Who was Adonijah in the Old Testament?


By BibleAsk Team


Adonijah was the fourth son of David (2 Samuel 3:4; 1 Chronicles 3:2). His mother was Haggith (2 Samuel 3:4). When David’s elder sons, Amnon and Absalom passed away, and probably Chileab, Adonijah was next in line for the throne. He determined to take the needed steps to set himself a king without King David’s consent, against the divine plan (1 Chronicles 22:5–9). David wanted the younger brother Solomon to be king because he was better qualified than Adonijah to serve as ruler of Israel.

Adonijah was a spoiled child by his father (1 Kings 1:6). When the prince declared that he would be the king, his father didn’t rebuke him. He was also handsome and attractive. So, he was loved by the people even though he had foolish conceit and selfish ambition.

His Attempt to Seize the Throne

With the support of the commander in chief, Joab, Adonijah planned to set himself king. And with the help of the high priest, Abiathar, he hoped to win the backup of the priesthood (1 Kings 1:7).  Abiathar was one of David’s closest friends during the reign of Saul, (1 Samuel 22:20–23), the reign of David (2 Samuel 15:35), and the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:24, 29, 35, 36; 17:15; 19:11).

Joab helped Adonijah probably because he had a grudge against the king for demoting him (2 Samuel 19:13). But Zadok the priest, Benaiah, Nathan the prophet, and David’s mighty men didn’t support Adonijah (1 Kings 1:8).

On a set date, the rebellious prince threw a great party and announced himself king. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants. But he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, David’s mighty men or Solomon his brother (1 Kings 1:9-10).

The Anointing of Solomon

Immediately, the prophet Nathan informed Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, that Adonijah is setting himself as king (1 Kings 1:9-11). She in turn told King David of the wicked plan. And she reminded the king of his oath that Solomon would be king after him.

So, King David, to redeem the situation without shedding blood, called Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And he asked them to, “anoint Solomon king over Israel (1 kings 1:32-34). And they did. When Adonijah heard that King David appointed Solomon king in his place, he was afraid that Solomon would kill him. So, he went and took hold of the horns of the altar as refuge. And he said to the king’s servants, let King Solomon swear to me that he would not put me to death. So, Solomon pardoned him (1 kings 1:50-53).

His Death

Solomon offered mercy and pardon to his brother yet making it clear that forgiveness had been granted only upon condition of faithfulness to the king. If Adonijah proved himself a good man, living peacefully as a noble citizen and yielding to the new king, he would be unharmed.

But the rebellious prince had evil intentions and continued his plans to seize the throne. For after King David’s death, he asked Bathsheba to ask Solomon that he may marry Abishag, David’s concubine (1 Kings 2:13–17). In the ancient Orient, the wives of a king were taken over by his successor. For Adonijah now to ask for Abishag was seen as asking for the throne itself. His request was equivalent to treason.

The young man had a dangerous character, and his plans should be stopped. His plot was not only against the king but also against God, who had set Solomon upon the throne after his father David. The previous conspiracy had been forgiven, but this new attempt against God could not be ignored. So, Solomon wisely ordered his death (1 Kings 2:23–25).

Lessons from Adonijah’s Story

Adonijah’s narrative serves as a cautionary tale within the biblical context. His unchecked ambition, coupled with a failure to honor the established order of succession, led to personal tragedy. The story highlights the importance of humility, obedience, and respect for divine authority.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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