The Books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally joined in one book. We don’t know who the human author of this book was; Jewish traditions say it was Jeremiah and it may very well be so. Wiseman gives a good summary of the Books of 1 and 2 Kings: “The narrative covers almost five hundred years from the initiation to the eclipse of their kingship. It is the story of the rise and fall of kingdoms, of high promise and abject failure, of tragedy and yet of hope.”
A. Adonijah’s bid for the throne.
1. (1-4) King David’s weak condition.
Now King David was old, advanced in years; and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman, a virgin, be sought for our lord the king, and let her stand before the king, and let her care for him; and let her lie in your bosom, that our lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very lovely; and she cared for the king, and served him; but the king did not know her.
a. King David was old, advanced in years: This was the twilight of a glorious reign. David was now so old that he could not even keep himself warm, much less rule the nation.
i. David was about 70 at this time. He seems even older than his years; but for David, it wasn’t just the years – it was the mileage. He seemed to live the lives of four or five men in his lifetime.
b. Let her lie in your bosom, that our lord the king may be warm: This sounds strange – perhaps even immoral – to us, but this was proper of David to allow. This did not bring a moral cloud over the last days of David’s life.
i. It was proper because it was a recognized medical treatment in the ancient world, mentioned by the ancient Greek doctor Galen. When Josephus described this in his Antiquities of the Jews, he said that this was a medical treatment and he called the servants of 1 Kings 1:2 “physicians.”
ii. It was proper because David almost certainly made this young woman his concubine. While it was unwise for David to take more than one wife, it was not at that time illegal or specifically prohibited by God. Later, Adonijah would condemn himself to death by asking for Abishag as a wife. His request would only be so outrageous if Abishag had belonged to David as a concubine.
iii. Therefore they chose someone eligible for marriage or concubinage (a virgin), and a lovely young woman. “Whose beauty might engage his affections, and refresh his spirits, and invite him to those embraces which might communicate some of her natural heat to him, as was designed” (Poole).
c. Abishag the Shunammite: From ancient times, many have wanted to associate this beautiful young woman with the Shulamite addressed in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:13 and throughout).
i. “According to the theory, as she ministered to David, she became romantically involved with his son Solomon and was later the subject of his love poem.” (Dilday)
ii. Yet we must say that this is at best conjecture – and Shumen is not the same as Shulam. “Shunem, the modern Solem, lay eleven kilometers south-east of Nazareth and five kilometers north of Jezreel in Issachar territory, and was visited by Elijah (2 Kings 4:8). There is no need to identify Abishag with the Shulammite of Song of Solomon 6:13” (Wiseman).
d. She cared for the king: This scene of David’s diminished ability shows that the question of David’s successor had to be addressed. King David could not last much longer, and his family history had been marked by treachery and murder. At this point, it was worth wondering if there could be a bloodless transition from David to the next king.
2. (5) Adonijah’s presumption.
Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.
a. Exalted himself: 2 Samuel 3:2-5 describes the sons of David and lists Adonijah as the fourth son. We know that two of the three sons older than Adonijah were dead (Amnon and Absalom), and we suspect that the other older son (Chileab) either also died or was unfit to rule because he is never mentioned after 2 Samuel 3:3. As the oldest living son of David, by many customs Adonijah would be considered the heir to the throne. But the throne of Israel was not left only to the rules of hereditary succession; God determined the next king.
i. Adonijah violated a basic principle in the Scriptures – that we should let God exalt us and not exalt ourselves.
For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge: He puts down one,
And exalts another. (Psalm 75:6-7)
Humble yourselves in the sight of the LORD, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)
b. He prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him: Adonijah had a good marketing campaign, and he knew how to present himself as king. He hoped that if he put forth the image of a king, he would become king in reality.
i. “In effect this was a personal military force designed to anticipate Solomon’s claim by a coup d’etat. (Out) runners were part of a close royal bodyguard.” (Wiseman)
ii. Adonijah was the brother of Absalom, and a look at 2 Samuel 15:1 shows that “He copied the conduct of his brother Absalom in every respect” (Clarke).
3. (6) Adonijah’s character.
(And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, “Why have you done so?” He was also very good-looking. His mother had borne him after Absalom.)
a. His father had not rebuked him at any time: Sadly, David did not do a very good job raising his own sons. David failed to restrain his passions in some areas of his life; his sons showed a much greater inability to restrain their passions. In part, this was because David did not discipline his own sons well.
i. David did not seem to have a very good relationship with his father (1 Samuel 16:11). The godly influence in his life seems to have come more from his mother than from his father. Twice in the Psalms he referred to his mother as a maidservant of the LORD (Psalm 86:16 and 116:16). It is likely that David did not have a good example of parenting from his father.
ii. Yet this does not excuse David’s deficiencies as a father. He knew how his Heavenly Father treated him – how he was comforted and helped by the correcting rod and staff of his Shepherd (Psalm 23:4). He could have learned how to be a good father from his Father in heaven. Even before it was written, David could have known the counsel of Proverbs 29:17: Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.
iii. “David was ever too fond a father, and he smarted for it.” (Trapp)
b. He was also very good-looking: David was a handsome man and was attracted to beautiful women. It doesn’t surprise us that David’s children were very good-looking. This gave them an unfair and unfortunate advantage.
4. (7-10) Adonijah’s banquet.
Then he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they followed and helped Adonijah. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah. And Adonijah sacrificed sheep and oxen and fattened cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by En Rogel; he also invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants. But he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men, or Solomon his brother.
a. They followed and helped Adonijah: Sadly, Joab (David’s chief general) and Abiathar (the high priest of Israel) each supported Adonijah. They did not consult the LORD or David in giving their support to this unworthy son of David.
i. It is sad to see these once trusted associates of David turning against him late in his life. Joab may have sought revenge for David’s choice of Amasa over him (2 Samuel 19:13), and because Benaiah now had more authority over military affairs. Abiathar might have been jealous of Zadok the high priest (2 Samuel 8:17). “Professional rivalry had darkened into bitter hate” (Maclaren).
ii. “Joab, the most powerful of Adonijah’s supporters, had always been fiercely loyal to David, but not to David’s wishes. In supporting Adonijah’s pretentions to the throne, Joab was acting characteristically.” (Patterson and Austel)
iii. “Joab and Abiathar tarnished a life’s devotion and broke sacred bonds, because they thought of themselves rather than of God’s will.” (Maclaren)
b. Nathan… Zadok… and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah: Fortunately, there were some prominent people in Israel who did not support Adonijah.
c. Sacrificed sheep and oxen and fattened cattle: The idea is that Adonijah burned the fat of these animals as a sacrifice to the LORD, and he used the meat to hold a dinner honoring and blessing his supporters.
i. Yet it was important that this was both a sacrifice and a feast. “He had not only a splendid feast, but a great sacrifice; and he gave by this a popular colour to his pretensions, by affecting to receive his authority from God” (Clarke).
B. Nathan and Bathsheba intercede for Solomon.
1. (11-14) Nathan tells his plan to Bathsheba.
So Nathan spoke to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king, and David our lord does not know it? Come, please, let me now give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go immediately to King David and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord, O king, swear to your maidservant, saying, “Assuredly your son Solomon shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ Then, while you are still talking there with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”
a. And David our lord does not know it: This shows both the wrong of Adonijah’s attempt to take the throne and how far removed from power David really was. He didn’t know what was going on around him in the kingdom.
b. That you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon: Nathan knew that if Adonijah became king, he would immediately kill every potential rival to his throne, including Bathsheba and Solomon.
c. Your son Solomon shall reign after me: David made this promise to Bathsheba. The specific promise is not recorded before, but we know from 1 Chronicles 22:5-9 that David did in fact intend for Solomon to succeed him as king.
i. This was a remarkable display of grace – that a son of the wife David took through adultery and murder in the most infamous scandal of his life should become his heir to the throne.
d. While you are still talking there with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words: Nathan knew that David was generally indulgent towards his sons and would find it hard to believe that Adonijah would do such a thing. He arranged it so the message would be presented in a convincing way.
2. (15-27) Bathsheba and Nathan tell David of Adonijah’s bid for the throne.
So Bathsheba went into the chamber to the king. (Now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was serving the king.) And Bathsheba bowed and did homage to the king. Then the king said, “What is your wish?” Then she said to him, “My lord, you swore by the LORD your God to your maidservant, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ So now, look! Adonijah has become king; and now, my lord the king, you do not know about it. He has sacrificed oxen and fattened cattle and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army; but Solomon your servant he has not invited. And as for you, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, that you should tell them who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will happen, when my lord the king rests with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted as offenders.” And just then, while she was still talking with the king, Nathan the prophet also came in. So they told the king, saying, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, “My lord, O king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? For he has gone down today, and has sacrificed oxen and fattened cattle and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, and the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest; and look! They are eating and drinking before him; and they say, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But he has not invited me—me your servant—nor Zadok the priest, nor Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, nor your servant Solomon. Has this thing been done by my lord the king, and you have not told your servant who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
a. Now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was serving the king: This is included to remind us of David’s limited capabilities as king. He needed the help of Bathsheba and Nathan brought to him in the following verses.
b. I and my son Solomon will be counted as offenders: Bathsheba began by telling David the facts about Adonijah’s actions. Then she used this tender appeal, reminding David that her life and the life of Solomon were in grave danger if Adonijah became the king.
c. Nathan the prophet came in: The last place we saw Nathan was in 2 Samuel 12, where he rebuked his friend David over the scandal with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Yet now, at the end of his days, David received Nathan; the sense is that he remained a trusted friend. David did not treat Nathan as an enemy when he confronted him with a painful truth.
i. “So far was David from hatred of the truth, that he loved Nathan the better for his plain dealing while he lived, gave him free access to his bed-chamber, and now nameth him a commissioner for the declaring of his successor.” (Trapp)
d. Has this thing been done by my lord the king, and you have not told your servant: Nathan also stated the facts about Adonijah, and then gave a personal appeal. He asked David – who was his dear and trusted friend – “Is it possible you have chosen Adonijah to be king and have not told me?”
C. Solomon is made king.
1. (28-30) David vows to set things aright for his succession.
Then King David answered and said, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. And the king took an oath and said, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from every distress, just as I swore to you by the LORD God of Israel, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ so I certainly will do this day.”
a. As the LORD lives: This introduced a solemn oath. David would confirm the previous promise he made to Bathsheba, that her son Solomon would become the next king.
b. Solomon your son shall be king after me: David promised to settle the issue that very day. He would abdicate the throne and give the crown to Solomon.
2. (31-37) Arrangements are made for the anointing of Solomon as king.
Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the earth, and paid homage to the king, and said, “Let my lord King David live forever!” And King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. The king also said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon. There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, and he shall be king in my place. For I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.” Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king and said, “Amen! May the LORD God of my lord the king say so too. As the LORD has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”
a. Let my lord King David live forever: This was a customary expression of thanks and honor. Since David knew that death was near, it must have sounded strange in his ears.
b. Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah: These were three prominent leaders in Israel who did not support Adonijah as king. David knew who was loyal to him and who was not.
c. Let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king: This is a rare glimpse of all three offices in cooperation – prophet, priest, and king. Each of these offices was gloriously fulfilled in Jesus.
i. David wanted the proclamation of Solomon as successor to be persuasive. He had five points to the plan:
· Ride on my own mule.
· Let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him.
· Blow the horn.
· Say, “Long live King Solomon!”
· He shall come and sit on my throne.
ii. We might say that God is just as concerned that we know that we are destined for a throne, that we are His sons, heirs, and will reign with King Jesus.
d. Amen! May the LORD God of my lord the king say so too: Benaiah understood an important principle – that unless the LORD God said “Amen!” to the selection of Solomon, he would not stand. Benaiah sensed that this was the LORD’s will, and offered the prayer that God would in fact say so too.
e. May He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David: This pious wish of Benaiah had an interesting fulfillment. On a human level, Solomon’s reign was indeed greater than David’s. But on a spiritual, eternal level, it was not.
3. (38-40) Solomon is anointed and proclaimed as king.
So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound.
a. And had Solomon ride on King David’s mule: Apparently, this was the Old Testament equivalent to a presidential motorcade.
i. The mule was something special in ancient Israel. “Since Hebraic law forbade crossbreeding (Leviticus 19:19), mules had to be imported and were therefore very expensive. So while the common people rode donkeys, the mule was reserved for royalty.” (Dilday)
ii. “No subject could use any thing that belonged to the prince, without forfeiting his life. As David offered Solomon to ride on his own mule, this was full evidence that he had appointed him his successor.” (Clarke)
iii. And took him to Gihon: “Gihon, the site of the anointing, was just outside the city in the Kidron Valley, on the east bank of Ophel. It was at this time Jerusalem’s major source of water and was therefore a natural gathering place of the populace” (Patterson and Austel).
b. A horn of oil from the tabernacle: Literally, it is the horn of oil. This was a specific container of oil kept in the tabernacle for special ceremonies of anointing.
c. The people… rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound: Though Adonijah put forth his best marketing campaign, he could not win the hearts of the people. They sensed that Solomon was the man, not Adonijah.
D. Solomon’s mercy to Adonijah.
1. (41-49) Adonijah hears that Solomon is made king.
Now Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the horn, he said, “Why is the city in such a noisy uproar?” While he was still speaking, there came Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest. And Adonijah said to him, “Come in, for you are a prominent man, and bring good news.” Then Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, “No! Our lord King David has made Solomon king. The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites; and they have made him ride on the king’s mule. So Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon; and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. Also Solomon sits on the throne of the kingdom. And moreover the king’s servants have gone to bless our lord King David, saying, ‘May God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and may He make his throne greater than your throne.’ Then the king bowed himself on the bed. Also the king said thus, ‘Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who has given one to sit on my throne this day, while my eyes see it!’” So all the guests who were with Adonijah were afraid, and arose, and each one went his way.
a. As they finished eating: The banquet wasn’t even over before Solomon was proclaimed king. Bathsheba and Nathan acted quickly and it was rewarded.
i. “Adonijah’s feast, as all wicked men’s, endeth in horror; for the last dish, is served up astonishment and fearful expectation of just revenge.” (Trapp)
b. So that all the city is in an uproar: This was very distressing to Adonijah. He had the support of some important, powerful men (those attending his banquet), but now he knew that the heart of the people belonged to Solomon.
c. Also the king said thus, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who has given one to sit on my throne this day, while my eyes see it!” This told Adonijah that even King David was completely behind Solomon. There was no hope for his future as king.
d. All the guests who were with Adonijah were afraid, and arose, and each one went: They came for a nice dinner, and to support Adonijah. They left quickly as soon as it was clear that he would not and could not be king. Now, it was dangerous to say that you supported Adonijah as king.
2. (50-53) Solomon’s mercy to Adonijah.
Now Adonijah was afraid of Solomon; so he arose, and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. And it was told Solomon, saying, “Indeed Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; for look, he has taken hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” Then Solomon said, “If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” So King Solomon sent them to bring him down from the altar. And he came and fell down before King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”
a. Took hold of the horns of the altar: According to almost universal custom in the ancient world, a religious altar was a place of sanctuary against justice or vengeance. An accused man might find safety if he could flee to an altar before he was apprehended. This is why Adonijah took hold of the horns of the altar.
i. It is important to understand that this ancient custom was not used in Israel to protect a guilty man. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die (Exodus 21:14).
b. If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth: Solomon gave Adonijah a limited reprieve. This went against all custom in the ancient world. It was common, even expected, that when a new king assumed the throne, he would execute every potential rival. Solomon not only let a potential rival live, but one who openly tried to subvert his reign. This was a large measure of grace and mercy on the part of Solomon, and a good start to his reign.
i. At the same time, Solomon wanted Adonijah to know that if he should show the slightest inclination towards rebellion, he would be killed instantly. Mercy would be withdrawn and justice would be delivered quickly.
c. He came and fell down before King Solomon: Adonijah knew he received great mercy from Solomon, and he wanted to show his gratitude for it and his reliance upon Solomon’s mercy.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission