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1 - Royal Illness in Stories about the Early Monarchy

from Part I - The Failure of Kingship and the Demise of the Nation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2020

Isabel Cranz
University of Pennsylvania


Chapter 2 focuses on the depiction of Israel’s first kings in the Books of Samuel and 1 Kings 1–2. This chapter deals with narratives about the early days of kingship and the portrayal of kings and members of the royal court who are affected by various ailments and disabilities. The kings and members of the royal court discussed include Saul, who descends into madness; the unnamed son of David and Bathsheba; and David himself, who suffers the effects of old age later in his life. It is shown how royal illness frames David’s and Solomon’s succession to the throne and how royal illness can be framed by sinful behavior. When read against the backdrop of Israel’s and Judah’s monarchic past, the imagery of illness surrounding Saul and David engage in a larger debate about the correct form of leadership and problems inherent to kingship.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

This study about royal illness in the Bible begins with the depiction of Israel’s first kings in the Book of Samuel and in 1 Kgs 1–2. In his work on Mephibosheth, Jeremy Schipper remarks how “[t]he David Story contains some of the Bible’s most striking images of disability.”Footnote 1 While the present study is not focused on disability per se and will not deal with Mephibosheth, I will nonetheless pick up on Schipper’s observation concerning the pervasiveness of disability and illness in the stories surrounding David. I will do so by turning to kings and members of the royal court who are affected by ailments, some of which have been classified as disabilities. The kings and members of the royal court to be discussed are Saul, who descends into madness; the unnamed son of David and Bathsheba, who dies after God strikes him with an illness; and David himself, who suffers the effects of old age later in his life.Footnote 2

Even though both the Book of Samuel and the Book of Kings are considered part of the Deuteronomistic History, these books are composed of different literary strata combined by a group of Deuteronomistic redactors or editors. Furthermore, these books have also undergone some form of pre-Deuteronomistic and post-Deuteronomistic redaction. It cannot be the goal of the present study to disentangle the different levels of composition. However, it will still be necessary to point to the sources of which these illness accounts formed a part and to outline how these different accounts interact with each other once they are combined into one document. While Saul’s spirit possession belongs to the History of David’s Rise, the death of David and Bathsheba’s first son as well as David’s geriatric ailments have traditionally been considered part of Solomon’s Succession Narrative. In their most immediate contexts, we find a mixed typology – that is, incidents of royal illness frame David’s and Solomon’s succession to the throne. Simultaneously, royal illness can be framed by the sinful behavior of individual kings. Yet, only when read in conjunction with one another and against the backdrop of Israel’s and Judah’s monarchic past, does the imagery of illness surrounding Saul and David engage in a larger debate about the correct form of leadership and the problems inherent in kingship. As will be demonstrated below in Section 1.8, the descriptions of royal illness in the early days of the Israelite monarchy highlight how kingship is a perpetual source of potential manipulation and abuse.

1.1 Problems with Kingship and Royal Illness

The incidents of royal illness that occur in the accounts revolving around Saul’s reign and David’s rise to the throne are prefaced by passages that express a general skepticism toward the institution of kingship. Skepticism is voiced, for example, in the Book of Judges (Judg 8:22–23; 9) where kingship is portrayed as an oppressive and unnecessary institution that stands in opposition to divine leadership. Skepticism is also expressed later, in 1 Sam 8, when the elders approach Samuel at Ramah with their request to be governed by a king. Accordingly, we learn that the people’s request for a human king amounts to a rejection of divine leadership (1 Sam 8:7–8). The same accusation is repeated during Saul’s coronation and in Samuel’s farewell speech, where the request for a king is described as the rejection of Yahweh as king of his people (1 Sam 10:17–19; 12:12–19). Further, Yahweh instructs Samuel to warn the people that the appointment of a king would inevitably lead to the exploitation of the people, who will be forced to relinquish their possessions to support the royal court (1 Sam 8:10–18).Footnote 3 Despite these objections, God begrudgingly establishes a king over Israel, since kingship presents a necessary institution that helps the Israelites defend themselves against the Philistines and other external threats (1 Sam 8:20; cf. 9:16; 11).

In earlier scholarship, it was often assumed that 1 Sam 8 combines two separate sources, one being favorable to kingship and the other being hostile to it.Footnote 4 In more recent studies, however, scholars have been careful to point out that these passages do not denounce kingship per se. Rather, they warn about possible abuses and criticize the Israelites for placing more trust in their prospective kings than in their deity.Footnote 5 In a similar vein, scholars have moved away from simply distinguishing between an anti- and promonarchic source. Instead, efforts have been made to differentiate between different redactional layers. Most scholars assume that 1 Sam 8 combines several pre-Deuteronomistic sources and has undergone extensive Deuteronomistic editing.Footnote 6 In its current position, then, 1 Sam 8 prefaces the election of Saul and the advance of the monarchic period in Israel. Keeping in mind the skepticism expressed toward kingship in 1 Sam 8 and related passages, we can now proceed to examine instances of royal illness as they occur in the foundational stories of Israel’s first kings. As will be seen, the skeptical attitude toward kingship colors not only the subsequent history of the monarchy as described in Samuel and Kings, but also influences our understanding of royal illness.

1.2 The Rise and Fall of King Saul

The spirit possession of King Saul is the first instance of royal illness to be discussed. The instances in which Saul is brought into association with the divine spirit stem from a variety of different narrative traditions surrounding the accession of Saul, his rejection, and the eventual rise of David at the court. When and how these different traditions were combined with one another or whether they ever existed independently is subject to debate. In fact, different models exist for reconstructing the different literary traditions that lie beneath the accounts of Saul’s rise to kingship, his eventual rejection, and David’s divine election as king over Israel. For the purpose of this study, I will roughly distinguish between Saul’s rise to kingship and his rejection (1 Sam 9–15), which is coupled with David’s divine election and eventual replacement of Saul as king over Israel (1 Sam 16 – 2 Sam 5).Footnote 7 In the most immediate context of the narratives surrounding the persona of David, Saul’s divine rejection and subsequent torment by an evil spirit help to justify David’s rise to kingship. In the broader context of the narratives about the early days of the Israelite monarchy, Saul’s illness touches upon the vulnerability of human kings and the problems that arise when a ruling king suffers from an illness.

Central to Saul’s rise to kingship and his later rejection by Yahweh is the presence of a divine spirit. The divine spirit appears in passages that are considered to be favorably disposed toward Saul. Initially, Saul profits from a temporary spirit possession.Footnote 8 For example, the spirit of Yahweh is instrumental when Saul frees the besieged city of Jabesh-Gilead by defeating the Ammonite Nahash (1 Sam 11:6).Footnote 9 The importance of the divine spirit is also stressed in the prediction that Saul’s divine election will be initiated when he meets a band of prophets, after which the spirit of Yahweh will come over him, “turning him into another man” (1 Sam 10:6). As we are informed later, the spirit of Yahweh does in fact rush over Saul and causes him to engage in prophetic ecstasy (1 Sam 10:10–12).Footnote 10

The passages that describe how Saul’s initial interaction with the divine spirit enabled him to assume kingship over Israel are juxtaposed with passages that are less favorably inclined toward Saul and that lead into David’s introduction at the court and eventual rise to kingship. Over the course of several chapters (1 Sam 12–15), we learn how Saul’s kingship suffers a protracted deterioration before he is rejected by Yahweh and the spirit leaves him. Indeed, as the MT currently stands, Saul’s reign bore ominous signs of failure from the start. Thus, Saul hid at his own coronation (1 Sam 10:22–24) and was rejected by a group of scoundrels (1 Sam 10:27).Footnote 11 Tensions emerge in earnest when Saul offers sacrifices in place of Samuel (1 Sam 13:2–14), after which his dynasty is rejected.Footnote 12 Eventually, God’s frustration with Saul reaches a high point when Saul fails to kill the King of Amalek, which leads to Samuel’s declaration that “Yahweh has torn the kingship over Israel away from you and has given it to another who is better than you” (1 Sam 15:28).Footnote 13 Although scholars disagree on the origin and compositional makeup of these passages, it is generally agreed that they serve as a transition between the accounts centering on Saul and the subsequent narrative traditions that chronicle David’s rise at the court. Saul is not entirely at fault in either of the described situations, but he is still held responsible, and soon enough the spirit of Yahweh abandons Saul to settle upon David (1 Sam 16:13).Footnote 14

Abandoned by Yahweh’s spirit, Saul is now tormented by an evil spirit, also originating in Yahweh (1 Sam 16:14; 18:10; 19:9).Footnote 15 As result of this spirit possession, Saul appears to be incapacitated at first, as is indicated by the verb בעט and the fact that Saul’s disorder is intense enough for his servants to notice.Footnote 16 When Saul finds temporary relief from his ailment, it is described as רוח, “finding space” or “finding respite,” indicating that the spirit possession had a constricting effect on him.Footnote 17 Only at a later stage does the spirit cause Saul to go into a rage (18:10; 19:9). Destructive spirits are well known in other traditions we find included in the Deuteronomistic History. In Judg 9:23, 56–57, for example, an evil spirit is placed between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem such that the latter begin to act treacherously toward Abimelech. A comparable phenomenon can be observed in 1 Kgs 22:22–23, when a lying spirit implants itself in the mouth of the Israelite prophets and entices Ahab to go out to battle.Footnote 18 Yet Saul’s possession presents the first incident in which a spirit takes direct aim at an individual. Because of the extreme mood swings associated with Saul’s spirit possession, his disorder has been variously identified as a form of depression, borderline personality disorder, or generalized paranoia.Footnote 19 For our purposes, we will view Saul’s mental anguish in theological terms and resist applying a specific psychological diagnosis to it.Footnote 20 As it stands, the description of Saul’s abandonment and subsequent spirit possession suggests that an infusion of the spirit has a permanent effect, for better or for worse.Footnote 21 Before we continue discussing how Saul’s spirit possession functions within the account of David’s rise at the court, I will first turn to explore the nature of Saul’s disorder within the broader context of the ancient Near East.

