Translation of 3 Reigns 1:28-37 (1 Kgs 1:28-37)

28. And David answered and spoke, “Call for me Beersabee.” And she came before the king and stood before him.
29. And the king swore and said, “As the Lord lives, who ransomed my life from every trouble,
30. “just as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘yes, Solomon, your son, will reign after me and will sit upon my throne in my stead.’ For thus I will this day.”
31. And Beersabee bent down, face upon the ground, and prostrated to the king and said, “May my lord, the King, David, live in eternity!”
32. And the king, David, said, “Call for me Sadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Banaias son of Iodae.” And they came before the king.
33. And the king said to them, “Take the servants of your lord with you and put my son Salomon on my mule and lead him down to Gion.
34. “And anoint him there, Sadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, to king over Israel, and blow in the horn and say, ‘Long live the king, Salomon!’
35. And he will sit upon my throne and he will reign in my stead. And I have commanded (him) to be in rulership over Israel and Judah.”
36. And Banaias son of Iodae answered and said, “So be it! So shall the Lord, the God of my lord the king, affirm.
37. “As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Salomon and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord, the king, David!”

Solomon’s Coronation .
From the “12th-century Romanesque bible of San Isidoro de León” (1162).
Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Comments on the Text

Here we have another longer passage of text, but, again disregarding orthographic variation in proper nouns, without too many substantial differences between the Greek and the Hebrew versions. Verse 28 is missing the title “king” on two occasions, once at the beginning before David’s name and then again at the end, naming to whom Beersabee prostrated. These could be minor stylistic changes or oversights, though it is still possible that the Septuagint preserves older readings (being shorter). That could have literary-critical implications.

Over a more substantial nature is the absence of the opening of v. 35 when contrasted with the Hebrew. This Greek version mentions no ascending or entering. That is, it suggests that Solomon should sit on the throne of David at the well of Gihon. That makes little sense. Presumably for that reason, later editors “corrected” the Hebrew text to bring Solomon back up to the palace and the throne there.

Again in v. 35, at the end of the verse, the Greek text is missing the preposition “over” before “Judah”, paralleling the phrase “over Israel.” Taking a maximalist approach to this variation could imply that the Greek text (or its Vorlage) regarded “Israel and Judah” more as a unity. The Hebrew text separates them somewhat, defining them more clearly as two distinct units over which one might reign, “over Israel” and “over Judah.”

Finally, verse 36 concludes with Banaias wish that the Lord “affirm” David’s commands instead of merely “speak” them. Probably this difference goes back to a different Greek Vorlage or an error by the translation. While these two things may be quite different in English, the difference in Hebrew really only revolves around one letter. And it would represent a more clear parallel with the opening of the phrase. That is, while it remains possible that the Greek is a mistake, the better option is that attests a different, probably older Hebrew parent text.

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:22-27 (1 Kgs 1:22-27 LXX)

22. And dude! Still she was speaking with the king and Nathan the prophet came.
23. And it was reported to the king, “dude! Nathan the Prophet.” And he entered before the king and prostrated to the king with his face upon the ground.
24. And Nathan said, “my lord, o king, have you said Adonias shall reign after me? And he shall sit upon my throne.
25. “For he came down today and sacrifices calves and lambs and sheep in multitude and called all the sons of the king and the officers o the army and Abiathar the priest and dude! They are eating and drinking before him and saying, ‘long live king Adonias!’
26. “And me, your servant, and Sadok the priest and Banaias son of Iodae and Solomon, your servant, he did not call.
27. “If through my lord the king this thing was done and you have not made (it) known to your servant, who will sit upon the throne of my lord the king after him?”

Eugène Sieberdt: The Prophet Nathan Rebukes King David.
Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Comments on the Text

This week is easy, since there are really only two differences between the Hebrew and the Greek. Verse 23 opens with a singular passive in the Greek, whereas it is a plural active in the Hebrew. That is, the Hebrew says, “they reported” and the Greek says, “it was reported.” That would be a satisfactory translation, but inconsistent with the translation technique generally applied in this portion of Kings. The only other difference is in verse 27: the Hebrew consonantal text reads the plural “servants” and not the singular “servant.” That is, the Greek refers only to Nathan, whereas the Hebrew includes Nathan within a group of servants who were not informed about the king’s wishes. The Greek presumes that Nathan alone should be the executor of the king’s desire, but the Hebrew consonantal text thinks of a group that will enact. The Hebrew text appears to be a correction toward the end of the chapter, in which Nathan and Zadok anoint Solomon to be king with the support of Benaiahu and others. One helpful note here: the Masorah parva records the singular as the correct reading. That also favors following the Greek over the Hebrew consonantal text.

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:15-21 (1 Kgs 1:15-21 LXX)

15. And Beersabee went in to the king in the chamber, and the king (was) very old, and Abisak the Somanite was serving the king.
16. And Beersabee bent down and prostrated to the king. And the king said, “what is for you?”
17. But this one (=she) said, “my lord, o king, you swore by the Lord, your God, to your servant, saying that, ‘Solomon, your son, will reign after me and he will sit upon my throne.’
18. “And now. Dude! Adonias reigns and you, my lord, o king, do not know.
19. “And he has sacrifices calves and lambs and sheep in multitude and summoned all the sons of the king and Abiathar the priest and Joab the officer of the army, and the Solomon, the servant of you, he did not call.
20. “And you, my lord, o king, the eyes of all Israel (are looking) to you to report to them who will sit upon the throne of my lord, the king, after him.
21. “And it will be, whenever my lord, the king, sleeps with his fathers, and I will be and my son Solomon sinners.

[Here I would normally have some media, and there is a lovely painting of this scene by Govert Flick from 1651. It is in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, which makes it impossible to view their images because they apparently hate internet users. Here is a link to the image on their site.]

Comments on the Text

Again, there are not a lot of differences between the Hebrew and Greek version in the Septuagint here. The so-called Lucianic text has more, but that is something we will come back to at a later time. The most conspicuous difference between the two versions, particularly when comparing English translations of each is the names of the women: Beersabee and Abisak the Somanite.

Otherwise, the most obvious differences are the addition of the vocative “o king” in Beersabee’s speech in v. 17 and the addition of an emphatic “you” in v. 18. The proximity to the known Hebrew text remains conspicuous in this passage, as in the previous ones. This can be noted, in particular, in v. 20 which makes no sense in Greek, but perfectly reflects the Hebrew. The confusion comes from the translation of the Hebrew preposition על “upon” with the Greek προς “to”. This reflects the semantic overlap of the Hebrew prepositions אל and על; the Greek better reflects the understanding אל, but that understanding makes the Greek text reads with difficulty, requiring the addition of English words, as in the translation above.

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:11-14 (1 Kgs 1:11-14 LXX)

11) And Nathan spoke to Beersabee, Solomon’s mohter, saying, “Have you not heard that Adonias, son of Angith, reigns (as king)? And our lord David knows not?
12) “And now, come, I will advise you at this point advice, and you will rescue your life and the life of your son Solomon.
13) “Come. Go in to the kind, David, and speak to him, saying, ‘Did you not, my lord king, swear to your servant, saying that, “Solomon, your son, will reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne?” So why is Adonias reigning’
14) “And dude! While you are speaking there with the king, and I will enter after you and fulfill your words.”

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout: David Promises Bathsheba that Solomon will be his Successor. 1646. Public Domain. From Wikimedia Commons.

Comments on the Text

Focusing again only on the differences between the Hebrew and the Greek versions, there are only really two differences between these stories, not counting the distinct writing of the names of the characters. In that regard, particularly Bathsheba stands out, being called “Beersabee” in Greek. This particular, precise reflection of the Hebrew text is something described in the preceding passages as well. It is typical of the translation style of this passage in Kings, and evidence of the recensional character of the translation in the opening chapters of Kings. The two differences are:

  1. The addition of “saying” as an introduction to what Beersabee should say to the king in v. 13; and
  2. The addition of an “and” at the opening of v. 14.

