David the Faithful Servant

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Sermon: David the Faithful Servant                                                        1-21-2007

Acts 13:22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

1 Samuel 13:14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."

What does it mean to be a “man after God’s own heart”?

After God’s own heart as a teenager tending sheep

Read 1 Samuel 16-18 (faithful in the little things)

            1 Samuel 17:34-37 Sheep, Bears, Lions, Brothers and a Giant

            1 Samuel 16:13 The day his life changed forever

After God’s own heart while running from King Saul

Read 1 Samuel 18-31 (faithful in the dark times)

            1 Samuel 24:6;  26:10-11

After God’s own heart while writing Songs

‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Sa. 23:1) (Faithful in times of solitude)

Psalms written by David: 3-9, 11-32, 34-42, 51-56, 58-66, 68-70, 86, 101, 103, 108-110, 124, 131, 133, 138, 139-145          

After God’s own heart while reigning as King

Read 2 Samuel – 1 Kings 2

2 Samuel 11; 1 Chronicles 21  the horrible consequences of pursuing our own heart

Sermón: David el Siervo Fiel 

Hechos 13:22 Quitado éste,  les levantó por rey a David,  de quien dio también testimonio diciendo:  He hallado a David hijo de Isaí,  varón conforme a mi corazón, quien hará todo lo que yo quiero.

1 Samuel 13:14 Mas ahora tu reino no será duradero.  Jehová se ha buscado un varón conforme a su corazón,  al cual Jehová ha designado para que sea príncipe sobre su pueblo,  por cuanto tú no has guardado lo que Jehová te mandó.

            ¿Qué signfica ser un hombre “conforme al corazón de Dios?

Un hombre conforme al corazó de Dios cuando era jóven  

Lee 1 Samuel 16-18 (fiel en las cosas pequeñas)

            1 Samuel 17:34-37 Ovejas, Osos, Leones, Hermanos y un Gigante

            1 Samuel 16:13 El día que su vida cambió para siempre

Un hombre conforme al corazón de Dios mientras huye del Rey Saul  

Lee 1 Samuel 18-31 (fiel en los tiempos difíciles)

            1 Samuel 24:6;  26:10-11

Un hombre conforme al corazón de Dios mientras escribió cantos

‘el dulce cantor de Israel’ (2 Samuel 23:1) (Fiel en tiempos de solitude)

Salmos escritos por David: 3-9, 11-32, 34-42, 51-56, 58-66, 68-70, 86, 101, 103, 108-110, 124, 131, 133, 138, 139-145          

Un hombre conforme al corazón de Dios mientras era el Rey

Lee 2 Samuel – 1 Reyes 2

(2 Samuel 11; 1 Crónicas 21) las horrible consecuencias de ir tras mi propio corazón

2007 – The Year of the Faithful Servant

Jesus the Faithful Servant (Mk.10:45)


Jonathan the Faithful Servant (1Sam.13-14)

            Initiative & Attitude

Acts 13:22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' RVR Quitado éste,  les levantó por rey a David,  de quien dio también testimonio diciendo:  He hallado a David hijo de Isaí,  varón conforme a mi corazón, quien hará todo lo que yo quiero.

Acts 13:36 "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. (NBLH)  "Porque David, después de haber servido el propósito de Dios en su propia generación, durmió (murió), y fue sepultado con sus padres, y vio corrupción.

David waited

Ps 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (NBLH)  Espera al SEÑOR; Esfuérzate y aliéntese tu corazón. Sí, espera al SEÑOR.

Ps 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.

(NBLH  Esperé pacientemente al SEÑOR, Y El se inclinó a mí y oyó mi clamor.

David obeyed

Ps.40:6-8 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,  but my ears you have pierced;  burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--  it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, O my God;  your law is within my heart." Sacrificio y ofrenda no te agrada; Has abierto mis oídos; Holocausto y expiación no has demandado.7 Entonces dije: He aquí, vengo; En el rollo del libro está escrito de mí; 8 El hacer tu voluntad,  Dios mío, me ha agradado, Y tu ley está en medio de mi corazón.

Ps 51:16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

(RV60) Porque no quieres sacrificio,  que yo lo daría; No quieres holocausto.

1Sam 13:14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart & appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command RVR Mas ahora tu reino no será duradero.  Jehová se ha buscado un varón conforme a su corazón,  al cual Jehová ha designado para que sea príncipe sobre su pueblo,  por cuanto tú no has guardado lo que Jehová te mandó.


Saul didn’t wait

1Sam 10:8 "Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do." (RV60)  Luego bajarás delante de mí a Gilgal;  entonces descenderé yo a ti para ofrecer holocaustos y sacrificar ofrendas de paz.  Espera siete días,  hasta que yo venga a ti y te enseñe lo que has de hacer.

Compare with 1Sam.13:5-13


Saul didn’t obey



What does it mean to be a “man after God’s own heart”?


Read 1 Samuel 16-18 (faithful in the little things)

1 Samuel 17:34-37 Sheep, Bears, Lions, Brothers and a Giant

The day his life changed forever

1Sam 16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power…..


Read 1 Samuel 18-31 (faithful in the dark times)

1 Samuel 24:6;  26:10-11


2Sam.23:1 Israel’s singer of songs [the sweet psalmist of Israel] El dulce cantor (salmista) de Isr

(Faithful in times of solitude)

73 Psalms written by David: 23, 27, 40, 42, 32, 51

3-9, 11-32, 34-42, 51-56, 58-66, 68-70, 86, 101, 103, 108-110, 124, 131, 133, 138, 139-145       

Ps 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God….Como el ciervo brama por las corrientes de las aguas, Así clama por ti,  oh Dios,  el alma mía. 2 Mi alma tiene sed de Dios,  del Dios vivo;  ¿Cuándo vendré,  y me presentaré delante de Dios?


Read 2 Samuel – 1 Kings 2

2Sam.2:4 King over Judah

2Sam.5:4 King over Israel

2Sam.5:5-6 …..He was then 30 years old when he started…….40 years of faithful service

2 Samuel 11; 1 Chronicles 21  the horrible consequences of pursuing our own heart

After his own heart (2 Sam.11)……the worst day of the rest of his life

He saw 2Sam.11:2….He sent (11:3-4a)….He slept with her (11:4b)….He schemed Adultery….Murder (11:5-24)

            Displeased God (11:27-12:14a) Death of the baby (12:14b-23)

            Amnon (ch.13)…Absalom (ch.14f)….Pestilence due to Pride (2Sam.24; 1Chron.21)











13:22 a man after My own heart. See note on 1 Sam. 13:14. Some would question the reality of this designation for David since he proved to be such a sinner at times (1 Sam. 11:1–4; 12:9; 21:10–22:1). No man after God’s own heart is perfect; yet he will recognize sin and repent of it, as did David (Pss. 32, 38, 51). Paul quoted from 1 Sam. 13:14 and Ps. 89:20

22. “‘I have found David.’” Paul quoted this saying not so much to praise David as to make the Jews more intent on receiving Christ. The Lord said that he was devoted to David, commending something remarkable in him, thus aiming to lift up the minds of believers to Christ in the person of David. The quotation is from Psalm 89:20, but Paul inserted something that was not found there, that David was the son of Jesse. This makes God’s grace clearer, for Jesse was a farmer, and it was wonderful of God to take Jesse’s youngest son from the sheepfolds and place him on the throne. By the word “found,” God means that he came across a man of the kind he wanted. Not that David’s own efforts made him fit to meet God; the phrase is just the usual human manner of speaking. Since David fell so badly, how can God testify to his constant obedience? There are two answers.

First, God was thinking about his general life rather than every single action.

Secondly, he was praising him not so much for his own merit as for Christ’s sake. Certainly he had deserved eternal destruction for himself and his family because of a single action. As far as he was responsible, the way of God’s blessing was blocked, and only the viper’s seed would come from Bathsheba. But in God’s wonderful wisdom the dreadful act of the murder of Uriah brought about an opposite result in the birth of Solomon. David sinned badly, but because he followed God throughout his life he was praised without exception. Although the Spirit has brought us to a higher plane, the common calling of all believers in Christ is pictured here.

After God had removed Saul from the kingship, He raised up David to be their king. In sharp contrast to Saul, David was obedient, so much so that concerning him God testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ Some may question the designation of David as a man after God’s heart. After all, he was guilty of cowardice (1 Sam. 21:10–22:1), adultery (2 Sam. 11:1–4), and murder (2 Sam. 12:9). A man after God’s heart, however, is not a perfect man. He is a man who sees his sin for what it is and repents of it. That David did (Pss. 32, 38, 51); divine chastening had a perfecting work. David may justly be termed a man after God’s heart because (unlike Saul) his greatest desire came to be the doing of God’s will. It was from his line that Messiah came.

22. “After he had removed him, God raised up David to be their king. Concerning him God testified, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will do everything I desire.’ ”

When Saul rejected God’s instructions and placed himself above the law, God rejected him. Samuel told Saul: For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king. [I Sam. 15:23] Saul lost his kingship and the possibility of founding a dynasty. No one of his sons would ever occupy the throne. God directed Samuel to go to Jesse in Bethlehem and anoint David king over Israel (I Sam. 16:1, 13), which led to fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy that the scepter would not depart from Judah (Gen. 49:10). Not Saul, a descendant of Benjamin, but David, a native of Bethlehem in the tribal territory of Judah, was the forerunner of the messianic King. Even though Samuel and the psalmist Ethan the Ezrahite spoke words concerning David, Paul ascribes these words to God and says that God testified concerning David (I Sam. 13:14; Ps. 89:20). God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will do everything I desire.” The verb testify means that God spoke favorably about David. Yet David sinned grievously against God and his fellow man when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. David, however, earnestly sought remission and cleansing (Ps. 51). God heard his cry, accepted his confession, and restored him. David showed that he was willing to obey God’s commands and that he was a man after God’s own heart.

Vers. 22–23. He raised up David.David:—David is one of the grandest men in the Bible, and his character is more fully pourtrayed than that of any other with one exception. The sweet singer of Israel was royally dowered with charms of the person, with gifts of the mind, and with susceptibilities of the heart; and, from a youth up, he was as one who is well beloved, and therefore rightly named. He was great in all the faculties of his soul, and has not been placed higher in the esteem of the Church than his virtues have warranted. It has been questioned how he could be called a man after God’s own heart, and his crimes have been sketched with nauseating fulness. But the Church no more defends them than he did or the Bible.

I. Why then are his sins so fully presented?

1. That we may see how full of infirmity are the best of men.

2. That we may see how efficacious grace is to overcome them.

3. That we may see how bitter is the sorrow of the truly penitent, and how wide is the door of mercy.

II. Why is he called a man after God’s own heart?

1. David was chosen by God.

2. As thus chosen he would more strictly observe the revealed will of God.

3. David was a man of fervent piety, of swift repentance, and of the deepest spiritual aspirations. 4. He was large–hearted, true as a friend, affectionate as a father, and ever ready to be reconciled with his foes—to forgive and forget. In these attributes of a fatherly heart he resembled God.

III. Three inferences from his history.

1. This life is not an encouragement to commit sin or to continue in sin, but an encouragement to those struggling to be delivered from their sins.

2. Any one may be called a man after God’s own heart, if his life is marked by the same religious fervour, by the same sincere penitence, and by the same deep longings after God by day and by night.

