1 Kings 2:1 - 14

   Print this page

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3 - 14

Background to the Book of 1 Kings

What's happening In Judah at this time?

The books of Samuel tell us in great detail about the rise of the kings, how they came about and the role of the prophet in this new form of government. The decline of Saul, the rise of David and the relationship between Saul's son Jonathon and David is given many chapters. The second book of Samuel describes the rise of David and the gradual defeat of the countries surrounding Israel. The geographic size of the kingdom is the greatest it will be until the advent of the Six Day War in the 20th century. The Philistines are particularly difficult to overcome if the records in the Hebrew Scriptures are in chronological order. It appears as though they are defeated once and for all and then pop up as a threat in the next chapter. David has problems within his own household which indicate also the union of the twelve tribes is on a very fragile footing. (More detailed description is given in previous Lectionary Readings)

What is happening in the surrounding great empires?

Babylonia and Assyria (ca. 1000 - 627 B.C.). a. A Period of Weakness (ca. 1000-748 B.C.). During the 2d millennium Assyria increasingly became an important background presence in Babylonian history, and in the 1st half of the 1st millennium this was even more evident. Other peoples and powers, such as the Arameans and Elamites, had a significant impact upon Babylonia, but it was Assyria, which gradually gained the leading control over Babylonia. At the beginning of the 1st millennium Babylonia was independent once again, for Assyria was struggling against the Arameans for its very survival. The Arameans penetrated Babylonia, too, winning land and wealth and causing much chaos.

Egypt: Third Intermediate Period

The era immediately succeeding that of the New Kingdom (NK) witnessed varied developments in society, culture, and economy (Kitchen 1973). Notwithstanding the apparent paucity of royal inscriptions, much has been revealed by recent research concentrated on this hitherto presumed Dark Age of Egypt. However, the paramount and consistent trend in the dynasties following the fall of the NK is one of political decentralisation and corresponding lack of a firm unified monarchy (Yoyotte 1961). Foreigners, too, made an impact on the Nile valley, and not one but three different contenders for the prize of Egypt left their mark. First, there were the Libyans, who had already settled in the north during the reign of Ramesses III; then Egypt was faced with a southern incursion, that of the Kishites; finally, the mighty Assyrians attempted to conquer the land. As a result, the political history of this time is difficult to view as a whole if only because Egypt was not unified as before. For the sake of simplicity and ease of comprehension, modern scholarship now uses the term "Third Intermediate Period" to cover Dynasties 21 - 25 (ca. 1069 - 664 B.C.). This, in turn, was followed by the Saite Period, Dyn. 26 (664 - 525 B.C.), an era of unity (De Meulenaere 1951; 1967; all dates follow Kitchen 1982 - 83). However, it should be stressed that the 3d Intermediate Period is purely a global designation, revealing little about the 400-year span of Egyptian history, a time that witnessed the emergence of a society quite different than any preceding.

As it can be seen from the brief paragraphs describing the scenarios in Egypt and Mesopotamia there was little time or energy for intrusion into Palestine which allowed David to extend his empire without interference from the Empires either side. This does not deny the military acumen and charisma that David needed to weld the tribes together and fight as a cohesive unit.

Context of 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

What's happening in the literature around 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 the bigger picture

In the second half of the book of Samuel we read of the rebellion and death of Absalom. Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathon again escaped punishment for his disloyalty to David at the time of Absalom's rebellion. The division between Israel and Judah is beginning to show cracks with the rebellion of Sheba the Benjamite who sounds the trumpet on behalf of the ten tribes of Israel. David's, newly appointed Army commander, Amasa, who had replaced Joab, was ineffective and Joab again comes to the rescue after first killing Amasa. Joab was loyal to David but extremely practical and cold blooded if he saw ineffective service. After peace was restored there was a famine for three years. The story of how this is broken comes from a worldview, which no longer believes that expiation calls for the death of others. The Philistines appeared to have regained their strength and further battles were fought with them. Finally, David's men prevailed and we have a long song of thanksgiving (2 Sam 22) by David. In what is known as the "Last words of David" (2 Sam 23) he affirms that God speaks through him, proclaiming that when one rules with justice all will be well and those who deny God will be destroyed.

Joab is evidently concerned about David's need to have a count of the people of Judah and Israel and dares to ask the question why. For some reason David feels bad about the census when it appeared in 2 Sam 24:1 that God made him do it. Gad, another court prophet appears and gives a message to David in which David is to choose one of three punishments. He suggests that it is better to be in the hands of God rather than humans. In the ensuing pestilence many people die but when it approaches Jerusalem the Lord intervenes to stop it, but David full of contrition asks that he be punished rather than all the people. This is ignored and instead God asks David to erect an altar in order for the plague to be averted. Once more the Philistines are the focus for battle and stories of great heroism and deeds by great warriors are recounted.

