King David was the second king of Israel from 1010-970 BC.
With God's help, he defeated Goliath, the champion of the Philistines. Later he captured Jerusalem, which he made the capital city. David greatly extended the borders of Israel, which he ruled as a united kingdom.
David was from the tribe of Judah, with his genealogy being given in Ruth 4:18-22. It is held that it is this tribe that Genesis 49:10 speaks of the Messiah coming from. (Genesis 49:10; cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matt.1:2, Heb. 7:14-17). David was the youngest of 8 sons of Jesse, who also had 2 daughters. (1Sam. 16:8-12; 17:2; 1Chr. 2:13-16) The name David, like the similar name Jedidish (2Sam. 12:25), comes from a root meaning “to love." David is the only person who bears that name in the Bible. David's ancestor Nahshon was chieftain of the whole tribe of Judah, (Num. 1:7; 2:3; 1Chr. 2:10) and brother-in-law of Aaron the high priest. (Exo. 6:23) The name of David's mother is not given, but it is recorded that David later placed his parents under the protection of the king of Moab, which some surmise may indicate that his mother was from that country, as the mother of his grandfather Obed was Ruth the Moabitess. (1Sam. 22:3; 22:1) It appears that David had a devoted father, thus giving David a good spiritual heritage.
Before becoming King
David worked as a shepherd of sheep, and which would require both tending to the needs of sheep as well as defending them, not only against marauders from the surrounding deserts, but also from the lions and bears which inhabited the country. This was work which, while then unknown to him, helped prepare him to later defend and lead Israel. The descriptions given of him in this regard indicates obedience to his father and diligence in his work.
David was called "the least of his father's household". He was brought into King Saul's household to play the harp to calm Saul's nerves, which had been increasingly troubled since he had sinned against God, and was told by Samuel that the kingship would be taken from him and given to another by God. David witnessed all of the warriors of Israel cower before a great Philistine giant, Goliath who would taunt them daily. David, a young shepherd boy, who had no military training, stood up and accepted Goliath's challenge. Saul offered him his armor, but David declined. David slew Goliath with a sling stone and cut off his head, which motivated the armies of Israel to rise up and scatter the Philistines. Saul became jealous of David and what he had accomplished, especially when he heard the people singing "Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands."
David continued to play the harp for Saul, but it did not have the same affect. One day when David was playing Saul threw a spear at him to try to kill him; it missed. With the help of Saul's son Jonathan, who was David's best friend, David fled the palace and went into hiding. David fled Israel twice due to being hunted by Saul, gaining refuge with the Philistines. (1Sam. 21:10; Ps. 34:1; 1Sam. 27:1,2) Almost all commentators see these instances as acts of weakness and deception. During the latter stay in Philistine territory David attacked Canaanites which Israel was to have destroyed previously, while keeping the full reality of it from Achish. As a result of his alliance with the Philistines, David almost became part of the battle in which Saul and Jonathan were slain, but was Providentially delivered from this battle. (1Sam. 29) Being sent back by the Philistine's king Achish, David and his men discovered that the Amalekites had taken captive all their wives, and their sons, and their daughters. At this point, David was in danger of being stoned by his own people, but "David encouraged himself in the LORD his God." (1Sam. 29) Twice David could have killed Saul, and though he was urged to do so, his deep reverence for the Lord's anointed would not allow it. Instead, David cut off a piece of his robe (which he later felt was itself wrong) the first time, and the second time he took Saul's spear and the cruise of water, to demonstrate his innocence to Saul. (1Sam. 24; 26) After the first instance Saul was contrite, but soon he pursued David and his followers again. After the second instance Saul pursued David no more. Finally, Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines. (2Sam. 31) David grieved, executed the man that actually killed Saul (a case of assisted suicide), and he became king of Judah. (2Sam. 1; 2) There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker. (2Sam. 3:1) Finally Saul's son Ish-Bosheth was murdered in his own bed. The killers took the head to David seeking a reward, but instead David executed them for unjustly killing their own king. (2Sam. 4) Such killers are set in contrast to David, whose actions show his reverence towards those whom God appointed, and that he was not one who grasped at power or riches.
