I Kings 2

 

 

                        The Last Words and Death of David (vs. 1-11)

 

The death of David, and of course the charge which preceded it, did not follow

immediately (as the casual reader might be tempted to suppose) on the events related

in ch. 1. We find from I Chronicles chps. 23-29:23, that the aged king recovered

sufficient strength to leave his sick room, to gather round him the princes

of Israel (Ibid. 23:9), to make a number of fresh arrangements respecting the priests

and Levites and the services of the sanctuary, and even to “stand up upon his feet”

(Ibid. 28:2) and address a large assembly respecting the erection and adornment of the

Temple. And once more, in strains which are among the noblest and sweetest which the

sweet singer of Israel ever penned, he “blessed the Lord before all the

congregation (Ibid. 29:10); he also instituted festal sacrifices on a scale of great

magnificence, and witnessed a second and probably more formal and public consecration

of his son to the kingly office (Ibid. vs. 21-22).  But the recovery cannot have been

otherwise than transient — it was but the sudden brightening of the flame before it dies

out in the socket — and we see him in this second chapter, once more in the ante-chamber

of death.  Now, he has already given his parting charge to the princes of the realm,

and has publicly exhorted Solomon to discharge his duties faithfully (Ibid. 28:9, 10);

but as he feels the end approaching, he summons him to his side to impart to him his

last and private instructions, and addresses him thus:

 

2  I go the way [lit., I am walking (same word as in v. 3) in the way] of all the earth”

 [i.e., of all the sons of earth, all mankind (ch.10:24; I Samuel 17:46; Psalm 66:4).

 The path to Sheol, the path which all his forefathers, and untold millions more,

have trod, he is treading it now. The words sound like a reminiscence of Joshua 23:14,

behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth:  and ye know in all  your

hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good

things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to

pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.”  Perhaps, too, the

thought of Joshua suggested to his mind the next words: “be thou strong therefore,

and shew thyself a man;” -  [Similar, though not identical, words were four times

addressed to Joshua (Joshua 1:6,7,9,18), and David may well have thought that his

son, in entering upon his difficult duties, was not at all unlike Joshua when he succeeded

Moses in the leadership of Israel, and that he needed similar encouragement.

 

3  keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways to keep His

statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and His testimonies,

as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that

thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:”  David was very well

versed in Scriptures of which every king was commanded to make a copy.

The great desire of the man who has kept the law is that his son may keep it!

 

Evil kings and evil leadership forsook this admonition and we find the

conditions spoken of in II Kings 21:21-22, 22:8,13,15-17

 

4  That the LORD may continue His word which He spake concerning

me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before

me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall

not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.”  This thought — that

the permanence of his dynasty depended on the faithful observance of the law as

it is written in the book of Moses (i.e., in all its details), seems to have reminded

the dying man that he himself had not always kept the statutes he was urging

his successor to keep. It had been his duty as king, as the power ordained of God,

to visit all violations of the law of God with their appropriate penalties; and this duty,

in some instances at least, had been neglected. For the law of Moses, reaffirming

the primaeval law which formed part of the so called “precepts of Noah”

(Genesis 9) that blood must be expiated by blood — enjoined, with

singular emphasis and distinctness, the death of the murderer (Numbers 35:16-19,

30-33; Exodus 21:14). It declared that so long as murder remained unpunished, the

whole land was defiled and under a curse (Numbers 35:33). (Think of the import of

this scripture to conditions  of leniency in the United States of America,

concerning the death penalty of murderers and lest we forget,  the

blood of 45,000,000 children who have been slain by abortion doctors

under the guise of “abortion on demand” – CY – 2010)  The Law gave the king

no power to pardon, no discretion in the matter. Until the red stain of blood was washed

out “by the blood of him that shed it”  (Numbers 35:33) the Divine Justice was not

satisfied, and a famine or pestilence or sword might smite the land. Now, David knew all

this: he could not fail to know it, for he had seen his country, a few years before, visited

by a famine because of the unavenged blood of the Gibeonites (II Samuel 21:1). And yet,

one notorious and infamous murderer had not been put to death. The assassin of Abner

and of Amasa still polluted the earth, still occupied a distinguished position, and defied

punishment. But if the law of Moses was to be kept, (Carrying this out was/is the

king’s, magistrates’, and people’s responsibility) -  then, whatever it might cost,

 and however painful it might be (Deuteronomy 19:13), the guilty party must die;

and David, for the welfare of his kingdom, the stability of his throne, and above all, the

 honor of God, must require his death. No doubt it had often burdened his mind,

especially during these last days of feebleness, the thought that punishment had been so

long delayed; and therefore, as he sees the end approaching, he feels that he must enjoin

upon his successor the fulfillment of that duty which he had been too “weak” to discharge

(II Samuel 3:39). Hence David proceeds, and gives Solomon three cases to deal with.

