Before Solomon was born, who was to become king? David has other sons so if Solomon had not been born, who would have been the heir? Would it be one of the sons who were killed?
If Solomon had not been born, obviously another son would have become king. After David sinned with Bathsheba and was told an ingenious parable by the prophet Nathan, David pronounced his own judgement by saying that such a person must pay four times for this crime (2 Sam 12:6). Thus, David had the following sons die:
- The son from Bathsheba's first pregnancy (2 Sam 12:18)
- David's eldest son and the one most likely to have succeeded as king, Amnon (2 Sam 13), if David had not decided to appoint Solomon as heir (1 Kings 1:29, 30).
- David's next son, Absalom (2 Sam 15-17)
- David's next son, Adonijah (1 Kings 1:1-52, 2:13-25)
This is somewhat academic, as David had made it quite clear who was to succeed him (1 Kings 1:29, 30). It was the reigning kings prerogative to appoint his chosen heir which was often (but not always) the eldest son. [Note the important example of this where Jacob chose Judah over Reuben as his primary heir, from whom came King David himself.]
David did not take it for granted that one of his sons would become king after him. This is because he knew that God chose him (and not any of Saul's sons) to become king of Israel after Saul. It was the prophet Nathan who conveyed that David's descendant would be king after him.
Quoting 2 Samuel 7:12, from the prophecy of Nathan,
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.
Nathan gave this prophecy when David was considering building a temple for the LORD (see 2 Samuel 7:1-4).
And David seemed to be surprised and very grateful that the LORD had chosen one of his descendants to be king after him.
2 Samuel 7:18, 19:
Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?
"And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD.
At this point of time, David already had many sons and among them were Ammon, Absalom and Adonijah who were the first, second and third in line to the throne respectively.
But the prophecy (verse 12) said, "who will come forth from you". So it was not going to be any of them. And David knew that it would be one born after the prophecy was made who would be the king.
So if not for Solomon, David would have chosen one born after the prophecy was given to be his successor.
Throughout his reign, David was surrounded by enemies, schemers and plotters, including his own sons. The first three sons died. Adonijah was to succeed David, until his plot to overthow his father was uncovered. Taken from 2 Samuel 3:2-5 are the names of the sons born to David in Hebron:
Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel (David’s wife) – raped his half-sister Tamar – killed by Absolom
Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel (David’s wife) – no further mention of him in the Bible except Kileab is called Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1 – it is supposed he died
Absolom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (David’s wife) – killed by Joab but against David's wishes
Adonijah the son of Haggith – tried to steal the throne from David so David gave Solomon the throne instead
Adonijah had already attempted to set himself up as king while David was still alive; when David was notified of the plot, he quickly made Solomon’s kingship official (1 Kings 1:28–40).
Nathan the prophet was instrumental in having Solomon succeed David after Adonijah tried to take the throne for himself. Nathan said Solomon was to be called Jedidiah which means “Loved by Yahweh” or “beloved of the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:24-25). The giving of this name suggests that the Lord’s special favour rested on Solomon from his birth and that is why Solomon became King of the United Kingdom. It was God’s will.