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 let her 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 coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.( I Kings 3:1-4)
The story of the rise of King Solomon commences in the Bible with a death bed scene.
David was dying. We see him old, infirm, unable to even warm himself, shivering in his bed, relying on the services of a young maiden just to keep his blood flowing.
We remember that in the first part of David’s life he was the consummate man of action; fighting lions and bears as he rescued his sheep, going up against the Giant, fighting and circumcising Philistines, leading troops into battle, fleeing Saul and leading a guerrilla band in the wilderness, and taking the throne and leading Israel into expansion through war.
But in the second part of his life, David is pictured in the Bible as the man who is acted upon, not the actor. He is passive even when his own children do horrendous things to each other, and seems powerless to stop the disintegration of Israel into Civil War, and again through the plague which came as a punishment for his sin. Again, here at the end, he lies shivering in bed, as a succession crisis brews around him..
What was the turning point?
It was his sin with BathSheba which was the turning point of David’s life. Yes He ws forgiven, but he wasn’t exempted of the consequences of his sin, among which are the loss of moral authority and the confidence which accompanies it.
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.6And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.7And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him. ( I Kings 1:5-7)
Adonijah was David’s oldest surviving son, the true brother of Absalom, and the logical choice to be the successor to David’s throne. He doesn’t wait for his (seemingly powerless and irrelevant) Father, instead we are told that he exalted himself to seize the throne.
The first step would be to acquire powerful political allies from David’s cabinet, and to hire a chariot and fifty runners to make himself appear “Kingly”. He consulted Joab, David’s nephew, and most trusted and veteran general, a ruthless realist and loyal partisan of David’s. Joab believed that the end always justifies the means.
Next Abijah acquired Abiathar, the Priest who had once fled with David when Absalom tried to kill him in the great rebellion.
The next thing to do was to put out the invitations and to begin to prepare for his own coronation. The guest list was as conspicuous for who was not invited as it was for the invited;
But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah.9And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by Enrogel, and 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.( I Kings 1:8-10)
Among the disinvited, there was consternation, for this was a dangerous coup, and could possibly bring about another Civil War. But those loyalists to King David had access to that bedchamber, and utilized it post haste.
And Bathsheba went in unto the king into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered unto the king. And Bathsheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the Lord thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne. And now, behold, Adonijah reigneth; and now, my lord the king, thou knowest it not: And he hath slain oxen and fat cattle 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, O 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 shall come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.( I Kings 1:15-21)
Nathan the Prophet entered the King’s bed chamber also as a second witness to the goings on, asking the King if Adonijah was to be the successor and telling him of the coronation feast, who was invited and who was left out.
Suddenly like an old sleeping lion roused into fury, David swore an oath that Solomon was to be the King and began giving orders to his loyal cabinet, as He would have in the days when as King he led troops into battle;
And king David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king. The king also 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 with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon. Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.( I Kings 1:32-35)
Solomon was placed upon King David’s Mule and began a procession into Jerusalem, first surrounded by the loyal ones of David’s staff, Nathan, Benahiah, Zadok the Priest, David’s personal Philistine Guard, but then joined by trumpeters, pipers and throngs of the faithful accompanying him, shouting “God Save King Solomon!”.
This would be a foretaste of centuries later, when another son of David rode into Jerusalem, this time on a colt, the foal of an Ass, in fulfillment of prophecy ( Zechariah 9:9). He too would be hailed as King and cheered as he entered into the Holy City.
Peter Leitart comments in his Brazos commentary that Solomon and Jesus both entered Jerusalem, destined to have significant impact on the Temple,
“Solomon enters Jerusalem to be enthroned as the temple builder, While Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to reenact the Temple’s destruction”. (Bezos Commentary 1 and 2 Kings, Peter Leithart, page 32).
Now there are two rival coronations of two Kings, and two “Sons of David” being acclaimed as King! Of course one King is true and one King is false and this choice becomes a test of loyalty to the people, just as we will all soon be confronted with another Christ, who comes in his own name.
This chapter shows us a foretaste of what is going to happen when the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords arrives to take his Kingdom. The other coronation is ruined, and fear sets in as well as desertion, for the true coronation outshines the false one;
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? And while he yet spake, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came; and Adonijah said unto him, Come in; for thou art a valiant man, and bringest good tidings.And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon king.( I Kings 1:41-43)
But the new King begins his reign showing mercy, even to his enemies and to rebels. When he hears that David , his father has asserted Solomon as King, Adonijah fled to the altar of God and clung to the horns of it, trembling for his life.
But when Solomon is told of it, in mercy he sends for his half brother, assuring him with a conditional promise, that if He acts in good faith, he will not be harmed and can live in peace in the Kingdom, but if not, he will die. Solomon’s throne will be based upon both justice and mercy.
And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah feareth king Solomon: for, lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me today that he will not slay his servant with the sword. And Solomon said, If he will shew himself a worthy man, there shall not an hair of him fall to the earth: but if wickedness shall be found in him, he shall die. So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and bowed himself to king Solomon: and Solomon said unto him, Go to thine house.( I Kings 1:51-53)