Beware of Improper Ambition
Sunday School Lesson for
An Aging King (1:1-4)
In this first section of the chapter the author reveals the declining health and vigor of King David and the attempt by his servants to revive and invigorate him. This action must be understood in light of the ancient belief that the “physical and sexual vigor of a king was a matter of national concern. It was believed that there was a definite link between his natural powers and the power and effectiveness of his rule” [Richard Nelson, First and Second Kings, Interpretation, 16]. It is easy to see how this sets the stage for the challenge to his throne that will occur in the verses that follow below.
David’s health was such that he
was unable to “keep warm,”
apparently due to poor circulation (v.1).
His servants who attended him decided to bring in a “young virgin” to “lie beside him” in order to correct the problem (v. 2). According to some authorities, this action
was in keeping with an ancient medical practice for persons with similar
Wiseman, 1&2 Kings, TOTC, 67].
After an intense search “throughout
An Ambitious Son (1:5-10)
With David’s health and vitality
in question, the foundation is now set for a serious challenge to his throne by
his own son “Adonijah.” In verse 5 we learn that Adonijah “put himself forward” and arrogantly
declared his intentions to be
The sacrifice of the animals at “the Stone of Zoheleth” was done as an
attempt to solidify his support, especially among “all his brothers” (v. 9).
Note also the mention of the “royal
A New King (-53)
This section recounts the efforts of “Nathan” and “Bathsheba” to alert David to Adonijah’s plot to become king. The
key phrase in this section is found in Nathan’s well-devised question to
Bathsheba in verse 11—“Have you heard
that Adonijah . . . has become king without our lord David’s knowing it?” This action prompts Bathsheba to go directly
to the king in order to confront him with the facts of Adonijah’s intentions (vv.
15-21). In verse 17 she reminds her husband that he had made a solemn
promise to place Solomon on the throne of
Verse 24 continues the drama with Nathan approaching David himself to bring the news of Adonijah’s plot to him personally. Again Nathan employs a timely question to garner the king’s attention—“Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you . . . ?” This is followed by another pointed and somewhat sarcastic query in verse 27—“Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know. . . ?”
At this point David succumbs to the pressure placed upon
him by Nathan and Bathsheba and quickly moves to have Solomon anointed as king
(perhaps named coregent until David’s death) by Zadok the priest and Nathan the
prophet (1:28-40). With a simple declaration from the lips of David, Solomon is
named “ruler over
Verses 41-53 recount how Adonijah learned of Solomon’s anointing and immediately began to fear for his life. This climaxed with an agreement between the two men that would allow Adonijah to live provided he “proves to be a worthy man” ().
A Father’s Charge (2:1-9)
As David prepared himself to die,
he took time to offer an earnest “charge”
to Solomon that would ready him for service as king of
The second part of David’s charge to Solomon, verses 5-9, dealt with the elimination of any political enemies, especially “Joab” (2:5). It was this man who represented the single “greatest threat to Solomon’s shaky hold on the throne” [House, 97]. While David encouraged Solomon to be wise in his dealings with Joab, he urged him to make certain that he would not be allowed to “go down to the grave in peace” (2:6). David also warned Solomon about “Shimei” who had previously cursed the king (2:8). In regard to this slippery character the king bluntly orders his son to “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood” (2:9). David’s ruthless counsel should be understood in light of the ancient belief that words, especially curses, had intrinsic power. Nelson explains the situation:
Even though David had pardoned Shimei for his crime (II Sam. 16:5-11; -23), his “grievous curse” (lit. the “sickening curse”) still hung suspended over David’s house. Since David’s own oath to Shimei was also irrevocable, he was unable to do anything about the problem. Solomon, however, was free to take action and arrange a violent death in order to disarm the curse. .
A Reign Established (-46)
With the death of David the reign
and rule of Solomon was “firmly
established” (). This
provoked the determined Adonijah to make one final effort to undermine the
authority of Solomon. Approaching Bathsheba, he made the ridiculous claim that
One: God’s faithfulness displayed in the
fulfillment of His promises—God’s promise to David to place his descendant
on the throne of
Two: God’s sovereignty displayed in the course of history—Solomon received the throne because he was God’s choice. God’s sovereignty and transcendent purposes “operated behind unworthy human motives and plots” [Nelson, 22]. This truth finds its ultimate expression in the cross where we see that God is fully in control of “the crooked plots of the politically powerful (Acts -28), working through human evil to save [His] people in the end” [Nelson, 22].
Three: The foolishness of pride and self-promotion—The behavior and violent demise of Adonijah should serve as ample warning regarding the sin of pride and self-advancement. We must remember that the Lord will humble those who selfishly seek personal exaltation (see Matt. ).