Saturday, July 28, 2012

Solomon's Early Struggles (part 2 of 2)

Effectively, Abishag becomes one of David’s concubines, and this is the woman that is being requested by Adonijah.  Bathsheba sees no harm in this, so she passes the request on to her son.  Solomon, somewhat surprisingly, responds by saying “Why just request Abishag the Shunamite for him?  Since he is my older brother, you should also request the kingdom for him” (2:22a).  Solomon goes on to say, “May God judge me severely, if Adonijah does not pay for this request with his life!  Now as certainly as the Lord lives… Adonijah will be executed today!” (2:24a,c)  This can be looked at in at least two ways.  The first way is to see it as Adonijah’s attempt to again partially emulate Absalom (who had sex with ten of his father’s concubines as part of his securing himself as king and reminding the people of his father’s shameful act and the prophecy of Nathan that Absalom fulfilled by this act), as part of his ongoing schemes to gain the throne.  Such thinking is supported by Adonijah’s prefacing his request with “You know that the kingdom was mine and all Israel considered me king.  But then the kingdom was given to my brother, for the Lord decided it should be his” (2:15).  Taking Abishag for himself could possibly give the appearance of Davidic sanction of kingship for Adonijah. 

On the other hand, this can be looked at as a bit of a black mark on Solomon’s early reign, with him following in the not-so-glorious footsteps of his father, and not initially trusting in the faithful and exodus-providing (rescue and deliverance from enemies, both real and potential) God, by seizing upon a relatively harmless request (the request for a beautiful, young virgin that was part of David’s royal harem) as the grounds to carry out a politically calculated execution that would remove a potential challenger to the throne and serve as a warning to the rest of David’s sons that any uprising would not be tolerated, and would be punished severely. 

For good measure, Solomon takes the additional steps of removing Abiathar as priest, while also having Joab executed.  This is another overtly political calculation, as both had supported Adonijah, and because Joab commanded the allegiance of the army.  In his dealings with Joab, Solomon is merely carrying out the dying wishes of his father, who justifies the need to execute Joab by recounting that “he murdered two commanders of the Israelite armies” (2:5b).  David told Solomon that Joab, during peacetime, “struck them down like he would in battle; when he shed their blood as if in battle,” and that by this, “he stained his own belt and the sandals on his feet” (2:5c).  Owing to this, therefore, Solomon is instructed to “Do to him what you think is appropriate, but don’t let him live long and die a peaceful death” (2:6).  How terribly ironic these words must be seen to be as they come from David, who had used Joab as his instrument to murder Uriah, and had used the Gibeonites, during a time of peace and under the pretext of a famine, to murder seven sons and grandsons of Saul.  Solomon is commencing his exodus (entrance into God’s purposes for him) by delivering exile to those that could be perceived as able to thwart those purposes.  He is eliminating potentially subjugating powers.        

Now, we do not want to be too down on Solomon, just as we do not want to be too down on David.  Both were men prone to corruption and failures, as evidenced by the Biblical record that is unflinching and unswerving in its criticism of those that find themselves deserving of such.  We can however, lay bare the lives of both, but the faithful God of Israel is not diminished in the least.  With our first look into the life of Solomon, we find him following what would seem to be the less-than-noble path that had been previously traveled by his father.  Any examination of Solomon would, of necessity, include an examination of the idolatrous, exile generating practices into which he would fall.  However, what we will also find is that Israel’s God, viewed through the life of Solomon, continues to stand undiminished.  To quote the Apostle Paul, albeit slightly out of context as we consider the lives of men that God raised up and anointed, but who often failed and fell, we say “What then?  If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God?  Absolutely not!” (Romans 3:3-4a)  God’s redemptive plan, of rescue and deliverance for His image-bearers and His creation, will continue its inexorable and indefatigable march towards its consummating eschatological climax! 

So quickly looking again at Solomon, so as to “rescue” him from consignment to the realm of politically calculating tyrants, we can revisit our analysis of what Solomon had actually undertaken in the executions that he had ordered near the commencement of his reign.  We decided that Solomon began his journey on to the exodus path of God’s purposes for him, and for Israel through his leadership, by bringing about a state of exile (death) for those that might be able to thwart the purposes that had been determined by God; and that he took it upon himself to eliminate those that were potential rivals to his power that could either subjugate him, or alternately, lead God’s people down a path not purposed by the Lord, which could then lead to their subjugation.  Solomon’s “rescue” is accomplished by our acknowledging that in this area, Solomon becomes something of a mimicking forerunner of Jesus.  No, Jesus did not put his political opponents to death, but rather, dealt with the power that stood behind any and all opposition to His purposes (and the purposes of God---recognizing that Jesus, as Messiah, was the embodiment of the Creator God).  That power to which Jesus delivered exile, to which He stood up to eliminate, to which He would not be subject, to which He would ultimately not allow God’s people to be subject, was death itself. 

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