I Kings 1:32-53
32 King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. 34 There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon! 35 Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.” 36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. 37 As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!” 38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound. 41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?” 42 Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.” 43 “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king.44 The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, 45 and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. 46 Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. 47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’” 49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” 52 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”
There is a little bit of the ambition and aspiration of Adonijah in each of us. This narration of Solomon’s ascension to the throne of his father, David, is a sobering yet critical, essential and far-reaching lesson for every Christian leader. I do not want to just injure my ego; I want to kill it. Then, perhaps, God can use me.
1. The King’s Instructions are Given 32-37
This is a success story. From his bed, David effectively secured Solomon’s throne, Israel’s peace and crushed Adonijah’s scheme. It was time for clear assertive leadership and David rose to the occasion. The plan was carried out with good results for Israel, Solomon, David and Bathsheba.
David authorized Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah, faithful men of position and authority, in whom he had confidence but whom Adonijah has passed by, with this task. They all succeeded in their effort to make it plain to all that Solomon was the next king. Verses 32-34 make it clear that David wanted with all possible fanfare, dignity, and ceremony to proclaim Solomon king. It says, “King David said, ‘Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.’ When they came before the king, he said to them: ‘Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, “Long live King Solomon!”’”
To accomplish this they were to take servants of the king, body guards and household servants. This impressive size a group alone, would easily attract the attention of the residents of Jerusalem. And what would that crowd see? Solomon was to be set on the king’s own mule which David had ridden. (David did not have abundant stables and horses like Solomon eventually had.) The crowd would then watch Solomon carried by that mule to Gihon and anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, the two most highly positioned and influential ecclesiastical leaders of the nation. They would next hear a trumpet blown and someone begin the shout that would soon filled the Gihon valley all the way back to the City of David, “Long live King Solomon!”
Solomon was not one of David’s older children. Adonijah was born in Hebron and would have at this time been between 33 and 40 years old. David and Bathsheba’s first son died about 20 years earlier and Solomon, the second son from that union, would have been born about 2 years later—18 years ago. Assuming that David was about 50 years old when he had his affair with Bathsheba and was now about 70, that would make Solomon now about 18 years old. Being a much younger son of David’s may have been a factor in Adonijah’s attempt to become king. At any rate, the Solomon that Zadok and Nathan were to anoint king was a young man. Though he was made king by divine appointment, since he was so young and his title was contested, it was especially necessary that his ascent to the throne should be publicly and clearly settled with due ceremony.
The anointing, signifying the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, was typical for prophets and kings and later was a designation and qualification of the Messiah, Christ the anointed one, on Whom the Spirit, that oil of gladness, was poured without measure. Heb 1:9 says, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” And Ps 89:20 says, “I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him.” And all Christians, being heirs of the kingdom, do receive from him the anointing. James 2:5 says, “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” and I John 2:27 says, “ As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” As we celebrate Solomon’s anointing and observe what God did through him because of it, we are aware that we too are anointed and can expect that we too will bear fruit as a “little Christs”—Christians—little anointed ones.
Observe that the great officers, civil and military, are ordered to give public notice of Solomon’s accent to the throne, and to express the public joy with the sound of trumpet. Moses had directed that great events might be observed with trumpets and then add the acclamations of the people: “Long live King Solomon!” “Indeed, let him prosper, let his kingdom be established and perpetuated, and let him continue enjoying it for a long time.” As David wrote in his Psalm for Solomon, “Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long.” We could well consider the entire Psalm 72, David’s last, David’s Psalm for his son, Solomon, to be a kind of model prayer of blessing for fathers who wish to encourage their growing adult sons. Affirming the good in the next generation is one way parents have to influence not only their own generation, but the next one too.
Then, according to David’s plan, they must bring Solomon in state to the city of David, to assist in kingdom affairs while his father was weak and then to be his successor after his death. He will be king in my stead. Soon Jerusalem would see the new king carried by that mule and accompanied by that shouting and happily roaring crowd to the place where David’s throne was located. And Solomon would mount it probably with all the pomp and dignity they could have arranged. It would be a great satisfaction to David himself, and to all parties concerned, to have this done immediately, that upon David’s death there might be no dispute. David was far from grudging his successor the honor of appearing as the next king in David’s own life-time. So heartily and wisely did David throw himself into the making and declaration of this plan that we might wonder why he had not put it into action days before. Perhaps he had been thinking about it. We commend him for this nobility, but wish he had acted on his thought sooner. It was a great plan, now let’s see how it was received.
Benaiah expressed his great satisfaction with these orders. Verses 56-37 say, “Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, ‘Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!’” He was apparently speaking as a kind of representative for the group though the historian simply mentions only what this one, Benaiah, said. The king said, “Solomon shall reign for me, and reign after me.” “Amen,” says Benaiah heartily, “as the king says, so say we; we are entirely satisfied in the nomination, and concur in the choice, we give our unanimous vote for Solomon. And since we can make nothing happen, much less establish it without the blessing of God, may the Lord Himself say so also!” Verse 36 says, “Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it.”