As should be immediately apparent, these differences are hardly substantial. They could evince a distinct Hebrew Vorlage of the passage. On the other hand, they could just represent minor errors and interpolations that snuck in over the course of translation or revision. The “saying” in v. 13 could represent either an error or conscious decision to make the text more like v. 11, which presents the same term. The addition of an “and” at the beginning of v. 14 could reflect the duplication (dittography) of the same Hebrew letter that immediately precedes it. The style of the passage would even be conducive to that change.

Taken together, it is quite difficult to recognize a textual priority (i.e., which version is older) in these cases. It is also entirely unclear if the Greek represents a minorly distinct Hebrew text or some translators added these elements unintentionally. When considering the other Greek version, it becomes more likely, though by no means certain, that this Greek text reflects a slightly distinct Hebrew Vorlage. But that issue must remain open for now.

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:5-10 (1 Kgs 1:5-10 LXX)

5. And Adonias, son of Angith, exalted himself, saying, “I, I will rule as king!” And he made himself chariotry and cavalry and fifty men to run in front of him.
6. And not did prevent him his father, not ever saying, “because of what you, you did?” And also he was beautiful in the face, very (much so). And him s/he begot after Abessalom.
7. And the words of him were with Joab, the son of Saronia, and with Abiathar the priest, and they aided after Adonias.
8. And Sadok the priest and Banaias, son of Iodae, and Nathan the prophet and Semei and Rei and the mighty (ones) of David, not were they behind Adonias.
9. And Adonias sacrificed sheep and calves and lambs with a stone of Zoeleth, which was possessing (?) of the spring of Rogel. And he called all his brothers and all the chiefs of Judah, servants of the king.
10. And the Nathan the prophet and Banaia and the mighty (ones) and the Solomon, his brother, he did not call.

Commentary on the Text

(Normally, I’d have a picture or other content here, but man, there is nothing out there for this worth posting. Sorry!) This passage does not present many variants from the Hebrew text in this version beyond the orthography of the names (which don’t really merit discussion here). Yet some of them are still worth mentioning briefly. More importantly, some of the consistency between the Greek and the Hebrew, which makes for poor translation into English (which I have intentionally done here) deserves attention. Let’s begin with one ambiguity before turning to the differences.

In v. 6 in Greek, it remains unclear who begat Absalom (transliterated as Abessalom in Greek). In Hebrew, it is clear: the verb is feminine. In Greek, we don’t have that clarity. Here it could refer to either David (which makes sense based on the other data we have about Absalom and Adonijah in the Hebrew Bible) or Haggith (which does not conform to other biblical data).

I see four main differences between the Hebrew text and this Greek version:

  1. In v. 6 in Hebrew, Adoniah’s father does not “displease” him, whereas in Greek he does not “prevent” or “restrain” him.
  2. In v. 8 in Greek, Nathan et al. are not “behind” Adonias, whereas they are not “with” him in Hebrew.
  3. In v. 9, the Hebrew reads “men of Judah,” whereas the Greek reads “chiefs of Judah.” The easiest and most likely explanation this is an error in the Greek transmission of the text. At some point the Greek ανδρους morphed into αδρους, an easier enough error (losing one letter). This is more likely than a confusion within the Hebrew textual tradition.
  4. The Greek does not specify, in v. 9, that the brothers of Adonias are “the king’s sons”, as is noted in the Hebrew.

Taken together, these differences are hardly what one might call earth-shattering. Yet, they could have some impact on the history of the text. Before considering in what way generally, let’s briefly consider the striking similarities in v. 10, which I have provided in a very wooden English translation.

It is poor English to include a definite article in English before someone’s name. It has a specific, probably generally negative connotation in English. (For example, if I introduce myself to you saying, “I’m the Jonathan” at a party, you probably know a story about some Jonathan who offended your ancestors or did something terribly embarrassing.) In other languages, that doesn’t bear such am implication. (In southern dialects of German, for example, you encounter this quite often.) Greek is one such language. But in this case, something else appears to be going on.