1.3 Saul’s Spirit Possession in the Context of Ancient Near Eastern Incantation Literature

When it comes to Saul’s spirit possession, scholars have often noted the significance of evil as stemming from God and not from external demonic sources.Footnote 22 Nonetheless, the effects of the evil spirit, which is alternately referred to as the “evil spirit of Yahweh” and the “evil spirit of God,” provide it with a demonic quality.Footnote 23 Thus, although the spirit comes from (מאת) Yahweh/God, it is not the spirit of Yahweh/God encountered in Saul’s election (1 Sam 10:6, 10). The fact that this spirit comes from Yahweh/God without being the spirit of Yahweh/God gives it a certain degree of autonomy and moves it closer in essence to demonic entities such as the utukku (lit. “ghost”) or rabiṣu (lit. “lurker”) known from ancient Near Eastern sources.Footnote 24

Like Saul’s evil spirit, these demonic entities victimize individuals who have lost divine protection after falling into disfavor with their gods.Footnote 25 The divine anger caused by various transgressions is well illustrated in the opening of the third tablet of the canonical Utukkū Lemnūtu incantation series, which enumerates various contaminations and sins that expose individuals to demonic entities. The unassuming victim of the demonic attack is depicted as one who is sought out, “since there was [already] an evil oath in his body … since a bad fate was [already] in his body … since an evil curse was [already] in his body … since the venom of iniquity was already upon him.” Given this person’s predisposition toward evil, a host of demons are then described as heading “straight for that man on the high street.”Footnote 26 A similar demonic attack is documented in the Assyro-Babylonian incantation Šurpu, where a group of demonic spirits rushes toward an individual who has been abandoned by his god and, as a consequence, has become subject to divine wrath.Footnote 27 In this incantation series, we learn how demons “rush to the place where the god [has turned his] wrath [and] cast a silence [of] dejection. They have encountered the man from whom his god had withdrawn and covered him like a cloak.”Footnote 28 In the continuation of the incantation, the victim of the demonic attack is described as covered in disease and as suffering from cough and other ailments until “he roams around day and night [and] wails bitterly.”Footnote 29

The conceptual proximity between the spirit that is tormenting Saul and demonic entities is also evident in descriptions of the Mesopotamian lurking demon known as the rābiṣu. Similar to God’s evil spirit, the rābiṣu and other demonic entities originate from a higher power and move onto, into, and around their victims.Footnote 30 In an Old Babylonian prayer, for example, we encounter the notion that the rābiṣu is somehow attached to his victim, but can be removed: “May the evil maškim (rābiṣu) placed at (my) side be ripped off, may he flee from my body.”Footnote 31 The mobility of the rābiṣu and a host of other demons is also encountered in the seventh tablet of Utukkū Lemnūtu, where the exorcist demands that the rābiṣu (together with utukku, alu, eṭemmu, gallu, and ilu) shall cease to lurk in dark corners or encircle and surround the supplicant.Footnote 32 Saul’s spirit behaves in comparable ways. When talking to Saul in 1 Sam 16:15, for example, his servants describe the spirit as “being over you” (בהיות עליך), and, likewise, when the spirit departs in 1 Sam 16:23, it departs “from upon him” (מעליו סרה). Finally, in 1 Sam 18:10, the spirit is also described as rushing toward (אל) Saul.Footnote 33 In sum, Saul’s rejection as king is coupled with his mental deterioration, which is attributed to an evil spirit that, in many ways, calls to mind demonic possession as described in ancient Near Eastern sources. In this sense, then, Saul’s demise as it is described in David’s rise to kingship is in alignment with general ancient Near Eastern conceptions regarding evil spirits and demonic possession.

1.4 Saul’s Madness As Apology and Critique of Kingship

Having examined how Saul’s struggle with an evil spirit corresponds to general ancient Near Eastern conceptions of demonic possession, we are now in a good position to evaluate how Saul’s disorder functions within the immediate context of David’s rise at the court. For one, it is widely acknowledged that Saul’s rejection and disqualification for kingship allows for the introduction of David into the royal court and paves the way for his rise to power. In addition, Saul’s disorder raises an important question, namely, how to deal with a king who is no longer able to exercise his kingship on account of a mental illness.Footnote 34

When the evil spirit makes its first appearance (1 Sam 16:14), Saul’s servants suggest that he may find relief by hiring a musician who can soothe the king whenever he is troubled.Footnote 35 The advice of the servants eventually leads to the introduction of David, who is hired to play the lyre for Saul.Footnote 36 At first, this type of treatment proves to be effective. Saul finds comfort in the music, and the evil spirit temporarily departs from Saul, just as Yahweh’s good spirit had departed earlier in the account (1 Sam 16:23).Footnote 37 Unfortunately, as we see in the continuation of the story, music does not always have the intended effect. As the MT stands, Saul attempts to kill David twice during fits of rage caused by the evil spirit (1 Sam 18:10; 19:9).Footnote 38 During these two assassination attempts, David appears as the opposite of Saul. God is with him (1 Sam 18:12, 14, 28), while Saul has been rejected and abandoned by the divine spirit (1 Sam 15:26; 16:14). The imbalance in divine support does not go unnoticed by Saul, creating the impression that the onrush of the evil spirit is caused by Saul’s jealousy over David’s successes.Footnote 39 After Saul’s second assassination attempt, David flees the court. From that point onward, David and Saul appear as antagonists up until the death of Saul and his sons during the battle at Gilboa.

It is clear that Saul’s spirit possession plays an important role in David’s apology.Footnote 40 Saul’s mental instability disqualifies him from being king and lets David appear capable where Saul is lacking.Footnote 41 To a certain degree, his mental disorder also exonerates Saul and allows David to show greater mercy toward him and his dynasty.Footnote 42 One aspect that has received less attention, however, is the fact that Saul’s illness also illustrates the inherent dangers of human kingship. Saul’s rejection does not lead to his immediate deposal, and the remainder of his reign is characterized by his tyranny against David (1 Sam 20; 22; 23:19–29; 24:1–2; 26). All the while, the act of anointing has left a permanent mark on Saul and has made him sacrosanct, even after his rejection by Yahweh. The inviolability of Saul’s body through his status as “anointed of Yahweh” is emphasized on three separate occasions.Footnote 43 In one incident, David and Abishai secretly enter Saul’s camp, but when they find Saul asleep David refuses to kill him, asking: “Who will send forth the hand against the anointed of Yahweh and be guiltless?” (1 Sam 26:9). A similar reluctance to compromise the well-being of the king appears to be a doublet to 1 Sam 26:9 and takes place in a cave in the wilderness of En Gedi. While Saul relieves himself, David has the opportunity to kill the king, but refuses to do so because “he is anointed by Yahweh” (1 Sam 24:6, 10).Footnote 44 The final occasion for voicing the inviolability of “Yahweh’s anointed” occurs when David is informed of Saul’s death and proceeds to execute the individual who declares himself responsible for the killing (2 Sam 1:16). All three instances use the term שחט for the act of killing the anointed of Yahweh. According to P. Kyle McCarter, this verb carries the connotation of “spoliation,” “ruination,” or “corruption” and, as such, it hints at the elevated status of Saul as Yahweh’s anointed.Footnote 45 On the surface, these incidents function as part of David’s apology, since they stress his innocence concerning Saul’s demise and death.Footnote 46 Simultaneously, these accounts exemplify how the king takes on an elevated status that protects him no matter how erratic and unqualified he may be.

In sum, juxtaposing Saul’s mental illness with his sacrosanct status as anointed of Yahweh illustrates a problem that can arise with human kingship. Contrary to Yahweh, whose kingship is eternal, humans are always in danger of dying or falling ill. In this sense, the situation created by Saul’s illness reminds the reader of the inherent dangers of kingship, suggesting that the latter should be viewed as a provisional concession from God to his people rather than as a permanent institution.

1.5 Royal Illness during the Reign of David and Solomon’s Succession

The next instances of royal illnesses to be examined include the illness and death of David and Bathsheba’s first son (2 Sam 12) as well as the geriatric ailments that plagued David toward the end of his life (1 Kgs 1:1–4). Although these passages have traditionally been considered part of Solomon’s Succession Narrative, it is noteworthy that the unity and even existence of this narrative have been doubted, which has implications for the passages containing instances of royal illness. In his 1926 monograph Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids, Leonhard Rost formulated the theory that 2 Sam 9–20 and 1 Kgs 1–2 are a stylistically and thematically unified literary composition focused on presenting Solomon as the only possible successor to David.Footnote 47 Rost’s theory influenced much of the scholarship of the mid-twentieth century.Footnote 48 However, for the past four decades the assumed unity of 2 Sam 9–20 and 1 Kgs 1–2 has been called into question, and scholars have begun raising doubts about the function, date, and boundaries of the Succession Narrative as defined by Rost. Particularly influential in this respect is the work of James W. Flanagan. Noticing that much of 2 Sam 9–20 was in fact concerned with the legitimation of David’s reign rather than with the succession of Solomon, Flanagan argued for differentiating between the passages dealing with Solomon’s succession, which he called the Succession Document (2 Sam 10–12Footnote 49 and 1 Kgs 1–2), and the remainder of 1 Sam 9–20, which he considered part of a Court History.Footnote 50 Lately, it has also been questioned whether 2 Sam 11–12:25 and 1 Kgs 1–2 stem from the same source. Although 2 Sam 11–12:25 reports the circumstances leading up to the birth of Solomon, his birth and naming appear more as an afterthought and are not central to the plot. Furthermore, the portrayal and behavior of the prophet Nathan and David’s later wife Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11–12 and 1 Kgs 1–2 are quite different. While Bathsheba is silent and passive in 2 Sam 11–12, she is outspoken and active in securing the throne for her son in 1 Kgs 1–2. Similarly, Nathan appears as a confrontational accuser of David in 2 Sam 12:1–25, which contrasts with 1 Kgs 1–2, where he appears as a scheming co-conspirator who is mostly interested in securing his own place at the court. Finally, 1 Kgs 1–2 does not take recourse to 2 Sam 11–12:25 such that the latter may have easily existed without the former.Footnote 51 These factors suggest that 2 Sam 11–12 and 1 Kgs 1–2 were composed by two different authors and that 2 Sam 11–12:25 was a later interpolation to the text.Footnote 52 Hence, in all likelihood the account about the illness of David and Bathsheba’s firstborn and the report of David’s geriatric ailments stem from distinct sources.

