Joab and Shimei Eliminated
“So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever. But for David and for his descendants and for his house and for his throne there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore” (v. 33).- 1 Kings 2:28–46
After Adonijah’s death and Abiathar’s exile, Solomon dealt with Joab and Shimei. David had instructed Solomon to make sure that both were killed (1 Kings 2:5–9), and Solomon followed through, as today’s passage tells us.
The actions recorded in 1 Kings 2:28–46 are some of the most troublesome things we read in the history of the reigns of David and Solomon. First we have the execution of Joab, who fled to the altar once he saw what had happened to Adonijah and Abiathar (vv. 28–34). Joab rightly understood that his life was at risk, for he had supported Adonijah when he made his play for David’s throne (1:5–7). The stated reason for Joab’s execution was his cold-blooded killing of Abner and Amasa during David’s reign (2:5–6, 32–33). Certainly, Joab had done wrong in treacherously killing those two men (2 Sam. 2:12–3:39; 20:4–10). However, David let him live, presumably because of Joab’s loyalty and effectiveness as commander of Israel’s military. Since Joab had incurred bloodguilt, David should have dealt with him earlier, but he did not, leaving the task to Solomon. This points to a weakness on David’s part. Although David was a good king overall, when it came to Joab he was more concerned with Joab’s effectiveness than he was with Joab’s sin. David deferred Joab’s punishment until after his own death, letting it fall to Solomon to deal with Joab. Of course, since Joab was prone to following his own way, he could have been a threat to Solomon, so executing him was a convenient way to eliminate a potential rival. However, Joab was killed at the altar though not even criminals were to be put to death there (Ex. 21:14). All in all, neither David nor Solomon come out of this episode looking innocent (1 Kings 2:28–34). Even the best saints fall far short of the glory of God.
Solomon also followed David’s request to remove Shimei, the man who cursed David while he was on the run from Absalom (2 Sam. 16:5–14; 1 Kings 2:8–9, 36–46). Given the Lord’s support of His appointed Davidic king (Ps. 2), it is not altogether surprising that Shimei would be killed. The problem is that David promised to spare Shimei’s life (2 Sam. 19:16–23). David kept the letter of the promise here, for he did not kill Shimei. Still, the spirit of the promise was violated, for David had someone else do it. This kind of duplicity revealed to Israel that despite the greatness of David and Solomon, the nation needed a king more righteous than they.
Today’s passage concludes by telling us that the kingdom of God was established (1 Kings 2:46). This was possible only by grace, for David’s and Solomon’s actions during the transfer of kingship were sinful. Because all of us are sinners, the kingdom can be established and expanded only through the gracious work of God. We remain utterly dependent on the grace of God for the growth of the kingdom.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 9
2 Kings 11:1–20
2 Kings 21:19–26