Author Archives: Neil

1 Kings 7 The Halls of Solomon and the Furnishing of the Temple

James Tissot, Solomon Decicates the Temple (1896-1902)

1 Kings 7: 1-12 The Halls of Solomon

1 Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house.

2 He built the House of the Forest of the Lebanon one hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high, built on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars. 3 It was roofed with cedar on the forty-five rafters, fifteen in each row, which were on the pillars. 4 There were window frames in the three rows, facing each other in the three rows. 5 All the doorways and doorposts had four-sided frames, opposite, facing each other in the three rows.

6 He made the Hall of Pillars fifty cubits long and thirty cubits wide. There was a porch in front with pillars, and a canopy in front of them.

7 He made the Hall of the Throne where he was to pronounce judgment, the Hall of Justice, covered with cedar from floor to floor.

8 His own house where he would reside, in the other court back of the hall, was of the same construction. Solomon also made a house like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had taken in marriage.

9 All these were made of costly stones, cut according to measure, sawed with saws, back and front, from the foundation to the coping, and from outside to the great court. 10 The foundation was of costly stones, huge stones, stones of eight and ten cubits. 11 There were costly stones above, cut to measure, and cedarwood. 12 The great court had three courses of dressed stone to one layer of cedar beams all around; so had the inner court of the house of the LORD, and the vestibule of the house.

In the middle of the narrative about the construction of the temple the narrator of 1 Kings briefly attends to the other major construction project in Jerusalem: the construction of the houses of Solomon. On the one hand this is in keeping with the rapid transition of Solomon’s reign which completed the consolidation of Israel from a group of tribes with some interconnection to a monarchy consolidated around a king and a capital city. This inclusion in the midst of the construction of the temple may serve for the narrator as an indication that Solomon’s agenda may be drifting from its devotion to the LORD the God of Israel since the collection of buildings is significantly larger than the temple and takes roughly twice the time to complete.

The House of the Forest of Lebanon by itself covers over twice the area of the temple and the Hall of Pillars is similar in area to the temple. With the exception of the Hall of Justice and the residences for himself and Pharaoh’s daughter we are not given any indication what these buildings were used for. The narrator also does not take the time to detail the construction of these buildings except to indicate that they use large amounts of cedar and costly stones. The inclusion of Pharaoh’s daughter at this point may also be a warning that Solomon is beginning to model his leadership on Pharaoh. The text is suggestive of a criticism of Solomon but it is not explicit. The narrator may be impressed by the scale of the projects that the people under Solomon are able to achieve. It would not be surprising for a monarch to use the best materials in the construction of their residence and their place of conducting the business of running the kingdom. This complex of buildings probably serves a similar function to the White House in the United States which is both a residence and a place where the leader of the nation conducts their business.

 

1 Kings 7: 13-51 Furnishing the Temple

13 Now King Solomon invited and received Hiram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, whose father, a man of Tyre, had been an artisan in bronze; he was full of skill, intelligence, and knowledge in working bronze. He came to King Solomon, and did all his work.

15 He cast two pillars of bronze. Eighteen cubits was the height of the one, and a cord of twelve cubits would encircle it; the second pillar was the same. 16 He also made two capitals of molten bronze, to set on the tops of the pillars; the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits. 17 There were nets of checker work with wreaths of chain work for the capitals on the tops of the pillars; seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital. 18 He made the columns with two rows around each latticework to cover the capitals that were above the pomegranates; he did the same with the other capital. 19 Now the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars in the vestibule were of lily-work, four cubits high. 20 The capitals were on the two pillars and also above the rounded projection that was beside the latticework; there were two hundred pomegranates in rows all around; and so with the other capital. 21 He set up the pillars at the vestibule of the temple; he set up the pillar on the south and called it Jachin; and he set up the pillar on the north and called it Boaz. 22 On the tops of the pillars was lily-work. Thus the work of the pillars was finished.

23 Then he made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely. 24 Under its brim were panels all around it, each of ten cubits, surrounding the sea; there were two rows of panels, cast when it was cast. 25 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; the sea was set on them. The hindquarters of each were toward the inside. 26 Its thickness was a handbreadth; its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily; it held two thousand baths.

27 He also made the ten stands of bronze; each stand was four cubits long, four cubits wide, and three cubits high. 28 This was the construction of the stands: they had borders; the borders were within the frames; 29 on the borders that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. On the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work. 30 Each stand had four bronze wheels and axles of bronze; at the four corners were supports for a basin. The supports were cast with wreaths at the side of each. 31 Its opening was within the crown whose height was one cubit; its opening was round, as a pedestal is made; it was a cubit and a half wide. At its opening there were carvings; its borders were four-sided, not round. 32 The four wheels were underneath the borders; the axles of the wheels were in the stands; and the height of a wheel was a cubit and a half. 33 The wheels were made like a chariot wheel; their axles, their rims, their spokes, and their hubs were all cast. 34 There were four supports at the four corners of each stand; the supports were of one piece with the stands. 35 On the top of the stand there was a round band half a cubit high; on the top of the stand, its stays and its borders were of one piece with it. 36 On the surfaces of its stays and on its borders he carved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, where each had space, with wreaths all around. 37 In this way he made the ten stands; all of them were cast alike, with the same size and the same form.

38 He made ten basins of bronze; each basin held forty baths, each basin measured four cubits; there was a basin for each of the ten stands. 39 He set five of the stands on the south side of the house, and five on the north side of the house; he set the sea on the southeast corner of the house.

40 Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram finished all the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of the LORD: 41 the two pillars, the two bowls of the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars, the two latticeworks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars; 42 the four hundred pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the pillars; 43 the ten stands, the ten basins on the stands; 44 the one sea, and the twelve oxen underneath the sea.

45 The pots, the shovels, and the basins, all these vessels that Hiram made for King Solomon for the house of the LORD were of burnished bronze. 46 In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because there were so many of them; the weight of the bronze was not determined.

48 So Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of the LORD: the golden altar, the golden table for the bread of the Presence, 49 the lampstands of pure gold, five on the south side and five on the north, in front of the inner sanctuary; the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of gold; 50 the cups, snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and firepans, of pure gold; the sockets for the doors of the innermost part of the house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the nave of the temple, of gold.

51 Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the LORD was finished. Solomon brought in the things that his father David had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the LORD.

The introduction of the artisan Hiram from Tyre who brings the technical expertise to do the metal work used in the construction of the temple again directs us to the massive project that the construction of the temple is for the nation of Israel. Hiram possesses the skill, knowledge, and intelligence like Bezalel and Oholiab did when the constructed the tabernacle. Yet, Hiram, like many of the resources for the temple, comes from Tyre and even though he mother from the tribe of Naphtali his father is from outside Israel. Yet, the narrative of 1 Kings is more concerned with the skill and knowledge that Hiram learned from his father than the kinship he shares with the people through his mother[1].

Possible Looks of the Bronze Pillars from Encylopedia Biblia (1903)

The construction of the temple has already consumed vast resources of lumber, stone, and precious metal but now the work of Hiram utilizes an uncounted amount of bronze. The two massive bronze pillars named Jachin and Boaz[2], the bronze sea, and the ten stands and basins along with the other items necessary for the sacrificial work of the temple are massive. On the one hand they may illustrate the bringing together of the resources of the people to be committed to the devotion to the LORD the God of Israel. The surrounding of the construction of Solomon’s palace complex by the commitment of the resources to the temple may be intended to present Solomon’s devotion in a positive light. Yet, as Brueggemann points out the continual focus on bronze and gold in this final description of the construction may also lead to the commoditization of the temple where the focus becomes on the gold and costly material used in the construction of the building rather than on the worship and the covenantal fidelity the temple is to embody. (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 104)

The temple built by Solomon will occupy an important place in the theological imagination of the Jewish people. This is evident when one pays attention to the vision of the throne room of God in the vision of Ezekiel and compares it to the temple. The image of oxen, lions, and cherubim play an important role in this vision. It is interesting that the temple includes several images of oxen after the golden calf and the inclusion of these animal and angelic images in the temple seems to be in tension with the prohibition of images in the ten commandments. Yet, for the narrator of 1 Kings, even if they do include some warnings in the texts, the construction of the temple is a high point in the story of the people of Israel and the reign of Solomon. The dedication of three chapter of the book to the construction and dedication of the temple while most kings entire reigns will fill significantly less space is a testament to the importance in the imagination of the people as they remember their history.

