When King David had grown old and his blood circulation wasn't what it used to be, he suffered from being cold. His servants searched about the land for someone to keep him warm. They finally decided upon Abishag, a beautiful young woman from Shunem, in the land of Issachar, north of Jez-reel and Mount Gilboa. She was brought to the seventy-year-old monarch as a companion. In 1 Kings 1:4, it states “…the king knew her not,” which is biblical language for he didn't have sexual relations with her. However, she was considered his concubine, and slept against his bosom each night. Those close to the king believed that her body lying next to his would serve a twofold purpose: keep the old man warm, and possibly revive his vitality and restore his powers. Abishag soon saw royal maneuverings that would leave one prince dead, and the other on the throne even while the king lived.

Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. (1 Kings 1:2)

Abishag Becomes Attendant, Nurse, and Body Warmer

The young woman learned how to care for David and served as the frail ruler's nurse, becoming his closest attendant. She was considered his property, and by rule of law during that time, would be inherited by David's heir upon his death.

Adonijah Tries to Usurp the Throne

At the time Abishag was brought into King David's home to care for him, David's son Adonijah began to covet the throne for himself. His two older brothers, Amnon and Absalom, were dead. He reasoned that he had a right to be king; moreover, he desired to lay claim to the throne as soon as possible. However, David and the Lord favored Solomon, Adonijah's younger brother, as the next leader of the Hebrew people. Still, Adonijah proclaimed: “I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Kings 1:5).

The Attempt Is Thwarted

The powerful men that were associates of King David didn't support Adonijah's attempt to usurp the throne. the prophet Nathan was one of them. He went before Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, whom David had promised would succeed him. Nathan told Bathseheba of Adonijah's attempt, and beseeched her to go before the aging king and remind him of his promise that Solomon would ascend to the throne next.

David Proclaims Solomon King

One day, while Abishag was ministering to the king, Bathsheba entered and bowed before David. Bathsheba explained that Adonijah was trying to establish himself as king without David's knowledge. David called for the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, and told them to get Solomon on the king's mule and take him to Gihon, where Nathan would anoint him king over Israel. After that, Solomon would sit on David's throne as king, even though David was still alive.

Adonijah Tries Again to Take the Throne

Adonijah had been outwitted and humiliated. Solomon could have ordered Adonijah's death, but didn't. Instead, Solomon offered him a conditional pardon. After David died and Solomon began sole rule of Israel, Adonijah went to Bathsheba. He begged Bathsheba to ask Solomon for permission for him to marry Abishag.

Bathsheba Takes Adonijah's Request to Solomon

Bathsheba carried Adonijah's request to Solomon. The king, however, suspected that Adonijah had ulterior motives. It was inappropriate for an ancient Hebrew king's subject (even if the petitioner was one of the king's relatives) to ask the monarch to give him a personal possession such as a royal wife or concubine. often, it was seen as a maneuver to seize the throne. Thus, Solomon had Adonijah killed to keep him from destabilizing his rule or attempting an overthrow (1 Kings 2:17–25).

And now I ask one petition of thee, deny me not. And she said unto him, Say on. And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king, (for he will not say thee nay,) that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife. And Bathsheba said, Well; I will speak for thee unto the king. (1 Kings 2:16–18)

Remaining Questions about Abishag

Though desired by Adonijah, son of Saul and Haggith, Abishag did not marry the prince. There is little information about what happened to her after Solomon had his brother killed. She most likely remained within the royal household, aligned with Solomon and Bathsheba.

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