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1 Kings 2:1-12 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 35 secs

David's charge to Solomon; Justice: Forestalling Rebellion; 1 Kings 2:1-12.


1 Kings 2:1 NASB "As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying," Here we have the report of his final meeting, his final instructions, his challenge to Solomon. This is when he is going to give Solomon spiritual advice first and foremost to keep his focus on the Lord during the reign, that that is the most important priority, not only of any individual but of the ruler of God's people because this is still a theocratic kingdom because the human king served under the reign of God. This was signified by the fact that the human king was anointed by his prophet. The Word of God is the ultimate authority, not the king. So we see the circumstances here, that David recognises that he is going to die, something we should all recognise, and he is taking the proper steps to take care of things before he dies.

The advice he gives is described in verses 2-9. This is a two-part advice. The first part deals with Solomon's relationship with God, vv. 2-4, and the second part, vv. 5-9, deals with the practical matter of dealing with treasonous rebels in the kingdom in order to solidify Solomon's reign.

Note that in the first part, the spiritual part, these three verses are heavily dependent on the Mosaic covenant. The keys words all through here are words that we see again and again in Moses' final admonition to the Israelites just before he died. 1 Kings 2:2-4 NASB "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'" Verse 4 is specifically dependent on the promise of God made to David, and verse 3 is focusing on the thrust of the Mosaic covenant.

"I am going the way of all the earth." David recognises that he is about to die and then he addresses himself to Solomon: "Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man." This word "be strong" is his central admonition here. It is from the Hebrew word which means to be strong, to strengthen, and in contexts like this it has the idea of courage. In many passages it is linked with courage. It emphasises the aspect of not just physical strength, physical courage, but spiritual courage, the willingness to take a stand on God's Word as Martin Luther did when he said, "On this book I take my stand, I can do no other." It is the idea that the Word of God is the ultimate final truth and we are not going to violate it in any way. That is what David is challenging Solomon to do. Being a biblical man is not related to success as it is in American culture, it is related to spiritual orientation to God. That is the number one priority to be a man and fulfil our obligations as a man in God's eyes, not in the eyes of the culture. Cultures always set up extraneous priorities for both men and women. So He challenges Solomon to be a true man in the concept of biblical manhood which puts the Bible first. As a leader the emphasis is on moral courage which comes only from the knowledge of the law. Remember in the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy the responsibility of the king under the guidance of his priests was to sit down daily and hand write his own copy of the law. He was to do that on a daily basis and it forced him to think about the Mosaic Law said and to constantly be reminded of what the law said. If that was true for kings of Israel then it should be true for any believer-priest in the church age. We should take the time on a daily basis to read the Word, to be reminded of what God expects of us, what God has done in history to, to be reminded of promises that God has made to us and take that time just to orient our soul each day to the eternal truths of God's Word.

Deuteronomy 11:8 uses the same kind of terminology. NASB "You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong…" Strength comes from obedience to the Word. What matters is our orientation to God's Word. We keep God's Word, we focus on His Word and apply it in our life; that is what builds spiritual strength in the soul.

Deuteronomy 31:23 NASB "Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you'." Our strength is in the Lord. Ephesians 6:10ff talks about the spiritual warfare we are in which is the church age counterpart to the physical warfare, the holy warfare of Israel to take the land, and we are to be "strong in the Lord." It is the same concept, and that strength only comes from the Word of God.

Joshua 1:9 NASB "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." So this terminology comes directly out of the Mosaic Law.

David goes on in 1 Kings 2:3 NASB "Keep the charge of the LORD your God." What is involved in that? First of all, "to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn." He is basically saying the same thing in about four different ways. Walking is a metaphor for living your life, it is not talking about physically walking. Four different words there—statutes, commandments, ordinances, testimonies—summarise all of the 613 mandates in the Mosaic Law. The first key word there is shamar, and it means to watch, to keep, to preserve, to guard, to be careful, to watch over something, to watch carefully over something, to be on one's guard. Shamar is a word that has a broad general sense in terms of guarding or watching or even observing, to a more narrow sense having to do with someone who is being very diligent in keeping track of something involving a lot of work, an intentional, conscious effort to make sure that something is a priority and that it is carried out. A cognate to the verb shamar is the noun and it has the idea of a mandate or a charge, a duty that is assigned, a responsibility that someone has, a commission that is given.

So David is saying that a divine commission is being given to Solomon and he is to be obedient, careful to keep the commandments of the Lord. This is summarised in the following words, "walk in His ways." This has the idea of his general lifestyle. We see the same verbiage in passages like Deuteronomy 5:33 NASB "You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong {your} days in the land which you will possess." At the end of 1 Kings 2:3 David tells Solomon that if he does this he "may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn." This is the same idea that we see again and again in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 8:6 NASB "Therefore, you shall keep [shamar] the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him."

Deuteronomy 11:22 NASB "For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him." All of these commands we find again and again throughout the Mosaic Law. So when David says this to Solomon he is crafting what he is saying in a specific way to connect the role of the king as being established by the Mosaic Law as the covenant between God and man, and that the duties and the responsibilities of the king are defined and described by God. Solomon can't just do whatever he wants to do. If he does there is the threat of divine discipline and the threat of punishment on the nation. But if he is obedient then there will be blessing for the nation. 

In verse 4 the result is given. NASB "so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'" This was what was promised to David in the Davidic covenant. So in his admonition to Solomon, his exhortation to Solomon, he is connecting what he is doing on the throne to the Mosaic Law which is the covenant, the constitution of the land of Israel given by God, and to the gracious covenant, the royal grant covenant that God gave to David that his descendants would have an eternal presence on the throne. But, of course, what happened was they were disobedient and there won't be one on the throne of Israel for the time being, but eventually that will be fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 5:33 NASB "You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong {your} days in the land which you will possess." When we as believers are conducting our life according to the protocols of God, when we are carrying out all of the various mandates that God has for the Christian life—staying in fellowship, studying the Word of God, applying the Word of God, utilising all of the different mechanics of the Christian life—and we continue to live in light of those, the result is that God blesses us. In the Old Testament law and in the Old Testament when God is physically present he is also dealing with Israel in very concrete terms, and so the blessings are very physical, concrete and material. But that is how they were defined in the Mosaic Law. For obedience there would be prosperity; for disobedience there would not be those things, He would take them away. That is not true for today because we are not living under the Mosaic Law. The law was related to them living in he land, the blessings and cursings were all land-oriented. We are living in the church age. The blessings that God has for us are often spiritual, we may not have material prosperity, for various reasons, but we have prosperity of the soul and that is really what we talk about in the New Testament.

Deuteronomy talks about prosperity here. It uses a word that doesn't necessarily mean material prosperity. The verb in the hiphil stem has the idea of acting with insight, to be prudent, to give insight, to teach, to prosper, to consider something, to ponder, to understand prudently and to act with devotion. It is translated as "discretion" is 1 Chronicles 22:12. So we have the idea that if we walk in all the ways of the Lord it will be well or prosperous, and it is really this idea of prudent and wisdom that is the application of doctrine in the life.

1 Chronicles 22 is where David is also giving some wisdom and counsel to Solomon. It doesn't appear as if it is the same time, it is an earlier time than probably 1 Kings 1. David is preparing Solomon for what will come to pass. 1 Chronicles 22:11 NASB "Now, my son, the LORD be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the LORD your God just as He has spoken concerning you. [12] Only the LORD give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God." So his prayer is that God would give Solomon wisdom and understanding. The word for wisdom chokmah, and it has the idea of skill. It is not wisdom in the sense of abstract intellectual philosophising that we get from the Greeks, it is a more concrete idea that comes out of the Jewish background. When Aholiab and Bezaleel were designing and building the furniture, the clothing, the detailed work for the high priest, in the tabernacle, the Scripture says that God gave them chokmah, He gave them skill. Chokmah is the ability to take the raw information—the facts, the data, the Bible doctrine, the truths of Scripture that the Holy Spirit stores in our soul—and then to apply them to the issues of life in such a way that our lives become a work of art and skill. That is what wisdom is, it is not just application of doctrine. It is what develops over time and allows God the Holy Spirit to create an eternal work of art and skill in our lives that glorifies Him. It goes far beyond the Greek concept of epignosis [e)pignwsij] which is just knowledge in the soul that is available for application. Wisdom is that skilful application of epignosis.

The other word that is used there is the word binah for "understanding," discernment and the ability to make decisions. It has the idea of understanding, comprehension, discernment and righteous action. So "the LORD give you wisdom," i.e. the skill to apply what you know, because he has been well trained by David, "and understanding," which has to do with making decisions. It is the ability to discern, and it comes with practice, with application of doctrine over time. David's prayer is going to be answered.

1 Chronicles 22:13 NASB "Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed." So we see how again and again the mandate, the exhortation that David gives to Solomon, is related to the Mosaic Law.

Now we can't look at the second part and divorce it from the first part. We can't take our twentieth-century sentiments that have unfortunately been too affected by the bleeding-heart liberal values of our culture and apply that to the next five verses. The next five verses are built on the same spiritual absolutes as the first three verses. He doesn't say to make the Word of God the highest priority, remind Solomon of the importance of walking consistently with the Mosaic Law, and then turn around and say to go and kill all your enemies, start a blood bath and just go murder everybody. That is what happens when the text is approached from a human viewpoint perspective that has been influenced by the false values of modern culture. We get taught all of this garbage, it comes across the media, various television shows and everything else which talk about how terrible violence is, and talking the life of anybody, even in a judicial context. David is operating just as much in obedience to the Mosaic Law and the command of God and his relationship to God in vv. 5-9 as he is in vv. 2-4. What we see in vv. 5-9 is wisdom. It is the skilful application of the law to the reality of the conspiracies, the rebellions, the arrogance that surrounds the throe of Israel in order to secure the throne. Notice David doesn't say: "Solomon, you just have to trust God. He will take care of it." He recognises an important principle here, and that is that God has already told them how to take care of these kinds of things in the Mosaic Law. So David is instructing Solomon that in the framework of the Mosaic Law he needs to kill the rebels and to remove them, because the most dangerous thing you can have in any culture or society are the people who are not oriented to authority; either God's authority or the authority of the leader in whatever the field is. Here Solomon represents God's established and ordained king and yet there are various people who have demonstrated historically their inability to submit to the authority of the king. This is coming from David, remember, the man who was anointed by Samuel to be the king of Israel while Saul was still king. David knew that no matter how disobedient, no matter how rebellious, no matter how vindictive Saul was toward him, it never authorised him to lift a finger against Saul. No matter how wrong Saul was, it never excused David to also rebel against Saul. It is never right to overthrow a divinely established authority no matter how evil they are.  

Paul writes in Romans chapter thirteen that the government is the minister of God for righteousness. He is writing this at the time when one of the most heinous, tyrannical governments in all of history is in operation under Nero in Rome. To rebel against authority means that you are claiming omniscience. You know all the facts and all the data. You know what is going to happen and you know that absolutely the right thing to do is to take out this authority, and that you have the right to be the judge over this authority which is a legally constituted authority over you. That is exactly the mentality that Satan had in the fall. Satan said: "I don't think that God can do it right, I have a better idea." This is exactly what happens any time you are rebellious against any authority over you, whether it is children to parents, workers to employers, wives to husbands, husbands to God. Whenever you are acting in rebellion, as Samuel told Saul, "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft."

David understood authority orientation. When we understand authority orientation we can have genuine humility, and we can never have grace orientation if we are in rebellion against divinely established authority over you. It will never happen. This is why God has such harsh penalties in the Mosaic Law for those who are rebellious against authority. The ultimate authority is law in the governing of the land and the individuals that are dealt with here because of their rebellion against the king are in violation of law and they have demonstrated their inability to orient to authority. In every case what they are oriented to is their own selfish, arrogant desires and fulfilling the desires of their own sin nature.        

1 Kings 2:5 NASB "Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet." Solomon is the one who learned a lesson here. In Ecclesiastes he says that there is a time for war and a time for peace, and in a time of war it is legitimate to take the life of your enemy. But five minutes after peace is declared if you take the life of the same person it is murder. You have to learn to think within that reality. If not, then you are going to be defeated.

As we look at verse 5 we realise that Joab needs to be executed. This is exactly what David is saying. He defines his guilt in verse 5 that in a time of peace he has committed vengeance rather than letting it be handled through the legitimate process. 1 Kings 2:6 NASB "So act according to your wisdom [chokmah], and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace"—application of doctrine, the Mosaic Law.

