David: King, Prophet, Ancestor
King Saul Disobeys God
One thing that is clear about the Jewish forefathers is that they were far from perfect. Abraham sent his oldest son, Ishmael, away to survived in the desert because his wife was jealous. Jacob cheated his older twin, Esau, out of his birthright. Joseph lusted after a married woman. Moses killed a man out of anger, but David might just beat them all as the bad boy of Judaism. Still, he is perhaps the most loved of any leader any religion has ever had.
David of Bethlehem was not the first king of the Jewish people. That honor befell a man named Saul, but despite his abilities as king or his military skills, Saul started to disobey the commands of God, as related to him by the prophet Samuel. After Saul was ordered to kill all of the Amalekites following a military victory, he killed the men, women, children and even the infants. He killed all of the less desirable livestock as well, but when he spared the king and healthiest animals, Samuel and presumably God were not pleased. It became clear that Saul must be replaced as king.
David the Shepherd Boy
Despite the decision to obtain a new king, it was not an overnight change. Samuel first had to locate the young man who would replace Saul. God had directed his prophet to a Bethlehem man named Jesse, as one of his sons would be the next king. Jesse brought seven of his sons forward to be inspected by Samuel, but the prophet was not satisfied. Jesse then brought forward his youngest son David having originally thought him far too young to even be considered, but young David was the replacement God was looking for and Samuel anointed him with oil.
Despite being very young, David was brave and accomplished at playing the lyre. It was because of this that Saul sent for the boy to accompany him in his travels, as Saul was now being tormented by God, and the only way to sooth him was for David to play. Saul had no idea that David would soon be his replacement.
Not long after, the Isrealites were preparing to face the Philistines. Dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks, however, it was customary for the bravest warrior of each side to face each other in order to eliminate a major battle resulting in the death of many men. For the Philistines, their bravest warrior was a giant of a man named Goliath.
Goliath had been calling out the Israelites for more than a month with no takers, but when David arrived at the battlefield with food for his brothers who were in the army, he heard the taunts of Goliath and informed King Saul that he would face him. Saul thought young David was crazy, but David insisted he could take the giant.
When David stepped forward with nothing but his slingshot and some stones from a nearby stream, Goliath was infuriated. He could not believe that the Israelites would send a small boy to face him. David told Goliath that he was not afraid, as it would be the Lord of Israel that would defeat him not a young boy. As Goliath charged, David prepared his slingshot and killed the giant with one stone to the forehead. When Goliath hit the ground, David grabbed the giant's own sword and removed his head.The Philistines ran, but the Israelites gave chase and slaughtered them with David killing more than anyone else.
Saul was impressed with young David and introduced his own son, Jonathan, to the young warrior. Jonathan was also impressed with David and vowed his everlasting friendship, but as the Israelites returned from defeating the Philistines, word of David's heroics reached the people quickly, and Saul noticed that the people were praising David above him and started to become jealous.
David the Warrior
When the women of Israel sang and danced in praise of young David, the demons in Saul's mind began taking over and now David's lyre playing only fuel the hatred. Things escalated until one day when David was playing for his king, Saul grabbed a spear and hurled it at the boy. David ducked just in time, but Saul now realized that God favored David over him, and his fear and hatred only increased. Saul sent David away until he could devise a plan to do away with the boy without killing him outright, for Saul was still the king of the Israelites and could not be seen committing murder.
Finally, Saul offered David the hand of his oldest daughter Merab, but there was a catch. David had to go out against the Philistines once again and prove himself a great warrior. Saul assumed that David would be killed at the hands of their enemy, thereby taking care of his problem without getting blood on his own hands. David, however, turned down the offer claiming he was not worthy of marrying the king's daughter.
Saul's plan was foiled by David's humbleness, but it did not take long before another daughter of Saul, Michal, had fallen deeply in love with David. Again Saul made an offer for David to marry one of his daughters, but again David declined because his family could not afford the high dowry of the king's daughter. Then Saul made David an offer he could not refuse. The king said that all he wanted from David was 100 Philistine foreskins. Saul knew it would be impossible for David to kill 100 men and circumcise them without getting killed himself, but David accepted the challenge. When he returned with 200 foreskins, however, Saul was outraged. He gave his daughter's hand in marriage, but he hated and feared David more than ever.
Even though David was now Saul's son-in-law, the king continued to plot the young man's death, but his own children intervened to save David. Jonathan warned his best friend one time then talked his father out of killing David reasoning that David had never done anything against Saul, and all of his success as a warrior had only helped the Israelites and their king. Saul relented but only for a short time. On his next attempt to kill David, Michal saved her husband by helping him sneak out of the house and hiding an idol in their bed. When Saul found out what his daughter had done, he was outraged that she would go against her own father. She lied and told him her husband had forced her to help him.
