I'm preaching on 1 Kings 2 this Sunday, and it's a trickier passage than it first looks.
David had previously overlooked two murders committed by his commander in chief, Joab, and pardoned the insolent Shimei.
Then the time comes to hand over the kingdom to Solomon. (So thank you to King Juan of Spain for choosing this week...). He urges Solomon to bring justice to these two.
So here's the question: Why did David change his mind?
In the literature, I've found 3 suggestions:
- The grumpy old man. David did the right thing to pardon these two. But as his life draws to a close, he begins to regret being so lenient and goes back on his word. He finds a loophole in his original promise – he won’t kill them, but his son could do it for him.
- Putting things straight on his deathbed. David did the wrong thing to pardon these two. In neither case was justice done according to Old Testament law; premeditated homicide and cursing the national leader are both capital crimes. Perhaps his motive for ducking this was originally political expediency. Regardless, he inherited the kingdom from Saul with some wrongs unavenged, and he doesn’t want to hand things to Solomon in the same misshape.
- The political strategist. David reports this to Solomon as a matter of right and wrong, but in fact this is political opportunism. Joab had the potential to be extremely useful in the army, and Shimei was a key Benjaminite whose pardon could help unify the 12 tribes. Now, however, these two are a threat: Joab had temporarily sided with Adonijah, and Shimei could lead a revolt from the other tribes. Expediency required him to pardon them before, but Solomon’s reign is better with them out of the way.
The snag is: Unless the sermon is going to be very bland in its application, you have to work out what's going on before you can start to ask what the passage is saying to us today.
I think I've worked out what's going on.
What do readers of this blog think?