3. We must seek after likeness to God in our moral nature—in our likes and dislikes)

The ability to see the beautiful:—How much easier it is to see defects than to see beauties, in anything at which we look. No art education is requisite to the perceiving of a broken arm or a nose, on an ancient Grecian statue, or of the weather–stains on its marble surface; but it does require a trained eye and a cultivated taste to recognise the lines of beauty, and the tokens of power, in a discoloured and a battered fragment of a master–work of art. And so it is in the reading of a book, or in the observing of a character: the ability to perceive that which is worthy, and that which is admirable, is higher and rarer than the ability to perceive errors and flaws. No teacher or scholar has been too stupid to see David’s faults. Only here and there has one been noble enough, and clear–eyed enough, to recognise the exceptional high qualities, and the transcendent attractions of character, which lift David above his fellows. And so, again, this truth is continually being illustrated. Let him who would have the credit of superior ability be careful not to criticise or to condemn too freely; for that is a sure mark of inferiority. The power to point out beauty and worth, where others would pass it by, is, in itself, a proof of excellence. Why can not all aim at that higher standard?

A man after Mine own heart.The sins of the saints:—1. We all know of the frequency with which testimony is given to God’s affection for David. Speaking of him to his successors, He always holds him up to their admiration (1 Kings ix. 4). And the writer of the Chronicles sums up the life of any monarch who had turned into devious ways in such words as those of 2 Chron. xxviii. 1. 2. Now, God did not choose the Psalmist–warrior as we choose our friends, by a sort of self–blinding; discerning in them gifts and graces which to all other eyes they obviously lack. God will never prefer a man to hold such a position in His thoughts as David held, without some just cause of esteem. The assertion that God takes an unworthy man into His pre–eminent affection because He wills to do so carries in it its own contradiction. God, like man, has to obey the law of His nature, and that law is that He can only choose what is right and good. Even the passage, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated,”must not be interpreted to mean that He loved the less worthy and condemned the better. Otherwise we strip God of His noblest attributes, and make Him inferior to man in the moral equities of reason and conscience; and, in the words of Bacon, “It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him, for the one is unbelief and the other is contumely. Plutarch saith well to this purpose: ‘Surely,’saith he, ‘I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man as Plutarch, than that they should say there was one Plutarch who would eat his children as soon as they were born, as the poets speak of the god Saturn.’”3. Now, this representation of God’s preference for David seems not to be justified when you turn to his life. Of course in estimating the man we must take into account the morality of his age, his moral superiority to the contemporary sovereigns, and the temptations kings were subject to, and we ought not to judge him by the light of these later times, but by the light that was given to him. But our purpose is not to extenuate or minimize David’s sins, but to vindicate God’s joy in him. Doubtless there were in David’s life hours of nearness to God, times of serenest reliance, and trust, and joy in God, and faithful service, and prompt obedience. But there were also in this same man’s life depths of infamy. What, then, was this something that dwarfed the glaring defects of the life? We shall understand this if we consider—

I. The proper way to estimate the sins of the saints. It is our custom to fix our eyes on any virtuous or vicious action we have found out in a man’s life, not caring to inquire whether it is the expression of virtuous or vicious principle. Now, we ought to a great degree to overlook the outward details, be they blemishes or merits, and estimate the man by the principles on which he is deliberately endeavouring to mould his character—by the moral spinal column that in the main holds his life together. Neither Noah’s act of drunkenness nor Moses’ murder of the Egyptian on the one hand, nor Balaam’s truthfulness nor Judas’ penitence or remorse on the other, should depreciate or exalt them in our eyes, as neither of these actions or mental states are traceable to vital principle. Now, David’s sins, gross and coarse though they were, were accidental; they belied the principle on which he was painfully endeavouring to mould his character; and so God, who looks upon such frailties “with larger, other eyes than ours, making allowance for us all,”forgave and overlooked the casual blemishes, the life in the main being faithful and true. His sins brought awful retribution upon him, for God’s forgiveness only cancels the alienation between the human and Divine mind. What he sowed, that he reaped; but, when the anguish of penitence filled his spirit, the enmity which the sin had established between his mind and God’s became a thing of the past, and David was restored to the grace and favour from which he had temporarily lapsed. For there was in this man a soul that, often plunged in the mire, refused to abide there, and ever strove to rise up and take its flight to a serener and purer atmosphere. If I do the sin I would not, the sin which is not in keeping with the moral habits I am faithfully endeavouring to acquire, then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. And if

I delight in the law of God after the inner man, and see another law in my members warring against this law in which I delight, and by which I aspire to live, and leading me into great and grievous sins, then, though with my flesh I serve sin, with my mind I serve God, and I claim to be judged to be what I am in my aspirations and hopes.

II. We shall understand God’s love and praise of David if we reflect that love and praise are due, not necessarily to the man who lives most virtuously, but to the man in whose life the moral struggle has been most faithfully maintained. There are many men virtuous because it is constitutionally easier for them to be virtuous than not. Purity that springs from a heart that keeps pure because it never warms, can lay no claim either to human or Divine admiration. There is nothing meritorious in automatic goodness. But there is something great and heroic in the life of the man who has had all his days to fight with moral infirmities and passions, and who, though often conquered and crushed, has risen again with resistance in his heart and defiance on his lips to renew the contest. This is what I find in God’s love for David, and in the way Scripture always refers to him. No more difficult life–problem has been given to mere man than was given to him to solve. Look under what trying conditions he contrived to keep his heart subject to the fear of God. One day we find him a shepherd lad, the next the hero of Israel, and in rapid succession court musician, king’s son–in–law, the freebooter of the wilderness, the leader of outlaws, the mercenary soldier, the monarch, the exile, and finally the monarch again. And this leads me to conclude with a question which has often perplexed us—the unequal distribution of moral natures, one man receiving from God a nature prone to goodness, another a nature prone to evil. We have men with constitutional infirmities saying, “God has given me a nature that prevents me ever being a saint; why should God punish me for not being that which the rigorous necessities of the nature He has given me makes it impossible for me to be? I am not responsible for my nature. It is my fate.”Yes; and David’s life was lived and is written to be your answer, and throw light upon your case. There is your nature: easy to be brought within the power of goodness or difficult, it is your work. Others with a milder task set before them may march from moral victory to moral victory. But if you have not left the evil within you to govern you, but have resolutely essayed to drive it out, and subject your lower nature to the sovereignty of your higher, God will pronounce His “Well done”upon you. Failure is no sin, faithlessness is; and, judged by this standard, there may be more of the grace of God, more of the divinest moral energy, more conscience, reason, and love admitted into the heart, and shaping the life of a man fighting, like David, against the infirmities of his flesh and the savage bias of his nature, though the fighting be unsuccessful, than in the heart and life of many a saint to whom goodness comes easy. Of this man’s seed hath God . . . raised . . . Jesus.Christ, the Son of David, more than David.—

I. According to His spiritual disposition. 1. David a man according to God’s own heart to do all His will (ver. 22). 2. Christ, God’s own Son, fulfilling in perfect obedience His Father’s work.

II. According to His career. 1. David ascended the throne through lowliness and hardships. 2. Christ humbled to death on the Cross, exalted to the Father’s right hand (vers. 27–31).

III. According to the sphere of His work. 1. David as king over Israel, a shepherd of his people, and a terror to his enemies. 2. Christ as the Saviour of the world, an Eternal Prince of Peace to His people, and a terrible Judge to the despisers (Ver. vers. 38–41).

*Paul’s opening remarks took stock of the make-up of his audience. Two groups were represented in the synagogue. “Men of Israel” was Paul’s phrase to acknowledge the Jewish hearers and “you Gentiles who worship God” paid respect to the non-Jewish listeners.

Paul then launched into a brief summary of Old Testament history (much as Stephen had done in 7:2–53). Throughout this address, however, Paul’s emphasis was on the gracious dealings of God with the people of Israel. Polhill draws attention to the verbs used by Paul. God “chose” (ἐκλέγομαι, eklegomai, “elected”) the patriarchs. He “made the people prosper” in Egypt (ὑψόω, hupsoō, “exalted”). He “led them out” (ἐξάγω, exagō) of Egypt. Beyond all this, he “endured their conduct,” and “overthrew” their enemies. He then “gave their land to his people as their inheritance” (κατακληρονομέω, kataklēronomeō), “gave them judges,” and at their request “gave them Saul” as their king. Finally, he “made (literally “raised up”) David” as their king. All of these verbs argue for the kindnesses of God as demonstrated to Israel. David’s reign was characterized by righteousness because of David’s own sense of loyalty to the Lord, especially as contrasted with Saul. When God announced that Saul would be replaced, the king was told that the Lord had “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). Paul’s approach in covering this period of Old Testament history stands in contrast to that of Stephen. When Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin, his point was how rebellious the fathers had always been in matters of fulfilling God’s will. Paul’s purpose differed from Stephen’s and so Paul’s approach built a foundation for demonstrating that Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s gracious care over Israel. Paul’s mention of “450 years” presents some problems only if we try to make the number apply to the period of the judges. But Paul’s reference is to the 400 years of Egyptian bondage, plus the forty years of wilderness wanderings and ten years for the conquest of Canaan.

*22. I have found David, &c.—This quotation is the substance of Ps 89:20; 1Sa 13:14; and perhaps also of Ps 78:70–72

13:22 David . . . a man after My own heart: What God saw in David was a deep desire to do His will. Throughout David’s entire life that drive never changed. Unlike King Saul, who was a self-willed man, David confessed his sins and quickly repented of them (see Ps. 51).

This does not imply that David was perfect, but that he sought to do the Lord’s will, instead of showing stubborn disobedience, like Saul

Ps.89:20 I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him.

The dominant characteristic of our patriarch was his unfeigned and unsurpassed devotion to God, His cause, and His Word. Blessedly is this illustrated in what is now to be before us. The man after God’s own heart is the one who is out and out for Him, putting His honor and glory before all other considerations


The basic source for David’s life is found in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings

The youngest son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, and second king of Israel. In Scripture the name is his alone, typifying the unique place he has as ancestor, forerunner and foreshadower of the Lord Jesus Christ—‘great David’s greater son’. There are 58 NT references to David, including the oft-repeated title given to Jesus—‘Son of David’. Paul states that Jesus is ‘descended from David according to the flesh’ (Rom. 1:3), while Jesus himself is recorded by John as saying ‘I am the root and the offspring of David’ (Rev. 22:16)

When we return to the OT to find who this is who occupies a position of such prominence in the lineage of our Lord and the purposes of God, the material is abundant and rich. The story of David is found between 1 Sa. 16 and 1 Ki. 2, with much of the material paralleled in 1 Ch. 2–29.

Family background Great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, David was the youngest of eight brothers (1 Sa. 17:12ff.) and was brought up to be a shepherd. In this occupation he learnt the courage which was later to be evidenced in battle (1 Sa. 17:34–35) and the tenderness and care for his flock which he was later to sing of as the attributes of his God. Like Joseph, he suffered from the ill-will and jealousy of his older brothers, perhaps because of the talents with which God had endowed him (1 Sa. 18:28). Modest about his ancestry (1 Sa. 18:18), David was to father a line of notable descendants, as the genealogy of our Lord in Mt. 1:1–17

Anointing and friendship with Saul When God rejected Saul from the kingship of Israel, David was revealed to Samuel as his successor, who anointed him, without any ostentation, at Bethlehem (1 Sa. 16:1–13). One of the results of Saul’s rejection was the departure of the Spirit of God from him, with a consequent depression of his own spirit, which at times seems to have approached madness. There is an awesome revelation of divine purpose in the providence by which David, who is to replace Saul in the favour and plan of God, is selected to minister to the fallen king’s melancholy (1 Sam. 16:17–21). So the lives of these two men were brought together, the stricken giant and the rising stripling. At first all went well. Saul was pleased with the youth, whose musical skill was to give us part of our richest devotional heritage, appointed him his armour-bearer. Then the well-known incident involving Goliath, the Philistine champion, changed everything (1 Sa. 17). David’s agility and skill with the sling outdid the strength of the ponderous giant, whose slaughter was the signal for an Israelite repulsion of the Philistine force. The way was clear for David to reap the reward promised by Saul—the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage, and freedom for his father’s family from taxation; but a new factor changed the course of events—the king’s jealousy of the new champion of Israel. As David returned from the slaying of Goliath, the women of Israel greeted him, singing, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’. Saul, unlike his son Jonathan in a similar situation, resented this and, we are told, ‘eyed David from that day on’ (1 Sa. 18:7, 9).

The hostility of Saul Saul’s dealings with David declined progressively in amity, and we find the young national hero escaping a savage attack on his life by the king, reduced in military honour, cheated of his promised bride and married to Saul’s other daughter, Michal, after a marriage settlement which was meant to cause David’s death (1 Sa. 18:25). It would appear from 1 Sa. 24:9 that there was a group at Saul’s court which deliberately fomented trouble between Saul and David, and the situation deteriorated steadily. Another abortive attempt by Saul at slaying David with his spear was followed by an attempted arrest, foiled only by a stratagem of Michal, David’s wife (1 Sa. 19:8–17). A marked feature of this period in David’s life is the way in which Saul’s two children, Jonathan and Michal, allied themselves with David and against their own father.

Flight from Saul The next stages in the story of David are marked by a constant flight from the relentless pursuit of Saul. No resting-place is safe for long; prophet, priest, national enemy—none can give him shelter, and those who help him are cruelly punished by the rage-maddened king (1 Sa. 22:6–19). After a narrow escape from destruction by the Philistine war-lords, David eventually established the Adullam band, at first a heterogeneous collection of fugitives, but later an armed task-force which harried the foreign invaders, protected the crops and flocks of outlying Israelite communities, and lived off the generosity of the latter. The churlish refusal of one of these wealthy sheep-farmers, Nabal, to recognize any indebtedness to David is recorded in 1 Sa. 25, and is interesting in introducing Abigail, later to become one of David’s wives. Chs. 24 and 26 of the same book record two instances when David spared the life of Saul, out of mingled piety and magnanimity. Eventually David, quite unable to curb the hostility of Saul, came to terms with the Philistine king, Achish of Gath, and was granted the frontier town of Ziklag in return for the occasional use of his warrior band. When the Philistines went out in force against Saul, however, the war-lords demurred at David’s presence in their ranks, fearing a last minute change of loyalty, so he was spared the tragedy of Gilboa, which he later mourned in one of the loveliest elegies extant (2 Sa. 1:19–27).

King in Hebron Once Saul was dead, David sought the will of God and was guided to return to Judah, his own tribal region. Here his fellow-tribesmen anointed him king, and he took up royal residence in Hebron. He was then 30 years old, and he reigned in Hebron for 7 1/2 years. The first 2 years of this period were occupied by civil war between the supporters of David and the old courtiers of Saul, who had set up Saul’s son Eshbaal (Ishbosheth) as king in Mahanaim. It may be doubted whether Eshbaal was more than a puppet, manipulated by Saul’s faithful captain, Abner. With the death of these two by assassination, organized opposition to David came to an end, and he was anointed king over the 12 tribes of Israel in Hebron, from which he was soon to transfer his capital to Jerusalem (2 Sa. 3–5).

King in Jerusalem  Now began the most successful period in David’s long reign, which was to last for another 33 years. By a happy combination of personal bravery and skilled generalship he led the Israelites in such a systematic and decisive subjugation of their enemies—Philistines, Canaanites, Moabites, Ammonites, Aramaeans, Edomites and Amalekites—that his name would have been recorded in history quite apart from his significance in the divine plan of redemption. The contemporary weakness of the powers in the Nile and Euphrates valleys enabled him, by conquest and alliance, to extend his sphere of influence from the Egyptian frontier and the Gulf of Aqabah to the upper Euphrates. Conquering the supposedly impregnable Jebusite citadel of Jerusalem, he made it his capital, whence he bestrode the two major divisions of his kingdom, later to become the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel. A palace was built, highways opened, trade routes restored, and the material prosperity of the kingdom secured. This, however, could never be the sole, nor yet the main, ambition of ‘a man after Yahweh’s own heart’, and we soon see evidence of David’s religious zeal. He brought back the ark of the covenant from Kiriath-jearim and placed it in a special tabernacle prepared for it in Jerusalem. It was during the return of the ark that the incident occurred which led to the death of Uzzah (2 Sa. 6:6–8). Much of the religious organization which was to enrich the later Temple worship owes its origin to the arrangements for the service of the tabernacle made by David at this time. In addition to its strategic and political importance, Jerusalem thus acquired the even greater religious significance, with which its name has been associated ever since.

It is all the more to be wondered at and remembered in godly fear, that it was in this period of outward prosperity and apparent religious fervour that David committed the sin referred to in Scripture as ‘the matter of Uriah the Hittite’ (2 Sa. 11). The significance and importance of this sin, both for its intrinsic heinousness and for its consequences in the whole ensuing history of Israel, cannot be overestimated. David repented deeply, but the deed was done, and stands as a demonstration of how sin spoils God’s purpose for his children. The poignant cry of anguish with which he greeted the news of the death of Absalom was only a feeble echo of the heart’s agony which knew that death, and many more, to be but part of the reaping of the harvest of lust and deceit sown by him so many years before.

Absalom’s rebellion, in which the N kingdom remained loyal to David, was soon followed by a revolt on the part of the N kingdom, led by Sheba, a Benjaminite. This revolt, like Absalom’s, was crushed by Joab. David’s dying days were marred by the scheming of Adonijah and Solomon for his throne, and by the realization that the legacy of internecine bloodshed foretold by Nathan had still to be spent. In addition to David’s standing army, led by his kinsman Joab, he had a personal bodyguard recruited mainly from warriors of Philistine stock, whose loyalty to him never wavered. There is abundant evidence in the historical writings to which reference has already been made of David’s skill in composing odes and elegies (2 Sa. 1:19–27; 3:33–34; 22; 23:1–7). An early tradition describes him as ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Sa. 23:1), while later OT writings refer to his direction of the musical worship of Israel, his invention of and skill in playing musical instruments, and his composition (Ne. 12:24, 36, 45–46; Am. 6:5). Seventy-three of the psalms in the Bible are recorded as ‘David’s’, some of them in ways which clearly imply authorship. Most convincingly of all, our Lord himself spoke of David’s authorship of at least one psalm (Lk. 20:42 cf Ps.110:1), using a quotation from it to make plain the nature of his Messiahship.

Character The Bible nowhere glosses over the sins or character defects of the children of God. ‘Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction’ (Rom. 15:4). It is part of the task of Scripture to warn by example, as well as to encourage. The sin of David in the matter of Uriah the Hittite is a cardinal instance of this. Let this blot be seen for what it is — a stain on a character otherwise fair and wondrously to the glory of God. It is true that there are elements in the experience of David which seem foreign and even repugnant to the child of the new covenant. Yet ‘he … served the counsel of God in his own generation’ (Acts 13:36), and in that generation he stood out as a bright and shining light for the God of Israel. His accomplishments were many and varied; man of action, poet, tender lover, generous foe, stern dispenser of justice, loyal friend, he was all that men find wholesome and admirable in man, and this by the will of God, who made him and shaped him for his destiny. It is to David, not to Saul, that the Jews look back with pride and affection as the establisher of their kingdom, and it is in David that the more farsighted of them saw the kingly ideal beyond which their minds could not reach, in the image of which they looked for a coming Messiah, who should deliver his people and sit upon the throne of David for ever. That this was not idealistic nonsense, still less idolatry, is indicated by the NT endorsement of the excellences of David, of whose seed Messiah indeed came, after the flesh.

David — beloved, the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, a citizen of Bethlehem. His father seems to have been a man in humble life. His mother’s name is not recorded. Some think she was the Nahash of 2 Sam. 17:25. As to his personal appearance, we only know that he was [ruddy – red] red-haired, with beautiful eyes and a fair face (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:42).

His early occupation was that of tending his father’s sheep on the uplands of Judah. From what we know of his after history, doubtless he frequently beguiled his time, when thus engaged, with his shepherd’s flute, while he drank in the many lessons taught him by the varied scenes spread around him. His first recorded exploits were his encounters with the wild beasts of the field. He mentions that with his own unaided hand he slew a lion and also a bear, when they came out against his flock, beating them to death in open conflict with his club (1 Sam. 17:34, 35).

While David, in the freshness of ruddy youth, was thus engaged with his flocks, Samuel paid an unexpected visit to Bethlehem, having been guided thither by divine direction (1 Sam. 16:1–13). There he offered up sacrifice, and called the elders of Israel and Jesse’s family to the sacrificial meal. Among all who appeared before him he failed to discover the one he sought. David was sent for, and the prophet immediately recognized him as the chosen of God, chosen to succeed Saul, who was now departing from the ways of God, on the throne of the kingdom. He accordingly, in anticipation, poured on his head the anointing oil. David went back again to his shepherd life, but “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward,” and “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:13, 14).

Not long after this David was sent for to soothe with his harp the troubled spirit of Saul, who suffered from a strange melancholy dejection. He played before the king so skillfully that Saul was greatly cheered, and began to entertain great affection for the young shepherd. After this he went home to Bethlehem. But he soon again came into prominence. The armies of the Philistines and of Israel were in battle array in the valley of Elah, some 16 miles south-west of Bethlehem; and David was sent by his father with provisions for his three brothers, who were then fighting on the side of the king. On his arrival in the camp of Israel, David (now about twenty years of age) was made aware of the state of matters when the champion of the Philistines, Goliath of Gath, came forth to defy Israel. David took his sling, and with a well-trained aim threw a stone “out of the brook,” which struck the giant’s forehead, so that he fell senseless to the ground. David then ran and slew him, and cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword (1 Sam. 17). The result was a great victory to the Israelites, who pursued the Philistines to the gates of Gath and Ekron. David’s popularity consequent on this heroic exploit awakened Saul’s jealousy (1 Sam. 18:6–16), which he showed in various ways. He conceived a bitter hatred toward him, and by various stratagems sought his death (1 Sam. 18–30). The deep-laid plots of the enraged king, who could not fail to observe that David “prospered exceedingly,” all proved futile, and only endeared the young hero the more to the people, and very specially to Jonathan, Saul’s son, between whom and David a life-long warm friendship was formed.

A FUGITIVE. To escape from the vengeance of Saul, David fled to Ramah (1 Sam. 19:12–18) to Samuel, who received him, and he dwelt among the sons of the prophets, who were there under Samuel’s training. It is supposed by some that the sixth, seventh, and eleventh Psalms were composed by him at this time. This place was only 3 miles from the residence of Saul, who soon discovered whither the fugitive had gone, and tried ineffectually to bring him back. Jonathan made a fruitless effort to bring his father to a better state of mind toward David (1 Sam. 20), who, being made aware of the fact, saw no hope of safety but in flight to a distance. We accordingly find him first at Nob (21:1–9) and then at Gath, the chief city of the Philistines. The king of the Philistines would not admit him into his service, as he expected that he would, and David accordingly now betook himself to the stronghold of Adullam (1Sam.22:1–4; 1 Chr. 12:8–18). Here in a short time 400 men gathered around him and acknowledged him as their leader. It was at this time that David, amid the harassment and perils of his position, cried, “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem;” when three of his heroes broke through the lines of the Philistines and brought him the water for which he longed (2 Sam. 23:13–17), but which he would not drink.  In his rage at the failure of all his efforts to seize David, Saul gave orders for the massacre of the entire priestly family at Nob, “persons who wore a linen ephod”, to the number of eighty-five persons, who were put to death by Doeg the Edomite. The sad tidings of the massacre were brought to David by Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, the only one who escaped. Comp. Ps. 52. Hearing that Keilah, a town on the western frontier, was harassed by the Philistines, David with his men relieved it (1 Sam. 23:1–14); and then, for fear of Saul, he fled to the strongholds in the “hill country” of Judah. Comp. Ps. 31. While encamped there, in the forest in the district of Ziph, he was visited by Jonathan, who spoke to him words of encouragement (1Sam.23:16–18). The two now parted never to meet again. Saul continued his pursuit of David, who narrowly escaped from him at this time, and fled to the crags and ravines of Engedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea (1 Sam. 23:29). Here Saul, who still pursued him with his army, narrowly escaped, through the generous forbearance of David, and was greatly affected by what David had done for him. He returned home from pursuing him, and David betook himself to Maon, where, with his 600 men, he maintained himself by contributions gathered from the district. Here occurred the incident connected with Nabal and his wife Abigail (1 Sam. 25), whom David married after Nabal’s death. Saul again went forth (1 Sam. 26) in pursuit of David, who had hid himself “in the hill Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon,” in the wilderness of Ziph, and was a second time spared through his forbearance. He returned home, professing shame and penitence for the way in which he had treated David, and predicting his elevation to the throne.

