1 Kings 2


David leaves his dying charge with Solomon, relative to his own

personal conduct, 1-4;

to Joab, 5, 6;

to Barzillai, 7;

to Shimei, 8, 9.

He dies, and Solomon is established in the kingdom, 10-12.

Adonijah requests to have Abishag to wife, and is put to death

by Solomon, 13-25.

Abiathar the priest is banished to his estate at Anathoth,

26, 27.

Joab, fearing for his life, flees to the horns of the altar, and

is slain there by Benaiah, 28-34.

Benaiah is made captain of the host in his stead, 35.

Shimei is ordered to confine himself to Jerusalem, and never

leave it on pain of death, 36-38.

After three years he follows some of his runaway servants to

Gath, and thereby forfeits his life, 39, 40.

Solomon sends for him, upbraids him, and commands him to be

slain by Benaiah, 41-46.


Verse 2. I go the way of all the earth] I am dying. All the

inhabitants of the earth must come to the dust. In life, some

follow one occupation, some another; but all must, sooner or

later, come to the grave. Death is no respecter of persons; he

visits the palace of the king as well as the cottage of the


Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,

Regumque turres.

-HOR. Odar. lib. i., od. iv., ver. 13.

"With equal pace, impartial fate

Knocks at the palace as the cottage gate."


_________Sed omnes una manet nox,

Et calcanda semel via lethi.

-Ib. od. xxviii., ver. 15.

"One dreary night for all mankind remains,

And once we all must tread the shadowy plains."


There is no respect to age or youth more than to station or

external circumstance:-

Mixta senum ac juvenum densantur funera: nullum

Saeva caput Proserpina fugit.

-Ib. od. xxviii., ver. 19.

Thus age and youth promiscuous crowd the tomb;

No mortal head can shun the impending doom."


And it is not merely man that is subjected to this necessity;

all that have in them the breath of life must lose it; it is the

way of all the earth, both of men and inferior animals.

__________ Terrestria quando

Mortales animas vivunt sortita, neque ulla est

Aut parvo aut magno lethi fuga.

Vive memor quam sis aevi brevis.

HOR. Sat. l. ii., s. vi., ver. 93.

"All that tread the earth are subject to mortality; neither

great nor small can avoid death. Live therefore conscious that

your time is short."

It is painful to the pride of the great and mighty that, however

decorated their tombs may be, they must undergo the same

dissolution and corruption with the vulgar dead; for the grave

is the house appointed for all living: man is born to die.

Omnium idem exitus est, sed et idem domicilium.

"For all have the same end, and are huddled together in the same

narrow house."

Here emperors, kings, statesmen, warriors, heroes, and butchers

of all kinds, with peasants and beggars, meet; however various

their routes, they terminate in the same point. This and all other

kindred sentiments on the subject are well expressed in that

excellent little poem of Mr. Blair, entitled THE GRAVE, which

opens with the following lines:-

While some affect the sun, and some the shade;

Some flee the city, some the hermitage;

Their aims as various as the roads they take

In journeying through life; the task be mine

To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb,

The appointed place of rendezvous, where all

These travellers meet.

Show thyself a man] Act like a rational being, and not like a

brute; and remember, that he acts most like a man who is most

devoted to his GOD.

Verse 3. Keep the charge of the Lord] Keep what God has given

thee to keep.

1. Walk in his ways. Not in thine own, nor in the ways of a

wicked, perishing world.

2. Keep his statutes. Consider all his appointments to be holy,

just, and good; receive them as such, and conscientiously observe


3. Keep his commandments. Whatever he has bidden thee to do,

perform; what he has forbidden thee to do, omit.

4. Keep his judgments. What he has determined to be right, is

essentially and inherently right; what he has determined to be

wrong or evil, is inherently and essentially so. A thing is not

good because God has commanded it; a thing is not evil because he

has forbidden it. He has commanded the good, because it is in its

own nature good and useful; he has forbidden the evil, because

it is in its own nature bad and hurtful. Keep therefore his


5. Keep his testimonies. Bear witness to all to which he has

borne witness. His testimonies are true; there is no deceit or

falsity in them. His testimonies refer also to future good things

and good times; they are the significators of coming blessedness:

as such, respect them.

That thou mayest prosper] If thou hast God's approbation, thou

wilt have God's blessing. If thy ways please him, he will not

withhold from thee any manner of thing that is good.

Verse 4. That the Lord may continue his word] The prosperity

which God has promised to grant to my family will depend on their

faithfulness to the good they receive; if they live to God, they

shall sit for ever on the throne of Israel. But alas! they did

not; and God's justice cut off the entail made by his mercy.

Verse 5. Thou knowest-what Joab-did to me] He did every thing

bad and dishonourable in itself, in the murder of Abner and Amasa,

and indeed in the death of the profligate Absalom.

Shed the blood of war-upon his girdle-and in his shoes] He

stabbed them while he pretended to embrace them, so that their

blood gushed out on his girdle, and fell into his shoes! This was

a most abominable aggravation of his crimes.

Verse 6. Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.]

It would have been an insult to justice not to have taken the life

of Joab. David was culpable in delaying it so long; but probably

the circumstances of his government would not admit of his doing

it sooner. According to the law of God, Joab, having murdered

Abner and Amasa, should die. And had not David commanded Solomon

to perform this act of justice, he could not have died in the

approbation of his Maker.

Verse 7. But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai]

See Clarke on 2Sa 19:31, &c.

Verse 8. Thou hast with thee Shimei] See on 2Sa 16:5, &c., and

the notes on 2Sa 19:18-23.

Verse 9. Hold him not guiltless] Do not consider him as an

innocent man, though I have sworn to him that I would not put him

to death by the sword; yet as thou art a wise man, and knowest how

to treat such persons, treat him as he deserves; only as I have

sworn to him, and he is an aged man, let him not die a violent

death; bring not down his hoary head to the grave with blood. So

Solomon understood David, and so I think David should be

understood; for the negative particle lo, in the former clause,

hold him NOT guiltless, should be repeated in this latter clause,

though not expressed, his hoary head bring thou NOT down;

instances of which frequently occur in the Hebrew Bible. See Dr.

Kennicott's note at the end of this chapter. See Clarke on 1Ki 2:46.

Verse 10. David slept with his fathers] His life was a life of

remarkable providences, of much piety, and of great public

usefulness. In general he lived well, and it is most evident that

he died well; and as a king, a general, a poet, a father, and a

friend, he has had few equals, and no superior, from his own time

to the present day. But I shall reserve a more particular

consideration of his character till I come to the book of Psalms,

in which that character, with all its lights and shades, is

exhibited by his own masterly hand. And it is from this

composition alone that we can know David, and the maxims by which

he was governed in public and private life.

Was buried in the city of David.] And Solomon, says Josephus,

deposited immense treasures with him, in the grave, where they

continued unmolested for thirteen hundred years, till Hyrcanus,

the high priest, being besieged by Antiochus, opened the

sepulchre, and took thence three thousand talents, part of which

he gave to Antiochus, to raise the siege. It is added that, many

years afterwards, Herod the Great ransacked this tomb and got

considerable riches. Little credit is due to this account, though

we know that was customary in ancient times to deposit with the

more illustrious dead, gold, silver, and precious stones. That the

tomb of David existed in the days of the apostles, we learn from

Ac 2:29, where St. Peter, addressing the Jews, says,

Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch

David; that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with

us unto this day. St. Jerome speaks of it as existing in his time,

and modern travellers pretend that it is still in existence. But

both monks and Mohammedans have long united to impose on Christian

pilgrims; and there is scarcely any dependence to be placed on any

of their relations; absurdity and self-contradiction are their

principal characteristics.

Verse 15. Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine] It certainly

was his by the right of primogeniture, and it was his by the voice

of the people, and the consent of the high priest. But there was a

right paramount to all these, the right of God; it was his

kingdom; the kings were his lieutenants, and he had a right to

give the crown to whomsoever he pleased, and he was pleased to

give it to Solomon.

Verse 17. That he give me Abishag-to wife.] He cheerfully gives

up all right to the kingdom, and only desires to have this young

woman, who, though she had been his father's wife or concubine,

was still in a state of virginity. Some think that Joab and

Abiathar had advised Adonijah to make this application, not

doubting, if he got Abishag, that the popular tide would again

turn in his favour, and that Solomon, whom they did not like,

might soon be deposed; and that it was on this account that

Solomon was so severe. But there is little evidence to support

these conjectures. It does not appear that Adonijah by desiring to

have Abishag had any thought of the kingdom, or of maintaining any

right to it, though Solomon appears to have understood him in this

sense. But without farther evidence, this was a flimsy pretext to

imbrue his hands in a brother's blood. The fable of the wolf and

lamb is here very applicable, and the old English proverb not less

so: It is an easy thing to find a staff to beat a dog with. We

readily find an excuse for whatever we are determined to do. He

who attempts to varnish over this conduct of Solomon by either

state necessity or a Divine command, is an enemy, in my mind, to

the cause of God and truth. See on 1Ki 2:25.

Verse 25. Solomon sent-Benaiah-and he fell upon him that he

died.] Benaiah seems to have been the public state executioner,

and yet he was generalissimo of all the forces. See him employed

in a similar work, 1Ki 2:34, 46. I suppose him to have been such

another general as Suwarrow, butcher-general of the Turks and

Poles to the late Empress Catharine of Russia: like mistress, like

man. But they have long since been called to an impartial


That this was an act of cruelty towards Adonijah, needs no

proof. He is suspected, condemned, and slain, without a hearing.

Calmet vindicates all this by various assumptions, and lays down

a doctrine that is calculated for the meridian of Fez or Morocco;

hear him: Un prince, dans ses jugemens, ne peut pas toujours

suivre les regles de la plus parfaite morale; la politique, et le

bien de l'etat, obligent souvent a des choses opposees aux

conseils de l'evangile; "A prince in his judgments cannot always

follow the rules of the most perfect morality; policy and the good

of the state often require things to be done which are contrary to

the counsels of the Gospel." What a diabolic maxim is this! And is

this indeed the way that French kings ruled and ministers decreed

judgment? Then we need not wonder at a revolution in that state,

nor of the scourge that desolated the land. O England! magnify God

for your constitution, your constitutional king, and the laws

according to which he reigns.

Verse 27. So Solomon thrust out Abiathar] This was for having

taken part before with Adonijah, but by it a remarkable prophecy

was fulfilled; see 1Sa 2:13-35, and the notes there. God had told

Eli that the priesthood should depart from his house; Abiathar was

the last of the descendants of Ithamar, of which family was Eli

the high priest. Zadok, who was made priest in the stead of

Abiathar, was of the family of Eliezer; and by this change the

priesthood reverted to its ancient channel. Abiathar deserved this

degradation; he supported Adonijah in his unnatural assumption of

the royal dignity, even during the life of his father. This was

the head and front of his offending.

Verse 28. Tidings came to Joab] He heard that Adonijah had been

slain and Abiathar banished, and probably he had heard of David's

dying charge to Solomon. Fearing therefore for his personal

safety, he takes refuge at the tabernacle, as claiming Divine

protection, and desiring to have his case decided by God alone; or

perhaps a spark of remorse is now kindled; and, knowing that he

must die, he wishes to die in the house of God, as it were under

the shadow, that he might receive the mercy of the Almighty.

Verse 30. Nay; but I will die here.] The altars were so sacred

among all the people, that, in general, even the vilest wretch

found safety, if he once reached the altar. This led to many

abuses, and the perversion of public justice; and at last it

became a maxim that the guilty should be punished, should they

even have taken refuge at the altars. God decreed that the

presumptuous murderer who had taken refuge at the altar should be

dragged thence, and put to death; see Ex 21:14. The heathens had

the same kind of ordinance; hence Euripides:-





EURIPID. Frag. 42. Edit. Musg.

"If an unrighteous man, availing himself of the law, should

claim the protection of the altar, I would drag him to justice,

nor fear the wrath of the gods; for it is necessary that every

wicked man should suffer for his crimes."

