THE MESSIANIC PROMISE OF A DAVIDIC KINGDOM SURVIVES A BUMPY TRANSITION AS SOLOMON SUCCEEDS DAVID ON THE THRONE
The reign of King David is winding down. He is on his deathbed (although he will continue to live for a number of years). His physical strength has dissipated and his active involvement in governing affairs has dwindled. It can be questioned how much he was aware of what was taking place in the kingdom. Despite the Lord’s clear choice of Solomon as his successor, King David had not taken any public steps to navigate an orderly transition of power. There must have been much intrigue in royal circles regarding what would take place upon the king’s death. Driven by selfish ambition as well as by a sense of entitlement as the oldest surviving child of King David, Adonijah seeks to step into this power vacuum and claim the throne for himself. This was a critical juncture in Israel’s history. At stake was the Messianic promise of the Davidic line through Solomon. The Lord used His servant Nathan to step into the gap and set in motion the necessary corrective action to thwart the political takeover and protect the throne for Solomon.
R. D. Patterson: David was profoundly grateful to a gracious and loving God [his response to the coronation of Solomon]. The kingdom would not be removed from David at his death as was the case with Saul. Rather in Solomon there began the long line of David’s descendants that would ultimately lead to the promised Messiah, who was both the son of David and the Son of God.
Constable: Solomon’s succession was not a smooth transition. Solomon was God’s choice to succeed David, but he was not the oldest son of David, so his succession was not normal. Like so many others before him, God sovereignly chose to place an unusual choice in a position of blessing instead of what was traditional (cf. Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over Reuben, Ephraim over Manasseh). In all these cases, and in Solomon’s, various individuals resisted the will of God because they wanted what was traditional (customary).
John Davies: Some time has elapsed between the events of the closing chapters of 2 Samuel and the opening scene of 1 Kings. The feeble old David we meet here is a pale shadow of the heroic king we know from 2 Samuel. We need to keep in mind that this is not just a biography of David. The fate of the people of God is at stake, for, as we discover, David has still done nothing regarding his succession, and it is potentially disastrous that his subjects should find themselves without effective leadership. David is passive throughout much of this narrative — a passivity that the writer is suggesting is not entirely due to feebleness, but to culpable indecisiveness. The situation prompts other officials and family members to take steps to redress the leadership vacuum. We would be wrong, however, to read the account simply as a piece of political propaganda to bolster Solomon’s claim to the throne. We look to the subtleties of character portrayal, plot and dialogue to reveal something of God’s big-picture purposes and relationship with his people. . .
This section is a classic tale of reversal of fortune and illustrates the truth that ‘whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Matt. 23:12). While Adonijah may have had the appearance and the bearing of a leader, God looks not on such outward things, but on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Our celebrations of our own successes may be very short-lived if God has other plans, for he can turn rejoicing into mourning (Amos 8:10) as well as the reverse (Jer. 31:13).
Wiersbe: Familiar quote – “A crisis isn’t what makes a person; a crisis shows what a person’s made of.” The kingdom of Israel was facing a crisis because King David was on his deathbed. In facing this crisis, different people responded in different ways [e.g. Adonijah = the opportunist; the traitors; the faithful; Nathan = the loyalist; etc.]
I. (:1-4) REIGN OF KING DAVID IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE – ABOUT TO RELINQUISH HIS THRONE
A. (:1) Failing in Health in His Old Age
“Now King David was old, advanced in age;
and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm.”
Guzik: 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.
Constable: It was customary in ancient times to warm an elderly person not only by covering him or her with blankets, but also by putting a healthy person in bed with him or her.2 The body heat of the well person would keep the older person warmer. David’s physicians chose Abishag to provide nursing care for David as well as to warm him. Since David was the king, they sought and found a beautiful nurse for him. In view of David’s symptoms, he may have suffered from arteriosclerosis.
B. (:2-3) Finding Warmth from a Beautiful Young Virgin
1. (:2) The Suggestion
“So his servants said to him, ‘Let them seek a young virgin for my lord the king, and let her attend the king and become his nurse; and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may keep warm.’”
2. (:3) The Search
“So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.”
C. (:4) Finishing Life Under the Care of a Young Nurse
“And the girl was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse
and served him, but the king did not cohabit with her.”
Constable: The fact that David did not have sexual relations with this “very beautiful” young woman (v. 4) is significant because it shows that his physical powers were now weak. David had been sexually active, but now his sexual powers were depleted. This shows that it was time for a more energetic man to reign.
John Davies: The fact that David ‘did not have sex with’ (literally ‘know’) Abishag as she snuggled up to him is not to be interpreted as a comment on David’s moral restraint, but as a manifestation of the fact that David had become un-‘knowing’, uncaring and impotent to act with regard to all that was happening around him.
Philip Ryken: Abishag’s employment as a king of human hot water bottle raises more questions than it answers. Were David’s servants simply trying to keep him warm? If so, then why conduct a Miss Israel pageant to find the prettiest young thing in the whole country? The situation seems charged with sexuality, and even though was are told that David did not have sexual relations with this woman, there is a lingering sense of impropriety.
We also sense that the king is diminished. This is hardly the David who knew Bathsheba – the David who fathered Solomon and many other sons. Not even a stunning young virgin can warm his blood. On the contrary, he has suffered the loss of vitality and virility.
II. (:5-10) REBELLION OF ADONIJAH IN SCHEMING TO SEIZE THE THRONE
A. (:5-6) Exaltation Factors
1. (:5a) Self Promotion
“Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying,
‘I will be king.’”
2. (:5b) Strong Presence
“So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen
with fifty men to run before him.”
Guzik: 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.
3. (:6a) Self Indulgence without Parental Discipline
“And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking,
‘Why have you done so?’”
John Davies: David’s brilliant success at the national level has not been matched by the quality of his leadership within the family.
4. (:6b) Stately Appearance
“And he was also a very handsome man;”
Philip Ryken: As far as kingship was concerned, Adonijah looked the part (at least to people who look at outward appearances).
5. (:6c) Surviving His Older Brother Absalom
“and he was born after Absalom.”
Constable: Adonijah (“Yahweh is lord”) was David’s fourth son (2 Sam. 3:4) and the eldest one living at this time. Evidently he believed it was more important that the eldest son succeed David, as was customary in the Near East, than that the king of Yahweh’s anointing occupy that position. God had identified Solomon as David’s successor even before Solomon was born (1 Chron. 22:9-10). Adonijah’s revolt was primarily against the revealed will of God, secondarily against David, and finally against Solomon.
Guzik: 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.
B. (:7-8) Enablers Secured
1. (:7) Leaders for Adonijah
“And he had conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah
and with Abiathar the priest;
and following Adonijah they helped him.”
Constable: Adonijah prepared to seize David’s throne as Absalom had attempted to do (cf. 2 Sam. 15:1). Joab had long since demonstrated his disregard for God’s will in many instances (2 Sam. 3:22-30; 18:5-15; 20:8-10). He evidently sided with Adonijah now because he realized he was out of favor with David. If Solomon succeeded to the throne, he would probably demote Joab at least.
Abiathar had been the leading priest in Israel until David began to give Zadok priority. He had fled from Nob, after Saul massacred the priests there, to join David in the wilderness (1 Sam. 22:18-20). He had also offered sacrifices at David’s tabernacle in Jerusalem while Zadok served at the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon. However, David had been showing increasing favor to Zadok (cf. 1 Chron. 15:11; 2 Sam. 15:24; 20:25). Abiathar was one of Eli’s descendants whom God had doomed with removal from the priesthood (1 Sam. 2:30-36; cf. 1 Kings 2:27). Probably Abiathar saw in Adonijah’s rebellion a promising opportunity to retain his position that he must have seen he would lose if Solomon came to power.
2. (:8) Loyalists to King David
“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.”
C. (:9-10) Enthronement Gathering
1. (:9a) Gathering Gravitas
“And Adonijah sacrificed sheep and oxen and fatlings
by the stone of Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel;”
Gravitas = dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.
John Schultz: The place chosen for the celebration of Adonijah’s ascension to the throne is called “the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel.” The place was supposed to be an ancient Canaanite holy place with a spring of water coming out which served as a water supply to the people of the area. Bible scholars have argued about the supposed location. The name Zoheleth means “serpent stone.”
Clarke: 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.
2. (:9b-10) Guest List
a. (:9b) Invitees
“and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons,
and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants.”
R. D. Patterson: Adonijah’s attempted usurpation of the throne began with a ceremonial gathering of his supporters. Absalom had begun his coup in a similar manner (2 Sam 15:11-12). The participation of Abiathar and Joab I the ritual sacrifice and communal meal lent an aura of legitimacy to the occasion.
b. (:10) Non-Invitees
“But he did not invite Nathan the prophet,
Benaiah, the mighty men, and Solomon his brother.”
III. (:11-27) REPORTING OF NATHAN AND BATHSHEBA TO INFLUENCE KING DAVID TO SAVE THE THRONE FOR SOLOMON
A. (:11-14) Nathan Exposes the Treacherous Plot to Bathsheba
1. (:11-12) Prophetic Counsel
a. (:11) Giving Bathsheba the Scoop
“Then 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?’”
Dale Ralph Davis: How crucial Nathan’s role (vv. 11ff.) is in this story! He even had to inform Bathsheba. Looking back on the whole affair, everything rests on Nathan. He not only intervened but had a plan by which to stir David to action. Nathan was the man who stood in the gap – his vigilance goaded David off his couch and protected Bathsheba and Solomon from almost certain death. One non-royal servant makes the difference and preserves the kingdom.
b. (:12) Galvanizing Bathsheba to Speak to the King
“So now come, please let me give you counsel and save your life and the life of your son Solomon.”
2. (:13) Preventing Catastrophe
Alerting King David to Perverse Circumstances = Adonijah Seizing the Throne
“Go at once to King David and say to him, ‘Have you not, my lord, O king, sworn to your maidservant, saying, Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne ? Why then has Adonijah become king?’”
3. (:14) Prophetic Confirmation
“Behold, while you are still there speaking with the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”
B. (:15-21) Bathsheba Alerts King David of the Need to Take Urgent Counter-Measures
1. (:15-16) Entrance to the King by Bathsheba
“So Bathsheba went in to the king in the bedroom. Now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering to the king. Then Bathsheba bowed and prostrated herself before the king. And the king said, ‘What do you wish?’”
2. (:17-19) Exposure of the Plot to Usurp the Throne
a. (:17) Reminder of the King’s Promise
“And she said to him, ‘My lord, you swore to your maidservant by the LORD your God, saying, Surely your son Solomon shall be king after me and he shall sit on my throne.’”
John Schultz: The action follows the usual course of an appeal to the king, and is not necessarily a formal lawsuit, with address (vv. 17-18), presentation of case (vv. 17-19), request for decision (vv. 20- 21), confirmation by witness (vv. 22-27) and decision on oath (vv. 29-30).
b. (:18) Reality of Adonijah’s Treachery
“And now, behold, Adonijah is king;
and now, my lord the king, you do not know it.”
c. (:19a) Recapitulation of the Details of the Plot
“And he has sacrificed oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king and Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army;”
d. (:19b) Rejection of Loyalists to King David and Solomon
“but he has not invited Solomon your servant.”
3. (:20-21) Endangerment of the Nation and of Bathsheba and Solomon
a. (:20) Endangerment of the Nation
“And as for you now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.”
John Schultz: The most important part of Bathsheba’s plea would be that the whole nation would be in disarray, because of David’s failure to have made a clear announcement about the succession to the throne. The fact that some would side with Solomon and others with Adonijah could lead to a civil war.
b. (:21) Endangerment of Bathsheba and Solomon
“Otherwise it will come about, as soon as my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be considered offenders.”
Don Anderson: Bathsheba has three points:
1. She speaks of the promise.
2. She spells out the problem.
3. And she has a plea.
This is what I need for you to do.
C. (:22-27) Nathan Reinforces the Treachery of Adonijah
1. (:22-23) Entrance to the King by Nathan
“And behold, while she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, saying, ‘Here is Nathan the prophet.’ And when he came in before the king, he prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground.”
2. (:24-26) Exposure of the Plot to Usurp the Throne
a. (:24) Reminder of the King’s Promise
“Then Nathan said, ‘My lord the king, have you said,
Adonijah shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne ‘?”
b. (:25a) Recapitulation of the Details of the Plot
“For he has gone down today and has sacrificed oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons and the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest, and behold, they are eating and drinking before him;”
c. (:25b) Reality of Adonijah’s Treachery
“and they say, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’”
d. (:26) Rejection of Loyalists to King David and Solomon
“But me, even me your servant, and Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and your servant Solomon, he has not invited.”
3. (:27) Endangerment to the King’s Supporters Not Considered?
“Has this thing been done by my lord the king, and you have not shown to your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
IV. (:28-40) RESCUE OF THE THRONE FOR SOLOMON BY KING DAVID
A. (:28-31) Execution of the Royal Promise Regarding Solomon’s Kingship
1. (:28) Bathsheba Summoned
“Then King David answered and said, ‘Call Bathsheba to me.’ And she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king.”
2. (:29-30) King David Reinforces His Commitment to Solomon
“And the king vowed and said, ‘As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 30 surely as I vowed to you by the LORD the God of Israel, saying, Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place; I will indeed do so this day.’”
3. (:31) Bathsheba Bows in Gratitude
“Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and prostrated herself before the king and said, ‘May my lord King David live forever.’”
Constable: The clause, “May the king live forever,” (vv. 31, 34; et al.) occurs often in the Old Testament. It expresses the wish that, because the king had acted or would act righteously, God would bless him with long life. God had promised righteous Israelites long life under the Mosaic Law. It also expressed the desire that David might live forever through the lives of his descendants.
Philip Ryken: Under the circumstances, this may seem like a strange thing to say. The very reason David and Bathsheba were having this conversation was that they both knew that the king wouldn’t live forever; he was about to die. So why did she say this. Bathsheba still hoped in the promise of David’s everlasting kingdom. The king still lives and so does his dynasty, to the everlasting joy of all the people of God.
