Week 13 – The King Who Had It All

Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 1-8, 10-11; 2 Chronicles 5-7; Proverbs 1-3, 6, 20-21

Significant Moments in The Story

Solomon anointed as King David’s successor – 1 Kings 1

The death of King David – 1 Kings 2

The wisdom of Solomon – 1 Kings 3

Solomon’s building programs – 1 Kings 5-7, 2 Chronicles 5-7

The dedication of the Temple – 1 Kings 8

Solomon’s failures – 1 Kings 11

Key Themes

Sacred space

The building and dedication of the Temple is the defining achievement of Solomon’s reign as king.  We are given tremendous details about the ornateness and grandeur of the Temple structure.  However, we cannot forget that the importance of the Temple was understood not in the building materials but in the belief that the Temple was where God lived and ruled.  The space of the Temple captured the idea that God intends to dwell among His people.  As we move forward, we will see that there will be times where the space itself or the rituals that take place in it will seem to become more important than the understanding of the presence of God.  Today, we can struggle with making our church buildings or our church programs more important than communion with the living God.  In his words of dedication, Solomon reminded the people that the Temple was for those who had sinned, those who are sinned against, those who have experienced loss, those who are experiencing trials, those who are strangers, and those who find themselves embattled.  It is for them not because of the building itself but because it provides an opportunity for individuals and the community to come and pour their hearts out to God.  It is space to worship and praise the Creator of the universe for His sake, not for the sake of the building.

Wisdom

Solomon is still remembered today as wise.  However, what is meant by “the wisdom of Solomon”?  There are various understandings of wisdom that we see in Solomon’s story.  On the one hand, we see Solomon display wisdom in terms of his ability to consolidate his power as a king and form important alliances.  Solomon shows shrewdness, cunning, and the ability to build relationships that bring fortune and glory to Israel.  He also seems to be a good administrator, overseeing a tremendous building campaign that results in the Temple, a royal home, as well as several other structures.  In addition, he efficiently organizes a kingdom larger than any ruler in Israel has ever known and proves to be a good adjudicator of legal cases.

A second understanding of wisdom emerges from the Proverbs, traditionally associated with Solomon.  In short, wisdom here is defined as the ability to seek out God and His work in everyday life and apply the truths of God and His word so that one lives in faithfulness and righteousness.  One could argue that Solomon’s excellence in the first area of wisdom ultimately compromised his wisdom in this second area.

“Except that…”

1 Kings 3:3 says, “Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”  Solomon’s life is a reminder that faithfulness is not a goal where our objective should be anything less than 100% success.  God’s righteousness is not defined by being good and holy most of the time.  Jesus himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:19, 48).

 

Background Information

Adonijah’s claim to the throne – 1 Kings 1:5-2:25

It would seem, by age, that Adonijah is the presumptive heir to the throne.  Adonijah was born to David during that time when Saul was seeking to kill David.  Adonijah was the fourth son born to David during this time.  The oldest son, Amnon, was killed by Absalom because of his rape of Tamar.  We know nothing of David’s second son other than the mention of his birth in 2 Samuel 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 3:1.  Some suggest he may have died in childhood.  The third son, Absalom, was killed by Joab after he rose in revolt against David.

It is interesting that, unlike David and Saul, Solomon is raised up to the throne seemingly less by divine decree or prophetic act and more by political intrigue and manipulation.  There seems to have been some uncertainty as to who exactly was the rightful heir, and Adonijah decides to start acting like the king so as to remove any rival claimants to the throne.  However, Nathan and Bathsheba act quickly to have the people proclaim Solomon the king.

In response to Nathan and Bathsheba’s plotting, Adonijah seeks to claim the throne in a more roundabout way.  Using Bathsheba as his go-between, Adonijah asks that Abishag the Shunammite, a nurse and concubine to David, be given to him as his wife.  Solomon sees through the request, though, as an attempt by Adonijah to identify himself as the successor to David in marriage and thus on the throne.

The high places – 1 Kings 3:2

The high places were local shrines or altars.  In the Old Testament, the high places will be associated with the worship of other gods, though at this point we should not necessarily assume such a connection.  It is possible that some of these local shrines were being used to worship Israel’s God but were shrines left over from the Canaanite peoples who inhabited the land before Israel and who worshiped other gods.  In 1 Kings 11:7-8, we are told that Solomon built “high places”, or altars, to the foreign gods that were worshiped by his wives.

Solomon’s governors – 1 Kings 4:7-19

Up until now, the indication is that the tribal leaders served as local governors in the different regions of Israel.  However, Solomon relies on his own appointed governors to manage the regions of the country, and these governors did not necessarily have any tribal connections to the regions to which they were appointed.  Each region was required to provide food for the king and his household for one month out of the year.  It was the governor’s responsibility to insure that each region provided what was expected.  There is some speculation that this organization and taxation may have contributed to the civil unrest at the end of Solomon’s reign.  Another contributing factor may have been the forced labor that Solomon used for his grand building programs (1 Kings 5:13)

How long did it take? – 1 Kings 6:38-7:1

It is interesting to note that Solomon took 7 years to build the Temple and thirteen to build his palace.  The Temple was built so close to the palace that there is some speculation that Solomon was attempting to make the Temple an annex of the palace, symbolizing that the religious life of Israel was under the control of the king.

Solomon’s wives – 1 Kings 11:1-3

Solomon is perhaps as known for his numerous wives as he is his wisdom.  700 wives?  300 concubines?  It should be noted that royal marriages in ancient times were often as much about politics as anything else.  It was not unusual for a king to give his daughter in marriage to another king as a sign of peace and agreement between the two countries.  Thus, Solomon’s large number of wives may say more about his ability as a head of state than anything else.  However, the Deuteronomic author of 1 Kings clearly believes that the reason for the troubles at the end of Solomon’s reign are to be found in his intermarriage with foreign women and his providing for the worship of foreign gods within Israel.

Proverbs

The book of Proverbs has traditionally been attributed to Solomon based on 1 Kings 4:32 as well as references within the book of Proverbs itself.  While it is certainly likely that many of these proverbs came from the time of Solomon, not necessarily all of the contents of the book are to be attributed to Solomon and some clearly came from later times, perhaps even after the Babylonian exile.

The book of Proverbs is part of what is often called the Wisdom tradition, which focuses on coping with daily experiences.  Other books associated with the Wisdom tradition include Job and Ecclesiastes.  In the case of Proverbs, the emphasis is on understanding through observation and learning how faith is made manifest in day to day life.  The Proverbs echo in many ways a Deuteronomic mindset:  righteousness leads to happiness, evil leads to suffering.  However, the proverbs are designed specifically to be teaching tools used by older parents/teachers to instruct young people.

 

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Week 12 – The Trials of a King

Scripture Reading:  2 Samuel 11-12, 18-19; 1 Chronicles 22, 29; Psalms 23, 32, 51

Significant Moments in The Story:

David’s affair with Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 11

The prophet Nathan confronts David about his affair with Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 12:1-15, Psalm 51

The birth of Solomon – 2 Samuel 12:24-25

The rape of David’s daughter Tamar by David’s son Amnon – 2 Samuel 13:1-22

David’s son Absalom kills Amnon and flees – 2 Samuel 13:23-36

Absalom leads a revolt against David and usurps the throne – 2 Samuel 15

Absalom’s revolt is put down and Absalom is killed – 2 Samuel 18

The death of David – 1 Kings 2, 1 Chronicles 29

Key Themes:

God knows our sins

David thought he had the perfect plan to cover up his affair with Bathsheba.  However, his plans and schemes could not hide his sin from God.  The prophet Samuel had said that God looks upon the heart.  That means that God not only sees our character, our faith, and our righteousness.  He also sees that sin which we have sought to hide and bury away, hoping nobody will ever find out about it.  When we read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, we are reminded that God would rather we confess our sins to Him so that we can receive fully his forgiveness.  Unfortunately, we are too often like David, trying to hide our sin and thus running away from the very grace God wants to offer.

Forgiveness and consequences

In 2 Samuel 12:13-14, David repents of his sin and Nathan assures him that God has forgiven him.  However, God’s forgiveness does not protect David and his family from the consequences of David’s sin.  This theme will recur in the story of Absalom.  Absalom’s revolt is, in part, portrayed as a punishment of David’s affair with Bathsheba.  However, we could say that the revolt is perhaps even better understood as a consequence of another of David’s sins:  his unwillingness to punish his son Amnon for raping his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13).  Because David was unwilling to act and unwilling to protect his own daughter, Absalom’s own anger is allowed to grow until it results in murder and revolution.  This tragic family history is a solemn reminder that forgiveness may remove the guilt and eternal hold of sin from our lives but it does not necessarily mean that sin’s consequences are removed.

The joy of giving

1 Chronicles 29 tells us how David and other leaders gave willingly and freely of what they had to provide for the building of the Temple.  So many times, we think of our tithes and offerings as obligations and necessities.  1 Chronicles 29, though, describes the joy when we see giving not as what we have to do but what we have the blessing and opportunity to do.  Rather than thinking in terms of percentages and tax relief, our gifts and offerings that we bring each Sunday should be exuberant expressions of our love for God and our desire to see His glory revealed.

Background Information

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle …” – 2 Samuel 11:1

It was typical for most military campaigns in the ancient Near East to take place before the harvest had arrived.  The place of a king was to be leading his armies into battle.  However, the story of David’s affair with Bathsheba begins with a problem:  David is not where he is supposed to be.  Rather than being on the battlefield, he is in Jerusalem.  He has sent his generals out into the field in his place.

Later in the story, we see one of the many problems with David not being where he is supposed to be.  In 2 Samuel 12:26-31, Joab sends word back to David that he is about to conquer the Ammonite capital of Rabbah.  Joab tells David that if he does not come out onto the battlefield with the rest of his armies, that Joab will go ahead and conquer the city and claim the victory as his own.   For David, who was on the good side of the crowds singing about Saul killing his thousands and David his ten thousands, this prospect opened a possibility of the people changing their allegiance to Joab away from him.  As we will see in the case of Absalom, allegiance to David as king was not absolute.

Uriah the Hittite

The Hittites were not Israelites but settlers from the north.  By the time of David, there were not many Hittites in the land, and those that remained took Hebrew names.

“… he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun” – 2 Samuel 12:11

When David’s son Absalom leads a revolution against David and claims the throne, Absalom takes David’s concubines up to the roof of David’s house and has sex with them in public (2 Samuel 16:20-23).  Absalom’s act is not only intended to be an insult to his father but also his way of laying claim to David’s throne by claiming the concubines as his own.  Here, in 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan foretells this event and frames it as a part of the punishment of David’s affair with Bathsheba and his plan to cover it up.  David had tried to hide his disgrace, and so his punishment will be that his disgrace will be put before all the eyes of the people to see.

Shimei, Ziba, and Mephibosheth – 2 Samuel 19:16-30

These three men played interesting roles in David’s escape from Jerusalem during Absalom’s revolution.

Shimei was a member of Saul’s family who followed David along the road during his escape from Absalom.  While he followed David, we are told he hurled stones and curses at David (2 Samuel 16:5-14).  When some of David’s troops offer to go kill him, David stops them, saying that he deserves what he is getting.  Later on, when David addresses Solomon before Solomon takes the throne, David instructs Solomon to see to it that Shimei is killed.

Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathan who was crippled.  Ziba was his servant.  After David took the throne, he wanted to be able to show some kind of kindness to Jonathan’s family.  When he found out about Mephibosheth, David gave him all of the land that had belonged to Saul and invited Mephibosheth to sit and dine at his table as one of David’s own sons (2 Samuel 9).  During Absalom’s revolt, Ziba meets David with food and wine.  When David asks Ziba where Mephibosheth is, Ziba claims that Mephibosheth has stayed behind in Jerusalem, celebrating David’s defeat and looking for an opportunity to reclaim his family’s throne.  David hastily announces that all that he had given to Mephibosheth now belongs to Ziba (2 Samuel 16:1-4).  As we read here, Mephibosheth claims upon David’s return that his intention had been to ride out to meet David himself but that Ziba had left him behind as a trick to undermine Mephibosheth in David’s eyes and claim Mephibosheth’s property as his own.

David’s preparations for the Temple – 1 Chronicles 22

Remember that David had intended to build a temple for God himself.  God, however, spoke through the prophet Nathan to tell David that his son would build the Temple, not David (1 Chronicles 17).  Though David is not allowed to build the Temple himself, he does take steps to insure that Solomon will have the materials, manpower, and leadership to get the task done.

Some Questions that May Come Up

Why do get the stories of David in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles?

