Monday, September 26, 2022

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 9, Adonijah Is Executed On Solomon's Orders

In Sunday's study we found Adonijah going to Bathsheba to gain her support for a request he wanted to make of Solomon: he wanted the hand of Abishag in marriage. Abishag is the young woman David's servants procured for him as a wife during the final days of his life so he could have someone to attend to his medical needs (some of these medical needs were likely too private for him to be comfortable with a servant performing them, such as bathing him, helping him to go the restroom, and so forth) and to sleep in the same bed at night because he could no longer stay warm. The marriage between David and Abishag was never consummated sexually but it was a legal marriage and she is now his widow. But Adonijah cannot ask her for her hand in marriage because in ancient cultures the wives and concubines of a deceased or deposed king were under the control of the new king. This doesn't mean the new king had to have any sort of relationship with these women, though in most pagan cultures they probably did, but it means Abishag is not free to make her own decisions. The only way she can ever marry another man is if King Solomon releases her from the royal household. In Israel it was unlawful for a man to have relations with or marry his father's wife but perhaps Adonijah felt there were extenuating circumstances in this particular case because his father had never had relations with Abishag. 

Bathsheba is willing to go to her son Solomon on Adonijah's behalf to present his request. Some scholars think she knows exactly what Adonijah is up to but listens to his words in an attitude of courtesy and compassion as if she believes them. This gives her the opportunity to get an idea of the scope of his plans so she can go to Solomon to let him know Adonijah still seeks the crown. From the remainder of today's text I don't feel it's clear that she is aware of the political implications of Adonijah's request. Women of the royal harem lived very protected lives, so it's understandable if she doesn't see that Adonijah is revealing ulterior motives when he asks for the widow of the former king, but on the other hand she knows that David's son Absalom slept with ten of David's concubines to make the political statement that he intended to take his father's place. It could be that she genuinely thinks Adonijah is in love with Abishag and that if Solomon gives her to Adonijah he will never trouble Solomon again. Or it could be that she feels deeply sorry for Adonijah and that her pity for him has blinded her to the fact that he hasn't accepted his loss of the crown. Or another theory is that she hopes a favorable answer from Solomon will smooth things over between the two half-brothers and mend all the rifts within the family, for all of the other sons of David attended the feast Adonijah held for himself when he declared himself king. This indicates they supported Adonijah over Solomon. But if Solomon and Adonijah can be on friendly terms with each other, the other sons of David will be encouraged to follow their example.

Whatever the reason Bathsheba agrees to take Adonijah's petition to the king, we find her doing so now. "When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand." (1 Kings 2:19) Solomon loves and respects his mother and shows her a great honor when he---the king---stands up and bows to her. Then he has a throne brought for her and placed at his right hand which is the place of highest honor. 

"'I have one small request to make of you,' she said. 'Do not refuse me.' The king replied, 'Make it, my mother. I will not refuse you.' So she said, 'Let Abishag the Shunammite be given in marriage to your brother Adonijah.'" (1 Kings 2:20-21) This is not what Solomon was expecting to hear! Some scholars believe Bathsheba presents Adonijah's petition in a sarcastic tone when she states it is a "small request". I am not so sure about that. The way verses 20 and 21 are worded sounds as if she is really trying to help Adonijah and thinks Solomon's granting of his request will facilitate peace within the royal family. 

Solomon was prepared to be indulgent with his mother to grant some sort of personal favor she wanted. But he cannot grant Adonijah's request. His words seem to indicate his mother doesn't realize the significance of what Adonijah has asked, so he makes it plain. "King Solomon answered his mother, 'Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him---after all, he is my older brother---yes, for him and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!'" (1 Kings 2:22) Solomon knows Adonijah isn't alone in the plot to usurp the throne. Adonijah still has the support of Abiathar the priest and of Joab the son of David's sister. There is a conspiracy afoot with Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab, and possibly many others involved. We can safely assume this is true because later in our chapter we'll find Abiathar being banished to his farmland and Joab executed. The only reason Abiathar is banished instead of executed is because he was of help to David in times past and because, out of respect for the ark of the Lord, Solomon spares him because he used to carry the ark of the Lord. 

Solomon moves immediately to charge Adonijah with treason and execute him for it. "Then King Solomon swore by the Lord: 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the Lord lives---He who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as He promised---Adonijah shall be put to death today!' So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died." (1 Kings 2:23-25) The faithful Benaiah, who is captain of the king's guard, wastes no time in carrying out the king's orders. As we continue on in Chapter 2 tomorrow we'll find him carrying out further orders to ensure the threat to the crown has been eliminated.

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