Christian Churches of God

No.  CB102




David Returns to Jerusalem


(Edition 1.0 20070512-20070512)


Absalom rose up against his father, King David. When David was told that the hearts of the men of Israel were with Absalom, he fled with his loyal followers in order to save lives and spare the city from a bloodbath. This paper has been adapted from chapters 105 and 108, Volume V of The Bible Story by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.




Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ã 2007  Christian Churches of God, ed. Wade Cox)


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David Returns to Jerusalem


We continue here from the paper Trouble in David’s Family (No. CB94).


Absalom defeated


David’s army marched into the field to fight Israel and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There David’s men defeated the army of Israel under Absalom.  The casualties of that day were twenty thousand men and the battle was spread over the whole countryside. It is written that the forest claimed more lives than the sword.


While riding on a mule Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He went under the thick branches of a big oak tree and was either caught by the head in a forked branch or got his hair tangled in the branches. The original Hebrew in this instance is not specific. The mule raced on, leaving its rider dangling with his feet off the ground (2Sam. 18:6-9).


One of David's men saw Absalom hanging from the oak limb, and reported it to Joab, who demanded to know why he hadn't walked up to the helpless man and killed him.


"If you had brought him to me dead, I would have given you a warrior’s belt and ten pieces of silver," Joab stated.


"But everyone knows that David wants his son brought back unharmed," the man countered. "I wouldn't have done anything to Absalom for a thousand pieces of silver. Why should you want me to go against the king's wishes?"


Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you”. So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the tree. Joab may have been more concerned about David's safety and the unity of the nation than he was about David's love for his rebellious son, but he was also a murderer at heart.


Then ten of Joab's men surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him (vv.10-15).


Absalom might have died even though Joab and his ten men hadn't attacked him. But Joab had disobeyed David.


Absalom's body was thrown into a pit in the forest and covered with a heap of stones. Absalom had already caused his own monument or memorial to be erected near Jerusalem in the event he didn't have a son to carry on his name. Instead of being buried there, however, he ended up in a hole in the Wood of Ephraim.


Joab instructed the trumpeters to sound a signal that the battle was over and that this needless bloodshed should be stopped (vv. 16-18).


Ahimaaz, son of Zadok the priest and one of the two young men who had taken a message from Jerusalem to David days previously, was present at the battle site. Being an athletic young man with a desire to be helpful, he hoped that he could be the one to run with the news of battle back to David. He was so anxious for this opportunity that he boldly suggested it to Joab.


"This isn't a very good time for you to be a messenger," snapped Joab. Surely you wouldn't want to be the one to tell the king that his son is dead."


Ahimaaz was disappointed, especially after Joab sent a young Cushite runner off for Mahanaim to tell David that the battle had been won. Joab intended that the runner should give only news of the battle's outcome, but without telling anything about Absalom.


"Let me be a second runner," Ahimaaz suggested to Joab. "Even though I arrive later, I would very much like the opportunity to take news to the king."


"I don't understand you," Joab frowned. "You would get no reward for bringing news that somebody else has already brought. But go ahead and run if it means so much to you."


So Ahimaaz ran by way of the plains and outran the Cushite. A watchman on the wall saw Ahimaaz approaching and called down to David, who was sitting between the inner and outer gates, to tell him that there was a man running toward the city (vv. 19-24).


"If he is alone, then probably he is bringing a message," David said.


"Now I see another man running behind him," the watchman called down.


"Another runner could be bringing even more news," David said. By that time the watchman recognized Ahimaaz by the way he ran. He told David, who was certain that the priest's son would be bringing only a good report (vv. 25-27).


"I have good news!" Ahimaaz breathlessly called out as he neared the gate.


He looked up to see the king, and bowed down with his face to the ground in a gesture of respect. He was happy that David was there to personally receive his message.


"Today the great God has saved you from your enemies!" Ahimaaz excitedly shouted up to the king. "Your men have won the battle!"


