Bible Evidence That David Married 12 Year Old Abishag
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Bible Evidence That David Married 12 Year Old Abishag [Part 3]
We once again return to the marriage of King David and Abishag. In the first article (Part 1: “King David’s Marriage To 12 Year Old Abishag – Bible“), we covered how old King David and Abishag was when they were married. David at the time was 70, and Abishag was 12 years old, as ancient Rabbis explained the Hebrew word used to describe her in the Bible.
In the second article (Part 2: “Exploring 1 Kings 1:4 ‘Knew Her Not’: King David’s 12 Year Old Bride“), we responded to the verse 1 Kings 1:4 (“knew her not”) and how it was understood by Christian scholars. Although we showed evidence that Abishag was married off at such a young age to King David, many Christian missionaries dismissed all the reputable scholars for stating that she was married to David.
Now, we know it may be uncomfortable for some modern Christian reader(s) to accept what we have written, however, it is very dangerous to just dismiss scholars who have studied the Biblical field for many decades. You may not take what we write, and we respect that decision, but to dismiss reputable, and respectable scholars just because they don’t agree with your 21st-century world-view is quite dangerous.
Although we showed evidence that King David married Abishag, in the present article, we will show further evidence from the Bible that Abishag was indeed married to Prophet David.
After the demise of King David, Solomon took over his father’s place and became the King. Adonijah attempted to seize power once more, this time, went around and asked Solomon’s mother to take Abishag as his wife. Adonijah asked her to tell Solomon if he would give him the green light to go ahead and marry Abishag.
Solomon got furious and seen the scheme of Adonijah. In ancient times, to marry one of your father’s wives was seen as you claiming the Throne i.e., become the King. Solomon seeing this, executed his brother, Adonijah:
“The Death of David
10 David died and was buried in David’s City. 11 He had been king of Israel for forty years, ruling seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 Solomon succeeded his father David as king, and his royal power was firmly established.
The Death of Adonijah
13 Then Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, went to Bathsheba, who was Solomon’s mother. “Is this a friendly visit?” she asked. “It is,” he answered,
14 and then he added, “I have something to ask of you.” “What is it?” she asked.
15 He answered, “You know that I should have become king and that everyone in Israel expected it. But it happened differently, and my brother became king because it was the Lord’s will.
16 And now I have one request to make; please do not refuse me.” “What is it?” Bathsheba asked.
17 He answered, “PLEASE ASK KING SOLOMON—I KNOW HE WON’T REFUSE YOU—TO LET ME HAVE ABISHAG, THE YOUNG WOMAN FROM SHUNEM, AS MY WIFE.”
18 “Very well,” she answered. “I will speak to the king for you.”
19 So Bathsheba went to the king to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. The king stood up to greet his mother and bowed to her. Then he sat on his throne and had another one brought in on which she sat at his right.
20 She said, “I have a small favor to ask of you; please do not refuse me.”
“What is it, mother?” he asked. “I will not refuse you.”
21 She answered, “LET YOUR BROTHER ADONIJAH HAVE ABISHAG AS HIS WIFE.”
22 “WHY DO YOU ASK ME TO GIVE ABISHAG TO HIM?” the king asked. “YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK ME TO GIVE HIM THE THRONE TOO. After all, he is my older brother, and Abiathar the priest and Joab are on his side!”[c] 23 Then Solomon made a solemn promise in the Lord’s name, “May God strike me dead if I don’t make Adonijah pay with his life for asking this! 24 THE LORD HAS FIRMLY ESTABLISHED ME ON THE THRONE OF MY FATHER DAVID; HE HAS KEPT HIS PROMISE AND GIVEN THE KINGDOM TO ME AND MY DESCENDANTS. I swear by the living Lord that Adonijah will die this very day!”
25 So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah, who went out and killed Adonijah.” 1 Kings 2:10-25 Good News Translation (GNT)
These verses clearly tell us that Abishag was married to King David and was his wife, otherwise, Solomon would not have put his brother to death for merely asking her hand in marriage.
For Adonijah to attempt to take his father’s wife for marriage, was a declaration of him to take the right to the throne of Solomon. As such, Solomon killed Adonijah (his brother) as the verses reveal.
Biblical scholars have also concluded reading 1 Kings 2:10-25 that Abishag was King David’s wife (or concubine).
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible:
… This sacred and separate character attached especially to the Royal harem. The inmates either remained widows for the rest of their lives, or became the wives of the deceased king‘s successor. When a monarch was murdered, or dethroned, or succeeded by one whose title was doubtful, the latter alternative was almost always adopted (compare 2 Samuel 12:8; 2 Samuel 16:22). Public opinion so closely connected the title to the crown and the POSSESSION OF THE DECEASED MONARCH‘S WIVES, that to have granted Adonijah‘s request would have been the strongest encouragement to his pretensions.
Solomon, seeing this, assumes that Adonijah cherishes a guilty purpose, that there has been a fresh plot, that Abiathar and Joab – Adonijah‘s counselors in the former conspiracy 1 Kings 1:7 – are privy to it, and that the severest measures are necessary to crush the new treason.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible – 1 Kings 2:22 – online source)
Bridgeway Bible Commentary:
“… After the death of David (10-12), Solomon soon found opportunities to get rid of his opponents. Adonijah was first to be killed. SINCE A NEW KING INHERITED THE FORMER KING’S CONCUBINES, SOLOMON CONSIDERED THAT ADONIJAH’S REQUEST TO MARRY ABISHAG WAS AN ATTEMPT TO CLAIM DAVID’S THRONE (13-22; cf. 2 Samuel 3:7; 2 Samuel 12:8; 2 Samuel 16:22). Adonijah was executed for treason (23-25). …” (Bridgeway Bible Commentary – online source)
Adam Clarke Commentary:
That he give me Abishag – to wife – He cheerfully gives up all right to the kingdom, and only desires to have this young woman, who, THOUGH SHE HAD BEEN HIS FATHER’S WIFE OR CONCUBINE, was still in a state of virginity. Some think that Joab and Abiathar had advised Adonijah to make this application, not doubting, if he got Abishag, that the popular tide would again turn in his favor, and that Solomon, whom they did not like, might soon be deposed; and that it was on this account that Solomon was so severe. …” (Adam Clarke Commentary – 1 Kings 2:17 – online source)
John Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible:
“17. That he give me Abishag] AMONGST EASTERN NATIONS THE WIVES AND CONCUBINES OF A DECEASED OR DETHRONED KING WERE TAKEN BY HIS SUCCESSOR (see 2 Samuel 12:8; 2 Samuel 16:21-22); and so Adoni-jah’s request for Abishag was regarded as tantamount to a claim on the throne. (John Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible – 1 Kings 2:17 – online source)
David Guzik Commentary on the Bible:
“c. That he may give me Abishag the Shunammite as wife: In all likelihood, ABISHAG WAS A CONCUBINE OF DAVID’S and therefore legally bound to him. Davids death broke that bond, and now Adonijah wanted to take the concubine WIDOW Abishag as wife.
i. We can surmise that Adonjiah wanted more than Abishags beauty (1 Kings 1:3-4). In 2 Samuel 16:20-23 Absalom – the brother of Adonijah – asserted his rebellious claim on DAVID’S THRONE BY TAKING DAVID’S CONCUBINES UNTO HIMSELF. ADONIJAH WANTS TO DECLARE OR BUILD A CLAIM TO SOLOMON’S THRONE BY TAKING DAVID’S WIDOWED CONCUBINE AS HIS WIFE.
ii. This idea has historical examples. Among the ancient Persians and Arabs the new king took the harem of the previous king.” (David Guzik Commentary on the Bible – 1 Kings 2:13-18 – online source)
The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann:
“… v. 21. And she said, let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah, thy brother, to wife. Bathsheba overlooked the fact that he who took one of the KING’S WIVES thereby put in a claim to the throne; for ABISHAG WAS A MEMBER OF DAVID’S HAREM, BEING LOOKED ON BY THE ENTIRE NATION AS DAVID’S LAST WIFE, even if he had not known her.” (The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann – 1 Kings 2:17-21 – online source)
Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical:
“1 Kings 2:13. And Adonijah … to Bath-Sheba, &c. What Adonijah really aimed at in his petition to Bath-Sheba is made apparent in 1 Kings 2:22. He did not care about the fair Abishag, but about the kingdom, which he hoped to acquire through possession of her. In the ancient East, after a KING DIED, OR HIS KINGDOM PASSED FROM HIM, THE HAREM FELL TO THE NEW RULER. On the other hand, also, HE WHO TOOK TO HIMSELF THE KING’S WIVES, WAS REGARDED AS HAVING TAKEN TO HIMSELF THE RIGHTS OF THE KING.
