1 Kings 1:51
And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah fears king Solomon: for, see, he has caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear to me today that he will not slay his servant with the sword.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1:32-53 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.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. 1Ki 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 (Ex 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.

He owns Solomon as his king, and himself as his servant and subject; and being sensible of his great guilt, and of the jealousy which kings have of their competitors, could not be satisfied without Solomon’s oath. And it was told Solomon,.... By some of his courtiers:

saying, behold, Adonijah feareth King Solomon; lest he should take away his life:

for, lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar; which was the last resort of the guilty when they despaired of mercy otherwise:

saying, let King Solomon swear unto me this day that he will not slay his servant with the sword; he owns Solomon to be king, and himself his subject and servant; this no doubt he did to conciliate his favour, nor did he think his life safe, unless Solomon promised with an oath, that he would not take it away.

And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah feareth king Solomon: for, lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me today that he will not slay his servant with the sword.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
51. Let king Solomon swear unto me to day] The word translated to day signifies rather ‘first of all,’ i.e. before I will venture to come away from my place of safety. The same word is found twice in the narrative of the sale of Esau’s birthright, Genesis 25:31; Genesis 25:33. When Esau has asked for pottage, Jacob says “Sell me first of all (A.V. this day) thy birthright” and afterwards “Swear to me first of all.”Verse 51. - And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold Adonijah feareth King Solomon, for lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, let king Solomon [this repetition of the title is striking. Both courtiers and criminals hasten to give the young king his new honours. In Adonijah's mouth it is also a virtual abdication of his claim to the throne and a direct acknowledgment of the new monarch. But see on vers. 1 and 35.] swear unto me today [Cf. 2 Samuel 19:23. This is one of many passages which show how lightly the Jews esteemed promises in comparison with oaths. The sentiment possibly took its rise in the oaths sworn by the Divine Being (Genesis 22:16; Genesis 24:7; Exodus 16:16, etc.), though it is possible, on the other hand, that these asseverations were made in deference to the popular sentiment. Be that as it may, the oath held a much more conspicuous and important place in the Jewish than the Christian economy. See Genesis 21:23; Genesis 31:23; Numbers 14:2; Numbers 30:2; Judges 15:12; Judges 21:1; 1 Samuel 14:28; Jeremiah 5:2, and, to omit other passages, 1 Kings 1:13; 1 Kings 2:8, 23, 42. Even our Lord, who rebuked the habit (Matthew 5:34-37; Matthew 23:16-22) respected the adjuration of Caiaphas, and St. Paul frequently appeals to God (Acts 26:29; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Philippians 1:8.) The Christian religion, as it has gradually begotten a reverence for truth, has made the simple word into a bond] that he will not slay his servant [Cf. "I will be King," ver. 5.] with the sword [the usual form of capital punishment, 1 Kings 2:8, 25, 31, 46. Adonijah indirectly confesses that he had merited death]. Verse 51. - And Solomon said [i.e., he refused to swear], If he will shew himself a worthy man [בֶּן־חַיִל, cf. אִיש־חַיִל, ver. 1 Kings 1:42], there shall not an hair of him fall to the earth [i.e., not a single hair shall be injured. Same expression 1 Samuel 14:45; 2 Samuel 14:11; Acts 27:34. It was evidently a familiar saying] but if wickedness shall be found in him, [i.e., if he shall commit any fresh crime] he shall die [Hebrew וָמֵת, "then he shall die," emphatic.] Jonathan replied: אבל, "yea but," corresponding to the Latin imo vero, an expression of assurance with a slight doubt, and then related that Solomon had been anointed king by David's command, and the city was in a joyous state of excitement in consequence (תּהם as in Ruth 1:19), and that he had even ascended the throne, that the servants of the king had blessed David for it, and that David himself had worshipped and praised Jehovah the God of Israel that he had lived to see his son ascend the throne. The repetition of וגם three times (1 Kings 1:46-48) gives emphasis to the words, since every new point which is introduced with וגם raises the thing higher and higher towards absolute certainty. The fact related in 1 Kings 1:47 refers to the words of Benaiah in 1 Kings 1:36 and 1 Kings 1:37. The Chethib אלהיך is the correct reading, and the Keri אלהים an unnecessary emendation. The prayer to God, with thanksgiving for the favour granted to him, was offered by David after the return of his anointed son Solomon to the royal palace; so that it ought strictly to have been mentioned after 1 Kings 1:40. The worship of grey-headed David upon the bed recalls to mind the worship of the patriarch Jacob after making known his last will (Genesis 47:31).
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