"I am thankful to God," David answered. "You say my men have won the battle, but if my son's army has been defeated, what has become of my son?"


"When Joab sent me, there was much excitement about some matter," Ahimaaz carefully replied. "I started out before I could learn what it was all about."


"Stay here while I talk to the other messenger who is coming behind you," David told Ahimaaz (vv. 28-30).


As the tired Cushite neared the gate he shouted that he had been sent to tell the king that God had destroyed David's enemies by giving a complete victory to his army.


"Is my son Absalom safe?" David anxiously called down to the messenger.


"May all your enemies die as your son did," he blurted out.


David mourns for Absalom


Shocked and sick at heart, David went to his living quarters. On the way he couldn't help weeping, muttering Absalom's name repeatedly, and wishing aloud that he could have died in Absalom's stead. So great was David's affection for his son that he seemed to forget all the evil and even murderous intentions Absalom had harboured toward him (vv. 31-33).


A report rapidly spread to David's army that the king was almost ill with grief because of Absalom's death. From there the news was carried to other areas, soon plunging much of the nation into a state of mourning, whereas people who were faithful to the king should have been pleased and happy because David's army had won. But King David's excessive grief for Absalom and his seeming lack of concern for his faithful subjects quickly gave them a feeling of despair. They felt that their devotion to David had been rejected.


Instead of returning to Mahanaim with triumphant jubilance, the men of David's army stole into the city on that day as men steal in who are ashamed after having fled from battle (2Sam. 19:1-4).


The gloomy attitude of David, in spite of his offence to so many people, angered Joab. Without any effort to be respectful to his superior, Joab rudely told David what he thought.


"Your attitude has made the people feel dejected," Joab said. "Instead of being thankful to your army for saving your life and the lives of your family, you have caused the men to feel ashamed. You act as though you care more for your enemies than you do for your friends. Would it have pleased you if Absalom had lived and your troops had died? Only you can bring your subjects out of the gloom that is over the nation. It's up to you to come out of your solitude and go out and show your good will and gratitude. If you don't, your army and your followers will forsake you before this night is over, and you'll run into far more trouble than you've had all your life!"


David realized that Joab was right about showing gratitude to the army and his friends. So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway; and when the men were told this they all came before him (vv. 5-8).


David returns to Jerusalem


At the same time there was growing unrest in many parts of the land. The civil war had all but torn the nation apart. There were still many who wished that Absalom had become king. Others were displeased because David didn't return to Jerusalem after the victory over Absalom's military forces (vv. 9-10). But the people of the tribe of Judah, who made up a large part of Absalom's following, weren't anxious for David to return. Because Jerusalem was at the border of the territory of Judah, the attitude of the people there naturally gave David a reason for concern.


"Remind the leaders of Judah that I am of their tribe and that I am looking to them for their support and confidence," David declared in a message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests at Jerusalem. "Tell Amasa that I am going to remove Joab as commander of my army, and that I wish to replace him with Amasa, the commander of my son's defeated army."


When news of this intended change went throughout Judah, the people were pleased because Amasa was also of the tribe of Judah and Joab was disliked by so many in that tribe. David was aware of that. His strategy was wise for more than one reason.


Amasa went through Judah persuading the tribal elders to support King David. Soon the inhabitants of Judah began to be friendly toward David. They even sent a delegation of leaders to him to inform him that he was welcome back to Jerusalem as king of the nation. When the people of that tribe heard that David was about to leave Mahanaim, thousands of them swarmed down to Gilgal to meet the king and bring him across the Jordan River (vv. 11-15).


Among the first to come to greet David was Shimei, the Benjamite who had angrily thrown stones at David when the king was previously fleeing from Jerusalem. With him were a thousand other Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul’s household and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. All of them bowed toward David as he came across the river. Ahead of them Shimei threw himself on the ground before the king.


