When King David was old and weak, his oldest living son tried to steal the throne in Chapter 1; but was thwarted when David found out about it and accelerated Solomon's anointing. He moved Solomon directly to coregenting from the throne.
Deathbed Discipleship and Score Settling
Chapter 2 opens with David near death. He meets with Solomon and exhorts his to be strong and walk in the ways of being a man. Then, in great detail, he emphasizes how the covenant with God works. Solomon has to follow all of God's word with his whole heart to gain the many advantages of the covenant, including keeping a unified king on the throne over Israel.
He made it clear.
However...Solomon had been handed so much in life...he never had to fight a lion or a bear to save his sheep,,,he never fought a giant to honor his God's name...he never ran for his life for a decade because the sitting king wanted him dead. Those events shaped David. Meanwhile luxury, royalty, provision, and protection marked Solomon's life.
So it's unlikely Solomon processed the full message Davis was trying to convey.
Things really pivot in verse 5. David reminds Solomon of all of Joab's infractions and tells him not to let Joab go to Sheol in peace.
Show kindness to Barzillai, who helped when David had to flee Absalom/
Then he told him of Shimei, the man who cursed him as he fled from Absalom. He sucked up to David when David returned; so David promised that he, personally wouldn't harm him. Then He tells Solomon to punish him and not let him go to Sheol without blood.
Multiple times in that section David emphasizes Solomon's wisdom and trusts that Solomon will know the right thing to do.
It's an odd thing to have David's parting words be about settling old scores. It seems like he's taking a big chance. The reason David wasn't allowed to build the temple was the blood on his hands. He's risking Solomon getting blood on his hands; but he must be that confident in Solomon's wisdom to do it correctly.
The Ryrie footnote also points out that both Joab and Shimei committed obvious capital offenses. Joab killed countless people, including two generals in peacetime and he most recently tried to overthrow the know will of God and the King by the Adonijah coup. Shimei cursed a leader, which was also a capital offense.
The King is Dead; Long Live the King
In verse 10, David dies and is buried in Jersusalem.
Verse 11 summarizes his reign on the throne: 7 years in Heron over Judah and 33 years over a unified Israel.
In verse 12 King Solomon sits on the throne and the kingdom is firmly established.
Solomon didn't act first. Events came to him.
Adonijah approached Bathsheba, respectfully and asked her to ask Solomon for the virgin concubine that had been serving David in his old age, Abishag. He did open with his true intentions. He said that everyone expected him to be king but it had been given to Solomon by the Lord.
Bathsheba took the request to Solomon. We don't know if she did it because she was naive or if she knew how it would turn out. When she approached him, he bowed before her and retrieved a throne for her to sit as his right hand as the mother of the king. (That was a nice thing to include and showed that she had warranted respect.)
Solomon saw the request for what it was, Adonijah's "Hail Mary" attempt at winning the throne. If he could bang one of David's concubines; he would be re-announcing his right to the throne. And he wanted Solomon to hand her over for it.
Solomon had warned Adonijah that he would only spare his life if he would be worthy and not evil. Trying to steal the throne, even while admitting to Bathsheba that Solomon was on the throne at God's will, was evil. So Solomon sent his head "Mighty Men" guard, Benaiah, to execute Adonijah.
Now that he was having to deal with the conspirators, he spoke to Abiathar the priest who was the last of the line of priest of the family of Eli, as prophesied. He stripped him of his priesthood and sent him back to his hometown. He spared his life because Abiathar had been faithful to David during the revolt of Absalom.
He did not, however spare Joab's life. Even though Joab scurried to the tent of the Ark and clung to the horns of the altar, as Adonijah had done. When they told the king this, he told them to remove him and kill him. He refused to go, so Solomon had him killed where he was and buried in his own house in the wilderness.
Now Benaiah became the head of the army and Zadok head priest.
As for Shimei, Solomon called him down from his hometown and basically told him to build himself a house for house arrest. However, if he tried to leave, he would be put to death. He agreed to the terms.
It lasted three years until two of Shimei's servants escaped and he went to retrieve them. He did not cross the Kidron river, but he did leave Jerusalem. The Ryrie footnote says something about his trip being in good faith, but I disagree. If you're under house arrest under penalty of death and two servants escape...either learn to treat your servants better or live without them. But, as Solomon says, Shimei knows the evil that he was already carrying around in his own heart that would lead to him acting like a crazy maniac cursing David during his whole trip fleeing from Absalom.
I suspect that Solomon didn't want to just kill him immediately following his father's death, even though he had committed a capital offence. It had been years and might appear random and vengeful to the people. So, he set a fair trap and let Shemei commit a new capital offense in Solomon's capital, during Solomon's reign.
So although Solomon did technically settle his father's scores; he was wise and let both men commit new capital offences against him- so they were just the current king's justice.
Wiersbe Commentary: Be Responsible
Wiersbe outs a much more gracious spin on what i referred to as settling scores. It did ring a bizarre note that David would talk in details about obeying God in truth with his whole heart only to send him out for revenge. While David was only human and did make other incredibly selfish acts; Wiersbe makes a better case that it was the love of a father and king that wanted to make sure that "...the new king didn't inherit old problems."
Wiersbe also shines a brighter light on why Shimei was a threat. It was just being cursed by a crazy troll while he fled Absalom; it was that the reason Shimei was doing that was because he was a relative of Saul and wanted a return to a pro-Saul throne. This would be another person who might try to act traitorously if it meant getting his family back in power. Solomon tried to just keep an eye on him; but Shimei's own heart finally betrayed him when he went seeking his own over obeying the king.
As for Joab, one of my new favorite topics of curiosity, Wiersbe had a couple of interesting points:
- The horns of the altar defense was meant for those charged with manslaughter. Joab left that crime behind many bodies ago.
- Benaiah was able to go into the altar and kill Joab because he was from a priestly family and had chosen to do warrior work. He still was allowed by his family line.
- This death wasn't just revenge or securing Solomon from traitors, but answering for the blood Joab had shed "in David's name", although without David's permission or knowledge. (It does make you wonder why David didn't do that in his lifetime, except that Joab had been so useful to him. Which isn't a great look for David.)
- Wiersbe has a theory that answers my question and is more gracious than my snarky judging of David. He thinks that David could not answer for the blood Joab shed because he himself had shed blood (with Joab, no less). However, Solomon was without sin. No blood on his hands.
Wiersbe makes a very interesting point in his chapter summary for these first two chapters. Solomon was to be a man of peace. that was the requirement that he possessed that his father didn't toward building the temple. Yet, his first acts as king were to execute three men. Peace is based in righteousness; not passivity or pretense. Without these three bloody orders, there would have three cancer cells in his kingdom ready to spread, disease, and divide. Peace through clear and mutual understanding, including enforcement, can be lasting; whereas peace as a theory hoped for but not enforced...will never last.
I guess that would make the main take-away the fact that there are hard things that are better done now than trying to deal with the fallout of them later.