I’m intrigued when I read the account of Solomon setting up his administration after the death of his father, David. It occupies the first several chapters of 1 Kings. In chapter one we have the account of Adonijah, Solomon’s step-brother, usurping the throne with the help of Joab, David’s long time commander of the army, and the priest, Abiathar, even before King David is dead. The narrative unfolds as to how Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and Nathan the prophet make David aware of this and how David proclaims Solomon king in his stead. Chapter 2 deals with David’s charge to Solomon, David’s death, and the firm establishment of Solomon’s reign through, sadly enough, a number of just executions. The final verse of chapter 2 says, “So the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon.” Chapter 3 deals with Solomon’s wisdom; how he received it and how he administered it.
But in chapter 4 we find a roll call of Solomon’s officials from the High Priest, to the commander of the Army, to the administrator of the officers. But what caught my attention was a man named Zabud, the son of Nathan the prophet, who himself was a priest but was also designated the “king’s friend” (1 Kings 4:5). When I read that, I wondered what the office of “king’s friend” was all about? This term “friend” here seems to be indicating more than a relationship but an office.
It seems that Zabud was a personal advisor to the king. King David also had a “friend” beyond the famous friendship he had with Jonathan. David’s “friend” (trusted personal advisor) was a man named Hushai; the Archite (2 Sam. 15:32-37). In the narrative of 2 Sam 15 David is fleeing Jerusalem in the face of his son Absalom’s rebellion and attempt to take the kingdom from his father. One of David’s court counselors, Ahithophel, joined Absalom in the conspiracy. David prayed, “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (v. 31). God immediately answers that prayer as his friend, Hushai, comes to join David in his flight to the wilderness. But David urges his friend to go back into Jerusalem and feign loyalty to Absalom so as to defeat the counsel Ahithophel would give to the usurping son. The narrative in the next few chapters unfolds just exactly how Hushai was able to do that and how critical it was to David’s ultimate victory and retention of his kingdom. But it is also interesting that in 16:17 David is referred to as Hushai’s friend. This is taken to indicate that more than an office is being indicated by the word “friend”. It seems to indicate that there was a mutual friendship relationship that was part of the dynamic. Hushai was more than David’s advisor (official office) … he was his friend (close personal relationship).
Back in 1 Kings when Zabud is mentioned in this “friend office” it is also mentioned that he is the son of Nathan. Nathan was David’s priest and contemporary. Zabud and Solomon would have grown up together. Did they run around the palace playing hide and seek as boys? Did they explore the countryside around Jerusalem as teenagers? There is no way to determine those things but somehow these two fellows came to know each other well enough for Zabud to become Solomon’s trusted personal advisor when he became the king. It seems he had an official capacity but it also implies a close personal relationship. This is what it meant to be the “king’s friend”.
I wonder how many of us have a Zabud or Hushai in our lives? I would hope, that if we are married, that would be our spouse. I know that is not always the case, but it should be. I know my wife, Michal, is my best friend and closest advisor. I have learned over the years to listen to her. Nobody loves me like she does. Nobody knows me like she does. Nobody can help me as much as she can. I’m so sorry for married couples whose relationship is not like this and if it is not, that can be remedied and, in my opinion, needs to be.
But if for some reason, it is not your spouse, it needs to be somebody. We all need someone who knows us well enough and loves us enough to be speaking truth into our lives. It needs to be someone we trust unreservedly and fully. If a king did not have this kind of friend, he was placed at a distinct disadvantage in his rule. The king needed someone who would speak plainly, frankly, truthfully, and in the king’s best interest. He would be surround by sycophants more than willing to affirm everything they thought the king wanted affirmed. What the king really needed was “friend/advisor” that would say what needed to be said even if the king might not like it.
Who is your “king’s friend”? May we each have one. If you do not have one, ask God for one. No life should be without one.