Haftarah: Chayei Sarah: The Best in Us
Kings 1 Chapter 1: The great King David had become an old man. I grieve to read how this mighty warrior, sage ruler and spiritual leader of generations of souls, is described as weak and so feeble
that he is unable to warm himself. Why does the Book of Kings begin with such a disheartening description of this noble hero?
David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah, understood that his father was weak and assumed that David was vulnerable. Adonijah, with the support of some of David’s greatest heroes, Joab, David’s general, Abiathar the Priest, declared himself the new king. He was determined to grab the throne before David’s favored son, Solomon, would be proclaimed king. He did his best to garner the support of David’s children, the men of Judah and the king’s servants. Adonijah and his supporters attempted to create an unstoppable reality so tangible that the weakened king would be unable to marshal his strength to declare Solomon as his true heir. David, the fearless fighter, the great warrior, remained silent. It is easy to believe that David was no longer the person we so love and admire. We assume that David was unwilling to confront yet another child, or that he hesitated in the face of another internecine conflict. David seemed to remain in his cocoon until confronted by the two-pronged attack of Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother.
When David finally marshaled his strength to declare Solomon the new king, he seemed to do it for Bathsheba, a reminder of an unpleasant episode in his life. Bathsheba was a reminder of a terrible scandal, one that the king would never escape; yet, he appeared to take a stand for her sake.
I suggest that David clearly understood how his servants, family and subjects perceived him at the time. He knew exactly how he would be portrayed in this story, and, still he waited. He waited until he could take a stand, not for Solomon, but for Bathsheba. David waited until his wife reminded him of promises David made at the beginning of their relationship. David did not act as an old man. He waited until Bathsheba took him back in time to the height of his powers, passion and accomplishment. David did not want the new king declared by an old, weak man. He wanted everyone to recall David at his highest and best. David wanted Solomon to continue from the heights of his reign. He understood that for himself he had to end his reign on the highest note.
It was not the David who stood Goliath. It was not the young David who successfully defeated the Philistines. Nor was it the David who restored the Ark to the Tabernacle and
laid the foundations for the future Temple. David specifically wanted people to remember him, as he was when he married Bathsheba, the moment when he was totally committed to express all his passion as a vision for the future.
The King David at the conclusion of the story was not old or weak. He was David at his highest and best.