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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Adonijah

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ADONIJAH (‘Jah is Lord’). 1 . The fourth of the six sons of David who were born in Hebron; his mother was Haggith, a name which is possibly of Philistine origin ( 2 Samuel 3:4 ). The story of Adonijah (typical of many an Oriental court intrigue) is recorded in 1 Kings 1:1-53; 1 Kings 2:1-36; as here recounted it permits of more than one interpretation, for that this passage has been subjected to an ‘editorial’ process can scarcely be doubted, and, in face of the difficulties of interpretation brought about by this, we are forced to reconstruct the course of events to some extent.

After the death of Absalom, Adonijah became the rightful heir to the throne; there was no sort of doubt about his right, it was taken for granted both by himself and by the people at large (1 Kings 2:15 ). But Bathsheba, it appears, was anxious to secure the succession for her son, Solomon; with this object in view, she, assisted by the prophet Nathan, heads a party at the court inimical to the claims of Adonijah. It would not have been long before the friends of Adonijah discovered the intrigue that was on foot; and Adonijah, learning the peril he was in of losing his rightful succession, concerts means for counteracting the machinations of his enemies. The old, trusted servants of the kingdom, Joab and Abiathar, rally round him, as one would expect; he gathers his friends together at the stone of Zoheleth, and by the visible act of sacrificing, proclaims his kingship; this last was, however, an act of unwisdom, as it gave a handle to his enemies, for king David was still alive. These, naturally on the alert, represent the gathering to David, now very aged, as an attempt to usurp the throne while he is yet alive; Bathsheba reminds David of his promise that Solomon, her son, should succeed him on the throne ( 1 Kings 1:17 ) [this may or may not have been the case; there is no reference to it elsewhere, and it certainly does not accord with what we read in 1 Kings 1:6 , 1 Kings 2:15 ]; David, remembering perhaps the rebellion of Absalom (whom Adonijah seems to have resembled in temperament as well as in outward appearance), is easily prevailed upon to transfer the succession to Solomon ( 1 Kings 1:33 ff.). Even so it is very doubtful whether Bathsheba would have succeeded in her plan had it not been that she was enabled to gain Benaiah to her side; as captain of the king’s body-guard (the Cherethites and Pelethites), Beuaiah was the man upon whom the issue really depended, for he commanded the only armed troops that were immediately available. In an emergency such as this, everything would depend upon who could strike the first decisive blow. Had the old commander-in-chief Joab had time to assemble his forces, no doubt the issue would have been different; but Bathsheba and her friends had laid their plans too well, and they won the day. Adonijah is ‘pardoned’ ( 1 Kings 1:52-53 ); it would nave been dangerous, owing to the attitude of the people ( 1 Kings 2:15 ), to put him to death until Solomon was secure on the throne; but as he was rightful heir, the safety of Solomon’s throne could never be guaranteed as long as Adonijah was alive. Bathsheba was not the woman to be oblivious of this fact, accordingly she recommences her intrigues; she represents to Solomon that Adonijah is desirous of marrying Abishag the Shunammite, the maiden who was brought to David in his old age ( 1 Kings 1:3-4 ), and who, according to Oriental ideas, was regarded as one of the royal wives. Such a desire was naturally interpreted by Solomon as an intention of seeking the kingdom ( 1 Kings 2:22 ), and self-preservation compelled him to decree Adonijah’s death, a sentence which was carried out by Benaiah ( 1 Kings 2:25 ).

The above is not in entire accord with the Biblical account, which in its present form gives rise to a number of serious difficulties. We shall mention but two of these. The request which Adonijah asks Bathsheba to convey (1 Kings 2:17 ) was the most grievous insult that could have been offered to the king; Adonijah would have known precisely what the result would be, viz. death to himself, unless supported by an army; but there is no hint that he contemplated an armed rising. Secondly, Bathsheba is quite the last person he would have asked to prefer this request; as mother of the king, and prime mover in the successful conspiracy which had robbed him of his succession, he would know better than to place himself so gratuitously within her power.

Adonijah is one of those men whose cruel fate and tragic death, both undeserved, must call forth deep sympathy and commiseration.

2 . Perhaps = Adonikam , one of those that sealed the covenant ( Nehemiah 9:38; Nehemiah 10:16 ).

3 . One of those sent, in the third year of Jehosbaphat, to teach the Law in the cities of Judah ( 2 Chronicles 17:7-9 ).

W. O. E. Oesterley.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Adonijah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/a/adonijah.html. 1909.

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