7th February: I Kings 8.1-7,9-13; Psalm 131; Mark 6.53-56
The books known as I and II Kings might be compared to a book called Cats authored by a mouse! For this author (about whose identity we can only speculate) the history of the Kings of Israel is almost unrelented decline and decadence; from his perspective all the warnings Samuel gave about the evils of monarchy [I Samuel 8.10-18] come to effect in subsequent history. I Kings begins with the death-bed of King David, the old king befuddled and the pawn of the machinations of his mistresses, and especially of Bathsheba who, against all expectations, succeeds in getting David to name her son Solomon as his heir.
Of course this is history from the perspective of the victors. Solomon becomes King through the collaboration of Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the commander of David’s palace guard. When, in the words of the verse so memorably set to music by
G.F. Handel, ‘Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king’, Solomon set to work quickly putting to death rival claimants until the narrator could write ‘and now the sovereignty was securely in the hands of Solomon.’ [I Kings 3.46]
David’s great accomplishment had been to establish Jerusalem, a land which didn’t belong to any of the twelve tribes, as his capital city with its Temple the place to which all the tribes would come in worship. [Ps 121/122.4] Solomon built the Temple that David had been unable to complete and presided over its consecration. Solomon was now in a position to continue David’s work of unification.