the facts about this action. The proclamation not only gave information about the action of Adonijah but it also emphasized the ignorance of both David and Bathsheba. They did not know about Adonijah’s attempt to be king. Their ignorance was perilous, too; as we will note more about in our next point. How like Bathsheba and David is our world. They are often ignorant about the most important matters in their life.
Second, the peril. “That thou mayest save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon” (1 Kings 1:12). The information given Bathsheba by Nathan was life and death information (usurpers habitually kill the family of the one usurped). It was information that could save her life. Likewise God’s preachers need to inform people of facts which can save them from great peril. Let preachers fearlessly and earnestly proclaim the truth of the Gospel to rescue people from the peril of sin just as Nathan proclaimed the truth to Bathsheba and later to David to rescue them from the peril of evil Adonijah.
Third, the precept. “Go and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him . . . ” (1 Kings 1:13). Nathan gave Bathsheba a precept to go see David and tell him about Adonijah’s action. This precept told Bathsheba where to go and what to say. It is like the precept God gives us regarding serving Him (Mark 16:15). He tells us where to go (“Go ye into all the world”), and what to say (“preach the gospel”).
Fourth, the promise. “Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I also will come in after thee, and confirm thy words” (1 Kings 1:14). Nathan would not leave Bathsheba unsupported when she stood before the king. Nathan would provide helpful assistance. Again we see an aspect of Christian service which greatly encourages our serving God. As Nathan promised to support Bathsheba with his presence and to confirm her word, so God’s presence will be with us if we do what‑He commands us to do (Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 4:17), and He will confirm our message in one way or another (Mark 16:20).
Advising the monarch. The advising of David was twofold. It included both the appeal from Bathsheba and the admonition from Nathan.
First, the appeal from Bathsheba. Bathsheba did as Nathan instructed and promptly went to David to appeal to him about Solomon being king. Her appeal involved respect, reminder, report, recommendation, and risk.
The respect was in Bathsheba’s bowing before David when she came into his presence (1 Kings 1:16). Bathsheba’s bowing showed respect for authority—something that needs improvement in our society. Her bowing before David would not make women’s rights groups happy, but a lot of good and proper things do not make such groups happy anyway.
The reminder in the appeal was of David’s promise to Bathsheba about Solomon being king (1 Kings 1:17). David had years earlier promised Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him as king. Bathsheba did what we need to do when praying—appeal to God on the basis of His promises. This approach gives both encouragement and boldness in coming to God in prayer.
The report in the appeal was about Adonijah’s actions of reigning as king (1 Kings 1:18). Bathsheba told David about the celebration of Adonijah over the crowning of Adonijah as king. She also told him about the crowd which was with and supported Adonijah—which crowd intentionally excluded Bathsheba and Solomon. David was ignorant of Adonijah’s actions and needed to know about them in order to prompt his favorable response to Bathsheba’s appeal. Evil must not be unchallenged.
The recommendation in the appeal urged David to “tell them [the people of Israel] who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him” (1 Kings 1:20). David had been negligent in this duty. Now it was urgent that he did his duty and named the next king. David was near death and delay would be disastrous for Israel and especially for some of his own family who stood to be in great peril (as we will note next) if Adonijah became king. Before we die, we should take care of important matters that greatly affect others, especially those most affected by our death. Taking care of these matters adequately will prevent unnecessary burdens on those who remain, especially on those who will grieve the most.
The risk spoken of by Bathsheba was the great risk it would be for David to not take action here by authorizing a successor. If David did not act regarding authorizing a successor and Adonijah, therefore, was permitted to reign, David would risk the lives of Bathsheba and Solomon. “It shall come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with is fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders” (1 Kings 1:21). We have noted at times in previous studies that the custom of rulers in those days when overthrowing a government was to secure their thrones by a massacre of their rivals. If Adonijah became king, this was obviously going to happen; for he was attempting to overthrow the rule of Solomon and would be motivated to slay the rivals. If David does not authorize a successor here, he imperils his family. When we fail to do our duty, we can imperil others. To put it in an evangelical application, when we fail to do our duty of acknowledging and proclaiming Who is the King of kings, we imperil all those around us.
