1 Kings 2
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Kings 2:1-11
1 Kings 2:1-11. Holy Scripture gives us many a touching and pathetic description of the death of the father of a family, showing how it at once sanctions and sanctifies natural affection. The farewells of David remind us of those of Jacob. Death sometimes seems to fill the men of God of the old covenant with the spirit of prophecy, as if the summit of the earthly life was illuminated with a purer radiance falling upon it from a higher sphere. Death is indeed to all the messenger of God to reveal to us great truths; it is a great prophet.

I. Death shows to us WHERE ENDS THE WAY OF ALL THE EARTH (1 Kings 2:2). Pascal says, "However brilliant the tragedy may have been, the end is always death. From every grave which is dug comes a voice crying, Memento mori."

II. DEATH TEACHES US TO LOOK AT OUR PAST EXISTENCE AS A WHOLE, as from a height we look down on the plain below. It brings out the great object of life, the essential truth too often drowned in the busy hum of the world. David thinks no more at this hour of the glory or of the pleasures of life. Its one great end stands out more clearly before him to walk in the ways of the Lord, to keep His statutes and His commandments. This is wisdom and prudence.

III. DEATH REMINDS THE SERVANTS OF GOD THAT THEIR WORK DOES NOT PERISH WITH THEM; that none of them, not even the greatest, is an indispensable instrument of the work; that they are only links in the chain. Thus the torch which is to enlighten the world is passed from hand to hand.

IV. THE INHERITANCE OF A HOLY WORK TO BE CARRIED ON is the best of those blessings which, according to God's promise, are to rest upon His people to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:6). A great responsibility rests upon a Christian family, and their education ought to be conducted with a view to it. This succession in piety, in living and acting faith, is more important and more real than the succession by means of official ordination.

V. Every servant of God, in his death, may say with Jesus Christ, "IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR YOU THAT I GO AWAY;" "YE SHALL DO GREATER THINGS THAN THESE." It is well to know, when our work is done, that it will be carried on by another. With Solomon, the Jewish theocracy received a new development, such as it had never known in the time of David. It is well for us to die, even for the sake of the work of God, which we are called to accomplish up to a certain point, but no further.

VI. How much BETTER STILL IS IT FOR US TO DIE, when we look at it in the light of eternity. "David slept with his fathers (ver. 10), but only like them to be carried home to God, to rest in Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22). For ourselves, we may say with St. Paul, "To depart, and be with Christ is far better" (Philippians 1:18). - E. DE P.

David's eventful life is drawing to a close. He has proved himself to be "a man after God's own heart." Not perfect man, for he had grievous defects. But, in the main, he recognized the grandeur of his position as "the Lord's anointed." He lived by the inspiration of a Divine purpose. He "served his own generation by the will of God" (Acts 13:36). His very faults bore witness to the native force of his character. The height of the precipice measures the depth that frowns beneath it. Great natures are most capable of great temptations, great sorrows, and great sins. But now great David dies, and the sovereignty of Israel must pass into other hands.

I. THE CALMNESS OF A GOOD MAN IN THE FACE OF DEATH. "I go the way of all the earth." There is a tone of quiet composure and satisfaction in these words - remarkable feature of the way in which most of the Old Testament saints confronted death. More than mere Oriental courage, mere passive submission to the inevitable, - faith in the Unseen and Eternal - fortitude of a soul that has found nobler inheritance than earth supplies - peaceful self surrender into the hands of the Living God. Yet not like the clear and certain vision of Christian faith. Compare this, "I go the way," etc., with St. Paul's "I have fought a good fight," etc. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). He who has a living hold on Christ can say, not merely "I go the way of all the earth," but "I go my way to the eternal home of the redeemed." "Absent from the body; present with the Lord." Composure in the face of death very much a matter of natural temperament - dependent on physical conditions - to be distinguished from the higher, triumph of faith. Men of faith sometimes in "bondage through fear of death." Live much with Christ, and when the fatal hour comes the sting and the terror shall be taken away.

