Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
David, grown old, is, by the advice of his physicians, cherished by Abishag the Shunammite, Kg1 1:1-4. Adonijah conspires with Joab and Abiathar to seize on the government, Kg1 1:5-10. Nathan and Bathsheba communicate these tidings to the aged king, vv. 11-27. David immediately pronounces Solomon his successor, and causes Zadok and Nathan to proclaim and anoint him king, Kg1 1:28-40. Adonijah and his friends hear of it, are afraid, and flee away, Adonijah laying hold on the horns of the altar, from which he refuses to go till Solomon shall promise him his life; this he does, and banishes him to his own house, Kg1 1:41-53.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:1
Now King David was old - He was probably now about sixty-nine years of age. He was thirty years old when he began to reign, reigned forty, and died in the seventieth year of his age, Sa2 5:4, and Kg1 2:11; and the transactions mentioned here are supposed to have taken place about a year before his death.
But he gat no heat - Sixty-nine was not an advanced age; but David had been exhausted with various fatigues, and especially by family afflictions, so that he was much older in constitution than he was in years. Besides he seems to have labored under some wasting maladies, to which there is frequent reference in the Psalms.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:2
Let there be sought - a young virgin - This was the best remedy which in his state could be prescribed. His nearly exhausted frame would infallibly absorb from her young and healthy body an additional portion of animal heat, and consequently trim and revive the flame of animal life. This is properly, as I have elsewhere expressed it, Friar Bacon's secret for the cure of old age.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:4
The king knew her not - The maxim of Bacon in his enigmatical cure is, "Take all you can from the medicine, but give nothing to it; if you give any thing, it increases the disease and hastens death." I have seen this abundantly verified; but it is a subject on which it would be improper to dilate except in a medical work. An extract from Friar Bacon's Cure of Old Age may be found at the end of the chapter.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:5
Adonijah the son of Haggith - Who this woman was we know not; Adonijah was evidently David's eldest son now living, and one of whom his father was particularly fond; see Kg1 1:6.
Prepared him chariots and horsemen - He copied the conduct of his brother Absalom in every respect. See Sa2 15:1.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:7
And he conferred with Joab - Joab well knew, if he made the new king, he would necessarily be continued in the command of the army, and so govern him.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:8
And Nathan - Some suppose that he was the preceptor of Solomon.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:9
Slew sheep and oven - Making a royal feast, in reference to his inauguration. As he had Abiathar the priest with him, no doubt these animals were offered sacrificially, and then the guests fed on the flesh of the victims. He had not only a splendid feast, but a great sacrifice; and he gave by this a popular color to his pretensions, by affecting to receive his authority from God.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:11
Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign - He was now considered as being legally appointed to the regal office, and no doubt was about to begin to perform its functions.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:12
Save thine own life, and the life of thy son - Nathan took for granted that Adonijah would put both Bath-sheba and Solomon to death as state criminals, if he got established on the throne. O cursed lust of rule! a father will destroy his son, a son depose his father, and a brother murder a brother, in order to obtain a crown! At this time the monarchy of Israel was unsettled; no man knew who was to succeed to the crown, and the minds of the people were as unsettled as the succession. I have examined both systems, and find that, with all its alleged disadvantages, hereditary monarchy has a high balance of evidence in its favor beyond that which is elective, and is every way more safe for the state and more secure for the subject.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:13
Go and get thee in unto King David - He knew that this woman had a sovereign influence over the king. If Bath-sheba was a source of pleasure to David, must she not also have been a source of pain to him? For could he ever forget the guilty manner in which he acquired her?
Didst not thou - swear - It is very likely that David made such an oath, and that was known only to Bath-sheba and Nathan. It is nowhere else mentioned.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:20
That thou shouldest tell - who shall sit on the throne - This was a monarchy neither hereditary nor elective; the king simply named his successor. This obtained less or more, anciently, in most countries.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:21
Shall be counted offenders - When Adonijah and his party shall find that I and my son have had this promise from thee by oath, he will slay us both.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:28
Call me Bath-sheba - She had gone out when Nathan came in, and he retired when she was re-admitted. Each had a separate audience, but to Nathan the king did not express any will.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:33
Take with you the servants of your lord - By these we may understand the kings guards, the guards of the city, the Cherethites and Pelethites, who were under the command of Benaiah; and in short, all the disposable force that was at hand.
Solomon - to ride upon mine own mule - No subject could use any thing that belonged to the prince, without forfeiting his life. As David offered Solomon to ride on his own mule, this was full evidence that he had appointed him his successor.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:34
Blow ye with the trumpet - After he has been anointed, make proclamation that he is king.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:36
Sit upon my throne - The matter of conducting a business of this kind seems to have been this:
1. The king elect was placed on the mule of his predecessor, and caused to ride abroad to one of the public wells, or to a river where there was the greatest concourse of people, that they might see who he was that was appointed. Solomon was here taken to the river Gihon, in order to be anointed; the continual stream or constantly running fountain, denoting the perpetuity of the kingdom.
2. The priest and the prophet anointed him in the name of the Lord; and thereby signified that he should be endued with all the kingly virtues; that he should reign by, under, and for the Lord.
3. The trumpet was then to be blown, and solemn proclamation made, that he was anointed king.
4. He was then brought and solemnly placed on the throne, to signify that he had now assumed the reins of government, and was about to administer justice and judgement to the people.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:37
Make his throne greater than the throne of - David - A wish of this kind a king will suffer in behalf of his son, but it is never in ordinary cases considered a compliment to say, "I hope this child will make a better man than his father," because it seems to insinuate some reflections on his father's conduct or character. Many foolish people deal in such compliments, and they may rest assured, for the reasons given above, that they are far from being either welcome or agreeable.