1.6 The Illness and Death of David and Bathsheba’s Firstborn

The illness and death of David’s and Bathsheba’s son is the first incident of royal illness that occurs once David has established himself as king. Following David’s (possibly forced) encounter with Bathsheba, her pregnancy, and the violent death of her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11:1–25), the prophet Nathan confronts David concerning his crimes and attempted cover-up. Nathan presents a parable about a poor man whose single ewe lamb, whom he loved deeply, is appropriated and slaughtered by a rich man who was entertaining guests. Upon hearing this parable, David is angered and declares that the individual who has done this is a “man of death,” בן מות , and will have to repay the poor man fourfold (2 Sam 12:1–6).Footnote 53 It is at this point that the prophet responds with a curt “you are that man,” leading David to comprehend that his behavior is unacceptable. According to Nathan, David will be forgiven, despite the fact that he has scorned Yahweh. Nonetheless, there will be consequences. First, the prophet declares that the remainder of David’s reign will be beset by violence (the sword will forever be over your house). Second, while David has sinned in secret by dishonoring Bathsheba, David’s wives will be dishonored publicly (2 Sam 12:10–13). Finally, in 2 Sam 12:14b, Nathan states that the son David has fathered with Bathsheba “will die” (מות ימות). And indeed, in the next verse we learn that “Yahweh smote the boy that Uriah’s wife had born to David and he became seriously ill” (ויגף יהוה את־הילד אשר ילדה אשת־אוריה לדוד ויאנש). David in the meantime fasts and prostrates himself before Yahweh, since he knew that the illness was the result of divine retribution (vv. 16–17). Yet, on the seventh day the child dies. Following the death of the child, David proceeds to get up, wash, and anoint himself, and then goes to the house of Yahweh and ends his fast – much to the consternation of his servants, who are apparently unaware of the circumstances surrounding the illness of the child (vv.17–23).Footnote 54 Verse 24 eventually informs us that David impregnates Bathsheba again and that she “gave birth to a son, she called him Solomon and Yahweh loved him.”

This episode frames royal illness by explaining it as the result of David’s sin and as sign of divine displeasure. Simultaneously, it also serves as one of the factors in atoning for David’s sinful behavior. We have already established that this account did not belong to Solomon’s Succession Narrative. What remains to be established is whether the core of this account should be considered part of the Prophetic Record or whether it should be considered a post-Deuteronomistic interpolation.Footnote 55 The negative portrayal of David is compatible with both options.Footnote 56 And still, the appearance of Deuteronomistic language in 2 Sam 11:27b and 2 Sam 12:9–12, respectively, suggests that the basic text of 2 Sam 11–12 belonged to the Prophetic Record, which has undergone a Deuteronomistic redaction.Footnote 57 Equally important for our purposes is that the report about the illness and death of the child contains several lexicographic and ideological features that suggest that 2 Sam 11–12 also underwent a post-Deuteronomistic redaction, during which 2 Sam 12:14–25* was added as an interpolation.Footnote 58 Thus, David’s repentance and self-abasement call to mind Chronistic conceptions of retribution. A later dating for this section is further underscored by the fact that David prays at the “House of Yahweh,” which did not exist during his time. Finally, several terms are particularly pervasive in later traditions as, for instance, the usage of the verb נגף to describe the smiting of an individual, which is something we encounter particularly in Chronistic sources (2 Chr 13:20; 21:18).Footnote 59 In light of these factors, it is likely that the account about the illness and death of the child was added retrospectively. The later addition of this passage, in turn, leads to a complex interplay of different themes related to leadership vis-à-vis the problem of guilt and personal responsibility.

Adding the account of the illness and death of the firstborn has several implications for David’s reign, the succession of Solomon, and the institution of kingship. The illness and death of the firstborn is advantageous both for David and for Solomon. Solomon can be cleared of the accusation of being either the offspring of an adulterous relationship, or the biological son of Uriah.Footnote 60 In addition, it allows for David to appear in a somewhat more positive light. The death of the child presents an appropriate substitute for Uriah’s life, and, as such, David’s sin has been properly atoned for. Likewise, the seven days of illness allow for David to showcase his devotion to and his trust in God.Footnote 61 However, when viewed against the backdrop of the Prophetic Record and within the broader context of the David Story, this episode clearly has ominous undertones. For one, the death of the child is the first in a series of crises during David’s reign. These crises include the rape of Tamar, the murder of Amnon, and the revolt of Abshalom. Furthermore, 2 Sam 11–12 revolves around the theme of “taking,” which thematically links back to 1 Sam 8, where the king is featured as “the taker par excellence.”Footnote 62 Against this background, the illness of the child delivers yet further proof of the contention that the institution of kingship is set to promote abuse, since the accountability of kings is limited and others are made to suffer for their mistakes. Ironically, then, the illness and death of the child function both as a temporary solution by atoning for David’s sin and as a symptom for a corruptible system by pointing to the fact that others pay the price for the king’s questionable behavior.

1.7 David’s Physical Condition in 1 Kgs 1:1–4

The next incident of royal illness belongs to the Succession Narrative proper and focuses on David himself. The Book of Kings begins with the observation that David had grown old, which was signified by the fact that the king was unable to keep warm no matter how many blankets were covering him.Footnote 63 Because of the declining health of their master, David’s servants decide to find a young virgin to serve the king by lying in his lap and warming him.Footnote 64 The servants’ suggestion is described similarly to that of Saul’s servants when he is tormented by the evil spirit (1 Sam 16:16): the servants turn to the suffering king (ויאמרו עבדיו) with the advice to seek (בקש) external help.Footnote 65 For Saul, this help came in the form of a handsome young man. David, in turn, will be supported by a beautiful young woman. After a nationwide search, the Shunammite Abishag is chosen as David’s concubine.Footnote 66 Even though Abishag is exceedingly beautiful, the account makes it clear that the marriage between her and David is never consummated.Footnote 67 The virgin serves the king dutifully by lying in bed with him, but it is still explicitly noted that David “did not know her” – the king is impotent.Footnote 68 David’s impotence is significant because it signals a general lack of virility and control over his own body. In a broader sense, it implies that David is no longer able to rule.Footnote 69

Modern commentators have often speculated that the liaison between David and Abishag is some form of virility test.Footnote 70 However, in the context of the succession story, it is more probable that the introduction of Abishag was part of a general attempt to underscore the advanced age of David, which makes the question of succession all the more pressing.Footnote 71 Although it is unlikely that David’s marriage to Abishag was a test of his virility, it is noteworthy that male sexual performance is a documented topic of concern in ancient Near Eastern literature. An Egyptian text from the Middle Kingdom provides a recipe for a poultice that is to be applied as a bandage, without explaining exactly where this bandage is supposed to be placed.Footnote 72 The repeated reference to “the rod” in a Ugaritic incantation (RIH 78/20 = KTU 1.169) may address the issue of erectile dysfunction.Footnote 73 The most numerous references to fears about male sexual performance and treatments of impotence in the ancient Near East can be found in Middle Babylonian incantations referred to as šazigas. The texts prescribe treatments for enhancing erections, which include applying prepared oils, performing the ritual binding of knots, and drinking potions.Footnote 74 In light of the textual sources, it becomes clear that the problem of erectile dysfunction was taken seriously in the ancient Near East. David’s inability (or perhaps disinterest) “to know” the attractive Abishag not only gives testimony to a widespread concern with maintaining and enhancing sexual performance in men, but also signals that the time had come to designate a successor.

1.8 David’s Declining Health and Solomon’s Apology

By clarifying from the start that the king was bedbound, impotent, and in need of constant care, the account of David’s old age vilifies Adonijah and allows for Solomon’s succession to appear as the result of an artfully executed court intrigue.Footnote 75 While the present study does not seek to decide whether 1 Kgs 1–2 is an apology – a form of scribal subversion or the result of an anti-Solomonic, anti–Davidic, or even antimonarchic redaction – the characterization of David as an old, sick man plays a key role in creating tensions and adding an ambiguous tone to David’s conduct and Solomon’s rise to kingship.Footnote 76 Therefore, it is important to clarify the compositional makeup of 1 Kgs 1–2 and the role of 1 Kgs 1:1–4.

The account of 1 Kgs 1–2 is commonly considered a part of Solomon’s Succession Narrative that has undergone extensive Deuteronomistic editing.Footnote 77 This is apparent, for example, in the repeated reference to David’s throne in 1 Kgs 1:25, 48.Footnote 78 Likewise, 1 Kgs 2:3–4 contains Deuteronomistic vocabulary and 1 Kgs 2:27 harkens back to other Deuteronomistic passages.Footnote 79 Some scholars assume that all of 1 Kgs 1–2 is a Deuteronomistic composition.Footnote 80 Yet not all passages display Deuteronomistic vocabulary or themes, and consequently it has been argued that large parts of 1 Kgs 1–2, including 1 Kgs 1:1–4, should be considered secondary, post-Deuteronomistic additions to the text.Footnote 81 Despite these objections, 1 Kgs 1:1–4 forms an integral part of the subsequent plot of Solomon’s succession and the murder of potential opponents, making it unlikely that these verses were added later.Footnote 82

As we have seen above in Section 1.7, David’s health problems call into question his ability to rule while reinforcing the need to designate a successor. The urgency in this matter is voiced in 1 Kgs 1–2 with the repeated question of who should follow David on the throne. This question is paired with the reassurance that this successor should be Solomon (1 Kgs 1:30, 35, 48).Footnote 83 In some respects, David’s decrepitude is instrumental in promoting Solomon’s bid for kingship by amplifying Adonijah’s negative appearance in 1 Kgs 1:5–10. In this passage, Adonijah, who is introduced as the eldest remaining son after the death of Amnon and Abshalom, acts as if kingship had already been given to him.Footnote 84 In 1 Kgs 1:5, Adonijah declares “I will be king” and acquires a chariot, horsemen, and fifty men running before him. We also learn that Adonijah was backed by the commander Joab and the priest Abiathar, but not by Benaiah, Shimi, Rei, the priest Zadok, and the mighty men of David (1 Kgs 1:7–8).Footnote 85 Despite the fact that Adonijah has prominent supporters, the description of Adonijah is clearly unfavorable and calls to mind the rebellion of Abshalom. Like Abshalom (2 Sam 15:1), Adonijah provides himself with chariots and horses (1 Kgs 1:5), which in his case also seem to present a militaristic force.Footnote 86 Both Adonijah and Abshalom are described as good-looking (1 Kgs 1:6b; 2 Sam 14:25), and the two are connected in 1 Kgs 1:6bβ, where we learn that Adonijah was born after Abshalom.Footnote 87 Against the background of David’s failing health, Adonijah not only appears to anticipate his father’s death in presenting himself as the heir to the throne, but he also seems to take advantage of his father’s incapacitation by mobilizing a military force around himself.Footnote 88 This passage contains an indirect criticism of David, who never rebukes Adonijah, and suggests that the latter tended to present himself as heir to the throne even before David became bedridden.Footnote 89 Furthermore, it is clear that David has failed to designate a successor and has therefore opened the court to manipulation.

The legacy of Abshalom and David’s failing health are taken up again with Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag, who was introduced because of David’s age-related disorders (1 Kgs 2:13–25). David has never had sexual relations with her, making her status at court ambiguous and forming the basis for Adonijah’s proposal.Footnote 90 This request moves Adonijah even closer to the memory of his older brother, Abshalom, who also took his father’s wives for himself after he had usurped the throne (2 Sam 16:21–22). As such, Adonijah’s request provides Solomon with a welcomed justification to execute his brother and rival.Footnote 91 On the whole, 1 Kgs 1:1–4 allows for the vilification of Adonijah on two levels. First, juxtaposing the description of the ailing king with the pretentious behavior of Adonijah creates a characterization of the latter as callous in anticipating his father’s death. Second, David’s ill health necessitates the introduction of Abishag, who is later used as a pretense for Adonijah’s execution.

1 Kgs 1:1–4 not only serves to cast aspersions on Adonijah’s behavior. The fact that David is bedridden throughout 1 Kgs 1–2 makes Nathan and Bathsheba’s plot of bringing Solomon to the throne somewhat questionable. Since David was unable to leave his bed, Nathan and Bathsheba may easily have exaggerated the facts by stating that Adonijah had already ascended the throne, even though the latter had simply celebrated a feast in anticipation of his coronation (1 Kgs 1:11–14).Footnote 92 The impression that Nathan and Bathsheba are taking advantage of David’s decrepitude is upheld in the continuation of the narrative, when they insist that David had sworn an oath regarding the succession of Solomon (1 Kgs 1:12–13, 17, 24, 29–30). While it is possible that David did make such an oath in an episode that is unknown to us, the narrative gives the impression that Nathan and Bathsheba deliberately manipulate a senile old man.Footnote 93 Moreover, 1 Kgs 1:15 reminds the reader that David’s (alleged) oath is to be understood against the background of his declining health.

Multiple reasons exist for prefacing the account of Solomon’s succession with the image of David’s physical decline. For one, against the background of David’s physical deterioration, Adonijah appears as a usurper similar to his deceased older brother Abshalom. Simultaneously, David’s mental deterioration allows for Solomon’s accession to appear as a carefully orchestrated intrigue that is staged by his mother Bathsheba and the court prophet Nathan. Whether one views the ambiguous nature of Solomon’s succession as the result of a redactional process or as part of an apology, none of the characters involved appear in a particularly favorable light.

1.9 The Motif of the Aging King and Problems with Kingship

So far, we have seen how David’s decrepitude fulfills several goals in Solomon’s Succession Narrative. It casts aspersions on David, who has failed to appoint a successor, and it emphasizes Adonijah’s callousness in assuming that he will be king. Nathan and Bathsheba appear to manipulate a senile old man into remembering an oath he may or may not have sworn. In contrast to Saul, David has not lost Yahweh’s favor, and yet he still suffers mental and physical decline in his old age. This is all the more surprising because divine favor is often illustrated by a graceful process of aging, both in the Bible and in other ancient Near Eastern documents. For instance, the seventh-century Aramaic inscription of the priest Agbar declares: “On the day I died, my mouth was not closed to words, and with my eyes, what do I see? Children of the fourth generation, who wept before me, being distraught.”Footnote 94 Comparable good health is reported by Adad-Guppi, the priestess of Sin and mother of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus, who states: “Well-chosen are my words, meat and drink agree with me, my flesh is goodly, glad is my heart.”Footnote 95 Just like the priest Agbar, Adad-Guppi also claims to have seen her grandchildren up to the fourth generation.

The tendency of sparing divinely elected individuals the effects of aging can also be observed in the Pentateuch. Deut 34:7 describes how the strength of Moses was not diminished, even in his old age.Footnote 96 The virility of Moses finds expression in the statement that at 120 years old “his eye was not dim, nor his strength diminished” (לא־כהתה עינו ולא־נס לחה). The term לח stems from the term לחח, which can be translated as “vital force” or “freshness”; it is often considered a euphemism for sexual virility.Footnote 97 Alternatively, the expression לחה לא נס may convey that Moses had not become wrinkled, if לחה relates to the moisture of Moses’s skin.Footnote 98 On either understanding, the underlying claim is the same: Moses was not subject to the typical physical effects of aging. This fact places him in a heroic, almost superhuman category.Footnote 99 The same cannot be said of King David, who is beset by the common ailments of old age, including a marked disinterest in sex. In this light, we can view the narrative of David’s decline as a subtle critique of human kingship and an expression of God’s indifference toward this office.Footnote 100 This, too, is not unprecedented in the ancient Near East. The Ugaritic Kirta Epic addresses similar matters by implying that an inherent contradiction exists between the divine origin of kingship and the mortality of the human king.Footnote 101 The contradiction is voiced with particular clarity when Kirta’s son states that his father cannot possibly die like a mortal, since as king he is an offspring of a deity.Footnote 102 This statement about the king’s mortality is repeated three times in the epic before the situation is resolved by the healing of Kirta. What sets David’s predicament apart from Kirta’s situation is that the depiction of David’s frailty not only remains unresolved, but also constitutes the beginning of a much broader story of royal history. Highlighting that even King David was not immune to physical and mental decline makes clear from the start that kings were only human and did not enjoy any particular divine favor. The depiction of David in 1 Kgs 1:1–4, therefore, plays into the larger theme of critiquing the concept of human kingship.

1.10 Conclusion

This chapter has highlighted how the subject of royal illness emerges in the various literary strata found in the Books of Samuel and Kings ranging from the earliest pre-Deuteronomistic sources to later post-Deuteronomistic interpolations. Because of the diversity of the source material, we encounter a mixed typology of illness as a frame and the framing of illness. Illness figures as a frame for David’s rise at the court and for orchestrating Solomon’s succession. The illness and death of Bathsheba’s firstborn, in turn, is framed by David’s sin. In all three instances, illness appears to be working to the advantage of the protagonists. Thanks to Saul’s spirit possession, David is presented as a more capable candidate for kingship and as a victim of Saul’s uncontrolled temper. The death of the child provides David with an opportunity to highlight his devotion to God. David’s health problems demonstrate why Adonijah was unfit for kingship and create circumstances favorable for bringing Solomon onto the throne. However, when viewed within the larger narrative context of Samuel-Kings, these accounts are also used as a frame for the various problems that can arise with the institution of kingship. Saul’s mental illness exemplifies how a king who is no longer able to rule remains inviolable, given his status as “anointed of Yahweh.” David and Bathsheba’s firstborn is struck with an illness and dies because of David’s unrestrained sexual appetite, which leads him to murder Uriah. Finally, David’s deteriorating health signals that kings are not immune to old age and do not enjoy any particular divine favors when it comes to graceful aging. Furthermore, David’s failure to appoint a successor leads to chaos and infighting at the court, leaving a long line of fatalities in the wake of Solomon’s succession. Thus, it appears that the accounts about the early monarchy utilize the motif of royal illness to frame a larger debate about the concept of kingship, which invariably leads to manipulation and abuse. The tone is now set for the reconstruction of a past that will end with the destruction of Israel and Judah, and the demise of the Davidic Dynasty.


1 See Jeremy Schipper, Disability Studies and the Hebrew Bible: Figuring Mephibosheth in the David Story (LHBOTS 441; London: T & T Clark, 2006), 3.

2 Additional instances that touch upon the subject of illness or disability include Mephibosheth’s inability to walk, mentioned in 2 Sam 9; David’s feigning of insanity to escape the Philistines in 1 Sam 21:12–15; Amnon’s simulation of illness to lure his sister into his bedchamber (2 Sam 13:5); and the plague that struck the people after David’s census in 2 Sam 24:1–17. However, since these instances are either simulated or do not affect the ruling king or his closest family members, they will not be discussed in this study.

3 Scholars are divided as to the origin of the list of royal abuses. Some believe that this list goes back to the abuses of Israelite and Judahite kings. See Ronald E. Clements, “The Deuteronomistic Interpretation of the Founding of the Monarchy in 1 Sam. VIII,” VT 24.4 (1974): 408–409; and P. Kyle McCarter, I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes & Commentary (AB 8; Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1980), 162. Others posit that 1 Sam 8:11–18 goes back to kingship as it was practiced during the Late Bronze Age. See, for instance, John Day, “The Canaanite Inheritance of the Israelite Monarchy,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East, ed. John Day (JSOTSup 270; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 86–90. As of late, it is increasingly argued that the list of royal abuses was inspired by Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian customs and sources. See Mark Leuchter, “A King like All the Nations: The Composition of 1 Sam 8:11–18,” ZAW 117 (2007): 543–558; and Jonathan Kaplan, “1 Sam 8:11–18 as ‘A Mirror for Princes,’” JBL 131.4 (2012): 625–642.

4 See Julius Wellhausen, Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bücher des Alten Testaments, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Reimer, 1889), 245–246.

5 Steven L. McKenzie has demonstrated that 1 Sam 8 criticizes the Israelites for placing more trust in their prospective kings than in their deity. See Steven L. McKenzie, “The Trouble with Kingship,” in Israel Constructs Its History: Deuteronomistic History in Recent Research, ed. Albert de Pury, Thomas C. Römer, and Jean-Daniel Macchi (London: Bloomsbury, 2000), 303. In a similar vein, Christophe Nihan argues that a more negative view about kingship is created by the later addition of 1 Sam 8:7b–9a, in which human kingship is considered as the rejection of Yahweh’s kingship. Overall, the addition of 1 Sam 8:7b–9a seeks to desacralize kingship rather than reject it outright. See Christophe Nihan, “1 Samuel 8 and 12 and the Deuteronomistic Edition of Samuel,” in Is Samuel among the Deuteronomists? Current Views on the Place of Samuel in a Deuteronomistic History, ed. Cynthia Edenburg and Juha Pakkala (AIL 16; Atlanta: SBL, 2013), 242–248; and Christophe Nihan, “Rewriting Kingship in Samuel: 1 Samuel 8 and 12 and the Law of the King (Deuteronomy 17),” HeBAI 1 (2013): 339–346.

6 Bruce C. Birch suspects a pre-Deuteronomistic source specifically behind 1 Sam 8:1–7. See Bruce C. Birch, The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy: Growth and Development of I Samuel 715 (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1976), 26–27. Likewise, 1 Sam 8:11–17 has often been attributed to an earlier source. See Frank Crüsemann, Der Widerstand gegen das Königtum: Die antiköniglichen Texte des Alten Testamentes und der Kampf um den frühen israelitischen Staat (WMANT 49; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1978), 60–63; and Timo Veijola, Das Königtum in der Beurteilung der deuteronomistischen Historiographie: Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (AASF 198; Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1975), 60–66. Other scholars view all of 1 Sam 8 as a product of a pre-Deuteronomistic Prophetic Record. See, for instance, McCarter, I Samuel, 16–20, 159–162. Steven L. McKenzie, by contrast, argues that all of 1 Sam 8 is a Deuteronomistic composition. See McKenzie, “Kingship,” 301–304. As of late, Christophe Nihan has singled out vv. 7b–9a as a post-Deuteronomistic interpolation. See Nihan, “1 Samuel 8 and 12,” 242–248. Nevertheless, some scholars have also argued that 1 Sam 8 contains no Deuteronomistic elements whatsoever. See Hans Jochen Boecker, Die Beurteilung der Anfänge des Königtums in den deuteronomistischen Abschnitten des 1. Samuelbuches: Ein Beitrag zum Problem des “Deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerks” (WMANT 31; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner Verlag, 1969), 10–35, 64–88; and Baruch Halpern, The Constitution of the Monarchy in Israel (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1981), 154, 343 Footnote n. 42.

7 The different literary traditions that make up Saul’s rise to kingship, reign, and later rejection are discussed, for example, by Marsha White, “‘The History of Saul’s Rise’: Saulide State Propaganda in 1 Samuel 1–14,” in “A Wise and Discerning Mind”: Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long, ed. Saul M. Olyan and Robert C. Culley (BJS 325; Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2000), 271–292; and Jeremy Hutton, The Transjordanian Palimpsest: The Overwritten Texts of Personal Exile and Transformation in the Deuteronomistic History (BZAW 396; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009), 289–363. Similarly, different models for reconstructing the literary blocks surrounding David’s rise to kingship exist. On the one hand, it is possible that the accounts chronicling David’s rise to kingship consisted of several loose traditions that were combined with one another. In previous research, scholars had assumed that David’s rise to kingship comprised one literary unit. See Jakob H. Groenbaeck, Die Geschichte vom Aufstieg Davids: (1. Sam. 15 – 2. Sam. 5): Tradition und Komposition (ACT 10; Copenhagen: Prostant apud Munksgaard, 1971). However, in more recent research scholars assume that we are dealing with several different sources that were combined. See, for instance, Halpern, The Constitution, 152–171; Ina Willi-Plein, “ISam 18–19 und die Davidshausgeschichte,” in David und Saul im Widerstreit: Beiträge zur Auslegung des ersten Samuelbuches, ed. Walter Dietrich (OBO 206; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), 138–171; and Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 266–288. Unfortunately, scholars do not agree about the extent and boundaries of the different sources.

8 In the context of warfare, Saul’s interaction with the divine spirit calls to mind spirit possession in the Book of Judges. For the phenomenon of רוח יהוה in its relation to the ancient Near Eastern concept of melammu, see Dylan Johnson, “The רוח־יהוה as Melammu? The Warrior Tradition in the Book of Judges and Its Mesopotamian Parallels” (Paper presented at the CSBS annual conference, Regina, 2018).

9 It is possible that the core of 1 Sam 1:1–11 belongs to the earliest traditions about Saul’s rise to kingship. See Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 322–328.

10 Scholars disagree about the origins of the passages referencing the divine spirit in 1 Sam 10:10–12, especially in its relationship to 1 Sam 19:20–24, where Saul becomes incapacitated by the spirit of Yahweh during his attempt to capture David. Ludwig Schmidt, for example, argues that 1 Sam 10:10–12 and 19:20–24 are independent etiologies that are both related to Saul’s disorder. See Ludwig Schmidt, Menschlicher Erfolg und Jahwehs Initiative (WMANT 38; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1970), 111–118. It has also been argued that 1 Sam 10:10–12 presents a source favorable to Saul that was reversed through 1 Sam 19:20–24. See Peter Mommer, “Ist auch Saul unter den Propheten? Ein Beitrag zu 1 Sam 19:18–24,” BN (1987): 56–61. In a similar vein, Walter Dietrich views 1 Sam 10:10–12 as the product of a pro-Saul group associated with a northern prophetic group while 1 Sam 19:20–24 was more hostile to Saul and stemmed from a Jerusalemite group of prophets. See Walter Dietrich, David, Saul und die Propheten: Das Verhältnis von Religion und Politik nach den prophetischen Überlieferungen vom frühesten Königtum in Israel, 2nd ed. (BWANT 122; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1987), 60–62, 90–91. Christophe Nihan regards both 1 Sam 10:10–12 and 1 Sam 19:20–24 as post-Deuteronomistic and argues that the two depictions of prophecy bear witness to a conflict between different prophetic groups in the Persian Period. See Nihan, “Saul among the Prophets (1 Sam 10:10–12 and 19:18–24): The Reworking of Saul’s Figure in the Context of the Debate on Charismatic Prophecy in the Persian Era,” in Saul in Story and Tradition, ed. Carl S. Ehrlich and Marsha C. White (FAT 47; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 92–106, 110–114.

11 The core of Saul’s public election in 1 Sam 10:17–27 is most likely a Deuteronomistic composition that was unfavorably disposed toward kingship in general and Saul’s kingship in particular. See Martin Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien: Die sammelnden und bearbeitenden Geschichtswerke im Alten Testament, 2nd ed. (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1957), 54–55; Veijola, Das Königtum, 39–52; Steven L. McKenzie, “Saul in the Deuteronomistic History,” in Saul in Story and Tradition, ed. Carl S. Ehrlich and Marsh. C. White (FAT 47; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 62–66; and Nihan, “1 Samuel 8 and 12,” 249 Footnote n. 71.

12 1 Sam 13:7b–15 is frequently considered a later interpolation meant to prepare the rise of David and to link the accounts about Saul to the accounts about David. The secondary nature of 1 Sam 13:7b–15 is suggested by the change of location and the fact that the rejection is not mentioned again in 1 Sam 14. See Birch, Israelite Monarchy, 74–78. Cf. White, “The History of Saul’s Rise,” 281–282. Some scholars have argued that this passage belongs to the Prophetic Record. See McCarter, I Samuel, 20; and Birch, Israelite Monarchy, 75–77, 85. Other scholars detect Deuteronomistic influence, as, for instance, Klaus-Dietrich Schunck, Benjamin (BZAW 86; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1963), 107–108; and Dietrich, David, 68, contra Martin Noth, who thinks that this passage shows no sign of Deuteronomistic influence whatsoever. See Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 63.

13 Similar to 1 Sam 13:7b–15, 1 Sam 15:26–30 is considered to be a later interpolation leading into the History of David’s Rise. Some scholars consider this passage to be Deuteronomistic. See John van Seters, In the Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983), 259–260; or Walter Dietrich, 1 Samuel 1–12 (BKAT 8.1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2011), 147–151. Nonetheless, some scholars argue for a pre-Deuteronomistic origin or identify post-Deuteronomistic additions. For the former possibility, see Antony F. Campbell, Of Prophets and Kings: A Late Ninth-Century Document (CBQMS 17; Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1986), 68–69; and Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 310. For the latter possibility, see Nihan, “1 Samuel 8 and 12,” 255–258.

14 The information that the spirit of Yahweh has now settled on David stems from 1 Sam 16:1–13, which informs us of David’s divine election and anointing through the prophet Samuel. Scholars disagree on the origin of 1 Sam 16:1–13. Some have argued that 1 Sam 16:1–13 functions as a prologue to David’s introduction as a lyre-player in 1 Sam 16:14–23. See Halpern, The Constitution, 160–161. Others view this passage as distinct from David’s introduction at the court. Given the prominence of the prophet, it has been speculated that it belongs to the Prophetic Record. See Campbell, Of Prophets and Kings, 126. See further Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 251–252.

15 For the notion that the evil spirit of Yahweh replaces the spirit that had gripped Saul after his anointment, see P. Kyle McCarter, “Evil Spirit of God רוח אלוהים רעה,” in DDD, 319; and David T. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 287.

16 For other occurrences of this verb and the effect it had on the individual suffering from a situation involving this verb, see Jacob Hoftijzer, “Some Remarks on the Semantics of the Root bʻt in Classical Hebrew,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish and Near Eastern Ritual, Law and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, ed. David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 777–783.

17 See Saul M. Olyan, Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 71.

18 For these observations, see McCarter, “Evil Spirit,” 319–320.

19 For tentative diagnoses of Saul’s spirit possession, see Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York: Norton & Co., 1999), 98; and Philip Esler, “The Madness of King Saul: A Cultural Reading of 1 Samuel 8–31,” in Biblical Studies – Cultural Studies: The Third Sheffield Colloquium, ed. J. Cheryl Exum and Stephen D. Moore (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 249. Likewise, it has been argued that Saul was suffering from borderline personality disorder based on the strict distinction between a good and an evil spirit. See Dagmar Hoffmann-Axthelm, “David als ‘Musiktherapeut’: Über die musikalische Heilmittel Klang – Dynamik – Rhythmus – Form,” in König David: Biblische Schlüßelfigur und Europäische Leitgestalt, ed. Walter Dietrich and Herbert Herkommer (Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 2003), 565–588.

20 For scholars who call for caution when it comes to diagnosing Saul, see McCarter, I Samuel, 281; Hector Avalos, Illness and Health Care in the Ancient Near East: The Role of the Temple in Greece, Mesopotamia, and Israel (HSM 54; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 278–280; and Jeremy Schipper, “Joshua – Second Kings,” in The Bible and Disability: A Commentary, ed. Sarah J. Melcher, Mikeal C. Parsons, and Amos Yong (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017), 107. For an interpretation of Saul’s spirit possession as both a theological and psychological problem, see Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC 10; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), 191.

21 See McCarter, I Samuel, 280–281. See further Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 427.

22 See Fredrik Lindström, God and the Origin of Evil: A Contextual Analysis of Alleged Monistic Evidence in the Old Testament (CBOTS 21; Lund: Gleerup, 1983), 84; and Edward Noort, “JHWH und das Böse,” in Prophets, Worship and Theodicy: Studies in Prophetism, Biblical Theology, and Structural and Rhetorical Analysis, and on the Place of Music in Worship, ed. John Barton (OTS 23; Leiden: Brill, 1984), 127.

23 Daniel L. Block argues that the evil spirit is deliberately not traced back to Yahweh, but instead to the more generic term God (אלוהים). See Daniel L. Block, “Empowered by the Spirit of God: The Holy Spirit in the Historiographic Writings of the Old Testament,” SBJT 1 (1997): 51. Nevertheless, the evil spirit is associated with Yahweh both in 1 Sam 16:14 and in 1 Sam 19:9. See Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 429.

24 See Henrike Frey-Anthes, Unheilsmächte und Schutzgenien, Antiwesen und Grenzgänger: Vorstellungen von “Dämonen” im alten Israel (OBO 227; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 81.

25 See Footnote ibid., 80.

26 Utukkū Lemnūtu tablet 3, lines 38, 40, 42, 44, 53. For translation and transliteration of this text, see Markham J. Geller, Evil Demons: Canonical Utukkū Lemnūtu Incantations (SAACT 5; Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2007), 102, 198.

27 For a transliteration and translation of Šurpu, see Erica Reiner, Šurpu: A Collection of Sumerian and Akkadian Incantations (AfOBeih. 11; Graz: Biblio Verlag, 1958).

28 See Šurpu tablet VII 17/18. – 19/20; and Reiner, Šurpu, 36.

29 See Šurpu tablet VII 35/36; and Reiner, Šurpu, 37.

30 For examples of these demonic activities, see Anne Marie Kitz, “Demons in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East,” JBL 135.5 (2016): 455–458.

31 For a discussion of this text, see Christopher B. F. Walker and Samuel N. Kramer, “Cuneiform Tablets in the Collection of Lord Binning,” Iraq 44 (1982): 78–82. For the translation, see Kitz, “Demons in the Hebrew Bible,” 453.

32 See Utukkū Lemnūtu tablet 7, lines 162–165. For translation and transliteration, see Geller, Evil Demons, 142, 225.

33 See Kitz, “Demons in the Hebrew Bible,” 459–460.

34 For lack of a better term, I use the expression “mental illness.” It should, however, be noted that the classification of mental illness is fraught with difficulties, since it is not always clear how to distinguish between pathological and healthy states of mind. For the problems associated with defining mental illness in the Bible, see Olyan, Disability in the Hebrew Bible, 62–63.

35 In his article on depression in the Bible, Timo Veijola makes a connection between modern music therapy and David’s playing of the lyre in 1 Sam 16:14–23. See Timo Veijola, “Depression als menschliche und biblische Erfahrung,” in Offenbarung und Anfechtung: Hermeneutisch-theologische Studien zum Alten Testament, ed. Timo Veijola and Walter Dietrich (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner Verlag, 2007), 163–164. See further, Werner Kümmel, “Melancholie und die Macht der Musik: Die Krankheit König Sauls in der historischen Diskussion,” Medizinhistorisches Journal 4 (1969): 189–209. Perhaps the link between healing and music can also be postulated for the ancient Near East more broadly. In a professional list, one of the Sumerian synonyms for the exorcist (āšipu) is listed as “harpist.” See Markham J. Geller, Ancient Babylonian Medicine: Theory and Practice (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 45. For the ritual significance of the harp (כינור), see Klein, 1 Samuel, 165–166.

36 It is further noteworthy that the process of rejection mirrors a reversal of divine election. Just as Saul’s election was associated with sacrifices (10:8), music (1 Sam 10:5), and the onrush of the divine spirit (1 Sam 10:6, 10), Saul’s rejection starts with sacrifices (1 Sam 13:9–12; 15:21), different manifestations of the divine spirit (1 Sam 16:13–14), and music (16:14–23). For this observation, see David M. Gunn, The Fate of King Saul: An Interpretation of a Biblical Story (JSOTSup 14; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1980), 61–63.

37 Because v. 14 and v. 23 use the same verb for the act of departing (סור), David T. Tsumura sees an inclusio here. See Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 426.

38 The account of Saul’s rage and subsequent attempts to kill David in 1 Sam 18:10–11 is not included in the OG. Presumably, these verses were added later to create a link between the evil spirit and Saul’s jealousy. See Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1965), 157. John T. Willis classifies these verses as “comprehensive anticipatory redactional joints” that were meant to prepare the reader for the continuation of the story about David as he knew it. See John T. Willis, “The Function of Comprehensive Anticipatory Redactional Joints in 1 Samuel 16–18,” ZAW 85 (1973): 308–310. See further Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 274. In addition, this verse also links the earlier tradition featuring Michal as the one to save David to a later set of traditions according to which Jonathan facilitated David’s escape.

39 Hertzberg, I & II Samuel, 157–158.

40 When referring to apology, I assume that we are dealing with “a type of literature that defends someone against accusations.” For this definition, see Steven L. McKenzie, King David: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 32. Some scholars are opposed to the application of the term “apology,” given that it applies to a collection of texts that were composed several centuries after the actual events. See John van Seters, The Biblical Saga of King David (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009), 53–89, 90–120. Despite these problems, the term “apology” is applicable and should be retained, since it is the best explanation of why such episodes as David’s accession of Saul’s throne, his collaboration with the Philistines, the involvement in the death of his own son Abshalom or the killing of Saul’s offspring would have been preserved. For a list of publications that have used this term in the context of ancient Near Eastern texts in general, see Andrew Knapp, Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East (SBLWAW 4; Atlanta: SBL, 2015), 5–30.

41 Klein, 1 Samuel, 167. See further, Olyan, Disability in the Hebrew Bible, 73. Fredrik Lindström goes so far as to argue that the divine rejection of Saul was modeled after a tradition that Saul was periodically tormented by an evil spirit. See Lindström, Evil, 79.

42 See Walter Dietrich, “Das Ende der Thronfolge Geschichte,” in Die sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: Neue Ansichten und Anfragen, ed. Albert de Pury and Thomas C. Römer (OBO 176; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 2000), 57.

43 It is likely that this status is attained through the ritual process of anointing and coronation. See Mark W. Hamilton, “The Creation of Saul’s Royal Body: Reflections on 1 Sam 8–10,” in Saul in Story and Tradition, ed. Carl S. Ehrlich and Marsha C. White (FAT 47; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 144–147.

44 It should be noted that 1 Sam 26 most likely has priority over 1 Sam 24:6–8a. See McCarter, I Samuel, 386; Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 277 n. 172; and Steven L. McKenzie, “Elaborate Evidence for the Priority of 1 Sam 26,” JBL 129.3 (2010): 437–444.