II. THE CARE OF A GODLY FATHER FOR THE WELL BEING OF HIS SON. Often in the life of David we see, through the garb of his kingly character, the throbbing of the true fatherly heart. The spirit of fatherhood here takes the form of wise and solemn counsel befitting the time. Fine touch of nature in this. The true father desires that his sons should be nobler, better, happier than himself. He lives over again in their life, and would have them to avoid the errors and evils into which he has fallen. David's yearning for Solomon is at once intensified and hallowed by the remembrance of his own wrong doing. "Be strong and shew thyself a man." Solomon's youth, gentle disposition, heavy responsibilities, alike demanded such counsel. Supreme lesson of life for the young - the path of obedience to the Divine law is that of safety and prosperity. The wisdom and strength God gives will enable the "little child" in the noblest sense to "play the man." Each generation on a vantage ground as compared with those that went before it - children "heirs of all the ages," Best legacy the fathers leave them - the great principles of truth and righteousness, as illustrated by their own living history. Chart of the ocean of life in the children's hands; rocks and shoals and hidden currents traced by the care and toil and suffering of those who sailed before them. Let them use it wisely if they would have a safe and prosperous voyage.

III. THE STEADFASTNESS OF GOD'S PURPOSE AMID ALL THE CHANGES OF HUMAN HISTORY. David dies in the faith that "the Lord will continue His word." The "everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure" is not fluctuating and perishable as the things and beings of earth. Steadfast order of the heavenly bodies and of the seasons a symbol of the sure covenant (Jeremiah 33:20). The frailty of man often serves to deepen our impression of the eternity of God. Human life a tale soon told, but "the counsel of the Lord standeth fast," etc. This is our security for the triumph of the cause of truth and righteousness in the world, "All flesh is grass," etc. (1 Peter 1:24). Man dies, but God lives; and the hope that stays itself upon His word can never be put to shame.

IV. THE CONDITIONAL NATURE OF DIVINE PROMISES. "If thy children take heed," etc. All Divine promises are thus conditional. Faith and practical submission needed to place us in the line of their fulfilment. God "continues His word" to those who continue in His ways. The promises are "Yea and amen" in Christ. Be "in Him" if you would realize them. - W.


The religion of God is the religion of man. True religion is the perfecting of our humanity.

I. MAN WAS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. This is His essential characteristic. The more He reflects this image, the more truly manly He is. The religion of the Bible restores His manhood.

II. THERE IS NO FACULTY IN MAN WHICH DOES NOT FIND ITS COMPLEMENT AND ITS DEVELOPMENT IN GOD. His reason finds in God alone the truth which it seeks. His heart only finds an object adequate to its power of loving in the God who is Love. His conscience has for its ideal and its law the Divine holiness. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). His will derives its power alone from God.

1. The Son of God was the Son of man, and realized the true idea of humanity in His holy life.

2. The religion of God honours and exalts man, even as falsehood and error degrade and debase him.

3. The Divine morality is in profound harmony with true human morality, that law which is written in the natural conscience. The petty religiousness which says, "Touch not, taste not, handle not" (Colossians 2:21), and creates all sorts of artificial duties, is not in accordance with true piety, the one great commandment of which - love to God and man - approves itself at once to the gospel and to the conscience.

4. Be a man means, finally, Do thy duty like a man. Be one of the violent who take the kingdom by force. Let us be careful not to effeminate our Christianity by a soft sentimentalism. Let us learn from the Son of God to be truly men "after God's own heart." - E. DE P.

The utterances of dying men naturally have weight. Those who stand on the border line between time and eternity have less temptation to disguise the truth, and are more likely than others to see things in their true relations. When those who speak to us thence are men who have long loved us, and who have ever proved worthy of our love, we must be callous indeed if their words are powerless. Exemplify by the mention of any whose whole future destiny turned upon the wish and the counsel of a dying father or friend. David's counsel to Solomon had this double value. He spoke as a dying man, and as a wise and loving father. Happy would it have been for the son had this counsel always been the law of his life.

1. The anxiety of David for the moral and spiritual welfare of his son. Some parents deem their duty done if they see their sons and daughters fairly "settled in life," without much consideration for character. David cared first for character, and next for circumstances. He believed that if the heart were right with God, things would of themselves go right with men.

