Biblical People
David. [Heb. Dawid, usually interpreted to mean "beloved." However, it has also been suggested that dwdh on the Moabite Stone and dawidum in the Mari texts mean "chieftain," or "commander," and that this is the true meaning of David's name. This interpretation, however, is questionable. The name David occurs also in the Ebla texts of the pre-patriarchal period. Gr. Dauid]. The son of Jesse, a Bethlehemite; 2nd king of Israel (reigning from c. 1011 to 971 b.c.), and an ancestor of Christ.

David's youth. David, the youngest son of Jesse (1 Sa 16:10-13; 17:12-14), is described as a ruddy, handsome boy with beautiful eyes (ch 16:12, RSV). Like many other Palestinian boys, he was early placed in charge of the family's few sheep (ch 17:28). As shepherd boy, he showed unusual bravery by killing a bear and a lion single-handedly (vs. 34-36). After Saul's rejection as king, God directed Samuel to anoint David king. This ceremony was carried out in secrecy (ch 16:1-13), and its true significance may not have been understood even by the members of David's family. Whatever the case, Saul did not at first hear of it. From the day of his anointing, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David (v 13).

As Saul's courtier. Saul, plagued by fits of melancholy after the departure of God's Spirit from him, was counselled to seek relaxation in music. David, a skilful lyre player, was chosen to soothe Saul's troubled mind. Saul liked the boy and made him also an armour bearer and kept him at the court much of the time, though not continuously (1 Sa 16:14-23; 1 Sa 17:15). This must have been of great educational value for the shepherd boy who was destined to become the future king of Israel.

In a war with the Philistines about this time, the eldest three sons of Jesse followed Saul's call to arms and left for the battlefield, about 15 mi. (c. 24 km.) west of Bethlehem. Here a Philistine champion, Goliath, challenged the Hebrews to appoint an opponent, but the challenge remained unanswered and for about 6 weeks the two hostile armies faced each other without being involved in actual fighting (1 Sa 17:1-16). At the end of this period David, who had been at home, was sent to take some provisions to his soldier brothers. Arriving in the Hebrew camp, he heard Goliath utter his challenging call. He was surprised that none of Saul's soldiers dared to fight the Philistine warrior and offered to do so himself (vs. 17-27). His eldest brother considered David's offer an unwarranted insolence, but the king assented and allowed the youth to accept the Philistine's challenge. David, laying aside the heavy armour that Saul offered him, went out to meet the Philistine giant with the equipment of a shepherd €”a sling and a stick. Skilful in handling the sling, from a distance David shot a stone that struck Goliath on his unprotected forehead. He fell, stunned, and David ran and struck off the giant's head with Goliath's own sword. Having lost their champion, the Philistines lost heart and fled in panic. The Israelites pursued them as far as Gath and won a great victory (vs. 28-53). David kept the giant's armour as a souvenir, and later put his sword in the Lord's tabernacle (v 54; ch 21:9). The fact that Saul asked Abner whose son David was (ch 17:55-58) does not mean that the king did not know David €”though he might have forgotten the name of David's father. He was apparently interested as to whether this boy came from a family of heroes and warriors. When the question was placed before David, the humble youth simply answered that he was the son of Jesse of Bethlehem €”he could not point to any spectacular ancestry. David remained humble and made no demand that the king should fulfil his promise of making the victor over Goliath a wealthy man, the king's son-in-law, and tax exempt (1 Sa 17:25). David's behaviour, his forthrightness, modesty, bravery, and piety won for him the admiration of Jonathan, the crown prince, and the two became fast friends (ch 18:1, 3). This friendship survived great odds, and never died. Their devotion and loyalty to each other has seldom been duplicated and has probably never been surpassed.

