Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Anointing And Accession Of Solomon - 1 Kings 1
The attempt of Adonijah to seize upon the throne when David's strength was failing (Kg1 1:1-10), induced the aged king, as soon as it was announced to him by Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan, to order Solomon to be anointed king, and to have the anointing carried out (vv. 11-40); whereupon Adonijah fled to the altar, and received pardon from Solomon on condition that he would keep himself quiet (Kg1 1:41-53).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:1
When king David had become so old that they could no longer warm him by covering him with clothes, his servants advised him to increase his vitality by lying with a young and robust virgin, and selected the beautiful Abishag of Shunem to perform this service. This circumstance, which is a trivial one in itself, is only mentioned on account of what follows - first, because it shows that David had become too weak from age, and too destitute of energy, to be able to carry on the government any longer; and, secondly, because Adonijah the pretender afterwards forfeited his life through asking for Abishag in marriage. - The opening of our book, והמּלך (and the King), may be explained from the fact that the account which follows has been taken from a writing containing the earlier history of David, and that the author of these books retained the Vav cop. which he found there, for the purpose of showing at the outset that his work was a continuation of the books of Samuel. בּיּמים בּא זקן as in Jos 13:1; Jos 23:1; Gen 24:1, etc. "They covered him with clothes, and he did not get warm." It follows from this that the king was bedridden, or at least that when lying down he could no longer be kept warm with bed-clothes. בּגדים does not mean clothes to wear here, but large cloths, which were used as bed-clothes, as in Sa1 19:13 and Num 4:6. יחם is used impersonally, and derived from חמם, cf. Ewald, 193, b., and 138, b. As David was then in his seventieth year, this decrepitude was not the natural result of extreme old age, but the consequence of a sickly constitution, arising out of the hardships which he had endured in his agitated and restless life. The proposal of his servants, to restore the vital warmth which he had lost by bringing a virgin to lie with him, is recommended as an experiment by Galen (Method. medic. viii. 7). And it has been an acknowledged fact with physicians of all ages, that departing vitality may be preserved and strengthened by communicating the vital warmth of strong and youthful persons (compare Trusen, Sitten Gebruche u. Krankheiten der Hebrer, p. 257ff.). The singular suffix in לאדני is to be explained on the ground that one person spoke. בתוּלה נערה, a maid who is a virgin. לפני עמד, to stand before a person as servant = to serve (cf. Deu 1:38 with Exo 24:13). סכנת, an attendant or nurse, from סכן = שׁכן, to live with a person, then to be helpful or useful to him. With the words "that she may lie in thy bosom," the passage passes, as is frequently the case, from the third person to a direct address.
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They then looked about for a beautiful girl for this purpose, and found Abishag of Shunem, the present Sulem or Solam, at the south-eastern foot of the Duhy of Little Hermon (see at Jos 19:18), who became the king's nurse and waited upon him. The further remark, "and the king knew her not," is not introduced either to indicate the impotence of David or to show that she did not become David's concubine, but simply to explain how it was that it could possibly occur to Adonijah (Kg1 2:17) to ask for her as his wife. Moreover, the whole affair is to be judged according to the circumstances of the times, when there was nothing offensive in polygamy.
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Adonijah seized the opportunity of David's decrepitude to make himself king. Although he was David's fourth son (Sa2 3:4), yet after the death of Ammon and Absalom he was probably the eldest, as Chileab, David's second son, had most likely died when a child, since he is never mentioned again. Adonijah therefore thought that he had a claim to the throne (cf. Kg1 2:15), and wanted to secure it before his father's death. But in Israel, Jehovah, the God-King of His people, had reserved to Himself the choice of the earthly king (Deu 17:15), and this right He exercised not only in the case of Saul and David, but in that of Solomon also. When He gave to David the promise that his seed should rule for ever (Sa2 7:12-16), He did not ensure the establishment of the throne to any one of his existing sons, but to him that would come out of his loins (i.e., to Solomon, who was not yet born); and after his birth He designated him through the prophet Nathan as the beloved of Jehovah (Sa2 12:24-25). David discerned from this that the Lord had chosen Solomon to be his successor, and he gave to Bathsheba a promise on oath that Solomon should sit upon the throne (Kg1 1:13 and Kg1 1:30). This promise was also acknowledged in the presence of Nathan (Kg1 1:11.), and certainly came to Adonijah's ears. Adonijah said, "I will be king," and procured chariots and horsemen and fifty runners, as Absalom had done before (Sa2 15:1). רכב, in a collective sense, does not mean fighting or war chariots, but state carriages, like מרכּבה in Sa2 15:1; and פּרשׁים are neither riding nor carriage horses, but riders to form an escort whenever he drove out.
"And (= for) his father had never troubled him in his life (מיּמיו, a diebus ejus, i.e., his whole life long), saying, "Why hast thou done this?" Such weak oversight on the part of his father encouraged him to make the present attempt. Moreover, he "was very beautiful," like Absalom (see at Sa2 14:25), and born after Absalom, so that after his death he appeared to have the nearest claim to the throne. The subject to ילדה is left indefinite, because it is implied in the idea of the verb itself: "she bare," i.e., his mother, as in Num 26:59 (vid., Ewald, 294, b.). There was no reason for mentioning the mother expressly by name, as there was nothing depending upon the name here, and it had already been given in Num 26:5.
He conferred (for the expression, compare Sa2 3:17) with Joab and Abiathar the priest, who supported him. אהרי עזר, to lend a helping hand to a person, i.e., to support him by either actually joining him or taking his part. Joab joined the pretender, because he had fallen out with David for a considerable time (cf. Kg1 2:5-6), and hoped to secure his influence with the new king if he helped him to obtain possession of the throne. But what induced Abiathar the high priest (see at Sa2 8:17) to join in conspiracy with Adonijah, we do not know. Possibly jealousy of Zadok, and the fear that under Solomon he might be thrown still more into the shade. For although Zadok was only high priest at the tabernacle at Gibeon, he appears to have taken the lead; as we may infer from the fact that he is always mentioned before Abiathar (cf. Sa2 8:17; Sa2 20:25, and Sa2 15:24.). For we cannot imagine that Joab and Abiathar had supported Adonijah as having right on his side (Thenius), for the simple reason that Joab did not trouble himself about right, and for his own part shrank from no crime, when he thought that he had lost favour with the king.
If Adonijah had powerful supporters in Joab the commander-in-chief and the high priest Abiathar, the rest of the leading officers of state, viz., Zadok the high priest (see at Sa2 8:17), Benaiah, captain of the king's body-guard (see at Sa2 8:18 and Sa2 23:20-21), the prophet Nathan, Shimei (probably the son of Elah mentioned in Kg1 4:18), and Rei (unknown), and the Gibborim of David (see at Sa2 23:8.), were not with him.
Adonijah commenced his usurpation, like Absalom (Sa2 15:2), with a solemn sacrificial meal, at which he was proclaimed king, "at the stone of Zocheleth by the side of the fountain of Rogel," i.e., the spy's fountain, or, according to the Chaldee and Syriac, the fuller's fountain, the present fountain of Job or Nehemiah, below the junction of the valley of Hinnom with the valley of Jehoshaphat (see at Sa2 7:17 and Jos 15:7). E. G. Schultz (Jerusalem, eine Vorlesung, p. 79) supposes the stone or rock of Zocheleth to be "the steep, rocky corner of the southern slope of the valley of Hinnom, which casts so deep a shade." "The neighbourhood (Wady el Rubb) is still a place of recreation for the inhabitants of Jerusalem." To this festal meal Adonijah invited all his brethren except Solomon, and "all the men of Judah, the king's servants," i.e., all the Judaeans who were in the king's service, i.e., were serving at court as being members of his own tribe, with the exception of Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, and the Gibborim. The fact that Solomon and the others mentioned were not included in the invitation, showed very clearly that Adonijah was informed of Solomon's election as successor to the throne, and was also aware of the feelings of Nathan and Benaiah.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:11
Adonijah's attempt was frustrated by the vigilance of the prophet Nathan.
Nathan informed Solomon's mother, Bathsheba (see at Sa2 11:3), that Adonijah was making himself king (מלך כּי, that he had become as good as king: Thenius), and advised her, in order to save her life and that of her son Solomon (וּמלטי, and save = so that thou mayest save; cf. Ewald, 347, a.), to go to the king and remind him of his promise on oath, that her son Solomon should be king after him, and to inquire why Adonijah had become king. If Adonijah had really got possession of the throne, he would probably have put Solomon and his mother out of the way, according to the barbarous custom of the East, as his political opponents.
