Friday after the Ninth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: 1 Kings 2:1-27 (NKJV)
1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the LORD may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 5 Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. 6 Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 7 But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”
10 So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David. 11 The period that David reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. 12 Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.
13 Now Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. So she said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably.” 14 Moreover he said, “I have something to say to you.” And she said, “Say it.” 15 Then he said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their expectations on me, that I should reign. However, the kingdom has been turned over, and has become my brother’s; for it was his from the LORD. 16 Now I ask one petition of you; do not deny me.” And she said to him, “Say it.” 17 Then he said, “Please speak to King Solomon, for he will not refuse you, that he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as wife.” 18 So Bathsheba said, “Very well, I will speak for you to the king.”
19 Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. 20 Then she said, “I desire one small petition of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” 21 So she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as wife.” 22 And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, “Now why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also—for he is my older brother—for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.”
23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “May God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life! 24 Now therefore, as the LORD lives, who has confirmed me and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has established a house for me, as He promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today!” 25 So King Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he struck him down, and he died. 26 And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are deserving of death; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you were afflicted every time my father was afflicted.” 27 So Solomon removed Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, that he might fulfill the word of the LORD which He spoke concerning the house of Eli at Shiloh.
Why ask for Abishag as a wife? Yes, she was beautiful, but there were other beautiful women to be had, especially for an important and wealthy man like Adonijah. Solomon’s reaction gives us a clue. Solomon reacts with indignation and declares a death sentence on Adonijah. This seems a bit severe if Adonijah is just lonely. But Abishag was a way for Adonijah to assert his claim to the throne again.
According to C.F. Keil: “Although Abishag had been only David’s nurse, in the eyes of the people she passed as his concubine; and among the Israelites…taking possession of the harem of a deceased king was equivalent to an establishment of the claim to the throne.” This explains Solomon’s reaction. Solomon had already forgiven Adonijah’s sin of rebellion once. There was not going to be a second pardon.
It is a serious thing to wield the sword as a king, to kill by the authority of the crown, but it must sometimes be done. The German princes had to put down the peasants’ revolt. Queen Elizabeth I of England had to execute traitors and would-be assassins in her land. It seems likely that they struggled with thoughts of not being forgiven for the killing they had to do, but they could comfort themselves with the example of King Solomon. Executing dangerous criminals is part of the burden of the crown. The king is “an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Rom.13:4). When we are forgiven our trespasses in the civil realm, we ought to take care to amend our lives and not become a curse on society.