1 Kings 2: Lessons from Solomon’s First Acts as King for Being a Spirit-Led Leader

Introduction: This chapter describes David’s final advice to Solomon, his death, and Solomon’s first acts as king. Here, God reveals seven lessons on being a Spirit-led leader. These include: (1) obedience, (2) justice, (3) faith, (4) impartiality, (5) mercy, (6) judgment, and (7) fairness.

First, David’s final instructions to Solomon included an exhortation that he faithfully obey God’s Word as king. From David’s advice, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader faithfully obeys His Word. Second, David’s final instructions also included a request that Solomon act justly in a variety of situations where he had failed to act as a just leader. From David’s final request, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader should practice and seek justice in the world. Third, God fulfilled his covenant with David by allowing David to die at an old age and have God’s appointed son of David succeed him. From God’s record of fulfilling His promises, He reveals that a Spirit-led leader trusts in His faithfulness and is faithful in response. Fourth, when Solomon’s brother abused a conditional grant of mercy to build a new case to challenge him, Solomon administered the law as a just king without regard for his brother’s privileged status. From Solomon’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader is impartial towards others. Fifth, Solomon showed mercy to a high priest for trying to overthrow him by banishing the priest to a nearby town instead of killing him. From Solomon’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader shows mercy to his or her enemies, Sixth, where David failed to judge his general Joab after four consecutive murders, Solomon acted as God’s source of justice by executing him under the law. His actions have a different application today. Today, a Spirit-led leader judges the things of the flesh. Finally, David asked Solomon to judge a relative of Saul. His original crime carried a death penalty. Yet, David forgave him of that crime. Thus, Solomon did not improperly judge the man for the forgiven crime. Instead, he judged the man when he committed a new crime. From Solomon’s acts, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader is fair in addressing problems.

1. A Spirit-Led Leader Faithfully Obeys God’s Word. 1 Kgs. 2:1-4.

  • David’s final charge to Solomon. Just prior to his death, David implored his son as his successor to obey all of God’s Commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances: “1 As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kgs. 2:1-4). According to 1 Chronicles, God granted David a final moment of good health, which he used to gather together the leaders of the 12 tribes for King Solomon’s final blessings and counsel (1 Chr. 23-24). David’s final charge to his successor fits within a similar pattern in the Bible. Moses made a similar charge to Joshua and the people before his death (Dt. 31:7-8, 23). Joshua made a similar charge to the people before his death (Josh. 23:1-6). Samuel also made a similar charge to the people before the end of his public ministry (1 Sam. 12:1-25). A Spirit-led leader should always seek to build up and encourage a successor in the faith.

David gives his final advice to Solomon1

  • Being a man of God includes keeping His Commandments. David began his final charge by encouraging Solomon to “show” himself to be “a man” (1 Kgs. 2:2). Being a “man” was not a reference to his physical maturity. Instead, it referenced, Solomon’s spiritual maturity. This required that Solomon walk in God’s: “ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies,” (1 Kgs. 2:3). To become king, Solomon would have sworn an oath before God to uphold God’s law (Dt. 17:18-20). Solomon was to live as an example to others. God also commanded that His people follow His commandments: ‘“So you shall keep My commandments, and do them; I am the LORD.”’ (Lev. 22:31). ‘“You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the LORD.’” (Lev. 19:37). Moses also repeated God’s command to the people to obey all of His Commandments and statutes: “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, . . ..” (Dt. 4:40). “So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, . . .” (Dt. 5:32-33). Joshua also repeated this command before his death: “Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,” (Josh. 23:6). In case anyone believes that these are relics of the Old Testament, they are repeated even more often in the New Testament: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25). “[F]or it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” (Ro. 2:13). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22; see also, Rev. 14:12; 22:14). God doesn’t want you to be obedient for the wrong reasons. Out of love (and not the promise of reward) are you being obedient to God’s Word, His Spirit, and His calling in your life?

  • Encourage others. Before his death, David encouraged Solomon to “Be strong,” (1 Kgs. 2:2.) David gave similar words of encouragement to his troops before battle “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” (2 Sam. 10:12). Before his death, Moses also gave Joshua similar words of encouragement. “Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”’ (Dt. 31:23). God then repeated these words of encouragement to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:6-7). Paul also gave similar words of encouragement: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). Are you encouraging and building up others to serve?

  • God’s promises to Israel were in part conditional. God made a covenant with David that a line of kings running through him would last forever (2 Sam. 7:4-17). God would later confirm this covenant with Solomon (1 Kgs. 9:5). Jesus would ultimately fulfill this covenant as the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14). Yet, David warned Solomon that the existence of human kings on the throne would be in part conditional upon the obedience of David’s successors: ‘“If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kgs. 2:4). With the exceptions of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, none of David’s successors would uphold God’s Word. As a result, the Kingdom would be divided. The northern and then southern kingdoms would then be sent into exile. Thus, every nation should be careful to walk in faith-led obedience with God.

2. Justice: A Spirit-Led Leader Practices and Seeks Justice in the World. 1 Kgs. 2:5-9.

  • David’s final requests of Solomon to be the instrument of God’s justice. David’s final words to Solomon included requests that he act as a just judge where David had failed and to honor David’s agreements with others: “Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet. So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace. But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother. Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood.” (1 Kgs. 2:5-9). As King, David was supposed to rule in both righteousness and with justice: “Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly.” (Is. 32:1). David started off his rule as a just and righteous king. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” (2 Sam. 8:15). Yet, during the later portion of his reign, he failed to judge evil in a just and righteous manner. He tolerated evil within himself, his sons, with his general, and with his enemies. In his final moments, David requested that Solomon be just and make right the areas where David failed in this area as king. In some places, justice requires judgment. In other areas, it requires mercy and grace.

David’s final requests of Solomon2

  • David’s prior failure to judge Joab for his evil acts. Joab was David’s chief army commander (2 Sam. 8:16). He was also David’s nephew (1 Chr. 2:16). He was guilty of at least four murders. First, he murdered a general named Abner after Abner switched sides in Israel’s civil war to support David (2 Sam. 3:6-11). Joab could not forgive Abner and was filled with vengeance because he killed Joab’s brother Asahel in battle (2 Sam. 2:18-24; 3:26-30). Second, Joab participated in Uriah’s murder and the coverup of his death (2 Sam. 11:14-25). Third, he later violated David’s orders and murdered David’s son Absalom after he was caught hanging by a tree (2 Sam. 18:11-15). Finally, driven by jealousy, Joab later deceived and then murdered his rival Amasa (2 Sam. 20:8-10). He even once used a fake widow’s deception to trick David (2 Sam. 14:1-121). He also advised and helped Adonijah in his coup to take power from David and prevent Solomon from becoming the next king (1 Kgs. 1:7). Under the law that David was supposed to administer, the penalty for each of Joab’s acts of premeditated murder was death: “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.” (Dt. 19:11-13). Thus, in humility, David asked Solomon to act as a righteous judge where he failed in this area.

  • David’s improper request for Solomon to judge Shimei. As David fled from Absalom, Saul’s relative Shimei slandered David, cursed him and threw rocks at him based upon his misguided belief that David had killed off the members of Saul’s family (2 Sam. 16:5-8). Although David was guilty of murdering Uriah (2 Sam. 11:5-27), he was not guilty of “the bloodshed of the house of Saul” for which Shimei charged him (2 Sam. 16:8). The Philistines killed Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua (1 Sam. 31:2; 1 Chron. 10:2). After being wounded in battle, Saul tried to take his own life in desperation (1 Sam. 31:3-5; 1 Chron. 10:3-5). Saul’s last surviving son Ish-bosheth later died when his commanders killed him (2 Sam. 4:5-7). David was not only innocent of Shimei’s charges, he had repeatedly sought to protect Saul and his descendants. David even stopped his men from killing Saul when they had the chance to do so (e.g., 1 Sam. 26:9). David also condemned the man who confessed to killing Saul after Saul was wounded in battle (2 Sam. 1:16). David further killed the men who killed Saul’s last son, Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 4:11). Shimei’s curses against David violated God’s law and carried a death penalty: “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” (Ex. 22:28). Yet, upon David’s return to power, Shimei confessed his sins and repented before David (2 Sam. 19:19). David did not judge Shimei for his false slander and for his curses (2 Sam. 19:23). Just as he failed to judge Joab for his evil acts, David again approached Solomon to judge Shimei where David had again failed as a judge. Yet, this presented Solomon with the first of many dilemmas where he would show his wisdom. It was wrong for David to try to go back on his word. As set forth below, Solomon would show his wisdom by waiting for Shimei to commit a different crime before judging him.

  • David’s gratitude for Barzillai’s generosity. When David fled from power from Absalom, Barzillai provided for David and his people (2 Sam. 17:27). Upon returning to power, David showed gratitude and kindness for the support that he received from Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:31-39). David wanted to thank him by having him to live with him in Jerusalem. Barzillai turned down the offer. Barzillai showed that he was not motivated by the promise of a reward when he helped David in his hour of need: “Why should the king compensate me with this reward?” (2 Sam. 19:36). Now, before his death, David wanted to make sure that Solomon cared for all of Barzillai’s sons. David’s request to let the sons of Barzillai “eat at your table” (1 Kgs. 2:7) was a request that they be given positions of honor and possibly a stipend (2 Sam. 9:7; 1 Kgs. 18:19; 2 Kgs. 25:29). Justice for Barzillai’s family required grace for their faithfulness to King David.

  • A Spirit-led leader must pursue justice. Through Moses, God warned that a Spirit-led leader must pursue: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed the kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). A king is supposed to sit “on the throne of justice.” (Prov. 20:8). This means that a Spirit-led leader must care about addressing wrongs and the plight of those in need: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). Christ also expects every believer to seek to resolve injustice around them. “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “[L]earn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will ask what each person did for the oppressed and needy (Matt. 25:40). When you are called to account for your actions before your judge, will you be able to describe where you were a force for God’s justice? (2 Cor. 5:10). Or, are you living for yourself?

  • Jesus will reign with righteousness. Where David failed to reign with justice and righteousness, Jesus will never fail: “Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.”’ (Jer. 23:5). He is our righteous judge (2 Tim. 4:8). Jesus’ reign will be perfect and just.

3. Faith: A Spirit-led Leader Trusts in God’s Faithfulness and is Faithful. 1 Kgs. 2:10-12.

  • David dies with honor and God is faithful to His Covenant. After David had fulfilled God’s plans for him, God brought him home and kept His promise to establish Solomon’s reign as king: “10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. 11 The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem. 12 And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.” (1 Kgs. 2:10-12). David ruled from 1011 B.C. to 971 B.C. His reign was initially divided. For seven of his years, he ruled only Judah from Hebron. For the remainder of his 40-year reign, he ruled a united Israel from the city he liberated, Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:5; 1 Chr. 29:26-28). The city of David where he was buried is also called “Zion” (1 Kgs. 8:1). His burial place was later referred to as the tomb of David (Neh. 3:16; Acts 2:29).

King David died with honor, and his tomb is still honored today3

  • God’s faithfulness to fulfill His covenant with David. God’s establishment of Solomon’s monarchy following David’s long life was a fulfillment of God’s Covenant with David: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Sam. 7:12). God records the fulfillment of His many promises to show that He is faithful to keep His many promises to you as well: “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thess. 5:24). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness even when your faith fails Him?

  • God forgave and removed the stains of sin from David’s legacy. The book of Chronicles and the New Testament contain important final words regarding how God viewed David’s legacy. David died with full honor and with the blessing of a long life because God had forgiven David’s many sins: “Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor; and his son Solomon reigned in his place.” (1 Chr. 29:28). David further fell into a peaceful sleep until Jesus came to bring him home: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;” (Acts 13:36). Because God erased his many sins and only remembers him for his faith and devotion, God calls David a man after His own heart: “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22). God will also forever remember David as a hero of the faith (Heb. 11:32-34). If God can forgive David’s sins, there is no sin of yours that is too big for God to forgive.

  • While David died and saw decay, Jesus the King of Kings did not decay in the grave. While David was one of Israel’s greatest kings, he was only human. Thus, he died and underwent decay after his death: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;” (Acts 13:36). Yet, God promised to build a house through David that would last forever: “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kgs. 2:45). Jesus came to fulfill God’s eternal Covenant with David. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;” (Lk. 1:32; Is. 9:7; Jer. 23:5; Dan. 2:44). Unlike David, Jesus’ body did not decay in the grave: “but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.” (Acts 13:37). He died so that you also can have eternal life.

