Translation of 1 Kings 1:11-14 (MT)

11. And Nathan spoke to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, saying, “have you not heard that Adonijahu ben Haggith reigns and our lord David does not know it?

12. “And now, come, let me counsel you (with) counsel. And let your life and the life of your son Solomon escape (= save yourself and your son).

13. “Go and come to the king, David, and you will say to him, ‘you, my lord, the king, did you not swear to your maidservant, saying “yes, Solomon, your son, will reign after me, and he will sit on my throne.” So why does Adonijahu reign?’

14. “Dude! You will still be speaking there with the king and I, I will come in after you and will fill your words.”

Comments on the Text

At first glance, v. 11 is overloaded with personal identifiers, particularly since the reader is familiar with all of these characters. The mention of Bathsheba as “Solomon’s mother” and Adonijahu as “son of Haggith” are somewhat superfluous in context. The opening of Nathan’s speech in this verse is only the third time that the name “David” appears in the book. It is the first time that it remains unqualified, bearing neither the title “the king” nor the reference to his soldiers. While from a literary standpoint, this episode clearly continues from the preceding, it is conspicuous that Nathan, and not Solomon, is suddenly Adonijah/u’s alternate as the head of one of the opposing parties.

In verse 12, Nathan’s first command to Bathsheba is not literally to “come,” but rather to “go.” Biblical Hebrew uses this similarly to “come now” or “come on” in contemporary English. In the continuation of his speech, Nathan presumes that Adonijah/u will kill both Bathsheba and Solomon, though such has been intimated at no point thus far in the narrative. He expresses this as an imperative with the verb “escape,” used here as a transitive with the objects “your/your son’s breath/life/soul.” First Nathan expresses why Bathsheba should act, before stating how in the next verse.

Nathan tells Bathsheba what to do in vv. 13-14 and informs her how his plan will develop. She should go to the David, once again, described here as “the king” and tell him of a promise he made to her, to make her son king after him. I initially started to write “remind” instead of “tell” in the previous sentence, but David has never made such a promise–to Bathsheba or anyone else–anywhere in the Bible. This is the first time that it has been expressed that Solomon should succeed David on the throne. Nathan suggests she should mention both that Solomon should reign and that he should sit on David’s throne, essentially a duplication that we find variously in the next chapters of Kings. Again, Nathan refers to Adonijahu, not Adonijah. This whole plan sounds suspicious from the outset. Perhaps the previous identification of Nathan as “the prophet” in vv. 8 and 10 should let the reader imagine that this whole idea stems from God, but the narrator has at no point either explicitly stated such nor obliquely implied it.

Nathan’s instructing Bathsheba concludes with he noting his part in the whole plan: he will come in and confirm what Bathsheba has said. That being said, he does not enumerate specifically what he will confirm, other than Bathsheba’s words generally. That is, which part of all of this will he affirm: Adonijahu’s attempting to reign (a fact that the narrator has imparted to the reader) or “the king’s” presumed promise to Bathsheba (to which the narrator remains silent)? This conclusion to the speech again raises eyebrows and leaves the reader somewhat suspicious.

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