David was the second and the greatest king of Israel. David was the youngest son of Jesse, a man who lived in Bethlehem. The name of David’s mother is never mentioned in the Old Testament. According to the genealogy in the book of Ruth, David was a descendant of Judah through Perez and the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz: “Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David” (Ruth 4:18–22).
Although the family of Jesse probably was an influential family in Bethlehem, when David was introduced to Saul, David said to him, “Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king’s son-in-law? My father’s family is nothing!” (1 Samuel 18:18 NLT). David had seven brothers (1 Samuel 17:12) and two sisters, Zeruiah and Abigail (1 Chronicles 2:16).
After Yahweh had rejected Saul at the end of the Amalekite War, Samuel was commanded by Yahweh to go to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint one of his sons, who was “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). At first Samuel believed that Jesse’s eldest son Eliab, was the one Yahweh had chosen (1 Samuel 16:6).
But Yahweh told Samuel that Eliab was not “a man after his own heart.” Yahweh said to Samuel, “Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NJB). None of Jesse’s sons was the man after God’s own heart, except the youngest, David.
The imagery behind a king who was a man after God’s own heart is the idea of the king as a just and righteous king. J. J. M. Roberts mentions the characteristics of the ideal king. A king after God’s own heart is a king who “would wisely establish Yahweh’s justice for all the people, paying especial attention to the poor and vulnerable, the widows, orphans, resident aliens, and other poor and displaced persons, and he would lead Israel’s armies in successful defense of Israel’s territory from foreign enemies, thus providing security and well-being for life in Israel. Thus, a good king would promote justice, security, and piety” (Roberts 2012:118). Notwithstanding David’s many faults, the biblical writers portray David as a good and righteous king.
After David’s secret anointing by Samuel, the first mention of David was when Saul was going through a moment of deep depression caused, according to the biblical writers, by an evil spirit from Yahweh which tormented him (1 Samuel 16:14).
Saul’s servants suggested that they should call a skillful player on the harp to play so that the music would calm the king (1 Samuel 16:16). Saul’s servants recommended to the king that he should invite David, the son of Jesse, because he was a talented harp player. In addition, Saul’s servant told the king, that the young man was a brave warrior, he had good judgment, he was a fine-looking young man, and the Lord was with him (1 Samuel 16:18 NLT).
Saul accepted the advice of his servants. Saul was highly impressed with David. Saul made David his personal musician and one of his arms-bearers. It was in this capacity that David confronted and killed Goliath. Once David came under the service of the king, David developed a close friendship between himself and Saul’s son Jonathan.
The biblical text is silent on how long David remained in the position of Saul’s personal musician and armor-bearer. During the time David served Saul, David enjoyed great success in fighting the Philistines. David married Michal, Saul’s daughter and established a strong friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son, with whom he established a covenant of brotherhood. David was also very popular with the soldiers in Saul’s army.
It is clear that the problems between Saul and David, whom Saul had appointed to be the captain of his bodyguard (1 Samuel 22:14 NIV), came about because of David’s military exploits:
“David was successful wherever Saul sent him. Saul put him in charge of the fighting men. This pleased all the people, including Saul’s officials. As they arrived, David was returning from a campaign against the Philistines. Women from all of Israel’s cities came to meet King Saul. They sang and danced, accompanied by tambourines, joyful music, and triangles. The women who were celebrating sang, ‘Saul has defeated thousands but David tens of thousands!’” (1 Samuel 18:5–7).
When Saul heard how David was received by the people in his kingdom, Saul understood that David was a threat to his kingdom, “Saul became very angry because he considered this saying to be insulting. ‘To David they credit tens of thousands,’ he said, ‘but to me they credit only a few thousand. The only thing left for David is my kingdom’” (1 Samuel 18:8 GWN).
Saul also believed that David had conspired with Jonathan to remove him from the throne. Saul told Jonathan, “I know that you side with the son of Jesse. . . . For as long as the son of Jesse lives on earth, neither you nor your kingship will be secure” (1 Samuel 20:30–31 TNK)
Jonathan told his father that his accusations against David were baseless, but Saul’s continuous distrust and jealousy of David continued. It is possible that Saul was afraid that the people of Israel might regard him unfit to serve as king because of his emotional condition.
Saul’s feelings toward David made him suspicious and fearful of David. “Saul was afraid of David” (1 Samuel 18:12). “When Saul observed that David was very successful, he dreaded him” (1 Samuel 18:15). “Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life” (1 Samuel 18:29). Saul decided to kill David and thus eliminate the threat to his throne.
Several times Saul tried to kill David. David had opportunities to kill Saul, but he refused to do so. For the remainder of Saul’s reign, David had to run away from Saul, live in exile, serving as a vassal of the Philistines, and being the leader of a group of four hundred men who were in trouble, in debt, or who were bitter about life (1 Samuel 22:2).
The end of Saul’s reign came when Saul and his three eldest sons died fighting the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. When the news was brought to David of the death of Saul, David paid homage to Saul and Jonathan by expressing his grief for them in a beautiful ode called “The Song of the Bow” (2 Samuel 1:18).
In his song David expressed his warmest respect and affection for Saul and for Jonathan, “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions” (2 Samuel 1:23). David also expressed his love for Jonathan, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).
After the death of Saul, David returned to Judah and, at the command of Yahweh, David settled in Hebron, “After this David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?’ The LORD said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘To which shall I go up?’ He said, ‘To Hebron’” (2 Samuel 2:1). Hebron was also called Kiriath-arba (Genesis 23:2). David moved to Hebron with his family, his followers, and the members of their households . During Saul’s reign, the people of Hebron had welcomed David and now, they welcomed him again.
In Hebron, “the people of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah” (2 Samuel 2:4). At the time David became king of Judah, “David was thirty years old. . . . At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months” (2 Samuel 5:4–5).
Under the instigation of Abner, the son of Ner and the commander of Saul’s army, Ishbaal, Saul’s son, was made king over all Israel. Ishbaal was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years (2 Samuel 2:8–10).
While the northern tribes followed Ishbaal, the tribe of Judah followed David. “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1).
After the death of Ishbaal, the elders of Israel came to David at Hebron and told David, “You will be shepherd of my people Israel, the leader of Israel.” They made an alliance with David in the presence of Yahweh and there they anointed David king over all Israel.
In Hebron David ruled over Judah for seven years and six months. In Jerusalem he ruled for 33 years over all Israel and Judah. After David became king of all Israel, David and his army went to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites. David captured the fortress Zion and called it “The City of David” (2 Samuel 5:1–7).
David was 30 years old when he became a king, and he ruled for 40 years.
The posts below deal with several aspects of David’s kingship.
STUDIES ON DAVID
David: The Making of A King
“David, The Lord’s Anointed – Growing a Heart that Loves God” (forthcoming)
“David, The Worshiper – Singing a Song to God” (forthcoming)
“David, The Giant Slayer – Great Things Through Ordinary People” (forthcoming)
“David, The Military Leader – Taking the High Road” (forthcoming)
“David, The Obedient Follower – Obeying God in Hardship” (forthcoming)
“David, The Receptive Student – Listening to Wise Advice” (forthcoming)
“David, The Subordinate – Respecting Authority” (forthcoming)
“David, The Resilient Fighter – Finding Strength in God” (forthcoming)
David and His Family
David and Goliath
David and Bathsheba
David and Tamar
David and Archaeology
David and Melchizedek
Special Studies on David
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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