 

  • The Sentence of Joab – v. 5-6
  • Take care of the house of Barzillai, the Gileadite – v. 7
  • the execution of Shimei – vs.8-9

 

                        The Sentence of Joab (vs. 5-6)

 

5 Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to

me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto

Abner the son of Ner” – (II Samuel 3:27) - “took Abner aside in the gate to

speak with him peaceably, and smote him there in the abdomen”.  This was

one of those foul murders to which the law expressly denied any right of sanctuary,

for it was “with guile” (Exodus 21:14) - “and unto Amasa the son of Jether,

whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war

upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.”

These two are mentioned because, no doubt, the horrible details of the two murders,

and especially of the last (see II Samuel 20:8-10), had been reported to David. He had

been told at the time how the blood of Amasa had spurted on to the girdle of Joab, and

streamed down into his sandals, and these details, which no doubt made a deep

impression upon his mind, are recited here to show how dastardly and treacherous was

the deed, and how thoroughly Joab was stained with innocent blood, blood which cried

to heaven for vengeance - “What hast thou done?  the voice of thy brother’s blood

crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10)].  6 Do therefore according to thy

wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.

 

 

            David’s Care of the House of Barzillai, the Gileadite (v. 7)

 

7  But shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be

of those that eat at thy table: for so they came to me when I fled because of

Absalom thy brother.”  Barzillai and others had helped David in a time of need (see

II Samuel 17:27-29) – David had previously remembered Barzillai (Ibid. 19:31-39)

and now on his death bed provides for the care of the house of Barzillai, the Gileadite

for his help in time of need in the uprising of Absalom.

 

The mention of Absalom, and those terrible days of revolt and anarchy, when he was

constrained to flee for his life, seems to have reminded the dying king of one of the

bitterest ingredients of that bitter cup of shame and suffering — the cruel curses of

Shimei. He remembers that the sin of Shimei, which was nothing else than treason

and blasphemy, has so far escaped punishment. In a moment of generous enthusiasm,

he had included Shimei in the general amnesty which he proclaimed on his return (II

Samuel 19:23). He had thought, no doubt, at the time only of the offence against

himself; he had forgotten his sacred and representative character as “the Lord’s

 anointed;” or if he had remembered it (v. 21) the emotions of that memorable

day had obscured or perverted his sense of justice and duty. But he has since realized –

and the thought weighs upon his conscience in the chamber of death — that he then

pardoned what he had no power to pardon, viz., a sin to which the Mosaic law

attached the penalty of death. For blasphemy, as for murder, there was no expiation

short of the death of the blasphemer (Leviticus 24:14-16; and in this book, the case

of Naboth falsely accused (ch. 21:10, 13); and blasphemy, like murder, though not

perhaps to the same extent, involved those  who heard it in its guilt, until they had

discharged themselves of their sin upon the head of the guilty (Leviticus 14:14;

cf.Leviticus 5:1). But Shimei, so far from having suffered the penalty of the law,

had been twice protected against it; twice preserved alive, in defiance of law,

 by the supreme magistrate, the executor of law. And David, who has been

charging his son to keep the law, now realizes that he himself has been a law

breaker. He has kept his oath, sworn to his own or his people’s hurt, and he

will keep it to the end. But Solomon is under no such obligation. He can demand

the long arrears of justice, none the less due because of the time that has elapsed

and the royal laches (“nullum tempus occurrit regi”); he can deal with the

blasphemer as the law directs, and this David now charges him to do.

 

 

                        The Sentence on Shimei (vs. 8-9)

 

8  And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a

Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in

the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me

at Jordan, and I swear to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put

thee to death with the sword.”  David had unadvisedly sware unto

Shimei  that he would not be put to death (remember, he had no authority

to exempt him from what the law said was a capital offense) but now the

Law must have its course.  9 Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for

thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him;

but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.”  Punishment

long delayed must overtake him nevertheless. The age of Joab and Shimei

would make the Divine Nemesis the more conspicuous. Men would “see that

there was a God that judgeth in the earth!”  In failing to execute these

men in an earlier time, David had failed in his duty, had weakened the sanctions

of the Law and compromised the honor of the Most High.

