Saturday, May 7, 2016
Monarch Profile: King David of Israel
David became best friends with King Saul’s son Jonathan and married King Saul’s daughter Michal but soon his great deeds and popularity made King Saul jealous of him. Saul arranged to have David killed but the young man thwarted or avoided every attempt on his life and fled from the court to lead his own private army, winning further fame and glory much to Saul’s dismay. It was also this period which demonstrates how David is an example in his loyalty to a monarch who not only harsh and unkind to him but actually tried repeatedly to have him killed. David twice had Saul at his mercy and could have easily killed him but refused to do so, despite the urgings of his followers, because to raise his hand against the King, God’s anointed one, would be a sacrilege. He did, however, point this out to Saul, that he could have killed him but chose not to, which caused even King Saul to confess that David was a better man than he, treating Saul with kindness where Saul had treated David with cruelty. Though finally forced to flee to enemy country, David nonetheless remains loyal to his people and King Saul and kills the messenger who tells him of Saul’s death, saying that “a great man has fallen” in the midst of battle. Of course, part of what had been troubling King Saul was the words of the Prophet Samuel telling him that he had lost favor with God and that his crown would pass to David.
Of course, for all of the praise King David receives, we are left in no doubt that he was still a mortal man with mortal weaknesses. As is, perhaps, not too surprising, this man who led armies into fierce, hand-to-hand combat, looked death in the face countless times and even triumphed over a giant that had cowed an entire army, was not strong enough to resist the temptations of a beautiful woman. That woman was Bathsheba, the wife of a soldier named Uriah. King David and Bathsheba have an affair and Bathsheba becomes pregnant by him. In an effort to cover up his misdeed, King David has Uriah recalled from the front immediately, thinking that he will sleep with his wife and later everyone will assume the baby is his. However, in keeping with the custom of the time, as a soldier on active duty, Uriah does not sleep with his wife and so, desperate to avoid being found out as an adulterer, David has him sent to the front to be exposed to the greatest danger and killed in battle. However, this does not go unnoticed, the Prophet Nathan admonishes King David and he ultimately confesses and repents of his misdeeds. His apology is sincere but there was still a price to be paid for his wrongdoing. When a number of horrors befell his children, a son rebelled against him and Saul loyalists in the north rebelled, it was all taken as divine retribution on King David for what he had done.
Because of how beloved King David was, known as the man after God’s own heart, God made a covenant with King David that was unprecedented. Numerous times throughout Biblical accounts, God made covenants with mankind, invariably with provisions that included the person or people doing something for God, such as keeping His commandments, in exchange for which God would grant some divine favor. However, the covenant with King David was the only such agreement God ever made that was unconditional. God promised to King David that he and all his descendants would have a “divine right” to rule over God’s people and that if any of them did wrong, while God would punish them for that, because of how beloved King David was, their divine right would never be taken away from them. Because of this, no other dynasty held such a sacred significance for the Jews as the House of David did. It is why prophecies of the future Messiah would be bound up with associations with the sacred royal line and why even long after the Kingdom of Israel was a distant memory, Christian monarchs in Europe still found it advantageous to trace their genealogy back to King David.