David's character and call
David is revealed as a type of person who was "lovable." It is recorded that both Saul and Jonathan loved David, (1Sam. 16:21; 18:1,3; 20:17) as did all Saul's servants, (1Sam. 18:20,28) and all Israel and Judah, (1Sam. 18:16) and Saul's daughter, Michal. (1Sam. 18:20,28) David overall expressed great love for God, love toward others, and even toward personal adversaries, though he was also a mighty man of war. (Ps. 23; 73; 35; 69; 18) In addition, he was a man who served in many functions and situations, and manifested different gifts, and was called "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam. 23:1,2) who spoke by the Spirit of God.
Outside of the record of his birth in Ruth 4:17,22, David is first revealed as the one chosen by God to replace king Saul, due to his disobedience, which revealed serious foundational character faults. Samuel, while yet mourning for Saul, is sent by the God of Israel to the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite to anoint a new king, but he is not told which one it is. Saul's jealous character which will later greatly threaten David is seen revealed here by Samuel's response that Saul would kill him if this mission was known to him. The Lord provides the correct context, and Samuel comes to Bethlehem, in which he sanctifies Jesse and his sons, and calls them to the sacrifice. (1Sam. 16:1-5)
The eldest son of Jesse comes first before Samuel, and prophet that he is, yet Samuel wrongly concludes he must be the Lord's anointed. This results in the famous statement by God, that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (v. 7) One by one the other sons of Jesse are set before Samuel, but none of them are chosen. David is out keeping the flock, and upon Samuel's inquiry as to whether any more sons remain and insistence that he come, David is called. Here, like as the Bible recorded the appearance of Saul before his anointing, (1Sam. 9:2) so it also notes that David was "goodly" (KJV) and “ruddy”, and of a beautiful countenance. The Lord then tells Samuel to anoint him as “he is the one.” (1Sam. 16:6-13)
However, the man he is to replace (King Saul), who was once anointed with the Holy Spirit and became a new man, (1Sam. 10:5-7) now loses this anointing and becomes affected by an evil spirit sent by (or allowed to come by) God in judgment. (1Sam. 16:14) Saul's servants close to him discern this and advise he send them to find a man gifted to play the harp, which one of the servants recommends David for. Saul sends for David, and his father sends him off with provisions. At first Saul loves him greatly, and he is appointed Saul's armorbearer. Having found favor in his sight, Saul requests of Jesse that David be allowed to stand before the king on a more permanent basis. (cf. Num. 16:9; Dt. 10:8; Dan. 1:5)
While David was appointed to be Saul's armorbearer (perhaps one of many), it is not recorded that he served as such in any battles, and the character and ability of David as a soldier is most fully provided in 1 Samuel 17. David's real ministry is manifested as that of his anointed playing of a harp type instrument, which drove the evil spirit away when he played so that Saul became well for a time. (1Sam. 16:14-23) However, as seen in the next chapter where David is back home, his service here appears to have been temporary, perhaps for now going backwards and forwards from Saul to feed his father's sheep in Bethlehem as needed.
David and Goliath
The story of David and Goliath is one of the most famous stories of the Bible, and reveals much about David's faith and courage.
The context is that as there was war between Saul and the Philistines all his days, (1Sam. 14:52) here the Philistines are once again gathered together for battle against Israel, facing off in the hilly region between the mountains of Judah and the plain of Philistia. It is thought by Calmet that this war happened eight years after the anointing of David, and ten or twelve years after the war with the Amalekites. A well armed, literal giant named Goliath, whose height has been estimated to be between approx. 9 feet nine inches to 11 feet, daily taunted the “servants to Saul” for 40 days, morning and evening, defying them to provide a man to fight and kill him, with the winner to gain the submission of all their respective opponent. Upon hearing his defiance, the Israelites were “dismayed, and greatly afraid.” (1Sam. 17:1-11)
Meanwhile, David's father had become frail, and his 3 oldest sons had followed Saul to the battle. David returned home to feed his sheep. With the Philistine crisis now ongoing for 40 days, Jesse instructs David to take provisions to the camp of his sons, and some cheese for their captain. David was to inquire as to their condition, and to (apparently) bring some evidence of their welfare back, as they were in conflict with the Philistines in the valley of Elah. (1Sam. 17:12-19)