Second, the admonition from Nathan. As he had promised, Nathan came to the king as Bathsheba was speaking with the king. Nathan’s message to the king confirmed Bathsheba’s message and also included some pertinent inquiring of David. The inquiry asked if David had changed his mind about Solomon and, therefore, had ordered that Adonijah should reign as king instead (1 Kings 1:24,27). The inquiry by Nathan was a subtle admonition; for if David had changed his mind regarding Solomon and instead had chosen Adonijah to be the next king, then David was going against God’s promise (about Solomon), God’s precept (the promise implied a precept to authorize Solomon as king) and God’s prophet (the prophet Nathan was the one who had told David about Solomon and his destiny). This threefold failure would greatly condemn David. Anytime we ignore God’s promises, God’s precepts, and God’s preachers, we are headed for trouble especially with God.
B. THE CHOICE OF A SUCCESSOR
The speaking of Nathan and Bathsheba to David regarding his responsibility to authorize a successor for the throne did not fall on deaf ears. It aroused David from his stupor of inactivity and indifference to take immediate action to authorize the next king. The choice for David’s successor was Solomon. David revealed this choice in two different ways. He revealed it first by confirming a promise to Bathsheba and second by commanding his officials to crown Solomon king.
1. The Confirming of the Promise
“Then king David answered and said, Call me Bathsheba. And she came into the king’s presence . . . And the king sware, and said, As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress, Even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day” (1 Kings 1:28–30). David had promised Bathsheba some time earlier that Solomon would be the next king. Now he confirms it. We note the prophecy in the confirmation, the praise in the confirmation, the promptness in the confirmation, and the pleasure from the confirmation.
The prophecy in the confirmation. Our text does not specifically mention the Divine prophecy which stated that Solomon was to be the next king, but this prophecy was the basis for David promising Bathsheba that Solomon would reign after David. We have already made reference to this prophecy which God gave David about Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:8–10). We mention the prophecy here again to note that David did not promise that Solomon would be king just to make Bathsheba happy and to keep this particular wife of his from causing trouble. Rather, David made the promise to Bathsheba because of what God’s Word said (1 Chronicles 22:8). David’s choice of a successor was not his own choice—it was God’s choice. David did not put the names of his sons in a hat and draw one out to determine who would be the next king. Rather, God decided who would be the next king, and David simply submitted to God’s choice, and this is what guided David’s promise to Bathsheba. Men do not go wrong when they adjust their actions to the Word of God.
The praise in the confirmation. “As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress” (1 Kings 1:29). David began the confirmation with praise to God for the many deliverances God had given David from his troubles. What a noble way to begin his confirmation speech. Basically he was saying that God has kept His promises to me to deliver me, now I will keep my promise to you (Bathsheba) to put Solomon on the throne. We can never praise God too much for His deliverances for us, especially for the redemption of our soul. The redemption of our soul is the greatest deliverance of all, and praise should be on our lips forever for this great deliverance.
The promptness in the confirmation. “Even so will I certainly do this day” (1 Kings 1:30). David did not put off his obligations anymore. Once he was reminded by Bathsheba and Nathan about his duty of authorizing a successor for Israel’s throne, David immediately took action to do his duty. Too many folk would have offered excuses and postponed their duty. But not David. He promptly set out to authorize Solomon as king. May we be as prompt in performing our obligations.
The pleasure from the confirmation. After David confirmed his promise about Solomon, “Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live forever” (1 Kings 1:31). To say that Bathsheba was happy is an understatement. Bathsheba’s reaction not only showed her happiness but also her respect and support of David. This reaction of Bathsheba to the confirmation gives us an instructive note for husbands who are interested in making their wives happy and in gaining the respect and support of their wives. If men want their wives to be happy, respectful, and supportive then they had better fulfill their obligations to their wives. Many men promise their wives the moon before they get married, but after marriage they do not even fulfill their earthly obligations. When the husband continually disappoints the wife by unfaithfulness to his promises, he will greatly diminish the happiness of his wife and also her respect and support him.
2. The Commanding of the Officials
“King David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king” (1 Kings 1:32). David’s confirmation made to Bathsheba about Solomon being the choice to be the next king indicated that “this day” (1 Kings 1:30) he would make Solomon king. David’s vow of promptness about making Solomon king began to be fulfilled when he immediately called three significant officials—Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the patriot (who was the head of David’s bodyguard)—and instructed them to take care of the coronation of Solomon at once. This commanding of the officials to make Solomon king made very clear to them that David’s choice for the next king was Solomon.
We note seven things involved in this commanding of the officials regarding Solomon. They include the animal, the attendants, the amphitheater, the anointing, the announcement, the adulation, and the abiding.
The animal. “Cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule” (1 Kings 1:33). This ride showed David’s authorization of Solomon and David’s adherence to Scripture.
First, authorization. Riding on the king’s mule would not only show the officials that Solomon was to be the next king, but it would also be the initial indication to the general public that Solomon was David’s authorized successor. “The Rabbins tell us that it was death to ride on the king’s mule without his permission; and thus it [riding on the mule] would be the more evident to all that the proceedings with respect to Solomon had David’s sanction” (F. C. Cook).
Second, adherence. Riding on a mule instead of a horse showed David’s adherence to the law given Moses by God. The law forbid kings to have horses (Deuteronomy 17:16). Absalom violated that law in his attempt to be king (2 Samuel 15:1), and Adonijah did the same (1 Kings 1:5). Those who exalt themselves, as did Absalom and Adonijah, will not be interested in exalting the Law of God. But better to ride on a lowly mule and be in the will of God than ride a princely horse and be out of the will of God. Better to ride in an old clunker in the will of God than ride in an expensive limousine out of the will of God.
The attendants. David gave orders that “the servants of your lord [David]” (1 King 1:33) were to go with the officials for the anointing of Solomon. These men were special attendants of the king. They were the “Cherethites and the Pelethites” (1 King 1:38) who comprised David’s bodyguard. Hence, they were especially needed for this coronation event to provide protection for the new king. So David wisely sent these guards to protect Solomon just as secret servicemen travel with important officials in our nation today. These servants were among those who had not followed Adonijah as some other servants of David had (1 King 1:9). Not everyone betrayed David. And those who remained faithful were greatly rewarded by being involved in the actual coronation of Solomon. Faithfulness to Christ will also result in special rewards and privileges from Him.
The amphitheater. Solomon was to be taken to “Gihon” (1 Kings 1:33) for the coronation. We noted earlier that Gihon was located east of Jerusalem on the slopes of the Kidron valley. This would be right on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The slopes could provide a natural amphitheater for people to watch the actual coronation. There would be an increasing gathering of people around Solomon after seeing him ride on the mule accompanied by important officials, and they would need a place to sit to watch the proceedings of the anointing. Since it was close by Enrogel where Adonijah was feasting, the noise of celebrating the coronation of Solomon would easily be heard by Adonijah and his followers as Scripture notes later (1 Kings 1:41).
The anointing. “Let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel” (1 Kings 1:34). Zadok and Nathan were the logical ones to do the actual anointing inasmuch as they represented the priesthood (Zadok) and the prophets (Nathan). Being authorized and ordered by David to do the anointing made the anointing official. Adonijah, like Absalom before him (2 Samuel 19:10), would have his anointing, too. But his anointing would be from the wrong people and not from God. Hence, it would lack authority and legitimacy. Likewise the ordination of men for the ministry means nothing if it is outside the will of God. We can be anointed again and again; but if it is outside the will of God, all the anointing does is put oil on our head. Many are those who have had elaborate ordination services who were never ordained or approved by God.