By comparing the other appearances of personal namesin this passage, one notes that they do not regularly appear with the article here. Only in this verse. What is going on then? Here, they reflect precisely (isomorphically, even, if you want a $5-word for it) the Hebrew parent text. The definite articles here reflect the translation of an otherwise untranslatable marker of the direct object in Hebrew. They appear here in the Greek because they represent something in the Hebrew text, even though they are unnecessary in the Greek and really untranslatable from the Hebrew. That informs us about the kind of technique the translators engaged in here. Essentially, they made a translation that permits the reconstruction of the Hebrew parent text from the Greek. What does that mean for the other differences encountered in this passage?

The most important takeaway is that it seems likely that the Greek text attests a trustworthy, probably older Hebrew version than that found in the Masoretic text. This observation, or suggestion, confirms in one case something that we often presume about how texts change: the shorter reading is probably the older one (lectio brevior probabilior). That would explain why the phrase “the king’s sons” is missing in v. 9. MT probably contains a later gloss at this point, stressing that Adoniah’s brothers are in fact the sons of the king (as opposed to the sons of Adoniah’s mother).

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:1-4 (1 Kings 1:1-4 LXX)

1. And the king, David, (was) older, advanced in days. And they clothed him with garments. And he did not warm up.
2. And his servants said, “they should seek for our lord the king a virgin, a young woman. And she will attend to the king and will be a warmer (for) him and will be laid with him and warm our lord the king.”
3. And they sought a good young woman from Israel’s whole territory and found Abishak the Somanite and brought her to the king.
4. And the young woman (was) good, even very. And she warmed the king and served him. And the king did not know her.

Abishag at the bed of David, with Bathsheba, Solomon, and Nathan from a bible historiale (The Hague, MMW, 10 A 19, fol. 33r), c. 1435. Public Domain.

Comments on the Text

The commentary here will focus primarily on the distinctions in this version when contrasted with the Hebrew. It is helpful to begin this process, just as with the Hebrew, with a short text.

The first verse presents essentially a word for word translation of the Hebrew text known in the Masoretic Text. One element is missing: the concluding preposition with an object. The Greek translated the Hebrew phrase ולא יחם לו (literally: “not was it warm to him”) with the passive voice, leaving out the prepositional phrase. Based on the kaige translation technique attested in the best witness of this text in this portion of Kings, that is somewhat surprising (cf. this post for further background, if necessary).

The second verse has a few differences from the Hebrew text. First, it is again missing the prepositional phrase referring to the king. Secondly, it refers to “our lord” instead of “my lord” twice in Greek, which makes more sense in the context. Either the Greek text accommodates the context (lectio facilior) or the Hebrew is corrupt (the interpretation I prefer). The distinction between the two forms is insubstantial (אדני as in the MT vs. אדננו presupposed by the Greek). It is not said that the virgin to be sought for the king should sit in his lap in the Greek, as in the Hebrew.

Verse three appears to presume the same Hebrew text as found in the Masoretic version, albeit one interesting interpretive choice and some conforming of the names to the Greek alphabet. One notices, first, that the young woman’s name and place of origin are different in Greek: She is now Abisak the Somanite. The most conspicuous differences are the sibilants, since Greek has a paucity of sibilants when contrasted to the Semitic text it is translating (i.e., there is no “sh” sound in Greek). The terminal consonant is /k/ in Greek, but /g/ in Hebrew, a not uncommon replacement of sound. Finally, one could read the Septuagint as granting this young more competence to actually attend to the king, when contrasted to the Hebrew text. She is regarded as “good” (καλην), which can mean “beautiful,” but also “wise.”

This interpretation is also possible in v. 4, which includes the same term. Otherwise, v. 4 presents an essentially identical text in Greek and Hebrew. Perhaps one noteworthy term: when referring to her serving the king, the Greek uses the root behind the English term for “liturgy” (λειτουγεω).

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.

Translation of 1 Kgs 2:28-35 (MT)

28. And the hearing came up to Joab, for Joab inclined after Adonijah, but after Absalom he had not inclined, and Joab fled to the tent of Yhwh and grasped the horns of the altar.
29. And it was told to King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of Yhwh and, dude! Beside the altar. And Solomon sent Benaiahu ben Jehoiada, saying, “go. Attack him.”
30. And Benaiahu came to the tent of Yhwh and said to him, “thus says the king: ‘exit!'” And he said, “No, for here I will die.” And Benaiahu brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus Joab has spoken and thus has he answered.”
31. And the king said to him, “do just as he said and attack him and bury him and you will remove the blood that Joab undeservedly shed from upon me and from upon the house of my father.
32. “And Yhwh will bring back his blood upon his head that he encountered two men, more righteous and better than him, and he killed them with the sword (and my father David did not know) Abner ben Ner, commander of Israel’s army, and Amasa ben Jeter, commander of Judah’s army.
33. “And their blood will return on Joab’s head and on the head of his seed for eternity. And for David and for his seed and for his house and for his throne there will be peace until eternity from with Yhwh.”
34. And Benaiahu ben Jehoiada went up and attacked him and caused his death, and he was buried in his house in the wilderness.
35. And the king gave Benaiahu ben Jehoiada in his stead over the army and Zadok, the priest, the king gave instead of Abiathar.

Comments on the Text

Verse 28 return the account to Joab, last mentioned when David demanded his death at Solomon’s hands (1 Kgs 2:5-6). The context is unclear as to what precisely Joab heard: this verse makes sense as the continuation of v. 27 or v. 26 or even v. 25. Honestly, v. 25 makes the most sense, since it ends with a a death, the same which Joab apparently also fears. The Masoretic Text notes that Joab stood with Adonijahu, whereas he had not stood with Absalom, David’s other son that revolted against him. The Greek version of this story notes that he stood with Adonijahu as opposed to Solomon, a simple (it’s two letters in Hebrew) yet substantial difference here. The reference to the tent is unclear in this context. Most likely it refers to the tent that David set up for the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:17). If it’s supposed to be about the tabernacle, the last time it was mentioned was all the way back in 1 Sam 2:22, and the terminology is distinct there. As far as I see, this passage presents the only mention of the “tent of Yhwh” in the Bible.

Anyone unfamiliar with Iron Age religion in the Levant should ask what the “horns of the altar” are. Well, here you go:

Iron Age Altar. Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Image (c) 2019 Jonathan Miles Robker

Those four pieces on the corners: totally horns. So there you go.

Verse 29 reports that King Solomon heard of this before Solomon sent his enforcer Benaiahu to eliminate Joab. Benaiahu apparently followed through and brings back a message to the king, as reported in v. 30. As a reaction to this, actually two reactions if we take the text seriously, the king twice demands that Joab be killed. The second case, the clarifying vv. 32-33 looks back to David’s dying request in 2:5-6. Joab must die for his bloodguilt.

Benaiahu goes through with the king’s request. He departs and kills Joab. The phrasing in this verse is really unusual: the Hebrew does not say that he kills Joab, but that he causes him to die, i.e., uses the causative stem of the intransitive verb “die.” Very weird. At least terminologically it fits with Joab’s statement in v. 30 that he will die there. At the same time, killing him at the altar raises questions about whether the altar was then desecrated. Contact with human remains is otherwise described in the Hebrew Bible as a way of desecrating illegitimate (at least in the eyes of those placing the remains on them) altars; cf. 2 Kgs 23:15-16 and its proclamation in 1 Kgs 13:1-2. The end of the verse is also totally unclear. Syntactically, it remains possible that Joab was buried in his own house or, much more creepily, was buried in Benaiahu’s house. Make of that what you will.

This episode concludes with two notes. First, it notes that the king made Benaiahu the head of the military. Secondly, it mentions that the king replaced Abiathar, presumably after his exile in v. 26, with the priest Zadok. Thus, this verse combines those two episodes into a logical whole. Otherwise, the notice that Zadok became high priest makes little sense here. When taken together, though, the incorporation of these two episodes combines an element that David did not demand on his deathbed with one that he did. In this way, this verse serves a bridging function, compiling two otherwise not really directly related incidents. King Solomon has now established his power over the military and the priesthood with a new commander and the concentration of priestly power in the hands of one priest. The social order is increasingly in his grasp.

It is worth noting here that at this point in the narrative, the Septuagint has a rather lengthy plus when contrasted with the Hebrew text. (I use the term “plus” here rather than “addition” quite intentionally, since “addition” implies an evaluation of the longer material as a later interpolation, whereas “plus” is more neutral.) Most of the material in that plus appears elsewhere in the Hebrew version of Kings and even as a duplication within the Greek version. It’s a difficult issue that I feel that I have solved, but that is a post for another time.

Translation of 1 Kings 2:26-27 (MT)

26. And to Abiathar the priest, the king said, “to Anathoth, go upon your fields, for a man of death are you and on this day I will not let you die for you lifted the ark of the Lord Yhwh before David my father and for you submitted in all that my father submitted to.
27. And Solomon banished Abiathar from being a priest for Yhwh to fulfill the word of Yhwh that he spoke against the house of Eli in Shiloh.

Comments on the Text

Two verses. They report and repeat the same thing. First, “the king” commands Abiathar to move to Anathoth as he merits death. Instead of killing him, for whatever crime he might have committed, the king merely sends him away. In verse 27, “Solomon” banishes him in fulfillment of an oracle against Eli in Shiloh. We should consider each of these issues briefly in turn.

The first and only (as far as I can tell) time that Abiathar is affiliated with Anathoth is in this verse. The only other time that this place has been mentioned in the Bible thus far was Joshua 21:18, in the list of Levitical cities. That implies that 1 Kgs 2:26 makes Abiathar a Levite, since he apparently has land there in this case. Remarkably, one important biblical personage supposedly had priestly connections and came from Anathoth: the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 1:1). Could this note here be an indication about the origin (regardless of whether it was legendary or historical) of the priests of Anathoth? The reference to Abiathar’s carrying the ark is 2 Sam 15:29, where he carries out this duty, the priest who ultimately replaces him. These two priests supposedly returned the ark to Jerusalem and stayed with it during David’s flight from his son Absalom. The king’s sending Abiathar away from the court was not included in David’s final words to Solomon. That suggests that different hands may have been responsible for each piece of this literary puzzle. (The reference to “the king” could imply the same, though David is named in 1 Kgs 2:26.) Curiously, it is not said that Abiathar adheres to the king’s command. It is just presumed.

The location of Anathoth (from Koenen, “Anatot,” Wibilex)

Verse 27 then reports essentially the same thing, this time in the mouth of “Solomon.” The other important elements all differ as well. Abiathar is affiliated with a different place, namely Shiloh. Whereas the king saved him through his sending him away in v. 26, Solomon punishes him with banishing in v. 27. The king’s saving Abiathar resulted from a positive aspect, carrying the ark. But Solomon’s banishing him resulted from the sinful actions of Eli and his sons. The reference here is to 1 Sam 2, though this negative prophecy was essentially already fulfilled in 1 Sam 4. Again, this was not part of David’s command to Solomon in the chapter’s opening, and again it is not explicitly said that Abiathar departed, though it is strongly suggested.

For all intents and purposes, this is the end of Abiathar’s story. The Enneateuch (i.e., Genesis through Kings) tells us no more about him, though he does appear two more times. First Kings 2:35 reports that he was officially replaced by Zadok as priest, and 1 Kgs 4:4 includes him in a list of Solomon’s officers as a priest. Neither of these add anything to what the reader has learned about Abiathar thus far. Alternatively, he does appear peripherally in Chronicles’ retelling of David’s story.