David thus leaves his sheep with a caretaker, and goes to the battle, as both Israel and the Philistines were going forth in preparation to fight, being set in array against each other, and into which David runs. He greets and talks to his brethren, but as he does he hears Goliath speaking his words of defiance. This sends the Israelites around him fleeing, and they declare what manner of reward Saul shall give to the man who slays Goliath, that of great riches, Saul's daughter in marriage, and freedom from any slavery one might be under. David inquires of this from those close by him, “for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God”, and is it confirmed. When David's oldest brother hears of Davids words, his response is not one of encouragement but chastisement, accusing David of neglecting his sheep and of ill motives, that of coming just to see the battle. David's response indicates he has heard such before but will not be dissuaded, saying, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?”, and which question he repeats to others. (1Sam. 17:20-30)
However, when King Saul hears of David's words, then he calls for him. To him David asserts there is no cause to fear Goliath, as David “thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul protests that his youth disallows fighting such a seasoned man of war, to which David responds by stating how he killed both a lion and a bear who were after his sheep. David goes on to assert that Goliath shall be as one of them, “seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God”, for the LORD who delivered him previously would do so in this battle. This is seen to example David's basic hatred of evil, and his faith toward God, and fearless character in faith. At this Saul gives David his blessing, but proceeds to arm David with his armor. This David does put on, but finds Saul's armor unsuitable for him, and which would burden him rather than being his defense. Instead, David takes five smooth stones out of the brook, places then in a shepherd's bag, and with his sling in his hand he drew near to the Philistine. (1Sam. 17:32-40)
Goliath, with his shield bearer, looks around and sees David and scorns the ruddy handsome youth, and drawing closer, he expresses that he is insulted that they would send such a lowly warrior (as David appears to be), and also perhaps mistakes David's slingshot for something else. He curses David by his pagan gods, and invites him to battle, so that he may give his flesh "unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field." David's response is known as classic, contrasting the giants reliance upon earthly means of warfare with David's reliance upon God, in whose name he fights, with the purpose being that “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” And so that “this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S.” (1Sa 17:45-47) Similar statements of faith would be later be made by certain good kings of Israel, (2Chrn. 14:11 32:8), and his his reliance upon God is also seen in Jonathan, another warrior of faith for Israel. (1Sa 14:12)
When the Philistine arises and comes toward David then he charges to meet him, and using his slingshot launches one stone that hits the giant in the forehead, who then falls upon his face to the earth. David next uses Goliath's sword to cut off his head, at which point the Philistines flee, with Israel soon in pursuit. David saves both Goliath's head and his armor. (1Sa 17:48-54) That the text (vs. 50,51) says that David “slew” (KJV) the Philistine with the stone, while the next verse attributes the means of death to David cutting off his head, may refer to Goliath being as good as dead from the stone in lieu of what would happen next. (cf. Gn. 20:3)
Saul then inquires as to whose son this hero was, and which seems odd considering that David had been chosen to serve him previously, (1Sam. 16:23), but which many commentators see as due to Saul's troubled mind. Says Henry, “Saul had forgotten him, being melancholy and mindless, and little thinking that his musician would have spirit enough to be his champion; and therefore, as if he had never seen him before, he asked whose son he was. Abner was a stranger to him, but brought him to Saul (1Sam. 17:57), and he gave a modest account of himself, 1Sam. 7:58. And now he was introduced to the court with much greater advantages than before, in which he owned God's hand performing all things for him.” Other objections to the text are also made and dealt with.
David and Jonathan
- See also: David and Jonathan
The committed friendship and Godly brotherly love between these two notable Biblical characters, amidst much danger and stress, makes their story one of the most remarkable ones in the Bible. The story of their friendship is mainly told in I Samuel, chapters 13-23,31 and 2 Samuel 1, two books which contain the history of the kingdom of God in Israel, from the termination of the age of the judges to the close of the reign of king David.
Both Jonathan and David were daring warriors for Israel in its theocratic kingdom, in the land which formerly was that of Canaan, in which dangerous enemies were yet to be fought. In addition, the paranoia of King Saul over losing his kingdom to David, who was anointed by God through the prophet Samuel to be king, caused David, and finally his compatriot Jonathan (who recognized his future kingship), to be in danger of life.
While the story of David and Jonathan is revealed as an example of platonic love in the cause of righteousness, pro-homosex proponents labor to construe it as a physically homoerotic affair, and charge the writers of the Bible with homophobia for covering it up, as it lacks the necessary descriptions used elsewhere to denote eroticism.
In response, traditional exegesis evidences that the Bible makes basic laws as well as human sexual behavior (in particular) evident, in their respective contexts, with David and Jonathan's love being manifest a supreme example of non-sexual brotherly love, with all accounts of their affection critically lacking the descriptions needed to postulate or establish erotic love. As manifested by his sacrificial loyalty to David, holy brotherly affection, and commitment to the future of the kingdom, Jonathan's love for David is seen as being of a superior platonic kind than that the mere romantic or erotic “love of women”. And that such homoeroticism expression would be radically contrary to explicit commands and the transcendent ethos of Israel. (See Homosexuality and biblical interpretation) It is also nonsensical to suggest that David was a homosexual, since the Bible clearly documents the contrary (see, e.g., 2 Samuel 5:13).
David as KingDavid greatly expanded the borders of Israel, defeating every foe he faced. However, his own life was not without controversy. He lost his child due to his adultery with Bathsheba; one of his sons Absalom killed his brother Amnon after he raped and discarded his sister Tamar; later Absalom rebelled against David and forced him to flee. David took back his throne, but Absalom was killed even though David had ordered his life to be spared. David also had to live through a revolt by Sheba, but he too was vanquished. Furthermore, because David sinned in taking a census of the land, 70 thousand people fell to pestilence. And yet through it all, David was called a man after God's own heart, due to his true and deep grievings for his wrongs. In fact, Scripture records that
"David did [that which was] right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any [thing] that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite."David wrote most of the Psalms in the Bible including the famous Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd
David died after ruling 40 years, 33 of them in Jerusalem, and set up his son Solomon as his successor. David was not allowed to build the temple because he was a man of 'blood' (a military commander), but his son could. David was part of the lineage of Jesus.
Historicity of David
There has been a scholarly debate in recent years about whether David was a real person or, rather, a construct of later generations to justify the ascendancy of Jerusalem as being "David's city", and justify the line of David, David's dynasty with all the policitical implications. Many felt that references to the person of David and the dynasty of David ("House of David") as found in the Bible are "read backs" rather than historically correct statements. The situation that this was to justify was the hopes and longing for the long lost homeland which began to be expressed with the Babylonian captivity of the Jews after 586 A.D. But that has changed with the finding of the Tel Dan Inscription.
In 1993 and 1995 archaeological excavations at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, at not far from the beginning rise of the Mt.Hermon and the tributaries leading to the Jordan river, pieces of potsherd were found bearing an Aramaic inscription commemorating the fall of the city at the hands of the Aramaeans, the king most probably being Hazael. A heated argument had been in the forefront for years with many scholars believing the references in the Bible to "House of David" were anachronistic emenating from later times, particularly after 586 B.C. and read back into early biblical accounts. The argument is now swinging in favor of the Biblical data, largely due to the "Tel Dan inscription", which has been dated by archaeological and epigraphic (script) analysis to the years 870-750 B.C. The inscription follows with the word referring to the "House of David" (the dynasty of David) in both English and Hebrew (pertinent part). Hazael, king of Aram, claims to have killed Yehoram son of Ah'av, king of Israel, and Ahazyahu, the son of Yehoram, king of the "House of David":
1'. [ ]...[ ] and cut [ ] 2'. [ ] my father went up [ ] he fought at [...] 3'. And my father lay down; he went to his [fathers]. Now the king of I[s]/rael had penetrated 4'. into my father's land before. [But then] Hadad made me king, 5'. And Hadad marched before me. So I went forth from [the] seven[...]/s 6'. of my rule, and I killed [seve]nty kin[gs] who had harnessed thou[sands of cha]/riots 7'. and thousands of cavalry. [And I killed ...]ram son of [...] 8'. the king of Israel, and I killed [...]yahu son of [... the ki]/ng of 9'. the House of David.
יהו]רם.בר[אחאב.] 8.מלך.ישראל.וקתל[ת.אית.אחז]יהו.בר[יהורם.מל] 9.ך ביתדוד
- see Keil & Delitzsch, 1Chrn. 2:9-41
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on David, James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor
- Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A, Matthew Henry
- Keil & Delitzsch, 1Sa 27:8-9
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Matthew Henry, 1Sam. 13; 15
- Keil & Delitzsch; Dr. John Gill, 1Sam. 16:14
- Keil & Delitzsch, 1Sa 17:1-54
- Keil & Delitzsch, ibid.
- Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832), 1Sam. 17:1
- Clarke, 1Sam. 17:4
- Gill, 1Sam. 17:15
- Matthew Henry, 1Sa 17:31-39
- Smooth Stones, James Patrick Holding
- Who killed Goliath, David or Elhanan?, Matthew J. Slick
- Keil & Delitzsch
- Matthew Henry
- 2 Samuel 5:13 (KJV)
- I Kings 15:5 (KJV)