Audacious Adonijah

“Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom. And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him. But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah. And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by Enrogel, and called all his brethren the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah the king’s servants: But Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not” (1 Kings 1:5-10).

Introduction

Maybe because David had not yet chosen a successor to reign in Israel, Adonijah, David’s eldest living son at this time, took it upon himself to announce that he was the new king, even before his father was dead. This was an evil act against David, but we must also see it as a satanic scheme to derail the Messianic line.

Self-promotion

David, as we have seen, was close to death, but his son, Adonijah, took advantage of the situation to promote himself to Israel’s throne. This is all borne out of the fact that he thought that he was a worthy candidate, and it proves that he was not a man who sought the will of God. Here is another son of David who had no respect for his father and was willing to stoop to extreme wickedness to gain what he wanted. Had he truly become king, Adonijah would no doubt have trampled over the people as a sign of his authority.

Not only did he illegally take the throne but he also paraded the event before everyone. Like Absalom before him he put on a pompous show to announce his kingship. Had he forgotten what had happened before (2 Samuel 15:1)? Did he not know that such pride and arrogance would suffer the wrath of God? His pride had blinded his eyes to the obvious flaws in his plan, especially while he had supporters and a cheering crowd. Solomon correctly states, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Added to this is the fact that pride always causes problems wherever it is found. “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10). People obviously found him charming and attractive. This was a second ground of his confidence, because his great comeliness made him amiable in the peoples eyes” (John Wesley). Adonijah was full of his own self-importance and believed that everyone else could see the hero in him, but what is important is what God sees in a person rather than what others may think.

Selfishness

Adonijah was the typical selfish spoilt brat who always got what he wanted from his dotting parents. He was the son of Haggith, the fourth from a polygamous marriage (2 Samuel 3:4). This must have caused competition between David’s wives and offspring, for which one was his true wife and which son his rightful heir?

It is sad to read that David had never disciplined Adonijah. This indicates that the boy had been troublesome in the past too, and that both parents gave in to him whenever he threw a tantrum. Matthew Henry writes, “Children that are indulged learn to be proud and [evilly] ambitious.” David’s seeds of leniency would reap a reward of bad fruit.

Supporters

Adonijah was supported by Joab, the captain of the army of Israel, and Abiathar the priest. These men had followed David from the beginning, so their defection is especially wicked. Why they did this is unknown, for they had not sided with Absalom in similar circumstances. Whatever the reason was, it was a disloyal act against David. It is likely that all three knew that Solomon was destined to be the next king, and although Scripture does not inform us that David announced his wishes, the fact that Solomon was not invited to the coronation is some indication that he had done so. Maybe David had shared with them what God had told him years before Solomon was born, “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10). Adonijah admits that he did know that Solomon would be king after David, “For it was his from the LORD” (1 Kings 2:15). As for Abiathar, it appears than another priest named Zadok was becoming more popular. Also it is likely that he knew the prophecy concerning Solomon, therefore he was working against God’s will.

Each of these men had a lot to gain by supporting Adonijah, and all three are operating from the foundation of pride and self-promotion, but each one would be abased. It is of interest that Abiathar was of the family of Eli whose descendants were under a curse. “So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the LORD; that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh” (1 Kings 2:27) … “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (1 Samuel 3:13-14).

Foolishly David’s other sons attended and many of the elders of Judah attended Adonijah’s coronation. Only Solomon, who was not invited, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah and David’s mighty men did not go to celebrate with him in Enrogel.

Sacrifice

In light of the above we can see why Adonijah’s attempt to add a spiritual element to his evil endeavour was offence to God. Here was a man, just like Absalom, that was willing to put a veneer of religion on his deeds to win over more people. He wanted everyone to think of him as a good, decent and godly person, which of course was far from reality. He chose Enrogel, a well in the Kidron Valley, as the place where the sacrifice to the Lord would take place. Enrogel was very close to Jerusalem and no doubt the celebrations could be heard by those who remained in the city. Though no reference is made to this being, in part, a sacrifice, since the priest is there it is likely that some religious element was included in the proceedings. Some think that Adonijah slew these sheep and oxen, even fat ones, for sacrifice, and that it was a religious feast he made, beginning his usurpation with a show of devotion, as Absalom under the colour of a vow (2 Sa. 15:7), which he might do the more plausibly when he had the high priest himself on his side” (Matthew Henry).

Conclusion

Adonijah, and those who supported him, did not realise how short their celebrations would be. He had no excuse for his wickedness against God and David, for he was not ignorant of the facts, but exhibited contempt for both. “Let not the rebellious exalt themselves” or they will suffer utter defeat (Psalm 66:7).

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