The announcement. “And blow ye with the trumpet” (1 Kings 1:34). This was the calling of the public to attention about the important news that Solomon was now king. It is the “Hear ye, hear ye” that years ago preceded important announcements made in the streets of cities. Today, we need to blow the trumpet in proclaiming the news about God’s Anointed Son and about God’s Holy Word. We need to give much importance to declaring the Divinely ordered message. Another Old Testament text to encourage this in our preaching says, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression” (Isaiah 58:1).
The adulation. “And say, God save king Solomon” (1 Kings 1:34). This saying is a verbal way of giving high honor to the king. It is a public confession of allegiance to the king. It indicates that the speaker or speakers readily and enthusiastically accept the king’s rule. We need a lot more of that kind of adulation for Jesus Christ. We need to publicly and enthusiastically praise our Savior. By our lips and lives we need to declare our recognition of and loyalty to God’s Anointed.
The abiding. “Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead; and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah” (1 Kings 1:35). David confirms again that Solomon is king and declares that his officials must follow Solomon (“come after him”). These officials are to do more than crown Solomon king; they are also to abide with him and submit to his rule.
This command to abide with Solomon after the coronation is a good lesson for us all. The ceremony and celebration does not end our duty. It only begins it. We have many in every age who enjoy the excitement of special days and times, but they are not very good at following Christ in the daily grind after the special times. This kind will generally be at church when some special service is involved; but when it is just a regular service, they will not be found in the audience. The “Special-day” Christians are not worth much. It is the Christian who is faithful in the daily walk that counts.
C. THE CROWNING OF A SUCCESSOR
The crowning of Solomon as David’s successor took place immediately after David had given orders to Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to have it done. We note the compliance in the crowning, the celebration after the crowning, and the consternation from the crowning of Solomon as David’s successor.
1. The Compliance in the Crowning
The compliance by the officials with David’s orders regarding Solomon being crowned as king is seen in the declaration of their compliance and in the details of their compliance.
The declaration of their compliance. “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. As the Lord hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David” (1 Kings 1:36,37). Benaiah voices the strong feeling of compliance in the hearts of David’s officers with this great and enthusiastic declaration about Solomon. The declaration involves approval, appeal, accompaniment, and advancement.
First, approval. The “Amen” voices the approval of David’s choice of Solomon to be king. And the “Amen” is an enthusiastic approval, too. It is not just an acquiescing to David’s choice but an ardent support for David’s choice. Let us be that way about God’s choices in our lives.
Second, appeal. “The Lord God of my lord the king say so too” is an appeal to Jehovah God to bring to pass the kingship of Solomon. Opposition was already evident against Solomon, and Benaiah wisely appeals to God to defeat the opposition as we must also do in doing God’s work.
Third, accompaniment. “As the Lord hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon.” This request emphasizes the value of God’s presence. Without God’s presence, Solomon cannot rule well. Many folk evidence they do not care for God’s presence. But unless God is with us, we are doomed. Benaiah’s request for Solomon reminds us of Moses’ request regarding the presence of God (Exodus 33:14,15).
Fourth, advancement. “Make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David,” Benaiah wants Solomon to be an even greater king than David. Would that God’s people wanted Christ to be “greater” in their lives than He was before.
The details of their compliance. David’s commands about the crowning of Solomon were complied to right to the letter. His commands for the crowning of Solomon included seven specific details which we noted above. Each was fulfilled exactly as commanded. The animal command ordering Solomon to “ride upon mine own mule’’ (1 Kings 1:33) was complied to when they “caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule” (1 Kings 1:38). The attendants commanded to be present at the crowning were David’s “servants” (1 Kings 1:33), and this command was complied to when his servants, “the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down” (1 Kings 1:38) with Solomon to Gihon for the crowning. The amphitheater command to crown Solomon at “Gihon” (1 Kings 1:33) was complied to when the men “brought him [Solomon] to Gihon” (1 Kings 1:38). The anointing command which said “anoint him” (1 Kings 1:34) was complied to when “Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon” (1 Kings 1:39). The announcement command said the crowning was to be announced by the “trumpet” (1 Kings 1:34), and it was complied to when after the anointing, “they blew the trumpet” (1 Kings 1:39). The adulation commanded was “God save king Solomon” (1 Kings 1:34), and it was complied to when “the people said, God save king Solomon” (1 Kings 1:39). And the abiding command which said the people should “come up after him [Solomon]” (1 Kings 1:35) was complied to when “all the people came up after him” (1 Kings 1:40).
Such careful compliance to David’s orders by his officers is very commendable. May it encourage us to comply in detail with God’s orders. Failure to comply completely with God’s orders manifests a disobedient heart. We have no right to deviate from God’s commands in even the slightest way.
2. The Celebration After the Crowning
“And the people piped with pipes [flutes], and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them” (1 Kings 1:40). The crowning of Solomon as king was followed by a great celebration. We note the extent of the celebration and the exaltation in the celebration.
The extent of the celebration. “The earth rent with the sound of them.” This, of course, is a hyperbole intended to emphasize the great extent of the celebration. The music (flutes) and merriment (rejoiced with great joy) were very great. The people were really excited and enthused about this crowning of God’s Anointed. Such enthusiasm for God’s Anointed is not common, however. In many lands it is even forbidden. But it does not take government opposition to stop it, for carnal church members will not show much enthusiasm for Christ anyway. Folk can get very excited at some ball game, but to display such excitement about Jesus Christ is considered by many to be fanatical and improper. God will judge differently, however. If you do not show much enthusiasm for Christ in this life, God will not show much enthusiasm for you in the next life (Matthew 10:32,33).
The exaltation in the celebration. Solomon was the one honored by all this celebration. Adonijah “exalted himself” (1 Kings 1:5), but Solomon let others take care of the exaltation. Solomon was so wise in this attitude. Men who are busy exalting themselves will always corrupt their character. We need to be concerned about our character and let others take care of our exaltation.
3. The Consternation From the Crowning
The crowning of Solomon as David’s successor did not cause all of the Israelites to celebrate with great rejoicing. At Enrogel, which was just a short ways from Gihon where the crowning took place, was a group of people who experienced much consternation over the crowning of Solomon as king. This group comprised Adonijah and his followers. They were feasting at Enrogel in celebration of Adonijah being king, but “as they had made an end of eating” (1 Kings 1:41), they learned of Solomon’s coronation. When their feast came to an end so did their sinful hopes about Adonijah. The hope of the wicked does not last (Proverbs 11:7).
To further examine the consternation of Adonijah and his crowd over the crowning of Solomon as David’s successor, we will look at the forwarding of the news about Solomon’s coronation, the forsaking of Adonijah’s followers, the fearing by Adonijah for his life, and the favoring of Adonijah by Solomon.
The forwarding of the news. The news of Solomon becoming king in David’s place was forwarded to Adonijah and his crowd in two ways—by sound and by servant.
First, by sound. “And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating . . . Joab heard the sound of the trumpet . . . This is the noise that ye have heard” (1 Kings 1:41,45). Where Adonijah and his followers were assembled feasting, they were, as we have noted earlier, quite close to the place where Solomon was anointed and where the trumpet was blown to announce the anointing. The place where Adonijah and his followers were feasting was also just on the outskirts of Jerusalem so that they would be able to easily hear the celebrating going on in Jerusalem. What these men heard brought much consternation to them. To those in Jerusalem, the celebration noise was a delightful sound—but not to those at Enrogel with Adonijah. The contrasting effect of the celebration noise upon people reminds us of what the Apostle Paul said about what Christians are to various groups of people. He said, “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Believers are a delight to fellow-believers but not to the unsaved. Believers can cause other believers to rejoice, but they are no joy to unbelievers. Likewise Christ will be a most welcomed sight to believers but a most unwelcomed sight to unbelievers.
