1 Kings 1:

1When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”

What about David's wives and concubines? Couldn't, e.g., Bathsheba keep David warm?

Why young virgin? Wouldn't a fat or chubby woman do a better job?

3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.

Did beauty keep David warm? Was there an ulterior motive here? Couldn't he raise the ambient temperature of his bedroom by burning more wood? Was this just David's excuse to get a beautiful young virgin to literally lie beside him? Wasn't that a sin?

  • 2
    I do not think there is a satisfactory answer to this except it was the custom of ancient eastern kings to keep harems. Further "beauty" varies with time and culture - there is nothing here to say what kind of figure Abishag had - there is a little data suggesting a slightly plimper girl was more attractive then than now.
    – Dottard
    Nov 12, 2021 at 22:10
  • I agree. In this case, I'm happily surprised by Lucien's answer :)
    – user35953
    Nov 12, 2021 at 22:21
  • 2
    Why can't a young virgin be fat or chubby? The qualities are not mutually exclusive. Also, are we still allowed to say 'fat' and 'chubby' nowadays? Nov 13, 2021 at 15:25

6 Answers 6


Was this just David's excuse to get a beautiful young virgin to literally lie beside him?

Not sure why he'd need any excuses; after all, he was an ancient autocratic king, living in a polygamist society:

Wouldn't a fat or chubby woman do a better job?

We are nowhere told whether she was tall or short, fat or skinny, brunette or fair-haired, dark-colored or light-colored, etc. Check out old(er) European paintings or artistic photographs, and notice that, up until the early twentieth century, skinniness does not appear to have been regarded as a token of beauty (especially since they lived in a time when most were underfed, so it would have been quite common; in fact, Egyptian art roughly contemporary with biblical events depicts Pharaohs with a fat belly and goiter or double chin, as a sign of wealth and health, and, arguably, [male] beauty).

What about David's wives and concubines?

By that time, they were old(er) themselves, and thus suffering from somewhat similar problems, especially given their sex. (Women, in general, are colder than males, and the situation worsens with age; my mother is a prime example).

  • 2
    +1 Perhaps by the definition of beautiful, she was chubby :)
    – user35953
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:50
  • I don't know about that analysis of Egyptian beauty. It depends on what you look at. I have a picture of the goddess Isis that looks pretty slender & buff. You can also view what the ancient Greeks (Haute Couture) saw as fashionable here: tahneyalexandramay.com/index.php/2018/04/14/…
    – Jess
    Nov 12, 2021 at 21:08
  • I think Lucian has put some good points, however when talking about the Bible it's necessary to take a bit more care with the use of the words, because it's a Holy Book. Nov 13, 2021 at 10:58

How could a beautiful young virgin keep David warm physically?

Answer: This response is not based on anything outside the Bible.

I believe this is an excellent question, one that I've personally grappled with recently with a brother in Christ.

First, it might be noted that as a man of David's age and infirmity, it would probably have been extremely gratifying and heart warming to have such a beautiful maiden literally at his side (perhaps all sides) as he struggled to be warmed.

While the argument that they could have merely stoked the fire might sound obvious, there's a deep personal connection between David and his "nurse" as described in 1 Kings 1:

1 Kings 1:1-4: "Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm. 2So his servants said to him, 'Let them seek a young virgin for my lord the king, and let her attend the king and become his nurse; and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may keep warm.' 3So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4The girl was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and served him, but the king did not cohabit with her.

Perhaps we might understand that David could not have intimate relations with an unmarried maiden — particularly in light of his grave mistake with Bathsheba.

Further, as others have mentioned, merely being a young maiden could offer great psychological benefits (warmth included) that may not have been as effective as this young woman. Undoubtedly, David looked upon this blessing for what it really was.

Second, we might understand that David was well-aware of the dangers associated with physical intercourse (1 Kgs. 1:4) with such a young woman: His desire was to be kept comfortable, and this seemed a very acceptable option to those who sought the very best for him. Otherwise, they would almost certainly have found some other suitable alternative.

Third, I think we underestimate David's propriety with this young nurse — because that is explicitly stated in Scripture. There would be no harm in King David being offered someone who might stimulate his aged form through her beauty and warmth, while at the same time offering great relief to a man that had delivered Israel from nearly all her enemies.

It seems to me perfectly acceptable that the servants sought the greatest possible solution to David's dilemma, and that was the beautiful Abishag the Shunammite.

There doesn't not appear to have been any ulterior motives on David's part, not on Abishag's other than David's well-being. He was the great leader and protector of his people, and country, Israel — someone entirely in alignment with God's wishes throughout much of his life.


Was there an ulterior motive here? Was this just David's excuse to get a beautiful young virgin to literally lie beside him?

I think there was an ulterior motive on God's part to engineer a situation like this. Behind the scenes Gods is always in control of the situation, especially when it concerns David and Israel.

The young woman who last took care of King David was beautiful and a virgin. Little did David know that this woman close to him would lead to the death of his fourth son, Adonijah. It was said he was the oldest living son and that's assumed he would be the next king. The story plays out in the rest of the chapter with Solomon anointed as the king.

Adonijah submitted to his brother Solomon asking his brother to swear that he would not put him death with a sword. Previously he had presumptuously made himself king.

