20120502-David Michelangelos_David.jpg
Michelangelo's David
David is one the greatest figures in the Bible. The founder and king of the first and largest Jewish kingdom, he was called the “Shepherd King” because of his humble origins and Messiah (the Anointed One), a term which in his time was used to describe a high priest, but today describes a person who has been chosen by God. The rule of David and Solomon are described in the Old Testament Books: Samuel, Kings and Chronicle. David’s story in told from I Samuel 16 through I Kings 2. David King of Israel is a song that every Israeli school child knows.

David’s story is told with great detail in the Bible. As a young man he became the head of an outlaw religious movement, achieved military successes against great odds and established a covenant "in divine partnership” with the Jewish God Jahweh. David is credited with writing the Psalms and was regarded as a political and military genius. Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic: That narrative is familiar to any student of the Bible. A young shepherd named David from the tribe of Judah slays the giant Goliath from the enemy tribe of the Philistines, is elevated to king of Judah following the death of Saul at the close of the 11th century B.C., conquers Jerusalem, unites the people of Judah with the disparate Israelite tribes to the north, and thereupon amasses a royal dynasty that continues with Solomon well into the tenth century B.C.[Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

Draper wrote: David has persisted for three millennia---an omnipresence in art, folklore, churches, and census rolls. To Muslims, he is Daoud, the venerated emperor and servant of Allah. To Christians, he is the natural and spiritual ancestor of Jesus, who thereby inherits David's messianic mantle. To the Jews, he is the father of Israel---the shepherd king anointed by God---and they in turn are his descendants and God's Chosen People.

Some scholars believe that much of the Old Testament was written in David’s time and that his story was sanitized and his shortcomings were edited to give his rule legitimacy. Other scholars argue that David was a tribal chieftain not a great king and that at best the Jewish kingdom was a modest tribal domain. What is more they say David was not a flawed but heroic leader but a bandit, double crosser and scoundrel who achieved success through ruthlessness and deceit. There has been speculation that David was not even a Jew. One passage of the Bible list the name of David’s bodyguards. Many of them have non-Hebrew names. Draper wrote The "Solomonic" buildings excavated by biblical archaeologists over the past several decades at Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo were not constructed in David and Solomon's time, he says, and so must have been built by kings of the ninth-century B.C.'s Omride dynasty, well after David and Solomon's reign. [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

Book: King David by Steven L. McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

David’s Achievements

Triumph of David

David is said to have written the Psalms, unified the tribes of Israel and made Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli nation. He is considered to be Israel's greatest King, whose reign ushered in the period in which the First Temple was built. David was the first king in Jerusalem whose reign was later looked back on as a golden era. His story in full is found in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1-2. Young David has been depicted holding a lamb in his arms with his knee on the throat of a dead lion.

Major Events and Episodes Featuring David
ca. 1010-970 B.C.: David conquers the Jebusites and makes Jerusalem his capital
David becomes king in Judah.
David unites Israel and Judah.
David conquers Jerusalem.
David brings the Ark to Jerusalem.
David extends the boundaries of the kingdom.
Absalom revolts and is killed, Adonijah revolts and is killed

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “David was the first king in Jerusalem whose reign was later looked back on as a golden era. He is known both as a great fighter and as the "sweet singer of Israel", the source of poems and songs, some of which are collected in the book of Psalms. The date of David's enthronement is approximately 1000 BC. The context of his life is a time of transition within the history of Israel. Because of the lawlessness of this period there was a growing desire to have a king. A king can give strong leadership and bring victory over enemies. But a king can also cream off his people's wealth and resources to promote his own power. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

“The scene is set when Saul, Israel's first king, is rejected by God for disobedience. God sends the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a successor at God's direction. When David his youngest son appears, God tells Samuel to anoint him. David's qualities "after the Lord's own heart" are perhaps best displayed in the famous contest with Goliath. The people of Israel are confronted by their enemies, the Philistines, and are terrified of their champion, Goliath. Goliath is huge and carries overwhelming military technology. He is the ancient equivalent of the Terminator and calls for a single combat to decide the battle. |::|

David the Great Hero

David attacks the Ammonites

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “The legendary battle between the overgrown Philistine warrior Goliath and the humble shepherd boy David is an archetype which has resonance well beyond the Old Testament account. Whenever a lower division football club thwarts a premier squad in a giant-slaying encounter it is celebrated as a 'David and Goliath' event. The defiant courage of the underdog appeals to our deep-seated emotional need to witness the powerless turning the tables, for once, on the powerful. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

“But for Christians and Jews the story of David is far more than an implausible folk-legend. The Old Testament recounts not only David's heroic deeds as a young boy but chronicles his whole eventful life as the first King of Israel to really unite the nation. After Jesus, his is the most complete biography in the Bible and is packed with schismic political events, epic battles and great personal drama. |::|

“Samuel 1 and 2 document David's testing time on the run from the mentally unhinged King Saul, his pitched battles with the heathen Philistines, his triumphant taking of Jerusalem as his capital, the adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the rebellion of his son Absalom. And if that wasn't enough, Christians believe that 1000 years later, as prophesised, Jesus was born into the house of David.

“David is celebrated as a warrior, prophet, musician and lover; the ultimate Renaissance man if you like. He is credited with writing many of the Old Testament Psalms, composed no doubt on his famous lyre on which he was said to be a virtuoso. His brilliant strategic mind enabled the Israelite army to crush the 'barbaric' Philistines on numerous occasions. The canny leader sent a crack squad of his troops through the ancient water systems underneath the hill-top fortress town of Jerusalem. In a heroic Trojan-horse style attack his forces took the strategically important position and made it his capital. From here he united the 12 tribally disparate regions in Judea and Israel to form a united nation of Israel. David consolidated his territory by beating back neighbouring tribes and providing strong leadership.” |::|

David’s Personality

Saul and young David

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The identity of the author of the early account has been debated many times. It is recorded that David had a scribe and a recorder in his court (II Sam. 8:16 f., 20:23 f.) ; perhaps it can be assumed that it would be the function of these officers to record the royal transactions and to prepare a daily chronicle or what might be called a "history" of royal events. Such documents might have provided the basic materials for the historian of the Davidic account. Whether or not personal memoirs were also employed cannot be known. Many scholars are convinced that the writer was someone close to the court, and both Abiathar, David's priest, and Ahimaaz, Solomon's son-in-law, have been suggested. Whoever the writer was, the tragic decline of David's career, beginning with his association with Bathsheba, was sketched with artistic skill. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“David is never permitted to become, as idealized personalities often do, someone removed, unreal, and too good to be true. He is introduced as a young court musician whose winsome personality soon made him a favorite and won for him the friendship of Jonathan. As they participated in military forays, David's skill as a warrior brought him fame and popularity. At what point David realized that he might become king is not revealed by the biographer. As a refugee among the Philistines and as a chief of an outlaw band, he had the opportunity to test his ability to lead and administer. When Saul and Jonathan were both dead, David was a natural contender for the throne, and it is at this point that the biographer reveals how well David had learned to manipulate men and situations to his own advantage. Even a tragedy, such as the death of Abner, could be converted into a step toward power. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Another aspect of David's personality - his utter ruthlessness in achieving his ends - is disclosed in the story of the murder of Uriah. Some hint of this side of David's character was foreshadowed in his callous attitude toward Nabal, and if it is true that the aged king asked Solomon to kill Joab and Shimei, a vindictive trait is exposed. The closing years of his reign could not have been particularly happy ones for David. Family tragedies, such as the rape of Tamar, the murder of Amnon, and the rebellion of Absalom, must have burdened the king. Finally, he appears as a confused old man, physically enfeebled, impotent and no longer an adequate symbol of the vigor of the nation. To save his crown and perhaps himself from Adonijah, he was compelled to share his throne with his son Solomon. Whereas Saul emerged as a tragic figure, the last pictures of David are of a pathetic hero.<=>

David’s Early Life

David, the young shepherd

David was born Elhanan be Jesse in Bethlehem about a thousand years before Jesus Christ. For centuries Bethlehem was known as the “City of David.” David was the youngest son of Jesse. His mother’s name was not recorded. The name David (meaning "great commander") was later given to him to commemorate his victories on the battlefield.

As a boy, David was a shepherd. To while away the hours in the fields he learned to play the harp and to hurl stones with a sling with great accuracy. These skills would later serve him well.