Second, by servant. Shortly after they heard the noise of the celebration, “Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came” (1 Kings 1:42) and informed Adonijah and his followers what the noise was all about. He told them in detail about the anointing of Solomon and the great celebration that was taking place in Jerusalem as a result (1 Kings 1:43–48). When Jonathan came to the group, Adonijah tried to put a good interpretation on his coming. “Adonijah said unto him, Come in; for thou art a valiant man, and bringest good tidings” (1 Kings 1:42). But as Matthew Henry said, “How can those who do evil deeds expect to have good tidings.” This statement of welcome by Adonijah was nothing but whistling in the dark. It is the attitude of many a rebellious soul who tries to deceive himself that things are well when they are not. It is the attitude of “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Many politicians and worldly philosophers are saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace in the land. They would tell us that good times are coming. But how can good times come when we are rebelling against God’s Anointed. When you leave out God’s Anointed, be it Solomon or Christ, you will not have peace.
The forsaking of Adonijah. “And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way” (1 Kings 1:49). The kind of followers Adonijah had were not the kind that were going to stay loyal when a great crisis came upon them. “The unholy alliance at Enrogel broke up immediately on the arrival of adverse tidings. Joab, Abiathar, and their confederates disappeared, and left Adonijah to his own devices. There is no deep affection and no bond of pure love to keep them together; selfishness was at the root of the association. They fawned, and flattered, and fled. Wicked men do not care for their companions beyond the point of advantage” (A. Williamson). Adonijah had the wrong crowd. Solomon had the right crowd. The ungodly will always have their crowd, but it is not a holy crowd nor a loyal crowd.
The fearing by Adonijah.”And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar” (1 Kings 1:50). We note the attitude and actions of the fear Adonijah had here.
First, the attitude of his fear. “Adonijah feared because of Solomon.” He had good reason to fear Solomon, for Solomon had been rejected by Adonijah and now was in great favor with the people. Furthermore, Adonijah could only expect that Solomon would kill Adonijah, for the usurping of Adonijah was death threatening to Solomon. When you revolt against God’s Anointed, fear will sooner or later captivate your soul.
Second, the actions of his fear. Adonijah “arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.” These are the horns on the brazen altar from the Tabernacle. Grabbing hold of the horns on the altar was a symbolic way of throwing yourself on the mercy of God which the blood sacrifices on the altar represent. Adonijah had not sought the will of God about the monarchy, but now he seeks the mercy of God about his misfortune. This action is typical of many in every age. These folk do not seek God in their prosperity but only in their problems. When the sun shines, they have no time for God; but when the storms come, then they run to God. Adonijah’s running to the altar, like all such running to the altar, was very hypocritical; for once opportunity availed itself for self-exaltation, he again behaved ignobly and forsook God and rebelled against God (1 Kings 2:13–25).
The favoring of Adonijah. “Solomon said, If he will show himself a worthy man, there shall not an hair of him fall to the earth; but if wickedness shall be found in him, he shall die” (1 Kings 1:52). When Solomon heard of Adonijah’ s situation of holding on to the horns of the altar, he showed magnanimous mercy to Adonijah. Solomon said he would spare Adonijah’s life if Adonijah would behave himself. Furthermore, he also gave Adonijah his estate when he said “Go to thine house” (1 Kings 1:53). Solomon could have extracted a great price from Adonijah by taking his material possessions even though he granted him his life. But Solomon showed great mercy and gave Adonijah not only his life but also his possessions. Unfortunately, however, all of this mercy did not solve Adonijah’s problems. This was because Adonijah did not behave himself well. Shortly after David died, Adonijah tried to get Abishag, David’s latest woman, to be his wife (1 Kings 2:13–25), as we just noted above. This, of course, was a great affront to Solomon; for it was tantamount to trying to overthrow Solomon’s monarchy. Marrying into David’s harem would make one an inheritor of the throne. Adonijah is like those souls whose hearts are so full of evil that no matter how much mercy you show them, they will not repent of their evil but will only use the mercy to aid them in pursuit of more evil. When they meet up with severe judgment from God, they will have no legitimate complaint. God has shown much mercy, but God says there comes a time when “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). Wise men will keep short accounts with God and avoid ever getting to that God-forsaken place in life.