[1] In 2 Chronicles 2:14 Hiram (Huram-abi) is the child of a Danite woman and a Tyrian man, both Kings and Chronicles move over the mixed parentage of Hiram without needing to explain it.

[2] Scholars disagree on the meaning of the names for the pillars but one suggestion is “in strength” (Boaz) and “established (Jachin) (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 98)

Digital Worship January 29, 2023

There is only one worship option this week since Rejoice is now using five Sunday months as an opportunity to do a combined worship. We will return to our normal options next week. Sermon apart from the rest of the service is embedded at the bottom of the page.

4th Sunday after Epiphany, January 29, 2023

Welcome:

Second song: “All the People Said Amen”

You are not alone, if you are lonely
When you feel afraid, you’re not the only
 We are all the same, in need of mercy 
To be forgiven and be free
It’s all you got to lean on,
But thank God it’s all you need
 
And all the people said “Amen” – woah 
And all the people said “Amen” 
Give thanks to the Lord for His love never ends 
And all the people said “Amen”
 
If you’re rich or poor, well it don’t matter 
Weak or strong, you know love is what we’re after 
We’re all broken, but we’re all in this together 
 
God knows we stumble and fall
And He so loved the world
He sent His Son to save us all
 
And all the people said “Amen” – woah 
And all the people said “Amen” 
Give thanks to the Lord for His love never ends 
And all the people said “Amen”
 
Blessed are the poor in spirit, who are torn apart
Blessed are the persecuted and the pure in heart
Blessed are the people hungry for another start
For this is the kingdom – the kingdom of God

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart. Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

First Reading: Micah 6: 1-8

1Hear what the Lord says:
  Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
  and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
  and you enduring foundations of the earth;
 for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
  and he will contend with Israel.
3“O my people, what have I done to you?
  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
  and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
 and I sent before you Moses,
  Aaron, and Miriam.
5O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
  what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
 and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
  that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  and bow myself before God on high?
 Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
  with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
 Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
  and what does the Lord require of you
 but to do justice, and to love kindness,
  and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm: Psalm 15

 1O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
 Who may dwell on your holy hill?
 2Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
 and speak the truth from their heart;
 3who do not slander with their tongue,
 and do no evil to their friends,
 nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
 4in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
 but who honor those who fear the LORD;
 who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
 5who do not lend money at interest,
 and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
 Those who do these things shall never be moved.

  Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Gospel: Matthew 5: 1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Sermon: Pastor Neil White

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Assisting Minister

Let us pray:

Creating God, source of all life, we rejoice in the incredible creation that you have given us to watch over. As you continue to renew your creation day by day we ask that you grant both your people and leaders, global and local, a heart to care for the earth. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord God, ruler of all the earth, where nations and communities yearn for peace and justice we ask for your steadfast love and righteousness to guide those working for peace. Watch over those who dedicate their lives to the protection and service of others including: Ben, Brycen, Christian, Clayton, Daniel, Dillan, Ethan, Evan, Luke, Michael, Spencer, Sydney, Tyler B. and Tyler G. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Healing God look on your children with compassion and ease the suffering of those dealing with emotional or physical pain. Have your healing hand upon:  Addison, Aubrey, Avery, Betsy, Billie, Bob, Brenda, Campbell, Carleen, Cohen, Dennis, Denver, Donna, Donny,  Eliza, Gary, Jamie, Jan,  Judy, Laurie, Linda, Maddie, Maureen, Melissa, Mike, Patrick, Roger, Sandy, Tom and Wayne and console the friends and family of Chris Lensvaart

Lord, we pray for the ministries of the ELCA and the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, we also lift up in prayer today: Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Grand Prairie, Umoja International Mission Lutheran Church, Fort Worth, and First Call Theological Accompaniment.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Leader: In trust and hope, we commend to you, O Lord, all for whom we pray. Amen.

Sharing of the Peace

Highlights

Offering Offering may be given in the offering plate or electronically through the Tithe.ly app. If you want to honor your electronic gift during the offering there are cards on the usher’s table for that purpose.

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

A: Let us pray.Let us pray.  O God, with this meal you have united us with Christ and also with each other.  Send us now in the power of your Spirit, that we may reflect your love to the world through the power of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen 

Blessing

Closing Song: “Your Grace is Enough”

Great is Your faithfulness, O God;
You wrestle with the sinner’s heart.
You lead us by still waters and to mercy
And nothing can keep us apart.
 
So, remember Your people,
Remember Your children,
Remember Your promise, O God.
 Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough for me.
 
Great is Your love and justice, God
You use the weak to lead the strong.
 You lead us in the song of Your salvation,
And all Your people sing along.
 
So, remember Your people,
Remember Your children,
Remember Your promise, O God.
 Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough for me.
 
Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough for me.
 So, remember Your people,
Remember Your children,
Remember Your promise, O God.
 Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough,
Your Grace is enough for me.
Yeah, Your grace is enough;
Heaven reaching down to us.
Your grace is enough for me.
God I see.
 
Your grace is enough,
I’m covered in your love.
Your grace is enough for me.
For me.

DiscipleLife

L:    As God has claimed us as his own in Christ,

       we seek to follow Christ with these marks of DiscipleLife:

§Praying Daily

§Worshiping Weekly

§Studying the Bible

§Serving Others

§Building Spiritual Friendships

§Giving to God and our Neighbors in Need

§Engaging God’s Mission

Dismissal: “Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God” Alleluia

1 Kings 6 The Construction of Solomon’s Temple

The Temple by Radojavor@deviantart.com

1 Kings 6

1 In the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD. 2 The house that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. 3 The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits wide, across the width of the house. Its depth was ten cubits in front of the house. 4 For the house he made windows with recessed frames. 5 He also built a structure against the wall of the house, running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary; and he made side chambers all around. 6 The lowest story was five cubits wide, the middle one was six cubits wide, and the third was seven cubits wide; for around the outside of the house he made offsets on the wall in order that the supporting beams should not be inserted into the walls of the house.

7 The house was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple while it was being built.

8 The entrance for the middle story was on the south side of the house: one went up by winding stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. 9 So he built the house, and finished it; he roofed the house with beams and planks of cedar. 10 He built the structure against the whole house, each story five cubits high, and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.

11 Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. 13 I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”

14 So Solomon built the house, and finished it. 15 He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the rafters of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress. 16 He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters, and he built this within as an inner sanctuary, as the most holy place. 17 The house, that is, the nave in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long. 18 The cedar within the house had carvings of gourds and open flowers; all was cedar, no stone was seen. 19 The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. 20 The interior of the inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar. 21 Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, then he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. 22 Next he overlaid the whole house with gold, in order that the whole house might be perfect; even the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.

23 In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. 24 Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. 25 The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. 26 The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. 27 He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings toward the center of the house were touching wing to wing. 28 He also overlaid the cherubim with gold.

29 He carved the walls of the house all around about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 30 The floor of the house he overlaid with gold, in the inner and outer rooms.

31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors of olivewood; the lintel and the doorposts were five-sided. 32 He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold, and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees.

33 So also he made for the entrance to the nave doorposts of olivewood, four-sided each, 34 and two doors of cypress wood; the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding. 35 He carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, overlaying them with gold evenly applied upon the carved work. 36 He built the inner court with three courses of dressed stone to one course of cedar beams.

37 In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid, in the month of Ziv. 38 In the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.

The construction of the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem is a central event in the narration of the story of Israel. For the era this temple is a massive building roughly one hundred five feet long, thirty feet wide and forty-five feet tall. It is twice the length and breadth of the tabernacle and three times as tall with ten times the internal space which is correspondingly lit by ten menorahs. (Israel, 2013, pp. 177-179) It is a project of impressive scope and a phenomenal investment of resources for this relatively young and small monarchy, and it is a project which will be a central part of Jerusalem for around four hundred years.

