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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

1 Kings 1

Verse 1

(1) Now king David.—“Now” is the simple illative conjunction “and,” found at the beginning of all the historical books (Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, &c.). It marks the general conception of the unity of the whole history, but implies nothing of special connection of time or authorship with the books of Samuel. In fact, although these books are in some sense the continuation of the former, yet the narrative is hardly continuous. The history passes at once to the closing scene of David’s life, leaving a comparative blank in the period succeeding the restoration after the defeat of Absalom—a blank which is partly filled up in the later books (1 Chronicles 22-29).

Stricken in years—about seventy years old. Since “clothes” mean “bed-clothes,” the meaning is that the King was now too feeble to rise from his bed. His life began its responsibilities early; it had been hard and trying; and, as the history shows, not wholly free from self-indulgence. Hence, at no excessive age, its complete decrepitude.

Verse 3

(3) A Shunammite.—Shunem is in the territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:18), and in the plain of Jezreel (1 Samuel 28:4), near Mount Gilboa. As Eusebius, describing its position carefully, calls it “Sulem,” and as this variation of name is confirmed by its ready identification with the modern village of Solam, it has been conjectured (see Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, SHULAMITE), ingeniously and not improbably, that Abishag is the “fair Shulamite” of the Song of Solomon (1 Kings 6:13). The conjecture certainly throws some light on the occurrences of 1 Kings 2:13-25. Probably the whole notice of Abishag is only introduced on account of her subsequent connection with the fate of Adonijah.

Verse 5

(5) Adonijah (my Lord is Jehovah), David’s fourth son, born in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:4), at least thirty-three years before. From the words of Solomon in 1 Kings 2:22, we may gather that he claimed the throne as being now the eldest son. Hence it is probable that Chileab (or Daniel, see 2 Samuel 3:3; 1 Chronicles 3:1), the second son, was dead, as well as Amnon and Absalom. The similarity between Adonijah and Absalom, in respect of personal beauty, favour with a too-indulgent father, ambition and trust in popularity, is evidently suggested by the narrative, which places them in close connection, although born of different mothers. The means, moreover, which Adonijah employed, the body-guard of fifty men, and the maintenance of “chariots and horsemen,” are exactly imitated from the example of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1); and we note that the festal sacrifice, with the support of two important leaders in peace and war, recalls the same model. But Adonijah hardly shows the craft and ruthless determination of the elder rebel. His attempt on the crown seems crude and ill-planned in conception, and wanting in promptitude of action.

Verse 7

(7) Joab.—The books of Samuel have brought out clearly the career and character of Joab, as being (in some degree like Abner) a professed soldier, raised to a formidable and half-independent power by the incessant wars of Saul and David. He stands out in consistent portraiture throughout, as a bold, hard, and unscrupulous man; in his relations to the king often imperious and disobedient; but nevertheless an absolutely loyal servant, to whom, in great degree, the establishment of David’s throne was due, and who, moreover (as is shown by his remonstrance against the numbering of the people, recorded in 2 Samuel 24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3; 1 Chronicles 21:6), was not without some right instincts of policy and of duty to God.

Abiathar the priest.—Of Abiathar we also know that he had been the companion of all David’s adversity, and of his reign at Hebron (1 Samuel 22:20; 1 Samuel 23:6; 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 2:1-4); that he was in-installed (with Zadok) as high priest at Jerusalem, and remained faithful to David in the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24-29).

The adhesion of these two faithful servants of David, as also of “the king’s sons,” and “the men of Judah, the king’s servants,” to the rash usurpation of Adonijah, seems strange at first sight. Probably Joab had never recovered his position in the king’s favour since the death of Absalom; and it is possible that the evident growth of despotic power and state in David’s latter years may have alienated from him the trusty friends of earlier and simpler days. But the true explanation would seem to be, that the attempt of Adonijah was not viewed as an actual rebellion. Solomon was young; David’s designation of him for the succession might be represented as the favouritism of dotage; and the assumption of the crown by the eldest son, a man in the prime of life and of popular qualities, might seem not only justifiable, but even right and expedient.

