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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary




Verse 1

1. David was old As he was thirty years old when he began to reign, and reigned forty years, (2 Samuel 5:4,) he must now have been in his seventieth year.

Stricken in years Literally, as the margin, entered into days; far gone in days, having reached an advanced period of life.

Clothes Probably bedclothes are to be understood; coverlets.

He gat no heat Literally, there was no heat to him. Abundance of clothes could not restore animal heat to a decrepit system. The older expositors assign various causes for this lack of animal heat: as, an attack of some disease of a chilling nature; the loss of much blood by war and other ways; or the result of excessive labours in earlier life. But the loss of animal warmth is a common experience of the old age of persons who have spent a life of vicissitudes and anxious toils.

Verses 1-4

DAVID’S OLD AGE, 1 Kings 1:1-4.

In these introductory verses the writer prepares the way for the history that follows. The age and infirmity of David account for the ease with which Adonijah seems to usurp royal powers, and our introduction here to the fair Abishag prepares us for subsequent events in Adonijah’s career. 1 Kings 2:12-25.

Verse 2

2. His servants Josephus calls them his physicians.

Let her cherish him Literally, let her be to him a female nurse. It was one part of her service to attend to his private wants, to perform the various little items of nursing expected of a familiar attendant. All this is comprehended in the word סכנת , a female attendant. Another part of her service was to lie in the king’s bosom, that is, sleep with him, and thus communicate to him animal heat and vigour. This method of recruiting the wasted vigour of age is natural and well known; but while it benefits the old, it must needs take away from the strength of the young. The too common practice of young persons sleeping with aged aunts, uncles, or grandparents is the ruin of many a naturally vigorous and healthy constitution.

Verse 3

3. Abishag a Shunammite So called from her native city Shunem, in the tribe of Issachar, the modern Solam, at the base of the Little Hermon. See on Joshua 19:18. A needless controversy has been raised as to whether Abishag really became the acknowledged wife or concubine of David. In what respects she served the king is here precisely told, and all beyond this is fruitless speculation. The fact, however, that she slept in the king’s bosom placed her virtually in the position of a concubine, so that Adonijah’s subsequent effort to obtain her as his wife was construed by Solomon into an attempt to invade the royal harem, and thus establish a claim to the throne.

Verse 4

4. The king knew her not This explicit statement, as well as all that goes before, is a sufficient vindication of David from the charge of taking a fair young concubine in his old age in order to gratify lewd passions. The whole procedure was in perfect accordance with the morals of the time. No one looked upon it as a scandal, and Bath-sheba herself evidently found no fault.

Verse 5


5. Adonijah the son of Haggith The fourth son of David, born at Hebron, while his father reigned over Judah only. 2 Samuel 3:4-5.

Exalted himself Became puffed up with a proud ambition, and urged his right and title to the kingdom. He was now the oldest living child of David, for Amnon and Absalom had perished, and Chileab seems to have been also dead, for we have no mention of him after his birth; so Adonijah could justly plead the rights of primogeniture. But the kingdom of Israel had not yet attained established usages as to regnal succession; and as Jehovah designated both Saul and David to the royal honours, and lifted them from obscurity to the highest position in the nation, so also he designated Solomon as David’s successor on the throne. 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 1 Chronicles 28:5-6. In the face of this Divine interposition, how vain must be Adonijah’s ambition!

He prepared him chariots Affected royal dignity, as the rebellious Absalom had done before him. 2 Samuel 15:1. His action was all the more culpable from the fact that a full knowledge of Absalom’s miserable end did not deter him from following in his steps.

Verse 6

6. His father had not displeased him By attempting to correct his youthful follies and ambitious actions. Here was one of David’s weaknesses. His parental tenderness ran away with his judgment, and caused him many sorrows.

At any time מימיו , from his days; that is, from Adonijah’s days. All his life David had allowed him to have his own way. Schmidt, Keil, and others understand “from his days” to refer to the days of Adonijah’s ambitious movements to attain the throne; but if that were the meaning, the phrase in question would seem entirely superfluous.

A very goodly man That is, good-looking. Like Absalom his brother, whose beauty was praised in all the gates of Israel. 2 Samuel 14:25.

His mother bare him after Absalom His mother Haggith bore him after Maacah had borne Absalom.

Verse 7

7. He conferred with Joab Joab doubtless felt that he had lost the favour of David, (compare 2 Samuel 19:13,) but hoped to continue captain of the host if his help raised Adonijah to the throne, and therefore readily entered into the conspiracy.

