Sunday, July 12, 2009

Solomon Becomes King

1 Kings 1-2

At the beginning of 1 Kings, David is old and not doing so well. He has trouble staying warm, and so his servants find for him a young virgin to attend to him and sleep with him. Her name is Abishag. She is very beautiful, but the king does not "know her sexually" (1:4). The next sentence states that the next son, Adonijah, now declares that he will be king (1:5).

Taken as they are written, these are just statements of a sequence of events, not necessarily linked. But in the notes to the edition of the Bible I am reading (see sidebar for complete reference), the commentators say that this indicates that the king is impotent "and therefore no longer fit to be king. The knowledge of David's impotence spurs Adonijah to declare himself king" (OT 415).

I find that an interesting interpretation. Was that really the primary reason? Or was it just that David was getting old and was no longer in good health?

At any rate, Adonijah is the next son. One listing of David's first sons appears at 2 Samuel 3:2-5. The listing include Amnon, Chileab, Absalom, and Adonijah first. We heard what happened to Amnon and Absalom. Chileab is not mentioned further: the commentators suggest that he may have died young. But after Adonijah there are other sons too: Shephatiah and Ithream. Then later offspring (both sons and daughters) are mentioned at 2 Samuel 5:13-16. These include Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, and others.

I mention this because what happens next in 1 Kings is that it turns out that Solomon becomes king. No mention is made of the other brothers between him and Adonijah. And recall that Solomon is Bathsheba's son, and the union between David and Bathsheba began as adultery.

But, back to the story: While Adonijah makes preparations to succeed his father as king, the prophet Nathan (not the same Nathan as David's son, I don't think), goes to Bathsheba to warn her and encourage her to talk to David about this. Adonijah seems to be worried that his father favors Solomon, because he did not invite him (or Nathan) to his big party. So Bathsheba and Nathan tell David about all of this to encourage David to quickly appoint his own desired successor before Adonijah declares himself king.

David does spring into action, ordering a procession and ceremony anointing Solomon as king (1:28-40). Adonijah and his guests at his party hear the trumpets, inquire, and learn that Solomon has just been made king. The guests all depart uneasily, and Adonijah goes to the altar and grasps the horns, seeking sanctuary (1:50). Solomon summons him and lets him go.

David does die soon thereafter, but first gives Solomon advice: keep the ways of the Lord, and get rid of a few people... (2:1-9). He then dies (2:10). Now Adonijah asks Bathsheba to ask Solomon if he can have Abishag (the beautiful virgin whom David never knew sexually) for his wife (2:13-18). According to the commentators, this is really a power move. Elsewhere too, sleeping with a king's wives and concubines is a symbolic way to try to grasp the king's power. So, Solomon has Adonijah killed (2:25).

The rest of chapter 2 has Solomon banishing or putting to death others who threaten his power (because they had sided with Adonijah), including Joab, even though Joab asked for sanctuary. In fact, this was one of the people David advised Solomon to put to death, because of the killings Joab had intiated on his own (not commanded by David), especially of Abner and Amasa (2:5-6). The commentators seem doubtful that David had really suggested this, because those killings had happened so long ago. They think that this was merely a rationalization for killing Joab, but that the real reason was that Solomon felt threatened by him since he sided with Adonijah. But I think it is plausible that David may have advised Solomon to do this, since David and Joab did seem to have an uneasy relationship. I think David found Joab dangerous but valuable, and may well have held a lasting grudge towards him for those two deaths. And David may also have felt that while he could handle Joab, Solomon might have difficulty. It certainly was not a good sign that Joab sided with Adonijah. That did not bode well for his future relationship with Solomon.

Anyway, now that all of the enemies are cleared away, Solomon is ready to rule. Yes, I am appalled at this grisly side of power in those days (the killing off of one's enemies), but, well, this is not the first time I have seen such things in the Bible.

What's interesting from here is that there now seems to follow a substantial period of peace, for a change! We'll see that in what follows.

1 comment:

  1. I love the way you broke this down thanks so much. After reading 2 Samuel, I pondered on the right to Kingship displayed in the passage. Adonijah was in terms of birth order right to seek the throne (Ammon and Absalom being dead and records don't tell us about Chileab/Daniel).

    However being that David was a man who sought God for everything i.e. military campaigns, ambush and plans perhaps he also sought God for his successor. It’s also perhaps worth noting that David had a personal priest Ira the Jairite and the likes of Nathan who would inquire of the Lord for him which would be reasonable being that David himself was the last of the sons of Jesse therefore perhaps birth order didn’t really play a part on who sat on the throne rather it was whomever the Lord God appointed that led his people Israel.