Verse 34. So Benaiah-went up-and slew him] It appears he slew

him at the very altar. Joab must have been both old and infirm at

this time, and now he bleeds for Abner, he bleeds for Amasa, and

he bleeds for Uriah. The two former he murdered; of the blood of

the latter he was not innocent; yet he had done the state much

service, and they knew it. But he was a murderer, and vengeance

would not suffer such to live.

Verse 36. Build thee a house] Thus he gave him the whole city

for a prison, and this certainly could have reduced him to no


Verse 37. Thy blood shall be upon thine own head.] Thou knowest

what to expect; if thou disobey my orders thou shalt certainly be

slain, and then thou shalt be considered as a self-murderer; thou

alone shalt be answerable for thy own death. Solomon knew that

Shimei was a seditious man, and he chose to keep him under his own

eye; for such a man at large, in favourable circumstances, might

do much evil. His bitter revilings of David were a sufficient


Verse 40. And Shimei-went to Gath] It is astonishing that with

his eyes wide open he would thus run into the jaws of death.

Verse 45. King Solomon shall be blessed] He seems to think that,

while such bad men remained unpunished, the nation could not

prosper; that it was an act of justice which God required him to

perform, in order to the establishment and perpetuity of his


Verse 46. And the kingdom was established] He had neither foes

within nor without. He was either dreaded or loved universally.

His own subjects were affectionately bound to him, and the

surrounding nations did not think proper to make him their enemy.

As there are serious doubts relative to the dying charge of

David as it relates to Shimei, most believing that, in opposition

to his own oath, David desired that Solomon should put him to

death; I shall here insert Dr. Kennicott's criticism on this part

of the text:-

"David is here represented in our English version as finishing

his life with giving a command to Solomon to kill Shimei, and to

kill him on account of that very crime for which, as David here

says, he had sworn to him by the Lord he would not put him to

death. The behaviour thus imputed to the king and prophet, and

which would be justly censurable if true, should be examined very

carefully as to the ground it stands upon; and when the passage is

duly considered, I presume it will appear highly probable that an

injury has been here done to this illustrious character. The point

to which I now beg the reader's attention is this: That it is not

uncommon in the Hebrew language to omit the negative in a second

part of the sentence, and to consider it as repeated, when it has

been once expressed, and is followed by the connecting particle.

And thus on Isa 13:22 the late learned annotator says: 'The

negative is repeated or referred to by the conjunction vau, as

in many other places.' So also Isa 23:4. The necessity of so very

considerable an alteration as inserting the particle NOT, may be

here confirmed by some other instances. Ps 1:5:

The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, NOR (the Hebrew is

AND, signifying and not) sinners in the congregation of the

righteous. Ps 9:18:

The needy shall not alway be forgotten, (and then the negative,

understood as repeated by the conjunction, now dropped,) the

expectation of the poor shall (NOT) perish for ever. Ps 38:1:

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath; NEITHER (AND, for and not)

chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Ps 75:5:

Lift not up your horn on high, (and then the negative,

understood as repeated by the conjunction, now dropped,) speak

(NOT) with a stiff neck. Pr 24:12, (our version is this:)

Doth not he, that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that

keepeth the soul, doth (NOT) he know it? and shall (NOT) he render

to every man according to his works? And Pr 30:3:

I neither learned wisdom, NOR (AND, for and not) have the

knowledge of the holy. If then there are in fact many such

instances, the question is, Whether the negative here, expressed

in the former part of David's command, may not be understood as to

be repeated in the latter part; and if this may be, a strong

reason will be added why it should be, so interpreted. The passage

will run thus: 'Behold, thou hast with thee Shimei, who cursed

me-but I swore to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to

death by the sword. Now, therefore, hold him NOT guiltless, (for

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

him,) but bring NOT down his hoar head to the grave with blood.'

Now if the language itself will admit of this construction, the

sense thus given to the sentence derives a very strong support

from the context. For how did Solomon understand this charge? Did

he kill Shimei in consequence of it? Certainly he did not; for

after he had immediately commanded Joab to be slain, in obedience

to his father, he sends for Shimei, and knowing that Shimei ought

to be well watched, confines him to a particular spot in Jerusalem

for the remainder of his life; 1Ki 2:36-42. See also

Job 23:17; 30:20; 31:20." This is the best mode of interpreting

this text.

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