1 Kings 1-2: Solomon Crowned King

David passes on the crown to Solomon amidst a coup.

Introduction

1 Kings opens with David on his death bed. He had reached the point in life where he was cold no matter how much clothing he wore, something common in old age. The elders suggest a young virgin was to bring warmth (body-heat) to the king and take care of him. Likely they sought out a virgin because it would have been improper for a married woman to lie with the king in such a manner. The idea was that the young and healthy body of the virgin would help to heal the old and sick body of the king. The passage makes it clear that nothing sexual happened between the two. However the reason for this is debated. It can be argued that her purpose was merely to heal the ailing king, but it can also be argued that David was too old to engage in sexual acts. Scholars remind us that the latter would have be fuel to the fire for those trying to succeed the throne, as it would establish the king as weak and unable to continue as ruler.[1] Also, the latter would explain the hostility that is sparked when Solomon's brother asks to marry the young virgin.
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Adonijah

Adonijah was the younger brother of Absalom and the son of Haggith; he was Solomon's older half brother. As David began to decline in health, Adonijah asserted himself as heir to the throne. Adonijah conferred with Joab and Abithar—a high ranking officers in the army and a priest—who both lent their support to him. David does not immediately rebuke Adonijah's actions despite the fact that he had already declared Solomon future king (1 Chronicles 28:5).

Thankfully, many of the Israelites remained loyal to David and Solomon. Zadok (the priest), Nathan (the prophet), and even Shimei, who had lead his own coup against David, all stood with David and the rightful heir, Solomon. Knowing as much, when Adonijah rallies his troops for an unofficial coronation and feast, he does not call for them, nor for his brother Solomon to join.
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Nathan Has A Plan

The prophet Nathan approaches Bathsheba with a way to ensure Solomon gets his promised throne; this would ensure the safety of all their lives. Competitors were often killed upon a ruler's ascent to the throne to stamp out divison in the kingdom. If Adonijah took the throne, anyone who backed Solomon would have likely been put to death along with Solomon.

Per Nathan's plan, Bathsheba was approached the king with news of Adonijah's reign, and reminded him of his promise to Solomon. Nathan chose that moment to enter with a confirmation of the events. They were sure that once David knew what was happening he would put an end to it. Nathan adds that Adoijah is feasting with the kings sons to celebrate his crowning, but did not invite those who knew the truth such as himself, Zadok, or Solomon. This signals to David the severity of the situation and he assures them that Solomon, not Adonijah, would be declared king.
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Solomon Crowned

David acts quickly to have Solomon anointed. He assigns the proper personnel for a coronation, choses the location, and specifies that his personal mule be ridden by Solomon, a sign of Solomon's authority to take the throne.

When the trumpet sounds that Solomon has been crowned and all the city begins to rejoice, the commotion interrupts Adonijah's feast. Confused at what has occurred, they seek information from Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, as he enters the room. Jonathan informs them that Solomon has been made king and now sits on the throne. The realization that their coup has been cut short places them in the position Nathan, Bathsheba, and Solomon had previously been in. Were they now considered criminals? Would Solomon seek to kill them for their treason? Adonijah and his guests begin to fear what will come next, and rightfully so.
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Adonijah Hides

As the ring leader of this coup, Adonijah was in the most danger of Solomon's wrath. He seeks to safeguard himself by taking refuge at an altar and when Solomon hears, he gives his word that if Adonijah proves to be worthy, no harm will come to him. Solomon makes it clear that if Adonijah dallies in shady business or starts to rebel, he reserves the right to have Adonijah killed. At theses tidings, Adonijah bows to the king and the coup seems to be officially over.
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King to King

When I think of kingly successions from ancient times, I think of brutality and intrigue (probably from reading too much fiction in the vein of Neil Gaiman's Stardust). Much like the attempted coups of Adonijah and Absalom, I expect there to be turmoil surrounding the death of a ruler, but I also expect the former king to be reluctant to let go of power, like Saul. We see this today with rulers, even the peaceable Queen Elizabeth has not retired the crown to Prince Charles.[2] David, however, proves to be very gracious about passing on the power. Not only does he anoint Solomon before his death, David takes the time to give Solomon some kingly advice.

The first piece of advice David gives Solomon is to follow the word of God. David stresses the importance of following the commandments and the ordinances. It is only by leading a Godly life and following God's Will that any of us are successful; David knew this and reminded Solomon that his place as king depended on his relationship with God.