2. The willingness of Solomon to receive such counsels. How different was his spirit from that of Adonijah (1 Kings 1:5). Though young, high spirited, of princely rank, and already anointed king, he bows to listen to his aged father. Lessons of reverence for age, and respect to parents, to be drawn from this. In his charge to Solomon, David inculcates -

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE TO GOD. He had seen the terrible effects of partial obedience in Saul, his own predecessor. (Illustrate from Saul's life.)

1. This implies the recognition of God as King. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and even princely Solomon was to remember that he had a Master in heaven. This would be net only for his own good, but for the welfare of his kingdom. The tyrannies, the exactions, the cruelties of an ordinary Eastern despot would be impossible to one who habitually acknowledged that he was responsible to God, and that wrongs which no human court could avenge would receive just retribution from "the Judge of all the earth." The wishes of his dying father might somewhat restrain him, but these could not have the abiding power of the law of the ever-living and ever-present God. What safety belongs to him who, like Joseph, says in the hour of temptation, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? That thought may be ours in the darkness as well as in the light, amid strangers as well as in the precincts of home. To the lad setting out from his father's house, to the man undertaking new responsibilities, the message comes, Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways."

2. This Involves thoroughness in obedience. David uses no vain repetitions when he speaks of "statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies." The whole, law, not part of it only, was to be remembered. We are all tempted to partial obedience. It is easy, natural, profitable to obey some commands. Disobedience will bring disease, or shame, or loss of reputation, and, fearing such penalties, some refrain from transgression. But there are other laws of God, obedience to which brings dishonour rather than glory, impoverishment and not advantage; and these also are to be obeyed if we would "walk before God in truth, with all our heart." Again there are some precepts which seem of trifling value, and we are tempted to say we need not be too precise. But we forget that God's laws, even the least of them, are terribly precise. Science is proving this in every department of nature. The tide, for example, will not stop short a foot in space, nor a moment in time, to save the life of the helpless man penned in between the rocks. And are moral laws less inexorable? Besides, the crucial test of obedience is found in relation to little things. If your child obeys your important command, because he sees its importance, you are glad; but you are much more pleased when he does something you told him to do, merely because you wished it, for this is a higher proof of genuine obedience than that.

II. THE NECESSITY OF PERSONAL RESOLUTION. "Be thou strong, therefore, and show thyself a man." This sounds like an echo of God's own words to Joshua (Joshua 1:7). The occasions too were similar. Joshua was entering on his leadership, and Solomon was on the steps of his throne. David would evoke the manly resolution of his son. There was the more necessity for this, because his honoured and heroic father could no ]anger stand beside him. One of God's reasons for taking away our parents by death is to develope and strengthen our character. When the saplings grow under the shelter of the parent tree, they are weakly; but when the giant of the forest falls, and the winds of heaven begin to buffet those which have had its protection, their strength becomes greater, and their roots strike deeper. "Show thyself a man," says David to Solomon. Some suppose they show their manhood by aping the airs of the elders (smoking, swearing, etc.) But in David's sense, to show yourself a man is to prove yourself wise, valorous, virtuous, and above all, loyal of heart to God. This exhortation then implies the manifestation of moral courage and strength. These are required in order to the obedience we have described, for such obedience implies struggle.

1. There is conflict with self. We have to cheek the uprising of passion, to fight against the pride which would make us refuse to submit to the revelation, and to the righteousness of God, etc.

2. There is resistance to the evil influences of others. When Solomon was misled by his wives, and began to worship their gods, he was forgetting the command, "Be strong and show thyself a man." Point out the necessity for moral courage, and for the renewal of strength, by waiting on God, to those surrounded by evil associates.

3. There is antagonism to popular customs. In school, in business, in national policy, in church routine, it is easier to float with the stream than to contend against it. He must needs "be strong, and show himself a man," who would say, "We must obey God rather than man!" Show where Solomon found this strength, and where he lost it. Give examples of both from sacred history. E.g., the disciples were cowards when Christ was away, but they became heroes when the promise was fulfilled at Pentecost: "They were endued with power from on high."

