The start of this book starts with the end of an era. The end of the time of King David. David is a seminal figure in Jewish history. He’s one of the individuals who truly shaped our collective history and culture. He shaped a nation, so his story never truly ends, because his influence continues, but here we have the beginning of the end of his life.
“And King David was old, he came into his old age, and they covered him with clothes, but he was not warmed (Kings I 1:1).” David’s people want to make sure that he’s comfortable in his old age, so they decide to find a young girl to warm him. This seems a lot more complicated than piling on blankets, but to each their own. They find Abishag, and bring her to David in Jerusalem. “And the young girl was very beautiful, and she was a warmer to the king, and she ministered to him, but the king did not know her (Kings I 1:4).” So their relationship stays chaste, and Abishag truly serves her purpose of warming the king, nothing more.
At the same time, Adoniahu, one of David’s sons, declares that he’s going to be the next king. He looks like his late brother Absalom, and shows some of his personality by getting ahead of himself in his quest for the throne. Joab, and Abiathar the priest, decide to follow this son. At the same time, Zadok, the other priest, Nathan the prophet, along with several other key influential men, stay with David. Adoniahu is busy declaring himself king, but for some reason he marks his brother Solomon has his rival and doesn’t invite him to join in the festivities. “And Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, saying, ‘You have surely heard that Adoniahu the son of Haggith has reigned, and our lord, David did not know (Kings I 1:11).'” Nathan plots to get Solomon on the throne, using David’s elderly weakness as a way to convince him that Solomon is his choice of heir. This seems dishonest to me, even if it’s as a means to a necessary end. I hate when people take advantage of the elderly, using their weaknesses against them.
Anyway, Bathsheba goes along with it, and tells David all that Adoniahu is doing. Together with Nathan, they pressure David, and he promises that Solomon is his choice of heir. “And the king said to them, ‘Take with you the servants of your lord, and you shall cause Solomon my son to ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon (Kings I 1:33).'” It’s in Gihon that Solomon will be anointed as king, even while David lives, so that he can begin to administer the kingdom. It is done, and the people rejoice and sing for Solomon. At the same time, Adoniahu is feasting with his followers when he hears the news. “And Adoniahu was fearful of Solomon, and he rose and went, and he took hold of the horns of the altar (Kings I 1:50).” Solomon promises to be merciful with his wayward brother, so he sends him to his own house, rather than killing him. This merciful act is Solomon’s first one as king, and marks the man who will become known for his peaceful, fair leadership.