David [N] [E] [H] [S]

David was the founder of a dynasty that would rule in Jerusalem for over 350 years. His impact on the history of Israel is seen from the extensive interest in him and his successors as reflected in the Deuteronomic history, the prophets, the Chronicler's history, the psalms, and the New Testament.

David in the Deuteronomic History. The books from Joshua through Kings are often called the Deuteronomic history (DH) because the authors/compilers of these books used provisions and emphases unique to Deuteronomy in order to evaluate the history of Israel. Deuteronomy had authorized the nation to have a king (17:14-20), and the DH traces life in Israel both without a king (Joshua, Judges) and with a king (Samuel, Kings).

The majority of what we learn about David's life and times is contained in the accounts in Samuel. In Samuel the writer forges a contrast between Saul and David, "a man after his [God's] own heart" ( 1 Sam 13:14 ). D. M. Gunn's analysis of the narratives about David focuses on two primary themes: David as king and David as a man. In his first role as king, David acquires the kingdom and assures his tenure in office (the accounts about David and Saul, the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba) and founds a dynasty (the birth of Solomon, the rebellion of Adonijah, the elimination of other contenders and factions). These narratives are intertwined with the theme of David as a man: a husband and father (Michal, Bathsheba, Amnon, Absalom, Solomon, Adonijah). The accounts are overlaid with themes of sexuality and political intrigue. Sexuality is a motif in the accounts of the sin with Bathsheba, the death of the child from an adulterous union, one son's rape of a daughter, the competition for the father's bedmate Abishag, Uriah's refusal to visit his wife, the seizure of David's concubines, and the childlessness of Saul's daughter Michal. Violence and political intrigue are interspersed in the accounts of David's wars, Saul's attempts on David's life, the violence of Joab and his brothers, the murder of Uriah, fratricide among David's sons, the slaughter of the helpless Absalom, and David's plans for the deaths of his enemies soon after his own death. The account of David's relationship with Bathsheba not only prepares for the eventual accession of Solomon, but it also sets in motion a curse that will dog the remainder of David's life: death and sexual outrage will follow, and "the sword will never depart from [his] house" ( 2 Sam 12:10 ). The one word "sword" becomes a key term unifying aspects of the narrative from Samuel through Kings. The entire account of David is presented as the interplay of his public (kingship) and private (father, husband) roles as they impinge on the question of who will succeed him to the throne. Gunn also accents the themes of giving and grasping: whereas some accounts present David or other characters as somewhat passive in their roles, in others they seize or grasp at favor and power. For example, the king who will not seize the kingdom from Saul (2 Sam. 2-5) is nevertheless willing to seize a woman who is the object of his desire (Bathsheba); she who is seemingly passive in her seduction will later seize the kingdom for Solomon. Overall it is the story of how David gains the throne, loses it temporarily in the face of rebellions, only to regain it again, and then lose it in death. It is an intricate picture of human greatness and folly, of wisdom and sin, of faith and faithlessness, of contrasting perspectives and conflicting desires. The narratives about David also abound in irony. For example, the faithful Uriah unknowingly honors a king who has been unfaithful to him; Uriah retains his ritual purity during warfare by refraining from sexual intercourse during time of war, only to be sent to his death in battle by a king who enjoyed sexual congress with Uriah's wife instead of going to the battle ( 2 Sam 11 ).

Within the larger DH, the writer is concerned to trace the faithfulness of God in his promise to David that he would never lack a descendant sitting on this throne ( 2 Sam 7 ). This theme is played out in Kings: there were twenty kings in the southern kingdom, and twenty kings in the northern. But the northern kingdom lasted only two centuries while the southern kingdom endured for three and a half centuries. Why was life expectancy so much greater for a king in the South? In the North, there were nine different dynasties, most inaugurated by regicide or coup d'etat. In the South, by contrast, a single dynasty ruled until the Babylonian exile. God had indeed "maintained a lamp" for David ( 1 Kings 11:36 ; 15:4 ; 2 Kings 8:19 ).

David in the Psalms. The historical books recall David's skill as a musician and his concern with music in worship ( 1 Sam 16:14-21 ; 1 Chron 25 ; 2 Chron 23:18 ; 29:25-30 ; 35:15 ). The many psalms assigned to David reflect this skill and interest. However, the psalms do not just record the compositions of David; they also celebrate the promises God made to him and his descendants ( 18:50 ; Psalms 78:70 Psalms 78:72 ; Psalms 89:3 Psalms 89:20 Psalms 89:35 Psalms 89:49 ). The royal psalms ( 2 , 45 , 72 , 84 , 89 , 110 ) join with the prophets in giving voice to Israel's messianic hopes for another king like David. The royal psalms center on a king who meets universal opposition, is victorious, and establishes righteous rule from Zion over the nations. His kingdom is peaceful, prosperous, everlasting, and faithful to the Lord. He is the friend of the poor and the enemy of the oppressor. He is the heir of the promises to David. He is himself divine ( Psalm 45:6 ); like the angel of the Lord, he is both God and distinct from God.

David in the Prophets. One of the recurring themes in the Book of Samuel is reference to the "Lord's anointed" ( 1 Samuel 16:3 1 Samuel 16:6 1 Samuel 16:12-13 ; 24:6 ; 1 Samuel 26:9 1 Samuel 26:11 1 Samuel 26:16 1 Samuel 26:23 ; 2 Samuel 1:14 2 Samuel 1:16 ; 3:39 ; 19:21 ). The term "messiah" means "anointed one, " and the idea of a messiah for Israel grows out of her ideology about a righteous king, one who would be like David. The messiah as a figure is integrally involved in Israel's unique understanding of her place in history: their awareness from the beginning that God had chosen them to bring blessing to the nations. God had raised up great leaders and deliverers for Israel during her history, and he would yet do so again in the person of a messiah. The failures of the kings who followed David set him in an increasingly favorable light, so that Israel's hopes crystallized around the coming of a future king like David ( Isa 16:5 ; 55:3-5 ; Jer 23:5 ; 33:17-26 ; 36:30 ; Ezek 34:23 ; Zech 9:9 ; Zechariah 12:8 Zechariah 12:10 ). In the book of Immanuel (Isa. 7-12), the prophet speaks about the appearance of a wonder child who will be deliverer, world ruler, and righteous king.

David in the Chronicler's History. Chronicles is among the latest books of the Old Testament; it was written no earlier than the later decades of the fourth century b.c. When comparing the Chronicler's account of David and Solomon with that in Samuel/Kings, perhaps the most striking difference is the material that the Chronicler has chosen to omit. With the exception of the account of David's census (1 Chron. 21 // 2 Sam. 24), the Chronicler has not recorded incidents that would in any way tarnish the image of David or Solomon. The Chronicler does not report the rival kingdom in the hands of a descendant of Saul during David's seven years at Hebron or David's negotiations for rule over the northern tribes. He omits any account of the rebellion of Absalom and Adonijah and the actions of Amnon and Shimei; he makes no mention of David's sins in connection with Bathsheba and Uriah. The Chronicler deletes the narrative of Solomon's taking vengeance on David's enemies (1 Kings 2) and does not report the sins of Solomon which, according to Kings, were ultimately the reason for the break-up of the kingdom (1 Kings 11). Even the blame for the schism is shifted from Solomon to Jeroboam ( 2 Chron 13:6-7 ).

In Chronicles David and Solomon are portrayed as glorious, obedient, all-conquering figures who enjoy not only divine blessing, but also the support of all the nation. Instead of an aged, bed-ridden David who only saves the kingdom for Solomon at the last minute due to the promptings of Bathsheba and Nathan (1 Kings 1), the Chronicler shows a smooth transition of power without a ripple of dissent (1 Chron. 21, 28-29). David himself publicly announces Solomon's appointment as his successor, an announcement greeted with enthusiastic and total support on the part of the people ( 1 Chron 28:1-29:25 ), including the other sons of David, the officers of the army, and others who had supported Adnoijah's attempted coup ( 1 Chron 29:24 ; 1 Kings 1:7-10 ). Whereas in Kings Solomon's sins are a reason for the schism and Solomon is contrasted to his father David (1 Kings 11), in Chronicles Rehoboam is commended for "walking in the ways of David and Solomon" ( 2 Chron 11:17 ).

This idealization of the reigns of David and Solomon could be dismissed as a kind of glorification of the "good old days." Yet when coupled with the Chronicler's emphasis on God's promise to David of an enduring dynasty ( 1 Chron 17:11-14 ; 2 Chronicles 13:5 2 Chronicles 13:8 ; 21:7 ; 23:3 ), the Chronicler's treatment of David and Solomon reflects a "messianic historiography." David and Solomon in Chronicles are not just the David and Solomon who were, but the David and Solomon of the Chronicler's eschatological hope. At a time when subject to the Persians the Chronicler still cherished hopes of a restoration of Davidic rule, and he describes the glorious rule of David and Solomon in the past in terms of his hopes for the future.

David in the New Testament. David's sins do not seem that much greater than Saul's. How is it that David can be described by the narrator as "a man after his [God's] own heart" ( 1 Sam 13:14 )? Israel had looked at Saul's height and build — there was no one like him among all the people ( 1 Sam 10:24 ); although God had chosen Saul, he knew what was in his heart. Human beings might look at appearance and height, but God saw David's heart. David's heart was such that he would face Goliath virtually unarmed and would triumph through his faith, while Saul cowered in his tent ( 1 Sam 17 ). The central demand of life in covenant with God, both from the mouth of Moses and Jesus, was to love him with the whole heart ( Deut 6:5 ; Mark 12:30 ).

Yet something happened to David along the way. When we first meet him in Samuel he has taken a club to kill a bear and a lion for the sake of sheep ( 1 Sam 17:34-35 ), but by the end of the book, he has decided that the sheep should die for him, although this time the sheep were people ( 2 Samuel 24:14 2 Samuel 24:17 ). David will not be the good shepherd who will give his life for the sheep.

The writers of the New Testament see in Jesus the embodiment of a righteous king for Israel. They take pains to point to his descent from David ( Matthew 1:1 Matthew 1:6 Matthew 1:17 ). The crowds and even the demons recognize him as the son of David, the Messiah of Israel ( Matt 12:23 ; 20:30-31 ; Matthew 21:9 Matthew 21:15 ). The title "Christ" is a Greek translation of the Hebrew anointed one or messiah. Jesus comes like David, as "the Lord's anointed."

Hannah's longing for a child and for a righteous king and anointed one ( 1 Sam 2:10 ) is heard again in Mary's own magnificat as she anticipates the birth of Israel's king and Messiah ( Luke 2:32-33 Luke 2:46-55 Luke 2:69 ). David had become the heir of God's promise to Abraham that he would give him a great name ( Gen 12:2 ; 2 Sam 7:9 ). David's greater son receives a names above all others ( Php 2:9-10 ). Just as David had once gone into singlehanded combat with the great enemy of Israel so Jesus would singlehandedly triumph over the enemy of our souls. He would establish an everlasting kingdom.

Raymond B. Dillard

See also Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of

Bibliography. J. Flanagan, David's Social Drama: A Hologram of Israel's Early Iron Age; J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Book of Samuel, 3 vols.; K. R. R. Gros Louis, Semeia8 (1977): 15-33; D. M. Gunn, The Story of King David; J. A. Wharton, Int35 (1981): 341-54; R. N. Whybray, The Succession Narrative: A Study of II Sam. 9-20 and I Kings 1 and 2.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'David'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.
David [N] [B] [H] [S]

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 Samuel 17:25 . As to his personal appearance, we only know that he was red-haired, with beautiful eyes and a fair face ( 1 Samuel 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 Samuel 17:34 1 Samuel 17:35 ).

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 Samuel 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 Samuel 16:13 1 Samuel 16:14 ).

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 skilfully 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 his head with his own sword ( 1 Samuel 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 Samuel 18:6-16 ), which he showed in various ways. He conceived a bitter hatred toward him, and by various stratagems sought his death ( 1 Samuel 1830 -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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 ( 22:1-4 ; 1 Chronicles 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 Samuel 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. Compare Psalms 52 .

