With Solomon established on the throne of Israel, David could pass on, knowing that his kingdom would continue. Before dying, however, David had final words of wisdom and instruction for his son. These final words actually take up several chapters of the Old Testament, and today we will concentrate on what David said about Solomon’s securing the kingdom.
First, David exhorted Solomon to “be strong and show [himself] a man” (1 Kings 2:1–2). David well understood that many people would try to take Solomon’s throne for themselves, so Solomon would have to be resolved to keep it. He would have to show strength and be a man; that is, Solomon would have to be willing to make the hard decisions necessary to rule Israel rightly.
But this strength would be useless if Solomon disobeyed the Lord. So, David also told Solomon that he needed to keep the Lord’s commands (v. 3). David, of course, was echoing Deuteronomy 17:18–20, which ties the prosperity and longevity of Israel’s king to his law keeping. Israel’s king was not above the law; in fact, he was to be the model law keeper. No matter his military or economic successes, Solomon would ultimately be a failure if he did not obey the law.
Like Deuteronomy 17, David connected the endurance of Solomon and his sons as rulers over Israel with the obedience of Solomon and his sons to the law of God (1 Kings 2:4). This may strike us as odd, since the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7:1–16 seems, at least at first glance, to be unconditional. After all, the Lord told David that He would never take the throne from David’s family and that He would establish David’s kingdom before Him forever even if David’s sons were to sin greatly (vv. 14–16). But what we must understand is that when we speak of unconditional covenants, we do not mean that human beings are to be utterly passive or that there are no requirements whatsoever. The Davidic covenant was unconditional in the sense that the Lord Himself would ultimately ensure that David would have the kind of law-keeping royal son that Deuteronomy 17 demands. In other words, it was unconditional in that God would send the Christ to render the perfect obedience necessary to establish David’s kingdom forever. But the degree to which the other sons of David would experience the blessings of the Davidic covenant was contingent on their good-faith effort to obey the law and to repent when they broke it.