Sunday, September 30, 2012

1 Kings 2: David's Final Instructions

1 Kings 2:5-9 "Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, 'I will not put you to death with the sword.' Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol." 
1 Kings 2:25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him (Adonijah) down, and he died.
1 Kings 2:34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck him (Joab) down and put him to death.
1 Kings 2:46 Then the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck him (Shimei) down, and he died.

Solomon started his reign by killing two enemies of David (Joab & Shimei) and his own step-brother (Adonijah). David gave his final instruction to Solomon to kill Joab in retaliation for his murder of two former generals of Israel (Abner & Amasa). I suspect that an unspoken motive might be that Joab also killed Absalom despite David's command against it. And Adonijah's attempt to get Abishag the Shunammite to be his wife through Bathsheba resulted also in his death. So, Solomon's reign began like all dynastic successions with the elimination of all potential threats and challengers to the throne. 

My reflections on 1 Kings 2:
  • David's Instructions: Were David's instructions to Solomon to kill Joab and Shimei motivated by personal vengeance or was he trying to secure Solomon's throne? The motives may be mixed, but it does raise questions about the morality and ethics of killing your opponents in war and in peace. Christian realists will argue that such acts are unavoidable in real life as the role of government is to wield the sword to preserve peace and order in a sinful world: "For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Rom 13:4). Like judicial executions, police use of firearms, and just war, they are necessary evil - a lesser evil than anarchy & chaos in society. But Christian idealists (pacifists) would argue otherwise, that disciples of Christ should not involve themselves in the taking of arms and killing of others and it would violate Jesus' commands in the Sermon on the Mount to love our enemies, so true disciples of Christ should not join the police or army. My opinion is that Christians are needed in the police and army to preserve law and order and to prevent abuse of power.
  • Solomon's actions: Solomon's actions in all three instances of killings were done in response to the actions of the challengers: Adonijah tried to make a second bid for the throne through subterfuge but failed; Joab, when he heard that Adonijah whom he supported to succeed David was dead,  fled to the tabernacle to seek refuge, an admission of guilt in the conspiracy; Shimei was struck dead when he violated his own agreement with Solomon not to travel outside Jerusalem. In some sense therefore, Solomon's elimination of these three men was not totally vindictive but in response to their actions which were culpable. As king, he could not do nothing. Christians in high places often have to deal with similar decisions in using judicial power to eliminate or imprison potential threats to social peace and order. There is no ideal society on this side of heaven and there will always be need for judicial actions to preserve social peace and order.
We have to pray for righteous men in government to use their power wisely, so that we can live our lives peacefully and continue to share the Gospel with others: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:1-4)

PRAYERFather God, we thank You for people in authority because they are ordained by You to preserve peace and order in society so that the Gospel may continue to be preached. May Your Spirit move powerfully over the churches here on this day of worship. Amen

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