The Sixty Second Scroll
Abiding to the ritual avelut ("mourning") of King David’s death, Solomon and his brothers received condolences for the week of shiva and attended no marriages nor partook of any festive meals during shloshim, the thirty days that followed. King Solomon’s council meetings were minimal events that addressed only the essential issues necessary to maintain the reign of the House of David. Any decision or issue that could be postponed was set aside. On the last day of shloshim, with what sounded like a note of regret in his voice, Solomon announced the untimely death of Joab as the result of an attack by thieves. Apparently the young men who Benaiah sent to perform the assassination were not prepared to deal with the wiles of that old fox, who anticipated the attack and gave much better than he got. Three were killed at a distance with javelins and two more died in the close sword work. Only Benaiah knew how many were wounded in the fight.
Solomon bade his brothers attend the funeral of Joab and sent for Adonijah who he selected to lead the delegation of mourners from the House of David. He did all of this without consultation or advice from me. Solomon asked me to join his brothers, as “Friend of the King,” to honor the memory of the man who had fought so bravely alongside his father and when we were alone, he did solicit my advice: He had written a eulogy for Joab that he wanted me to read to those who attended the funeral. He was unsure of some of the history and very much aware of the political weight of his words. “Please read this aloud to me,” he asked, “For in this matter I find I can not trust the sound of my own voice.”
I scanned the scroll and noted some errors in the flow of his words and then read it aloud, improvising small changes to correct those errors so that my spoken words better expressed the meaning he’d intended. When I finished he thanked me and said, “You do my poor efforts great kindness in how you reshape my choice of words. Apparently I still have much to learn from my teacher.”
“Your father’s old scribe Shavsha taught me how to read between the lines so that you can hear the voice of the author,” I said, “… and in these words I can clearly hear your voice trying to find the voice of your father in praise of the service of an old friend.”
Solomon looked down at his hands and said, “If Joab had not chosen my brother over me, I would have spared him, but his choice left me no choice. My father knew this and that is why he asked me to make an example of him. I pray that I may spare my brother Adonijah and he will understand this and refrain from any further challenge to my reign. I understand that when you first came to Jerusalem that Adonijah was the only one of my father’s sons who befriended you.”
“That is true,” I replied, “Adonijah has been a true friend to me and my family for nearly thirty years. I cannot say what he will do in the future, for he has struggled for your father’s love, and in his struggle your brother has become a man who is hard to read.”
Looking up from his hands Solomon drew a deep breath and said, “Today… in fulfilling the last wishes of my father, my hands are stained with the blood of a brave and honorable man; and in a short while, they will be stained with more blood, from other men. If my brother remains your friend, then watch him closely and please tell Adonijah that I bear him no ill will. Tell him that of all our father’s sons, I never dreamed I would become King; but in his mind, our father believed that G_D chose me to reign over the Kingdoms and finish building the Temple. I never asked for this; but it has become my duty and therefore I must do what needs to be done to honor our father by serving the will of G_D and insuring the protection of the people of the Nation. For me to do anything less than that would reduce me to dishonor and even sin.”
As he grew up in the House of David, I had always been very impressed with young Solomon. He was possessed of a very bright mind and his eyes somehow revealed a soul much older than the youngest child of a powerful father. Now at the tender age of seventeen, with a freshly grown wisp of a beard, he bore the weight of a nation on his shoulders and what he’d just said to me came from the depth of that older soul. In the month since his father’s passing, Solomon had obviously given considerable thought to David’s will for the succession and it was now very clear to me that in that time, he had prepared himself to become a King.
I smiled and said, “My Lord King, when you were a child, everyone in this house, family and servants alike, very often spoke of you with the phrase ‘wise beyond his years.” With what I read from this scroll and hear in the words you have just spoken to me, I am convinced that you are most certainly able to honor your father, serve the will of G_D and protect the Nation. I would advise and pray that you never entertain any doubt that you are truly King and that during your reign G_D will continue to bless House of David and honor His Covenant with your father and the Nation.”
It was then that King Solomon completely surprised me with one last request. He picked up a small wooden box ornately carved from the burl of an Acacia tree and inlaid with silver. Removing the lid as he handed it to me, he revealed a handful of honeyed dates, “Please place this small remembrance into the tomb with our old friend Joab, so that when he meets with G_D and my father, they may all share a treat.”
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