1 Kings 5 has Solomon ready to build the temple that David had never been able to do. The rule of David was plagued by war, and he never had an opportunity to build. But for Solomon, “the Lord my God has given me rest on every side”, he has been given peace. And now it is time to build the house for God as was prophesied. “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name”. God’s plan is being fulfilled by Solomon.
He wants specific lumber for the task so he asks Hiram, king of Tyre, to “command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me”. The right lumber, or desired lumber, was not available locally so Solomon asks a neighboring and friendly king for the resources he needs. “Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired”. They had an elaborate plan of cutting the timber and floating it down the river in rafts to the place Solomon needed it to build with.
In return, “Solomon gave Hiram 20,000 cors of wheat as food for his household, and 20,000 cors of beaten oil”. This wasn’t a charity event. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year. They had a great working relationship and Solomon used his wisdom to keep the peace and get the work done. It was no small task they were undertaking. It took a huge workforce. “King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men”. But the work wasn’t there at home, but in another country. So they created a plan to make that more reasonable for the workers.
Solomon “sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts”. They didn’t all go at once. “They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home”. This was a much better and more acceptable plan. It didn’t require anyone to be gone more than one month in three. But these 30,000 were only a small part of the total workforce on the building. “Solomon also had 70,000 burden-bearers and 80,000 stonecutters in the hill country, besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work”. We saw the wall these people built. The stones were enormous. It’s no wonder there were so many working on the project. One stone was over 200 ton. It was amazing work and still stands today.
1 Kings 4 describes Solomon’s empire. He was king over all Israel and had an elaborate leadership team in place to run the day to day activity in his kingdom:
- “Zadok was the priest
- Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha were secretaries
- Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder
- Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the army
- Zadok and Abiathar were priests
- Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers
- Zabud the son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend
- Ahishar was in charge of the palace
- Adoniram the son of Abda was in charge of the forced labor”
You could call this his cabinet – the men who were taking care of the overall activity of the kingdom. Clear definition of duty and responsibilities and men who obviously were performing what needed to be done.
There were also a few other leaders at a more local level. “Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each man had to make provision for one month in the year”. So in addition to the kingdom wide team we listed above, he has these local leaders who are in charge of bringing in the items needed to make the kingdom work – food and the like. Above them was “one governor who was over the land”. Solomon built a very efficient organization that was well designed and functional. His wisdom was applied first to putting his own house in order.
But that wisdom served him and his kingdom well. “Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life”. He not only had a good strategy and team in place, the people liked him. It wasn’t a small operation. Scripture tells us “Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl”. He had a lot of mouths to feed and when it was your month as one of the twelve local officers to provide for the kingdom, it was a very big job. He had amassed a huge army that had to be cared for every day. “Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen”. This is a very big operation.
But even with all those requirements, the leadership functioned well. “They let nothing be lacking”. God blessed Solomon and answered his request in a powerful way. “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt….For he was wiser than all other men”. How is that for an answer to prayer? God kept His word. He blessed Solomon with wisdom. “He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005”. Solomon was a very prolific writer and gave us a lot of the wisdom in scripture we read today. But not only was his wisdom amazing, he also was well received during his life. “People of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom”.
1 Kings 3 has Solomon on the throne and seeking to walk with God. “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father”. What a powerful way to be described in scripture, as a man who loved the Lord and walked with Him. That should be the desire and pursuit for each of us. God comes to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wants from God. “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you”. God has noticed his faithfulness and wants to reward him for that.
So Solomon has the opportunity to ask for whatever he wants. And his request is simple. “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people”. God is pleased because Solomon doesn’t ask for selfish things that are focused on himself. No ask for a long life, or lots of riches, or the life of his enemies. Solomon asks God for wisdom and to have the ability to lead well. That is a truly good think to seek – the ability to govern those in his care.
God is pleased and says “I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you”. Solomon has been granted the desire of his heart – to have the wisdom only God can give. And he now is equipped to do what no other man ever had or ever will do – to lead with God’s wisdom. But God goes further. Because of Solomon’s lack of self centered request, God says “I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days”. A double bonus is granted to the king – God not only honors his request for wisdom but gives him all the other things that most would have asked for – riches and honor and long life.
Immediately the wisdom of Solomon is put to the test. Two women each have a baby and one dies. That mother steals the baby of the other and they have a dispute which comes before the king. Both claim rights to the child which is alive. After hearing their stories, the king decides the answer is to take a sword and cut the baby in half giving each their portion. Of course, the real mother quickly gives up her right in order to save her baby. The king knows immediately who the real mother is – the one who loved the child enough to give up claim in order to let hm live – and Solomon awards her the child. “All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice”. God’s wisdom is at work in Solomon and his people know that God is working in and through him.
1 Kings 2 has David on his deathbed. He is giving his son Solomon his final instructions as he hands over the throne. “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me”. Pretty clear – obey God and do what He says.
David dies and immediately Solomon begins dealing with those who had not be loyal to his father. He begins after his mom, Bathsheba, makes a request on behalf of Adonijah to take Abishag the Shunammite as his wife. Remember that she was the one that was given to David to keep him warm during his dying days. But Adonijah had tried a political move to take the throne, and now has the guts to ask Bathsheba for this lady to be his wife. Solomon wasn’t so happy about the request, and in fact sends Benaiah to strike down Adonijah and put him to death. One enemy gone.
Next on his radar was Abiathar the priest. He too was not a favorite of Solomon, even though he had carried the Ark of the Covenant for David. But Solomon wants him gone, but chooses to “expelled Abiathar” and send him away no longer having the role of priest. He was part of the house of Eli and scripture had prophesied this day would come and it does. Next in his sights was Joab, who was the leader of the army for many years. He had supported Adonijah during his attempt to take the throne, and that wasn’t a good decision.
So Solomon again sends Benaiah to get rid of Joab. He seems to be the closer for Solomon when it comes to removing people that have crossed the king. Joab tries to hide in the temple but it doesn’t work and he gets whacked. Benaiah takes his place as the leader of the army and made Zadok the priest in place of Abiathar. There is one more guy that Solomon deals with – Shimei. Solomon gave him clear instruction to stay put and not leave the city, but circumstances caused him to disobey and Solomon then reminds him of “all the harm that you did to David” and has his man Benaiah strike him down as well. Solomon has the kingdom established in his hands as he removes those who were either against him or his father David.
1 Kings 1 has King David very old and feeble and “he could not get warm”. Sometimes we fail to remember that the people in scripture were just that – people. David is now very old and his body is beginning to fail. The fix to his issue of always being cold was to select a beautiful woman to care for him and be able to lie in his arms as a sort of heater if you would – “Abishag the Shunammite” became the woman for the job. At this same time, there was a power grab for the throne. “Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself” and took the throne almost by default as no one else had stepped up and tried to lead.
“But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah”. These key members of David’s leadership team did not go along with the power grab. So even while Adonijah was celebrating his newly claimed kingship, the old guard of David was working to be sure the right man was placed in power. All this was happening under the radar and King David was not even aware of the infighting that was happening. Nathan goes to Bathsheeba and tells her that it is time to act and have David name Solomon to the throne.
So Bathsheba goes to Dave and says “the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him”. David had promised to make Solomon king, but hadn’t officially taken that action. So Bathsheba asks “Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him”? David becomes aware of the plot to take the throne when some of his faithful come tell him the truth. He hadn’t done anything to transfer power and authority, and in the absence of strong leadership others step in and try to take it.
Nathan follows Bathsheba in front of David and tells him the same thing. And then David makes his declaration and changes the entire course of what was happening. “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place”. David had declared his desired legacy much earlier, but had failed to take action to make it so. He could easily have died or been incapacitated to the point that Solomon would have never been put on the throne. Legacy only happens when it is executed. David almost missed that opportunity. We have to take action to make legacy a reality.
2 Samuel 24 has God angry with David and the people. He tells David to count the people, which is no small task. So he calls Joab and his commanders together to give them the assignment. They are not all that interested. “Joab said to the king, May the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing”. Joab doesn’t really want to do this work. But it isn’t optional and David sends them out.
This was a huge task – it took them “nine months and twenty days” to complete. And they came back with a total of “in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000”. That is a lot of counting. And this was just the men. But they got a number and brought it back to David. When David sees the enormity of the people, he is struck with guilt and confesses his sin. “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly”.
David was right – he had sinned and there was punishment coming. God sends His prophet Gad to David with this: “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you”. And the choices were:
- “three years of famine
- flee three months before your foes while they pursue you
- three days’ pestilence in your land”
There are no good answers there, so David let’s God make the choice and the pestilence begins.
It’s a bloody mess. God takes the life of 70,000 men. And as the “angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity”. He called of the angel of death and stopped the killing. David recognizes that this is God’s grace. And he confesses again: “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house”. It reminds me of the intercession Moses did for the people much earlier. A strong leader stands in the gap for his people. David buys the threshing floor and sacrifices in praise to God for his grace and mercy. But not before a lot of blood had been shed.
2 Samuel 23 contains the last words that David said. And he ends his leadership by thinking back over the accomplishments of his career as king. He shares a little wisdom on leadership: “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth”. Leadership matters, not only for the leader, but for those who follow too. David was a great leader – not without some mistakes and faults – but still a great leader.
But the rest of his last words were focused on his men – and particularly the mighty men. He begins by talking about the three:
- “Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time.
- Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword.
- Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. He took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory”
These were the three mighty men. But they were surrounded by 34 others who are also called out and mentioned by name.
Next David calls out “Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, who was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against three hundred men and killed them and won a name beside the three. He was the most renowned of the thirty and became their commander, but he did not attain to the three”. Abishi was obviously one of the key leaders for David, but not quite up to the ranks of the three mighty men. But obviously important, as he was the commander of this elite force.
David also calls out “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada….a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds”. David goes on to tell us he “won a name beside the three mighty men. He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three”. There was obviously something different about the three mighty men, as well as Abishai and Benaiah. The other thirty two are listed by name and lineage, but there are no details for them like there are for these five. David assembled an amazing fighting team. They were almost always successful in their pursuit of the enemy.