SOLOMON’S ASCENSION 1 Kings 1–4
“Now, O Lord my God, you have made Your servant king in place of my father David” (1 Kings 3:7).Solomon showed restraint in waiting for David to keep his promise and appoint him ruler. When we are sure of God’s will, there is no need to plot and scheme.
Solomon was the fourth son of David and Bathsheba. His selection by God to succeed his father (2 Sam. 12:24–25; 1 Chron. 22:9–10; 28:4–7) is a wonderful illustration of God’s forgiving grace. The sin of the parents was washed away, and Solomon, child of the now-healed union, was lifted up to become king. Solomon enjoyed a 40-year reign during which he held all the territory taken by his father. Wealth from trade and tribute poured into Israel during these years, and Solomon engaged in many expensive building projects. Solomon’s wealth and his wisdom are both discussed in the first 11 chapters of 1 Kings. Solomon’s intellectual achievements include contribution of many proverbs to the Old Testament Book of Proverbs and, most believe, the Old Testament Books of Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.
When David was old and feeble, Adonijah gathered supporters and attempted to make himself king (1:1–10). Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba appealed to David to keep a promise and appoint Solomon (vv. 11–27). Solomon was crowned (vv. 28–53), given advice by the dying David (2:1–12), and acted decisively to consolidate his power (vv. 13–46). Solomon’s prayer for wisdom to lead the Lord’s people was granted (3:1–15) and illustrated (vv. 16–28). Key men in Solomon’s bureaucracy are listed (4:1–19), with an account of enough daily provisions to feed a court of 5,000 (vv. 20–28). The chapter concludes with a summary of Solomon’s intellectual accomplishments (vv. 29–34).
Understanding the Text
“His father had never interfered with him” 1 Kings 1:1–10. David’s failure to discipline Adonijah, as he had failed to discipline Absalom, bore similar fruit. David’s promise to make Solomon king must have been well known. Yet with David old and feeble, Adonijah, David’s oldest surviving son and the half brother of Solomon, plotted to make himself ruler. Parents who fail to discipline their children share the blame when those children choose to do wrong. “Nathan asked Bathsheba” 1 Kings 1:11–27. Nathan’s appeal to Bathsheba suggests how deep a love now existed between David and the woman he had earlier betrayed. As favorite wife, Bathsheba won an immediate hearing, and her appeal was quickly followed by Nathan’s appearance. There was no intrigue, but a straightforward appeal to David to keep his promise and make Solomon king. David did keep that promise, and Solomon was acclaimed king. “What’s the meaning of all the noise?” 1 Kings 1:28–53 The sound of shouts and trumpets reached the crowd feasting with Adonijah. When word came that Solomon was king, the guests all slipped away. People who are friends out of self-interest will desert us when troubles come. Adonijah fled to the altar and grasped its “horns,” the name given to handle-like projections on each of the top four corners. According to ancient custom a person who had killed another accidentally would be safe if grasping the altar horns. This act symbolized placing oneself under God’s protection. Adonijah’s action showed that he expected Solomon to execute him—something he intended to do to Solomon. People who plan evil tend to see evil in others. Solomon assured Adonijah that as long as he proved to be a “worthy” person he would be safe. In context this implies renouncing all claim to the throne and supporting Solomon’s right to it. “Walk in His ways, and keep His decrees and commands” 1 Kings 2:1–11. Before David died, he exhorted his son to be faithful to God. Faith in God, with love for Him and dedication to obedience, is the most important heritage we can pass on to our children. “I have one request to make of you” 1 Kings 2:13–25. Adonijah’s request for the hand of Abishag, who had cared for David during his final illness, was politically motivated. In Old Testament times possession of a royal concubine was tantamount to laying claim on the throne (cf. 2 Sam. 3:7–8; 12:8; 16:21–22). Solomon realized that his older brother was still plotting to take his throne, and ordered his execution. The execution was not capricious. Adonijah had committed the crime of sedition. Solomon also dealt with unresolved debts David had not been able to repay. Abiathar the priest, who supported Adonijah, was allowed to live in view of his years of loyal service to David. General Joab too had been loyal, but had often acted on his own, frequently to David’s dismay (cf. 2 Sam. 3:22–27; 20). Joab’s traitorous association with Adonijah gave Solomon a basis for ordering Joab’s death. Solomon, however, saw his execution as retribution for those Joab had assassinated, thus removing potential guilt David incurred by permitting Joab’s murders to go unpunished. Shimei, the troublemaker who had earlier cursed David but been allowed to live when David regained the throne, was warned not to leave Jerusalem. When he did, Shimei too was executed. By these decisive and necessary acts Solomon gained firm control of his kingdom. “Solomon showed his love for the Lord” 1 Kings 3:1–15. The “high places” mentioned here are local worship centers, generally on a hill in the countryside or on mounds in cities. The Canaanites too used “high places,” and all too often in Israel’s history worship at such locations injected pagan elements into Israel’s faith. This is not implied here, as the text explains that Solomon and his people worshiped the Lord at them because “a temple had not yet been built.” Christians, like Solomon, may err in ignorance. God is gracious in such cases, as long as our love for Him is real and our motives are pure. Solomon’s love for God was demonstrated by his obedience to the Lord and by Solomon’s request that God give him “a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” The servant’s heart that Solomon displayed pleased God, who throughout Scripture gives servanthood the highest priority (cf. Matt. 20:26–28). “Cut the living child in two” 1 Kings 3:16–28. The story is told to illustrate Solomon’s wisdom. But why this story, rather than some incident illustrating Solomon’s knowledge of architecture, diplomatic skill, or brilliance in philosophical debate? This story is told because “wisdom” in the Old Testament sense is practical application of one’s insights to life situations. Solomon had great insight into the jealousy motivating the woman whose child had died. He counted on his call for a sword to expose that jealousy and reveal the real mother, when there were no objective means available to determine who was telling the truth. Solomon had asked for a “discerning heart to govern Your people.” It was just this that God gave: wisdom for governing. Let’s not make the error of supposing a person who knows a lot is therefore wise. The wise person applies what he knows to make right and good decisions. “Solomon’s daily provisions” 1 Kings 4:20–28. Scholars have calculated the number of people in Solomon’s court (his administration) based on the amount of food listed here. The best estimate lies between 4,000 and 5,000! “And a breadth of understanding” 1 Kings 4:29–34. Solomon’s wisdom is extolled, but so is his “breadth of understanding.” Solomon is credited with thousands of proverbs and psalms, and with a careful study of botany and zoology. God gave Solomon far more than he requested. How great and good a God we have.
Wise Enough to Wait (1 Kings 1)
I don’t know about you, but I find it frustrating to sit in a doctor’s waiting room. Waiting, when you feel the need to be doing something else, is never fun. It’s not fun to be in God’s waiting room either. Waiting, when we feel we ought to be doing something. Waiting, while the pressure mounts and we know that something has got to happen. The Bible is filled with stories of people under pressure who just couldn’t wait. Jacob couldn’t wait, but plotted to steal his brother’s blessing (Gen. 27). Saul couldn’t wait, but in desperation violated God’s Word and Samuel’s instructions by officiating at a burnt offering (1 Sam. 13). Yet Solomon, whose very life was threatened, seems to have waited quietly, confidently, as Adonijah attempted to steal the kingdom. Even at the last moment it was Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet, not Solomon, who begged David to act. Bathsheba did urge David to act, sure that if Adonijah became king she and Solomon would “be treated as criminals.” As evidence Bathsheba pointed out that Adonijah had given a feast and “invited all the king’s sons” and others, but had excluded several of David’s key advisers along with Bathsheba and Solomon. In the Middle East sharing a meal placed a person under the protection of the host. An invitation to Adonijah’s feast was a promise of future safety should Adonijah become king. Not being invited meant that when Adonijah gained power he intended to execute that person. In view of all this, Solomon’s restraint is even more remarkable. We can explain it in only one way. Like his mother and Nathan the prophet, Solomon knew that God had promised he would succeed David on Israel’s throne. And even then Solomon had the courage, and the wisdom, to wait on the Lord. I don’t like those times when God has me sitting in His waiting room. I’d rather be out doing something. Almost anything! Only by remembering that we, like Solomon, have been given great and precious promises by God can we find the courage, and the wisdom, to wait until God is ready to act.
When you must wait, wait on the Lord.