BECAUSE DAVID had gone against divine orders and had taken a census in Israel, God had caused seventy thousand sudden deaths in Israel. Israel's king had then heeded the advice of the prophet Gad, who had told him that the plague would be stopped if David would quickly build an altar. The site God had chosen for the altar was Mount Moriah, a high area on the northeast side of Jerusalem.
God Selects His Temple Site
The spot was owned by a local Jebusite king named Ornan. Ornan had a threshing floor there and with his four sons was busy threshing wheat when David arrived. (II Samuel 24:1-18; I Chronicles 21:1-20.) As king over all the land of Israel, David could have taken over the place to do as he wished. But it wasn't his way to conduct himself in such a manner. When Ornan learned why the king wanted his property, he was very anxious to cooperate. "You are welcome to all that I have here without price," he told David. "If you are in need of wood for the fire, use my threshing instruments. If you need animals for sacrificing, take my oxen." David was pleased at Ornan's willing and helpful attitude. Because he wanted to act in a hurry, he accepted all that Ornan offered, but he insisted on paying. The oxen cost the usual price for farm animals. But David wanted several acres of land so God's temple could later be built on the spot God had chosen. So he bought the whole hill at a fair price. (II Samuel 24:19-25; I Chronicles 21:21-25.) An altar was hastily erected, and animals were sacrificed on it as soon as possible. God showed His approval by sending fire from heaven to kindle flames on the altar. A little while later servants came to David to inform him that reports of new plague deaths had suddenly ceased coming in from surrounding areas, and that no deaths had been reported from within the city. (I Chronicles 21:26-30). "That means that God has accepted your prayers and your sacrifices," Gad assured David. "The plague has been stopped!" Relieved and thankful, David dropped to his knees to worship God for being so merciful as to halt the terrible spread of death before it could reach the people of Jerusalem. Realizing that this was the place where God wanted His future temple to be built, David spent the rest of his life preparing materials and setting aside most of his wealth to pay construction costs and to decorate the temple. He gave his son Solomon the complete plans and instructions God had given him. (I Chronicles 22:1-19; 29:1-19.) David also thoroughly organized the priesthood and the government. (I Chronicles, chapters 23-28.) David's life had been so eventful and wearing that two years later, although he was only sixty-nine years of age, his body was as worn and weakened as that of a much older man. Among his various infirmities mentioned slightly in Psalms 31:10 and 38:3 was his inability to remain comfortably warm, especially during the cool evenings. Even though blankets were piled on him, his circulation was so poor that he always felt chilled. His servants and advisors decided that the only way he could be helped was by putting a much younger person close to him, so that the vigor, strength and warmth of youth would be imparted, even in a small measure, to the ailing king. Using their own judgment, the advisors chose a young woman for this purpose — surprising as it may seem to those who read this account and who will perhaps be moved to decide that David was again being very foolish. This wasn't David's idea. The Bible states that she was very helpful in caring for David and that there was no kind of wrong relationship. (I Kings 1:1-4.)
A Brother's Schemes
The deplorable thing that resulted from the king's infirmity was the conduct of Adonijah, at that time David's oldest son. Adonijah decided that his father was too old and senile to rule Israel, and that he, Adonijah, should be the one to take his father's place. He tried to impress the people by copying the overly colorful ways of the late Absalom when he was attempting to win the public to his cause. Adonijah chose several very fancy chariots in which to ride about, and hired fifty men to run in front of his chariots to loudly announce to the people that an important person was passing through and to clear the roads or streets of all obstructions. David, in his ailing condition, wasn't told of all Adonijah was doing. On the other hand, he was aware that his son was strutting around with attendants, but he did nothing about it. David was very sentimental about his sons, and wasn't always as firm as he should have been for their good as well as his. Whatever the situation, David made no move to prevent his son from trying to take over the reins of the government of Israel. Adonijah managed to obtain the backing of some of the influential figures of the nation, including Joab, the military commander, and Abiathar the priest. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet refused to help him. So did most of the powerful men and leaders who had been close to David. (I Kings 1:5-8.) To promote his cause and establish goodwill among his friends and others whom he hoped to win over to his side, Adonijah arranged for what we of this age would call a campaign rally. It was held at a place where such functions were popular, and where impressive sacrifices were made. Food and wine were in abundance. The mood of those invited was anything but solemn. Most of David's sons were asked to attend, as were many high officials. (I Kings 1:9-10.) Most of David's officers were ignored. So was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, the one David knew God had appointed to be the next king of Israel. (I Chronicles 28:5.) Nathan the prophet decided that Adonijah had carried matters much too far, and that David should be stirred up to do something about it. Knowing that Bathsheba had great influence with David, he asked her to go to the king to warn him that there was danger of Solomon and his mother losing their lives if Adonijah decided to take extreme measures to obtain full and certain leadership. "I am aware that you know David wants your son to succeed him as God has commanded," Nathan told Bathsheba. "You must go to your husband and tell him that this won't happen unless Adonijah's ambition is brought to an end at once. God wants David to do his part. When I know that you are speaking about this matter to David, I'll join the two of you and repeat that the matter is extremely urgent." (I Kings 1:11-14.) Bathsheba was anxious to do what she could to insure Solomon's stepping into his father's place. She went at once to David to explain how Adonijah had been acting and how he was already the king of Israel in the minds of some of the people. She pointed out that if his following increased and if David should die, she and Solomon would come to be regarded as enemies of the state because they were not included in Adonijah's followers.