D. THE CHARGING OF THE SUCCESSOR
“Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying . . . ” (1 Kings 2:1). Before David died, he was able to give Solomon some charges concerning his work as king. These charges covered four specific things. They were the charge about character, the charge about Joab, the charge about Barzillai, and the charge about Shimei.
1. The Charge About Character
“Be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:2,3). David wanted Solomon to have great character. This character desire for Solomon was so important to David that it was the first charge he gave Solomon. This certainly is not where politicians start today. For them character is way down on the list of needs; in fact, it is seldom even on their list of needs. But Solomon was charged to put character at the top of the list.
The charge about character was threefold. David told Solomon to be strong, to be manly, and to be godly.
Be strong. “Be thou strong” (1 Kings 2:2). There are many applications of this charge. We note three main applications.
First, be strong physically. We need to take good care of the body. Drugs, tobacco, undisciplined eating habits, and lack of exercise to name a few things do not make us strong physically.
Second, be strong mentally. The mind needs to be strengthened by learning truth. Those who despise schooling and do not apply themselves to their lessons will be dimwits because they are weak mentally. God places no premium on ignorance.
Third, be strong spiritually. We will cover some of this again when we look at the charge to be godly. But we cannot emphasize too much and too often the need for spiritual strength. Churches today are filled with saints who are so weak spiritually they can hardly limp, let alone walk, in God’s paths. Their convictions are so weak, they cannot stand any opposition. Their commitment is so feeble, they cannot endure any difficulty. God help us to be strong spiritually.
Be manly. “Show thyself a man” (1 Kings 2:2). This charge has at least two applications—one concerns maturity, the other concerns masculinity.
First, it concerns maturity. We, as well as Solomon, are to act maturely. We are to act like an adult instead of like a child. Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The typical church member, however, cannot say that. Such members act like a bunch of children squabbling over trivial things that do not matter. They behave in church business meetings without manners or merit and are more interested in the toys of the world instead of the things of God.
Second, it concerns masculinity. We especially need this charge today to counter the effeminate behavior that comes from homosexuality. Men need to be men and women need to be women. Men wearing earrings, as an example, is extremely nauseous to anyone with an ounce of true masculinity in them. We once heard a preacher say that some men are so effeminate in behavior you feel like asking them their maiden name.
Note here that being manly is not incompatible with being godly, for the same charge from David that talks about manliness also charges Solomon to be godly as we noted above and will note in more detail next. We hear much sneering talk today by the world that Christianity is not for the masculine type, but for the old, the senile, the effeminate, and the sissy. But that is not true. Being a man involves being pious! The Marlboro man may look macho, but his smoking habits and his lack of godliness make him a cream puff in spiritual character. No one is truly masculine who is not truly spiritual.
Be godly. “Keep the charge of the Lord thy God” (1 Kings 2:3). In giving Solomon the charge to be godly, David tells Solomon the precepts to obey and the promises for obeying.
First, the precepts to obey. “Walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:3). God’s ways, statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies are a piling up of terms to tell Solomon that in everything he is to obey God. Note that the phrase “as it is written in the law of Moses” indicates that to obey God means to walk according to God’s Word. Men may have a lot of different ideas about what constitutes obeying God; but if the ideas are to be valid, they must be in accordance with the written Word of God.
Second, the promises for obeying. “That thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself; that the Lord may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:3,4). Two important promises can be seen here for obedience. They concern prosperity in his life and perpetuity for his throne. If Solomon obeys God, prosperity in his life will be his portion. Scripture, of course, indicates that the righteous are not always prosperous as the world counts prosperity; but prosperity will eventually come for the obedient in eternity, if not in earth; and saving it for eternity makes it much greater. The promise of perpetuity of his throne for his descendents lost some luster because Solomon did not obey well. While descendents of Solomon continued to sit on the throne, the kingdom size was diminished because of disobedience. Disobedience always diminishes the area of our rule. Disobey in regards to drugs, booze, and other evils and you will lose the power of rule over your life to these evil habits.
2. The Charge About Joab
The summary of the charge about Joab was, “Let not his hoar [gray] head go down to the grave in peace” (1 Kings 2:6). Solomon was ordered to slay Joab because of Joab’s murders (1 Kings 2:5). Joab was to discover that “time does not wear out the guilt of any sin” (Henry). Like many criminals, Joab was able to get away with his murders of Abner and Amasa for some time. He was able to maneuver people and situations in order to escape punishment for his crime. But judgment eventually catches up with the sinner no matter how successful the sinner has been in escaping detection and punishment. The charge to Joab says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
3. The Charge About Barzillai
“Show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother” (1 Kings 2:7). While David did not forget the evil that men had done, he also did not forget the good people had done. Some folk seem to only remember the injuries they have received from others and forget the blessings they have received from others. That is a good way to become very sour in life. Joab (and Shimei whom we shall consider next) were evil men and David remembers their evil to his dying day. But Barzillai was a good man who had given David much help when David fled from Absalom. Barzillai had brought much food stuffs and other supplies to help out David and his men (2 Samuel 17:27–29). It was good to remember these deeds of kindness.
Those, like Barzillai, who were faithful to David were rewarded by David. How much more will those be rewarded who have been faithful to God. Our rewards may not come the day we showed faithfulness and dedication for God—Barzillai did not receive his rewards the day he gave help to David—but God is a debtor to no man, you will sooner or later receive your reward. If the reward is delayed in coming, the greater the reward will be; for no one pays interest as well as God.
4. The Charge About Shimei
“Now therefore hold him [Shimei] not guiltless . . . his hoar [gray] head bring thou down to the grave with blood” (1 Kings 2:9). Shimei had treated David very evilly when David was fleeing from Absalom (2 Samuel 16:5–13); but when the tide turned in David’s favor, Shimei hastened to David to make his apologies (2 Samuel 19:16–23). His apologies, however, were very suspect. David was not fooled by Shimei’s showy repentance, and the charge he gives to Solomon tells us that fact. David did promise Shimei his life (2 Samuel 19:23), but this promised protection evidently was limited to protection from David. Solomon had no such obligation. Solomon was gracious, however, and put Shimei on probation by giving him orders to abide in Jerusalem or he would be slain (1 Kings 2:36–38). But three years later Shimei willfully broke the probation conditions and thereby forfeited his life (1 Kings 2:39–46). Shimei’s breaking the gracious probation conditions exposes his wicked heart. Shimei was like many folk who during stressful times appear to repent; but when better times come, they transgress again. Their repentance was not real but simply superficial to gain time and advantage.
“So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years; seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 2:10,11). We come to the end of our study on the life of David with a report of David’s death which came shortly after Solomon was made king. Three facts about David’s death are stated here. They are the span of his life, the sepulcher of honor, and the sleep of death.
First, the span of his life. David died at seventy after he had reigned forty years over Israel (we noted earlier that he was thirty when he began to reign [2 Samuel 5:4] making him seventy at his death after a forty-year reign). David’s life was an extremely eventful seventy years. He crammed more into those seventy years than many men did who lived centuries longer than David. David did not waste his life in habitual idleness.
Second, the sepulcher of honor. David “was buried in the city of David” (1 Kings 2:10). David was buried in honor. It is true that sin clouded much of the last couple decades of David’s life. But unlike most sinners, David repented of his sin and gained God’s mercy. David’s sin was very great and grievous, but his repentance was no less in measurement.
Third, the sleep of death. That the Bible speaks of David’s death as David “slept” (1 Kings 2:10) reminds us that death is not the end. Eternity lies on the other side of this life. May we all live with eternity in view.