1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/David (king of Judah)

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DAVID (a Hebrew name meaning probably beloved[1]), in the Bible, the son of Jesse, king of Judah and Israel, and founder of the royal Judaean dynasty at Jerusalem. The chronology of his period is uncertain: the usual date, 1055–1015 B.C., is probably thirty years to half a century too early. The books of Samuel (strictly, 1 Sam. xvi.–1 Kings ii.), which are our principal source Source.for the history of David, show how deep an impression the personality of the king, his character, his genius and the romantic story of his early years had left on the mind of the nation. Of no hero of antiquity do we possess so life-like a portrait. Minute details and traits of character are portrayed with a vividness which bears all the marks of contemporary narrative. But the record is by no means all of one piece or of one date. This history, as we now have it, is extracted from various sources of unequal value, which are fitted together in a way which offers considerable difficulties to the critic. In the history of David’s early adventures, for example, the narrative is not seldom disordered, and sometimes seems to repeat itself with puzzling variations of detail, which have led critics to the unanimous conclusion that the First Book of Samuel is drawn from at least two sources. It is indeed easy to understand that the romantic incidents of this period were much in the mouths of the people—to whom David was a popular hero—and in course of time were written down in various forms which were not combined into perfect harmony by later editors, who gave excerpts from several sources rather than a new and independent history. These excerpts, however, have been so pieced together, that it is often impossible to separate them with precision, and to distinguish accurately between earlier and later elements. It even appears from a study of the Greek text that some copies of the books of Samuel incorporated narratives which other copies did not acknowledge. For the literary problems of these books, see also Samuel (Books).

The parallel history of David in 1 Chron. xi.-xxix. contains a great deal of additional matter, which can rarely be treated as of equal historical value with the preceding. Where it follows the chapters in Samuel it is important for textual and other critical problems, but it omits narratives in which it is not interested (David’s youth, persecution by Saul, Absalom’s revolt, &c.), and adds long passages (David’s arrangements for the temple, &c.) which reflect the views of a much later age than David’s. The lists of officers, &c., are fuller than those in Samuel, and here and there contain notices of value. A comparison of the two records, however, is especially important for its illustration of the later tendency to idealize the figure of David, and the historical critic has to bear in mind the possibility that this tendency had begun long before the Chronicler’s time, and that it may be found in the relatively older records preserved in Samuel.

David’s father, Jesse, was a citizen of Bethlehem in Judah, 5 m. south of Jerusalem; the polite deprecation in 1 Sam. xviii. 18 means little (cf. Saul in ix. 21). Tradition made him a descendant of the ancient nobles of Judah through Boaz and the Moabitess Ruth, but the Introduction to Saul.tendency to furnish a noble ancestry for a noble figure—especially one of obscure birth—is widespread (cf. Genealogy). He was the youngest of eight sons,[2] and spent his youth in an occupation which the Hebrews as well as the Arabs seem to have held in low esteem. He kept his father’s sheep in the desert steppes of Judah, and there developed the strength, agility, endurance and courage which distinguished him throughout life (cf. 1 Sam. xvii. 34, xxiv. 2; 2 Sam. xvii. 9). There, too, he acquired that skill in music which led to his first introduction to Saul (1 Sam. xvi. 14-23, and the apocryphal Psalm of David, Ps. cli. in the Septuagint). He found favour in the king’s eye, and became his armour-bearer.[3] But traditions varied. In 1 Sam. xvii. he does not follow his master to the field against the Philistines; he is an obscure untried shepherd lad sent by his father with supplies for his brothers in the Israelite camp. He does not even present himself before the king, and his brothers treat him with a petulance hardly conceivable if he stood well at court, and it appears from the close that neither Saul nor his captain Abner had heard of him before (vv. 55-58). There is, indeed, a flat contradiction between the two accounts, but a family of Greek MSS. represented by the Vatican text omit xvii. 12-31, xvii. 55-xviii. 5, and thus the difficulty is greatly lessened. Characteristic of the omitted portions are the friendship which sprang up between Jonathan and David and the latter’s appointment to a command in the army. A further difficulty is caused by 2 Sam. xxi. 19, which makes Elhanan the slayer of Goliath. David’s exploit is not referred to in 1 Sam. xxi. 10-15, xxix., and on this and other grounds the simpler tradition in 2 Sam. is usually preferred. (See Goliath.) But it must have been by some valiant deed that Saul was led to notice him (cf. xiv. 52), and David soon became both a popular hero and an object of jealousy to Saul. According to the Hebrew text of 1 Sam. xviii., Saul’s jealousy leaped at once to the conclusion that David’s ambition would not stop short of the kingship. Such a suspicion would be intelligible if we could suppose that the king had heard something of the significant act of Samuel, which now stands at the head of the history of David in witness of that divine election and unction with the spirit of Yahweh on which his whole career hung (xvi. 1-13). But this passage is the sequel to the rejection of Saul in xv., and Samuel’s position agrees with that of the late writer in vii., viii. and xii.[4]

The shorter text, represented by the Septuagint, gives an account of Saul’s jealousy which is psychologically more intelligible[5] According to this text Saul was simply possessed with such a personal dislike and dread of David as might easily occupy his disordered brain. Conflicts with Saul.To be quit of his hateful presence he gave him a military command. In this charge David increased his reputation as a soldier and became a general favourite. Saul’s daughter Michal loved him; and her father, whose jealousy continued to increase, resolved to put the young captain on a perilous enterprise, promising him the hand of Michal as a reward of success, but secretly hoping that he would perish in the attempt. David’s good fortune did not desert him; he won his wife, and in this new advancement continued to grow in the popular favour, and to gain fresh laurels in the field. At this point it is necessary to look back on the proposed marriage of David with Saul’s eldest daughter Merab (xviii. 17-19; cf. xvii. 25). When the time came for Saul to fulfil his promise, Merab was given to Adriel of Abel-Meholah (perhaps an Aramaean). What is said of this affair interrupts the original context of chap. xviii., to which the insertion has been clumsily fitted by an interpolation in the second half of ver. 21 (LXX omits). We have here, therefore, a notice drawn from a distinct source which connects itself with the other omitted passage, xvii. 12-31, where Saul had promised his daughter to the one who should overthrow Goliath (ver. 25). Since Merab and Michal are confounded in 2 Sam. xxi. 8, the whole episode of Merab and David perhaps rests on a similar confusion of names.

As the king’s son-in-law, David was necessarily again at court. He became chief of the bodyguard, as Ewald rightly interprets 1 Sam. xxii. 14, and ranked next to Abner (xx. 25), so that Saul’s insane fears were constantly exasperated by personal contact with him. On at least one occasion the king’s frenzy broke out in an attempt to murder David with his own hand.[6] At another time Saul actually gave commands to assassinate his son-in-law, but the breach was made up by Jonathan, whose chivalrous spirit had united him to David in a covenant of closest friendship (xix. 1-7). The circumstances of the final outburst of Saul’s hatred, which drove David into exile, are not easily disentangled. The narrative of 1 Sam. xx., which is the principal account of the matter, cannot originally have been preceded by xix. 11-24; in chap. xx. David appears to be still at court, and Jonathan is even unaware that he is in any danger, whereas the preceding verses represent him as already a fugitive. It may also be doubted whether the narrative of David’s escape from his own house by the aid of his wife Michal (xix. 11-17) has any close connexion with ver. 10, and does not rather belong to a later period.[7] David’s daring spirit might very well lead him to visit his wife even after his first flight. The danger of such an enterprise was diminished by the reluctance to violate the apartments of women and attack a sleeping foe, which appears also in Judges xvi. 2, and among the Arabs.[8]

According to chap. xx. David was still at court in his usual position when he became certain that the king was aiming at his life. He betook himself to Jonathan, who thought his suspicions groundless, but undertook to test them. A plan was arranged by which Jonathan should draw from the king an expression of his feelings, and a tremendous explosion revealed that Saul regarded David as the rival of his dynasty, and Jonathan as little better than a fellow-conspirator. After a final interview (xx. 40-42), which must be regarded as a later expansion, they parted and David fled. He sought the sanctuary at Nob, where he had been wont to consult the priestly oracle (xxii. 15), and here, concealing his disgrace by a fictitious story, he also obtained bread from the consecrated table and the sword of Goliath (chap. xxi. 1-9).[9] His hasty flight—without food and weapon—suggests that the narrative should follow upon xix. 17.

It was perhaps after this that David made a last attempt to find a place of refuge in the prophetic circle of Samuel at Ramah (xix. 18-24). The episode now stands in another connexion, where it is certainly out of place. It might, however, fit into the break that plainly exists in the Outlaw life. history at xxi. 10 after the affair at Nob. Deprived of the protection of religion as well as of justice, David tried his fortune among the Philistines at Gath. Recognized and suspected as a redoubtable foe, he made his escape by feigning madness, which in the East has inviolable privileges (xxi. 11-16).[10] The passage anticipates chap. xxvii., and it is hardly probable that the slayer of Goliath or of any other Philistine giant fled to the Philistines with their dead hero’s sword. He returned to the wilds of Judah, and was joined at Adullam[11] by his father’s house and by a small band of outlaws, of which he became the head. Placing his parents under the charge of the king of Moab, he took up the life of a guerilla captain, cultivating friendly relations with the townships of Judah (xxx. 26), which were glad to have on their frontiers a protector so valiant as David, even at the expense of the blackmail which he levied in return. A clear conception of his life at this time, and of the respect which he inspired by the discipline in which he held his men, and of the generosity which tempered his fiery nature, is given in chap. xxv. His force gradually swelled, and he was joined by the prophet Gad (note his message xxii. 5) and by the priest Abiathar, the only survivor of a terrible massacre by which Saul took revenge for the favours which David had received at the sanctuary of Nob. He was even able to strike at the Philistines, and to rescue Kěīlah (south of Adullam and to the east of Beit Jibrīn) from their attack (xxiii. 1-13). Forced to flee by the treachery of the very men whom he had succoured, he lived for a time in constant fear of being captured by Saul, and at length took refuge with Achish king of Gath and established himself in Ziklag. Popular tradition, as though unwilling to let David escape from Saul, told of that king’s continual pursuit of the outlaw, of the attempt of the men of Ziph (S.E. of Hebron) to betray him, of David’s magnanimity displayed on two occasions, and of Jonathan’s visit to console his bosom friend (xxiv.-xxvi.).[12] The situation was one which lent itself to the imagination.

The site of Ziklag is unknown. It hardly lay near Gath (probably Tell es-Sāfi, 12 m. E. of Ashdod), but rather to the south of Judah (Josh. xix. 5). Here he occupied himself in chastening the Amalekites and other robber tribes who made raids on Judah and the Philistines without distinction (xxvii.). The details of the text are obscure, and seem to imply that David systematically attacked populations friendly to Achish whilst pretending that he had been making forays against Judah. If this were an attempt to steer a middle course his true actions could not have been kept secret long, and as it is implied that the Philistines subsequently acquiesced in David’s sovereignty in Hebron, it is not easy to see what interest they had in embroiling him with the men of Judah. At length, in the second year, he was called to join his master in a great campaign against Saul. The Philistines for once directed their forces towards the plain of Jezreel (Esdraelon) in the north; and Saul, forsaken by Yahweh, already gave himself up for lost. David accompanied the army as a matter of course. But his presence was not observed until they reached their destination, when the jealousy of the Philistines overrode his protestations of fidelity and he was ordered to return. He reached Ziklag only to find the town pillaged by the Amalekites. Pursuing the foes, he inflicted upon them a signal chastisement and took a great booty, part of which he spent in politic gifts to the leading men of the towns in the south country.[13]

