1 Kings 1:1-2:46 – Bathsheba’s Power Play: Solomon Becomes King 


1 Kings 1:1-2:46


After David dies, Solomon becomes king at the end of a bloody struggle for succession.


The opening of 1 Kings is really the conclusion of David’s reign, a story that has occupied most of 2 Samuel. The cast remains essentially the same: David, Solomon, Bathsheba, Nathan, and David’s sons, especially Adonijah. Chapter 1 explains why Solomon, not David’s eldest son, succeeds him, and chapter 2 conveys David’s last instructions and Solomon’s consolidation of his kingdom setting the stage for the report of his glorious reign and final apostasy in chapters 3-11.

One would expect Adonijah to succeed his father due to several factors (vv. 5-8):

  • Since Amnon (2 Samuel 13:28-29), Chileab (3:2-5), and Absalom (18:14-15) were dead or missing, Adonijah is the eldest surviving son.
  • David had not questioned his “very handsome” (like his father?) son’s claim to the throne.
  • Adonijah enjoyed military (General Joab) and religious (Zadok the priest) support.

Solomon, however, enjoyed the support of his mother Bathsheba. Bathsheba, joined by Nathan the prophet, persuaded David to support Solomon with his endorsement and, more significantly, his military force. This move was cleverly accomplished in Bathsheba’s subtle “reminders” to David that he had in fact chosen Solomon as his successor, “Your [Bathsheba’s] son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne” (vv. 13, 17, 30, compare 24). In Bathsheba’s skillful use of her power, she joins a long line of biblical matriarchs who maneuvered to ensure the thriving of their children, most notably Rebekah (Genesis 27). In verse 48, David offers a theological interpretation of Solomon’s success: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who today has granted one of my offspring to sit on my throne.” Solomon’s succession to the throne is seen as the first installment of God’s promise of an eternal dynasty to David (2 Samuel 7:12). This divine choice of Solomon is explicitly stated in the very different account of Solomon’s reign in 1 Chronicles 28-29.

Horrific as the bloodbath Solomon employed to solidify his power seems to us, there were good reasons for his actions, at least by ancient standards. The exile of Abiathar was due to a curse placed upon his priestly family (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Similarly, the execution of General Joab was required to purify the dynasty of the blood guilt incurred by Joab’s murder of Abner and Amasa (2 Samuel 3:26-30; 20:8-10). The execution of his brother, Adonijah, was in response to Adonijah’s request of Abishag, David’s concubine, which was tantamount to sharing royal power with Solomon (see 2 Samuel 16:21-22).