According to the Old Testament, King Solomon was one of the most glorious and successful kings of ancient Israel. It is said that in his reign, the territory of his kingdom expanded to the largest in her history that far, ‘from the Euphrates River in the north to Egypt in the south’ (Schoenberg, 2012). Although everything known about him is derived from what is written in the Old Testament, it is widely argued that his reign began in approximately 967 B. C. Apart from his fame as a ruler, the legitimacy of his succession of the throne from his father, King David, and the way he strengthened his power and authority as a sole ruler are somewhat controversial. In the following sections, this short entry would like to examine King Solomon in his early days, especially focusing on how he became a sole ruler of his father’s kingdom.
Solomon was the fourth son of King David and his wife Bathsheba. David already had six sons before he began to develop his relationship with Bathsheba and their first intercourse is depicted in the Old Testament in a following way: ‘the thing that David had done displeased the LORD’ (2 Samuel 11:27), because what David committed at the time was an adultery. Thus, the given situation for Solomon to succeed his father’s throne was obviously quite unlikely because he was not the oldest son of David and his mother’s status as David’s wife originally built upon a formidable sin. Nevertheless, it was Solomon who could secure the strongest endorsement for the succession; a promise made by King David himself. Even so, it was not the case where some other half-brothers of him, who were born from David’s earlier marriages, quietly approved the promise their father made behind a closed door.
Apart from the issue of succession, some of David’s sons seem to have been natively vicious, ambitious and disloyal to their father’s authority so that it led them struggle against each other almost inevitably. The series of struggles began ‘when Amnon, David’s oldest son, assaulted his half-sister Tamar, Absalom’s sister (2 Samuel 13-1-22)’ (http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/absalom.htm). At first, Absalom, David’s third son, ‘bided his time, and when the opportunity arose two years later during the sheep shearing time at Baal Hazor, he had his brother Amnon killed (2 Samuel 13:23-29)’ (ibid). This incident was alarming enough for other ones to think ‘that it was the start of a general massacre of competitors to the throne’ (ibid) and made ‘all of the king’s other sons fled for their lives back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 13:29-33)’ (ibid). Meanwhile, ‘Absalom then took refuge with his mother’s father at Geshur, northeast of The Sea of Galilee, where he remained for three years (2 Samuel 13:37-38)’ (ibid).
Facing to this situation, yet ‘King David mourned for his dead son, Amnon, and also for the fugitive Absalom, although guilty of fratricide (2 Samuel 13:39)’ (ibid) and ‘Eventually, David permitted Absalom’s return to Jerusalem’ (ibid). However, Absalom took this opportunity ‘not merely to succeed his father as king, but to replace his father while he was still reigning’ (ibid). Cunningly, Absalom ‘managed to gain the support of a large portion of the people… then moved to Hebron, the previous capital city of Judah, and declared himself king – thereby triggering a civil war between himself and his father (2 Samuel 15:1-12)’ (ibid).
However Absalom was so successful at the beginning of the civil war that ‘David found it necessary to flee from Jerusalem to Mahanaim, across the Jordan (ibid), consequently it was settled in a battle where Absalom ‘lost 20,000 of his troops’ (ibid) and met his own death, soon after he ‘got his head caught in the branches of an oak tree… while (he was) making a hasty retreat riding a mule’ (ibid).
Nonetheless, Absalom’s death did not pave the way smoothly for Solomon’s succession. When King David was seventy years old, on his deathbed, he ‘confirmed to his wife Bathsheba that Solomon, her son, would be his heir to the throne’ (http://rinahshal.tripod.com/id161.html). At that time, it was Adonijah, David’s fourth son, who ‘considered himself next in line to the throne’ (ibid), due to the facts that ‘David’s first and third sons were already dead and his second son never showed any interest in the throne’ (ibid). On top of that, actually Adonijah was much older than Solomon as well.
As a matter of course, Adonijah, ‘taking advantage of David’s sickness’ (ibid) at that time, ‘assembled his followers’ (ibid) and proclaimed himself as King Adonijah in Ein Rogel, ‘one of Jerusalem’s sources of water’ (ibid). However, ‘Many of the court dignitaries refused to attend while others, including Solomon…, were not even invited. Because Adonijah’s claim to the throne lacked legitimacy, Nathan, David’s spiritual leader, moved at once to install Solomon on the throne’ (ibid). In this way, ‘David ordered his servants to bring Solomon to the Gihon spring where the priest anointed him’ (Schoenberg, 2012) publicly and this finalised ‘the failure of Adonijah’s rebellion and Solomon’s ascent to the throne after his father’s death’ (http://rinahshal.tripod.com/id161.html).
Thus, Solomon inherited his father’s kingdom after the death of David but Adonijah’s attempted rebellion continued to overshadow the new king’s authority. Actually, ‘Two of David’s closest advisors, Joab… and the priest Abiathar, sided with Adonijah’ (Schoenberg, 2012) and it looks like they were planning a conspiracy. Therefore, ‘When Adonijah came to Solomon and requested the king’s servant as a wife, Solomon saw that this was a veiled threat to take over his kingdom and sent a messenger to kill Adonijah. He banished Abiathar to the city of Anathoth. Solomon then followed his father’s last instructions in which David had ordered him to kill both Joab and one of his father’s enemies, Shimei… Solomon thus overcame the last potential threats to his kingdom. He then appointed his friends to key military, governmental and religious posts’ (ibid).
Having examined how it took place in chronological order, yet there would remain a doubt over the legitimacy in Solomon’s succession, in comparison with claims from his elder half-brothers, especially Adonijah’s one. Regardless to whether it could be convincing or not, a hypothetical but plausible explanation can be drawn, comparing to the case of Phineas’ appointment to the priesthood, which had provided a following rule concerning to the succession of the post of the High Priest:
‘… it was necessary to anoint him (Phineas, who was born before Aaron was anointed) even though he was a descendant of Aaron, the High Priest. That was because Aaron’s own anointing served only those of his descendants born afterwards. However, those already born had to be anointed for acceptance into the priesthood…
Following this example, children born to a king before he was anointed were considered commoners and could not ascend the throne unless they themselves were also anointed. Although David had already been anointed by Samuel “in the midst of his brothers” (I Samuel 16:13) it was only effective when he became recognized as King over Israel, which was after the birth of Adonijah but long before Solomon was born. (II Samuel 5:3; 3:4)’ (http://rinahshal.tripod.com/id161.html)
Blank, Wayne (year unstated), Absalom, Daily Bible Study (electrically accessed 06/02/2012)
Hope of Ministries Web Site (year unstated), Understanding Succession: Adonijah or Solomon, Torah Studies (electrically accessed 27/01/2012)
Schoenberg, Shira (2012), Solomon, Jewish Virtual Library – A Division of The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (electrically accessed 25/01/2012)