David in the Bible
Who was King David in the Bible?
King David is one of the most prominent figures in the Bible. He is known for his bravery, piety, and leadership and is considered to be one of Israel's greatest kings. David's story begins with his humble beginnings as a shepherd boy, but he quickly rose to prominence when he defeated the giant Goliath with just a sling and a stone. He went on to become a trusted adviser to King Saul, but after Saul's death, David was anointed as the new king of Israel.
David is known for his military conquests, including the capture of Jerusalem, which he made the capital of Israel. He also established a strong central government and made many reforms to help the people of Israel. However, David was not without his flaws. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle. Despite this, David is still revered for his devotion to God and his commitment to the people of Israel.
David is also known for his poetry and music. He wrote many of the Psalms in the Bible, which are still used in worship today. His music was said to be so beautiful that it could soothe King Saul's troubled spirit.
Overall, King David's legacy in the Bible is one of leadership, bravery, and devotion to God. His story inspires many and continues to be studied and admired by scholars and believers alike.
David in the Bible: Top Scriptures
Psalm 23:1-6 - A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
1 Chronicles 18:14 - So David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and equity to all his people.
Ezekiel 34:23 - And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
Psalm 144:1 - Of David. Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle
1 Kings 2:1-4 - David's Instructions to Solomon: When David's time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
Discover more Bible verses about David in this collection of scripture quotes:
Photo credit: acepixure
1 Chronicles 14:17
1 chronicles 18:14, 1 samuel 16:13, 2 chronicles 21:17, 2 samuel 6:14, 2 samuel 18:33, ezekiel 37:24, matthew 1:1, 1 samuel 13:13-14, 2 samuel 19:5-7, 1 chronicles 29:27-30, 2 samuel 5:1-5.
2 Samuel 17:21-29
1 samuel 18:1-10, 1 samuel 20:1-10, 1 chronicles 12:23-40, 2 samuel 10.
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Why do people love David’s story?
- David’s story is exciting . David and Goliath, caves and deserts, beautiful women and palace intrigue, last-minute escapes and pursuits by two kings. It’s exhilarating!
- David’s story is inspiring . David is both a committed believer and a prolific singer-songwriter. He has learned to trust Yahweh in the depths of depression, the extremes of danger, and the heights of jubilation.
- David’s story is human . We watch this flawed man fall very low, find repentance, grace and forgiveness, and is ultimately be restored and redeemed.
- David’s story is manly . Do real men do God? Oh, yes! This great warrior and leader of men integrates faith into his own life and his whole career.
- David’s story is morally challenging . He lives in a world far from our own – with palaces and harems as well as giants and fierce hand-to-hand combat. But underlying the differences are the moral guidelines that keep us steady.
- David’s story is ongoing . He is the ancestor and type of the Messiah, the Son of David and Son of God -- Jesus of Nazareth. To understand Jesus, you need to start with David.
The study contains:
We’re covering 43 chapters in 12 lessons – 1 Samuel 14 to 31, all of 2 Samuel, plus 1 Kings 1-2. As a result, we’ll move more quickly over much of the narrative material, but slow down when it comes to key events and important spiritual lessons.
I hope you'll sign up below and join us when this study begins on September 9, 2012.
Yours in Christ’s service, Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Preface Introduction to the Life of David
- Samuel Anoints David as King (1 Samuel 15-16)
- David and Goliath: Bold Faith (1 Samuel 17)
- Jonathan's Friendship, Saul's Jealousy (1 Samuel 18-20)
- David Flees from Saul (1 Samuel 21-23)
- David Spares the Lord's Anointed (1 Samuel 24-28)
- David Strengthens Himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 29-2 Samuel 1)
- David Becomes King and Conquers Jerusalem (2 Samuel 2-5)
- David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6)
- The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7)
- David's Rise, Fall, and Punishment (2 Samuel 8-12)
- Rape, Murder, and Conspiracy in David’s Family (2 Samuel 13:1-15:13)
- David’s Exile from Jerusalem (15:13-20:26)
- The Legacy of David (2 Samuel 21-1 Kings 2)
- Chronology of David's Life
- Artwork of David the King
- Maps and Charts of the Life of David
- References and Abbreviations
- Reprint Guidelines
- Handouts for Group Participants . If you're using this study with a class or small group, here are some free handouts for each lesson. Includes all the maps and charts.
Here's how we'll study together.
- If you sign up for the daily questions version , on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday you'll receive a question from that week's lesson to think about and answer. This is designed as a "total immersion" approach to Bible study, since I believe God wants to use these lessons to work real and permanent change in your life. (You can opt out of the daily questions if you like, however, and just receive the weekly lessons.) You'll be thinking about these passages constantly over these weeks -- long enough for God to work his Word into your life and lifestyle.
- You can respond to the questions and exercises using the Joyful Heart Bible Study Forum -- and read others' answers to reinforce your own understanding.
- With each lesson you'll receive a link to a 20- to 30-minute audio teaching that sums up the passage you've been studying that week. Some who learn better from hearing than from reading really appreciate this.
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format -- currently 48 books in the JesusWalk Bible Study Series.
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DAVID dā’ vĭd ( דָּוִ֔ד , beloved one ?). The son of Jesse of Bethlehem.
I. The life of David
A. His family . The genealogy of David is given several times in Scripture, the first being in Ruth 4:18-22 . He is a direct descendant of Judah, Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz (the husband of Ruth), Obed (the son of Boaz and Ruth), and Jesse, his father (cf. 1 Chron 2:5-16 ; Matt 1:3-6 ; Luke 3:31-33 ).
B. The days before his kingship
1. The anointing of David. a. God’s choice made known . When God determined to reject Saul as the king of Israel, He sent Samuel with oil to anoint another: one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. When Samuel arrived at Jesse’s home, he had the sons of Jesse brought forward one by one. Samuel favored Eliab, the eldest, but God showed him that he should not look on the outside but in the heart for truly kingly qualities. God passed by seven of the sons of Jesse until only the youngest, David, remained.
David was then keeping the sheep of his father, and Jesse did not consider it important to bring him before Samuel. He was described as ruddy and beautiful of countenance. When Samuel insisted and David was brought before him, God indicated that this was His choice. David was anointed that day, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily. It is not certain that his family understood at that time why he was anointed ( 1 Sam 16:1-13 ).
b. God’s favor shown . In the meantime God’s spirit departed from Saul and an evil spirit from God came and troubled him. On the advice of some to call a harpist to soothe him, one young man in the court recommended David as a cunning player and a mighty man of valor, a man of war and prudent in speech. Saul sent for David, thus giving him an early opportunity to see and know court life.
Jesse sent David with an ass loaded with bread, wine, and a kid. When he arrived before Saul, Saul loved him at first sight and made David his armorbearer. Saul sought and received Jesse’s permission for David to stand before him.
Whenever the evil spirit fell on Saul, David was at hand with his harp to soothe him. He undoubtedly composed many Psalms in this period ( 16:14-23 ).
2. David’s rapid rise and Saul’s jealousy . a. The Goliath victory . When the Philistines gathered to do battle with Israel in the valley of Elah, Goliath, a giant of the Philistines, came out and threatened Israel.
Jesse was by now quite old and his three older sons were fighting with Saul. He sent David to the front to see how his sons were doing. He sent with him corn and bread for the brothers and cheeses for their captain. David went, leaving the sheep with a keeper and found his brothers in the camp.
As he was talking with them, Goliath came out and threatened as before. When David heard Goliath’s boasting, he was indignant. Eliab was disgusted with David for his interest in these matters and accused David of vain curiosity, but David gave his brother no heed. The men in the camp told David that Saul had promised to give his daughter and great riches to the slayer of Goliath.
David’s words of indignation against Goliath reached Saul and Saul sent for him. When David assured Saul he would fight Goliath, Saul listened. David related to Saul how he had cared for the sheep and protected them against a lion and a bear. He gave all the glory to God for his victories over the wild beasts. He confessed that he believed the same God would now deliver him from Goliath. Saul was convinced and sent him out to face the giant.
David rejected the use of Saul’s armor and took those weapons with which he was familiar, his staff, some stones and a sling—the weapons of a shepherd.
When Goliath saw this boy, he ridiculed and threatened him. David, not being afraid, affirmed his faith in God. He knew that God would give him the victory so that all might know that there is a God in Israel and that God’s people might know that God does not save by sword and spear, but by his own strength.
David ran to meet Goliath and killed him with the first stone. He then cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. Israel won the day in battle ( 17:1-51 ).
b. David before Saul . (1) Friendship with Jonathan. David remained in Saul’s court and a great friendship blossomed between him and Saul’s son Jonathan. The two made a covenant and Jonathan sealed it by giving to David his robe, apparel, sword, bow and girdle ( 18:1-4 ).
(2) Popularity brings a negative reaction. David behaved wisely before Saul and the people and was set over all of Saul’s men. This pleased the people, but trouble developed because the women began to praise David more than Saul. Saul became jealous, seeing his throne threatened. He no longer trusted David.
Soon Saul tried to kill David and David fled. Now Saul’s fear of David increased since it was evident that God was with David but no longer with Saul. He demoted David to captain over a thousand men, but still he conducted himself wisely and God was with him. This troubled Saul even more, for now all Israel and Judah loved David ( 18:5-16 ).
(3) Saul’s plot to destroy David. Though Saul offered Merab, his eldest daughter, to David, he did not keep the bargain. She married another. Then Michal, a second daughter, was offered as bait to get David to fight the Philistines. David bargained for her for a dowry of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines. Saul hoped by this that David would be killed in the attempt to get the foreskins.
David not only got the one hundred foreskins, but one hundred more, and Michal was given to him. Saul understandably feared David even more now and was his enemy. Yet David, acting wisely, grew ever more popular ( 18:17-30 ).
Saul also tried to turn Jonathan against David. However, Jonathan warned David to avoid Saul and at the same time tried to persuade his father that David was good to the king. Saul assented for a short time and David was temporarily restored to the court.
As soon as war began again, David’s popularity rose and Saul was again aroused to jealousy. He tried to kill David in his bed while he slept, but Michal helped him escape ( 19:1-17 ).
c. David’s flight from Saul . David first went to Samuel at Ramah, and together they fled to Naioth. When Saul heard he was hiding there, he sent a force to capture him. These men sent by Saul were made helpless when the Spirit of prophecy fell on them by Samuel’s command. Saul, when he came personally to capture David, fell under the same power ( 19:18-23 ).
