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Encyclopedia of The Bible – Adonijah

ADONIJAH ăd’ ə nī’ jə (אֲדֹנִיָּ֣הוּ, or אֲדֹנִיָּ֣ה, my Lord is Yahweh). 1. The fourth son born to David in Hebron by Haggith (2 Sam 3:4; 1 Chron 3:1, 2). He is famous for making an unsuccessful bid for the throne when he presumed himself to be the oldest heir-apparent after the death of his two older brothers Amnon and Absalom, and apparently the death of the third also (Chileab, David’s son by Abigail, concerning which the record is silent, 1 Kings 1 and 2).

Since it appears that David had promised to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, that her son would succeed him (1 Kings 1:17), it is difficult to know what to make of Adonijah’s preparations and announcement of kingship. Was David’s intention known only by Bathsheba and Nathan? Was David unaware of Adonijah’s preparations or was he too senile to grasp their significance? Certainly Adonijah knew his intentions, for he prepared an entourage of chariots, horses and fifty runners without any restraining action from David (1 Kings 1:5, 6). This personal chariot force ostensibly enhanced his prestige, but it may also have anticipated a coup d’etat. Further, he had Joab, the commander-in-chief of the army, and Abiathar, one of the two high priests and a survivor of Saul’s massacre, as his supporters (1 Kings 1:7). No doubt, feeling that he had the sanction of the army and the priesthood, Adonijah was ready to declare himself the new king and would have succeeded had it not been for the quick action of Nathan and Bathsheba. Even as Adonijah feasted at En-Rogel, David agreed to declare Solomon king The high priest, Zadok, Nathan, the prophet, and Benaiah, the commander of the king’s secret service, were commanded by David to take Solomon to the Gihon Spring and there anoint him king. When the trumpet blew and the announcement was made, Adonijah’s feast was suddenly terminated. Adonijah immediately fled to the altar for sanctuary (1 Kings 1:50). Solomon promised to spare his life if he remained loyal, but this loyalty was broken when Adonijah pressured Bathsheba to secure for him the release of beautiful Abishag, David’s former nurse. He argued that, after all, the kingdom would have been his (1 Kings 2:15). Solomon interpreted this request as an attempt to gain a claim to the throne as was common in Israel and the Near E (2 Sam 3:7; 16:21; etc.) Solomon therefore had Adonijah promptly executed by Benaiah (1 Kings 2:19-25).

2. One of the Levites sent by Jehoshaphat to teach the people in the cities of Judah the law of God (2 Chron 17:8).

3. One of those who sealed the covenant in Ezra’s time (Neh 10:16). See Adonikam (Ezra 2:13).

Bibliography J. Gray, I and II Kings (1963), 77-105.