10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. 11 And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.
13 Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” He said, “Peacefully.” 14 Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Speak.” 15 He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. 16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” 17 And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” 18 Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”
19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” 21 She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.” 22 King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” 23 Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! 24 Now therefore as the Lord lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died. – 1 Kings 2:10-25 ESV
Why bother doing something today if you can simply put it off until tomorrow? And why do it at all, if you can leave it for someone else to do altogether? David seemed to live his life according to those two concepts. But it wasn’t because he suffered from the lack of energy that can accompany old age. This had been a life-long struggle for him. He seemed to have a knack for avoiding the unpleasant and delaying the inevitable. When looking back over his life, the examples of his penchant for procrastination are numerous. There was the time when David’s son, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar. David had actually been complicit in the immoral affair because he had sent Tamar to care for Amnon, whom he believed to be sick. But David had been deceived by his son.
When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry… – 2 Samuel 13:21 ESV
Yes, David was enraged by the news of what Amnon had done. But he did nothing to deal with his son’s actions. In fact, for two years, David acted as if nothing had happened. For two long years, Tamar would be forced to live with the shame of her violation while her attacker went unpunished. But eventually, Tamar’s brother Absalom took matters into his own hands and murdered Amnon. When the news reached David, he “mourned for his son day after day” (2 Samuel 13:37 ESV), but he took no steps to have Absalom arrested for his crime. In fact, Absalom fled Jerusalem and lived as a fugitive for three years. And the entire time, David did nothing to avenge the death of his son. And when Absalom eventually returned, David continued to put off his legal responsibilities as king, refusing to punish Absalom for what he had done. This lack of action was interpreted as weakness by Absalom, causing him to lose all respect for his father. Eventually, he decided that he would make a far better king and led a successful takeover of his father’s throne.
Now, as Solomon prepared to begin his own reign as the king of Israel, he found himself with the unpleasant task of cleaning up some of his father’s unfinished business. On top of that, he had his brother Adonijah to deal with. Just as he had done with Amnon and Absalom, David had left Adonijah unpunished for his crime. This ambitious and conniving young man had almost succeeded in stealing the kingship from Solomon, and yet David had taken no steps to mete out justice. By the time David died, Solomon had found himself sitting on the throne but with his former enemy living in the palace as if nothing had ever happened. His nearly successful coup attempt had gone completely unpunished. Both David and Solomon had allowed him to live, but Solomon had been wise enough to add one clear condition.
“If he proves himself to be loyal, not a hair on his head will be touched. But if he makes trouble, he will die.” – 1 Kings 1:52 NLT
But eventually, Adonijah showed his true colors. He made his way to the palace and approached the queen-mother, Bathsheba, to whom he made what appears to be a simple request. First, he reminded her that, as David’s oldest living son, he had been the rightful heir to the throne.
“As you know, the kingdom was rightfully mine; all Israel wanted me to be the next king.” – 1 Kings 2:15 NLT
Adonijah’s desire for the throne had not diminished. But he wisely and cleverly admitted that, while his attempted coup had failed, it had been the will of God.
“But the tables were turned, and the kingdom went to my brother instead; for that is the way the Lord wanted it. So now I have just one favor to ask of you. Please don’t turn me down.” – 1 Kings 2:15-16 NLT
He appealed to Bathsheba for one concession. He had been forced to give up his rightful place on the throne, and all he wanted in return was one simple thing: That Solomon would give him permission to marry Abishag, the maiden who had cared for David during his final days of life (1 Kings 1:1-4).
“Speak to King Solomon on my behalf, for I know he will do anything you request. Ask him to let me marry Abishag, the girl from Shunem.” – 1 Kings 2:17 NLT
Bathsheba agreed to take this seemingly benign request to her son. But the reaction she got from Solomon must have surprised her.
“May God strike me and even kill me if Adonijah has not sealed his fate with this request. The Lord has confirmed me and placed me on the throne of my father, David; he has established my dynasty as he promised. So as surely as the Lord lives, Adonijah will die this very day!” – 1 Kings 2:23-24 NLT
To Bathsheba, this must have come across as a bit of an overreaction on Solomon’s part. After all, Abishag was just a Shunnamite servant girl. What difference did it make if Adonijah married her? But Solomon, evidencing the wisdom for which he would become world-renowned, saw through Adonijah’s seemingly innocuous request.
“Although Abishag had been only David’s nurse, in the eyes of the people she passed as his concubine; and among the Israelites, just as with the ancient Persians (Herod. iii. 68), taking possession of the harem of a deceased king was equivalent to an establishment of the claim to the throne . . .” – C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings
This same scene was played out when Absalom had entered Jerusalem after having stolen the kingdom from David. One of the first pieces of advice Absalom had received was to violate the concubines that had belonged to the former king.
“Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to care for the palace. All Israel will hear that you have made yourself repulsive to your father. Then your followers will be motivated to support you.” – 2 Samuel 1621 NLT
Solomon was not fooled by Adonijah’s ploy. He knew exactly what his conniving brother was attempting to do and dealt with him accordingly. He ordered the immediate execution of Adonijah, eliminating any further possibilities for his brother to usurp his throne.
Unlike his father, Solomon acted decisively. He did not put off until tomorrow what needed to be done today. While he knew his actions might be questioned by others, he did what needed to be done. He refused to allow this cancer to remain in his kingdom, choosing instead to remove the threat before it could do serious damage. In doing so, Solomon displayed a level of decisiveness that his father had lacked. Even at an early age, Solomon revealed a degree of wisdom and discernment that would serve him well for many years to come.
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.
The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson