I Kings 2:1–12, 26–46. And Then There Were None.
Key Notes: David gave Solomon his unfinished business: the four traitors. Lives of the four traitors. The career of Joab. No rivals for Solomon in the end.
At the end of his life, David charged his son Solomon to follow the Law of Moses, and to deal with four pieces of unfinished business: Joab, Shimei, Barzillai, and by implication, Abiathar. The basis for these actions goes back all through II Samuel.
II Samuel is the story of the life of David the King. It can be thought of as a series of struggles, divided into four parts:
•IISam.2–4 David was King over Judah in Hebron but Saul's son Ishbosheth, of Benjamin, was made king over the 10 northern tribes. Civil war broke out between the North and the South. Abner, Ishbosheth's general, knew that God had promised the kingdom to David. (IISam.3:18). David won. Ishbosheth and Abner were killed. But Abner was assassinated by Joab, and David was furious at a premeditated murder.
•IISam.5–12 David conquered large territories. Unfortunately, adultery with Bathsheba came in the middle of these wars and led to a series of family disasters under God's judgment.
•IISam.13–20 Absalom tried to ursurp the throne of his father, David, and died in the battle under the hand of Joab, David's general. David also had to deal with a secondary revolt of northern tribesmen led by Sheba and threats from Shimei, both Benjaminites. During Sheba's revolt, David recruited another warrior, Amasa, to fight against Sheba, and Joab assassinated him as well, fearing a rival.
•IISam. 21–24 describe final events of David's life including the ill-fated census, motivated by national pride.
Now let us look into the history of three men whom David left for Solomon to deal with: Shimei, Joab, and Barzillai. Two others were Adonijah who emerged as a threat unexpectedly, and Abiathar the priest who had supported Adonojah and was unfrocked.
Background on Shimei:
When David and his people were fleeing from Absalom, Shimei threw stones and cursed David for Saul's death: He said "The LORD has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned". (IISam.16:5–8)
The accusation was simply wrong. David never attacked Saul or his family.
1. David had two opportunities to kill Saul and refused. ISam.24,26
2. The Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan in war. ISam.31
3. Ishbosheth, Saul's successor to the throne, was killed by his own men. IISam.4:7
4. Saul's surviving son Mephibosheth was given a place at David's table. IISam.9
David did not tell Solomon that Shimei was a threat to the king, but when he came to David asking forgiveness, he came with a thousand men from Benjamin. (IISam.19:17). He represented much more than his poor opinion of David. If his power-base was allowed to continue, he would be a threat to Solomon.
Background on Joab:
He was David's nephew and a gifted general. There are seven important episodes in his life. They explain David's decision to have him executed.
Episode 1. Joab helped David win the crown. The people of Judah made David king in Hebron. (IISam.2:4). Meanwhile, Abner made Ishbosheth, Saul's son, a Benjaminite, king over the rest of Israel. IISam.2:8
During the civil war between David and Ishbosheth, Abner killed Asahel, Joab's brother in a fair fight. (IISam.2:18–23). Abner made a truce with Joab. IISam.2:24–32
Abner decided to go over to David's side, and brought the northern tribes with him. Joab murdered him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel and possibly also because he consider him a rival. IISam.3:26-
David's response was very strong. He ordered mourning for Abner, and lamented for him all day. He was very angry with Joab: "Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel and I am this day weak, though anointed king; these sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me. The LORD requite the evildoer according to his wickedness." (IISam.3:38)
But David did nothing to his nephew Joab other than pronounce judgment against him. He could have had him executed then as he had done with others. His weakness made Joab stronger.
Episode 2. Joab captured Jerusalem and won the generalship.
David said "Whoever shall smite the Jebusites (inhabitants of Jerusalem) first shall be chief and commander. And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first so he became chief." (IChron.11:4–9). Instead of ending up in disgrace, Joab emerged as David's right hand man.
Episode 3. Joab was the commander in David's conquests of Ammon, Syria, Edom, Philistia, Amalek. (IISam.8:10–12). He gave David credit even when he was not at the front and could have won the battle by himself. IISam.12:28
During this period, David sinned with Bathsheba, and Joab was ordered by David to arrange the murder of Uriah the Hittite in battle. IISam.11:14–21
Episode 4. Joab and Absalom.
In the civil war between David and Absalom, David begged his men to spare Absalom. IISam.18:5
Joab killed Absalom during the war without a qualm and rebuked David for his grief. IISam.19:1–8
Joab then killed Amasa, Absalom's general, when David tried to get him into the chain of command. (IISam.20:4–10). Amasa was Joab's cousin, son of Abigail, David's sister.