4. Impartiality: A Spirit-Led Leader is Impartial Towards Others. 1 Kgs. 2:13-25.

  • Solomon executes Adonijah after he demands David’s maid servant as his wife. Although Solomon had granted Adonijah a conditional pardon, Adonijah revealed that he still considered himself as the rightful heir and secretly sought symbols to convey to others his perceived power. Solomon applied the law against his own family where David refused to do so: “13 Now Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, ‘Do you come peacefully?’ And he said, ‘Peacefully.’ 14 Then he said, ‘I have something to say to you.’ And she said, ‘Speak.’ 15 So he said, ‘You know that the kingdom was mine and that all Israel expected me to be king; however, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. 16 Now I am making one request of you; do not refuse me.’ And she said to him, ‘Speak.’ 17 Then he said, ‘Please speak to Solomon the king, for he will not refuse you, that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as a wife.’ 18 Bathsheba said, ‘Very well; I will speak to the king for you.’ 19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, ‘I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me.’ And the king said to her, ‘Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you.’ 21 So she said, ‘Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as a wife.’ 22 King Solomon answered and said to his mother, ‘And why are you asking Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him also the kingdom—for he is my older brother—even for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!’ 23 Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, ‘May God do so to me and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. 24 Now therefore, as the Lord lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father and who has made me a house as He promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death today.’ 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him so that he died.” (1 Kgs. 2:13-25). As the next oldest son in line for the throne, Adonijah believed that he should have been king (1 Kgs. 2:15). Thus, he sought to manipulate his half-brother Solomon through Solomon’s mother Bathsheba into giving him Abishag as his wife (1 Kgs. 2:16-17). Abishag might technically have been considered to be a concubine because she laid next to David to give him warmth while he was old and unable to regulate his body heat. Yet, they had a non-sexual relationship: “but the king did not cohabit with her.” (1 Kgs. 1:4). During that time period, taking possession of the royal harem was a sign of a person’s power and right to hold the title of king (2 Sam. 3:8; 12:8; 16:20-22). For this reason, Ahithophel told Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines (2 Sam. 16:20-22). Although Bathsheba did not recognize the motive behind Adonijah’s request, Solomon was wise and realized his true motives. Adonijah planned to use a marriage to a woman with possible status as a concubine as a claim to power. As a prince, he would have married someone with influence. He would not have married her merely because she was attractive as many might do today. Thus, Solomon determined that Adonijah violated his conditional grant of mercy after Adonijah’s prior failed coup attempt. Solomon warned that any further such acts would result in his death (1 Kgs 1:52). Now, Solomon was forced to impartially judge his own brother.

Adonijah is put to death4

  • Adonijah coveted power and would not relinquish his claim to the throne. Adonijah believed that he should have been king because he coveted power. He further believed that the leaders of the 12 tribes wanted him to be king (1 Kgs. 2:15). Yet, the people who initially supported him quickly abandoned him the moment David had Solomon anointed (1 Kgs. 1:49). More importantly, he knew that it was God’s will for Solomon to be King: “for it was his from the Lord.” (1 Kgs. 2:15). Thus, his ongoing rebellion was really against God (Ex. 16:8). To God, “rebellion is as the sin of divination . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). Adonijah’s ongoing rebellion was also a breach of his oath before God. Part of having Spirit-led obedience as a leader includes forgoing the temptations that come with power. Moses warned that the future kings of Israel could not covet power (Dt. 17:16). Coveting breaks God’s Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Those who “covet” are disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). A leader who covets can never satisfy his desires by giving into those desires. He or she will always want more power (Hab. 2:5). Are you content with what God has given you?

  • Do not be partial to the rich, powerful, or attractive. David repeatedly ignored his duties as king and showed favoritism under the law towards his rebellious sons. If Adonijah symbolized the flesh, Solomon made no provision for his heritage in the flesh by favoring his powerful brother under the law: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:8; Dt. 16:19; 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). Solomon placed his service to God before his family relationships. Jesus also warns that service to Him can sometimes split families when a believer is forced to choose between their family and Him: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:34-37). Do you favor attractive, rich, or powerful people in your personal and business dealings?

