Chayei Sarah Haftorah (I Kings 1:1-31)
In this week’s haftorah, we see a vignette unfold in which we find an aged King David receiving the assistance of what we’d take to be something of a home health care worker for the elderly. One of his sons, Adoniahu, pounces on this situation as an opportunity to shimmy his way into being next in line. But King David had previously declared his wish for another son, Solomon, to rule next. Adoniahu is well aware of this, so he sets about sneakily to put the ball in motion by getting the endorsement of a high priest and the commander of David’s armies (both of whom are out of the King’s good graces of late), throwing himself festive parties of hand-selected (and supportive) attendees, and otherwise prancing around the town like owns it, declaring his forthcoming ascension.
The prophet Nathan coaxes Bat Sheva, Solomon’s mother, to tell David what exactly this other son has been up to without David’s knowledge. Interestingly, though, they don’t just march up to the King and tattletale on the misbehavior of Adoniahu. Rather, Nathan comes up with this idea that Bat Sheva go gently remind the king that he swore to her Solomon would be the next king, and ask him why Adoniahu has been chosen instead. This is a big deal for Bat Sheva, because if Adoniahu weasels his way into becoming king that means she and her son will probably be killed.
Then as she’s having this conversation, Nathan will pop in and just coincidentally inquire why the king failed to mention to him and other loyal servants that Adoniahu was going to be the next king. They both let King David come to the realization that Adoniahu has had the gall to go around declaring himself the next king behind David’s back, and he then declares that indeed, Solomon is to be his successor.
This is the part that strikes me as particularly interesting. I know if I saw the wrong son traipsing around declaring himself the next king, throwing himself parties, and telling all the townspeople that he was practically king now, that much like a kid who just got knocked in the mud by the neighborhood bully, I’d be wont to run into the palace, waiving my arms wildly, frantically telling the king what this kid is up to.
But they seem to take a moment to plan how to handle this situation with as much diplomacy as possible, bringing it to the king’s attention in kind of a roundabout way. Perhaps it was just out of respect and they didn’t want to imply that the king didn’t know what was going on under his nose. I really can’t be certain, but it does seem to demonstrate a great restraint and careful planning about how to deliver bad news and get someone in power to right a wrong. Kind of makes me hope the next time I need to “tattletale” on someone up to no good, to take a moment and think about how I can do that with the most tact and grace possible.