David was old and sick and wouldn’t get out of bed. The members of his court were worried about him so when the addition of many blankets could not keep David warm, they enacted a new plan that was in keeping with the character of David’s life. “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.”

According to one of my favorite Seminary professors, Tom Constable, there could be a connection between this Shunammite and the Shulammite beauty that Solomon raves about in The intimate Song of Solomon. He argues that Shunammite and Shulammite are alternate spellings of the same word. Even though he mentions it, Constable is not convinced because there doesn’t seem to be any other biblical evidence to link the two.”[1] I’m not sure the alternate spelling of the word, along with the descriptive beauty given to Abishag, isn’t enough to legitimately consider the possibility that they are the same woman. Also, this beautiful young woman attracted the attention of another of David’s sons. Adonijah wanted her as his wife and asked Bathsheba to intercede with her son Solomon to help him acquire her. Solomon reacted by having Adonijah killed. I know that taking a concubine or wife of the king was an act of rebellion and was supposed to be the way of showing you wished to take over that position. But she was not David’s concubine. The text makes it clear that he did not have relations with her. I’m thinking Solomon may very well have had other motives in having Adonijah killed. If Abishag was the woman of the Song of Solomon, she ended up as one of Solomon’s wives or concubines. Even if she is not the subject of Solomon’s affection in the Song, she was legally his concubine since he inherited the wives and concubines of his father.

David is known for not having control of his sexual life. That was seen clearly in the episode with Bathsheba which resulted in David’s murder of Uriah followed by the loss of the baby conceived through adultery. But we also know that David had other wives and kept a stable of concubines for his pleasure also. Whereas he was unable to control these passions in his youth, due to poor health and advanced age, his vigor was gone. It is said that “Sophocles lauded old age as a deliverance from the tyranny of the passions, as an escape from some furious and savage master.”[2] I remember Vance Havner, in his 80s preaching to us students at Dallas Theological Seminary. He had finally gained the victory over sexual temptation. Not that he conquered it altogether but that he outlived it. At 80+ years of age, he had become like David. He encouraged us to win the victory over it rather than outliving it.

[1] Constable, Thomas L. 1985. “1 Kings.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:487. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Exell, Joseph S. n.d. The Biblical Illustrator: I Kings. The Biblical Illustrator. New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.