Claudian, in his panegyric De Quarto Consulatu Honorii Augusti, ver. 428, has words something similar to those of Benaiah, when he describes a father, worn out with toils and difficulties, committing the reins of government to the hands of his son: -
Adspice, completur votum: jam natus adaequat
Te meritis; et, quod magis est optabile, vincit.
"Behold, thy desire is accomplished.
Even now thy son equals thee in worth;
and what is still more desirable, surpasses thee.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:39
Zadok - took a horn of oil - Pottery and glass were little in use in those times; and horns were frequently used to hold oil and wine. The oil used here was the holy anointing oil, which was laid up in the tabernacle, and which was used for the anointing of both priests and kings.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:40
The people piped with pipes - They danced, sang, and played on what instruments of music they possessed.
The earth rent - We use a similar expression in precisely the same sense: They rent the air with their cries.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:43
Jonathan answered - He was properly a messenger about the court; we have met with him and Ahimaaz before, Sa2 15:36. He had now been an observer, if not a spy, on all that was doing, and relates the transactions to Adonijah, in the very order in which they took place.
1. David has nominated Solomon his successor.
2. Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah, have been appointed to set him on the king's mule.
3. They have taken him to Gihon, and anointed him there.
4. They have brought him up to Jerusalem and placed him on the throne of the kingdom.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:47
Moreover, the king's servants came - The king himself was at this time confined to his own house, and probably to his bed, and could not possibly see these ceremonies; therefore his confidential servants came and told him. We know not how Jonathan, in so short a time, possessed himself of so much information.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:50
Adonijah feared - He knew he had usurped the kingdom, and had not his father's consent; and, as he finds now that Solomon is appointed by David, he knows well that the people will immediately respect that appointment, and that his case is hopeless; he therefore took sanctuary, and, fleeing to the tabernacle, laid hold on one of the horns of the altar, as if appealing to the protection of God against the violence of men. The altar was a privileged place, and it was deemed sacrilege to molest a man who had taken refuge there. See Kg1 2:28.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:52
If he will show himself a worthy man - If, from henceforth, he behave well, show himself to be contented, and not endeavor to make partisans, or stir up insurrections among the people, he shall be safe; but if wickedness be found in him - if he act at all contrary to this - he shall die; his blood shall be upon him.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 1:53
Go to thine house - Intimating that he should have no place about the king's person, nor under the government. Adonijah must have seen that he stood continually on his good behavior.
Friar Bacon's method of restoring and strengthening the Natural Heat
"I have read many volumes of the wise: I find few things in physic which restore the natural heat, weakened by dissolution of the innate moisture, or increase of a foreign one.
"But certain wise men have tacitly made mention of some medicine, which is likened to that which goes out of the mine of the noble animal. They affirm that in it there is a force and virtue which restores and increases the natural heat. As to its disposition, they say it is like youth itself, and contains an equal and temperate complexion.
"And the signs of a temperate complexion in men are when their color is made up of white and red, when the hair is yellow, inclined to redness and curling.
"This medicine indeed is like to such a complexion, for it is of a temperate heat: its flame is temperate and sweet, and grateful to the smell. When it departs from this temperature, it departs so far from its virtue and goodness.
"This medicine therefore temperately heats, because it is temperately hot; it therefore heals because it is whole. When it is sick, it makes a man sick; when it is distempered, it breeds distempers, and changes the body to its own disposition, because of the similitude it has with the body.
"For the infirmity of a brute animal rarely passes into a man, but into another animal of the same kind; but the infirmity of man passes into man; and so does health, because of likeness.
"This thing is seldom found; and although sometimes it be found, yet it cannot commodiously be had of all men.
"Now, when this thing is like to youth, that is, of temperate complexion, it has good operations; if its temperature be better, it produces better effects: sometimes it is even in the highest degree of its perfection, and then it operates best; and then there is that property whereof we have spoken before.
"This differs from other medicines and nutriments, which heat and moisten after a certain temperate manner, and are good for old men. For other medicines principally heat and moisten the body; and, secondarily, they strengthen the native heat, and after that refresh the body, by moistening and heating it. For it brings back this heat in old men, who have it but weakly and deficient, to a certain stronger and more vehement power.
"If a plaster be made hereof, and applied to the stomach, it will help very much, for it will refresh the stomach itself, and excite an appetite; it will very much recreate an old man, and change him to a kind of youth; and will make complexions, by what means soever depraved or corrupted, better. But it is to be observed, that Venus doth weaken and diminish the power and virtue of this thing!
"And it is very likely that the son of the prince, in his second canon of the Operations of Simple Medicines spoke of this thing, where he saith, that there is a certain medicine, concealed by wise men, lest the incontinent should offend their Creator. There is such a heat in this thing, as is in young men of sound complexion; and if I durst declare the properties of this heat, this most hidden secret should presently be revealed. For this heat doth help the palsical, it restores and preserves the wasted strength of the native heat, and causeth it to flourish in all the members, and gently revives the aged.
"But the simple medicine which restores the native heat, when wasted and weakened, is that which is likened to the complexion of a healthy young man."
All this covered and enigmatical description is intended simply to point out that very medicine recommended by the Jewish physicians to restore and invigorate the dying king. I could show the bearing of every sentence, but I must leave something to the good sense of my readers. By attending to the words in italics, the sense will be more easily discovered. See my note on Rut 4:16 (note).