OceanSide church of Christ
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ABISHAG: ADONIJAH’S PAWN
Victor M. Eskew
There are many characters in the Bible who are mentioned only briefly in the Biblical text. Such is true of a woman by the name of Abishag. We are introduced to her very late in the life of King David. Her relationship with David was very unique. After David’s death, Adonijah, David’s son, would attempt to use her as a pawn to claim the kingdom for himself.
Abishag’s story begins in I Kings 1:1-4. David was extremely old. Poor circulation and other problems involving his old age caused David to constantly be cold. “Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat” (I Kings 1:1). This problem caused his servants deep concern. Abishag came into David’s life because of a plan David’s servants devised to bring warmth to his body. “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 may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king” (I Kings 1:2-23).
Abishag fulfilled her duties unto David. “And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him…” (I Kings 1:4, 15). Abishag waited upon David and cared for him. However, David never had a sexual relationship with her. I Kings 1:4 ends with these words: “…but the king knew her not.” As one reads the text, a question arises. Was Abishag ever wed to David? Did she fulfill the role of a concubine? This question is not answered until later.
David had a son named Adonijah. At this time, he was David’s eldest son. He aspired to the throne and set in motion some events that would help him acquire it (I Kings 1:5, 7). His plans, however, were thwarted by Nathan and Bathsheba. The title of king was bestowed upon Solomon by David before his death. “And Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, God save the king” (I Kings 1:39).
After his confirmation, Solomon mercifully allowed Adonijah to live. “And Solomon said, If he will show himself a worthy man, then shall not a hair of him fall to the earth: but if wickedness shall be found in him, he shall die” (I Kings 1:52). After this, David gave Solomon his final instructions, then “slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David” (I Kings 2:10). One would think that Solomon was firmly stationed upon his throne, but not so. Adonijah had one more move to make. He would attempt to use Abishag as a pawn to get the kingdom.
Adonijah went to Bathsheba the queen with a request. “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” (I Kings 2:16-17). This request, at first glance, seems very innocent. David had died. Agishag remained a virgin. Her beauty enticed the king’s son. Therefore, he desired her hand in marriage.
Bathsheba made known Adonijah’s request unto Solomon. Solomon was infuriated when he heard the petition from the queen’s lips. “And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother; even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah” (I Kings 2:22). Solomon knew that this was Adonijah’s attempt to steal the kingdom. If Adonijah could marry one of the king’s wives, he could take his elevated status before the people and try to seize the kingdom. Solomon’s anger was sparked. He vowed to have Adonijah put to death that very day. “And king Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Johoiada; and he fell upon him that he died” (I Kings 2:25).
Abishag was a faithful wife unto David untill his death. Unknowingly, she became a pawn in the hand of another. A wicked man sought to use her for his own purposes. His power-hungry maneuver was not successful. We wonder what happened to Abishag after this. Only eternity will be able to answer that question. It is interestingly strange how a beautiful woman was thrown into the mix of three powerful men.