 

                                                                       

                        The Death of David (vs. 10-11)

 

10  So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. 

11 And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven

years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in

Jerusalem.”  David gave us an example to set our house in order, to pay our

debts and square our accounts before we die. David, we read, “prepared

abundantly (for the temple) before his death”  (I Chronicles 22:5).  He has

made royal provision for the house that should be built. But he remembers at

last that three debts of his are still undischarged; a debt of gratitude to the sons

of Barzillai, a debt of retribution to Joab, and another to Shimei. He will not,

like some, “go on sinning in his grave;” he will have these debts discharged.

He cannot depart in peace while they burden his conscience. And we, too, go

where “there is neither work, nor device, nor knowledge” (Ecclesiastes

9:10), where wrongs cannot be redressed, where accounts cannot be settled.

Have we any crime unconfessed, or injury unrepaired, any enemy unforgiven?

 

 

               Solomon Established on the Throne of Israel (v. 12)

 

12 Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his

kingdom was established greatly.

 

 

            The Discontent, Plotting and Death of Adonijah (vs. 13-25)

 

Foiled in his purpose to mount the throne by direct means, Adonijah and his advisers

have recourse to intrigue and subtlety. By the aid of Abishag, he hopes to accomplish

what his chariots and horsemen (ch. 1:5) had failed to effect. He first addresses himself

to the queen mother.

 

13 And Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of

Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably.

14 He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said,

Say on.  15 And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and that

all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign:” - In order to propitiate

Bathsheba, Adonijah exaggerates his loss and disappointment, just as in the next

words, in order to put her off her guard, he plays the saint and obtrudes his piety

and resignation -  “howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my

brother's: for it was his from the LORD.” This verse shows pretty clearly that

Adoni-jah had not renounced his pretensions to the throne. Despite the pitiful failure

of his first conspiracy, and notwithstanding Solomon’s generous condonation of his

treason, he cannot forget that he was, and is, the eldest surviving son, and

had been very near the throne. And as to the kingdom being his brother’s by

Divine appointment, he cannot have been ignorant of that long ago (II Samuel 12:25),

yet he conspired all the same. And it is not difficult to read here between the lines,

that he has not relinquished his hopes, and does not acquiesce in Solomon’s supremacy.

16 And now I ask one petition of thee, deny me not. And she said unto him,

Say on.  17 And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king, (for he

will not say thee nay,) that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife.

18 And Bathsheba said, Well; I will speak for thee unto the king.  19 Bathsheba

therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the

king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne,

and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.

20 Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee;” - So it seemed, no doubt, to

her, in her inexperience and ignorance of Adonijah’s real motives. She thought she held

the threads of a love story in her hands, and that it would be a small thing for Solomon

to make these handsome lovers happy - “I pray thee, say me not nay.  And the king

said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay.  21 And she said,

Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to wife.

22 And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou

ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah?” [Professor Plumptre (Dict. Bib., art.

“Solomon”) says this “narrative is not a little perplexing.” He then specially remarks

on the strangeness of Bathsheba’s interceding for Adonijah, and also on Solomon’s

flashing into fiercest wrath” at her request. He explains the facts, however, by “Mr.

Grove’s ingenious theory identifying Abishag with the Shulamite (Song of Solomon

6:13), the heroine of the Song of Songs.” It is “the passionate love of Solomon for the

fairest among women’ that has made Bathsheba, “hitherto supreme, to fear a rival

influence, and to join in any scheme for its removal.” The king’s vehement abruptness

is in like manner accounted for.  He sees in the request at once an attempt to deprive

him of the woman he loves and a plot to keep him still in the tutelage of childhood.

Of the ingenuity of this theory no one can doubt, nor yet that it may possibly

represent the actual facts. But it is not necessary, nor does it help much to the

explanation of the narrative. Bathsheba’s intervention may easily be accounted for by:

 

  • her desire to conciliate her son’s most formidable rival;
  • her feminine interest in a love match; and
  • her pride, which could not but be flattered, on being assured

      that her influence with the king was so great.

 

Nor is it any more difficult to assign a reason for Solomon’s sudden

outburst of anger. This request is evidence to him of a fresh plot against his

throne, a plot so skillfully laid that its abettors have been able to deceive his

own mother, and have made her a tool for its advancement. Surely this is

quite enough to account for Solomon’s indignation. And the theory of a

love story has this disadvantage, that the young king completely ignores it

in what follows, all his concern being about the kingdom, and not one

word being said about the woman; and again — and this is almost fatal —

his mention of Joab and Abiathar, and his subsequent dealings with them,

prove conclusively that he suspected a conspiracy against his crown, not a

scheme, in which these latter could have had no interest, and therefore no

part, to rob him of a mistress.  He knew that his brother had made one

deliberate effort to supplant him, and therefore he could only conclude that

this was a second, though veiled, attempt to deprive him of his kingdom -

ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother; even for

him,  and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.

23 Then king Solomon sware by the LORD, saying, God do so to me,

and more also, if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life.”

24 Now therefore, as the LORD liveth, which hath established me, and set

me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as

He promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day.”  It is to be remembered

that on the occasion of Adonijah’s first rebellion the young monarch had displayed

the greatest magnanimity towards him. He might then have justly decreed against him

the death which no doubt the conspirators had designed against him (ch. 1:12.)

Adonijah, by fleeing to the altar, showed that he had good grounds for fearing the

avenging sword. He was clearly conscious that he had merited the death of the traitor.

But Solomon spared him, during good behavior. He warned him that “if wickedness

were found in him” he should die (ch. 1:52.) His first treason, consequently, was not

to be lost sight of, in case he were guilty of a fresh offence. And now that he is found

conspiring again; now that he abuses the royal clemency, and seeks by chicanery and

intrigue to snatch his brother’s crown, the sentence of death takes effect. This renewed

attempt, after failure and forgiveness, must have convinced the king that Adonijah’s

pretensions would be a standing menace to the peace and prosperity of his empire, and

therefore he owed it to himself, to his subjects, and above all to God, who had entrusted

him with the crown, to put this restless and dangerous plotter out of the way. To pass

over a second offence would be a virtual encouragement of sedition, for it would show

that the king was weak and might be trifled with. Adonijah therefore must die, not only in

expiation of his treason, but as an example to the subjects of Solomon, that the disaffected,

including all Adonijah’s partisans, might be awed into obedience.  25 And king Solomon

sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him that he died.”

 

 

                        The Deposition of Abiathar (vs. 26-27)

 

26  And unto Abiathar the priest said the king, Get thee to Anathoth,” – The

Hebrew is extremely curt and authorative of the speaker -  unto thine own fields;

for thou art worthy of death: but I will not at this time put thee to death,” –

the sentence of death was deferred during good behavior, for all we know Abiathar

died in peace -  because thou barest the ark of the LORD God before David

my father, and because thou hast been afflicted in all wherein my father was

afflicted.  27  So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the LORD;

that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which He spake concerning the house

of Eli in Shiloh.”  (I Samuel 2:31-35 – Reader, the example of Eli and his household

has a tremendous meaning to convey to mankind – see I Samuel 2:27-36 – The

Judgment of God upon the House of Eli – this web site – CY - 2010) -  Abiathar was

he last descendant of the house of Ithamar. With his deposition the high priesthood

reverted to the house of Eleazar, and so another “word of the Lord” had its fulfillment!  

(Study the action of Phinehas in Numbers 25 and note God’s commendation of he and

his house in v. 13 – CY - 2010)  One lesson to be learned here is that priests should

not get distracted by politics at the expense of forgetting God’s calling in spiritual things!

 

 

                        The Execution of Joab (vs. 28-34)

 

28  Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he

turned not after Absalom.  And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD,”

As Adonijah had done before him (ch. 1:50). His flight is almost certain evidence of his

guilt..  Why should he flee, if conscious of innocence? Solomon had acted generously

before, and Joab would not be aware of David’s dying instructions. His two assassinations

had remained so long unpunished (Abner – 34 yrs. and Amasa – 8) that he would hardly

expect to be called to an account for them now. We have here, therefore, another

indication of a second conspiracy, and it is an old belief (Theodorot, al.) that Joab had

suggested to Adonijah the plan of marriage with Abishag. Some have asked why Joab

should flee to the altar when his crimes deprived him of the right of the sanctuary. But

a drowning man grasps at a straw. It is probable that he never thought of his murders,

but only of his treason. According to the Rabbis, death at the altar ensured him burial

amongst his fathers (Munster). But, if this were so, it would hardly enter into his calculations.

and caught hold on the horns of the altar.  29  And it was told king Solomon that

Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar.”

