At the end of his life, David may have been frail, but he certainly did not suffer from senility. Once Nathan and Bathsheba made him aware of Adonijah’s intent to take the throne and to kill Solomon and his supporters, David took action (1 Kings 1:1–27). His kingdom was threatened—Solomon was the proper heir, not Adonijah (vv. 17, 24)—and that meant sinners were acting against the kingdom of God (Ps. 2).
Humanly speaking, Solomon needed David’s public acknowledgment of him as the rightful heir to the throne if he were to reign over Israel. So, David acted to make it clear that Solomon was to be the next king over God’s people. Adonijah conspired in secret, holding a feast with select individuals to garner their support (1 Kings 1:9–10). David told “Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada” to make Solomon’s appointment as king as public as possible. They were to anoint him at Gihon, a well-known spring just outside of Jerusalem where a large crowd could gather to see the anointing. They were to set Solomon on David’s mule and parade him through Jerusalem on the way to the spring, for riding on one of the royal steeds would signify that Solomon should be king. David’s instructions were followed, and Solomon was anointed king publicly and to great acclaim. In fact, the joy was so great that “the earth was split by their noise” (vv. 28–40).
Note the human actors in all of this. David and his supporters did not wait for a supernatural intervention or a miraculous “sign from God.” They knew that Solomon was the proper heir and that they had to act. Ultimately, God’s kingdom would carry on regardless of what they did, but that did not keep them from acting. They saw a present need, and they responded. So it should be with God’s people in every generation. We need to act wisely, but we need not wait for a “sign from heaven,” nor are we to “let go and let God.” When the right thing needs to be done, we need to do it, all the while being careful to act wisely and to follow Scripture, even while remembering that the success of God’s kingdom does not depend finally on us.
Once Solomon was anointed, the supporters of Adonijah recognized that they would be guilty of treason if they remained with him. They left him, and Adonijah fled to the altar for safety, a common ancient Near Eastern practice. Solomon promised to preserve his life if he behaved himself (vv. 41–53).