Theologically the completion of the temple is viewed as a completion of the promises God made to the people when they left Egypt. Calendars are important in Hebrew thought and the four hundred eighty years is significant as the multiple of twelve and forty. Twelve is of course the number of tribes of Israel while forty is often a number of completion (forty days and forty nights of rain, forty years in the wilderness) and forty years is often viewed as the length of a generation in the bible. Now twelve generations later the nation has reached its adulthood and is building a permanent home for its God in the promised land.

The act of constructing the temple concentrates the resources of the nation into this great project, and yet despite the grandeur of the temple God’s presence within this space is contingent upon obedience to the statutes, ordinances, and commandments of God. The pious act of constructing the temple and offering sacrifices is never sufficient to replace covenant obedience to the God of Israel. Like the tabernacle it is to be a place where God can dwell among God’s people, but God’s presence and blessing require fidelity.

The design and construction of the temple is similar to other religious sites excavated in the Middle East, and it is likely that Solomon uses the worship sites of other nations as a guide for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. Especially with craftsmen sent from Tyre, it is likely that lessons learned in construction of other sites are applied to this project. As a project showing Solomon’s devotion to the LORD, it likely uses the best of design and knowledge to build a structure that will endure.

Evaluating the construction of the temple often depends upon the perspective one examines it from. For much of the history of both Judaism and Christianity holy spaces were constructed to bring a small piece of heaven to earth. If one enters a Catholic cathedral you see the evidence of the very best resources of the people being brought together to create a beautiful space where God’s presence might be encountered in the beauty of the space. The Protestant Reformation with its democratization of space often constructed worship sites that were much more austere and functional rather than beautiful and awe inspiring. The lavish use of gold and cedar in the temple of Jerusalem is designed to be an awe-inspiring space which reflects its place as a place where God’s name can dwell.

First Kings views the construction of the temple as a high point in the reign of Solomon and of the people of Israel in general. There is the subtle critique of placing too much focus on the temple at the expense of covenant fidelity as well as a subtle questioning of the deal that Solomon makes to acquire the resources for the temple in the previous chapter. Yet, the completion of the temple in all its majesty is viewed as an accomplishment for both Solomon and the people. This massive temple with its ornate doors, gold plated walls, and massive gold covered cherubim is a place where God can be present among the people. Its completion at the end of seven years (also a theologically significant number) and its overall evaluation of being perfect is representative the building’s calling to be a place where God’s presence can be encountered.

Someone Else’s Fortune

 

As the slip of paper emerges from the cracked cookie
My eyes focus on words that can only be
Someone else’s fortune

The words may have fitted any number of the possible lives I’ve grieved
Sure, they are supposed to be generic enough to fit many lives
But the particularity of my experiences transgresses the boundaries
Of Someone else’s fortune

This simple sentence of a throw away piece of paper
Becomes a mental pathway to the present that never was to be
To dreams stillborn and paths that receded into the past
An invitation to rumination upon hopes I thought long buried
Of the someone else that those paths would have created
If this wasn’t someone else’s fortune, but mine

Review of the Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 13: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

The Big Sleep is the first novel featuring the iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe. This is one of the books that would be instrumental in the evolution of the private eye character in the noir films with dark characters. Chandler’s writing style immediately evokes the feeling of watching a classical private eye or crime movie and he takes us to the darker side of Hollywood in the 1930s. Philip Marlowe is the intelligent but hardnosed investigator asked to investigate an attempt to extort the elderly patriarch of the family. The investigation quickly walks into the murky world of pornography, gambling and drinking (in the immediate aftermath of prohibition), and murder.

The book’s style seems tailor made to become the movie it would be made into multiple times. Raymond Chandler does a good job of balancing giving enough information to show the reader the scene in their mind without becoming bogged down. It is a quick paced read but the characters seem somewhat two dimensional. Philip Marlowe is the tough guy investigator who is intelligent but has no emotional depth, and the other characters are given just enough story to fit their place in the plot. It is very different from many of the other books in the Time Magazine top 100 list, but it probably finds its place here to represent the noir investigative genre that has continued to exercise popularity. It is an invitation to the smoke-filled world of tough guys who drink all the time and walk on the dark side of 1930s Hollywood.

1 Kings 5 The High Cost of Construction

Cedar of Lebanon (Cedar of God), Lebanon By © Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92872076

1 Kings 5

1 Now King Hiram of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father; for Hiram had always been a friend to David. 2 Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying, 3 “You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. 4 But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5 So I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD said to my father David, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ 6 Therefore command that cedars from the Lebanon be cut for me. My servants will join your servants, and I will give you whatever wages you set for your servants; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

7 When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed be the LORD today, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people.” 8 Hiram sent word to Solomon, “I have heard the message that you have sent to me; I will fulfill all your needs in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. 9 My servants shall bring it down to the sea from the Lebanon; I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you indicate. I will have them broken up there for you to take away. And you shall meet my needs by providing food for my household.” 10 So Hiram supplied Solomon’s every need for timber of cedar and cypress. 11 Solomon in turn gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty cors of fine oil. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year. 12 So the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. There was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two of them made a treaty.

13 King Solomon conscripted forced labor out of all Israel; the levy numbered thirty thousand men. 14 He sent them to the Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts; they would be a month in the Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. 15 Solomon also had seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, 16 besides Solomon’s three thousand three hundred supervisors who were over the work, having charge of the people who did the work. 17 At the king’s command, they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. 18 So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites did the stonecutting and prepared the timber and the stone to build the house.

The reign of Solomon sets in motion dramatic changes for Israel. The mobilization to build the temple is a massive undertaking requiring international cooperation for materials. Traditionally most interpreters of these early portions of Solomon’s reign have viewed the preparation and the construction of the temple as examples of the wisdom and faithfulness of Solomon to the LORD. However, there are multiple perspectives related to the temple and the building projects of Solomon and that are woven together in the report of 1 Kings on this massive undertaking which dramatically changes the religious landscape of the people.

The tabernacle constructed during the journey from Egypt to the promised land was to be a place where God could dwell among the people, but it was a tent designed to travel with the people. Once the people entered the land of Canaan there were several worship sites throughout the land, but the worship of the LORD often was modeled after the worship of the deities of the surrounding peoples. From a perspective of unifying the worship of the LORD in a common place and with a common practice the temple has the potential to be a unifying place where the name of the LORD can dwell, and the priest can hand on the law and its interpretation to the people. Israel had never before had a permanent place to worship the LORD or a place to become a central symbol of God’s presence among the people.

Yet, even when King David wants to build the temple of God during his reign he is met with the response of a God who is flattered but who refuses to be confined to a permanent place. While God indicates that David’s son will eventually build a house of cedar for the LORD, there is a thread of discomfort within the passage about God’s presence not being able to move among the people (2 Samuel 7: 1-17). The compromise in the construction is that temple will be a house ‘for the name of the LORD my God’ and not a place where God’s presence is limited to. God’s freedom will continue to expand beyond the temple. God will deign to show God’s presence in this place, but God will not be limited to only being present in this place among the people.

In the construction of a place of worship the expectation is that people will contribute their best to the endeavor. This was the practice in the construction of the tabernacle and Moses was reported to have more than enough for the project by a freewill offering (Exodus 35). Now the temple is the first public project of the Solomon regime, and it is done by the mechanism of taxation and forced labor. The temple may be a great public good, but the question of cost is subtly raised here in the text along with the broader question of what type of nation Israel is becoming. The negotiations between King Hiram and King Solomon may be necessary to secure the materials and good relations to ensure peace during the construction of the temple. Yet, the project comes with an extremely high price tag.

King Hiram of Tyre provided lumber and people skilled in construction when David established his household in Jerusalem after he conquered it. There is no indication of the cost David paid the King of Tyre for these resources and craftsmen, but this trade agreement marks the entry of Israel onto a much broader stage. Now in negotiations with the new king, Hiram continues to provide lumber and craftsmen in exchange for the agricultural produce of the land. In addition to supplying the needs of the household of Solomon, now the land must support the burden of the household of King Hiram of Tyre. Choon-Leong Seow names this section “Shady Deals and Oppressive Policies” (NIB III: 56) and it is likely that the deal cut between Solomon and this Phoenician king well versed in international trade is more favorable to the King of Tyre than the people of Israel. Looking closely at the amount of wheat and oil given it quickly becomes apparent that the numbers here are large. Roughly twice the amount of grain collected for Solomon’s household is given annually to the King of Tyre, and if you follow the Hebrew (unlike the NRSV which follows the Greek Septuagint in its translation) the 2,000 cors (almost 7,000 gallons) of oil is a wealth of agricultural resources traded for the cedar. The cedars of Lebanon are often associated with affluence and their use by the people of Israel comes at a high annual price tag. It is possible that Israel enjoyed many years of great harvests that may have made the construction projects bearable but knowing the stresses on the population by the end of Solomon’s reign we can see the beginning of the internal strain within the nation.