This spontaneous response from Benaiah, for our purposes in learning from David and the noble men of David’s generation, may demonstrate the language of his faith in that promise of God on which Solomon’s government was founded. That was Benaiah’s appropriate response in his day. Today, similarly, whatever subject we address, if we say it as God says it in His Word, we may hope that He will say and do as we say by His action in our lives. I find in Benaiah’s comment a lesson regarding prayer. For the person whose thoughts and prayers are consistent with God’s, what is bound in the heavenlies is bound on earth and what is loosed in the heavenlies is loosed on earth.
And as an extra blessing, Benaiah added a prayer of blessing for Solomon, recorded in verse 37, “As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!” What a kind prayer that God would be with Solomon as He had been with David, and make his throne greater! David was not one to envy His children’s greatness, even if it surpassed his own, but would heartily say Amen to it. He would not be upset by this as Saul had earlier demonstrated many times in his jealousy of his son-in-law. The wisest and best men and women in the world desire that their children may be wiser and better than themselves, for they themselves desire to be wiser and better than they are at present and wisdom and goodness are accurate, authentic and legitimate marks of greatness.
2. The King’s Instructions are Carried Out 38-40
The king’s orders are immediately executed. No time was lost. Solomon was brought in state to the place appointed, and there Zadok, though not yet high priest in Abiathar’s place, anointed him by the direction of Nathan and David. Just as David planned and commanded, so each part was implemented; all parties followed David’s script. Verses 38-40 say, “ So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.” When a plan is from God, the execution of it is delightfully similar to it.
We do not know where the equipment of the tabernacle was at this time after the ark was transferred by David to the tent in Jerusalem. Either a supply of holy anointing oil was in Gihon or it was brought there for this occasion. Zadok took a horn of it, which signified power and plenty, and with it he and Nathan anointed Solomon. David had included both Zadok and Nathan in his instructions and later it is reported that both of them (see v 45) participated in it. We do not, however, read that Abiathar anointed Adonijah. He was made king by a feast; not by anointing. Whom God calls, he anoints; ordination, an important man-made ceremony, illustrates anointing, but the true anointing is by God’s spirit.
When we read stories like this we want to get inside the story and experience our part too, just as others have before us. In this instance, we most certainly can get into the story. Notice that the word “Christ,” in actuality means anointed, and He is the king whom God hath set upon His holy hill of Zion, and all other anointing merely point to His anointing. Ps 2:6-7 say “‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’” And all Christians are made to be subordinate kings by our God and for Him, and we too have an unction from the Holy One, 1 John 2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.”
The people of Jerusalem expressed their great joy and satisfaction in Solomon’s coronation. They surrounded him with their Hosannas, their cheers of “God save king Solomon,” and accompanied him with their music and shouts of joy. We may think that this ceremony is just ceremony, but, not so. In participating spontaneously, whole-heartedly in such unity, they declared their agreement in the choice, that Solomon was not forced on them, but was completely acceptable and therefore cheerfully accepted. No prince can be wholly satisfied without this. What king does not want to know he is a satisfaction to his people. Every loyal and patriotic Israelite rejoiced in the exaltation of this Son of David as will all we believers likewise celebrate with boundless happiness the other Son of David.
3. Alarming News Reaches Adonijah 41-48
Not everyone was glad to hear the news of Solomon’s inauguration. Adonijah and his party were just as horrified, shocked and troubled as the other group celebrating in Jerusalem was delighted, ecstatic, euphoric and jubilant. They were now at long last finished with their feast. Apparently they had taken their time eating and drinking, feasting and laughing. Remember, everything that transpired between Nathan, Bathsheba, David, Zadok, Benaiah, the servants and the crowd on this day had all happened after the sacrificing and feasting had begun. Theirs was apparently a long, long feast. Now it was over and they learned what had happened while time passed and they ate to their heart’s content. In a later period, God’s Word addressed those who do not serve God so well as they serve their own bellies. Rom 16:18 says “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Phil 3:19 also mentions this type of person, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”
Their lengthy feast also suggests the vain confidence they had in their scheme, else they would not have lost so much time in it. With the sound of the crowd and uproar in Jerusalem, Joab though an old man, was quicker to realize the danger than Adonijah. Verse 41 says, “ Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, ‘What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?’” Adonijah, was confident—falsely—that the messenger brought good news. Verse 42 says, “Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, ‘Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.’” The character of the messenger and the content of his message are not necessarily congruent.”
Usurpers flatter themselves with false hopes of success, and those are commonly least apprehensive and hesitant whose condition is, in actuality, the most dangerous. How can those who plot and do evil deeds expect to receive good news? No, regardless of the character of the messenger, the evil schemer cannot expect good news, but should rather prepare himself for the worst news—and be ready to quickly change courses and repent. Jonathan was son of Abiathar the high priest who was present at that very table. Yes, in responding to Adonijah, Jonathan had so much as to say “Oh no, the best news I can give you is that your younger brother, Solomon, has been made king and all that you have planned and celebrated here is lost.”
Jonathan related his news to them very carefully. Here is his through, yet concise report, as recorded in verses 43-48, “‘Not at all!’ Jonathan answered. ‘Our lord King David has made Solomon king. The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’”
With this report Adonijah learned that Solomon was already on the throne. Adonijah had hoped to have stepped into the throne before him, but Nathan, Bathsheba, David and Zadok were too quick for him. Furthermore, Adonijah evidently realized the futility of any further effort to ascend the throne. He knew the people were pleased as he had heard in Jonathan’s message and as he could himself hear in the reverberations of their joyful acclamations. And he now knew that the kings servants attended Solomon with addresses of congratulations; even the main points of these speeches had been included in Jonathan’s response. The people and officials blessed king David, applauded his prudent care for the public welfare, acknowledged their happiness under his government, and prayed heartily for his recovery. They also prayed for Solomon, that God would make his name better than his father’s, which was realistic since he had such a godly father’s foundation on which to build. Adonijah had to abandon his hope and his scheme.
The king himself was pleased as is indicated by the fact that he bowed on the bed acknowledging his acceptance of his servants’ addresses and to offer up his own address to God as though to say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who, as Israel’s God, for Israel’s good, has brought what was an evil dilemma, headache and obstacle to such a happy issue, my eyes even seeing it.” It must have been satisfying to David, as it is to good Christians everywhere, that when they are going out of the world, to see their families in a good condition before the Lord, their children rising up to serve God and their generation. Yes, Adonijah had no choice he had to give up and forsake his game plan.
4. Adonijah, Very Afraid, is Sent Home 49-53
This news was an effectual crush to Adonijah’s endeavor. It more than spoiled that day’s party and dispersed the company obligating every man to fend for himself. What had appeared to be a triumph was short-lived. His castle was not even built on sand; it was built on thin air, not with a poor foundation, but with no foundation; it soon fell and crushed them and great was the fall of it. Each one of them took their own way and tried to make the best of it.
Adonijah, himself was in a particular terror and undertook to gain safety by going to the alter at the temple. Verse 49 says, “At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.” He was now as much defeated, sad and depressed as he had been elevated, buoyed and jubilant. He had looked down on Solomon as not worthy to be his guest, but now dreaded him as his judge. In short, he feared because of Solomon.
The horns of the altar had for some time represented a sanctuary or place of refuge to which a guilty person could flee. Adonijah went there and clung to one of those horns. In doing so he acknowledged that he did not deserve a trial, but was appealing for mercy. He probably felt he had no other alternative. Perhaps Adonijah had formerly ignored or minimized the service of that altar, yet now he needed its protection. Adonijah did not want to fight or, more likely, could not fight, but at any rate, now he wanted the protection of the altar. Better late than never. He did have an altar to which he could flee. So he sent a request, “Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.”
In this request he acknowledged Solomon as his king and himself as his servant. He did not try to justify himself, but made supplication as to his judge. It was a great risk for him to do this; that morning he was grasping at a crown and before night he was begging for his life. Then Adonijah reigned, but now he trembled. Solomon sent back to Adonijah, possibly the same men who brought Adonijah’s request for mercy, and gave an order discharging him on his good behavior. Verses 52-53 say, “Solomon replied, ‘If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.’ Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, ‘Go to your home.’”
We do not know all that was in Solomon’s mind, but Adonijah was his brother, and it was the first offense. “Perhaps, there is hope for this man since I see he so quickly repented and has appealed to me for mercy. Maybe he will be a peaceful and useful citizen. What is past I pardon, but if he be found disaffected, turbulent, and aspiring again, this offense will be remembered against him.”
Similarly, the Son of David today mercifully receives those who have been rebellious. If they will be faithful to their Sovereign, all former crimes shall not be mentioned against them. But, if they continue in the interests of the world and the flesh, it will be their ruin. Adonijah, having been summoned, bowed to king Solomon and then was told to go to his house. Solomon gave him his life and his estate and, in doing so, began establishing his throne in mercy.
We read this history and learn of the foolishness of seeking leadership positions out of personal ambition. The way up is down. The way to be lifted to a place of service in God’s kingdom is not to elevate ourselves, but to humble ourselves and bow low before our God. God is looking for humble men and women of prayer, sincerity and desire to serve; not people with aspiration, passion or yearning for recognition.