Meantime Saul had fallen in battle, and northern Israel was in a state of chaos. The Philistines took possession of the fertile lowlands of Jezreel and the Jordan, and the shattered forces of Israel were slowly rallied by Abner in the remote city of Mahanaim in Gilead, under the nominal sovereignty of Saul’s son Ishbaal. David now took the first great step to the throne. He was no longer an outlaw with a band of wandering companions, but a petty chieftain, head of a small colony of men, allied with families of Caleb and Jezreel (in Judah), and on friendly footing King at Hebron.with the sheikhs south of Hebron. In response to an oracle he was bidden to move northwards to Judah and successfully occupied it with Hebron as his capital. Here he was anointed king, the first ruler of the southern kingdom. If the chronological notice may be trusted, he was then thirty years of age, and he reigned there for seven and a half years (2. Sam. ii. 1-4a, 11, v. 4 sq.). The noble elegy on the death of Saul and Jonathan, quoted from the Book of Jashar (2 Sam. i.), is marked by the absence both of religious feeling and of allusions to his earlier experiences with Saul which David might have been expected to make. It was deemed only natural that he should sympathize deeply with the disasters of the northern kingdom. His vengeance on the Amalekite who slew Saul—the account is a doublet of 1 Sam. xxxi.—is consistent with his generous treatment of his late adversary in his outlaw life, and with this agrees his embassy of thanks to the men of Jabesh-Gilead for their chivalrous rescue of the bodies of the fallen heroes (2 Sam. ii. 4b-7). The embassy threw out a hint,—their lord was dead and David himself had been anointed king over Judah; but the relation between Jabesh-Gilead and Saul had been a close one, and it was not to be expected that its eyes would be turned upon the king of Judah when Saul’s son was installed at the not distant Mahanaim.

The interest of the narratives is now directed away from the Philistines to the decaying fortunes of Saul’s house. (See Abner and Saul.) Abner had taken Saul’s son Ishbaal and his authority was gradually consolidated in the north. War broke out between the two parties at Gibeon a few miles north of Jerusalem. A sham contest was changed into a fatal fray by the treachery of Ishbaal’s men; and in the battle which ensued Abner was not only defeated, but, by slaying Asahel, drew upon himself a blood-feud with Joab. The war continued. Ishbaal’s party became weaker and weaker; and at length Abner quarrelled with his nominal master and offered the kingdom to David. The king seized the opportunity to demand the return of Michal, his wife. The passage (iii. 12-16) is not free from difficulties, but it is intelligible that David should desire to ally himself as closely as possible with Saul’s family (cf. xii. 8). The base murder of Abner by Joab did not long defer the inevitable issue of events. Ishbaal lost hope, and after he had been foully assassinated by two of his own followers, all Israel sought David as king.

The biblical narrative is admittedly not so constructed as to enable us to describe in chronological order the thirty-three years of David’s reign over all Israel. It is possible that some of the incidents ascribed to this period properly belong to an earlier part of his life, and that tradition has idealized the life of David the king even as it has not failed to colour the history of David the outlaw and king of Hebron.

In the preceding account the biblical narratives have been followed as closely as possible in the light of the critical results generally accepted. That they have been affected by the growth of popular tradition is patent from the traces of duplicate narratives, from the difficulty caused, for Critical considerations. example, by the story of Goliath (q.v.), and from a closer study of the chapters. The later views of the history of this period are represented in the book of Chronicles, where immediately after Saul’s death David is anointed at Hebron king over all Israel (1 Chron. xi.). It is quite in harmony with this that the same source speaks of the Israelites who joined David at Ziklag (1 Chron. xii. 1-22), and of the host which came to him at Hebron to turn over to him Saul’s kingdom (xii. 23-40). This treatment of history can be at once corrected by the books of Samuel, but it is only from a deeper study of the internal evidence that these, too, appear to give expression to doubtful and conflicting views. It is questionable whether David could have become king over all Israel immediately after the death of Ishbaal. The chronological notices in ii. 10 sqq. allow an interval of no less than five and a half years, and nowhere do the events of these years appear to be recorded. But David’s position in the south of Judah is clear. He is related by marriage with south Judaean clans of Caleb, Jezreel, and probably Geshur. (See Absalom.) He was at the head of a small colony (1 Sam. xxvii. 3), and on friendly terms with the sheikhs south of Hebron (xxx. 26-31).[14] His step forward to Hebron is in every way intelligible and is the natural outcome of his policy. It is less easy to trace his previous moves. There are gaps in the narratives, and the further back we proceed the more serious do their difficulties become. These chapters bring him farther north, and they commence by depicting David as a man of Bethlehem, high in the court of Saul, the king’s son-in-law, and a popular favourite with the people. But notwithstanding this, the relation is broken off, and years elapse before David gains hold upon the Hebrews of north Israel, the weakness of the union being proved by the ease with which it was subsequently broken after Solomon’s death. Much of the life of Saul is obscure, and this too, it would seem, because tradition loved rather to speak of the founder of the ideal monarchy than of his less successful rival. (See Saul.) It is not impossible that some traditions did not bring them together. If Jerusalem and its immediate neighbourhood were first conquered by David (2 Sam. v.), it is probable that Beeroth and Gibeon (2 Sam. iv. 2, xxi. 2), Shaalbim, Har-heres and Aijalon (Judg. i. 35), Gezer (ib. i. 29), Chephirah and Kirjath-jearim (Josh. ix. 17) had remained Canaanite. The evidence has obviously some bearing upon the history of Saul, as also upon the intercourse between Judah and Benjamin which David’s early history implies. It has been conjectured, therefore, that David’s original home lay in the south. Since the early historical narrative (1 Sam. xxv. 2) finds him in Maon, Winckler has suggested that he was a Calebite chief, while a criticism of the details relating to David’s family has induced Marquart[15] to conjecture that he was born at Arad (Tell ʽArād) about 17 m. S.E. of Hebron. Once indeed we find him in the wilderness of Paran 1 (Sam. xxv. 1, LXX reads Maon), and a more southerly origin has been thought of (Winckler). This is involved with other views of the early history of the Israelites; see further below.

David owed his success to his troop of freebooters (1 Sam. xxii. 2), now an organized force, and absolutely attached to his person. The valour of these “mighty men” (gibbōrīm) was topical. The names of the most honoured are preserved, and we have some interesting accounts of Capture of Jerusalem. their exploits in the days of the giants (2 Sam. xxi., xxiii.). We hear of two great battles with the “Philistines” in the valley of Rephaim, near Jerusalem, at a time when David’s base was Adullam (v. 17-25). In one conflict a giant thought to slay him, but he was saved by Abishai, the brother of Joab, and the men took an oath that David should no more go to battle lest he “quench the light of Israel.” On another occasion, Elhanan of Bethlehem slew the giant Goliath of Gath, and David’s own brother Shimei (or Shammah) overthrew a monster who could boast of twenty-four fingers and toes. In yet another incident the Philistines maintained a garrison in Bethlehem, and David expressed a wish for a drink from its well. The wish was gratified at the risk of the lives of three brave men, and he recognized the solemnity of the occasion by pouring out the water as an offering unto Yahweh.

From a later summary (viii. 1) it seems that the Philistines were at length vanquished, and the unknown Metheg-Ammah taken out of their hands.[16] Not until the district was cleared could Jerusalem be taken, and the capture of the almost impregnable Jebusite fortress furnished a centre for future action. Here, in the midst of a region which had been held by aliens, he fortified the “city of David” and garrisoned it with his men. Meanwhile the ark of Yahweh, the only sanctuary of national significance, had remained in obscurity since its return from the Philistines in the early youth of Samuel. (See Ark.) David brought it up from Baalah of Judah with great pomp, and pitched a tent for it in Zion, amidst national rejoicings. The narrative (2 Sam. vi.) represents the act as that of a loyal and God-fearing heart which knew that the true principle of Israel’s unity and strength lay in national adherence to Yahweh; but the event was far from having the significance which later times ascribed to it (1 Chron. xiii., xv. sqq.); even Solomon visited the sanctuary at Gibeon, and Absalom vowed his vow unto Yahweh at Hebron. It was not unnatural that the king who had his palace built by Tyrian artists should have proposed to erect a permanent temple to Yahweh. Such, at least, was the thought of later writers, who have given effect to the belief in chap. viii. It was said that the prophet Nathan commanded the execution of this plan to be delayed for a generation; but David received at the same time a prophetic assurance that his house and kingdom should be established for ever before Yahweh.

What remains to be said of his internal policy may be briefly detailed. In civil matters the king looked heedfully to the execution of justice (viii. 15), and was always accessible to the people (xiv. 4). But he does not appear to have made any change in the old local administration of Internal policy. justice, or to have appointed a central tribunal (xv. 2, where, however, Absalom’s complaint that the king was inaccessible is merely factious). A few great officers of state were appointed at the court of Jerusalem (viii. 16-18, xx. 23-26), which was not without a splendour hitherto unknown in Israel. Royal pensioners, of whom Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was one, were gathered round a princely table. The art of music was not neglected (xix. 35). A more dangerous piece of magnificence was the harem. Another innovation was the census; it was undertaken despite the protests of Joab, and was checked by the rebukes of the prophet Gad and the visitation of a pestilence (xxiv.). Striking, too, is the conception of the national God who incites the king to do an act for which he was to be punished.[17] To us, the proposal to number the people seems innocent and laudable, and the latest sources of the Pentateuch contain several such lists. This new procedure, we may imagine, was resented by the northern Hebrews as an encroachment upon their liberties. We learn that the destroying angel was stayed at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite,[18] and the spot thus sanctified was made a sanctuary, and commemorated by an altar. It was the very place upon which Solomon’s temple was supposed to be founded. The census-taking may have been a preliminary to the great wars, but the latter, on the other hand, are obviously presupposed by the extent of his kingdom. For his wars a larger force than his early bodyguard was required, and the Chronicler gives an account of the way in which an army of nearly 300,000 was raised and held by David’s thirty heroes (1 Chron. xxvii.). It is certain at all events that no small body of soldiers would be needed, and this alone would imply that all Israel was by this time under his entire control.

Apart from the Ammonite war, our sources are confined to a mere summary (viii.), which includes even the Amalekites (viii. 12, cf. 1 Sam. xxx.). After the defeat of the Philistines came the turn of Moab. It was under the care of the king of Moab that David placed his parents Wars and conquests. when he fled from Saul (1 Sam. xxii. 3 sqq.), and what led to the war is unknown. The severity with which the land was treated may pass for a gentle reprisal if the Moabites of that day were not more humane than their descendants in the days of King Mesha.[19] A deadly conflict with the Ammonites was provoked by a gross insult to friendly ambassadors of Israel;[20] and this war, of which we have pretty full details in 2 Sam. x. 1–xi. 1, xii. 26-31, assumed unexpected dimensions when the Ammonites procured the aid of their Aramean neighbours. The defeat of Hadadezer brought about the submission of other lesser kings. The glory of this victory was increased by the complete subjugation of Edom in a war conducted by Joab with characteristic severity (2 Sam. viii. 13; 1 Kings xi. 15-17; Ps. lx., title). The fall of Rabbah concludes David’s war-like exploits; he carried off the jewelled crown of their god (Milcom), and subjected the people, not to torture (1 Chron. xx. 3), but to severe menial labour (xii. 26-31).

The Aramean states, Beth-rehob, Maacah, Tob, &c., lay partly to the north of Gilead and partly in the region which was the scene of the fight with Jabin (Josh. xi. 1-9, Judg. iv.; see Deborah). Apparently it was here, too, that the Danites found a settlement (Judg. xviii. 28); the migration has perhaps been ante-dated. (See Dan, tribe.) The account of David’s wars is remarkable for the inclusion of the Syrians of Damascus and beyond the Euphrates; some exaggeration has been suspected (cf. 2 Sam. viii. 5 with x. 16). Some misunderstanding has been caused by the confusion of Edom (אדם‎) and Aram (ארם‎) in viii. 13. A more moderate idea of David’s power has been found in Ps. lx. 6-12, or, preferably, in the description of the boundaries (2 Sam. xxiv. 5 sqq.). To the east of the Jordan he held rule from Aroer to Gad and Gilead; on its west his power extended from Beersheba in the south to Dan and Ijon at the foot of Hermon. Moab, Ammon and Edom would appear to have been merely tributary, whilst in the north among his allies David could number the king of Hamath. To the north-west Israel bordered upon Tyre, with whom its relations were friendly. The king of Tyre, who recognized David’s newly won position (v. 11 seq.), is called Hiram; possibly—unless the notice is an anticipation of 1 Kings v.—his father Abibaal is meant.[21]

As the birth of Solomon is placed before the capture of Rabbah of Ammon (xii.), it would appear that David’s wars were ended within the first half of his reign at Jerusalem, and the tributary nations thus do not seem to have attempted any revolt during his lifetime (see 1 Kings xi. 14 sqq. Internal troubles. and 25). It was only when the nation was no longer knit together by the fear of danger from without that the internal difficulties of the new kingdom became more manifest. Such at least is the impression which the narratives convey.[22] So, after David had completed a series of conquests which made Palestine the greatest of the petty states of the age, troubles arose with the Israelites, who in times past had sought for him to be king (iii. 17, v. 1-3), with his old subjects the men of Judah, and with the members of his own household. The northern tribes, who appear to have submitted willingly to his rule, were not all of one mind. There were men of stronger build than the weak Ishbaal and the crippled son of Jonathan, the survivors of Saul’s house, and it is only to be expected that David’s first care must have been to cement the union of the north and south. The choice of Jerusalem, standing on neutral ground, may be regarded as a stroke of genius, and there is nothing to show that the king exercised that rigour which was to be the cause of his grandson’s undoing. (See Rehoboam.) On the other hand, when Sheba, probably one of Saul’s clan, headed a rising and was promptly pursued by Joab to Abel-beth-maacah on the west of Dan, honour was satisfied by the death of the rebel, and no further steps were taken (xx.).[23] This policy of leniency towards Israel is characteristic of David, and may well have become a popular theme in the tales of succeeding generations. This same magnanimity towards the survivors of Saul’s house has left its mark upon many of the narratives, and helps to a truer understanding of the stories of his early life. Thus it was quite in keeping with the romantic attachment between David and Saul’s son Jonathan that when he became king of Israel he took Jonathan’s son Meribbaal under his care (ix.).[24] The deed was not merely generous, it was politic to have Saul’s grandson under his eyes. The hope of restoring the lost kingdom had not died out (cf. xvi. 3). But from another source we gain quite a different idea of the relations. A disastrous famine ravaged the land for three long years, and when Yahweh was consulted the reply came that there was “blood upon Saul and upon his house because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The unavenged blood was the cause of divine anger, and retribution must be made. This David recognized, and, summoning the injured clan, inquired what expiation could be made. Bloodshed could only be atoned by blood-money or by shedding the blood of the offender or of his family. The Gibeonites demanded the latter, and five sons of Merab (the text by a mistake reads Michal) and two sons of Saul’s concubine were sacrificed. The awful deed took place at the beginning of harvest (April–May), and the bodies remained suspended until, with the advent of the autumn rains, Yahweh was once more reconciled to his land (xxi. 1-14). The incident is a valuable picture of crude ideas of Yahweh, and, if nothing else were needed, it was sufficient to involve David in a feud with the Benjamites.[25] Here, too, we learn of the tardy burial of the bones of Saul and Jonathan which had remained in Jabesh-Gilead since the battle of Gilboa;—the history of David’s dealings with the family of Saul has been obscured. That he took over his harem is only in accordance with the Eastern policy (cf. xii. 8).

The harem, an indispensable part of Eastern state, was responsible for many fatal disorders, although it is clear from 2 Sam. xvi. 21 that the nation at large was not very sensitive to the enormities which flow from this system. David’s deep fall in the matter of Bathsheba (xi.) was too great Absalom’s revolt. an iniquity to be passed over lightly, and the base murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite could not go unavenged. Bathsheba’s influence added a new element of danger to the usual jealousies of the harem, and two of David’s sons perished in vain attempts to claim the throne, which she appears to have viewed as the rightful inheritance of her own child. This, at least, is certain in the revolt of Adonijah (see Solomon), and it was probably believed that the action of the impulsive Absalom arose from the suspicion that the birth of Solomon was the death-blow to his succession.

As a piece of writing the vivid narratives are without an equal. David’s sons were estranged from one another, and acquired all the vices of Oriental princes. The severe impartiality of the sacred historian has concealed no feature in this dark picture,—the brutal passion of Amnon, the shameless counsel of the wily Jonadab, the “black scowl”[26] that rested on the face of Absalom through two long years of meditated revenge, the panic of the court when the blow was struck and Amnon was assassinated in the midst of his brethren. Not until five years had elapsed was Absalom fully reconciled with his father. Then he meditated revolt. As heir-apparent he collected a bodyguard, and studiously courting personal popularity by a pretended interest in the administration of kingly justice, ingratiated himself with the mass. Four years later (so read in xv. 7) he ventured to raise the standard of revolt in Hebron, with the malcontent Judaeans as his first supporters, and the crafty Ahithophel as his chief adviser. Arrangements had been made for the simultaneous proclamation of Absalom in all parts of the land. The surprise was complete, and David was compelled to evacuate Jerusalem, where he might have been crushed before he had time to rally his faithful subjects. He was warmly received by the Gileadites, and the first battle destroyed the party of Absalom, who was himself captured and slain by Joab. Then all the people repented except the men of Judah, who were not to be conciliated without a virtual admission of prerogative of kinship to the king. This concession involved important consequences. The precedence claimed by Judah was challenged by the northern tribes even on the day of David’s victorious return to his capital, and a rupture ensued, headed by Sheba, which but for the energy of Joab might have led to a second and more dangerous rebellion.

Several indications suggest that the revolt was one in which the men of Judah originally took the leading if not the only part. The unruly clans which David knew how to control when he was at Ziklag or Hebron were doubtless ready to support the rebellious son. The removal of the court to Jerusalem provided a suitable opportunity, and an element of jealousy even may not have been wanting. If Geshur be the district in Josh. xiii. 2, 1 Sam. xxvii. 8, it is significant that the scene of Absalom’s exile lay to the south, that Ahithophel was a south Judaean, and that Amasa probably belonged to the Jezreel[27] with which David was connected through his wife Ahinoam. The eleven years which elapsed between the murder of Amnon and the revolt would seem to disprove any connexion between the two; the chronology may rest upon the tradition that Solomon was twelve years old when he came to the throne. David’s hurried flight, attended only by his bodyguard, indicates that his position was not a very strong one, and it is difficult to connect this with the fact that he had already waged the wars mentioned in 2 Sam. viii. and x. If his reason for taking refuge in Ishbaal’s capital Mahanaim is not obvious, it is even more remarkable that he should have been received kindly by the Ammonites whom he had previously decimated. On the theory that the revolt of Absalom chronologically should precede the great wars, a slight correction of the already corrupt text in xvii. 27 makes Nahash himself David’s ally, and accounts for David’s eagerness to repay to Hanun, the son of Nahash, the kindness which he had received from the father (x. 2). That the revolt of Sheba is in an impossible position is obvious. Tradition has probably confused Benjamite risings with Absalom’s misguided enterprise; the parts played by Shimei and Meribbaal, at all events, are extremely suggestive. See Absalom, Ahithophel.

The Appendix ascribes to David a song of triumph and some exceedingly obscure “last words” (xxii.-xxiii. 7) which cannot be used as historical material. The history of his life is immediately continued in 1 Kings i., where his old age and weakness are for the first time vividly emphasized. David’s
The events of the remaining years after 2 Sam. xx. are left untold, but the Chronicler omits the revolt of Absalom and represents the king as busily occupied with schemes concerning the future temple. The last spark of his old energy was called forth to secure the succession of Solomon against the ambition of Adonijah. It is noteworthy that, as in the case of Absalom, the pretender, though supported by Joab and Abiathar, found his chief stay among the men of Judah (1 Kings i. 9). (See Solomon.)

To estimate the work of David it is necessary to take into account the situation before and after his period. According to the prevailing traditions, Saul at his death had left North Israel disunited and humiliated. From this condition David raised the land to the highest state of prosperity and glory, and by his conquests made the united kingdom the most powerful state of the age. To do this other qualities than mere military capacity were required. David was not only a great captain, he was a national hero in whom all the noblest elements of the Hebrew genius were combined. His talent enabled him to weld together the mixed southern clans which became incorporated under Judah, and to build up a monarchy which represented the highest conception of national life possible under the circumstances. The structure, it is true, was not permanent. Under his successor it began to decay, and in the next generation it fell asunder and lived only in the hearts of the people as the proudest memory of past history and the prophetic ideal of future glory.[28] Opinion will differ, however, as to the extent to which later ideals have influenced the narratives upon which the student of Hebrew history and religion is dependent, and how far the reigns of David and Solomon altered the face of Hebrew history. The foundation of the united monarchy was the greatest advance in the whole course of the history of the Israelites, and around it have been collected the hopes and fears which a varied experience of monarchical government aroused. Many of the narratives furnish a vivid picture of the life of David with a minuteness of personal detail which has suggested to some that their author was intimately acquainted with the events, and, if not a contemporary, belonged to the succeeding generation, while to others it has seemed more probable that these reflect rather “the plastic mould of popular tradition.” It cannot be doubted that the three types of David, represented by the books of Samuel, of Chronicles, and the superscriptions of the Psalms, are irreconcilable, and that they represent successive developments of the original traditions. That the oldest of these three does not contain earlier attempts to idealize him is unlikely. “Political circumstances naturally led to an ever-increasing appreciation of his person and his work as the unifier of Israel. In the eyes of posterity he became more and more completely the model of an Israelitish king and the natural consequence was that he was idealized. The hope of the regeneration of his dynasty, and, at a later period, of its restoration to the throne—the Messianic expectation—must have worked powerfully in the same direction. And meanwhile the religious convictions of the highest minds in Israel were undergoing a marked change. The conceptions of Yahweh and of the religion which was acceptable to him were constantly being elevated and purified. This could not but have an influence on the current ideas concerning David. He, too, must be remodelled as the conceptions of God were changed.”[29] But what is lost as regards historical material is a distinct gain to the study of the development of Hebrew thought and philosophy of history.

David’s character must be judged partly in the light of the times in which he lived and partly in connexion with the great truths which he represents, truths whose value is not impaired should they prove to be the convictions of later ages. Accordingly, David is not to be condemned for failing to subdue the sensuality which is the chief stain on his character, but should rather be judged by his habitual recognition of a generous standard of conduct, by the undoubted purity and lofty justice of an administration which was never stained by selfish considerations or motives of personal rancour,[30] and finally by the calm courage which enabled him to hold an even and noble course in the face of dangers and treachery. His great sin in the matter of Uriah would have been forgotten but for his repentance: the things at which modern ideas are most offended are not always those that would have given umbrage to early writers. That he did not reform at a stroke all ancient abuses appears particularly in relation to the practice of blood revenge; to put an end to this deep-rooted custom would have been an impossibility. But it is clear from 2 Sam. iii. 28 sqq., xiv. 1-10, that his sympathies were against the barbarous usage. Nor is it just to accuse him of cruelty in his treatment of enemies. As it was impossible to establish a military cordon along the borders of Canaan, it was necessary absolutely to cripple the adjoining tribes. From the lust of conquest for its own sake David appears to have been wholly free.

The generous elevation of David’s character is seen most clearly in those parts of his life where an inferior nature would have been most at fault,—in his conduct towards Saul, in the blameless reputation of himself and his band of outlaws in the wilderness of Judah, in his repentance under the rebuke of Nathan and in his noble bearing on the revolt of Absalom. His touching love for his worthless son is one of the most beautiful descriptions of paternal affection. His unfailing insight into character, and his power of winning men’s hearts and touching their better impulses, appear in innumerable traits (e.g. 2 Sam. xiv. 18-20, iii. 31-37, xxiii. 15-17), and here, as elsewhere, the charm which the life of David has upon its readers is entirely unaffected by technical questions of literary and historical criticism.

To the later generations David was pre-eminently the Psalmist and the founder of the Temple service. The Hebrew titles ascribe to him seventy-three psalms; the Septuagint adds some fifteen more; and later opinion, both Jewish and Christian, claimed for him the authorship of the Growth of tradition. whole Psalter (so the Talmud, Augustine and others). That the tradition of the titles requires careful sifting is no longer doubted, and the results of recent criticism have been to confirm the view that “it is no longer possible to treat the psalms as a record of David’s spiritual life through all the steps of his chequered career” (W. R. Smith, Old Test. in Jew. Church2, p. 224). Nor can it be maintained that the elaborate ritual ascribed to David by the chronicler has any historical value. See further Chronicles, Psalms.

On the other hand, these traditions, however unhistorical in their present form, cannot be pure imagination. The male and female singers (if the reading be correct) whom Sennacherib carried off from Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s time, may well have belonged to an old foundation (A. Jeremias, Alte Test. im Lichte d. Alten Orients2, p. 527), and though David’s skill referred to in Amos vi. 5 may be due to a gloss, it is a Judaean narrative which tells of the invention of music, ascribing it possibly to a Judaean legendary hero (Gen. iv. 21). And although the Levitical organization, as ascribed to David, is manifestly post-exilic, it is at least certain that many of the Levitical families were of southern origin. It is in David’s history that the clans of the south first attained prominence, and some of them are known to have been staunch upholders of a purer worship of Yahweh, or to have been associated with the introduction of religious institutions among the Israelites. (See Levites.)

The difficulty of the historical problems increases when the narratives of David are more closely studied: (a) 2 Sam. iii. 18, xix. 9 show that according to one view David delivered Israel (not Judah) from the Philistines. This is in contradiction to ii. 8 sqq. (from another source), where Saul’s son recovers Israelite territory, but is supported by ix., where Mephibosheth is found at Lo-debar. This historical view has probably left its trace upon the present traditions of Saul, whose defeat by the “Philistines” (here found in the north and not as usual in the south) left Israel in much the same position as when he was anointed king (cf. 1 Sam. xxxi. 7 with xiii. 7). Again (b) the primitive stories of conflicts with “Philistine” giants between Hebron and Jerusalem (2 Sam. v. 17 sqq., xxi. 15 sqq. and xxiii.) find their analogy in Caleb’s overthrow of the sons of Anak (Judg. i. 10; Josh. xv. 14), and in the allusion to the same prehistoric folk in the account of the spies (Num. xiii. 28). From a number of points of evidence there appears to have been a group of traditions of a movement from the south (probably Kadesh, Num. xiii. 26) associated with Caleb, David and the Levites. If the clans of Moses’ kin which moved into Judah bore the ark (Num. x. 29 sqq.; see Kenites), and if Abiathar carried it before David (1 Kings ii. 26), there were traditions of the ark distinct from those which associate it with Joshua and Shiloh (cf. 2 Sam. vii. 6). But the stories of conflicts in a much larger area than the few cities in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem (see above) can scarcely be read with the numerous narratives which recount or imply relations between the young David of Bethlehem and Saul or the Israelites. It is possible, therefore, that one early account of David was that of an entrance into the land of Judah, and that round him have gathered traditions partly individual and partly tribal or national. See further S. A. Cook, Critical Notes on O.T. History, pp. 122 sqq., and art. Jews (History), §§ 6-8.

Literature.—Robertson Smith’s later views subsequent to 1877 (when he wrote the article on David for this Encyclopaedia) were expressed partly in the Old Test. in Jewish Church (1881 and 1892), passim, and partly in the article on the Books of Samuel in the Ency. Brit. (9th ed.); on David’s character see especially his criticism of Renan, Eng. Hist. Rev., 1888, pp. 134 sqq. Mention may be made of Stähelin’s Leben Davids (Basel, 1866), still valuable for the numerous parallels adduced from oriental history; Cheyne’s Aids to Devout Study of Criticism (1892), a criticism of David’s history in its bearing upon religion; Marcel Dieulafoy, David the King (1902), full, but not critical; H. A. White, Hastings’ Dict. art. “David”; Cheyne, Ency. Bib. art. “David”; and (on the romantic element in the narratives) Luther in Ed. Meyer, Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906), pp. 181 sqq.  (W. R. S.; S. A. C.) 

