Posts Tagged 'David and Solomon'

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)

Michal

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.

Jerusalem

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.

 

David and Solomon, Part 2

David didn’t have it easy. He had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s next king, yet that wouldn’t happen for a long time. Saul, present king of Israel, hung on to the throne by the skin of his teeth while David was waiting in the wings. Gradually losing his grip on reality, Saul knew he was in trouble but like so many in his shoes, he was in too deep. The die had been cast and whether he was fully aware or not, he was finished as king even as he was still being called “king.”

Meanwhile, David’s stunning victory over Goliath was one of those seminal events in one’s life life that causes a sea change to occur. David had been a rugged shepherd, tending to his father’s sheep. But now crazy king Saul decided to bring David from his father’s sheep pens to his royal court and give him a position in the army.

That sounds good on the surface but life in Saul’s court was like walking on egg shells. David never knew what Saul he would run into on any given day. Would he be the genial king that liked you, or the crazy old king who tried to run you through with a spear? David had no idea.

Life can be like that for anybody. But David, in the midst of a life of uncertainty, could write words like this:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalms 34:17 | NIV84)

David and Jonathan: Best Friends

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:3 | NIV84)

It wasn’t Phil Collins who said this, but he could have:

What is a friend? A single soul living in two bodies.

Who knew St Augustine could write something so sentimental as that? It is sentimental to be sure, but it certainly did describe the kind of relationship that existed between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan.

After the slaying of Goliath, David went to live in the royal palace at Gibeah. He was to serve as a court musician but also as Saul’s armor bearer when Israel went out to do battle. It was in the palace that David met Jonathan and their legendary friendship grew. Verse one describes the friendship in graphic terms. In the NIV84, it looks like this:

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:1 | NIV84)

In the Hebrew, though, this is how the friendship is described:

The soul of Jonathan was “knotted” to the soul of David.

Four things characterized their friendship: loyalty, love, personal devotion, and self-sacrifice. Jesus described friendship like this in John’s Gospel, and it sounds a lot like the friendship that existed between Jonathan and David.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”. (John 13:34-35 | NIV84)

So serious did Jonathan take his friendship with David that he actually made a unilateral covenant of friendship with him. It was unilateral in the sense that Jonathan committed himself to David without regard for himself.

The Lord leads people like that into our lives. No believer can make it through life alone; we all need a Jonathan. Years ago, Christian entertainer David Meece wrote these lyrics, and they’re spot on:

I heard the news about you
A little while ago
I tried to call but you weren’t at work
I’m glad I caught you at home

No one else in this whole wide world
Could mean as much as you to me
So I thought I’d drop by for a little while
In case you needed a friend

Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
(And you’re no exception)
Everybody needs another hand that they can hold onto
Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
And I want to give it to you

You can cry if you need to
You know I’ll understand
You can tell me everything that you feel inside
Don’t you hold it in

Don’t you worry, don’t apologize
For anything you do or say
‘Cause what are friends for but to be around
When you’re feeling that way

That certainly described the friendship between David and Jonathan. No wonder King Saul was so jealous.

Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (1 Samuel 20:30-31 | NIV84)

Jonathan paid a high price for being David’s friend, and that price was the choice between obeying his father or remaining loyal to his friend. Saul had tried to kill David during one of his crazy rages but failed, and so he enlisted Jonathan’s help to get that job done:

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” (1 Samuel 19:1-3 | NIV84)

That’s what a friend does; he intervenes on your behalf; he tries to find solutions to your problems. That’s exactly what Jonathan did. The fact that King Saul relented shows how well Jonathan knew his old man. Jonathan was not only loyal, but he was also sharp.

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” (1 Samuel 19:6 | NIV84)

But that didn’t last very long. There was another skirmish with the Philistines and once again David distinguished himself. This brought about another outburst of jealous rage on the part of Saul. In fact, we are told this:

Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” (1 Samuel 19:11 | NIV84)

Michal was David’s wife and she was also Saul’s daughter, Jonathan’s sister. It seems as though the whole family liked David except for crazy Saul! Michal resorted to what we call “situation ethics” in order to make good David’s escape from her father’s men:

Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” (1 Samuel 19:13-14 | NIV84)

She lied, and the Bible never condones lying for any reason, no matter how well-intentioned. However, while many Christians get all bent out of shape regarding this lie, they completely miss the really troubling aspect of this whole incident. What was a heathen idol doing in David’s house in the first place? A household idol such as this one was usually kept in a small shrine in the house, so it wasn’t just a paperweight. It’s unfortunate that so early in David’s career he was already compromising his faith. Is it any wonder Solomon built so many shrines all over the land? This was his example.

As both the friendship between Jonathan and Michal and David proves, sometimes associating with God’s people can put you in a difficult position.

The Fugitive

David was on the run for his life now, with Saul and his forces nipping at his heels. He fled from Gibeah to a community of priests with the odd name of Nob. Previously, David’s wife Michal had engaged in some situation ethics, and here at Nob David tries his hand at lying to protect himself.

David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.’” (1 Samuel 21:1, 2 | NIV84)

David’s bald-faced lie and deception led to the slaughter of all the priests at Nob. It’s a horrible lesson that David never really learned. Out of an entire town of priests, one escaped. Abiathar somehow managed to escape the wholesale massacre at Nob and fled, meeting up with David and his band of followers. When he explained what happened, David said this:

I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.” (1 Samuel 23:22b, 23 | NIV84)

And he was safe. As a matter of fact, Abiathar became sort of the chaplain of David’s band of heroic misfits. Many years later, after the death of David, Abiathar was given the bum’s rush by David’s successor, Solomon, as he was suspected of colluding with Adonijah, David’s other son, to take the throne from Solomon.

To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign LORD before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.” So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the LORD, fulfilling the word the LORD had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli. (1 Kings 2:26, 27 | NIV84)

David was far from perfect, but through all his ethical failings, he remained loyal to God.  The modern Christian should have some empathy for the man.  We’re far from perfect too.  David was a man of questionable ethics and morality, yet God referred to him as “the apple of his eye.”  God calls, saves, and anoints imperfect people to get His work done.

 

 

 


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