Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. And the king swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”
King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so. As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”
So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise. – 1 Kings 1:28-40 ESV
David listened to the words of Bathsheba and Nathan and took immediate action to have Solomon, his son, anointed as the next king of Israel. This was necessary in order to prevent any attempt by Adonijah to steal the throne. In fact, while Adonijah and his guests were busy celebrating what they thought was his new kingship, even calling him king, David was implementing the plans that would bring their little celebration to a grinding halt.
But what should jump out at us in this passage are the expectations that David, Bathsheba and the others had of Solomon. He was to be the successor of David, but even more than that, he was to carry on the unique relationship that David had with God. David had promised Bathsheba, “he shall sit on my throne in my place” (1 Kings 1:30 ESV). There is more to this statement than meets the eye. David is not just saying that Solomon would succeed him, but that he would act as his representative or replacement. Notice that David refers to the throne as “my throne” and the says that Solomon will serve in “my place”. Solomon is not just to be another king of Israel, but the same kind of king as David. The same expectations that God had placed on David would fall on Solomon. And there is far more to being a king than simply the power and prestige that come with the title.
David called to himself, Nathan, Zadok and Benaiah. These three men represent the roles of the prophet, priest and military commander. Each of them will play a part in making Solomon the next king of Israel. But what is important to notice are the instructions David gives these three men:
“Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” – 1 Kings 1:33-35 ESV
Once again, David states that Solomon will “be king in my place”. But he adds another aspect to Solomon’s role that must not be overlooked. He says that he has appointed Solomon to be ruler over Israel and Judah. Is this just another way of saying “king”? Does the word “king” refer to his title and “ruler” to his function? The key to understanding the significance to what David is saying is to be found in the words themselves. The Hebrew words for king is melek, and it refers to the actual reign of an individual. But when David says that he has appointed Solomon ruler over Israel and Judah, he is saying something completely different. The Hebrew word David uses is nagiyd and it has a special significance to the Israelites. It is sometimes translated “prince” or “leader” and was often used to refer to someone who ruled at God’s discretion and decree. As we saw with Absalom, anyone could claim the title of king, simply by taking it by force. But only one man could serve as the ruler over the people of God. Only one man could claim to be God’s appointed leader. And with that appointment came heavy responsibilities. Just look back on when God told the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul the first ruler of Israel.
Anoint him to be the leader [nagiyd] of my people, Israel. He will rescue them from the Philistines, for I have looked down on my people in mercy and have heard their cry. – 1 Samuel 9:16 ESV
When Saul failed to rule or lead as God had commanded, he was told that he would be replace.
But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader [nagiyd] of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command. – 1 Samuel 13:14 ESV
God would later tell David:
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader [nagiyd] of my people Israel.” – 2 Samuel 7:8 ESV
Years later, God will tell the wife of Jeroboam, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel:
Give your husband, Jeroboam, this message from the Lord, the God of Israel: “I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods for yourself and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me…” – 1 Kings 14:7-9 ESV
You see, Solomon was expected to be far more than just a king. He was to be a ruler over the people of Israel and Judah. He was to carry on the role that God had given David, and that role included godly leadership. But as the story of Solomon’s life unfolds, it will reveal that, while he started out well, he finished poorly. In fact, Jeroboam would be made the king of the northern kingdom of Israel after God split Solomon’s kingdom in half – all due to his disobedience and failure to rule God’s people well. And Jeroboam would prove to be a lousy ruler as well.
David had learned the hard way, that being king was easy, but being God’s ruler was difficult. It required obedience. It demanded faithfulness. It came with serious ramifications if you failed to rule according to God’s standards. Wearing the crown did not make anyone king. It was living in submission and obedience to the one true King that made someone a real ruler. The sad truth about the history of Israel is that they would have many kings, but few rulers. The list of men who had the heart of David would be short. God would tell Jeroboam, “you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted.” He had the crown, but he lacked the commitment to the things of God. And this indictment would be leveled against king after king of both Israel and Judah.
As was proven true with Absalom and Adonijah, anyone can win over the hearts of the people and have themselves crowned king. But few have the heart for God that would qualify them to rule and lead God’s people. I am reminded what God said to Samuel the prophet when he was at the house of Jesse, looking for the next king of Israel. When he laid eyes on Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, Samuel said, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But God said to him:
“Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7-8 NLT
The king wears a crown on his head. But the ruler carries God in His heart.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.