The Problem of Succession

In the last year of his life, David felt old and infirm. He spent most of the time in his palace, in prayer and study, and rarely received visitors, even his closest friends. The question of succession did not worry him, for G‑d had assured him that his young son, Solomon, would succeed him to a glorious reign.

However, the peace and harmony in his house was disturbed by his other son Adonijah, the son of Haggith. Like his brother Absalom, Adonijah was renowned for his princely stature and his aspiring ambition. He led a pompous life, as though he were the rightful crown-prince. His public appearances were always in full state regalia, in an effort to impress the people that he was their future king.

Now that his father aged, he set his heart upon succeeding to the throne in all earnestness, though he was determined not to commit the same mistake which his brother Absalom had committed. Adonijah decided not to make an attempt to wrest the throne from his father, but instead, laid plans for the possession of the crown immediately upon his father's death. Adonijah, therefore, sought to obtain the help of Joab and of Abiathar the priest; but he was opposed by the old warriors and others, who remained faithful to the aged king, and among whom Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the prophet Nathan were the most distinguished. Irritated by this resistance, the impetuous youth resolved to hasten the execution of his plans. He prepared a great feast in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem, and invited to it all the king's sons and all the men of Judah, but purposely excluded all those whom he knew to be friendly to David, and also, of course, his half-brother Solomon, who, as was well known, had been appointed by his father heir to the throne. Nathan, wise and faithful, saw the great dangers of the moment, and he therefore requested Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, to go to her husband to inform him of Adonijah's rebellious plans and to urge him to confirm the rights of her son. Bathsheba readily consented. She had hardly finished telling David of Adonijah's proceedings and of the feast which he was then holding, when the prophet Nathan himself entered to strengthen the impression produced by Bathsheba's words.

Solomon Anointed

David had sworn that Solomon should be his successor, and he now repeated the promise to Bathsheba. Nay, he was determined that from that very day Solomon should be considered as king of Israel. He summoned before him the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and the warrior Benaiah. To these three faithful subjects he entrusted his son Solomon; they were to mount him on David's own mule, the sign of royalty, to lead him to Gihon, there to anoint him with the sacred oil, and to proclaim his consecration by the solemn blast of the trumpet. The commands of the king were carried out without delay.

News of Solomon's coronation reached Adonijah at the height of his feast. Giving up all hope of success, Adonijah and his followers disbanded in silence. Adonijah sought refuge at the altar, for he apprehended the king's just revenge. But Solomon bade him not be afraid and promised that no hair of his head should fall if he remained loyal and peaceful; he then sent him home unharmed.

David's Last Bequests

Feeling that his days were numbered, David summoned his son Solomon and instructed him on the policy he was to follow. Then he urgently impressed upon his son to walk in the ways of the L-rd and to follow the Divine commandments with all his heart.