Translation of 1 Kings 1:28-37 (MT)

28. And the king, David, answered and said, “call for me to Bathsheba.” And she came before the king and stood before the king.

29. And the king swore and said, “as Yhwh lives, who ransomed my life from every adversity,

30. “yes, just as I had sworn to you by Yhwh, God of Israel, saying, ‘yes, Solomon, your son, will reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne in my stead’, yes, thus I will do this day.”

31. And Bathsheba knelt, nose [to the] ground and prostrated to the king and said, “may my lord, the king, David, live forever!”

32. And the king, David, said, “call for me to Zadok the priest, and to Nathan the prophet, and to Benaiahu ben Jehojada.” And they came before the king.

33. And the king said to them, “take with you the servants of your lord, and let Solomon, my son, ride on the mule that is mine. And bring him down to Gihon.

34. “And Zadok the priest (and Nathan the prophet) should anoint him there to king over Israel. And you should blow in the horn and say, ‘long live the king, Solomon!’

35. “And ascend after him and he will enter and sit upon my throne and he will reign in my stead, and him I will command to be a leader over Israel and over Judah.”

36. And Benaiahu ben Jehoiada answered the king and said, “so be it! Thus Yhwh, God of my lord, the king, has spoken!

37. “Just as Yhwh was with my lord, the king, so he will be with Solomon. And he will make his throne greater than the throne of my lord, the king, David.”

Commentary on the Text

At this point, the narrative flow really develops some issues. Primary among them are the relative locations of the characters. Bathsheba must apparently be summoned to the king, even though she has been in his presence since v. 15. Particularly as the text identifies the king as David here, this mismatch becomes more poignant. This unclear location and the identification with David certainly justify questioning how these pieces should fit together as a compositional unit. It is also worth noting how often the king is mentioned: three times in fourteen Hebrew words! Someone really wanted to emphasize who was in charge here…

The king now swears to do that he supposedly already swore to do. This occurs in vv. 29-30, the first of two speeches of the king in this passage. The speech begins with a expression of the king’s faith: that Yhwh has saved him from every adversity. This phrase appears precisely in this form in 2 Sam 4:9, a text that precedes David’s summarily executing two men. That could have some import in awakening expectations for the subsequent chapter, where something similar occurs. At the same time, the opening of the promise looks to the past, i.e., actions that Yhwh had already undertaken for the king. This temporal aspect continues in the next phrases of the speech, before it turns to the future: Solomon will sit on the king’s throne. Since the swearing the king describes had supposedly already occurred, I have chosen to translate the king’s statement in v. 30 as a pluperfect, though there is nothing inherent in the Hebrew to identify it as such (nor, to be fair, does such an unambiguous pluperfect form exist in biblical Hebrew). In terms of content and narrative context, this speech must be addressed to Bathsheba, since it implies that he is talking to one of Solomon’s parents (“your son”) and since the king is presumably the other (though that is nowhere expressly stated. Having covered the past and the future, the king’s promise concludes with the present: today the king will act.

Bathsheba responds to the king’s promise in v. 31. Now her interaction with the king more explicitly matches that of Nathan, her prostrating with her nose to the ground (cf. v. 23). That suggests that there might be a link between these two passages. She expresses her wish that the king, David, might live forever. That is a favorable expression for the currently reigning king, but it would necessarily imply that her son would never gain the crown, were it to be understood literally.

In v. 32 we find a similar problem to that in v. 28: as far as the reader knows, Nathan is already standing in front of the king (cf. v. 23). Now, however, he is included in a group of three men who become important for the rest of the chapter and, at least some of them, for chapter two. The most similar list to this one is in v. 8, but here no warriors are mentioned, for whatever reason. These men arrive and await David’s instructions, as they appear in the next speech.

Verses 33-35 lay out the king’s plan as it unfurls in the next passage. A few features are worth mentioning about this speech. Other than in passages about where Solomon was anointed, the only other reference to Gihon is in Gen 2:13. I.e., Solomon should be anointed at one of the well-springs of paradise, intimately associated with the creation of humanity. We have never been informed thus far that David had such a mule, certainly not with the term supplied here. In v. 31 it appears initially as if Zadok should anoint Solomon alone: the verse is singular. Nathan appears almost as an afterthought, though it is more often, though not exclusively (cf. 2 Sam 2 and 5; 2 Kgs 11 and 23), prophets who anoint kings in Samuel (1 Sam 9; 15; 16) and Kings (1 Kgs 19; 2 Kgs 9). They should bring Solomon before the king, after Solomon has been anointed, placing him on the king’s throne. There, apparently, the king will instruct him to be a “leader” over Israel. The last time that this term appeared, it was part of the dynastic promise to David, delivered by Nathan, in 2 Sam 7. That is probably not an accident. The reference to his instructing the new ruler probably anticipates David’s speech to Solomon in 1 Kgs 2:1-4. One aspect seems to distinguish this term from the more general “king” in Samuel and Kings: the term ruler or leader seems to carry a conditional, almost ephemeral aspect. One who is the ruler may not remain that way (cf. 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 13:14; and 1 Kgs 14:7 and 16:2). This demonstrates somewhat of distinction between vv. 34 and 35: whereas Solomon become king of Israel in v. 34, he is (only) the ruler of Israel and Judah in v. 35. That is, where 34 either reckons with him as king of only the north or the whole people under the rubric of “Israel,” perhaps even with a religious connotation, verse 35 regards Israel and Judah as distinct entities or constituent elements of a larger kingdom that could be dissolved (cf. 1 Kgs 12).

This passages, at least as I have chosen to divide it here, concludes in vv. 36-37 with Benaiahu’s desire for the continuation of Yhwh’s chosen dynasty under Solomon. He proclaims that this is all occurring with the will of Yhwh. It is conspicuous that the text ascribes these words to the military man of the group, and not to the priest or the prophet, i.e., those who should presumably have better access to the will of God. Chapter two certainly makes Benaiahu appear as a zealot, whether for Yhwh or for Solomon. The text makes a first explicit implication here in that direction. With this final emphatic theological impulse from the military operative, the stage is set for Solomon to take over his father’s throne.

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1 Comment

  1. Enjoying these a lot, though I wish they all had “dude” in them

    Reply

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