The history now before us accounts for the affairs of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, yet with special regard to the kingdom of God among them; for it is a sacred history. It is earlier as to time, teaches much more, and is more interesting than any common histories.
David's declining age. (1-4) Adonijah aspires to the throne. (5-10) David makes Solomon king. (11-31) Solomon is anointed king, and Adonijah's usurpation stopped. (32-53)
Verses 1-4 We have David sinking under infirmities. He was chastised for his recent sins, and felt the effects of his former toils and hardships.
Verses 5-10 Indulgent parents are often chastised with disobedient children, who are anxious to possess their estates. No worldly wisdom, nor experience, nor sacredness of character, can insure the continuance in any former course of those who remain under the power of self-love. But we may well wonder by what arts Joab and Abiathar could be drawn aside.
Verses 11-31 Observe Nathan's address to Bathsheba. Let me give thee counsel how to save thy own life, and the life of thy son. Such as this is the counsel Christ's ministers give us in his name, to give all diligence, not only that no man take our crown, Re. 3:11 , but that we save our lives, even the lives of our souls. David made a solemn declaration of his firm cleaving to his former resolution, that Solomon should be his successor. Even the recollection of the distresses from which the Lord redeemed him, increased his comfort, inspired his hopes, and animated him to his duty, under the decays of nature and the approach of death.
Verses 32-53 The people expressed great joy and satisfaction in the elevation of Solomon. Every true Israelite rejoices in the exaltation of the Son of David. Combinations formed upon evil principles will soon be dissolved, when self-interest calls another way. How can those who do evil deeds expect to have good tidings? Adonijah had despised Solomon, but soon dreaded him. We see here, as in a glass, Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God, exalted to the throne of glory, notwithstanding all his enemies. His kingdom is far greater than that of his father David, and therein all the true people of God cordially rejoice. The prosperity of his cause is vexation and terror to his enemies. No horns of the altar, nor forms of godliness, nor pretences to religion, can profit those who will not submit to His authority, and accept of his salvation; and if their submission be hypocritical, they shall perish without remedy.
1 Kings 1:1-4 . ABISHAG CHERISHES DAVID IN HIS EXTREME AGE.
1, 2. Now king David was old--He was in the seventieth year of his age ( 2 Samuel 5:4 2 Samuel 5:5 ). But the wear and tear of a military life, bodily fatigue, and mental care, had prematurely, if we may say it, exhausted the energies of David's strong constitution ( 1 Samuel 16:12 ). In modern Palestine and Egypt the people, owing to the heat of the climate, sleep each in a "separate" bed. They only depart from this practice for medical reasons ( Ecclesiastes 4:11 ). The expedient recommended by David's physicians is the regimen still prescribed in similar cases in the East, particularly among the Arab population, not simply to give heat, but "to cherish," as they are aware that the inhalation of young breath will give new life and vigor to the worn-out frame. The fact of the health of the young and healthier person being, as it were, stolen to support that of the more aged and sickly is well established among the medical faculty. And hence the prescription for the aged king was made in a hygienic point of view for the prolongation of his valuable life, and not merely for the comfort to be derived from the natural warmth imparted to his withered frame [PORTER, Tent and Khan]. The polygamy of the age and country may account for the introduction of this practice; and it is evident that Abishag was made a concubine or secondary wife to David
3. a Shunammite--Shunem, in the tribe of Issachar ( Joshua 19:18 ), lay on an eminence in the plain of Esdraelon, five miles south of Tabor. It is now called Sulam.
1 Kings 1:5-31 . ADONIJAH USURPS THE KINGDOM.
5, 6. Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself--Nothing is said as to the origin or rank of Haggith, so that it is probable she was not distinguished by family descent. Adonijah, though David's fourth son ( 2 Samuel 3:4 , 1 Chronicles 3:2 ), was now the oldest alive; and his personal attractions and manners ( 1 Samuel 9:2 ) not only recommended him to the leading men about court, but made him the favorite of his father, who, though seeing him assume an equipage becoming only the heir-presumptive to the throne ( 2 Samuel 15:1 ), said nothing; and his silence was considered by many, as well as by Adonijah, to be equivalent to an expression of consent. The sinking health of the king prompted him to take a decisive step in furtherance of his ambitious designs.
7. he conferred with Joab--The anxiety of Adonijah to secure the influence of a leader so bold, enterprising, and popular with the army was natural, and the accession of the hoary commander is easily accounted for from his recent grudge at the king
and with Abiathar the priest--His influence was as great over the priests and Levites--a powerful body in the kingdom--as that of Joab over the troops. It might be that both of them thought the crown belonged to Adonijah by right of primogeniture, from his mature age and the general expectations of the people ( 1 Kings 2:15 ).
8. But Zadok the priest--He had been high priest in the tabernacle at Gibeon under Saul ( 1 Chronicles 16:39 ). David, on his accession, had conjoined him and Abiathar equal in the exercise of their high functions ( 2 Samuel 8:17 , 2 Samuel 15:24 2 Samuel 15:29 2 Samuel 15:35 ). But it is extremely probable that some cause of jealousy or discord between them had arisen, and hence each lent his countenance and support to opposite parties.
Benaiah--Distinguished for his bravery ( 1 Samuel 23:20 ), he had been appointed captain of the king's bodyguard ( 2 Samuel 8:18 , 20:23 , 1 Chronicles 18:17 ), and was regarded by Joab as a rival.
Nathan the prophet--He was held in high estimation by David, and stood on the most intimate relations with the royal family ( 2 Samuel 12:25 ).
