Bathsheba, Solomon, Nathan, and Abishag tend to aging David

Bathsheba, Solomon, Nathan, and Abishag tend to aging David, c. 1435. Illuminated manuscript, MMW 10 A 19, folio 33r, National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague.

1Kgs 1 relates a story that King David, now very old, never felt warm. His courtiers found a young virgin, called Abishag the Shunammite, to wait upon him and be his attendant, to lie with him and thereby warm the king. Though the text implies that neither sex nor marriage was involved, a superstition has cropped up now and then about a practice called shunamitism, in which an old man sleeps with but does not necessarily have sex with a young virgin to preserve his youth. Both Thomas Sydenham—the “English Hippocrates”—in the 17th century and Herman Boerhaave—the father of physiology—in the 18th century prescribed shunamitism for their patients.

 

Bathsheba, Solomon, Nathan, and Abishag tend to aging David

1Kgs 1

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