Though the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles make up 6 total books of the Old Testament, they are probably best understood as only 2 different writings.  Samuel and Kings make up a continuous narrative of the period of the kings of Israel.  These books are written from a perspective that tends to be very critical of kingship and is heavily influenced by the Deuteronomic idea that faithfulness to God will lead to blessing while disobedience of God will result in curses upon the nation, the people, and the land.  The Chronicles seem to draw on material from Samuel and Kings as well as other sources to give a history of Israel from creation through the return from exile in Babylon.  However, the view of kingship, especially the portrayal of David and his dynasty, are much more positive.  In the Chronicles, David’s kingdom and the establishment of the Temple symbolizes the bond between God and Israel.  It should be noted that incidents like David’s affair with Bathsheba is described in 2 Samuel but appears nowhere in the book of Chronicles.

Why are Judah and Israel arguing in 2 Samuel 19?

After Absalom’s revolt is quashed and Absalom is dead, there is a period of uncertainty for David and for the people of his nation.  Is David the king again?  Do the people really want him back at all?  David wants to be asked back, to be welcomed by his people.  However, there are some, it seems, within the northern tribes of Israel (interestingly, where Saul was from) who seem uncertain whether David can lead them.  David asks the people of his own southern region of Judah to invite him back into the land and into power.  When they do, the people of the northern tribes of Israel cry that they are being slighted by being left out of the welcoming of David to power.

This story, though confusing, is setting up what will become the defining narrative of The Story following the reign of Solomon:  the split of the united kingdom of Israel into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  The split will take place in part because of rival claims to the throne and rival claims to the appropriate center of the worship of God.  However, we see this rivalry in its early stages in 2 Samuel 19.  David had been very wise in how he had managed and unified the various tribes of Israel into one kingdom.  For example, his selection of Jerusalem as the capital of the nation and the home for the ark of the covenant was inspired.  Jerusalem had not previously been inhabited by any Israelites, but by the foreign nation of the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).  Thus, when David conquered the city and made it his capital, it had no affiliation with any one tribe or region.  It’s central location only contributed to an understanding that there was no favoritism in the choice of the capital and that David cared and ruled equally over all Israel.  Here, in 2 Samuel 19, we see that unity beginning to fray.

Week 11 – From Shepherd to King

Scripture Reading:  1 Samuel 16-18, 24, 31; 2 Samuel 6, 22; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 59

Significant Moments in The Story

David anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel – 1 Samuel 16

David battles the Philistine warrior, Goliath – 1 Samuel 17

David spares the life of King Saul – 1 Samuel 24

The death of King Saul & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 31

David brings the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 6

God promises to establish a lineage for David – 1 Chronicles 17

Key Themes

The will of God

Throughout this section of The Story, we see that God does not see and do things the way that man sees and does things.  Samuel was ready to anoint the first and oldest of Jesse’s sons as the new king; however, God says he has the youngest in mind instead.  The Israelites were fearful of facing Goliath because of his size and his armaments, which were the best one could possess.  However, David understood that human armaments were no match for the power of God conveyed in a slingshot and 1 stone.  As king, David determined he would build a house for God, as grand as the house that David lived in.  God sends Nathan to tell David that God doesn’t want or need a house; instead, he wants to be in the midst of His people. So often we assume that God thinks and acts the way that we would.  We forget that Scripture teaches us that God’s ways are not our ways.  God has a unique plan and purposes, which is why a relationship with Him is so important.  We invest our very lives in understanding and discerning the unique will of a unique God.

God our Deliverer

1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 59 are all expressions of God’s ability to deliver Israel and David from harm.  These stories serve as reminders that God’s will is not to oppose His people but to fight for His people.  Often times, when are in crisis or in a time of struggle, we assume that God is our enemy and our opponent.  It is not always easy to cry out that God is is “my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer” when the enemy seemingly is perched on our doorstep.  However, these stories remind us that God greatest desire is to be with us, and He will go to the greatest lengths to make that relationship possible.

The power of art

David has been associated with music and poetry through the Psalms for centuries.  We see him playing the lyre for King Saul to soothe him.  It reminds of something I heard this past weekend while attending the North Carolina Middle School State Honors Chorus concert.  The choir director asked the students to write 4 sentences about why they thought music was important.  The director shared that one student wrote, “Music is power.  The world is full of destructive power; music is power that does not destroy, but builds up and moves us.”