After making sure Solomon was right in his position with God, David began to expound on the politics surrounding the throne.
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Joab

David reminds Solomon that Joab was treacherous; he killed both Abner and Amasa. Although the death of Abner may have been considered atonement for the death of Joab's brother at Abner's hand, the murder of Joab's brother had been done during war, while Joab killed Abner during the time of peace. David may have let that slide if Joab hadn't turned around and killed Amasa out of greed and spite. David wanted Solomon to know for certain that he could not trust Joab. David goes so far as to advise Solomon not to let Joab die of old age, but to punish him for his crimes against Abner and Amasa.
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Barzillai

Barzillai was the man who took care of David during Absalom's rebellion. David had attempted to bring him to Jerusalem where he planned to host him but Barzillai wanted to carry out his last days in his hometown without burdening anyone. Now, David was ensuring that the favor he'd planned for Barzillai would be inherited by his sons. David instructs Solomon to allow them to eat at the table of the king.
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Shimei

David also brings up the issue of Shimei. Shimei had been against David during Absalom's rebellion and even cursed the king, but had also been the first to welcome him back to Jerusalem. David warns Solomon to keep an eye out for him. Solomon was not under the oath not to kill him that David had taken to stabilize the kingdom. David advised Solomon to use his wisdom to know if Shimei was up to no good and put an end to it.
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Adonijah's End

Adonijah approaches Bathsheba, who's first question is the nature of his visit. Adonijah had just staged a coup; it makes sense that the mother of the king who won the skirmish would be worried about the one who lost approaching her. Adonijah admits the kingdom was his for the taking except the LORD had intervened. He is acknowledging that God chose Solomon over him. Instead of apologizing however, he asks Bathsheba to lobby the king and grant him Abishag, the young virgin who had cared for David on his deathbed, to wife.

Despite never having sex with the king, Abishag was considered a concubine or wife of his. Not only did this fall under the incestuous relationships outlined in Leviticus 18:8, but it also would read as an assertion to the throne. Taking the former king's assets was a challenge to Solomon's position.

Bathsheba doesn't raise the alarm, however; she agrees to pass along the message. Presumably, Bathsheba knew her son well enough to know that such a request would anger him. Denying the request and letting Adonijah go off to plot some other coup attempt would do nothing for Solomon's position, so Bathsheba allowed Adonijah to fan the flames of his own death.

Solomon is immediately angry at the request. He tells his mother she might as well have asked for the whole kingdom to be given to Adonijah. Solomon is not so foolish to think that Bathsheba actually wanted that; he knows that Adonijah has made this request himself. Solomon pronounces death on Adonijah, for staking such a claim.
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Cleaning House

Seemingly on a roll, Solomon decides to go ahead and deal with all of the shady characters around him. First he banishes Abiathar. Abiathar was a priest and had carried the ark before David; he was one of the priests that assisted David during Absalom's coup. As such, Solomon was resolved not to kill him. Instead he removes him Jerusalem and sends him away. Abiathar helped Adonijah, but he wasn't a ring leader. Solomon probably though he was harmless away from center of royal politics.[1] Solomon promotes Zadok to the high priest position in place of Abithar.

Next, Solomon sends word for Joab. Joab is hiding in the tabernacle and refuses to meet the king. The once valiant army leader asked to die there in the tabernacle instead, and Solomon obliges. This would have been a controversial move during Solomon's time, just as it would be today. Whether the Israelites truly believed in God or not, they were superstitious that the altar provided protection. Killing someone in the presence of God would have been very taboo. However, the sanctuary only protected those who committed accidental crimes; Joab had purposely killed. Thus, there was no reprieve for him there. Today, we attribute the same types of superstitions to churches, but we must remember that God will protect the righteous anywhere, and the unrighteous are always vulnerable. Benaiah is promoted to captain of the army in place of Joab.

Finally, Solomon approaches Shimei. Solomon tells Shimei to stay in Jerusalem, likely so that he could watch over the troublesome rebel. Solomon tells Shimei that the day he leaves Jerusalem, he will know Shimei is plotting against him and sentence him to death. Shimei agrees and builds a home in Jerusalem, where he stays for 3 years. During the third year, Shimei's servants run away to Gath where they find more of Shimei's servants. Instead of lobbying the king to retrieve them or sending someone else to gather them back to Jerusalem, Shimei goes to Gath himself. When Solomon hears this, he keeps his end of the bargain and has Shimei executed.

References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 575-582. 2014
  2. UK News. "Will Prince Charles ever be king?". The Week. November 8, 2016

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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