Hating Solomon

Ninth in the Solomon Series

In the course of reading what others have written about Solomon, I have found that some hate him for his sins. One commentator, James Burton Coffman, has much criticism of Solomon and all his work, stating, for example, that Solomon's design of the cherubim was all wrong:

In this is seen Solomon's utter disregard of the pattern which God gave Moses for the Tabernacle. It will be recalled that in those heavenly instructions, the cherubim were miniatures, designed as a decoration for the covering of Ark of the Covenant; but here they were made large enough to fill up the entire breadth of the Holy of Holies half way to the ceiling. It is perfectly clear to any unbiased observer that Solomon was doing his own thing here and not the will of God. (ref)

Yet, we see in 1 Chronicles 28:18-20 that David gave Solomon specific guidance on how to construct all aspects of the temple. He gave him…the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and shelter the ark of the covenant of the LORD. "All this," David said, "I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan." David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."

Would Solomon have chosen a different measure of gold or dimension for the cherubim than his father instructed "in writing from the hand of God"? If he had taken liberties with David's design instructions, would the Lord have approved of his work by filling the temple in the form of a cloud, to show himself present at its dedication?

Another commentary on studylight.org by Adam Clarke accuses: "Solomon had many advantages, and no man ever made a worse use of them." That must be an overstatement!

As we begin our study of Solomon's reign and legacy, it is good to know that Nathan the prophet spoke these words of God to David concerning his son, Solomon, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took [it] from Saul, whom I put away before thee." (2Sa 7:15, 16)

If God did not take his mercy from Solomon, should we?

Losing Divine Protection

Eighth in the Solomon Series

Shimei was a Benjamite who joined Absalom in his rebellion against King David. Absalom was David's third son whose mother was a daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur, a region of Syria. As David took foreign wives, his domestic peace was under threat. Was this a good way to be cordial with nearby neighbors?

How can we make good decisions about ruling the domain God has given to us? We cannot always know the best steps to take, but as we are faithful to God's rules, our way will be protected. And protection is nearly as good as specific guidance.

When David sinned with Bathsheba, God made it plain that his sin would lead to hostility within his home: Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give [them] unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. (2Sa 12:10, 11)

Absalom was the son who fulfilled this prophecy by lying with his father's concubines inside a tent that was in full view of the public.

Thus, when Shimei as a rebel in Absalom's revolt hurled curses, dirt and stones on David, David did not object. He knew God was justly punishing him for his sin and chose to endure the abuse. Shimei came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men [were] on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou [art taken] in thy mischief, because thou [art] a bloody man. (2 Sa 16:5b-8)

However, God did preserve David, and then Shimei begged for pardon. (See 2 Sam 19:16-23)

David granted the pardon, but did not forget Shimei's abusive insults and deep hatred for him. He warned Solomon about Shimei, Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou [art] a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. (1 Ki 2:9)

Solomon gave Shimei the option to live in Jerusalem, but stated that if he strayed beyond the city boundaries (where he could gather rebels to foment a revolution) he would die. After three years, when two of Shimei's servants ran away, he pursued them to bring him back, but leaving Jerusalem led to his death by Benaiah's execution.

Our repentance must be carefully guarded. If we don't show appreciation for our pardon by staying within the bounds of God's rules, we will lose our divine protection.

A loose cannon on the side of the law?

Seventh in the Solomon Series

What did David have against Joab? After all, Joab was his nephew who had a rightful claim as his army captain because he led the fight against the Jebusites, squarely attaining the position (1 Ch 11:6) He and his brothers, Abishai and Asahel, were loyal, valiant soldiers as David was pursued by King Saul. However, problems began when Asahel died young in a showdown between Saul's and David's troops, killed by Abner, Saul's general.

A few years after that, Abner wanted to defect from Israel to Judah --that is, from Ishbosheth, Saul's son and successor, to David's kingdom-- and David sought to appoint him head of his army as a way of consolidating the tribes. Instead, Joab killed Abner to take vengeance for his brother's death. Perhaps, too, Joab wanted to remain David's captain.

David understood that Joab had "shed the blood of war in peace" (1 Ki 2:5b), and the murder complicated the unification that David was striving to achieve. He said, Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread. (2Sa 3:29)

This brings up two interesting points: 1. If the man who is second in command has a personal agenda, chaos results. 2. Wars should never be for the sake of devastation and evil loss of life, but for just causes. David was keenly sensitive about the rules of killing. He knew it was not in God's plan to fuel more division by continuing assassinations and strife between Saul's men and his. Abner had killed Asahel in the course of war, but Joab killed Abner for vengeance.

Though a loose cannon, Joab did not see himself as a commandment breaker. When he killed, he had good reasons! For example, when he pursued Sheba, a son of Belial (2 Sa 20:1), who revolted against King David, he refrained himself and the troops from tearing a city apart to find and kill Sheba. A woman of the city advised him that the city's people would toss Sheba's head over the wall, and this was sufficient for Joab. Her challenge to Joab was: ...thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD? His response was: Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. (2 Sa 20:19, 20)

On the other hand, his mission to pursue Sheba had not been approved by King David. Instead, the King had told Abishai, Joab's brother, to take up that pursuit when Amasa had not rallied the troops in a timely way.

Amasa had been promoted to army general, replacing Joab after Joab had killed Absalom who had tried to overthrow King David. Rather than being grateful to Joab for his loyalty, he mourned for his son Absalom, and determined to pull the kingdom back together by appointing the traitorous Amasa as his army general. Joab appointed himself to the mission to kill Sheba, and murdered Amasa along the way.

In these stories, we see David as the ultimate bipartisan ruler, and Joab as the maverick who followed orders when they were good orders, and at times invented his own orders.

An interesting insight to Joab is in 2 Samuel 24 when King David tells him and his commanders to take a census of Israel and Judah. Joab's response is, May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel? (1 Ch 21:3)

David paid no attention to Joab's warning, so Joab took the census, leaving out Levi and Benjamin "because the king's command was repulsive to him." (1 Ch 21:4-6) The Levites were the religious leaders, and the Benjamites were Saul's kinsmen, whom he spared from the ungodly numbering, presumably.

This numbering of Israel was for the purpose of measuring strength, but God was Israel's strength. Joab understood. And God did punish David for taking the census.

In the end, Joab turned against David and Solomon, supporting Adonijah's attempt to seize power, a brush fire that was quickly smothered. Adonijah saved his own life by grasping the horns of the altar and begging for mercy, which Solomon granted, stipulating that he would need to "show himself a worthy man." (1Ki 1:52) As we saw in our last post, he did not do that, and was killed by Benaiah. The priest who had supported his sedition (Abiathar) was "run out of town," and when Joab heard about it, he fled to the tabernacle and caught hold on the horns of the altar. (1 Ki 2:28) He understood that he was guilty.

Benaiah told King Solomon where Joab was, but this time, the horns did not deliver. Joab chose to die at the altar. One cannot help but feel sad at this turn in the story.

Solomon did not view the altar, where sacrifices were made in obedience to God's commands, in a superstitious way. Even though it was a holy fixture, it could not protect a traitor. Joab's case was clear to him and there would be swift justice. If he was to reign in peace and build the temple, he could not endure rivals.

Only Shimei was left to deal with.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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