Scripture reading – Psalm 118; 1 Kings 1

I begin today’s Bible study with gratitude to those who faithfully follow www.HeartofAShepherd. I started January 2023 with a new website and a renewed commitment to write and edit daily chronological “through the Bible” studies. If you have been on this mission with me, together we have read and studied thirteen books of the Bible. If you are faithful and disciplined, we will complete our study of the Scriptures with a study of Revelation 22 on December 31, 2025.

Today’s Scripture reading continues in the Psalms and introduces the first of two books of the Bible known as the Kings. As its name implies, it is a study of the kings of Israel and Judah. Our study of King David’s life will conclude with an introduction to the post-Davidic era in Israel’s history. Because the history of Israel’s kings is pivotal in our study of the Old Testament Scriptures, the focus of this devotional will be 1 Kings 1.

1 Kings 1

David, the Frailty of Old Age (1 Kings 1:1-4)

The opening verse of 1 Kings sets the stage for a leadership transition in Israel when we read, “Now king David was old and stricken in years” (1 Kings 1:1). 

The mighty king, whose exploits were celebrated in song and the Scriptures, is old, frail, and lying on his deathbed.  Though not culturally appropriate in our day, David’s servants, 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 Kings 1:1-2). David yielded to the counsel, and a beautiful young virgin named Abishag, a Shunammite, was brought to the king (1 Kings 1:3). Though she attended to the king, the Scriptures are clear that David did not violate her purity, for “the king knew her not” (1 Kings 1:4).

Adonijah, the Usurper Son (1 Kings 1:5-10)

A recent study in 1 Chronicles 29 described the glorious coronation of Solomon as Israel’s king (1 Chronicles 29:1) and David’s prayer of intercession for his son (1 Chronicles 29:19, 22-25). 1 Kings 1 gives us the tragic background that led to David’s decision to announce that Solomon was God’s chosen and his successor as king. The sad events in 1 Kings 1-2 remind us again of the prophet Nathan’s warning after David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the death of Uriah, her husband: “The sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).

Knowing his father’s health was failing, Adonijah, the oldest living son of David and the brother of the deceased rebel Absalom, plotted to usurp his father’s throne before he died (1 Kings 1:5-10). We are again reminded of a prevailing weakness of David’s character as a father and his failure to confront the sins of his household. As it was with Absalom, so it was with Adonijah, for “his father had not displeased [hurt; grieved; i.e., chastened]him [Adonijah] at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:6). 

Adonijah failed to fear and revere his father. He usurped the king before his death and plotted with members of David’s inner circle who, knowing the king was old and frail, seized the opportunity to be confederate with Adonijah. Among the traitors who joined him was Joab (1 Kings 1:7-8), the captain of David’s army and a powerful man in Israel (he had been complicit in David’s orders to abandon Uriah at the battlefront to be killed, 2 Samuel 11:14-17).  Though he was one of David’s “mighty men,” in the past, he disparaged the king’s will and slew two of his generals (2 Samuel 3:27; 20:10). 

A Case for “Rebel Radar” (1 Kings 1:10)

Like rebels whom I have known, Adonijah had a sense (i.e., rebel radar) of men who would be disloyal to his father, the king, and others whom he dared not reveal his plot and aspirations to be king. Adonijah knew his actions were contrary to his father’s will and, therefore, made sure those loyal to David would not be included in his plot. Among those Adonijah excluded were “Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother” (1 Kings 1:10). 

The Prophet Nathan and Bathsheba’s Intervention (1 Kings 1:11-31)

When the prophet Nathan learned of Adonijah’s plot to seize the throne, he counseled Bathsheba to intercede with the king for her son and ask David to declare Solomon king (1 Kings 1:11-31). Nathan promised to follow Bathsheba’s meeting and reinforce her appeal to the king that he must intervene to foil Adonijah’s insurrection.

Bathsheba pleaded, “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” (1 Kings 1:21). Bathsheba feared, and rightly so, that Adonijah would assassinate any he believed was a threat to his claim to the throne.

David called for Bathsheba after hearing Nathan’s report and how Adonijah conspired to be king (1 Kings 1:23-27). The king assured her that Solomon, their son, would be king and would “reign after [him], and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day” (1 Kings 1:30).

David Commanded Solomon to Be Crowned King (1 Kings 1:32-40)

David heeded Bathsheba’s intercession, and following the prophet Nathan’s counsel, he commanded Solomon to be anointed king and declared his successor before all of Israel (1 Kings 1:32-40). 

Adonijah’s Fear and Plea Mercy (1 Kings 1:41-53)

When news reached Adonijah that Solomon had been anointed king, all who followed him fled (1 Kings 1:41-49). Fearing his brother would seek his life, Adonijah escaped to the Tabernacle and took hold of the altar to plead for mercy (1 Kings 1:50). Some told Solomon his brother had taken “hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me to day that he will not slay his servant with the sword” (1 Kings 1:51).

In an act of grace and mercy, Solomon declared concerning Adonijah, “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. 53So 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” (1 Kings 1:52-53).

Closing thoughts –

Adonijah found a reprieve from the death punishment he deserved; however, his hypocrisy and wicked character would soon demand Solomon act with force to protect the nation from civil war. Our next Scripture reading (1 Kings 2-3) will prove tragic, as David warned Solomon in his dying hours to beware of men who lacked integrity during his reign. Solomon would have to reckon with family and foe to solidify his throne.

Questions to consider –

1) Though culturally unacceptable today, what provision was made for David in the frailty of old age? (1 Kings 1:1-4)

2) Knowing his father, the king, was dying, what did Adonijah do? (1 Kings 1:5)

3) What was the name of Adonijah’s older brother? (1 Kings 1:6)

4) Who were Adonijah’s co-conspirators? (1 Kings 1:7)

5) Who did Adonijah not invite to his coronation banquet? (1 Kings 1:10)

6) What did Bathsheba fear if David died and Adonijah was king? (1 Kings 1:21)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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