A young virgin from the town of Shunem, N of Jezreel and Mount Gilboa, in the territory of Issachar. (Jos 19:17-23) She was “beautiful in the extreme” and was chosen by David’s servants to become the nurse and companion of the king during his final days.
David was now about 70 years of age (2Sa 5:4, 5), 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.” Nevertheless, the attitude later manifested by Solomon regarding her indicates that Abishag was viewed as being in the position of wife or concubine of David. As such, by a rule in the ancient East, she would become the property of David’s heir at the time of his death.
The account concerning Abishag directly precedes the account of the attempt at gaining the crown by the one who was probably David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah, and would seem to be so placed to give understanding to Adonijah’s subsequent action during Solomon’s reign. Solomon, after ascending the throne, had placed Adonijah on conditional pardon. Now Adonijah persuaded Solomon’s mother, Bath-sheba, to ask Solomon to give him Abishag as his wife. Solomon, convinced that Adonijah’s request was not due alone to Abishag’s beauty but, rather, indicated a subtle effort to strengthen Adonijah’s claim to the throne, reacted angrily, revoked Adonijah’s pardon, and ordered his death. (1Ki 2:13-25) No further mention is made of Abishag, but it is probable that she continued as one of Solomon’s wives or concubines.