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David

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Da´vid. The word probably means beloved. The reign of David is the great critical era in the history of the Hebrews. It decided that they were to have for nearly five centuries a national monarchy, a fixed line of priesthood, and a solemn religious worship by music and psalms of exquisite beauty; it finally separated Israel from the surrounding heathen, and gave room for producing those noble monuments of sacred writ, to the influence of which over the whole world no end can be seen. His predecessor, Saul, had many successes against the Philistines, but it is clear that he made little impression on their real power; for he died fighting against them, not on their own border, but on the opposite side of his kingdom, in Mount Gilboa. As for all the other 'enemies on every side'—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and the kings of Zobah—however much he may have 'vexed them' (), they, as well as the Amalekites, remained unsubdued, if weakened. The real work of establishing Israel as lord over the whole soil of Canaan was left for David.

The life of David naturally divides itself into three portions:—I. The time which he lived under Saul. II. His reign over Judah in Hebron. III. His reign over all Israel.

I. In the first period we may trace the origin of all his greatness. His susceptible temperament, joined to his devotional tendencies, must, at a very early age, have made him a favorite pupil of the prophets, whose peculiar mark was the harp and the psalm (; ; see also ). His hospitable reception, when in distress, by Ahimelech the priest, and the atrocious massacre innocently brought by him on Nob, the city of the priests (I Samuel 21 and ), must have deeply affected his generous nature, and laid the foundation of his cordial affection for the whole priestly order, whose ministrations he himself helped to elevate by his devotional melodies. At an early period he attracted the notice of Samuel; and if we are to arrange events according to their probable connection, we may believe that after David had been driven away from Saul and his life several times attempted, Samuel ventured on the solemn step of anointing him king. Whenever this took place, it must have produced on David a profound impression, and prepared him to do that in which Saul had so eminently failed, viz. to reconcile his own military government with a filial respect for the prophets and an honorable patronage of the priesthood. Besides this, he became knit into a bond of brotherhood with his heroic comrades, to whom he was eminently endeared by his personal self-denial and liberality (; ). This, indeed, drew after it one most painful result, viz. the necessity of enduring the turbulence of his violent but able nephew Joab; nor could we expect that of a band of freebooters many should be like David. Again, during his outlawry David became acquainted in turn not only with all the wild country in the land, but with the strongholds of the enemy all round. By his residence among the Philistines he must have learned all their arts and weapons of war, in which it is reasonable to believe the Israelites previously inferior (). With Nahash the Ammonite he was in intimate friendship (); to the king of Moab he entrusted the care of his parents (); from Achish of Gath he received the important present of the town of Ziklag (). That Ziklag was a strong place may be inferred from ; . The celebrity acquired in successful guerilla warfare, even in modern days, turns the eyes of whole nations on a chieftain; and in an age which regarded personal heroism as the first qualification of a general () and of a king, to triumph over the persecutions of Saul gave David the fairest prospects of a kingdom.

The account transmitted to us of David's dangers and escapes in the first period is too fragmentary to work up into a history: nevertheless, it seems to be divisible into two parts, differing in character. During the former he is a fugitive and outlaw in the land of Saul, hiding in caves, pitching in the wilderness, or occasionally with great risk entering walled cities (): in the latter he abandons his native soil entirely, and lives among the Philistines as one of their chieftains (). While a rover in the land of Judah, his position (to our eyes) is anything but honorable; being a focus to which 'all who were in distress, in debt, or discontented, gathered themselves' (). Yet as the number of his followers became large (six hundred, we read, ), and David knew how to conciliate the neighboring sheep-masters by his urbanity and kind services, he gradually felt himself to be their protector and to have a right of maintenance and tribute for them. Hence he resents the refusal of Nabal to supply his demands, as a clear injustice; and, after David's anger has been turned away by the prudent policy of Abigail, in blessing her for saving him from slaying Nabal and every male of his family, the thought seems not to have entered his mind that the intention of such a massacre was more guilty than Nabal's refusal to pay him tribute (). This whole narrative is characteristic and instructive. By his marriage with Abigail he afterwards probably became rich (for she seems to have been a widow at her own disposal), and on passing immediately after into the land of the Philistines, he was enabled to assume a more dignified place. Becoming possessed of the stronghold of Ziklag, he now appeared like a legitimate chieftain with fixed possessions, and no longer a mere vagabond and freebooter. This was accordingly a transition-state in which David was prepared for assuming the kingdom over Judah. In Ziklag he was joined, not, as before, by mere outcasts from Israelitish life, but by men of consideration and tried warriors (), not only of the tribe of Judah, but from Gad, Manasseh, and even 'from Saul's brethren of Benjamin.'

II. Immediately upon the death of Saul the tribe of Judah invited David to become their prince.

His first step, after his election, was to fix on Hebron as the center of his administration—an ancient city, honorable by its association with the name of Abraham, and in the middle of his own tribe. He then strengthened himself by a marriage with Maacah, daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur (); a petty monarch whose dominions were near the sources of the Jordan, and whose influence at the opposite end of the land must have added a great weight into David's scale. From Abigail, widow of the churlish Nabal, David, as we have already observed, seems to have received a large private fortune. Concerning his other wives we know nothing in particular; only it is mentioned that he had six sons by six different mothers in Hebron. The chief jealousy was between the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, as Saul had belonged to the former; and a tournament was turned by mutual ill-will into a battle, in which Abner unwillingly slew young Asahel, brother of Joab. 'Long war,' after this, was carried on between 'the house of Saul and the house of David.' We may infer that the rest of Israel took little part in the contest; and although the nominal possession of the kingdom enabled the little tribe of Benjamin to struggle for some time against Judah, the skill and age of Abner could not prevail against the vigor and popular fame of David. A quarrel between Abner and Ishbosheth decided the former to bring the kingdom over to David. The latter refused to treat unless, as a preliminary proof of Abner's sincerity, Michal, daughter of Saul, was restored to David. The possession of such a wife was valuable to one who was aspiring to the kingdom. His demand was immediately complied with. After giving her back, Abner proceeded to win the elders of Israel over to David; but Joab discerned that if this should be so brought about, Abner of necessity would displace him from his post of chief captain. He, therefore, seized the opportunity of murdering him when he was come on a peaceful embassy, and covered the atrocity by pleading the duty of revenging his brother's blood. This deed was perhaps David's first taste of the miseries of royal power. He dared not proceed actively against his ruthless nephew, but he vented his abhorrence in a solemn curse on Joab and his posterity, and followed Abner to the grave with weeping. Anxious to purge himself of the guilt, he ordered a public wearing of sackcloth, and refused to touch food all the day. The feeble Ishbosheth, left alone, was unequal to the government, and shortly suffered the same fate of assassination. David, following the universal policy of sovereigns, and his own profound sense of the sacredness of royalty, took vengeance on the murderers, and buried Ishbosheth in Abner's tomb at Hebron.

III. The death of Ishbosheth gave to David supremacy over all Israel. The kingdom was not at first a despotic, but a constitutional one; for it is stated, 'David made a league with the elders of Israel in Hebron before Jehovah; and they anointed David king over Israel' (). This is marked out as the era which determined the Philistines to hostility (), and may confirm our idea, that their policy was to hinder Israel from becoming united under a single king. Two victories of David over them follow, both near the valley of Rephaim; and these were probably the first battles fought by David after becoming king of all Israel.

Perceiving that Hebron was no longer a suitable capital, he resolved to fix his residence farther to the north. On the very border of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin lay the town of Jebus, which with its neighborhood was occupied by Jebusites, a remnant of the old Canaanitish nation so called. In spite of the great strength of the fort of Zion, it was captured, and the Jebusites were entirely expelled or subdued; after which David adopted the city as his new capital, greatly enlarged the fortifications, and gave or restored the name of Jerusalem [JERUSALEM]. After becoming master of Jerusalem, David made a league with Hiram, king of Tyre, who supplied him with skilful artificers to build a splendid palace at the new capital. That the mechanical arts should have been in a very low state among the Israelites, was to be expected; since, before the reign of Saul even smiths' forges were not allowed among them by the Philistines. Nothing, however could have been more profitable for the Phoenicians than the security of cultivation enjoyed by the Israelites in the reigns of David and Solomon. The trade between Tyre and Israel became at once extremely lucrative to both, and the league between the two states was quickly very intimate.

Once settled in Jerusalem, David proceeded to increase the number of his wives, perhaps in part from the same political motive that actuates other Oriental monarchs, viz. in order to take hostages from the chieftains round in the least offensive mode. We know nothing further concerning his family relations, than the names of eleven sons born in Jerusalem (), of whom four were children of Bathsheba (), and therefore much younger than the elder sons.

Jerusalem, now become the civil metropolis of the nation, was next to be made its religious center; and the king applied himself to elevate the priestly order, to swell the ranks of attending Levites and singers, and to bring the ark to Jerusalem. The bringing of the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem established the line of high-priests in direct service before it; and from this time we may presume that the ceremonies of the great Day of Atonement began to be observed.

When the ark entered Jerusalem in triumph, David put on a priest's ephod and danced before it. This proved the occasion of the rupture between him and his royal spouse, Michal (). After this event, the king, contrasting his cedar palace with the curtains of the tabernacle, was desirous of building a temple for the ark; such a step, moreover, was likely to prevent any future change of its abode. The prophet Nathan, however, forbade it, on pious and intelligible grounds.

David's further victories are narrated in the following order—Philistines, Moab, Zobah, Edom, Northern League stirred up by the Ammonites, Ammon. 1. The short notice concerning the Philistines just gives us to understand that this is the era of their decisive, though not final, subjugation. Their towns were despoiled of their wealth (), and doubtless all their arms and munitions of war passed over into the service of the conqueror. 2. The Moabites were a pastoral people, whose general relations with Israel appear to have been peaceful. The slight notice of Saul's hostilities with them () is the only breach recorded since the time of Eglon and Ehud. In the book of Ruth we see them as friendly neighbors, and much more recently () David committed his parents to the care of the king of Moab. We know no cause, except David's strength, which now drew his arms upon them. A people long accustomed to peace, in conflict with a veteran army, was struck down at once, but the fierceness of his triumph may surprise us. Two-thirds of the population (if we rightly interpret the words, ) were put to the sword; the rest became tributary. 3. Who are meant by the Syrians of Zobah, is still a problem [ZOBAH]. We here follow the belief that it was a power of northern Syria, then aiming at extensive empire, which had not only defeated and humbled the king of Hamath, but had obtained homage beyond the Euphrates. The trans-Jordanic tribes in the time of Saul had founded a little empire for themselves by conquering their eastern neighbors, the Hagarenes: and, perhaps, occasionally overran the district on the side of the Euphrates, which Hadadezer, king of Zobah, considered as his own. His efforts 'to recover his border at the river Euphrates' first brought him into collision with David, perhaps by an attack which he made on the roaming Eastern tribes. David defeated not merely his army, but that of Damascus too, which came, too late, with succor; and put Israelite garrisons into the towns of the Damascenes. 4. Another victory, gained 'in the valley of salt,' ought, perhaps, to be read, as in , and in the superscription of Psalms 60, 'over the Edomites,' not 'over the Syrians.' 5. After David had become master of all Israel, of the Philistine towns, of Edom, and of Moab, while the Eastern tribes, having conquered the Hagarenes, threatened the Ammonites on the north, as did Moab on the south, the Ammonites were naturally alarmed, and called in the powers of Syria to their help against a foe who was growing dangerous even to them. The coalition against David is described as consisting of the Syrians of Bethrehob and of Maacah, of Zobah and of Tob. The last country appears to have been in the district of Trachonitis, the two first immediately on the north of Israel. In this war, we may believe that David enjoyed the important alliance of Toi, king of Hamath, who, having suffered from Hadadezer's hostility, courted the friendship of the Israelitish monarch (). We are barely informed that one division of the Israelites under Abishai was posted against the Ammonites; a second under Joab met the confederates from the north, 30,000 strong, and prevented their junction with the Ammonites. In both places the enemy was repelled, though, it would seem, with no decisive result. A second campaign took place. The king of Zobah brought in an army of Mesopotamians, in addition to his former troops, and David found it necessary to make a levy of all Israel to meet the pressing danger. A pitched battle on a great scale was then fought at Helam—far beyond the limits of the twelve tribes—in which David was victorious. The Syrians henceforth left the Ammonites to their fate, and the petty chiefs who had been in allegiance to Hadadezer hastened to do homage to David. 6. Early in the next season Joab was sent to take vengeance on the Ammonites in their own home, by attacking their chief city, or Rabbah of Ammon. The natural strength of their border could not keep out veteran troops and an experienced leader; and though the siege of the city occupied many months (if, indeed, it was not prolonged into the next year), it was at last taken. It is characteristic of Oriental despotism, that Joab, when the city was nearly reduced, sent to invite David to command the final assault in person. David gathered a large force, easily captured the royal town, and despoiled it of all its wealth. His vengeance was as much more dreadful on the unfortunate inhabitants than formerly on the Moabites, as the danger in which the Ammonites had involved Israel had been more imminent (; ).

