1 When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”
3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.
5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 6 (His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)
7 Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah.
9 Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon.
11 Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? 12 Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.”
15 So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. 16 Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king.
“What is it you want?” the king asked.
17 She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the LORD your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.”
22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 And the king was told, “Nathan the prophet is here.” So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground.
24 Nathan said, “Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. 27 Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
Points of Interest
- ‘Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king’–I get the impression that there was some sort of scandal over Abishag. Rumors persisted even to the time of the writing of this history that David had an affair with a much younger woman at the very end of his life. The author is assuring us that Abishag was only David’s nurse; David was too weak to keep himself warm or get out of bed, for goodness’ sake. It does seem odd, though, that even as he’s denying there’s anything to the rumors, he focuses an awful lot on how young and pretty she is.
- ‘He was also very handsome’–it seems that David has no shortage of good-looking, older sons who feel it’s their right to be king. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through this story, it’s that it doesn’t work that way with God or with David. You need more than a birth certificate and a nice head of hair to be the kind of king God is looking for.
- ‘His father had never rebuked him’–unfortunately, it seems that David never learned the trick of avoiding over-indulging his older sons.
- ‘But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet’–at the very end, David’s most loyal supporters are splitting up. Many of these men have been with David all the way since the outlaw days when they were running from Saul. All of them stuck with David during Absalom’s rebellion. But now half of them are siding with Adonijah and half with Solomon. Abiathar and Joab go one way, Zadok and Benaiah the other. Each of the sons has one of David’s faithful priests and one of his best generals.
- ‘near En Rogel’–En Rogel is in Judean territory. Just like Absalom did, Adonijah is appealing to his tribal base in his claim for the crown (Walton et al).
- ‘He invited all his brothers’–Adonijah takes Absalom’s tactic and adapts it. Absalom also made his move with a party for all of the brothers, but he caused a panic when he killed one of them. Adonijah instead uses the big family banquet to entice his brothers into supporting him over Solomon. It creates the impression of all against one, instead of one against all.
- ‘Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother’–it’s curious that Nathan talks to Bathsheba rather than Solomon himself. I think it must mean that Solomon is too young to be fully in charge of his own affairs. His mother has to act as his agent.
- ‘our lord David knows nothing about it’–David is bedridden, and perhaps Joab is restricting the news that gets to him.
- ‘I will come in and add my word’–this conspiracy is too strong even for just one of Bathsheba or Nathan to counteract. They need to work together to convince David of the seriousness of the situation.
- ‘Is this something my lord the king has done’–I don’t think that Nathan seriously suspects David’s involvement in Adonijah’s actions. He’s trying to remind David that, bedridden as he is, he’s still the king; and he has the power to do something about what’s happening.
Taking it Home
- For you: When hearing the troublesome news, Bathsheba doesn’t get worked up into a frenzy but instead goes straight to David to discuss what’s been going on and clarify what he had said. Bathsheba’s immediate go-to-David response seems like a helpful model for how we might approach God. Whatever is on your mind or in front of you today, try going to God with it—to get perspective, to talk about it, to ask him to change it, or to thank him for it. Today, try as often as you can, whatever comes your way, to go directly to God to check in with God about it.
- For your six: It’s peculiar how similar Adonijah’s banquet-throwing-to-assert-the-throne tactics are to his older brother Absalom’s. It almost seems like in it’s in his blood—and maybe it just so happens it is in his blood. We seem to inherit both good and bad from our families. Ask God to bless your six’s families and to protect your six from and put a stop to any unhelpful patterns that keep getting passed down from generation to generation. Ask God that the behaviors that come naturally to your six would point them toward God.
- For our church: David pretty diligently preparing to transfer power over to Solomon, only to have Adonijah throw a huge wrench in the plan. Ask God to help our church in both the making and executing of plans. Pray that God would give us grace, agility, and wisdom to best respond when plans suddenly change.
- For families: Do you have any elderly family members who are nearing the end of their lives? Spend some time talking about these people. We can often push these people aside as having little to offer. They might have limited capacities, do things really differently, or just be difficult to hang out with. But sometimes God might want to use these people to give you bits of wisdom you might not get anywhere else. Spend some time as a family praying for any aging family members you have. Ask God how he sees these people. Ask if God would like you to spend time with any of these people and if there are any things God would like you to ask them in this season of their lives.