This is only a gloss, but it is an instructive one. It shows that the author regarded Joab’s

flight as betraying a guilty conscience.  “Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of

Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him.  30  And Benaiah came to the tabernacle

of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth.”  Benaiah

evidently “hesitated to stain the altar with blood.” It was only the sanctity of the altar

which made it an asylum. There was strictly no “right of sanctuary”, -  Thus saith the

king, Come forth.”  Probably Solomon bad directed that Joab should, if possible, be

induced to leave the altar. Every Jew would dread its profanation by strife and

bloodshed.  “And he said, Nay; but I will die here.” Joab may possibly have thought

that Solomon would hardly venture to put him to death there, and that so he might

somehow escape with his life. But it is more probable that he counted on death, and

that a feeling of superstition, or of defiance, had decided him to meet his doom there. It

should be borne in mind that gross superstition not uncommonly accompanies irreligion

and brutality; and it is quite conceivable that Joab hoped for some indefinable benefit

from the shadow of the altar, or his motive may have been defiance, thinking he would

render Solomon odious to the people, as a profaner of the Holy Place” – “And

Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he

answered me.  31  And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon

him,” - The law decreed (Exodus 21:14) that, if a man had slain his neighbor with guile,

he should be taken from the altar to die. Possibly the desperate character of Joab made

literal compliance with this command well nigh impossible. The attempt to drag him from

his place of refuge might have led to a bloody encounter. And the king evidently felt that

Joab’s crimes justified exceptional measures, - “and bury him;” - Why this injunction?

Possibly because the spirit of Deuteronomy 21:23 seemed to Solomon to require it -

that thou mayest take away the innocent blood, which Joab shed, from me, and

from the house of my father.”  Solomon evidently believed that the guilt of blood was

upon him and his house so long as Abner’s and Amasa’s blood remained unavenged

(“The blood that is not required from the murderer will be required from

the magistrate.” Henry) - {imagine the consequences of the failure of the Courts

and all involved in American Justice [injustice] of the last 50 years – CY – 2010},

and that he and his seed might have to answer for it, as Saul’s seed had done (II Samuel

21:1, 9). This is one of the many considerations which show that both David and Solomon

were actuated not by “cold-blooded vengeance” or “long-cherished resentment”

(Stanley), but by a sense of duty. In fact, Jewish law imperatively demanded the

death of Joab, and to spare him was to violate all law, and to imperil the throne and the

people.  32  And the LORD shall return his blood upon his own head, who fell

upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword,

my father David not knowing thereof, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of

the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah.

33  Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the

head of his seed for ever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his

house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever from the LORD.”

So persuaded is Solomon that he is fulfilling a religious duty in decreeing the

execution of Joab; so little thought has he of malice, revenge, or any baser motive,

that he counts on the Divine blessing in perpetuity for the deed.  34  So

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him:” –

To spare Joab was to violate the law, imperil the throne and the people - It is

remarkable that retribution thus overtook Joab on the very scene of his last murder,

it was at Gibeon where stood the Tabernacle and the brazen altar - (II Chronicles 1:3),

 for it was “at the great stone which is in Gibeon (II Samuel 20:8), that he slew Amasa.  

Compare ch. 21:19; 22:38; with II Kings 9:26, 35-37; “I will  requite thee in this plat,

saith  the Lord”, spoken of Jehoram, Ahab’s son, God is consistent and there is

retribution to the house of Ahab and Jezebel in ways they and the people understand!

 “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment, and some men

they follow after.  (I Timothy 5:24) - “and he was buried in his own house in the

wilderness.”  The same is recorded of Samuel (I Samuel 25:1). It was evidently an

exceptional occurrence. Remembering the estimation in which the Jew held the corpse

and the grave (Numbers 19:11,16, 22; cf. Matthew 23:27), it must have been a singular

honor to make of the house a mausoleum. No doubt it was designed to be such in Joab’s

case.   Whatever his crimes, his services had deserved well of his country. Possibly his friends

were led to pay him this special honor as a kind of counterpoise to the ignominy of his death.

 

 

                                    Comments on the Death of Joab

 

“Know ye not that there is a prince and great man fallen this day in Israel 

(II Samuel 3:38) – Although said of Abner, so might men say as they heard, so may

we say as we read, the history of Joab’s death. After David, he was by far the greatest

man — the ablest general, the bravest soldier, the most capable statesman — of that age.

He had fought David’s battles, won his conquests, captured his citadel, and twice

preserved for him his crown. It is a sad and tragic ending of such a brilliant career. The

idol of the army, the man who was first in the deadly breach (I Chronicles 11:6), the ever

victorious hero, dies miserably, by the thrust of an old comrade. For him the sanctuary

 of God has no protection.  Though he clings to the horns of the altar, it avails him nothing.