5. Mercy: A Spirit-Led Leader Shows Mercy To His or Her Enemies. 1 Kgs. 2:26-27.

  • Solomon exiles Abiathar the priest. Although the High Priest deserved to die because of his rebellion, Solomon showed mercy by letting him go into exile: “26 Then to Abiathar the priest the king said, ‘Go to Anathoth to your own field, for you deserve to die; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord God before my father David, and because you were afflicted in everything with which my father was afflicted.’ 27 So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.” (1 Kgs. 2:26-27). The High Priest Abiathar participated in the plot to overthrow David and install Adonijah as king (1 Kgs. 1:7). He had previously served David faithfully (2 Sam. 15:24-29, 35). But he also served with Zadok during David’s reign (2 Sam. 8:17). Abiathar may have sought to consolidate his power as High Priest under Adonijah. Abiathar deserved to die for his rebellion against David and God’s anointed King-elect Solomon. Yet, Solomon showed him mercy. Abiathar was allowed to live out his life in banishment in Anathoth, a priestly town only 3 miles northeast of Jerusalem (Jer. 1:1).

  • Mercy is given to whom it is shown. Although this chapter lists certain executions, Solomon also showed his wisdom through his acts of mercy. His first official act as king was to grant Adonijah a conditional pardon (1 Kgs. 1:51-53). Here, Solomon showed his wisdom by being merciful in his punishment of Abiathar (1 Kgs. 2:26-27). Just as Solomon showed mercy to his enemies, God wants you to show mercy to others. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:36). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:37). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Are you merciful to your enemies? Will you show mercy even if you have nothing worldly to gain for it?

  • Show self-restraint when you feel wronged. Solomon’s mercy was possible because he was able to restrain his own impulses to retaliate. Like Solomon, Jesus calls on you to show restraint when you are provoked or insulted. “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9; Ro. 12:14, 17). When others hurt you, do you restrain your urge to strike back?

  • Don’t hold grudges. Like Solomon did for Abiathar, God commands His people not to hold grudges against others: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people. . . ” (Lev. 19:18). Do you hold grudges against your enemies?

  • Solomon’s actions fulfilled God’s prophesy against the house of Eli. In Samuel’s day, God previously judged the priesthood under the High Priest Eli for their wicked practices. The sons of Eli used God’s gifts to indulge themselves (1 Sam. 2:11-17). The sins of Eli’s sons included claiming to represent God without really knowing Him: “they did not know the Lord. . .” (1 Sam. 2:12). They also took the sacrificial offerings for themselves (1 Sam. 2:13-14). Eli’s sons also “despised” the offerings to God (1 Sam. 2:17). The sons of Eli represented a counterfeit priesthood because they failed to repent even when their father confronted them over their sexual sins (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Because Eli’s sons would not repent, God ultimately judged them (1 Sam. 2:26-34). While the Jews were camped in front of Mount Horeb, God appointed the tribe of Levi the privilege of forever serving as the priests for the nation of Israel (Lev. 7:35-36; Nu. 25:13). Yet, because the priests of the house of Eli could not atone for their sins against God, He had to judge them: “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” (1 Sam. 3:13-14). King Solomon’s actions by removing Abiathar fulfilled this prophesy (1 Kgs. 2:27). Because this prophesy predated both Saul and David, it shows that God is slow to anger and quick to forgive “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ps. 103:8). Abiathar would have known this prophesy because he was the High Priest. His failure to heed this prophesy meant that he did not fear God. Solomon’s actions made Zadok the High Priest (1 Kgs. 2:35). This also fulfilled a prophecy that God would reestablish the priesthood through Eleazar and Phinehas (Nu. 25:10-13). These events show that God’s Word always comes true.

6. Judgment: A Spirit-Led Leader Judges the Things of the Flesh. 1 Kgs. 2:28-35.

  • Solomon executes Joab after he refuses to obey his command. Although Solomon showed mercy to Abiathar, he served as God’s instrument of justice by executing Joab for his many crimes: “28 Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, fall upon him.’ 30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, ‘Thus the king has said, ‘Come out.’’ But he said, ‘No, for I will die here.’ And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, ‘Thus spoke Joab, and thus he answered me.’ 31 The king said to him, ‘Do as he has spoken and fall upon him and bury him, that you may remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without cause. 32 The Lord will return his blood on his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he and killed them with the sword, while my father David did not know it: Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 So shall their blood return on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David and his descendants and his house and his throne, may there be peace from the Lord forever.’ 34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wilderness. 35 The king appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.” (1 Kgs. 2:28-35). Joab thought that he could escape judgment for his many crimes by taking hold of the horns of the altar. Yet, Joab showed that he did not know God’s Word. The refuge at God’s altar did not apply to those who committed intentional murder. “If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die.” (Ex. 21:14). He murdered: (1) Abner (2 Sam. 3:6-11); (2) Uriah (2 Sam. 11:14-25); (3) Absalom (2 Sam. 18:11-15); and (4) Amasa (2 Sam. 20:8-10). He was now also guilty of treason against King David and God’s King-elect Solomon. Thus, Joab could not escape his judgment under God’s law by asking for refuge. Solomon therefore ordered Benaiah to administer the death penalty for his many crimes (1 Kgs 2:26).

Joab is put to death5

  • Failing to address murder pollutes the land with sin. Murder violates God’s Sixth Commandment (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). God’s punishment for murder is death: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6). “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:12). “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 24:17). “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death . . . .” (Nu. 35:30). Although many believers today think that capital punishment is immoral, God is clear that failing to punish murders will pollute the land with sin: “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (Nu. 35:33-34). Thus, to correct David’s mistakes, Solomon had to punish Joab for his intentional murders.

  • Evil leaders who are permitted to oppress God’s people will eventually be judged. Where David failed to serve as God’s instrument of justice, Solomon submitted to the will of the Spirit to faithfully serve as the instrument of God’s judgment against Joab: “for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Ro. 13:4). God’s judgment comes first to His people: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; . . .” (1 Pet. 4:17). God will judge all evil. Your only escape is through Jesus. Through prayer and love, you can also be the instrument of His judgment against the devil and his followers.

  • Make no provision for the flesh. Today, believers are not called upon to execute other people. That role is reserved for the civil justice system. Yet, there is a spiritual component to this. Paul warns believers not to practice the things of the flesh as Joab did as David’s general: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:3). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11; Ro. 12:1). Will you judge and destroy the evil desires of your flesh?

7. Fairness: A Spirit-Led Leader is Fair in Addressing Problems. 1 Kgs. 2:36-46.

  • Solomon executes Shimei after he breaks his vow. Solomon’s final acts in this chapter showed his wisdom. He refused to execute Shimei for a forgiven crime. Instead, he judged him when he committed a new crime: “36 Now the king sent and called for Shimei and said to him, ‘Build for yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, and do not go out from there to any place. 37 For on the day you go out and cross over the brook Kidron, you will know for certain that you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head.’ 38 Shimei then said to the king, ‘The word is good. As my lord the king has said, so your servant will do.’ So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days. 39 But it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, ‘Behold, your servants are in Gath.’ 40 Then Shimei arose and saddled his donkey, and went to Gath to Achish to look for his servants. And Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath. 41 It was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and had returned. 42 So the king sent and called for Shimei and said to him, ‘Did I not make you swear by the Lord and solemnly warn you, saying, ‘You will know for certain that on the day you depart and go anywhere, you shall surely die’? And you said to me, ‘The word which I have heard is good.’ 43 Why then have you not kept the oath of the Lord, and the command which I have laid on you?’ 44 The king also said to Shimei, ‘You know all the evil which you acknowledge in your heart, which you did to my father David; therefore the Lord shall return 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 So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and fell upon him so that he died. Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon.” (1 Kgs. 2:36-46) David previously spared Shimei for cursing him (2 Sam. 16:5-14; 19:16-23). As a just king, Solomon could not execute him for this forgiven crime as David requested (1 Kgs. 2:8-9). Instead, Solomon showed his wisdom and fairness by letting Shimei live under house arrest. Three years later, Shimei committed a new crime by leaving his appointed city to travel 30 miles away to a Philistine city. Shimei's actions breached his oath and also carried a death penalty (Lev. 24:16; Dt. 5:11). Solomon then judged him for only his new crime.

  • A Spirit-led leader is fair. God’s people are required to pursue justice: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice . . .” (Mic. 6:8). “Learn to do good; seek justice . . .” (Is. 1:17). A central aspect of justice is fairness under the law. As the source of true justice, Jesus rules with fairness: “but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; . . .” (Is. 11:4). He also wants you to be His source of justice by seeking fair solutions for problems. Just as Solomon treated Shimei fairly, you are called upon to treat others fairly as well. Are you a source of God’s justice and fairness in the world?

  1. Image credit: https://storage.boijmans.nl/collection/tmsfotopkn-116-pk/medium-c6c3bdadb6c8ffed6ec8122854e02cf667f7824d.jpg↩︎