While she was still talking to the king, he (Nathan) would come in after her and confirm her words. דּבר מלּא, to make a word full, i.e., not to supply what is wanting, but to make full, like πληροῦν, either to fill by accomplishing, or (as in this case) to confirm it by similar assertion.
Bathsheba followed this advice, and went to the king into the inner chamber (החדרה), since the very aged king, who was waited upon by Abishag, could not leave his room (משׁרת for משׁרתת; cf. Ewald, 188, b., p. 490), and, bowing low before him, communicated to him what Adonijah had taken in hand in opposition to his will and without his knowledge. The second ועתּה is not to be altered into ואתּה, inasmuch as it is supported by the oldest codices and the Masora,
(Note: Kimchi says: "Plures scribae errant in hoc verbo, scribentes ואתה cum Aleph, quia sensui hoc conformius est; sed constat nobis ex correctis MSS et masora, scribendum esse ועתה cum Ain." Hence both Norzi and Bruns have taken ועתה under their protection.Compare de Rossi, variae lectt. ad h. l.)
although about two hundred codd. contain the latter reading. The repetition of ועתּה ("And now, behold, Adonijah has become king; and now, my lord king, thou knowest it not") may be explained from the energy with which Bathsheba speaks. "And Solomon thy servant he hath not invited" (Kg1 1:19). Bathsheba added this, not because she felt herself injured, but as a sign of Adonijah's feelings towards Solomon, which showed that he had reason to fear the worst if Adonijah should succeed in his usurpation of the throne. In Kg1 1:20, again, many codd. have ועתּה in the place of ואתּה; and Thenius, after his usual fashion, pronounces the former the "only correct" reading, because it is apparently a better one. But here also the appearance is deceptive. The antithesis to what Adonijah has already done is brought out quite suitably by ואתּה: Adonijah has made himself king, etc.; but thou my lord king must decide in the matter. "The eyes of all Israel are turned towards thee, to tell them who (whether Adonijah or Solomon) is to sit upon the throne after thee." "The decision of this question is in thy hand, for the people have not yet attached themselves to Adonijah, but are looking to thee, to see what thou wilt do; and they will follow thy judgment, if thou only hastenest to make Solomon king." - Seb. Schmidt. To secure this decision, Bathsheba refers again, in Kg1 1:21, to the fate which would await both herself and her son Solomon after the death of the king. They would be הטּאים, i.e., guilty of a capital crime. "We should be punished as though guilty of high treason" (Clericus).
While Bathsheba was still speaking, Nathan came. When he was announced to the king, Bathsheba retired, just as afterwards Nathan went away when the king had Bathsheba called in again (cf. Kg1 1:28 with Kg1 1:32). This was done, not to avoid the appearance of a mutual arrangement (Cler., Then., etc.), but for reasons of propriety, inasmuch as, in audiences granted by the king to his wife or one of his counsellors, no third person ought to be present unless the king required his attendance. Nathan confirmed Bathsheba's statement, commencing thus: "My lord king, thou hast really said, Adonijah shall be king after me...? for he has gone down to-day, and has prepared a feast, ... and they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, Long live king Adonijah!" And he then closed by asking, "Has this taken place on the part of my lord the king, and thou hast not shown thy servants (Nathan, Zadok, Benaiah, and Solomon) who is to sit upon the throne of my lord the king after him?" The indirect question introduced with אם is not merely an expression of modesty, but also of doubt, whether what had occurred had emanated from the king and he had not shown it to his servants.
The king then sent for Bathsheba again, and gave her this promise on oath: "As truly as Jehovah liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all distress (as in Sa2 4:9), yea, as I swore to thee by Jehovah, the God of Israel, saying, Solomon thy son shall be king after me, ... yea, so shall I do this day." The first and third כּי serve to give emphasis to the assertion, like imo, yea (cf. Ewald, 330, b.). The second merely serves as an introduction to the words.
Bathsheba then left the king with the deepest prostration and the utterance of a blessing, as an expression of her inmost gratitude. The benedictory formula, "May the king live for ever," was only used by the Israelites on occasions of special importance; whereas the Babylonians and ancient Persians constantly addressed their kings in this way (cf. Dan 2:4; Dan 3:9; Dan 5:10; Dan 6:22; Neh 2:3. Aeliani var. hist. i. 32, and Curtius de gestis Alex. vi. 5).
David then sent for Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah, and directed them to fetch the servants of their lord (אדניכם, a pluralis majestatis, referring to David alone), and to conduct Solomon to Gihon riding upon the royal mule, and there to anoint him and solemnly proclaim him king. The servants of your lord (אדניכם עבדי) are the Crethi and Plethi, and not the Gibborim also (Thenius), as Kg1 1:38 clearly shows, where we find that these alone went down with him to Gihon as the royal body-guard. לי אשׁר על־הפּרדּה, upon the mule which belongs to me, i.e., upon my (the king's) mule. When the king let any one ride upon the animal on which he generally rode himself, this was a sign that he was his successor upon the throne. Among the ancient Persians riding upon the king's horse was a public honour, which the king conferred upon persons of great merit in the eyes of all the people (cf. Est 6:8-9). פּרדּה, the female mule, which in Kahira is still preferred to the male for riding (see Rosenmller, bibl. Althk. iv. 2, p. 56). Gihon (גּחון) was the name given, according to Ch2 32:30 and Ch2 33:14, to a spring on the western side of Zion, which supplied two basins or pools, viz., the upper watercourse of Gihon (Ch2 32:30) or upper pool (Kg2 18:17; Isa 7:3; Isa 36:2), and the lower pool (Isa 22:9). The upper Gihon still exists as a large reservoir built up with hewn stones, though somewhat fallen to decay, which is called by the monks Gihon, by the natives Birket el Mamilla, about 700 yards W.N.W. from the Joppa gate, in the basin which opens into the valley of Hinnom. The lower pool is probably the present Birket es Sultan, on the south-western side of Zion (see Robinson, Palestine, i. p. 485ff., 512ff., and Biblical Researches, p. 142ff.). The valley between the two was certainly the place where Solomon was anointed, as it is not stated that this took place at the fountain of Gihon. And even the expression גּחון על אתו הורדתּם (take him down to Gihon) agrees with this. For is you go from Zion to Gihon towards the west, you first of all have to descend a slope, and then ascend by a gradual rise; and this slope was probably a more considerable one in ancient times (Rob. Pal. i. p. 514, note).
(Note: The conjecture of Thenius, that גּחון should be altered into גּבעון, is hardly worth mentioning; for, apart from the fact that all the ancient versions confirm the correctness of גּחון, the objections which Thenius brings against it amount to mere conjectures or groundless assumptions, such as that Zadok took the oil-horn out of the tabernacle at Gibeon, which is not stated in v. 39. Moreover, Gibeon was a three hours' journey from Jerusalem, so that it would have been absolutely impossible for the anointing, which was not commanded by David till after Adonijah's feast had commenced, to be finished so quickly that the procession could return to Jerusalem before it was ended, as is distinctly recorded in v. 41.)
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The blowing of the trumpet and the cry "Long live the king" (cf. Sa1 10:24) were to serve as a solemn proclamation after the anointing had taken place.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:35
After the anointing they were to conduct Solomon up to Zion again; Solomon was then to ascend the throne, as David was about to appoint him prince over Israel and Judah in his own stead. Both the anointing and the appointment of Solomon as prince over the whole of the covenant nation were necessary, because the succession to the throne had been rendered doubtful through Adonijah's attempt, and the aged king was still alive. In cases where there was no question, and the son followed the father after his death, the unanimous opinion of the Rabbins is, that there was no anointing at all. Israel and Judah are mentioned, because David had been the first to unite all the tribes under his sceptre, and after the death of Solomon Israel fell away from the house of David.
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Benaiah responded to the utterance of the royal will with the confirmatory "Amen, thus saith Jehovah the God of my lord the king;" i.e., may the word of the king become a word of Jehovah his God, who fulfils what He promises (Psa 33:9); and added the pious wish, "May Jehovah be with Solomon, as He was with David, and glorify his throne above the throne of David," - a wish which was not merely "flattery of his paternal vanity" (Thenius), but which had in view the prosperity of the monarchy, and was also fulfilled by God (cf. Kg1 3:11.).
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The anointing of Solomon was carried out immediately, as the king had commanded. On the Crethi and Plethi see at Sa2 8:18. "The oil-horn out of the tent" (i.e., a vessel made of horn and containing oil) was no doubt one which held the holy anointing oil, with which the priests and the vessels of the sanctuary were anointed (see Exo 30:22.). The tent (האהל), however, is not the tabernacle at Gibeon, but the tent set up by David for the ark of the covenant upon Mount Zion (Sa2 6:17). For even though Zadok was appointed high priest at the tabernacle at Gibeon, and Abiathar, who held with Adonijah, at the ark of the covenant, the two high priests were not so unfriendly towards one another, that Zadok could not have obtained admission to the ark of the covenant in Abiathar's absence to fetch away the anointing oil.
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All the people, i.e., the crowd which was present at the anointing, went up after him, i.e., accompanied Solomon to the citadel of Zion, with flutes and loud acclamation, so that the earth nearly burst with their shouting. תּבּקע, "to burst in pieces" (as in Ch2 25:12), is a hyperbolical expression for quaking.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:41
The noise of this shouting reached the ears of Adonijah and his guests, when the feast was just drawing to a close. The music, therefore, and the joyful acclamations of the people must have been heard as far off as the fountain of Rogel. When Joab observed the sound of the trumpet, knowing what these tones must signify, he asked "wherefore the sound of the city in an uproar" (i.e., what does it mean)? At that moment Jonathan the son of Abiathar arrived (see Sa2 15:27; Sa2 17:17.). Adonijah called out to him: "Come, for thou art a brave man and bringest good tidings;' suppressing all anxiety with these words, as he knew his father's will with regard to the succession to the throne, and the powerful and influential friends of Solomon (see Kg1 1:5, Kg1 1:19, Kg1 1:26).
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Jonathan replied: אבל, "yea but," corresponding to the Latin imo vero, an expression of assurance with a slight doubt, and then related that Solomon had been anointed king by David's command, and the city was in a joyous state of excitement in consequence (תּהם as in Rut 1:19), and that he had even ascended the throne, that the servants of the king had blessed David for it, and that David himself had worshipped and praised Jehovah the God of Israel that he had lived to see his son ascend the throne. The repetition of וגם three times (Kg1 1:46-48) gives emphasis to the words, since every new point which is introduced with וגם raises the thing higher and higher towards absolute certainty. The fact related in Kg1 1:47 refers to the words of Benaiah in Kg1 1:36 and Kg1 1:37. The Chethib אלהיך is the correct reading, and the Keri אלהים an unnecessary emendation. The prayer to God, with thanksgiving for the favour granted to him, was offered by David after the return of his anointed son Solomon to the royal palace; so that it ought strictly to have been mentioned after Kg1 1:40. The worship of grey-headed David upon the bed recalls to mind the worship of the patriarch Jacob after making known his last will (Gen 47:31).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:49
The news spread terror. All the guests of Adonijah fled, every man his way. Adonijah himself sought refuge from Solomon at the horns of the altar. The altar was regarded from time immemorial and among all nations as a place of refuge for criminals deserving of death; but, according to Exo 21:14, in Israel it was only allowed to afford protection in cases of unintentional slaying, and for these special cities of refuge were afterwards provided (Num 35). In the horns of the altar, as symbols of power and strength, there was concentrated the true significance of the altar as a divine place, from which there emanated both life and health (see at Exo 27:19). By grasping the horns of the altar the culprit placed himself under the protection of the saving and helping grace of God, which wipes away sin, and thereby abolishes punishment (see Bhr, Symbolik des Mos. Cult. i. p. 474). The question to what altar Adonijah fled, whether to the altar at the ark of the covenant in Zion, or to the one at the tabernacle at Gibeon, or to the one built by David on the threshing-floor of Araunah, cannot be determined with certainty. It was probably to the first of these, however, as nothing is said about a flight to Gibeon, and with regard to the altar of Araunah it is not certain that it was provided with horns like the altars of the two sanctuaries.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:51
When this was reported to Solomon, together with the prayer of Adonijah that the king would swear to him that he would not put him to death with the sword (אם before ימית, a particle used in an oath), he promised him conditional impunity: "If he shall be brave (בּן־חיל, vir probus), none of his hair shall fall to the earth," equivalent to not a hair of his head shall be injured (cf. Sa1 14:45); "but if evil be found in him," i.e., if he render himself guilty of a fresh crime, "he shall die."
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:53
He then had him fetched down from the altar (הוריד( ratl, inasmuch as the altar stood upon an eminence); and when he fell down before the king, i.e., did homage to him as king, he gave him his life and freedom in the words, "Go to thy house." The expression לביתך לך does not imply his banishment from the court (compare Kg1 2:13 and Sa2 14:24). Solomon did not wish to commence his own ascent of the throne by infliction of punishment, and therefore presented the usurper with his life on the condition that he kept himself quiet.