David now fled from Naioth back to Jonathan. Jonathan found it hard to believe that his father really hated David and promised to find out the truth. The truth was that Saul did hate David. Jonathan himself was nearly killed by his father who was now in a rage.
David and Jonathan then made a pact in which Jonathan expressed assurance that David would one day be king, and David promised to protect Jonathan’s seed forever. Then David fled ( 20:1-42 ). He was now an outlaw and went first to Nob to get help from Ahimelech, the priest. He lied to Ahimelech, not telling the priest that he fled from Saul. He deceived Ahimelech to get aid for himself and those with him. His lie later was fatal to Ahimelech. The priest gave him some of the holy bread and Goliath’s sword, but Doeg, a servant of Saul, saw it all.
David next fled to the king of Gath but when he saw he was not welcome there, he feigned madness and escaped ( 21:1-15 ).
3. David’s life as a fugitive . a. The mustering of a force . David went to the cave of Adullam and his family joined him there. Others in distress also came to David. Soon he had a fighting force of four hundred men. All who came seemed to be of one mind with David in his cause ( 22:1 , 2 ; 1 Chron 12:16 ).
From there David and his men went to Mizpeh of Moab where he left his parents. Gad, the prophet, warned David to leave there and go to Judah, and thus he came to the forest of Hereth ( 1 Sam 22:3-5 ).
b. Saul’s hot pursuit . Meanwhile Saul learned of David’s maneuvers. He complained that his own men did not help him and that they failed to inform him that his own son was working against him. Doeg then volunteered information about the events at Nob. As a result, in his frustration, Saul had all the priests of Nob killed. One son of Ahimelech, Abiathar, escaped with the ephod and joined David ( 22:6-23 ).
During this time, David took the city of Keilah from the Philistines, and Saul, hearing of this, came to Keilah to capture David. David learned from God that the people of Keilah would betray him, so he fled with some six hundred men.
He fled to the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph where he hid in the woods. It was here that he saw Jonathan for the last time.
When the Ziphites offered to help Saul capture David, David moved to Maon in the Arabah south of the desert. Saul pursued and nearly caught David there on a mountain. Just as Saul was about to succeed in capturing David this time, he received word to return and fight off an attack of the Philistines. Understandably David called the place, Sela-hammahlekoth (the rock of escape) ( 23:1-29 ).
Next, David fled to En-gedi. Saul took three thousand men to capture him there. While Saul rested in a cave in which David hid, he was put into David’s hands by God. Though David’s men urged him to kill the king, he refused, respecting God’s anointed. He did cut off Saul’s robe but later even that bothered David’s conscience.
When Saul had left the cave, David showed from a distance how he had spared the king’s life. Saul, under great stress and emotion, seemed to see his own wrong, and even confessed that he believed David would be king. The change, however, was not long-lasting ( 24:1-22 ).
c. David and Abigail . At this time Samuel died and was buried at Ramah, and David went to the wilderness of Paran. There was a citizen of Maon named Nabal who had great possessions. Nabal was rich but also miserly and evil. David asked Nabal for some help for his men in return for the years his men had protected Nabal’s sheep and shepherds. Nabal, instead, ridiculed David which infuriated him. David armed his men and started out to get revenge on Nabal.
Meantime, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, who was both lovely and wise, heard of Nabal’s folly and went to meet David to make peace. She met him and pleaded for mercy urging David not to blot his own good name by shedding innocent blood. She expressed confidence that God would bless David. David reacted favorably to her pleas and spared Nabal and his sons, accepting her gifts. All this time Nabal was drunk and unaware of what had transpired. The next day, when he learned the truth, he was stricken and died. David later married Abigail. About the same time, Saul gave Michal, David’s wife to another man ( 25:1-44 ).
d. The end of the pursuit . The Ziphites continued to aid Saul by reporting David’s whereabouts. Again Saul took some three thousand men and went after David. This time David carefully followed Saul’s progress by means of his own spies.
One evening as Saul slept, David and Abishai went into the camp where he lay. God had caused deep sleep to fall on all the camp. David took Saul’s spear and water jug, though Abishai urged him to kill his enemy. When David had left the camp he called to Saul and chided Abner for not guarding his master. Saul realizing that a second time David had spared his life, seemed convinced that David meant him no ill. He returned home and never pursued David again. However, David, distrusting Saul thoroughly now, fled to the Philistines and dwelt at Gath with the king Achish ( 26:1-27:2 ).
e. David as ally to Philistines . Achish was impressed with David and gave him Ziklag as a home. David, while pretending to be his friend, raided Philistine towns in the neighborhood. He left no survivors to tell tales. He reported dutifully to Achish that he was raiding cities of Judah. In this period many men of Judah and Israel joined David, even some of Saul’s own people, men of Benjamin ( 1 Chron 12:1-17 ).
When the Philistines later prepared to war on Israel, Achish wanted to take David to battle with him but the war lords of the Philistines wisely refused him. David was forced to stay away from this battle providentially, for in it Saul and Jonathan would die ( 1 Sam 28:1 , 2 ; 1 Chron 12:19-22 ).
When David returned to Ziklag he and his men discovered that the city had been raided and their families carried away. Bitterly they followed in pursuit and finally found the Amalekite raiders and destroyed them recapturing their own families. He sent gifts from the spoils to the elders of Judah to gain their favor. In this battle a principle was established by David whereby those who fought and those who guarded the supplies would share alike in the booty. From Ziklag David had learned the value of leaving some men behind to guard ( 1 Sam 30:1-31 ).
4. The death of Saul and Jonathan . a. A word from Samuel . Saul became afraid of the Philistines and perhaps had premonitions of his own death. He no longer had Samuel to consult and so he went to a witch at Endor for some word from Samuel of his own fate. He tricked her into attempting to call forth Samuel’s spirit and surprisingly, to her and Saul, God obliged. Samuel foretold Saul’s death ( 28:3-25 ).
b. The battle with the Philistines . In battle the next day Saul and his sons were killed. Israel fled in confusion, leaving Saul’s body behind. The Philistines, in mockery, hung his body and those of his sons on the wall at Beth-shan. In an act of great devotion, the people of Jabesh-gilead bravely took the bodies from the wall and gave them proper burial. David later showed his appreciation to them for their devotion.
Jonathan’s nurse, on hearing of the defeat, picked up Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and fled, but the boy fell in flight and was permanently lamed ( 31:1-13 ; 2 Sam 4:4 ).
C. The reign of David
1. The years in Hebron. a. News of Saul’s death . While David was at Ziklag, news came from Saul’s camp that Saul was defeated and killed. The newsbearer thought he was bringing good news. He even claimed to have killed Saul whom he had found in pain. He hoped for reward, but his reward was execution. David wanted no friend who despised the Lord’s anointed. The fact that the newsbearer was an Amalekite did not help, of course.
At this time David composed a beautiful lamentation over the memory of Saul and Jonathan. This first example of David’s psalm writing in Scripture is representative of his great inspiration as is seen in the Psalms credited to him ( 2 Sam 1:1-27 ).
b. David anointed by the people . At God’s instruction, David went up to Hebron and there was anointed the king of Judah. He showed his character by honoring the men of Jabesh-gilead for their bravery and asked for their support. About the same time Abner took Saul’s son Ish-bosheth and made him king over the rest of Israel. David remained at Hebron and Ish-bosheth at Mahanaim ( 2:8-10 ).
c. The war between the two houses . Soon a showdown between David and Ish-bosheth was inevitable and the two armies met at Gibeon by the pool. David’s men led by Joab defeated Abner. In this battle Joab’s brother was killed by Abner as he pursued Abner. Joab never forgot this deed ( 2:12-32 ).
From that time Saul’s house weakened and David’s increased in strength. David remained at Hebron seven and one-half years. In all, six sons were born to him there. Three of them, Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah would later play significant roles in his life ( 3:1-5 ; 1 Chron 3:1-4a ).
As Abner came to dominate Saul’s house, Ish-bosheth resented his power and accused him of taking Saul’s concubines, an act tantamount to treason. Abner angrily sold out to David. He sent word to David of his plans to have all Israel subject to David. David agreed to a meeting, providing he could have back Michal, Saul’s daughter, as a wife.
In the meeting, Abner agreed to a covenant that made David king of all Israel. Joab, who had been away at the time, pursued Abner on his return to Mahanaim and treacherously killed him. He had never forgiven Abner for killing his brother in battle. David, innocent of any guilt in this, openly condemned Joab. He lamented publicly for Abner that all Israel might know his own innocence ( 2 Sam 3:6-39 ).
After this, Ish-bosheth was also killed. His head was brought to David for a reward, but those seeking the reward were rewarded as the Amalekite had been—David had them killed ( 4:5-12 ).
d. David firmly established . Now the elders of Israel came and made covenant with David. He was anointed king of all Israel ( 5:1-3 ).
2. David in Jerusalem . a. The capture of the city . To inaugurate his kingship, David desired to capture the city of Jerusalem, a Jebusite city which David had known from the days of shepherding his father’s sheep. He took the stronghold by entering through the tunnels that led out to the spring of Gihon. Those tunnels and the spring are visible today. David increased the size of the city by building up a fill on the steep sides of the hill, called the Millo (from the Heb. מִלֹּא , H4851 , meaning “a fill”) ( 2 Sam 5:6-10 ; 1 Chron 11:4-9 ).
b. David’s wars . In quick succession David conquered Israel’s enemies. First he fought and defeated the Philistines. While the Philistines held Bethlehem, David unconsciously expressed a desire for water from the well there. Three brave men went in to get the water. When David saw their devotion, he poured out the water as an offering to God. Now David was victorious at Baal-perazim, Geba (Gibeon) and Gezer. Finally he took their chief city, Gath.
During this time, Hiram, king of Tyre, undoubtedly saw the wisdom of befriending David and sent him cedars to build his house in Jerusalem ( 2 Sam 5:11 , 12 , 17-25 ; 8:1 ; 21:15-22 ; 1 Chron 11:15-19 ; 12:8-15 ; 14:1 , 2 , 8-17 ; 20:4-8 ).
David next turned to fight the Ammonites when the latter treated his ambassadors disgracefully. The king of Ammon, Hanun, hired the Syrians to fight against David. At Medeba, David beat them soundly ( 10:1-19 ; 1 Chron 19:1-19 ).
c. David’s sin . The next spring, when David should have been in battle against Ammon, he sent Joab and remained at home. While Joab had Rabbah of Ammon under siege David lusted after and finally seduced Bathsheba, the wife of a Hitt. soldier in his ranks named Uriah. She became pregnant.
To cover his sin he sought to have Uriah have intercourse with his own wife, hoping he would think she was pregnant by him, but Uriah proved a loyal soldier and would not sleep with his wife while his brothers fought in battle.
Now David added sin to sin and plotted Uriah’s death. He commanded Joab to put Uriah in the heat of battle and order a retreat, leaving him to the mercy of the Ammonites. When news of Uriah’s death came to David, he took Bathsheba as his wife.
But God did not overlook David’s actions. He sent Nathan the prophet who put the finger of guilt on David. David’s immediate response was confession of his sin (cf. Ps 51 ). Unlike Saul he could see his own faults. Though forgiven, David was told that his own house would display the sins he had sought to cover. Blood and sex would blight his house.
David went out to battle later and won over Rabbah but it was for him a bitter victory ( 2 Sam 12:1-31 ; 1 Chron 20:1 ).
Among the nations captured by David were Syria, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek and Zobah. To crown his great victories, David composed a Psalm of Thanksgiving which is closely related to Psalm 18 ( 2 Sam 8:13-18 ; 11:15-18 ; 1 Chron 18:3-17 ; 2 Sam 22:1-51 ).
d. David’s peace . (1) The moving of the Ark. Peace settled over the land and David began to give attention to other matters. He desired to move the Ark to Jerusalem, for it had remained in Kiriath-jearim since Samuel’s day.
David did not heed the Mosaic law of instruction for moving the Ark, and as a result one of the men moving it was killed by God. After the Ark rested for three months at the home of Obed-edom, David brought it into the city by the proper means. On that day there was a great celebration in Jerusalem and David composed a Psalm of Praise for the occasion.
Rules and appointments were made for the care of the Ark and for the first time proper worship of God in Jerusalem was conducted ( 2 Sam 6:1-7:29 ; 2 Chron 13:1 - 17:27 ).
(2) Plans for a sanctuary. David was not content for the Ark to remain in a tent. He desired to build a permanent structure. However, the Lord would not permit David to do this, and through Nathan told David that not he but his son would build God’s house ( 2 Sam 7:1-29 ).
(3) David keeps his promise to Jonathan. At this time he showed his faithfulness to the memory of his friend Jonathan by allowing the crippled Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, to sit at David’s own table, much as David once had sat at Saul’s table with Jonathan ( 9:1-13 ).
e. David’s family troubles . (1) Amnon and Tamar. From this time David’s sins of the past began to be seen in his own family. One of his sons born at Hebron, Amnon, fell in love with his half-sister, Tamar. He seduced her and afterward cast her off. David knew of this evil but failed to discipline Amnon ( 12:24 , 25 ; 13:1-22 ).
(2) Absalom’s revenge. Absalom, the full brother of Tamar, seeing Amnon go unpunished, plotted revenge. After two years he had Amnon killed. David again displayed weakness, letting Absalom flee, and did not seek to gain his respect. Only after Joab insisted did David call Absalom back to Jerusalem. Even then David refused to see him.
Absalom, a fiery individual, again took matters into his own hand and burned Joab’s fields to get his attention. At Joab’s insistence David finally received Absalom in the court ( 13:23-29 ; 14:1-33 ).
(3) Absalom’s treachery. Absalom in these years had grown to distrust his father and now plotted his overthrow. He told the people how much better he would run the kingdom if he were ruler. It worked to a degree and he was able to sow seeds of rebellion ( 15:1-6 ).
After about four years Absalom was able to get enough of a following to try to take the kingdom for himself. He went to his home town, Hebron, and there was acclaimed king by his followers. Ahithophel, David’s counselor, sided with him ( 15:27-37 ).
(4) David’s flight. When David heard the news he fled Jerusalem with a small following. Ittai and others went with him to show their support, but David would not permit the priest Zadok to bring the Ark. Among David’s supporters was Hushai, a man whom David asked to remain in Jerusalem to attempt to foil the good counsel of Ahithophel.
As they left the city, Shimei, a descendant of Saul, cursed David. David received this as a rebuke from God and did not punish Shimei. Absalom entered the city with Ahithophel at his side.
Ahithophel counseled Absalom wisely to pursue with a few men and attack David while he was weary and discouraged. But Hushai, David’s friend, pretending loyalty to Absalom, counter-advised him to wait until he had mustered a large force. This would, of course, give David time to reorganize and also give the people time to come to David’s aid. Absalom followed Hushai’s advice and sealed his own doom. Hushai sent word to David of all that had transpired ( 15:37-17:29 ).
(5) The fall of Absalom. When the battle was fought, David was not permitted to go. He pled for the troops to spare Absalom’s life, but Absalom was killed by Joab who ignored David’s pleas. When David received news of the victory he was grieved by word of Absalom’s death. Joab, in his brusque manner, rebuked David for his mourning on the day of victory and David smiled before the people through a veil of tears. He was once again restored as king in Jerusalem ( 18:1-19:43 ).
f. Sheba’s rebellion . A short-lived attempt to rebel soon followed. Sheba, a Benjaminite, sought to lead the ten tribes away from David, but it failed. In the battle, Joab killed Amasa whom David had appointed as commander. Joab took command and put down the revolt himself ( 20:1-22 ).
g. Unsettled accounts . In a series of acts David now sought revenge on Saul’s house for the slaying of the Gibeonites during Saul’s life. He killed seven descendants of Saul but spared Mephibosheth. David also had Saul and Jonathan buried in the family sepulcher of Kish, the father of Saul ( 21:1-14 ).
h. The census . For some reason, David took a census of the people at this time. The Bible does not give the reason why it displeased God. God had not ordered it, and apparently the pride of David was involved.
As a consequence of David’s action in this matter, God punished Israel. David was given three choices: either seven years of famine, or three months of war, or three days of pestilence. He chose the latter and still seventy thousand were killed. When it seemed as though the whole city of Jerusalem would be destroyed God stopped the angel of destruction as he stood on the threshing floor of Araunah which overlooked the hill on which the city of Jerusalem was built ( 24:1-25 ; 1 Chron 21:1-30 ).
i. Preparation for the Temple . God sent Gad the prophet to instruct David to acquire the property belonging to Araunah (or Ornan, according to Chronicles). He did so and built an altar there. This would be the future site of Solomon’s Temple.
Before his death David made preparations for the Temple. He gave to Solomon specific instructions, insisting that Solomon strictly abide by the law of Moses ( 1 Chron 22:1-19 ). The various duties in the Temple were preassigned to the Levites. David established the order for the Temple services and appointed chiefs of the tribes to oversee the treasury. He publicly announced to the people that Solomon should be his successor, giving Solomon and the officers specific instructions on how to build the Temple. On a closing day of ceremony, David made prayers of thanksgiving and offered many sacrifices ( 23:1-29:22 a).
j. David’s last days . In David’s last days he was not to be spared trouble. Being very old he was given a young virgin to warm his body.
In these days, Adonijah, a son of David, sought to take over the kingdom. At the foot of the hill in Jerusalem at a well called En-rogel, he tried to have himself made king. He succeeded in getting both Joab and Abiathar the priest to follow him, but Zadok and Nathan would not desert David’s son Solomon.
Nathan and Bathsheba moved quickly and told David of the plot. David immediately ordered Solomon brought to the spring of Gihon, within earshot of En-rogel, and there had him publicly acclaimed king. The plan worked and all those following Adonijah fled, fearing David’s wrath.
David then charged Solomon before his death to be strong and keep the law of God.
After forty years as king: seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem, David died and was buried in Jerusalem, the city of David. Solomon reigned after him ( 1 Kings 1:1-2:11 ; 1 Chron 29:22 b- 30 ).
II. David’s influence on the history of Israel
A. The estimate of David in Israel
1. His high regard among the people. Respect for the good name of David was great after his death. Solomon was careful that he cleared his father from all guilt in the ignominious death of Abner ( 1 Kings 2:32 , 33 ). Solomon further showed his respect for his father in sparing the life of Abiathar though he had taken part in Adonijah’s attempt to usurp the kingdom from Solomon. He spared Abiathar’s life because he had always been faithful to David and had suffered with him ( 2:26 ). Solomon, by the same token, executed Shimei for having ill-treated his father when Absalom was in rebellion ( 2:44-46 ).
The respect for David, however, extended far beyond the person and time of Solomon. Hiram was later kind to Solomon for David’s sake ( 5:1 ). Furthermore, in the days of Josiah, long after, Josiah sought after the God of David ( 2 Chron 34:3 ).
Even David’s enemies respected him. It took the news of his death to embolden Hadad to leave his retreat in Egypt where he had fled from David ( 1 Kings 11:21 ). Later, Jeroboam, after leading a rebellion against David’s grandson, feared greatly that the people would return to David’s house and risked the wrath of God to form a new worship to prevent the people from going to David’s city ( 12:27 ).
2. His high regard in God’s eyes . Similarly, God often expressed his own high regard for his servant David. David, we are told, was hand-picked by the Lord to be over God’s people ( 8:16 ). Thereafter, God was known as the God of David by the people ( 2 Kings 20:5 ; 2 Chron 21:12 ).
The favor God showed to David can be seen in His promise of peace to David’s seed forever ( 1 Kings 2:33 ). This favor of God toward David is expressed in terms both of loving kindness and goodness ( 3:6 ; 8:66 ).
B. The concept of the throne of David and its perpetuity . Solomon was established as the rightful successor to David before David’s death. Soon after his death, the concept of the throne of David was developed and became a permanent part of the covenant involving God’s goodness to His people.
Solomon sat on David’s throne, a gift to Israel from God ( 3:6 ; 5:7 ). He was known for his great discretion and understanding which was indicated early in his reign. He humbly acknowledged that God had raised him up to fulfill His promise to David.
There was, however, much more to the concept of the throne of David than his successor-son. god had established David’s throne forever ( 2:45 ). Solomon, recognizing this, as soon as he was made king, sought for God’s assurance. He desired that God would perform his whole promise to David, that there fail not an heir on the throne ( 8:25 , 26 ).
God clearly honored this promise through all the history of Judah. When it appeared, in the days of Athaliah, that the seed of David might be completely destroyed, David’s spears and shields were used to put his seed (Jehoash) on the throne in spite of Athaliah’s power ( 2 Kings 11:10 ). Jehoash (or Joash) was made king on the basis of God’s promise to David ( 2 Chron 23:3 ).
In the days of Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet ( 2 Kings 19:34 ), God determined to defend Jerusalem for David’s sake.
Nevertheless, the promise of God to bless the throne of David was not unconditionally given. For David’s throne to be blessed, the successors had to walk uprightly as David had done ( 1 Kings 9:5 ). When Solomon failed to walk purely before God as David had walked, God determined to rend the kingdom and leave for David’s seed only Judah ( 11:13 ). Yet, for David’s sake, even this he would not do in Solomon’s day ( 11:12 , 24 ).
Though rent asunder, the throne of David remained a reality and God was determined that David should always have a lamp before God in Jerusalem ( 11:36 ). This promise became a constant reminder of hope to God’s people thereafter ( 15:4 , 5 ; 2 Kings 8:19 ; 2 Chron 21:7 ). Beyond the days of trial gleamed the constant hope that David’s seed would not be afflicted forever ( 1 Kings 11:39 ).
The split-off tribes were, in essence, put under the same conditions for blessings as Judah. The perpetuity of Jeroboam’s throne depended on his doing right as David had done ( 11:38 ). But Jeroboam led the northern tribes away from the worship ordained by Moses and later is pictured as having led a revolt against God’s will ( 2 Chron 13:6-8 ). God clearly disapproved of Jeroboam’s innovations in worship and forewarned, through an unnamed prophet, that a descendant of David would one day destroy the altar Jeroboam had built at Bethel. That seed was to be Josiah ( 1 Kings 13:2 ). This underlines the temporal nature of the throne of Jeroboam in contrast with the eternal nature of David’s throne.
To this day, the concept of the throne of David is alive in the hearts of the Jewish people who still await the birth of David’s son. the Messiah. For Christians, of course, this promise is already fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is David’s Seed forever. (See IV below.)
C. David and the worship in Israel . Nowhere can the influence of David be seen more clearly and felt more strongly than in the worship of God’s people in the Temple that David had planned ( 2 Chron 1:4 ).
1. David and the Temple of Solomon . In a sense, this Temple rightly could be called the Temple that David built. It was his desire to build it and his influence was heavily felt in its construction, as to form and usage.
Although David had desired to build the Temple ( 1 Kings 8:18 ) and God approved that desire, yet He would not permit David to do so ( 5:3 ; 8:18 ). Instead, God told David that Solomon was to build it ( 1 Kings 5:5 ; 2 Chron 6:10 ), and promised to put His name in the house that Solomon was to build ( 1 Kings 8:15 , 24 ). Solomon was conscious of this promise at the dedication of the Temple ( 2 Chron 1:9 ). In the later history of Judah this promise, that God’s name would be in the Temple, was highly regarded by the faithful ( 2 Kings 21:7 ; 2 Chron 33:7 ).
The skills and devotion of David are seen throughout the construction of the Temple. David had dedicated gold, silver, and vessels for the House of God ( 1 Kings 7:51 ) which things Solomon brought in when the Temple was completed ( 2 Chron 5:1 ). For the construction itself, David had already provided skilled workmen ( 2:7 ).
2. David and the worship in the Temple . David is said to have made the musical instruments which were used to praise God and give God thanks ( 7:6 ). He also had written the words of praise for the Temple worship ( 29:30 ), and to him are credited many of the Psalms in the Bible which were used in worship by God’s people. He also ordered the courses for the priests ( 8:14 ).
David’s influence was felt in later years as equally as it had been in the days of Solomon, his son. Jehoiada the priest in the days of Joash, when a brief revival of true worship was observed, appointed officers of the house of the Lord under the hand of the priests even as David had ordered ( 23:18 ). Later, in the greater revival of Hezekiah’s time, the musical instruments for God’s house, which David had ordered, were again ordered by Hezekiah ( 29:25-27 ). Also the words of praise David had prepared for the Temple worship were used by Hezekiah ( 29:30 ). It could be said in Hezekiah’s day that not since the days of Solomon had there been such a worship in Jerusalem ( 30:26 ).
Still later in the last revival of the kingdom of Judah, in Josiah’s day, once again the courses for the house of God and the singers were according to or followed the instructions of David ( 35:4 , 15 ).
Finally, in the Restoration in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah this same respect for David’s influence in worship can be seen. Temple worship was according to the order of David. The musical instruments used were still those specified by David, and the singing followed David’s own teaching ( Ezra 3:10 ; Neh 12:24 , 36 , 45 , 46 ).
D. The effect on Israel of David’s walk before God . David’s walk before God is seen as an example of the integrity God demanded of all the kings of Israel. God, on numerous occasions, declared that David walked before him in integrity of heart. He was upright in all that God commanded, keeping God’s ordinances ( 1 Kings 9:4 ).
God showed great lovingkindness to David for this walk, and made clear that the condition of God’s continued blessing on His covenant with David depended on such conduct in his seed after him ( 2 Chron 7:18 ).
At first, Solomon walked in the statutes of David. But in the long run he failed to live up to David’s standards ( 1 Kings 11:1 ). As a result Solomon caused all Israel to depart from David’s righteous walk ( 11:33 ).
In Israel, after the divided kingdom, Jeroboam was the first of a long list of kings who were described as not being like David, who had kept God’s commandments and followed after God with the whole heart ( 14:8 ). Thus it became the standard of all the kings of Judah and Israel to be judged in the light of the works and heart of David before God ( 15:3 , 11 ; 2 Kings 14:3 ; 16:2 ; 18:3 ; 22:2 ; 1 Chron 17:1 , 2 ; 2 Chron 7:17 , 18 ; 28:1 ; 29:2 ; 34:2 ).
III. David in the prophets
In the following prophets, various expressions are used in connection with David.
1. The house of David. There are ten references to David in Isaiah. The first two are in ch. seven. Here the context is the threat of allied Syria and Israel against Jerusalem. At that time, the seed of David on the throne was the unworthy Ahaz. God’s Word in this time of danger to Jerusalem was addressed to the house of David ( 7:2 ). When Ahaz refused to ask a sign of God as the Lord had commanded, then Isaiah, God’s prophet, ignoring Ahaz, spoke words of hope to the house of David ( 7:13 ). These words were the words foretelling the birth of the Christ by the virgin ( 7:14 ). The only other reference to the house of David occurs in 22:22 , where Eliakim is spoken of as receiving the keys of the house of David on his shoulders. This term is used several times in the historical books of the OT to designate David’s kingdom ( 1 Kings 12:19 , 20 , 26 ; 13:2 ; 14:8 ; 2 Chron 10:16 ; 21:7 ; Neh 12:37 ).
2. The throne of David ( Isa 9:7 ) . This passage, clearly Messianic, predicts the coming of a child who shall be mighty God and rule in peace on the throne of David. He will establish and uphold David’s throne with justice and righteousness forever.
3. The tabernacle of David ( 16:5 ) . Similarly, this passage is Messianic and points to the same kingdom and throne. The future King is described as sitting in the tent of David in truth, seeking justice and doing righteousness.
In all three of the above categories one sees that the use of David’s name so far in Isaiah is in regard to the future blessing on God’s people. David’s characteristics, noted in Kings and Chronicles after his death are here shown to be a type of the more perfect King to come.
4. City of David ( 22:9 ) . When the city of Jerusalem was under siege it was described as the city of David, thus recalling the covenant of God with David. The term “city of David” applied to Jerusalem is of frequent occurrence in Kings and Chronicles ( 1 Kings 3:1 ; 8:1 ; 2 Kings 8:24 ; 9:28 ; 2 Chron 5:2 ; 8:11 ; etc.).
5. The sure mercies of David ( Isa 37:35 ; 55:3 ) . God indicates His mercy on Jerusalem for David’s sake. This provokes the promise from God to defend the city in Hezekiah’s day. Later ( 55:3 ), God spoke of the sure mercies of David as pertaining to His covenant with David and his seed.
6. The God of David ( Isa 38:5 ) . It follows then that long after the time of David, it was comforting to such a descendant of David as good King Hezekiah to have God describe Himself as “the God of David your father.”
1. The throne of David ( Jer 13:13 ; 17:25 ; 22:2 , 4 , 30 ; 29:16 ; 33:17 ; 36:30 ). This is Jeremiah’s favorite term for the successors to David in Jerusalem. It is, in most contexts, simply used to describe the kings who followed David and perpetuated the kingdom. One passage ( 33:17 ) is in the context of a Messianic prophecy which related the throne of David to the promise of God that a seed shall not fail David.
2. The house of David ( 21:12 ) . Jeremiah used the term to address the king on the throne.
3. The righteous Branch of David ( 23:5 ; 33:15 ) . This term as used in Jeremiah clearly refers to the promised seed of David and heir to his throne. It is a Messianic term. The term undoubtedly refers to the ultimate fulfillment of the eternal seed of David, the Christ.
4. David as king ( 30:9 ) . In accord with the above, David is described here as the future king of Israel. Jeremiah thus applies the term “David” to the Messiah Himself.
5. Covenant with David ( 33:21 ) . In the same context mentioned twice above, assurance was given that God would not break His covenant with David, that he would have a seed forever on his throne.
6. Seed of David ( 33:22 , 26 ) . In a way reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham, God spoke of the seed of David as immeasurable and sure of perpetuity as kings over the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
For the most part then, Jeremiah’s use of the name David is for Messianic prophecy, relating the promise of God to David. The ultimate promise of God is to send His Messiah to save all of His people.
C. The other prophets
1. Ezekiel 34:23 ; 37:24 , 25 . Ezekiel always uses the name “David” with the idea of the servant of God in a Messianic and eschatological sense.
2. Hosea ( 3:5 ) . This prophet in referring to King David looks to the future when David will reign as king over God’s people. This also is an eschatological view.
3. Amos ( Amos 6:5 ; 9:11 ) . In the first passage Amos refers to David’s reputation as a musician. In the other, he speaks of the Tabernacle of David to be restored to its former glory. This latter passage came at the end of the prophecy of Amos, in the concluding section of hope for the future. Here a great contrast is seen between the Messianic hope and the contemporary evil of Israel in Amos’ day.
4. Zechariah ( Zech. 12:7 , 8 , 10 , 12 ; 13:1 ) . Zechariah uses the term “house of David” five times in one passage which speaks of the restoration of glory to David’s house in the latter days.
In all these prophets there is a continuation of the concept first seen in the life of David and immediately thereafter, that David’s seed would be the channel of God’s blessings on His people.
IV. David in the New Testament
A. The gospels
1. Jesus the Christ, as heir of David. It is notable that all the gospel writers seek to make clear the relation between the Lord Jesus and David. With great frequency Matthew and the other writers note this relationship by the term “the son of David” which is applied to Jesus. Thereby they show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning the eternal kingdom of David. The great thesis of the gospels is that Jesus fulfills exactly all of the conditions and promises of God’s covenant with David, that a seed should never fail on his throne. Jesus is the seed of David and the eternal King whom God had promised ( Matt 1:1 ; 9:27 ; 12:23 ; Mark 10:48 ; 12:35 ; Luke 18:38 , 39 ; 20:41 ). Both Mark and John indicate that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day fully expected the Christ to be the seed of David ( John 7:42 ; Mark 11:10 ).
When Matthew began his gospel, he felt it important to establish this fact. In great detail he listed the generations of Jesus, showing that he was indeed the direct descendant of David ( Matt 1 ). Joseph was specifically called the son of David ( 1:20 ) and the husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Luke in a similar approach gathers together evidence for the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in the coming of Jesus ( Luke 1:27 , 32 , 69 ; 2:4 ).
2. The city of David . One noticeable difference between the gospels and the OT is the reference to the city of David in the NT. While in the OT this constantly refers to Jerusalem, in the NT it consistently refers to Bethlehem ( Luke 2:4 , 11 ; John 7:42 ).
3. The superiority of Christ over David . Most important however, in the whole matter of the NT concept of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David, is the lesson taught by the Lord to the Pharisees. Jesus taught them that the Christ while properly the son of David and heir of David is, even in the OT, most certainly shown to be above and superior to David. He is indeed the Son of God. All three of the synoptic gospels record this most important lesson ( Matt 22:45 ; Mark 12:35 , 37 ; Luke 20:41 , 44 ).
4. Other references to David . Jesus refers to David in two more contexts. Once he uses an event in David’s life to show the propriety of His disciples plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath ( Matt 12:3 ; etc.). Once he speaks of David as the psalm writer who wrote in the Spirit ( Matt 22:43 ; etc.).
We conclude then that the dominant Davidic theme in the gospels is the complete fulfillment of all God had promised in reference to David and his kingdom in the coming of Jesus Christ.
B. The Acts
1. The superiority of Christ over David. This theme from the gospels (see above) becomes a major theme in the Early Church. Both Peter and Paul demonstrated that the prophecies about David were by no means fulfilled in David himself but only in Jesus Christ. They particularly stressed this in reference to the resurrection ( Acts 2:29 , 34 ; 13:36 ). Paul, furthermore, at Antioch of Pisidia when addressing the Israelites, spoke of David as the king and a man after God’s own heart. However, he taught that only in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection could we know the sure mercies of David which God had promised ( Acts 13:16-34 ).
2. David, an inspired writer of Scripture by the Holy Spirit . In two places Luke makes mention of David as a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Psalms ( Acts 1:16 ; 4:25 ).
3. The Tabernacle of David . James, quoting Amos 9:11 , 12 , which spoke of the Tabernacle of David to be built again relates the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David to the election of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were to have full part in David’s kingdom as Amos had foretold ( Acts 15:16-18 ).
C. The epistles . In the epistles also, Christ is demonstrated as being of the seed of David according to the flesh ( Rom 1:3 ; 2 Tim 2:8 ). In several other passages mention is made of David: one in connection with forgiveness of sins as demonstrated in David’s life and Psalms ( Rom 4:6 ) and another listing David as among the faithful of the OT period ( Heb 11:32 ). Psalms 69 and 95 are specifically ascribed to David ( Rom 11:9 ; Heb 4:7 ).
D. The Revelation
1. Christ called heir of David ( Rev 3:7 ). The inheritance of David is spoken of as the key of David which is described as being in Christ’s hands.
2. Christ called the Root and Offspring of David ( Rev 5:5 ; 22:16 ) . In keeping with the gospels and epistles, the Book of Revelation also clearly teaches that Jesus is the true fulfillment and ultimate application of all God’s promises to David. He is the eternal seed in whom all the promises and hopes pertaining to David’s throne are to be found.
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Fourteen Things You Need to Know About King David
The mighty warrior and sweet singer slew Goliath, stole the throne, and conquered Jerusalem—and that’s just a start!
By Jonathan Kirsch
- David might not have killed Goliath . David is perhaps best known for fighting and killing the giant and Philistine champion Goliath with a slingshot — a suitably awesome feat for the future king of Israel — but the Bible betrays some doubt about who deserves the credit. The Second Book of Samuel states that it was a man named Elhanan, rather than David, who bested the Philistine giant.
- David was a stud . “David” means “beloved” — of both God and humankind, especially women. It was the latter who used to chant (much to the consternation of David’s predecessor King Saul): “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”
- David’s story was so scandalous it had to be censored . David’s life story appears twice in the Bible. The Book of Samuel is the first and unexpurgated version, chock full of sexual and physical violence, passion, scandal, dysfunction, and outrageous moral excess. The Book of Chronicles, composed and added to the Bible at a later date, preserves a willfully censored version that depicts David as a much milder, tamer and more pious figure. Most of the salacious, bloodthirsty and otherwise shocking incidents that we find in Samuel are left out entirely. “See what Chronicles has made of David!” declared the 19 th century Bible scholar Julius Wellhausen .
- His life story might have been written by a woman. Richard Elliott Fried man , the distinguished Bible scholar and author of Who Wrote the Bible? first proposed that the biblical life story was composed by a female author shortly after David’s death. Later, and without crediting Friedman, Harold Bloom famously elaborated, referring to the author as “J” (who also authored part of the Torah): “My J is a Gevurah (‘great lady’) of post-Solomonic court circles, herself of Davidic blood, who began writing her great work in the later years of Solomon…”
- David was the youngest of eight. The Bible has been characterized as a saga that celebrates the failure of the first-born sons and the success of later-born sons: Isaac over Ishmael , Jacob over Esau , Moses over Aaron (and Miriam ), etc. More extreme than these pairs: David was the youngest of seven or eight sons.
- David is mentioned more than 1,000 times in the Bible. David’s name appears a lot — so much that according to at least one Bible scholar, the religion of ancient Israel ought to be called “Davidism” because of the king’s essential role in the history and theology of Judaism.
- You thought Thanksgiving was tense in your house. Nathan’s prophecy proves to be literally true. One of David’s sons rapes his half-sister, Tamar, and David’s male offspring go to war against him in an effort to claim his throne.
- David created history’s first “hit list.” In one of his final acts as King of Israel, David gives his son and heir Solomon a hit list — “a last will and testament worthy of a dying Mafia capo,” says Bible scholar and translator Robert Alter — and the biblical scene may have been the inspiration for the final scene of The Godfather .
- David is the first figure in the Hebrew Bible for whom we have archaeological evidence . Nothing confirms the existence of the patriarchs or the matriarchs , Joseph or Moses or Saul . But the discovery of an inscription on an ancient stone in 1993 seems to confirm that David was, in fact, a flesh and blood figure.
- Jewish tradition says David never died. David’s mortal death is described in the Bible. But by long tradition in both Judaism and Christianity, he will live forever, both in the bloodline of the Messiah as he is imagined in Jewish tradition and the bloodline of Jesus of Nazareth as it is given in the New Testament. That’s why the much-celebrated Jewish song “David, Melech Yisrael,” is actually a messianic celebration of David’s persistence in history. “David, Melech Yisrael, Ch’ai, Ch’ai, Vi’kai-yom” means: “David, King of Israel, is alive today.”
- He was a pop star, then and now . David, the sweet singer of Israel, is the traditional author of the Book of Psalms — a set of 150 poems in the Hebrew Bible. But he’s also the inspiration for well-known contemporary music. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” celebrates “the baffled king” and his sexual adventure with Bathsheba, mother of King Solomon. More than 300 versions of the song have been recorded. In that sense, too, King David “is alive today.”
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- 16 Facts About King David
by Ryan Nelson | Jul 27, 2020 | Bible characters
King David was a shepherd boy who became Israel’s third and most important king. He’s the most frequently mentioned human in the Old Testament , and the second most frequently mentioned human in the entire Bible (only Jesus Christ is mentioned more).
David is a main character in the Old Testament books 1 Samuel , 2 Samuel , 1 Chronicles , and 2 Chronicles . He’s also mentioned in several other books, and nearly half of the Psalms are attributed to him. Today, David is most famous for being the boy who defeated a giant with a slingshot. In fact, the famous narrative of “David and Goliath” has been so prolific in literature, art, and culture that it’s become a common trope for describing other stories about underdogs. But what makes David such a significant biblical figure is his role in establishing God’s earthly headquarters in Jerusalem.
Despite his glaring flaws, the David is described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David was far from perfect, but his faith and zeal made him the standard against which all Israel’s future kings would be measured against.
So who was King David? What do we know about him? In this guide, we’ll cover the basic facts about who he is and what the Bible says about him.
Who was King David?
The Bible gives us a lot of information about King David. Between 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Psalms, and 1 Chronicles, you could practically write his biography! (Don’t worry, it’s been done. Many times.)
Here are some of the things we know about David.
1. David was from the tribe of Judah
The 12 tribes of Israel descended from Jacob’s 12 sons, and with the exception of Levi, each tribe controlled a specific territory within the nation of Israel. Judah was the son who “prevailed over his brothers” (1 Chronicles 5:2), and while Saul—Israel’s first king—was from the tribe of Benjamin, Judah became the tribe of kings.
Judah’s territory included the city of Jerusalem. When David became king, he established Jerusalem as the nation’s capital and God’s headquarters, permanently altering Judah’s importance in Jewish life and culture. David’s line ruled in Jerusalem for about 400 years, until King Nebuchadnezzar captured the city and broke the line of kings.
2. David was Ruth and Boaz’s great grandson
The Book of Ruth is a story of love and redemption. It uses the relationships between a man named Boaz, a woman named Ruth, and her mother-in-law, Naomi, to paint a picture of God’s compassion for Israel.
David is directly descended from Ruth and Boaz. Several passages record his lineage, and they all point out that he was the son of Jesse, who was the son of Obed, who was the son of Boaz and Ruth—making him the great grandson of this significant couple (1 Chronicles 2:12).
Redemption ran in the family. Over the course of his life, David was frequently the vehicle God used to display his compassion and redeem his people. After his death, he became a symbol of God’s unique relationship with Israel and the redemption that was still to come.
3. David was the youngest of seven sons (or he had seven brothers)
After he finished the work of creation, God rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3). As a result, the number seven came to represent completion and perfection in every facet of ancient Jewish culture. We see that in the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurred for seven days on the seventh month. The year of Jubilee—when debts were forgiven and property returned to its original owners, among other things—took place after seven cycles of seven years.
The biblical authors present slightly different representations of David’s immediate family: he was either Jesse’s seventh son, or his eighth (1 Chronicles 2:13–14, 1 Samuel 16:10–11). Scholars debate whether this represents a contradiction or if one of David’s brothers was simply omitted, but that’s not the point. David was not the firstborn son—a privileged position in Judaism—and the authors were intent on working in the number seven, associating David with holiness and God’s perfect plan for his people.
4. David was from Bethlehem
Today, most people associate the little town of Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus. But centuries before Jesus, another savior came from this unassuming town. The Gospel of Luke refers to Bethlehem as “the town of David” (Luke 2:4), because it was well-known that this was David’s old stomping grounds, and it was where Samuel anointed him king of God’s people.
While modern readers tend to focus on Jesus’ birth in a manger, it’s important to consider the implications that this manger was in Bethlehem—a town the Jewish people associated with one of the biggest announcements in their history, where their most important king had his humble beginnings.
5. David was God’s “anointed one”
Most people have heard Jesus described as the messiah. But he wasn’t the only person to hold this title. In the Bible, “anointed one” and “messiah” are synonymous. God’s anointed one was the person he chose to lead and save his people. When the Israelites wanted a human king, the prophet , Samuel, anointed Saul to show that God had set him apart for this special role:
“Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?’ —1 Samuel 10:1
Years later, when Saul disobeyed God, God rejected him as king (1 Samuel 15:26). And it was time for God to choose someone else. So he sent Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem, telling him “I have chosen one of his sons to be king” (1 Samuel 16:1).
Samuel thought he would know whom God had chosen by their appearance, and assumed the oldest, Eliab, was clearly the chosen one:
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’” —1 Samuel 16:6
But God told Samuel that he doesn’t use the same factors as people when it comes to choosing kings:
“‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” —1 Samuel 16:7
Earlier, Samuel had prophesied to Saul, “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). And when Samuel laid eyes upon Jesse’s youngest son, the shepherd, David, the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
When Samuel anointed David, it didn’t instantly make him king, but it did signal that he was the Lord’s chosen one, and “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13).
6. David was a shepherd
Before he was a king, David was a shepherd. This was why he wasn’t with his brothers when Samuel came to anoint the next king (1 Samuel 16:11). And when the Philistines (and Goliath) invaded, David was torn between his duties as Saul’s musician and his responsibilities for tending his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:15).
As a shepherd, David didn’t merely feed and lead his father’s sheep. While a shepherd may seem like an inconsequential position, it was still dangerous. David killed bears and lions alike to defend his father’s sheep. In fact, David cites his experience as a shepherd to convince Saul why he can defeat Goliath:
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” —1 Samuel 17:34–37
In his confrontation with Goliath, David would care for Yahweh’s flock—the people of Israel—and once again defend “his father’s sheep” from harm. This time, the Lord would rescue him from a foe that Saul and his entire army were terrified of (1 Samuel 17:11).
Later, David used his experience as a shepherd to create one of the most powerful portrayals of God’s relationship with his people, foreshadowing “the good shepherd” Jesus (John 10:11):
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” —Psalm 23:1–6
7. David was a musician
Many years before Samuel anointed David and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, Samuel anointed Saul, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul (1 Samuel 10:1–6). When David was anointed, the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and an evil spirit began to torment him (1 Samuel 16:14).
Saul’s servants believed a musician would help soothe Saul whenever the spirit came to torment him. And it just so happened that David was a talented musician. So Saul had him brought in, and made him one of his armor-bearers.
“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” —1 Samuel 16:23
From this point on, David’s duties were divided between watching his father’s sheep and playing music for the king.
8. David was a giant slayer
Perhaps David’s biggest claim to fame was his legendary showdown with the Philistine giant, Goliath. The Israelite and Philistine armies lined up on opposing hills, Goliath taunted the Israelites and challenged them to decide the battle with a duel: him against one of them (1 Samuel 17:8-11).
Nobody wanted to take him up on the offer. But David came to the Israelite camp to play music for Saul, and he heard Goliath’s taunts. He also overheard the Israelites talking about what Saul would give to the person who defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 17:23-27).
Goliath wasn’t just taunting the Israelites. He was defying God himself on God’s own turf. Every day Israel declined Goliath’s challenge, they conceded that their God was no match for the gods of the Philistines. David wasn’t going to let this go on any longer. After convincing Saul to let him challenge Goliath, David chose five stones and went out to meet him.
Goliath mocked him and cursed him. And then David famously replied:
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
David killed Goliath with a single stone, hurled from his sling. He beheaded Goliath and took his weapons as trophies.
The story of David and Goliath has been told so many times through literature and art that David, Goliath, and their confrontation have all become cliched symbols for underdogs, brutal antagonists, and stories of overcoming impossible odds.
But in the Bible, this isn’t an underdog story. It’s a story of faith. David’s faith would become one of his defining characteristics, and it led him to overcome countless enemies after Goliath.
9. David was a great warrior
Defeating Goliath marked the beginning of David’s life as a warrior. Wherever Saul sent David, God went with him, and he was successful. And the more successful David became, the more responsibility Saul gave him:
“Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well.” —1 Samuel 18:5
But then people started to see David as greater than Saul. After the Israelites defeated the Philistines, women danced and sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” —1 Samuel 18:7
Understandably, this made Saul feel threatened by David. As David’s fame as a warrior grew, Saul feared him more and more. This fear led Saul to drive away his greatest asset. He attempted to kill David on multiple occasions, and became his constant enemy.
After Saul died in battle with the Philistines, David warred against Saul’s commander Abner, and Saul’s last son, Ish-Bosheth, whom Abner had made king of Israel.
Eventually, David became king (more on how that happened in a moment), and continued his legacy as a great warrior.
10. David was Israel’s greatest king
Despite being anointed to rule God’s people, David had a long and arduous path to kingship. Even after Saul died in combat, those loyal to him weren’t just going to hand over the kingdom to David. Remember, Saul was anointed, too. And David had been living with and fighting for the Philistines—the Israelites sworn enemies.
When Saul died, the tribe of Judah anointed David as their king (2 Samuel 2:4), but Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king over all Israel. So there were two kings and two kingdoms: Ish-bosheth became the second king of Israel, and David ruled Judah.
Unfortunately for Ish-bosheth, his reign was short-lived. And while he and Abner were at war with David the whole time he was in power, Ish-bosheth didn’t die by David’s hand.
Both Ish-bosheth and Abner were murdered. Abner was murdered out of revenge, and David cursed his killers and mourned his death. Ish-bosheth was murdered by Israelites who seemed to be trying to earn David’s favor. When they came to David with their “good news,” he had them executed for their crime.
With Saul’s family out of the picture, Israel’s elders met with David and anointed him king over all of Israel when he was thirty years old (2 Samuel 5:3-4).
During Saul’s reign, Jerusalem was captured, and the Ark of the Covenant was in Judah. When David became king, he retook the fortress of Zion (which became known as the City of David), conquered Jerusalem, and returned the Ark to the city.
As king of Israel, David won numerous battles and made Israel a formidable nation, expanding its territory and military might, all while pointing his people to God.
11. David committed adultery with Bathsheba
When his armies were out waging war without him, David walked along the roof of his palace and saw a beautiful woman bathing. He sent someone to find out about her, and learned she was married to Uriah the Hittite—one of his best soldiers (2 Samuel 23:39).
Now, this was hundreds of years before Jesus said looking at a woman lustfully was committing adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:27-28), but at this point it was pretty clear to David that this was not a relationship he could pursue. The Torah had a thing or two to say about adultery (Leviticus 18:20, Deuteronomy 5:18, Exodus 20:14), and it was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:22, Leviticus 20:10).
David knew all that, but he sent for her anyways, slept with her, and got her pregnant (2 Samuel 11:4-5). When David learned she was pregnant, he hatched a scheme to hide his sin: since her husband Uriah was away at war, David had him brought back home. If Uriah slept with her, then no one could say he was the one who got her pregnant.
But it didn’t work out that way. After David’s repeated attempts to get Uriah to spend time with his wife, Uriah told him:
“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” —2 Samuel 11:11
So, to hide his sin, David committed another one.
12. David plotted to have Uriah killed
David killed a lot of people in battle. He killed a lot of prisoners after battles. And he executed plenty of criminals. But one killing in particular “displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27). When David couldn’t get Uriah to sleep with his wife Bathsheba (and therefore conceal David’s adultery), he plotted to have Uriah killed in combat.
“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.” —2 Samuel 11:14-17
In order to have Uriah killed in battle, Joab had to sacrifice some of David’s other men, and Joab feared David would be angry for the waste (2 Samuel 11:20). But David was rather indifferent. He told Joab’s messenger:
“Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.” —2 Samuel 11:25
The lives of God’s people were simply collateral damage in David’s effort to cover up his sin.
Once Uriah was dead and Bathsheba had time to mourn him, David married her, and she gave birth to a son.
Later, the prophet Nathan rebuked David for his sin. Nathan told a story about a rich man who stole a prized lamb from a poor man. David condemned the man in the story, unaware that it was a metaphor for what he’d done to Uriah with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-10). Nathan told David that “the Lord has taken away your sin” (2 Samuel 12:13), but he also cursed him, and the son who came from David’s adultery died.
David committed a grave sin. But after his encounter with Nathan, David wrote Psalm 51, which reflects his humility and sincere repentance for what he’d done.
13. David was a man after God’s own heart
Before he anointed David, the prophet Samuel rebuked Saul and warned him “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). David is the only person referred to this way in the Bible. But the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us what Samuel meant by this. It’s possible that he simply meant David cared about the things God cared about. It’s also possible that we learn something of the character of God through the character of David.
In Acts 13:22, Paul appears to give an explanation:
“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”
It appears that Samuel called David “a man after God’s own heart” because of his obedience. But it’s also worth noting: God forbid David from building his temple because he had shed blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). So there seems to be some discrepancy between David and God’s heart.
14. David lived around 1,000 BC
The Bible doesn’t explicitly say when David lived, but many scholars believe he existed around 1,000 BC. A stone inscription known as the Tel Dan Stele dates from the late ninth or early eighth century BC, and it refers to the “House of David.” Another inscription from around 840 BC (the Moab Stele), may refer to David as well. Parts of 1 and 2 Samuel were written as early as the seventh and sixth centuries BC, likely using earlier accounts as sources.