Samuel, the first of the Prophets and the last of the judges of Israel, was sent by God to Bethlehem. There he saw David and predicted that he would one day be the king of Israel. According to I Samuel 16:12,”He was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Rise anoint him, for this is the one.” Samuel anointed David “in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”

Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic: The books of the Old Testament outlining the story of David and Solomon consist of scriptures probably written at least 300 years after the fact, by not-so-objective authors. No contemporaneous texts exist to validate their claims. Since the dawn of biblical archaeology, scholars have sought in vain to verify that there really was an Abraham, a Moses, an Exodus, a conquest of Jericho. At the same time, says Amihai Mazar, among Israel's most highly regarded archaeologists, "Almost everyone agrees that the Bible is an ancient text relating to the history of this country during the Iron Age. You can look at it critically, as many scholars do. But you can't ignore the text---you must relate to it." [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

Tel Aviv University's Israel Finkelstein believes that during David's time Jerusalem was little more than a "hill-country village," David himself a raggedy upstart akin to Pancho Villa, and his legion of followers more like "500 people with sticks in their hands shouting and cursing and spitting---not the stuff of great armies of chariots described in the text." He told National Geographic: "Look, when I'm doing research, I have to distinguish between the culture of David and the historical David. David is extremely important for my cultural identity. In the same way, I can celebrate the Exodus without seeing it as a purely historic event. David for me is the David reflected in the later king Hezekiah, the David reflected in the later king Josiah, the David of Zacharias in the eschatological prophesies in which Jerusalem is burned but David is alive, the David who is the connection with the beginning of Christianity. In this sense, David is everything. If you want me to say it simplistically, I'm proud that this nobody from nowhere became the center of Western tradition. So for me David is not a plaque on the wall, not even merely a leader of a tenth-century band. No. Much more than that."

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

The most famous story with David involved his fight against Goliath of Gath, a Philistine giant, who, according to the Bible, was "six cubits and a span" (9 feet 6½ inches). Most historians believe he was only about 6 feet 10 inches.

The Philistines had issued a challenge for someone from the Jewish kingdom to fight Goliath, who carried a spear with a 20-pound head of iron and a shaft “like a weaver’s beam” and wore a huge brass helmet and a coat of mail that weighed 160 pounds. No one came forward to take up the challenge.

David was delivering cheeses to three of his brothers when the challenge was made. He appeared to confront Goliath. He wore not armor; he was dressed only in shepherd’s garments. His only weapon was a sling and five smooth stones. As Goliath approached him he placed a stone in the sling and let it fly. The stone penetrated Goliath’s forehead and killed him. David cut off his head and presented it to the Jewish king. The event if it really took place occurred around 1060 B.C.

Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic: Twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem in the Elah Valley---the very spot where the Bible says the young shepherd David slew Goliath---Hebrew University professor Yosef Garfinkel claims to have unearthed the first corner of a Judaean city dating to the exact time that David reigned. A busy highway, Route 38, crosses the ancient road that follows the Elah Valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea. Beneath the hills on either side of the road lie the ruins of Socoh and Azekah. According to the Bible, the Philistines encamped in this valley, between the two towns, just before their fateful encounter with David. The battlefield of legend is now quiet and abounds with wheat, barley, almond trees, and grapevines, not to mention a few of the indigenous terebinth (elah in Hebrew) trees from which the valley derives its name. A small bridge extends from Route 38 over the Brook of Elah. During high season, tourist buses park here so that their passengers can climb down into the valley and retrieve a rock to take back home and impress friends with a stone from the same place as the one that killed Goliath.[Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

"Maybe Goliath never existed," Garfinkel told National Geographic near his site, Khirbet Qeiyafa. "The story is that Goliath came from a giant city, and in the telling of it over the centuries, he became a giant himself. It's a metaphor. Modern scholars want the Bible to be like the Oxford Encyclopedia. People didn't write history 3,000 years ago like this. In the evening by the fire, this is where stories like David and Goliath started."

David fighting Goliath

Draper wrote: Garfinkel first learned from an Israeli Antiquities Authority ranger about a nine-foot-high megalithic wall looming over the Brook of Elah. He began digging in earnest in 2008. The wall, Garfinkel discovered, was of the same variety seen in the northern cities of Hazor and Gezer---a casemate of two walls with a chamber in between---and it encircled a fortified city of about six acres. Private houses abutted the city wall, an arrangement not seen in Philistine society. After shoveling out the topsoil, Garfinkel uncovered coins and other artifacts from the time of Alexander the Great. Beneath that Hellenistic layer he found buildings scattered with four olive pits, which carbon-14 analysis dated to around 1000 B.C. He also found an ancient tray for baking pita bread, along with hundreds of bones from cattle, goats, sheep, and fish---but no pig bones. In other words, Judaeans, rather than Philistines, must have lived (or at least dined) here. Because Garfinkel's excavation team also uncovered a very rare find---a clay pottery sherd with writing that appears to be a proto-Canaanite script with verbs characteristic of Hebrew---the conclusion to him seemed obvious: Here was a tenth-century B.C. complex Judaean society of the sort that low chronologists like Finkelstein claimed did not exist.

And what was its name? Garfinkel found his answer upon discovering that the fortified city had not one but two gates---the only such site found thus far in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. "Two gates" translates into Hebrew as shaarayim, a city mentioned three times in the Bible. One of those references (I Samuel 17:52) describes the Philistines fleeing David back to Gath via the "road from Shaaraim." "You have David and Goliath, and you have our site, and it fits," says Garfinkel simply. "It's typical Judaea, from the animal bones to the city wall." Garfinkel announced his conclusions despite the fact that he had only four olive pits on which to base his dating, a single inscription of a highly ambiguous nature, and a mere 5 percent of his site excavated. Finkelstein mocks Garfinkel's discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa: "Look, you'll never catch me saying, 'I've found one olive pit at a stratum in Megiddo, and this olive pit---which goes against hundreds of carbon-14 determinations---is going to decide the fate of Western civilization.' " He snickers. The lack of pig bones, suggesting it is a Judaean site? "A gun, but not a smoking gun." The rare inscription found at the site? Probably from Philistine Gath rather than the kingdom of Judah.

David and Goliath Story from the Bible

First Book of the Kings: 17:1 Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. 17:2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. 17:3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. 17:4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 17:5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. 17:6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 17:7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

David slays Goliath

17:8 And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. 17:9 If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. 17:10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. 17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

17:12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. 17:13 And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 17:14 And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. 17:15 But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.

17:16 And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days. 17:17 And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp of thy brethren; 17:18 And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.

17:19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 17:20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle. 17:21 For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. 17:22 And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.

17:23 And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. 17:24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 17:25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.

David and Goliath by Caravaggio
17:26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 17:27 And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.

17:28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 17:29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? 17:30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.

17:31 And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. 17:32 And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 17:33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 17:34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 17:35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

17:36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 17:37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee. 17:38 And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.

David Kills Goliath and Cuts Off His Head

First Book of the Kings: 17:39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. 17:40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. 17:41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. 17:42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. 17:43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 17:44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. 17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

17:46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. 17:48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 17:49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

17:50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. 17:51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. 17:52 And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. 17:53 And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.

17:54 And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent. 17:55 And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. 17:56 And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. 17:57 And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.

17:58 And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite. 18:1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 18:2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. 18:3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 18:4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

David’s Sling, Stones and Fighting Tactics

ancient sling

Some scholars believe that Goliath suffered from acromegaly, a benign pituitary gland disorder that also causes double vision. This may be why Goliath needed to fight David close in hand-to-hand combat. He was also slowed down by heavy armor. David on othe other hand was a projectile warrior. He was able to fight from a distance, unencumbered by armor and was able to utilize surprise, speed and skill to bring down Goliath, catching him off guard with some carefully-placed sling shots,

The Elah Valley (near the Gush Etzion Tunnels. And Bethlehem in the West Bank ) is the place where fateful battle between David and Goliath took place. Jewish and Philistine armies faced each other here. Saul and the men of Israel gathered together and camped on one side of a low mountain on. The Philistines stood on a mountain on the other side. The Bible describes the location (in 1 Samuel, 17:2-3).

