David Prepares Solomon to Succeed Him as King (1 Kings 1; 1 Chronicles 22)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
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Because David had shed so much blood as king, God determined not to allow him to build a house for the Lord. Instead David’s son, Solomon, was given that task (1 Chronicles 22:7-10). So David accepted that his final task was to train Solomon for the job of king (1 Chron. 22:1-16) and to surround him with a capable team (1 Chron. 22:17-29). David provided the vast stores of materials for the construction of God's temple in Jerusalem, saying, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent" (1 Chron. 22:5). He publicly passed authority to Solomon and made sure that the leaders of Israel acknowledged Solomon as the new king and were prepared to help him succeed.

David recognized that leadership is a responsibility that outlasts one's own career. In most cases, your work will continue after you have moved on (whether by promotion, retirement, or taking a different job). You have a duty to create the conditions your successor needs to be successful. In David’s preparation for Solomon, we see three elements of succession planning. First, you need to provide the resources your successor needs to complete the tasks you leave unfinished. If you have been at least moderately successful, you will have learned how to gather the resources needed in your position. Often this depends on relationships that your successor will not immediately inherit. For example, success may depend on assistance from people who do not work in your department, but who have been willing to help you in your work. You need to make sure your successor knows who these people are, and you need to get their commitment to continue helping after you are gone. David arranged for “all kinds of artisans” he had developed relationships with to work for Solomon after he was gone (1 Chron. 22:15).

Second, you need to impart your knowledge and relationships to the person who succeeds you. In many situations this will come by bringing your successor to work alongside you long before you depart. David began including Solomon in the leadership structures and rituals of the kingdom shortly before David’s death, although it appears he could have done a much better job of this if he’d started earlier (1 Kings 1:28-40). In other cases, you may not have any role in designating your successor, and you may not have any overlap with him or her. In that case, you’ll need to pass on information in writing and through those who will remain in the organization. What can you do to prepare the work and your successor to thrive, for God’s glory, after you've gone?

Third, you need to transfer power decisively to the person who takes over the position. Whether you choose your own successor or whether others make that decision without your input, you still have a choice whether or not to publicly acknowledge the transition and definitively pass on the authority you previously had. Your words and actions will confer either a blessing or a curse on your successor. A recent example is the manipulation that Vladimir Putin engaged in to maintain power after term limitations prevented him from seeking a third consecutive term as President of Russia. He arranged for some of the President’s powers to be transferred to the Prime Minister, then used his influence to get a former subordinate elected President, who appointed Putin as Prime Minister immediately afterwards.[1] After one term as Prime Minister, Putin easily stepped in as President again, at the invitation of the incumbent, who stepped aside.[2] As a result, concentration of power in Putin’s hands has continued unabated for decades, just what term limits are intended to prevent, quite possibly to the detriment of Russia and its neighbors. In contrast, David arranged for Solomon to be publicly anointed as king, transferred the symbols of monarchy to him, and presented him publicly as the new king while David himself was still living (1 Kings 1:32-35, 39-40).