I Kings 1:17-31
17 She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.” 22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 And the king was told, “Nathan the prophet is here.” So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan said, “Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. 27 Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him? 28 Then King David said, “Call in Bathsheba.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him. 29 The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”
Nathan and Bathsheba partnered together to inform David that Adonijah was in the act of having himself made king. Bathsheba was given an opportunity to speak and she arose to the occasion and did well. We will see that she did not respond with mere emotion—though she probably had deep and important feelings and opinions on the subject at hand—but rather with well-stated reasons, logic and argumentation presented her case. We are learning leadership principles from David in this series, but this time we learn this one from Bathsheba—she used reason not emotion.
1. Bathsheba Explained the Situation 17-21
Her response to her husband the king was concise, wise and clear. She reminded him that he had promised and swore with a solemn oath that her son, Solomon, would succeed him as king. Verse 17 says, “She said to him, ‘My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: "Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne."'" She believed that if David only knew the situation, that he would keep his word. Very possibly they had discussed this over the years of their marriage. She also told him of Adonijah’s plans and actions to take the kingdom for himself. Verses 18-19 say, “But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant.”
Before we think about what she did say, let us observe what she did not say. She could have said something like, 'You are getting old and have been getting old for some time. You are not actively ruling your kingdom, just staying in this bed keeping yourself warm, and even that, you cannot do without the help of this young woman in bed with you. Decisions need to be made, succession to the throne has been decided many years ago, but you have not acted on it even though you yourself are practically an invalid. If Adonijah becomes king, not only will Solomon not be king, he will probably be killed and I with him. If you had handled this responsibility sooner, this problem would not even have occurred. Why didn’t you learn from Absalom’s rebellion? Now the nation has to go through that again!' We do not know if even a hint of a thought like that had quickly slipped through her mind, but we do know that she said nothing at all like this; not a negative word or expression, not a hint of resentment, mere emotion or passion passed her lips. She stayed positive—and persuasive.
As leaders in God’s church we could take a lesson from this. Many people, lacking foresight without the ability to think and plan ahead, make mistakes because they are preoccupied with personal issues—like keeping warm. Jerusalem does get cold in the winter. It snows there—not every year, but many years. David’s palace did not have a central heating system. We can be either considerate as we face those difficulties or we can follow Bathsheba’s good example and stay positive.
She said something like this, “The fault is not yours because you did not even know about it, but now you do. And so to keep your promise to me, please stop Adonijah’s attempt to take the throne from you and Solomon.' She even told him who Adonijah’s guests were and who was left out—including Solomon. 'Leaving Solomon out, showed us that Adonijah considered Solomon a rival which makes me the rival’s mother. Solomon being neglected reveals Adonijah’s contempt for your promise to make Solomon king.' These are the lines of thought along which she addressed her wise speech to David.
Then she proceeded to explain how David could thwart Adonijah’s plan. Verses 20-21 say, “My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.” She was aware, as were the people, that David was not only the king, but that God often supernaturally directed David’s administrative decisions; that he had a prophetic aspect to his leadership. Israel is waiting for you to tell us what to do. We are looking for your signal of God’s intention in this matter of great importance. David’s word would be an oracle and a law to them and it will easily end the controversy and completely bring a halt to Adonijah’s present ambitions.
Bathsheba also prudently suggested the immediate danger she and her son would be in if this question was not resolved in David’s life-time, but even closer to the point, it needed to be solved right then because Adonijah had already had himself declared king and was actively beginning to take over. Already, as Nathan the prophet will soon assert, the hills were echoing the sounds of shouts of “Long live king Adonijah!” Bathsheba had pressed her case well by mentioning Joab the general and Abiathar the high priest being on Adonijah’s side. With men of power and prestige like them siding with Adonijah, he is likely to prevail. 'This makes Solomon and me look like traitors.' Usurpers are cruel. If this one had really reached the throne, he would not have dealt with Solomon as justly as Solomon will treat him. Usurpers do not change their character into fair, easy-going, justice-loving gentlemen after they have achieved their desired positions. Bathsheba argued and petitioned well in behalf of herself, her son and the whole kingdom.
