1 When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
5 “Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. 6 Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. 7 But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.” – 1 Kings 2:1-9 ESV
The text provides no indication as to how long David lived after Solomon was crowned king. But the book of 1st Chronicles seems to indicate that as long as David remained alive, the two of them served as co-regents.
And again they crowned David’s son Solomon as their new king. They anointed him before the Lord as their leader, and they anointed Zadok as priest. So Solomon took the throne of the Lord in place of his father, David, and he succeeded in everything, and all Israel obeyed him. All the officials, the warriors, and the sons of King David pledged their loyalty to King Solomon. And the Lord exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and he gave Solomon greater royal splendor than any king in Israel before him.
So David son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. He reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a ripe old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth, and honor. Then his son Solomon ruled in his place. – 1 Chronicles 29:22-28 NLT
As long as David lived, Solomon acted in a more ceremonial capacity, sitting on the throne and serving as the titular head of state. Officially, his father remained the true king of Israel, providing Solomon with counsel and maintaining a final say in the kingdom’s affairs.
“The exact relationship between David and Solomon during the period of coregency is not made clear. Normally in such coregencies, the father remained in supreme command as long as he lived, with the son more or less carrying out his directives. This probably was true with David and Solomon also, though the fact that David was bedridden during this time suggests such an arrangement may have been more theoretical than actual.” – Leon J. Wood, Israel’s United Monarchy
Solomon would assume all the power and authority associated with his title as king with David’s eventual death. So, when David recognized that his death was near, he called for his son so that he might give him some final words of instructions. This would be his last chance to advise Solomon and to pass on a few last-minute requests regarding some unfinished business within the kingdom.
First, David encouraged his son to “keep the charge of the Lord your God” (1 Kings 2:3 ESV). He wanted Solomon to remember that his role as the king had been assigned to him by God. It was a divine appointment and deserved to be treated with the requisite awe, reverence, and obedience that such a responsibility deserved. Solomon was not to take his new power and authority lightly or use it in a self-serving manner. The key to his success would be his faithful adherence to the law of Moses. So, David challenged his young son to “Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:3 NLT).
From his own experience, David knew that faithful adherence to God’s law was a non-negotiable requirement for the man who would rule over God’s people. Solomon would need to be a man who knew and obeyed the laws of God, setting an example for all those under his care. As the king went, so would go the people. He would need to provide a powerful example of moral, ethical, and spiritual integrity, operating according to all of God’s statutes, commandments, rules, and testimonies.
David knew that Solomon had the hand of God on his life. He had been given an assurance from God that his son would have a long and prosperous reign.
“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:11-16 NLT
But David was also intimately familiar with all the temptations that came with the throne’s power and prestige. Solomon was just a young man, and if he was not careful, he could find himself intoxicated by all the fame, notoriety, wealth, and power that came with the crown. Kings were worshiped and revered. Kings were feared and fawned over. But David wanted his son to understand that he ruled at the behest of God Almighty. His reign had been made possible by the sovereign God of the universe.
And like any good father, David longed for his son to experience the blessings of God on his life. So, he shared with Solomon a promise that God had given him.
“If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.” – 1 Kings 2:4 NLT
At this point, David’s death-bed discussion with Solomon takes a slightly abrupt and unexpected turn. He suddenly transitions from talking about faithful adherence to God’s law and begins giving Solomon a rather bizarre “to-do list” containing a few unfinished items of official business. In a sense, David passed the buck and assigned to his son some rather distasteful duties he had chosen to shirk during his own reign.
First, he ordered Solomon to punish Joab for two murders he had committed. We have already seen that Joab had sided with Adonijah in his ill-fated coup. But Joab had a track record of disobedience. On two separate occasions, while serving as the military commander over David’s forces, he had acted independently from David’s orders, putting to death two men. The first was Abner (2 Samuel 3), and the second was Amasa (2 Samuel 20). In both instances, Joab deserved to die for his actions. But David had chosen to do nothing. Now, he was passing off this distasteful responsibility to his son.
And David was not done. He also assigned Solomon the task of paying back a man named Shimei. His story is recorded in 2 Samuel 16. This man had made the mistake of cursing David as he fled from Jerusalem after Absalom had taken over his throne.
As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” – 2 Samuel 16:5-8 NLT
When David had been restored to his throne, he had chosen to do nothing to repay Shimei for his actions. Now, he was expecting Solomon to clean up the mess and mete out justice on his behalf. But David had different instructions concerning Barzillai, an individual who had chosen to show David mercy by providing him and his companions with food as they fled the city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:27-29).
“Be kind to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead. Make them permanent guests at your table, for they took care of me when I fled from your brother Absalom.” – 1 Kings 2:7 NLT
David was expecting his son to take care of his unfinished business. For whatever reason, he had chosen to allow these men to go unpunished for their actions. But, seemingly motivated by revenge, David gave his son strict instructions to pay them back for their crimes. It seems that David wanted to die in peace, knowing that his enemies were dealt with properly. But he wanted no blood on his hands. He would leave the unpleasant task of executing the guilty to his young son, Solomon. David, the great king of Israel, had shirked his responsibilities and was now expecting someone else to clean up the mess he was leaving behind. He probably knew these men could pose a threat to his son’s kingdom, so he recommended their elimination. But had he done his job, none of these would have been necessary.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson