And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise. (1 Kings 1:40, RSV)
The “splitting of the earth” is an obvious hyperbole, so much so that most modern translations choose to render the Hebrew word, baqa, as “quake” or “shook.” The original is the appropriate word for the story and the translator’s choice of an alternative is not helpful in this instance.
The reading of this verse drops us into the middle of political intrigue here. God, through David, chose Solomon, firstborn son of an adulteress, to be King of Israel. David’s other son, Adonijah, believed himself to be the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. Adonijah had gathered military and religious leaders to himself and was in the process of hosting his own “victory party” when the rumble of joy came rolling through. True to the nature of political sycophants, as soon as Adonijah’s guests heard the explanation for the jubilation of the city, they disappeared as quickly as possible. No one likes to be caught with the loser, especially if the alliance may threaten life or personal fortune.
Adonijah means, ‘the I AM is Lord.’ The Lord did not tell Adonijah to take possession of Israel. The Lord did not instruct Adonijah’s allies to attempt to install Adonijah as king. Adonijah forgot the meaning of his own name and so his cup of joy turned sour while still in his hand.
And the earth split.
Those who waited for the blessing and direction of God were able, at the right time, to express joy with such fury that the earth responded to the tumult. On the other side of the rift, those who presumed to be their own gods did their best to silently “fade into the woodwork.”
The question for us is this: Which side of joy are we on?