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1. David’s declining health 1:1-4
It was customary in ancient times to warm an elderly person not only by covering him or her with blankets, but also by putting a healthy person in bed with him or her. [Note: Wiseman, p. 67.] The body heat of the well person would keep the older person warmer. David’s physicians chose Abishag to provide nursing care for David as well as to warm him. Since David was the king, they sought and found a beautiful nurse for him. In view of David’s symptoms, he may have suffered from arteriosclerosis. [Note: Gene Rice, Nations under God, p. 8; and Simon DeVries, 1 Kings, p. 12.]
"Shunammite" is an alternate reading of "Shulammite," a resident of Shunem in Issachar. There is no way of telling if Abishag was the Shulammite Solomon loved and wrote of in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:13). The fact that David did not have sexual relations with this "very beautiful" young woman (1 Kings 1:4) is significant because it shows that his physical powers were now weak. David had been sexually active, but now his sexual powers were depleted. This shows that it was time for a more energetic man to reign.
A. Solomon’s Succession to David’s Throne 1:1-2:12
The first segment of the writer’s story (1 Kings 1:1 to 1 Kings 2:12) continues the history of Israel’s monarchy where 2 Samuel ended. It records the final events in David’s reign that led to Solomon’s succession to the throne. It answers the question raised in 2 Samuel 9-20, namely, "Who will succeed David?" Similarly, Genesis 12-22 answers the question, "Who will be Abram’s heir?"
2. Adonijah’s attempt to seize the throne 1:5-53
Adonijah ("Yahweh is lord") was David’s fourth son (2 Samuel 3:4) and the eldest one living at this time. Evidently he believed it was more important that the eldest son succeed David, as was customary in the Near East, than that the king of Yahweh’s anointing occupy that position. God had identified Solomon as David’s successor even before Solomon was born (1 Chronicles 22:9-10). Adonijah’s revolt was primarily against the revealed will of God, secondarily against David, and finally against Solomon.
"His father had never interfered with him or ’crossed him’ (NASB) is more descriptive than ’displeased him’ (RSV), for this comment by the author (cf. 1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 1:10) betrays David’s weakness in his unwillingness to cause his children any physical or mental discomfort . . ." [Note: Wiseman, p. 69.]
Adonijah prepared to seize David’s throne as Absalom had attempted to do (cf. 2 Samuel 15:1). Joab had long since demonstrated his disregard for God’s will in many instances (2 Samuel 3:22-30; 2 Samuel 18:5-15; 2 Samuel 20:8-10). He evidently sided with Adonijah now because he realized he was out of favor with David. If Solomon succeeded to the throne, he would probably demote Joab at least.
Abiathar had been the leading priest in Israel until David began to give Zadok priority. He had fled from Nob, after Saul massacred the priests there, to join David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 22:18-20). He had also offered sacrifices at David’s tabernacle in Jerusalem while Zadok served at the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon. However, David had been showing increasing favor to Zadok (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:11; 2 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 20:25). Abiathar was one of Eli’s descendants whom God had doomed with removal from the priesthood (1 Samuel 2:30-36; cf. 1 Kings 2:27). Probably Abiathar saw in Adonijah’s rebellion a promising opportunity to retain his position that he must have seen he would lose if Solomon came to power.
Shimei (1 Kings 1:8; cf. 2 Samuel 16:5-13; 2 Samuel 19:16-23) may have been truly loyal to David at this time, or he may have simply supported David for the sake of personal advantage (cf. 1 Kings 2:36-38).
Adonijah’s banquet at En-rogel, just a few hundred yards southeast of the City of David, was probably a covenant meal at which his supporters pledged their allegiance to David’s eldest living son. If David’s other supporters had attended and eaten with Adonijah, custom would have bound them to support and protect one another. [Note: Gray, p. 87.]
As a prophet, Nathan spoke for God. The term "prophet" occurs 94 times in Kings, and "man of God," a prophetic title, 60 times. There are four varieties of prophets in Kings: lone figures who spoke for God (e.g., Elijah), court prophets (e.g., Nathan), writing prophets (writers of the inspired OT books), and prophetic groups (e.g., schools of prophets, and sons of the prophets). [Note: Howard, pp. 190-92.] Some prophets also served as worship leaders (1 Chronicles 25:1).
Evidently God moved Nathan to do what he did here. It was certainly in harmony with God’s will (cf. 2 Samuel 12:1). Adonijah had become king (1 Kings 1:11) only in the sense that he was the people’s choice at that moment. Perhaps Nathan was trying to shock Bathsheba and David by referring to Adonijah as the king.
David had undoubtedly assured Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him after God had revealed that to David (1 Chronicles 22:9-10). Nathan wanted to make sure at least two witnesses would hear David’s promise that Solomon was his choice (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15). This was especially important since Adonijah’s rebellion against the Lord’s anointed was a capital offense.
