The threat of Adonijah
Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB
1 Kings 2:10-25
(10) Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.
(11) The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem.
(12) And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.
(13) Now Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” And he said, “Peacefully.”
(14) Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Speak.”
(15) 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.
(16) “Now I am making one request of you; do not refuse me. And she said to him, “Speak.”
(17) 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.”
(18) Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak to the king for you.”
(19) 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,
(20) 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,”
(21) So she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as a wife.”
(22) 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!”
(23) 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.
(24) “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.”
(25) So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him so that he died.
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, however, was preferred over 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 to be 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 throne itself? Let's take a look at Abishag and see why she is so important.
Abishag - the Nurse
1 Kings 1:1-4
(1) Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with cloths, but he could not keep warm.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) And the girl was very beautiful; and she became the king's nurse and served him, but the king did not cohabit with her.
Abishag was a Shunammite woman who became a nurse to King David (1 Kings 1: 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