In a side episode, a worthless fellow named Sheba, also a Benjaminite, pulled away from David and tried to get the northern tribes to revolt. He was killed on orders from Joab. IISam.20:14–22
Episode 5. Joab opposed the census--rightly.
David arranged a census of the fighting men, mostly for the sake of his pride. Joab opposed the census as a sin against Israel, but was over-ruled by David. IChron.21:3
Episode 6. Joab sided with Adonijah against Solomon.
In the end, Joab turned away from David and supported Adonijah for reasons not clear. (IK1:7). However, he did not start a civil war against Solomon but withdrew when he heard of David's support of Solomon.
He fled in fright when Abiathar the priest, who also supported Adonijah, was exiled by Solomon.
Episode 7. Joab was executed for the murder of Abner and Amasa (IK.2:5,28-), although also guilty of the murder of Uriah and Absalom. Why did he not stand and fight Benaiah? He had lost his nerve.
Joab was a military commander, brilliant and unscrupulous. Killing was his business. Uriah the Hittite called him "My Lord, Joab". (IISam.11:11). He and his brothers Asahel and Abishai were more than David could handle, as David complained several times. IISam.3:39; 16:10;’:22
Joab helped David mightily, often gave him good advice, but outraged his sense of justice and deserted David in the end.
Background on Barzillai
Barzillai is the bright spot in this whole narrative. When David and his people went over the Jordan, with Absalom pursuing, three wealthy people including Barzillai came to the rescue. They provided the people with "bedding, basins and earthen jars". They brought "wheat, barley, meal and parched grain; beans and lentils; honey and curds; sheep and cheese from the herds". It was a great relief for hungry, tired and thirsty people who had had to leave Jerusalem without provisions. IISam.17:27–29
When David returned from his exile, he asked Barzillai to come to Jerusalem. But Barzillai was too old for feasting and singing and offered his son instead. IISam.19:31–40
I Kings.2:1–4 David charged Solomon to keep to the Law of Moses so that he might prosper in everything he did.
\2:5–9 David also told Solomon that he must deal with unfinished business.
•Joab must be executed for the murder of Abner, Ishbosheth's general and Amasa,who had been Absalom's general, (and he might have added Absalom, David's son).
•Barzillai aided David when he was running from Absalom; his sons should be rewarded.
•Shimei cursed David when he was running from Absalom and although David decided not to touch him then, he must be punished now.
2:10–12 David died at 70, after forty years in office. He was thirty when he began his reign. (IISam.5:4)
2:13–25 After Solomon was anointed king, Adonijah made a bid for Abishag the Shunammite, who had cared for David in his last days. Solomon perceived a plot, and had Benaiah execute him.
2:26–27 Abiathar was the only priest who escaped Saul's slaughter of Ahimelek and the priestly clan athat had supported David. (ISam.22:20–23) . He unwisely supported Adonijah's bid for the throne and Solomon banished him back to his town. This completed the judgment of God on the house of Eli which was pronounced during Samuel's childhood. ISam.2:31–35
Zadok, who supported Solomon, would now be the high priest.
2:28–35 Joab ran for the temple altar when he realized that Abiathar had been judged. However, Moses said "If a man willfully attacks another to kill him treacherously, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die." (Ex.21:14). The sanctuary was not a refuge for premeditated murder. So Benaiah struck him down at the altar and buried him in his home territory.
2:36–46 Solomon put Shimei under house-arrest. He could not be a political threat when confined to Jerusalem. When Shimei went out of town on business three years later, Solomon carried out his father's intention.
In summary, by the time Solomon was established as king, the following (8) were dead:
•Ishbosheth, Saul's son, who contended with David for the kingdom.
•Abner, Ishbosheth's general.
•Absalom, David's son and rival for the throne.
•Amasa, Absalom's general.
•Sheba of Benjamin, who led a revolt against David when reconciliations were being made after Absalom.
•Shimei of Benjamin, who cursed David for Saul's death when he was going into exile.
•Adonijah, David's son and pretender to Solomon's Throne.
•Joab, who supported Adonijah's bid for the throne.
The survivors were
*Abiathar, the priest who supported Adonijah, but was allowed to go home and out of priestly service.
*Barzillai, who helped David in the wilderness and was rewarded.
There was no opposition left. All the rivals were dead.
God did not permit any rivals to succeed.
Jesus is my King. How many rivals do I permit? What competes with His rightful place on the throne of my life?