Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 5, Adonijah Asks For Mercy From Solomon

Adonijah and his supporters declared him king against the Lord's wishes and against David's wishes. Upon hearing what was afoot, David instructed his top advisors to place Solomon on the king's mule and take him to a very public place to be anointed and declared king. So many people followed this procession and so many people in public witnessed this event that the Bible told us in yesterday's text that "the ground shook with the sound" of the people's rejoicing.

Adonijah is just a short distance away from where Solomon was anointed as king and he and his guests hear the commotion. "Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, 'What's the meaning of all the noise in the city?' Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, 'Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.'" (1 Kings 1:41-42) I think Joab feels uneasy when he hears the sound of the trumpet coming from the location of the Gihon Springs. Having been a military man all his life, he's ordered trumpets blown both to assemble troops for war and to call an end to battle. His first thought may have been that there is some imminent threat to the city and its inhabitants. His second thought was likely that there is an imminent threat to Adonijah's claim to the throne, for another occasion upon which trumpets are blown is the type of occasion which has just occurred: a man has been anointed as king and the trumpet is used to signal the people to shout, "Long live King Solomon!"

Joab's uneasiness rubs off on Adonijah. Adonijah starts to breathe a sigh of relief as Jonathan arrives on the scene, thinking he must be coming with good news. He assumes that since Jonathan's father Abiathar is on his side, Jonathan is too. If that is the case then I presume that the reason Jonathan wasn't present for the sacrifice and the feast is because he was left in charge of his father's duties at the house of God in Abiathar's absence. I have to wonder, though, whether Jonathan is on Adonijah's side at all. We found Jonathan and Ahimaaz, the son of the priest Zadok, risking their lives for David in 2 Samuel 17 by getting word to him about the battle plans being proposed against David by Absalom. Would a man that loyal to David turn against his wishes to support Adonijah?

It's difficult to tell from Jonathan's reply whether he's a supporter of Adonijah as king or whether he supports Solomon as king. Maybe I'm reading more into his reply than what's actually there but I get the feeling Jonathan supports David's choice for king since it appears as if Jonathan was present for both the public and the private events of this day. Another indication that Jonathan is on the side of David and Solomon is that when he makes his reply he refers to David as "our lord King David", which is a term of deep respect he would be required to use when in the king's presence but would not be likely to use when away from the king if he is living in rebellion toward him as Adonijah and his followers are. When Adonijah presumes Jonathan is bringing good news, Jonathan is quick to let him know otherwise. "'Not at all!', Jonathan answered. 'Our lord King David has made Solomon king. The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king's mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That's the noise you hear. Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, 'May your God make Solomon's name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!' And the king bowed in worship on his bed and said, 'Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.'" (1 Kings 1:43-48) 

I can't help feeling as if Jonathan gives his report in an attitude of satisfaction. I believe he is pleased for David and for Solomon. But we cannot know this for certain since we never hear of Jonathan again. That is because his father Abiathar will be removed from the priesthood by King Solomon and therefore the priesthood will stop being handed down the family line of Eli as was foretold by an unnamed prophet of the Lord in 1 Samuel 2. After he has been deposed from the priesthood, Abiathar will be ordered by Solomon to return to his land at Anathoth where he (and presumably Jonathan and any other sons Abiathar may have) will make their living by working the land. This will not leave Israel without a high priest since Abiathar and Zadok have been officiating as co-high priests for a number of years. Zadok is a descendant of the first high priest, Aaron, through Aaron's thirdborn son Eleazar. Abiathar is descended from Aaron's youngest son Ithamar. You may recall that Aaron's two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, were wicked and were put to death by the Lord for making an improper offering on His altar in Leviticus 10. This left Eleazar as the oldest surviving son and this means that Zadok, as a direct descendant of Eleazar, actually has a greater claim to the high priesthood than Abiathar. But the two men were allowed to serve as co-high priests until Solomon defrocks Abiathar for his disloyalty to David.

Adonijah's guests desert him like rats jumping from a sinking ship. In many other cultures they would be put to death by the new king for supporting someone who was trying to prevent his ascension to the throne. They can't be certain Solomon won't put them to death but we'll see in a moment that he's a merciful man. "At this, all Adonijah's guests rose in alarm and dispersed." (1 Kings 1:49)

Adonijah has more reason than anyone else to think he might be executed. "But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Then Solomon was told, 'Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, 'Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.'" (1 Kings 1:50-51) Taking hold of the horns of the altar was a custom not only in ancient Israel but also in many other ancient cultures of the world. It signified the seeking of refuge. A religious altar was a place to which a person could resort to ask for mercy or to be granted asylum until his legal case came to court. 

"Solomon replied, 'If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.' Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, 'Go to your home.'" (1 Kings 1:52-53) Solomon is willing to show Adonijah mercy---more mercy than Adonijah would have shown him if the situation were reversed. Here we find Solomon following the example of his father David who was willing to be merciful to those who apologized for their sins against him and who acknowledged his sovereignty over them. Adonijah refers to Solomon as "King Solomon" and refers to himself as Solomon's "servant". This is intended to indicate a willingness to accept the fact that Solomon has been made king and a willingness to submit himself to Solomon's rule. 

But Adonijah won't be content to go home and stay there and live in quiet obedience to his half-brother. He will make waves once again, later on in our study, and his request at that time will clearly show he has no desire to take a back seat to his younger brother. His request will reveal that in his heart he still considers himself to be David's rightful successor.

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