Women in the Bible – Abishag – Concubine of Aged King David
1 Kings 1:1-4 (ESV) Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.
Today we look at Abishag. Her name comes from the Hebrew word ʾabîshag, which means “father of error.” I’m intrigued by some of the names of the women mentioned in scripture. The “ab” prefix in Hebrew means “father.” These are women, yet called names meaning father.
How would you feel about yourself having grown up being called “error”? In our Western mindset we do not think of these things because name meanings have for the most part become a thing of the past. That is unfortunate. It could be that Abishag was not a “planned” pregnancy. It could be that she was born out outside of marriage. Regardless of her origin, she turned out to be a beautiful woman; so beautiful in fact that she was chosen from all women to serve King David. David was old and never had sex with Abishag. She, however, remained faithful to David, even until his death.
As I mentioned, she was beautiful. David’s son, Adonijah, decided he wanted Abishag as his wife.
1 Kings 2:13-18 (ESV) Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” He said, “Peacefully.” Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Speak.” He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the LORD. And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”
Bathsheba agreed to speak with her son, Solomon, who was now King of Israel after David’s death. He loved his father, David. He also knew that Abonijah had secretly tried to take the throne, even though Solomon was the rightful heir.
1 Kings 2:19-23 (ESV) So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.” King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life!
Abishag was indeed a woman of intrigue. She was faithful in her service to King David, simply to keep him warm in his old age. Men died trying to own her. She was content to serve her king until he died. We’re not told what happened to Abishag after David’s death. My guess is, based on his response to Adonijah, Solomon took care of her the rest of her life.
I’ve seen old people die. There is nothing more important to them than to know someone will be with them in the end. I’m sure the fear of the unknown, or perhaps just the regrets from a life lived, increases the desire to have someone close by to help them make the transition from life to death. Abishag gave that to David, and it blessed him.