Translation of 3 Reigns 2:1-12 (1 Kgs 2:1-12 LXX)

1. And the days came for David, [for] his dying. And he commanded Salomon his son, saying:
2. “I am going in the way of all the earth, and you shall be strong and grow into a man.
3. “And you will guard the guarding of the Lord your God to walk in his ways to guard his commandments and the ordinances and the judgements that [are] written in the law of Moses, so that you might understand what you will do according to everything that I have commanded you.
4. “just as that the Lord set his word that he spoke, saying, ‘if your sons guard their way, walking before me in truth in their whole heart and in their whole spirit, saying “not will be utterly destroyed even a man from upon Israel’s throne.”‘
5. “And also, you know what Joab son of Sarouias did to me, what he did to two officers of Israel’s armies, to Abenner son of Ner and to Amessai son of Iether, and he killed them and arranged the blood of battle in peacetime and gave guiltless blood in his belt on his loins and on his sandals on his feet.
6. “And you will do according to your wisdom and not bring down his gray hair in peace to Hades.
7. “And with the sons of Berzillai the Galaadite you will practice compassion, and they will be with those eating at your table, for thus they approached me in my fleeing from before Abessalon, your brother.
8. “And dude! with you [is] Semei son of Gera son of Iemeni from Baourim, and he cursed me [with] a distressing curse on the day that I went in to the barracks, and he came down in meeting me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘If I will kill you with the sword…’
9. “And not will you let him go unpunished, for a wise man are you. And you know what you will do to him and you will bring down his gray hair in blood to Hades.”
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 33 years.
12. And Salomon sat upon the throne of David his father, a son of twelve years [= as a twelve year old], and his kingdom was prepared greatly.

Hendrik ter Brugghen: King David Playing the Harp. (1628). National Museum of Warsaw. Public Domain.

Comments on the Text

This passage attests several variants between the Greek and the Hebrew. The syntax of v. 1 in Greek is somewhat clumsy, specifying that it is David’s death by including a possessive on the verb “dying.” Since this makes little sense in Greek, but is consistent with Hebrew syntax, it probably goes back to a different Hebrew version than the Masoretic Text.

Verse 3 contains a number of variants, some of them repeating a similar phenomenon. The Greek is shorter and less precise. It reads “and the” ordinance instead of “his ordinances,” attesting the same difference with “judgements”. One element of these covenant terms remains entirely lacking in the Greek when contrasted with the Masoretic Text: there is nothing in the Greek representing the Hebrew for “and his testimonies.” It is not explicated that he must act “just as” in the law of Moses as in Hebrew, rather describing the judgements “that are” in the law of Moses. In this way, the Greek is less precise than the Hebrew. The conclusion of the verse is markedly different, with the Greek mandating that Solomon do as David commanded him, whereas the Hebrew suggests that Solomon must turn to follow the strictures of the covenant terminology. In this verse in particular, the Greek likely represents the translation of a distinct Hebrew Vorlage that was not identical with the Masoretic Text.

The Greek text in v. 4 is missing the focus on David, lacking “about me” as in the Hebrew. The Hebrew, with this plus more explicitly connects to the dynastic promise in 2 Sam 7, suggesting that its longer reading here is a later gloss or interpolation.

On the other hand, the Greek of v. 5 adds “innocent” as a description of the blood, providing better justification for Solomon’s forthcoming execution of Joab. This adjective casts a more favorable light on Solomon, something that (in my preliminary opinion) happens more often in the Greek text than in the Hebrew. One would have to address this from a more global perspective: did the Greek (or its Vorlage) improve Solomon’s appearance in Kings or did the precursors to the Masoretic Text seek to make him appear worse? That is an open question, as far as I am concerned.

Of another category is one item in v. 8. The Greek translates the Hebrew proper noun of the location Mahanaim. It’s not a difference, but worth noting that it did not (merely) transliterate this name.