Satan too is a usurper and we do as well as Bathsheba did, when, with the Lords help and with His gift to us of courage, and in the power of His name used effectively in our prayers, entreaties and arguments toward God for the establishment and maintenance of His Kingdom among us, we resist the devil and do not allow the gates of hell to prevail against our advances, defenses and counter-advances. We will not yield to him. We will not yield to the usurper, accuser and arch-enemy of our Lord in whose name we cast down arguments and evil imaginations. Bathsheba did well to argue against the usurper of her day. We also do well when, in prayer, we follow her example.
As II Cor. 10:4-5 say, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We do not argue and wrestle against mere people as Bathsheba did, rather we are (to paraphrase Eph. 6:11-12), “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, we put on the full armor of God, so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Bathsheba’s argument prevailed in the king’s heart, and so will ours. Her king received and listened to her and our king welcomes, accommodates and listens to us with an even more attentive, understanding and responsive ear.
2. Nathan Collaborated as Planned 22-27
Just as he promised, Nathan the prophet, stepped in and affirmed the truth and rightness of Bathsheba’s report and request, even before David had time to give his response, as though to make certain that he heard her and believed her correctly. We will notice a strong similarity between what she said and what Nathan said. Out of the mouth of two witnesses—and both of them credible sources—this word would be established, and he would immediately give positive orders as we will soon see. On the other hand, we must also consider that Nathan, himself, was Bathsheba’s source—he had told her! Was this really two separate witnesses speaking? Or did Bathsheba confirm the report from another source?
The king was told that Nathan the prophet had come, and, yes, he is sure to be always welcomed by the king, especially when David was not physically strong or well or had something big on his mind such as what Bathsheba had just explained. In either case, don’t you think a reputable prophet would be especially welcome. Nathan knew he must render honor to whom honor is due, and therefore does the same thing now, when David is in bed, that he would have done were David on his throne. Verses 22-23 say, “While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. And the king was told, ‘Nathan the prophet is here.’ So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground.” With that formality completed, Nathan got right to his message.
Verses 24-27 say, “Nathan said, ‘Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
Consistent with the difference between their two roles, Nathan spoke somewhat more plainly with the king than Bathsheba had. He was a man, she was a woman; he was a prophet while she was David’s wife. Yet, he explained Adonijah’s attempt as Bathsheba had, in similar terms, adding that Adonijah’s party had already risen to such an elevated assurance that the crowd was shouting ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ as though king David were already dead, and added the observation that he, Zadok and Benaiah had not been invited to their feast. Wouldn’t this suggest that Adonijah’s movement had resolved not to consult either God or David in the matter? Nathan, after all, was thoroughly familiar with the events surrounding Solomon’s birth and God’s promise to put him on David’s throne. Of course they would not invite Nathan! Certainly they would not invite Solomon either!
Nathan tactfully allowed David space to wiggle out of an awkward position by asking, “Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” This is as though to say, 'If that is so, David, you are not so faithful to God’s Word or your own as we thought you to be. And if not, then it is now time that you speak up against the usurpation, and declare Solomon your successor. If that is so, why was I not told? As your confidant I should have been informed, especially concerning this. I am the one who delivered to you the Word of the Lord that Solomon’s name should be Jedidiah—loved of the Lord. Have you altogether forgotten or dismissed that? You promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king. Have you forgotten that?'
'If my lord the king knows nothing of this matter, as apparently you do not, what horrible action is this that Adonijah and his party are up to?' By asking this one, simple, meaningful question, Nathan seems to have be able to arouse David against Adonijah and his plans. David appears to have been aroused to more decisively support of Solomon. This good man, David, apparently just needed to be prodded to do his duty. How many others around us need us to simply ask them essentially the same question Nathan asked David, “Is this something you have done without informing me?” We can do this, not in an accusing tone, but with the attitude of someone who speaks the truth in love. By reminding others of their obligations to do right, whether to stop doing wrong or actively to do right, by reminding them of their duty, could we do them a real kindness, as Nathan did to David here?