52And Solomon replied, “If he is a man of character, not a single hair of his will fall to the ground. But if evil is found in him, he will die.” 1 Kings 1:52

Adonijah speaks to Solomons mother and asked her to ask her son if he could have Abishag the Shunammite for his wife.

Solomon was deeply angered At his mother for asking for such a request.

He likened this request from his own mother to give the kingdom to his brother along with his co-conspirators.

21So Bathsheba said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to your brother Adonijah as his wife.

22King Solomon answered his mother, “Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Since he is my older brother, you might as well request the kingdom for him and for Abiathar the priest and for Joab son of Zeruiah!”

if Adonijah has not made this request at the expense of his life. 24And now, as surely as the LORD lives—the One who established me, who set me on the throne of my father David, and who founded for me a dynasty as He promised—surely Adonijah shall be put to death today!” 25So King Solomon sent the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, who struck down Adonijah, and he died. 1 Kings 2:24

Evidently evil was found in the heart of his brother and he kept his word and had him killed.

The dominoes of executions followed with Joab who had followed Adonijah . 1 Kings 1:28-34

Solomon is now free to take vengeance on David's enemies and right right many wrongs. Through doing all that Solomons rule is established.

God has a purpose for everything under the sun and this is one more example of looking behind the scenes of His work in action.

God kept his word when He told David he would experience the sword within his own family. It continued through his association with another beautiful woman in his life.

Now therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ 2 Samuel 12:10

Side note: Here's the meaning of Abishag: "my father is a wanderer.

  • +1 That's a great insight. This is one reason why I'm here every day. Thanks, Sherrie :)
    – user35953
    Nov 15, 2021 at 19:03
  • Tony, I have to admit sometimes the questions presented here seem frivolous but nevertheless grab my attention. This is one of those that when you begin to look under the rock, and dig, one begins to see things that are under the surface. I appreciate you and your questions! Thanks
    – Sherrie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 20:33

Actually King David as he was an old man could have had a health problem known as hypothermia (from Ancient Greek ὑπο- (hupo-, “under”) + θέρμη (thérmē, “heat”) + Latin -ia), and is a medical condition known by a loss of heat in the body. In modern science it's caused by the exposition to coldness, and this is very possible since the King David fought a lot for Israel, and of course, many battles could have occured at night naturally.

A King has to obey the Laws of the Eternal, so to show a right and true behaviour he couldn't demonstrate any attraction by man, so, he had to choose young virgins (not concubines, as these could bring fights) (Leviticus 18:22).

If the woman was married and taken by the King, that's very well accepted according to Torah's commands (seventh commandment). And according to beauty which isn't a taboo for jewish, is that jews always choose beautiful and elegant women (as the choice of Rachel and Rivka and Sarah, and I could even say Esther, Bathesheva and others).

It's known that human body has a constant temperature (homeothermic), then it's desired to have another person whose temperature is ideal, just a human being can have this such temperature (by definition), so, it would be not the case to choose a blanket or another thing to cover. As young, these women would have a good health to ensure that this happens (guaranteed by the zeroth Law of thermodynamics).

  • We are told that David was "a man after God's own heart", indicating that God had great love for David, but God nevertheless allowed great afflictions to come upon David as a result of his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. We read of many other saints who died at an old age, but, unless I'm mistaken, none who "couldn't keep warm". Perhaps this was a judgment and a "test" by God on David, to see how David would do this time.
    – moron
    Nov 13, 2021 at 8:00
  • Yes, you've put a good point, but this can be an exception, can't it be, as you also supposed, because perhaps, just perhaps, David was the one that suffered the most with coldness? Nov 13, 2021 at 13:21
  • Yes, that could well be!
    – moron
    Nov 14, 2021 at 23:11

How could a beautiful young virgin keep David warm physically?

Other than the known heat that our body produces, Abishag's youthful appearance was to bring a measure of vigor to the aged King David.

Note the topic "Abishag" from the Insight on the Scriptures:

David was now about 70 years of age (2Sa 5:4, 5 NWT), and as a result of debilitation he had little body heat. Abishag waited on him during the day, doubtless brightening the surroundings with her youthful freshness and beauty, and at night she ‘lay in the king’s bosom’ to give him warmth, but “the king himself had no intercourse with her.” [bold mine]

An interesting point of why a virgin was chosen can be see in the following commentaries:

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

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:

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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.

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

The proposal of his servants, to restore the vital warmth which he had lost by bringing a virgin to lie with him, is recommended as an experiment by Galen (Method. medic. viii. 7). And it has been an acknowledged fact with physicians of all ages, that departing vitality may be preserved and strengthened by communicating the vital warmth of strong and youthful persons (compare Trusen, Sitten Gebruche u. Krankheiten der Hebrer, p. 257ff.).

So there was no ulterior motive but more a sound, medicinal prescription of the youthfulness of a woman to keep David comfortable in his old age.


I hope not to insult anyone by mentioning the following study, I did read before of animal experiments, arousal increasing body temperature.

Fluctuations in brain temperature during sexual interaction in male rats: an approach for evaluating neural activity underlying motivated behavior

A quick search, if I can find something about humans too...

Abdominal Temperature Changes During Male Sexual Arousal

Thermography as a physiological measure of sexual arousal in both men and women

Hot or not? Thermal reactions to social contact

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