FIGHTING AGAINST ISRAEL. Harassed by the necessity of moving from place to place through fear of Saul, David once more sought refuge among the Philistines (1 Sam. 27). He was welcomed by the king, who assigned him Ziklag as his residence. Here David lived among his followers for some time as an independent chief engaged in frequent war with the Amalekites and other tribes on the south of Judah. Achish summoned David with his men to join his army against Saul; but the lords of the Philistines were suspicious of David’s loyalty, and therefore he was sent back to Ziklag, which he found to his dismay may had been pillaged and burnt during his brief absence. David pursued after the raiders, the Amalekites, and completely routed them. On his return to Ziklag tidings reached him of Saul’s death (1Sam.31-2 Sam. 1). An Amalekite brought Saul’s crown and bracelet and laid them at his feet. David and his men rent their clothes and mourned for Saul, who had been defeated in battle near Mount Gilboa. David composed a beautiful elegy, the most beautiful of all extant Hebrew odes, a “lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son” (2 Sam. 1:18–27). It bore the title of “The Bow,” and was to be taught to the children, that the memory of Saul and Jonathan might be preserved among them. “Behold, it is written in the book of Jasher” (q.v.).

DAVID KING OVER JUDAH. David and his men now set out for Hebron under divine direction (2 Sam. 2:1–4). There they were cordially welcomed, and he was at once anointed as king. He was now about thirty years of age.  But his title to the throne was not undisputed. Abner took Ish-bosheth, Saul’s only remaining son, over the Jordan to Mahanaim, and there crowned him as king. Then began a civil war in Israel. The first encounter between the two opposing armies, led on the one side by Abner, and on the other by Joab, took place at the pool of Gibeon. It resulted in the defeat of Abner. Other encounters, however, between Israel and Judah followed (2 Sam. 3:1, 5), but still success was on the side of David. For the space of seven and a half years David reigned in Hebron. Abner now sided with David, and sought to promote his advancement; but was treacherously put to death by Joab in revenge for his having slain his brother Asahel at Gibeon (3:22–39). This was greatly to David’s regret. He mourned for the death of Abner. Shortly after this Ish-bosheth was also treacherously put to death by two Canaanites of Beeroth; and there being now no rival, David was anointed king over all Israel (4:1–12).

DAVID KING OVER ALL ISRAEL (2 Sam. 5:1–5; 1 Chr. 11:1–3). The elders of Israel now repaired to Hebron and offered allegiance to David in name of all the people, among whom the greatest enthusiasm prevailed. He was anointed king over all Israel, and sought out a new seat of government, more suitable than Hebron, as the capital of his empire. At this time there was a Jebusite fortress, “the stronghold”, on the hill of Zion, called also Jebus. This David took from the Jebusites, and made it Israel’s capital, and established here his residence, and afterwards built for himself a palace by the aid of Tyrian tradesmen. The Philistines, who had for some time observed a kind of truce, now made war against David; but were defeated in battle at a place afterwards called, in remembrance of the victory, Baal-perazim. Again they invaded the land, and were a second time routed by him. He thus delivered Israel from their enemies.

David brings the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital (2 Sam. 6). It was in the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, about 7 miles from Jerusalem, where it had been for many years, from the time when the Philistines had sent it home (1 Sam. 6; 7). In consequence of the death of Uzzah (for it was a divine ordinance that only the Levites should handle the ark, Num. 4), who had put forth his hand to steady the ark when the cart in which it was being conveyed shook by reason of the roughness of the road, David stayed the procession, and conveyed the ark into the house of Obed-edom, a Philistine from Gath. After three months David brought the ark from the house of Obed-edom up to Jerusalem. Comp. Ps. 24. Here it was placed in a new tent or tabernacle which David erected for the purpose. About seventy years had passed since it had stood in the tabernacle at Shiloh. The old tabernacle was now at Gibeah, at which Zadok ministered. David now (1 Chr. 16) carefully set in order all the ritual of divine worship at Jerusalem, along with Abiathar the high priest.

A NEW RELIGIOUS ERA BEGAN. God’s Promise to David and David’s prayer (2Sam.7) The service of praise was for the first time introduced into public worship. Zion became henceforth “God’s holy hill.”

DAVID’S WARS. David now entered on a series of conquests which greatly extended and strengthened his kingdom (2 Sam. 8). In a few years the whole territory from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt, and from Gaza on the west to Thapsacus on the east, was under his sway (2 Sam. 8:3–13; 10).

DAVID’S FALL. He had now reached the height of his glory. He ruled over a vast empire, and his capital was enriched with the spoils of many lands. But in the midst of all this success he fell, and his character became stained with the sin of adultery (2 Sam. 11:2–27). It has been noted as characteristic of the Bible that while his military triumphs are recorded in a few verses, the sad story of his fall is given in detail, a story full of warning, and therefore recorded. This crime, in the attempt to conceal it, led to another. He was guilty of murder. Uriah, whom he had foully wronged, an officer of the Gibborim, the corps of heros (23:39), was, by his order, “set in the front of the hottest battle” at the siege of Rabbah, in order that he might be put to death. Nathan the prophet (2Sam.12:1–23; 2 Sam. 7:1–17) was sent by God to bring home his crimes to the conscience of the guilty monarch. He became a true penitent. He bitterly bewailed his sins before God. The 32 and 51 Psalms reveal the deep struggles of his soul, and his spiritual recovery.

Bathsheba became his wife after Uriah’s death. Her first-born son died, according to the word of the prophet. She gave birth to a second son, whom David called Solomon, and who ultimately succeeded him on the throne (2 Sam. 12:24, 25).

PEACE. After the successful termination of all his wars, David formed the idea of building a temple for the ark of God. This he was not permitted to carry into execution, because he had been a man of war. God, however, sent Nathan to him with a gracious message (2 Sam. 7:1–16). On receiving it he went into the sanctuary, the tent where the ark was, and sat before the Lord, and poured out his heart in words of devout thanksgiving (18–29). The building of the temple was reserved for his son Solomon, who would be a man of peace (1 Chr. 22:9; 28:3).

A CLOUDY EVENING. Hitherto David’s carrer had been one of great prosperity and success. Now cloudy and dark days came. His eldest son Amnon, (2 Sam. 13) whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel, was guilty of a great and shameful crime. This was the beginning of the disasters of his later years.  After two years Absalom (2 Sam. 14). terribly avenged the crime against Tamar, and put Amnon to death. This brought sore trouble to David’s heart. Absalom, afraid of the consequences of his guilt, fled to Geshur beyond Jordan, where he remained for three years, when he was brought back through the intrigue of Joab. After this there fell upon the land the calamity of three years’ famine (2 Sam. 21:1–14) due to Saul’s sins. This was soon after followed by a pestilence, brought upon the land as a punishment for David’s sinful pride in numbering the people (2 Sam. 24; 1Chron.21), in which no fewer than 70,000 perished in the space of three days.

REBELLION OF ABSALOM. The personal respect for David was sadly lowered by the incident of Bathsheba. There was a strong popular sentiment against the taking of the census, and the outburst of the plague in connection with it deepened the feeling of jealously that had begun to manifest itself among some of the tribes against David. Absalom, taking full advantage of this state of things, gradually gained over the people, and at length openly rebelled against his father, and usurped the throne. Ahithophel was Absalom’s chief counsellor. The revolt began in Hebron, the capital of Judah. Absalom was there proclaimed king. David was now in imminent danger, and he left Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15:13–20), and once more became a fugitive. It was a momentous day in Israel. The incidents of it are recorded with a fulness of detail greater than of any other day in Old Testament history. David fled with his followers to Mahanarm, on the east of Jordan. An unnatural civil war broke out. After a few weeks the rival armies were mustered and organized. They met in hostile array at the wood of Ephraim (2 Sam. 18:1–8). Absalom’s army was defeated, and himself put to death by the hand of Joab (9–18). The tidings of the death of his rebellious son filled the heart of David with the most poignant grief. He “went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept” (33), giving utterance to the heart-broken cry, “Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Peace was now restored, and David returned to Jerusalem and resumed the direction of affairs. An unhappy dispute arose between the men of Judah and the men of Israel (19:41–43). Sheba, a Benjamite, headed a revolt of the men of Israel. He was pursued to Abelbeth-maachah, & was there put to death, and so the revolt came to an end

THE END. After the suppression of the rebellion of Absalom and that of Sheba, ten comparatively peaceful years of David’s life passed away. During those years he seems to have been principally engaged in accumulating treasures of every kind for the great temple at Jerusalem, which it was reserved to his successor to build (1 Chr. 22; 28; 29), a house which was to be “exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries” (22:5). The exciting and laborious life he had spent, and the dangers and trials through which he had passed, had left him an enfeebled man, prematurely old. It became apparent that his life was now drawing to its close. A new palace conspiracy broke out as to who should be his successor. Joab favoured Adonijah. The chiefs of his party met at the “Fuller’s spring,” in the valley of Kidron, to proclaim him king; but Nathan hastened on a decision on the part of David in favour of Solomon, and so the aim of Adonijah’s party failed. Solomon was brought to Jerusalem, and was anointed king and seated on his father’s throne (1 Kings 1:11–53). David’s song of Praise (2Sam.22).  David’s last words are a grand utterance, revealing his unfailing faith in God, and his joyful confidence in his gracious covenant promises (2 Sam. 23:1–7). After a reign of forty years and six months (2 Sam. 5:5; 1 Chr. 3:4) David died at the age of seventy years, (B.C. 1015)  “and was buried in the city of David.” His tomb is still pointed out on Mount Zion. Both in his prophetical and in his regal character David was a type of the Messiah (1 Sam. 16:13). The book of Psalms commonly bears the title of the “Psalms of David,” from the circumstance that he was the largest contributor (about eighty psalms) to the collection.   

“The greatness of David was felt when he was gone. He had lived in harmony with both the priesthood and the prophets; a sure sign that the spirit of his government had been throughly loyal to the higher aims of the theocracy. The nation had not been oppressed by him, but had been left in the free enjoyment of its ancient liberties. As far as his power went he had striven to act justly to all (2 Sam. 8:15). His weak indulgence to his sons, and his own great sin besides, had been bitterly atoned, and were forgotten at his death in the remembrance of his long-tried worth. He had reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem and seven and a half at Hebron (2 Sam. 5:5). Israel at his accession had reached the lowest point of national depression; its new-born unity rudely dissolved; its territory assailed by the Philistines. But he had left it an imperial power, with dominions like those of Egypt or Assyria. The sceptre of Solomon was already, before his father’s death, owned from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, and from the Orontes to the Red Sea.”

DAVID <da’-vid> ([דָּוִד, dawidh], or [דָּוִיד, dawidh], “beloved”; [Δαυείδ, Daueid]

NAME AND GENEALOGY. This name, which is written “defectively” in the older books, such as those of Samuel, but fully with the yodh in Chronicles and the later books, is derived, like the similar name Jedidish (2 Samuel 12:25), from a root meaning “to love.” The only person who bears this name in the Bible is the son of Jesse, the second king of Israel. His genealogy is given in the table appended to the Book of Ruth (4:18-22). Here the following points are to be noted: David belonged to the tribe of Judah: his ancestor Nahshon was chieftain of the whole tribe (Numbers 1:7; 2:3; 1 Chronicles 2:10) and brother-in-law of Aaron the high priest (Exodus 6:23). As no other descendants of Nahshon are mentioned, his authority probably descended to Jesse by right of primogeniture. This supposition is countenanced by the fact that Salma (Salmon), the name of the son of Nahshon and father of Boaz, is also the name of a grandson of Caleb who became “father” of Bethlehem, the home of Jesse (1 Chronicles 2:51). David was closely connected with the tribe of Moab, the mother of his grandfather Obed being Ruth the Moabitess. Of the wife or wives of Jesse we know nothing, and consequently are without information upon a most interesting point — the personality of the mother of David; but that she too may have been of the tribe of Moab is rendered probable by the fact that, when hard pressed, David placed his parents under the protection of the king of that country (1 Samuel 22:3, 1).


The home of David when he comes upon the stage of history was the picturesque town of Bethlehem.


There his family had been settled for generations, indeed ever since the Israelite nation had overrun the land of Canaan. His father was apparently not only the chief man of the place, but he seems to have been chieftain of the whole clan to which he belonged — the clan of Judah. Although the country round Bethlehem is more fertile than that in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, the inhabitants joined to the cultivation of the soil the breeding of cattle (Luke 2:8). David’s father, not only cultivated his ancestral fields, but kept flocks of sheep and goats as well. The flocks were sent out every day to pasture in the neighboring valleys attended by the herdsmen armed so as to defend themselves and their charge, not only against marauders from the surrounding deserts, but also from the lions and bears with which the country was then infested. David seems to have been in the habit of accompanying his father’s servants in their task (1 Samuel 17:20, 22), and on occasion would be left in full charge by himself. Nor was his post at such times a sinecure. He had not only to keep a sharp lookout for thieves, but on more than one occasion had with no other weapon than his shepherd’s club or staff to rescue a lamb from the clutches of a lion or a bear (1 Samuel 17:34 ff). Such adventures, however, must have been rare, and David must often have watched eagerly the lengthening of the shadow which told of the approach of sunset, when he could drive his charge into the zariba for the night and return home. There is, indeed, no life more monotonous and enervating than that of an eastern shepherd, but David must have made good use of his idle time. He seems, in fact, to have made such good use of it as to have neglected his handful of sheep. The incidents of which he boasted to Saul would not have occurred, had his proper occupation taken up all his thoughts; but, like King Alfred, his head seems to have been filled with ideas far removed from his humble task.


David, like Nelson, does not seem to have known what it was to be afraid, and it was not to be expected that he could be satisfied with the lot of the youngest of eight sons of the now aged chief (1 Samuel 17:12; 1 Chronicles 2:13 ff). In the East every man is a soldier, and David’s bent was in that direction. The tribesmen of Benjamin near whose border his home was situated were famed through all Israel as slingers, some of whom could sling at a hair and not miss (Judges 20:16). Taught, perhaps, by one of these, but certainly by dint of constant practice, David acquired an accuracy of aim which reminds one of the tales of William Tell or Robin Hood (1 Samuel 17:49).


Another of the pastimes in the pursuit of which David spent many an hour of his youthful days was music. The instrument which he used was the “harp” (Hebrew [kinnor]). This instrument had many forms, which may be seen on the Assyrian and Egyptian monuments; but the kind used by David was probably like the modern Arabic, rubaba, having only one or two strings, played not with a plectrum (Ant., VII, xii, 3) but by the hand (compare 1 Samuel 16:23, etc., which do not exclude a quill). Whatever the nature of the instrument was, David acquired such proficiency in playing it that his fame as a musician soon spread throughout the countryside (1 Samuel 16:18). With the passing of time he becomes the Hebrew Orpheus, in whose music birds and mountains joined (compare Koran, chapter 21 ).

4. POET:

To the accompaniment of his lyre David no doubt sang words, either of popular songs or of lyrics of his own composition, in that wailing eastern key which seems to be an imitation of the bleating of flocks. The verses he sang would recount his own adventures or the heroic prowess of the warrior of his clan, or celebrate the loveliness of some maiden of the tribe, or consist of elegies upon those slain in battle. That the name of David was long connected with music the reverse of sacred appears from the fact that Amos denounces the people of luxury of his time for improvising to the sound of the viol, inventing instruments of music, like David (6:5). (It is not clear to which clause “like David” belongs, probably to both.) The only remains of the secular poetry of David which have come down to us are his elegies on Saul and Jonathan and on Abner (2 Samuel 1:19-27; 3:33, 14), which show him to have been a true poet.


Did David also compose religious verses? Was he “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1)? In the oldest account which we have, contained in the books of Samuel, David appears as a musician and as a secular poet only, for it is obvious the poetical passages, 2 Samuel 22:1-23:7, do not belong to the original form of that book but are thrust in in the middle of a long list of names of David’s soldiers. The position is the same in Amos 6:5. It is in the later books and passages that sacred music and psalms begin to be ascribed to him. Perhaps the earliest instance is the passage just cited containing the “last words” of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7). The Chronicler (about 300 BC) seems to put parts of Psalms 105; 96, and 106 into the mouth of David (1 Chronicles 16:7 ff), and Nehemiah 12:36 regards him apparently as the inventor of the instruments used in the Temple service (1 Chronicles 23:5), or as a player of sacred music. So too in the Septuagint psalter (151:2) we read, “My hands made an organ, my fingers fashioned a psaltery”; and gradually the whole of the Psalms came to be ascribed to David as author. In regard to this question it must be remembered that in the East at any rate there is no such distinction as that of sacred and secular. By sacred poetry we mean poetry which mentions the name of God or quotes Scripture, but the Hebrew or Arab poet will use the name of God as an accompaniment to a dance, and will freely sprinkle even comic poetry with citations from his sacred book. David must have composed sacred poems if he composed at all, and he would use his musical gift for the purposes of religion as readily as for those of amusement and pleasure (2 Samuel 6:14, 15). Whether any of our psalms was composed by David is another question. The titles cannot be considered as conclusive evidence, and internal proofs of his authorship are wanting. Indeed the only psalm which claims to have been written by David is the 18th (= 2 Samuel 22). One cannot help wishing that the 23rd Psalm had been sung by the little herd lad as he watched his father’s flocks and guarded them from danger.


There are sayings of Mohammed that the happiest life is that of the shepherd, and that no one became a prophet who had not at one time tended a flock of sheep. What Mohammed meant was that the shepherd enjoys leisure and solitude for reflection and for plunging into those day dreams out of which prophets are made. If David, like the Arab poet Tarafa, indulged in sport, in music and in poetry, even to the neglect of his charge, he must have sought out themes on which to exercise his muse; and it must have been with no little chagrin that he learnt that whereas the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Levi, Dan, and even the non-Israelite tribes of Kenaz and the debatable land of Gilead could boast of having held the hegemony of Israel and led the nation in battle, his own tribe of Judah had played a quite subordinate part, and was not even mentioned in the national war song of Deborah. As contrasted with the poets of these tribes he could boast in his verses only of Ibzan who belonged to his own town of Bethlehem (Judges 12:8). The Jerahmeelites were no doubt a powerful clan, but neither they nor any other of the subdivisions of Judah had ever done anything for the common good. Indeed, when the twelve pathfinders had been sent in advance into Canaan, Judah had been represented by Caleb, a member of the Uitlander tribe of Kenaz (Numbers 13:6). He became apparently the adopted son of Hezron and so David might claim kinship with him, and through him with Othniel the first of the judges (Judges 1:13). David thus belonged to the least efficient of all the Israelite tribes except one, and one which, considering its size and wealth, had till now failed to play a worthy part in the confederacy. It is difficult to believe that the young David never dreamed of a day when his own tribe should take its true place among its fellows, and when the deliverer of Israel from its oppressors should belong for once to the tribe of Judah.


The earliest events in the career of David are involved in some obscurity.


This is due mainly to what appears to be an insoluble difficulty in 1 Samuel 16 and 17. In chapter 16, David is engaged to play before Saul in order to dispel is melancholy, and becomes his squire or armor-bearer (16:21), whereas in the following chapter he is unknown to Saul, who, after the death of Goliath, asks Abner who he is, and Abner replies that he does not know (17:55). This apparent contradiction may be accounted for by the following considerations:

a. 16:14-23 may be inserted out of its chronological order for the sake of the contrast with the section immediately preceding — ”the spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward .... the spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul” (16:13, 14);

b. the fact of David becoming Saul’s squire does not imply constant personal attendance upon him; the text says David became an (not his) armor-bearer to Saul. The king would have many such squires: Joab, though only commander-in-chief, had, it seems, eighteen (2 Samuel 23:37 reads “armor-bearers”);

c. David would not play before Saul every day: his presence might not be required for a space of weeks or months;

d. Saul’s failure to recognize David may have been a result of the `evil spirit from Yahweh’ and Abner’s denial of knowledge may have been feigned out of jealousy. If we accept all the statements of the dramatis personae in these narratives we shall not get very far.


The facts seem to have been somewhat as follows: It had become evident that Saul was not equal to the task to which he had been set — the task of breaking the Philistine power, and it became the duty of Samuel, as the vicar of Yahweh and as still holding very large powers, to look about for a successor. He turned to the tribe of Judah (the full brother of his own ancestor Levi), a tribe which was fast becoming the most powerful member of the federation. The headman of this clan was Jesse of Bethlehem. His name was well known in the country — Saul does not require to be told who he is (1 Samuel 16:18; 17:58) — but he was by this time advanced in years (1 Samuel 17:12). He had, however, many sons. Old men in the East often foretell a great future for a young boy (compare Luke 2:34). Samuel saw that David was formed of other clay than his brothers, and he anointed him as he had done Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). But whereas the anointing of Saul was done surreptitiously and for a definite purpose which was explained at the time (1 Samuel 10:1), that of David was performed before his whole family, but with what object he was not told (1 Samuel 16:13). His brothers do not seem to have thought the matter of much consequence (compare 1 Samuel 17:28), and all David could conclude from it was that he was destined to some high office — perhaps that of Samuel’s successor (compare 1 Kings 19:15, 16). It would have the effect of nerving him for any adventure and raising his hopes high and steeling his courage. Whether by accident or by contrivance he became attached to Saul as minstrel (compare 2 Kings 3:15) and subsequently as one of his armor-bearers. He would probably be at this time about twenty years of age. It must have been after an interval of some months that an event happened which made it impossible for Saul ever again to forget the existence of David. This was the famous duel between David and the Philistine Goliath, which saved the situation for Saul for the time (1 Samuel 17). In regard to this narrative it must be noted that 1 Samuel 17:12-31, 41, 50, 55-58 and 18:1-5 are lacking in the best manuscript of the Septuagint, that is, the sending of David from Bethlehem and his fresh introduction to Saul and Saul’s failure to recognize him are left out. With the omission of these verses all the difficulties of the narrative vanish. For the reason why David could not wear the armor offered him was not because he was still a child, which is absurd in view of the fact that Saul was exceptionally tall (1 Samuel 9:2), but because he had had no practice with it (1 Samuel 17:39). It is ridiculous to suppose that David was not at this time full-grown, and that two armies stood by while a child advanced to engage a giant. The event gained for David the reputation won in modern times at the cannon’s mouth, but also the devoted friendship of Jonathan and the enmity of Saul (1 Samuel 18:1-9).