No, the blood of the white-headed warrior, winner of a hundred well-fought fields,

streams round the consecrated structure and stains the place of the Divine Presence.

What are the lessons, let us ask, of such a death? And, first:

 

  • WHY IS HE HERE?

 

ü      Because his conscience has made him a coward. He who never turned

                        his back on the foe, has fled before a breath, a mere rumor. He has not

                        been attacked, not even threatened; but the secret is out, the conspiracy is

                        discovered, his head is forfeited. He betrays his guilt by his flight. Time

                        was when he would have faced almost any danger, when he would have

                        died rather than fled. But then he had a support and stay, in the

                        consciousness of rectitude, which he has not now. Now, his own heart

                        denounces him.

 

                                    “None have accused thee; ‘tis thy conscience cries.”

 

                        The man whose conscience is burdened with crime has an enemy, a traitor,

                        within the camp. But why has he fled to the sanctuary; why chosen the

                        tabernacle of God for his refuge? For Joab has not loved the habitation

                        of God’s house. The tabernacle of the Lord could not be “amiable”

                        (Psalm 84:1) to that guilty heart. His choice would be “the congregation

                        of evildoers”  (Psalm 26:5).  A stranger to the tabernacle and its services,

                        why is he here? It is:

 

ü      because men often betake themselves in adversity to the religion they

                        despised in prosperity. Yes, Joab’s is no solitary case. It is too common.

                        Witness the so called deathbed repentances; witness the cries and prayers

                        which go up in the hour of peril from lips which never prayed before. Men

                        who have neglected God and contemned the ordinances of religion in

                        health often turn to Him and to them in sickness. “It is the fashion of

                        our foolish presumption to look for protection where we have not cared to

                        yield obedience.” But

 

ü      the altar of God is for sacrifice, not for sanctuary. The purpose of the

                        altar, its raison d’etre, was that sacrifices, i.e., that worship, might be

                        offered thereon. It was an accident, so to speak, that made of it a

                        sanctuary; the accident of its sacredness. Because it was ordained of God,

                        fashioned after a Divine pattern and employed in the Divine service, it was

                        naturally and rightly regarded as holy, as a structure not to be profaned,

                        and hence the manslayer fled thither for protection. But this use of the

                        altar was quite beside its original intention. It was made for worship, for

                        the service of God, not for the defense of man. Joab disregarded its proper

                        use; he used it for his own convenience. And have we not seen something

                        like this in our own days? Religion is ordained for man to live by. Its

                        primary purpose is the glory of God. It exists that man may offer

                        spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God;” (I Peter 2:5) - that man may

                        be himself “a living sacrifice.”  (Romans 12:1) - but there are those

                        who would use it only as a sanctuary, as a place to flee to when they

                         can sin no longer?  They want the benefits of religion without its

                        obligations; they pervert it from its proper and holy, to a purely selfish

                        purpose; they want it for death and it was meant for life. They act, i.e.,

                        much as Joab did, and it is to be feared their last end will not be

                         unlike his.  The altar they have slighted will not shelter them in the

                        day of evil.

 

  • But let us now ask, secondly, WHY IS HE PUT TO DEATH HERE?

            The altar was never meant to be stained with human blood. If it was not

            for sanctuary, still less was it for slaughter. And it has sheltered many; why

            may it afford him no asylum? It is

 

ü      Because he has come to it too late. Had he come before, and come as a

                        worshipper, he would not have needed to come now as a fugitive.

                        Had he even come, after his great crimes, as a sincere penitent, he might,

                        perchance, have found forgiveness. David was delivered from blood

                        guiltiness, and why not Joab? But he only comes to the altar because he is

                        driven to it; because he can do nothing else. Yes, “it is too late to cry for

                        mercy when it is the time of justice.” Those who put off repentance till

                        they can sin no longer find that such feigned repentance profits them

                        nothing.  There is a time when “the door is shut.”  (Matthew 25:10)

 

ü      Because he shall have judgment without mercy that shewed no mercy.”

      (James 2:13)  - Joab’s murders could not have been more treacherous,

       more cruel. “The blood of war in peace.” “Took him aside in the gate

      to speak with him peaceably” (II Samuel 3:27, marg.). “Took Amasa

      by the beard with the right hand to kiss him” (Ibid. 20:9). There is a

      lex talionis  (law of retribution) which governs the dealings of God with

      transgressors. The cruel murderer shall be cruelly murdered. The assassin

      shall be executed at the altar. He that “showed no pity” shall receive none.

 

ü      Because God pays sure, even if he pays slowly. It was thirty-four years

                        an entire generation — since Abner’s blood first cried from the ground.

                        Eight years had elapsed since Amasa’s death. And Joab, meanwhile, had

                        maintained his position. Still “over all the host of Israel,” still second

                        only to the king. If ever he or others had dreamed of punishment, they

                        must by this time have given up all fear, or all hope. David had died and

                        Joab still lived. Joab had conspired once and yet he was spared. “Because

                         sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the

                         heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”  (Ecclesiastes

                        8:11)  Is there, men would ask, a retributive Justice? is there a “God that

                        judgeth the earth”? Yes, though Joab has “hoar hairs,” though he has

                        all but gone down to the grave in peace, his sin has found him out.

                        (Numbers 32:23)  And the blood which reddens those gray hairs, the

                        blood which crimsons the sanctuary, proves that there is a Nemesis for

                        crime: that if Justice has a halting foot, she nevertheless overtakes the

                         fleetest offender; that “if the mills of God grind slowly, yet they

                        grind exceedingly small.” (Reader, let us take heed to the words of

                        Jesus:  “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken:  but on

                        whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” 

                        (Matthew 21:44)

                       

ü      Because without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews

      9:22) - Only the blood of Joab could expiate the bloodshed he had

      wrought.  (The Scripture is very plain:  “for blood it defileth the land:

       and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but

      by the  blood of him that shed it.”  [Numbers 35:33} – Think of the

      import this has on the USA - CY – 2010)  Nothing else could cleanse the

      land. For innocent blood guilty blood; this was the law. How different is

      the gospel. “The blood of Jesus Christ …cleanseth us from all sin” –

      (I John 1:7)  - The blood of Christ speaketh better things than the blood

      of Abel (Hebrews 12:24), ay, than the blood of Joab. The blood of Joab

      made an atonement for the land. There the guilty died because of the

      innocent.  The blood of JESUS made an atonement for the world  

      (John 1:29). - Here the innocent dies because of the guilty. The blood

      of Joab tells of vengeance, of retribution, of death. The blood of JESUS

       speaks of mercy, of restitution, of life and love and peace. Yes, the

      death of Joab may surely speak to us, but it speaks to little purpose,

      unless it tells us of “the precious blood of Christ.”

 

35  And the king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his room over the host: and

Zadok the priest did the king put in the room of Abiathar.”  Benaiah took the place

of Joab and Zadok became sole high priest.

 

 

 

                                    The End of Shimei (vs. 36-46)

 

 

36  And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Build thee an

house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and go not forth thence any whither.” – a

sort of “city arrest” where he would be under surveillance and where his sinister

influence with the men of Benjamin would be neutralized.  37  For it shall be, that

on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron,” - The Kidron is

mentioned specially because that was the direction which, it might be presumed, Shimei

would take, his old home being at Bahurim - “thou shalt know for certain that thou

shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head.”  Shimei could not say that

he had not been plainly warned.  38  And Shimei said unto the king, The saying is

good: as my lord the king hath said, so will thy servant do. And Shimei dwelt in

Jerusalem many days.  39 And it came to pass at the end of three years, that two

of the servants of Shimei ran away unto Achish son of Maachah king of Gath. And

they told Shimei, saying, Behold, thy servants be in Gath.  40  And Shimei arose,

and saddled his ass,” - Matthew Henry thinks Shimei did it himself for the sake of

secrecy. Many expositors also think that he went by night. The text rather suggests the

idea that both the going and the return were perfectly open and undisguised - “and went

to Gath to Achish to seek his servants:” - The fierce Benjamite would naturally be

galled to the quick by the thought that his slaves could thus openly set him at defiance; he

may have heard from those who came from Gath that they were exulting over him; and

he may have resolved at all hazards to teach them a lesson. He cannot have forgotten

either Solomon’s explicit warning or his own solemn oath (v. 42); he must have gone to

Gath with his eyes open, and nothing but a great provocation, such as mockery and

defiance, will account for his going – (Is there not a parallel of the actions of the wicked

servant in Matthew 18:23-35? - CY – 2010) - “and Shimei went, and brought his

servants from Gath.  41  And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from

Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again.  42  And the king sent and called for

Shimei, and said unto him, Did I not make thee to swear by the LORD, and

protested unto thee, saying, Know for a certain, on the day thou goest out,

and walkest abroad any whither, that thou shalt surely die? and thou saidst

unto me, The word that I have heard is good.  43  Why then hast thou not

kept the oath of the LORD, and the commandment that I have charged thee

with?” - Shimei ought to have been warned against trifling with Solomon’s

forbearance by the punishment already inflicted on Adonijah and Joab!

