1 Kings 1 and 2 close out the story of David. When David was “old and well advanced in years” like many elderly folk he could not stay warm. His servants came up with an ingenious solution. They sought a beautiful young virgin to lie on David’s bosom so that he might keep warm. The virgin selected was Abishag the Shunammite. The author(s) of 1 Kings explicitly say, “but the king did not know her sexually.” (1 Kings 1:4) In fact, this was probably the real purpose in bringing this beautiful young virgin into the king’s bedroom. In ancient times, it was thought that a king could maintain his kingdom only so long as he was sexually vigorous. Perhaps there was something true in this perspective since David was obviously not sexually active by this time and soon he died and the kingdom passed to his son.
These opening chapters of 1 Kings deal rather extensively with the succession. David’s second eldest son, Adonijah, wanted to be king and schemed in order to establish himself in that role. Some of David’s servants, like General Joab and the high priest Abiathar, went over to Adonijah’s side. However, Nathan, Zadok, Benaiah, Shimei, Rei, and Bathsheba sided with Solomon. In the end, Solomon won out because Bathsheba and Nathan informed David of what Adonijah was doing and David supported his son Solomon for the kingship, even though Solomon was not his eldest living son. Right before David died, he spoke words of advice and encouragement to Solomon. Notably, he gave to Solomon the same words that were given to Joshua many years before: “Be strong, be courageous…” (1 Kings 2:2). These are words we all need to hear and heed from time to time.
Lawrence Boadt gives this summary of the beginning of Solomon’s reign….
The story of Solomon opens in 1 Kings 2:12, with clear hints of what is to come: “When Solomon was seated upon the throne of his father David, with his rule firmly established…” Above all, he was decisive. He put to death through one excuse or another almost all of the powerful or dangerous rivals from his father’s time: Adonijah, his scheming brother; Joab the general who had made most of David’s victories possible; the former rebel Shimei. He also exiled the Shiloh priest Abiathar back to his home. Next he cemented his relations with neighboring kings, entering into a treaty with Hiram of Tyre to the north, and taking a daughter of the pharaoh of Egypt to be his wife. He did more than make peace with Egypt, however. 1 Kings 4 tells how Solomon organized the new empire of Israel along the lines of administration used in Egypt. David had already set up several officials modeled on Egyptian offices (see 2 Sam 8:16-20; 20:23-26); Solomon added a prime minister, called, as in Egypt itself, the “one over the house.”
The move was the beginning in a whole series of decisions to borrow practices and imitate the ways of foreign powers. Ultimately it led to a revolt within Israel against the introduction of pagan ways. Even the final judgment of the First Book of Kings was that Solomon had been the reason why Israel turned away from the faithful obedience to Yahweh that David his father had observed (1 Kgs 11).
The beginning of Solomon’s compromise is reflected in 1 Kings 3:2-3,
The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.
Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.
Despite this compromise, there were many good things about Solomon, especially at the beginning of his reign. Rather than asking the Lord for wealth, he asked for wisdom, and the Lord gave him both. This wisdom was demonstrated in practical situations brought to Solomon for judgment such as the case of the two prostitutes fighting over a baby.
The early part of Solomon’s reign was looked back upon as a golden age in Israel’s history. This is reflected in 1 Kings 4:20 ff….
Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy. Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life….
He had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them under their vines and fig trees….
God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore…. He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five…. People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
Given that Solomon asked wisdom of the Lord and received it, if you could ask the Lord for only one thing, what would it be?