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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 6

A commentary on the sixth speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 21-23. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 13

Laws of Incest

In Deuteronomy 22:30, Moses says,

30 A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he shall not uncover his father’s skirt.

This is a short reminder to observe the laws forbidding incest which are given in greater detail in Leviticus 18. The first part of this verse forbids a son from marrying his father’s wife—not necessarily his own mother, but also a stepmother.

It often happened in those days that an older man would take a young wife when his first wife died or was incapacitated in her old age. He too was older, so when he married a young woman, he often had sons who were her age or even older. Hence, it could easily happen that the young wife could fall in love with her stepson. For this reason, this law was quite pertinent to the culture of that time, even though this situation is not common today.

Reuben and Bilhah

Reuben lost the birthright because “he defiled his father’s bed” (1 Chron. 5:1) with Bilhah. The account is given in Genesis 35:22,

22 And it came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.

Of course, this occurred while Jacob-Israel was still living, and so it was not only incest, but also adultery. As the victim, Israel chose to forgive his son partially, for he made no attempt to put him to death; however, he refused to give Reuben the birthright on account of this sin, for he had proven himself to be unworthy.

Adonijah and Abishag

Another case came up many years later. When King David was old and had poor circulation, he was given a young woman named Abishag to keep him warm at night. The account is found in 1 Kings 1:1-4,

1 Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm. 2 So 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.” 3 So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 And the girl was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and served him, but the king did not cohabit [yada, “know”] with her.

Abishag essentially became David’s concubine, even though he was too old to have sexual relations with her. He was only seventy years of age when he died, but the years of hardship in the wilderness had taken their toll upon him.

Abishag was soon caught up in the political rivalry between Adonijah and Solomon. This makes her part of the prophetic story of antichrist at the end of this present age.

Recall that David had two “antichrist” sons: Absalom and Adonijah. These sons each attempted to usurp the throne of the anointed one. In the first case, Absalom succeeded temporarily in usurping David’s throne. In the second case, Adonijah tried and failed to usurp Solomon’s throne.

Adonijah knew that David’s will was to place Solomon on the throne. Adonijah was Solomon’s older half-brother, for each had a different mother. When it appeared that David was near death, Adonijah gathered his supporters to make himself king. 1 Kings 1:5 says,

5 Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him.

Adonijah, however, lost his bid for the throne, because David preempted him, giving the throne to Solomon just before he died. 1 Kings 1:49 says,

49 Then all the guests of Adonijah were terrified; and they arose and each went on his way. 50 And Adonijah was afraid of Solomon, and he arose, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.

Solomon agreed not to put his brother to death, but said, “If wickedness is found in him, he will die” (1 Kings 1:52). David died soon afterward, and Solomon secured his throne.

Adonijah, however, was not content to be the older brother of the king. He decided to try a more subtle tactic by asking for Abishag’s hand in marriage. Here is where the Law of Moses becomes prophetic, for it was unlawful for Adonijah to marry his father’s concubine, according to Deut. 22:30.

There was, of course, some question about the interpretation of the law, since David had not actually engaged in sexual relations with her (1 Kings 1:4). Moses had not specified what to do in such a case. Was she, or was she not, a legal concubine? Here is where the Hebrew idiom about “uncovering nakedness” becomes important, for it was obvious that she had been naked when she kept David warm.

Solomon took this law quite literally when Adonijah made his request to marry Abishag, and thus saw Adonijah’s desire to marry Abishag as a violation of the law. Adonijah had requested Bathsheba to speak for him in asking for the hand of Abishag. Bathsheba, of course, being David’s wife, probably had little interest in keeping Abishag around the house. No doubt she felt slighted when she was not the one called to keep David warm. So she was willing to make the request, but Solomon understood it as Adonijah’s second attempt to usurp the throne.

We read in 1 Kings 2:21-25,

21 So she [Bathsheba] said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as a wife.” 22 And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, “And why are you asking Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him also the kingdom—for he is my older brother—even for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!” 23 Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “May God do so to me and more also, if Adonijah has not spoken this word against his own life. 24 Now therefore, as the Lord lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father, and as He promised, surely Adonijah will be put to death today.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him so that he died.

This request brought about the final judgment, not only against Adonijah, but also his supporters, Joab and Abiathar.

Abishag as a Prophetic Type

Prophetically speaking, Abishag represents the latter-day church. Her name means “my father is a wanderer,” or “my father is in error.”

Adonijah’s mother’s name was Haggith, which means “festive.”

The Hebrew word hag means a festival, or feast day. (Hence, the prophet Haggai is the prophet of the feast of Tabernacles.) The father of Abishag and the mother of Adonijah were named prophetically without knowing it, and so they too become part of the story.

Prophetically speaking, then, Adonijah was the son of the feast days, but he sought to marry Abishag, the daughter of error. The result of such a marriage could be seen as a misunderstanding of the feast days. Because men misunderstand the feast days, they do not understand that the autumn feasts prophesy of the second coming of Christ. Hence, they see a Rapture instead of Tabernacles. They believe in “The Great Tribulation” without knowing the laws of tribulation. They believe in “The Antichrist” without knowing how Absalom and Adonijah were prophetic types of antichrist.

I have often said that no one ought to write a book about the second coming of Christ without a thorough knowledge of the autumn feasts. The antichrist (Adonijah) uses this weakness to try to usurp the birthright from the rightful Heir, the Prince of Peace. However, the attempt fails in the end. Like Absalom before him, Adonijah the antichrist is killed.

And so, when Moses gave a short summation of the laws of incest in Deut. 22:30, he set forth a moral principle that had prophetic implications in the time of Solomon as well as at this end of the age. This law reveals how today’s antichrist is attempting to steal the birthright through spiritual incest and through the church’s ignorance of the feast days.