Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology

 

HOME
BIBLE REFERENCES
BOOK GILA
GILA’S GIFT SHOP
HOLY LAND HEADLINERS
HOLY LAND HEROINES
HOLY SITES:
GILA’S HIGHLIGHTS
SONGS & PRAISE
TIPS FOR TOURS
ABOUT GILA
CONTACT
 
 
 


"BATHSHEBA THEREFORE WENT TO KING SOLOMON TO SPEAK TO HIM...
AND HE BOWED DOWN TO HER AND SAT DOWN ON HIS THRONE AND HAD
A THRONE SET FOR THE KING'S MOTHER SO SHE SAT AT HIS RIGHT HAND"

FIRST KINGS 2
              
                        

Holy Land Heroines

Abishag, David's comfort in his last days

Who’s the winner of the Biblical Beauty Contest who first comes to mind?  It’s probably Queen Esther who was chosen by Ahasuerus, king of Persia.  However, there was another, lesser-known, biblical hunt for the most beautiful maiden in the kingdom of Israel.  This was at the end of David’s 40-year reign.
 
A lovely young maiden named Abishag was found in the village of Shunem in the Jezreel Valley and brought to the king’s palace in Jerusalem.  Abishag served as a combination nursemaid and electric blanket to the shivering, dying 70-year-old king.
 

Abishag was from Shunem in the Jezreel Valley

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Abishag was from Shunem, located in the Jezreel Valley shown below the rocks

Shunem is located at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley

Adapted from Bible Mapper by itsGila

Shunem is located at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley

At this time, David’s sons Adonijah and Solomon were jockeying to inherit David’s far-flung kingdom.  Adonijah, David’s eldest surviving son, was full of ambition and had powerful allies: Joab the Commander-in-Chief and Abiathar the Priest.
Adonijah’s rival and half-brother Solomon was supported by his mother Bathsheba and Nathan the Prophet.  With Abishag attending to David (perhaps she was taking his blood pressure – just kidding – she was more likely propping his pillows), Bathsheba entered David’s sickroom to remind him of his vow to bestow the kingdom on her son.

David's Jerusalem palace may have been supported by this stepped wall

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Abishag lived in David's Jerusalem palace above this stepped wall

Bathsheba prevailed and David ordered his servants to mount Solomon on the royal mule and anoint him at the Gihon spring by Water Gate.  “Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the Tent of Meeting and anointed Solomon.  They sounded the shofar and all the people shouted ‘Long live King Solomon!’  The people all followed him with flutes playing and loud rejoicing so that the ground shook with the sound.”  First Kings 1:39-40
When Adonijah and his faction heard the sound of rejoicing in the Kidron Valley less than a mile away, they were sore afraid.  Adonijah, terrified, raced to the Tabernacle to cling to the horns of the altar.  Solomon summoned him to the palace and spared his half-brother’s life.  But Solomon admonished him to behave wisely.

Massive 10th century BC wall discovered in the City of David

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Massive 10th century BC wall in Jerusalem:  is it the wall of David's palace?

After David died and was buried in the City of David, Solomon ascended the throne.  But Adonijah resumed his cunning attempts to challenge Solomon’s authority.  Adonijah went humbly to the Queen Mother (that is Bathsheba) and innocently requested the hand of Abishag the Shunammite in marriage.
This seemingly modest proposal drove Solomon berserk.  He shouted at his mother, “You request Abishag of Shunem for Adonijah?  You might as well request the kingdom for him too!”  Solomon proceeded to order that Adonijah be killed that very day.  And that was that.

Location of David's Jerusalem palace

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

David's palace was probably located where the tall trees are

I always wonder, though, about Bathsheba.  Whether she really could have been so clueless or in such deep denial about a known hard fact of Middle Eastern culture: that taking the wife of a dead or deposed king gave undisputed title to succession.  Or perhaps she just wanted to move Abishag out of the king’s palace.
At my first reading, I assigned Abishag a walk-on role.  But as I studied the text and read Bible commentaries, I realized that Abishag was an important catalyst in the high drama that swirled around the palace as David lay dying.  Some commentators even suggest that Abishag the Shunammite is, in fact, the luscious Shulammite starring in Solomon’s Song of Songs.  Or perhaps did power get to her head so that after David was buried, she connived to persuade Adonijah, Solomon's rival to ask for her hand?
When we drive by Shunem in the Jezreel Valley, I like to retell the tale of Abishag.  The village which is now named Sulam was first identified in the fourth century AD by Church Father Eusebius.  In his Onomasticon (subtitled “On the Place-Names in the Holy Scripture”), a kind of gazetteer identifying biblical sites, he writes that Shunem was renamed Sulam and was located five miles south of Mount Tabor.  He doesn’t mention, though, whether the village was still known for producing exquisite beauties!

Copyright 2010, 2014 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

For 50 shekels of silver, David bought Mount Moriah, the threshing floor of Araunah. Tour the Temple Mount with Gila, in the company of David and Solomon, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and the disciples, Gabriel and Mohammed.  Comes also as a downloadable  audiotour or a PDF.
Shunem is located in the eastern part of the Jezreel Valley, also known as Armageddon.  Read more about this valley where the forces of evil will be defeated by the forces of good, as prophesized in Revelation chapter 16.
 

SIGN UP for the FREE bimonthly e-letter:
"Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights"

 

More Holy Land Heroines

 

Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth

About Veronica!

Holy Land Heroines -- Mary Magdalena

Elizabeth & Mary

Veronica 

Mary Magdalene

 

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Bathsheba Victim or Victor

Pharaoh's daughter 

Bathsheba

Cleopatra

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

HOME GILA'S GIFT SHOP   HOLY LAND HEROINES  ABOUT GILA


 

Copyright © 2005-2017 Gila Yudkin. All rights reserved.
Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin