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King David In His Old Age

By Elie Nessim, December 12 1998 Printer Friendly Version

Now King David was old advanced in years and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm.  Therefore his servants said to him, 'Let a young woman, a virgin, be sought for our lord, the king, and let her stand before the king and let her care for him; and let her lie in your bosom that our lord, the king, may be warm.'  So they sought for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king.  The young woman was very lovely, and she cared for the king and served him, but the king did not know her. Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself saying, 'I will be king,' and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen and fifty men to run before him.  (And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?'  He was also very good looking.  His mother had borne him after Absalom.)  Then he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they followed and helped Adonijah.  But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah.'
Our text is from 1st Kings, Chapter 1. This passage really follows close on the end of the 2nd Book of Samuel.  Here we are in the last year of David's life.  This Book contains the history of the kings of Israel and Judah; they were all twelve united under David and under Solomon, but after Solomon died, they broke up into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel which had ten tribes; the southern kingdom of Judah which had two.  This Book is the history of both kingdoms.  The main emphasis is on Israel.  The Book of Chronicles is a complementary Book, and it emphasizes the kingdom of Judah. Both accounts supplement, or complement each other, and they cover about four hundred years of Israel's history. In passing, we notice how much history there is in GOD's Word, and therefore, it must be something very important.  Prophecy, also, takes a large part of the Word of GOD.  Prophecy and history; you could say that prophecy is history in advance.  We have both of them here.

One old writer said, 'The reigns of the kings are not assessed by their political or by their military or their economic achievements.'  GOD, Who gives us this Book, is only interested in one thing: their relationship to Him and how He assesses them, not how man does.  For example at the end of this Book, we have Ahab. Ahab was an ungodly king.  There is very little good said about Ahab.  And yet we know from contemporary history, that he was well respected as a military leader.  GOD doesn't pay a second's notice as far as that is concerned.  What He is concerned with is: 'What is Ahab like?  How does he relate to GOD?  Is there any Godliness in Ahab?  Is there any trace of true piety in him?'  This is GOD's viewpoint of the kings.

Now in Chapters 1 through 4, we see that David was already old, advanced in years.  He was really only about 70, but because he had had so many conflicts, so many sufferings, he was prematurely old.  And he could not get warm; he had lost his vital heat; his 'central heating' system wasn't working any more.  And so they said, 'Well, we've got to find someone that can warm you.'  For a remedy, they tried piling on clothes on him; wrapping him up in blankets, but it didn't work.  They said, 'We need some one who's alive that can just keep very close to you;' and so they found a young woman; a living heat source.  That was crudely put, that's what they needed - a living heat source.

They found one in a young woman called Abishag.  Abishag means the father's delight.  She must have been a delight to her father.  But she was a delight to her father not only because she was a very beautiful young woman, but it's obvious from her willingness to give herself to the king, even though she was going to end up being in a childless marriage, she was willing to sacrifice her future for the sake of the king.  She came from a place called Shunem, which was near to Jezreel in the tribal territory of Issachar.  She was very fair; she was very beautiful; very lovely, but we read the 'king did not know her.' 

It seems when we look at the history of David, that after the debacle with Bathsheba, after that terrible fall, David was permanently cured of his tendency to add wives to his harem.  That's it!  That did it.  That stopped him in his tracks! And, we find, that although she lay close to him, and imparted her bodily heat to him, there were no marital relations with him. David in his old age had learned one of his most important lessons.

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