Why Were Adonijah and Joab Killed by King Solomon, and How Can We Be Spared? #278 #ONLYJESUS 2 Kings 2, Psalms 81-82, Ezekiel 33 + Galatians 6.

Happy Wednesday, dear friends! Tonight we are going to debate – Who should be the next king of Israel after David: Solomon, or his older brother Adonijah? Winner gets to be king, loser gets to die. Okay, I’m just kidding – maybe we have all had enough debates for one 24 hour period after last night.

Our Bible passages for today are 2nd Kings 2, Psalms 81-82, Ezekiel 33 and Galatians 6, and our focus passage will be our 2nd Kings 2 passage, in which we will see Solomon order the execution of not one, but THREE different people -one of whom was his half-brother. In yesterday’s reading, we found out that one of King David’s sons, Adonijah, had pulled an Absalom, and declared himself king in the place of his father, assuming perhaps that he would inherit the throne, being older than Solomon. King David had other ideas, however, and crowned Solomon king instead, and most of the people followed Solomon, which put Adonijah in an extremely dangerous position. Seeking mercy, he fled to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the altar, and this action saved him – Solomon spared his life, and let him go free. I know your question: altars have HORNS? Yes, as it happens, when God told Moses how to build the altar in Exodus 27, he specified that it would have horns:

“You are to construct the altar of acacia wood. The altar must be square, 7½ feet long, and 7½ feet wide; it must be 4½ feet high. Make horns for it on its four corners; the horns are to be of one piece. Overlay it with bronze.  – Exodus 27:1-2 (also Exodus 29:12 12 Take some of the bull’s blood and apply it to the horns of the altar with your finger; then pour out all the rest of the blood at the base of the altar.) 

The horns were for the application of blood, and they protruded from the top of the altar, and were considered a place for mercy. Adonijah survived because he was repentant and took hold of the horns of the altar, but in today’s chapter, we see that Solomon’s mercy is only temporary, and Adonijah is executed…let’s read the passage and find out why.

So – a mystery for us: Why does Solomon take so much umbrage to Adonijah’s request? Scholars have several opinions. For one, it would have been highly improper for a son to have one of his father’s concubines, even though Abishag was not intimate with David, and thus probably wasn’t exactly a concubine. (For now, we’ll conveniently dodge the question about the morality of concubines…) Probably the bigger reason why Solomon ordered the death of Adonijah is because this was a political move that represented more scheming on Adonijah’s part. Absalom the usurper had already stolen his father David’s concubines years earlier in a previous attempt to steal the kingdom, and Solomon no doubt saw a similar thing unfolding again, so Adonijah likely wasn’t executed because he wanted to marry an attractive woman, but because he was likely still scheming to usurp Solomon and become king.

Of more interest to our discussion today is the mystery of why Solomon initially spared Adonijah when he took hold of the horns of the altar, but did not spare Joab when he did the same thing. Why show mercy to Adonijah and no mercy to Joab?  The most practical answer is that we don’t exactly know. A big clue is found in verse 32, where Solomon gives the reason for Joab’s execution: his murder of Abner and Amasa years earlier. Charles Spurgeon takes this episode in the life of Solomon and discusses it in a deep spiritual sense in an amazing sermon he delivered in March of 1884. I’d like to summarize it for us, because Spurgeon uses these mercies and executions to bring out some great spiritual truths for us:

Joab found no benefit of sanctuary even though he laid hold of the horns of the altar of God’s house, from which I gather this lesson-that outward ordinances will avail nothing. Before the living God, who is greater and wiser than Solomon, it will be of no avail to any man to lay hold upon the horns of the altar. But, secondly, there is an altar-a spiritual altar-whereof if a man do but lay hold upon the horns, and say, “Nay; but I will die here,” he shall never die; but he shall be safe against the sword of justice for ever; for the Lord has appointed an altar in the person of his own dear Son, Jesus Christ, where there shall be shelter for the very vilest of sinners if they do but come and lay hold thereon.

There is no salvation apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ… If you died with the sacramental bread in your mouths, ye will be lost unless your faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Your hands, which are superstitiously laid upon the altar’s horns, might as well be placed upon your weapons of rebellion. Outward emblems can do you no good whatsoever if you remain unspiritual. Without faith in Christ, even the ordinances of God become things to condemn you. If ye eat and drink unworthily ye eat and drink condemnation to yourselves, not discerning the Lord’s body; and, if this be true, how dare any unconverted, unbelieving man put his trust in the outward ordinance of which he has no right to partake?

There are others who put their trust in religious observances of sundry kinds. Their visible altar-horn is something which they believe to be very proper and right, and which, indeed, may be so if wisely used, for the thing is good if used lawfully; but it will be their ruin if it be put out of its own place. For instance, there are, doubtless, some who think that they are all right because they frequent sermons. They delight to be found hearing the gospel. Now, in this you do well, for, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”; but, if you suppose that the mere hearing of a sermon with the outward ear can save you, you suppose what is untrue, and you build the house of your hope on sand. “Oh, sir, I have sat to hear the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ these many years.” Yes, and these many years you have rejected it….]

“Oh, but,” says another, “I attend prayer meetings.” I admit that it is not every hypocrite that will regularly come to prayer-meetings, but there are some that do; and, though you are so fond of prayer-meetings, yet, my dear friend, unless it can be said of you, “Behold he prayeth,” you need not make sure of safety. Your being found in the place where prayer is wont to be made may be no true sign of grace. “Ay, but I do more than that, for I have prayers in my own house.” Yes, and very proper, too. I would that all did the same; I am grieved that any should neglect the ordinance of family prayer. But yet, if you think that the reading of a form of prayer in your household, or even the use of extempore prayer, is a thing to be relied upon for salvation, you do greatly err. “He that believeth in him hath everlasting life”, but he that believes not in the Lord Jesus Christ does but offer unbelieving prayer to God…

“But I regularly read a chapter,” says one. I am extremely glad you do, and God bless that chapter to you! I would that all were in the habit of reading right thought the Bible regularly, and endeavouring to understand it; but, if you trust in your Bible-readings as a ground of salvation, you are resting upon a mere soap-bubble which will burst under your weight. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, producing in the soul a change of heart, a new birth unto God, this is what is wanted; and, apart from that, all the Bible reading you ever practice can do you no good whatsoever. “Ye must be born again. Ye must be born again”; and if they be not this inward change, then vain is all outward observance. You may wash a corpse, you may clothe that corpse in the purest white shroud that was ever woven, but when all is done it does not live; and what are all the outward devotions of a carnal man but dead things which bring no life with them to men dead in sin?

Some are foolish enough to put their confidence in ministers. It would seem to me to be the maddest thing in all the world for anybody to have confidence in me as to helping him in his salvation; and I trust that nobody is such a fool. I cannot even save myself; what can I do for others? 

Ah, well,” says one, “I am free of that. I am a professor of religion, and have been a member of a church now these twenty years.” You may be a member of a church fifty years, but you will be damned at last unless you are a member of Christ. It matters not though you are a church-officer, a deacon, an elder, a pastor, a bishop, or even Archbishop of Canterbury, or an apostle, you will perish as surely as Judas, who betrayed his Master with a kiss, unless your heart is right with God…

“No,” says one, ” but I do not trust in mere profession. I have great reliance upon orthodoxy. I will have sound doctrine.” That is right, friend, I would have all men value the truth. “My confidence is in my sound doctrine.” That is not mine, friend, and I hope that it will not be yours long, for many lost souls have firmly believed orthodox doctrine….

I will not enlarge upon this topic. Whatever you depend upon apart from the blood and righteousness of Christ, away with it! Away with it! If you are even depending upon your own repentance, and your faith, away with them! If you are looking to your own prayers or alms, I can only cry again,-Away with them! Nothing but the blood of Jesus; nothing but the atoning sacrifice; but, if you come and lay your hand upon that, blessed shall you be.


One Reply to “Why Were Adonijah and Joab Killed by King Solomon, and How Can We Be Spared? #278 #ONLYJESUS 2 Kings 2, Psalms 81-82, Ezekiel 33 + Galatians 6.”

  1. Isaac Barr

    I’m confused…where does it say that Solomon spared Adonijah in 2 Kings 2?

    I’m guessing there must have been a typo in the reference.

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