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Intriguing leadership lessons from the Bible

By By Dominic Odipo | July 9th 2012

By Dominic Odipo

One of the eternally intriguing questions about the nature of leadership is whether it springs mainly from a person’s past accomplishments or from his or her inner character.

Do one’s accomplishments qualify him to lead more than the inner character of another whose personality may be more in tune with the times?

biblical tales

The Bible contains numerous stories on leadership especially on the way it passed from one man to another or from generation to generation. But one of the more fascinating of these Biblical tales appears in first kings commonly referred to us the Third book o f the kings.

Briefly this tale is the story of King David during his last days his sons Adonijah and Solomon and the manner in which the throne passed from King David while he was still alive to Solomon .

It is a story of arrogance and presumptuousness juxtaposed upon humility and obedience. It is a story of insensitive sycophancy completely blind to the political realities of the day, including the real power of the man who sat on the throne of the Israelites at the time.

To students of the leadership of men by their fellow men, it is indeed an eternal story.

“Now king David was old and stricken in years and they covered him with clothes but he got no heat.”

That is how the story begins in the first verse of the chapter.

At the fifth verse the tale continuous along these lines: Adonijah the brother of Absalom and one of David’s older children, decided to make himself the king while his father was still ailing but without even consulting him.

“The Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king, and prepared chariots and horsemen and fifty men to run before him. And he conferred with Job the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest; and the following Adonijah helped him.

But Zadock the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah. And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth.... and called all his brethren, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants; but Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah and the mighty men and Solomon his brother he called not.”

The story does not say whom these “mighty men “. It says only that whoever they were they were not with Adonijah something he was apparently well aware of but which, consumed by his arrogance and insensitivity he ignored.

As the story unfolds Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba the mother of David conspire to report to the ailing king that Adonijah his son had already proclaimed himself king without so much as informing his father.

According to the agreed plan Bathsheba was to go and inform the king first and then Nathan the prophet would shortly arrive in the king’s presence to confirm what Bathsheba had said.

“My lord “, Bathsheba said to David “ And now behold, Adonijah reigns; and now my lord you know it not. And he has slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance and has called all the sons of the king and Abiathar priest and Joab the captain of the host; but Solomon thy servant he has not called.”

the biggest test

Shortly afterwards according to their earlier plan Nathan the prophet arrived and bowing before the king asked him.

“My lord oh king, have you said Adonijah shall reign after me and he shall sit upon my throne? For he has gone down this day and has called all the king’s sons and the captains of the host and Abiathar the priest and behold they eat and drink before him and say “God save king Adonijah.”

As could be expected, king David who had not wanted Adonijah to succeed him was not very happy with this turn events. Immediately summoning Zadock the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada he said to them.

“Take with you  the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son  to ride upon mine own mule  and  bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the  prophet anoint him  there king over Israel ;and  blow the trumpet  and  say “God save king Solomon “ .Then you shall come after  him that he may come and sit upon  my throne for he shall be king in my stead ;and  I have appointed him to be ruler  over Israel and  Judah”.

And so Solomon was made to ride on the king’s mule and brought to Gihon.”to cut a long story short, Adonijah, the one who slew oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, is not the one who ultimately becomes king.

Unable to recognize the realities around him, he failed the biggest test of them all. 

The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi.

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