When Times Are Good

Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 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.

Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors[c] 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. For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. And he had peace on all sides around him. And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. And those officers supplied provisions for King Solomon, and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month. They let nothing be lacking. Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds they brought to the place where it was required, each according to his duty. 1 Kings 4:20-28.

Times were good for Solomon, but were they good for everyone? So much was spent for the up keep of the king and his officials. Was this a burden to the people who paid for it? Or was everyone so prosperous that it was a small thing to them? God had warned the people, through Samuel, about the high cost of Kings.

David had not as much leisure as this. After all, he was fighting the wars that built the kingdom. This is not to take anything away from Solomon. He was a good king during good times.

We are also living during good times, although you could never tell by the complaining and discontent. Wealth and entertainment are good, until we forget what it all cost those who came before us.

The Lord Gives Wisdom

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, 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. 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.” 1 Kings 3:10-14.

Solomon had been born into a volatile situation. He was heir to a throne, but not the only heir. Two brothers had already threatened his life. He learned that not all his father’s advisors could be trusted, and even his mother could blunder away the throne. He had already made some hard calls, and the weight of that responsibility brought him to a dependence on God. This is why Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding; so he could be a good and wise ruler.

This is good for all of us, also. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” ESV. We have the same access to wisdom, if we will seek it.

The Paybacks Begin

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.” King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar[f] the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! Now therefore as the Lord lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today.” So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died. 1 Kings 2:19-25.

Adonijah gives Solomon the first test of his resolve. He approaches Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, to ask for Abishag to be his wife. What Bathsheba sees as harmless Solomon sees as a first move toward getting the throne back. Abishag was David’s most recent woman, so it was a step toward getting other things that had been David’s. So Solomon begins to clean house, executing Adonijah and Joab, and banishing Abiathar, the priest, for being part of his brother’s conspiracy.

Yet Another Pretender to the Throne

Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. 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.

Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother. 1 Kings 1:5-10.

Perhaps Adonijah thought David and his household would run away again when another son attempted the throne. He may have thought that Absalom just made the mistake of going to battle and getting himself killed. After all, Joab, the man who actually killed Absalom, was on his side!

This time, cooler heads prevailed. Nathan, the prophet, knows Solomon is supposed to inherit the throne, and he arranges an emergency coronation. The celebration is so loud that Adonijah’s entire party, in another town, can hear it. When they find out what it is, it is Adonijah who blinks and runs for refuge at the altar.

Solomon had the right to be king. David had promised him the throne. But sometimes it is not enough to have the right. Sometimes you must insist on it. When God gives us a promise, the devil will always say, as he did in the garden, “Did God really say that?” He wants you to be unsure and to doubt. It takes faith to walk in obedience. Doubt steps back and let’s the snakes prevail.

A Census of Death

Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” But 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?” But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel. They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer. Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon, and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000. 2 Samuel 24:1-9.

This is one of the places in the Bible that makes me ask, “what am I missing here?” Even Joab knew this was a bad idea, and he pleaded with him not to do this.

In Exodus 30:12, God told Moses that when he takes a Census he must pay the Lord a ransom for each man counted, to insure there would not be a plague brought upon them. So, David had broken the law. Still, hadn’t God incited David to do this?

The New American Standard Bible is closer to the original language that says, “it incited David.” This could mean that it was not God, but Satan or some other demon motivated this.

So, was God already angry with his people? Was David merely presumptuous, like Saul? We can’t be sure, but let it suffice to say that people in authority must be very careful not to misuse what God gave them.