The Plot Defeated
It was one of those days when David wasn't feeling too well. The young woman especially chosen to wait on him was trying to make him comfortable. Bathsheba could see that the king was moved by the things she said, but he only nodded or shook his head. Then it was announced that Nathan the prophet wished to speak with David, whereupon Bathsheba left. When Nathan came in, he mentioned to David all that Bathsheba had told her husband, but in a different way intended to appeal to David's greatest interests. "I don't understand why you are allowing another to become king of Israel when it has long been God's command that Solomon should come after you," Nathan pointed out to David. (I Kings 1:15-27.) "Call Bathsheba. Have her come to me at once," David responded, straightening up and suddenly looking very determined. Nathan knew as he departed that the king had made a decision of some kind. He was sure that it was the right one. When Bathsheba arrived, David spiritedly reminded her that he had made a vow that Solomon should surely become king of Israel and that he wished to repeat that vow. Turning from Bathsheba, he told a guard to call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, a great hero and captain of his guards. (II Samuel 23:20-23; 8:18.) When these three men arrived, David instructed them to take Solomon to a public gathering place just outside the west gates of Jerusalem. "Benaiah, see that he is accompanied by most of my guards," David ordered. "And have him ride on my personal mule. Nathan and Zadok, you will anoint my son Solomon as the next king of Israel. Make a public proclamation so that the people will know what is taking place. After the ceremonies are over, bring Solomon back here." "So be it!" Benaiah exclaimed. "I know this is according to God's will. God has been with you, my king. May He be with Solomon to exalt the throne of Israel, and to make it even greater than it has been during your reign." When the people in and around Jerusalem saw the king's guard marching before and after the mule-borne Solomon and the two priests, they swarmed together in increasing numbers to follow the parade. By the time the ceremonies were over, and Solomon had been anointed king, a huge crowd had gathered. There were the sounds of great celebration, including the blowing of trumpets and pipes and shouts of "Long live King Solomon!" with such volume that the noise was heard in all the city and in some areas beyond. (I Kings 1:28-40; I Chronicles 29:20-25.) Just at this time Adonijah's long, party-like rally to gain followers was coming to an end. The last meal was over. Guests were beginning to leave when the sounds of musical instruments and the shouts of thousands of voices came clearly to Adonijah and those with him.
Conspirators in Trouble
"There must be trouble somewhere," Joab observed concernedly. "Perhaps the city is being attacked. What else could cause such an uproar?" As the wondering listeners paused anxiously, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came in from the street to join them. Adonijah greeted him warmly, remarking what a brave man he was and that surely he must be the bearer of good news. "It could be good news for some, but I doubt that it is for you," Jonathan replied uneasily. "David's son Solomon has just been anointed the next king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. The loud music and shouts you hear are coming from the huge crowd that witnessed the ceremony. The people are happy and enthusiastic about it." (I Kings 1:41-48). A cheerless silence came over Adonijah's guests. Wordlessly they filed out of the place and hurried to their homes, not wishing to have anything more to do with any movement to try to force their erstwhile champion on the throne of Israel. As for Adonijah, he was the most uncomfortable and fearful. It was evident that most of the people wanted Solomon to become king, and that David would deal harshly with anyone who opposed the king. There was dancing and singing in celebration of Solomon's appointment as king. But Adonijah became alarmed at what he imagined would happen to him because he had tried to become king against his father's will. So he decided to seek protection at the tabernacle. There he went to the altar where the sacrifices were made, and clung to it desperately. The altar was regarded as a refuge for those who had sinned. Adonijah thought it would be the safest place for him if David's soldiers should come after him. (I Kings 1:49-50.) Solomon had taken over the responsibilities of the ruler of Israel as soon as he had returned to the palace. Although he was only about twenty years of age, he was capable of good judgment, and took his high office very seriously. When he heard that Adonijah was at the tabernacle and was trusting in the king to spare his life, he sent men after Adonijah. The would-be king thought that his end had come when he saw the soldiers swiftly approaching the altar, and heard one of them order him to come with them. "If I step away from this sacred altar, you'll kill me," Adonijah shouted fearfully. Strong arms reached up to wrest him down from the altar. He was hustled quickly off and brought before Solomon. He prostrated himself before his half-brother, expecting the new king to give an order for his execution. "You know that you have acted foolishly in trying to become king," Solomon stated. "Because of this, whether you live or die will depend on how you conduct yourself from now on. If you go the right way, not a hair of your head will be harmed by any of my men. Now return to your home." Surprised and relieved, Adonijah muttered his thanks and hastily left the palace. (I Kings 1:51-53.)
A Wise Father's Advice
Not long afterward, David informed Solomon that he was about to die, and that he had some valuable advice to give him. The advice was the kind that any wise father should give his son, but there were reminders from the former king of Israel to the new king. "Keep God's commandments and statutes and judgments," David told Solomon. "You will prosper and be successful if you do. God told me that if my children would live according to His laws, men of our family would continue on the throne of Israel. So prove yourself an obedient man, worthy of being a king. "Consider Joab and the murders he has committed in the name of warfare. Handle him with care and good judgment, remembering that he has great influence with many people, but don't let him live long enough to die of old age. I should have had him punished by death long before now. "Be kind to those of the family of Barzillai the Gileadite, who was such a help to me at the city of Mahanaim while I stayed there in my forced absence from Jerusalem. "Consider also the case of Shimei the Benjamite, who cursed me when I was fleeing from Jerusalem. He tried to make amends by meeting me at the Jordan river when I was returning to Jerusalem. I promised him that I would not give orders to have him put to death. But you know he was guilty. You should deal with him as harshly as you should deal with Joab." Some months after Solomon had become king, David died. He served forty years as king of Israel. (I Kings 2:1-11; I Chronicles 29:26-30.) During that time Israel became a powerful nation, but not as wealthy and powerful as it would have been if David and especially the people had followed God's laws more closely. Probably David is the most remembered king of Israel because of his eventful life and because he wrote a great portion of that part of the Bible called the Book of Psalms. With much mourning David was buried in a special sepulchre at Jerusalem. A great amount of wealth was buried with him, part of which was taken from his tomb centuries later. Solomon used unusual wisdom at times during his reign, insomuch that Israel remained strong and respected by the surrounding nations. But matters didn't always go smoothly for the new, young ruler.
Adonijah Tries Again
Adonijah, who had tried to become king, decided that he would like to marry Abishag, the young woman who had been chosen to physically strengthen David during his last days. Adonijah cleverly went to Bathsheba about the matter, knowing that she would have far more influence with the king than he would have. Bathsheba promised Adonijah that she would ask her son the favor. When she did, Solomon became very angry. He considered Adonijah's request through his mother very improper. He rightly suspected that this was the beginning of some kind of plot to seize the government. "Adonijah might as well have asked for the whole kingdom as well," Solomon observed wrathfully to his mother. "I warned him that his conduct would determine his fate. This turn of events proves to me that he isn't worthy to live!" (I Kings 2:12-23.) Solomon was concerned mostly by the thought that Adonijah was making a move to again gain popularity with the people for the purpose of another effort to become king. He ordered Benaiah, the commander of the royal guard, to see that Adonijah should be executed. (I Chronicles 18:17; I Kings 2:24-25.) Afterward he ordered Abiathar the priest to come before him. "I know how vigorously you worked for Adonijah to become king," Solomon frowningly reminded Abiathar. "You were against David my father, even though you knew God had set him on the throne. It's my opinion that you deserve death as much as Adonijah has deserved it." Abiathar's face turned white. Judging from the king's stern expression, he was about to order another execution.