Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament1 KINGS 1
THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF SOLOMON
This chapter gives an intimate glance into the intrigues, hatreds and deceptions which invariably came about from the godless custom of ancient kings and their harems of concubines and wives in constant competition with one another. We have precious little respect for those scholars who pass over the wickedness and lustful licentiousness of such arrangements on the basis of their being, "customary in those times."
THE LAST DAYS OF KING DAVID
Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and cherish him; and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair; and she cherished the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.
They covered him with clothes
(1 Kings 1:1). This is a reference not to ordinary garments but to bed-clothes.
A young virgin . and let her lie in thy bosom
(1 Kings 1:3). This procedure was an acceptable medical prescription even down to the Middle Ages.F1 It was prescribed by a Jewish physician for Frederick Barbarossa; and it is a practice still followed in the East.F2
(1 Kings 1:3). Abishag was from a place called Shunem (modern Solem) on the western slope of the hill of Moreh, northwest of Jezreel, in the territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:18).F3
The king knew her not
(1 Kings 1:4). This means that there was no sexual contact between David and Abishag.
ADONIJAH'S ATTEMPT TO MAKE HIMSELF KING
This event was important because it resulted in Solomon's elevation to the throne prior to his father's death, indicating that David's state of physical health had led to his nearly complete incompetence with regard to managing the affairs of the kingdom. Adonijah's claim to be David's successor was probably founded upon his being the oldest surviving son of the king, Absalom having been slain by Joab, and Amnon have being murdered by Absalom.
Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he was also a very goodly man; and he was born after Absalom. And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him. But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men that belonged to David, were not with Adonijah. And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fatlings by the stone of Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel; and he called all his brethren, the king's sons, and all the men of Judah, the king's servants: but Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not.
It is clear from this paragraph that Adonijah was well aware of the fact that David had chosen Solomon to succeed him; and that alone can account for the fact that Solomon and other powerful persons closely associated with David were NOT invited to the big barbecue.
Another revelation which we should observe here is the fact of Adonijah's copying the procedure of Absalom by getting a chariot, horsemen, and fifty runners ahead of his carriage. Also, David's customary failure to discipline members of his family was a primary feature that aided the early stages of Adonijah's attempted coup d'etat. If he had succeeded, his very first action, no doubt, would have been the murder of Solomon.
The reason why Joab joined in this venture is not hard to discern. David had pronounced a curse upon him; and, he, no doubt, hoped to avoid any ultimate punishment by supporting Adonijah. Why Abiathar joined the Adonijah party is not so apparent. Some suppose that he was jealous of the preference David seemed to have conferred upon Zadok, a rival High Priest.
NATHAN MASTERMINDED A PLAN TO THWART ADONIJAH
Then Nathan spake unto Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not? Now therefore come, let me, I pray thee, give thee counsel, that thou mayest save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon. Go and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him, Didst not thou, my lord, O king, swear unto thy handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? why then doth Adonijah reign? Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I also will come in after thee, and confirm thy words.
Adonijah the son of Haggith
(1 Kings 1:11). Nathan's mention here of `Haggith' the mother of Adonijah was a skillful appeal by Nathan to arouse in Bathsheba that jealousy and hatred common in every harem. He certainly knew how to motivate Bathsheba.
Save thine own life . and the life of ... Solomon
(1 Kings 1:12). This was no false alarm. Unless Adonijah's kingship could be prevented, there was no way that Bathsheba and Solomon would have been spared alive.
Didst thou not sware that Solomon shall reign?
(1 Kings 1:13). The fact of this oath by David not having previously been mentioned in the Bible is the inadequate premise upon which Montgomery accused Nathan in this passage of having made, An impromptu invention of such a promise.F4 However, as we pointed out above, Adonijah's failure to invite Solomon and his partisans to his impressive feast is the only proof needed that he knew full well of David's intentions regarding Solomon.
BATHSHEBA'S APPEAL TO DAVID
And Bath-sheba went in unto the king into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering unto the king. And Bath-sheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by Jehovah thy God unto thy handmaid, [saying], Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne. And now, behold, Adonijah reigneth; and thou, my lord the king, knowest it not: and he hath slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host; but Solomon thy servant hath he not called. And thou, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.
David's prompt and vigorous response to this situation indicates that he was still in full possession of his mental ability, denying, absolutely, that the mention of his oath that Solomon should succeed him was anything other than the exact truth.
I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders
(1 Kings 1:21). The word for offenders here is often translated sinners. It is a common word, but used here secularly as in 2 Kings 18:14 for treason against the throne.F5
NATHAN IMMEDIATELY CONFIRMED BATHSHEBA'S REPORT
And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, saying, Behold, Nathan the prophet. And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, My lord, O king, hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? For he is gone down this day, and hath slain oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the king's sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest; and, behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and say, [Long] live king Adonijah. But me, even me thy servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and thy servant Solomon, hath he not called. Is this thing done by my lord the king, and thou hast not showed unto thy servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?