The next years of David’s life were spent in the service of Saul in his wars with the Philistines. David’s success where Saul had failed, however, instead of gratifying only inflamed the jealousy of the latter, and he determined to put David out of the way. More than once he attempted to do so with his own hand (1 Samuel 18:11; 19:10), but he also employed stratagem. It came to his ears that his daughter Michal, as well as his son Jonathan, loved David, and Saul undertook to give her to David on the condition of his killing one hundred Philistines.


The gruesome dowry was paid, and David became Saul’s son-in-law. The Hebrew text states that Saul first offered his elder daughter to David, and then failed to implement his promise (1 Samuel 18:17-19, 21), but this passage is not found in the Greek. David’s relation to Saul did not mitigate the hatred of the latter; indeed his enmity became so bitter that David determined upon flight. With the help of stratagem on the part of Michal, this was effected and David went to Samuel at Ramah for counsel and advice (1 Samuel 19:18). There Saul pursued him, but when he came into the presence of the prophet, his courage failed and he was overcome by the contagion of the prophetic ecstasy (1 Samuel 19:24) as he had been on a previous occasion (1 Samuel 10:11). David returned to Gibeah, while the coast was clear, to meet Jonathan, but Saul also returned immediately, his hatred more intense than before. David then continued his flight and came to Ahimelech, the priest at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1). It is sometimes supposed that we have here two inconsistent accounts of David’s flight, according to one of which he fled to Samuel at Ramah, and according to the other to Ahimelech at Nob; but there is no necessity for such a supposition, and even if it were correct, it would not clear up all the difficulties of the narrative. There is evidently much in these narratives that is left untold and our business should be to fill up the gaps in a way consistent with what we are given. That Saul made sure that David would not return is shown by the fact that he gave his daughter Michal to a man of the tribe of Benjamin as wife (1 Samuel 25:44).


The relation existing between Jonathan and David was one of pure friendship. There was no reason why it should not be so. A hereditary monarchy did not yet exist in Israel. The only previous attempt to establish such an institution — that of Gideon’s family (Judges 9) — though not of Gideon himself (8:23) — had ended in failure. The principle followed hitherto had been that of election by the sheikhs or caids of the clans. To this Saul owed his position, for the lot was a kind of ballot. Moreover, behind all national movements there lay the power of the prophets, the representatives of Yahweh. Saul was indebted for his election to Samuel, just as Barak was to Deborah (Judges 4:6). Like the judges who preceded him he had been put forward to meet a definite crisis in the national affairs — the rise of the Philistine power (1 Samuel 9:16). Had he succeeded in crushing these invaders, the newly-established kingdom would in the absence of this bond of union have dissolved again into its elements, as had happened on every similar occasion before. He was the only judge who had failed to accomplish the task for which he was appointed, and he was the only one who had been appointed on the understanding that his son should succeed him, for this constitutes the distinction between king and judge. Moreover, not only was Saul aware that he had failed, but he saw before him the man who was ready to step into his place and succeed. His rival had, besides, the backing of the mass of the people and of Samuel who was still virtual head of the state and last court of appeal. It is not to be wondered at that Saul was hostile to David. Jonathan, on the other hand, acquiesced in the turn things had taken and bowed to what he believed to be the inevitable. Such was his love for David that he asked only to be his [wazeer] (vizier) when David came to the throne (1 Samuel 23:17). David’s position was perhaps the most difficult imaginable. He had to fight the battles of a king whose one idea was to bring about his ruin. He was the bosom friend of a prince whom he proposed to supplant in his inheritance. His hope of salvation lay in the death of his king, the father of his wife and of his best friend. The situation would in ordinary circumstances be intolerable, and it would have been impossible but for the fact that those concerned were obsessed by a profound belief in Fate. Jonathan bore no grudge against David for aiming at the throne, because to the throne he was destined by the will of Yahweh. To David it would never occur that he had the choice of declining the high destiny in store for him. Had he had the power to refuse what he believed to be the decree of Fate, he would hardly escape censure for his ambition and disloyalty.



From the moment of his flight David became an outlaw and remained so until the death of Saul. This period of his career is full of stirring adventures which remind us of Robert Bruce or William Wallace of Scotland. Like King Arthur and other heroes he carried a famous sword — the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:9). Having obtained it of Ahimelech, he for the first time left Israelite territory and went to the Philistine city of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10). Not feeling safe here he left and took up his abode in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1) in the country of Judah, almost within sight of his native Bethlehem. This cave was admirably suited to the outlaw’s purpose and no doubt David had many a time explored its recesses when a boy. Here he was joined by his parents and brothers, with their servants, as well as by all sorts of persons who were at war with the government, debtors, fugitives from justice, and discontented persons generally. David thus became the chief of a band of outlaws who numbered about 400. Of such stuff some of his bravest soldiers were made (2 Samuel 23:13 ff). He had an augur, too, to direct his actions, and, after the massacre of the priests at Nob, a priest, Abiathar, carrying an ephod with which to cast lots (1 Samuel 22:5; 23:6). During this period he supported himself and his men by making raids on the Philistine outposts and levying blackmail on his own countrymen (1 Samuel 25:2 ff) in return for giving them his protection from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1 ff). Hard pressed both by Saul and the Philistines (who had established themselves even in Bethlehem) he committed his parents to the keeping of the king of Moab, and began to rove as a freebooter through the country (1 Samuel 23:5, 15, 25, 29). On two occasions David had Saul in his power, but refused to seize the opportunity of taking his life (1 Samuel 24-26). Here again there are no adequate grounds for supposing we have two accounts of one and the same incident. During his wandering David’s followers increased in numbers (compare 1 Samuel 22:2; 23:13; 25:13). His chief lieutenant was his nephew Abishai, the son of his sister Zeruiah, but his brothers, Joab and Asahel, do not seem to have joined David yet. Another of his nephews, Jonathan the son of Shimei (Shammah), is mentioned (2 Samuel 21:21; compare 1 Samuel 16:9) and the Chronicler thinks many other knights joined him during this period (1 Chronicles 11:10 ff). The position of David at this time was very similar to that of the brigand Raisuli of late in Morocco. That there was some stability in it is shown by his taking two wives at this time — Ahinoam and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:42, 43).


David now, abandoning all hope of ever conciliating the king (1 Samuel 27:1), made a move which shows at once his reckless daring and consummate genius. He offered the services of himself and his little army of 600 men to the enemies of his country. The town of Gath appears to have been an asylum for fugitive Israelites (1 Kings 2:39). David’s first impulse on his flight from Saul had been to seek safety there (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Then, however, he was the hero of Israel, whose assassination would be the highest gain to the Philistines; now he was the embittered antagonist of Saul, and was welcomed accordingly. Achish placed at his disposal the fortified town of Ziklag in the territory of the now extinct tribe of Simeon, and there he and his followers, each of whom had his family with him, took up their quarters for sixteen months (1 Samuel 27:6, 7). The advantages to David were many. He was safe at last from the persecution of Saul (1 Samuel 27:4); he could secure ample supplies by making raids upon the Amalekites and other tribes hostile to Israel toward the South (1 Samuel 27:8); and if the opportunity presented itself he could deal a serious blow at the Philistine arms. The position was no doubt a precarious one. It could last just as long as David could hoodwink Achish by persuading him that his raids were directed against his own tribe (1 Samuel 27:10). This he succeeded in doing so completely that Achish would have taken him with him on the campaign which ended in the decisive battle of Gilboa, but the other chiefs, fearing treachery, refused to allow him to do so. David was forced to return with his followers to Ziklag, only to find that town razed to the ground and all the women and children carried off by his old enemies the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1, 2). By the time he had recovered the spoil and returned in triumph to Ziklag the battle of Gilboa had been fought and Saul was slain. The conduct of David in his relations with the Philistines was not more reprehensible than that of the Cid who allied himself with Al-Mu’taman of Saragossa, or of Coriolanus who went over to the Volsci. David composed upon the death of Saul and Jonathan an elegy every sentence of which has become classic.



David immediately removed from Ziklag and took up his quarters at Hebron, where he was at once anointed king over his own tribe of Judah. Thus began the cleavage between Judah and Israel. Here he was joined, apparently for the first time, by his nephew Joab. Abner, however, loyal to his former master, had Esh-baal (1 Chronicles 8:33), son of Saul, anointed king over the remaining tribes at Mahanaim, a fortified town East of the Jordan. War continued between David and Abner for several years, fortune always favoring David. Seeing things were going against him Abner forced Esh-baal into a personal quarrel with himself and then transferred his allegiance and persuaded his side to transfer theirs to David (2 Samuel 3:21). He did not reap the fruit of his defection, as he was immediately after assassinated by Joab in revenge for the death of Asahel whom Abner had killed in self-defence (2 Samuel 3:27). Deprived of his chief support Esh-baal also fell a victim to assassination (2 Samuel 4:2 ff). David denounced both crimes with apparent sincerity. He composed an elegy and fasted for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33 ff) and avenged the death of Esh-baal (2 Samuel 4:9 ff). Yet these acts of violence laid the sovereignty of all Israel at his feet. Of the male heirs of Saul there remained only a son of Jonathan, Merib-baal (1 Chronicles 8:34) who was a crippled child of 7. David was therefore elected king over the nation (2 Samuel 5:1 ff). His sovereignty of Judah is said to have lasted 7 1/2 years and that over the undivided people 33, making a reign of 40 years, beginning from David’s 30th year (2 Samuel 5:5; 1 Chronicles 3:4; in 2 Samuel 2:10 the text is probably corrupt). These are round numbers.


King of all the Israelite tribes, David found his hands free to expel the foreigners who had invaded the sacred territory. His first step was to move his headquarters from the Southern Hebron, which he had been compelled at first to make his capital, to the more central Jerusalem. The fort here, which was still held by the aboriginal Jebusites, was stormed by Joab, David’s nephew, who also superintended the rebuilding for David. He was in consequence appointed commander-in-chief (1 Chronicles 11:6, 8), a post which he held as long as David lived. The materials and the skilled workmen for the erection of the palace were supplied by Hiram of Tyre (2 Samuel 5:11). David now turned his attention to the surrounding tribes and peoples. The most formidable enemy, the Philistines, were worsted in several campaigns, and their power crippled (2 Samuel 5:17 ff; 8:1). In one of these David so nearly came by his death, that his people would not afterward permit him to take part in the fighting (2 Samuel 21:16, 17). One of the first countries against which David turned his arms was the land of Moab, which he treated with a severity which would suggest that the Moabite king had ill-treated David’s father and mother, who had taken refuge with him (2 Samuel 8:2). Yet his conduct toward the sons of Ammon was even more cruel (2 Samuel 12:31), and for less cause (10:1 ff). The king of Zobah (Chalkis) was defeated (2 Samuel 8:3), and Israelite garrisons were placed in Syria of Damascus (2 Samuel 8:6) and Edom (2 Samuel 8:14). The sons of Ammon formed a league with the Syrian kingdoms to the North and East of Palestine (2 Samuel 10:6, 16), but these also had no success. All these people became tributary to the kingdom of Israel under David (2 Samuel 10:18, 19) except the sons of Ammon who were practically exterminated for the time being (2 Samuel 12:31). Thus, Israel became one of the “great powers” of the world during the reign of David and his immediate successor.