Verse 8

(8) Zadok the priest (son of Ahitub) was the representative of the family of Eleazar, elder son of Aaron, as Abiathar of the family of Ithamar, the younger son (1 Chronicles 24:3). As a “young man of valour,” under “Jehoiada, leader of the Aaronites,” he joined David at Hebron with 3,700 men (1 Chronicles 12:28), and had been left in charge of the Tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39) after the removal of the Ark to Jerusalem. On his relation to Abiathar, see 1 Kings 2:35.

Benaiah, the son of “Jehoiada, a chief priest,” and therefore of Levitical origin. (See 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 23:20-23; 1 Chronicles 27:5-6.) His rank is given in 2 Samuel 23:23, as intermediate between the “three mighty men” and “the thirty,” and in 1 Chronicles 27:5, as “the third captain of the host for the third month”; but his command of the bodyguard gave him special importance, second only to that of Joab (2 Samuel 20:23), and perhaps of even greater importance for immediate action. (It is notable that there is no mention of Abishai, who is named as prior to Benaiah among “the mighty men” in 2 Samuel 23:18-22. It may be inferred that he was dead; otherwise he could hardly have been omitted here.)

Nathan the prophet.—See 2 Samuel 7:2; 2 Samuel 12:1; 2 Samuel 12:25. In the whole chapter he appears rather as a chief officer and counsellor of David, than in the loftier aspect of the prophetic character. He was also the royal chronicler of the reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29).

Shimei, and Rei.—Ewald conjectures that these were two brothers of David, called Shimma and Raddai in 1 Chronicles 2:13-14. These, however, being older than David, would now be in extreme old age. Of Rei, we have no mention elsewhere; but there is a Shimei (in 1 Kings 4:18), a high officer of Solomon; a “Shimea,” brother of Solomon (in 1 Chronicles 3:5), and a “Shammah,” one of the “mighty men” (in 2 Samuel 23:11).

The mighty men.—See 2 Samuel 23:8-39. The name Gibbôrim is a technical name, and is thought to designate a picked body of troops, the standing nucleus of the armies of Israel. It is commonly inferred that they were the successors of the six hundred men of David’s band during his life of wandering and exile, and that “the three” and “the thirty” (2 Samuel 23:0) were their officers. They are mentioned as attached to the person of David in 2 Samuel 10:7; 2 Samuel 16:6; 2 Samuel 20:7.

Verse 9

(9) The stone of Zoheleth.—The meaning is uncertain. The derivation seems to be from a root, meaning to “crawl,” or “steal on.” Some interpreters render, the “stone of the serpents;” the Targums make it “the rolling stone;” other authorities “the stone of the conduit,” which would suit well its position as here described.

En-rogel.—“The spring of the fuller.” (See Joshua 15:7; Joshua 18:16; 2 Samuel 17:17.) Its proximity would be useful for the purposes of sacrifice; for it appears to be the only natural spring near Jerusalem, situated not far from Siloam.

Verse 11

(11) Wherefore Nathan.—The initiative taken by Nathan is especially natural, since he had been the medium both of the prophecy to David of the son who should build the Lord’s house (2 Samuel 7:12-15), and also of the blessing on Solomon, embodied in the name Jedidiah (“beloved of Jehovah,” 2 Samuel 12:25). Perhaps for this very reason the conspirators had altogether held aloof from him.

Verse 12

(12) The life of . . . Solomon.—The usurpation of Adonijah would, as a matter of course, be sealed by the blood of his rival Solomon. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 21:4.) Bath-sheba herself need hardly have been sacrificed; but her position of favour with David would excite jealousy, and Solomon, being still young, might well be thought only an instrument in her hands.

Verse 13

(13) Didst not thou . . . swear.—Of this oath we have no mention elsewhere. It may have belonged to the time of Solomon’s birth (2 Samuel 12:24-25). In 1 Chronicles 22:6-13, we find a designation of Solomon for succession, apparently earlier than this time—it being clearly understood (see 1 Kings 1:20), according to Oriental custom, that such designation, without strict regard to priority of birth, lay in the prerogative of the reigning king.

Verse 14

(14) While thou yet talkest.—The whole history seems to indicate a growth of royal state and Oriental reverence for the king’s person since the defeat of Absalom, contrasted with the comparative simplicity of intercourse with him in earlier days, and preparatory to the still greater development of majesty and despotism under Solomon. Bath-sheba’s entrance into the bedchamber seems to be looked upon as an intrusion, to be ventured upon only in the humble attitude of a suppliant. Nathan does not presume to approach the king with remonstrance, till the maternal anxiety of Bath-sheba has paved the way. (Comp, in Esther 4:10-16, the picture of the still more unapproachable royalty of Persia.)

