Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat.
THE FIRST BOOK OF THE KINGS, COMMONLY CALLED THE THIRD BOOK OF THE KINGS. Commentary by Robert Jamieson
1Ki 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 (2Sa 5:4, 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 (1Sa 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 (Ec 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 (see on 1Ki 2:22).
Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.
So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
3. a Shunammite—Shunem, in the tribe of Issachar (Jos 19:18), lay on an eminence in the plain of Esdraelon, five miles south of Tabor. It is now called Sulam.
And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.
Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.
1Ki 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 (2Sa 3:4; 1Ch 3:2), was now the oldest alive; and his personal attractions and manners (1Sa 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 (2Sa 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.
And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.
And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him.
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 (see on 2Sa 19:13).
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 (1Ki 2:15).
But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah.
8. But Zadok the priest—He had been high priest in the tabernacle at Gibeon under Saul (1Ch 16:39). David, on his accession, had conjoined him and Abiathar equal in the exercise of their high functions (2Sa 8:17; 15:24, 29, 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 (1Sa 23:20), he had been appointed captain of the king's bodyguard (2Sa 8:18; 20:23; 1Ch 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 (2Sa 12:25).
Shimei—probably the person of this name who was afterwards enrolled among Solomon's great officers (1Ki 4:18).
Rei—supposed to be the same as Ira (2Sa 20:26).
and the mighty men—the select band of worthies.
And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by Enrogel, and called all his brethren the king's sons, and all the men of Judah the king's servants:
9, 10. En-rogel—situated (Jos 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 (2Sa 3:4, 5; 5:14-16; 1Ch 14:1-7). At the accession of a new king there were sacrifices offered (1Sa 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 (1Ch 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.
But Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not.
Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not?
11-27. Nathan spake unto Bath-sheba … let me … give thee counsel, &c.—The revolt was defeated by this prophet, who, knowing the Lord's will (2Sa 7:12; 1Ch 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 (De 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 (2Sa 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.
Now therefore come, let me, I pray thee, give thee counsel, that thou mayest save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon.
Go and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him, Didst not thou, my lord, O king, swear unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? why then doth Adonijah reign?
Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I also will come in after thee, and confirm thy words.
And Bathsheba went in unto the king into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered unto the king.
And Bathsheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou?
And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.
And now, behold, Adonijah reigneth; and now, my lord the king, thou knowest it not:
And he hath slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host: but Solomon thy servant hath he not called.
And thou, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.
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.
Otherwise 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.
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.
And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet also came in.
And they told the king, saying, Behold Nathan the prophet. And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground.
And Nathan said, My lord, O king, hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne?
For he is gone down this day, and hath slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the king's sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest; and, behold, they eat and drink before him, and say, God save king Adonijah.
But me, even me thy servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and thy servant Solomon, hath he not called.
Is this thing done by my lord the king, and thou hast not shewed it unto thy servant, who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?
Then king David answered and said, Call me Bathsheba. And she came into the king's presence, and stood before the king.
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.
And the king sware, and said, As the LORD liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress,
Even as I sware unto thee by the LORD God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day.
Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live for ever.
And king David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king.
1Ki 1:32-49. Solomon, by David's Appointment, Is Anointed King.
The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon:
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 (2Sa 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 king (see on Es 6:8, 9).
bring him down to Gihon—a pool or fountain on the west of Jerusalem (see on 2Ch 32:30), chosen as equally public for the counter proclamation.
And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon.
34. anoint him—done only in the case of a new dynasty or disputed succession (see on 1Sa 16:13; 2Sa 2:1).
Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.
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.
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the LORD God of my lord the king say so too.
As the LORD hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David.
So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David's mule, and brought him to Gihon.
And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.
39. an horn of oil out of the tabernacle—It was the sacred oil (Ex 30:25) with which the kings were anointed.
And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
40. all the people came up after him—that is, from the valley to the citadel of Zion.
And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Wherefore is this noise of the city being in an uproar?
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 [1Ki 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.
And while he yet spake, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came: and Adonijah said unto him, Come in; for thou art a valiant man, and bringest good tidings.
And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon king.
And the king hath sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and they have caused him to ride upon the king's mule:
And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon: and they are come up from thence rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that ye have heard.
And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom.
And moreover the king's servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne. And the king bowed himself upon the bed.
And also thus said the king, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it.
And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way.
And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.
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.
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 to day that he will not slay his servant with the sword.
And Solomon said, 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.
So 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.
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.