"I am the one who cursed you and threw stones at you when you were escaping from Absalom," Shimei confessed. "Because I know how wrong I was at the time, I was the first here today so that I might ask you to forgive me and forget my foolish and disrespectful conduct" (vv. 16-20).


"Any man who curses our leader, who was chosen by God, deserves only death!" Abishai growled. "Is that not right, my king?"


"As king of Israel, it is my responsibility to make such decisions," David spoke out in anger. "I don't understand why you should choose to make them for me, particularly when I don't approve of them, and I am not in favour of this man or any other man being put to death on this day!"


"I shall pardon the things you regret doing to me," David told Shimei. "You shall not die. Return to your home in peace" (vv. 21-23).


Mephibosheth, Saul's crippled grandson, also went down to meet the king. When David had been on his way out of Jerusalem because of Absalom threatening to take the city, Mephibosheth's servant, Ziba, had told the king that his master had expected to become king. David was so disappointed by Mephibosheth's attitude that he had decreed that Ziba should take over Mephibosheth's possessions (2Sam. 16:1-4).


“Why didn’t you go with me Mephibosheth?” David asked (2Sam. 19:24-25).


“Ziba, my servant, betrayed me and slandered your servant to my lord the king. I never had the idea of becoming king, and I have always been loyal to you," Mephibosheth replied. "Ziba lied to you about me, and because of that I lost everything I owned. But why should I cry about that when you have already done so much for my family?"


"I told you before that you could have your master's possessions," David said to Ziba. "Now that I find that you didn't tell me the truth, I want you to give Mephibosheth's property back to him and divide the produce of the land as before."


"He is welcome to all of it," Mephibosheth said. "All that matters to me now is that my king is returning to his home to rule" (vv. 26-30).


Barzillai, the Gileadite who had been David's foremost host in Mahanaim, also accompanied King David across the Jordan. David invited Barzillai to accompany him to Jerusalem so the king could honour him for all he had done for David at Mahanaim. Being an aged man, Barzillai insisted upon returning home. But he allowed his son Kimham to go with King David (2Sam. 19:31-40; 1Kgs. 2:7). Apparently King David gave this young man a share of his own family's inheritance at Bethlehem (Jer. 41:17).


After parting with Barzillai and the people of Mahanaim who had become close friends to him, David later went on to Gilgal and from there to Jerusalem. But while this trip was taking place, the leaders of the various tribes began to argue about the manner in which the king was conducted back to the capital. There was much ill will among the other tribes because the people of Judah had taken over the ceremonies that had to do with David's return. Feelings ran higher and higher in this matter (2Sam. 19:41-43). This mounting envy was the start of strife that would soon divide the nation of Israel.


Sheba rebels


A Benjamite named Sheba, a scheming and ambitious man of much influence and means, realized that, even during David's triumphant return to Jerusalem, the time could be right for ten of the tribes to form an army with which Judah could be controlled or even overpowered.


"We don't have enough voice in the government in Judah," Sheba declared to the people. "We should band together to build our own power!"


Men from every tribe except Judah flocked to Sheba. But the tribe of Judah escorted David safely to Jerusalem (2Sam. 20:1-2).


When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but he did not lie with them. They were kept in confinement until they died, living as widows (v. 3).


When David found out that an army was being recruited to be used against Judah, he told Amasa, his new army commander, to summon the men of Judah to come to him within three days.


Amasa failed to get a fighting force together in three days. David turned to Abishai, Joab's brother and an experienced military leader, and ordered him to pursue Sheba with Joab’s men. 


Joab went with Abishai because he was intent on regaining command of the army. When they overtook Amasa, Joab pretended to be friendly with him, but suddenly ran his sword into Amasa's chest (vv. 4-10).


In plain view of many soldiers Amasa fell by Joab's cruel and deceptive action. Not a man had the courage to protest. Joab then proceeded to boldly take over the command of Amasa's soldiers as well as those of his brother, Abishai.


Joab and his soldiers continued in their pursuit of Sheba's army. Perhaps Sheba would have escaped if it had not been for a reliable report that Sheba and his men were in the city of Abel. When Joab and his men arrived at Abel, they were unable to batter their way through the gates.


Joab's troops built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down a wise woman appeared on top of the wall and loudly requested to speak with Joab. Joab came forward to identify himself and find out what the woman wanted (vv. 11-17).


"We are a peaceful, faithful people!" she called down. "Why have you come here to destroy our city?"


"I'm not here for the purpose of destroying a city!" Joab shouted back. "I am here to capture a Benjamite by the name of Sheba, who has conspired against King David, and deserves to die. Hand over this man, and I’ll withdraw from your city".


The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall”.


The woman went to all the people with her wise advice and they cut off the head of Sheba and threw it to Joab. As he promised, Joab left Abel and returned to Jerusalem to report to David that another plan to take over the government of Israel had been foiled (vv. 18-22).


So Joab was over Israel’s entire army. God was obviously allowing Joab to remain as commander. Even the king of Israel couldn't do much to change that.


David took advantage of this period of peace to improve the organization of his government and to appoint officials to various responsibilities (vv. 23-26).


The Gibeonites


During the reign of David there was a famine for three consecutive years; so David sought the face of the Lord


An answer came that the famine had come to Israel on account of Saul and his blood-stained house. He had ordered many Gibeonites to be slain in spite of a promise Joshua had made that they wouldn't be killed. The Gibeonites were not part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites, and Saul tried to annihilate them.


David called the leaders of the Gibeonites and asked them what he could do for them to make amends.


The Gibeonites answered, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul’s family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death. To right that wrong made by Saul, let seven male descendants of the family of Saul be given to us to be killed and exposed before the Lord at Gibeah".


On behalf of the nation David promised to give the seven men to the Gibeonites (2Sam. 21:1-6). This would seem to be a heartless thing to do, but some sort of action had to be taken because a whole nation was suffering a famine brought on by faithless King Saul, who had broken the agreement between Israel and the Gibeonites. Seven men were chosen from among Saul's descendants and turned over to the Gibeonites. Mephibosheth was excluded because of the oath of perpetual friendship between his father Jonathan and King David (1Sam. 20:12-17,42).


The Gibeonites killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven fell together and they were put to death just as the barley harvest was beginning. Rizpah, a concubine of Saul (2Sam. 3:7-8), stayed with the corpses and protected them from wild beasts and birds till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies.


When David heard what Rizpah had done he went and took the bones of Saul and Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh-gilead and the bones of those who had been killed were gathered up. They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father at Zela in Benjamin. After that God answered prayer on behalf of the land (2Sam. 21:7-14).


Wars against the Philistines


When he was much younger, David had led his army in a long and successful struggle against the Philistines. For years they had remained subdued. But once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his troops to stop the invaders.


However, David found that the vigorous action of battle was very tiring. Ishbi-benob, a giant, and one of the descendants of Rapha, said he would kill David. But Abishai came to David’s rescue and struck down the Philistine and killed him (vv. 15-16).


David had come very close to losing his life because of the weariness that was natural for a man of his years. His officers and advisors begged him not to go into battle again. They pointed out to him that it would be a blow to the whole nation if he were killed in battle. Besides, it would invite unqualified men to seek control of the kingdom (v. 17).


Not long afterward there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. Again the champion was another giant (also a descendant of Rapha), this one named Saph. This time a man named Sibbechai courageously stood up to Saph and killed him.


Undaunted, the Philistines came into Judah a third time, and with still another giant, a brother of Goliath. As before, the Philistines hastily retreated when their champion was overcome by an Israelite named Elhanan.


The Philistines couldn't seem to learn that having giants on their side didn't necessarily guarantee victory. For a fourth time they came into Israel, this time accompanied by a man who was unique not only for his enormous size, but also because he had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He also was a descendant of Rapha. This giant was killed by David's nephew Jonathan, regardless of all his extra toes and fingers. For the fourth time the Philistines retreated to their home country. For a time, this ended a period of trouble for Israel (vv. 18-22).


David’s song of praise


To show his thanks to God for protection, blessings and promises, David was inspired to compose a song. It is recorded in the Bible from 2Samuel 22:2 to 23:7 (cf. Ps. 18).


David’s mighty men


Surrounded by capable leaders and protected from invasion by many heroes, things were going well for Israel. 2Samuel 23:8-39 lists David’s mighty men who, together with all Israel, gave his kingship strong support to extend over the whole land, as the Lord had promised (cf. also 1Chr. 11:11-47 and 12:23-40).


David numbers his fighting men


David began to wonder just how many people were in his kingdom, and how Israel compared in numbers to other nations. The more he thought about it, the more he was tempted to take a census, although God didn't want such a thing to be done. Although he didn't realise it, David was being enticed by Satan to number Israel (1Chr. 21:1).


The king called in Joab and the army commanders, and told them to go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and number the people.


"May all the people in our land be multiplied by God a hundred times," Joab remarked. "But no matter what their numbers, it surely would displease God if we were to count them with the purpose of trying to measure our nation's strength. If we were to find that it is greater than we think, we could be tempted to make some unwise moves against other nations. Why should my lord David bring guilt upon Israel by this action?"


The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders so they left the presence of the king to number Israel (2Sam. 24:1-4; 1Chr. 21:1-4).


Nine months and twenty days later the unwilling Joab and his men returned to Jerusalem with their report after spending all that time travelling throughout Israel and numbering the able-bodied men (vv. 5-9). The report given to David was that Judah had about five hundred thousand men who could serve as soldiers, and eight hundred thousand in Israel. The grand total included the standing army and frontier guard (2Sam. 6:1). There were also the twelve monthly courses of troops that did garrison duty for King David at Jerusalem, and the twelve tribal chiefs' reserves (1Chr. 21:5; 27:1-22).


Joab and his men didn't take a census of the tribe of Levi because that tribe supplied the priests and their helpers. They didn't get around to counting the men in the tribe of Benjamin or completing the census because Joab strongly disapproved of the census (1Chr. 21:6; 27:24).


David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. I beg you, Lord, to take away my guilt. I have done a very foolish thing”.


Before long the word of the Lord had come to the prophet Gad and he was given a message to deliver to David.


So Gad went to David and said to him, "God gave me something terrible to tell you. He said that because of what you have done punishment will come to Israel. It will come in one of three ways. God is allowing you to choose that way!"


"You must decide between three years of famine for Israel, three months of heavy attacks by enemy nations, and three days of plague from God," Gad continued. "Tell me what your choice is" (2Sam. 24:10-13; 1Chr. 21:7-12).


David was quite shocked by Gad's words. But even under the stress it wasn't difficult for him to make the decision that had to be made.


"Even though God is most powerful, I would rather fall into His merciful hands than fall into the hands of my vengeful enemies," the king told Gad. "If famine comes to our nation, I might not suffer as much as others, but if a plague comes, it could fall upon all with equal misery. Therefore tell our God that if punishment must come to Israel because of my sin, let it be plague. May the Creator have mercy on us" (2Sam. 24:14; 1Chr. 21:13).


So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people died from Dan to Beersheba.


When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord was grieved because of the calamity. The angel was told to withdraw his hand. The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.


When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, "I am the one who has sinned and done a wicked thing! Don't let any more of my people die. What have they done wrong? Let your hand fall upon me and my family" (2Sam. 24:15-17; 1Chr. 21:14-17).


David builds an altar


A little while later Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite”.


When Araunah saw the king and his men coming, he went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. He then inquired why David had come there.


"I would like to buy your threshing floor," David said.


"You are welcome to all that I have here without price," he told David. "If you are in need of wood for the fire, use my threshing instruments. If you need animals for sacrificing, take my oxen," Araunah declared.


"No, I insist on paying for it," David said firmly, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”.


David accepted all that was offered and paid fifty shekels of silver. David built an altar there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel stopped (2Sam. 24:18-25; 1Chr. 21:18-24).


It is interesting to note that 1Chronicles 21:25 says David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site.


This contradiction of cost can only be resolved by us assuming that the original area purchase was for 50 shekels of silver and the surrounds were purchased for 600 shekels in gold; and the area was enlarged to allow for the construction of the Temple. 


Also, 2Chronicles 3:1 tells us Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. This is where the Angel appeared to his father David, and the place where David prepared an altar on the threshing floor of Aranuah (or Ornan) the Jebusite.


We note that God showed His approval by sending fire from Heaven to kindle flames on the altar (1Chr. 21:26).


Realizing that this was the place where God wanted His future Temple to be built, David spent the rest of his life preparing materials and setting aside most of his wealth to pay construction costs and to decorate the Temple. He gave his son Solomon the complete plans and instructions God had given him (1Chr. 22:1-19; 29:1-19).


David also thoroughly organized the priesthood and the government (1Chr. chapters 23-28).


David's life had been so eventful and harsh that two years later, although he was only sixty-nine years of age, his body was as worn and weakened as that of a much older man. Among his various infirmities alluded to in Psalms 31:10 and 38:3 was his inability to keep warm, even though they put covers over him.


His servants decided to look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She was to lie beside him and help to keep David warm. Then they searched throughout Israel and found Abishag, a Shunammite and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her (1Kgs. 1:1-4).


Adonijah sets himself up as king


Adonijah, another of David's sons, decided that his father was too old and senile to rule Israel, and that he should be the one to take his father's place. Adonijah was very handsome and was born next after Absalom. To impress the people he chose several very fancy chariots in which to ride about, and hired fifty men to run ahead of him.


David never interfered with Adonijah nor did he question his behaviour. David was very sentimental about his sons, and wasn't always as firm as he should have been for their good as well as his.


Whatever the situation, David made no move to prevent his son from trying to take over the reins of the government of Israel. Adonijah managed to obtain the backing of some of the influential figures of the nation, including Joab the military commander, and Abiathar the priest. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet refused to help him. So did most of the powerful men and leaders who had been close to David (1Kgs. 1:5-8).


Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth. He invited all his brothers and all the men of Judah who were royal officials. But he did not invite Nathan the prophet, or Benaiah or the special guard (vv. 9-10). Most of David's officers were ignored. So was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, the one David knew God had appointed to be the next king of Israel (1Chr. 28:5).


Nathan the prophet decided that Adonijah had carried matters much too far, and that David should be stirred up to do something about it. Knowing that Bathsheba had great influence with David, he asked her to go to the king to warn him that there was danger of Solomon and his mother losing their lives if Adonijah decided to take extreme measures to obtain full and certain leadership.


"I am aware that you know David wants your son to succeed him as God has commanded," Nathan told Bathsheba. "You must go to your husband and tell him that this won't happen unless Adonijah's ambition is brought to an end at once. God wants David to do his part. When I know that you are speaking about this matter to David, I'll join the two of you and repeat that the matter is extremely urgent" (1Kgs. 1:11-14).


Bathsheba went at once to David to explain how Adonijah had been acting and how he was already the king of Israel in the minds of some of the people. She pointed out that if his following increased and if David should die, she and Solomon would come to be regarded as enemies of the state because they were not included among Adonijah's followers.


Then it was announced that Nathan the prophet wished to speak with David, whereupon Bathsheba left. When Nathan came in, he mentioned to David all that Bathsheba had told her husband, but in a different way and intended to appeal to David's greatest interests.


"I don't understand why you are allowing another to become king of Israel when it has long been God's command that Solomon should come after you," Nathan pointed out to David (vv. 15-27).


David makes Solomon king


"Call in Bathsheba", David said.


Nathan knew as he departed that the king had made a decision of some kind. He was sure that it was the right one. When Bathsheba arrived, David spiritedly reminded her that he had made a vow that Solomon should surely become king of Israel and that he wished to repeat that vow. Turning from Bathsheba, he told a guard to call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, a great hero and captain of his guards (2Sam. 23:20-23; 8:18). When these three men arrived, David instructed them to take Solomon to a public gathering place just outside the west gates of Jerusalem.


"Benaiah, see that he is accompanied by most of my guards," David ordered. "And have him ride on my personal mule. Nathan and Zadok, you will anoint my son Solomon as the next king of Israel. Make a public proclamation so that the people will know what is taking place. After the ceremonies are over, bring Solomon back here."


"So be it!" Benaiah exclaimed. "I know this is according to God's will. God has been with you, my king. May He be with Solomon to exalt the throne of Israel, and to make it even greater than it has been during your reign."


When the people in and around Jerusalem saw the king's guard marching before and after the mule-borne Solomon and the two priests, they swarmed together in increasing numbers to follow the parade. By the time the ceremonies were over, and Solomon had been anointed king, a huge crowd had gathered. There were the sounds of great celebration, including the blowing of trumpets and pipes and shouts of "Long live King Solomon!" And all the people went after him, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound (1Kgs. 1:28-40; 1Chr. 29:20-25).


Just at this time Adonijah's long, party-like rally to gain followers was coming to an end. The last meal was over. Guests were beginning to leave when the sounds of musical instruments and the shouts of thousands of voices came clearly to Adonijah and those with him.


“What’s the meaning of all this noise in the city?" Joab asked.


As the wondering listeners paused anxiously, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came in from the street to join them. Adonijah greeted him warmly, remarking what a brave man he was and that surely he must be the bearer of good news.


"It could be good news for some, but I doubt that it is for you," Jonathan replied uneasily. "David's son Solomon has just been anointed the next king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. The loud music and shouts you hear are coming from the huge crowd that witnessed the ceremony. The people are happy and enthusiastic about it" (1Kgs. 1:41-48).


A cheerless silence came over Adonijah's guests and they all rose and left. As for Adonijah, he decided to seek protection at the Tabernacle where he took hold of the horns of the altar. The altar was regarded as a refuge for those who had sinned. Adonijah thought it would be the safest place for him if David's soldiers should come after him (1Kgs. 1:49-50).


Solomon had taken over the responsibilities of the ruler of Israel as soon as he had returned to the palace. Although he was only about twenty years of age, he was capable of good judgment, and took his high office very seriously. When he heard that Adonijah was at the Tabernacle and was trusting in the king to spare his life, he sent men after Adonijah. They brought him down from the altar and Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon.


"You know that you have acted foolishly in trying to become king," Solomon stated. "Because of this, whether you live or die will depend on how you conduct yourself from now on. If you go the right way, not a hair of your head will be harmed by any of my men. Now return to your home" (vv. 51-53).


David’s charge to Solomon


Not long afterward, David informed Solomon that he was about to die, and that he had some valuable advice to give him. The advice was the kind that any wise father should give his son, but there were reminders from the former king of Israel to the new king.


"Keep God's Commandments and statutes and judgments," David told Solomon. "You will prosper and be successful if you do. God told me that if my children would live according to His Laws, men of our family would continue on the throne of Israel. So prove yourself an obedient man, worthy of being a king.


"Consider Joab and the murders he has committed in the name of warfare. Handle him with care and good judgment, remembering that he has great influence with many people, but don't let him live long enough to die of old age. I should have had him punished by death long before now.


"Be kind to those of the family of Barzillai the Gileadite, who was such a help to me at the city of Mahanaim while I stayed there during my forced absence from Jerusalem.


