The opening verse of 1 Kings sets the stage for a transition of leadership in Israel and marks the waning days of David: “Now king David was old and stricken in years” (1 Kings 1:1).
The mighty king whose youthful exploits were celebrated in song is now old, frail, and lying on his deathbed. Though not culturally appropriate in our day, David’s attendants in a desperate attempt to provide physical warmth for the king’s failing body, suggested a young woman be sought who would share his bed (1:1-2). David succumbed to the counsel and a beautiful young woman named Abishag was brought to the king (1:3). While she attended to the king, the Scriptures make it clear that David did not violate her purity and “knew her not” (1:4).
Our study in 1 Chronicles 29 described the glorious coronation of Solomon as Israel’s king (29:1) and David’s prayer of intercession for his young son (29:19, 22-25). 1 Kings 1 gives us the tragic background that led to the king’s decision to leave no doubt that Solomon was God’s chosen king and David’s successor. The events recorded in 1 Kings 1-2 brings to memory the warning of the prophet Nathan that the sword would never depart from his household (2 Samuel 12:7-10).
Adonijah, the elder son of David and the brother of the late rebel Absalom, determined to plot and usurp the throne before David died (1 Kings 1:5-10). We have seen on more than one occasion that a weakness in David’s character was his failure to confront the sins of his own household. Such was the case once again with Adonijah when we read, “his father had not displeased him [Adonijah] at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:6).
David’s failure to address his son’s usurpation gave others cause to follow Adonijah (1:7-8), thus setting the stage for not only a division in the king’s household, but also one that threatened to cause a civil war in Israel. There were even some men in David’s inner circle who, knowing the king was old and frail, were ready to seize the opportunity to be confederate with Adonijah and commandeer the throne of Israel.
Among the traitors who followed Adonijah was Joab (1 Kings 1:7), one of David’s “mighty men” who had disparaged the king’s will in the past and slain two of his generals (2 Samuel 3:27; 20:10).
Notice how rebels have a sense of those who are loyal to leadership and avoid their company.
Adonijah called several to anoint him as his father’s successor to the throne; however, “Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not” (1 Kings 1:10). Adonijah knew his actions were contrary to the will of the LORD and he made sure those loyal to David would not be included in his plot.
Knowing Adonijah was setting in motion a plan to seize the throne, Nathan counseled Bathsheba to intercede with the king for her son Solomon and have him declared king (1 Kings 1:11-31). David heeded the counsel of Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan and directed that Solomon be anointed king and declared his successor (1:32-40).
When news reached Adonijah that Solomon was king, all who had followed him in his rebellion fled for their lives (1:41-53).
A Lesson in Character
I have learned the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in a man’s character tend to be constant.
Consider the counsel David gave Solomon regarding his adversaries (2:1-9). David prepared Solomon to reign in his stead and challenged his son to be “strong” and conduct himself according to God’s law, assuring him the LORD’s blessing would rest upon his lineage (2:1-4).
David cautioned Solomon, reminding him of the flaws and failures of certain men in positions of power and influence who had proven untrustworthy and wronged him in the past (2:5-9). Joab’s disloyalty was a concern to David who urged his son to “let not his hoar head (white hairs) go down to the grave in peace” (2:5-6).
There was also Shimei, the man who had cursed David when he fled from his son Absalom. Shimei had begged for his life and was spared after Absalom’s rebellion, but David urged his son to execute Shimei and not risk him becoming a threat to the throne (2:8-9).
After David died (2:10-11), Solomon moved to secure his kingdom and the first threat he faced was his own brother Adonijah (2:12-25). Playing on the pity Bathsheba might have for his state, Adonijah petitioned Solomon’s mother to intercede for him (2:13-18) that he might take Abishag (1:3-4), David’s young virgin concubine, for his wife. Solomon discerned Adonijah’s request to be a plot to legitimize his claim to the throne and had his brother put to death (2:19-25).
Following his father’s advice, Solomon dealt with each of his enemies in like fashion. Abiathar, the priest who had supported Adonijah’s illegitimate claim to the throne, was warned his traitorous actions were worthy of death, but he would be spared (2:26-27). Hearing Solomon was pursuing threats to his reign, Joab fled to the altar hoping to find grace, but was slain (2:28-35). Solomon remembered the curses of Shimei against his father and three years later had him slain (2:39-46).
I close encouraging you to reflect on the character of people with influence in your life. Apart from sincere repentance and genuine humility, I believe you will find the strengths and weaknesses of a man’s character tend to be consistent.
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith