Timing is Everything
1 Kings 2:26-35
26 And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you shared in all my father’s affliction.”
27 So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh. (1 Samuel 2:31–36)
28 When the news came to Joab—for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom—Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and caught hold of the horns of the altar.
29 And when it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.”
30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.’ ” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”
31 The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him, and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.
32 The Lord will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah.
33 So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever. But for David and for his descendants and for his house and for his throne there shall be peace from the Lord forevermore.”
34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and put him to death. And he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.
35 The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in place of Joab, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.
King Solomon continues to take care of business as he cleans up some lingering details left over from David’s reign. Having dispatched the usurper, Adonijah, it is now time to deal with the rest of the men who tried to thwart David during his reign or who stand in the way of peace for Solomon during his time as king. First, he deals with the priest who joined Adonijah during his coup. Solomon chooses mercy over vengeance out of respect for the fact that Abiathar helped David with the worship life of God’s people. Nonetheless, Abiathar is stripped of his role as priest and he is sent home in disgrace. If you read 1 Samuel 2:31–36, (1 Samuel 2:31-36) you will see that this is also in fulfillment of the curse God placed upon the family of Eli whose sons were evil men. In truth, Abiathar was blessed to escape with his life. Solomon could just as easily have ordered his execution.
Next in line for retribution was Joab. He sees what is coming as Adonijah and Abiathar are dealt with and runs to the temple, grabbing onto the horns of the altar (specifically, the altar used for burnt offerings.) This altar was placed in the courtyard of the tabernacle, outside of the building that housed the Ark of the Covenant. Those who had accidentally (or maybe even purposefully) killed another could run to this altar, grabbing onto the horns (see the pictures) and beg for sanctuary until the matter had been ironed out. This is where Joab runs when he realizes he is next on Solomon’s list. In Joab’s case, Solomon doesn’t not honor the cry for sanctuary and Joab is finally made to pay the price for the murders he committed.