11 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”
15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). 16 Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”
22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. 23 And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” – 1 Kings 1:11-27 ESV
The spirit of disunity and division that will mark the nation of Israel’s future is already on display. King David, confined to bed because of old age, represents the weakened and dying vestiges of a bygone era. He was the king appointed and anointed by God.
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand. – Psalm 78:70-72 ESV
He had ruled well and had followed God faithfully. And God had made a covenant commitment to David that ensured the longevity of his dynasty.
“When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.” – 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 ESV
But there was a problem. While God had clearly ordained Solomon to be David’s successor, another one of David’s sons coveted the kingship for himself. Adonijah had already implemented his plan for dispossessing Solomon as the rightful heir to the throne. At this point, David was king in name only. His diminished physical state made it nearly impossible for him to reign and rule well. And, for whatever reason, David had not yet officially appointed Solomon as his successor. This unstable environment provided Adonijah with the perfect opportunity to stage his coup and establish himself as the next king of Israel.
But fortunately, David’s old friend and mentor, Nathan, was watching out for him. As soon as this faithful prophet of God became aware of Adonijah’s plot, he took immediate steps to protect the interests of David and to preserve the crown for Solomon. He devised a plan that would require the assistance of Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba. After informing her of Adonijah’s plot, he advised her to take the matter to David, even providing her with the exact words to say. She was to remind David of the commitment he had made to her that Solomon would be the next king of Israel. It is likely that David, in his old age, was suffering from some form of dementia and was oblivious to all that was transpiring in his kingdom. Bathsheba’s job was to help David recall the divine decree concerning Solomon. And as she was jogging the king’s memory, Nathan would enter the room and provide David with yet another reminder of God’s covenant concerning Solomon.
Bathsheba did just as Nathan had instructed her, entering the king’s chamber and informing him of all that was going on in his kingdom.
“My lord, you made a vow before the Lord your God when you said to me, ‘Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne.’ But instead, Adonijah has made himself king, and my lord the king does not even know about it.” – 1 Kings 1:17-18 NLT
Evidently, David was completely oblivious to what was taking place right under his nose. Confined to bed and suffering from diminished physical and mental capacities, David had no idea of the threat to his kingdom. But Bathsheba painted a clear and compelling picture of the situation and demanded that David act by officially declaring Solomon to be his successor. His failure to do so would forfeit the kingdom to Adonijah and seal the fate of Bathsheba and their son. And when Nathan entered the king’s chamber, he echoed the words of Bathsheba, but did so by questioning whether David had changed his mind and decided to anoint Adonijah as his rightful heir to the throne.
Even in his weakened state, David’s mind must have flashed back to the day when another one of his sons had stolen the kingdom from him. Absalom had also devised a plot to usurp the throne and had succeeded, forcing David and his associates to surrender the city of Jerusalem and the throne.
A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”
“Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.” – 2 Samuel 15:13-14 NLT
Now, years later, David was having to relive that nightmare experience as he heard the news of yet another son’s attempt to steal the crown. But none of this should have come as a surprise to David. As a result of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, David had been warned by God that his household would become a hotbed of division and conflict.
“From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.
“This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you.” – 2 Samuel 12:10-11 NLT
His sin with Bathsheba had proven to have long-term implications. And, even as David faced death, he was reminded that his decision to violate God’s law and satisfy his lustful desires was still impacting his home and his family – years later. Disobedience has consequences. Sin is costly. But in spite of David’s former failure and its impact on the present, God’s will would be done. What God had ordained would take place. Solomon would become the next king of Israel, but the stage has been set for the rest of the book of 1st Kings.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.