Translation of 1 Kings 2:36-46 (MT)

36. And the king sent and called to Shimei and said to him, “build for yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there and you will not come out from there (whether) here or there.
37. “And it will be on the day you come out and cross over the Kidron Valley, know for certain that you will assuredly die. Your blood will be on your head.”
38. And Shimei said to the king, “good is the thing. Just as my lord the king has spoken, thus will your servant do.” And Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.
39. And it was at the end of three years, and two of Shimei’s servants fled to Achish ben Maakah, King of Gath, and they (i.e., “someone”) told Shimei, saying, “Dude! Your servants are in Gath.”
40. And Shimei arose and bound his donkey and walked to Gath, to Achish to seek his servants and Shimei walked and brought out his servants from Gath.
41. And Solomon was told that Shimei went from Jerusalem (to) Gath and had returned.
42. And the king sent and summoned (lit. “called to”) Shimei and said to him, “Did I not swear to you by Yhwh and admonish you, saying, ‘On the day you come out and you go here or there, know certainly that you will assuredly die’? And you said to me, ‘Good is the thing I heard.’
43. And why did you not guard the oath of Yhwh? And the commandment I commanded you?”
44. And the king said to Shimei, “You, you, know all the wickedness that your heart knows that you did to my father David. And Yhwh will bring back your wickedness on your head.”
45. And King Solomon (is/was/will be) blessed. And David’s throne will be firm before Yhwh until eternity.
46. And the king commanded Benaiahu ben Jehoiada, and he came and attacked him and he died. And the kingdom was established in Solomon’s hand.

Comments on the Text

This is a weird one. Were continuing from the last passages initial contract killing ordered by David to the second one. According to 1 Kgs 2:8-9 David commanded Solomon to kill Shimei. The last passage is brutal. This one is somewhat sadistic.

Rather than just outright kill Shimei, “the king” tells him to move to Jerusalem and essentially sets a trap for him, forbidding him to leave. Perhaps this game presents the wisdom that David associated with Solomon when he commanded him to kill Shimei. The Kidron Valley essentially marks the eastern side of the old city of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Gihon, where Solomon was supposedly anointed. That, Shimei must stay quite close by (and Jerusalem was probably relatively small back then).

Looking over the Kidron Valley from the “City of David”. (c) 2019 Jonathan Robker

And the plan works. Shimei agrees to the terms and moves there. After three years (and I have the feeling that this timing may be important later in Kings), Shimei leaves to catch some servants that have fled from him. They had gone to Gath, a Philistine city, so Shimei headed out to fetch them and return them. He apparently succeeded in his venture. I haven’t found any reason why Gath should play a role here, as opposed to anywhere else.

Solomon hears of it, and the king summons Shimei. Though it is never reported that Shimei came, the text seems to presume as much. Then the king holds two speeches. In the first, he refers back to the entrapment that he offered Shimei at the beginning of this tale. In the second, he seems to look back to David’s instruction and basis for killing Shimei. Before the king sends his contract killer, Benaiahu, a very strange phrase intrudes in the narrative. Verse 45 reports that King Solomon is, was, or will be blessed, and that David’s throne will be eternal. The first phrase (about the blessing) has no verb (i.e., it’s a nominal clause), meaning that it is impossible to identify the intended tense. The tense of the second phrase suggests that it should also be in the future tense. Still, it is undeniably curious that in the current context, Solomon appears to be making this statement about himself and his reign, referring to himself in the third person. Quite unusual. For that reason, I have not included it as part of his speech.

The episode concludes with Benaiahu killing another of Solomon’s detractors and the final notice that Solmon now reigns supreme. The kingdom being “in his hand” means that he exercises power and authority over it.

So, at the end of 1 Kgs 1-2 (MT), Solomon finally has dominion of the United Monarchies of Israel and Judah (in the biblical narrative). Getting there required the death of his father, the execution of his brother and two of his father’s enemies, and the banishing of his priest. Nathan and Bathsheba, who appear to have supported him in this endeavor, have completely disappeared by the end of his consolidation of power, Nathan even before David had died. These first chapters about Solomon’s reign, particularly in the Hebrew version, do not cast Solomon in the best light. That changes markedly with one of the episodes in chapter 3.

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