1 Kings 1-3
The end of the united Kingdom of Israel is fast approaching. The seeds of division are manifest in the two competing interest groups for successor (Adonijah and Solomon). David has grown cold and impotent--literally and figuratively. (He is 70 years old, 2 Sam 5:4-5 & 1 Kings 2:11, reigned forty years from age of thirty) The tragedy of David is what could have been, even though he was God's man in a special way. A reminder that being "chosen" (person or people) is a grace and also a vocation... There is no promise it will work out.
Adonijah is described in terms similar to Absalom (chariots, good looks, and meal) which probably is intended as a negative. Much of the old guard is with him and he does not invite the Solomon coalition to the dinner. We are left to fill in the details of the political maneuvering. The decision to not invite Solomon (with Nathan, the prophet and Benaiah the leader of the mercenary soldiers) backfires. While he is at dinner, Nathan and Bathsheba make their move and David appoints Solomon as king. Note that Solomon rides into the city on an ass and (1:40) the "earth quaked." [This reminds me of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in Matthew's Gospel.] The apocalyptic literature is rife with earthquakes as a sign of God's saving activity. Perhaps the literal meaning of this text is intended to be a metaphor or a symbol of that?
Jonathan (the priest Abiathar's son) comes to Adonijah's festival with the bad news that David has placed Solomon on his throne. Recounting the details of the coronation, ending with David's prayer for Solomon, Jonathan leaves the guest in fear and trembling as they slink off in various directions. Adonijah, fearing for his life, goes to cling to the temple altar, demanding Solomon promise to spare his life. He is sent home with the admonition that he will be judged by his own behaviors.
Much of chapter 2 (v5-v36) is not included in our reading cycle. David's more positive charge to Solomon, which echoes the Deuteronomic covenant with Moses, reflects the 'conditional' aspect of the relationship with God (be faithful) as derived from the unconditional love and choice of God (grace). However, in a scene (Don Corleone instructing Michael) which could be right out of "The Godfather" David then proceeds to list his enemies and instruct his son on how these men must be dispatched. The hard realities of a fallen world are reflected in the text. One 5th Century Church Father (Theodoret of Cyr) explains that "the ways of life of people are different--" philosopher, political/civil, military moral-- and Solomon must be judged for his actions as a king. His brother--the would be king--makes a request of Bathsheba, to intervene on his behalf so he can marry Abishag, the last woman to be with David; this is an overtly political move and leads to his execution.
Having taken care of business, Solomon is established as king. However,in a case of foreshadowing, we are told he married an Egyptian. Egypt has long been the "threat" to the promise [recall Abraham (Hagar) and Pharaoh's treatment of the Hebrew slaves]. This foreign woman will be the mortal wound to Solomon's reign as "foreign wives lead astray to foreign gods."
Ironically, the next story speaks of God's offer: "Ask what I should give you." This is truly the question at the heart of human existence. We hear a similar question from Jesus in John's Gospel (what do you seek?) "What do you want?" we are asked by God (and life). Our answer makes all the difference. Solomon requested wisdom--he wants it to rule God's people. It is a good answer and God gives him that and more. (Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be added to you). However, the conditions of the promise remain---"walk in My ways" says the Lord. Always we find the Bible offers: Grace and obedience, gift and faithful response, Gospel and Torah.
The reading from today's lectionary is the famous story of the two prostitutes. We do well to read deeper into the text to uncover the revelation. One woman finds her baby dead so she switches her child with the other woman. The two come to the king to seek his judgment. When he offers to split the baby, the real mother reacts in a selfless way, while the other indicates she is fine with the compromise. Solomon discerns the real mom.
The women, both harlots, were understood in the early church as 'types' (Israel and the church, or two types of Christians). The issue is "real love" and the way to discern it (selfless vs self). The wise person sees through to the truth. Be wise!