Translation of 1 Kings 2:1-12 (MT)

1. And the days of David grew close to death, and he commanded his son Solomon, saying:
2.”I am going in the way of the whole earth, and you will be strong and will be a man.
3. “And you will guard the charge of Yhwh your God to go in his ways, to guard his statutes, his commandments, and his judgements, and his testimonies, just as are written in the Torah of Moses, so that you might prosper with all that you do and all that you turn there
4. “so that Yhwh will raise his word that he spoke about me, saying, ‘if your sons will guard their ways to walk before me in truth with their whole heart and with their whole life, saying “not will be cut off for you a man from upon the throne of Israel”‘
5. “and also, you, you know what Joab ben Zeruah did to me, what he did to two officers of the army of Israel, to Abner ben Ner, and to Amasa ben Jeter, and he killed them and he set the bloods of battle in peace at his hips and in his shoe that is on his feet.
6. “and you will do as your wisdom and not will he gray head descend in peace to Sheol.
7. “And to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite you will do kindness and thy will be by those eating at your table. For, thus, they drew near to me in my fleeing from before Absalom your brother.
8. “And, dude! With you is Shimei ben Gera the Benjaminite from Bahurim and he cursed me a grievous curse on the day to call me (at) the Jordan and I swore to him by Yhwh, saying, ‘if I will cause you to die with the sword.’
9. “And now! You shall not acquit him, for a wise man are you. And you know what you should do to him and you will send his gray head down to Sheol in blood.”
10. And David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.
11. And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: in Hebron he reigned seven years and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years.
12. And Solomon sat upon the throne of his father David and his kingdom was firmly established.

By Pieter de Grebber – King David in Prayer (ca. 1635-1640), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15144058

Comments on the Text

The opening of chapter two apparently begins the book anew. David (not “King David,” one notes) is old, yet still in power. This duplication of the end of David’s reign carries a much different tone than the preceding in some passages. The first twelve verses of the chapter can be divided into a few sections. Verses 1 and 10-12 are the narrated frame of David’s lengthy speech, which appears in 2-9. This speech can easily be divided into four unequal parts: 2-4 recount David’s admonishing Solomon to act according to biblical precepts; 5-6 announce David’s posthumous revenge on Joab; 7 express his favor to Barzillai and his sons; and 8-9 mandate Solomon’s avenging the dishonor of Shimei on his father David. The first part of the speech takes a decidedly different tone than the rest, with the possible exception of the referent to Barzillai. One notes that two revenge notices surround the one gracious notice, suggesting perhaps a compositional intention, but that is hardly provable.

The vernacular of this opening scene of chapter 2 is strongly reminiscent of Deuteronomistic theology, i.e., theology rooted in the tenets of the book of Deuteronomy. More specifically, this Deuteronomistic terminology and theology appears most prominently in verses 1-4 and is largely absent in the rest of the speech. David’s opening demand of Solomon is similar to God’s demand of Joshua in Joshua 1.

Two of the three elements provide the structure for the end of the chapter, at least as it is preserved in the Hebrew version. (The Greek version of this chapter is fundamentally different, but more on that in a later post.) The speeches against Joab and Shimei frame the speech favoring Barzillai. The end of the chapter, vv. 28-43a, report Solomon’s fulfilling these commands, albeit with no further mention of Barzillai, whether here or elsewhere in Kings. When I read these verses, they seem to be an interpolation between verse 4 and verse 10, introduced later to justify the subsequent executions (or murders, if you prefer). Conspicuously absent from David’s proclamation of vengeance is Adonijah, particularly since he is the focus of the two episodes surrounding David’s lengthy speech.

The conclusion of this section ends David’s life. The narrator informs the reader where David was buried and reminds the reader how long and where he reigned. Finally, the notice follows, this time from the narrator, that Solomon sat on David’s throne. After this notice the text takes a long detour about Solomon’s shoring up his position as king. At the end of chapter 2, there is another notice (2:43b) that Solomon had established the kingdom in his hand. Taken together, these pieces suggest to me, on a superficial level even, that someone added 2:13-43a, probably in stages, to chapter 2. These expansions could have been the reason for an even later insertion of vv. 5-9, which justify Solomon’s execution of the others. However, they could have been included at the same time. That issue still needs to be resolved.

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2 Comments

  1. It is interesting that David is only referred to as “David.” Is that because the title of “King” has already been conferred to Solomon?

    Reply
    • My thought on this, at this point at least, is that we have two (or more) different sources that are interwoven here: one that refers to David and Solomon only by name and one that includes their title, i.e., King David or King Solomon. It is (perhaps) noteworthy, that even Solomon is not called King in these verses…

      Reply

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