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Friday, February 25, 2011

Old Testament Tales: David the King

1. Who became King of Israel when Saul died?
2. How did David respond to political assassinations?
3. How did David and Michal get back together?
4. How did David conquer Jerusalem?
5. Why did the Philistines leave their idols behind?
6. What happens to anyone who touches the ark?
7. How did David and Michal break up again?
8. Why didn’t David build a temple?
9. What happened to Saul’s sons?
10. Who was Bathsheba?

David was welcomed at king in Judea after defeating the Amalekites, but Saul’s son Ishbosheth became king of Israel, appointed by Saul’s captain Abner (2 Sam 2). Judah and Israel fought, with David winning after a disagreement between Abner and Ishbosheth (2 Sam 3). Abner returns Michal to David, but is killed by David’s captain Joab when he leaves. Ishbosheth’s remaining captains kill him and are killed by David in reward—he’s clearly not too enamored of political assassination.

David settles his warriors on the borderlands, giving them good reason to fight in defense, then sets about conquering Jerusalem, a strategically important city that’s not claimed by any tribe, making it a perfect place for a capital. Joab sneaks into the city through the water-shaft after David conquers the fortress outside the town (2 Sam 5). At this point the Philistines begin to see David as a threat and attack, but David’s forces rout them so completely they flee without their sacred statues. In a second attack, David uses the forests as cover, his army being lighter-armored and faster-moving than the Philistines, and the sound of the morning breeze disguising the noise of their movement. (The Greek word “panic” refers to Pan, the spirit of forests, and the fear large armies have of fighting there.)

Having conquered Jerusalem, David brings the ark to his new capital, establishing religious and civil power in the same location (2 Sam 6). The law says no one can touch the ark (Num 4:15), so a man who steadies it in a stream immediately dies. (Is that God’s punishment, or was the law made because there’s something about the ark that would cause this to happen?) When Michal expresses disapproval of David’s dancing before the ark (what lack of proper religious decorum!) David separates from her.

Given a choice between establishing his kingdom and building a temple for God, David consults a prophet (2 Sam 7) who concludes that David’s warrior life means his son will have to be the temple builder. David then sets about extending the borders of his kingdom, conquering Moab and Edom. Ahimelech and his uncle Zadok (descendants of the priest who fed David)are chief priests, Joab leads the armies, and Jehoshaphat writes the records (2 Sam 8)—interesting details that tie the stories together.

David now tries to provide Saul’s male survivor, a politically astute move as well as an honest one (he’d promised not to destroy Saul’s family, 1 Sam 24:21). He takes Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth into his court (2 Sam 9). His next political move doesn’t fare so well when the new king of the Ammonites accuses David’s servants of spying when they messages of comfort. The account of Joab’s battle with the Ammonites shows good military tactics (2 Sam 10) against an attack on multiple fronts. David’s army was a combination of regulars and mercenaries (e.g. Urriah the Hittite). Levites formed a strong “home guard,” and reserves for major battles were pulled from the other tribes (1 Chron 27:1) with wars “planned” to avoid crop-seasons and followed regular calendars (2 Sam 11:1). “Thousands” and “hundreds,” of friend or foe, were probably military terms rather than strict counts, like Roman centuria. During the next battle season, David fell in love with a mercenary’s wife, Bathsheba, and contrived to marry her. Her first child by David dies, but the second becomes King Solomon.

1 comment:

covnitkepr1 said...

What a story. Man fails God...God forgives.