So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.
Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?” Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.” “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king. The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’”
At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”
So what do we learn from this passage? Men (and women) of true faith do not hold grudges against anyone. There is respect for differing views yet making it clear what our own views might be on a given subject and that includes matters of faith. The mention of Zadok the priest reminds us today of some of the music of our own Queen’s coronation in 1952, originally composed by Handel for the coronation of George II in 1727, and played at every coronation since. At the time of our Queen’s coronation, being just 12 years old, I found the new television presentation somewhat boring, but later came to love those choral anthems. Just as the royal officials in today’s reading were honouring their new king, Solomon, so in the Twentieth Century the same kind of thing was taking place at Westminster Abbey as politicians and peers paid homage to our new sovereign.
The principal difference between these two scenarios is that our Queen does not hold the right to condemn people to death if they do not please her. We learn from the media that in some parts of the world there is a real risk of harm if the ‘party line’ is not adhered to. Solomon’s attitude towards Adonijah reminds me of that of Nelson Mandela after he became the President of South Africa. He could just as easily have pursued and persecuted those who had imprisoned him, but he didn’t. Instead he focussed on improving the lot of black South Africans.
That leaves us with a challenge concerning our own attitudes. How we respond to other people or situations should , I hope, reflect our faith in Jesus. We recall His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, how would we handle that kind of situation? Positively I hope!
Wise and wonderful God, so often we think we know best. Sooner or later we realise that Your wisdom is far greater and beyond our wildest imagination. Open our hearts and minds that our first desire is to follow your way. Make us sensitive to the needs of others no matter what their circumstances so that Your care and love is freely shared among all nations and communities throughout the world, in Jesus name. Amen
The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex