King David, Israel’s second monarch
After many years when Israel was ruled by a series of judges, the prophet Samuel established the nations earliest kings, the Benjamite Saul being the first. However, Saul failed to obey God’s word wholeheartedly, so Samuel secretly anointed David, a seemingly insignificant shepherd boy, as Saul’s successor.
David’s musical skill earned him a part time place at Saul’s court. However, it was through his single handedly defeated of a giant Philistine, Goliath, that David’s popularity grew. Saul, realising the implications of David’s standing amongst the people, sought to kill the boy. However, thanks to David’s close relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan, he was alerted to Saul’s plot.
David, fleeing into exile and gathering around him a band of renegades, took a position as a mercenary with Israel’s enemies. However, he continued to covertly work for Israel’s interests and all the while he was currying favour amongst his own tribe, Judah.
In time, the tribe of Judah decided to recognise David as their king. As Saul violently opposed this, years of civil war ensued. During this period David honoured Saul's status and refrained from assaulting Saul’s household directly, yet steadily he gained the upper hand. Eventually, all Israel accepted him as king, by which time David’s military machine was well honed and able to extend Israel’s borders to encompass all the land over which Abraham’s descendants had been promised dominion.
David established Jerusalem as his capital and the spiritual home of Israel. His zeal for God gained him a reputation as a righteous ruler. Furthermore, as a result of his faithfulness throughout his earlier life, God promised him an enduring dynasty. Despite that, his life was later marred by terrible sins. After committing both adultery and murder, David, who had once sung the praises of God’s presence, was left fearful of facing God because of what he had done.
At one time David, and therefore the account of his life, were believed by most scholars to be fictitious. However, archaeological evidence for a House of David has emerged from as early as the ninth century B.C.E. (Kaiser 1998, 225-6). It therefore looks as if David is set to join the growing list of biblical characters whom academia once considered mythical, but whose existence has subsequently been vindicated by archaeological progress.
David wrote many of the Psalms from personal experience. For example, in Psalm 23 he describes his relationship with God in terms that reflect his youth as a shepherd.
(Ps 23:1-6, HNV)
23:1 ‘The LORD is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
23:3 He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.
23:6 Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the LORD’s house forever.’