And with Abiathar To many it has seemed strange that this priest, the friend of David in his wanderings, should have countenanced such conspiracy. His action probably grew out of jealousy towards Zadok, his associate in office, who received so much favour from David.

Verse 8

8. Zadok This priest probably still officiated at Gibeon. See note on 2 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 8:17.

Shimei, and Rei This Shimei is perhaps the same with the one mentioned 1 Kings 4:18; but there is nothing sufficiently positive to identify either of these names with any person mentioned elsewhere.

Were not with Adonijah This statement contains a tacit intimation that these mighty men of David had been approached by Adonijah, or by some of his abettors, and solicited to join the party, and help carry out the treasonable projects of that aspiring youth.

Verse 9

9. Adonijah slew sheep “Thus also imitating Absalom, who, in order to cover his sin with the cloak of religion, and to ingratiate himself with those whom he invited to the banquet, began his rebellion with a sacrificial feast. 2 Samuel 15:12.” Wordsworth.

Stone of Zoheleth Hebrew, stone of the serpent, perhaps so called from the slaughter of a serpent by it. Or, stone of the conduit, so called from its proximity to some conduit where water flowed. It is identified by Mr. Ganneau with a rock in the Kedron valley near to the Fountain of the Virgin, which the Arabs still call Zehwele. Like the stone Ezel, (1 Samuel 20:19,) it was a spot familiar to the writer and his contemporaries.

Enrogel Probably identical with the “Fountain of the Virgin,” in the valley of the Kedron. See note on Joshua 15:7.

Verse 10

10. He called not For he well knew that they would not favour his plans, but would rather oppose and thwart them with a power not easy to resist.

Verse 11

SOLOMON MADE KING, 1 Kings 1:11-40.

11. Nathan spake unto Bathsheba That devout prophet had his eye upon the movements of Adonijah, and be took timely measures to frustrate his seditious projects. He was thoroughly acquainted with the private history of David’s relation and pledges to Bathsheba, and was well aware that no one could have such power over the king as she whom he loved above all women.

Verse 12

12. Save thine own life If Adonijah became king, he would doubtless, according to the barbarous custom of Oriental monarchs, destroy all persons suspected of claiming a title to the kingdom, and therefore the lives of Solomon and his mother would be in peril.

Verse 13

13. Didst not thou… swear According to 1 Chronicles 22:9, the Lord had foretold to David the birth and name and destiny of Solomon. Before his birth, then, this child of Bathsheba had been chosen of God to succeed David on the throne of Israel, and it is therefore but natural to suppose, though we find no express record of it, that in accordance with the Divine oracle, David had sworn to Bathsheba as is here stated.

Verse 14

14. Confirm thy words Hebrew, as margin, fill up; that is, complete, in the same sense as fulfilling, and thereby confirming a prophecy.

Verse 15

15. Into the chamber Into the bedchamber, where, on account of his age and infirmities, the king was obliged to keep himself.

Verse 16

16. Bathsheba bowed, and did obeisance Though the wife of his fondest love, she is careful to observe the etiquette of those who appear in the royal presence. Nathan the prophet shows the same respect and reverence. 1 Kings 1:23.

What wouldest thou There was something in the manner of her presenting herself that impressed the king that she had a request to make.

Verse 28

28. Call me Bathsheba She had withdrawn from the king’s presence at the entrance of Nathan, and, as we see from 1 Kings 1:32, he in turn retired when she was readmitted. This was done in accordance with the rules of court propriety, and also to avoid the appearance of mutual concert between them.

Verse 29

29. Hath redeemed my soul out of all distress Many had been David’s deliverances from danger; but here, as he reaffirms this oath before that woman with whom, and for whose sake, he had perpetrated the darkest sins of his life, we should understand a special allusion to the bitter soul-agonies which resulted from those crimes: for it was at the time of his redemption and deliverance from those agonies that Jehovah had foretold to him the birth and destiny of 2 Samuel 12:0; 2 Samuel 12:0.

Verse 33

33. Mine own mule To ride upon the king’s mule was almost equivalent to being crowned. In the Eastern mind it was an honour ever associated with that of wearing the royal apparel and the crown. Thus Mordecai received the highest marks of honour the king of Persia could bestow. Esther 6:8-9. See cut of mules and note. 2 Samuel 13:29.

Gihon A reservoir at the head of the valley of Hinnom, about seven hundred yards northwest of the Yaffa gate of Jerusalem. Its length from east to west is about three hundred feet; its breadth about two hundred. This reservoir is, doubtless, identical with “the upper watercourse of Gihon,” or, more literally, “the outflow of the waters of the upper Gihon,” which, according to 2 Chronicles 32:30, Hezekiah “brought straight down to the west side of the city of David.” At the present time, when in the rainy season this reservoir becomes full, its waters are conducted by an aqueduct to the vicinity of the Yaffa gate, and so to the pool of Hezekiah within the city. It is no valid objection to this view of the Gihon here named that it is on such high ground, as regards the city of David, that it would be incorrect to speak of bringing Solomon down to it, or coming up from it after him, (1 Kings 1:35,) for any locality outside the holy city might be spoken of as down from that place, and from whatsoever quarter an Israelite came to Jerusalem he was accustomed to speak of it as a going up. Besides, being situated in the basin at the head of the Hinnom valley, it was naturally called “Gihon in the valley.” 2 Chronicles 33:14. The “lower pool,” mentioned by Isaiah, (Isaiah 22:9,) is probably the large broken reservoir still seen lower down in the same valley, and on the west side of the city, called by the Arabs Birket es-Sultan.

Verse 37

37. Make his throne greater than the throne of… David Such words as these would have stirred up jealousy and anger in many kings; but, as Theodoret remarks, Benaiah “knew that no one having a true father’s tenderness would be jealous of a child, and that it is characteristic of devoted fathers to wish their sons to appear more illustrious than themselves.”

Verse 38

38. Cherethites, and the Pelethites See note on 2 Samuel 8:18.

Verse 39

39. Oil out of the tabernacle The holy anointing oil described in Exodus 30:22-33.

Verse 40

40. Pipes See note and cuts on 1 Samuel 10:5.

The earth rent with the sound A hyperbolical expression to indicate the boundless joyfulness of the people on that occasion. From many facts recorded in the last half of the Second Book of Samuel it is not difficult to infer that the closing years of David’s reign were not popular in Israel. The growing infirmities of age prevented his appearing any more among the people; and though he held a large place in the nation’s heart, his voluntary resignation of the crown to Solomon, who had doubtless, by reason of his many amiable qualities, already become endeared to all who knew him, and the enthronization of that youthful prince, were an occasion of great rejoicings throughout the royal city. It was also a matter of rejoicing that there was no violent break in the succession. David enthrones Solomon by his own proclamation, so that, as Wordsworth beautifully says, “Solomon’s reign is to be regarded as a continuation of the reign of David his father. David’s reign did not end with David’s life, but it flowed on in the life of Solomon his son, for which it was a preparation. Thus the union of David and Solomon, as forming by their conjunction a typical representation of CHRIST, the king of the spiritual Zion, as a conqueror like David, and yet as the prince of peace like Solomon, is made more manifest.” So in the harmony of the Divine dispensations the kingdom of Israel was continued, and is perpetuated in the more glorious kingdom of the Messiah.

Verse 41

ADONIJAH’S ALARM, 1 Kings 1:41-53.

41. Joab heard The old warrior’s ear is quick to catch the first signal of alarm.

Verse 42

42. Jonathan the son of Abiathar The fleet messenger that in the time of Absalom’s rebellion had been the bearer of important tidings. See 2 Samuel 15:27-28; 2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 17:16-21. He announces his tidings most vividly, and with greatest accuracy of detail.

Verse 50

50. Adonijah feared For he judged Solomon by himself, and had he obtained the kingdom, Solomon would doubtless speedily have been destroyed. He also knew that he was guilty of conspiracy against the lawful authority of the king, his father.

Caught hold on the horns of the altar The altar in the tabernacle on Zion, where Abiathar officiated, who, according to 1 Kings 1:7, was in sympathy with the ambitious prince, and whose friendly services Adonijah probably expected to receive. The horns of the altar were the emblems of security, and indicated the saving strength and grace of God, so that it was sacrilege to commit violence on any person who fled there for safety, unless he were guilty of the most flagrant crime. Compare Exodus 21:14.

Verse 52

52. Show himself a worthy man Atone for his past misconduct by showing henceforth a thorough loyalty to Solomon.

There shall not a hair of him fall Thus the first official act of the new king’s reign is one of magnanimity, and indicative of a gracious and peaceful rule.

If wickedness… be found in him Especially, any attempts upon the rights, prerogatives, or authority of the reigning king. But Adonijah’s restless spirit soon led him to ruin. See 1 Kings 2:13-25.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-kings-1.html. 1874-1909.
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