Translation of 1 Kgs 1:41-53 (MT)

41. And Adonijahu heard (and all those who were summoned with him and they had finished eating). And Joab head the sound of the horn and said, “why is the city’s voice grumbling?”
42. While he was still speaking, dude! Jonathan ben Abiathar (the priest) came and Adonijahu said, “come, for a mighty man are you and good tidings you will bear!”
43. And Jonathan answered Adonijahu, “truly, our lord King David has made Solomon king.
44. “And the king sent with him Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Benaiahu ben Jehoiada and the Cherethites and the Pelethites and they had him ride upon the king’s mule.
45. “And they anointed him, Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, to (be) king at Gihon and they went up from there happily and agitated the city. This is the sound that you heard.
46. “And also Solomon sat on the throne of the kingdom.
47. “And also the servants of the king came to bless our lord King David, saying ‘may your God make the name of your son Solomon greater than your name and increase his throne more than your throne.’ And the king prostrated on his bed.
48. “And thus spoke the king, ‘blessed is Yhwh, Israel’s God, who gave today the one sitting on my throne and my eyes are seeing (it).'”
49. And they trembled and got up, all those who had been called to Adonijahu, and they went, each to his path.
50. And Adonijahu was afraid from before Solomon and he got up and went and grasped the horns of the altar.
51. And it was told to Solomon, saying, “dude! Adonijahu fears King Solomon and, dude! He has grasped the horns of the altar, saying, ‘King Solomon should swear to me just as today that he will not kill his servant with the sword.'”
52. And Solomon said, “if he will be to me a son of honor, nothing will fall from his hair to the ground. But if wickedness is found in him, he will die.”
53. And King Solomon sent and let him be brought down from on the altar and he came and did obeisance to King Solomon. And Solomon said to him, “go to your house!”

Cornelis de Vos. The Anointing of Solomon. Ca. 1630. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Public Domain. [Wikimedia Commons]

Comments on the Text

Verse 48 opens again with a singular verb and a plural subject, making the syntax somewhat awkward, particularly with the reference to their finishing eating. Why is that relevant? First Adonijahu hears, though it is not clear what. Then Joab hears, and here it is clear: he hears the sounds of horns and, based on his inquiry, the uproar in the city.

In response to this, suddenly and conveniently (from a narrative perspective) the son of the priest allied with Adonijahu arrives from off of the scene. Adonijahu presumes that he will provide an auspicious report of what is going on and inquires what is up.

His response is prompt and initially to the point: King David has made Solomon king. The description of King David as “our lord” can be understood in a variety of ways. Does this mean that Adonijahu never supposed himself a usurper? Is this comment to undercut his position? Is this reference to protect him from people who would want to accuse him of usurpation? No evidence is provided, but it is interesting that here King David is “our lord” to the people assembled around Adonijahu.

Verses 44-45 more or less describe the scene from 38-40. The real change comes in verse 46, which opens a whole passage of material that the reader has thus far heard nothing about other than in Nathan’s plan. This is the first time the reader hears of Solomon sitting on the king’s throne. The ductus of this new material continues in verses 47-48, which include new blessings and speeches from the people involved in Solomon’s accession. Suddenly the king is there and expresses his thanks that he lived to experience this event. After citing the king’s speech, Jonathan concludes his recitation of recent events.

The reaction to this speech is fear and abandonment in vv. 49-50. First Adonijahu is abandoned and then he flees to the altar. This altar probably refers to the one in 2 Sam 24, as no other altar has been mentioned thus far. Presumably Adonijahu thinks he will be safe in front of the altar. While it works in this case, this view is somewhat shortsighted, as will become clear in the next chapter.

The episode concludes with Solomon, now officially called the king (though not exclusively), reacting to Adonijahu in vv. 51-53. Solomon promises only to kill him if wickedness is found in him. The reader knows what this means and this expectation is fulfilled in the next chapter. With this, power has now officially transferred from David to Solomon. It should have been David as king who reacted to Adonijahu, but this task is left to Solomon. David never says anything about it in the biblical story before his death. He never mentions this episode with Adonijahu. David only does two more things in this recounting of his reign before Solomon ultimately takes over: 1) he admonishes Solomon and 2) dies.

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