Christian Churches of God

No. CB92




King David


(Edition 1.0 20061206-20061206)


Although David was destined to become ruler of all Israel, the death of Saul did not immediately clear the way for the fulfilment of that event. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 96-97 of The Bible Story Volume IV by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.




Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ã 2006 Christian Churches of God, ed. Wade Cox)


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King David


We continue here from the paper David, Nabal and Abigail (No. CB91).


David grieves for Saul and Jonathan

After David and his men had returned from defeating the Amalekites, they stayed in Ziklag. Three days later a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dirt was on his head – a sign of mourning in those times. When he came to David, he bowed his head to the ground to pay respect to David (2Sam. 1:1-2).


"Where did you come from?" David asked.


"I've come from the camp of the Israelites," was the reply.


“What happened?” demanded David. “Tell me how the battle went.”


“Our entire army fled and thousands of men are dead and wounded on the field. Saul and his son Jonathan are among the dead," the man replied.


"How do you know they are dead?" David asked the man (vv. 3-5).


The young man answered, “I was on Mount Gilboa, and saw Saul leaning on his spear, with the enemy chariots and riders closing in on him. When he saw me he called out for me to come to him. Saul asked who I was and I told him that I was an Amalekite. He informed me that he had been wounded, and was in terrible pain. He begged me to kill him before the Philistines could get to him. I did as he asked, and plunged my sword through him because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. So I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and brought them here to my lord” (vv. 6-10).


It was more than enough to send David and the people of Ziklag into a state of mourning. As was the custom then, they tore their clothes, wept and moaned and didn't eat anything until after sundown (vv.11-12).


Then David said to the man who brought the news, “Where are you from?”


“I am an Amalekite,” he replied.


“Why did you kill God’s chosen king?” David asked.


David said to one of his soldiers, "Strike him down!” So he struck the Amalekite down and he died. David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. You yourself confessed that you killed God’s anointed king” (vv.13-16).


Because Saul was the Lord’s anointed David would not kill him and would not allow anyone else to kill him either.  Saul fell on his own spear but according to the story, the Amalekite ended his life. God allowed that to happen because Saul had disobeyed Him over the matter of the death of Agag and the Amalekites (1Sam. 15). Even though the Amalekite said Saul asked him to end his life, he could not be believed, and was killed because he was responsible for the death of a king.


Saul died for rebelling against God and for seeking advice from a woman with a familiar spirit (a medium) instead of inquiring of God. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David  (1Sam. 28:7ff.; 1Chr. 10:13-14).


To express his respect for Israel's ruler and his love for Jonathan, David composed verses through which he lamented the passing of Saul and Jonathan (2Sam. 1:17-27).


In the days that followed, David had to make some important decisions. He realised that he was to succeed Saul as king of Israel, and he looked to God, through Abiathar the priest, to show him what to do. God made it known that he and all his men should move their families from Ziklag to Hebron, the chief city of the tribe of Judah. David obediently made the move with his small army of 600 men from the tribes of Benjamin, Gad, Judah and Manasseh (1Chr. 12:1-22). He was relieved at last to be able to travel freely in Israel without fear of attack.


David becomes King of Judah

As soon as David had made Hebron his headquarters, the leading men of Judah met there to hold a solemn ceremony in which they joined with Abiathar the priest to anoint and proclaim David as the king of their tribe (2Sam. 2:1-4).


When David learned that the men of Jabesh-gilead had rescued the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, he sent messengers with a letter of commendation to the men of that city for what had been done. David was careful not to give the impression that his praise was coming from one who considered himself as the future king of Israel, though he did make it known that he had been made king of the tribe of Judah (vv. 5-7).


War between the houses of David and Saul

Although David was destined to become ruler of all Israel, the death of Saul didn't immediately allow that to happen. Meanwhile, Abner, commander-in-chief of Saul's former army, had taken Ishbosheth, another son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim. Although he had no authority from God to do so, Abner made him king over all Israel. The Philistines hadn't reached that area, and the Israelites there felt a special loyalty to Saul. They would naturally look to his son as his rightful successor.


All the tribes except Judah accepted Ishbosheth, and he assumed the rulership for the next two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. The length of time David was king over Judah, in Hebron, was seven years (vv. 8-11).


Abner and Ishbosheth were far from pleased that David and the tribe of Judah continued to remain apart from Ishbosheth's leadership. Eventually, Abner and the men of Ishbosheth left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon.