We should probably interpret Bathsheba’s request (1 Kings 1:20) as a desire that David would appoint Solomon co-regent rather than that he should step down and let Solomon rule in his place. [Note: E. Ball, "The Co-Regency of David and Solomon (1 Kings 1)," Vetus Testamentum 27:3 (July 1977):269. Cf. Gray, p. 88.]
Normally in the ancient Near East a new king would purge his political enemies when he came to power (cf. 1 Kings 2:13-46). This was the basis for Bathsheba’s fear (1 Kings 1:21). Nathan’s news that Adonijah’s feast was taking place at that very moment (1 Kings 1:25) would have encouraged David to act at once. Nathan’s words to David (1 Kings 1:24-27) were very diplomatic and appropriate for a man in his position.
The clause, "May the king live forever," (1 Kings 1:31; 1 Kings 1:34; et al.) occurs often in the Old Testament. It expresses the wish that, because the king had acted or would act righteously, God would bless him with long life. God had promised righteous Israelites long life under the Mosaic Law. It also expressed the desire that David might live forever through the lives of his descendants.
Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah were the highest ranking priest, prophet, and soldier respectively. Their leadership in the events David ordered (1 Kings 1:32-35) would have shown the people that they were acting as King David’s representatives. Kings often rode on mules in the ancient Near East, symbolizing their role as servants of the people (1 Kings 1:33). The Gihon spring (1 Kings 1:33) was the other main water source for Jerusalem besides En-rogel. It was one-half mile north of En-rogel on the eastern side of Zion, and it was visible from En-rogel. [Note: See Hershel Shanks, The City of David, pp. 38-39.]
Zadok the high priest anointed (consecrated) Solomon king of Israel there (1 Kings 1:34; 1 Kings 1:39) with oil from David’s tabernacle (1 Kings 1:39), symbolizing Solomon’s endowment with God’s Spirit for service (cf. 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:3; 1 Samuel 16:12). At the same time someone anointed Zadok as high priest (1 Chronicles 29:22). A trumpet blast (1 Kings 1:34; 1 Kings 1:39) often announced God’s activity in Israel throughout its history (Exodus 19:16; et al.), as it did here.
"Two terms are used for the royal office: ’king’ (1 Kings 1:34-35 a) and ’ruler’ (1 Kings 1:35 b). ’King’ (melek) had a long history of usage and carried with it associations of autocracy and despotism from the practice of kingship among Israel’s neighbors. ’Ruler’ (nagid, translated elsewhere as ’prince’ or ’leader’), a term unique to Israelite tradition, emphasizes that one rules at God’s appointment and pleasure (cf. 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 7:8; 1 Kings 14:7; 1 Kings 16:2). These two terms anticipate the long struggle between the ideal and the practice of kingship in Israel." [Note: Rice, p. 15.]
By anointing Solomon (1 Kings 1:39, in 973 B.C.), the high priest identified him as David’s successor. Solomon now took his seat on Israel’s throne as David’s co-regent (1 Kings 1:46).
"The exact relationship between David and Solomon during the period of coregency is not made clear. Normally in such coregencies, the father remained in supreme command as long as he lived, with the son more or less carrying out his directives. This probably was true with David and Solomon also, though the fact that David was bedridden during this time suggests such an arrangement may have been more theoretical than actual." [Note: Leon J. Wood, Israel’s United Monarchy, p. 301.]
David thanked God for allowing him to live to see Solomon’s coronation (1 Kings 1:48).
"The placing of Solomon on the throne signals the beginning of the Davidic dynasty, a royal lineage that will eventually produce Jesus Christ. God has begun to keep the promises made to David in 2 Samuel 7:7-17." [Note: House, p. 93.]
Some commentators believed this was Solomon’s second anointing, when he became the sole king over Israel (in 971 B.C.). [Note: E.g., H. C. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles, pp. 186-87.] It seems more likely, however, that David did not die for some time after the events described in chapter 1 (i.e., for two years; cf. 1 Kings 2:10-12).
Adonijah fled to the sanctuary courtyard, evidently the one in Jerusalem, and took hold of the horns on the brazen altar. In the ancient Near East and in Israel, people customarily regarded the central sanctuary as a place of refuge (Exodus 21:14; cf. Ezekiel 21:1-3). The name "sanctuary" to describe a church originated in the Middle Ages. [Note: Wiseman, p. 74.] The idea behind this custom seems to have been that God had been gracious to people by accepting their offerings. Consequently, people should be gracious to the refugee who had offended his fellow man. Solomon, like David and like Yahweh, showed mercy (1 Kings 1:52). [Note: For an interesting study of chapter 1 as a complete story containing background, complication, climax, and denouement, see Burke O. Long, "A Darkness Between Brothers: Solomon and Adonijah," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 19 (February 1981):79-94.]
"The central truth for the throne-succession historian is that Yahweh was at work to frustrate Adonijah and to establish Solomon." [Note: DeVries, p. 22.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19