Hearing that Keilah, a town on the western frontier, was harassed by the Philistines, David with his men relieved it ( 1 Samuel 23:1-14 ); and then, for fear of Saul, he fled to the strongholds in the "hill country" of Judah. Compare Psalms 31 . While encamped there, in the forest in the district of Ziph, he was visited by Jonathan, who spoke to him words of encouragement ( 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 25 ), whom David married after Nabal's death.

Saul again went forth ( 1 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 (2Sam. 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 3:1 2 Samuel 3:5 ), 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 Samuel 5:1-5 ; 1 Chronicles 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 now resolved to bring up the ark of the covenant to his new capital ( 2 Samuel 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 Samuel 6 ; 7 ). In consequence of the death of Uzzah (for it was a divine ordinance that only the Levites should handle the ark, Numbers 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. Compare Psalms 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 Chronicles 16 ) carefully set in order all the ritual of divine worship at Jerusalem, along with Abiathar the high priest. A new religious era began. 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 anoter. 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 ( 2 Samuel 7:1-17 ; 12:1-23 ) 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 thirty-second and fifty-first 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 Samuel 12:24 2 Samuel 12:25 ).

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 Samuel 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 Chronicles 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, whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel, was guilty of a great and shameful crime ( 2 Samuel 13 ). This was the beginning of the disasters of his later years. After two years Absalom 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 ( 2 Samuel 14 ).

After this there fell upon the land the calamity of three years' famine ( 2 Samuel 21:1-14 ). 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 Samuel 24 ), 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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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, and 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 Chronicles 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 last words are a grand utterance, revealing his unfailing faith in God, and his joyful confidence in his gracious covenant promises ( 2 Samuel 23:1-7 ).

After a reign of forty years and six months ( 2 Samuel 5:5 ; 1 Chronicles 3:4 ) David died (B.C. 1015) at the age of seventy years, "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 Samuel 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. (See PSALMS .)

"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 Samuel 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 Samuel 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.", Geikie's Hours etc., iii.

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for David". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
David [N] [B] [E] [S]

Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names. Public Domain. Copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Hitchcock, Roswell D. "Entry for 'David'". "An Interpreting Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names". . New York, N.Y., 1869.
David [N] [B] [E] [H]

(well-beloved ), the son of Jesse. His life may be divided into three portions:

  1. His youth before his introduction to the court of Saul;
  2. His relations with Saul;
  3. His reign.
  4. The early life of David contains in many important respects the antecedents of his future career. It appears that David was the youngest son, probably the youngest child, of a family of ten, and was born in Bethlehem B.C. 1085. The first time that David appears in history at once admits us to the whole family circle. The annual sacrificial feast is being held when Samuel appears, sent by God to anoint one of Jesses sons as they pass before him, ( 1 Samuel 16:6-10 ) Samuel sends for the youngest, David, who was "keeping the sheep," and anoints him. ( 1 Samuel 16:11-13 ) As David stood before Samuel we are enabled to fix his appearance at once in our minds. He was of short stature, with red or auburn hair, such as is not unfrequently seen in his countrymen of the East at the present day. In later life he wore a beard. His bright eyes are specially mentioned, ( 1 Samuel 16:12 ) and generally he was remarkable for the grace of his figure and countenance ("fair of eyes," "comely," "goodly,") ( 1 Samuel 16:12 1 Samuel 16:18 ; 17:42 ) well made and of immense strength and agility. His swiftness and activity made him like a wild gazelle, his feet like harts feet, and his arms strong enough to break a bow of steel. ( Psalms 18:33 Psalms 18:34 ) After the anointing David resumes his accustomed duties, and the next we know of him he is summoned to the court to chase away the kings madness by music, ( 1 Samuel 16:14-19 ) and in the successful effort of Davids harp we have the first glimpse into that genius for music and poetry which was afterwards consecrated in the Psalms. After this he returned to the old shepherd life again. One incident alone of his solitary shepherd life has come down to us --his conflict with the lion and the bear in defence of his fathers flocks. ( 1 Samuel 17:34 1 Samuel 17:35 ) It was some years after this that David suddenly appears before his brothers in the camp of the army, and hears the defiant challenge of the Philistine giant Goliath. With his shepherds sling and five small pebbles he goes forth and defeats the giant. ( 1 Samuel 17:40-51 )
  5. Relations with Saul. --We now enter on a new aspect of Davids life. The victory over Goliath had been a turning point of his career. Saul inquired his parentage, and took him finally to his court. Jonathan was inspired by the romantic friendship which bound the two youths together to the end of their lives. Unfortunately Davids fame proved the foundation of that unhappy jealousy of Saul towards him which, mingling with the kings constitutional malady, poisoned his whole future relations to David. His position in Sauls court seems to have been first armor-bearer, ( 1 Samuel 16:21 ; 18:2 ) then captain over a thousand, ( 1 Samuel 18:13 ) and finally, on his marriage with Michal, the kings second daughter, he was raised to the high office of captain of the kings body-guard, second only, if not equal, to Abner, the captain of the host, and Jonathan, the heir apparent. David was not chiefly known for his successful exploits against the Philistines, by one of which he won his wife, and rove back the Philistine power with a blow from which it only rallied at the disastrous close of Sauls reign. He also still performed from time to time the office of minstrel; but the successive attempts of Saul upon his life convinced him that he was in constant danger. He had two faithful allies, however, in the court --the son of Saul, his friend Jonathan, and the daughter of Saul, his wife Michal. Warned by the one and assisted by the other, he escaped by night, and was from thenceforward a fugitive. He at first found a home at the court of Achish, among the Philistines; but his stay was short. Discovered possibly by "the sword of Goliath," his presence revived the national enmity of the Philistines against their former conqueror, and he only escaped by feigning madness. ( 1 Samuel 21:13 ) His first retreat was the cave of Adullam. In this vicinity he was joined by his whole family, ( 1 Samuel 22:1 ) and by a motley crowd of debtors and discontented men, ( 1 Samuel 22:2 ) which formed the nucleus of his army. Davids life for the next few years was made up of a succession of startling incidents. He secures an important ally in Abiathar, ( 1 Samuel 23:6 ) his band of 400 at Adullam soon increased to 600, ( 1 Samuel 23:13 ) he is hunted by Saul from place to place like a partridge. ( 1 Samuel 23:14 1 Samuel 23:22 1 Samuel 23:25-29 ; 24:1-22 ; 26 ) He marries Abigail and Ahinoam. ( 1 Samuel 25:42 1 Samuel 25:43 ) Finally comes the new of the battle of Gilboa and the death of Saul and Jonathan. 1Sam 31. The reception of the tidings of the death of his rival and of his friend, the solemn mourning, the vent of his indignation against the bearer of the message, the pathetic lamentation that followed, will close the second period of Davids life. ( 2 Samuel 1:1-27 )
  6. Davids reign. --
  7. As king of Judah at Hebron, 7 1/2 years. ( 2 Samuel 2:1 ; 2 Samuel 5:5 ) Here David was first formally anointed king. ( 2 Samuel 2:4 ) To Judah his dominion was nominally confined. Gradually his power increased, and during the two years which followed the elevation of Ish-bosheth a series of skirmishes took place between the two kingdoms. Then rapidly followed the successive murders of Abner and of Ish-bosheth. ( 2 Samuel 3:30 ; 4:5 ) The throne, so long waiting for him, was now vacant, and the united voice of the whole people at once called him to occupy it. For the third time David was anointed king, and a festival of three days celebrated the joyful event. ( 1 Chronicles 12:39 ) One of Davids first acts after becoming king was to secure Jerusalem, which he seized from the Jebusites and fixed the royal residence there. Fortifications were added by the king and by Joab, and it was known by the special name of the "city of David." ( 2 Samuel 5:9 ; 1 Chronicles 11:7 ) The ark was now removed from its obscurity at Kirjath-jearim with marked solemnity, and conveyed to Jerusalem. The erection of the new capital at Jerusalem introduces us to a new era in Davids life and in the history of the monarchy. He became a king on the scale of the great Oriental sovereigns of Egypt and Persia, with a regular administration and organization of court and camp; and he also founded an imperial dominion which for the first time realize the prophetic description of the bounds of the chosen people. ( Genesis 15:18-21 ) During the succeeding ten years the nations bordering on his kingdom caused David more or less trouble, but during this time he reduced to a state of permanent subjection the Philistines on the west, ( 2 Samuel 8:1 ) the Moabites on the east, ( 2 Samuel 8:2 ) by the exploits of Benaiah, ( 2 Samuel 23:20 ) the Syrians on the northeast as far as the Euphrates, ( 2 Samuel 8:3 ) the Edomites, ( 2 Samuel 8:14 ) on the south; and finally the Ammonites, who had broken their ancient alliance, and made one grand resistance to the advance of his empire. ( 2 Samuel 10:1-19 ; 12:26-31 ) Three great calamities may be selected as marking the beginning, middle and close of Davids otherwise prosperous reign, which appear to be intimated in the question of Gad, ( 2 Samuel 24:13 ) "a three-years famine, a three-months flight or a three-days pestilence." a. Of these the first (the three-years famine) introduces us to the last notices of Davids relations with the house of Saul, already referred to. b. The second group of incidents contains the tragedy of Davids life, which grew in all its parts out of the polygamy, with its evil consequences, into which he had plunged on becoming king. Underneath the splendor of his last glorious campaign against the Ammonites was a dark story, known probably at that time only to a very few --the double crime of adultery with Bath-sheba and the virtual murder of Uriah. The clouds from this time gathered over Davids fortunes, and henceforward "the sword never departed from his house." ( 2 Samuel 12:10 ) The outrage on his daughter Tamar, the murder of his eldest son Amnon, and then the revolt of his best-beloved Absalom, brought on the crisis which once more sent him forth as wanderer, as in the days when he fled from Saul. ( 2 Samuel 15:18 ) The final battle of Absaloms rebellion was fought in the "forest of Ephraim," and terminated in the accident which led to the young mans death; and, though nearly heartbroken at the loss of his son, David again reigned in undisturbed peace at Jerusalem. ( 2 Samuel 20:1-22 ) c. The closing period of Davids life, with the exception of one great calamity, may be considered as a gradual preparation for the reign of his successor. This calamity was the three-days pestilence which visited Jerusalem at the warning of the prophet Gad. The occasion which led to this warning was the census of the people taken by Joab at the kings orders, ( 2 Samuel 24:1-9 ; 1 Chronicles 21:1-7 ; 1 Chronicles 27:23 1 Chronicles 27:24 ) which was for some reason sinful in Gods sight. 2Sam 24. A formidable conspiracy to interrupt the succession broke out in the last days of Davids reign; but the plot was stifled, and Solomons inauguration took place under his fathers auspices. ( 1 Kings 1:1-53 ) By this time Davids infirmities had grown upon him. His last song is preserved --a striking union of the ideal of a just ruler which he had placed before him and of the difficulties which he had felt in realizing it. ( 2 Samuel 23:1-7 ) His last words to his successor are general exhortations to his duty. ( 1 Kings 2:1-9 ) He died, according to Josephus, at the age of 70, and "was buried in the city of David." After the return from the captivity, "the sepulchres of David" were still pointed out "between Siloah and the house of the mighty men," or "the guard-house." ( Nehemiah 3:16 ) His tomb, which became the general sepulchre of the kings of Judah, was pointed out in the latest times of the Jewish people. The edifice shown as such from the Crusades to the present day is on the southern hill of modern Jerusalem commonly called Mount Zion, under the so-called "Coenaculum;" but it cannot be identified with the tomb of David, which was emphatically within the walls.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'David'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


da'-vid (dawidh, or dawidh, "beloved"; Daueid, also in New Testament, Dauid, Dabid; see Thayer's Lexicon):



1. Shepherd

2. Slinger

3. Harpist

4. Poet

5. Psalmist

6. Tribesman


1. David First Meets Saul

2. His First Exploit

3. Envy of Saul and Flight of David

4. Jonathan and David


1. David as Outlaw

2. David Joins the Philistines


1. Civil War

2. Conquests Abroad

3. Political Situation

4. The Ark


1. His Wives and Children

2. Domestic Troubles


1. Prophets

2. Priests

3. Military Officers

4. Other Officials

5. Mutual Rivalry


1. Chronicles

2. Psalms

3. Complex Character

4. Physical Courage

5. Moral Courage

6. Prudence

7. Strategy

8. Nobility

9. David in Relation to His Family

10. David in Relation to His Friends

11. His Success

12. His Foreign Friends

13. Nemesis

14. References in the New Testament


I. 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 Ru (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 Ru 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).

II. Early Years.

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

1. Shepherd:

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). 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.

2. Slinger:

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). 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).

3. Harpist:

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.

5. Psalmist:

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), 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 (Psalms 150:2) 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.

6. Tribesman:

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.

III. In the Service of Saul.

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

1. David First Meets Saul:

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.

2. His First Exploit:

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.

3. Envy of Saul and Flight of David:

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).

4. Jonathan and David:

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 (1 Samuel 8:22)--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.

IV. David in Exile.

1. David as Outlaw:

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). 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) in return for giving them his protection from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1). 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). 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).

2. David Joins the Philistines:

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.

V. David as King.

1. Civil War:

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). David denounced both crimes with apparent sincerity. He composed an elegy and fasted for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33) and avenged the death of Esh-baal (2 Samuel 4:9). 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). 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.

2. Conquests Abroad:

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; 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). 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.

3. Political Situation:

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.

4. The Ark:

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 Psalms 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).

VI. Domestic Life.

1. His Wives and Children:

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), 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; 1 Chronicles 3:5; 14:3). David's sons discharged priestly functions (2 Samuel 8:18; compare Nathan in Zechariah 12:12).

2. Domestic Troubles:

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 11-20--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), 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.

VII. His Officials.

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

1. Prophets:

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; 12:1; 24:11). 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). All these are said to have written memoirs of their times (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29).

2. Priests:

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), was to carry the ephod--an object used for casting lots (1 Samuel 23:6), 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 2 Samuel 23:26,38).

3. Military Officers:

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).

4. Other Officials:

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.

5. Mutual Rivalry:

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 2 Samuel 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).

VIII. Personal Character of David.

1. Chronicles:

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 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 2Sa 6). The various orders of priests and singers in the second temple have their origin traced back to David (16:4,37; 1 Chronicles 23-27), 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 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).

2. Psalms:

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, Psalms 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.

3. Complex Character:

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.

4. Physical Courage:

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) 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).

5. Moral Courage:

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), 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.

6. Prudence:

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), 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), and his clemency to Shimei helped to win him the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 19:16). 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) 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.

7. Strategy:

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) 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). 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; 19:24). David himself is out-witted by Joab, though with a friendly purpose (2 Samuel 14:1). The wonder, therefore, is, not that David was guilty of occasional obliquity, but that he remained as straightforward and simple as he was.

8. Nobility:

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 (1Sa 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)).

9. David in Relation to His Family:

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). In this he contrasts somewhat with Ahab (1 Kings 21:5). 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.

10. David in Relation to His Friends:

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; 20; 23:16), 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). His friendship lasted as long as the object of it lived (2 Samuel 1:17; 10:1). In the case of his officers this was partly due to his faculty for choosing good men (2 Samuel 8:16), so that the same persons often held the same offices during David's life (2 Samuel 20:23). 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; 4:9). Indeed, a suspicious juryman might find that David put both Abner and Amasa, in the way of Joab (2 Samuel 3:23; 19:13; 4). 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).

11. His Success:

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; 2 Samuel 5:17; 21:15). 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 1 Samuel 23:24), 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.

12. His Foreign Friends:

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) and Achish, lord of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10; 27; 28:1; 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; 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).

13. Nemesis:

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 (2Sa 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 Psalms 41:9; 55:12). 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).

14. References in the New Testament:

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). 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; 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).


See the commentaries on the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Psalms, and histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, especially Wellhausen and Kittel. A sketch of the life and historical position of David from the modern Continental point of view will be found in G. Beer, Saul, David, Salomo, published by Mohr, Tubingen, 1906.

Thomas Hunter Weir

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'DAVID'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.