ABISHAG THE SHUNAMMITE


ABISHAG THE SHUNAMMITE
ABISHAG THE SHUNAMMITE (Heb. אֲבִישַג; "the (Divine) Father (?)"; meaning unknown; of shunem ), an unmarried girl who was chosen to serve as sōkhenet to King David. The term comes from a root skn, "attend to," "take care," and its noun forms can be applied to high officials in Hebrew (Is. 22:15) Abishag's role was of a lower status. She served as bed companion to David in the hope that her fresh beauty would induce some warmth in the old man (I Kings 1:1–4, 15), and as his housekeeper. The notice (1:4) that "the king knew her not" serves less to impute decrepitude to David than to inform the audience that there would be no other claimants to David's throne than Solomon and Adonijah. When Solomon became king, adonijah , whose life Solomon had spared although he knew him to be a dangerous rival, asked bath-sheba , Solomon's mother, to intercede on his behalf for permission to marry Abishag. Solomon correctly interpreted this request for the former king's concubine as a bid for the throne (See II Sam 12:8; 16:20–23), and had Adonijah killed (I Kings 2:13–25). Some see in Abishag, who is described as "very fair" (I Kings 1:4), the Shulammite of the Song of Songs (Shulammite being regarded as the same as Shunammite). -In the Aggadah The aggadah identifies Abishag as the Shunammite who gave hospitality to Elisha the prophet (PdRE 33). It relates that she was not half as beautiful as Sarah (Sanh. 39b). The fact that David did not make Abishag his legal wife is explained as due to his refusal to exceed the traditional number of wives (18) allowed to a king (Sanh. 22a, and Rashi, ibid.). Solomon's action is also vindicated on the grounds that the request made by Adonijah to be permitted to marry Abishag (I Kings 2:13 ff.) represented a true threat to Solomon's position, as it is only the king, and not a commoner, who is allowed to make use of the servants of the deceased king (Sanh. 22a). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Noth, Personennamen, index; Ginzberg, Legends, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Cogan, I Kings (AB; 2000), 156; Z. Kallai, in: Z. Talshir (ed.), Homage to Shmuel (2002), 376–81. (Elia Samuele Artom)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Abishag — f Biblical: name (possibly meaning ‘wise, educated’ in Hebrew) borne by a beautiful Shunammite virgin who was brought to the dying King David in a vain attempt to restore him to health and vigour. She was later used by David s son and successor… …   First names dictionary

  • SHULAMMITE, THE — (Heb. הַשּׁוִּלַמִּית), a feminine name or title occurring only in Song of songs 7:1 (6:13). The phonetic similarity of Shulammite to Shunammite led to the identification of the dancer of Song of Songs with abishag , the maiden from shunem , who… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • 1 Kings 2 — 1 Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, 2 I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; 3 And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to… …   The King James version of the Bible

  • 1 Kings 1 — 1 Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. 2 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 …   The King James version of the Bible

  • SARAH — (Sarai; Heb. שָׂרַי ,שָׂרָה), the first of the four matriarchs; wife of abraham . Sarah is first mentioned in Genesis 11:29. Exceptionally, her genealogy is not given. According to Genesis 20:12, Sarah was Abraham s half sister, the daughter of… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • ADONIJAH — (Heb. אֲדֹנִיָּה, אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ; YHWH is my lord ), fourth son of King David by his wife Haggith of Hebron (II Sam. 3:2 ff.; I Chron. 3:1 ff.). I Kings 1:5–6 notes that his father had not disciplined him. After the death of his brothers Amnon,… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • shunamitism — /shooˈnə mi ti zm/ noun Rejuvenation of an old man by means of a young woman ORIGIN: Abishag the Shunammite (Bible, 1 Kings 1.3) …   Useful english dictionary

  • biblical literature — Introduction       four bodies of written works: the Old Testament writings according to the Hebrew canon; intertestamental works, including the Old Testament Apocrypha; the New Testament writings; and the New Testament Apocrypha.       The Old… …   Universalium


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