Here is, I. Solomon’s accession to the throne, 1 Kgs. 2:12. He came to it much more easily and peaceably than David did, and much sooner saw his government established. It is happy for a kingdom when the end of one good reign is the beginning of another, as it was here.
II. His just and necessary removal of Adonijah his rival, in order to the establishment of his throne. Adonijah had made some bold pretensions to the crown, but was soon obliged to let them fail and throw himself upon Solomon’s mercy, who dismissed him upon his good behaviour, and, had he been easy, he might have been safe. But here we have him betraying himself into the hands of Solomon’s justice, and falling by it, the righteous God leaving him to himself, that he might be punished for his former treason and that Solomon’s throne might be established. Many thus ruin themselves, because they know not when they are well off, or well done to; and sinners, by presuming on God’s patience, treasure up wrath to themselves. Now observe,
1. Adonijah’s treasonable project, which was to marry Abishag, David’s concubine, not because he was in love with her, but because, by her, he hoped to renew his claim to the crown, which might stand him in stead, or because it was then looked upon as a branch of the government to have the wives of the predecessor, 2 Sam. 12:8. Absalom thought his pretensions much supported by lying with his father’s concubines. Adonijah flatters himself that if he may succeed him in his bed, especially with the best of his wives, he may by that means step up to succeed him in his throne. Restless and turbulent spirits reach high. It was but a small game to play at, as it should seem, yet he hoped to make it an after-game for the kingdom, and now to gain that by a wife which he could not gain by force.
2. The means he used to compass this. He durst not make suit to Abishag immediately (he knew she was at Solomon’s disposal, and he would justly resent it if his consent were not first obtained, as even Ishbosheth did, in a like case, 2 Sam. 3:7), nor durst he himself apply immediately to Solomon, knowing that he lay under his displeasure; but he engaged Bathsheba to be his friend in this matter, who would be forward to believe it a matter of love, and not apt to suspect it a matter of policy. Bathsheba was surprised to see Adonijah in her apartment, and asked him if he did not come with a design to do her a mischief, because she had been instrumental to crush his late attempt. “No,” says he, “I come peaceably (1 Kgs. 2:13), and to beg a favour” (1 Kgs. 2:14), that she would use the great interest she had in her son to gain his consent, that he might marry Abishag (1 Kgs. 2:16, 17), and, if he may but obtain this, he will thankfully accept it, (1.) As a compensation for his loss of the kingdom. He insinuates (1 Kgs. 2:15), “Thou knowest the kingdom was mine, as my father’s eldest son, living at the time of his death, and all Israel set their faces on me.” This was false; they were but a few that he had on his side; yet thus he would represent himself as an object of compassion, that had been deprived of a crown, and therefore might well be gratified in a wife. If he may not inherit his father’s throne, yet let him have something valuable that was his father’s, to keep for his sake, and let it be Abishag. (2.) As his reward for his acquiescence in that loss. He owns Solomon’s right to the kingdom: “It was his from the Lord. I was foolish in offering to contest it; and now that it is turned about to him I am satisfied.” Thus he pretends to be well pleased with Solomon’s accession to the throne, when he is doing all he can to give him disturbance. His words were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart.
3. Bathsheba’s address to Solomon on his behalf. She promised to speak to the king for him (1 Kgs. 2:18) and did so, 1 Kgs. 2:19. Solomon received her with all the respect that was due to a mother, though he himself was a king: He rose up to meet her, bowed himself to her, and caused her to sit on his right hand, according to the law of the fifth commandment. Children, not only when grown up, but when grown great, must give honour to their parents, and behave dutifully and respectfully towards them. Despise not thy mother when she is old. As a further instance of the deference he paid to his mother’s wisdom and authority, when he understood she had a petition to present to him, he promised not to say her nay, a promise which both he and she understood with this necessary limitation, provided it be just and reasonable and fit to be granted; but, if it were otherwise, he was sure he should convince her that it was so, and that then she would withdraw it. She tells him her errand at last (1 Kgs. 2:21): Let Abishag be given to Adonijah thy brother. It was strange that she did not suspect the treason, but more strange that she did not abhor the incest, that was in the proposal. But either she did not take Abishag to be David’s wife, because the marriage was not consummated, or she thought it might be dispensed with to gratify Adonijah, in consideration of his tame submission to Solomon. This was her weakness and folly: it was well that she was not regent. Note, Those that have the ear of princes and great men, as it is their wisdom not to be too prodigal of their interest, so it is their duty never to use it for the assistance of sin or the furtherance of any wicked design. Let not princes be asked that which they ought not to grant. It ill becomes a good man to prefer a bad request or appear in a bad cause.
4. Solomon’s just and judicious rejection of the request. Though his mother herself was the advocate, and called it a small petition, and perhaps it was the first she had troubled him with since he was king, yet he denied it, without violation of the general promise he had made, 1 Kgs. 2:20. If Herod had not had a mind to cut off John Baptist’s head, he would not have thought himself obliged to do it by a general promise, like this, made to Herodias. The best friend we have in the world must not have such an interest in us as to bring us to do a wrong thing, either unjust or unwise. (1.) Solomon convinces his mother of the unreasonableness of the request, and shows her the tendency of it, which, before, she was not aware of. His reply is somewhat sharp: “Ask for him the kingdom also, 1 Kgs. 2:22. To ask that he may succeed the king in his bed is, in effect, to ask that he may succeed him in his throne; for that is it he aims at.” Probably he had information, or cause for a strong suspicion, that Adonijah was plotting with Joab and Abiathar to give him disturbance, which warranted him to put this construction upon Adonijah’s request. (2.) He convicts and condemns Adonijah for his pretensions, and both with an oath. He convicts him out of his own mouth, 1 Kgs. 2:23. His own tongue shall fall upon him; and a heavier load a man needs not fall under. Bathsheba may be imposed upon, but Solomon cannot; he plainly sees what Adonijah aims at, and concludes, “He has spoken this word against his own life; he is snared in the words of his own lips; now he shows what he would be at.” He condemns him to die immediately: He shall be put to death this day, 1 Kgs. 2:24. God had himself declared with an oath that he would establish David’s throne (Ps. 89:35), and therefore Solomon pledges the same assurance to secure that establishment, by cutting off the enemies of it. “As God liveth, that establisheth the government, Adonijah shall die, that would unsettle it.” Thus the ruin of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom is as sure as the stability of his kingdom, and both are as sure as the being and life of God, the founder of it. The warrant is immediately signed for his execution, and no less a man than Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, general of the army, is ordered to be the executioner, 1 Kgs. 2:25. It is strange that Adonijah may not be heard to speak for himself: but Solomon’s wisdom did not see it needful to examine the matter any further; it was plain enough that Adonijah aimed at the crown, and Solomon could not be safe while he lived. Ambitious turbulent spirits commonly prepare for themselves the instruments of death. Many a head has been lost by catching at a crown.