  1. See further the third edition of Schrader’s Keilinschr. u. das Alte Test. pp. 225, 483.
  2. But four in xvii. 13 sqq., and seven in 1 Chron. ii. 13-15.
  3. An armour-bearer was not a full warrior but a sort of page or apprentice-in-arms, whose most warlike function is to kill outright those whom his master has struck down—an office which among the Arabs was often performed by women.
  4. See Samuel. The older history repeatedly indicates that David’s kingship was predicted by a divine oracle, but would hardly lead us to place the prediction so early (1 Sam. xxv. 30; 2 Sam. iii. 9, v. 2).
  5. The LXX omits xviii. 1-6 (to “Philistine”), the first and last clauses of 8, 10-11, the reason given for Saul’s fear in 12, 17-19, the second half of 21. It also modifies 28, and omits the second half of 29 and the whole of 30.
  6. 1 Sam. xix. 9. The parallel narrative, xviii. 10 sqq., is wanting in the Greek, and in the light of subsequent events is improbable. Its aim is to paint Saul’s character as black as possible.
  7. The close of ver. 10 in the Hebrew is corrupt, and the words “(and it came to pass) that night” seem to belong to the next verse (so the Greek). H. P. Smith suggests that the passage originally followed upon xviii. 27.
  8. Wellhausen cites a closely parallel case from Sprenger’s Leben Muhammad, vol. ii. p. 543.
  9. On the meaning of this difficult passage, see the discussions by W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites(2), p. 455 sqq., and Schwally Semit. Kriegsalterthümer, p. 60 sqq.
  10. Interesting parallels in Barhebraeus Chron., ed. Brun and Kirsch, p. 222, and Ewald, Hist. Israel, iii. p. 84.
  11. The cave of Adullam has been traditionally placed (since the 12th century) at Khareitūn, two hours’ journey south of Bethlehem. But the town of Adullam, which has not been identified with any certainty, lay in the low country of Judah (Josh. xv. 35). The “cave” is also spoken of as a “hold” or fortress, and this is everywhere the true reading. The name has been identified with ʽĪd–el-mā (or -miyē) about 12 m. S.W. of Bethlehem.
  12. According to a late Rabbinical story, David, like Bruce of Scotland, was once saved by a spider which spun its web over the cave wherein he was concealed.
  13. The law of the distribution of booty after war enacted by David (xxx. 24 sqq.) is given as a Mosaic precedent in the post-exilic priestly legislation (Num. xxxi. 27). On the importance of this explicit statement, see W. R. Smith, Old Test. in Jewish Church(2), 386 sq.
  14. Bethel (ver. 27) is probably the Bethuel near Ziklag (1 Chron. iv. 30). David’s friendly relations with the Philistines find a parallel in Isaac’s covenant with Abimelech (q.v.). In Ps. xxxiv. the latter name actually appears in place of Achish.
  15. Fundamente israel. u. jüd. Gesch. (1896), pp. 23 sqq.; see also Winckler, Gesch. Isr. i. 24; Keilinschr. u. d. Alte Test.(3), p. 228 sqq.
  16. 1 Chron. xviii. 1 reads “Gath and her dependent villages”; the original reading is a matter for conjecture.
  17. Cf. the idea in 1 Kings xxii. 19-23; Ezek. xiv. 9; contrast 1 Chron. xxi. 1.
  18. This un-Hebraic name, which is not unlike arōn, “ark,” should possibly be corrected to Adonijah (Cheyne, Ency. Bib. s.v.).
  19. David destroyed two-thirds of the Moabites—presumably of their fighting men (2 Sam. viii. 2); Mesha destroys the inhabitants of the captured cities in honour of his god Chemosh.
  20. It finds a parallel in the fate of the heralds of Orchomenus (Frazer, Pausan. v. 135) and in an Arabian story (Ibn Athīr, viii. 360; Nöldeke in Budde, Hand-Commentar, ad loc.); cf. also Ewald, iii. 152.
  21. On the questions raised see the commentaries upon 2 Sam. viii. and x. and the Ency. Biblica, s.vv. “David,” “Merom,” “Zobah.” The main problem is whether the account of David’s rule has been exaggerated, or whether the attempt has been made to throw back to the time of the first king of all Israel later political conditions.
  22. Viz. the present position of 2 Sam. ix.–xx. after the miscellaneous collection of details in v.–viii. See, on the other hand, the view of 1 Kings v. 3, 4.
  23. The present position of this incident, immediately after Absalom’s rebellion was quelled, is almost inconceivable (Winckler, H. P. Smith, B. Luther, Ed. Meyer). See next page.
  24. He was five years of age at the battle of Gilboa (iv. 4), and is now grown up and with a young child (ix. 12). But the narrative loses its point unless David’s kindness “for Jonathan’s sake” comes at an early date soon after he became king, and although the youth is found at Lo-debar (east of the Jordan) under the protection of Machir, the independent fragment in ii. 8 sqq. implies that the Israelites had recovered the position they had lost at the battle of Gilboa.
  25. There is an unmistakable reference to the occurrence in the episode of Shimei, who hovers in the background of Absalom’s revolt with a large body of men at his command (xvi. 7 sqq.).
  26. If Ewald’s brilliant interpretation of an obscure word in 2 Sam. xiii. 32 be correct.
  27. “Israelite” (2 Sam. xvii. 25) is a very unnecessary designation; 1 Chron. ii. 17 would make him an Ishmaelite.
  28. See Hebrew Religion, Messiah, Prophet.
  29. Kuenen, “The Critical Method,” Modern Review, 1880, p. 701 (Gesammelte Abhandlungen, Germ. ed. by Budde, p. 33).
  30. His charges to Solomon in 1 Kings ii. 5-9 do not arise necessarily from motives of revenge; a young and untried sovereign could not afford to continue the clemency which his father was strong enough to extend to dangerous enemies. Apart from this, it is possible that the words have been written to shift from Solomon’s shoulders the bloodshed incurred in establishing his throne.