Translation of 1 Kgs 1:38-40 (MT)

38. And Zadok the priest went down (and Nathan the prophet and Benaiahu ben Jehoiada and the Cherethites and the Pelethites), and they let Solomon ride on King David’s mule and they walked him up to Gihon.
39. And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. And they blew into the horn. And the whole people said, “long live King Solomon!”
40. And the whole people went up behind him, and the people piped with pipes and were gladly greatly joyous. And the earth was cleft by their voice.

Comments on the Text

Verses 38-39 describe the undertaking of the king’s plan to install Solomon on his throne. The syntax of verse 38 is somewhat conspicuous, though not entirely without precedent in Hebrew: the first verb is recorded in the singular, suggesting that only Zadok descended in the first instance, with the other being added as an afterthought (or later interpolation). The other two men named are familiar to the reader of Kings thus far, but the Cherethites and Pelethites appeared for the last time previously 2 Sam 20:7, demonstrated the interconnectedness of these two texts. The second and third verbs now appear in the plural, affording the inclusion of the other parties attendant at Solomon’s anointing. By including all of these people and groups in the, for lack of a better word, “ceremony,” the author/editor of this passage covers several bases of Levantine culture in the Iron Age: the priest, the prophet, and the general. Perhaps we should understand a particular emphasis on the militant, with Benaijahu (an officer) and two groups of soldiers or mercenaries (Cherethites and Pelethites).

In verse 39 it is once again only Zadok who is acting, distinguishing this verse both from the preceding and from the king’s command in v. 34. After the anointing, the verbs change to the plural, presuming a connection to the end of the previous verse, even though no subjects are explicitly named in the case of “they blew” (it could be understood impersonally as “someone”). It is noteworthy that the Hebrew uses two distinct terms for the different horns: the first is qeren and the second is shofar, which can be used like a bugle. The first is a container and the second is a musical instrument. At the conclusion of his anointing, Solomon has now become king per acclamation. The phrase here, “the whole people,” could be understood as everyone generally, but the term “people,” particularly in Deuteronomic or Deuteronomistic contexts can refer to the army. With the references to the soldiers in the preceding verse, that seems to be the most apparent meaning here and in the opening of v. 40.

Now that Solomon has been acclaimed king by the military, they follow him, ascending to some unnamed point. At this point, apparently we hear about the populace more generally, here identified only as “the people” in contradistinction to the preceding “the whole people.” The normal people are envisioned as joining the procession and playing their pipes. Their enthusiastic music is loud enough to cause the earth to break open. Quite a remarkable feat, should one choose to understand it literally.

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