1 Kings 1 & 2 – Overview – Week One
You’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Several people have added a bit to the end of that. “Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.” (W.W. Jacobs) “Be careful what you wish for, there’s always a catch.” (Laurie Hause Anderson) And my favorite, “Be careful what you wish for. You never know who will be listening.” (Terry Pratchett)
We are about to start a study on 1 & 2 Kings, but those books would not have been needed had it not been for a wish that took place in 1 Samuel 8:4-9 MSG “Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.” When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God. God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
The Israelites wanted to be like everyone else. They make a wish and God grants it. God gives specific instructions to Samuel as to who is to be appointed as king.
God crosses the paths of Samuel and Saul and, as a result, Saul is anointed as the first king. 1 Samuel tells us that after Saul was anointed, God gave him a new heart. He was changed. He was so humble that he didn’t tell anyone about the anointing. But that humbleness didn’t last. Neither did Saul’s obedience to God. Saul became selfishly motivated. So much so that Saul being named king is one of the two regrets that God voices. 1 Samuel 15:10- 12 GNT “ The Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I made Saul king; he has turned away from me and disobeyed my commands.” Samuel was angry, and all night long he pleaded with the Lord. Early the following morning he went off to find Saul. He heard that Saul had gone to the town of Carmel, where he had built a monument to himself” Humility and obedience were not King Saul’s strong points. So God set His eyes on David.
We know that King Saul was very jealous of David and spent a lot of time, energy, and resources on having David killed. But he was unsuccessful. In a later battle with the Philistines, three of King Saul’s sons were killed. As a result, King Saul begged one of his own men to kill him before the Philistines could do it. The young armor-bearer couldn’t do it so Saul fell on his own sword and ended his life.
Upon hearing the news of the king’s death, David, a man after God’s own heart, goes to the Lord. He asks God if he should to any of the cities of Judah. God instructs David to go to Hebron. It’s there that David is met by a group of men who anointed him as the king over Judah. Meanwhile, one of Saul’s surviving sons, Ish Bosheth, is named king over Gilead. There’s division; a power struggle. Abner, who acts on behalf of Ish Bosheth, and Joab, who acts on behalf of David come up with a plan to determine who should be king. A battle is engaged between the two sides and ultimately, Ish Bosheth is killed. Shortly after, David is pronounced king and, at the age of 30, begins a 40-year reign.
During David’s years as king, he brought prosperity; he built a strong army. He was well-loved by the people. But David had turmoil within his own family. (Imagine the reality show that would have been!) David would have had multiple wives as well as concubines. He had at least 21 children. His firstborn was Amnon who lusted after his half-sister, Tamar, and as a result, was murdered by his half-brother, Absalom. Absalom sought to overthrow his father and take over the kingdom and he went so far as to have immoral relations with several of his father’s concubines in public areas in order to bring about disgrace upon King David. He was later murdered by Joab who was the commander of David’s army. Adonijah, who was the 4th son of David, rears his ugly head as King David laid on his death bed.
That brings us to 1 Kings 1:1 ERV “King David was very old and could not keep warm. His servants covered him with blankets, but he was still cold. 2 So they said to him, “We will find a young woman to care for you. She will lie next to you and keep you warm.” 3 So the king’s servants began looking everywhere in the country of Israel for a beautiful young woman to keep the king warm. They found a young woman named Abishag, from the town of Shunem, and brought her to the king. 4 She was very beautiful. She cared for the king and served him, but King David did not have sexual relations with her.”
At this point in time, King David is old, he is in a weakened state and can’t keep warm. So his servants did the normal thing. (Sarcasm intended.) They bring in a beautiful young woman to lie next to him to keep him warm. It is believed that Abishag was brought in to perhaps revive David’s vitality. That, perhaps, having a new, pretty young thing might make David feel better. It didn’t work.
While King David lies on what is essentially his death bed, his son, Adonijah seeks to claim what he presumes to be his – the throne.