15. David had (at least) eight wives
David had numerous wives and concubines. The Bible names eight wives, but it’s possible he had more. They are:
- Ahinoam of Jezreel
- Abigail (the widow of Nabal of Carmel)
- Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur
- Michal (daughter of Saul)
The Bible doesn’t give a comprehensive list of David’s wives, but 2 Samuel 3:2-5 tells us the names of his sons as well as six of his wives, and he marries Michal (1 Samuel 18:27) and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:27) in other passages.
16. David wrote about half the Book of Psalms
David was a talented musician. But he also put his God-given creativity to work as a songwriter. Throughout the Old Testament narrative, we see David write laments and songs to commemorate important moments and express deep emotions, such as when he learns that Saul and Jonathan died (2 Samuel 1:19-27).
According to the Masoretic Text (based on ancient Jewish tradition), David wrote 73 out of the total 150 Psalms. The Septuagint (an early great translation of the Old Testament) and the Latin Vulgate (a fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible) include additional Psalms, and bring the number attributed to David closer to 85.
While Psalms is often (mistakenly) assumed to be the biggest book of the Bible , David actually didn’t write that much of the Bible in comparison to authors like Moses , Ezra, Luke , Jeremiah, and Paul . They each wrote at least 32,000 words, and the entire book of Psalms is only 30,000!
Here are the 73 Psalms attributed to David, according to Jewish (and Protestant) tradition:
Most of the Psalms David wrote are laments, giving us intimate portraits of his darkest moments. But David also wrote Psalms of praise and thanksgiving, and frequently declared his trust in the Lord in spite of his circumstances.
An imperfect messiah
It’s fitting that David is such a prominent figure in the Old Testament. Because as an imperfect human, anointed by God to save and rule his people, David lays the foundation for Jesus Christ—the only sinless human, whom God would use to save and rule all of humanity.
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Why there’s no such thing as an antiwar film
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The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film
By David Thomson Harper: 448 pages, $35 If you buy books linked on our site, The Times may earn a commission from Bookshop.org , whose fees support independent bookstores.
“I doubt there is any such thing as an antiwar film,” veteran movie critic David Thomson writes in his new survey of war movies, “ The Fatal Alliance .” “In the dark, whatever the official motive or the orders, we go to war for excitement.”
Those are fighting words, but they’re worth debating — especially now, as the headlines demonstrate how badly the antiwar side is doing. So many of the war movies we most admire pay lip service to the notion that war is abominable and to be avoided, but only while delivering the thrill of witnessing combat.
The opening D-day sequence of “ Saving Private Ryan ” and the climactic mad dash of “ 1917 ” are rightly praised for their authentically rendered brutality. But the chaos is typically part of a larger narrative designed to provide reassurance that war delivers victory and a sense of order: The soldier is rescued, the battlefield directive is successfully fulfilled. In that light, those “gritty” and “authentic” war films may be more of a guilty pleasure than any MCU spectacle .
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This paradox is Thomson’s central concern throughout the book, but that doesn’t mean “The Fatal Alliance” is a book-length guilt trip. Thomson deeply admires many entries in the genre — he notes he’s watched “ Black Hawk Down ” six times — and has a keen eye for moments that undermine its more propagandistic conventions. But he’s also persistently, thoughtfully questioning what filmmakers intend, what conversations they’re accidentally stepping into and how we as moviegoers are implicated as war-story consumers.
Thomson is exceedingly well-equipped for the job: Since 1975, he has been publishing and updating his essential “ Biographical Dictionary of Film ,” which is thick with pungent, opinionated surveys of filmmakers and actors. (Its latest edition, the sixth, was published in 2014.) And he’s long been mulling questions of what war movies tell us, or withhold. There’s a fine essay on war movies in his 2012 book, “ The Big Screen ,” for instance, contemplating how they ratify history, obscure the worst carnage and serve as imperfect metaphors “for uncertainty and disorder.”
Thomson’s organizing principle in “The Fatal Alliance” is chronological, starting with films made during and about World War I and ending in the present day. Almost immediately, he notes, Hollywood found a successful formula for the war film: Blend combat and romance. Charlie Chaplin ’s 1918 short “Shoulder Arms” featured a clumsy doughboy rescuing a French girl while on a secret mission; King Vidor’s 1925 epic “ The Big Parade ” braided battle scenes and courtship rituals.
“A genre was established,” Thomson notes, but at a cost. Chaplin’s bumbling humor helped create a “public [that] beheld the disaster with a relative tranquility that we now find hard to grasp or forgive.”
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Thomson does identify movies that unsettle this sense of comfort, such as Stanley Kubrick ’s “Paths of Glory,” a savage critique of the officer class, or Terence Malick ’s “ The Thin Red Line ,” which makes war into an abstraction of fear and uncertainty, or Gillo Pontecorvo ’s “ Battle of Algiers ,” still the standard-bearer for films about anti-colonial resistance since its release in 1966.
Even in those cases, however, war movies more usually represent history as written by the winners. “Countless war films have an imprimatur whereby the outcome of the war is reinforced by the stance of justice we have picked up, allied to a feeling that the institution of cinema stands firm behind the meaning of the story,” Thomson writes. Which is a long way of saying that war movies are, when you come down to it, propaganda.
Though “The Fatal Alliance” has an arc and a central argument, it’s not as user-friendly a genre survey as a moviegoer could hope for. Nobody comes to Thomson for cozy listicles of “top five problematic Vietnam movies.” But his career-long dedication to writing pithy biographical encyclopedia entries means the book seems to leap habitually from film to film without filling out its assertions. No sooner has he called out the subtle provocations of “ The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ” or “ Gallipoli ” than he’s off to visit Private Ryan, the River Kwai and a dozen more less-familiar war stories.
When he slows down, though, “The Fatal Alliance” can be bracing and surprising. The book’s best chapter is a more patient meditation on Mel Gibson, Thomson’s (well, everyone’s) complicated relationship with his work, and how films like “ Braveheart ” and “ Apocalypto ” crystalize the war movie’s contradictions and dangers: “This is Trumpian cinema, and you can feel his contempt for us and shudder at the power it may attain.”
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The deepest trouble with war movies, Thomson suggests, is that they warp how we experience and understand the real thing. What do we miss, or misunderstand, when we look at Gaza or Ukraine through the filters taught to us from war movies, with their easy platitudes about valor and patriotism? What kinds of heroism are we pining for, and does that urge come at the expense of seeing war’s essential chaos plainly?
“The artifice and corruption of the movies has compromised the plain intensity of war,” Thomson writes. “The Fatal Alliance” is unlikely to transform our appetite for the thrill of war movies; let’s hope, at the least, it will make us a little more uncomfortable in our seats.
Athitakis is a writer in Phoenix and the author of “The New Midwest.”
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John Burnside wins the 2023 David Cohen prize for amazing body of work
‘He casts a spell with language of great beauty, power, lyricism and truthfulness’ said judging chair Hermione Lee of the poet and novelist Scroll down to read a selection of John Burnside’s poems
Scottish poet, memoirist and novelist John Burnside, who has published 16 poetry collections including Black Cat Bone, has been named the winner of the 2023 David Cohen prize for literature. The £40,000 prize is awarded biennially to a writer for their entire body of work.
“I have to say that, considering the list of previous winners, being added to such a company is more than a little daunting,” said Burnside. Past winners include Hilary Mantel, Colm Tóibín, Doris Lessing and VS Naipaul.
“At the same time, it’s a reminder that every writer is gifted with a live tradition and that tradition is rooted, not in mere fashions and fads, but in what Eugenio Montale called, with characteristic succinctness, the ‘long patience, conscience and honesty’ of those who precede us.”
Burnside’s 2011 collection Black Cat Bone won both the TS Eliot and the Forward prizes, making him one of only three poets — the others being Ted Hughes and Sean O’Brien — to have won both prizes for a single book.
Burnside’s novels include The Dumb House, The Devil’s Footprints, Glister, and A Summer of Drowning. He has also written several memoirs, including A Lie About My Father and I Put a Spell on You.
Burnside “has been writing every imaginable kind of book – and some unimaginable kinds – for at least 35 years”, said judging chair and biographer Hermione Lee. “He has an amazing literary range, he pours out a cornucopia of beautiful words, and he has won an array of distinguished prizes before this one.
“He casts a spell with language of great beauty, power, lyricism and truthfulness”, Lee added. “There is much sorrow, pain, terror and violence lurking in his work: he is a strong and powerful writer about the dark places of the human mind – but he’s also funny and deeply humane.”
Alongside Lee on the judging panel were the writers Aida Edemariam, Helen Mort, Malachy Tallack and Boyd Tonkin.
Tonkin said that Burnside’s fiction “has an utterly distinctive flavour, timbre and voice that makes it quite unforgettable. In his novels, readers will encounter Burnside in his darkest, and most daring, moods. These stories take us deep into unsettling landscapes, and disturbed mindscapes, rendered with a dreamlike clarity and intensity.”
The winner of the David Cohen prize must nominate an emerging writer whose work they wish to support via the £10,000 Clarissa Luard award. Burnside has chosen Abigail Peters, a young writer currently working on her first book, a coming-of-age memoir set in the fens.
“Having worked for two decades with postgraduate writers, I have had occasion to meet students who show real potential in their craft for some way down the line,” Burnside said. “It is a rare pleasure, however, to encounter someone who is already there , fully defined and confident in their gifts and, at the same time, aware that writing is a lifelong and demanding discipline. In exceptional cases, I am struck with the immediate sense of a writer who is not only alert to the possibilities of narrative and the subtle pitfalls of memory, but is also attentive to the nuances of place and character and speech. Abigail Peters possesses all these gifts and more – and I am fully confident that we will all be reading her work for decades to come.”
after Wilhelm Lehmann
Not that we have a science of forgetting, but some of us are growing more adept at hospice, Tod als Freund and starlight at the far end of the ward where time has stopped, the way it sometimes stops in theatres, when the actors leave the stage.
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Strange, how it seems less story than we once imagined, how the names and dates get lost and what we do recall is incidental: a cracked jug by the bed, October rain,
the white chrysanthemums a friend brought round this morning, fresh, and peppered with the scent of somewhere in the land that brings us home, that brings us home, but never takes us in.
As if from the end times (Homage to David Garnett)
When all the books are gone, there will be nothing to remember but a single porch light at the far end of the road where something live is moving in the snow, a woman, or a fox, it’s hard to say.
Last day of birdsong; salt rain in the trees; the echo of someone going about their business, making good or making hay – you never know for sure, although you know that something here is coming to an end:
last day of weather, lanternlight crossing the yards, last of those stories our kinfolk used to tell of woman into fox, fox into deer, deer into shadow and, always, the silence to come.
Notes towards a Wachterlied
For years we staked our faith on evensong and medieval paintings where the angels, if they chose to speak at all, said nothing that might implicate a god.
Back in the days when everybody slept through winters such as this, our simple dwellings drowsed beneath the snow, a sweet momentum in the far rooms of the house where nothing was remembered or forgotten. Strange, now, to be waking to a world so ill-contrived that nothing ever sings: rain on the skylight, voices in the roof, these pretty seraphs, scorched into the walls, too faint to name, though some of them have wings.
- John Burnside
- Awards and prizes
Book of David
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'Killers of the Flower Moon' writer David Grann returns to Oklahoma ahead of movie's debut
Just a few hours after he walked the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of " Killers of the Flower Moon," author David Grann flew back to the place where history changed his life.
"When I wrote that book ... it took half a decade, and when I finished the book, I really didn't know if anybody would read it. I really did not. I never expected this — never," Grann told hundreds of people who turned out Tuesday to hear him talk about "Killers of the Flower Moon" at a panel discussion at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond .
"I remember my wife taking me aside and saying, 'You know, whatever happens' — I think she was worried about my psyche — 'you did something that you believed in. And that's what matters.'"
Just a few days before cinema legend Martin Scorsese's star-studded adaptation of his 2017 New York Times best-seller makes its Oct. 20 global theatrical debut, Grann, 56, was back in Oklahoma, sharing the stage with Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and contemplating the ways that "Killers of the Flower Moon" has altered the course of his life.
"It certainly has been changed in so many ways. I'll say, though, the deepest way ... is these personal friendships that I have developed with the chief and with so many others. This is a project that kind of went on, and the conversation hasn't ended. I mean, we just keep these conversations going, which, to me, is the most rewarding thing," Grann said during the panel, which also included Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and FBI Special Agent Edward Gray .
What are the differences between David Grann's book and Martin Scorsese's movie 'Killers of the Flower Moon?'
Adapted from Grann's 2017 National Book Award finalist “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI," Scorsese's $200 million fact-based Western saga is the biggest movie ever made in Oklahoma .
"A film and a book are always two different things — and they should be. They are different mediums. But I think they complement each other really well, and they both, I think, arrive at the same deeper truth," Grann told The Oklahoman after Tuesday's panel.
"The movie does a remarkable job."
Filmed in and around the Osage Nation in 2021, Scorsese's almost 3 1/2-hour cinematic epic — like Grann's book — drills down into the dark history of the "Reign of Terror," a sinister series of slayings of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma, after an oil boom made them the wealthiest people in the world per capita .
Between 1920 and 1925, there were more than 60 mysterious or unsolved murders on the northeastern Oklahoma prairie, all connected with Osage Nation citizens who were entitled to a share of the tribe's vast oil riches. Some were shot, some were poisoned, and some were even bombed, eventually leading to an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of the FBI .
"The book is a very sweeping history: It goes all the way back to when the Osage met with Thomas Jefferson in the White House back in the early 1800s, all the way into the present," said Grann, who also gave a lecture, participated in a Q&A and signed books Tuesday during his visit at OC.
"It's told in these three parts: The first part is from the perspective of Mollie Burkhart, this Osage woman who's been systematically targeted, and the second part is told from the bureau's investigation. Then, the third part is told from the present and tries to illuminate how there were many more of these killings that were never resolved — and that there really was this culture of killing, culture of complicity."
Grann said the movie zooms in on the relationship between Mollie (Lily Gladstone, who is NiMíiPuu, or Nez Perce, and Siksikaitsitapi, or Blackfeet ) and her traitorous husband, Ernest Burkhart (Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio ), who gets caught between his love for his wife and the deadly machinations of his greedy uncle, William K. Hale (Oscar winner Robert De Niro).
"(It) is really representational of what took place," Grann said. "In doing that kind of character study and exploring and exhuming that relationship, it's able to illuminate a lot of the larger crimes that took place — and the sins and the greed and the betrayal."
Osage chief says David Grann 'really changed the world'
A staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, Grann's articles and nonfiction books have previously been turned into the movies "The Old Man & the Gun," "Trial by Fire," "The Lost City of Z" and "Dark Crimes."
Although he was impressed when he returned to Oklahoma in 2021 to visit the set of "Killers of the Flower Moon" with his family, the journalist said he doesn't know much about filmmaking.
"I spend most of my time just in archives or interviewing people, and so my hope, always, with these projects is to get it into the hands of people who do know what they're doing. I felt incredibly fortunate that it ended up with perhaps the greatest living film director of our time," Grann said of Scorsese.
"The only thing I really cared about was, when I worked on my book, I spent many, many years developing relationships — speaking with Osage elders, speaking with the chief. My book is a product of those interviews ... and that trust that they shared with me. And I thought it was really important — because a film is going to be its own thing — that they begin to develop those relationships similarly, and that they work so closely with members of the Osage Nation ."
Standing Bear, who has praised Scorsese and his team for partnering with the Osage Nation throughout the making of "Killers of the Flower Moon," was quick to point out that the world wouldn't be eagerly awaiting the film without Grann's devotion to telling the tribe's story.
"None of us would be here without David Grann. That is a fact. He's really changed the world," Standing Bear said. "I've seen the movie four times, and it is deeper and deeper and deeper. But you really need — and I'm not saying this because David's here — to read the book before you watch the movie, because David's book will show you this is a true story. No doubt about it.
"And what Marty Scorsese does, is he personalizes it into relationships: relationships between a man and a woman and the Osage people in the outside world."
'Killers of the Flower Moon' author says he might not be done with Oklahoma
During the almost six years Grann spent working on "Killers of the Flower Moon," Standing Bear said the writer became a part of the community.
"This story is not unknown to us in the Osage (Nation) — we just didn't talk about it," the chief said, thanking the author. "His book has impacted us so much, and the range of emotions are incredible. It's bringing out a lot of new discussion among the Osage on a matter we never talked about before ."
Grann has released other nonfiction books since his best-selling Reign of Terror chronicle, including "The White Darkness," "The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder" and a "Young Readers Edition" of "Killers of the Flower Moon."
A Connecticut native based in New York, he has made many trips to Oklahoma since he started delving into the history of the Reign of Terror. Grann told The Oklahoman he continues to be fascinated by the Sooner State's complicated history.
"Oklahoma is about as rich with stories as any place in the country. I sat on the panel today and was listening to the governor tell stories about his own nation," Grann said, indicating Chickasaw Gov. Anoatubby.
"So, I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself back here in Oklahoma one day working on a new story."
Review: 'The Killer' falls gloriously into the right hands with director David Fincher
Are we lucky? We are, indeed.
In the wrong hands, a gun-for-hire movie can be a compendium of cliches that incites yawns instead of revelatory tremors. But "The Killer," now streaming on Netflix, falls gloriously into the right hands with director David Fincher calling the shots like the true cinema virtuoso he is.
Are we lucky? We are, indeed. It's a pleasure to behold Fincher doing his meticulous thing, putting his laser-focus on an unnamed assassin, played by Michael Fassbender, a mesmerizing actor unequaled at showing an angry flame flickering just under an uber-cool surface.
As written by Fincher's "Seven" collaborator Andrew Kevin Walker, based on French comic books by Luc Jacamon and Alexis "Matz" Nolent, "The Killer" is essential Fincher, not quite up there with "Fight Club" and "Zodiac" but raising hell in ways too satisfying to spoil in a review.
Holed up in an abandoned WeWork building in Paris, the killer trains his sniper rifle on a posh hotel suite just across the street. But he's playing a waiting game, marking time until his target shows up by scarfing McDonald's, practicing yoga and listening to the Smiths (his fave band).
MORE: 'All the Light We Cannot See' review: Audiences deserve better
He's also barking orders at himself in voiceover, reminding himself to keep his blood rate as chilled as a vampire's, ignore empathy at all costs ("It's a weakness") and telling us that if you don't like waiting around, maybe a job as a professional killer (or a film director) is not for you.
It's Fincher's deliciously depraved conceit that his process is not that different from the killer's. You can't watch this movie provocation without thinking of Fincher, the perfectionist behind the camera, the man who put Jesse Eisenberg through nearly a 100 takes to get the first scene of "The Social Network" absolutely right. Mistakes not allowed.
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Yet it's a mistake, a lethal and telling one, that kicks off this movie with the killer actually missing his target. Hodges (Charles Parness), his lawyer handler, offers to have the killer eliminated to placate the client. Hodges even sends two assailants to our boy's hideout in the Dominican Republic, where they beat his lover, Magdala (Sophie Charlotte) nearly to death.
Getting personal is crossing a line. And the killer forgets all his rules to exact revenge. Suddenly, the film has a pulse and the audience catches the heat. So does Fincher, taking the killer on a revenge odyssey, starting with Hodges in New Orleans (watch that nail gun) and moving on to Florida where he takes on the "Brute" (Sala Baker), who bashed Magdala's face into pulp.
It's in New York, where the killer finds the Brute's partner, a woman said to resemble a Q-tip. She's played by the terrific Tilda Swinton and she's a thrilling antagonist. Cornering her at a chic restaurant where she orders a flight of whiskey to steel herself for what's ahead, the killer comes close to meeting his match.
MORE: Review: Colman Domingo wears his role in 'Rustin' like a second skin
Swinton is electrifying in the role, fiercely funny as she distracts the killer with a fable about a hunter pursuing a grizzly bear that ends with a sexual punchline you won't see coming. The laughs extend to the fake names the killer puts on his credit cards, usually vintage sitcom characters like Sam Malone and Felix Unger, names that Gen Zers never recognize.
Swinton and Fassbender spar like the legends they are. You'll want more of them, but the killer needs to make a stop in Chicago to confront the client (Arliss Howard) who started it all. Fireworks follow, but not the kind you're thinking.
"The Killer" is a first for Fincher -- it's the one where he refuses to stick to a plan, letting shards of humanity throw him off his raw and riveting game. Don't expect a sunny redemption. Fincher and his killer share an affinity for loose ends hauntingly left untied. "The Killer" is too machine-tooled to warm your heart, but you can count on its chill to linger and haunt your dreams.
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