Saul no longer allowed David to leave him (1 Sa 18:2), but his attachment to the young man turned to jealousy and hatred when he saw that David was acclaimed as a greater hero than himself. The king was also plagued by forebodings that David might become king (vs. 6-9), and consequently planned his death. While in a fit of anger, he attempted to kill the lyre player with his spear (vs. 10, 11). Later he sent him away (v 13), and gave his daughter, promised to David, to another man (vs. 17-19). Noticing later his younger daughter's love for David, he offered her in marriage, scheming, however, by demanding from him the death of 100 Philistines as a marriage present, to have him slain by the Philistines (vs. 20-27). David, however, was victorious in all his skirmishes with the Philistines, and became more and more loved and honoured by the people. This only increased Saul's fear and deadly hatred of him (vs. 28-30). Eventually, Saul demanded that his courtiers, among whom David had enemies (ch 24:9), kill him (ch 19:1). Jonathan's intervention brought a short respite (vs. 2-7), but Saul's hatred soon revived, and he made another attempt to kill David with his spear (vs. 9, 10). Later he tried to arrest him, but David, with the help of his wife, escaped to Samuel (vs. 11-19). After one more attempt to reconcile his father with David, Jonathan became convinced that it was no longer safe for David to remain at the court. The two close friends parted, assuring each other of their devotion (ch 20). They seem to have met only once more (1 Sa 23:16-18).

As a fugitive. With a few faithful followers, David left the capital, and by deception obtained some provisions and the sword of Goliath from the high priest at Nob (1 Sa 21:1-9). As an indirect consequence of his subterfuge, all the priests of Nob, except one, were slain (ch 22:6-19). In desperation, David turned for refuge to the national enemy, the Philistines. When he found that his life was in danger in Gath, he escaped by feigning insanity (chs 21:10 to 22:1). Returning to Judah, he stayed in a cave at Adullam in the hill country south-west of Bethlehem, but took his parents to Moab for safety (ch 22:1-4). David gathered around him a band of unfortunate and discontented men, which soon grew to about 400 (v 2), and later to about 600 (ch 23:13). Among them was Abiathar, the only priest to escape Saul's massacre at Nob; hence David's company was not deprived of spiritual guidance (ch 22:20-23).

When the inhabitants of Keilah were troubled by raiding Philistines, David delivered them. Learning where David was, Saul went to attack him, but David fled into the Wilderness of Judah, where Saul chose not to follow. While in the Wilderness of Ziph, David was visited by Jonathan, and was again pursued by Saul and almost captured. However, Saul was recalled from the pursuit by the news of a Philistine invasion (1 Sa 23:1-28).

David then moved into the wild area around En-gedi, near the western shore of the Dead Sea. Saul, returning to the pursuit, unwittingly entered a cave occupied by David, thus giving David an opportunity to revenge himself. However, he spared the king, thus convincing Saul of his innocence. Consequently, Saul desisted for a while from molesting the fugitive (1 Sa 23:29 to 1 Sa 24:22).

While in southern Judah, David's band protected the people of that area from robbers. In return, David hoped the people would supply him and his men with provisions. When they approached Nabal, a wealthy sheep owner, he not only refused to furnish provisions but insulted David. Nabal was saved from David's wrath only by the resourcefulness and wisdom of Abigail, Nabal's wife. When Nabal died soon afterward, Abigail became one of David's wives (1 Sa 25:2-42). Later the Ziphites, who had betrayed David once before (ch 23:19), again informed Saul of David's whereabouts when David moved into their territory. Forgetting his promise to leave David in peace, Saul began a new campaign against him, and again fell into David's hand. Again, David spared him and Saul once more promised peace to his rival (1 Sa 26). David, however, could not trust Saul. Weary of being a fugitive in his own country, he made a second attempt to find refuge among the Philistines. They had become convinced, in the meantime, that David as Saul's enemy was their ally, and therefore allowed him to live in their territory. Achish, king of Gath, gave him Ziklag, a town at the south-eastern fringe of Philistine territory (ch 27:1-6). During his stay of a year and 4 months at Ziklag, David made forays against various desert tribes, but told the Philistines that he was fighting against Judah (vs. 7-12). When the Philistines gathered for an attack on Saul, at Mount Gilboa, David and his 600 men accompanied them, but were sent back before the battle for fear they might desert to the Israelites. When David and his followers returned to Ziklag, they found the town destroyed by the Amalekites and all their dependants taken prisoners. David quickly pursued and was successful in recovering both prisoners and property (chs 28:1, 2; 29:2 to 30:20). Upon hearing the news of Israel's defeat, and of the death of Saul and Jonathan, he mourned their death in beautiful poetry (2 Sa 1).

As king of Judah. Abner, Saul's commander in chief, immediately placed Saul's son Ish-bosheth on the throne at Mahanaim, east of the Jordan, but the tribe of Judah seceded from Israel and crowned David king at Hebron (2 Sa 2:1-10). This division, with constant wars between the 2 factions, lasted for about 7 1/2 years, until first Abner and then Ishbosheth were assassinated. At this, the tribes left without a king invited David to assume the kingship over the whole nation (chs 2:11; 3:6 to 5:5). David was now about 37 years of age and had several wives and sons (chs 5:4, 5; 3:2-5).

