In my personal studies I am currently reading through 1 and 2 Kings. As I open these books, I’m immediately hit with several important questions. Will David and Abishag produce a child who will take the throne? (That question is answered quickly in the text—no, they will not.) And what is going on with Nathan and Bathsheba? Their collusion seems to indicate that all is not kosher here.
After reading the text for myself, I am ready to consult the commentaries. Fortunately, with Logos Bible Software all my resources are immediately available in one centralized location: the Passage Guide. I can open several commentaries that I think will apply directly to this passage: Simon J. DeVries’ section in the Word Biblical Commentary, Jerome T. Walsh’s work in the Berit Olam series, and Burke O. Long’s volume from Forms of the Old Testament Literature.
The commentaries vary, but they all recognize that something is going on in the text:
There are social and ethical practices which the throne-succession narrator may not have fully accepted but which he does not in any event condemn; these would be the practice of polygamy and concubinage, the possible deceit that David may have practiced on Bathsheba In not fulfilling his oath, as well as the possible deceit that she and Nathan may in turn have practiced on David.1
Nathan speaks of the feast Adonijah is holding at that very moment. His description of it corresponds extensively with Bathsheba’s in wording, thus further confirming to David Bathsheba’s honesty and accuracy. But Nathan adds new details calculated to further the conspiracy in Solomon’s favor. Lest David think that Adonijah’s seizure of the throne is an accomplished fact, Nathan reveals that the feast is being held “today.” It is not too late to thwart the pretender’s coup! Nathan deemphasizes the list of invitees by leaving out, as Bathsheba also did, the royal officials and by substituting “the army commanders” for the more inflammatory name of Joab.2
For his part, Nathan brings essentially the same information to the king. The author, however, suggests something of his character in the slight variations. Nathan speaks as though he knows nothing of an oath regarding Solomon (it is, so the inference would go, a private matter between Queen and King). He cleverly asks a question which indirectly implies a conclusion drawn from the news of Adonijah’s feasting: “Have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me?’ … For he has sacrificed … and they are eating and drinking …” (vv. 24–25). Nathan adds one last goad: “… they are saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah’ ” (v. 25b). He complains about being left out of the celebration (still assumed, politely, as possibly sanctioned by the king), and finally returns to his starting point: “if this thing [RSV misleads slightly] has been brought about … by the king, you have not told your servant …” (v. 27).3
In short time, Logos 5’s powerful tools have allowed me to survey numerous sources and compile them into a coherent group. I still have work to do, but at least I know I’m not the only person to have these questions while reading the opening of 1 Kings.
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1 Simon J. DeVries, 1 Kings, vol. 12, 2nd ed., Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Inc, 2003), 20.
2 Jerome T. Walsh, 1 Kings, ed. David W. Cotter and Chris Franke, Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 16–17.
3 Burke O. Long, 1 Kings: With an Introduction to Historical Literature, vol. 9, The Forms of the Old Testament Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 37–38.