When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
1 Kings 2:1 (NIV)
There was a time many years ago that I was asked to serve on a team, and agreed to do so. After my first meeting, the team leader called me aside and called me out for some of the opinions I’d expressed in the meeting. It was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve had along my life journey. I was quickly informed that my services on the team were no longer required, and the whole experience made me grateful to walk away.
I thought about that experience as I pondered today’s chapter. It’s actually a very interesting conversation that begins with David on his deathbed, telling his successor, Solomon, to be obedient to God and keep the Law of Moses. David then immediately tells Solomon to “settle a few of the family accounts” Godfather style.
David tells Solomon to have two men killed:
Joab, David’s powerful military general, had committed a number of disloyal acts including killing Absalom without David’s consent and participating in Adonijah’s rebellion.
Shimei, a member of Saul’s family who had cursed David publicly during Absalom’s rebellion. David had let him live, but now wants Solomon to exact revenge.
Solomon also goes on to kill Adonijah his brother, who attempts to conspire with Bathsheba to make Abishag his wife. Abishag was the virgin who had been made part of the king’s harem so as to sleep with David and keep him warm. Adonijah’s request to marry a member of his father’s harem, was a disrespectful insult of Solomon’s authority and would have subtly established Adonijah’s right to the throne. Sleeping with one of your father’s harem in that culture established the son was his father’s successor. The request told Solomon that his older brother will not give up his desire to be king.
Solomon also removes Abiathar the priest, who had sided with Adonijah, and sends him back to his home, stripping him of his priestly power.
From a historical perspective, what Solomon did was not unusual. In the game of thrones for ancient kingdoms, being the king or queen was a precarious position and there were always rivals, even among one’s own family, who would be happy to assassinate the one on the throne in order to seize power. The elimination of known rivals was one of the ways that ancient monarchs secured their position. I mentioned earlier that what Solomon did was Godfatheresque because it’s a very apt parallel. It’s exactly what Michael Corleone does when he takes out all his rivals.
From a leadership perspective, this is also not unusual. When politicians are elected, it’s customary for people in certain key positions to tender their resignation so that the incoming elected official can appoint his or her own people. It’s sometimes the same way in churches when a new pastor is hired or appointed and the staff is expected to offer their resignations. As I look back on the experience of getting fired from the team after my first meeting, it’s clear that the team leader did not trust that I would be a loyal and supportive member. Even if I could have been, their distrust of me would likely have eventually created problems. While I still scratch my head at the way it was done, I’ve always been grateful to have walked away.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself reminded that I can scarce imagine what life and culture were like back in David and Solomon’s day. It was a violent period of history. At the same time, there are lessons that I can glean about leadership and human systems in which I interact. As I ponder it, I realize that have a great deal of autonomy to choose in to our out of most of the systems and circles of influence with which I regularly interact. Some of the wisest choices I believe I’ve made along my life journey have been choices to choose out of dysfunctional systems or systems filled with crazymakers.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.