The claim to the possession of the women of the harem was understood to mean the claim to the throne. It was so also with the Persians (Herodot3:68; Justin10:2 : occiso Cyro Aspasiam pellicem ejus rex Artaxerxes in matrimonium acceperat. Hanc patrem cedere sibi, sicuti regnum Darius postulaverat).
When Absalom went, according to Ahithophel’s advice, into the king’s harem and to his concubines in the sight of all the people, it was a public, practical announcement that he had assumed the king’s rights ( 2 Samuel 16:20-23; comp. 1 Kings 12:11).
When, therefore, Adonijah demanded Abishag for his wife, ostensibly from love to her, it was a secret claim to the throne; for Abishag was LOOKED ON BY THE NATION AS DAVID’S LAST WIFE, although he had not known her.
He did not venture to make his request personally to Song of Solomon, but, as Grotius says: aggreditur mulierem, ut regnandi ignaram, ita amoribus facilem. He plays, before Bath-Sheba, the part of an humble saint who has been set aside—who is resigned to God’s will, thus softening her woman’s heart. … Bath-Sheba calls her petition a small one, because she thought it was only about a love-affair, and did not think of its political results.
1 Kings 2:22-25. And King Solomon answered, &c. Solomon instantly detected the intrigue. He says, in asking Abishag for Adonijah, you indirectly request the kingdom for him too. He is my elder brother, and thinks that the kingdom belongs to him on that account; if he gets Abishag as wife, he will be further strengthened in his imaginary claims, and his entire party will have a firm footing. …
The words of 1 Kings 2:24 : and who hath made me an house, are not to be understood, with Keil and others, as if Solomon had then had issue (his marriage did not occur till afterwards, 1 Kings 3:1); the meaning is this rather:
Adonijah demands Abishag to wife, to found a dynasty through his union with her; but Jehovah has determined that David’s dynasty and line of kings shall come from me ( 2 Samuel 7:11 sq.). …” (Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical – 1 Kings 2:13 – online source)
F.B. Meyer’s ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary:
“…There was so close a connection in public opinion between the title to the crown and the possession of a DECEASED MONARCHS HAREM, that it would have been impossible to grant Adonijah’s request without giving strong encouragement to his pretensions. Solomon treated Bathsheba with profound respect, but his love for her did not blind him to his duty to his realm, Proverbs 20:26.” (F.B. Meyer’s ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary – 1 Kings 2:10-25 – online source)
Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible:
“There is much to confirm this suggestion. After all Adonijah was no fool. He must therefore have been quite well aware that in asking for Abishag to be his wife he was going outside reasonable bounds and taking a great risk.
TO SEEK TO MARRY A DEAD KING’S CONCUBINE WOULD UNDOUBTEDLY BE SEEN BY MOST AS AN ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH A POSITION FROM WHICH HE COULD MAKE ANOTHER BID FOR THE THRONE. Compare Abner’s similar action in 2 Samuel 3:7-10, and its repercussion, and note Absalom’s action in 2 Samuel 16:21-22. …
Adonijah’s guilt is suggested by the following:
1). HIS VERY ATTEMPT TO MARRY THE WIFE WITH WHOM DAVID HAD BEEN CLOSEST IN HIS LAST DAYS, a woman who had been privy to many state secrets, and whom all the people associated with David, was a prime target for suspicion. In the thinking of those days it could only enhance his right to the throne in the eyes of the people. …
In ancient days, far more than today, marriage was seen as a means by which influence and status could be obtained, and to MARRY THE FORMER KING’S WIFE WOULD BE SEEN BY ALL AS ADVANCING THE CLAIM OF THE HUSBAND TO BE IN LINE FOR THE KINGSHIP (if not more), and especially so in the case where a new king had just been enthroned and might be thought of as vulnerable and still not secure, and where there were probably a number of areas in the land where dissatisfaction still reigned.
For the harem of the old king always became the possession of the new king. … he SIMPLY DID NOT CARE. Gross sexual sin was a mark of David’s house as a result of his sin with Bathsheba. On the other hand, to the majority of Israelites who were not in on the royal secret, ADONIJAH HAVING SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH HIS FATHER’S WIFE would have been seen as little different from the action of Absalom in 2 Samuel 16:22, and therefore have been seen as a claim to kingship. …
There could be no doubt now that they were planning some kind of coup. So he pointed out to his mother that by asking for the hand of Abishag for Adonijah she was wanting him to grant to Adonijah the kingdom as well, both to him and his fellow-conspirators, Abiathar and Joab.
Did she not realise that his status as Solomon’s eldest brother, and therefore the eldest son of David, combined with his being MARRIED TO DAVID’S NEWEST WIFE, WOULD BE SEEN AS GIVING HIM RIGHTS TO THE THRONE?” (Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible – 1 Kings 2:13-25 – online source)
Arthur Peake’s Commentary on the Bible:
“In order to understand the request of Adonijah and the conduct of Solomon it must be borne in mind THAT THE WIVES OF THE DECEASED KING PASSED TO HIS SUCCESSOR. When, therefore, Abner had relations with Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, Ishbosheth instantly suspected him of treason (2 Samuel 3:7*).
In the same way Ahithophel advised Absalom to take David’s concubines publicly in order to convince the people that he laid claim to his father’s throne (2 Samuel 16:21). Adonijah asks Bath-sheba to assist him in obtaining Abishag, and appeals to her pity and good nature. As the eldest son he had a right to the throne, but he has lost that.
May not he have the beautiful Abishag? As queen-mother Bathsheba enjoys a far more honourable position than as wife of the king (cf. 1 Kings 2:19 with 1 Kings 1:15 f.). Solomon recognised behind her request the existence of a widespread conspiracy. …” (Arthur Peake’s Commentary on the Bible – 1 Kings chapter 2: online source)
Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible:
“ … It seems he could not yet forget his pretence to the crown, nor his ambition for it, but continues his claim; which, it seems, Solomon did apprehend and resent, though Bath-sheba did not; THE WIVES AND CONCUBINES OF THE LATE KING BEING REPUTED TO APPERTAIN TO THE SUCCESSOR. See 2 Samuel 12:8. …
Ask for him the kingdom also: his design is not upon Abishag, but upon the kingdom; which, by this means, he thinks to recover; partly BECAUSE SHE WAS THE LAST KING’S WIFE, OR CONCUBINE, which might strengthen his pretence to the crown; see 2 Samuel 3:7 12:8 16:21; and partly because by her eminent beauty, and near relation to David, she had a powerful interest in the court.” (Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible – 1 Kings 2:15-22 – online source)
Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary:
“…1Ki . Ask for him the kingdom also—Solomon saw his crafty aim. THE WIVES AND CONCUBINES OF A DECEASED KING BECAME THE PROPERTY OF HIS SUCCESSOR TO THE THRONE (2Sa 12:8); hence the possession of Abishag would have given to Adonijah an additional apparent right to the kingdom; it was treason, therefore, for him, a subject, to claim a member of the royal harem as his wife; and Solomon recognised it as one step towards the seizure of the crown, or as a scheme by which Adonijah sought to found a rival dynasty. …
Nothing short of kingship could satisfy Adonijah. His possession of Abishag was intended as a means to that end. Her eminent beauty and near relation to David would give her a powerful interest at court. In the oriental mind a monarch was so sacred, such a divinity hedged him in, that whatever was brought near to him was thenceforth separate from common use. This sacred and separate character attached especially to the royal harem.
The inmates either remained widows for the rest of their lives, or became the wives of the deceased king’s successor. When a monarch was murdered or dethroned, or succeeded by one whose title was doubtful, the latter alternative was almost always adopted. The Pseudo Smerdis married all the wives of Cambyses (Herod. iii. 68); and Darius married all the wives of the Pseudo-Smerdis (ib. ch. 88).
So David, when he succeeded Saul, had all the wives of Saul (2Sa); and Absalom, when he seized the crown, by the advice of Ahitophel, went in unto his father’s concubines (ib. 1Ki 16:22). These are examples of what seems to have been a universal practice; and the result was such a close connection in public opinion between the title of the crown and the POSSESSION OF THE DECEASED MONARCH’S WIVES, THAT TO HAVE GRANTED ADONIJAH’S REQUEST WOULD HAVE BEEN THE STRONGEST ENCOURAGEMENT TO HIS PRETENSIONS. …” (Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary – 1 Kings chapter 2 – online source)
John Trapp Complete Commentary:
1 Kings 2:21 And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to WIFE.
… But was not David Adonijah’s father also? and will none serve his turn but his father’s CONCUBINE was not this to attempt against natural honesty and common decency? What if Abishag were καλη και σοφη – as Aelian saith Aspasia Milesia, Cyrus’s concubine, was – both fair and discreet, which is a rare mixture, yet she was not so fit for Adonijah; but he had a further fetch in this INCESTUOUS DESIRE OF HIS.” (John Trapp Complete Commentary on 1 Kings 2:21 – online source)
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:
“… We have already seen, that the whole harem of an eastern monarch was a part of the regal succession (See note on 2 Sa 16:23); and IT WAS TREASON FOR A SUBJECT TO CLAIM ANY WIFE OR VIRGIN WHO HAD ONCE FORMED A PART OF IT. Solomon evidently considered the request of Adonijah in this light; and was convinced that he was still AIMING TO SEIZE THE CROWN, to which he considered this as one step. …” (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge 1 Kings 2:23 – online source)
Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible:
22. Ask for him the kingdom also — TO MARRY ABISHAG, WHO WAS VIRTUALLY A CONCUBINE OF THE DECEASED KING, (see note on chap. 1 Kings 1:3,) WAS OSTENSIBLY TO INVADE THE ROYAL HAREM, AND THUS ASSUME ROYAL PREROGATIVES. So in the case of Absalom. See note on 2 Samuel 12:8; 2 Samuel 16:21. The wary Solomon detects at once the far-reaching plot of his rival brother, and at once implicates him with Joab and Abiathar in a conspiracy against his throne.
We have, indeed, no evidence that these three had entered together into such conspiracy, but it is not improbable that they had concerted with each other, and concluded if Abishag were but granted in marriage to Adonijah, the right of the latter to the kingdom would be tacitly acknowledged, and the way opened for successful rebellion.” (Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible on 1 Kings 2:22 – online source)
Pastor Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe:
“…It’s likely that she suspected another plot because she knew that possession of a KING’S WIFE or concubine was evidence of POSSESSION OF THE KINGDON. This was why Absalom had publicly taken David’s concubines (2 Sam. 16:20-23), for it was an announcement to the people that he was now king. It’s difficult to believe that the King’s mother was ignorant of this fact.
I may be in error, but I feel that she took Adonijah at his word, knowing that Solomon would use this as an opportunity to expose Adonijah’s scheme. By Having Abishag as his wife, Adonijah was claiming to be coregent with Solomon.” (The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 1 Kings: Being Good Stewards of God’s Gifts [David C. Cook, transforming lives together, First edition, 2015] by Warren W. Wiersbe, page 19)
Professor James L. Kugel:
“… On the other hand, it may have been that, when he made this request for Abishag, Adonijah had not yet given up all hope of overthrowing Solomon. In ancient Israel, as we have seen, SLEEPING WITH KING’S WIFE OR CONCUBINE WAS DE FACTO CLAIM TO THE THRONE. (That is why Absalom had earlier made a point of sleeping with his father’s ten concubines.)
If Adonijah could indeed end up with Abishag as his wife, he might at some later point claim that David himself had willed her to him – and hence that the kingship had really been promised to him. …”
(How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now[FP: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 2008] by James L. Kugel, page 500)
The evidence once again shows that King David did marry Abishag as the verses 1 Kings 2:10-25 revealed. Abishag was considered by ancients to be his last wife (or concubine). As such, for Adonijah to attempt to marry Abishag was seen as a treasonous act by his brother, Solomon, as such he was put to death.
(1) – “The story of King David, a sinner who remained beloved by God and favored by his people, has been a favorite of evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump, even during the Republican primaries.
Their reasoning is that like King David, Donald Trump has committed adultery, and like King David (or President Franklin Roosevelt, as one columnist wrote), Trump can be a great (and moral) leader even after having committed adultery.” (“The “biblical” defense of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels”, 26th March 2018, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/26/17164268/stormy-daniels-donald-trump-bible-christian )
America’s Child-Marriage Problem (NYTimes.com)
Child marriage chart reveals girls can wed at 12 in some parts of the US (Independent.co.uk)
The Age Of Consent Laws In America, 1800s (NEW)
Source Discover the Truth