45 See McCarter, I Samuel, 407.

46 McCarter, I Samuel, 408; P. Kyle McCarter, “The Apology of David,” JBL 99.4 (1980): 500–501.

47 See Leonhard Rost, Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids (BWANT 6/3; Kohlhammer: Stuttgart, 1926). Henceforth, I will be referring to the translation of the monograph, which is titled The Succession to the Throne of David, trans. M. D. Rutter and D. M. Gunn (HTIBS 1; Sheffield: Almond Press, 1982).

48 Influential scholars who accepted Rost’s reconstruction of Solomon’s Succession Narrative include Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 64–65; Gerhard von Rad, “Der Anfang der Geschichtsschreibung im Alten Israel,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 32 (1944): 1–42; and Roger N. Whybray, The Succession Narrative: A Study of II Samuel 9–20; I Kings 1 and 2 (SBT 9.2; London: SCM Press, 1968).

49 The relation between the Bathsheba affair and the Nathan pericope vis-à-vis the account of the Ammonite war in 2 Sam 10 and 2 Sam 12:26–31 is contested. For the problems associated with this question, see Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 189–192. Since this study is focused on the role of the sick child in 2 Sam 12:14–18, I will not pursue the question here.

50 See James W. Flanagan, “Court History or Succession Document? A Study of 2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2,” JBL 91.2 (1971): 172–181. See further, P. Kyle McCarter, “‘Plots, True or False’: The Succession Narrative as Court Apologetic,” Int 35.4 (1981): 361–364; and Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 185.

51 For these observations, see Steven L. McKenzie, “The So-Called Succession Narrative in the Deuteronomistic History,” in Die sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: Neue Einsichten und Anfragen, ed. Albert de Pury and Thomas C. Römer (OBO 176; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag, 2000), 133–134; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 198–199.

52 Scholars disagree about the date of this interpolation. Some have argued for a post-Deuteronomistic date. See, for instance, McKenzie, “The So-Called Succession Narrative,” 133–135. Others prefer to consider this passage part of the Prophetic Record. See P. Kyle McCarter, II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary. (AB 9; Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1984), 290; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 198–199. The question of dating this passage will be discussed further below.

53 Some scholars have taken the term בן מות to mean that David sentenced the rich man to death. In that case, the illness and death of the son could be counted as a form of substitution for David. See, for instance, Wolfgang Werner, Studien zur alttestamentlichen Vorstellungen vom Plan Jahwes (BZAW 173; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1988), 233. However, בן מות is better translated as “scoundrel,” since this term is never used in the context of death penalties. See McCarter, II Samuel, 299.

54 For this explanation of David’s behavior, see McCarter, II Samuel, 301.

55 Countless suggestions exist for reconstructing the literary growth of 2 Sam 12:1–25. For an overview of different compositional models, see Walter Dietrich and Thomas Naumann, Die Samuelbücher (EDF 287; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995), 229–256. See further, Stefan Seiler, Die Geschichte von der Thronfolge Davids (2 Sam 920; 1 Kön 12) (BZAW 267; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1998), 258–276; Thilo A. Rudnig, Davids Thron: Redaktionskritische Studien zur Geschichte von der Thronnachfolge Davids (BZAW 358; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2006), 52–70; and Hutton, Transjordanian Palimpsest, 189–201.

56 See McKenzie, “The So-Called Succession Narrative,” 132–133; McCarter, II Samuel, 290; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 198–199.

57 See Werner, Studien, 247–248; and Gwilym H. Jones, The Nathan Narratives (JSOTSup 80; Sheffield: Academic Press, 1990), 96.

58 See Werner, Studien, 250.

59 See Werner, Studien, 250–255. The verb is also used in 1 Sam 15:38 and 26:10. However, according to Timo Veijola these passages are also later additions. See Timo Veijola, “Salomon-Der Erstgeborene Bathsebas,” in Studies in the Historical Books of the Old Testament, ed. John A. Emerton (VTSup 30; Leiden: Brill, 1979), 245.

60 See Stanley A. Cook, “Notes on the Composition of 2 Samuel,” AJSL 16/3 (1900): 156–157; and Veijola, “Salomon-Der Erstgeborene,” 241.

61 See Dietrich and Naumann, Die Samuelbücher, 110; and Werner, Studien, 250–251.

62 See McCarter, I Samuel, 299. For the prevalence of the verb לקח (take) in 2 Sam 11–12, see Horst Seebass, “Nathan und David in II Sam 12,” ZAW 86 (1974): 205; and Werner, Studien, 234, 245.

63 It has been speculated that the king was suffering from arteriosclerosis. See Simon J. DeVries, 1 Kings (WBC 12; Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 12; and Jerome T. Walsh, 1 Kings (Collegeville, PA: Liturgical Press, 1996), 5. However, any type of medical diagnosis will have to remain speculative, since David’s health problems are used here to fulfill a wider purpose within Solomon’s Succession Narrative.

64 According to Josephus, the physicians recommended that David share his bed with a young virgin (Josephus, Ant. 7.343). Many scholars maintain that later Greek medical sources contain instructions to counter the effects of old age through contact with warmth – especially with a warm body. This has been argued, for example, by James A. Montgomery and Henry S. Gehman, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Kings (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1960), 72; Ernst Würthwein, Die Bücher der Könige 1: Könige 116 (ATD 11.1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985), 9; and Walsh, 1 Kings, 5. Unfortunately, none of these scholars cite their sources. The only reference to warming bodies available to me stems from a seventh-century Greek text that deals with remedies for hypothermia, not aging. See Francis Adams, The Medical Works of Paulus Ægineta, The Greek Physician: Vol. 1 (London: Welsh, 1834), 74.

65 See Alter, The David Story, 363 Footnote n. 2. See further Maria Häusl, who also points to the similarities to the search for a new queen in Esth 2:2. Possibly, the phrasing is customarily used to introduce new characters at the court, which, in the case of Saul and David in particular, is necessitated by royal illness. See Maria Häusl, Abischag und Batscheba: Frauen am Königshof und die Thronnachfolge Davids im Zeugnis der Texte 1 Kön 1 und 2 (ATSAT 41; St. Otilien: Eos, 1993), 246–247.

66 Some scholars have argued that Abishag’s hometown of Shunem was meant to recall the account of the Shunammite’s son who is revived through contact with Elisha (2 Kgs 4:8–37). See Gina Hens-Piazza, 12 Kings (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006), 13. However, it is more likely that this choice may have been motivated by an attempt to consolidate the northern parts of Israel under Davidic rule. See Marvin A. Sweeney, I & II Kings: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2007), 53.

67 Abishag is referred to as סוכנת. This term suggests that she was meant to function as a type of servant. See Mordechai Cogan, I Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 10; New York: Doubleday, 2000), 156. The male counterpart appears in Isa 22:15 and is applied to the high-ranking official Shebna.

68 The servants advertise Abishag’s service by stating that “she will lie in your lap” (ושכבה בחיקך), which suggests that Abishag was expected to become intimate with the king. The same expression is used in contexts such as Gen 16:5 and 2 Sam 12:8, which clearly presuppose a sexual relationship. Both ancient and modern scholars have argued that David did not become intimate with Abishag out of decency. See Rudnig, Davids Thron, 118. Yet, given David’s previous behavior with women, this seems unlikely.

69 See Hilary Lipka, “Shaved Beards and Bared Buttocks: Shame and the Undermining of Masculine Performance in Biblical Texts,” in Being a Man: Negotiating Ancient Constructs of Masculinity, ed. Ilona Zsolnay (London: Routledge, 2017), 180. Perhaps the connection between sexual impotence and inability to rule has to do with a perceived inability to engage in diplomatic marriages. See David B. Schreiner, “‘But He Could Not Warm Himself’: Sexual Innuendo and the Place of 1 Kgs 1:1–4,” SJOT 32.1 (2018): 121–130.

70 For scholars who view the episode as a virility test, see John Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary, 2nd ed. (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970), 77; Joseph Robinson, The First Book of Kings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 24; and Terence E. Fretheim, First and Second Kings (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 23.

71 See Cogan, I Kings, 156; Richard S. Hess, “David and Abishag: The Purpose of 1 Kings 1:1–4,” in Homeland and Exile: Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honour of Bustenay Oded, ed. Gershon Galil, Markham Geller, and Alan Millard (VTSup 130; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 427–438; and 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,’” BBR 24.1 (2014): 1–14.

72 See Lise Manniche, Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt (London: Routledge, 1987), 103.

73 Dennis Pardee has classified this text as “an incantation against male sexual dysfunction.” See Dennis Pardee, Ritual and Cult at Ugarit (SBLWAW 10; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2002), 159–161. Unfortunately, the tablet is not well preserved, and therefore several additional interpretations have been suggested. Some scholars consider this text an incantation against witchcraft. See James N. Ford, “The Ugaritic Incantation against Sorcery RIH 78/20 (KTU21.169),” UF 34 (2002): 153–155; and Gregorio del Olmo Lete, “KTU 1.169: A Compendium Incantation Tablet against Black Magic,” RA 129 (2012): 109. Others assume that the incantation is a response to gonorrhea. See Heath D. Dewrell, “A Ugaritic Incantation against Gonorrhea: A Reexamination of KTU 1.169,” UF 44 (2013): 23–46.

74 For the transliteration and translation of these texts, see Robert D. Briggs, ŠÀ.ZI.GA: Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations (Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1967). For a survey of how the category of impotence is integrated into the larger framework of fertility, see Stephanie Lynn Budin, “Fertility and Gender in the Ancient Near East,” in Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World, ed. Mark Masterson, Nancy S. Rabinowitz, and John Robson (London: Routledge, 2015), 30–49.

75 See Otto Kaiser, “Das Verhältnis der Erzählung von König David zum sogenannten Deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerk,” in Die sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: Neue Ansichten und Anfragen, ed. Albert de Pury and Thomas C. Römer (OBO 176; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 2000), 106.

