Adonias, Hebrew: ‘Adoniyah’, ‘Adoniyahuh, Yahweh is Lord; Septuagint: ‚ÄòAdonias.—I. ADONIAS, the fourth son of King David, was born in Hebron, during his father’s sojourn in that city (III Kings, i, 4, 5; I Paralip., iii, 1, 2). Nothing is known of his mother, Haggith, except her name. Nothing is known, likewise, of Adonias himself until the last days of his father’s reign, when he suddenly appears as a competitor for the Jewish crown. He was then thirty-five years old, and of comely appearance (III Kings, i, 6). Since the death of Absalom he ranked next in succession to the throne in the order of birth, and as the prospect of his father’s death was now growing near, he not unnaturally cherished the hope of securing the succession. A younger son of David, Solomon, however, stood in the way of his ambition. The aged monarch had determined to appoint as his successor this son of Bethsabee, in preference to Adonias, and the latter was well aware of the fact. Yet, relying on his father’s past indulgence, and still more on his present weakened condition, Adonias resolved to seize the throne, without, however, arousing any serious opposition. At first he simply set up a quasiroyal state, with chariots, horses, and fifty running footmen. As this open profession of his ambition did not meet with a rebuke from the too indulgent King, he proceeded a step farther. He now strove to win to his cause the heads of the military and the religious forces of the nation, and was again successful in his attempt. Joab, David’s oldest and bravest general, and Abiathar, the ablest and most influential high-priest in David’s reign, agreed to side with him. It was only then that, surrounded by a powerful party, he ventured to take what was practically the last step towards the throne. He boldly invited to a great banquet in the neighborhood of Jerusalem all his adherents and all his brothers, except of course Solomon, to have himself proclaimed king. The sacrificial feast took place near the fountain Rogel, southeast of the Holy City, and everything seemed to presage full success. It is plain, however, that Adonias had misconceived the public feeling and overestimated the strength of his position. He had formidable opponents in the prophet Nathan, the high priest Sadoc, and Banaias, the valiant head of the veteran bodyguard; and in going away from Jerusalem he had left the weak old king subject to their united influences. Quick to seize the opportunity, Nathan prevailed upon Bethsabee to remind David of his promise to nominate Solomon as his successor, and to acquaint him with Adonias’s latest proceedings. During her interview with the aged ruler Nathan himself entered, confirmed Bethsabee’s report, and obtained for her David’s solemn reassertion that Solomon should be king. Acting with a surprising vigour, David summoned at once to his presence Sadoc, Nathan, and Banaias, and bade them take Solomon upon the royal mule to Gihon (probably “the Virgin’s Fountain”), and there to anoint and proclaim the son of Bethsabee as his successor. His orders were promptly complied with; the anointed Solomon returned to Jerusalem amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the people, and took solemn possession of the throne.
Meanwhile, Adonias’ banquet had quietly proceeded to its end, and his guests were about to proclaim him king, when a blare of trumpets sounded in their ears, causing Joab to wonder what it might mean. Suddenly, Jonathan, Abiathar‘s son, entered and gave a detailed account of all that had been done in Gihon and in the Holy City. Whereupon all the conspirators took to flight. To secure immunity, Adonias fled to the altar of holocausts, raised by his father on Mount Moria, and clung to its horns, acknowledging Solomon‘s royal dignity, and begging for the new king’s oath that his life should be spared. Solomon simply pledged his word that Adonias should suffer no hurt, provided that he would henceforth remain loyal in all things. This was indeed a magnanimous promise on the part of Solomon, for in the East Adonias’s attempt to seize the throne was punishable with death. Thus conditionally pardoned, Adonias left the altar, did obeisance to the new monarch, and withdrew safely home (III Kings, i, 5-53).
It might be naturally expected that after this utter failure of his ambitious efforts, Adonias would be satisfied with the peaceful obscurity of a private life. Solomon was now in possession of the royal power, and although his first exercise of it had been an act of clemency towards his rival, it could hardly be supposed that he would treat with the same leniency a second attempt of Adonias to secure the crown. Gratitude, fidelity, and due regard for his own safety should, therefore, have caused Adonias to give up his ambitious dreams. He seems, however, to have looked upon Solomon‘s deed of clemency as an act of weakness, and to have thought that he might be more successful in another attempt to reach the throne. In fact, soon after his father’s death he adroitly petitioned, through Bethsabee, the queen mother, to be allowed to marry the Sunamitess, Abisag, one of the wives of the deceased monarch. The petition was made with a view to reassert his claim to the royal dignity, and he apparently relied on Solomon‘s supposed weakness of character not to dare to refuse his request. But again the event soon proved how greatly mistaken he was in his calculation. Scarcely had his request reached Solomon when the king’s wrath broke forth against Adonias’ perfidy. With the most solemn oath the monarch pronounced him worthy of death, and without the least delay the sword of Banaias carried out the royal sentence (III Kings, ii, 13-24). Thus did Adonias perish, a victim of his own heedless ambition. The Scriptural account of his vain efforts to deprive Solomon of the throne which God had expressly intended for him (II Kings, vii, 12-16; I Paralip., xxii, 7-10) teaches how divine Providence overrules man’s ambitious schemes. It is a model of vivid narration and of perfect faithfulness to Oriental life. In particular, if it nowhere charges Solomon with excessive severity in putting Adonias to death, it is because, according to Eastern notions, the latter’s conduct fully deserved that punishment.
F. E. GIGOT