III. THE ASSURANCE OF RESULTING BLESSEDNESS. "That thou mayest prosper," etc. As an historical fact, this promise was fulfilled. The kingdom of Solomon prospered as long as he was faithful to the God of his father. His apostasy sowed the seeds of its decay. God's promises are contingent, not absolute. They have attached to them implied conditions. This, which was shown in material blessings under the covenant of the old economy, is abidingly true. It is not that man merits the blessings of God by his obedience, but that he unfits himself to receive them by disobedience. This is yet more clearly seen under the light of the new dispensation. God gives a man that which he is fit for, on earth and in heaven. In and through Jesus Christ He has broadened our views of recompense. Beyond death the fulfilment of this promise extends, and he who is faithful with the few things shall be at last a ruler over many. In a spirit of humble obedience and prayerful dependence, let us seek to keep the charge and win the blessedness revealed in these dying words of the sweet Singer of Israel. - A. R.

This is one example of the way in which Solomon carried out David's dying command, as given in verses 5-9. Shimei's violation of his promise in reference to not leaving Jerusalem, though the immediate occasion, was thus not the real reason of his punishment. He had been all along a doomed man. A great deal in David's command in reference to these men that we cannot regard with complacency; so far as there was anything of personal vindictiveness in it, our moral sense condemns it. Would it not have been more magnanimous if with his dying breath he had freely forgiven these old offenders? Solomon's conduct, however, wears a different aspect. A father's word would be to him an imperious authority; to vindicate a father's honour the instinctive impulse of filial affection; to avenge the innocent blood a sacred obligation. Moreover, these men deserved their fate. Joab had been a traitor and murderer; Abiathar had abused the sanctity of his priestly office by helping the cause of the usurper; Shimei had "cursed the Lord's anointed." This incident suggests -

I. THE ETERNAL LAW THAT WRONG DOING MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ITS DUE RECOMPENSE. Recognise the Divine element in this act of human retribution. There is a Nemesis that tracks the steps of the transgressor, and sooner or later overtakes him; not a natural law merely, but an intelligent Divine will and power. The superstition of the Melitans had a deep and solemn truth in it (Acts 28:4). Striking correspondence often between the sin and the penalty. Men suffer in forms resembling the injury they inflict. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. "All they that take the sword," etc. The weapon used wrongfully recoils upon the head of him who wielded it. "Curses, like birds, come home to roost." In the teaching of Christ and His apostles, however, the law of retribution appears, not in its old Bare, crude form, but in a more vital and spiritual form. New Testament idea - sin bears within itself the germ of its own punishment. The penalty is a development rather than an arbitrary infliction. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Sin may be divinely forgiven, and yet go on to produce in this world all sorts of bitter fruits. "May one be pardoned and retain the offence?" No; but the pardoned ruin may retain in himself the evil effects of what he has done, and see, with infinite remorse, the evil effects in others. The sin, as a "finished" fact, takes its place in the general procession of cause and effect, independently of God's mercy to the transgressor. On the other hand, the worst retribution is in the moral nature of the sinner himself.

"There is no future pang
Can deal that justice on the self condemn'd
He deals on his own soul."
(Manfred.) (E.g., SHAKESPEARE'S Macbeth; MILTON'S Satan.) No escape from this retribution but in "the cross." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son," etc. It will not wipe out all the effects of transgression, but it will arrest the eternal penalty, and perfectly cleanse the fountain from which the evil springs.

II. THE NOBLENESS OF A TRUTHFUL AND FEARLESS DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Solomon's deed a homage to the sense of duty. Magnanimity blended with severity. He spares Abiathar, but has no mercy on Joab and Shimei. Note the reasons of this distinction. As a "man of peace" he had no love for this retributive work. It might involve him in trouble. But he shrinks not from doing the thing he conceives to be right. Men often constrained by force of circumstances, or persuasion of a Divine voice within them, to do what they have no natural inclination for doing. Essence of all moral nobleness to make duty rather than inclination or policy the law of one's life. In men of highest nature conscience is the ruling power. However it may appear, that Life is the most blessed which is the most perfect homage to the law of right

II. THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS ABOVE THE MORAL STANDARD OF OLDEN TIMES. In following the chronicles of these old Hebrew kings we feel that we are moving in a moral region of somewhat dim light and low level. It must needs be so if there is a real law of development in Scripture and the dispensations of God. We may recognise the working of Divine principles of truth and righteousness amid the confusions of the time, and yet feel that we have in the law of Christ a far higher rule of conduct. We admit what is good in David and Solomon, but HE is our model who, on the cross of sacrifice, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - W.

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