For ABC Wednesday, this week in the bible we jump forward to around the 10th century BCE to see one of my favorite characters, David…you know…David and Goliath; David and Bathsheba; King David; the David whose life reads like a Greek tragedy. He is one of the most beloved people in Judaism and Christianity, and perhaps one of the most flawed. Not only was he the second king of Israel, he was also a warrior, musician and poet. He is credited for writing many of the Psalms.
We first read about David as the youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons who tends sheep. King Saul is making colossally foolish decisions and God is planning to replace him. Unknown to Saul, God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel. Saul hears about David’s musical ability with the harp and summons him to soothe his troubled mind after nightmares. Coincidence?
Enter Goliath. A hulk of a warrior from Gath. After teenage David strikes a fatal blow to the giant with nothing but his shepherd’s slingshot and a rock, he’s the talk of the town. With this epic victory, Saul makes him a commander. But as much as Saul likes David, he’s getting suspicious of his popularity. Jealousy prevails and Saul is now on the hunt to kill David, thinking he’s a threat to his crown. While hiding out in towns and caves, David wins the hearts of the locals and amasses a following of his own. But he’s tormented about why he was pulled from his peaceful sheep herding days, anointed by a prophet as the future king, but now finds himself on the run in enemy territory. David comes face to face with some really tough life questions and shares his frustrations, fears and hopes with God. Psalm 142 is certainly the cry of a desperate, depressed man.
Saul is killed in battle and David, at age 30, returns to be crowned King of Judah. All the years on the run forged a humbleness that now turns him into the legendary king we know today. Through those years of turmoil, David now rises like a phoenix. Until….
Enter Bathsheba. Well, she doesn’t really enter…she’s summoned. And when the king summons, you
sum come. As the story goes, David spies her bathing on a rooftop; her husband away fighting for the kingdom. David summons her and…well we all know what happens. A pregnant Bathsheba would be one big, juicy, royal scandal, so David tells her husband to take a break from the war, hoping nature will take its course. When Uriah respectfully declines to leave his men in the lurch, David resorts to Plan B and has him killed in battle. Now he can take Bathsheba as his wife. And while he did dodge the gossip mongers when she began to show, he couldn’t dodge his Lord.
Enter Nathan. Another wild-haired prophet who berates David about his actions until he breaks down. His repentance and confession is recorded in Psalm 51. Nathan delivers the message that, because of David’s actions, there will be rebellion within his house. And rebel they did. But David and Bathsheba go on to have another son, Solomon, who becomes heir to the throne after David.
David rules for 40 years and, despite his flaws, God never abandons him. Disciplines him…absolutely. Abandons him…never. His tumultuous life results in a deep understanding of grace. By trusting in God beyond what could be reasonably accomplished otherwise, David’s life is one of faith, (repeated) repentance and promises fulfilled.
And if you think this is all just a nice story, in 1993 a team of archeologists discovered part of a stone tablet in northern Galilee dating back to around the 9th or 10th century BCE. Its inscription references the “House of David” or “Dynasty of David.” While this does not prove the King David of the bible existed without a shadow of a doubt, we can say with certainty that a king named David established a kingdom in Israel around the 10th century BCE. More archeological evidence shows that during this time, the population doubled in size in the area, with Jerusalem thought to be the center. This growth is documented in Egyptian writings and would have corresponded with the biblical story of David and Solomon’s reigns.
More recently, archeologist Eilat Mazar discovered evidence of fortifications outside the walls of Old Jerusalem. The find could support the idea of a 10 century BCE central government…lending more support for the biblical account of the kingdoms of Solomon and David during this period.
Submitted for ABC Wednesday