Translation of 1 Kings 1:15-21 (MT)

15. And Bathsheaba went to the king, to the room. And the king was very old. And Abishag the Shunamite was serving the king.

16. And Bathsheba knelt and prostrated to the king. And the king said, “What do you require?”

17. And she said to him, “my lord, you swore by Yhwh, your God, to your maidservant, ‘yes, Solomon, your son, will reign after me and sit on my throne.’

18. “But now, dude! Adonijah rules! And now my lord the king does not know it!

19. “And he has sacrificed steer and fattened calves and sheep for the many and, he called to all of the king’s sons and to Abiathar the priest and to Joab, the army commander; but to your servant Solomon he did not call.

20. “And you, my lord, the king, the eyes of all Israel are upon you to explain to them who will sit upon the throne of my lord the king after him.

21. “And it will be: when my lord, the king, sleeps with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be interlopers.”

Comments on the Text

Verse 15 initially and promptly continues the preceding narrative, with Bathsheba apparently undertaking Nathan’s proposed plan. At least there is no reason at the outset to doubt that this is what she is doing. Curiously, the first phrase contains two objectives of Bathsheba’s travel: to the king (without calling him David) and to the chamber, though not specifically the king’s chamber. The appended definite article, i.e., “the chamber,” suggests that the reader should know what chamber this is, though none has been mentioned in Kings thus far. (The last appearance of this term was in 2 Sam 13:10, a poignant text that describes Tamar innocently going to visit her brother Amnon who is about to rape her. Should this imply untoward activity in the verse at hand?) After this initial continuation of the preceding, the text takes a turn back to the chapter’s opening, mentioning both David’s advanced age and young woman Abishag, who is serving him. This is the last time that Abishag appears in the Bible other than in a conversation between other characters. Her presence here makes me wonder what purpose she is supposed to serve. Should she be a witness to this event? Perhaps an oblique source for the story as told here? The narrator never intimates these details.

Bathsheba casts herself down before the unnamed king in verse 16. The anonymous king responds to this act by asking what she requires. The Hebrew literally says only “what [is] for you.”

The beginning of Bathsheba’s speech to the king in v. 17 picks up the language from v. 13, having her fulfill precisely that which Nathan commanded her. Again, the referenced “swearing” here appears nowhere else in biblical literature.

The continuation, in verse 18, of Bathsheba’s speech to the king picks up Nathan’s language from v. 11b, the opening of the prophet’s speech and proposition to Bathsheba. She is no longer doing what Nathan said, but still borrowing from his language.

The pinnacle of Bathsheba’s speech in v. 19 places the narrator’s words in Bathsheba’s mouth. She now references material about which she should have no knowledge, at least nothing that Nathan mentioned, though the narrator had in vv. 7a, 9, and 10b.

Verse 20 moves the speech beyond the personal level between Bathsheba and the king. She invokes the need for the king to take a public stance in naming his successor. The king’s hand is somewhat forced, in that “the eyes of all Israel” are upon him to see his decision. Bathsheba’s language echoes back to vv. 12 and 17, mentioning both “who will reign” and “the king’s throne.”

The conclusion of Bathsheba’s speech in v. 21 looks back to verse 19, making verse 20 look a little like an interpolation. After mentioning the king’s public announcement of his successor, there should be no need for Bathsheba to fear that she and her son will be regarded as a danger to the new king. Rather, in sum, her son should be the new king. Bathsheba relies on a distinct rhetorical tactic in this verse: now she no longer references some injustice that has been done to her son, rather describes the threat to his life apparently to awaken the king’s fear for the lives of his wife and son.

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1 Comment

  1. “But now, dude!”

    Reply

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