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David was a murderer and an adulterer. Both crimes were punishable by death under the law of Moses.

Solomon had . . . how many wives and concubines? I don't even remember.

Why was neither David nor Solomon stoned to death? Was there any provision in the law for special cases when the one who commits a crime is the king of Israel?

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    The punishments had been defined, but they were very rarely fulfilled. I can't remember a single passage where an adulterer was stoned, even though there's a lot of adultery reported. Sep 25, 2011 at 14:50
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    Who would condemn the king, appointed by God, to death? If God appoints someone, it would seem that God is the only one to judge that person. Sep 25, 2011 at 16:14
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    It's good to be the king Jun 22, 2014 at 21:50

6 Answers 6

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Solomon married his concubines, so he wasn't practicing adultery - just polygamy, which was not forbidden.

David murdered Uriah, but did it by proxy. He did not kill Uriah, rather he set up a situation in which he would fall in battle. Beyond that, yes David "killed his ten thousands," but did so in battle, and thus it isn't murder. And as Caleb pointed out, God punished David.

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  • Tagging onto your previous post, is the conclusion of this post that the "stoned to death" punishment is applicable only for direct (non-proxied) murders?
    – Pacerier
    Jun 2, 2012 at 20:16
  • @Pacerier I think there is a distinction between a legal penalty (which is ultimately enforced by man) and divine retribution. You'd have to raise the question the question with a Rabbinic lawyer to get a full answer. Jun 5, 2012 at 15:47
  • I think murder by proxy is still murder, a just council of fair judges would agree.
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2014 at 9:41
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    Nice, but what about David's adultery? Did people think that God's terrible punishment was sufficient? Jun 22, 2014 at 10:01
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Yes, there was a special provision. God personally enacted a punishment.

In the case of David, God caused his son to die and did not permit him to be the one to build the temple.

2 Samuel 12:14 (ESV)
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.

1 Chronicles 28:3 (ESV)
But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’

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  • What about Solomon? Sep 25, 2011 at 18:46
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    @El'endia: Solomon lost his legacy. Israel was at its strongest ever under his reign, but after his death the kingdom was split and slowly began its decline.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Sep 25, 2011 at 18:56
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    Ended his days in domestic misery? [citation needed]
    – Caleb
    Sep 25, 2011 at 18:56
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    @Caleb - Thank you Caleb, but I was talking about provision in the law, while what you are talking about is merely how God dealt with David about his crimes that took place long after the law had been given. My point was is there any such provisions in the law like "However, if the sinning one is your king, he shall not be put to death. His punishment will be enacted on him from above at the right time" or something like that.
    – brilliant
    Sep 25, 2011 at 21:34
  • @brilliant I see what you're getting at. This might take quite a bit of research. I don't think there is a scriptural reference to exactly how that would work, and I don't know that even in the civil laws of the time if there would have been such provisions. It wasn't a democracy! The scripture we do have helps people that live under even the worst dictators rest in peace knowing that justice will be done even to kings.
    – Caleb
    Sep 26, 2011 at 6:20
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This question isn't really a Christian doctrinal question, I think. But, the most obvious answer here is that they were both kings. And the literal letter of God's law is always enacted by people (like the King's army or guards), who are generally under the rule of the king -- notably as a sort of proxy for God in the case of the Jews.

So, the king probably has guards, for one. And these guards probably don't question the king's actions or authority. The people, therefore, are not likely going to form a clan and go up against the king's armed guards because he slept around. They'd just be slaughtered.

I.e., no one's going to stone the king unless God explicitly tells the people to do so via a prophet, even if the king should rightfully be stoned according to the letter of the law! And even then, the king's guards probably need to be in cahoots with the rebels, so to speak, before the people will actually take action -- or at least any successful action.

So, regardless of whether there was a good or strictly legal reason that David and Solomon shouldn't have been stoned, there's no practical reason they would have been. And there are plenty of practical de-motivators at work.

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  • The king of Israel is also in a somewhat special position as noted in David's behavior toward Saul (1 Sam. 24:5-7--David regretted cutting off a corner of the king's robe, killing the king would be a graver issue--and 1 Sam. 26:9-11). Jan 23, 2013 at 3:04
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None of these answers address the apparent conflict of a just king who is above the law and not accountable to its penalties- even to God. They also seem to underestimate the commitment of the Hebrew people to justice and impartiality of the law (we can't conclude that the courts contemporary to David's rule were corrupt), and disregard that the law was both a spiritual agreement with God and a legally binding criminal code within their society.

The answer in David's case is that the law condemned his actions as worthy of death, but did not allow for his execution. We can't just go around stoning people and claim that it's justified by the law. A legal system is unjust that does not permit due process and allows judgement and sentencing of death to be carried out without a trial. Thus, God gave specific instructions concerning a sentence of death in the Torah. The traditional interpretation (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 2a-b) of those instructions maintain that even an ox that is worthy of the death penalty (eg. for killing a person) should be tried by a court of 23 judges.

According to this Judaism.SE question, in order to be eligible under the law for the death penalty on either charge, David would have had to continue in his sin after being confronted by more than one witness that could testify in a court of 23 judges that he saw David persist in his sin after being confronted. This is the very reason for the observation in a previous answer that "not many people were put to death." According to the linked question, a court was considered murderous if it executed a person more frequently than 7 years (some accounts say 70 years).

Nathan, filled with the word of God, convinced David with a parable that he was worthy of death. David does not continue in his sin. He repents Uriah's murder and legitimizes his relationship with Bathsheba, and so he is not eligible to be sentenced to death for his sins (crimes).

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  • I don't think the law required a person to be given the chance to repent before being executed. See Numbers 15:32-36 for example.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 22, 2014 at 10:01
  • On closer inspection, I'm not sure if the instructions for the criminal courts and their proceedings had been given at this point. With the corpus of instructions available to Moses at that time, his only legal action may have been to carry out the prescribed penalty without the due process that came later. Even if they did have the instructions for the courts, they may not have implemented them yet. We know they weren't performing circumcisions in the wilderness. The courts would have been well established by the time of David's rule.
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2014 at 10:36
  • By "this point" I mean your counter example from Numbers.
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2014 at 21:02
  • Fair enough, most of those laws are described in Deuteronomy.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 22, 2014 at 23:09
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It's interesting that in the case of David, he was actually stoned for being a murderer - it just happened a fair bit after the event and wasn't a successful execution because only one guy got in on the action:

5 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! 8 The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

9 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”

10 But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. 14 The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself. - 2 Samuel 16:5-13 NIV

It seems that David didn't challenge in any way the legitimacy of this treatment, but instead asserted that Shimei was following the Lord's will. Rather than excusing himself from such treatment, David trusted in God's mercy to rescue him from what was a righteous judgment.

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  • Simply amazing!
    – brilliant
    May 22, 2017 at 0:56
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There needed to be two or three witnesses for such a one to be pronounced guilty and sentenced to death; one witness was not enough for the death penalty

Numbers 35:30

Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty (nkjv).

Deuteronomy 17:6

Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness (nkjv).

Deuteronomy 19:15

"One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established (nkjv).

Who would be the witnesses in the case of David?

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  • Perhaps, no two witnesses in case of David, but what about the case of Solomon? I guess there were numerous witnesses who could prove that he had many concubines.
    – brilliant
    Dec 14, 2013 at 1:28
  • I thought you already established that Solomon had married his concubines and therefore was not living contrary to the Law of God.
    – user4109
    Dec 14, 2013 at 1:56
  • "He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines" (1 Kings 11:3) - Did he really marry 300 concubines? What's the difference between wives and concubines? How marriage was understood at that time if besides marrying wives one was also suppose to marry his concubines?
    – brilliant
    Dec 14, 2013 at 8:23
  • Nathan, for one...
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2014 at 9:32
  • @brilliant cf. Deut 17:14-20. Actually, a quick search of the law doesn't yield a lot on concubines except mentioning who has them.
    – Andrew
    Jun 26, 2014 at 6:59

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