Background Information

Saul’s “evil” spirit – 1 Samuel 16:14

There are some who believe that the word here is better translated as a “troubling” spirit as opposed to an “evil” spirit. Many believe that this was the ancient way of describing one who suffered from mental illness.  Others wonder if this is just the biblical way of detailing Saul’s wrestling with the reality that the throne has been taken away from him even though he is still the king.

Jonathan and David – 1 Samuel 18:1-4

When we read that Jonathan gave David his robe and his armor and his weapons, we should see more than just a generous act of friendship.  Jonathan was the heir apparent to the throne of Saul.  However, remember that Samuel referenced the tearing of a robe as symbolic of the kingdom being torn from the hands of Saul and given into the hands of “his neighbor” (1 Samuel 15:28).  In this case, the giving of the robe may be symbolic of Jonathan willingly giving over his claim to the throne to David.

The recovery of Saul’s body – 1 Samuel 31:11-13

In 1 Samuel 11, the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were being persecuted by Nahash the Ammonite, who agreed to make a peace treaty with them only he could gouge out the right eye of every citizen.  It was Saul who came to the defense of the citizens and defeated the Ammonites.  Now, the citizens of Jabesh-gilead repay Saul’s loyalty to them by refusing the allow his body and the bodies of his sons to be desecrated and humiliated by the Philistines.

Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 5 & 6

After he is named king by the Israelites, we are told that David captures the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by the Jebusites.  The indication of the text is that David took the city not with the armies of Israel but with his personal army that had formed around him as he ran from King Saul.  This explains how the city could come to be called “the city of David”, because he truly took possession of it himself.  The decision to make Jerusalem his capital was wise.  Since it had been previously occupied by the Jebusites, it had no connection to any particular region or tribe of Israel, making it a good neutral city.  In addition, the city relatively centrally located and easy to defend since it sat upon a hill.

The ark of the covenant – 2 Samuel 6

1 Samuel 4-7 describes how the ark of the covenant was captured in battle by the Philistines.  However, while they possessed the ark, the Philistines encountered many hardships, and so they voluntarily returned the ark to the Israelites.  For 20 years, the ark had been kept in a town called Kiriath-jearim (or Baale-judah).  The decision to move the ark to Jerusalem was important for several reasons.  First, it established Jerusalem as the political and religious center of Israel.  Second, it was a statement that the kingship could serve Israel’s faith and not oppose it, as Samuel had suggested when Israel first asked for a king.  Third, it established this newly established kingdom of Israel as the successor to the Israel of the wilderness and the Israel of Joshua and Judges.  In essence, it was now understood that the king was responsible for protecting the sacred institutions of the past.  Finally, it was another way of distancing David from Saul.  Whereas Saul kept the ark (and, therefore, the presence of God) at a distance, David brings the ark into the heart of his kingdom and reign.

Psalm 59

Often times, we read the psalms without considering their context.  In this case, this Psalm is associated with the period when David was being hunted down by King Saul.  From that standpoint, it should be read between reading 1 Samuel 18 and 1 Samuel 24.

There is some question as to whether or not all of the Psalms attributed to David were actually written by David.  However, what is more significant is that this psalm is intended to convey David’s feelings and faith in the circumstances which he encountered in life.  Therefore, it is appropriate to read it in that context as well as reading it in the context of a general prayer for God’s help in the face of overwhelming odds.

Some Questions That Might Come Up

How come King Saul has no idea who David is in 1 Samuel 17:55-58?  

The story of David and Goliath is one of the stories that is so well-known, yet upon reading it we are struck by some unusual circumstances in the text.  For one thing, 2 Samuel 21:19 tells us that Goliath of Gath was slain at a later time by one of David’s warriors, Elhanan.  1 Chronicles 20:5 says that Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother.  These three passages, when put together, raise the question of whether David himself killed Goliath or whether he killed another Philistine champion who was later mistakenly identified as Goliath of Gath.

A second oddity of the text is how Saul suddenly has no idea who David is at the end of the story.  In chapter 16, we were told that David played the lyre for Saul and became his armor bearer.  In 1 Samuel 17:15, we are told that David traveled back and forth between Saul and his father’s sheep.  And yet, in 1 Samuel 17:55-58, Saul has no idea who David is.

These textual oddities have caused many to wonder if the story of David and Goliath is actually a combination of several different stories about David’s rise to prominence that were combined together to make this one narrative.

Additional Resources