B. (:32-40) Enthronement of Solomon
1. (:32) Summoning the King’s Advisors
“Then King David said, ‘Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.’ And they came into the king’s presence.”
2. (:33-35) Instructing the King’s Advisors
a. (:33) Regarding the Processional to Gihon
“And the king said to them, ‘Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon.’”
Philip Ryken: We can tell that the king was used to giving orders and that he knew exactly what to do.
John Schultz: The fact that Solomon was to ride around on David’s personal mule served as proof that he was officially the successor to the throne. The Adam Clarke’s Commentary observes: “No subject could use anything 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.”
b. (:34) Regarding the Anointing and Crowning of Solomon
“And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there as king over Israel, and blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’”
MacArthur: The blowing of the trumpet signaled a public assembly where the people corporately recognized Solomon’s new status as co-regent with and successor to David (vv. 39, 40).
c. (:35) Regarding Solomon’s Succession to the Throne
“Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne and be king in my place; for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.”
3. (:36-37) Affirming by the King’s Advisors
“And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king and said, ‘Amen! Thus may the LORD, the God of my lord the king, say. 37 As the LORD has been with my lord the king, so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David!’”
4. (:38-40) Enthroning Solomon
a. (:38) Processional to Gihon Led by David’s Advisors
“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 brought him to Gihon.”
b. (:39) Anointing and Crowning of Solomon by Zadok the Priest
“Zadok the priest then took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, ‘Long live King Solomon!’”
c. (:40) Celebration by the People Upon Solomon’s Enthronement
“And all the people went up after him, and the people were playing on flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their noise.”
V. (:41-53) RETALIATION AGAINST THE USURPERS
A. (:41) Adonijah and His Guests Alarmed by the Tumult
“Now Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it, as they finished eating. When Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Why is the city making such an uproar?’”
B. (:42-49) Adonijah and His Guests Terrified by the Coronation of Solomon
1. (:42) Hoping for Good News
“While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. Then Adonijah said, ‘Come in, for you are a valiant man and bring good news.’”
John Schultz: Adonijah must have been too intoxicated by the joy of his own coronation that he suspected no danger. Contrary to Joab’s suspicion, he believes that everything was fine and that his ascension to the throne was assured. So when Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived, Adonijah said, rather flippantly: “A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.” On the other hand, Adonijah may have been uneasy and this reference to Jonathan as a bringer of “good news” may have been an effort to hide his anxiety.
2. (:43-48) Hearing the Bad News – Regarding Enthronement of Solomon –
6 Historical Facts that Seal the Deal:
a. (:43) It’s a Done Deal
“But Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah,
‘No! Our lord King David has made Solomon king.’”
b. (:44) It’s Got the Support of All the Major Players
“The king has also 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.”
c. (:45) It’s Turned the City Upside Down
“And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon, and they have come up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise which you have heard.”
d. (:46) It’s Already Activated
“Besides, Solomon has even taken his seat
on the throne of the kingdom.”
e. (:47) It’s Celebrated by the King and His Servants
“And moreover, the king’s servants came to bless our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon better than your name and his throne greater than your throne!’ And the king bowed himself on the bed.”
f. (:48) It’s Attributed to the Sovereign Will of God
“The king has also said thus, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted one to sit on my throne today while my own eyes see it.’”
3. (:49) Hiding from Retaliation
“Then all the guests of Adonijah were terrified;
and they arose and each went on his way.”
Don Anderson: You know there are going to be an awful lot of people, when Jesus returns, that are going to discover, that they have been in the wrong camp.
C. (:50-53) Adonijah Cowering in the Temple and Consigned to House Arrest
1. (:50) Cowering in the Temple
“And Adonijah was afraid of Solomon, and he arose,
went and took hold of the horns of the altar.”
2. (:51) Begging for His Life
“Now it was told Solomon, saying, ‘Behold, Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon, for behold, 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.’”
3. (:52) Deserving of Death
“And Solomon said, ‘If he will be a worthy man, not one of his hairs will fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he will die.’”
Guzik: 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.
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.
4. (:53) Consigned to His House for Now
“So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar.
And he came and prostrated himself before King Solomon,
and Solomon said to him, ‘Go to your house.’”
Wiersbe: Solomon showed mercy to his brother and allowed him to return to his home in Jerusalem. This amounted to house arrest because the king’s guards could keep Adonijah under constant surveillance. But Solomon also warned his brother to be careful how he behaved, for as an insurgent, Adonijah was worthy of death. If he stepped out of line, he would be executed. Adonijah bowed before Solomon, but his hart was submitted neither to the Lord nor his brothers.