The final notice for David’s reign is shorter in v. 11 in Greek, lacking a second “he reigned” in reference to Jerusalem. On the other hand, the opening of Solomon’s reign in v. 12 is longer in Greek, including Solomon’s age of twelve years. This age is nowhere mentioned in the Hebrew, but did continue on in some Rabbinic traditions about Solomon. It might also be presumed that Solomon is young in 1 Kgs 3:7, in which Solomon states that he is a young man, perhaps even a child. Solomon’s age was probably removed in the Hebrew text in order to better afford the other synchronisms in Kings. According to 1 Kgs 14:21, Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) acceded the throne at the age of 41. Since Solomon is said to have reigned 40 years (1 Kgs 11:42), meaning he would have fathered him at the tender age of eleven (and before he was even married for that matter…). That is easier to explain (in my opinion) than why someone would add this age in the Greek. We are probably dealing with two (or more) different Solomon traditions behind these chronologies.

Translation of 3 Reigns 1:41-53 (1 Kgs 1:41-53 LXX)

41. And Adonias heard (and all his invited guests. And they were finished eating). And Joab heard the sound of the trumpet and said, “Why is the city’s voice resounding?”
42. Still he was speaking and dude! Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonias said, “Come, for a mighty man are you. And proclaim as good news a good (thing).”
43. And Jonathan answered and said, “And yet, our lord, the king, David has kinged Solomon.
44. “And the king sent with him Sadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Banaias son of Iodae and the Chrethi and the Phelethi, and they set him upon the king’s mule.
45. “And Sadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him to (be) king in the Gion, and they arose from there rejoicing, and the city resounded. That is the voice you heard.
46. “And Solomon sat upon the throne of the king.
47. “And the servants of the king entered, celebrating our lord, the king, David, saying, ‘May God magnify the name of Solomon, your son, above your name, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king prostrated on his bed.
48. “And also thus spoke the king, ‘Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, who gave today from my seed one sitting upon my throne and my eyes have seen.'”
49. And they were amazed and all of Adonias’s invited guests rose up and departed, each on his way.
50. And Adonias was afraid before Solomon and arose and grasped the horns of the altar.
51. And it was reported to Solomon, saying, “Dude! Adonias fears King Solomon and has grasped the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let his swear to me today, the king, Solomon, that not will he kill his servant with the sword.'”
52. And Solomon said, “If he will turn into a son of might, then [not] will fall from his hairs upon the ground, and if wickedness is found in him, he will be put to death.”
53. And King Solomon sent and brought him down from upon the altar. And he came and prostrated to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Come! To your house (you go)!”

From The Brick Testament.

Comments on the Text

This long passage contains a number of variants from the Hebrew. Verse 42 reads the verb “proclaim” as an imperative in Greek. The indirect object “to Adonias” is missing in the Greek of verse 43, and the conjunction “and” is missing at the beginning of verse 46.

Verse 47 attests several variants. It is missing “also” at the beginning, but includes “your son” after the name Solomon. Finally, it is more precise in the identification of the bed, reading “his [i.e., the king’s] bed” rather than simply “the bed.”

In verse 48, there seems to be more emphasis on David’s dynasty. At any rate, the Greek includes the phrase “from my seed” to clarify who is sitting on the king’s throne after him. It is not just anyone, but his progeny.

Solomon’s threat of capital punishment in v. 52 is passive in Greek (“he will be put to death”), but active in Hebrew (“he will die”). The Hebrew seems to remove some of the king’s culpability, not really saying who will be responsible for his death (it could just be an accident or providence…). At the same time time, the Greek attributes the “bringing” of Adonias from the altar more explicitly to Solomon. It reads “he [i.e., Solomon] brought him” whereas the Hebrew reads “they [i.e., someone] brought him”. These last two considerations make Solomon a more active participant in the Greek version, at least in my reading. The question remains whether the Greek translator is responsible for this, this represent an older understanding of the same Hebrew text, or it represents a distinct Hebrew text. Based on the translation style, I favor the last option as the most likely.

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.

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