What exactly did Joab do? The name Joab means Yahweh is his father. So he comes out of a family that at least had a nominal sense of values or relationship with God. This is true because he is the son of Zeruiah, David's sister. So Joab is David's nephew, according to 2 Samuel 2:13; 10:7. The first time we see Joab is in 2 Samuel chapter two. 2 Samuel begins after the death of Saul. David is now recognised as king by only his own tribe, the tribe of Judah, and there is now a state of civil war among the tribes of Israel. This is going to be intensified because Abner, Saul's uncle, and was his commander of the army, is going to manipulate Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, to become the king. He makes him king over Gilead, over the Asherites, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, over Benjamin, and over all of Israel. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin so the northern area, being closely allied to Benjamin, are willing to follow Ish-bosheth. So there were several of the tribes in the north arrayed against David in the south, and we learn that David is going to rule from Hebron for seven years before he finally solidifies the country and has victory in this civil war.

2 Samuel 2:12-13 NASB "Now Abner the son of Ner, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon; and they sat down, one on the one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool." They had David's men lined up on one side, Saul's on the other. [14] "Then Abner said to Joab, 'Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us.' And Joab said, 'Let them arise'…. [16] Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and {thrust} his sword in his opponent's side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is in Gibeon." It is a draw. So everyone else gets up and they have this huge melee and fight each other. It looks as though Abner's side is going to lose, so Abner decides that discretion is the better part of valour and he runs away and lives to fight another day. He is pursued by one of the three sons of Zeruiah.

2 Samuel 2:18 NASB "Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel {was} {as} swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field." Several times Abner tries to dissuade Asehel and get him to turn back, he doesn't want to kill him. He refuses to do that and Abner pulls up his spear, thrusting it backward as Ashel is coming up on him and he kills Asahel. Joab and Abishai comes up and discover that their brother has been killed and now they are very angry with Abner. Abner gets away. Abner is really running a power play here because he is playing king-maker, Ish-bosheth was young, he wasn't at the battle of Mount Gilboa. Abner has him really wrapped around his finger.

The next thing to look at is in 2 Samuel 3:6 NASB "It came about while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David that Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul." Abner has the power. But then he is going to be confronted by Ish-bosheth [7] "Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah; and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, 'Why have you gone in to my father's concubine?'" There is a certain  ambiguity here. Did Abner rape Rizpah? It doesn't really say, it just says he is accused of it. Ish-bosheth may just be his daddy's son going around falsely accusing everybody of whatever his paranoia has led him to believe they've been doing, which is typically what Saul did. There is nothing in the text to indicate whether or not this is actually true or not of Abner. However, Abner becomes extremely angry, so angry that Ish-bosheth has accused him of this, and it seems to be a justifiable anger because now he says: "I've had it with you, I'm going to go with David." That kind of a shift seems to be more the attitude of someone who has been unjustly accused than someone who truly has a guilty conscience. If he had been guilty of sexual relations with Rizpah it would have been part of the same scenario we will see later on in 1 Kings 2. By taking the wife of a king you are basically exerting monarchical privilege, making a claim to the throne.   

2 Samuel 3:12 NASB "Then Abner sent messengers to David in his place, saying, 'Whose is the land? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel over to you'." So he is now going to bring the northern tribes to David to unite the kingdom, whuch is exactly what he does, and he comes down and makes peace with David. When he does this, they come together and in vv. 20, 21 we see that they have a huge feast, and we read: "So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace." Joab wasn't there. When he shows up he finds that David has made peace with Abner and he is livid, becsue he is riding a vendetta to kill Abner for the murder of Asahel. This is exactly what he does. 2 Samuel 3:27-30 NASB "So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterward when David heard it, he said, "I and my kingdom are innocent before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 'May it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father's house; and may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or who takes hold of a distaff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.' So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon."

But David doesn't do anything about it. He has committed murder but David doesn't have whatever it is to stop Joab and to execute him. So he is going to leave it to Solomon. Joab is guilty of murder here and he is guilty of murder one other time. 

1 Kings 2:7 NASB "But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother. [8] Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, 'I will not put you to death with the sword.' [9] Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood."