THIS WEEK’S STUDY: 1 Kings 1:1-2:46, 1 Chronicles 22:2-29:30
MEMORY TEXT: “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chr. 29:11).
THE WAYS OF GOD AND THE WAYS OF MAN: When describing the transition from David to Solomon, Kings lays bare all the human intrigue. By contrast, Chronicles lifts our sights to the power and glory of God. The challenge facing David and Solomon is our challenge, too. We must grapple with human dilemmas. But over and through them we must see the hand of God.
OVERVIEW: THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD
I. ADONIJAH’S REBELLION: 1 Kings 1:1-53
II. DAVID’S CHARGE TO SOLOMON: 1 Kings 2:1-9; 1 Chr. 22:2-19
III. THE DREAM OF A NEW TEMPLE: 1 Chr. 23:1-29:22a
IV. DAVID’S DEATH: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 1 Chr. 29:22b-30
V. SETTLING OLD SCORES: 2 Kings 2:13-46
A PRECARIOUS VISION, A CERTAIN VISION: God’s people are human beings — weak and frail, torn by passion, manipulated and manipulating. The precious vision seems so precarious in their hands, almost as though they could toss it and run at a moment’s notice. Indeed they have that choice. It was given them by God.
Yet from another perspective, it is not easy to escape a God-given task and a God-given place. In His hands an apparent human “No” can become the prelude to a divine “Yes”; human intrigue can be transformed to serve the glory of God.
This week’s lesson is shaped by the contrast between the human and the divine, more specifically, between human intrigue in Kings and divine glory in Chronicles. The author of Kings takes us behind the scenes, into the dark allies where rebellion is born, and then into the inner royal chamber itself where a prophet, a priest, and the queen confront the weak and dying king in a desperate attempt to keep the vision alive.
The rebel Adonijah had declared himself king and had invited almost everyone to the celebration — everyone, that is, except those closest to David, Nathan the prophet and Solomon, the heir apparent. The rebellion came within inches of succeeding, but at the last moment Solomon secured the throne. As portrayed in the book of Kings, the changing of the guard is not a pretty piece. It is a story of politics and human intrigue.
By contrast, the author of Chronicles turns our thoughts to the worship of Israel’s great God. Ignoring the swirl of back-room politics, Chronicles focuses on David’s deep commitment to the worship of his God.
If the Lord would not allow David to build the temple, David was determined to come as close as he could. He had already selected the site. The temple would be built over the threshing floor of Ornan (1 Chr. 22:1su), the very place where the plague against Israel had been stayed. Dressed stone, magnificent cedars, gold, silver, bronze, and iron — all that David gathered together for the building of the temple. He hired the craftsmen and gave them their tasks.
But there was more. David organized the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers. Then he called the leaders of the people to Jerusalem for the formal inauguration. This was no wild royal festival. It was a prayer meeting, a solemn assembly, a dedication and rededication. This people belonged to God.
Our lives, too, are a mysterious blend of the precarious and the certain. On the human side, we often stumble, tottering on the brink of disaster. But God steps in, plants our feet on firmer ground, and shines a bright light on a higher path. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. Godliness — godlikeness– is the goal to be reached” (Education, 18).
Life is precarious. But God is certain. As David prayed in his last great public prayer, “Both riches and honor come from thee, and thou rulest over all. In thy hand are power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank thee, our God, and praise thy glorious name” (1 Chr. 29:12-13, RSV).
I. ADONIJAH’S REBELLION (1 KINGS 1:1-53)
Adonijah’s rebellion was just one more sorry chapter in the history of David’s personal life. Great success as a warrior did not guarantee a happy family. His footsteps were dogged by a succession of brutal disasters. He had set the pattern by his own sin with Bathsheba. The first “payment” for his sin was the death of that child conceived in sin (2 Sam. 11 – 12). But other “payments” followed: Amnon raped his sister Tamar and Absalom murdered Amnon (2 Sam. 13). Absalom conspired to take away the kingdom and was killed in the attempt, but not before he had scorned his father by publicly defiling David’s concubines (2 Sam. 14 -18). Adonijah’s rebellion was the last chapter.
- What fatal flaw was evident in David’s upbringing of his son Adonijah (1 Kings 1:6)?
- In the light of the events of 1 Kings 1, what responsibilities do human beings have for intervening in the world of human affairs — even into politics — to see that God’s plans are carried through?
Ask yourself: How do we avoid the extremes of energetically moving ahead of the Lord on the one hand, or cautiously lagging behind, on the other? Ellen White once advised a gospel worker: “You are in need of vital energy from heaven. We must in our work not only strike the iron when it is hot but make the iron hot by striking. Slow, easy, indolent movements will do nothing for us in this work. We must be instant in season, out of season. These are critical times for work. By hesitation and delay we lose many good opportunities. . .” (Letter 13, 1886, Evangelism, p. 647). Does that counsel apply only to the work of the Gospel, or does it apply with equal validity to our involvement in more mundane affairs? Is Nathan’s quick intervention in a volatile situation a model for Christians?
II. DAVID’S CHARGE TO SOLOMON (1 Kings 2:1-9; 1 Chr. 22:2-19)
In the book of Chronicles, David’s charge to Solomon focuses on the building of the temple. The book of Kings, however, records a solemn conversation in which David charges the new king with both religious and civil obligations.
- By studying the original incidents to which David refers in 1 Kings 2:5-9, try to determine why David left these “civil” obligations for Solomon to handle instead of caring for them himself.
Abner (2 Sam. 2:12-23; 3:20-39) __________________________________Amasa (2 Sam. 17:25; 19:13; 20:4-13) _____________________________
Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:31-40) _______________________________________
Shimei (2 Sam. 19:16-23) ________________________________________
Judged by the standards of morality in his day, David’s behavior is both defensible and honorable. Joab was the son of David’s sister, Zeruiah (1 Chr. 2:16) and had been closely linked with the royal house throughout much of David’s reign. Both erratic and ruthless, however, Joab had flaunted the laws of blood vengeance, avenging the wartime death of his brother Asahel by killing Abner during a time of peace. Furthermore, when David appointed Amasa in Joab’s place as army commander, Joab retaliated with a cold-blooded and pre-meditated murder.
David was somehow unable to pass judgment on the son of his own sister. But justice declared that Joab’s death was the only way to cleanse the stain of innocent blood from the royal house. Thus David assigned the task to Solomon.
The charge to show kindness to Barzillai was a matter of hesed, a key Old Testament word signifying “covenant loyalty.” Barzillai had been loyal to David; David responded in kind. The term usually is translated as “mercy” or “loving kindness” (KJV) or “steadfast love” (RSV). It is the focal point of Psalm 136 where it refers repeatedly to God’s hesed for Israel.
The charge to bring Shimei to justice might appear problematic since David had promised Shimei with an oath: “You shall not die” (2 Sam. 19:23). But in classic Old Testament style, David adhered carefully to two significant elements of justice: 1) his own oath to Shimei, which he faithfully kept; and, 2) implementation of the legal penalty for “cursing the Lord’s anointed” (cf. 2 Sam. 19:21), a task which he assigned to Solomon.
David’s personal promise to Shimei could not cancel the penalty due for “cursing the Lord’s anointed.” David himself had never touched his predecessor Saul, the “Lord’s anointed.” The charge to Solomon to bring justice on Shimei would have been seen as a credit to David’s wisdom and integrity.
- Under what conditions could Solomon expect continued prosperity (1 Chr. 22:13)?
- According to the revelation which David received from the Lord, how long could he expect his own royal line to continue? Did his charge to Solomon suggest that the promise was conditional? 1 Chr. 22:6-16.The Hebrew words or phrases which are generally translated into English as “forever” do not really suggest time without end. “Forever” can be a relatively long period of time, but also a rather brief period, depending on the object or action described.
- What light does 1 Chronicles 28:7-10 shed on the meaning of “forever” as applied to the throne of David?
- Psalm 89 was written at a time when the Lord’s Anointed was in difficulty. The psalmist reminds God of the promises to David, plead for help on that basis. Is there evidence that the psalmist wished that God’s promises were absolute rather than conditional?
In times of stress, even inspired writers may be inclined to push God’s promises beyond their proper limits. Jesus himself asked that the cup be taken from Him. But then He added, in true submission to his Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Ask yourself: Am I inclined to demand that the Lord fulfill His promises in an absolute sense, when deep in my heart I know that they can only be fulfilled when the conditions are met?
In my life, what would be the proper application of Ellen White’s statement “that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional?” (Evangelism, p. 695).
III. THE DREAM OF A NEW TEMPLE (1 Chr. 23:1 – 29:22a)
- What role is played by the long lists of names in this section of 1 Chronicles?Long lists of names can be tedious. But here they symbolize the importance of the temple in David’s experience. The Chronicler wanted his readers to sense the value of the temple even if the glory of Solomon’s day had passed.
- What key principle of stewardship appears in David’s dedicatory prayer? 1 Chr. 29:10-19, esp. vs. 16.For David, offerings were simply a way of returning to the Lord that which was His in the first place. Such an attitude is both liberating and heart-warming. We give to the Lord as He has given to us and as He has “prospered” us (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2).
Ask yourself: What steps can I take as an individual so that I might experience the same eagerness to give that David showed when he prepared materials for the temple? How can the church as a whole move toward that experience? Does it require an enthusiastic “king”? Or can a body of believers do the same without a strong individual leader?
IV. DAVID’S DEATH (1 Kings 2:10-12; 1 Chr. 29:22b-30)
According to Chronicles, when Solomon ascended the throne in his own right, he enjoyed the full support of the nation. As usual, the Chronicler is more expansive and glowing in his account; the author of Kings is brief and terse.
- What does 1 Chronicles 29:29-30 reveal about the way in which the Chronicler wrote his book?
All Scripture is inspired, but not all of it came by special revelation. These verses indicate that the Chronicler knew how to use a library. Under the guidance of the Spirit, he selected his material from a variety of sources and tells his readers where to find the rest of the story.
In the New Testament, Luke does something similar. In the introduction to his Gospel, he claims to be familiar with all the stories being told about Jesus. But he is not quite satisfied; he intends to tell the story right (Luke 1:1-4). His Gospel is the result of his Spirit-guided research.
Not all inspired writers tell us about their sources. Luke and the Chronicler are two who do. The author of Kings also refers occasionally to his sources. In that connection it may be helpful to note that the references to the “chronicles of the kings” (e.g. 2 Kings 15:6, 11, 15, 21, 26, 31) do not refer to our biblical book of Chronicles, but rather to the official court records. Our books of 1 and 2 Chronicles could not be a source for the author of Kings since Chronicles was written after Kings.
The three “sources” mentioned in 1 Chr. 29:29-30 are prophetic books which are no longer available to us. The Chronicles of Samuel may have been the basis for our biblical books of Samuel, augmented from other sources. The books by Nathan and Gad obviously were consulted in the preparation of Chronicles, probably for Kings as well. But their books are otherwise unknown to us.
Ask yourself: If, instead of sending a vision, the Spirit chooses to send an inspired writer to the library, how is the authority of the final message affected?
V. SETTLING OLD SCORES (2 KINGS 2:13-46)
The violence seemingly required to fulfill the demands of customary Old Testament justice is disquieting for modern Christians who are attracted by the gentle religion of Jesus. The steps Solomon took to fulfill the charge given him by his father David are reported in Kings, omitted in Chronicles.
- Why was Solomon so alarmed by Adonijah’s request to have Abishag the Shunammite for his wife? 1 Kings 2:13-25. See also 1 Kings 1:1-10.
Adonijah’s request was a daring one. Although David had not had conjugal relations with Abishag, she was nevertheless closely connected with the royal household. Apparently both her fate and freedom lay in the hands of Solomon.
The importance of a king’s wives and concubines can be seen from the Absalom story. There, the rebel confirmed his claim to the throne by taking the king’s concubines (2 Sam. 16:20-22). Solomon interpreted the request for Abishag as a not-so-subtle reminder of Adonijah’s royal aspirations.
Earlier, Solomon had promised not to execute Adonijah, but only on the condition of good behavior (1 Kings 1:51-53). With Joab and Abiathar on the side of Adonijah (1 Kings 2:22), Solomon had reason to consider his brother a threat to the throne.
- According the 1 Samuel 2:26-36, a judgment of doom had been pronounced on the house of Eli, of which Abiathar the priest was a part. The judgment only came into affect when Abiathar supported the wrong person as the successor to David. Does the long delay in the fulfillment of the prophecy, suggest that the threat of judgment on the house of Eli was possibly conditional and could have been postponed indefinitely through proper obedience?
In the light of 1 Kings 2:27, the prophecy against the house of Eli could be interpreted as immoveable and unshakable.Yet, just as the repentance of the Ninevites spared their city at least temporarily (Jonah 3:10), it is possible that continued faithfulness could have postponed the judgment on the house of Eli. Such situations seem to have occurred later in Israel’s history. Judgment was pronounced on Ahab, but because of his sincere repentance, it was postponed (1 Kings 21:29). Similarly, just before the Exile, Josiah repented so heartily, that the judgment against Jerusalem was postponed (2 Kings 22:15-20; 2 Chr. 34:23-28). If the kings who had followed him had been as zealous as Josiah, could Jerusalem’s destruction have been averted?
- How does Solomon justify his decision to bring judgment against Shimei? 1 Kings 2:36-46.
Although Shimei deserved to die because he had “cursed the Lord’s anointed,” Solomon had set conditions which could have postponed indefinitely the threatened judgment. But when Shimei broke his own oath not to leave Jerusalem, Solomon declared that the Lord would bring Shimei’s evil back on his own head (1 Kings 2:44).
From an Old Testament perspective, evil carries with it a built-in reward; it is a boomerang which always comes home. Blood came back upon the head of Joab (1 Kings 2:33) and evil came back on Shimei. God’s grace can intervene to postpone judgment. But the ominous threat remained until blood was shed.
THINK IT OVER. Does the shedding of Christ’s blood make it possible to break the cycle of revenge and judgment? Now that He has died for our sins, must we still stand under the threat of the blood which will return upon our own heads?
FOR FURTHER STUDY: Comments on this week’s lesson are found in Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 749-755.
Some of the most sobering Old Testament stories are also the ones that illustrate how seriously oaths were taken in Old Testament times. See Judges 19-21 and 2 Samuel 21.
SUMMARY: The religious life includes the beauty of the temple and formal worship (Chronicles). But there is more. The ordinary and sometimes difficult affairs of life are also part of the Lord’s domain (Kings). When David handed over the keys of the kingdom, one was for the temple, the other for the royal palace. He charged Solomon to use both keys to the glory of God.