In addition to the cost in agricultural production is the cost in conscripted forced labor. As mentioned earlier, the people of Israel were the forced labor for construction in Egypt and this new project which in the text mobilizes over one hundred eighty thousand men for log cutting and transport, stone cutting and transport, and construction is another strain on the population. It is possible that Judah is excluded from this conscription (NIB III: 58) like it is possible they were excluded from the provision for Solomon’s household in the previous chapter, but this is assuming a differentiation between Israel and Judah. It also is a return to the ways of Egypt where the king enslaves the people and wealth of the nation is owned by the ruler.

The construction of the temple will be a focal point for the reign of Solomon and for the worship of the southern kingdom of Judah after his death. The temple of Solomon will stand as a central fixture of Jerusalem for centuries and will be a symbol of the faith of the people. Yet, the process of construction sounds some ominous notes as it becomes a public work that is done by the taxation and forced labor of the people. The suspicious part of my mind wonders if this is like the public work projects throughout the former Warsaw Pact countries where beautiful train stations, government buildings, and public spaces were constructed while the majority of the population lived in deprivation. Solomon’s early reign is rapidly changing the city of Jerusalem and the manner in which the population of the nation is governed. This place created for the name of God will be a source of public focus for many generations, but we are primed to wonder about the cost that this great building will exact not only on the wealth of the people but also on their identity.

1 Kings 4 A Prosperous Beginning of Solomon’s Reign

Edward Poynter, The Visit of the Queen of Shebe to King Solomon (1890)

1 Kings 4: 1-19 The Administration of Solomon

1 King Solomon was king over all Israel, 2 and these were his high officials: Azariah son of Zadok was the priest; 3 Elihoreph and Ahijah sons of Shisha were secretaries; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 4 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was in command of the army; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 5 Azariah son of Nathan was over the officials; Zabud son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend; 6 Ahishar was in charge of the palace; and Adoniram son of Abda was in charge of the forced labor.

7 Solomon had twelve officials over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one had to make provision for one month in the year. 8 These were their names: Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim; 9 Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan; 10 Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher); 11 Ben-abinadab, in all Naphath-dor (he had Taphath, Solomon’s daughter, as his wife); 12 Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean, which is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam; 13 Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (he had the villages of Jair son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars); 14 Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; 15 Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he had taken Basemath, Solomon’s daughter, as his wife); 16 Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; 17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar; 18 Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin; 19 Geber son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of King Sihon of the Amorites and of King Og of Bashan. And there was one official in the land of Judah.

The reign of Solomon and the beginning of his administration of the people and resources of Israel is the culmination of two generations of rapid change. Prior to the anointing of King Saul, Israel was a collection of tribal and familial allegiances governing towns and small territories. The tribes of Israel would occasionally work together, but there was probably very little formal authority beyond the family and tribal roles. Under Saul and David, the tribes were united for military purposes and both these kings were primarily warrior leaders, but under Solomon we see a consolidation of power and the beginning of a bureaucratic administration and the infrastructure for a system of taxation for the people.  The organization of the country under Solomon would have been a dramatic change from what the people had known previously. In Walter Brueggemann’s assessment, “The regime must have been enormously successful and deeply impressive to Israelites who were only two generations removed from hill-country subsistence.” (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 57)

Any honest evaluation of the administration of Solomon brings in both the perspective of 1 Kings (and the Deuteronomic history in general) and the perspective the author commenting upon it. We have already seen hints that 1 Kings’ evaluation of Solomon may not be entirely positive, although this chapter is primarily cast in a positive light. Through much of history the view of Solomon’s reign was viewed as a model for a wise monarch, but more recent scholarship tends to have an anti-monarchical or anti-imperial attitude. As an author I stand between both the standard and more modern scholastic view. The bureaucratic ordering of a modern society which can leverage the combined resources of a nation can be a source of great good and stability, and I tend to have a more positive view of government and authority than many other people my age or younger. Yet, a bureaucracy which enables the acquisition of material goods by those in power while neglecting the broader good of the society and world can cause great harm. The evaluation of the efficacy of Solomon’s administration will need to be viewed within the context of the actions of his reign as it is reported by 1 Kings rather than by a simple evaluation of its structure. Nevertheless, a close reading of the structure may give us some clues to examine when placed within the broader reporting of Solomon’s reign.

A sensible place to begin would be to compare Solomon’s administration to his father David’s. David’s officers are listed in both 2 Samuel 8: 16-18, and with some small changes in 2 Samuel 20: 23-26. One significant difference is due to the character of Solomon’s reign in comparison with David. David was a king governing a nation continually engaged in conflict and the position of the military leaders take first precedence in the lists of David’s administrators, while they come later in Solomon’s peaceful reign. Many of the administrators are either sons of people from David’s regime or members of David’s regime. Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah are rewarded for their loyalty with either positions for themselves or for their sons (or both). Solomon’s regime also has more people filling the role of secretaries or recorders and it is likely this reflects a government where written records and accounting are used to facilitate the administration of the territory. Zabud son of Nathan is listed as both priest and king’s friend. Zabud may have been a trusted advisor to the king, but an accurate description of his position is impossible based on the lack of additional information of Zabud in the narrative. There is a strong priestly presence in Solomon’s administration, and this may be critical in the construction of the temple and in an idealized king the presence of the priests would help the king adhere to the law of God. Finally in the initial list is the presence of Adoniram who is in charge of forced labor. King David had an official over forced labor in 2 Samuel 20, and the use of forced labor will factor in the construction of the temple and the house of King Solomon. However, the people of Israel were forced to participate in forced labor in Egypt and this may point to an ominous return to the ways of Egypt. The organization of Solomon’s high officials doubtless reflects the courts of the other nations around Israel, and while it may be wise to examine the workings of other governments this also would need to be examined under the covenant relationship of the law of God. How these priests and officers execute the administration of Israel will ultimately determine whether they model the kingdom after God’s vision or whether they imitate Egypt and the neighboring kingdoms.

Solomon’s officials over the land of Israel responsible for gathering the resources for the centralized government replaces the tribal systems of administration. It is possible that the redistricting beyond the tribal boundaries enabled a fairer collection of resources based upon population and it also collects from areas beyond the traditional borders of Israel. Yet, it may also be a significant move away from the traditional power structure of tribes, clans, and families. It is unclear whether the administrators are from Solomon’s tribe of Judah (as some commentaries believe) or whether Solomon uses local leaders to administer the provinces. The alliance by marriage of two of the twelve administrators is not surprising since this was a way of ensuring economic cooperation in the ancient world. However, it is worth noting that, in contrast to the NRSV’s translation, there is no provision for the tribe of Judah in the Hebrew, and some believe that Judah may have been exempted from the requirements of taxation that the rest of the kingdom bore. By the end of Solomon’s reign, the areas outside of Judah will view the burden of supporting the projects of Solomon and his administration as a heavy burden which leads to the eventual breaking of the kingdom under his son. Yet, the initial report of the administration of Solomon related in the second half of the chapter is predominantly positive.

1 Kings 4: 20-28

20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy. 21 Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates; and he had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them under their vines and fig trees. 26 Solomon also had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 27 Those officials supplied provisions for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month; they let nothing be lacking. 28 They also brought to the required place barley and straw for the horses and swift steeds, each according to his charge.

The initial reports in 1 Kings of Solomon’s reign are idyllic. The population reflects the fulfillment of the  promise of God to Abraham about his descendants (Genesis 15:3). After generations during the time of Judges where the population decreased due to conflicts with neighboring kingdoms, the people of Israel seem to be flourishing in this peaceful and well administered time. The wealth of the surrounding nations is now flowing into Israel instead of being extracted by raids or given in tribute to surrounding nations.

Yet, within this prosperity creeps the initial warning of the danger of this affluence. The provision of Solomon’s administration is a phenomenal amount of grain and meat, but even more sinister is the accumulation of military power reflected in the building of a large chariot force. As Deuteronomy states, “16 Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the LORD has said to you, “You must never return that way again.”  (Deuteronomy 17: 16). The immense resources poured into the acquisition, feeding, and housing forty-thousands horses and twelve thousand chariot drivers may make sense from a military perspective, but the law wants Israel to understand their reliance upon God rather than their military might. This becomes another indication that Israel, under Solomon, may be pursuing a path that will make them an imitator of Egypt rather than God’s desire.  Granted that the descriptions of the wealth and power of Israel under Solomon may be hyperbole, yet the concentration of the resources of the nation to provide for Solomon will prove to be a drain in the future.

1 Kings 4: 29-34

29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol; his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. 34 People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

Solomon is portrayed as a renaissance man, studying broadly and surpassing the wisdom of the wise men of his time. He is compared to both Egypt, as a center of learning, and the east and becomes famous internationally for his speaking on the natural world. Writing songs, having wise sayings and reflecting upon the world all are viewed as integral parts to the gift of wisdom Solomon has to share with the world. Solomon would be attributed as the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs due to this view of his wisdom which excelled all the renowned wise men of his days. Yet, the coming chapters will move away from this renaissance man approach to wisdom and focus the wisdom of Solomon on urban matters of construction, imperial matters of administration, and ultimately on the acquisition of greater wealth and power for the kingdom. Solomon idyllic start and gifted knowledge will now enter into the temptations of the wealth and power that are present as he administers this kingdom at the height of its prosperity and influence.

1 Kings 3 The Wisdom of Solomon

Luca Giordano, Dream of Solomon, (1694-1695)

1 Kings 3: 1-2 A Powerful But Troubling Alliance

1 Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.

The marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt is viewed very differently based upon the perspective one uses. In the world of power politics this is an audacious beginning to the reign of Solomon. The Pharoahs of Egypt very rarely made alliances by marrying off their daughters, they often viewed other kings as unworthy of such a prize. Solomon’s alliance with Egypt would have been an alliance with the most powerful empire of the day and have instantly made Solomon’s kingdom more secure from a political/military perspective. Yet, it is interesting that the acknowledgment of Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharoah is narrated before the granting of wisdom to Solomon. From a worldly or historical perspective this is an act of great political shrewdness, but the book of Kings is not primarily written from this perspective and kings will not be valued for their political or military prowess but by their faithfulness to their calling under the law.

The picture of Solomon is more complicated than the wise king who has great wealth and whose reign is one of peace and prosperity when presented in 1 Kings. The marriage of Solomon to the daughter of Pharoah at the beginning of his reign is mirrored by the evaluation of the ending of his reign when “King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh…and his wives turned away his heart.”  As mentioned earlier, this book of 1st Kings is a part of a collection of works in the bible often called the Deuteronomic history by scholars since it evaluates things through a theological lens similar to the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy has specific guidance for what a king of Israel is to be:

16 Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the LORD has said to you, “You must never return that way again.” 17 And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. 18 When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17: 16-20

Deuteronomy envisions the king being a model of a different way than Egypt. They are not to return to Egypt for military might, to acquire many wives for themselves, or great wealth. In many ways Solomon is the opposite of the ideal king when his overall reign is evaluated. This small note before the upcoming scenes strikes an ominous note for a reader used to hearing the perspective of the law as reflected in Deuteronomy.

1 Kings 3: 3-15 A Dream and a Desire for Wisdom

3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”15 Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem where he stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. He offered up burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, and provided a feast for all his servants.

Solomon travels to Gibeon to offer sacrifices. As mentioned in the previous verse, this is a time before the temple is built and the worship of the LORD becomes centered in Jerusalem and Solomon’s travel to this place of offering would be viewed as an act of devotion. Solomon here is viewed positively as one who loves the LORD.[1] Many scholars also believe that this act is to seek a visionary experience, entreating the God of Israel for guidance or inducing a prophetic experience. Dreams were viewed as a place where God would communicate with God’s chosen one, but also could be viewed by some prophets as something less than a direct revelation of God. Regardless, the dream of Solomon where the LORD appears to the new king is viewed in a positive manner as is Solomon’s request for an understanding mind[2] to govern the people. Many have followed the words of the text to understand Solomon as a young boy, but this is probably not the case. Solomon’s reference to himself as a little child probably refers to his inexperience as a leader of the people.

Solomon’s choice of an understanding mind rather than revenge for enemies, long life or wealth is, in the view of 1 Kings, the wise and faithful one and Solomon will be remembered as a king who possessed wisdom. several psalms, much of the book of Proverbs as well as Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes will be attributed to him. It is unlikely that Solomon is the author of Song of Song and Ecclesiastes. Yet God grants in the narrative grants Solomon unconditional wealth and honor and conditional long life if Solomon remains faithful in addition to wisdom. The question that the narrative will have to examine is how Solomon uses this wisdom and how it benefits the people. It is also important to evaluate Solomon’s use of wisdom both in the world’s judgment but also in the judgment of the law of God. If Solomon uses this wisdom for the acquisition of wealth, power, and political standing it may be viewed positively by the world, but it may not fit the vision of God for what Solomon’s reign is hoped to be.

1 Kings 3: 16-28 A Strange Case for the King

16 Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. 19 Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.” 22 But the other woman said, “No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.” So they argued before the king.

23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; while the other says, ‘Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'” 24 So the king said, “Bring me a sword,” and they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.” 26 But the woman whose son was alive said to the king — because compassion for her son burned within her — “Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!” The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.” 27 Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.” 28 All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

This well know story of Solomon and the two prostitutes has a folksy feel to it. Many commentators believe this is a story of wisdom that becomes a part of the Solomon story to demonstrate Solomon’s wisdom, but it is a strange story for several reasons. The first thing to notice about this story is the complaint of two prostitutes merits the time and judgment of the king of Israel. There is no moral judgment placed upon these two women for their vocation, or the reality that the fathers are not engaged in the life of their sons. The assumption is that prostitution is a normal part of the life of the people and that there is nothing unusual about these two women living in a household and making a living in this manner. What the story finds unique is the lack of other witnesses to demonstrate who the true mother of the living child is.

Solomon’s judgment to threaten the life of the child to discern who the true mother is may be emotionally effective in this case since one woman would rather give up her child than see him killed, but the story depends upon the lack of empathy of the other woman. What would have happened if both women wanted to give away the child. As Brueggemann can state, “This is a strange wisdom that governs by violence.” Many commentators from the Rabbis to modern evaluators have been suspicious of the wisdom of this threat attributed to Solomon. Perhaps there are other paths a judge may have taken, examining the household or the dead baby for example, but we still need to remember that the case of two prostitutes is brought before the king of Israel. Solomon judges who the mother is by their emotional attachment to the child and the story never tells us if this is the true birth mother. We, and Solomon, make this assumption and the bonds of compassion may be stronger than the bond of blood at times.

The point of this narrative is that Solomon has a heart that listens and that in the absence of other evidence he hears the actions of the heart towards the threatened child. Israel, in 1 Kings, views the judgment as fair and wise as Solomon was able to discern a solution where others perhaps had not. We can debate the ethics of threatening a child’s life to see the mother’s reaction, but this is a story from a different world with different ethics. In that world, Solomon demonstrates God’s wisdom to execute justice.

[1][1] ‘Love’ in the scriptures does not refer to the idea of romantic attachment but sole and obedient loyalty. (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 46)

[2] Literally “a heart that listens”. In Hebrew physiology the heart is the organ of comprehension so the translation of a listening heart as an understanding mind makes sense when you understand how they would place wisdom in the body. (Cogan, 2001, p. 187)

1 Kings 2 Bloody Beginnings

King David Presenting the Scepter to Solomon By Cornelis de Vos – (1601-1651)

1 Kings 2: 1-12 Final Words and Death of David

1 When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, 3 and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. 4 Then the LORD will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

5 “Moreover you know also what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner son of Ner, and Amasa son of Jether, whom he murdered, retaliating 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. 6 Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. 7 Deal loyally, however, 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 your brother Absalom. 8 There is also with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a terrible 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, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man; you will know what you ought to do to him, and you must bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.”

 10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Many people when they were growing up were taught a romanticized version of King David and King Solomon, almost like a pre-medieval King Arthur. Yet, the narratives of the bible are often far less romantic than the Sunday school stories that were taught to children. It would be problematic to attempt to use this period at the end of David’s life and the beginning of the reign of King Solomon to teach some type of moralistic lesson. Perhaps it is helpful to remember that woven in with the assumption of the need for a king to provide leadership for the people is the prophetic critique of the places where that leadership does not keep the statues, commandments, ordinances, and testimonies as outlined in the law of Moses. Yet, even in this chapter where the requirements of the law are met and the reactions of Solomon are coherent within the cultural expectations of his time, his actions would not be viewed as acceptable in our very different cultural space.

The final words of David begin in a manner that highlights that this is a narration of history from the perspective of the law and David’s final words can be read in a similar way to Moses’ and Joshua’s final charges to the people. They all are concerned with obedience to the law of God, presumably similar in form to Deuteronomy. David’s charge to Solomon echoes to the recurring words at the beginning of Joshua where the LORD and the people charge Joshua to, “Only be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:6,7, 9, 18). Solomon is charged to walk in the way of wisdom, a way that conforms to the vision of God’s commandments and is promised that the reward for that fidelity will be God’s continual provision and protection of the line of Solomon.

Yet, the world that David and Solomon navigate is morally ambiguous. David was a warrior king who consolidated his reign through military might and political maneuvering. As Brueggemann deftly states, “It is enough to recognize that David on his deathbed is a person of deep contradiction and incongruity, caught between the clear claims of faith and the obvious requirements of raw power.” (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 39) A cynical reading of this passage hears David asking Solomon to enact the revenge for political reasons he may have been unable to enact. A more favorable reading hears David alerting Solomon to potential dangers to power early in his reign. The truth may lie somewhere between these perspectives.

Joab son of Zeruiah is a frequent player in David’s narrative as a fierce fighter and commander of the forces of David. Yet, Joab has previously aligned himself with Solomon’s rival Adonijah and although he has always been a supporter of David he has often exercised his own judgment, often neglecting David’s stated desires. Joab was a man of bloodshed and the two incidents listed in David’s final words are times when Joab counteracted David’s negotiations to bring peace after conflict. The narrative of Abner and Joab takes place in 2 Samuel 2-3 where Abner, as the commander of the Saul’s army remains a significant opponent who ends up killing Joab’s brother Asahel. As David becomes stronger and the house of Saul becomes weaker there is a loss of trust between Ishbaal, Saul’s heir, and Abner. Abner’s action to make a covenant with David allows for David to consolidate control over Israel. Yet, when Joab learns of this peace he seeks Abner out and executes him. Amasa son of Jether was appointed over the army of Israel by Absalom when he rebels against his father David and seizes the kingdom for a time. Yet, after the death of Absalom, Amasa is still given a position in the military until Joab kills him. Joab was a man of war and David may have believed that without his removal Solomon would not have known peace. Yet, it is morally ambiguous at best for David to leave this vengeance to his son to enact on a military ally from throughout his lifetime.

Shimei son of Gera may have represented the continued threat of the kingdom splitting apart from loyalists to King Saul, David’s predecessor. This is another instance where David in a moment of military and political vulnerability is forced to make an uneasy peace rather than enact revenge. During the time of Absalom’s rebellion while David and those loyal to him flee Jerusalem, Shimei curses David and throws stones at him. Yet, David at this moment believes this curse may be from the LORD (2: Samuel 16: 10-11). After the death of Absalom, Shimei comes with a thousand men from Benjamin and appeals to the king for forgiveness. David promises Shimei he shall not die, but the presence of one thousand Benjaminites prompts the reader to question if this forgiveness is an act of political necessity which David feels compelled to keep throughout his lifetime. Upon the death of David a cynical reader sees this as revenge delayed where a more compassionate reader might see David pointing out a potential political threat to Solomon’s new rule. Regardless the advice to eliminate two political enemies and the identification of one who Solomon should bestow loyalty to sets the stage for a consolidation of power that is bloody. The peaceful death of King David will not lead to a peaceful beginning for the reign of Solomon.

1 Kings 2: 13-25 The Elimination of Adonijah

13 Then Adonijah son of Haggith came to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. She asked, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably.” 14 Then he said, “May I have a word with you?” She said, “Go on.” 15 He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel expected me to reign; however, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the LORD. 16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Go on.” 17 He said, “Please ask King Solomon — he will not refuse you — to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” 18 Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak to the king on your behalf.”

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. The king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.” 21 She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to your brother Adonijah as his wife.” 22 King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom as well! For he is my elder brother; ask not only for him but also for the priest Abiathar and for Joab son of Zeruiah!” 23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, “So may God do to me, and more also, for Adonijah has devised this scheme at the risk of his life! 24 Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of my father David, and who has made me a house as he promised, today Adonijah shall be put to death.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he struck him down, and he died.

Adonijah escaped death in the first chapter when he, Abiathar, and Joab along with the other royal sons and many of the people of standing in Judah proclaimed him king by paying obeisance. He is still a person who is a potential threat to the reign of Solomon. This short political drama between Adonijah, Bathsheba, and Solomon sets in motion a chain of events which removes the participants in the earlier plot to declare Adonijah king while David was still alive. Perhaps the placing of this event after the death of David makes it easier for Solomon to act in a manner that is more ruthless, but it is also a point in Solomon’s reign where his power has not been consolidated and he may be viewed as vulnerable.

Adonijah’s request for Abishag the Shunammite would not be heard primarily in this culture as a man wanting a beautiful woman as a consolation prize for losing the crown. Marriages were economic and political transactions. Although there is perhaps some difference between Abishag’s position and concubines there is still the reality that Abishag was brought in to lay with the king. There are a number of parallels between Adonijah and Absalom as mentioned in the previous chapter, but one of the actions that Absalom did to consolidate his power was to demonstrate his virility by laying with his father’s concubines. Absalom’s act of sexual politics was an act of claiming all that was his father’s. Adonijah’s request may not be as blatant as Absalom’s action but it is an act which would be viewed symbolically as claiming the beautiful woman that belonged to his father, and by extension his father’s household.

Bathsheba’s actions are shrewder in Hebrew than they are often portrayed in English. When approached by Adonijah with this bold request she does not promise to relay the petition, but only that she will speak to the king about you (‘aleyka). The NRSV’s translation that she will speak on Adonijah’s behalf gives a positive spin to her answer, but the Hebrew is more neutral. Bathsheba has already demonstrated in the previous chapter the ability to navigate the political world of the court of King David, and now as the queen mother she is likely shrewd enough to see the implications of Adonijah’s request. It is plausible that her action of making Adonijah’s one request into ‘one small request’ that she is speaking ironically (NIB III: 32). Unfortunately, the ironic tone is not something that the scriptures often communicate in their telling of a narrative. Regardless of how it is communicated Solomon immediately sees the danger in this position and the political import of the requested act.

Solomon understands that his claim is still challenged, and that there are still those with power who are invested in Adonijah’s bid for the crown. Solomon acts quickly and dispatches his commander to kill Adonijah for his audacious request. Solomon’s wisdom is used for power politics as he acts in a bloody matter to consolidate his power. In Solomon’s view Adonijah’s request has proven that he is not a worthy man, but a wicked agitator and his response is without mercy.

The ancient world was violent. This is not the Solomon you may have encountered in the Sunday school lessons at your church, but the scriptures are written in a world of wars, assassinations, and threats. Solomons name is derived from the Hebrew Shalom, and while his reign would be more peaceful than his father David’s it does not begin in a peaceful manner. Solomon claims power by eliminating his potential rivals. Even though modern readers may have idealized the reign of Solomon, there is a prophetic critique written into the narrative of 1 Kings. The narrator of 1 Kings does not indicate either approval or disapproval of these individual acts and this is probably viewed as the narration of the reality into which Solomon entered. Yet, its presence in the scriptures does not indicate that this should be a normative practice for those who still claim this story as a part of their scriptures.

1 Kings 2: 26-27 The Removal of Abiathar the Priest

26 The king said to the priest Abiathar, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate; for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you shared in all the hardships my father endured.” 27 So Solomon banished Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.

Abiathar the priest was a loyal servant of King David but he also had aligned himself with Adonijah in his attempt to seize the crown while David was alive. Abiathar is the sole survivor of the murder of the priests at Nob by King Saul and Doeg the Edomite (1 Samuel 22: 6-23) in retribution for giving David the sword of Goliath and the altar bread when he flees. David takes Abiathar into his household and he is loyal to David, even during the rebellion of Absalom. At the same time Abiathar has backed the wrong contender and in light of Adonijah’s recent request King Solomon probably sees Abiathar and Joab continuing to advise Adonijah. In King Solomon’s view Abiathar is deserving of death, but in recognition of his role as priest and his previous allegiance to his father he exiles him to his house in Anathoth. The banishment of Abiathar is also linked to the prophecies against the household of Eli by the man of God in 1 Samuel 2: 27-36 and through Samuel in 1 Samuel 3: 10-14. The removal of Abiathar is the last of the old guard of priests from Shiloh who minister before the LORD in Jerusalem.

1 Kings 2: 28-35 The Elimination of Joab

28 When the news came to Joab — for Joab had supported Adonijah though he had not supported Absalom — Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and grasped the horns of the altar. 29 When it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD and now is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” 30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.'” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” 31 The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause. 32 The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David, and to his descendants, and to his house, and to his throne, there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore.” 34 Then Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and killed him; and he was buried at his own house near the wilderness. 35 The king put Benaiah son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king put the priest Zadok in the place of Abiathar.

Previously King David encouraged his son to use his wisdom to eliminate Joab. Joab, on seeing the elimination of Adonijah and the exile of Abiathar knows that he is probably the next target of Solomon’s regime. Solomon commands the striking down of Joab even though he has fled to the tent of the LORD seeking sanctuary. Benaiah, on Solomon’s orders, goes to the tent of the LORD to confront Joab but when Joab refuses to emerge Beniah seeks the king’s instructions before entering the tent of God and killing Joab.

There is provision in the law for a person to flee to a place of refuge (in Deuteronomy 19: 1-13 and Joshua 20 there are cities designated as places of refuge) in the event of an accidental death to allow the tribal elders or judges to discern the viability of the case. Yet, Solomon, as instructed by David, knows that Joab is guilty of the murder of Abner son of Ner, and Amasa son of Jether. Although Solomon’s immediate issue is probably with his support of Adonijah (and perhaps continued advisement of Adonijah until Solomon has him executed) the knowledge of his being a killer enables Solomon to order Benaiah to strike Joab down while still conforming to the letter of the law as stated in Exodus 21: 12-14:

 12 Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. 13 If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. 14 But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.

With the central figures that supported Adonijah now dealt with Solomon is able to place his allies Benaiah and Zadok over the military and the priesthood respectively. We can acknowledge the cultural conditions and the reading of the law that make this execution of a bloody justice possible without endorsing this as the type of actions we would want our leaders to take in our own cultural conditions.

1 Kings 2: 36-46 The Confinement and Death of Shimei

36 Then the king sent and summoned Shimei, and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem, and live there, and do not go out from there to any place whatever. 37 For on the day you go out, and cross the Wadi Kidron, know for certain that you shall die; your blood shall be on your own head.” 38 And Shimei said to the king, “The sentence is fair; as my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.

39 But it happened at the end of three years that two of Shimei’s slaves ran away to King Achish son of Maacah of Gath. When it was told Shimei, “Your slaves are in Gath,” 40 Shimei arose and saddled a donkey, and went to Achish in Gath, to search for his slaves; Shimei went and brought his slaves from Gath. 41 When Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and returned, 42 the king sent and summoned Shimei, and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the LORD, and solemnly adjure you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and go to any place whatever, you shall die’? And you said to me, ‘The sentence is fair; I accept.’ 43 Why then have you not kept your oath to the LORD and the commandment with which I charged you?” 44 The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your own heart all the evil that you did to my father David; so the LORD will bring back your evil on your own head. 45 But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.” 46 Then the king commanded Benaiah son of Jehoiada; and he went out and struck him down, and he died.

So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

Shimei was the second person that King David told Solomon to use his wisdom to bring about his death. Solomon confines Shimei to his property in Jerusalem and Shimei assents to this house arrest. Shimei remains alive for three years while Solomon reigns but departs to capture two slaves who fled his household. The mention of Achish the King of Gath who Shimei goes to in the search of his slaves may suggest that there is some larger political play in Shimei’s plans, and that may be a part of Solomon’s harsh enforcement of his threat, but it is also possible that Solomon uses this transgression as a way to eliminate one final opponent to his rule. 1 Kings 2 remains a story of Solomon eliminating his rivals. In our modern world we may debate if based upon the witness of 1 Kings 2 whether the situations Solomon uses to eliminate these potential threats is dubious or justified. Either way this chapter is a “fairly sordid story of power politics” (Cogan, 2001, p. 180). Although the actions of Solomon may be permissible under the law of Moses I doubt many modern readers would want to apply this type of ethics to modern politics.

1 Kings 1 An Uneasy Transition from David to Solomon

David, Bathsheba, and Abishag by Fredrick Goodall (1888)

1 Kings 1

1 Kings 1: 1-4 A Feeble King

1 King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. 2 So his servants said to him, “Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant; let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.” 3 So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her sexually.

The initial chapter of 1 Kings serves as a bridge between the stories of 1 and 2 Samuel which culminates with the reign of King David and the transition to the narrative of the kings that come after David. People in the United States have generally taken for granted a peaceful transition of power and the political machinations of an election and swearing in of new leaders has, with one notable exception recently, been accepted as a matter-of-fact occurrence. The transition of power in the ancient world was often a matter of life and death for those who would claim the power to reign. King David was a warrior king who had forged a unified Israel by both his military prowess and his ability to forge alliances with various religious and tribal authorities.

1 Kings begins with “an enfeebled king, a mere shadow of the robust leader he once was,” (Cogan, 2001, p. 164) and in the absence of a robust leader coalitions are forming. The servants of the king have attempted to keep the king able to maintain power, but his health is failing him. The solution is to bring another young, beautiful woman into the king’s bed to keep him warm and to for her to lie in his bosom. The language of Abishag lying in the king’s bosom may intentionally echo the prophet Nathan’s parable to David after the affair with Bathsheba where the poor man’s ewe lamb “used to lie in his bosom” (2 Samuel 12:3) and if this echo is intentional it may help prepare us for the awkward conversation between David and Bathsheba while Abishag is warming the king’s bed.

David as a roughly seventy-year-old man is no longer physically able to hold the kingdom together and his physical frailty and lack of clear succession sets the stage for the conflict of the chapter. The chapter is a political narrative about the effective and ineffective use of symbols and alliances to gain power. It also lives in the shadows of the sins of the past which have weakened David’s house and the central presence of Nathan and Bathsheba throughout this episode as well as the parallels between Adonijah and Absalom bring us to the place where an enfeebled king is no longer able to effectively hold his broken house together. David remains passive as the conflict between those who see Adonijah and Solomon as the next king begins.

1 Kings 1: 5-10 Adonijah’s Bold Claim to Power

5 Now Adonijah son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 6 His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. 7 He conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with the priest Abiathar, and they supported Adonijah. 8 But the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the prophet Nathan, and Shimei, and Rei, and David’s own warriors did not side with Adonijah.

9 Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fatted cattle by the stone Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite the prophet Nathan or Benaiah or the warriors or his brother Solomon.

