Melachim I Two: The Death of David

With his son taking control of the kingdom, David is dying. He leaves his son, King Solomon, with his blessings and teachings. “I go the way of all the earth; you shall be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man (Kings I 2:2).” Solomon is charged with walking in God’s ways and following the law, even though he’s the king. In addition to telling Solomon about these otherworldly matters, he also has practical advice about how to deal with Joab, who it seems is finally going to pay for all of the killing that he’s done in his life.

“And you shall do according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoary head go down to the grave in peace (Kings I 2:6).” David emphasizes throughout his instructions that Solomon is wise. This, of course, is the epithet that we associate with Solomon, so it’s interesting to see that it was his own father that gave him that designation. It’s not from God, or from rabbinic tradition, but instead is how his own father thought of him. That’s touching to me for some reason. It makes it all the more personal, a father bragging about his son, rather than a laudatory term that admirers gave.

“And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David (Kings I 2:10).” It’s the end of an era. After forty years as king, David is gone, and Solomon is installed as king. However, his brother, Adoniahu, comes back to Jerusalem at this point. Instead of going to the king though, he goes to Bathsheba, the king’s mother. He claims to come in peace, and asks her to intercede with her son on his behalf in one matter. “And he said, ‘Say, I beg of you, to Solomon the king, for he will not refuse you, that he give me Abishag the Shunemitess as a wife (Kings I 2:17).'” Abishag, as we know, is the girl brought in to be David’s companion in his old age. Bathsheba agrees to the request and goes before Solomon.

Although Bathsheba thought the request was reasonable, her son clearly doesn’t. He sees it as the first step towards asking for the whole kingdom, and puts his brother to death. This is not an auspicious start to the new reign, and the punishments only continue. The priest Abiathar is sent away from Jerusalem for supporting Adoniahu, and Joab, to escape his own demise, goes to the tabernacle so that he won’t be killed. But his ploy doesn’t work. Solomon orders him killed anyway, in order to avenge innocent blood. In all of these matters, Benaiahu is his enforcer, helping Solomon to secure his throne as he assumes the leadership of the people.

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