Today I preached on 1 Kings 1-4 about the death of David,the accession of Solomon, and Adonijah’s abortive coup.
1 When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2 So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.” 3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her. 5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 6 (His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)
When I prepared the sermon I was initially puzzled about the transition from 1:4 about David’s lack of sexual union with Abishag to the switch concerning Adonijah’s preemptive attempt to kick off his accession party. But the link is fairly obvious. David’s inability to get it on with the Shunamite girl means that he has gone to a place where Viagra can’t help. His son Adonijah believes that this is the sign that it’s time for him to takeover. To put it crassly, if the old man can’t get it up, then he needs to get off the throne and make way for a real man.
Sociologists could have a field day here: notions of kingship, masculinity, and virility are interwoven together to create the picture of the ideal king defined by potency in the political, sexual, and military spheres. David may not be potent in certain regards any more, he may be a failure as a father, and he may have been apathetic in failing to publicly appoint a successor. However, David’s last deed of appointing Solomon as king, with the proper traditions of accession, shows the strength of his resolve, his faithfulness to God, and the wisdom of his years. Adonijah does not get one up on his old man after all.