Much of this chapter is a repeat of 1 Chronicles 22, where David entrusts Solomon with crown and Temple, and reminds him to follow God’s rules. I suspect that this was done for literary effect, so that David’s passing of the baton brackets the description of the baton to be passed.

The main difference between the two chapters is that former implied a private audience between father and son, whereas this time the speech is very public.

Gathering the Band

David begins by gathering together all the notables of Israel: The federal and tribal officials, the stewards, the army commanders, David’s Mighty Men, and all the distinguished warriors.

To make his speech, David rises to his feet (1 Chron. 28:2). This struck me as a little odd, given the power dynamics. In many cultures, a throne is a symbol of royal power, and it is the privilege of a king to remain seated while all others must stand in his presence. That may or may not be the cultural custom in Israel, except that the Chronicler makes a point to mention David standing. That’s very suspicious.

In reading James Bradford Pate’s commentary on the use of the term “my brethren” in David’s address to his officials, I wondered if his standing might not be a form of self-debasement. The word and the gesture, taken together, bring David to the same level as his officials, emphasizing their unity. Or something like that. Which still leaves the why, but then I think we’re getting into theology.

Another possibility is proposed by the New Bible Commentary: “In normal circumstances, as many archaeological discoveries suggest, David would have spoken seated, the more so because of his age. His standing emphasizes the religious nature of the occasion” (p.383).

If that’s the case, the use of the phrase “my brethren” might still be related. But the point would be that this is not just a speech, but a consecration of Solomon’s reign – a melding of the political and the religious.

The Speech

David begins by addressing his officials. It begins with the same speech we’ve seen so many times: David really wanted to be the one to build the Temple, and he went as far as to make all the preparations for construction, but God forbade him.

Here, David agrees with himself, that God won’t allow him to build the Temple because he has shed blood (compare 1 Chron. 28:3 to 1 Chron. 22:8). It’s worth noting that David is the only one to make this claim (though he talks as if he’s quoting God directly in 1 Chron. 22). When God speaks through a prophet, however, the reason is that he’s always been a tent god and needs a little more time to ease into a new way of living (1 Chron. 17:4-6, 2 Sam. 7:5-7). A possible reading is that the stuff about the blood is David’s own invention, perhaps the product of his conscience. Which, of course, brings up a whole can of worms about whether David is a reliable source for knowing what God thinks or feels.

In any case, David comforts himself with the fact that God may not have chosen him to build the Temple, but he did choose him to father a dynasty that would rule for ever (oops), and that God has chosen Judah to lead Israel. Brant Clements, of Both Saint and Cynic, notes that the Chronicler does not narrate this choosing – it’s simply assumed that the reader would be familiar with the story. Unfortunately for us, while we do have a story where God chooses David from among his siblings (1 Sam. 16), we do not have a story in which he chooses Judah.

Further, while God has given David many sons, he has chosen Solomon to be his successor, and to be the one who will build the Temple.

When he spoke to his people in 1 Chron. 22:17-19, he implored them to help Solomon. Here, he does much the same thing, albeit in a different way. He warns them that Solomon’s kingdom will be established forever, but only if he manages to keep God’s commandments and ordinances. Therefore, the people of Israel must help him out by keeping the commandments themselves, so that they can keep this lovely land and be able to leave to their descendants.

To Solomon

David next addresses his own son, warning him to serve God “with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chron. 28:9). This is important because, according to David, God can read minds. So no funny business! (Critics of the Bible will often point out that God’s omniscience can be a little spotty – compare David’s statement here to Gen.22:12, for example, where God must stage an elaborate (and rather horrifying) test in order to find out how Abraham really feels about him.)

Solomon examines the plans of the temple, by Jean-Baptiste Claude Eugène Guillaume

Solomon examines the plans of the temple, by Jean-Baptiste Claude Eugène Guillaume

Sounding like a preacher, David tells his son that “if you seek him [God”, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever” (1 Chron. 28:9). He then closes by telling Solomon that he has been chosen by God to build the Temple, so he must be strong and do it. This really lacks the punch of 1 Chron. 22:16’s “Arise and be doing!”

Having make his speeches, David presents Solomon with the blueprints he’s drawn up for the Temple, his plans for how the Temple jobs should be allocated, and minutiae like how much the gold and silver vessels used in services should weigh, etc. Solomon may get the credit for building the Temple, but it’s clear that David isn’t going to let him do much more than rubber stamp.

The passage is terribly boring, but there were a few details that jumped out at me. The first is the mirroring of Exodus 25: David handing his instructions to Solomon here feels awfully similar to God handing his instructions to Moses in Exodus.

There’s also a reference to the instructions being written down “from the hand of the Lord” (1 Chron. 28:19). Does this imply a written text to which the Chronicler has access? Or of whose existence the Chronicler is aware? Are we meant to understand that God, himself, wrote out the instructions, or that he “wrote” them using David as a conduit? It’s a throwaway line that receives no clarification, despite the questions it raises (at least to a modern reader).

Finally, David gives Solomon instructions for a “golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant” (1 Chron. 28:18). This description sounds an awful lot like the “mercy seat” described in Exodus 25:17-22, which was built under Moses’s direction. Is this referring to something else, or do we have here a secondary origin story?

David closes off the chapter by encouraging Solomon to be strong and courageous, because God will not fail or forsake him… at least until after the Temple is finished.