Shimei--probably the person of this name who was afterwards enrolled among Solomon's great officers ( 1 Kings 4:18 ).
Rei--supposed to be the same as Ira ( 2 Samuel 20:26 ).
and the mighty men--the select band of worthies.
9, 10. En-rogel--situated ( Joshua 15:7-10 ) east of Jerusalem, in a level place, just below the junction of the valley of Hinnom with that of Jehoshaphat. It is a very deep well, measuring one hundred twenty-five feet in depth; the water is sweet, but not very cold, and it is at times quite full to overflowing. The Orientals are fond of enjoying festive repasts in the open air at places which command the advantage of shade, water, and verdure; and those fetes champetres are not cold collations, but magnificent entertainments, the animals being killed and dressed on the spot. Adonijah's feast at En-rogel was one of this Oriental description, and it was on a large scale ( 2 Samuel 3:4 2 Samuel 3:5 , 5:14-16 , 1 Chronicles 14:1-7 ). At the accession of a new king there were sacrifices offered ( 1 Samuel 11:15 ). But on such an occasion it was no less customary to entertain the grandees of the kingdom and even the populace in a public manner ( 1 Chronicles 12:23-40 ). There is the strongest probability that Adonijah's feast was purely political, to court popularity and secure a party to support his claim to the crown.
11-27. Nathan spake unto Bath-sheba . . . let me . . . give thee counsel--The revolt was defeated by this prophet, who, knowing the Lord's will ( 2 Samuel 7:12 , 1 Chronicles 22:9 ), felt himself bound, in accordance with his character and office, to take the lead in seeing it executed. Hitherto the succession of the Hebrew monarchy had not been settled. The Lord had reserved to Himself the right of nomination ( Deuteronomy 17:15 ), which was acted upon in the appointments both of Saul and David; and in the case of the latter the rule was so far modified that his posterity were guaranteed the perpetual possession of the sovereignty ( 2 Samuel 7:12 ). This divine purpose was known throughout the kingdom; but no intimation had been made as to whether the right of inheritance was to belong to the oldest son. Adonijah, in common with the people generally, expected that this natural arrangement should be followed in the Hebrew kingdom as in all others. Nathan, who was aware of the old king's solemn promise to Solomon, and, moreover, that this promise was sanctioned by the divine will, saw that no time was to be lost. Fearing the effects of too sudden excitement in the king's feeble state, he arranged that Bath-sheba should go first to inform him of what was being transacted without the walls, and that he himself should follow to confirm her statement. The narrative here not only exhibits the vivid picture of a scene within the interior of a palace, but gives the impression that a great deal of Oriental state ceremonial had been established in the Hebrew court.
20. the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne--When the kings died without declaring their will, then their oldest son succeeded. But frequently they designated long before their death which of their sons should inherit the throne. The kings of Persia, as well as of other Eastern countries, have exercised the same right in modern and even recent times.
21. I and my son . . . shall be counted offenders--that is, slain, according to the barbarous usage of the East towards all who are rivals to the throne.
28-31. Then king David answered and said, Call me Bath-sheba--He renews to her the solemn pledge he had given, in terms of solemnity and impressiveness which show that the aged monarch had roused himself to the duty the emergency called for.
1 Kings 1:32-49 . SOLOMON, BY DAVID'S APPOINTMENT, IS ANOINTED KING.
33. cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule--Directions were forthwith given for the immediate coronation of Solomon. A procession was to be formed by the "servants of their lord"--that is, the king's bodyguard. Mules were then used by all the princes ( 2 Samuel 13:29 ); but there was a state mule of which all subjects were forbidden, under pain of death, to make use, without special permission; so that its being granted to Solomon was a public declaration in his favor as the future
bring him down to Gihon--a pool or fountain on the west of Jerusalem chosen as equally public for the counter proclamation.
34. anoint him--done only in the case of a new dynasty or disputed
35. Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne--The public recognition of the successor to the throne, during the old king's lifetime, is accordant with the customs of the East.
39. an horn of oil out of the tabernacle--It was the sacred oil ( Exodus 30:25 ) with which the kings were anointed.
40. all the people came up after him--that is, from the valley to the citadel of Zion.
41-49. Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating--The loud shouts raised by the populace at the joyous proclamation at Gihon, and echoed by assembled thousands, from Zion to En-rogel, were easily heard at that distance by Adonijah and his confederates. The arrival of a trusty messenger, who gave a full detail of the coronation ceremony ( 1 Kings 1:43-48 ), spread dismay in their camp. The wicked and ambitious plot they had assembled to execute was dissipated, and every one of the conspirators consulted his safety by flight.
1 Kings 1:50-53 . ADONIJAH, FLEEING TO THE HORNS OF THE ALTAR, IS DISMISSED BY SOLOMON.
50-53. Adonijah . . . went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar--most probably the altar of burnt offering which had been erected on Mount Zion, where Abiathar, one of his partisans, presided as high priest. The horns or projections at the four corners of the altar, to which the sacrifices were bound, and which were tipped with the blood of the victim, were symbols of grace and salvation to the sinner. Hence the altar was regarded as a sanctuary ( Exodus 21:14 ), but not to murderers, rebels, or deliberate perpetrators. Adonijah, having acted in opposition to the will of the reigning king, was guilty of rebellion, and stood self-condemned. Solomon spared his life on the express condition of his good behavior--living in strict privacy, leading a quiet, peaceable life, and meddling with the affairs of neither the court nor the kingdom.
53. they brought him down from the altar--from the ledge around the altar on which he was standing.
he bowed himself--that is, did homage to Solomon as king.