Joab, captain of the military forces of Judah, and David’s men, went out to meet them at the pool of Gibeon. Joab and his troops set up a camp across the water from Abner's army. Then Abner shouted across the pool to Joab.


"Instead of just sitting here, why don't we have some of our young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us,” he said.


Joab agreed, so twelve men were chosen from each side to fight in mortal combat (vv. 12-14).


Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into the other’s side. Tragically, all became victims of the cruel and bloody contest as they fell down together (vv. 15-16).


Asahel's deadly race

When the onlookers saw their men go down, the two sides began to fight each other. Joab's men proved to be the superior fighters and defeated Abner and his men (v. 17).


Joab's brothers, Abishai and Asahel, were also in the battle. Asahel, was a very fast runner and he set out after Abner, determined to overtake him.


When Abner looked behind and saw him coming, he called out to him, "Is that you Asahel?"


"Yes, it is,” Asahel called back.


"Go after someone else!” Abner warned.


But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit and kept on coming.


Abner shouted to him again, “Get away from here. I could never face your brother Joab if I have to kill you!”


But he refused to turn away, so Abner thrust his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. Asahel fell there and died on the spot and Abner continued his tiring flight (vv. 18-23).


Joab and Abishai chased Abner, and as the sun was setting they came to the hill of Ammah. When nearby Benjamites heard what was happening, many men of that tribe joined Abner and his scattered troops on a hill being approached by Joab and his men. Thus encouraged, Abner stopped to face Joab and make a plea for peace.


"Why must this killing continue?" Abner called down to Joab. "It will only lead to more misery later on! Now we are prepared with the men of Benjamin to stand against you, but we hope that you'll decide to command your men to cease pursuing their brothers!"


"As surely as God lives," Joab shouted back, "if you had not asked for peace, we would not have stopped chasing you before morning" (vv. 24-27).


Joab blew the trumpet and all the men obeyed. They no longer chased after Israel, nor did they fight any more.


When Abner saw that he wouldn't be troubled again at that time by Joab, he led his men away and walked all that night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan River and continued on until they came to Mahanaim.


Meanwhile, Joab and his men walked all night to return to Hebron by the break of day. They carried the dead Asahel with them, later burying the body in the tomb of Asahel's father in Bethlehem. Including Asahel, Joab lost twenty of his men in the strife with Abner, whereas Abner lost three hundred and sixty soldiers. It was obvious that God wasn't helping Abner in his efforts to promote Ishbosheth as king of all Israel (vv. 28-32).


That was the beginning of a long war between David's forces and those of Ishbosheth. David’s position now grew stronger and stronger while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker (2Sam. 3:1).


Several sons were born to David while he was in Hebron. The oldest was Amnon, born to his wife Ahinoam. His second son, Chilead, was born to Abigail, the former wife of Nabal of Carmel. A third son, Absalom, was born to Maccah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. The fourth was Adonijah, who was born to Haggith. Then Shephatiah was born to Abital, and Ithream was born to Eglah (vv. 2-5).


Meanwhile, Abner took advantage of Ishbosheth's lack of ability as a leader, and worked to try to obtain more power for himself with the people who continued to remain loyal to Saul.


However, Ishbosheth and Abner came to a parting of the ways when Ishbosheth accused Abner of being too intimate with a woman named Rizpah, who was one of Saul’s concubines. On hearing this Abner became furious.


"Do you think that you are speaking to a dog?" Abner shouted as he confronted Saul's son. "If it hadn't been for me, you would long ago have been in David's hands. I have done much to keep you on the throne and the leadership of Israel in the hands of the ones your father would have chosen, and yet you decide to belittle me and ruin my reputation by this accusation!"


Ishbosheth had nothing more to say against Abner because he knew that without Abner he couldn't remain in his questionable position (vv. 6-11). Abner's anger was so great that he sent messengers to David to discuss a deal – he would willingly join David and work to bring all Israel together if it would please David to accept his services.


Abner goes over to David

David was sure that Abner was looking out for his own interests, but he had a certain admiration for the military leader because he seemed an honourable man and had such perseverance. He wasn't aware that Abner was angry because of Ishbosheth's accusation.


"I'll welcome your help on one condition," David wrote in a message back to Abner. "Don't come to join me unless you bring Michal, Saul's daughter and my first wife. Saul took her from me a long time ago, but I still want her back."


At the same time David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, demanding that Michal be returned to him. Ishbosheth ordered some of his men to go and take Michal from Phaltiel, the man to whom Saul had given her after David was forced to flee from his home. Her husband, however, went weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Abner came on the scene in time to order Phaltiel back to his home. So he went (vv.12-16).


It was important to Abner that he should first contact the elders of Israel, reminding them that for a long time they wanted David to be their king.


“Now is the time!” he said. “For the Lord has said, ‘It is David by whom I will save my people from the Philistines and their other enemies.’”


Later, Abner and twenty of his picked soldiers took Michal to Hebron. David was pleased, and perhaps even Michal was happy to be returned to her first husband, especially inasmuch as he was obviously about to become the king of all Israel.


David removed Michal from her husband because she was still lawfully his wife. In a similar way the Church was given to Messiah but was taken by the Adversary (Satan) over time, and had to be restored to Messiah through baptism. We are promised to Christ and will be given to him as king.

Learning to be a king

To show his appreciation to Abner for helping unite Israel, David prepared a feast for him and his men. So Abner had the vengeful satisfaction of ruining Ishbosheth's chances of becoming a leader of Israel.


Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make an agreement with you, and elect you as their king, as you have so long desired.” So David sent Abner away and he went in peace (vv. 17-21).


Downfall of Abner

After Abner left, Joab and some of David's soldiers returned to Hebron after a raid. They were jubilant because they had with them many valuable weapons and much food and other spoils they had taken from the enemy. However, Joab's cheerful mood changed abruptly when he heard that Abner had been to visit David, and had been sent away in peace.


Joab lost no time in going to David. Joab disliked Abner because he had killed one of his brothers in battle, and because he assumed that Abner might replace him as David's captain.


"How could you be friendly to Abner?" Joab asked David. “Why did you let him go? He came to deceive you and to observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”


Joab then left David and sent messengers to overtake Abner and they brought him back. But David did not know it. When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside at the city gate, as though to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed Abner in the stomach and he died (vv. 22-27).


David mourns for Abner

When news of this brazen murder came to David, he was very upset. Immediately he made a public pronouncement that neither he nor his kingdom was in any way guilty of Abner's death. He made it clear that the guilt should be on Joab, and pronounced a curse on Joab and his descendants.


"Terrible diseases, leprosy, boils and running sores will come upon Joab and those who descend from him!" David declared. "They will also be crippled, poor, and the victims of fatal accidents, as God sees fit!" (vv. 28-30).


David said to Joab and all the people gathered there, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and go into deep mourning for Abner.”


David followed Abner's coffin to the burial place in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. There was much loud weeping among the people because of the vengeful assassination.


David fasted a day, though many of his friends tried to persuade him to eat so that he would not feel depressed. He insisted on fasting a full day, and the people admired him for doing it. So the whole nation, both Judah and Israel, understood from David’s actions that he was in no way responsible for Abner’s death.


"They have sent a great man to his death," David said, "but even as a king I don't feel that I should deal with them at this time. I shall leave the matter to God, and He will deal with them according to their sins. God shall be their Judge" (vv. 31-39).


A vicious plot

When Ishbosheth heard that Abner was dead, he and his followers were very troubled. They realised that his future as a leader of northern Israel was very uncertain, inasmuch as success depended so much on Abner. The command of the Israelite troops then fell to two brothers, Baanah and Rechab, each a leader of a raiding band. If Ishbosheth could have guessed what they had in mind for him, he would have been more than just troubled (2Sam. 4:1-3).


One day about noon, when activity was low because of the heat, Baanah and Rechab arrived at Ishbosheth's home. They pretended they were obtaining some wheat from the kitchen, but quickly turned into Ishbosheth's bedroom. The two men stabbed Ishbosheth while he was asleep, cut off his head, and then slipped away with it.


They brought the head to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, son of your enemy Saul, who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given you revenge upon Saul and his entire family” (vv. 5-8).


"This miserable kind of situation came to me at a former time," David said, staring sternly at Rechab and Baanah. "A man came to me at Ziklag to tell me that he was the one who had killed Saul. He expected some kind of reward, just as you two now hope to be rewarded. There wasn't any reason for me to be happy when I learned that Saul was dead. In fact, I was so unhappy that I ordered the man to be executed. Neither am I pleased to see Ishbosheth's head before me. You claim to be his murderers, so you shall be treated as murderers. Murdering an honest man in his sleep can only have one reward."


