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Why Abishag and Not Bathsheba?

When you read Bible stories, do you ever wonder about things? I often wonder, and one story on my "wonder list" is the account of the aged King David and his lovely young caregiver named Abishag. David already had plenty of wives, including one very beautiful stolen wife named Bathsheba. When David was struggling to stay warm (Scripture says "he got no heat"), why didn't he call for Bathsheba? I wonder...and I'm going to hazard a guess that they had grown apart over the years. I can't prove it, but it can't be conclusively denied, either. Here's the Scriptural account, to refresh your memory:

"Now kind David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat. 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 the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunamite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not." (I Kings 1:1-4)

There are some underlying lessons for wives to consider within this passage:

1. The servants wanted someone to cherish the king.
As I've noted in previous lessons, there is a common likelihood that the longer we're married, the less we may tend to "cherish" one another. This goes both ways, with husbands also taking their wives for granted, but I'm writing to wives in this article, so we're looking at our side. What does it mean to "cherish" someone?

In the Strong's Concordance, this word means "to be of use or service, profit or benefit." Webster's Dictionary also has this definition: "To treat with tenderness and affection; to give warmth, ease or comfort to." We can see from these definitions that to cherish someone is to provide gentle, attentive loving care. Would your husband say that you treat him with tenderness and affection? If not, why not? "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov. 5:18) When we're not cherishing one another, there are unresolved conflicts lurking somewhere. Counsel may be needed to get to the bottom of the problem. Length of years together should increase our love; not decrease it.

2. This person had to be easy on the eyes and the nerves.
The term "fair damsel" meant that Abishag was young and good looking, but it also meant that she was pleasant and agreeable. Abishag couldn't stay young forever, and we obviously can't, either, but anyone can be pleasant and agreeable. In fact, a pleasant person is often considered to be beautiful. Physical beauty fades like a flower, but being easy to live with is timeless and attractive in its own right. Would you want to live with someone like you? If you have become unpleasant and disagreeable, changes are in order. "Let her be as the loving hind and the pleasant roe..." (Prov. 5:19a) Cheerfully good company is something that never gets old.

3. She had to be willing to make the king her full-time job.
Abishag had no job other than taking care of the the king's needs. Scripture says that she "ministered to him," which means that she served and waited on the king. In fact, Job One was to keep the king warm by lying in his bosom. This doesn't mean that in order to be great wives we must meet our husbands at the door after work with a blankie, ready to tuck them into bed and lie on their chests to keep them warm, but we could borrow a page from Abishag by being a bit more considerate of the needs of our husbands in general. 

Let's face it; we're all busy and very few of us have only one job. Some of us resemble the plate-spinners in the circus (the ones who spin plates on sticks), running back and forth trying to keep things from crashing to the ground! The problem with this system is that over time, our marriages can begin to resemble dorm room situations, with occasional exchanges but no real interaction. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him." (Gen. 2:18) A "help meet" is "one who helps."

It's interesting to note that the Hebrew word "ezer" (which means "help meet" in Gen. 2:18) is used at other times in Scripture to describe how God helps us. So, we are to help our husbands as the Lord helps us. "But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help (ezer) and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying." (Psa. 70:5) Many men were under the impression that they were marrying a helper as well as a loving companion for life, but this is often not the case. If you are too busy for your husband, reevaluate your schedule to make the necessary adjustments.

The relationship between David and Bathsheba was illegitimate, so we can't use them as a pattern for married couples, but it's worth considering that something was missing that caused the servants to seek out an Abishag. David collected wives like trophies, and wasn't recorded as an attentive husband to any of them for any length of time, but if we only consider the wife's side, we have to wonder: Did Bathsheba become cold and less caring over time? Why did they need an "Abishag" when they already had a "Bathsheba"? In fact, why did they need Abishag when there was a Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah?

Regardless of the answer, the bigger goal is to get each of us to carefully consider where we're headed in our own marriages. Too many people have become resistant to genuinely caring for each other. The repetitive song is "What About Me?" rather than a Christ-like focus on others. Selfishness can chill or kill a relationship.

We don't want to grow apart with age. We want to remain "joined together" for life. I don't know about you, but I would prefer to remain the "heat provider" in my husband's life, 'til death do us part.

 "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)


  1. Very well said! I've been seeing here and there about "being a bit more considerate of the needs of our husbands in general." Obviously, I need reminders and God is trying to tell me something. :-) Thanks! Sometimes we ladies get so stressed out about school/work (outside and/or inside the home)/children, sickness, etc that we don't stop to think "How can I make someone smile today?" That person could be our husbands (getting up in the morning to make him some coffee or breakfast if he has to get up early for work) Or one of our friends that we haven't spoken to in awhile(maybe calling them up just to say hi and that you prayed for them this morning)

  2. Wow! This one was convicting. Trying to juggle too much lately. Re-calculating (like the GPS). Thanks for keeping us aware and challenging us to stay focused!

  3. Man, did I ever need to read this today....THANKS!

  4. Hello, Mrs. Taylor. I decided to investigate the person behind KEEP THE HEART who recently commented on my blog, and I have been really blessed in reading your thoughts and jots. You have a lot of wisdom that I really need to tap into as a young wife, mother, and missionary, so I am glad that you have this blog here. I will definitely be back to read some more!

    Also, thank you for getting me in contact with Mrs. Peggy Crowe. It is amazing how small this world is sometimes! She used to know me when I was the little girl in that picture! And what is more amazing is that I remember her too after all of these years. After the link you posted, she read that story on my blog and wrote me an e-mail. It was good to hear from her.


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