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139 - A Kingdom in Crisis

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 1; 1 Chronicles 29:20–25

Today on our Wisdom Journey, we begin the book of 1 Kings. Now this book, along with 2 Kings, covers the same time period as the book of 2 Chronicles and—as we see in this first study—also overlaps with the last few verses of 1 Chronicles. 

This means that much of what we read in the two books of Kings is repeated in the books of Chronicles. Rather than study these same events twice—first in Kings and then later in Chronicles—we are going to cover the material just one time. We will focus our study in Kings, while noting and referring to the parallel accounts in Chronicles where appropriate. Now there is some material found only in Chronicles, and we will study those passages, fitting them in chronologically as we move through 1 and 2 Kings.  

Now by way of introduction, the books of 1 and 2 Kings cover around four hundred years of Israel’s history.

  • They begin with the coronation of Solomon and end with the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • They begin with the temple being built and end with the temple being destroyed.
  • They begin with a powerful nation and tragically end with a defeated nation, taken into exile.

The author of 1 and 2 Kings is unnamed, but the traditional view is that the old prophet Jeremiah penned this account, and I believe that’s correct. Tradition also claims that Ezra authored 1 and 2 Chronicles, and there’s no reason to doubt that either.

The book of 1 Kings begins with King David in his final days—and there’s even more drama about to take place. Here’s how the book begins:

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4)

Well, this certainly is an awkward place to start our journey through 1 Kings! Abishag essentially serves as David’s nurse, but the relationship is obviously a lot closer than that. More than likely, David made her a member of his harem, even though we are told here they did not have sexual relations.

Once again, let me remind you that everything recorded in the Bible is not recommended by the Bible—and certainly not condoned. In fact, many of David’s troubles can be traced to his violation of God’s design for marriage: one man and one woman faithfully loving one another in a covenant relationship. Solomon will follow David’s practice in multiplying wives, and those wives will turn his heart completely away from God for most of his life.

Now we could say a lot more about these opening verses, but one thing is clear: this great man of military might and prowess is now feeble, weak, and physically suffering in his old age. It seems David is preoccupied with trying to get warm here in his palace, and he doesn’t even know about a growing crisis.

Here is verse 5:

Now Adonijah the son of Haggith [one of David’s wives] exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

Just like his half-brother Absalom, who failed in his coup attempt, Adonijah craves power. He knows his father’s health is failing, and he decides the time is ripe to take the throne.

First Chronicles 22:9-10 informs us that God had already chosen Solomon as the heir to David’s throne. So why would Adonijah rebel against God’s plan? Well, verse 6 gives us some insight: “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’”

In other words, Adonijah always got his way. David never challenged or disciplined him as he grew up in the palace. As great a leader as David was, this is another illustration that he failed as a father. He was literally an absent father. He never got in Adonijah’s way; he never spent any time mentoring his son.

Let me tell you, the rebellion we see today against authority and morality and truth itself finds its roots here in this verse. Where are the fathers who are spiritually leading and challenging and mentoring their children today?

Now Adonijah is a pretty smart young man. He gains the support of Joab, David’s military commander, along with Abiathar the priest. We are told here in verse 8 that others, including Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest, remain loyal to David.

Adonijah gathers his supporters for a feast, at which he plans to announce that he is the next king of Israel. It looks like he is going to succeed, but Adonijah has not only ignored God’s will that Solomon be the next king; he has also underestimated the nation’s loyalty to David.

Listen, God’s will cannot be outvoted. Whether we like it or not, God’s candidate always sits in the place of power. In fact, governing authorities are appointed by God Himself (Romans 13:2).

God now moves His prophet Nathan to step forward and take charge. We read here in verses 11-12:

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? … Let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon.”

In other words, “If Adonijah succeeds in this coup, he will kill you and Solomon and every other rival to the throne.”

Nathan urges Bathsheba to act quickly—verses 13-14:

“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?’ Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”

Well, David is stunned by this news. He quickly tells his loyal followers what to do to stop this coup attempt. They place Solomon on King David’s mule, which indicates the king’s approval (verse 38). Then just outside the city, Zadok the priest anoints Solomon as king. Following this, the people proclaim, “Long live King Solomon!” (verse 39). The people go wild with delight and approval of Solomon, and they start celebrating their new king (verse 40).  

Well, Adonijah’s plan comes to a screeching halt when he and his supporters hear the celebration. Verse 49 says, “All the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way.” They leave Adonijah in the dust.

Realizing the trouble he is in now, Adonijah races to the tabernacle and grabs on to the horns, or corners, of the altar. He is effectively begging for mercy—for his life to be spared.

And here in verse 52, as chapter 1 concludes, Solomon gives Adonijah an opportunity to redeem himself. He vows allegiance to Solomon and is allowed to live.