The Struggle for Succession, part 1


King David was old and advanced in years, and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.


Now Adonijah son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” He prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time reprimanded him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. He conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with the priest Abiathar, and they supported Adonijah. But the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the prophet Nathan, and Shammah and his companions,David’s own warriors, did not side with Adonijah.


Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fatted cattle by the stone Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite the prophet Nathan or Benaiah or the warriors or his brother Solomon.


Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah son of Haggith has become king and our lord David does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you advice, so that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne? Why then is Adonijah king?” ’ Then while you are still there speaking with the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”


Bathsheba went to the king in his room. The king was very old; ]Bathsheba bowed and did obeisance to the king, and the king said, “What do you wish?” She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne.’ But now suddenly Adonijah has become king, though you, my lord the king, do not know it. He has sacrificed oxen, fatted cattle, and sheep in abundance and has invited all the children of the king, the priest Abiathar, and Joab the commander of the army, but your servant Solomon he has not invited. But you, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his ancestors, that my son Solomon and I will be counted offenders.”


Reflection

The dominating question in the passage is over the rightful successor to David’s throne. We take for granted the smooth transition of one person to the next (or at least we used to), but this was not promised in David’s time. People sensed his weakness and swooped in to take over, especially because David was too weak to publicly declare a successor. Adonijah learns there is more to the throne than trappings of power as displayed by chariots and military men. You have to have the agreement of the people.

  • Where do you see power struggles within your community?

  • How is each side attempting to secure power?

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please slow down our talking and speed up our listening. Help us not just to listen to you but to do what you tell us to do so we will be free. In the name of the Word made flesh, Amen.


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