How shall we feel about David’s instructions to Solomon in 1 Kings 2? They seem quite ruthless.
And yet, they show a mixture of practicality, justice, leniency, and generosity.
No one had been more dedicated to David than Joab. And no one had been more violent in his support of God’s anointed than Joab. During the war between the supporters of David and the supporters of Saul, Abner killed Joab’s brother, Ashael. It wasn’t really Abner’s fault. Ashael didn’t give him much choice, but Joab never forgot it and in retribution (and in pretense of protecting David), Joab murdered Abner (2 Samuel 2:26ff). Perhaps remembering the judgment brought on Israel because of Saul’s murder of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1ff), David was determined justice, though now delayed, be done.
David’s instructions regarding Shimei remind me of the old adage: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” For cursing the king, Shimei deserved death (Exodus 22:28). He could have lived under Solomon’s mercy and David’s delayed justice, but he could not be trusted – as his actions showed.
Evidently by this time, there were two legitimate claimants to the High Priesthood: Abiathar and Zadok. Abiathar had supported Adonijah for the throne, Zadok supported Solomon. The move cost Abiathar the priesthood. But there is something else: Abiathar was the descendant of Eli, who was a descendant of Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron and God had specifically pronounced that the house of Eli would no longer serve in the priesthood. Solomon’s decision made that come to pass.
All in all, the opening pages of Kings notes the consolidation of Solomon’s power, the fulfillment of the will of God, and emphasizes the administrative leadership of David’s successor. Israel was finally becoming a nation.