The perspective of 1 Kings is a complicated question, but in this initial chapter it frames the person and actions of Adonijah in a way that is parallel to Absalom (Israel, 2013, pp. 18-19). Both Absalom and Adonijah are described as being attractive men (2 Samuel 14:25) and this physical attraction is a part of their appeal as the future king (and a reason for David’s failure to correct his sons). Both Absalom and Adonijah attempt to secure the crown by their own machinations while David still lives, and each is the next in line by birth order. Both sons will have chariots and runners to demonstrate their power in the city (2 Samuel 15:1) and the presence of both chariots (the military technology of the day) and runners who were often counted on as loyal bodyguards indicate the military strength to defend his claim. Adonijah has developed a power base of both religious and military leaders and is actively excluding those who he feels may pose a challenge to his ascension as the next king. The act of sacrificing and dining with the royal sons (sans Solomon) the royal officials of Judah is a political action designed to further his aspirations of ruling in his father’s stead. One powerful claimant to the throne has been introduced and the enfeebled king has done nothing to oppose the actions of his attractive son and may be unaware of the machinations occurring in his kingdom.

1 Kings: 1: 11-37 Nathan and Bathsheba Rouse King David to Action

11 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah son of Haggith has become king and our lord David does not know it?

 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, so that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still there speaking with the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”

15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his room. The king was very old; Abishag the Shunammite was attending the king. 16 Bathsheba bowed and did obeisance to the king, and the king said, “What do you wish?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the LORD your God, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne. 18 But now suddenly Adonijah has become king, though you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fatted cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the children of the king, the priest Abiathar, and Joab the commander of the army; but your servant Solomon he has not invited. 20 But you, my lord the king — the eyes of all Israel are on you to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his ancestors, that my son Solomon and I will be counted offenders.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, the prophet Nathan came in. 23 The king was told, “Here is the prophet Nathan.” When he came in before the king, he did obeisance to the king, with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For today he has gone down and has sacrificed oxen, fatted cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s children, Joab the commander of the army, and the priest Abiathar, who are now eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But he did not invite me, your servant, and the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not let your servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

28 King David answered, “Summon Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king. 29 The king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has saved my life from every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ so will I do this day.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Summon to me the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel; then blow the trumpet, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall go up following him. Let him enter and sit on my throne; he shall be king in my place; for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” 36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, so ordain. 37 As the LORD has been with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

The prophet Nathan and Bathsheba act to attempt to undercut the ambitions of Adonijah and to forward Bathsheba’s son Solomon as the next king of Israel. Together they come up with a plan to approach David and remind the king of his previous oath that Solomon would reign. Some commentators are dubious about this oath since it is not mentioned in 2 Samuel and believe that the prophet and Solomon’s mother are taking advantage of the king’s weakened mental faculties. While that is a possible interpretation, the David presented in the text will respond decisively and order a set of actions that are both clear and significant to ensure that Solomon is recognized by the people as the new king. David may have withdrawn from the administration of the kingdom due to his health, but when confronted by Nathan and Bathsheba he acts quickly.

Bathsheba enters the bedroom of the king while Abishag is attending to him. Bathsheba comes and does obeisance to the king and is granted the space to make her plea. Bathsheba’s plea comes from the perspective that the king is unaware of the actions of his son Adonijah that contradict his promises to her under oath. Bathsheba makes the reasonable claim that if Adonijah ascends to the throne she and Solomon will be perceived as ‘offenders’ or enemies of the throne and their lives will be at risk. As Nathan indicated while Bathsheba makes her appeal he also approaches the room of the king and is announced. The prophet Nathan confronts the king questioning his knowledge and at least tacit approval of Adonijah’s actions and lists several of the major political players who are now declaring that Adonijah is king. The acclamation, “long live Adonijah” (rendered by the NRSV king Adonijah) is the typical acclamation of a person who has been declared king. Apparently Bathsheba has left the room while the prophet Nathan has reported to the king, but King David summons her back and affirms his previous oath and declares that he will make it official this day.

David is apparently aware enough to summon the officials who are loyal to Solomon and who are not with Adonijah. The action of Solomon riding on King David’s mule is symbolic but also sends a different image than the chariots and runners of Adonijah. This is image of a king of peace riding on a mule or donkey will become an important prophetic image and will shape the action of Jesus in his approach to Jerusalem. Yet, Solomon is surrounded by those of religious and military power. They anoint him at Gihon, the central water source of the city so that it may be seen by many in the city. This is a very public action that King David decrees and then the symbolism is increased by having Solomon take his seat upon David’s throne. David, who has never acted to displease his son Adonijah in the past, now acts decisively and quickly once he is confronted by Bathsheba and Nathan.

Bathsheba and Nathan in this scene make their decisive reemergence after a long period of silence in the story of David. Both are central figures in a story where David’s actions to sleep with Bathsheba and ordering the death in combat of her husband Uriah to cover his actions bring about a judgment delivered by the prophet Nathan of both the death of their first son and the future unrest in David’s household. Yet, Nathan also delivers a message that God favors Solomon (2 Samuel 12:25) before he, Bathsheba, and Solomon recede into the background of the story as David struggles with the discord in his household and unrest in his reign. Yet, as David’s reign reaches its twilight Nathan and Bathsheba reemerge in the story to prepare for the ascension of Solomon.

1 Kings 1: 38-40 The Anointing of Solomon

38 So the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and led him to Gihon. 39 There the priest Zadok took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up following him, playing on pipes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth quaked at their noise.

Adonijah had initiated an act of political theater to rally support for his claim to reign in David’s stead, but now the allies of Solomon, on King David’s instructions, have their own set of symbolically significant actions in the presence of the people to place Solomon on the throne. The priest and the prophet, the military leader and the servants of David place Solomon on David’s mule and lead him to Gihon. The Cherethites and the Pelethites are likely David’s own warriors indicated in 1:8 but they may also be mercenaries who provide “muscle for the throne a popular support ebbs.” (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 18) Solomon may symbolically be riding a mule instead of a chariot, but he is not without the military might to uphold his claim. In contrast to the action of Adonijah which takes place with the leaders outside of the city, this is done in the midst of the people of Jerusalem and the anointment and blowing of the trumpet to signal Solomon’s appointment as the new king is met with the declaration of the people declaring Solomon king and breaking into a spontaneous celebration. The city erupts into celebration and this joyous noise disrupts the gathering outside of town.

1 Kings 1: 41-53 Adonijah Concedes to Solomon

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. When Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “Why is the city in an uproar?” 42 While he was still speaking, Jonathan son of the priest Abiathar arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and surely you bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king; 44 the king has sent with him the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they had him ride on the king’s mule; 45 the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan have anointed him king at Gihon; and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you heard. 46 Solomon now sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ The king bowed in worship on the bed 48 and went on to pray thus, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who today has granted one of my offspring to sit on my throne and permitted me to witness it.'”

49 Then all the guests of Adonijah got up trembling and went their own ways. 50 Adonijah, fearing Solomon, got up and went to grasp the horns of the altar. 51 Solomon was informed, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; see, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.'” 52 So Solomon responded, “If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance to King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go home.”

Adonijah has been playing a dangerous game and he was outmaneuvered politically by Nathan and Bathsheba. Adonijah likely saw King David’s lack of previous condemnation as a tacit approval of his actions or signs of the king’s lack of awareness of power. David’s instructions carried out publicly by Nathan the prophet, Zadok the priest, Benaiah and with the physical presence of the Cherethites and the Pelethites is met with public acclamation. When Jonathan, a man of worth,[1] reports in detail the proceedings in the city. The repetition of the details in the story reinforces the significance of the actions but Jonathan is also aware of the words of King David to affirm this from his bed. King David may be physically weak, but his position still holds power over the people and his blessing of the LORD for allowing Solomon to sit upon his throne adds the intimation of divine approval.

The actions on behalf of Solomon sends shockwaves through the assembled allies of Adonijah. Realizing that they have been outmaneuvered they retreat from the gathering and try to distance themselves from Adonijah. Adonijah recognizes the precarious nature of his position and flees to the temple for sanctuary, clinging to the horns of the altar. Solomon will either have to grant him clemency or spill blood on the altar. Solomon grants him an opportunity to prove himself loyal but the cost of any perceived action that would be harmful to Solomon’s authority will result in Adonijah’s death. Adonijah comes and bows down before Solomon before being sent home. The narrative is not concluded yet and Solomon will have to make choices in the future to secure his position, but the first chapter has moved us from the reign of King David to the new era under King Solomon in an initially bloodless transition.

 

[1] The Hebrew ‘is hayil is a person of economic and social status.