1 Kings i.
11 Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign. Go . . . unto King David, and say unto him, Didst thou not swear unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? Why then doth Adonijah reign?
15 And Bath-sheba went in unto the king. . . . And the king said, What wouldst thou?
17 And she said unto him, Thou swarest unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.
18 And now, behold, Adonijah reigneth.
22 And lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet also came in.
21 And Nathan said, My lord, O king, hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne?
28 Then King David answered and said, Call me Bath-sheba. And she came and stood before the king.
29 And the king sware, and said, As the Lord liveth, that bath redeemed my soul out of all distress,
30 Even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day.
31 Then Bath-sheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord, King David, live for ever.
32 And King David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came.
33 The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon:
34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save King Solomon.
THESE books give an account of David's death, of his successor Solomon, of the division of his kingdom between the kings of Judah and of Israel, with an abstract of the history down to the captivity.
Neither the king nor Bath-sheba knew that Adonijah was making preparations to be crowned king the moment when he heard of David's death. He made a great feast, inviting all the king's sons except Solomon. He began his feast by a show of devotion, sacrificing sheep and oxen. But Nathan the Prophet warns the king and
Bath-sheba. In his anxiety he appeals to Bath-sheba as the one who has the greatest concern about Solomon, and can most easily get an audience with the king. He suggests that Solomon is not only in danger of losing his crown, but both he and she of losing their lives.
Accordingly, Bath-sheba, without being announced, enters the presence of the king. She takes no notice of the presence of Abishag, but makes known the object of her visit at once. She reminds the king of his vow to her that Solomon, her son, should be his successor to his throne. Nathan the Prophet is announced in the audience chamber and tells the king of the preparations that Adonijah is making to usurp the crown and throne, and appeals to him to keep his vow to Bath-sheba. He reminds him that the eyes of all Israel arc upon him, and that David's word should be an oracle of honor unto them. He urged the king to immediate action and to put an end to all Adonijah's pretensions at once, which the king did; and Solomon was anointed by the chief priests and proclaimed king.
Adonijah had organized a party, recognizing him as king, as if David were already dead; but when a messenger brought the news that Solomon had been anointed king, in the midst of the feast their jollities were turned to mourning.
Nathan's visits to the king were always welcome, especially when he was sick and when something lay heavy on his heart. He came to the king, not as a petitioner, but as an ambassador from God, not merely to right the wrongs of individuals, but to maintain the honor of the nation.
As David grew older he suffered great depression of spirits, hence his physicians advised that he be surrounded with young company, who might cheer and comfort him with their own happiness and pleasure in life. He was specially cheered by the society of Abishag, the Shunammite, a maiden of great beauty and of many attractions in manner and conversation, and who created a most genial atmosphere in the palace of the king. Bath-sheba's ambition for her son was so all absorbing that she cared but little for the attentions of the king. David reigned forty years, seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.
1 Kings ii.
Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying,
2 I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man.
It is a great pity that David's advice could not have been fortified by the honor and the uprightness of his own life. "Example is stronger than precept."
1 Kings iii.
16 Then came there two women unto the king, and stood before him.
17 And the one woman said, O my lord. I and this woman dwell in one house: and I was delivered of a child.
19 And it came to pass the third day after, this woman was delivered also:
19 And her child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21 And when I rose in the morning it was dead; but when I had considered it, behold, it was not my son.
22 And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
25 And he said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27 Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
This case was opened in court, not by lawyers, but by the parties themselves, though both plaintiff and defendant were women. Commentators thing that it had already been tried in the lower courts, and the judges not being able to arrive at a satisfactory decision, preferred to submit the case to Solomon the King. It was an occasion of great interest; the halls of justice were crowded, all waiting with great expectation to hear what the king would say. When he said, "bring me my sword," the sages wondered if he intended to kill the parties, as the shortest way to end the case; but his proposition to kill only the living child and give half to each, showed such an intuitive knowledge of human nature that all were impressed with his wisdom, recognizing at once what the natural feelings of the mother would be. Solomon won great reputation by this judgment. The people feared his piercing eye ever after, knowing that he would see the real truth through all disguises and complications.
E. C. S.
In Bath-sheba's interview with David one feature impresses me unfavorably, that she stood before the king instead of being seated during the conference. In the older apostolic churches the elder women and widows were provided with seats--only the young women stood; but in the instance which we are considering the faithful wife of many years, the mother of wise Solomon, stood before her husband. Then David, with the fear of death before his eyes and the warning words of the prophet ringing in his ears, remembered his oath to Bath-sheba. Bath-sheba, the wife of whom no moral wrong is spoken, except her obedience to David in the affairs of her first husband, bowed with her face to the earth and did reverence to the king.
This was entirely wrong: David should have arisen from his bed and done reverence to this woman, his wife, bowing his face to the earth. Yet we find this Bible teaching the subservience of woman to man, of the wife to the husband, of the queen to the king, ruling the world to-day. During the recent magnificent coronation ceremonies of the Czar, his wife, granddaughter of Victoria, Queen of England and Empress of India, who changed her religion in order to become Czarina, knelt before her husband while he momentarily placed the crown upon her brow. A kneeling wife at this era of civilization is proof that the degradation of woman continues from the time of Bath-sheba to that of Alexandria.
In 1 Kings ii. 13-25, we have a record of Solomon's treatment of that mother to whom he was indebted not only for his throne, but also for life itself. Adonijah, who had lost the kingdom, requested Bath-sheba's influence with Solomon that the fair young Abishag should be given to him for a wife. Having lost his father's kingdom, he thought to console himself with the maiden.
19 So Bath-sheba therefore went unto King Solomon to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.
All very well thus far; and the king, in his reception of his mother, showed to her the reverence and the respect which was due to her. Thus emboldened, Bath-sheba said:
20 I desire one small petition of thee; say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother; for I will not say thee nay.
21 And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah, thy brother, to wife.
But did King Solomon, who owed both throne and life to his mother, keep his word that he had just pledged to her, "Ask on, my mother; for I will not say thee nay?"
No indeed, for was she not a woman, a being to whom it was customary to make promises for the apparent purpose of breaking them; for the king, immediately forgetting his promise of one moment previously, cried out:
22 And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? ask for him the kingdom also: for he is mine elder brother.
23 Then King Solomon sware by the Lord, saying, God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life.
24 Now therefore, as the Lord liveth, who hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day.
Solomon was anxious to give credit to the Lord instead of his mother for having set him on the throne, and also to credit him with having kept his promise, while at the very same moment he was breaking his own promise to his mother. And this promise-breaking to women, taught in the Bible, has been incorporated into the laws of both England and the United States--a true union of Church and State where woman is concerned.
It is only a few years since that a suit was brought in England by a wife against a husband in order to compel the keeping of his ante-nuptial promise that the children of the marriage should be brought up in the mother's religious faith. Having married the woman, this husband and father found it convenient to break his word, ordering her to instruct the children in his own faith, and the highest court in England, that of Appeals, through the vice-chancellor, decided against her upon the ground that a wife has no rights in law against a husband. While a man's word broken at the gaming table renders him infamous, subjecting him to dishonor through life, a husband's pledged word to his wife in this nineteenth century of the Christian era is of no more worth than was the pledged word of
King Solomon to Bath-sheba in the tenth century before the Christian era.
The Albany Law journal, commenting upon the Agar-Ellis case, declared the English decision to be in harmony with the general law in regard to religious education--the child is to be educated in the religion of its father. But in the case of Bath-sheba, Solomon's surprising acrobatic feat is the more remarkable from the reception which he at first gave to his mother. Not only did Solomon "say her nay," but poor Adonijah lost not only wife, but life also, because of her intercession.
This chapter closes with an account of Solomon's judgment between two mothers, each of whom claimed a living child as her own and the dead child as that of her rival. This judgment has often been referred to as showing the wisdom of Solomon. He understood a mother's boundless love, that the true mother would infinitely prefer that her rival should retain her infant than that the child should be divided between them.
However, this tale, like many another Biblical story, is found imbedded in the folk-lore-myths of other peoples and religions. Prof. White's "Warfare of Science and Theology" quotes Fansböll as finding it in "Buddhist Birth Stories." The able Biblical critic, Henry Macdonald, regards the Israelitish kings as wholly legendary, and Solomon as unreal as Mug Nuadat or Partholan; but let its history be real or unreal, the Bible accurately represents the condition of women under the Jewish patriarchal and the Christian monogamous religions.
M. J. G.