Not long before dying, David charged Solomon to take up the responsibilities of king and prepared his son to build the temple (2 Kings 2:1–9; 1 Chron. 22–26). But as we see in today’s passage, David had some final words also for the other leaders of the nation. So, he gathered various officials and tribal officers to leave them with some instructions.
David’s final words to the Israelite leaders explained why David did not build the temple, made it clear that Solomon was to succeed him, and exhorted them to keep the law of God. We will focus on the latter two. First, David’s charge left no doubt that Solomon was to follow him as king of Israel, even revealing to Israel’s leaders that the Lord Himself had made the choice. This is one of the few places where we read of the Lord’s specifically choosing a king after David’s reign. But it was important for God to make His choice of Solomon clear, for Solomon was the first son to follow David, and the people needed clarity as to which of David’s several sons would continue the line of kings. Second, Solomon was not David’s only son or even the most likely of David’s sons to be chosen, for David had several other sons older than Solomon who would ordinarily come before him in the line of succession (2 Sam. 3:2–5). Finally, Solomon’s birth by an adulterous relationship would have made Solomon suspect as David’s successor (11:1–12:25). David’s charge to Israel’s leaders legitimated Solomon’s rule, but it also evidenced God’s freedom. As when the Lord chose Jacob, David, and many others, His choice of Solomon proves His freedom to do the unexpected, to use the unlikeliest players to advance His kingdom.
In these final words, David also called the leaders of Israel to obey the law if they were to possess the land. There would be righteous kings after David, rulers such as Hezekiah and Josiah who would lead great reforms. But their reforms proved only temporary, for after their deaths, the people of God returned to wickedness, and eventually they went into exile (2 Kings 18:1–6; 22:1–2; 2 Chron. 36:15–21). It was insufficient for the kings alone to keep God’s covenant, and the best of the old covenant kings could not impart holiness to God’s people. Both king and people had to keep God’s law, and ultimately only Christ could do this perfectly. As both the king of Israel and the true Israelite, He fulfilled the demands of the covenant, guaranteeing our salvation forever.