As king over Israel and Judah. David's first act as king over all 12 tribes was to conquer Jerusalem from the Jebusites. He made that city the capital of the kingdom and called it the "city of David" (2 Sa 5:6-10). Since Jerusalem lay between Judah and the southernmost of the northern tribes, yet had belonged to neither, the choice of this stronghold as the nation's capital aroused no tribal jealousies. In several battles with the Philistines, David succeeded in defeating them so completely that they ceased to be a menace to Israel (2 Sa 5:17-25; 8:1; 21:15-22; 1 Chr 14:8-17; 18:1; 20:4-8). He also waged war against the Moabites, the Aramaeans of Zobah and Damascus, the Ammonites, the Edomites, and the Amalekites (2 Sa 8; 10; 12:26-31). Victorious in every war, he was able to extend his territories into surrounding areas, and thus increased the nation's revenues and his personal fame.

David also assumed leadership in religious matters. He brought the ark from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent sanctuary (2 Sa 6; 1 Chr 13:1 to 16:6). He laid plans for the permanent Temple, but was prevented by divine command from erecting it. Nevertheless, he made extensive preparations for its construction (2 Sa 7; 1 Chr 1:17; 22:7-10), and formed an elaborate organisation of ecclesiastical personnel €”priests, Levites, musicians and singers, Temple police, and other servants (1 Chr 23:2 to 26:28).

However, David encountered not only triumphs but also serious troubles during his reign. His notorious adultery with Bathsheba and his contrivance of her husband's death in battle (2 Sa 11:1 to 12:23) resulted, despite his repentance, in a breakdown of discipline in his own family and a series of lawless acts that finally led to civil war. This occurred when his son Absalom rebelled against him and forced him to flee to Transjordan. In the ensuing battle Absalom was slain and David regained his throne (chs 13-19). A second revolt was instigated by Sheba, and this was also crushed (ch 20). Besides these troubles there was famine (ch 21:1), and a plague occasioned by David's pride which had caused him to take a census of his kingdom (ch 24).

Shortly before his death David had further trouble when his son Adonijah attempted to seize the throne. This time the efforts of Nathan the prophet checked the plot and succeeded in having Solomon proclaimed king (1 Ki 1). Shortly after this David died, having first admonished Solomon with regard to the young king's future course of action. David ruled a total of 40 years after Saul's death, 7 years in Hebron and 33 in Jerusalem (2 Sa 2:11; 5:4, 5; 1 Chr 29:27).

As poet and musician. David must have been a musician of no mean talents to be chosen by Saul as a court musician. Amos (Amos 6:5) attributes to him the invention of musical instruments, and Ezra and Nehemiah also refer to his musical activity (Ezr 3:10; Neh 12:24, 36, 45, 46) in connection with plans for the Temple music. However, the "sweet singer of Israel" (2 Sa 23:1, KJV) made his greatest contribution as poet and composer of numerous religious hymns. He composed elegies over Saul, Jonathan, and Abner (chs 1:17-27; 3:33, 34), and deeply spiritual poems on many occasions during his chequered life: while he was persecuted and living the life of a fugitive (see titles of Ps 34; 56; 57; 59; 63; 142), while in deep repentance over his great sin (Ps 51), at the dedication of the tent sanctuary (Ps 30), when he fled from Absalom (Ps 3), and on days of deliverance and victory (2 Sa 22; cf. Ps 18), etc. Through his psalms, which have been read and sung by Jews and Christians for centuries, he has helped mould the religious concepts of multitudes, and his influence on the Christian church cannot be overestimated.

As a man after God's own heart. This was a designation given him by Samuel (1 Sa 13:14), before he became corrupted by power. Although David did not live a spotless life, and even loaded his soul with heavy guilt (see 1 Ki 15:5), he knew how to repent, and to accept the results of his transgressions without rebellion (2 Sa 12:13; 16:10; Ps 51). He was an illustrious king, the founder of a Hebrew dynasty that lasted for about 425 years, a great religious leader, a true servant of God, and an ancestor of the Messiah, who was at once David's Son and Lord (Mt 22:41-45) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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