Describing an image of a slingstone and sling from the Iron Age (1200 -500 B.C.), Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: The stone “is about the size of a tennis ball. The pouch and thongs are modern replicas patterned after slings shown in ancient inscriptions and drawings. The stone was placed in the pouch, and then, suspended by the two thongs which were held in one hand, was whirled rapidly about the head. When one thong was released the stone left the pouch and hurtled toward its target. For a reference to the accuracy of certain slingers see Judg. 20:16. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

Images from the Assyrian period show warriors hurling stones. The soldiers carry extra ammunition in their left hands. One such image is a carving is from a wall decoration in the palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (early seventh century B.C.).<=>

David and Saul

When David was a young man, Saul was the King of Israel. As Saul fell out of favor with God he became depressed. Once, he asked for music to cheer him. David was summoned and asked to his play his harp. Saul was so overcome with David’s good looks and his harp playing the king made David his armor bearer and musician. David became good friends with Saul’s son Jonathan, who later gave David his sword and bow. With these he established himself as a great warrior in battles against the Philistines. As David’s exploits became widely known. Saul began to fear that the Jewish people would make him their king. Saul tried repeatedly too kill David. Once he threw a spear at David while he played the harp in the king’s court. Ultimately David was forced to flee.

20120502-David Saul_and_David_rembrandt.jpg
Saul and David by Rembrandt
Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “David, still a shepherd, is bringing provisions for his brothers in the Israelite army. He is dismayed by Israel's fear of Goliath. King Saul hears of David's attitude and sends for him. When David offers to fight in single combat, Saul dismisses the idea as a joke. But, as a shepherd, David has learned to trust God in the face of terrifying opposition.“David stuns Goliath with a stone from his sling, and when Goliath falls to the ground David makes his triumph complete by cutting off Goliath's head with Goliath's own sword. This is the story of a young person who trusts God against all the odds, and to whom God gives success. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature: “Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: A "cycle of stories describes the decline of Saul's power and the rise of the Davidic line. The account of Saul's failure to destroy everything and everybody in the Amalakite war, thereby offending Yahweh (ch. 15), makes the transition from the previous material. The story of the divine choice and secret anointing of David (16:1-13) is late. [Source:Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The earliest tradition of David's coming to Saul's court begins in I Sam. 16:14-23. A mental illness, diagnosed as an evil spirit sent by God, troubled Saul. Music soothed him, and David, a skilled musician, was brought to play the lyre. As a member of the royal household, David won Saul's affection (16:21), became a bosom friend of Jonathan (18:3 ff.), and married Saul's daughter Michal (18:20 ff.). Participating in the military forays against the Philistines, David excelled as a warrior and became, to the women of Israel, a popular hero and the subject of a chant:<=>

Rivalry Between David and Saul

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “The next phase in David's life is far from straightforward. Saul takes David to court, and sends him out on military campaigns. Saul becomes envious of David and becomes suspicious that David might want to usurp him. This is not helped by the fact that Saul's son and heir, Jonathan, has become deeply attached to David, and Saul's daughter Michal loves him. Saul's suspicions quickly become paranoia, and David has to flee for his life and live rough. |::|[Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

“After a while David decides that there is little point in constantly being on the run from Saul, and he moves to the territory of Israel's enemies, the Philistines. Here he agrees to serve as a mercenary, in return for a whole town for himself and his men to live in. |::|

“Then the Philistines go to war against Israel. David is expected to come with them and fight Israelites on their behalf, and is in no position to refuse. Yet some of the Philistine generals become suspicious of David; perhaps he might change sides in mid-battle. At their insistence David is dismissed from the Philistine army - providentially now he is spared from shedding Israelite blood. He is not there when the Philistines defeat Israel and Saul and Jonathan die.

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: "Saul has slain his thousands, But David his ten thousands." - I Sam. 18:7: Such repute evoked jealous hostility from Saul who recognized in David a potential rival for the kingship. One tradition suggests that David's marriage to Michal was sanctioned by Saul because the king saw a way to get rid of David by demanding a marriage price10 of 100 Philistine foreskins (18:25 ff.). A later editor explained that David presented 200 foreskins, not the required one hundred. Thwarted in his attempt to eliminate his rival, Saul sought to kill David on the night of the wedding but Michal's clever ruse saved David's life (19:11-17). David, with the band of guerrilla warriors, fled to the wilderness (23:6-15). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“A later and completely different record of the development of David's warrior reputation and early relations with Saul, preserved in Chapter 17, tells of the slaying of the Philistine giant, Goliath. But even here, two traditions are merged. In one David is described as leaving Saul's court to do battle (17:1-12, 32-54) ; in the other David had not yet met Saul but brought provender for his brothers in Saul's army. Troubled by Goliath's taunts, David killed the giant with a stone from his sling.11 Only then was he introduced to Saul (17:12-30, 55-58; 18:1-2; 17:31 is a transitional verse). Another popular folk tale credits one of David's soldiers, Elhanan, with killing Goliath (II Sam. 21:19), leading some scholars to speculate that perhaps the hero David usurped a title of "giant killer" rightfully belonging to another.<=>

Saul spears David

“Traditions blackening Saul and enhancing David's reputation expand the story of David's marriage into Saul's family (18:10-19) and the tradition of Jonathan's affection for David (19:1-10; 20:1-42).12 The approval and protection of David by the prophets is recounted in 19:18-24. Saul's reputation suffers further in the story of the flight of David's parents to Moab (22:1-5). Even the expanded accounts of David's wilderness adventures and his merciful action in saving Saul's life13 magnify David's heroic stature (23:15-24:22). The section closes with an editorial report of Samuel's death (25:1).<=>

“The early tradition continues in Chapter 25 with the story of Nabal ("fool" - see 25:25). David, with his armed guerrillas, guaranteed protection from plunder if material support for himself and his men was promised (25:21). Nabal refused to pay and David prepared to raid his holdings. By taking goods to David's camp, Nabal's wife, Abigail, saved the situation (25:23 ff.). Abigail's presentation speech has been expanded by later writers (verses 28-31 were probably additions). Upon learning of his wife's action Nabal suffered a paralytic stroke and soon died; David married Abigail. Meanwhile, Saul gave Michal, David's first wife, to another man, Palti. David acquired still another wife, Ahinoam (25:43 f.).<=>

“Saul continued his pursuit of David. At one point David could have killed the king, but fear of the taboo of killing Yahweh's anointed prevented him (ch. 26). David's speech to Saul on this occasion reflects the belief that Yahweh could only be worshiped within his own territory (26:19), indicating that religious belief of this period was monolatrous rather than monotheistic.14<=>

Rise of David, Decline of Saul

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Convinced that Saul would not cease in the attempt to destroy him, David joined the Philistines. His adventures are recorded in Chapters 27; 28:1-2; 29; 30. His Philistine allies believed he raided Judaean towns (in reality he was plundering desert tribal groups) and gave him the city of Ziklag (location unknown). Meanwhile David courted the Hebrews, sharing booty with Judaean cities. A tense moment came when the Philistines prepared to attack the Hebrews at Mount Gilboa and included David in the forces. Fortunately, certain Philistine leaders distrusted him and insisted that he be sent back to Ziklag (ch. 29). Meanwhile Ziklag had been raided by the Amalakites and the inhabitants, including David's two wives, had been led away as captives. David pursued and rescued his people (ch. 30). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The end of Saul's leadership in the Hebrew kingdom was at hand and the tragic decline of the first monarch in Israel is movingly portrayed in his desperate search for supernatural guidance (ch. 28:3-25, where Samuel's death is reported once again). Rejected by Yahweh, unable to receive an oracle through regular channels or communication with the deity (28:6), Saul turned to a necromancer - one who consorted with the dead. The prophet Samuel was raised (visible only to the medium) and Israel's defeat and Saul's death were foretold. The story, probably more interpretive than factual, indicates belief in the continued existence of the individual in Sheol, the place of the dead, but the nature of this existence is not clear.<=>

“The battle of Mount Gilboa is briefly reported (ch. 31). Saul's sons were killed, and Saul, to prevent capture and torture, committed suicide. His decapitated body and the bodies of his sons were nailed to the wall of the city of Beth Shan as a final token of Philistine derision and defilement. Saul's head was sent throughout the Philistine kingdom as a proof of the monarch's death. The people of Jabesh-Gilead, remembering perhaps their earlier deliverance by Saul, rescued the bodies and provided proper burial for the members of the royal family. Thus Saul's regal career ended as it had begun, with the people of Jabesh-Gilead.<=>

A slightly different report of Saul's death is put in the mouth of the Amalakite courier who informs David of the death and presents Saul's crown and personal amulet as verification. David's lament, which the editor notes is taken from the Book of the Upright (Jashar) - a work unfortunately lost to us - is generally conceded to be one of the oldest fragments of Hebrew literature in the Bible, and there seems to be no reason to question its authenticity as a Davidic song. The poem displays strong emotion, particularly concerning Jonathan's death (II Sam. 1:25b-26).<=>

David Takes Over Power from Saul

Death of saul

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The way was open for David to assume the throne: Jonathan, the natural successor, was dead; David had won recognition as a popular hero and a military expert, and had gained the loyalty of the southern cities of the Hebrew nation by sharing booty with them. His marriage to Michal, Saul's daughter, might also have been significant for it related David to the royal household.<=>

“David's first move was to Hebron where he was anointed king over "the house of Judah" (II Sam. 2:2 f.). The groups forming "the house" are not indicated, but Martin Noth has suggested that a six-tribe confederation consisting of Judah, Caleb, Othniel, Cain, Jerahmeel and Simeon might have been involved. Apparently the Philistines were unconcerned, for they counted David as an ally. David now began to woo the northern groups. A letter to Jabesh-Gilead commended the people for providing proper burial for Saul and Jonathan, offered David's support and reminded them that David was now king (II Sam. 2:5-7).<=>

“But the northern tribes had taken other action. Abner, Saul's commander-in-chief, had Saul's fourth son, Ishbaal, appointed king in Israel. No mention of Ishbaal has been made prior to this time, and nothing is known of him apart from a note appended by a Deuteronomic redactor to the effect that he was forty years old at this time (II Sam. 2:10-11).<=>

“A curious episode interrupts the narrative to explain the hostility between Abner, commander of the army of Ishbaal, and Joab, commander of David's forces. Twelve men from each of the armies engaged in a contest in which combatants paired off, each placed one hand upon the head of the adversary and with the free hand sought to thrust him through with a sword. The significance of this strange match is not known, although a relief from Tel Halaf depicts men in this very position. Abner's men were defeated and Abner and those who remained fled. In the pursuit, Asahel, a brother of Joab, followed Abner and was killed by the more experienced warrior. The battle marked the beginning of a protracted struggle between Ishbaal and David in which "David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker" (II Sam. 3:1). Later, a literal-minded editor inserted an isolated fragment about David's family, portraying David's growth in strength in terms of his six wives and six sons (II Sam. 3:2-3).<=>

“Now problems developed within Ishbaal's household. Abner took one of Saul's concubines for himself and inasmuch as the taking of a king's widow could be construed as seeking to take the place of the dead king, Ishbaal questioned Abner's intentions. Angered by the accusation (which may have been justified), Abner offered to bring Israel under David's control if David would enter into a covenant with him. What Abner was to gain is not stated, unless it would be a guarantee of safety and security and position with David. David accepted but demanded the return of his wife Michal, Saul's daughter. Once this action, a token of good intention, had been taken, Abner began to undermine Ishbaal's position among the northern tribesmen. Subsequently twenty northern leaders and Abner participated in a feast as David's guests to plan strategy for bringing Israel under Davidic rule. <=>

“But David had failed to consider Joab. As redeemer-of-blood7 for the death of his brother, he killed Abner, placing David in the embarrassing position of having to retain his friendship with Joab and hold the loyalty of the northern tribesmen with whom he had broken bread. The compromise was effected by David's denial of any part in Abner's death, by his public lamentation in which he composed a dirge for Abner, and by the participation of Joab in the mourning rites. The dirge (II Sam. 3:31-34), like that for Saul and Jonathan, may be a Davidic composition.<=>

“The report of Abner's death in the northern kingdom was accepted as a sign of impending doom. Ishbaal was murdered by two military leaders who removed his head and brought it to David, seeking his favor (II Sam. 4:4-11). Although he had gained politically through this event, David could not afford to express approval. The two were promptly executed (II Sam. 4:12).” <=>

David Becomes King

David became king of the Jews after Saul was killed by Philistines in a battle on Mount Golbia after he lost favor with God. The Philistines were helped by the fact that David had a formidable army in southern Israel and Saul had to be prepared for a fight on two fronts.

David was anointed the king in the southern city of Hebron. David had a covenant with God that stated that David's Jewish nation would never be conquered. This mirrored what God had earlier told Moses: "ye shall rule over many nations but they shall not rule over thee.” David ruled the Israelites from Hebron before he made is move on Jerusalem.

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “All opposition was now removed and David entered into a covenant with the northern tribes and was anointed king at Hebron (II Sam. 5:1-3). His role as "shepherd" of Yahweh's people was carefully delineated, and it is possible that the covenant took the form of a written contract agreed to by both parties, sworn to before Yahweh, and deposited in the Hebron sanctuary. Through this event the tribes of the north and of the south, first brought together through a national emergency under Saul, accepted the concept of nationhood. Undoubtedly the nation was weak and, without continuing crises, could easily have disintegrated through national suspicions and jealousies. Apparently David recognized the uneasy nature of the bond and took steps to consolidate the kingdom. The neutral Jebusite city of Jerusalem, which had remained free of Hebraic control up to that time, was taken, and this strong fortified hill-city strategically located near the border between the north and south, became the capital. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“At this point a number of isolated fragments have been inserted into the narrative. At II Sam. 5:4-5 a Deuteronomic editor added a note about David's age and the time spent in Hebron. Another insertion at 5:8b relates how a proverb came into being. In 5:11-12 a brief statement about David's palace appears, and verses 13-14 give details about his expanding harem as David cemented good relationships with the Jebusites by marrying some of the townswomen.<=>

“Philistine reaction to David's assumption of the combined thrones of Israel and Judah was not delayed, for verse 17 records that the Philistines attacked upon hearing the report of the anointing at Hebron. David met and defeated his former allies in the valley of Rephaim, west of Jerusalem. Other battles with the Philistines are reported (cf. 18:1), but it would seem that from this time on they posed no real threat to the Davidic empire.<=>

“Having achieved political union and having made Jerusalem the capital, David now sought to make this city the center for the national cult of Yahweh. The sacred ark was brought into the city with great rejoicing (ch. 6). The reference in 6:19 to raisin cakes, usually associated with the worship of foreign deities or with the fertility cult,9 may indicate an adoption of features of Canaanite religious practice by the Yahweh cult. Ritual sacrifices associated with the moving of the ark were performed by David. No special shrine or temple was constructed for the ark, making it necessary for a writer to explain why David failed to build a temple for Yahweh although he constructed a palace for himself (ch. 7).<=>

“Two isolated fragments of Davidic history comprise Chapter 8. The first summarizes David's military campaigns (8:2-14): he subdues Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites, making these areas subject states controlled by garrisons. Despite the absence of references to the conquest of other Canaanite city-states such as Jerusalem, it can be safely assumed that they were brought under control, for it is quite clear that David intended to develop a kingdom free of conflicting elements. The second historical note lists the officials of David's court (8:15-18). Joab was commander-in-chief of the army, but a certain Benaiah is said to have been in charge of the mercenaries made up of Cretans (Cherethites) and Philistines (Pelethites). In addition to a court recorder and a secretary, two priests are named, and David's sons are also said to be priests. A similar list of officials is given in II Sam. 20:23-26 with the role of chief of forced labor added, implying that David initiated the corvée. Such lists demonstrate that the old "chieftain-type" kingship represented by Saul belonged to the past; kingship now involved administration of a large unified central state and military control of subject areas. Gone forever was the time when it could be said "everyone did what was right in his own sight."<=>

“Quite suddenly, the early narrative introduces Saul's grandson Meribaal (ch. 9), and here it is best to follow the suggestion made by a number of scholars and insert II Sam. 21:1-14 into the text before the discussion of Chapter 9. Not only do these verses provide a setting for the discussion in Chapter 9, but in their present position they stand as an isolated fragment.10<=>