David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron.


To show respect for Ishbosheth, David decreed that his remains should be buried with appropriate honours in Abner's tomb in Hebron. These acts made it plain to the Israelites that David had a strict regard for justice, a fact that created great respect for him (vv. 9-12).


King of ALL Israel

Over the years leaders in the various tribes had been turning to David and leading many thousands into allegiance to him (1Chr. 12:1-22).


After Ishbosheth was murdered, all the tribes of Israel assembled at Hebron. They reminded David that because all the people of Israel were of the same family, and because David had been a wise and fair leader in the past and the chief under Saul, they wanted to acknowledge him king over all Israel (2Sam. 5:1-3; 1Chr. 12:23-40).


Thus God caused matters to come about in such a manner that, in due time, David was at last anointed king of all the tribes. He was thirty-seven years old when this happened. Probably he would have been greatly encouraged if he could have known that he would be king of Israel for the next thirty-three years (2Sam. 5:4-5; 1Chr. 29:27).


David was made king over all Israel at thirty years of age and he reigned forty years altogether. From the time Samuel anointed him until he was thirty years old, David was in training to become king. In Israel a man had to be thirty years of age in order to become a teacher. For this same reason Christ also did not commence to preach until after he was thirty years of age.


David conquers Jerusalem

The first outstanding act performed by David as king of all the tribes was the moving of an army against the city of Jerusalem. This place was held by the Jebusites, an ancient Canaanite tribe. It was a deep irritation to Israel that a great city in the centre of their country should still be populated by enemies.


When David and his troops arrived at Jerusalem, the leader sent out a sneering messenger to tell David that Jerusalem's walls were being guarded by crippled and blind people because they were strong and capable enough to hold off even Israelite soldiers indefinitely. This was meant to be an insult to David. Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion (2Sam. 5:6).


David told his troops to go up through the water tunnel into the city and destroy those “lame” and “blind” Jebusites. Within a short time Jerusalem was completely taken over by David's army. David took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He became more and more powerful, because the Lord God was with him (vv. 7-10).


Friendly King Hiram

When Hiram, the king of Tyre, heard that the Israelites had taken Jerusalem, he was pleased. As a gift to David, with whom he wished to be friendly, Hiram sent carpenters and masons to Jerusalem to build special living quarters for the king of Israel. He also sent a supply of cedar lumber all the way from the coast (vv. 11-12). David appreciated this gesture of goodwill. His citizens weren't as capable of doing fine construction as were the artisans from Tyre. Israel's many years of trouble had prevented their developing the crafts they needed.


Comfortably situated in Jerusalem, and with his nation constantly becoming stronger and more united, David realised even more fully that God had given him the kingship. He was thankful and humble. He put great emphasis on obeying God's Laws. He didn't let up on reminding the nation of the importance and necessity of obedience to the Creator.


Nevertheless, even David didn't immediately overcome a desire to increase the number of his wives, and concubines. Many more sons and daughters were born to David by his several wives and concubines (vv. 13-16).


David defeats the Philistines

When the Philistines heard that David had been crowned king of Israel, they set out to capture him. Reports then began coming to David that the Philistines intended to do away with him, so he went into the stronghold. The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim.


David was uncertain as to what his battle strategy should be. He had to ask God what to do. When he was told that the Israelites would win if they were to attack the enemy, his usual confidence was restored.


He didn't rush out immediately toward the Philistines just because he knew God could and would help him. He used the good judgment and strategy that God expected of him. So David went out and fought them.


The sudden attack of the Israelites was too much for the Philistines. So many of them were killed by the Israelites that they were utterly defeated. The Philistines abandoned their idols there and David and his men carried them off (vv. 17-21).


But the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim (v. 22). Once more David asked God what to do. God told him not to make a frontal attack but to go behind the Philistines and come out behind the weeping trees (SHD 1057, perhaps mulberry trees (KJV); or perhaps balsam for their weeping habit). He was to wait behind the trees with his men until a strong breeze would come up to rustle the tops of the weeping trees. That was to be the signal for the Israelites to attack.


So David did as the Lord had instructed him, and destroyed the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer (vv. 23-25).


