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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 11–31
Verses 11–31

We have here the effectual endeavours that were used by Nathan and Bathsheba to obtain from David a ratification of Solomon’s succession, for the crushing of Adonijah’s usurpation. 1. David himself knew not what was doing. Disobedient children think that they are well enough off if they can but keep their good old parents ignorant of their bad courses; but a bird of the air will carry the voice. 2. Bathsheba lived retired, and knew nothing of it either, till Nathan informed her. Many get very comfortably through this world that know little how the world goes. 3. Solomon, it is likely, knew of it, but was as a deaf man that heard not. Though he had years, and wisdom above his years, yet we do not find that he stirred to oppose Adonijah, but quietly composed himself and left it to God and his friends to order the matter. Hence David, in his Psalm for Solomon, observes that while men, in pursuit of the world, in vain rise early and sit up late, God giveth his beloved (his Jedidiahs) sleep, in giving them to be easy, and to gain their point without agitation, Ps. 127:1, 2. How then is the design brought about?

I. Nathan the prophet alarms Bathsheba by acquainting her with the case, and puts her in a way to get an order from the king for the confirming of Solomon’s title. He was concerned, because he knew God’s mind, and David’s and Israel’s interest; it was by him that God had named Solomon Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25), and therefore he could not sit still and see the throne usurped, which he knew was Solomon’s right by the will of him from whom promotion cometh. When crowns were disposed of by immediate direction from heaven, no marvel that prophets were so much interested and employed in that matter; but now that common providence rules the affairs of the kingdom of men (Dan. 4:32) the subordinate agency must be left to common persons, and let not prophets intermeddle in them, but keep to the affairs of the kingdom of God among men. Nathan applied to Bathsheba, as one that had the greatest concern for Solomon, and could have the freest access to David. He informed her of Adonijah’s attempt (1 Kgs. 1:11), and that it was not with David’s consent or knowledge. He suggested to her that not only Solomon was in danger of losing the crown, but that he and she too were in danger of losing their lives if Adonijah prevailed. A humble spirit may be indifferent to a crown, and may be content, notwithstanding the prospect of it, to sit down short of the possession of it. But the law of self-preservation, and the sixth commandment, obliges us to use all possible endeavours to secure our own life and the life of others. Now, says Nathan, let me give thee counsel how to save thy own life and the life of thy son, 1 Kgs. 1:12. Such as this is the counsel that Christ’s ministers give us in his name, to give all diligence, not only that no man take our crown (Rev. 3:11), but that we save our lives, even the lives of our souls. He directs her (1 Kgs. 1:13) to go to the king, to remind him of his word and oath, that Solomon should be his successor; and to ask him in the most humble manner, Why doth Adonijah reign? He thought David was not so cold but this would warm him. Conscience, as well as a sense of honour, would put life into him upon such an occasion as this; and he promised (1 Kgs. 1:24) that, while she was reasoning with the king in this matter, he would come in and second her, as if he came accidentally, which perhaps the king might look upon as a special providence (and he was one that took notice of such evidences, 1 Sam. 25:32, 33), or, at least, it would help to awaken him so much the more.

II. Bathsheba, according to Nathan’s advice and direction, loses no time, but immediately makes her application to the king, on the same errand on which Esther came to king Ahasuerus, to intercede for her life. She needed not wait for a call as Esther did, she knew she should be welcome at any time; but it is remarked that when she visited the king Abishag was ministering to him (1 Kgs. 1:15), and Bathsheba took no displeasure either at him or her for it, also that she bowed and did obeisance to the king (1 Kgs. 1:16), in token of her respect to him both as her prince and as her husband; such a genuine daughter was she of Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. Those that would find favour with superiors mush show them reverence, and be dutiful to those whom they expect to be kind to them. Her address to the king, on this occasion, is very discreet. 1. She reminded him of his promise made to her and confirmed with a solemn oath, that Solomon should succeed him, 1 Kgs. 1:17. She knew how fast this would hold such a conscientious man as David was. 2. She informed him of Adonijah’s attempt, which he was ignorant of (1 Kgs. 1:18): “Adonijah reigns, in competition with thee for the present and in contradiction to thy promise for the future. The fault is not thine, for thou knewest it not; but now that thou knowest it thou wilt, in pursuance of thy promise, take care to suppress this usurpation.” She told him who were Adonijah’s guests, and who were in his interest, and added, but “Solomon thy servant has he not called, which plainly shows he looks upon him as his rival, and aims to undermine him, 1 Kgs. 1:19. It is not an oversight, but a contempt of the act of settlement, that Solomon is neglected.” 3. She pleads that it is very much in his power to obviate this mischief (1 Kgs. 1:20): The eyes of all Israel are upon thee, not only as a king, for we cannot suppose it the prerogative of any prince to bequeath his subjects by will (as if they were his goods and chattels) to whom he pleases, but as a prophet. All Israel knew that David was not only himself the anointed of the God of Jacob, but that the Spirit of the Lord spoke by him (2 Sam. 23:1, 2), and therefore waiting for and depending upon a divine designation, in a matter of such importance, David’s word would be an oracle and a law to them; this therefore (says Bathsheba) they expect, and it will end the controversy and effectually quash all Adonijah’s pretensions. A divine sentence is in the lips of the king. Note, Whatever power, interest or influence, men have, they ought to improve it to the utmost for the preserving and advancing of the kingdom of the Messiah, of which Solomon’s kingdom was a type. 4. She suggested the imminent peril which she and her son would be in if this matter was not settled in David’s life-time, 1 Kgs. 1:21. “If Adonijah prevail, as he is likely to do (having Joab the general and Abiathar the priest on his side) unless speedily suppressed, Solomon and all his friends will be looked upon as traitors and dealt with accordingly.” Usurpers are most cruel. If Adonijah had got into the throne, he would not have dealt so fairly with Solomon as Solomon did with him. Those hazard everything who stand in the way of such as against right force their entrance.

III. Nathan the prophet, according to his promise, seasonably stepped in, and seconded her, while she was speaking, before the king had given his answer, lest, if he had heard Bathsheba’s representation only, his answer should be dilatory and only that he would consider of it: but out of the mouth of two witnesses, two such witnesses, the word would be established, and he would immediately give positive orders. The king is told that Nathan the prophet has come, and he is sure to be always welcome to the king, especially when either he is not well or has any great affair upon his thoughts; for, in either case, a prophet will be, in a particular manner, serviceable to him. Nathan knows he must render honour to whom honour is due, and therefore pays the king the same respect now that he finds him sick in bed as he would have done if he had found him in his throne: He bowed himself with his face to the ground, 1 Kgs. 1:23. He deals a little more plainly with the king than Bathsheba had done. In this his character would support him, and the present languor of the king’s spirits made it necessary that they should be roused. 1. He makes the same representation of Adonijah’s attempt as Bathsheba had made (1 Kgs. 1:25, 26), adding that his party had already got to such a height of assurance as to shout, God save king Adonijah, as if king David were already dead, taking notice also that they had not invited him to their feast (Me thy servant has he not called), thereby intimating that they resolved not to consult either God or David in the matter, for Nathan was secretioribus consiliis—intimately acquainted with the mind of both. 2. He makes David sensible how much he was concerned to clear himself from having a hand in it: Hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me? (1 Kgs. 1:24), and again (1 Kgs. 1:27), “Isa. this thing done by my lord the king? If it be, he is not so faithful either to God’s word or to his own as we all took him to be; if it be not, it is high time that we witness against the usurpation, and declare Solomon his successor. If it be, why is not Nathan made acquainted with it, who is not only in general, the king’s confidant, but is particularly concerned in this matter, having been employed to notify to David the mind of God concerning the succession; but, if my lord the king knows nothing of the matter (as certainly he does not), what daring insolence are Adonijah and his party guilty of!” Thus he endeavoured to incense David against them, that he might act the more vigorously for the support of Solomon’s interest. Note, Good men would do their duty if they were reminded of it, and put upon it, and told what occasion there is for them to appear; and those who thus are their remembrancers do them a real kindness, as Nathan here did to David.

IV. David, hereupon, made a solemn declaration of his firm adherence to his former resolution, that Solomon should be his successor. Bathsheba is called in (1 Kgs. 1:28), and to her, as acting for and on behalf of her son, the king gives these fresh assurances. 1. He repeats his former promise and oath, owns that he had sworn unto her by the Lord God of Israel that Solomon would reign after him, 1 Kgs. 1:30. Though he is old, and his memory begins to fail him, yet he remembers this. Note, An oath is so sacred a thing that the obligations of it cannot be broken, and so solemn a thing that the impressions of it, one would think, cannot be forgotten. 2. He ratifies it with another, because the occasion called for it: As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress, even so will I certainly do this day, without dispute, without delay. His form of swearing seems to be what he commonly used on solemn occasions, for we find it, 2 Sam. 4:9. And it carries in it a grateful acknowledgment of the goodness of God to him, in bringing him safely through the many difficulties and hardships which had lain in his way, and which he now makes mention of to the glory of God (as Jacob, when he lay a dying, Gen. 48:16), thus setting to his seal, from his own experience, that that was true which the Spirit of the Lord spoke by him. Ps. 34:22; The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants. Dying saints ought to be witnesses for God, and speak of him as they have found. Perhaps he speaks thus, on this occasion, for the encouragement of his son and successor to trust in God in the distresses he also might meet with.

V. Bathsheba receives these assurances (1 Kgs. 1:31), 1. With great complaisance to the king’s person; she did reverence to him; while Adonijah and his party affronted him. 2. With hearty good wishes for the king’s health; Let him live. So far was she from thinking that he lived too long that she prayed he might live for ever, if it were possible, to adorn the crown he wore and to be a blessing to his people. We should earnestly desire the prolonging of useful lives, however it may be the postponing of any advantages of our own.