Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 4. Solomon Cleans House

Prophets And Kings
Day 4
Solomon Cleans House

David went on to heaven in ours study yesterday and today we find that everything him saids bouts some bad guys in the kingdom is true. Solomon had hoped to live peaceably wif hims brother Adonijah and wif Davids nephew Joab and wif Shemei the Benjamite, but sometimes people simply wont let us make peace wif em. The Apostle Paul knew this and thats why him said, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18) We cans only do so much to make peace, which is why Paul says as far as it depends on you. Solomon gave it hims best shot but these men are troublemakers and hims gonna haves to clean house and rid himself of them.

1 KINGS 2:13-40
We ended Tuesday's passage with the assurance that at David's death, Solomon's throne and kingdom was established. It doesn't take long for brother Adonijah to stir things up again. "Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon's mother. Bathsheba asked him, 'Do you come peacefully?' He answered, 'Yes, peacefully.' Then he added, 'I have something to say to you.' 'You may say it,' she replied." (1 Kings 2:13-14) We can't blame her for wanting to know whether he comes in peace, for he previously attempted to take the throne even though he knew it was promised to Solomon.

"'As you know,' he said, 'the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the Lord. Now I have one request to make of you. Do not refuse me.' 'You may make it,' she said." (1 Kings 2:15-16) What Adonijah says is the truth: the kingdom was his. He had been declared king by men disloyal to David. A priest and an army commander were among his supporters. Everything was in his grasp until Nathan and Bathsheba went to the frail David and told him what was happening in Israel. Adonijah is stating a fact, knowing he would be sitting on the throne right now if David hadn't been stirred to make one last stand as king, placing Solomon on the throne. I picture him shrugging it all off like he's saying, "Easy come, easy go. Things change. It wasn't the Lord's will." But I doubt this is how he really feels. According to lineage, he was in line for the throne. He must have bitterly resented Solomon sitting on the throne..

"So he continued, 'Please ask King Solomon---he will not refuse you---to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.'" (1 Kings 2:17) Abishag is the beautiful young woman who became David's concubine in his final days but they were married in name only; the union was never consummated. She is in the unusual position of being both a widow and a virgin at the same time. I don't know whether Adonijah wanted her for herself or whether he thought marrying the wife of the former king would put him in a position to make another bid for the throne. After all, he won the popular vote in Israel, reminding us of an election which occurred here in the USA some years back, when one presidential candidate won the popular vote while another candidate won the electoral vote. The situation in Israel is quite similar. If it were up to the majority of the people, Adonijah would now be king. But Solomon won the electoral vote, that of Almighty God and that of the sitting king, David. It could be that Adonijah felt he was the legitimate king and that taking a woman from King David's harem as his wife would further help him to appear more kingly than Solomon. The law forbade a man to marry his father's wife but perhaps Adonijah felt it didn't apply in a case where the marriage was never consummated. 

Bathsheba agrees to make the request of Solomon. "'Very well,' Bathsheba replied, 'I will speak to the king for you.' When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand." (1 Kings 2:18-19) I love the respect and honor Solomon shows to his mother. The king need not stand when anyone enters the room but he stands out of respect for his mother and bows to her. He then has a throne brought for her so she can sit at his right hand in the place of honor. In Proverbs 4:3 he tells us that he was "cherished by my mother". It seems they had a close relationship.

"'I have one small request to make of you,' she said. 'Do not refuse me.' The king replied, 'Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you.' So she said, 'Let Abishag the Shunammite be given in marriage to your brother Adonijah.'" (1 Kings 2:20-21) I don't know whether Bathsheba truly wanted Solomon to agree with this request. It could be that she really thought it a small thing if it would keep the peace between the two men. It could be that she didn't grasp what was behind the request: Adonijah's desire to sit on the throne.

Solomon isn't fooled by any supposed love story between Adonijah and Abishag. He sees through this request. "King Solomon answered his mother, 'Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him---after all, he is my older brother---yes, for him and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!'" (1 Kings 2:22) He says, "If we're going to give him King David's wife we might as well just go ahead and hand the kingdom over to him. He was the heir-apparent, after all, and the popular choice of the people. While we're at it, let's hand it over to that unfaithful priest Abiathar and that false friend Joab! This is exactly what they want us to do. We will look weak. We will give strength to Adonijah's cause. If we agree to his request we are falling right in with his plans!"

"Then King Solomon swore by the Lord: 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the Lord lives---He who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as He promised---Adonijah shall be put to death today!' So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died." (1 Kings 2:23-25) The problem of Adonijah is not going to go away. Solomon promised him peace if he would show himself worthy but he has not shown himself worthy. So Solomon takes care of the problem in the way kings took care of such things in those days.

While he's at it, Solomon deals with another troublemaker. Some scholars believe Abiathar is partly to blame for Adonijah's request for Abishag, that perhaps the priest along with Joab advised him to marry King David's widow to further shore up his claim on the kingship. "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 now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign Lord before my father David and shared all my father's hardships.' So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the Lord, fulfilling the word the Lord had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli." (1 Kings 2:26-27) Solomon doesn't want to execute a priest even though he betrayed David, so instead he tells him to go back home to his family land, to make a living by tending his fields. The Lord prophesied in 1 Samuel 2 that the priesthood would depart from the house of Eli and Abiathar is the last priest of that family line. Zadok, a priest loyal to David, is not of the line of Eli, and he will be the high priest. Solomon's intention is probably just to get this troublesome priest out of Jerusalem but in fact he is fulfilling the word of God.

"When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar." (1 Kings 2:28) This verse is another reason some scholars think Joab and Abiathar advised Adonijah to ask for David's widow in marriage, that Joab conspired with him in the request. I don't know whether this is so or not, but Joab definitely conspired with Adonijah to make him king instead of Solomon. This was a betrayal of David for it would appear it was well known he intended to hand the throne to Solomon. 

Joab is a man with his ear to the ground at all times, keeping track of everything going on in the nation. The news that Solomon has exiled Abiathar reaches him quickly and he panics, running to the tent of the Lord and taking hold of the altar in a bid for leniency. I doubt Joab was appealing to God for mercy; he hasn't seemed to have much use for God up til now. But he thought surely no man, not even King Solomon, would slaughter him on the altar in the house of God. It would have done Joab some good to know the Scriptures, for Exodus 21:14 says, "But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from My altar and put to death." Joab is guilty of the innocent blood of Abner and Amasa, as David on his deathbed pointed out to Solomon. 

"King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord and was beside the altar. Then Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada, 'Go, strike him down!' So Benaiah entered the tent of the Lord and said to Joab, 'The king says, 'Come out!' But he answered, 'No, I will die here.' Benaiah reported to the king, 'This is how Joab answered me.'" (1 Kings 2:29-30) Unsure how to handle Joab's refusal to obey Solomon's command, Benaiah is hesitant to kill a man in the house of the Lord. He goes back to Solomon for instructions.

"Then the king commanded Benaiah, 'Do as he says. Strike him down and bury him, and so clear me and my whole family of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed. The Lord will repay him for the blood he shed, because without my father David knowing it he attacked two men and killed them with the sword. Both of them---Abner son of Ner, commander of Israel's army, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of Judah's army---were better men and more upright than he. May the guilt of their blood 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.'" (1 Kings 2:31-33) Solomon is avenging the blood of Abner and Amasa, something David never did most likely due to the fragility of his early kingdom and due to the power Joab once held over the army. This releases the family of David for any guilt or blame in the deaths of these men.

"So Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up and struck Joab down and killed him, and he was buried at his home out in the country. The king put Benaiah son of Jehoiada over the army in Joab's position and replaced Abiathar with Zadok the priest." (1 Kings 2:34-35) Benaiah is an obedient servant to Solomon and he executes Joab at the altar.

There is one more man left whom David warned Solomon about. "Then the king sent for Shemei and said to him, 'Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, but do not go anywhere else. The day you leave and cross the Kidron Valley, you can be sure you will die; your blood will be on your own head.'" (1 Kings 2:36-37) Shemei, a Benjamite, was still loyal to the house of Saul in his heart. I think Solomon subscribed to the idea of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Shemei was free to build a house in Jerusalem anywhere he pleased. He had the whole city in which to carry out his life and his business but he must not leave. If he left and got out from under Solomon's watchful eye, he would die.

"Shemei answered the king, 'What you say is good. Your servant will do as my lord the king has said.' And Shemei stayed in Jerusalem for a long time." (1 Kings 2:38) This deal sounded fine to him. After the execution of Adonijah and Joab, after the banishment of Abiathar, being allowed to live and work in Jerusalem in peace was a welcome offer. 

But as time went on, Shemei became careless or perhaps since no further executions took place, he didn't believe Solomon would carry out his threat. "But three years later, two of Shemei's slaves ran off to Achish son of Maakah, king of Gath, and Shemei was told, 'Your slaves are in Gath.' At this, he saddled his donkey and went to Achish in search of his slaves. So Shemei went away and brought the slaves back from Gath." (1 Kings 2:39-40) Shemei was perfectly willing to accept mercy for his own sins, but he was not willing to extend mercy to escaped slaves. They fled to the Philistines for refuge but Shemei's pride is wounded so much that he goes after them in person instead of sending servants or friends to retrieve them. David, in Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, pointed out that the Lord shows Himself merciful to those who are merciful. The Lord Jesus Christ repeats this message in Matthew 7 and the Lord's brother James echoes the same sentiment in James 2. Shemei has received mercy up til now but it hasn't changed his heart. No matter how much he has been forgiven, he is unwilling to offer forgiveness to others. 

"When Solomon was told that Shemei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and had returned, the king summoned Shemei and said to him, 'Did I not make you swear by the Lord and warn you, 'On the day you leave to go anywhere else, you can be sure you will die?' At that time you said to me, 'What you say is good. I will obey.' Why then did you not keep your oath to the Lord and obey the command I gave you?' The king also said to Shemei, 'You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing. But King Solomon will be blessed, and David's throne will remain secure before the Lord forever.' Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shemei down and he died. The kingdom was now established in Solomon's hands." (1 Kings 2:41-46) Though this seems like a bloodthirsty chapter, each man mentioned in it had the opportunity to receive mercy but he rejected it by his actions. Solomon was willing to let all these troublemakers remain in Jerusalem in peace if they would keep their part of the bargain. None of them had to die or be exiled from the capitol city but they refused to live peaceably with their king. 

Our God is willing to be merciful to us. He wants to make peace with us, as far as it depends on Him. But it takes two to make peace and if we are unwilling, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3a) If we refuse His offer of peace, His plan of salvation, His sacrifice on our behalf, God will then have to deal with us as Solomon dealt with his enemies. He will have to put us from His presence as Solomon put these unfaithful men from his presence. The king offered mercy but it was rejected. The king offered a plan of peace but it was scorned. What more could Solomon do? Our God has offered us mercy and a plan of peace. His own Son came and took our punishment on Himself so we could take part in the plan of peace. What more could our King do?

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