Verse 21

(21) Shall sleep with his fathers.—Here this phrase, so constantly used in the record of the death of the kings, occurs in these books for the first time. (It is also found in the message of promise by Nathan. 2 Samuel 7:12, relating to the succession of the son who should build the Temple.) We find corresponding expressions in Genesis 15:15; Deuteronomy 31:16. Without connecting with the use of this phrase anything like the fulness of meaning which in the New Testament attaches to “the sleep” of the departed servants of God (as known to be a “sleep in Jesus”), it seems not unreasonable to recognise in it, at least, a rudimentary belief in death as rest and not extinction. The addition, “with his fathers,” has probably a reference to “the tombs of the kings;” especially as we find that it is not adopted in the cases of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:20) and Joash. (2 Chronicles 24:25), who were not buried therein.

Verse 24

(24) Hast thou said.—The question here and in 1 Kings 1:27 is, of course, merely intended to draw out denial; but it is singularly true to nature that it does so by the assumption (natural in court language) that nothing of such a kind could be even conceived as done without the king’s will. There is something striking in the contrast of the deference of Nathan as a counsellor on state business with the bold superiority of his tone in the discharge of his true prophetic office (as in 2 Samuel 7:2-17; 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Verse 25

(25) God save king Adonijah.—Literally (as in 1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16, &c.). “May the king live;” like the “Let the king live for ever” of 1 Kings 1:31, and of Nehemiah 2:3; Daniel 2:4; Daniel 3:9, &c.

Verse 29

(29) As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul.—A characteristic adjuration of David, found also in 2 Samuel 4:9; but now peculiarly appropriate in the old man, who was so near the haven of rest, after all the storms of life. “O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer,” is the climax of his address to God, as the Creator of all things and the ruler of all men, in Psalms 19:14.

Verse 32

(32) Call me Zadok.—This sudden flash of the old energy in David, and the clear, terse directions which he gives for carrying out all the necessary parts of the inauguration of Solomon’s royalty, striking enough in themselves, are still more striking in contrast with the timidity and despondency with which, when far younger, he had received the news of Absalom’s rebellion. For then he felt the coming of God’s threatened chastisement; now he knows that this is passed, and that God is on his side.

Verse 33

(33) Gihon (“breaking forth”) is clearly a place in the valley, under the walls of Jerusalem, mentioned as having a watercourse, or torrent, diverted by Heżekiah in his preparation of the city for siege (2 Chronicles 32:30), and as forming one end of a new wall “up to the fish gate,” built by Manasseh; but whether it is on the west of the city, near the present Jaffa gate, or (as seems more probable) on the south, at the end of the valley called the Tyropœon, running through the city, has been doubted. The Targums here read Siloam; and this agrees with the latter supposition, which is also supported by the proximity to Adonijah’s feast at En-rogel, implied in the narrative.

Verse 34

(34) Anoint him . . . king.—It is notable that of this solemn inauguration of royalty, marked emphatically as a religious consecration by the common phrase “the Lord’s anointed”—then especially in use (1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:9; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 19:21), though found also occasionally in the later books (Lamentations 4:20)—there is no mention of the tumultuous usurpation of Adonijah. Probably, as in the appointment of Saul and David himself, the right to anoint was recognised as belonging to the prophetic order (see 1 Kings 19:16), inasmuch as it signified the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of the Lord. (Comp. Acts 10:38.) Hence, in the absence of Nathan, it could not be attempted. In the case of David, such anointing had marked (1 Samuel 16:13) his first private designation for the kingdom by Samuel, and his public accession to royalty, first over Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), then over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).

The completeness of the old King’s provision is especially to be noticed. The “riding on the King’s mule,” attended by the body-guard, marked the royal sanction; the anointing, the sanction of priest and prophet; and the acclamation the adhesion of the people. Then are to follow the enthronement and homage.

Verse 35

(35) Over Israel and over Judah.—The phrase clearly refers to the distinction, already tending to become a division, between Israel and Judah in relation to the monarchy. In the case of David himself, it may be observed that the record of his accession to royalty over Israel contains the notice of “a league” made by him with the elders of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3), to which there is nothing to correspond in the account of his becoming king over Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). This perhaps indicates from the beginning a less absolute rule over the other tribes. Certainly the history of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:10; 2 Samuel 15:13; 2 Samuel 18:6-7), the disputes about the restoration of David (2 Samuel 19:41-43), and the attempt of Sheba to take advantage of them (2 Samuel 20:1-2), show a looser allegiance of Israel than of Judah to the house of David.

Verse 38

(38) The Cherethites, and the Pelethites.—See 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 15:28; 2 Samuel 20:7; 2 Samuel 20:23. The body-guard-perhaps of foreign troops—“the executioners and runners” (as some render them) to carry out the King’s commands.

Verse 39

(39) An horn of oil out of the tabernacle.—The sacred oil, the making of which is described in Exodus 30:22-30, was to be used for anointing the Tabernacle itself, and the altars and vessels as well as the priests. It was this oil, no doubt, which was used in this case. The Tabernacle proper was still at Gibeon (see 2 Chronicles 1:3); but a tent or tabernacle had been set up in Zion over the ark (2 Chronicles 1:4), and the haste with which all was done would necessitate the taking the oil from the nearer source, in spite of the fact that Abiathar presided in Zion, and Zadok only in Gibeon.

Verse 40

(40) Piped with pipes.—The Greek Version has “danced in dances,” by a slight variation of reading. The graphic description of the acclamation of the people indicates something more than conventional loyalty. The attempt of Adonijah relied on the support only of the great men, and perhaps the army, but had no popular following.

Verse 41

(41) When Joab heard.—It is one of the many life- like touches of the narrative that it is the old warrior Joab who, amidst the revelry of his companions, notices the sound of the trumpet, and the acclamation following. Adonijah affects to disregard it.

Verse 42

(42) Jonathan the son of Abiathar.—See 2 Samuel 15:27; 2 Samuel 17:17-21, where he is named, with Ahimaaz, as a swift runner, fit to be a messenger. It is curious that a similar greeting to his companion Ahimaaz is used by David in 2 Samuel 18:27—possibly as a kind of omen of good fortune.

Verse 46

(46) And also Solomon sitteth.—Jonathan’s announcement here takes up the narrative of events after 1 Kings 1:40. The public enthronement in the palace (ordered by David in 1 Kings 1:35) follows the anointing and acceptance by the acclamations of the people, as an integral part of the inauguration of royalty.

Verse 47

(47) The king bowed himself, that is, in worship (comp. Genesis 47:31), at once joining in the prayer of his servants, and thanking God for the fulfilment of His promise.

Verse 49

(49) And all the guests.—Nothing is more striking than the sudden and humiliating collapse of the attempt of Adonijah, strongly supported as it was by Joab and Abiathar, in contrast with the formidable character of the rebellion of Absalom. This is another indication that the royal power had been greatly consolidated during the last peaceful years of David’s reign. Perhaps, moreover, the usurpation of Adonijah, not being viewed as a rebellion against David, but only a presumption on his favour, was accordingly crushed at once by the expression of his will. It is strange that of all the conspirators Adonijah alone seems to have feared punishment at this time; his accomplices, the other conspirators, are apparently allowed to disperse in safety, and their rebellion is ignored.

Verse 50

(50) The horns of the altar.—The horns were projections from the altar, to which (see Psalms 118:27) the victims were fastened, and on which the blood was sprinkled (Exodus 29:12). To take hold of them was, of course, to claim the right of sanctuary—a right, however, which the Law, ruled as usual by moral considerations, formally denied to wilful murder (Exodus 21:14), and which accordingly (see 1 Kings 2:30-31) was refused hereafter to Joab. Adonijah, by the acknowledgment of “King Solomon,” seems to represent his usurpation as one of those acts of haste and inadvertency, to which alone sanctuary was conceded.

Verse 52

(52) There shall not a hair of him fall.—Solomon’s pardon, though according to Oriental ideas, an act of extraordinary grace, was yet characteristically cautious and conditional, to be withdrawn accordingly on the first symptom of any renewal of Adonijah’s pretensions.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/1-kings-1.html. 1905.