Why his servants said to 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 your bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)1 Kings 1:2. Wherefore his servants — His physicians; said, Let there be sought for the king a young virgin — Whose natural heat is fresh and wholesome, and not impaired with bearing or breeding children. The same counsel is given by Galen for the cure of some cold and dry distempers. Let her stand before the king — That is, minister unto him, or wait upon him in his sickness, as occasion requires. And let her lie in his bosom — As his wife; for that she was so, may appear by divers arguments. 1st, Otherwise this had been a wicked course; which, therefore, neither his servants would have dared to prescribe, nor would David have used, especially being now in a dying condition. 2d, It appears from this phrase of lying in his bosom, which is everywhere in Scripture mentioned as the privilege of a wife. 3d, This made Adonijah’s crime, in desiring her to wife, so heinous in Solomon’s account, because he saw, that by marrying the king’s wife, he designed to revive his pretence to the kingdom.
1Ki 1:1-4. Abishag Cherishes David in His Extreme Age.
1, 2. Now king David was old—He was in the seventieth year of his age (2Sa 5:4, 5). But the wear and tear of a military life, bodily fatigue, and mental care, had prematurely, if we may say it, exhausted the energies of David's strong constitution (1Sa 16:12). In modern Palestine and Egypt the people, owing to the heat of the climate, sleep each in a "separate" bed. They only depart from this practice for medical reasons (Ec 4:11). The expedient recommended by David's physicians is the regimen still prescribed in similar cases in the East, particularly among the Arab population, not simply to give heat, but "to cherish," as they are aware that the inhalation of young breath will give new life and vigor to the worn-out frame. The fact of the health of the young and healthier person being, as it were, stolen to support that of the more aged and sickly is well established among the medical faculty. And hence the prescription for the aged king was made in a hygienic point of view for the prolongation of his valuable life, and not merely for the comfort to be derived from the natural warmth imparted to his withered frame [Porter, Tent and Khan]. The polygamy of the age and country may account for the introduction of this practice; and it is evident that Abishag was made a concubine or secondary wife to David (see on 1Ki 2:22).His servants; his physicians.
A young virgin; whose natural heat is fresh and wholesome, and not impaired with bearing or breeding of children. The same counsel doth Galen give for the cure of some cold and dry distempers.
Let her stand before the king, i.e. minister unto him, or wait upon him, (as this phrase is oft used,) in his sickness, as occasion requires. Let her lie in thy bosom, as his wife or concubine; for that she was so may appear by divers arguments. First, Otherwise this had been a wicked counsel and course; which therefore neither his servants durst have prescribed, nor would David have used, especially being now in a dying condition. And seeing this was easily prevented by his taking her for his concubine, which then was esteemed allowable, it is absurd to think that he would not choose the safer way. Secondly, That passage, 1 Kings 1:4,
but the king knew her not, implies that the king might have had carnal knowledge of her without sin or scandal. Thirdly, it appears from this phrase of
lying in his bosom, which is every where in Scripture mentioned as the privilege of a wife and concubine, as Genesis 16:5 Deu 13:6 2 Samuel 12:8 Micah 7:5. Fourthly, This made Adonijah’s crime, in desiring her to wife, so heinous in Solomon’s account, because he wisely saw, that by marrying the king’s wife he designed to revive his pretence to the kingdom, at least in case of Solomon’s death; which pretence had been ridiculous, if she had been only the king’s handmaid. Genesis 50:2;
let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin; not only a young woman, but a virgin, that has more natural heat than women that have bore children have, which is abated thereby:
and let her stand before the king: minister to him, serve him with whatsoever he should want to eat or drink; and so by being in his presence, and taking things at her hand, she might be the more ingratiated into his affections:
and let her cherish him; as the husband the wife, so she her husband, as doubtless David was; and that by giving him cordials to cheer his spirits, and everything that was convenient for him, and particularly by lying with him. Kimchi interprets the word of her being profitable to him, in which sense the word is used, Job 22:2; that is, by warming him; Ben Gersom understands it of her being made mistress of his treasures, according to the sense of the word in Isaiah 22:15; that she might have the command of his purse, and provide anything proper for him, without being taken notice of or obstructed; but the Targum is better,
"and let her be near him,''
lie close unto him, and even in his bosom, as in the next clause:
and let her lie in his bosom; which shows that it was proposed that he should marry her, at least that she should become his concubine wife, since this phrase is descriptive of a wife, Micah 7:5; nor can it be thought his physicians would advise, or he agree to have a young woman admitted to his bed, without marriage; and if this had not been the case, it would not have answered the design of Adonijah in requesting her in marriage after his father's death, which was to make way to ascend the throne when opportunity should offer; nor would his request have been so much resented by Solomon as it was, 1 Kings 2:17;
that my lord the king may get heat: and somewhat similar to this, Galen, that great physician, prescribed in like cases (d).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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. his servants] The word, though primarily applied to those who were occupied in servile work, had come by this time to be used regularly of those who were about a royal person, and in such a position as to venture on giving him counsel. Josephus (Ant. vii. 15.3) says they were the king’s physicians. (Cf. Genesis 1:2.)
Let there be sought] Literally ‘Let them seek.’ This kind of variation is frequent in the A.V. for the sake of the English; as also the personal form of a sentence, put where the Hebrew verb is impersonal. Thus the last clause in 1 Kings 1:1 is literally ‘and it grew not warm to him.’ As such literal renderings are very often noticed on the margin, no special mention will hereafter be made of them.
a young virgin] This device, whereby it was thought to communicate vital heat from a young frame to an old one, was adopted by the advice of physicians long after David’s time. See Bacon, Hist. Vitœ et Mortis, Medicamina ad longævitatem 1 Kings 9:25.
and let her stand before the king] This phrase is used of those who serve or minister to another. Thus Deuteronomy 1:38, Joshua the minister of Moses is said to ‘stand before him.’ It seems clear from the language of Solomon (1 Kings 2:22) that Abishag was to be counted as one of the wives of David. Polygamy was not at this time confined to kings like David and Solomon, but was practised by other Israelites, as is shewn by the history of Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:2).Verse 2. - Wherefore [Heb. and] his servants [according to Josephus (Antiq. 7:14, 3), his physicians] said unto him, Let there be sought [lit. as marg., "let them seek"] for my lord the king [the singular pronoun is used as representing the servant who was spokesman for the rest] a young virgin [marg., "a damsel, a virgin." She must be young, to impart heat, and a virgin, as befitted a king. Though she was recommended as a nurse, they would naturally suppose she might be taken as a concubine] and let her stand before the king [i.e., as servant (Ver. 4). Cf. 1 Kings 12:6, 8; Genesis 41:46; Daniel 1:5; Deuteronomy 1:38 (with Joshua 1:1) 1 Kings 10:8. In the East, servants still stand and wait their masters' pleasure. Cf. 2 Kings 5:25], and let her cherish him [So also the LXX., καὶ ἔσται αὐτὸν θάλπουσα. But Gesenius, al, "be a companion to him"] and let her lie in thy [or "his," LXX. αυτοῦ, Vulg. sue] bosom [the expression is generally, but not invariably (see 1 Kings 3:20; Ruth 4:16) used de complexu venereo] that my lord the king may get heat. [This close embrace of youth was an obvious way of imparting animal heat to age ("Color a corpore juvenili ac sane maxime prodest senibus." Grotius), and was the more favoured because other and internal remedies were not then known. It is recognized by Galen, and is said to have been prescribed by a Jewish physician to the Emperor Frederick Bar-baressa (Bahr). It is stated by Roberts that it is still largely followed in the East.]
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