The most powerful king of biblical Israel, David ruled from ca. 1010 to 970 B.C. The story of David is recorded in 1 Samuel 16:13-1 Kings 2:12. David belonged to the tribe of Judah and was born in Bethlehem. He was the youngest son of Jesse. David started his career at King Saulâ€™s court as player of the lyre, and subsequently became his squire. His courage and leadership in regular battles with the Philistines (in particularly his slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath) and the immense popularity he gained as a commander soon earned him great popularity and caused Saul to feel threatened. A long and complicated process of attraction and repulsion between the two men followed. The tide turned in favor of David when the old prophet Samuel, who had led Saul to the first kingship, became disappointed with Saul for political reasons and anointed David as the new favorite of God.
The Road to Kingship:
David survived attempts on his life made by Saul during bursts of rage and fled the court. In the south he became a war lord with his own army of outlaws and performed services of protection. He also fought the enemies of Judah in the west and southwest. Although Saul found no way of eliminating him, the pressure he exerted became so strong that David decided to take refuge in Gath, where he became an assistant of the Philistine king Achish. Playing both sides, David maintained good relations with the tribes in the south as well. Because of the Philistine generalsâ€™ mistrust, David was not called upon to perform his duties as an assistant in the final war against Saul. At that time, Israel was defeated on Mount Gilboa, Saul and three princes were killed in battle, and the Philistines were left to fill power in Galilee. Eventually the northern tribes were forced to agree to Davidâ€™s rule and to accept him as king. David ruled Judah for seven years and ruled over all of Israel for thirty-three years.
David chose a neutral city or the new capital o his kingdom: Jerusalem. His conquest of this non-Israelite city alarmed the Philistine leaders, but David was able to repel their attacks and settle matters with this enemy for good. During his reign, David increased the status of the city of David by bringing to it the ancient Ark. His son, Solomon, subsequently carried on this tradition by building the central state sanctuary which is now the Temple of Solomon. David triumphed over nearly all of the then neighboring nations in a series of military campaigns. Davidâ€™s great power and military effectiveness were internally founded on good organization and the presence of an experienced standing army while externally his power and effectiveness rested on the impotence of the great powers. Thus, under the reign of David and then Solomon, Israel was a powerful empire for the first and last time.
David was not only a very powerful leader and personality as both a soldier and a statesman; he was also a first-class poet. He was the author of the passage in 2 Samuel 1 as well as many of the compositions in the book of Psalms. David, more than anything else, had an unchangeable belie in the faithful and forgiving nature o God. He was a man who sinned many times including committing adultery and arranging the murder of his mistressâ€™s husband, but he was quick to confess his sins. His repentance was genuine.
Davidâ€™s prestige inspired later poets and leaders; and in the New Testament his royal line is extended to include Jesus of Nazareth as a descendant of David. The effect of Davidâ€™s choice of Jerusalem as his city is felt to the present time: in the eyes of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims the city is holy. The poems of David live on in the liturgy of Jewish and Christian communities and are sung to this very day.
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