This report stirred the king to immediate and decisive action. He temporarily rose up in spite of every physical handicap and promptly elevated Solomon to the throne of Israel.
DAVID NAMED SOLOMON AS HIS SUCCESSOR IMMEDIATELY
Then king David answered and said, Call to me Bath-sheba. And she came into the king's presence, and stood before the king. And the king sware, and said, As Jehovah liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, verily as I sware unto thee by Jehovah, the God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; verily so will I do this day. Then Bath-sheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did obeisance to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live for ever.
By David's sending for Bathsheba, it is evident that when the prophet Nathan came in she had retired from the king's presence.
Zadok would soon be named High Priest by Solomon. We reject the popular theory of some liberal commentators who identify him as, "A priest-king in the pre-Davidic Jebusite period of Jerusalem's history."F6 He was a descendant of Aaron, just like Abiathar, his ancestor having been Eleazar (1 Chronicles 24:3), whereas Abiathar was descended through Ithamar.
The support which Abiathar gave Adonijah here resulted in his removal from the priesthood, just as God had prophesied regarding the descendants of Eli.
SOLOMON BECAME CO-REGENT WITH DAVID
What is revealed here is of very great importance, because it removes forever any possibility of understanding key passages in 2 Sam. 7 as having any application whatever to Solomon. The Great One prophesied there was to be raised up at a time after David slept with his fathers, but Solomon actually became a co-regent with David during his lifetime. So Solomon was not the Great One of 2 Sam. 7.
And king David said, Call to me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king. And the king said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel; and blow ye the trumpet, and say, [Long] live king Solomon. Then ye shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead; and I have appointed him to be prince over Israel and over Judah. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: Jehovah, the God of my lord the king, say so [too]. As Jehovah hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David.
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada said, Amen
(1 Kings 1:36). This was a legal and hearty response indicating complete approval of David's action by this great soldier.
SOLOMON WAS ANOINTED KING OVER ALL ISRAEL
So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David's mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, [Long] live king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
Well, this did it! This was not a mere demonstration of David's intention. Solomon was now sitting upon the throne itself. He had even ridden publicly upon the king's own mule, a symbolical maneuver of the very greatest importance in the eyes of the people. He had been formally anointed by Zadok the priest and with the full approval of the great prophet Nathan as "King over all Israel." Benaiah and the mighty men of David rallied strong sections of the army around them and began blowing the trumpet and shouting up and down the streets of Jerusalem, "Long live king Solomon"! The practiced ear of Joab quickly picked up the sound of the trumpet.
JOAB AND ADONIJAH GOT THE BAD NEWS
Josephus tells us that Joab and others were about to begin eating when they heard the sound of the trumpet and that they at once lost all desire to take any food.F7
And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Wherefore is this noise of the city being in an uproar? While he yet spake, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came: and Adonijah said, Come in; for thou art a worthy man, and bringest good tidings. And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon king: and the king hath sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they have caused him to ride upon the king's mule; and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon; and they are come up from thence rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that ye have heard. And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom. And moreover the king's servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, Thy God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne: and the king bowed himself upon the bed. And also thus said the king, Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, who hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it.
The text here states that the noise of celebrating Solomon's coronation came, "as they made an end of eating" (1 Kings 1:41), but we do not view this as a contradiction of what Josephus said; because, it is very likely that the whole crowd of Adonijah's supporters finished that meal in a hurry when they heard what had happened!
This entire paragraph is merely a recapitulation in the mouth of Jonathan of all that had been related previously regarding the coronation of Solomon.
ADONIJAH PROMPTLY BOWED TO SOLOMON'S AUTHORITY
And all the guests of Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way. And Adonijah feared because of Solomon; and he arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah feareth king Solomon; for, lo, he hath laid hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me first that he will not slay his servant with the sword. And Solomon said, If he shall show himself a worthy man, there shall not a hair of him fall to the earth; but if wickedness be found in him, he shall die. So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and did obeisance to king Solomon; and Solomon said unto him, Go to thy house.
Adonijah caught hold on the horns of the altar
(1 Kings 1:50). Originally the horns of the altar were appointed as a place of asylum for those who had accidentally committed homicide; but later on, other transgressors sought and received refuge there.F8
"For a brief period David and Solomon were co-regents, but following the death of David, the power was soon consolidated in the hands of Solomon, under whom Israel had her most glorious era of peace and prosperity."F9
Footnotes for 1 Kings 1
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 309.
2: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5a, p. 2.
3: Broadman Bible Commentary, p. 157.
4: International Critical Commentary, Kings, p. 74.
5: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 76.
6: Broadman Bible Commentary, p. 158.
7: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 234.
8: Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, p. 2.
9: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 194.