1 Kings 1:5-8 TLB “At about that time, David’s son Adonijah (his mother was Haggith) decided to crown himself king in place of his aged father. So he hired chariots and drivers and recruited fifty men to run down the streets before him as royal footmen. Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time—not so much as by a single scolding! He was a very handsome man and was Absalom’s younger brother. He took General Joab and Abiathar the priest into his confidence, and they agreed to help him become king. But among those who remained loyal to King David and refused to endorse Adonijah were the priests Zadok and Benaiah, the prophet Nathan, Shimei, Rei, and David’s army chiefs.”
Adonijah’s quest to be king wasn’t far off the mark. He was, after all, the oldest surviving son of King David. As a general rule, the oldest son would have assumed the title. However, verses 9-10 of 1 Kings 1 suggest that Adonijah knew the title wasn’t his to claim. Because he summons all of his brothers, except for Solomon and he summons all of the royal officials. But he purposefully excludes Nathan or Benaiah or the local army officials, those who were in King David’s inner circle. Maybe he knew that God had already spoken to David and said this: 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 NIV “ But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’
The throne was Solomon’s and others were apparently aware of that. When Nathan the prophet learns of the coronation that Adonijah was throwing for himself, he rushes to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother.
1 Kings 1:11-14 TLB “Then Nathan the prophet went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asked her, “Do you realize that Haggith’s son, Adonijah, is now the king and that our lord David doesn’t even know about it? If you want to save your own life and the life of your son Solomon—do exactly as I say! Go at once to King David and ask him, ‘My lord, didn’t you promise me that my son Solomon would be the next king and would sit upon your throne? Then why is Adonijah reigning?’ And while you are still talking with him, I’ll come and confirm everything you’ve said.”
Bathsheba does just that. She goes into David’s bedroom where Abishag, the human bedwarmer is keeping David company and is a witness to all that goes on. While Bathsheba is talking, Nathan’s presence is announced, and he proceeds to question King David about his successor. Nathan asks David in 1 Kings 1:27 TLB “Has this been done with your knowledge? For you haven’t said a word as to which of your sons you have chosen to be the next king.”
David requests that Bathsheba come back before him and he declares that Solomon is to be king. 1 Kings 1:32-35 TLB “Call Zadok the priest,” the king ordered, “and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah.”
“When they arrived, he said to them, “Take Solomon and my officers to Gihon. Solomon is to ride on my personal mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet are to anoint him there as king of Israel. Then blow the trumpets and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ When you bring him back here, place him upon my throne as the new king; for I have appointed him king of Israel and Judah.”
Meanwhile, Adonijah’s celebration party is interrupted by all of the noise in the streets and the news is delivered to them that Solomon has just been anointed king and has taken the throne. The people are suddenly very afraid and begin to scatter.
1 Kings 1:50 HCSB “Adonijah was afraid of Solomon, so he got up and went to take hold of the horns of the altar.” The horns of the altar were thought to be a safe place because it was thought that no one would dare kill someone at the same place where offerings to the Lord were made. So while grasping ahold of the horns, Adonijah sends word to Solomon that he wants assurance that his life will be spared. And the newly appointed king responds. 1 Kings 1: 52-53 HCSB “Then Solomon said, “If he is a man of character, not a single hair of his will fall to the ground, but if evil is found in him, he dies.” So King Solomon sent for him, and they took him down from the altar. He came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your home.”
Chapter 2 of 1 Kings has Solomon getting advice from his dying father, David. 1 Kings 2:2-3 ICB “2 David said, “My time to die is near. Be a good and strong leader. Obey everything that the Lord commands. Follow the commands he has given us. Obey all his laws, and do what he told us.” At this point in his life, David knows the source of wisdom and all that is good is the Lord. David then gives Solomon specific assignments of unfinished business. He names Joab and says to Solomon, “You should punish him in the way you think is wisest. (But do not let him die peacefully of old age.)” 1 Kings 2:6 ICB Joab, you may remember was the leader of David’s army. He was the one that David asked to place Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) in harm’s way on the frontline of the battle to cover up David’s “indiscretion” and Joab complied. Later, Joab murdered David’s son, Absalom, even though David had asked that his son’s life be spared. And Joab murdered two others against David’s wishes. Joab later threw his support behind Adonijah when he tried to usurp the throne from King David.
David asks that Solomon show favor to the children of Barzillai who had been helpful to David. And then, before his final breath, mentions a man by the name of Shimei and tells him “But you should not leave him unpunished. You are a wise man. You will know what to do to him. But you must be sure he is killed.” 1 Kings 2:9 ICB
Twice, in his final words to Solomon, David refers to Solomon’s wisdom.
David then dies and the reign of King Solomon officially begins. Adonijah wastes no time in approaching Bathsheba to ask for a favor. 1 Kings 2:15-18 ICB “Adonijah said, “You remember that at one time the kingdom was mine. All the people of Israel thought I was their king. But things changed. Now my brother is the king because the Lord chose him. So now I have one thing to ask you. Please do not refuse me.” Bathsheba answered, “What do you want?” Adonijah said, “I know King Solomon will do anything you ask him. So please ask him to give me Abishag the Shunammite woman to be my wife.” “Very well,” she answered. “I will speak to the king for you.”
He starts off by “reminding” Bathsheba that he was king, even for just a brief period of time. He plays the sympathy card here. And he asks Bathsheba to do something for him and before he tells her what it is, he asks that she not refuse him. Red flag! Then he lays it on thick and says, “I know King Solomon will do anything you ask him.” In other words, he’s buttering her up; he’s voicing to her his belief and trust that she has the power to get this thing done. And he asks for a particular Shunammite woman for the purpose of being his wife. We are first introduced to this woman in the first chapter of 1 Kings. It’s Abishag, the pretty young thing whose job it was to keep King David warm.
Scripture tells us that she was beautiful and young. It’s suggested that she was a virgin, as well. All of that being said, it’s no wonder that Adonijah would have desired her, but there was a more sinister underlying reason for Adonijah’s request. This young woman would have been a servant to King David. That last verse tells us that there was no physical intimacy between her and King David; however, Abishag would have been considered part of King David’s harem. “When the King died, like the remainder of David’s harem, she probably stayed within the palace household. Adonijah’s request compromised Solomon’s kingship. Taking possession of a deceased king’s harem would have signaled Adonijah’s right to the throne.”[i]
Also to consider is the fact that Adonijah’s brother, Absalom, prior to his death, had rebelled against their father, King David, and in an act of defiance and in an attempt to overthrow his father, slept with many of his father’s concubines in a public manner. This is history trying to repeat itself with different players.
When Bathsheba approaches her son, King Solomon with Adonijah’s request for Abishag as a wife, she does so with the same approach as Adonijah did with her. 1 Kings 2:20 ICB “Bathsheba said to him, “I have one small thing to ask you. Please do not refuse me.” The king answered, “Ask, mother. I will not refuse you.”
Unfortunately for Adonijah, King Solomon not only refuses the request but has him executed for making the request in the first place. What choice did he have? Adonijah’s quest for the throne most likely would have never ended.
Joab, you may recall, had been identified by King David as one who needed to be punished. As news of King Solomon’s judgment on Adonijah and others reaches the streets, Joab, fearing for his life, rushes to grab hold of the horns on the altar for safety. It had worked for Adonijah, right? King Solomon sends for him, but Joab refuses to let go. Having no choice, King Solomon gives the order, and Joab is killed right there at the altar.
He must then deal with Shimei per his father’s instructions. Instead of ordering an execution, King Solomon shows mercy and tells Shimei to build a house in Jerusalem and remain within the city limits. He warns him that if he leaves the city, he will be killed. Shimei is placed on house arrest if you will. Shimei does what was promised for a few years until that is, some of his slaves run away. Shimei leaves Jerusalem to track them down and once King Solomon hears of this, Shimei’s death is ordered.
This puts us in chapter 3 of 1 Kings where we will pick up next week as God appears to Solomon in a dream and poses a very interesting question.
Just to get our bearings straight, I do want to give you the timeframe at which we are studying.
1 Kings starts off at about 970 BC and ends at around 853 BC.
During our time in 1 & 2 Kings, we’ll become reacquainted with Elijah & Elisha.
We’ll read along as Solomon builds the temple that was eventually destroyed and then later rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah that we previously studied.
We’ll be reminded that Solomon was the last king of Israel before the split takes place.
The Israelites wished for a king and God gave them what they wished for. If only they had trusted in God as their King!