References: Biblical Scriptures: Samuel I and II; Kings I; Chronicles I and the Prophets of the Hebrew Bible
King David of Israel ruled Eretz Israel for 40 years, from 1010 and 970 B.C.E. King David was known for his diverse skills as a warrior united the people of Israel, led them to victory in battle, conquered the promised land. His son Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse from the Royal tribe of Judah. His grandmother Ruth was a descendent of the Moabite. David worked as a shepherd in the agricultural area of Bethlehem until the prophet Samuel called him out of the field and anointed him without the knowledge of the current king, Saul, who was suffering from severe depression. David’s first interaction with Saul came when the king needed someone to play music for him which helped with hsi depression. King Saul’s attendant summoned the skilled David to play for him and kept him in his service as a musician and a writer of psalms.
David, an inexperienced youth armed with only a stick and a few stones, confronted the over seven-foot, bronze armoured Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. David made a slingshot, invoked God’s name and killed the giant. After this, Saul took David on as commander of his troops and David established a close friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan.
David’s success in the battle against the Philistines aroused jealousy in Saul, who tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David stayed with Saul, however, and Saul offered him his own daughter, Merav, as a wife. He later reneged on his promise, but offered David his second daughter, Michal, in exchange for the foreskins of 100 Philistines, a price that David paid. Saul’s jealousy of David grew and he asked his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan was a friend of David’s, however, and hid David instead. He then went to his father and convinced Saul to promise not to kill David. Saul promised, and David returned to his service. This promise did not last and after Saul attempted to kill David a second time, Michal helped David run away to the prophet Samuel in Ramah. David returned briefly to make a pact of peace with Jonathan and to verify that Saul was still planning to kill him. He then continued his flight from Saul, finding refuge with the king of Moab. The priest Ahimelech of Nob gave David a weapon and when Saul heard this, he sent Doeg the Edomite to kill 85 of the city’s priests.
David and his supporters joined the service of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath who entrusted David with control of the city of Ziklag. Under Achish’s employ, David raided the cities of barbaric nomads who harassed the Jews. In the course of his flight from King Saul, David had gained the support of 600 men who traveled from city to city. In Ein Gedi, David crept up on Saul while he was in a cave, but instead of killing him, cut a piece from his cloak and confronted Saul. Saul broke down and admitted that David would one day be king and asked David to swear that he would not destroy Saul’s descendants or wipe out Saul’s name.
Eventually, while David was battling a tribe called the Amalekites, Saul and Jonathan were killed on Mt. Gilboa in a fight with the Philistines. David mourned, and then became King of Judah. He moved to Hebron, along with his wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, and his followers. The people of Judea were grateful to David for saving them from barbaric desert raiders while he was in Ziklag, and they acclaimed David king. However, Abner son of Ner crowned Ish-Boshet son of Saul king over the tribes of Israel. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel fought, with David’s dynasty growing stronger as Saul’s grew weaker. Finally, after Abner had a fight with Ish-Boshet, Abner approached David and made a pact with him, which allowed David to unite the two kingdoms and rule over all of Israel. As Abner was leaving David; David’s advisor and army commander, Joab, killed Abner without David’s knowledge. Soon, Ish-Boshet was also killed and the tribes of Israel anointed David as their king. David was 30 years old at the time, and had ruled over Judah for seven years and six months. Over the years, he had taken more wives and had many children. He had also made agreements with kings of various surrounding nations.
David’s first action as king was to capture what is now the City of David in Jerusalem, fortify it and build himself a palace. When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king and was threatening their hegemony over all of Canaan, they attacked, spread out over the Valley of Raphaim and captured Bethlehem. David retaliated and in three battles, forced the Philistines out of Israel. Once David had established his kingdom, he brought the Holy Ark, to Jerusalem. David wanted to build a temple to G-d and consulted Nathan the prophet. Nathan replied to David that God would always be with David, but it would be up to David’s son to build the Temple because David had been a warrior and shed blood.
David encountered wars with Israel’s neighbors on the east bank of the Jordan. These wars began as defensive wars, but ended with the establishment of a Davidic empire that extended over both sides of the Jordan River, as far as the Mediterranean Sea. King David defeated the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites and the Arameans. David enforced justice in his empire and established civil and military administrations in Jerusalem, modeled after those of the Canaanites and Egyptians. He divided the country into twelve districts, each with its own civil, military and religious institutions. He established Jerusalem as the secular and religious center of the country. Each district paid taxes to Jerusalem and the people began to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year on the holidays of Passover, Shavout and Sukkot.
Despite his flawless reign on a national level, David had many problems in his personal life. One day while the men were at war, David spied a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, from his rooftop. He discovered that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but this did not stop him from sending for her and getting her pregnant. He then recalled Uriah from battle and pretended that Uriah was the father of Bathsheba’s baby. Uriah refused to go home to his wife, so David sent Uriah to the front lines of battle, where he was killed. David then married Bathsheba. David admitted his sin when confronted by Nathan the prophet; and in punishment, Bathsheba’s child died and David was cursed with the promise of a rebellion from within his own house. Bathsheba and David later conceived a second son, Solomon.
David’s personal strife continued when his son Amnon raped Tamar, Amnon’s half-sister. Absalom, who was David’s son and Tamar’s brother, then killed Amnon. Absalom fled, but David could not stop thinking about him. Finally, Joab convinced David to allow Absalom to return. Absalom was a handsome man and became popular with the people of Israel. Then, 40 years after Samuel had anointed David king, Absalom, along with 200 men, journeyed to Hebron with the intention of rebelling against his father and taking over his kingdom. He had the support of the men of Hebron who were insulted by the removal of the kingdom from Hebron to Jerusalem, the elders whose status was undermined by parts of David’s policy and the Benjamites who wanted to avenge Saul’s family.
David feared that Absalom would return and conquer Jerusalem, so he and all his followers fled the city, leaving only 10 concubines to guard the palace. David told the priests Zadok and Abiathar to remain in the city along with his friend and now spy Hushai the Archite. Meanwhile, Absalom reached Jerusalem, took over the city and slept with David’s concubines. Hushai befriended Absalom, advised him, and told the priests to send messengers informing David of Absalom’s plans. David gathered his troops and then killed 20,000 of Absalom’s Israelite soldiers, including Absalom himself. David returned to power.
A second revolt broke out at the hands of Sheba son of Bichri, but with the help of Joab, David succeeded in crushing this rebellion as well and killed Sheba. Eventually David grew old and stoped fighting. He constantly felt cold and could not get warm. At this point, Adonijah, David’s oldest son, declared himself king. David, however, had promised Bathsheba that her son Solomon would be king and publicly anointed Solomon. Fearful of retribution Adonijah ran to the altar in Jerusalem, but Solomon pardoned him and sent him home.
David delivered a last set of instructions to his son, telling him to follow the words of God and to repay in kind specific people that had either wronged David or helped him. David then died after 40 years as king, 33 of those in Jerusalem. He was buried in the City of David. David was a poet and wrote the Book of Psalms, or at least edited it. Throughout his life, David prepared for the construction of the Holy Temple by setting aside the necessary physical materials, commanding the Levites and others in their duties for the Temple, and giving the plan for the Temple to Solomon. According to tradition, the Messiah, who will build the third temple, will be from the Davidic dynasty.