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The Threat of Adonijah
by Steven Wickstrom
03/17/08
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The Threat of Adonijah

by Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB

1 Kings 2:10-25
Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.(v.10)
The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem.(v.11)
And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.(v.12)
Now Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” And he said, “Peacefully.”(v.13)
Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Speak.”(v.14)
So he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine and that all Israel expected me to be king; however, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord.(v.15)
“Now I am making one request of you; do not refuse me.” And she said to him, “Speak.”(v.16)
Then he said, “Please speak to Solomon the king, for he will not refuse you, that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as a wife.”(v.17)
Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak to the king for you.(v.18)
So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.(v.19)
Then she said, “I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”(v.20)
So she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as a wife.”(v.21)
King Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why are you asking Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him also the kingdom—for he is my older brother—even for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!”(v.22)
Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “May God do so to me and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life.(v.23)
“Now therefore, as the Lord lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father and who has made me a house as He promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death today.”(v.24)
So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him so that he died.(v.25)


Let me give you a very brief history of Adonijah. The name Adonijah means “my Lord is Yahweh.” He was the fourth son of David, his mother was Haggith (2 Sam. 3:4). After the death of his elder brothers, Amnon and Absalom, he became the heir-apparent to the throne. His younger brother Solomon was preferred to him to gain the thrown. Adonijah, however, when his father was dying, caused himself to be proclaimed king. But Nathan, the prophet, and Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, convinced David to give orders that Solomon should at once be proclaimed king and seated on the throne.
Adonijah fled and took refuge at the altar, and received pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he showed himself "a worthy man" (1 Kings 1:5-53).

Now we go forward slightly in time: David died after reigning as king over Israel 40 years (2:11). Solomon's time of co-regency with his father ended, and Adonijah now had the opportunity to show himself a worthy man. The evidence from the text (v.15), however, suggests Adonijah still thought the kingdom should be his. Perhaps he thought he should be king as the elder son (Adonijah was more than likely in his mid-30s; Solomon was more than likely in his early 20s), or, worse yet, because his good looks and charm had gained him followers so easily (1:7, 9; 2:15).

Afterwards, Adonijah made an interesting request to be given Abishag, David’s nurse as a wife, but he was quickly seized and put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25). This brings up some interesting questions. Why was Adonijah put to death after asking for Abishag’s hand in marriage? Why was Abishag so important? Why did Solomon consider Adonijah’s request as tantamount to asking for the thrown itself? Let’s take a look at Abishag and see why she is so important.

Abishag - The Nurse

1 Kings 1:1-4
Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with cloths, but he could not keep warm.(v.1)
So his servants said to him, “Let them seek a young virgin for my lord the king, and let her attend the king and become his nurse; and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may keep warm.(v.2)
So they searched for a beautiful young girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.(v.3)
And the girl was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and served him, but the king did not cohabit with her.(v.4)


Abishag was a Shunammite woman who became a nurse to King David (1 Ki 1-4,15; 2:17,21,22). She was chosen for the service with great care on account of her youth and beauty and physical vigor. She ministered to the king; that is, waited on him as personal attendant and nurse. It is interesting to note that she was not called upon to become one of his wives or concubines. Abishag was chosen to take care of David and to see that he was given the proper respect he was due as king up until the final moments of his life. That may have meant that she would have to feed him, wash him, sooth any physical pain he had and keep him warm because he was too weak to do it himself. She did not love him physically but she was tender with him as he was very old and sickly. She gave him the warmth that he could not give himself. She eased his last days and provided comfort for his dying body. She also protected him and gave him physical nourishment. There was nothing wicked or shameful in what she did.

There is a parallel here that we need to see: that is what we as Christians are called to do. We are to be ministers for Christ. Not just in words but also in actions. We are called to minister to our Lord by serving Him and by serving others. There are many ways to serve and here are only a few. Those who are in nursing home ministries are ministering to the elderly. You can visit hospitals and minister to the sick and dying. You can visit prisons and minister to the forgotten. You can help the homeless and minister to the non-existent.

Abishag's ministering to David is an example to us. Abishag did not apply for this position; she was sought out and brought to the king. We are not told of her qualifications for the position other than the fact that she had to be a virgin. It is possible that Abishag is a type of the Church mentioned in Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Perhaps that is why she had to be a virgin. Are we, as Christians, doing our part in ministering to the King of Kings?

Adonijah - The Usurper

1 Kings 1:5-53 discourses the attempt of Adonijah to usurp the thrown of David. Adonijah was the eldest remaining son and I think he naturally expected to inherit the throne. He impatiently decided not to wait for King David to die or to announce a successor to the thrown. It is quite possible that he did not expect King David to name him as the successor, and therefore decided to take action. He may have known that David planned to proclaim Solomon as king in the near future and also did not fit into his plans. He took matters into his own hands and convinced Joab, the head of the army, and Abiathar the high priest, the he should be king of Israel right now, before it too late. They agreed that Adonijah should be king instead of David. Thus began a political coup to de-thrown King David.

1 Kings 1:6 says this about Adonijah, "And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?” And he was a very handsome man; and he was born after Absolom." It is interesting to note David never crossed (grieved by discipline) his son. It seems that David was negligent in pursuing his parental duties of raising children. I think that Adonijah had gotten away with things his whole life and he expected that this would be no different.

Adonijah had a problem. He still thought of himself as the rightful king, and Solomon stood in the way. So he came up with a plan, a plan to remove Solomon from the thrown in bloodless coup. The plan revolved around Abishag. Adonijah assumed that Solomon had an Achilles heel, Bathsheba. He assumed that Solomon would never say no to his mother. The story of Adonijah's conversation with Bathsheba and her subsequent conversation with Solomon is full of seemingly contradictory information. Adonijah went to Bathsheba with a very interesting request.

So he said, "You know that the kingdom was mine and that all Israel expected me to be king; however, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother's, for it was his from the Lord.(v.15)

That he would have come to Bathsheba suggests that Adonijah has a plan that may contain some "evil" that Solomon feared (1 Kings 1:52). It also shows his cunning in going to Bathsheba instead of going to Solomon with the request. As queen mother Bathsheba would have been an extremely powerful figure in Israelite culture. She probably would have directed all domestic matters relating to the royal family. In particular she would have had "say-so" over every other woman in the palace. While it is true that she would have had privileged access to Solomon, but it would only have been regarding matters of the royal household. The fact that Adonijah came to Bathsheba shows that his intention is to either gain royal favor or intrude into the royal family structure.

Adonijah's opening statement shows that he is still completely convinced that his attempt to exalt himself and gain the kingship was right. You know that the kingdom was mine reveals an unrepentant and prideful spirit in Adonijah. He still believed that the throne should have been his. Further indication of Adonijah's rebellious attitude is his statement that all Israel expected me to be king. I suspect that an expression came over Bathsheba’s face that revealed her doubt of that statement. Adonijah immediately backpeddles and tries to placate Bathsheba by saying however, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. To say that all Israel had approved of his kingship is drastic overstatement of the facts. Thus the first two comments of Adonijah clearly imply that he has not accepted Solomon's kingship. My assumption is that Bathsheba saw that Adonijah was dangerous.

This important statement, for it was his from the Lord, however, should not distract us as to the dynamic of the conversation. Adonijah has stated that the kingdom really belonged to him; it was only the intervention of the Lord that gave it to Solomon. It seems to me that he is only giving lip service to the plan of God. Adonijah does not believe that what God did was right. His conversation with Bathsheba will show that though he confessed that God had brought Solomon to the kingship, he was still pursuing his own agenda.

"Now I am making one request of you; do not refuse me." And she said to him, "Speak."(v.16)
Then he said, "Please speak to Solomon the king, for he will not refuse you, that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as a wife."(v.17)
Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak to the king for you.(v.18)


Adonijah then makes his play counting on Bathsheba's sympathy. He tries to get her to feel sorry him, after all, he should have been king, but God had another plan. He asks her to give him something to make him feel better. This is the thrust of his plea so that Bathsheba would refuse his request. I find it interesting that Bathsheba does not immediately commit herself. She requires Adonijah to speak his request before she will respond. Adonijah responds by asking to be given Abishag as his wife. At this point we have to wonder why he would want Abishag.

Abishag was one of the most beautiful young women in Israel and would have quite a prize for Adonijah. She also had an intimate knowledge of the condition of David, and was present at the interview of Bathsheba with David which resulted in the placing of Solomon on the throne. If that act had been questioned she would have been a most important witness. She may also have had inside information about how David operated as king.

I think Bathsheba smiled serenely and agreed to take Adonijah’s request to King Solomon. Adonijah should have become suspicious when Bathsheba immediately agreed to present his request to Solomon. His pride prevented him from seeing the trap that Bathsheba was laying, he only saw success. In Israelite culture the possession of the previous king's property, especially his wives, was the sign of legitimate kingship. For him to have David's last woman, (she technically was not his wife, but would have been considered his property) would establish a legal foothold for him to make a legitimate claim to the throne. Bathsheba would have known and understood this deeper agenda hidden in Adonijah's request. She probably also knew exactly how Solomon would respond. The fact that she quickly agreed makes me assume that she regarded Adonijah as dangerous and was willing to play along with him in order to remove him.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.(v.19)
Then she said, "I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me." And the king said to her, "Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you."(v.20)
So she said, "Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as a wife."(v.21)
King Solomon answered and said to his mother, "And why are you asking Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him also the kingdom—for he is my older brother—even for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!"(v.22)
Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, "May God do so to me and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life.(v.23)
"Now therefore, as the Lord lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father and who has made me a house as He promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death today."(v.24)
So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him so that he died.(v.25)


The scripture leaves no doubt how Solomon takes Adonijah's request. He sees it as an open attempt to usurp the kingly authority. You can easily see how important Bathsheba was by the way in which Solomon received her. When he had given appropriate honors and hospitality to her he promised to grant whatever she requested. As soon as the request was made however, Solomon's response was swift and decisive.

Verse 22 summarizes the matter. To ask for Abishag was to ask for the kingdom. Solomon also saw the request as a plot that included Joab and Abiathar. Verses 23-24 reveal the interesting understanding of an oath in Israelite thought. Verse 23 essentially calls the punishment of God on Solomon himself if he fails to deal with Adonijah appropriately. Then verse 24 presents his oath that Adonijah would die that very day. This indeed happened, and Adonijah was slain.

The Threat of Adonijah

Before we jump up and down on Adonijah in judgment, we should take a good look at ourselves. You see, too many of us share Adonijah's problem. Having grown up in the church, I’ve seen that it is full of people who verbally affirm the will of God in their public statements, but whose actions say the exact opposite. The essence of sin is the exaltation of oneself to the place of God. Just like Adonijah who exalted himself, we acknowledge God's will with our mouths, but we are still planning and conniving to get our own way. Adonijah’s hypocrisy came out in the open and it cost him his life.

As Westerners, we tend to recoil from the murder of Adonijah. We think that it was too cruel and out of character with the picture of God we have received in Christ. The first thing that we must realize is that Adonijah's request was an act of treason. Instead of being worthy as he had promised he would be when holding onto the horns of the altar, he was plotting to remove Solomon from the throne.

The second thing we must realize is that Solomon understood that God's will had been the guiding force of his becoming king. Verse 24 credits the Lord with establishing him on the throne of Israel. He understood that when God accomplished that part of His will that the promises made to David would be fulfilled through him and his children. A rebellion led by Adonijah would have been a rebellion against God's will. It was important that such a rebellion against the will of God be thwarted.

Finally, we must realize that David had urged Solomon in 1 Kings 2:2 to be strong. Solomon's response to Adonijah's rebellion was strong, it was decisive, and it was swift. We would do well to be as quick and strong in our obedience to God as Solomon was to David. Unfortunately, we let pride take over and just like Adonijah; we decide that our will for our lives is far superior to God’s will. The results are just as disasterous. We marry the wrong person, take the wrong job, move to the wrong town. As you can see, the threat of Adonijah is still alive and well and it lives in us. We need to put to death the Adonijah in us.

In spite of a very close call with death, Adonijah refused to put aside his earthly ambitions. By whatever means necessary, he was determined to get what he wanted. In his quest for the throne, he ignored the most important criterion of all: whether or not it was God’s will for him to be king. In our own lives, how often do we display the heart of Adonijah? We recklessly race ahead in a dangerous quest to get what we want. We need to stop and find out if what we want is what God wants. If we’re smart, we’ll stop what we’re doing, repent, and seek God’s will in the matter. If we don’t, we will pay the consequences of not seeking out the will of God, We can have the heart of Abishag, or the heart of Adonijah. Which will you choose?


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