3. David Fulfilled the Promise 28-31
Having heard from Bathsheba and Nathan, David made what seems to be a formal and solemn declaration that Solomon will be his successor. Bathsheba was called in and David delivered the message in person to her. Surely this would have been very good news. Verses 28-30 say, “Then King David said, ‘Call in Bathsheba.’ So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him. The king then took an oath: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.’” He rehearsed that he had given her his oath before. Even though he is old, and his memory may have begun to fail him, he still remembered this. We are glad with Bathsheba, Nathan and Solomon that David remembered.
This reference to an oath, however, does bring up another question for the Christian believer of today—the keeping of our word. David and others in Bible days supported their pledge, promise or vow by taking an oath. We believers do not usually do that today. Why? Jesus taught us that everything we say should be true, kept, honored and maintained, even without swearing. Here is what He taught, as recorded in Mat. 5:33-37, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
The last part of what Jesus said on this subject, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one,” deserves a brief explanation. We live in a world of deceit, lying, cheating and many are the occasions when people do not keep their word. In such an evil atmosphere some try to attest to the truth of a statement by adding a strong affirming statement, a vow, swearing or the taking of an oath etc. In another age the taking of an oath may have been the making of a sacred obligations so that it cannot be broken, but if we live under the new Covenant in practice as well as belief, as a new creation, we live in the truth, we believe the truth, we state the truth, and we keep our word even without adding what Jesus said was unnecessary. If I say “yes,” we take that to mean a real “yes,” and if I say “no,” we take that to mean a real “no.” We will not expect that David, who lived in another period, will have lived up to the high standards of Jesus’ teachings as we do today, so we will be tolerant of David taking an oath, while at the same time not taking oaths ourselves because Jesus said anything added to a “Yes” or “no” stems from the evil one.
Having come to understand that we don’t and why we don’t take oaths today, we can nevertheless try to appreciate the sincerity of David’s declaration that “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.” Without dispute, without delay let this be done. His form of swearing seems to be what he used often because the exact same words were used when he declared that Rekab and Baanah, who killed Ish-Bosheth while he lay sleeping in his bed in his house, should be executed for their sin. He used these same words then too, “As surely as the lord lives who has delivered me out of every trouble” (II Sam 4:9).
Whatever else David intended by using these words, in addition to that, we can take his expression as a acknowledgement that David knew and testified to the fact that it was the Lord who had delivered him from every trouble. If Bathsheba reported this conversation fully to her son, Solomon, her son may remember his father’s testimony and look to the Lord and trust Him to deliver himself if he too should meet distress.
Bathsheba received these assurances whole-heartedly. Adonijah and his group may affront David, but she would honor and reverence him. Verse 31 says, “Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, 'May my lord King David live forever!'"
The king’s body may be so weak that he cannot generate enough warmth to live without a warm body next to him, he may be old and frail and unable to administrate the affairs of the kingdom, but heart and soul, I wish him well, may he live forever, “May my lord King David live forever!” She did not think he lived too long; she wished him many more years.
Bathsheba would be happy for David to live a long time, but, for discussion purposes, suppose that even if she were to take more delight in being the mother of king Solomon rather than being the wife of king David, we may observe that it is a noble thought for anyone to unselfishly wish health and long life for another, and especially when the lengthening of that life delays the benefits and advantages that will come to oneself. Here is another indication of the positive attitude Bathsheba maintained. David had wanted her first husband, Uriah, dead, but she wanted David to live a long time.
Those who follow your leadership may want you to live or remain a long time, but that noble wish will not make it so. You will move to another ministry or pass away and go to your reward as David and every other godly leader has done. The question for you is, 'have you made plans for a smooth transition from your leadership to the administration and management of those who will remain after you are gone?' The leader who has put in place a plan for the work to continue after he or she has passed on, is wise, discrete and forethoughtful. Their work will endure.