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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 1

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Now - Rather, “and.” The conjunction has here, probably, the same sort of connecting force which it has at the opening of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, etc., and implies that the historian regards his work as a continuation of a preceding history.

King David - The expression “king David,” instead of the simpler “David,” is characteristic of the writer of Kings. (See the introduction to the Book of Kings) The phrase is comparatively rare in Chronicles and Samuel.

Stricken in, years - David was perhaps now in his first year. He was thirty years old when he was made king in Hebron 2 Samuel 5:4; he reigned in Hebron seven years and six months 2Sa 2:11; 1 Chronicles 3:4; and he reigned thirty-three years at Jerusalem 2 Samuel 5:5. The expression had here been used only of persons above eighty Genesis 18:11; Genesis 24:1; Joshua 13:1; Joshua 23:1 : but the Jews at this time were not long-lived. No Jewish monarch after David, excepting Solomon and Manasseh, exceeded sixty years.

Clothes - Probably “bed-clothes.” The king was evidently bed-ridden 1 Kings 1:47.

Verse 2

Since the Jewish law allowed polygamy, David’s conduct in following - what has been said to have been - physician’s advice, was blameless.

Verse 5

The narrative concerning - Abishag, the Shunammite (see the margin reference “a”), is introduced as necessary for a proper understanding of Adonijah’s later history (see 1 Kings 2:13-25.) But even as it stands, it heightens considerably the picture drawn of the poor king’s weak and helpless condition, of which Adonijah was not ashamed to take advantage for his own aggrandizement. Adonijah was born while David reigned at Hebron, and was therefore now between thirty-three and forty years of age. He was David’s fourth son, but had probably become the eldest by the death of his three older brothers. He claimed the crown by right of primogeniture 1 Kings 2:15, and secretly to his partisans (compare 1 Kings 1:10) announced his intention of assuming the sovereignty. It was well known to him, and perhaps to the Jews generally, that David intended to make Solomon his successor 1 Kings 1:13.

To run before him - That is, he assumed the same quasi-royal state as Absalom had done, when he contemplated rebellion 2 Samuel 15:1.

Verse 6

Had not displeased him - i. e. “His father had never checked or thwarted him all his life.”

A very goodly man - Here, too, Adonijah resembled Absalom 2 Samuel 14:25. The Jews, like the other nations of antiquity, regarded the physical qualities of rulers as of great importance, and wished their kings to be remarkable for strength, stature, and beauty 1 Samuel 9:2. Adonijah’s personal advantages no doubt helped to draw the people to him.

His mother ... - i. e. Haggith bare Adonijah after Maacah bare Absalom 2 Samuel 3:3-4. The words in italics are not in the original; hence, some, by a slight alteration, read “David begat him.”

Verse 7

Joab’s defection on this occasion, after his faithful adherence to David during the troubles caused by Absalom 2 Samuel 18:2-17, may be accounted for by his fear that Solomon would be a “man of rest” 1 Chronicles 22:9 and by his preference for the character of Adonijah. He may also have thought that Adonijah, as the eldest son 1 Kings 1:5, had almost a right to succeed.

Abiathar’s defection is still more surprising than Joab’s. For his history, see 1 Samuel 22:20 note. Hereto, David and he had been the firmest of friends. It has been conjectured that he had grown jealous of Zadok, and feared being supplanted by him.

Verse 8

There is some difficulty in understanding how Zadok and Abiathar came to be both “priests” at this time, and in what relation they stood to one another. The best explanation seems to be that Abiathar was the real high priest, and officiated at the sanctuary containing the ark of the covenant in Zion, while Zadok performed the offices of chief priest at the tabernacle of Witness at Gibeon 1 Chronicles 16:39.

For Benaiah, see 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:23; 2 Samuel 23:20-21. For Nathan, see 2Sa 7:2-3, 2 Samuel 7:17; 2 Samuel 12:1-15, 2 Samuel 12:25. As privy to all David’s plans 1 Kings 1:24, he had no doubt fully approved the order of succession which the king was known to intend.