Trials for David as Ruler of Hebron

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “A famine in David's kingdom was attributed to the death of the Gibeonites at the hand of Saul (II Sam. 2 1:1).11 There is no record of Saul's action and precisely what crime is referred to is not clear. Perhaps it was thought that the killing of the Gibeonites was a violation of the covenant of peace recorded in Joshua (ch. 9), for the writer takes pains to point out that the Gibeonites were not Hebrews. It is also pointed out that Saul acted out of zeal for the kingdom. In view of these statements, it would appear that the writer is attempting to demonstrate that David's subsequent actions were more a matter of political expediency than anything else, for David agreed to atone for the death of the Gibeonites by giving seven of Saul's sons, any one of whom might have been considered a contender for the throne, to the Gibeonites for hanging. On the other hand, the Semitic belief that physical disasters, such as famine, could be accounted for by acts which offended the deity might have been involved. In this instance the violation of a covenant of peace could be interpreted as the cause of a famine that would continue until the breach was rectified. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The mountain of Yahweh where the men were hanged was probably the high place of Gibeon, a Canaanite shrine used for Yahweh worship. Saul's concubine, Rizpah, protected the bodies from attacks by carrion birds. The bones of Saul and Jonathan were eventually exhumed and, together with the remains of the seven sons, were interred in the tomb of the family of Kish.<=>

20120502-Bathseba 795px-Rembrandt_-_The_Toilet_of_.JPG
Rembrandt's The Toilet of Bathseba
“One descendant of Saul, Meribaal, the son of Jonathan, was spared, perhaps because of the friendship which had existed between David and Jonathan, but perhaps also because as a cripple or deformed person he could not be considered a rival for the throne. It is possible that David hoped to win support from those who still believed in the Saulite kingship and resented the assumption of the throne by David. Thus, Meribaal entered David's household.<=>

“Chapter 10 of II Samuel makes it clear that David did not hold his newly conquered territories without effort. The death of a king who had signed a treaty with David brought to the throne a successor who resented Hebrew control and who planned rebellion. Thanks to the military skill of Joab, the Hebrews defeated the rebels. Suddenly the story of the rebellion is interrupted, and the reader is informed of what was taking place at the court at this same time. The account of the armies in the field is taken up again in chapter 12:26-31.<=>

David and Bathsheba

David seduced Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was then killed after being sent to the front line of battle by David. The Prophet Nathan predicted that tragedies would occur in David’s family for this evil deed. Bathsheba later gave birth to Solomon.

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “From what may be personal records or personal knowledge of the court life of David, the writer of the early materials provides a glimpse into family relationships in the royal household. Whatever prowess David may have shown as a military leader was utterly lacking in his leadership within his family. His own ruthlessness, in taking whatever he desired, is partially revealed in the story of the acquisition of the kingship, and is fully portrayed in the story of Bathsheba. What David was in himself was reflected in the character of his family. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The Bathsheba story is told simply, without theological interpretation. As king, David had Bathsheba brought into his harem while her husband Uriah, a Hittite mercenary, was fighting in David's army. When she became pregnant David had Uriah returned home in the hope that he would spend at least one night with Bathsheba so that he could be said to be father of the child. Uriah did not go to his home. As a soldier he observed the taboo that required sexual abstinence.12 David managed to get him drunk in the hope that Uriah might stagger home, but the soldier did not break the taboo. It was clear that Uriah must die, and Uriah carried his own death warrant back to Joab, who could be trusted to do whatever David requested. Uriah was sent to one of the more dangerous battle areas and, at a crucial moment, Joab withdrew support so that Bathsheba's husband and those with him perished.<=>

“At this point theological judgment is introduced with the appearance of the prophet Nathan (II Sam. 11:27b-12:1). The king's role as guardian of the national safety and of individual freedom is reflected in the parable Nathan related to David. A powerful, rich man fulfilled the nomadic rule of hospitality by offering the very best of provender to a guest, not by drawing from his own flocks but by stealing a lamb from a poor and weaker neighbor. In righteous anger David demanded the name of the rich man, declaring that such an act was worthy of the death penalty (12:5). Nathan's response was "You are the man" (vss. 9b to 12 are a later addition). While David was not to suffer the penalty he had pronounced, the child of the unlawful relationship with Bathsheba was to die. David's reaction to the pronouncement of doom for his child reflects his pragmatic approach to religion. While the child lived David fasted hoping that Yahweh would be persuaded to alter the child's fortune. When the child died, rather than performing the customary mourning rites David returned to the normal pattern of life (12:20-23). A footnote to the story announces the birth of Solomon and the pet name given by Nathan to the new prince - Jedidiah or "Beloved of Yahweh" (12:24 f.)<=>

David and Absalom

David mourns the death of Absalom

David had many wives and many children. The most well known of his sons was Absalom who was forced to flee David’s court after he killed his half-brother Ammon in revenge for raping their sister Tamar. Absalom later died in a battle against his father after his hair became entangled in a tree and he was dispatched by one of David’s generals.

The rape of Tamar and the death of Absalom were regarded as fulfillments of Nathan’s prophecy. David was devastated by Absalom’s death. According to 2 Samuel 18:33, he cried: “Oh my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you. Oh Absalom, my son, my son!”

Larue wrote: “Subsequent chapters recount the decaying family relationships within David's household. Amnon, one of David's sons, raped his half-sister Tamar and was killed by Tamar's brother, Absalom. To escape punishment Absalom fled and David, while mourning for Amnon, longed to see Absalom (13:37-39). Joab knew David's mind and arranged for a "wise woman," possibly a representative of the wisdom school, to present a problem to the king. Once again the accessibility of David to the common people demonstrates the role of the king as defender of human rights. Like Nathan, the woman posed a problem involving Semitic justice, and once again David in his response judged himself. David recognized Joab's role in this plot and sent Joab to bring Absalom back from exile. Two years later Absalom was fully readmitted to the royal household (ch. 14). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Absalom began to undermine David by suggesting that David was neglecting his duty of safeguarding the rights of his subjects. Within four years he had won enough people to his way of thinking, including David's counselor, Ahithophel, that he dared to be crowned king at the shrine in Hebron (15:1-12). David fled, leaving ten concubines to care for the palace, Zadok and Abiathar to care for the ark, and Hushai to act as spy.<=>

“The problems of that hectic period were further complicated by Meribaal, son of Jonathan, who thought that the state of disorder provided opportunity for seizure of the throne (16:1-14). The attitude of Shimei makes it clear that then was a faction still loyal to Saul that Meribaal might count upon for support. Meribaal's plans never developed; Absalom took over the palace and erected his personal tent upon the roof, proclaiming to all that he had usurped his father's throne and was master of the royal concubines. The taking of the royal concubines constituted a proclamation of kingship, and there is some evidence in the Bible that a new king inherited his predecessor's harem.13 Then Absalom made the error that cost him the kingdom. Relying upon the advice of David's spy, Hushai, and rejecting the counsel of Ahithophel, he failed to press his advantage by attacking David when the royal forces were still unorganized (ch. 17). Meanwhile David mustered his army and Absalom was defeated and killed in the battle of the forest of Ephraim (ch. 18). David's mourning for Absalom was so intense that Joab warned the king that he was making a bad impression upon those who had fought to retain his kingdom and that military victory was a time for rejoicing (19:1-15). In a spirit of magnanimity David forgave those who had opposed him, including Meribaal, and rewarded the faithful with the exception of Joab who had rebuked him. Joab was replaced as commander by Amasa. The spirit of distrust between north and south was not diminished and the sense of being separate peoples was still prevalent (cf. 19:41-43).<=>

David's Conquest of Jerusalem

Combat between soldiers
of Ish-bosheth and David
In 1004 B.C. David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in 1004 B.C. in a bloodless raid. According to II Samuel and I Chronicles in Bible, the city was taken by Joab, David’s nephew and general, who snuck into the fortress by way of a 40-foot-long tunnel that brought water to the fortress from Gihon Spring.

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “David nobly and movingly laments Saul and Jonathan, leaves the Philistines, and returns to his home territory of Judah where he is made king. It seems that David has 'made it' - with as much success, prosperity, and peace (not to mention several wives and numerous children) as anyone in the ancient world could ever hope for. Yet at this point David becomes complacent. Living "after the Lord's own heart" ceases to be his priority and a terrible unraveling of his achievement sets in. The following chapters tell of David's household falling apart in the pattern of sex and murder that he himself has initiated. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

David built a citadel on a strategically located ridge flanked by deep valleys and made it into the capital of Israel. He chose the site because it was strategically located over the Jordan Valley, about halfway between the northern and southern Holy Lands. According to the Bible, David built a settlement around the mysterious "Millo" and named it Ir David , the “City of David” (later it was named “Yerushalayim,” which means "City of Peace" in Hebrew, and is similar to it original Canaanite name).

