As the book of First Kings opens we find David, the great shepherd-king of Israel, in the final years of his life. The strength of his leadership had declined along with his health. (Note: though the idea of a beautiful young nurse sharing the king’s bed seems offensive to us, the inspired biblical writer did not see it that way, and made the point that it was a non-sexual arrangement.) There was enough of a vacuum of royal influence that the throne seemed to be up for grabs.
The logical (and popular) choice for David’s successor was one of his oldest sons, Adonijah, who announced, “I will be king” (v.5). He was not David’s choice, but that did not seem to matter to Adonijah. He was the total package, a kingly sort of fellow: he had good looks, popularity, an entourage, and even a priest to legitimize his claim to the throne. Adonijah had a lot of political charisma, but he did not have the anointing of God on his life. The political rally described in verse 9 seemed official — except for the fact that the reigning king (his own father) knew nothing about it.
That is not surprising when you consider the sad fact that David had not been much of a father to Adonijah (v.6). David withheld what every son needs from his father: loving discipline and accountability. Adonijah had apparently been a boy who was allowed to be selfish, impulsive, and undisciplined, so he became an adult who was doubly selfish, impulsive, and undisciplined. This is a classic case of the tragic consequences of over-busy fatherhood and permissive parenting.
If David was similarly uninvolved in Solomon’s upbringing, Bathsheba and Nathan (the king’s prophet) made up for it. When they heard about Adonijah’s plan they brought the matter to David, who affirmed that Solomon was his chosen successor. (Note: I can’t help but think about the last time we saw David, Bathsheba, and Nathan together, when the prophet had to confront the couple’s adultery; see 2 Samuel 12.) David, who had fought many a battle with swords and slingshots, won his final victory on a political battlefield. In a carefully arranged announcement ceremony outlined by the king in verses 32-35, Solomon was anointed and proclaimed king to the delight of “all the people” (v.40).
Adonijah had no choice but to acknowledge Solomon’s rule and renounce his own illegitimate claim to the throne. The difference between the two: Adonijah exalted himself (v.5), but God exalted Solomon (v.48). My take-away from this chapter: I must constantly seek the Lord’s direction and surrender my aspirations to His perfect will — or, as the saying goes, I may climb the ladder of success only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall.