David As King

It had been a long time coming but finally David was anointed King over Israel. Yet it would appear, from the Biblical account, that he was not exactly the people's choice.

Initially some may have even questioned whether David could be trusted. After all, they may have reasoned, David had been living with the enemy, the Philistines. The ground-swell of suspicion must have grown when they heard that David was given Ziklag, a city of the Philistines. Furthermore David was responsible for securing the Philistine borders in the South from invasion. Also reports of the Philistines boasting about how David and his men had attacked and plundered towns of Judah would have given fuel to the sceptics.

David's loyalty would have been hotly disputed. Support for David would have been at an all-time low when it was reported that he and his men had been seen with the Philistine army just before the battle, which claimed the lives of King Saul and his sons, and the defeat of Israel. Though there were some who claimed that David and his men did not take part in the battle but had been turned away at the last.

Given the circumstances and the reports, one can appreciate the misgivings surrounding David. Could he be trusted? The lack of action by the elders of Israel to embrace David as their King following the death of King Saul, indicates a decisive lack of support for him. It was even more obvious when the elders allowed Ishbosheth, the surviving son of Saul, to establish a kingdom in opposition to David's rule in Hebron. The elders' lack of support clearly indicated that David was not the favourite.

Indeed one could perhaps appreciate the elders' dilemma. After all King Saul had been loved by the people. He was loyal to his subjects. He was not a tyrant. Saul was without doubt the people's king. He wasn't a warlord, but he would fight their battles when required. He even allowed them to take the spoils of war.

More importantly, Saul had prepared his kingdom to continue so that his house would be established and provide kings to reign over Israel for decades, even centuries. The majority of people seemed to have been content under Saul's reign. They were accustomed to his policies for forty years. It may not have been ideal but it was secure. Why change?

For the elders to appoint or even nominate, someone from another tribe could be dangerous. If someone were to be chosen, they may have reasoned, then that someone needed the same experience and expertise as a member of the house of Saul.

This would be the safest and most natural choice for the next king! Why choose a man who was a shepherd turned fugitive, and whose experience majored in bloodshed rather than diplomacy? In light of all this, David could have been perceived as a risk and thus rejected.

In spite of the lack of support, the Scripture declares the testimony of a man who was chosen by God to be king over Israel. That man was David, son of Jesse. He was a man whose heart longed for the Lord to reign through him, and a man whose intentions were to please his King.

Notably, after Saul's death, David asked the Lord through the Urim and Thummim, to which of the cities of the Tribes of Israel he should go. "'Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?' And the LORD said to him, 'Go up.' David said, 'Where shall I go up?' And he said, 'To Hebron.'" (2 Samuel 2:1)

David went, and it was at this time that the house of Judah anointed him king over them, while Abner took Ishbosheth over the Jordan and made him king over Israel. As a result civil war broke out between the house of David and the house of Saul.

David was passionate about pleasing his King and about establishing His Kingdom. Consider David's response when Abner, Ishbosheth's commander-in-chief, was murdered by Joab and Abishai in revenge for their brother's death in battle. David lamented "over Abner and said, 'Should Abner die as a fool dies? Your hands were not bound nor your feet put into fetters; as a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.'" (2 Samuel 3:33-34)

We do not see David seizing the moment and taking advantage, using the situation to make political gain while his enemy was weak. Neither do we see David seeking revenge upon his vulnerable opponent. Instead we find David looking beyond the physical and responding to the circumstances from God's perspective. Abner's death was perpetrated by evil; it was not the action of righteousness.

Notice even at this point, there is no record of the elders of Israel approaching David to be king, which indicates that they were still reluctant.

Then while he was sleeping Ishbosheth was murdered. Any hope of retaining the house of Saul on the throne was dashed. There was no viable option other than to accept David, and so the elders finally approached this shepherd of the house of Judah to be king of Israel.

"Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, 'Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, "You shall shepherd my people Israel, and be ruler over Israel."'

"So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel." (2 Samuel 5:2-3)

News of David's coronation was not well received by the Philistines. They had their suspicions too. A couple of years previously when the Philistines had gathered to battle against Saul and the army of Israel, David and his men showed up indicating that they would fight with the Philistine warlords. But the Philistines turned them away, suspecting that David and his men would turn on the Philistines in the heat of battle. Now, with David as the new king of Israel, they probably felt their decision was justified.

The Philistines, knowing that any change in Israel's administration could badly affect them, had been eagerly watching the two years of internal fighting between the houses of David and Saul. They needed to make sure that whoever was on the throne of Israel would not diminish their rule. And so when David was anointed, they were not favourably impressed.

"Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold." (2 Samuel 5:17) Notice David did not send out a delegation of politicians or ambassadors to negotiate a plausible peace. Nor did he arrange for an exchange of land for peace. Instead he hid – not in fear of his enemy but to seek the face of the Lord, his King.

The Philistines were ready to make their point and so "deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim." (2 Samuel 5:18) According to Josephus this region was located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

David was an amazing man and a humble king. Just as he did when he was a refugee fleeing King Saul, so now as king of Israel he inquired of the Lord. "'Shall I go up against the Philistines?' And if I do, Will you deliver them into my hand? And the LORD said to David, 'Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.'" (2 Samuel 5:19) How the elders and the tribes of Israel must have regretted not having anointed him king sooner!

David went up, defeated the Philistines and rejoiced in the Lord. Strangely enough the Philistines "left their images there . . . " in the Valley of Rephaim.

Perhaps it was an attempt to copy Israel who, during the days of Eli the Judge and High Priest, had lost the Ark of the Covenant in a battle with the Philistines. At that time the Philistines rejoiced, took the Ark and displayed it before their god, Dagon. But they were soon humbled and brought low, because while they had the Ark, the Philistines suffered terribly with plagues and tumours. Devastation and destruction rained upon whichever city and region the Ark of the Covenant was located. And so, leaving their gods in the Valley of Rephaim was an attempt to imitate Israel. Or maybe the Philistines were trying to intimidate Israel by calling upon the power of the giants, after whom the valley was named.

Either way, the Philistines with renewed vigour, " . . . went up again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim." (2 Samuel 5:22)

Here again we see a man, the king of Israel, passionate about pleasing his King, the Lord God. "And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, 'You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. So it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.'" (2 Samuel 5:23-24)

Mark it down as another victory for David, this time as the King of Israel. "And David did so, as the LORD commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer." (v:25)

Initially, he may not have been the favourite among the people, but from this point on David would be honoured as one of Israel's greatest leaders.

David as King – who would have thought the shepherd turned fugitive would be King? And he was God's choice from the beginning!

David's rise to prominence is similar in some respects to the experiences of the Messiah.

Like David, the Messiah was not the people's first choice. As the prophet Isaiah declared, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (53:2)

Like David, the Messiah was despised and rejected. "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised and we did not esteem him." (53:3)

Like David, the Messiah would be rediscovered. As declared by the prophet Zechariah, ". . . then they will look unto me whom they have pierced. . . " (12:10).

Like David, the Messiah will be welcomed back as King. As it is written, "See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!'" (Matthew 23:39)

Just as it is written of David before he was proclaimed King " . . . everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him." (1 Samuel 22:2), so too Messiah Yeshua welcomes all who come. As He said, "Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Notably, Israel benefited under the reign of King Saul with intermittent deliverances from the Philistines. When David was king, however, the Philistine threat was quickly vanquished, and the kingdom flourished.

Similarly today, Israel may benefit with intermittent moments of peace through the leadership of different administrations. But when the Messiah reigns, Israel will live in peace and security and His kingdom of righteousness will prosper.

"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgement and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is his name by which he will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6)