44  The king said moreover to Shimei, Thou knowest all the wickedness which

thine heart is privy to, that thou didst to David my father: - Solomon brings a

threefold charge against Shimei:

 

  • He has violated a solemn oath, “by the life of Jehovah,” and so has

      profaned the name of his God” (Leviticus 19:12).

 

  • He has broken his parole and set at naught the king’s commandment.

 

  • He has defied and blasphemed the Lord’s anointed. He must die.

 

therefore the LORD shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head;”

Every Jew was taught to expect that “every transgression and disobedience”

would receive its “just recompense of reward”  (Hebrews 2:2) in this life present

would see in Shimei’s almost unaccountable infatuation the finger of God. To them

he would seem delivered up to destruction.  45 And king Solomon shall be

blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD for

ever.”  The words are those of one who is sure that he is doing God service.

46  So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; which went

out, and fell upon him, that he died. And the kingdom was

established in the hand of Solomon.”  Shimei’s life, as we have seen, was

forfeited to Jewish law. As he had so long been spared, however, the king gave

him a gracious respite. The conditions imposed were not onerous. Shimei

had but to keep his parole and he would live; to break it and he would  assuredly

die. He did break it; not without provocation, it may be, but he broke it, and broke

too his solemn oath. It may be said it was hard he should lose his slaves, but better,

surely, lose them than his life. Besides, there were other ways of recovering them;

or, if he must pursue them in person, his proper course was evidently to ask the

king’s permission. That he did not do so is in itself a suspicious circumstance,

and Solomon might reasonably think that the flight of the slaves was but a feint,

 and that Shimei’s visit to a foreign court had really a political object. But,

be that as it may, the king had protested unto him that if he went any whither,

he should most certainly die. When he went, when he despised the royal

command and disregarded his sacred oath, how was it possible for Solomon

to break his word? To do so would have been inevitably to compromise himself

with his subjects, and to forfeit their reverence and trust. Besides, there was a duty

he owed to his dead father, and above all, one which he owed to the living God.

He had now the opportunity for which his father bade him wait, of putting into force

the provisions of the Mosaic law, of requiring the death of the blasphemer, of

showing his subjects that the law could not be defied with impunity, that

though vengeance was not executed speedily against evil works, still

retribution was certain in the long run, and so of teaching them a much

needed lesson of obedience and respect of authority. Every consideration,

therefore, of justice, morality, filial piety, and religion warranted him in

putting Shimei to death. Every imputation of weakness, irresolution,

disregard of his plighted word, compromise of his royal dignity, and

indifference to religion might justly have been leveled against him, had he

interfered between Shimei and the sword of Justice.

 

Thus we come to the end of the transgressor.  Such was the end of Shimei -

violent, sanguinary, shameful.  Old man as he is, he may not die in peace.

 

 

Let us learn:

 

  • That respite does not mean release. When David “sware” to him,

      (II Samuel 19:23) Shimei thought himself safe. Surely the bitterness

      of death was past. He would die in his nest. We often mistake God’s

      forbearance for forgetfulness. He is long suffering, and men ask,

      “Where is the promise of His coming?”  (II Peter 3,9) - Because

      “He does not settle His accounts once a week” (Goethe) the heart

            of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

            But the day of retribution comes as a thief, (II Peter 3:10) as the flood,

            as the sword, as the snare.

 

  • That if we die, it is our own fault. Shimei had his life in his own hands. It

            rested with him. alone whether he lived or died. He should live, if he would

            but live at Jerusalem. But he chose death. Men cause their own

            destruction. God has no pleasure in their death. (“As I live, saith the

            Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that

            the wicked turn from his way and live:  turn ye, turn ye from your

            evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?(Ezekiel 33:11)

            Thou hast destroyed thyself.” (Hosea 13:9)

 

  • That warnings are commonly lost on the wicked. “How could Shimei be

            so infatuated?” we ask. What, have we not seen his infatuation paralleled?

            Have we never seen repeated warnings repeatedly neglected? Yes, souls,

            sins, warnings, results, are the same in all ages.

 

  • That when God reckons, He reckons for all. The sword avenged the sin

            of eight years before. And in the Great Assize, everything — both cup of

            cold water and idle word — will receive its just recompense of reward.

            (Matthew 12:36-37)

 

 

 

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