"Consider also the case of Shimei the Benjamite, who cursed me when I was fleeing from Jerusalem. He tried to make amends by meeting me at the Jordan River when I was returning to Jerusalem. I promised him that I would not give orders to have him put to death. But you know he was guilty. You should deal with him as harshly as you should deal with Joab."


Some months after Solomon had become king, David died. He had served forty years as king of Israel – 7 years in Hebron and 33 years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established (1Kgs. 2:1-11; 1Chr. 29:26-30).


The major things David did in his life were to bring peace to Israel and assemble the materials for the construction of the Temple. He planned its construction and wrote the Psalms for its worship, but he was not allowed to build it. See the paper Rule of the Kings Part II: David (No. 282B).


Solomon showed great wisdom at times during his reign, insomuch that Israel remained strong and respected by the surrounding nations. But matters didn't always go smoothly for the new, young ruler.


Adonijah tries again


Adonijah, who had already tried to become king, decided that he would like to marry Abishag, the young woman who had been chosen to care for David during his last days. Adonijah cleverly went to Bathsheba about the matter, knowing that she would have far more influence with the king than he would have.


Bathsheba promised Adonijah that she would ask her son the favour. When she did, Solomon became very angry. He considered Adonijah's request through his mother very improper. He rightly suspected that this was the beginning of some kind of plot to seize the throne of Israel.


"Adonijah might as well have asked for the whole kingdom as well!" Solomon said angrily to his mother. "I warned him that his conduct would determine his fate. This turn of events proves to me that he isn't worthy to live!" (1Kgs. 2:12-23).


So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah and he struck down Adonijah and he died (1Chr. 18:17; 1Kgs. 2:24-25).


To Abiathar, the priest, the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death just now because you carried the Ark of the Lord before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships”. So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood, fulfilling the word the Lord had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli (1Kgs. 2:26-27).


When Joab heard what had happened to his co-conspirators, Adonijah and Abiathar, he followed Adonijah's example and fled to the Tabernacle, where he claimed special refuge from death by clinging to the altar.


On learning what Joab was doing, Solomon sent Benaiah to drag him away from the altar and execute him. When Benaiah ordered Joab to step away from the altar or be dragged away, Joab declared that he preferred to die at the altar. Benaiah reported this to the king.


"Do as he says. Strike him down and bury him, and so clear me and my father’s house of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed. May the guilt of the blood he shed rest on the head of Joab and his descendants forever. But on David and his descendants, his house and his throne, may there be the Lord’s peace forever.”


The grim order was carried out, ending the life of a man who had been a very capable army commander, but who for years faced the penalty of death because of his brazen acts of murder (1Kgs. 2:28-34; 2Sam. 3:26-27; 20:8-10).


Benaiah then became the undisputed commander of the army of Israel, Joab’s former position. At the same time Solomon put Zadok the priest in Abiathar's place (v. 35). Zadok was of the family of Eleazar, and thus the priesthood returned to the family God had first chosen to be priests (1Chr. 6).


Next Solomon sent for Shimei, the Benjamite who had cursed David.


"Get a home for yourself here in Jerusalem and live there" Solomon ordered Shimei. "If you ever go outside the walls, you'll meet with death. If you wish to continue living, stay in this city."


Shimei answered the king, "You are a good man. Your servant will do as you say" (vv. 36-38).


Three years later, however, two of Shimei's servants ran away from his home and hid themselves in the Philistine city of Gath. So Shimei went after them and brought the servants back to Jerusalem. All this was reported to Solomon, who then had Shimei brought before him.


"I warned you that if you ever left Jerusalem you would be responsible for your own death," Solomon reminded the Benjamite. "You promised then that you would obey that restriction. Don't you realize that you're now subject to death? But even if you hadn't gone out of Jerusalem, you are still guilty of cursing my father the king, and for that wickedness it's God's judgment that you pay the death penalty."


Then the king gave the order to Benaiah and he went out and struck Shimei down and killed him.


The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon’s hands (vv. 39-46).