David’s death is fascinating. He was stricken with what strikes many of us when we get older: He could not get warm! Nothing the physicians prescribed would help.  Finally, they enlisted the help of a lovely young virgin to nurse the king and lie in his bed with him. This was a known and accepted medical treatment. Galen, the Greek physician, recommended that the health and heat of a young body could be transferred to that of an aging patient as a medical treatment. Josephus also describes the procedure as a medical one.

The woman chosen for this task is referred to, interestingly enough, as Abishag, “The” Shunammite, not “a” Shunammite. This seems to indicate that she was well known, possibly with a “Miss America” like fame.  If she was such a beauty, as the text suggests, there may be something to the suggestion that Abishag is the “Shulammite” that is so gloriously praised for her beauty in the Song of Solomon.  Many suggest that as she ministered to David, who did not have sex with her, she became romantically involved with Solomon. 

Why did David abstain from sex with this most beautiful of women?  There are two possibilities. First, David made a moral choice. His previous sin with Bathsheba had caused such suffering to his family in so many different ways that he refused to add to his adulterous behavior. There is no credibility to this suggestion because we read of how David took many concubines and wives.

More likely, he was simply too old and feeble. This might very much be the case because Anthropologists have shown how ancient cultures sometimes required a test of virility to see if their aging king had the strength to continue ruling. David would not have been expected to abdicate the throne just because he could not keep warm, but if he failed the test of vigor, which he did, then a new king needed to be named, which is exactly what happened.

This is a sad ending for the slayer of Giants. The talented musician, the famous song writer, the valiant warrior with his groupies singing about his strength against ten thousands of his enemies, the king who seduces the wives of others, is hereby reduced to a weak, trembling, pathetic picture of a man. The test that he failed with Bathsheba was that he was unable to “keep it zipped.” The test he failed with Abishag was that he was unable “to get it up.” His failure with Bathsheba brought an end to a happy family and home life. His failure with Abishag marks the end of his reign as King.

A living example of the truth of Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6