During the campaign against Rabbah of Ammon the painful and never-to-be-forgotten outrage of David against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah the Hittite took place. It is principally through this narrative that we know the tediousness of that siege; since the adultery with Bathsheba and the birth of at least one child took place during the course of it.

The latter years of David's reign were afflicted by the inevitable results of polygamy and despotism, viz. the quarrels of the sons of different mothers, and their eagerness to seize the kingdom before their father's death. Of all his sons, Absalom had naturally the greatest pretensions, being, by his mother's side, grandson of Talmai, and king of Geshur; while through his personal beauty and winning manners he was high in popular favor. It is evident, moreover, that he was the darling son of his father. When his own sister Tamar had been dishonored by her half-brother Amnon, the eldest son of David, Absalom slew him in vengeance, but, in fear of his father, then fled to his grandfather at Geshur. Joab, discerning David's longings for his son, effected his return after three years; but the conflict in the king's mind is strikingly shown by his allowing Absalom to dwell two full years in Jerusalem before he would see his face.

The insurrection of Absalom against the king was the next important event; in the course of which there was shown the general tendency of men to look favorably on young and untried princes, rather than on those whom they know for better and for worse. Absalom erected his royal standard at Hebron first, and was fully prepared to slay his father outright, which might probably have been done, if the energetic advice of Ahithophel had been followed. While they delayed, David escaped beyond the Jordan, and with all his troop met a most friendly reception, not only from Barzillai and Machir, wealthy chiefs of pastoral Gilead, but from Shobi, the son of the Ammonite king Nahash, whose power he had destroyed, and whose people he had hewed in pieces. We likewise learn on this occasion that the fortunes of David had been all along attended by 600 men of Gath, who now, under the command of Ittai the Gittite, crossed the Jordan with all their households, in spite of David's generous advice that they would return to their own country. Strengthened by the warlike eastern tribes, and surrounded by his experienced captains, the king no longer hesitated to meet Absalom in the field. A decisive victory was won at the wood of Ephraim, and Absalom was slain by Joab in the retreat. The old king was heart-stricken at this result, and, ignorant of his own weakness, superseded Joab in the command of the host by Amasa, Absalom's captain. Perhaps Joab on the former occasion, when he murdered Abner, had blinded the king by pleading revenge for the blood of Asahel; but no such pretence could here avail. The king was now probably brought to his determination, partly by his disgust at Joab, partly by his desire to give the insurgents confidence in his amnesty. If Amasa is the same as Amasai, David may likewise have retained a grateful remembrance of the cordial greeting with which he had led a strong band to his assistance at the critical period of his abode in Ziklag (); moreover, Amasa, equally with Joab, was David's nephew, their two mothers, Abigail and Zeruiah, being sisters to David by at least one parent (; ; ). The unscrupulous Joab, however, was not so to be set aside. Before long, catching an opportunity, he assassinated his unsuspecting cousin with his own hand; and David, who had used the instrumentality of Joab to murder Uriah, did not dare to resent the deed.

A quarrel which took place between the men of Judah and those of the other tribes in bringing the king back, had encouraged a Benjamite named Sheba to raise a new insurrection, which spread with wonderful rapidity. Amasa was collecting troops as David's general at the time when he was treacherously assassinated by his cousin, who then, with his usual energy, pursued Sheba, and blockaded him in Bethmaachah before he could collect his partisans. Sheba's head was cut off, and thrown over the wall; and so ended the new rising. Yet this was not the end of trouble; for the intestine war seems to have inspired the Philistines with the hope of throwing off the yoke. Four successive battles are recorded (), in the first of which the aged David was nigh to being slain. His faithful officers kept him away from all future risks, and Philistia was once more, and finally, subdued.

The last commotion recorded took place when David's end seemed nigh, and Adonijah, one of his elder sons, feared that the influence of Bathsheba might gain the kingdom for her own son Solomon. Adonijah's conspiracy was joined by Abiathar, one of the two chief priests, and by the redoubted Joab; upon which David took the decisive measure of raising Solomon at once to the throne. Of two young monarchs, the younger and the less known was easily preferred, when the sanction of the existing government was thrown into his scale; and the cause of Adonijah immediately fell to the ground. Amnesty was promised to the conspirators, yet it was not very faithfully observed [SOLOMON].

Numerous indications remain to us that, however eminently David was imbued with faith in Jehovah as the national God of Israel, and however he strove to unite all Israel in common worship, he still had no sympathy with the later spirit which repelled all foreigners from co-operation with Jews. In his early years necessity made him intimate with Philistines, Moabites, and Ammonites: policy led him into league with the Tyrians. He himself took in marriage a daughter of the king of Geshur: it is the less wonderful that we find Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11), Gether the Ishmaelite (), and others, married to Israelitish wives. The fidelity of Ittai the Gittite, and his six hundred men, has been already alluded to. It would appear, on the whole, that in tolerating foreigners Solomon did not go beyond the principles established by his father, though circumstances gave them a fuller development.

No attempt seems to have been made in David's reign to maintain horses or chariots for military purposes. Even chieftains in battle, as Absalom on his fatal day, appear mounted only on mules. Yet horses were already used in state equipages, apparently as a symbol of royalty (). That in the opening of Saul's reign the Philistines had deprived the Israelites of all the most formidable arms, is well known. It is probable that this may have led to a more careful practice of the sling and of the bow, especially among the southern tribes, who were more immediately pressed by the power of the Philistines. Such weapons cannot be kept out of the hands of the rustics, and must have been essential against wild beasts. But, from causes unknown, the Benjamites were peculiarly celebrated as archers and slingers (; ; ; ; ), while the pastoral tribes beyond the Jordan were naturally able to escape all attempts of the Philistines to deprive them of shield, spear, and sword. Hence the Gadites, who came to David at Ziklag, are described as formidable and full-armed warriors, 'with faces like lions, and swift as mountain roes' ().

The standing army which Saul had begun to maintain was greatly enlarged by David. An account of this is given in 1 Chronicles 27; from which it would seem that 24,000 men were constantly maintained on service, though there was a relieving of guard every month. Hence, twelve times this number, or 288,000, were under a permanent military organization, with a general for each division in his month. Besides this host, the register proceeds to recount twelve princes over the tribes of Israel, who may perhaps be compared to the lord-lieutenants of English counties.

The cabinet of David (if we may use a modern name) is thus given () with reference to a time which preceded Absalom's revolt:—1, Jonathan, David's uncle, a counselor, wise man, and scribe; 2, Jehiel, son of Hachmoni, tutor (?) to the king's sons; 3, Ahithophel, the king's counselor; 4, Hushai, the king's companion; 5, after Ahithophel, Jehoiada, the son of Benaiah; 6, Abiathar the priest. It is added, 'and the general of the king's army was Joab.'

Twelve royal bailiffs are recited as a part of David's establishment (; ), having the following departments under their charge: 1, The treasures of gold, silver, etc.; 2, the magazines; 3, the tillage (wheat, etc.?); 4, the vineyards; 5, the wine-cellars; 6, the olive and sycamore trees; 7, the oil-cellars; 8, the herds in Sharon; 9, the herds in the valleys; 10, the camels; 11, the asses; 12, the flocks. The eminently prosperous state in which David left his kingdom to Solomon appears to prove that he was on the whole faithfully served, and that his own excellent intentions, patriotic spirit, and devout piety (measured, as it must be measured, by the standard of those ages), made his reign beneficial to his subjects.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'David'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/d/david.html.

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