The last days of David are described in 1 Kings 1 and we have little idea how many years have separated the last story of David from this one: we are just told he is old and feeble. The infighting among his sons and retainers begins. We are told Joab sides with Adonijah and Nathan the prophet sides with Bathsheba and her son Solomon. Both Bathsheba and Nathan go to see David and tell him what was happening. David calls Bathsheba in and reiterates his promise to her. He sends for his loyal leaders and instructs them to crown Solomon and set him on the throne. Solomon forgives Adonijah his attempt to seize the throne and respects the sanctity of the Temple where Adonijah has taken refuge.

David, at the point of death commands Solomon to pursue Joab who has been both loyal and a traitor to David killing two past army commanders. He commands Solomon to deal well with other people whom he, David, has promised to protect. Solomon is named by his father as a "wise man". The narrator is giving us a clue about Solomon, which will be part of the story at a later time.

After David's death we have the curious story of Adonijah coming to Bathsheba to ask her to intercede on his behalf with Solomon for the Abishag who was now one of the wives of Solomon. Why she acceded to his request we have no idea. However, it set in train events, which resulted in the deaths of Adonijah, Joab and the expulsion of Abiathar to Benjamin. Solomon interpreted the request for his wife as an indication that Adonijah was still after his kingdom and on this occasion the sanctity of the altar did not protect him. Shimei, the other rebellious son was put into house arrest and he agreed it was a fair sentence. The problem arose when two of his slaves ran away and Shimei decided to pursue them in disobedience to the King. The consequence was the last of the rivals was killed and Solomon could live in relative peace until another rival tried to usurp him. All these acts verify that the word of God comes true and the kingdom will be established in the hand of Solomon (1 Kings 2:46b).

Solomon began his political alliances to cement the victories won by David in war. The first of these was a marriage alliance with Egypt by marrying one of the Pharaoh's daughters.

After the lectionary reading which describes the dream of Solomon the narrative continues with the familiar story of the two mothers who are fighting over the possession of the baby and Solomon in his wisdom solves the issues. The wealth and prosperity of the Israel is recorded at the end of 1 Kings 4. The tribute brought by the many states over which Solomon rules is described in detail. Solomon's as a person of wisdom is given glowing a report. We are left in no doubt by the end of 1 Kings 4 that life in Israel is almost idyllic, a second paradise. The next three chapters give the story about building the temple.

Insights/Message of 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

What insights can we gain from the text and literary structure?

1 Kings 2 is structured around lectionary verses 10-12. Verses 1-9 are David's instructions to Solomon and verses 13-46 describe the consolidation of Solomon's Kingship. In vv.10-12 the formula used consistently after the death of a king is present: the length of time the person reigned, place of burial and the successor is named. There are some variations and additions to this formula especially the mention of certain acts, which chronicle various deeds of a king's reign.

A number of suggested literary constructs for 1 Kings 3 helps us focus on the theological message.

  1. vv. 1 - 5 = Divine Offer
  2. vv.6 - 10 = Solomon's Reply
  3. vv.11 - 14 =Divine Response
  4. v.15 = Solomon's Reaction (if v.15 was included in the Lectionary reading)

The main lectionary reading is placed after the statement about Solomon's marriage to a daughter of the Pharaoh and before the story of the two women in conflict about the baby. 1 Kings 3:1 - 3 and 1 Kings 9:24 - 26 bracket the chapters, which speak positively about the internal positive aspects of Solomon's reign. God appears to Solomon at the beginning and end of this section. These examples begin to point to a highly developed literary construction.

The phrase "walking in the statutes of his father David" is an inclusio, that is, the phrase encloses the rest of the reading (1 Kings 3: 3 & 14). The slight change in v.14 by inserting "if" makes the phrase conditional. "If" Solomon walks etc. then he will have a long life. This Deuteronomic emphasis is the criteria by which all the kings of Judah and Israel are judged. So to have it written at the beginning and end of the sequence makes the point.

Another inclusio occurs in vv.9, 11 and 12 in which "an understanding mind" and "to discern between good and evil" are repeated in v.11, "to discern what is right" and in v.12, "I give you a wise and discerning mind". These concepts surround the request put by Solomon, which pleases the Lord. The repetition emphasises them and they stand out as something, which has to be noted.

A further framework is in vv.5a and 15a in which the dream sequence begins and ends. The dialogue within the dream invites the reader into the situation in a way, which gives it reality. What Solomon doesn't ask for is equally important to God and obviously plays a significant part in the positive response by God to Solomon's request. The three things not asked for by Solomon are long life, riches and the death of his enemies. When Solomon makes his request he bases it on aspects of the David/Yahweh relationship: David's righteousness and Yahweh's steadfast love.

A number of scholars give detail about which verses they think belong to the Gibeon tradition and which belong to a Deuteronomistic author (that is the theology of Deuteronomy as the basis for the Books Deuteronomy to the end of 2 Kings) who is the last person to create this theological historiography. The wisdom motif that was fist mentioned 1 Kings 2:9 is an important element through out the whole narrative about Solomon.

Message/theology in 2 Kings 2:10 - 12, 3:3 - 14

David the ideal king is dead and the promised son has been crowned. The length of reign named as forty years is equal to the time in the wilderness and is a number associated with special time (1 Kings 2:10-12). We are uncertain how close this time sequence is factual because there appears to be the practise of rounding off the years. External records confirm the later chronology of the kings.

The first words of 1 Kings 3:3 mirror the first commandment to love the Lord your God and Solomon not only does this, but walks in the statutes of his father, David. Solomon is behaving perfectly in line with the Deuteronomic principles (Deuteronomy 5 - 26). The problem arises in the next verse (v.4) which states that Solomon sacrifices at Gibeon: this is in direct contradiction to Deuteronomy 12 in which God chooses the place (Jerusalem) in which sacrifice will be made. If the lectionary reading included vv.1-3 there would be another contradiction to a Deuteronomic principle, which forbids Israelites to marry foreign wives. Indeed, 1 Kings 3:3-15 has to reconcile a number of theological contradictions. The unconditional promises of Yahweh to David become conditional to Solomon (1 Kings 3:14). How does one hold these two aspects together? The writer acknowledges that the promise to David has been set in place, but by the time we get the end of the books of Kings we find the promise no longer holds because the kingdom and house of David have collapsed. The conditional aspect of the covenant becomes the dominant criteria which the kings, leaders and peoples are unable to uphold and are therefore punished by the loss of Jerusalem, king, temple and taken into exile. Nelson (1987:35) tries to resolve the dilemma by suggesting that there are lesser promises, e.g.. the throne and long life which are conditional. It seems to me that the line of David is one of the unconditional promises and the issues cannot be resolved in this manner.

God appears in a dream. This manner of God appearing is present in both Old and New Testament (Acts 10). Solomon acknowledges that God has shown great and steadfast love to his father because David supposedly walked "in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart". The sentence implies God loved because of the way David had behaved so perfectly and we know this is not the case either way. David was not all the above and God made his unconditional promises with no mention of David's behaviour (2 Sam 7). Having referred to his father Solomon now humbles himself before asking for an understanding mind to govern and the ability to discern between good and evil. He asks for the right things not the usual things a king would request and God is pleased to grant his request and give him the riches and long life not asked for. BUT they are quite clearly conditional on keeping the statutes (Deuteronomy 5 - 26). Later in the narrative Solomon is condemned because he did not keep the commandments.

Why is David held up as the ideal when we know he is condemned for his part in the murder of Uriah? The narrator does not either, ask or, answer this sort of question, but allows the contradictions to sit side by side in the story. We may have the interweaving of two different traditions in Kings: the southern tradition of unconditional Davidic promise and the conditional Mosaic covenantal traditions from the north. They appear to jar at this point but the further we get in the story we find the conditional Mosaic covenant is dominant.

Solomon looks as though he is going to be an ideal king. Immediately on waking he returns to Jerusalem and offers sacrifices there, the place chosen by Yahweh.

How do we deal with the unconditional love of God and what may appear as conditional aspects of out theology? If we don't want to follow either "cheap grace" or the idea that grace is dependant on our deeds then we need to resolve the issue for ourselves. I believe God has demonstrated his great love for humanity in the birth, life, death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. We have a choice to respond to this unconditional love or grace and if we choose to do so, then we are expected to "love God and love our neighbour". This is a conflation of the Ten Commandments: commandments 1-4 are focussed on love to God and 5-10 on love to our neighbour. It is not a condition, but response because we have experienced the love of God within our own lives and want to live in relationship with God. When we go our own way and do those things that cause hurt and pain to God and to others we suffer not because God makes something happen to hurt us, but because our actions bring consequences we don't like and indeed will not take responsibility for in our lives.

OT images/motifs used in the New Testament reading: In John 6:51-58 the Jews continue to fight among themselves which was reminiscent of the fighting between those in Exodus and Moses & God. The references that Jesus made to eating his flesh and blood could have felt highly offensive to the jews in light of the strict dietray laws (Lev 17, Deut 12). Jesus makes the connection between his flesh and blood, and eternal life. It is reieration of the difference between what Moses provided in the wilderness and what Jesus provides. Ephesians 5:15-20, continues the message against unethical behaviour, however there is no direct link to any particular Old Testament passage. It is highly probable that there was a Jewish ethical tradition with which Paul was familiar and to which Paul referred.

Resources/Worship for 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

Worship and the Old Testament message; are there new ways to present the reading?

The reading lends itself to different voices and the Dramatised Version of the Bible, has the reading set out for this to happen.

The Psalm 111 is a lovely one of praise and could be used instead of prayers of praise and thanksgiving at the start of a service. It has probably been chosen because it makes the connection to wisdom in v.10.

It has an interesting literary feature to it, which is only apparent in the Hebrew language. Each half line begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet and is known as an acrostic poem.


Childs, B.S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. London: SCM Press, 1993
Devries, S.J. 1 Kings. WBC. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1985
Gray, J. 1 & 11 Kings. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1964
Jones, G.H. 1 and 2 Kings, NCB. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.
Long, B.O. 1 Kings, with an Introduction to Historical Literature. FOTL. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.
Nelson, R.D. 1 and 2 Kings. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1987.
Seow, C-L, The First and Second Books of Kings, NIB 111. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

The Dramatised Bible: ed. Michael Perry. London: Marshall Pickering: Bible Society, 1989

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources: