1 Kings 1 moves from ?King David?E(first phrase of v 1) to ?King Solomon?E(vv 49-53). The first chapter is about the transition from one king to another, but the transition is difficult, rather than smooth.
?Now King David was old, advanced in years; and they put covers on him, but he could not keep 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 . . . .?? (1 Kings 1:1-53).
According to 2 Samuel 15:7, Absalom went to Hebron to have himself proclaimed king ?at the end of forty years.?E This appears to be the fortieth year of Absalom?s life, which is also the fortieth year of David?s reign. During David?s final year, he faced three rebellions: Absalom?s (2 Samuel 15-19), Sheba?s (2 Samuel 20), and Adonijah (1 Kings 1).
The multiple rebellions is both a result and a cause of David?s weakness. Throughout Kings, the health of the king is a sign of the health of the kingdom. From 1 Kings 1:1-4, we can see that the kingdom is sick and weak and physically and politically impotent.
Adonijah, along with Joab and others, take advantage of David?s weakness to take the throne (1:5-10). Adonijah was the ?son of Haggith,?Ethe fourth son of David (2 Samuel 3:4). Two of the previous sons (Amnon and Absalom) died, and the other (Chileab) is never a part of the action. Adonijah is next in line, yet it seems that David is skipping him for the son of his mistress.
Adonijah is another Absalom His preparations for a coup resemble the preparations of Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 15:1ff), and he is explicitly compared to Absalom (1 Kings 1:6). David has failed to ?pain?EAdonijah, failing as a father as he did with other sons as well (cf. 1 Samuel 2:23).
Adonijah gets the support of Joab, the leader of the army, and Abiathar, the high priest. This greatly strengthens his cause: Abiathar gives religious legitimacy to Adonijah, and Joab will provide the muscle. Joab?s role in this is particularly interesting, since he has been attempting to play kingmaker for some time (he?s behind Absalom?s return to the land after his exile, 2 Samuel 14). All the ?old guard?Eis with Adonijah; but Israel needs a new regime, led by Solomon, with Benaiah and Zadok the high priest at his side.
Adonijah initiates his coup, as Absalom did, by holding a feast in En-rogel, near the stone of Zoheleth (v. 9). En-rogel is south and east of Jerusalem, and the name means something like ?spring of the fuller.?E The specific location is the ?stone of Zoheleth,?Ewhich means ?slithering?Eor ?gliding?Eor even ?stone of the serpent.?E Adonijah is a serpent-like usurper, mounting an attack on the true Adam, Solomon, and on the bride.
BATH-SHEBA, THE SAVIOR
Bath-sheba and Nathan respond to the crisis. Nathan knows that David is unaware of what?s happening and needs to be roused. He brings two witnesses: First the bride will make her appeal to the king, and then the prophet will come in to ?confirm?Eher words.
Nathan refers to an oath that David had sworn to Bath-sheba (v. 13). When did David make this promise? Perhaps this is just Nathan?s attempt to ?put on over?Eon the aging and decrepit David. But it?s better to see this as a reference to what is recorded in 1 Chronicles 23:1, where David actually makes Solomon king, a co-regent, in his old age. In 1 Chronicles 29, Solomon is made king a ?second time,?Eand this event corresponds to the coronation of 1 Kings 1.Bathsheba and Nathan both tell David about Adonijah?s conspiracy, but they have different emphases, appropriate to their positions. Bathsheba appeals to David?s oath, appropriate for a woman whose name means ?Daughter of the oath,?Eand she appeals to David for protection against Adonijah (v. 21). Nathan emphasizes that he?s been left out of the loop (v. 27), and tries to arouse David to indignation. Though David is old and weak throughout the story, his words are at the center of the story: When he speaks, the decision is made (vv. 28-31).
David gives instructions concerning Solomon?s coronation (1:32-37), and Zadok, Hathan, and Benaiah carry them out. Several of the details are instructive. First, David sends Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to accompany Solomon, representatives of the military, a priest, and a prophet, the ?new guard.?E Second, Solomon is to ride on David?s own ?mule,?Eas a sign that he will sit on the same throne and in the same ?saddle?Eas David.
Third, Yahweh?s anointed king, Solomon, is the son of Yahweh, and so his coming is like the coming of Yahweh to His throne. Trumpets are blown, as at Sinai; the earth shakes with the sound of the people; music is played. All these things happen at the consecration of the temple, as God comes to His throne.
Meanwhile, verse 41 takes us back to En-rogel, where Adonijah is having his coronotation feast. Jonathan, Abiathar?s son, briefs Adonijah about what has happened in Jerusalem. From the first, it?s clear where Jonathan?s loyalties lie. He calls David ?our lord?Ethroughout, and the force of this is strengthened by the fact that Adonijah?s name includes the name for ?lord?E( adon ). David, not Adonijah, is ?our Adonai.?E
Adonijah expects reprisals, and flees to the horns of the altar: this must be at Gibeon, where the altar is. Solomon is told of Adonijah?s fears, and he speaks his first words in the entire Bible. They are words of clemency, as he extends a conditional promise of amnesty: if Adonijah behaves himself he will be fine. Adonijah bows before Solomon, and Solomon is called ?King.?E The coup is finished; Solomon?s kingdom is not yet solidly established, but it is on its way.
CATECHISM FOR LITTLE SAINTS
Who was Adonijah, and what did he try to do?
Adonijah was one of David?s sons, who tried to become king instead of Solomon.
Who stopped Adonijah from becoming king?
Bath-sheba, Solomon?s mother, and Nathan the prophet convinced David to make Solomon king.
For Further Study
1. Look up passages about Joab in 2 Samuel. What kind of man was he? Look up Joab?s name in 1 Chronicles. Who was he? How was he related to David?
2. Can you find a chiastic structure in 1 Kings 1?
3. Why does Solomon ride on a mule? What else does the Bible have to say about mules?