Based on two pieces of parallel literature (the Sumerian folktale “The Old Man and the Young Woman” and the Kirta Epic), most modern interpreters have understood the Abishag Episode as a virility test that indicates David is unfit to rule. However, this article contends that this view is a misreading of the text based on a comparative method that fails to take into account important differences between 1 Kgs 1:1–4 and the parallel literature. Following Hallo’s contextual method, this article compares and contrasts these two texts with the Abishag Episode and demonstrates that the dissimilarities between the narratives make it unlikely that 1 Kgs 1:1–4 is truly about David’s sexual competence. The evidence presented here confirms that the Abishag Episode is concerned with David’s ability to rule, but the emphasis is on David’s inability to rule his kingdom effectively, which his servants attempt to address by reenergizing David with a beautiful young virgin.
The Abishag Episode: Reexamining the Role of Virility in 1 Kings 1:1–4 in Light of the Kirta Epic and the Sumerian Tale “The Old Man and the Young Woman"
Russell L. Meek; The Abishag Episode: Reexamining the Role of Virility in 1 Kings 1:1–4 in Light of the Kirta Epic and the Sumerian Tale “The Old Man and the Young Woman". Bulletin for Biblical Research 1 January 2014; 24 (1): 1–14. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/26371221
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