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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 Kings 1

Verses 1-4

Introduction to Books of Kings

Like the Books of Samuel the Books of Kings were originally one book. The Books were given their name in ancient times, by the Hebrews, because they begin with the words, "Now King"; and of course, because they deal with the kings of Israel, and later those of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Whereas the Books of Samu­el dealt much more fully with the reigns of Saul and David, relatively little space is given the many kings of the divided kingdoms. The portion of First Kings dealing with Solomon is the exception to this.

The author of the Books of Kings, under God, is unknown, although scholars have found considerable evidence to believe that it was authored by the Prophet Jeremiah. It was almost certainly written by a contemporary of Jeremiah, if not he himself. The language is said to be quite similar to that in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, while certain state­ments indicate that all except the closing verses of Second Kings were written by a contemporary. It is believed that Jeremiah was returned to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar when that king captured Egypt, after the prophet had been carried there unwillingly.

The Books fall into three distinct parts: 1) The reign of Solomon, 1 Kings 1:1 to 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 2) reigns of the contemporary kings of Israel and Judah 1 Kings 12:1 - 2 Kings 17:41; 2 Kings 3) reigns of the Judaic kings to the captivity of Babylon, 2 Kings 18:1 to 2 Kings 25:30. The first period ends with the death of Solomon and the division of the kingdom; the second period ends with the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel; the third period ends with the fall of Judah to Babylon, with a postscript to the release of King Jehoiachin in Babylon. Chronologically the Books span a period of more than four hundred years, about 972-560 B. C.

Author’s Note: The parallel sections of Kings and Chronicles will be treated jointly in the following commentary. The Introduction to Chroni­cles and a treatment of other portions will be found at the end of this section.

First Kings - Chapter 1

David’s Illness, verses 1-4

First Kings opens with the information that David had become old and decrepit.

Actually the record shows that he was about seventy years old at his death, an age not thought of even then as extremely. old. However, seventy years may well have been fairly aged for most persons of the times.

Others are mentioned who lived to be much older, but David had been through many hardships and sorrows. He had seen much of life in seventy years, and it had not always been good to him.

His ailment seems to be one that is common in the aged, even to present times.

David’s circulation was poor and his body remained cold. The remedy proposed was likely one not uncommon for the times. It was not of the immoral nature which might suggest itself to a modern reader. A warm, healthy young body against that of the king would be very comforting, and to nourish a young woman in his bosom was perhaps less suggestive than to have so used a young boy.

So they found a very beautiful girl, from Shunem, in the tribe of Issachar, near the head of the Valley of Jezreel. Her name was Abishag, and she fulfilled her task well. She treated the king tenderly, nursing and waiting upon him.

She became a part of his harem, but he never violated her, or used her as a concubine. It appears that she was actually no more than his nurse.

Verses 5-10

Adonijah Plots, verses 5-10

With David approaching the end of his life there must have been much speculation about who should succeed him on Israel’s throne. It was all without reason, for David announced to the assembly, called a short time earlier, that the Lord had chosen Solomon his successor (1 Chronicles 28:5; 1 Chronicles 29:1). However, there must have been a majority of the people who had not taken the old king seriously, and may have thought Solomon much too young for the task. This gave Adonijah his opportunity, and he made the most of it. He equipped himself a chariot such as kings rode in, prepared horsemen and runners and adopted a regal bearing before the public.

Several things are named as basis for Adonijah’s determination to be his father’s successor: 1) his father had not "displeased" him, which means David had not discouraged his fanfare; 2) he was a "goodly" man, meaning that he was possessed of charisma, much as Absalom had used to his advantage; 3) he was next to Absalom in birth, suggesting that by the law of primogeniture he was next in line for the throne after the death of the older sons; 4) he had the support of some of the most influential men in David’s court, Abiathar, one of the chief priests, and Joab, the captain of the host. Thus, from the natural vantage point Adonijah must surely have appeared to be the heir apparent.

Yet there were other great and influential men in David’s council notably, and ominously, missing from Adonijah’s retinue. These included Zadok, the true high priest; Benaiah, the captain of the special forces of the Cherethites and Pelethites; Nathan the prophet, who had predicted the succession of Solomon to the throne; Shimei and Rei, who possibly were captains among the mighty men of David.

Adonijah pressed on with his plans, gathering his followers to the stone of Zoheleth, at the spring of En-rogel, near the confluence of the Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron Valley, not five hundred yards outside the walls of Jerusalem. Here it was evidently planned to make him the king. It was a festive time, with much slaying of sheep, oxen, and fat cattle for their feast. To this event Adonijah invited the great men of Judah, and all his brothers, except Solomon. Neither had he called Nathan and Benaiah. Adonijah is an example of that to which one may come if let go on in his error (Ecclesiastes 8:11). It appears that David vacillated toward his sons to the very end of his life.

Verses 11-21

Nathan’s Counterplot, Verses 11-21

Nathan the prophet, seeing the trend of affairs with Adonijah, and being intimately involved with the selection of Solomon to be Israel’s next king, took steps to counteract Adonijah’s coronation. It would seem that Nathan had been aware of Solomon’s destiny from his birth (2 Samuel 12:24-25; see also 1 Chronicles 22:9). It is learned in this context that David had made oath to Bathsheba that her son, Solomon, would succeed him on the throne. It seemed proper then, to Nathan, that the approach to David on Solomon’s behalf should be initiated with Bathsheba. Therefore, he went to her and advised her to go to the king and to remind him of his oath and promise of the machinations of Adonijah to upset them. Nathan emphasized the importance of this that Bathsheba and Solomon might save their lives from the scheming Adonijah. The prophet promised to come quickly behind Bathsheba to verify her words to David.

Bathsheba was sufficiently aroused by Nathan’s warning and advice to proceed promptly to the king and intercede for Solomon. She found him in his sickbed, being nursed by the beautiful AbisHag She came into David’s presence in the reverent manner expected of those petitioning the king, and waited for his permission before speaking. When David inquired of her purpose in coming Bathsheba proceeded to follow the presentation of Solomon’s cause according to the advice and counsel of Nathan. First, she reminded him of his oath concerning Solomon; then she apprised him of the scheming of Adonijah, who already had set himself to reign as king. Adonijah had called those he felt to be sympathetic to his ambitions, prepared a great feast for them, but had not called Solomon. Finally Bathsheba told David the people of Israel were waiting for him to indicate who should be the king after him. Though David had done this already, the things that were happening with Adonijah would likely cause some to believe the king had changed his mind about Solomon. Now, Bathsheba insisted, unless David acted she and her son would be likely to die by the hand of Adonijah.

This is one of those times when the Lord was using the progression of affairs to bring about His will. He had long before told David, Nathan, and others that Solomon should be the next king, and what He said would surely transpire. But from the standpoint of men it seemed as though it might not happen, and they began to be disturbed. God overrules the intentions of men that His word should not fail, and He would not fail now (Philippians 2:12-13).

Verses 22-31

David Persuaded, Verses 22-31

According to plan Nathan arrived in the palace about the time Bathsheba concluded her petition. It was announced to the king that the prophet was waiting for an audience. When Nathan was ushered in he too showed great reverence for the king, bowing with his face to the ground. Such humble respect may have signified the sober import of his business. He, too, presented the crowning of Adonijah as an accomplished fact, and his inquiry of the king was whether David was aware of what was transpiring. Adonijah was, even then he said, celebrating with the concurrence of Abiathar the priest, the captains of the host, and the other princes of the kingdom. They were acclaiming him, "God save king Adonijahl" Yet he had omitted calling Zadok, Benaiah, and Nathan to the festivities. Had David done all this without informing Nathan, Benaiah, and Zadok?

Upon this corroboration of Bathsheba’s story David had her returned to his presence. There he swore .again to her, by the living Lord, who had so many times delivered David from great troubles, that he would honor his oath to Bathsheba, and Solomon would be seated on his throne. Bathsheba’s son would, indeed, sit upon his throne and reign after his father David. He had kept his oath as the law required (Numbers 30:2; Ecclesiastes 5:4). In humble gratitude Bathsheba again bowed her face to the earth before the king.

Verses 32-40

Solomon Crowned, 1 Kings 1:32-40 AND 1 Chronicles 29:22

1 Kings 1:32-40; AND 1 Chronicles 29:22

David acted at once on his renewed oath to Bathsheba to make Solomon king. If he should be anointed and proclaimed king while David still lived there would be no doubt as to the intent of the old king concerning his successor. In charge of the affair he placed the very trio whom Adonijah had left out of his own celebration, doubtless because he knew they were loyal to Solomon. Nathan, Zadok, and Benaiah were instructed to sit Solomon on the royal mule of King David and bring him to the spring Gihon for the ceremony. The spring of Gihon was located at that time immediately outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem, in the Kid­ron valley. It was no more than fifteen hundred yards from the spring of En-rogel where Adonijah was celebrating his coronation. Gihon later had its waters brought by conduit under the wall into the city where its water formed the pool of Siloam in New Testament times (and still does today).

There at Gihon Zadok and Nathan were to anoint Solomon, blow with the trumpet, and shout, "God save King Solomon." David said, "I have appointed him ruler over Israel and over Judah." From this they were to bring Solomon again into the city and seat him upon David’s throne. When Benaiah heard this from the old king, he cried, "Amen, and let the Lord say so, too." Benaiah was a godly man, the son of a chief priest, and he willed that God would be so evidently with the new king, Solomon, as he had been with the old king, David. He even prayed pub­licly that Solomon’s kingdom might be greater than that of David had been. This was a godly desire, for God’s people are taught to expect pro­gressively more opportunities in His service from generation to genera­tion (John 14:12).

So, with Zadok representing the priestly office, Nathan the pro­phetic office, and Benaiah the governing body Solomon was brought to the rendezvous and David’s instruction performed. The parade of Solo­mon on the royal mount through Jefusalem’s streets could not but at­tract an audience of the people not involved in Adonijah’s affair, so that by the time formalities were done there had gathered a considerable mul­titude. Zadok took the holy anointing oil from the tabernacle, such as was to be used only for such occasions (and never for a common use), and poured it on the head of Solomon. The trumpet was blown, announ­cing an important event to people of outlying areas, and there were shouts of "God save King Solomon." Some made music on pipes, and all rejoiced with very much joy, so that the noise resounded far and wide.

Thus was Solomon proclaimed king the second time, this times being actually installed. David had so announced in his last great address to the people, as recorded in the closing chapters of First Chronicles, but this time David had actually abdicated in favor of Solomon. The people were happy and rejoicing in the Lord, while the followers of Adonijah were rejoicing in themselves, which rejoicing would soon be turned to disappointment (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Verses 41-53

Adonijah Submits, Verses 41-53

Adonijah and his people had finished their eating when the clamor of Solomon’s coronation reached their ears. Joab was especially alarmed at the sounding of the trumpet Doubtless he had heard the trumpet’s blast many times in his long career of military service. He knew that it had significance beyond the usual and must have heard it with ominous foreboding. While the group contemplated the meaning of it, one of their own approached with the news. He was Jonathan, the son of the priest, Abiathar, who must have remained in the city while the others celebrated, for he had full and accurate news to report of what had happened to frustrate the hopes of the gathering at En-rogel.

It is sad to see that great men can fall into such great mistakes. Here around Adonijah were gathered men who had proven themselves in the loyal service of David and of their country. Joab was a hero grown old in the hard battles for Israel, who though he displeased David often, had yet remained staunchly behind him through many hardships from the fugitive days when he fled from Saul. He had remained loyal in the rebellion of Absalom, but now he had turned to the charismatic Adonijah. Abiathar the priest, as a young man, had seen his entire family slain by a vengeful Saul, and had fled to David for protection. David had honored him beyond measure, allowing him to remain as a chief priest of Israel, though he was descended from the cursed house of Eli. Now he rejected the will of David, from God, to make Solomon king, and turned to Adoni­jah. His son, Jonathan, had been a faithful courier for David in the flight from Absalom, but now is the spy of the Adonijah party in Jerusalem.

The situation is analogous to the endtime prediction of Jesus con­cerning a man’s friends becoming his enemies (Matthew 10:35-36). Adonijah tried to be optimistic, supposing that Jonathan being a good man would be bringing good news, but not so. He told in detail the situation. Solomon’s position as reigning monarch of Israel was an ac­complished fact.

The people had gone to congratulate David and to pray that the throne of Solomon should outstrip that of David in greatness, and the old king had bowed in submission to the new king, Solomon. Jonathan seems to have been around for everything, for he reported hearing David praying and thanking God that He had given Solomon to sit on his throne and allowing him to see it with is own eyes.

Jonathan’s news was very distressing to Adonijah’s guests, for they were in danger of harm should Solomon seek revenge against those who had opposed him. This was not at all unusual among the hea­then kings, who always took steps to eradicate any potential threat to the throne. Doubtless Adonijah knew what would have happened had he become king and expected similar lack of mercy from Solomon toward him.

So while his guests stole away to their houses, hopefully undetected, Adonijah fled to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the brazen sacrifice altar in a plea for mercy.

Solomon learned of this plea of Adonijah and his request that Solomon swear not to slay him. Solomon therefore extended him mercy. Adonijah was brought down to King Solomon, where he bowed in submission to him, and Solomon sent him to his house. In Mary’s song when she had conceived the Savior, she said,"His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation" (Lu 1:50). This is a truth for all time, as it was when Mary sang it, and as it was in Adonijah’s day. Adonijah failed to benefit from extended mercy because he had no real fear of God. Else he would not have opposed Solomon, and the expressed will of God.

This long chapter contains numerous lessons, a few of which are: 1) the world today still discounts the expressed will of God and seeks to set it aside for their own will; 2) those loyal believers should continue to insist on the right thing, assured of victory because the Lord has promised it; 3) those who have the ability to accomplish things for the Lord can be encouraged to do so by others who stand behind them; 4) there is great joy in the victory to be had by following the Lord’s will; 5) the godly should always be ready to show mercy to others, though others may spurn it.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-1.html. 1985.