Shimei and Rei - Shimei and Rei are perhaps David’s two brothers, Shimma and Raddai 1 Chronicles 2:13-14.

Mighty men - Probably the company of 600, originally formed during David’s early wanderings 1 Samuel 25:13; 1 Samuel 27:2, and afterward maintained as the most essential element of his standing army.

Verse 9

Adonijah’s feast was probably of a sacrificial character, and intended to inaugurate him as king. Compare the “sacrifices” of Absalom 2 Samuel 15:12.

Zoheleth - No satisfactory explanation has been given of this name. Large blocks of stone always attract attention in the East, and receive names which are often drawn from some trivial circumstance. Sinai and Palestine are full of such “Hajars,” which correspond to the “Ebens” or “stones” of Holy Scripture. (Compare Genesis 28:22; Jos 4:9; 1 Samuel 6:14.) For En-Rogel, see the margin reference.

Verse 11

The son of Haggith - Compare the margin reference. This expression was well chosen to touch the pride of Bath-sheba. “Adonijah; not thy son, but the son of thy rival, Haggith.”

Verse 12

It would have been in accordance with general Eastern custom for Solomon to suffer death, if Adonijah had succeeded in his attempt. But to have executed his mother also would have been an unusual severity. Still, such cases sometimes occurred: Cassander put to death Roxana, the widow of Alexander the Great, at the same time with her son, the young Alexander.

Verse 14

Confirm thy words - “Establish” them, by giving a second testimony. Nathan thinks it best to move David’s affections first through Bath-sheba, before he comes in to discuss the matter as one of state policy, and to take the king’s orders upon it.

Verse 15

Into the chamber - The “bed-chamber” or “inner chamber.” Abishag was a disinterested witness present, who heard all that Bath-sheba said to David.

Verse 16

Bath-sheba bowed, like the woman of Tekoah 2 Samuel 14:4, with the humble prostration of a suppliant. Hence, the king’s question, “What wouldest thou?”

Verse 20

Tell them who shall sit on the throne - Side by side with what may be called the natural right of hereditary succession, there existed in the old world, and especially in the East, a right, if not of absolutely designating a successor, yet at any rate of choosing one among several sons. Thus, Cyrus designated Cambyses; and Darius designated Xerxes; and a still more absolute right of nomination was exercised by some of the Roman emperors.

Verse 21

Shall sleep - This euphemism for death, rare in the early Scriptures - being found only once in the Pentateuch (margin reference.), and once also in the historical books before Kings 2 Samuel 7:12 - becomes in Kings and Chronicles the ordinary mode of speech (see 1 Kings 2:10; 1 Kings 11:43, etc.; 2Ch 9:31; 2 Chronicles 12:16, etc.). David uses the metaphor in one psalm Psalms 13:3. In the later Scriptures it is, of course, common. (Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 9:24; John 11:11; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1Co 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, etc.)

Verse 22

Nathan came into the palace, not into the chamber, where he might not enter unannounced. Bath-sheba retired before Nathan entered, in accordance with Oriental ideas of propriety. So, when Bath-sheba was again sent for 1 Kings 1:28, Nathan retired (compare 1 Kings 1:32).

Verse 24

Hast thou said - Thou hast said. In the original no question is asked. Nathan assumes, as far as words go, that the king has made this declaration. He wishes to draw forth a disclaimer.

Verse 29

“As the Lord liveth” was the most common form of oath among the Israelites (e. g. Judges 8:19; 1 Samuel 14:39; 1 Samuel 19:6). It was unique to David to attach a further clause to this oath - a clause of thankfulness for some special mercy 1 Samuel 25:34, or for God’s constant protection of him (here and in 2 Samuel 4:9).

Verse 31

A lower and humbler obeisance than before 1 Kings 1:16. In the Assyrian sculptures ambassadors are represented with their faces actually touching the earth before the feet of the monarch.

Verse 32

The combination of the high priest, the prophet, and the captain of the bodyguard (the Cherethites and Pelethites, 1 Kings 1:38), would show the people that the proceedings had the king’s sanction. The order of the names marks the position of the persons with respect to the matter in hand.

Verse 33

Mules and horses seem to have been first employed by the Israelites in the reign of David, and the use of the former was at first confined to great personages 2 Samuel 13:29; 2 Samuel 18:9. The rabbis tell us that it was death to ride on the king’s mule without his permission; and thus it would be the more evident to all that the proceedings with respect to Solomon had David’s sanction.

Gihon - Probably the ancient name of the valley called afterward the Tyropoeum, which ran from the present Damascus Gate, by Siloam, into the Kedron vale, having the temple hill, or true Zion, on the left, and on the right the modern Zion or ancient city of the Jebusites. The upper “source” of the “waters of Gihon,” which Hezekiah stopped (see the margin reference), was probably in the neighborhood of the Damascus Gate.

Verse 34

Anoint him - Inauguration into each of the three offices (those of prophet, priest, and king) typical of the Messiah or Anointed One, was by anointing with oil. Divine appointment had already instituted the rite in connection with the kingly office 2 Samuel 2:4; but after Solomon we have no express mention of the anointing of kings, except in the three cases of Jehu, Joash, and Jehoahaz 2Ki 9:6; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Kings 23:30, who were all appointed irregularly. At the time of the captivity, kings, whose anointing has not been related in the historical books, still bear the title of “the anointed of the Lord.” Lamentations 4:20; Psalms 89:38, Psalms 89:51.

Verse 35

Over Israel and over Judah - There is no anticipation here of the subsequent division of the kingdom; the antithesis between Judah and Israel already existed in the reign of David 2 Samuel 2:9; 2 Samuel 19:11.

Verse 37

As the Lord hath been with my lord - This phrase expresses a very high degree of divine favor. It occurs first in the promises of God to Isaac Genesis 26:3, Genesis 26:24 and Jacob Genesis 28:13. See further margin reference.

Verse 39

The tabernacle - Probably that which David had made for the ark of the covenant on Mount Zion 2 Samuel 6:17. For the holy oil, see the margin reference. That it was part of the regular furniture of the tabernacle appears from Exodus 31:11; Exodus 39:38.

Verse 40

Piped with pipes - Some prefer “danced with dances” - a meaning which the Hebrew would give by a change in the pointing, and the alteration of one letter. But the change is unnecessary. (Flutepipes were known to the Israelites 1 Samuel 10:5; they were very ancient in Egypt, and were known also to the Assyrians.

The earth rent - If the present Hebrew text is correct we have here a strong instance of Oriental hyperbole. But it is suspected that there is a slight corruption, and that the verb really used meant “resounded.”

Verse 42

Jonathan had acted in a similar capacity, as a carrier of intelligence, in the time of Absalom’s attempt 2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 17:17; but at that time, like his father, he was faithful to David, and “a valiant man,” “a virtuous man,” or “a man of worth.” (See 1 Kings 1:52; Proverbs 12:4.)

Verse 43

Verily - “Nay, but” (or, “Not so”).

Verse 47

The king bowed himself - The king worshipped God and prayed that it might be so. Compare Genesis 47:31, with margin reference, Hebrews 11:21.

Verse 50

On the “horns” of the altar, see Exodus 27:2 note. The altar to which Adonijah fled was probably in the “tabernacle” already referred to 1 Kings 1:39.

Verse 52

There shalt not an hair ... - This was a proverbial expression, meaning “he shall suffer no hurt at all.” Solomon’s clemency in pardoning Adonijah is very remarkable. In the East not only are pretenders almost always punished with death, but it has often been the custom for each king upon his accession to put to death all his brothers as mere possible pretenders.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-1.html. 1870.
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