David’s Old Age. 1* When King David was old and advanced in years, though they covered him with blankets he could not get warm. 2His servants therefore said to him, “Let a young virgin be sought to attend my lord the king,* and to nurse him. If she sleeps with you, my lord the king will be warm.” 3So they sought for a beautiful girl throughout the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunamite. So they brought her to the king. 4The girl was very beautiful indeed, and she nursed the king and took care of him. But the king did not have relations with her.
Adonijah’s Ambition. 5Adonijah, son of Haggith, boasted, “I shall be king!” and he provided himself with chariots, horses, and a retinue of fifty to go before him.a 6Yet his father would never antagonize him by asking, “Why are you doing this?” Adonijah was also very handsome, and next in age to Absalom by the same mother. 7He consulted with Joab, son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest, and they became Adonijah’s supporters. 8However, Zadok the priest, Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei, and David’s warriors did not support Adonijah.
9Adonijah slaughtered sheep, oxen, and fatlings at the stone Zoheleth near En-rogel* and invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah; 10but he did not invite Nathan the prophet, or Benaiah, or the warriors, or Solomon his brother.
Solomon Proclaimed King. 11Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother: “Have you not heard that Adonijah, son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David does not know? 12Come now, let me advise you so that you may save your life and the life of your son Solomon. 13Go, visit King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord king, swear to your handmaid: Your son Solomon shall be king after me; it is he who shall sit upon my throne? Why, then, has Adonijah become king?’ 14And while you are still there speaking to the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”
15So Bathsheba visited the king in his room. The king was very old, and Abishag the Shunamite was caring for the king.* 16Bathsheba bowed in homage to the king. The king said to her, “What do you wish?”* 17She answered him: “My lord, you swore to your servant by the LORD, your God, ‘Solomon your son will be king after me; it is he who shall sit upon my throne.’ 18But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord king, do not know it.* 19He has sacrificed bulls, fatlings, and sheep in great numbers; he has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest, and Joab, the commander of the army, but not your servant Solomon. 20* Now, my lord king, all Israel is looking to you to declare to them who is to sit upon the throne of my lord the king after him. 21If this is not done, when my lord the king rests with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be considered criminals.”
22While she was still speaking to the king, Nathan the prophet came in. 23They told the king, “Nathan the prophet is here.” He entered the king’s presence and did him homage, bowing to the floor. 24Then Nathan said: “My lord king, did you say, ‘Adonijah shall be king after me and shall sit upon my throne’? 25For today he went down and sacrificed bulls, fatlings, and sheep in great numbers; he invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest, and even now they are eating and drinking in his company and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26But me, your servant, he did not invite; nor Zadok the priest, nor Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, nor your servant Solomon. 27If this was done by order of my lord the king, you did not tell me, your servant, who is to sit upon the throne of my lord the king after him.”
28King David answered, “Call Bathsheba here.” When she entered the king’s presence and stood before him, 29the king swore, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 30this very day I will fulfill the oath I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me and shall sit upon my throne in my place.’” 31Bowing to the floor in homage to the king, Bathsheba said, “May my lord, King David, live forever!”
32Then King David said, “Call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, son of Jehoiada.” When they had entered the king’s presence, 33he said to them: “Take with you the royal officials. Mount my son Solomon upon my own mule and escort him down to Gihon. 34There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet shall anoint him king over Israel, and you shall blow the ram’s horn and cry, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35When you come back up with him, he is to go in and sit upon my throne. It is he that shall be king in my place: him I designate ruler of Israel and of Judah.” 36Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, answered the king: “So be it! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, so decree! 37As the LORD has been with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne even greater than that of my lord, King David!”
38So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and Pelethites* went down, and mounting Solomon on King David’s mule, escorted him to Gihon. 39Then Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. They blew the ram’s horn and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” 40Then all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing so much the earth split with their shouting.
Adonijah Submits to Solomon. 41Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it, just as they ended their banquet. When Joab heard the sound of the ram’s horn, he asked, “Why this uproar in the city?” 42As he was speaking, Jonathan, son of Abiathar the priest, arrived. Adonijah said, “Come, you are a man of worth and must bring good news.” 43Jonathan answered Adonijah, “Hardly!* Our lord, King David, has made Solomon king. 44The king sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and Pelethites, and they mounted him upon the king’s own mule. 45Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king at Gihon, and they went up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. That is the noise you hear. 46Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne, 47and moreover the king’s servants have come to pay their respects to our lord, King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than your name, his throne greater than your throne!’ And the king in his bed did homage. 48This is what the king said: ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has this day provided one to sit upon my throne, so that I see it with my own eyes.’” 49All the guests of Adonijah got up trembling, and went each their way, 50but Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, got up and went to grasp the horns of the altar.*
51It was reported to Solomon: “Adonijah, in fear of King Solomon, is clinging to the horns of the altar and saying, ‘Let King Solomon first swear that he will not kill me, his servant, with the sword.’” 52Solomon answered, “If he proves worthy, not a hair of his shall fall to the ground. But if evil is found in him, he shall die.” 53King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar, and he came and paid homage to King Solomon. Solomon then said to him, “Go to your house.”
* [1:1–11:43] The story of the reign of Solomon comprises twelve major units, organized concentrically. That is, the first unit (1:1–2:12a) balances the last (11:26–43), the second (2:12b–46) balances the second last (11:14–25), and so forth. (See the structural notes at the beginning of each major unit.) The center of the whole story is a diptych that narrates the construction of the Temple (6:1–7:51) and its dedication (8:1–9:10).
* [1:1–2:12a] The first major unit of the Solomon story concludes the so-called Succession Narrative (2 Sm 9–20; 1 Kgs 1–2). This unit tells how Solomon, a younger son, came to succeed David on the throne of Israel through the intervention of the prophet Nathan. Compare the last unit of the Solomon story, 11:26–43, where the prophet Ahijah begins the process whereby Jeroboam becomes king of the northern tribes after Solomon’s death. The story of Solomon’s accession is itself concentrically arranged: David’s decline, Adonijah’s rise, Solomon’s supporters, David’s decision, Solomon’s inauguration, Adonijah’s fall, David’s death. Chronicles has no developed parallel to this story (see 1 Chr 23:1).
* [1:2] The fulsome use of royal titles and the elaborate etiquette in the Succession Narrative suggest the raw ambition of the contending parties and the oppressive atmosphere of the court.
* [1:9] En-rogel: the modern Job’s Well just southeast of Jerusalem. It marked the ancient boundary between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah (Jos 15:7; 18:16).
* [1:15] Entering the king’s chambers, Bathsheba confronts two realities: he is very old; and she herself, the woman for whom David once committed adultery and murder, has been replaced at the king’s side and in his bed.
* [1:16] Throughout 1 Kgs 1 the key question is “Who shall be king (malak)?” David’s feeble, two-syllable question to Bathsheba is an ironic echo of that key word: “What do you wish?” renders the Heb. mahlak?
* [1:18] Bathsheba uses a clever wordplay to conceal the rivalry between Solomon and Adonijah and imply that the real rivalry is between David and Adonijah. She repeatedly addresses David as “my lord king” (’adoni hammelek), but claims that “Adonijah has become king” (’adoniya malak). Know: the term means both “be aware of” and “recognize, acknowledge, ratify.”
* [1:20] There was no precedent for determining succession to the throne of Israel. Adonijah and his supporters assumed that primogeniture would assure the succession as it did in the monarchies of the surrounding nations. But Bathsheba persuades David that he is free to name anyone he chooses.
* [1:38] Cherethites and Pelethites: mercenaries in David’s bodyguard. They became part of his retinue after he defeated the Philistines and established himself in Jerusalem; cf. 2 Sm 8:18; 15:18; 20:23.
* [1:43] Hardly: Jonathan’s first word, ’abal, whose meaning (such as “indeed,” “on the contrary”) must be discerned from the context, may be ironic. This irony is deepened by an untranslatable wordplay in Hebrew: a very similar word means “to mourn,” which is an appropriate comment about the death of Adonijah’s hopes for the throne.
* [1:50] Horns of the altar: the protuberances on each of the four corners of the altar (Ex 27:2; 29:12). By grasping the horns of the altar Adonijah is claiming asylum (Ex 21:13–14; 1 Kgs 2:28).