David and Solomon, Part 3

Just a cursory glance at David’s life confirms these New Testament verses:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27 – 29 | NIV84)

It’s God habit do things the way we wouldn’t; to choose people we would never think of choosing. David and how he became the king of Israel are classic examples of this. The son of an average Jewish family, David was a shepherd, he was probably shorter than average, and after he was anointed king by Samuel, he spent years continuing to shepherd his father’s sheep, dodging the slings and arrows of crazy king Saul, and running for his life with his army, which was made up of skilled fighters who were bigger losers than David himself.

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (1 Samuel 22:2 | NIV84)

David had several opportunities to kill Saul but instead he chose to wait for God’s time. Reading those accounts of David’s fugitive years can be frustrating; Saul was such a murderous thug, so who could blame David for putting him out of Israel’s misery? But he didn’t.

At last, king Saul was severely wounded in battle with the Philistines and rather than be captured by the enemy, he chose to fall on his sword, taking his own life. Nobody was broken up by this, but in the same battle, Saul’s son and David’s good friend, Jonathan, was killed.

After waiting so long for the crown to be his, David waited a little longer. Instead of stepping up and taking the throne, he wrote a beautiful tribute to the house of Saul that may have been slightly more sentimental than factual.

Saul and Jonathan—in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. (2 Samuel 1:23 | NIV84)

But what was David’s next move? What Israelite had ever been in this position before? There had only ever been one king – Saul – and there was no protocol to follow yet. David did exactly what a man of God should have done: he sought the Lord.

In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. The LORD said, “Go up.” David asked, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the LORD answered. (2 Samuel 2:1 | NIV84)

The Lord told David to take command of the tribe of Judah, setting up his government in Hebron – a large city some twenty mile south of Jerusalem.

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. (2 Samuel 2:4 | NIV84)

King of Judah

With the death of king Saul and the stunning defeat of Israel at Gilboa, the Philistines now controlled all of Canaan west of the Jordan. Saul had left a mess and Israel’s continued existence was not guaranteed. There wasn’t even a serious resistance movement anywhere in the land.

Of course there was David, but right now he was just a man of the tribe of Judah who had been anointed by the national prophet some years earlier and who had been leading a covert guerrilla war against Saul and, as perceived by patriotic Israelites, was against the kingdom of Israel itself. He was not the people’s choice to be king to be sure, and on top of the perception of the people, at the time of Saul’s death, David was actually a Philistine vassal!

But that’s not how David viewed himself. He knew God had called him and he knew that he would be king over a united Israel. For now, though, David was king of Judah, and he reigned from Hebron from 1013 to 1006. Why did David choose Hebron to be his seat of power? The Philistines viewed David as a “safe king,” a puppet ruler of a small kingdom that posed no real threat to them. They considered his kingship to be a distraction to the much larger Israel, whom they wanted to conquer. But in choosing Hebron for his capital, he had selected a well-fortified town in a thoroughly defensible hill area in the very center of Judah. He couldn’t be easily attacked or dislodged if it came to war between himself and the Philistines.

To prepare himself for a war David felt inevitable, he set about winning over the followers of the dead king Saul and those who wished to see a united kingdom, not a divided one, as it was now. It was David’s aspiration to be king of all the tribes, not just of Judah.

Saul had four sons, and the three eldest had been killed at the battle of Gilboa, along with their father:

The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. (1 Samuel 31:2 | NIV84)

The fourth son, Ish-bosheth, fled with Abner, Saul’s general, to safety across the Jordan.

Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel. (2 Samuel 2:8, 9 | NIV84)


David opened up difficult negotiations with Abner in an attempt to unite the kingdom. But David’s chief general, Joab, was a war hawk who felt that the only way to unite the kingdom was through outright conquest. He forced a war in which the Israelite army was defeated.

The kingdom of Israel was weakening fast under Ish-bosheth, but it held out against David. David, though, had God’s Word in his heart and he did not want to rule by right of conquest. He wanted the throne of a united Israel but he wanted it in peace.

God works in mysterious ways. Abner and Ish-bosheth began butting heads and Abner, going behind Ish-bosheth’s back, began to dicker with David. King David, sensing things were breaking his way, set his price. In return for peace and for a high post for Abner in the new united kingdom, David said:

“Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.” (2 Samuel 3:13, 14 | NIV84)

Michal, daughter of Saul, was given to David in marriage when David was serving as Saul’s greatest military leader. After David fled the court, she had been given in marriage to another. However, his marriage to Michal still stood – he was still son-in-law to the dead Saul. David’s intent here is clear: He would gain the throne by legal right of succession.

In due time, Michal was delivered to Daved by a weakened and humbled Ish-bosheth. But Joab, determined to do things his own way, sought out and killed Abner even as he and David were forging their alliance.

Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the gateway, as though to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died. (2 Samuel 3:26, 27 | NIV84)

This act of violence could have ruined everything. Abner was highly regarded by the Israelites and David avoided disaster only by an act of contrition.

All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner. (2 Samuel 3:36, 37 | NIV84)

Once again we see how God used a potentially terrible incident and turned it around to make his man, David, look even better than he was.

Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, didn’t fare nearly as well, however. Some in his court could see the handwriting on the wall and two of his military leaders assassinated him and brought his head to David.

David answered Recab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of all trouble, when a man told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!” (2 Samuel 4:9 – 11 | NIV84)

And that was the end of Recab and his brother Baanah, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite. The Lord used this incident, too, and now there no sons left of Saul to inherit the throne. By hook or by crook, God’s word through Samuel came to pass. God had rejected Saul as king and not a single descendant of his family would be alive to take the throne.

The united kingdom over which David came to rule over became known as Israel. It was united in 1006 BC, but in a very real sense it was never really a single nation. The two halves of the nation were never really a single unit. Israel, the amalgamation of southern tribes, was very aware of its greater wealth, prosperity, and sophistication compared to the smaller, more rustic Judah.


David was now king of both Judah and Israel and in order to establish his throne over all the tribes, his capital needed to move. He couldn’t remain in Judah and moving into the palace once occupied by Saul was out of the question. Where could the new king establish his capital so as not to offend anybody in any of the tribes? The answer lay in a piece of property between Judah and Israel, a kind of no-man’s land belonging to nobody. In the middle of this Biblical neutral zone was Jerusalem. If he could make Jerusalem his capital, he could satisfy both sides of the strange dual monarchy.

Not only that, Jerusalem was still occupied by the Jebusites!

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:6, 7 | NIV84)

That foreign wedge needed to be removed from the land. Both of David’s objectives, taking Jerusalem and making it his capital and getting rid of the Jebusites was easily accomplished.

Zion was the fortified mountain (about 2400 feet high) within the city limits. When Zion was taken, Jerusalem was taken. When King David built his palace on mount Zion, the whole area became known as “the city of David.” Years later, King Solomon, David’s son, built the Temple atop Mount Zion, so that the hill in the middle of Jerusalem became the military, political, and religious center of Israel.

And so God’s man, a shepherd from an obscure part of the country, finally became king over a united kingdom, Israel.

The epilogue to the story is mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:13, and it’s chilling:

After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.

Now, we know that many of David’s marriages were really just ways to ratify treaties and things like that. That’s often cited as an excuse for David’s blatant disobedience to this:

He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:17 | NIV84)

But there is no such exception mentioned. David had no business taking all those wives and concubines and that disobedience caused a lifetime trouble for this otherwise godly man.


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