In 1 Kings 2, King David goes the way of all the earth, and his chosen heir Solomon inherits the throne. But Adonijah, “a very handsome man” and Solomon’s older brother, has already set his sights on ruling Israel.
Adonijah has already previously been put quickly in his place (1 Kings 1:50-53), and so now he tries a more subtle coup, by asking Bathsheba to arrange a marriage between him and Abishag the Shunammite, who had cared for David on his deathbed (1 Kings 1:4). The text next gives us this curious set of details.
So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.
1 Kings 2:19
Bathsheba communicates Adonijah’s request, and Solomon again puts him in his place. But that is not the point I’m interested in here. Instead, I want to understand what God is revealing through this detail, this mention of a woman sitting at the right hand of the king.
Some scholars seem to think this is a sign of Israel’s participation in the cult of Asherah, the queen consort of the Sumerian god Anu. I think God is doing something else entirely here. And the reason is because of what happens, or really, what unfolds further 9 chapters later.
In 1 Kings 11, the prophet Ahijah finds Jeroboam, officer of King Solomon, on the road, and God says that both were alone in the field. Ahijah takes his new cloak and tears it into 12 pieces as a sign of God’s wrath against Israel whose eyes have turned to idols. Ten pieces he gives to Jeroboam, signalling he will be king over 10 tribes of Israel. Two pieces remain, one for the priesthood and the other for Judah,
… one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.
1 Kings 11:38
God returns in the text periodically to remind His people of the lamp of promise (1 Kings 15:4, 2 Kings 8:19). But there are other signs He gives, and God has already prepared our eyes for a significant one back in 1 Kings 2, in the reference to the king’s mother Bathsheba.
You see, God has already given us another important detail about Adonijah. His good looks are the first trail marker, but then in 1 Kings 1:9, we learn that Adonijah sacrifices by the stone of Zoheleth, the Serpent’s Stone. And here we go, back where God goes, back to the Garden of Eden, to that old war between the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman.
In fact, a curious thing happens when the people of God are torn into two. Both kingdoms are up and down and all over the place in their (un)faithfulness to God. But it is God who is perfect in His Faithfulness. And His sign through Judah is women.
In 1 Kings 14:21, we meet the first king of Judah, Rehoboam, son of Solomon. He is 41 years old, and he reigns 17 years in Jerusalem, “the city which the LORD had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there.” He does evil in the sight of the Lord. But look here, at this detail God gives us,
“And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.”
After Rehoboam comes Abijam and Asa, whose “mother’s name was Maacah” (1 Kings 15: 2, 10).
Next in Judah is King Jehoshaphat, whose mother is Azubah (22:42).
And we’re off! God carries on recording other Queen Mothers of Judah, including Azubah, Zibia, Jehoaddin, Jecoliah, Jerusha, Abi, Hephzibah, Meshullemeth, Jedidah, Hamutal, Zebidah and Netushta.
In all, the two books of Kings give us the names of the mothers of 17 of the rulers of Judah, regardless of each king’s character. And of Israel? No mother’s names are mentioned, not for any of the 20 kings who ascend that throne.
This is quite the contrast! And through this contrast, God communicates His Great Promise after mankind’s fall into sin and suffering, that the seed of the woman would crush the Serpent’s head.
But as usual, Satan won’t take this lying down. We see his threat to God’s promise in two Queen Mothers of Judah: Maacah, daughter of Absalom, and Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel.
But both God dismisses, first through Asa who removes Maacah as Queen Mother (2 Kings 15:13). And then through the courageous Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram, who took Joash and “stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death” (2 Kings 11:1-3).
The True Seed of the Woman, our Saviour Jesus Christ does not arrive at the end of 2 Kings, as we know. God would bring that later (Matt. 1:18). And even after this, He would call our minds back to it, in women like Eunice and Lois, mother and grandmother of Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5). So we would not forget, so we would not lose hope.
But look here what hope God gives, even as Israel is exiled and Judah follows. King Jehoiachin, whose mother is twice mentioned as exiled with him (2 Kings 24: 12, 15), is freed from prison by the king of Babylon,
and he spoke kindly to him and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon.
29 Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes and had his meals in the king’s presence regularly all the days of his life;
30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life.