The spirit of Adonijah

Robert Wurtz II

Now Adonijah, son of David and Haggith, was promoting himself, boasting, “I will be king!” He managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. (Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?” He was also very handsome and had been born right after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:5–6 NET)

Adonijah was the fourth of David’s sons. Like his brother Absalom, he had aspirations of being the king of Israel, in his father’s place. Yet God had other plans. The objective was to build a house of God, and Solomon was selected for the task. The Ark of the Covenant had not been properly situated for a long time, and God longed to revisit His people. David desired to build the house, but he was a man of blood. The job fell to Solomon, a name derived from the Hebrew word Shalom meaning “peace.”

While God was moving in the hearts of men to build Him a house, Adonijah was plotting to build his own kingdom. How anyone could be that out-of-touch with what God was doing is unfathomable. Would a man dare to build his own kingdom while God was building his Temple? Indeed he would. His ambitions and aspirations were competing with God’s will.


Adonijah was Solomon’s older brother, and he was upset about being passed over for the kingship. Problems had been brewing for many years. For reasons unknown to us, David refused to discipline him. In fact, the troubling wording of 1 Kings 1:5-6 implies that he refused to disappoint his son. A son who runs wild, unchecked and unreproved, is destined for destruction.

I wonder if Solomon had his older brother in mind when he wrote about disciplining children in Proverbs. Who can tell? Nevertheless, Matthew Henry once wrote, “Those who honor their sons more than God, as those do who keep them not under good discipline, thereby forfeit the honor they might expect from their sons.” This was not the first time God placed responsibility on the parent to correct a child who was acting out. Eli refused to correct his sons and paid a terrible price. Though he didn’t live to see it, David paid a heavy price as well. 

While plans were progressing to build the Temple, Adonijah worked to win people over to his cause. His strategy was similar to his failed brother Absalom who instructed fifty men to run before him as if he were already king. Despite the unlikeliness of success, Adonijah managed to win over David’s “general” Joab. Even Abiathar, the High Priest, fell for his charm. Sadly, he was of the sons of Eli, and time was running out for him because of God’s judgment on Eli’s sin. 

Solomon realized what Adonijah was doing and offered him mercy. But the man just couldn’t stop. His ambition blinded him to the danger he was in. His brazenness manifested when he asked for permission to marry one of his father’s (David’s) concubines. Solomon knew what Adonijah was doing and was furious. What was his response? He had him put to death for treason.


When Joab heard what happened, he knew he was next, and Solomon had him put to death too. Abiathar was more fortunate and was simply removed from his post, and Zadok was installed in his place. I think it is more than a coincidence that the common element in the judgment of Eli’s “sons” and Adonijah was that their parents did not correct them when they erred in the things of God. 

In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul writes, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” We could argue that in this dispensation, a person can’t be punished for attempting to build their own kingdom instead of God’s Temple (so to speak). We can’t call fire down from heaven or any of that. However, the example of Adonijah is an expression of God’s estimate of this type of behavior and should be programmatic of our view of things. God may not put to death every man or woman who seeks to build their own “kingdom” rather than falling in step with Christ (who is building His Church), but He shouldn’t have to. 

When a man or woman inserts his or her personal ambitions into God’s plans, bad things happen. Adonijah was not fit to do the task that God wanted to be done. He needed Solomon — a man who understood the altar and the meaning of sacrifice. He needed a man who could draw together people who had a mind to work. He didn’t need a man who managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. He needed a man of peace who would build His resting place (the Temple).


Likewise, today, we don’t need men and women with aspirations for building their own kingdoms. We need people with a mind to work who don’t care who receives the credit — so long as the “Temple” was being built. This must be the prevailing attitude in our times. 

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