I read I Kings 1 for my weekly quiet time this week. There were two items of interest to me:
1. Joab and Abiathar the priest join Adonijah's plot to become king. David had vowed to anoint his son Solomon to the position, and his other son, Adonijah, tries to usurp it for himself. And so Adonijah curries favor with influential figures, like Joab and Abiathar, and his charisma and good looks get him a following.
Virtually every commentary that I read today---Christian, Jewish, and scholarly---asserted that Joab and Abiathar joined Adonijah because they felt that they wouldn't have a place under Solomon's reign. So why shouldn't they make another candidate for the monarchy beholden to them?
Joab realized that David didn't care for him that much because he had brought David a bad reputation through his (Joab's) bloodthirstiness. David cursed Joab (II Samuel 3:29) and eventually replaced him with Amasa for the position of captain of the guard, which Amasa held until, well, Joab killed him (II Samuel 20). And Abiathar knew that his priesthood would come to an end at some point, for God predicted decades earlier the fall of Eli's priestly dynasty, of which Abiathar was a part (I Samuel 2:35; I Kings 2:26-27). David may have been gently moving events in that direction, for he had two priests: Abiathar and Zadok (II Samuel 8:17). Was David preparing and expecting Zadok to replace Abiathar, at some point in time?
I somewhat sympathize with Joab and Abiathar, for they were people who thought there'd be nothing for them under Solomon, so they tried to hold on to what they had. Unfortunately, they were opposing God in the process, and that only made matters worse. Once Solomon came to the throne, they were officially traitors (I Kings 2). Suppose they had yielded themselves to God's will by supporting Solomon. Would they have received a lighter "sentence," if you will? Solomon didn't kill Shimei, even though David had told him to do so, but instead he put him on house-arrest. And even Abiathar wasn't put to death, for Solomon acknowledged that he deserved respect because he carried the ark during David's reign and stuck with David through thick and thin. Rather, Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood and sent him to his hometown of Anathoth.
I wish that Joab had received some mercy, for, even though he had clear character flaws, he stuck with David through thick and thin. But David and God felt Joab needed to be punished for killing people in cold blood. And, although Abiathar was a fairly decent fellow, that didn't revoke God's decree against his priesthood.
Or was Abiathar a decent fellow? Zadok was sticking with David's chosen successor, Solomon, while Abiathar went with Adonijah. If Adonijah were to win, he'd probably execute Solomon and his supporters (I Kings 1:21), including Zadok. Was Abiathar joining with Adonijah because he wanted Zadok to be put out of the way, leaving the priesthood to him? At least Solomon showed some mercy to his political opponents after he triumphed: Joab got executed without delay, but others (including Adonijah) were spared, as long as they kept the terms of their probation, or didn't attempt to take over the throne. Was Abiathar choosing a merciless, Satanic sort of rebel rather than God's choice, who was more merciful, all in an attempt to hold on to his position?
2. Solomon was to ride on the mule of David to demonstrate against detractors his legitimacy as David's successor (I Kings 1:33, 38, 44). The mule here is female. Absalom rode on a mule, but that was male (II Samuel 13:29). Zechariah 9:9 says that the king of Israel (whom Christians see as Jesus) will ride on a donkey, and that's male.
I wonder if there's any significance in Solomon riding on a female mule. One thought that came to my mind (which may strike people as stereotypical or allegorical) is that Adonijah was trying to take the throne in an Alpha-male fashion: woo people with his good looks, make the right connections, and take over! Solomon, however, was much more passive (female) in his approach. At the same time, to be fair, I guess Solomon already had good connections, since his father gave them to him. Plus, Solomon was a favorite of the prophet Nathan from the time of his birth (II Samuel 12:25).
People had to act to make Solomon king, especially when Adonijah was in the act of taking over the throne. That's why Nathan and Bathsheba got David to anoint Solomon and organized their own ordination ceremony. But Solomon passively let things happen for his own good: it was God's will, and God brought it to pass. He didn't have to strive to make things happen.
I'm sure there's a lesson here somewhere, about not striving, and yet still acting.