This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Japanese School Board bans famous anti-war graphic novel:
1 Kings 1:1-31
New English Translation (NET)
Adonijah Tries to Seize the Throne
1 King David was very old; even when they covered him with blankets, he could not get warm. 2 His servants advised him, “A young virgin must be found for our master, the king, to take care of the king’s needs and serve as his nurse. She can also sleep with you and keep our master, the king, warm.” 3 So they looked through all Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The young woman was very beautiful; she became the king’s nurse and served him, but the king did not have sexual relations with her.
5 Now Adonijah, son of David and Haggith, was promoting himself, boasting, “I will be king!” He managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. 6 (Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?” He was also very handsome and had been born right after Absalom.) 7 He collaborated with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they supported him. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and David’s elite warriors did not ally themselves with Adonijah. 9 Adonijah sacrificed sheep, cattle, and fattened steers at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, as well as all the men of Judah, the king’s servants. 10 But he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the elite warriors, or his brother Solomon.
11 Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Has it been reported to you that Haggith’s son Adonijah has become king behind our master David’s back? 12 Now let me give you some advice as to how you can save your life and your son Solomon’s life. 13 Visit King David and say to him, ‘My master, O king, did you not solemnly promise your servant, “Surely your son Solomon will be king after me; he will sit on my throne”? So why has Adonijah become king?’ 14 While you are still there speaking to the king, I will arrive and verify your report.”
15 So Bathsheba visited the king in his private quarters. (The king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was serving the king.) 16 Bathsheba bowed down on the floor before the king. The king said, “What do you want?” 17 She replied to him, “My master, you swore an oath to your servant by the Lord your God, ‘Solomon your son will be king after me and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now, look, Adonijah has become king! But you, my master the king, are not even aware of it! 19 He has sacrificed many cattle, steers, and sheep and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest, and Joab, the commander of the army, but he has not invited your servant Solomon. 20 Now, my master, O king, all Israel is watching anxiously to see who is named to succeed my master the king on the throne. 21 If a decision is not made, when my master the king is buried with his ancestors, my son Solomon and I will be considered state criminals.”
22 Just then, while she was still speaking to the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 The king was told, “Nathan the prophet is here.” Nathan entered and bowed before the king with his face to the floor. 24 Nathan said, “My master, O king, did you announce, ‘Adonijah will be king after me; he will sit on my throne’? 25 For today he has gone down and sacrificed many cattle, steers, and sheep and has invited all the king’s sons, the army commanders, and Abiathar the priest. At this moment they are having a feast in his presence, and they have declared, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But he did not invite me—your servant—or Zadok the priest, or Benaiah son of Jehoiada, or your servant Solomon. 27 Has my master the king authorized this without informing your servants who should succeed my master the king on his throne?”
David Picks Solomon as His Successor
28 King David responded, “Summon Bathsheba!” She came and stood before the king. 29 The king swore an oath: “As certainly as the Lord lives (he who has rescued me from every danger), 30 I will keep today the oath I swore to you by the Lord God of Israel: ‘Surely Solomon your son will be king after me; he will sit in my place on my throne.’” 31 Bathsheba bowed down to the king with her face to the floor and said, “May my master, King David, live forever!”
The author is guiding his readers towards the end of the saga of the great King. Certainly we have come a long way from the confident shepherd boy who killed Goliath; but the issue which is now explicit has been the motivation for many previous events in the story: who will succeed David, which son of which mother? It has been a cause of unrest and machination within and beyond his own family. In this case Adonijah gathers support from Joab, David’s minder, along with the priest Abiathar, so that he has both military and religious support.. He judges rightly that David, left to himself, will not act against him. Adonijah was the son of Haggith, of whom we know almost nothing, but doubtless she backed his push for power.
Bathsheba is recalled to the narrative. She has been part of David’s crime against her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and her first son by David has died soon after birth. She has had four other children with the king, including Solomon. Now the author shows her indignant response to Adonijah’s seizure of power, demanding action from the almost moribund David, whose vital powers cannot even be aroused by his new maidservant Abishag. Nathan the prophet who denounced David’s affair with Bathsheba now backs her son’s claim to succeed David. From being simply an object of the King’s lust she has become an important power in the court, but Nathan’s support for Solomon is more important to the author, as it indicates where God’s choice is thought to rest. The loyalty of the reader is still with the great king but the God of David is already looking to the future. The relationship with the mysterious and demanding God is presented as crucial to political power.
Doubtless any overt claim to God’s favour by a modern politician would be seen as an attempt to manipulate the religious vote in a nation but many thoughful people measure the worth of a leader by their own deepest convictions about goodness and justice. Some scholars have theorised that the author of the the David saga was a man or woman living in the court of King Solomon, who wrote the story to justify, and to guide his rule.
It seems to me more likely, that as Solomon (and perhaps also his successors) became less of a blessing and more of a curse to their people, a great artist returned to the story of David, to examine and express his own profound convictions about the nature of God’s favour and his justice. These convictions are still of value for politics and faith today.