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 2:13-25 (MT)

13. And Adonijahu ben Haggith came to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and she said, “Is your coming peaceful?” And he said, “peace.”
14. And he said, “a word for me to you.” And she said, “speak.”
15. And he said, “you, you know that for me was the kingdom and upon me turned all Israel, their faces, to reign. And the kingdom surrounded and was for my bother, for from Yhwh was it for him.
16. “And now, one request I ask from with you. Do not turn back my face.” And she said to him, “speak.”
17. And he said, “please talk to Solomon, the king, for not will he turn back your face and he can give me Abishag the Shunammite for a wife.”
18. And Bathsheba said, “good. I, I will speak on your (behalf) to the king.”
19. And Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on Adonijahu’s (behalf). And the king arose to encounter her and he prostrated to her and he sat upon his throne and he set a throne for king’s mother and she sat to his right.
20. And she said, “one small request I am asking from with you. Do not turn my face back.” And the king said to her, “ask, my mother, for not will I turn back your face.”
21. And she said, “let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijahu, your brother, for a wife.”
22. And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, “and why are you requesting Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijahu? Rather ask for him the kingdom, for he is my older brother and for him and for Abiathar the priest and for Joab ben Zeruiah.”
23. And King Solomon swore by Yhwh, saying, “thus may God do to me and thus more, for with his life Adonijahu has spoken this word.
24. “And now, as Yhwh lives, who prepared me and set me upon my father David’s throne and who made for me a house, just as he had said, for today Adonijahu should be put to death.”
25. And King Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiahu ben Jehoiada and he attacked him and he died.

Comments on the Text

For context: David’s dead and Solomon rules. Time for the exemplary reign of a wise king, right? That’s what the reception of the texts about Solomon tell us. You don’t even have to leave the Bible to find the first literary assessment of Solomon in this light: Chronicles emphasizes his wisdom and completely removes the rest of the chapter from its recounting of Solomon’s life. So, Solomon the wise? Not yet. First there’s still plenty of blood to spill.

Much of chapter one has built up to this episode. Strangely enough, David’s speech to Solomon before his death does not touch on this issue at all. The open question from chapter one is still: what is going to happen to Adonijahu? Now we find out.

Verses 13-17 open a larger story with a dialogue between Adonijahu and Bathsheba. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the narrator explicates who both of these characters are in verse 13, describing them as “son of Haggith” and “Solomon’s mother” respectively. It’s almost like the reader has to be reminded. It’s worth noting at this point, that the Greek textual traditions of this chapter suggest that the book of Kings originally began with 2:12, meaning this story would be the first story in the book. More on that some other time (unless you want to leave a burning question about it in the comments). The reintroduction of these characters could, in my opinion be further evidence of this originally being the beginning of Kings. After chapter 1, the reader should be quite familiar with both Adonijahu and Bathsheba.

Adonijahu approaches the queen-mother, Bathsheba, and it is she who opens the dialogue. After the two actors parley briefly about Adonijahu’s peaceful intent and his desire to speak, he admits three things to the queen before making a request: 1) the kingdom should have been his; 2) the kingdom was granted to his brother; and 3) his reign was ordained by Yhwh. This is a pretty inconsistent series of statements, since number one does not match numbers two and three. It seems unlikely that this whole speech originally belonged to Adonijahu. Nonetheless, after these statements, he requests that Bathsheba ask King Solomon to give him Abishag, David’s attendant, as a wife. It took no fewer than three exchanges in their dialogue for Adonijahu to finally reach this point and make his request (13, 14, 15-16). Bathsheba seems to express no real opinion on this matter, one way or the other, but agrees to take his request to King Solomon. One must really wonder what she, as a character, is supposed to be thinking here. Unfortunately, the narrator provides no insight.

Bathsheba goes to see King Solomon, and here the reader is granted some interesting details in v. 19 about Bathsheba and her relationship with the king. The king prostrates to his mother and has a throne set beside her for her to sit on. These notices seem to indicate that the queen mother is not merely some courtly accessory, but should be regarded as a person of some import in the eyes of the king. She does not, in turn, prostrate herself to the king, as she had done to King David before. To me, this scene suggests a remarkable turnaround for the character Bathsheba: she has transformed from the victim of sexual assault and rape, widowed in the name of the king’s lust, to sitting to the right of that king’s successor on her own throne.

From this position she makes Adonijahu’s request, even borrowing his phraseology. Again, the reader wonders what Bathsheba’s attitude to all of this is, but we have no way of gleaning that from the text. The king agrees to hear and oblige her request. She asked that Abishag be given to Adonijahu as a wife, and this causes King Solomon to react in anger. He questions her motives. He identifies this marriage as an affront, literally as the transfer of the kingdom to his brother. For unclear reasons, he drags Joab and Abiathar into the mix, as well. (This is probably an editorial gloss to make this story better match its immediate context, which focuses on these two.)

“What’s the big deal?” you may be wondering. That’s an important question, to which there may not be a satisfactory answer. Adonijahu’s objective in all of this is not clear, whether through words placed in his mouth or anything that the narrator describes. Perhaps the reader should be reminded of Absalom, who is said to have avowed himself of his father’s harem as part of his revolt. However, the text is quite explicit that Abishag was not part of David’s harem. He never had sex with her according to the narrator. This makes King Solomon’s anger somewhat curious. Both he and the narrator just assume that Adonijahu’s request means that he is up to no good. At the same time, it is worth noting that none of these characters seem interested in what Abishag thinks of this whole thing. For that matter, the reader is told nothing more of her in this story or any that follows. She is simply elided from the story of Solomon’s reign from this point onward. The same is also true of Bathsheba, who disappears entirely after Solomon’s brusque answer to her. (That Solomon had a poor attitude toward women, particularly when he is described as King Solomon, will come up repeatedly over the course of this book.)

After rebuffing his mother (apparently for all eternity), King Solomon swears (twice!) that Adonijahu will die for this “crime.” Then he sends Benaiahu to kill him. His enforcer (for that is what Benaiahu becomes) does just that, striking him down and killing him.

So, after David’s lengthy injunction to Solomon, he kills basically the only person in the story thus far that David did not explicitly tell him to kill, and that on grounds that don’t entirely make sense. What a great start to his reign! The first thing that we learn about King Solomon as a ruler is that he is brutal. That particularly characteristic of his continues for the remainder of the chapter, particularly in the Hebrew version.

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,

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.

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.

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.

Translation of 1 Kings 1:28-37 (MT)

28. And the king, David, answered and said, “call for me to Bathsheba.” And she came before the king and stood before the king.

29. And the king swore and said, “as Yhwh lives, who ransomed my life from every adversity,

30. “yes, just as I had sworn to you by Yhwh, God of Israel, saying, ‘yes, Solomon, your son, will reign after me, and he will sit upon my throne in my stead’, yes, thus I will do this day.”

31. And Bathsheba knelt, nose [to the] ground and prostrated to the king and said, “may my lord, the king, David, live forever!”

32. And the king, David, said, “call for me to Zadok the priest, and to Nathan the prophet, and to Benaiahu ben Jehojada.” And they came before the king.

33. And the king said to them, “take with you the servants of your lord, and let Solomon, my son, ride on the mule that is mine. And bring him down to Gihon.

34. “And Zadok the priest (and Nathan the prophet) should anoint him there to king over Israel. And you should blow in the horn and say, ‘long live the king, Solomon!’

35. “And ascend after him and he will enter and sit upon my throne and he will reign in my stead, and him I will command to be a leader over Israel and over Judah.”

36. And Benaiahu ben Jehoiada answered the king and said, “so be it! Thus Yhwh, God of my lord, the king, has spoken!

37. “Just as Yhwh was with my lord, the king, so he will be with Solomon. And he will make his throne greater than the throne of my lord, the king, David.”

Commentary on the Text

At this point, the narrative flow really develops some issues. Primary among them are the relative locations of the characters. Bathsheba must apparently be summoned to the king, even though she has been in his presence since v. 15. Particularly as the text identifies the king as David here, this mismatch becomes more poignant. This unclear location and the identification with David certainly justify questioning how these pieces should fit together as a compositional unit. It is also worth noting how often the king is mentioned: three times in fourteen Hebrew words! Someone really wanted to emphasize who was in charge here…

The king now swears to do that he supposedly already swore to do. This occurs in vv. 29-30, the first of two speeches of the king in this passage. The speech begins with a expression of the king’s faith: that Yhwh has saved him from every adversity. This phrase appears precisely in this form in 2 Sam 4:9, a text that precedes David’s summarily executing two men. That could have some import in awakening expectations for the subsequent chapter, where something similar occurs. At the same time, the opening of the promise looks to the past, i.e., actions that Yhwh had already undertaken for the king. This temporal aspect continues in the next phrases of the speech, before it turns to the future: Solomon will sit on the king’s throne. Since the swearing the king describes had supposedly already occurred, I have chosen to translate the king’s statement in v. 30 as a pluperfect, though there is nothing inherent in the Hebrew to identify it as such (nor, to be fair, does such an unambiguous pluperfect form exist in biblical Hebrew). In terms of content and narrative context, this speech must be addressed to Bathsheba, since it implies that he is talking to one of Solomon’s parents (“your son”) and since the king is presumably the other (though that is nowhere expressly stated. Having covered the past and the future, the king’s promise concludes with the present: today the king will act.

Bathsheba responds to the king’s promise in v. 31. Now her interaction with the king more explicitly matches that of Nathan, her prostrating with her nose to the ground (cf. v. 23). That suggests that there might be a link between these two passages. She expresses her wish that the king, David, might live forever. That is a favorable expression for the currently reigning king, but it would necessarily imply that her son would never gain the crown, were it to be understood literally.

In v. 32 we find a similar problem to that in v. 28: as far as the reader knows, Nathan is already standing in front of the king (cf. v. 23). Now, however, he is included in a group of three men who become important for the rest of the chapter and, at least some of them, for chapter two. The most similar list to this one is in v. 8, but here no warriors are mentioned, for whatever reason. These men arrive and await David’s instructions, as they appear in the next speech.

Verses 33-35 lay out the king’s plan as it unfurls in the next passage. A few features are worth mentioning about this speech. Other than in passages about where Solomon was anointed, the only other reference to Gihon is in Gen 2:13. I.e., Solomon should be anointed at one of the well-springs of paradise, intimately associated with the creation of humanity. We have never been informed thus far that David had such a mule, certainly not with the term supplied here. In v. 31 it appears initially as if Zadok should anoint Solomon alone: the verse is singular. Nathan appears almost as an afterthought, though it is more often, though not exclusively (cf. 2 Sam 2 and 5; 2 Kgs 11 and 23), prophets who anoint kings in Samuel (1 Sam 9; 15; 16) and Kings (1 Kgs 19; 2 Kgs 9). They should bring Solomon before the king, after Solomon has been anointed, placing him on the king’s throne. There, apparently, the king will instruct him to be a “leader” over Israel. The last time that this term appeared, it was part of the dynastic promise to David, delivered by Nathan, in 2 Sam 7. That is probably not an accident. The reference to his instructing the new ruler probably anticipates David’s speech to Solomon in 1 Kgs 2:1-4. One aspect seems to distinguish this term from the more general “king” in Samuel and Kings: the term ruler or leader seems to carry a conditional, almost ephemeral aspect. One who is the ruler may not remain that way (cf. 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 13:14; and 1 Kgs 14:7 and 16:2). This demonstrates somewhat of distinction between vv. 34 and 35: whereas Solomon become king of Israel in v. 34, he is (only) the ruler of Israel and Judah in v. 35. That is, where 34 either reckons with him as king of only the north or the whole people under the rubric of “Israel,” perhaps even with a religious connotation, verse 35 regards Israel and Judah as distinct entities or constituent elements of a larger kingdom that could be dissolved (cf. 1 Kgs 12).

This passages, at least as I have chosen to divide it here, concludes in vv. 36-37 with Benaiahu’s desire for the continuation of Yhwh’s chosen dynasty under Solomon. He proclaims that this is all occurring with the will of Yhwh. It is conspicuous that the text ascribes these words to the military man of the group, and not to the priest or the prophet, i.e., those who should presumably have better access to the will of God. Chapter two certainly makes Benaiahu appear as a zealot, whether for Yhwh or for Solomon. The text makes a first explicit implication here in that direction. With this final emphatic theological impulse from the military operative, the stage is set for Solomon to take over his father’s throne.

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