There is no doubt that the expansion of the boundaries of Israel at this period almost to their ideal limits (Deuteronomy 11:24, etc.) was largely due to the fact that the two great empires of Egypt and Assyria were at the moment passing through a period of weakness and decay. The Assyrian monarchy was in a decadent state from about the year 1050 BC, and the 22nd Dynasty — to which Shishak belonged (1 Kings 14:25) — had not yet arisen. David, therefore, had a free hand when his time came and found no more formidable opposition than that of the petty states bordering upon Palestine. Against the combined forces of all the Israelite tribes these had never been able to effect much.


It had been the custom of the Israelites on setting out upon expeditions in which the nation as a whole took part to carry with them the sacred box or “ark” which contained the two stone tables (Joshua 4:7, etc.). When David had secured the fortress of Jebus for his metropolis one of his first thoughts was to bring into it this emblem of victory. It was then lying at Kiriath-jearim, possibly Abu Gosh about 8 miles Northwest of Jerusalem (compare Psalm 132). Owing to the sudden death of one of the drivers, which he interpreted as indicative of anger on the part of Yahweh, David left the ark at the house of a Philistine which happened to be near at hand. Since no misfortune befell this person, but on the contrary much prosperity, David took courage after three months to bring the sacred chest and its contents into his royal city. The ceremony was conducted with military honors in 2 Samuel 6:1 and with religious dancing and music (6:5, 14) and festivity (6:18, 19). A tent was pitched for it, in which it remained (7:2), except when it was sent with the army to the seat of war (11:11; 15:24). David, however, had already built for himself a stone palace, and he wished now to add to it a chapel royal in the shape of a small temple, such as the neighboring kings had. He was the more anxious to so do since he had much of the material ready at hand in the precious metals which formed the most valuable part of the plunder of the conquered races, such as bronze from Chalkis (8:8), gold and silver (8:11) and the vessels which he had received as a present from the king of Hamath (8:10). He was persuaded, however, by the prophet Nathan to forego that task, on the ground of his having shed much human blood, and to leave it to his successor (1 Chronicles 22:8; 28:3).



In accordance with the practice of the kings of his time, David had several wives. His first wife was Michal, the younger daughter of Saul. When David fled from Saul she was given to Phaltiel, but was restored to David after Saul’s death. She does not appear to have borne any children. In 2 Samuel 21:8 “Michal” should be Merab (1 Samuel 18:19). During the period of separation from Michal, David took to wife Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the wife of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:43, 12), who accompanied him to Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:3 ff), when they were among those captured by the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:5). A fourth wife was the daughter of Talmai of Geshur, Maacah, whom he had captured in war (1 Samuel 27:8; 2 Samuel 3:3). When he removed to Hebron Ahinoam bore him his oldest son Amnon, and Abigail his second son Chileab or Daniel (2 Samuel 3:2, 3; 1 Chronicles 3:1); his third son was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, and his fourth Adonijah. His mother’s name was Haggith; nothing is known about her. Two other sons, Shephatiah and Ithream were also born in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 1 Chronicles 3:1-4). When David added the kingdom of Israel to that of Judah, he, in accordance with custom, took more wives with a view to increase his state and dignity. One of these was Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon (2 Samuel 5:13 ff; 1 Chronicles 3:5 ff; 14:3 ff). David’s sons discharged priestly functions (2 Samuel 8:18; compare Nathan in Zechariah 12:12).


It was perhaps inevitable that in so large a household the usual dissensions and crimes of the harem should have sprung up in plenty. A most unvarnished account of these is given in 2 Samuel 11 through 20 — it has been suggested by Abiathar the priest in order to avenge himself on Solomon for his disgrace (1 Kings 2:26, 27), Solomon’s mother being Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11; 12). 1 Chronicles 13 recounts the wrong done to Tamar, the daughter of David and Maacah, and sister of Absalom, and how the last named, having avenged his sister’s honor by killing Amnon, his oldest brother, fled for asylum to his mother’s father, the king of-Geshur. Thence after two years he returned (chapter 14), only to foment rebellion against his father (chapter 15), leading to civil war between David and Judah on the one side and Absalom and Israel on the other (chapters 16; 17), and ending in the death of himself (chapter 18) and of Amasa, David’s nephew, at the hands of his cousins Joab and Abishai (20:7 ff), as well as nearly precipitating the disruption of the newly founded kingdom (19:43). The rebellion of Absalom was probably due to the fact of Solomon having been designated David’s successor (compare 12:24; 1 Chronicles 22:9), for Absalom had the best claim, Amnon being dead and Chileab apparently of no account.


As David’s circumstances improved he required assistance in the management of his affairs.


The beginning of his good fortune had been the friendship of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13; 19:18). The prophet or seer was keeper of the king’s conscience and was not appointed by him, but claimed divine authority (2 Samuel 7:3, 1 ff; 12:1 ff; 24:11 ff). Among the persons who discharged this duty for David were Gad the seer (1 Samuel 22:5) and Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 1:11 ff). All these are said to have written memoirs of their times (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29).


Next to the prophet came the priest. The kohen (priest) was, as the name indicates, a soothsayer or diviner. The duty of Abiathar, David’s first priest (1 Samuel 22:20 ff), was to carry the ephod — an object used for casting lots (1 Samuel 23:6 ff), in order to decide what to do in cases where there was no other way of making up one’s mind (1 Samuel 30:7). It is not to be confused with the dress of the same name (1 Samuel 2:18). Later, at Hebron, Abiathar was given a colleague, Zadok (1 Chronicles 12:28), and it became their duty to carry the ark in expeditions (2 Samuel 15:24). Shortly after the death of David, Abiathar was deposed by Solomon for his part in Adonijah’s attempt to seize the throne (1 Kings 2:26, 27), and Zadok remained sole priest to the king (1 Kings 2:35). David’s sons also acted in the same capacity (2 Samuel 8:18). An extra private priest is mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:26 (compare 23:26, 38).


When still an outlaw David required the services of a henchman to take command of his men in his absence. This post was held at first by different persons according to circumstances, but generally, it seems, by his nephew Abishai (1 Samuel 26:6). It was only after the death of Saul that his brother Joab threw in his lot with David. His great military talents at once gave him a leading place, and as a reward for the capture of Jebus he was given the chief command, which he held against all rivals (2 Samuel 3:27; 20:10) during the whole reign. David’s special body-guard of Philistine troops — the Cherethites and Pelethites — were commanded by Benaiah, who in the following reign, succeeded Joab (1 Kings 2:35).


The office of recorder or magister memoriae was held during this reign and in the following by Jehoshaphat (2 Samuel 8:16); and that of secretary by Seraiah (2 Samuel 8:17), also called Shavsha (1 Chronicles 18:16) or Shisha (1 Kings 4:3). There were also the counselors, men noted for their great acumen and knowledge of human nature, such as Ahithophel and Hushai.


It was natural that there should be much mutual jealousy and rivalry among these officials, and that some of them should attach themselves to one of David’s many sons, others to another. Thus, Amnon is the special patron of David’s nephew Jonadab (2 Samuel 13:3; compare 21:21), and Absalom is backed by Amasa (2 Samuel 17:25). The claim of Adonijah to the throne is supported by Joab and Abiathar (1 Kings 1:7), as against that of Solomon who is backed by Nathan, Benaiah, Zadok (1 Kings 1:8) and Hushai (compare Ant, VII, xiv, 4). Ahithophel sides with Absalom; Hushai with David (2 Samuel 15:12, 32).



We would obtain a very different idea of the personal character of David if we drew our conclusions from the books of Samuel and Kings or from the books of Chronicles. There is no doubt whatever that the former books are much truer to fact, and any estimate or appreciation of David or of any of the other characters described must be based upon them. The Chronicler, on the other hand, is biased by the religious ideas of his own time and is prejudiced in favor of some of those whose biographies he writes and against others. He accordingly suppresses the dark passages of David’s life, e.g. the murder of Uriah (1 Chronicles 20), or sets them in a favorable light, e.g. by laying the blame of the census upon Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1). David’s success, especially as against Saul’s misfortune, is greatly exaggerated in 1 Chronicles 12:2, 22. Ceremonial functions are greatly elaborated (chapter 16; compare 2 Samuel 6). The various orders of priests and singers in the second temple have their origin traced back to David (16:4 ff, 37 ff; 1 Chronicles 23 through 27), and the temple of Solomon itself is to all intents and purposes built by him (chapters 22; 28). At the same time there may be much material in the shape of names and isolated statements not found in the older books, which so long as they are not tinged with the Chronicler’s pragmatism or “tendency,” may possibly be authentic records preserved within the circle of the priestly caste, e.g. we are told that Saul’s skull was fastened in the temple of Dagon (1 Chronicles 10:10). There is no doubt that the true names of Ish-bosheth, Mephibosheth and Eliada (2 Samuel 2:8; 4:4; 5:16) were Ish-baal (Esh-baal), Merib-baal and Beeliada (1 Chronicles 8:33; 9:39; 8:34; 9:40; 14:7); that the old name of Jerusalem was Jebus (11:4, 5; compare Judges 19:10, 11); perhaps a son of David called Nogah has to be added to 2 Samuel 5:15 from 1 Chronicles 3:7; 14:6; in 2 Samuel 8:8 and 21:18, for Betah and Gob read Tebah (Tibhath) and Gezer (1 Chronicles 18:8; Genesis 22:24; 1 Chronicles 20:4). The incident recounted in 2 Samuel 23:9 ff happened at Pasdammim (1 Chronicles 11:13). Shammah the Harodite was the son of Elika (2 Samuel 23:25; compare 1 Chronicles 11:27), and other names in this list have to be corrected after the readings of the Chronicler. Three (not seven) years of famine was the alternative offered to David (2 Samuel 24:13; compare 1 Chronicles 21:12).


If we could believe that the Book of Psalms was in whole or in part the work of David, it would throw a flood of light upon the religious side of his nature. Indeed, we should know as much about his religious life as can well be known about anyone. Unfortunately the date and authorship of the Psalms are questions regarding which the most divergent opinions are held. In the early Christian centuries all the Psalms were ascribed to David and, where necessary, explained as prophecies. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the Book of Psalms simply as “David” (Hebrews 4:7). The Greek text, however, of that book ascribes only some 87 of the poems to David, and the Hebrew only 73. Some of these are not David’s, and in the whole book there is only one which professes from its contents to be his, namely, Psalm 18 (= 2 Samuel 22). The occasion on which a psalm was composed is stated only in the case of thirteen psalms, all of which are ascribed to David. Each of these is referred to some incident recorded in the books of Samuel, although sometimes the citation is erroneous (see PSALMS). The Septuagint supplies occasions to two or three more psalms; but all such statements are merely the conjectures of readers and scribes and are of no historical value.


To form a correct opinion of anyone is much more difficult than to state the facts of his life; to form an opinion which will be generally accepted is impossible. Of David’s character the most opposite estimates have been formed. On one hand he is extolled as a saint, and yet few men have committed worse crimes. The character of David must remain, like that of everyone, an insoluble enigma. A person is to be judged by his motives rather than by his actions, and one’s true motives are unknown even to oneself (Jeremiah 17:9). There are several sides of David’s nature in regard to which there cannot be two opinions.


Perhaps the feature of his character which stands out most prominently in his earlier years, at any rate, is his boundless physical courage. He never shirked danger (1 Samuel 17:28, 34 ff) and delighted in hairbreadth escapes in 1 Samuel 26:6. Like most Semites he was fond of gambling and liked to take risks (18:26; compare 23:9; 30:7), even when modesty would have led him to decline them (17:32; compare Judges 8:20). A native indifference to the shedding of blood grew into a liking for it, giving rise to acts of gross cruelty (1 Samuel 27:9; 2 Samuel 8:2; 16:7, etc.). He had need, indeed, to be a brave man, considering the character of the men whom he ruled (1 Samuel 22:2). Yet he could rule them by gentleness as well as by force (30:23). All classes had unbounded confidence in his personal courage and soldierly qualities (2 Samuel 18:3), and were themselves driven to restrain his military ardor (2 Samuel 21:17).


Whether David possessed moral courage to an equal degree is another matter. Had he done so he would hardly have permitted the execution of seven sons of Saul (2 Samuel 21:1 ff), and that, too, at the cost of breaking his plighted word (1 Samuel 24:21); he would not have stood in awe of the sons of his sister Zeruiah (2 Samuel 3:39), and would have punished Joab instead of weakly invoking an imprecation on his head (2 Samuel 3:29), however much he might have felt the loss of his services. But in many matters his natural sense of justice was blunted by the superstitions of the age in which he lived.


But David was even more prudent than courageous. He is so described by the person who recommended him (somewhat eulogistically) to Saul (1 Samuel 16:18). Prudence or wisdom was indeed what his biographer most remarks in him (1 Samuel 18:5, 30), and situated as he was he could not have too much of it. It shows itself in the fact that he consistently made as many friends and as few enemies as was possible. His wonderful foresight is shown in such acts as his conciliating the Judean chiefs with gifts taken from his spoil (1 Samuel 30:26 ff), in his commendation of the men of Ja-besh-gilead (2 Samuel 2:5-7), and in his reception of Abner (2 Samuel 3:20). Yet it must be confessed that this constant looking forward to the future takes away from the spontaneity of his virtue. His gratitude is often a keen sense of favors to come. His kindness to Merib-baal did him no harm and some advantage (2 Samuel 9; 19:24 ff), and his clemency to Shimei helped to win him the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 19:16 ff). Even in his earliest youth he seems to have preferred to attain his ends by roundabout ways. The means by which he obtained introduction or reintroduction to Saul (1 Samuel 17:26 ff) afford some justification for the opinon which his oldest brother held of him (1 Samuel 17:28). Perhaps nothing proves the genius of David better than his choice of Jebus as the capital of the country — which it still continues to be after a lapse of three thousand years.


Yet it must be confessed that David’s prudence often degenerates into cunning. With true oriental subtlety he believed firmly in keeping one’s secret to oneself at all costs (1 Samuel 21:2). The manner in which he got himself out of Gath after this first visit there (1 Samuel 21:13) and the fact that he hoodwinked Achish during sixteen months (1 Samuel 27; 28:1; 29) may excite our admiration but not our respect. The Oriental, however, delights in a display of cunning and makes use of it without shame (2 Samuel 15:34), just as the European does in secret. There is something curiously modern in the diplomacy which David employed to ensure his own return in due state (2 Samuel 19:11 ff). We must remember, however, that David lived among persons hardly one of whom he could trust. Joab accuses Abner of deceit, while he himself was faithful to none except David (2 Samuel 3:25). Ziba accuses Merib-baal of treachery, and Merib-baal accuses Ziba of falsehood, and David cannot tell which is speaking the truth (2 Samuel 16:1 ff; 19:24 ff). David himself is out-witted by Joab, though with a friendly purpose (2 Samuel 14:1 ff). The wonder, therefore, is, not that David was guilty of occasional obliquity, but that he remained as straightforward and simple as he was.


David was, indeed, a man very much ahead of the times in which he lived. His fine elegies upon the death of Saul and Jonathan, Abner and Absalom show that his nature was untainted with malice. It was no superstitious fear but a high sense of honor which kept him back from putting out of his way his arch-enemy when he had him in his power (1 Samuel 24-26). He even attempts to find an excuse for him (1 Samuel 26:19), while depreciating himself (1 Samuel 24:14; 26:20) in phrases which are more than a mere oriental metonymy (2 Samuel 9:8). It was the ambition of his life to be the founder of a permanent dynasty (2 Samuel 7:29), yet he was willing that his house should be sacrificed to save his nation from destruction (2 Samuel 24:17). Like most Orientals he was endowed with a refinement of feeling unknown in the West. His refusal to drink of water obtained at the cost of bloodshed has become classic (2 Samuel 23:17). And he seems to have been gifted with the saving sense of humor (1 Samuel 26:15). That he was a religious person goes without saying (2 Samuel 7; 8:11). He probably did not believe that outside the land of Israel Yahweh ceased to rule: the expression used in 1 Samuel 26:19 is not a term of dogmatic theology. Like other Hebrews David had no theology. He believed in Yahweh alone as the ruler, if not of the universe, at any rate of all the world known to him. He certainly did not believe in Chemosh or Milcom, whether in the lands of Moab and Ammon or out of them (2 Samuel 12:30; for “their king” read Malcam (Milcom)).


David discharged, as most Orientals do, his duty toward his parents (1 Samuel 22:3). To Michal, his first wife, his love was constant (2 Samuel 3:13), although she did not bear him any children. In accordance with the custom of the times, as his estate improved, he took other wives and slave-girls. The favorite wife of his latter days was Bathsheba. His court made some show of splendor as contrasted with the dwellings of the peasantry and the farmer class (2 Samuel 19:28, 35), but his palace was always small and plain, so that it could be left to the keeping of ten women when he removed from it (2 Samuel 15:16). David and Michal seem to have lived on terms of perfect equality (2 Samuel 6:20 ff). In this he contrasts somewhat with Ahab (1 Kings 21:5 ff). David’s chief weakness in regard to his family was his indulgence of some of his sons and favoring some above others, and want of firmness in regard to them. He could refuse them nothing (2 Samuel 13:27). His first favorite was his oldest son Amnon (2 Samuel 13:21, Septuagint). After the death of Amnon, Absalom became the favorite (2 Samuel 18:33), and after the death of Absalom, Adonijah (1 Kings 1:6). Yet David lived for two whole years in Jerusalem along with Absalom without seeing him (2 Samuel 14:28), and he was succeeded not by Adonijah, but by Solomon, whose mother was the favorite wife of his later years.


Not only did David know the value of having many friends, but he was capable of sincere attachment. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of his love for Jonathan, although it is not so completely cut off from all suspicion of self-interest as is that of Jonathan for him. David, indeed, had the faculty of winning the confidence and love of all sorts and conditions of people, not only of Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1 ff; 20; 23:16 ff), but of Jonathan’s sister Michal (1 Samuel 18:20), of the whole people (1 Samuel 18:28 Septuagint; 2 Samuel 19:14), and even of his people’s enemies (2 Samuel 17:27 ff). His friendship lasted as long as the object of it lived (2 Samuel 1:17 ff; 10:1 f). In the case of his officers this was partly due to his faculty for choosing good men (2 Samuel 8:16 ff), so that the same persons often held the same offices during David’s life (2 Samuel 20:23 ff). Yet the services of one of them at least were retained more by compulsion than by choice (2 Samuel 3:39). He seems, indeed, to have continued Joab in his post because he felt he could not do without him. Joab was devoted to David with the devotion of Caleb Balderstone to his master, and he was as utterly unscrupulous. He did not hesitate to commit any crime that would benefit David. The latter dared not perpetrate these atrocities himself, but he did not mind taking advantage of such a useful instrument, and never punished Joab for them, save with an impotent curse (2 Samuel 3:29). He dealt otherwise with malefactors who could be better spared (2 Samuel 1:14 ff; 4:9 ff). Indeed, a suspicious juryman might find that David put both Abner and Amasa, in the way of Joab (2 Samuel 3:23 ff; 19:13; 4 ff). It does not say much for David that he fell so low as to fear losing the good opinion even of Joab, this ready instrument of his worst crime (2 Samuel 11:25).


One reason for the high position David held in the popular estimation was no doubt his almost uninterrupted success. He was regarded as the chosen of Heaven, by friend and foe alike (1 Samuel 23:17). Fortune seemed to favor him. Nothing could have been more timely than the death of Saul and Jonathan, of Ishbaal and Abner, of Absalom and Amasa, and he did not raise his hand against one of them. As a guerrilla chief with his 600 bandits he could keep at bay. Saul with his 3,000 picked men (1 Samuel 24:2; 26:2), but he was not a great general. Most of the old judges of Israel did in one pitched battle what David effected in a campaign (1 Samuel 18:30; 19:8; 23:1 ff; 2 Samuel 5:17 ff; 21:15 ff). Most of his conquests were won for him by Joab (1 Chronicles 11:6; 2 Samuel 11:1), who willingly accorded David the credit of what he himself had done (2 Samuel 12:27, 28; compare 2 Samuel 8:13; 1 Chronicles 18:11 with the title of Psalm 60). And to crown all, when he came to turn his arms east and west, he found his two most formidable opponents in these directions crippled and harmless. That he ever survived Saul he owed to a timely incursion of the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:24 ff), and his whole career is largely to be explained by the fact that, at the moment, the tribe of Judah as a whole was passing from insignificance to supremacy.


In the prosecution of his military achievements David employed everyone who came to his hand as an instrument without any question of nationality. This is not to impugn his patriotism. Eastern peoples are united not by the ties of country but of religion. Still it does seem strange that two of David’s best friends were two enemies of his nation — Nahash, king of the sons of Ammon (1 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 10:1 ff) and Achish, lord of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10; 27; 28:1 ff; 29). He appears to have found the Philistines more reliable and trustworthy than the Hebrews. When he became king, his personal body-guard was composed of mercenaries of that nation — the Cherethites and Pelethites — with whom he had become acquainted when at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:14; 2 Samuel 8:18; 20:23). It was to a native of Gath that he committed the care of the sacred ark on its passage from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:10, 11). When the rebellion broke out under Absalom, he committed one-third of his forces to a banished soldier of the same town, who had come to him a little while before with a band of followers (2 Samuel 15:19 ff; 18:2). Some of the soldiers in whom he placed the greatest confidence were Hittites (1 Samuel 26:6; 2 Samuel 11:6), and his commissariat was furnished by persons outside of Israel (2 Samuel 17:27; the Machir tribe were half Syrian; Gilead is the son of Machir, 1 Chronicles 7:14). The threshing-floor of a Jebusite became the site of the temple of Solomon (2 Samuel 24:18 ff).


David was a strong believer in the power of Nemesis, and that daughter of Night played a considerable part in his life. He felt a peculiar satisfaction in being undeservedly cursed by Shimei, from a conviction that poetic justice would in the end prevail (2 Samuel 16:12). He must have felt that the same unseen power was at work when his own oldest son was guilty of a crime such as his father had committed before him (2 Samuel 13 and 11), and when the grandfather of the wife of Uriah the Hittite became the enemy whom he had most to fear (2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34; compare Psalm 41:9; 55:12 f). And David’s own last hours, instead of being spent in repose and peace following upon a strenuous and successful life, were passed in meting out vengeance to those who had incurred his displeasure as well as commending those who had done him service (1 Kings 2:5 ff).


Even as early as Ezekiel, David became the ruler who was to govern the restored people of Israel (34:23, 14; 37:24). If there were to be a ruling house, it must be the Davidic dynasty; it did not occur to the Jews to think of any other solution (Amos 9:11; Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Zechariah 12:8). That Jesus was descended from David (Matthew 9:27, etc.) is proved by the fact that his enemies did not deny that he was so (Matthew 22:41 ff). In the New Testament, David is regarded as the author of the Psalms (Acts 4:25; Romans 4:6; Hebrews 4:7). He is also one of the Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11:32) whose actions (unless otherwise stated) are to be imitated (Matthew 12:3); but yet not to be compared with the Messiah (Acts 2:29 ff; 13:36) who has power over the life to come (Revelation 3:7) and who is “the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5; 22:16)

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