In David’s time Jerusalem covered a triangular 12-acre piece of land and had a population of around 4,000 people. It was located about 350 feet to the south of modern Old City beyond the eastern ridge called the Ophel.

David's Jewish Kingdom

David ruled from 1000 B.C. to 961 B.C. When David captured Jerusalem he introduced kingship as way of relating God’s purpose to the Jewish people, thereby transferring his covenant with God from himself to the Jewish people. The Second Book of Samuel declares that David “reigned over all Israel and Judah” at Jerusalem: King Hiram of Tyre sent “carpenters and masons, and they built a house for David. And David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel."

Under David and his successors, Judaism was developed and secured. The Jewish kingdom reached its greatest extent under David around 1000 B.C. when it stretched from the Sinai to the Euphrates River and included large chunks of present-day Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Under David and Solomon complex water works were constructed throughout Palestine.

David’s kingdom lasted less than a century but it fulfilled a promise made by God to Abraham (Genesis 15:18): “To your offspring assign this land, from the river of Egypt [in the Sinai] to the great river, the river Euphrates.” Centuries after David’s kingdom was lost, the Prophet Ezekial dreams (47:13-20) of Israel’s exiles returning to a land restored to borders of David’s kingdom. The location of David's Jewish state made its survival dicey at best. Surrounded by such empires as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and others, Jerusalem became the center of a crossroads for conquerors.

As for the archeological perspective on all this, Draper wrote in National Geographic: While the Bible says David and Solomon built the kingdom of Israel into a powerful and prestigious empire stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, from Damascus to the Negev, there's a slight problem---namely, that despite decades of searching, archaeologists had found no solid evidence that David or Solomon ever built anything. Absent more evidence, we're left with the decidedly drab tenth-century B.C. biblical world that Finkelstein first proposed in a 1996 paper---not a single great kingdom replete with monumental buildings but instead a scruffy landscape of disparate, slowly gelling powers: the Philistines to the south, Moabites to the east, Israelites to the north, Aramaeans farther north, and yes, perhaps, a Judaean insurgency led by a young shepherd in not-so-dazzling Jerusalem. Such an interpretation galls Israelis who regard David's capital as their bedrock. Many of the excavations undertaken in Jerusalem are financially backed by the City of David Foundation, whose director of international development, Doron Spielman, freely admits, "When we raise money for a dig, what inspires us is to uncover the Bible---and that's indelibly linked with sovereignty in Israel." [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

"Our claim to being one of the senior nations in the world, to being a real player in civilization's realm of ideas, is that we wrote this book of books, the Bible," Daniel Polisar, president of the Shalem Center, an Israeli research institute, told National Geographic. "You take David and his kingdom out of the book, and you have a different book. The narrative is no longer a historical work, but a work of fiction. And then the rest of the Bible is just a propagandistic effort to create something that never was. And if you can't find the evidence for it, then it probably didn't happen. That's why the stakes are so high."

David’s Later Years

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: David the great king finally appears as a rather pathetic old man, shivering uncontrollably in bed, while his court and family manoeuvre and jockey for position around the dying king. A power struggle between supporters of two of David's sons, half-brothers to each other, Adonijah and Solomon, ends with Solomon on the throne and some rather dismal settling of scores (1 Kings 1-2). The political wheelings and dealings have a hardy perennial feel to them. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

Larue wrote: “The interpretation of Sheba's rebellion (ch. 20) presents something of a problem. Despite David's generosity in forgiving his enemies, a number of persons from the southern kingdom of Judah were not sure of David's attitude toward them because they had supported Absalom. David urged the Judaeans to welcome him as king (19:11 ff.). Whether it was caused by jealousy over this action, or perhaps by the belief of a rebellious group of Israelites that there was still a chance to break away from Davidic rule, is not clear, but Sheba led the northern tribes in rebellion. His war cry was a call for independence: "We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse, every man to his tents, O Israel." David commissioned his new commander, Amasa, to rally Judaean troops, but he was so slow in executing this responsibility that David turned again to Joab and his mercenaries. Joab murdered Amasa and pursued Sheba to the far northern city of Abel. Here Sheba died at the hand of his own people who decided that it was better that one man should die than the whole town suffer, and for a time the rebellious mood of Israel was quiet. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Now the Philistines attacked, on the assumption that the trouble within the Hebrew kingdom had weakened David's power. David participated in one battle but he had neither the strength nor the stamina for warfare. His men sent him back to Jerusalem and carried on without him (21:15-22). A further summary of the Philistine battles and a list of warriors who participated is given in 23:8-39.<=>

At this point, two intrusions interrupt the narrative. The first, Chapter 22, is a psalm identical to Ps. 18. According to the superscription (vs. 1), David sang this song on being saved from Saul. However, the psalm appears to be a national hymn of thanksgiving from dire distress used in some cultic celebration. The poem reflects the time when the temple had been erected (vs. 7) and when the Davidic line had been established (vs. 50-51), so it comes from a later period than David's time. The second intrusion consists of the first seventeen verses of Chapter 23 in which an oracle pertaining to the kingship is attributed to David, giving David the status of an inspired person. This passage is from a later time.<=>

“The Davidic story continues in I Kings. The opening verses demonstrate that the Hebrew monarchy was like that in surrounding cultures wherein the life and health of the nation was reflected in the physical well-being of the ruler. Not only was it important that the king be a person of strength and beauty,14 but he had to be a man of sexual vigor and potency, for the reproductive power of the monarch symbolized the blessings of fertility for the land and flocks. Because David was impotent, Abishag, the young Shunamite maiden was brought to court in the hope that she might stimulate him sexually.15 When she was unable to arouse him, David's kingdom was threatened.<=>

“Adonijah, David's son, was aware of the monarch's impotency and chose this moment to seek the throne, enlisting the help of Joab and Abiathar, the priest (1:8). An enthronement feast was held at the shrine at En-rogal near Jerusalem, to which David's sons (except Solomon) and those who could be counted upon for support were invited. The omission of Solomon from the invited guests would indicate that Adonijah was aware of the political aspirations of Bathsheba and her son. Nathan, the prophet, reported the coup to Bathsheba, and together they plotted the means whereby Solomon could become king. They convinced the aged king that he had promised the crown to Solomon (a promise not noted before) and, revealing Adonijah's plans, persuaded David to have Solomon crowned co-regent. Riding upon the royal she-mule and accompanied by the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan, Solomon went to Gihon, close to the city of Jerusalem, and was anointed king. In triumph he returned to Jerusalem, and Adonijah, hearing the news, knew his cause was lost. In fear of reprisal, Adonijah sought sanctuary in the shrine at En-rogal, clinging to the horns of the altar.16 Solomon spared Adonijah's life, asking only a promise of loyalty (1:53). Without further difficulty, Solomon joined his father upon the throne of the Hebrew kingdom.<=>

“The last days of David are recorded in the first twelve verses of I Kings, Chapter 2. The failing monarch required promises from Solomon that both Joab and Shimei would be put to death, and that the family of Barzillai, the Gileadite, would be rewarded because of the aid it had given to David when Absalom had revolted. Much has been written on these verses by scholars, with some arguing that the passages are to be treated as a late addition17 with others justifying David's wish on the basis of the Hebraic belief in the importance of the practice of blood revenge,18 and with still others using the passages to reveal the vindictiveness of the ailing king who, having failed to settle his own accounts, passed the responsibility on to his son.19 The accounts seem to be designed to remove the stigma attached to Solomon for the way in which he brought about consolidation of the empire by the removal of potential rivals. The stories protect Solomon's reputation and explain the deaths of Shimei and Joab as the fulfillment of a deathbed wish of David.<=>

Archaeological Evidence David's Jewish State

Direct archaeological evidence of the existence of the Kingdom of David and David's conquest of Jerusalem was discovered in 1993 by archaeologists with Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College. Near the Syrian border in northern Israel, archaeologists discovered a 9th century B.C. inscription on a piece basalt at an ancient mound called Tel Dan. The inscription referred to the "House of David" and the "King of Israel." It was heralded as the first evidence outside the Bible of David’s existence. Critics claim the inscription may have been misread and David was a common name. French archaeologists also assert there are references to David on Moabite Stone, a basalt slab with inscription found in 1868 in the ruins of biblical Didon.

In 2005, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced that she found the ruins of a major public building, dated to the 10th century B.C., in East Jerusalem that she claimed was King David’s Palace. Sponsored by a neoconservative research organization and bankrolled by an American investment banker, she based her claim on the building’s location in relation to description the Bible, the discovery of pottery shards dated to the time of David and Solomon and a government seal with the name of an official mentioned in the book of Jeremiah.

Many scholars greeted Mazar’s discovery as a significant find but were skeptical about it being David’s palace. According to Samuel II, Chapter 5, a palace was built for David after an important battle by Hiram, the king of Tyre, and was uphill from the Fortress of Zion that David conquered from the Jebusites. Many Israeli archaeologists think the structure that Mazar found is more likely the Fortress of Zion.

"David's Palace" in Jerusalem

Palestinians argue that the notion of Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a religious myth used to justify occupation and colonialism. Some claim the work of Israeli archaeologists is “to fit historical evidence into a biblical context.” Hani Nur el-fin, a professor at Al Quds University, told the New York Times: “The link between historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There’s a kind of fiction about the 19th century. The try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button and they want to make a suit out of it.”

Based on his work at Megiddo, archaeologist Israel Finklestein has concluded that there was no unified Israelite state under David. He said that archaeological evidence suggests that Judah and Israel remained separate, neighboring states and they were not united under David.

Located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Jerusalem, Khirbet Qeiyafa is an ancient city that flourished almost 3,000 years ago. It consists of a six-acre (2.3 hectares) settlement surrounded by casemate city wall with two gates. Some researchers claim it is the biblical city of Sha'arayim. The site may also have played an important role during Israel's "United Monarchy" period and, in July 2013, researchers announced they had identified a structure more than 10,000 square feet (1,000 square meters) in size as a palace that may have been used by King David himself. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, September 30, 2013]

Oldest Hebrew Text Ever Found at a David-Era Fortress

In 2008, archaeologists announced that they had discovered what they say is the oldest Hebrew text ever found, at a site they believe was King David's front line fortress in the war against Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, where the young David slew Goliath. The discovery comes from a 3,000-year-old pottery shard with five lines of text found during excavations of the Elah Fortress, the oldest known biblical-period fortress, which dates to the tenth century B.C. It is the most important archaeological discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to lead researcher Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology.

Gil Ronen wrote in israelnationalnews.com: “The text is written in ink on a pottery shard (ostracon). It is made up of five lines of text in Proto-Canaanite characters separated by lines. The writing on the shard seems to be a letter sent from one person to another and archaeologists have still not deciphered it completely. Preliminary analysis shows that it contains the words "king" (melech), "judge" (shofet), and "eved" (slave), and that the terms may be parts of names, as in "Achimelech" or "Evedel" (lit. "King's brother," "Servant of God"). Carbon-14 dating of olive pits as well as chemical analysis of the pottery found at the site shows conclusively that it dates from between 1,000 and 975 B.C.E – the time of King David's reign. The writing predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by about 1,000 years. . [Source: Gil Ronen, .israelnationalnews.com +++]

Mati Milstein wote in National Geographic News, “His team believes the text may provide evidence for a real-life King David and his vast kingdom, the existence of which has been long doubted by scholars. The exact nature of the text— believed to be Hebrew written in Proto-Canaanite script, a type of early alphabet—has yet to be determined, but a number of root words have already been translated, including "judge," "slave," and "king." [Source: Mati Milstein, National Geographic News, November 3, 2008 ^^^]

“The newfound Hebrew text has also added new evidence of Judean rule, since key words indicate the text is most likely Hebrew. Garfinkel believes the Elah site and newfound writing could provide historic evidence of the United Monarchy in the tenth century B.C. That's when King David is said to have united Judea and Israel, establishing a large kingdom that stretched between the Nile River in present-day Egypt and the Euphrates in Iraq, according to the Bible. Though most researchers don't believe this kingdom existed, evidence from the site and pottery shard seems to support the idea of a strong central administration based in nearby Jerusalem, as detailed in the Bible, Garfinkel said. "There is a big debate if the biblical tradition is accurate history or mythology written hundreds of years later … But this is the first time in the archaeology of Israel we have evidence that in the time of King David such heavily fortified cities were built." ^^^

“The ancient text may also shed light on the evolution of the world's alphabetic languages. "This is the first time that we have a Proto-Canaanite inscription dated in [the context of] an archaeological site from the tenth century B.C.," Garfinkel said. "This is a major contribution to the understanding of writing in the world." The evolution of alphabetic scripts, which had their origins in Proto-Canaanite some 3,700 years ago, was one of humankind's greatest intellectual achievements, experts say. "This allowed everyone to read and write. Before this, Sumerian scripts and Egyptian hieroglyphs were very complicated writing techniques … only trained scribes could read and write in the ancient Near East," Garfinkel said. ^^^

“Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, who is not involved in the Elah excavations, agreed the site is very important, but has significant concerns with Garfinkel's interpretations of the findings. Immediately drawing ties between the site and the Kingdom of Judea is a mistake, he said—and it might well have been Philistine in origin. Also, due to the small number of samples, the carbon-14 dating of the site is also not as precise as it should be, he added. "We need to wait for more samples. It's not enough to date the site based on two [olive pits]," he said. He also expressed doubts about the centerpiece of Garfinkel's findings—the text. "I am prepared to predict that it will be very difficult to determine whether the text is, in fact, Hebrew. There will be evidence indicating various possibilities," he said. "In the nature of its discovery, this [piece of pottery] is also not unusual. There is a group of late Proto-Canaanite [pottery shards] from the same chronological phase that have been found in various sites on the coastal plain—none of them were discovered in Judea proper." ^^^

20120503-David Jerusalem Eastern_Hill_and_the_Kidron_Valley.jpg
David's Jerusalem: Eastern Hill and the Kidron Valley

David-Era Fortress Where Oldest Hebrew Text Ever Was Found

The fortress is located southwest of Jerusalem on what was the border between the Israelite-run Kingdom of Judea and the coastal Philistine territories. The Philistines settled the southern coast of Palestine around the same time as the Israelites in the 12th century B.C. Mati Milstein wrote in National Geographic News, “The fortress is located southwest of Jerusalem on what was the border between the Israelite-run Kingdom of Judea and the coastal Philistine territories. Philistines, who possibly came from Crete, settled the southern coast of Palestine around the same time as the Israelites in the 12th century B.C. During the biblical period, the Elah Valley was the main point of passage between the two territories. It's not known whether the Judeans or the Philistines controlled the strategic fortress overlooking the Elah Valley, which was surrounded by nearly 3,000-foot-long (700-meter-long) fortifications built of massive stones. [Source: Mati Milstein, National Geographic News, November 3, 2008]

But Garfinkel believes the site was most likely the westernmost outpost maintained by the Kingdom of Judea, which controlled land in southwest Asia and Palestine and was a predecessor to the Kingdom of Israel. For instance, pottery at the fortress is similar to that found at other Israelite sites, and there are no pig remains—an indicator that often distinguishes Israelite from Philistine sites.

Gil Ronen wrote in israelnationalnews.com: “The site where the shard was found is known as Khirbet Kheyafa, but Rabbi Barnea Selava "The local Bedouins refer to it as… are you sitting down?... Khirbet Daudi - David's ruins." n of the Foundation Stone organization says that "the local Bedouins refer to it as… are you sitting down?... Khirbet Daoud." The word khirbeh in Arabic refers to a ruin and Daudi is Arabic for David. Also known as the Elah Fortress because of its location at the Elah Valley near Beit Shemesh, archaeologists believe the fortress controlled a strategic point overlooking the main route connecting Pleshet and the Judean lowland with the mountainous region and the central cities of Jerusalem and Hevron. [Source: Gil Ronen, .israelnationalnews.com +++]

“The ancient point of settlement covers more than four acres and is surrounded by a 700 meter long wall. Archaeologists believe that 200,000 tons of rock were mined in order to build it. The wall contains a massive and ornate gate built from hewn rock. According to Selavan, there was some debate among archeologists as to whether the fortress was the Jewish front line against the Philistines or the opposite – the Philistines' front line against the Jews. However, there is now widespread agreement that the site was Jewish: there are no pig bones and chemical analysis (petrography) of the ceramics found there shows that the structure was Jewish, not the Philistine's.” +++

Tel Dan Inscription

The Tel Dan Inscription(9th-7th century B.C.) is an Aramaic inscription discovered in 1993 which some scholars say is first extrabiblical evidence for the House of David. Believed to be a Victory Stele, this basalt stele consists of several fragments, including: Frag. A (32 centimeters high, 22 centimeters wide); Frag.B1 (20 centimeters high, 14 centimeters wide); Frag. B2 (10 centimeters high, 9 centimeters wide). Currenty located in the Israel Museum, it consists of 13 lines of writing (B1 + B2: 8 lines of writing). The inscription was found in Tel Dan, Galilee in July 21, 1993 (Frag. A) and June 20, 1994 (Frag. B1 & Washington Post) by Avraham Biran.

Tel Dan inscription

The Tel Dan Inscription reads:
. . .] TŠR . c[. . . 1
. . .] [. . .
. . .]. 'BY . YS[Q . . . 2
. . .] my father[. . .
WYŠKB . 'BY . YHK . 'L[. . . . 3
[. . .
R'L . QDM . 'RQ . '?BY[. . . . 4. [. . .
'NH . WYKH . HDD . QDMY [. . . 5. [. . .
Y . MLKY . W'QTL . [ML . . . 6. [. . .
KB . Q'LPY . PRŠ . [. . . 7. [. . .
MLK . YŠR'L . WQ[. . . 8. [. . .
K . BYTDWD . W'ŠM . [. . . 9. [. . .
YT . 'RQ . HM . L[. . . 10. [. . .
'HRN . WLH [. . . 11. [. . .
LK . cL . YŠ[. . . 12. [. . .
MSR . cL[. . . . 13. [. . .

. . .] WGZ[R . . . 1. . . .] [. . .
. . .]LHMH . B'[. . . 2. . . .] [. . .
. . .] . WYcL . MLKY. [. . . 3. . . .] [. . .
. . .] HMLK . HDD [. . . 4. . . .] the king Hadad [. . .
. . .]'PK . M[N] . ŠB[. . . 5. . . .] [. . .
. . .] . 'SRY . '[. . . 6. . . .] [. . .
. . .]RM . BR . [. . . 7. . . .]ram son of [. . .
. . .]YHW . BR[. . . 8. . . .]-yahu son of [. . .

Select Bibliography: Athas, George. “Setting the Record Straight: What are We Saying about the Tel Dan Inscription?” Journal of Semitic Studies 51 (2006) 241-55. Athas, George. The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 360. Copenhagen International Seminar 12. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2003. Ben Zvi, Ehud. “On the Reading ‘bytdwd’ In The Aramaic Stele from Tel Dan.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 64 (1994) 25-32. Biran, Avraham, and Joseph Naveh. “An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan.” Israel Exploration Journal 43 (1993) 81-98. Biran, Avraham, and Joseph Naveh. “The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment.” Israel Exploration Journal 45 (1995) 1-18. Cryer, Frederick H. “On the Recently Discovered ‘House of David’ Inscription.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 8.1 (1994) 3-19. Cryer, Frederick H. “A ‘Betdawd’ Miscellany: Dwd, Dwd' or Dwdh?” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 9.1 (1995) 52-58. Cryer, Frederick H. “King Hadad.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 9.2 (1995) 223-35. Cryer, Frederick H. “Of Epistemology, Northwest-Semitic Epigraphy and Irony: The ‘BYTDWD/House of David’ Inscription Revisited.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 69 (1996) 3-17. “Dan: The Biblical City.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website. Demsky, B. I. “On Reading Ancient Inscriptions: The Monumental Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan.” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 23 (1995) 29-35. Lemche, Niels Peter, and Thomas L. Thompson. “Did Biran Kill David? The Bible in the Light Of Archaeology.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 64 (1994) 3-22. Rendsburg, Gary A. “On the Writing of bytdwd in the Aramaic Inscription from Tel Dan.” Israel Exploration Journal 45 (1995) 22-25. Sasson, Victor. “The Old Aramaic Inscription from Tell Dan: Philological, Literary and Historical Aspects.” Journal of Semitic Studies 40 (1995) 11-30. Sasson, Victor. “The Tell Dan Aramaic Inscription: The Problems of a New Minimized Reading.” Journal of Semitic Studies 50 (2005) 23-34. Schniedewind, William M. “Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic and Jehu’s Revolt.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 302 (May 1996) 75-90. Thompson, Thomas L. “‘House of David’: An Eponymic Referent to Yahweh as Godfather.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 9.1 (1995) 59-74. Thompson, Thomas L. “Dissonance and Disconnections: Notes on the bytdwd and hmlk.hdd Fragments from Tel Dan.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 9.2 (1995) 236-40.

Myths and Misconceptions About David’s Rule

enigmatic phrase "Davidic altar-hearth" in the Mesha stele

Dr R. W. L. Moberly of University of Durham wrote for the BBC: “However, closer examination of the Samuel account suggests that there was a lot more to David's rule than meets the eye. The Near East of 1000 BC was a lawless place and some Biblical academics are convinced that many of the explanations and alibis which appear in the ancient account of David's life indicate that he was a ruthless leader whose reign was riddled with assassinations, subterfuge and double-dealing. Even the famous battle with the great Philistine Goliath fails to stand up to closer scrutiny. [Source: Dr R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham, [Source: BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

“David, it appears, was not the naïve shepherd boy at the time of the infamous duel, but an experienced apprentice-warrior. His sling wasn't simply a tool for sheep herding but was also a deadly military weapon, the exocet of the ancient world. “If Goliath was as tall as the Bible claims then he would probably have been suffering from a growth condition called pituitary gigantism, which has debilitating side-effects including tunnel-vision. So perhaps David's victory wasn't quite so implausible after all. When the factors are taken into consideration it is increasingly likely that it was actually Goliath who was at a disadvantage. |::|

“David was undoubtedly a great leader, but recent evidence and analysis is providing far more complex interpretations of his life. This documentary reveals that by looking beyond the two-dimensional image of the tenacious shepherd boy who became king, we can now see a far more complicated, fascinating man; a fallible and sometimes ruthless pragmatist.” |::|

David's Significance: a Successful King

“Dr Paula Gooder of the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, wrote for the BBC: “One of the reasons David is so successful as a king is that he weaves the relationship with God into the very life of the people. So when David establishes his capital in Jerusalem he establishes it with the Ark of the Covenant. One of the most important features of the establishment of the capital is that the Ark of the Covenant is taken in a joyful procession into the capital. So the capital becomes not only the political heart of the nation but also the religious heart of the nation. [Source: “Dr Paula Gooder, tutor at the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

“David, however, does not build a temple, because he is told by God that he is not the person who is called to build it: it's his son Solomon who will build the temple. Nevertheless David establishes the worship of God in a single place. This is very important because until this point God has been worshipped wherever the Ark of the Covenant is, and the Ark of the Covenant moves round wherever the leaders of the people are based, so it is discovered in various different places in Israel. |::|

“David places the Ark of the Covenant in a single place in the capital, and it is there that the people must come to worship God. David's capital is so successful because the people have to come and worship God in the one place. It's as though David gives those twelve disparate tribes a focus that they can all look to. They can come and worship and have their political life at the centre of the nation.” |::|

David's Relationship with God

David's sacrifice on Mount Moriah

Nick Page, author of The Bible Book and The Tabloid Bible” wrote for the BBC: “By the time of David, God is in some ways a more distant figure from His people, and in other ways He's a lot closer. Physically, he's more distant. He doesn't seem to appear in the way that He appeared before Moses and certainly the way He appeared before Abraham, when he came to them as a figure. When God appears in the time of David, it's as a cloud filling the temple. It's a much more ethereal kind of presence. |::|

“Nevertheless he seems to speak as directly as before, if not more so. The way that David talks about God, if we take the Psalms of David as representative of his thought, is closer and much more personal than in previous times. Although Abraham and Moses both argued with God, David pleads with God. He cajoles Him, he upbraids Him for not doing things. |::|

“The Psalms really are like a spiritual diary. There's a sense of closeness with God, the ability to question Him, to ask what's going on and to have the faith that He'll sort it out. And to have a very kind of personal relationship with God, whilst at the same time God is certainly not present in the same way that He was in the time of Moses. |::|

“David was a great king - the greatest king in Israel's history - despite what he did rather than because of what he did. His greatness is shown through his humanity, through his weakness, through his vulnerability. But for his willingness that even though he was a king, to come before God, just as a human being, and say "sorry".

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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