David brings the Ark to Jerusalem

Then David took thirty thousand special troops and led them to Baale of Judah to bring home the Ark of the Covenant. David went to the home of a man named Abinadab that was in Gibeah (2Sam. 6:1-2; 1Chr. 13:5-6). The Ark had been in that home for several decades, where it was watched over by a priest named Eleazar, one of Abinadab's sons (1Sam. 7:1-2).


The Ark was loaded on a new cart that had been built especially for the purpose of transporting it, although that was not the means by which God meant it to be carried. Uzzah and Ahio, two of Abinadab's sons, drove the ox team that pulled the cart. To give an air of celebration to the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem, David's musicians walked before the cart and played their harps, tambourines, cymbals, drums and psalteries. David marched behind the cart, and behind him came the thousands who had accompanied him to obtain the Ark (2Sam. 6:3-5).


Here we see David following the example of the Philistines (see 1Sam. 6:7-8) rather than God’s instructions (Ex. 25:10-16; Num. 4:5-6,15). The Ark should have been carried on the shoulders of the Levites (see 1Chr. 15:13-15). As a consequence, we will see that this action led to tragedy.


As the colourful procession neared Jerusalem, one of the oxen stumbled in a rut. The cart was jerked so severely that it appeared that the Ark might tumble over. Without giving a thought to what the result would be, Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark with one hand. That was the last act of his life (2Sam. 6:6-7). The Ark was to be handled only by the poles that were extended through its rings, and touching it was strictly forbidden (Num. 4:15). God made no exception with Uzzah, even though that man's intentions may not have been consciously wrong. Uzzah should have known the consequences, for the Levites had copies of God's Word. They were required to know what they were doing and to keep the Scriptures always before them (Deut. 17:18-20). See also the paper The Ark of the Covenant (No. 196).


When David saw that Uzzah was dead, he was angry. The happy temperament of the whole procession sank. This was a vivid reminder to David and Israel that those who serve God must obey His instructions. Obviously David was afraid so he decided not to take the Ark any farther. He took it to nearby home of a man named Obededom, who had come from Gath. It remained there for three months and God blessed Obededom and all his household (2Sam. 6:8-11).


When David heard this he decided to go at once to bring it to Jerusalem.


The Philistines were punished with plagues and haemorrhoids when they had the Ark in their possession. However, this household, that obviously obeyed God, was blessed. This shows us that salvation was to be extended to the Gentiles.


Having planned and prepared more carefully this time, David and the High Priest instructed Levites in how to handle the Ark (1Chr. 15:2). They carried it on foot as they should, holding the poles on their shoulders. Musicians and singers went ahead of the Ark, and there was constant music and happy shouting. As before, a great crowd followed. Occasionally the Ark bearers would stop with their load and burnt offerings would be made nearby on temporary altars that had been built along the route into Jerusalem.


As the procession entered the city, David felt happy and thankful and expressed his emotions by dancing before the Lord with all his might. He was wearing priests’ clothing. The crowd was pleased (2Sam. 6:12-15). Probably God was pleased, too, because the Bible says that we should praise the Creator by songs of worship, instrumental music and suitable dancing (Ps. 33:1-3).


Music and singing were part of the worship system of Israel under David. We also know that David himself was a musician and he wrote psalms and he sang.


So the Ark of the Covenant was brought back with much shouting, music and dancing. Everyone was happy, especially King David. But there was one watching from a window that was anything but happy. It was Michal, Saul's daughter, one of David's wives (2Sam. 6:16; 1Chr. 15:29). She hated her husband for what he was doing. She thought it was shameful for David to dance like the common people.


The Ark was brought into the special tent that David had prepared for it. More burnt offerings and peace offerings were made. A great amount of food was distributed to the crowd, including bread, meat and wine. After all had eaten, David pronounced a blessing on them and they returned to their homes (2Sam. 6:17-19).


David was pleased because of the day's events. When it was all over and everyone went home David returned to bless his family. But Michal came out to meet him and said in disgust:


"How glorious the king of Israel looked today! He exposed himself to the girls along the street like a common person."


"I was dancing before the Lord who chose me above your father and his family, and who appointed me as leader of Israel. So I am willing to act like a fool to show my joy in the Lord. I'm sure that those who watched me have more respect for my conduct than God has for yours in accusing me of trying to show off before young women!"


As a result of speaking so unjustly to King David, Michal was never to bear any children (vv. 20-23).


For a more detailed account of the reign of King David and the spiritual analogies involved see the paper Rule of the Kings Part II: David (No. 282B).