1 Kings 1: Succession Battle

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1 Kings 1: Succession Battle

June 1, 2020


1 Kings 1,  Psalm 119:1-8,  Luke 1:1-25,  Ephesians 1:1-14

1 Kings 1:

David is now old and advanced in years, and like many older people is finding it hard to stay warm (1:1). David’s servants come up with a novel solution: they find a young (and beautiful) woman to come and sleep with David (1:2-4)—physical contact but not sexual. It is a strange solution, and one about which the author of 1 Kings remains stonily silent. Perhaps it was an opportunity for Abishag. 

At any rate, given David’s advanced years, perhaps also bed-bound by now, one of David’s sons, Adonijah, decides that the time is ripe to make himself king (1:5). He is looking forward to the apparently imminent moment when his father will die, and so he gathers around him some of the powerful men of the land and tells them that one day he will be king. Adonijah had been used to having things his way all of his life; his father never disciplined him (1:6). And now that over-indulgent habit is reaping for David and others a bitter fruit (1:7-10). 

However, Nathan, faithful prophet Nathan, hears of this scheming and starts to act. He goes first to Bathsheba, knowing that it is her son who is due to be king (1:11-14). With her aligned to his plan, he sends her into to the king first to alert David to the situation (1:15-21). And Nathan then comes in afterwards to confirm the truth of what Bathsheba is saying (1:22-27). He wants it clear that this is not just a family squabble (between David’s wives), but a real political crisis. 

Once David hears of the situation—old as he may be—he acts with decisiveness. Effectively, David abdicates immediately in favor of Solomon (1:28-37). There will not be a succession battle because David steps down from the throne and puts his chosen son on that throne in his place. It is a risk, of course; Solomon might end up treating David badly. But at this stage in his life, and with Adonijah scheming to take the throne himself, it is a wise and decisive act. 

Solomon is proclaimed king (1:38-40), and those who were gathering around Adonijah are scattered in fear, and Adonijah himself seeks sanctuary in the temple (1:49-50). Solomon—already beginning to live up to his later God-given reputation of wisdom—does not straight away put Adonijah to death but puts him on notice. If he shows himself to be a worthy man he will be safe (1:51-53). 

Succession planning is never easy in any position of authority—ecclesial, political, financial, familial. David here takes the quick and easy route: he puts someone else on the throne while he is still around to ensure it happens. Pray God give you wisdom when you are faced with this challenge, or any other similarly difficult choice that stretches your human insight. God promises to give wisdom to those who ask with a pure and undivided heart (James 1:5-6). Seek first the kingdom of God, don’t seek these other baubles of authority, and everything else will be given to you too (Matt. 6:33). 


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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