Upon his escape, David went to Samuel who vowed to keep the future king safe. When Saul learned of David's whereabouts, he sent soldiers to kill the boy, but each time the men were overcome by the spirit of God and refused to obey the king's order. After the third time his men failed, Saul went himself, but was also overcome by the power of God and fell to the ground.
Jonathan refused to believe that, as David insisted, his father wanted to kill his best friend. During a new moon celebration, however, Jonathan learned the truth and sent David away for his own safety. Both young men were heartbroken, but it was the only way to keep David alive.
David fled, but every place he went he faced death at the hands of Saul's soldiers. When the priest Ahimelech helped David by giving him bread and a weapon, the sword of Goliath that David had previously used against the giant, Saul was so outraged that he killed the priest and his entire family. David was forced to stay on the move, but he was gathering followers along the way. Men who were also on the run or just fed up with the king vowed to fight alongside the righteous David. Many towns' people provided information about David's hiding places forcing the future king to stay on the run. Then one day, Saul happened alone into a cave where David and his men were hiding. David's men begged him to kill Saul and end things, but as soon as David crept up on Saul and cut off a piece of his robe, he knew he could never kill Saul.
David and his men waited in silence until Saul left the cave then David stepped out and called after his father-in-law. He showed Saul that he could have easily killed him but did not because he vowed never to harm Saul. He shouted out that despite Saul's desire to see him dead, that he, David, was not worth the effort. He asked Saul to stop the nonsense and let God decide when power should transfer between the two of them. Saul realized that he had just been spared and agreed to return home and leave David alone for now.
David, though no longer hiding, stayed with his men in the wilderness for a time. They watched over the flock and shepherds of a rich man named Nabal, but when David sent word asking for food from the man, he refused by insulting David. David was livid and set out with some of his men to kill Nabal and his family for the slight. One of Nabal's shepherds, however, ran to Nabal's wife, Abigail, and told her of the situation. Abigail quickly gathered up a tremendous amount of food and intercepted David and his men. She bowed before him begging him to forgive her terrible husband, accept this food and spare her household. David was moved and agreed. When God struck Nabal down with a stroke the following day, David sent for Abigail and married her. In the meantime, Saul gave Michal to another man named, Palti.
Once again, Saul's anger drove him out to find David, and once again God placed Saul in his hands, as David and his men came upon the king and his troops sleeping. David crossed over a ring of warriors and took Saul's spear and water jug, both of which were right by his head. Once David was far enough away, he shouted back at Saul and his men waking them. He pointed out that, once again, he could have easily killed Saul, but he refused to kill God's chosen king. He again asked what he had done that Saul should kill him, but Saul only asked David to forgive him and return home. David knew better and fled once again with his men.
David decided that the only safe place for him was with the Philistines and went to King Achish for relief. The king agreed to let David's entire group, that numbered a couple thousand men and their families, stay. For over a year and a half, David and his men were raiding villages, with the approval of the king, but while David told Achish that he was raiding in Judah, part of Saul's territory, he was really raiding in Philistine territory but leaving none alive to tell on him. Achish believed David would be indebted to him forever, as David had turned against the Israelite people.
Shortly before David left for the Philistines, Samuel died and Saul outlawed all psychic activity, but when Achish once again set out to go to war against Saul, Saul grew frightened of the fast number of men and called out to God for guidance. God, having turned against Saul, ignored him. Saul then sought out a medium to help. Though he had disquised himself and she initially refused to break Saul's law, he talked her into it and asked to speak with the now dead Samuel. When Samuel appeared to her, she realized that it was Saul she was helping. Samuel then scolded Saul for bothering him in death. When Saul pled for guidance, Samuel simply told him that this was God's will for disobeying him. Samuel reminded him that he had warned him that God would take away his kingdom and give it to David, and tomorrow was the day. He told Saul that by that same time the next day, Saul and his sons would all be there with him. Saul was devastated.
Over with the Philistines, David had been fully prepared to fight alongside King Achish, but the other commanders in the Philistine army refused to go into battle with David out of fear that he would turn on them. Achish disagreed, but he could not lose his entire army. He asked David to sit this battle out, and David returned home with his men only to find that the Amalekites had raided their village and taken everything, including their wives and children. David prayed to God and was instructed to go after what was his. David convinced his troops, though some wanted to stone him for losing their families, to go after the Amalekites. When they found them, only the Amalekites who managed to run, escaped with their lives. David and his men reclaimed all of their families and belongings and took all that the Amalekites owned as well. Eventually, David shared some of the spoils with the leaders of Judah as a sign of goodwill.
When the Philistines attacked the Israelites, it was a rout. Saul and three of his sons, including Jonathan were killed, although Saul tried to take his own life to prevent being captured by the enemy. When word reached David, by way of an Amalekite who came to bring him Saul's crown, David demanded to know how this man was convinced that Saul and Jonathan were dead. When the man admitted that Saul had begged him to finish him off for he could not do it himself, David's men killed the Amalekite for killing God's appointed one and they mourned. David then moved his men and their families back to Judah where he was crown King of Judah.
David settled in the city of Hebron and began ruling the people of Judah, which was only part of the land previously ruled by Saul. Abner, a high commanded in Saul's army quickly placed Saul's remaining son Ishbosheth on the throne to rule Israel. During this time, David became the husband of several women and the father of six children, one by each of them. In a matter of two years, David's kingdom became strong and wealthy while Ishbosheth's kingdom suffered.
Eventually, the two sides would go to war against each other when Joab, a leader of David's troops came upon Abner and some of Ishbosheth's troops. During the initial battle, though David's army easily won, there was one significant death that would have major ramifications in the future. Joab's younger brother Asahel was also at the battle, and he was a speed demon. When Abner ran off, Asahel ran after him and was closing fast. Abner called out to him asking him to stop so he would not have to kill Joab's brother, but Asahel would not stop. Eventually, Abner stopped and ran the boy through with his spear. That one death would upset future peace talks between the two sides.
After some time, Ishbosheth took exception to Abner's affection for one of his late father's concubines, which offended Abner. After all he had done for Israel and Ishbosheth, he refused to be treated like a dog. He threatened to switch sides and go to David. This terrified Ishbosheth because Abner was the might behind his military. Ishbosheth attempted to reach David first and sent word that he wanted to surrender Israel to him. David replied that if Ishbosheth wanted to come talk, he had to bring David's first wife, Mical, and giver her back. Ishbosheth agreed, much to the displeasure of her current husband.
Ishbosheth left for Hebron with his sister, but Abner arrived before he did. David welcomed Abner and treated him with great respect, but after he left the king, Joab returned and learned that the killer of his brother had just been there and sent men to return Abner. Joab left David to catch up with his men and stabbed Abner to death when his men brought him back. David was livid and cursed Joab for killing a man out of revenge, but word of Abner's death soon got to Ishbosheth who was still on his way to meet David. He was too afraid to continue and returned home.
Ishbosheth would not be safe in his own home, however, as two members of his own raiding parties, brothers named Baanah and Recab, crept into Ishbosheth's bedchamber and killed him in his sleep. The two men thinking they were doing something good, cut off Ishbosheth's head and took it to David in Hebron. David was furious. He proceeded to tell them what happened to the man who came to him with news of the death of Saul thinking he would be happy about it, and now these two killed an innocent man in his own bed and expected him to be happy. He ordered them to kill themselves, and they did. Now that Saul's remaining son was dead, the leaders of Israel came to David and asked him to become their rightful king as God had chosen.
David King of Israel
David had ruled Judah for seven and a half years and was 30 years old when Israel appointed him their king as well. His first order as king of a united Israel and Judah was to take the city of Jerusalem. When he arrived with his men, the people of the walled city thought they were safe, but David was not one to be easily turned away. He discovered a tunnel where the city's water ran in and sent his men inside. Once inside, the Israelite's easily took Jerusalem and made it the City of David.
The Philistines leaned that David was now King of Israel and set out to defeat him as they had tried many times with Saul, but David and his troops would prove too large and powerful. Once they were defeated, David looked to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He lead some of his troops to Baalah, where the Ark was being kept and brought it back on a cart, dancing and singing in joy as they marched. When the Ark shifted, however, one of its bearers reached his hand up to catch it and was struck dead. David was now in fear of the Ark and refused to take it into the City of David/Jerusalem. He had the Ark taken to a nearby family home where it sat peacefully for three months. When the family prospered during this time, David believed God had been calmed and brought the Ark of the Covenant into the City of David. Again, he and the people danced around in joy as the Ark was placed into a tent. Michal watched all of this from a palace window and grew disgusted with her husband. From that time on, she refused to sleep with him.
David decided that the Ark should have a temple instead of living in a tent. He called upon a prophet named Nathan to build the temple, but that night God appeared in a dream to Nathan and told him that he would give David a great nation and a successful line of sons to rule it, the House of David, but it would not be David who would build a temple for his Ark. God insisted that it would be whichever of David's sons ruled after him that would build a great temple for the Ark of the Covenant. David, never one to go against God, prayed to God in thanks for everything he had ever been given and promised to do as God wished. He would leave it to one of his son's to build a temple for the Ark.
David and Bathsheba
Now, I am sure you must be thinking, why did she say David was a bad boy? Everything he has done so far seems to be pretty righteous, but David's next act would be a terrible sin, even for the king. David sent his military, led by Joab, to defeat the Ammonites, while he remained in Jerusalem. One day as the king was out for a stroll on the roof of his palace he spotted a beautiful woman bathing and sent a servant to ask of her name. When he leaned her name, Bathsheba, he sent for her and spent the night with her in the palace despite the fact that she was a married woman. She left the palace the next day, but when she sent word back a few weeks later that she was pregnant, David started to panic.
Deciding to try to cover up what he had done, he sent for Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. When Uriah came to David, the king asked how the battle was going. Uriah provided an update and told Uriah to return home and be with his wife. What David did not count on, however, is that it was custom that soldiers did not partake in sex when they were at war. Despite being back in Jerusalem, Uriah refused to go home to his wife and slept with the palace guards. The next day, after Uriah explained why he did not go home, David tried to get the man drunk, so he would go home to his wife. When it still did not work, he resorted to the unthinkable. David sent Uriah back to the battle with a note for Joab. Uriah was to be put on the front line where the worst fighting was taking place, so he would be killed in battle.
David's plan worked, Uriah was soon killed in battle. After a period of mourning, Bathsheba moved to the palace and became another one of David's wives. She would become his favorite. God was not pleased with what David and Bathsheba had done, however, and the child they conceived while she was married to another died shortly after its birth. David pleaded with God not to punish the child and was devastate at the loss of his newborn son, but he understood that it was punishment for his own actions. Soon after their loss, David and Bathsheba had another son. They named the boy Solomon, and the prophet Nathan told the king that he was loved by God.
David continued to rule over Israel for forty years, but they were not peaceful. Though he was always successful in battle against the enemies of Israel, problems within his own family would cause him far more pain. When the son of one wife, Amnon, raped the daughter of another, Tamar, then rejected her, Tamar's brother Absalom took revenge and killed his brother. David grieved the death of his oldest son and the exile of his third after Absalom fled in fear of his own life, but even when David allowed Absalom's return several years later, he cunningly tried to take the throne by driving David out of Jerusalem and having him killed. When his plan failed and Absalom was killed, David grieved. The king also showed mercy on those who turned against him during the coup d'état attempt.
He had trouble with famine and the Philistines continued to be a problem, but David always found a way through faith in God to overcome Israel's enemies. David also continued to sin against God. He ordered a census be taken of all of Israel, but afterward, he prayed for God to forgive him for being so prideful to want to know how many people he ruled. For this sin, God offered David a choice of punishment; three years of famine, three months of running from an enemy, or three days of plague. After the plague came, David had seventy thousand fewer people in his kingdom.
Still David lived to an old age and was given a young girl to take care of him. Her name was Abishag and she cared for the king until his death. But even in his old age, David's life was not easy, for his oldest living son, Adonijah gathered all of his living brothers, with the exception of Solomon, and those of his father's men who supported him and declared himself king while David was still alive. Nathan, the prophet, went to Bathsheba and warned her, as David had promised to make their son Solomon his heir to the throne. Bathsheba went to David and asked why he was letting Adonijah take the throne over Solomon. Even that close to death, David still managed to handle his affairs. He had those close to him take Solomon to the Gihon Spring and anoint him King of Israel. When they returned to Jerusalem in celebration of the new king, Adonijah and his followed left their own celebration and Adonijah went to his brother, the new king, and begged his forgiveness. As their father had done, Solomon let him live as long as he pledged his allegiance, which he did.
On David's deathbed, he instructed Solomon to always be loyal to God and always follow the laws of Moses. David then gave his son a list of those who had dishonored him like Joab and Shimei, a man who cursed and stoned him as he fled Jerusalem during the Absalom uprising. David then reminded his son that he promised not to kill them, but Solomon was not him.
In the end, David lived a mostly honorable life in service to his God, and when he did sin, he accepted God's punishment without losing his faith. The people loved him and followed him despite his flaws, and maybe because of his lapses in judgement, he is still the beloved leader who started a long line of holy men that resulted in the life of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be a member of the House of David. Today, he might never be elected by the people, but back then, he was chosen by God.