If you read the first couple of chapters of 1 Kings, you come across a whole bunch of characters the author just assumes you know about. That’s because 1 Kings is really a continuation of the story found in 1 and 2 Samuel. If you don’t have time to read those two great books, here’s a few characters mentioned in 1 Kings 1-2 we need to be aware of:
King David – he’s the main man in much of 1 and 2 Samuel – the shepherd that would be king. He’s a pivotal figure in the history of Israel and although not perfect and capable of outrageous sin (e.g. adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of one of his mighty men Uriah; the census he made near the end of his reign; his propensity to marry any beautiful woman he could get his hands on) is seen as the model king, a man after God’s own heart. David was an all-action king who was a great warrior, poet, harp player, song writer and servant of God. By the time we see him in Kings, he’s the shadow of his former self.
Absalom – this dashing, handsome, long-haired man is one of David’s sons who is long dead when we hit Kings. He is mentioned a few times in reference mainly to his rebellion against his dad, but before that he also killed his older brother for raping his sister (the consequences of David’s many marriages). He decided he wanted to be king, managed to get a following and an army and marched on Jerusalem, driving David out of the city for a while. It was a deeply sad time for Israel, but the revolt was eventually put down in a final battle, where the commander of David’s armies, Joab killed Absalom in rather comical fashion. Absalom really was left rueing his beautiful long hair as his hair got caught in thick branches after retreating on a mule, leaving him suspended in mid-air. Nobody dared kill him, other than Joab who thrust three javelins into his heart.
Joab – David had told Joab not to kill his son, but Joab was a rather ruthless general. Highly effective as David’s commander, Joab also had two brothers, Abishai and Asahel. David often rued them as the sons of Zeruiah. His youngest brother Asahel was killed in a battle by the opposing commander Abner in David’s civil war with Ish-Bosheth (one of Saul’s sons), at the beginning of David’s reign from Hebron. After the long civil war with Ish-Bosheth had ended, David allowed Abner to go in peace and respected him. Joab thought this crazy and in revenge for killing his brother, Joab murdered him. Following the rebellion of Absalom, David had replaced Joab with Absalom’s commander, Amasa. Joab didn’t take this well and at the beginning of another rebellion (with a guy called Sheba), Joab makes to hug him in friendship and instead, Joab stabs him and kills him. Joab was an effective but ruthless army commander. One of few men willing to challenge David, but also happy to do David’s dirty work for him (he didn’t seem to mind placing Uriah at the front to make sure he died).
Abiathar – was a loyal priest who served David for most of David’s reign. One of his early followers. He is also descended from the line of Eli which is a connection the writer of 1 Kings makes in chapter 2:27 when Solomon exiles him. The writer connects this with the prophecy made about Eli and his descendants in 1 Samuel 2:27-36.
Zadok – was another priest who served David faithfully, often together with Abiathar. During Absalom’s rebellion David told Zadok to return to Jerusalem with the ark of the covenant and report back to David any news or plans of David’s rebellious son.
Benaiah – one of David’s mighty men and the head of his personal bodyguard. Hard as nails, described as a ‘valiant fighter from Kabzeel, [who] performed great exploits’ (2 Samuel 23:20), he was a killer of lions and mighty warriors, including really tall Egyptians. All of this made him one of the most famous warriors in the kingdom.
Shimei – during David’s retreat from Jerusalem and Absalom, David and his men come across a prominent man called Shimei son of Gera. He is of the house of Saul, and still feeling rather loyal to Saul after the fall of the house of Saul, instead of helping David, he threw curses and stones at him. Abishai, Joab’s brother wanted to kill him, but David let him live. After all, if his own son hated David, how much more the house of Saul. Probably not the Shimei mentioned in 1 Kings 1:8 (cf. 1 Kings 4:18).
Nathan – the prophet of God. God’s faithful messenger. We see him in action in two key places in 2 Samuel. He is the prophet through whom God promises David that among other things, his kingdom will last forever. And he was also brave enough to confront David about his behaviour in David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) to cover up the fact Bathsheba was pregnant.
Bathsheba – already mentioned, Bathsheba was a beautiful young woman, possibly a non-Israelite, who was married to Uriah the Hittite. One evening David saw her bathing, couldn’t take his eyes of her, summoned her, and slept with her. The one-night stand got Bathsheba pregnant and when Uriah was unwilling to sleep in a comfortable bed (and with his wife) while his men were on campaign, David despatched a letter to Joab, asking him to place him in line where the fighting was it’s fiercest to make sure he died. The baby died after a short illness much to the agony and pain of David. But now Bathsheba was his wife, she bore him another son. A son named Solomon.