1 Kings 2:1–11
1 Kings 2:1–11 relates the deathbed charge of King David to his son, Solomon. After delivering typical advice fit for a new ruler, David leaves Solomon with three specific tasks. Arising out of events in the course of David’s own reign, these three tasks comprise David’s unfinished business. David should have dealt with these items himself, but he had left them undone for a variety of reasons—some legitimate, and some dubious.
The first charge that David left Solomon is “Do not let [Joab’s] gray head go down to the grave in peace” (v. 6 TNIV). From David’s description, it seems clear that Joab had been guilty of criminal activity (v. 5). As a result, David (and his dynasty) was guilty by association. Leaving Joab unpunished was tantamount to tacit approval of Joab’s criminality. Upon David’s death, Solomon moved quickly to deal with this issue, having Joab executed even though he sought refuge at the Lord’s altar (v. 34).
The next item of unfinished business related to Barzillai, who had treated David well when he fled Jerusalem during the revolt of his son, Absalom (v. 7). David tells Solomon to show kindness to Barzillai’s children. The word kindness here translates the Hebrew word, hesed. This word is often translated as “loving kindness,” and frequently describes God’s covenant faithfulness to His people. Commentator Simon John de Vries calls it a “‘deed of loyalty,’ that… demands reciprocation” (Word Biblical Commentary). This “deed of loyalty” is similar to the Filipino utang na loob, or “debt of gratitude.” David could not forget that he still owed utang na loob to Barzillai. Sadly, he left it for his son to do.
At the same time that Barzillai acted in kindness toward David, another man cursed him in his moment of need (v. 8–9). That man was Shimei. Interestingly, David had seemed to forgive Shimei for his curses, but his deathbed charge to Solomon clearly shows that he still harbored resentment. Solomon handled this charge by compelling Shimei to stay in Jerusalem. Years later, when Shimei returned to Jerusalem following an unauthorized absence, Solomon used that as a pretext to have him executed (v. 46).
Thus, David left Solomon with three pieces of unfinished business. David’s failure to complete them set Solomon on a trajectory that ultimately damaged him and the Davidic dynasty. It forced Solomon to engage in the kind of violence that leads either to further violence or to the forcible suppression of enemies. Rather than leading to good governance, the course was laid for an uneasy peace that unraveled after Solomon’s death. Instead of leaving his unfinished business for Solomon, David should have dealt with these matters himself. He should have confronted Joab with his sinful behavior; he should have found a way to repay his debt of gratitude to Barzillai; and he should have truly forgiven Shimei. What about you? Is there someone you need to confront, repay, or forgive? Do it today!
This week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like David, Jesus was facing the hour of His death. But unlike David, Jesus took care of His business. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). By His death, Jesus had accomplished everything needed to win our salvation. His work was completed! Nevertheless, there is yet some unfinished business that Jesus left for us. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18–20 TNIV). The world is waiting for each one of us to do our part to finish this unfinished business!