76 Scholars disagree about the reasons for presenting the succession of Solomon in such an ambiguous manner. On the one hand, it has been suspected that the questionable nature of Solomon’s succession goes back to an antidynastic or anti-Solomonic redactional layer. For this view, see Lienhard Delekat, “Tendenz und Theologie der David-Salomon Erzählung,” in Das ferne und das nahe Wort, ed. Fritz Mass (BZAW 105; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1967), 26–36; and Timo Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie: David und die Entstehung seiner Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung (AASF 193; Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1975), 16–18. See further, François Langlamet, “Pour ou contre Salomon: La rédaction prosalomonienne de I Rois I–II,” Parts 1 and 2, RB 83 (1976): 321–379, 481–528; and Van Seters, In the Search of History, 286–291. On the other hand, Leonhard Rost believes that the whole account is favorably disposed toward Solomon. See Rost, The Succession to the Throne of David, 105–106. Alternatively, it should be noted that the negative aspects of Solomon’s rise to kingship can also be viewed as part of an apology. See Timothy C. G. Thornton, “Solomonic Apologetic in Samuel and Kings,” CQR 169 (1968): 159–166; McCarter, “‘Plots, True or False,” 355–367; Tomoo Ishida, “The Succession Narrative and Esarhaddon’s Apology: A Comparison,” in Ah, Assyria: Studies in Assyrian History and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography, ed. Mordechai Cogan and Israel Eph’al (ScrHier 33; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1991), 166–173; Hutton, The Transjordanian Palimpsest, 192–227; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 249–276. Finally, Eric A. Seibert argues that the tensions within 1 Kgs 1–2 are the result of subversive scribal activity. See Eric A. Seibert, Subversive Scribes and the Solomonic Narrative: A Rereading of 1 Kings 1–11 (LHBOTS 436; London: T & T Clark, 2006), 102–157.

77 See Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie, 16–30; Gary N. Knoppers, Two Nations under God, Vol. 1: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies (HSM 52; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), 64; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 254–257.

78 See Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 254–255.

79 See Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 333–336, 338–339, 346, 350, 355. For a full list of characteristics that point to a Deuteronomistic redaction of 1 Kgs 1–2, see Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 254–257.

80 For this suggestion, see McKenzie, “The So-Called Succession Narrative,” 129.

81 Many scholars consider these verses secondary. See Häusl, Abischag und Batscheba, 95, 244–247, 286–287; Johannes Klein, David versus Saul: Ein Beitrag zum Erzählsystem der Samuelbücher (BWANT 158; Stuttgart: Verlag, 2002), 189–191; and Andreas Kunz, Die Frauen und der König David: Studien zur Figuration von Frauen in der Davidserzählung (Leipzig: Verlagsanstalt, 2004), 216 Footnote n. 23. In addition, Martin Noth somewhat cautiously expresses the possibility that 1 Kgs 1:1b–4, 15b is part of a secondary pre-Deuteronomistic redaction. See Martin Noth, Könige (BKAT 9; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner Verlag, 1964), 13–16. Thilo A. Rudnig considers these verses as secondary as well, although he thinks these verses stem from a post-Deuteronomistic redaction. See Rudnig, Davids Thron, 75, 146–147, 172.

82 See Würthwein, Die Bücher der Könige, 9–10; and Seiler, Thronfolge Davids, 56–58.

83 Some scholars distinguish between the prepositions אחרי and תחת when it comes to the appointment of David’s successor. It has been speculated that תחת goes back to a later Deuteronomistic addition, while אחרי is original to Solomon’s Succession Narrative. See Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie, 17–18; and Würthwein, Die Bücher der Könige, 17. However, as Stefan Seiler has argued, the preposition תחת implies that Solomon ascended the throne while David was still alive, something that could only be proclaimed by David himself. See Seiler, Thronfolge Davids, 30–32.

84 Adonijah probably had good reasons to consider himself heir to the throne. The parenthetical statement in 1 Kgs 1:6 suggests that the firstborn was usually expected to be the next in line of succession. See Gary N. Knoppers, “The Preferential Status of the Eldest Son Revoked?” in Rethinking the Foundations: Historiography in the Ancient World and in the Bible, ed. Steven L. McKenzie and Thomas C. Römer (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2000), 115–126. See further Tomoo Ishida, “Adonijah the Son of Haggith and His Supporters: An Inquiry into Problems about History and Historiography,” in The Future of Biblical Studies: The Hebrew Scriptures, ed. Richard E. Friedman and Hugh G. M. Williamson (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), 171. The succession of the eldest son would also be confirmed by 2 Chr 21:3, where Jehoram is crowned king because he is the firstborn.

85 Possibly this division goes back to a distinction between individuals who are considered the old guard and had been with David since his days as a mercenary and those members of the court who joined David after he had established himself in Jerusalem. See Tomoo Ishida, “Solomon’s Succession to the Throne of David: A Political Analysis,” in Studies in the Period of David and Solomon and Other Essays (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1987), 176–177; Iain W. Provan, “Why Barzillai of Gilead (1 Kings 2:7)? Narrative Art and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion in 1 Kings 1–2,” TynBul 46.1 (1995): 114 Footnote n. 10; Walsh, 1 Kings, 8; and Seibert, Subversive Scribes, 111–112.

86 It should be noted that the terms used for the chariots and horses are slightly different in 1 Kgs 1:5 and 2 Sam 15:1, respectively. In Abshalom’s account, we hear of סוסים (horses) and a מרכבה (chariot), which most likely present a “royal display chariot.” The terms used for Adonijah’s preparation, by contrast, are רכב and פרשים, which refer to chariotry and cavalry. Thus, Adonijah’s preparation takes on a more militaristic tone. See Ishida, “Adonijah,” 172–173.

87 Because the verb ילדה (she bore) in 1 Kgs 1:6b is missing a subject, some scholars speculate that Abshalom and Adonijah had the same mother. See, for instance, Alter, The David Story, 364. Yet this is unlikely because the mother of Abshalom was Maacah (2 Sam 3:3) – not Haggith. For different speculations as to why the subject is omitted in this sentence, see Ishida, “Adonijah,” 174; and Seiler, Thronfolge Davids, 44.

88 See Seiler, Thronfolge Davids, 51–52.

89 David’s leniency toward his sons is also brought up in 2 Sam 13:21; 18:5. See Seiler, Thronfolge Davids, 52. Possibly, the leniency of David is again invoked here to draw attention to Adonijah’s spoiled character, as has been suggested by Walsh, 1 Kings, 7; and Seibert, Subversive Scribes, 118. P. Kyle McCarter views David’s leniency toward Adonijah as part of an apology, since David is presented as a loving father. See McCarter, “Plots, True or False,” 366.

90 On the surface, Abishag is counted as a member of the royal harem. And yet, the account makes it clear that she remained a virgin. For the ambiguity of Abishag’s status at the court, see Ishida, “Adonijah,” 178.

91 Whether Adonijah in fact asked for Abishag’s hand in marriage is unclear. The account itself leaves us in the dark, since the conversation between Bathsheba and Adonijah was carried out in private. See Seibert, Subversive Scribes, 138; and McKenzie, King David, 180–183.

92 For the observation that Adonijah had not actually crowned himself king yet, see Ishida, “Solomon’s Succession,” 178–179.

93 The ambiguity of the situation has been pointed out by Seibert, Subversive Scribes, 126–128. For the notion that David is senile and talked into remembering an oath he never swore, see Ernst Würthwein, Die Erzählung von der Thronfolge Davids: Theologische oder politische Geschichtsschreibung (ThSt 115; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1974), 17; Fretheim, First and Second Kings, 24; and Knapp, Royal Apologetic, 265 Footnote n. 45. Alternatively, the reference to the oath may be part of an apology trying to defer the claim that David decided to appoint Solomon when he was old and unwell. See McCarter, “Plots, True or False,” 360.

94 For this translation, see ANET, 504–505. The text was first published by George A. Cooke, A Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions: Moabite, Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Nabatean, Palmyrene, Jewish (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), 189–190. For the contrast between David’s decrepitude and the graceful aging of other ancient Near Eastern rulers and spiritual leaders, see also Jeremy Schipper, “Disabling Israelite Leadership: 2 Samuel 6:23 and Other Images of Disability in the Deuteronomistic History,” in This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies, ed. Hector Avalos, Sarah J. Melcher, and Jeremy Schipper (SemeiaSt 55; Atlanta: SBL, 2007), 109.

95 For this translation, see Cyril John Gadd, “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus,” Anatolian Studies 8 (1958): 51.

96 The Priestly observation stands in contrast to Deut 31:2, where Moses describes himself as being too weak to cross the Jordan.

97 This has first been argued by William F. Albright, who bases his reconstruction on the Ugaritic verbal stem lḥḥ. See William F. Albright, “The ‘Natural Force’ of Moses in the Light of Ugaritic,” BASOR 94 (1944): 32–35.

98 See Jeffrey Tigay, “Lō nās lĕḥō, ‘He Had Not Become Wrinkled’ (Deut 34:7),” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield, ed. Ziony Zevit, Seymour Gitin, and Michael Sokoloff (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 245–250. This interpretation has first been proposed by Ibn Ezra and presupposes that the verb נס is understood as “to dry up” based on an Arabic cognate.

99 See George W. Coats, “Legendary Motifs in the Moses Death Reports,” CBQ 39.1 (1977): 35–36.

100 For similar observations, see Schipper, “Disabling Israelite Leadership,” 111–112; and Jeremy Schipper, “Embodying Deuteronomistic Theology in 1 Kings 15:22–24,” in Bodies, Embodiment and Theology of the Hebrew Bible, ed. S. Tamar Kamionkowski and Wonil Kim (New York: T & T Clark, 2010), 88.

101 See Gary N. Knoppers, “Dissonance and Disaster in the Legend of Kirta,” JAOS 114.4 (1994): 572–582.

102 See KTU–18, 20–23//, 43–44.

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