- David Consoles Saul.
- —Biblical Data:
- At the Battle of Gilboa.
- King of All Israel.
- As a Conqueror.
- Death of Absalom.
- Concluding Years.
- —In Rabbinical Literature:
- David Anointed as King.
- David and Goliath.
- David Fleeing Before Saul.
- David's Wars as King.
- David as Ruler.
- David's Piety.
- The Philistines.
- David's Death.
- —In Mohammedan Literature:
- David and Goliath.
- David's Knowledge.
- David as Judge.
- —Critical View:
- David and the Psalter.
- His Historic Importance.
Second King of Israel; according to I Chron. ii. 15, the youngest of the seven sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite; or, according to I Sam. xvi. 10 et seq., xvii. 12, the youngest of eight sons. His adventurous career before he became king was evidently a popular theme in Israel; and so many incidents were woven around his early years that it is now impossible to construct a strictly historic account from the traditions preserved. David kept his father's sheep, and found opportunities to prove himself a dauntless defender of his charges. He was further noted for his poetic and musical talents; and these determined his future. When Saul fell into an incurable melancholy, David was summoned to court to cheer the despondent king by playing upon the harp; and Saul became so fond of the young man that he selected him as his armor-bearer.
During the wars with the Philistines, which occupied most of Saul's reign, David distinguished himself so highly that he attracted the attention of all Israel. Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife; and the king's eldest son, Jonathan, became his intimate friend. David, however soon incurred the anger of the suspicious king, and had to flee in peril of his life. Thereupon the priests of Nob, who had innocently aided the fugitive, had to bear the brunt of the sick king's anger, and all but one —who escaped to David—were executed as traitors. David then placed himself at the head of a band of men daring and desperate. Eager to be of use to his countrymen, he relieved the city Keilah, which was threatened by the Philistines; but when Saul, regarding him as a rebel, advanced against him, David could make a stand only for a very short time.
After various adventures, during which he magnanimously spared the life of the king, David fled into the land of the Philistines, and became a vassal of King Achish of Gath, who assigned to him the city of Ziklag for a residence. He ruled here a year and four months, when the disastrous battle near the mountains of Gilboa ended the life and reign of Saul. These are the bare facts of David's early history, which in the second Book of Samuel are developed into a charming picture.At the Battle of Gilboa.
The unfortunate battle of Gilboa completely changed the situation. Saul and three of his sons lay dead on the field; Israel was prostrate; and the country west of the Jordan was again under Philistine rule. East of the Jordan, in Mahanaim, Abner, Saul's general, founded a small kingdom for Saul's only surviving son, Ishba'al, or Ishbosheth, as the name is changed in Samuel; but this kingdom, too, was probably under Philistine suzerainty. David then determined upon returning to his own country; and after having opened negotiations in Ziklag with the tribes and families of Judea, he had himself anointed at Hebron as tribal King of Judea, without, however, giving up his relations as a vassal of the Philistines. This state of affairs lasted for seven years and six months; and when Abner attempted to conquer David's little kingdom for Saul's son, he was defeated at Gibeon by David's general, Joab. Afterward, owing to aquarrel between them in connection with Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, Abner left Ishba'al and went over to David, but was killed by Joab on pretext of a vendetta. Ishba'al, also, was murdered soon afterward. Since Mephibosheth, a young lame son of Jonathan, was now the only surviving male descendant of Saul, the districts lately ruled over by Ishba'al offered David—as the heir of Saul through his marriage with Michal—the throne made vacant by death; and, after a solemn election, David was anointed at Hebron as King of all Israel.King of All Israel.
The duties of the newly anointed king were marked out for him by the conditions of the country. His first task was to shake off the suzerainty of the Philistines and again make Israel an independent state. This undertaking was brilliantly accomplished by David. In a long series of fierce battles he "smote the Philistines and subdued them," and took Metheg-ammah out of their hands (II Sam. viii. 1), so that they were no longer a menace to Israel. David's next solicitude was to provide another center for his new kingdom; for, aside from the ancient rivalry between Judah and Joseph, the position of Hebron, in the extreme south, made it impossible for David, as King of all Israel, to remain there. He therefore selected Jerusalem for his capital, that city being still in possession of the Canaanite tribe of the Jebusites, and consequently on neutral ground. Notwithstanding its almost impregnable position, he conquered the city, and made it the political as well as the religious center of Israel by transferring to it the old national shrine, the Ark of the Covenant, in a solemn procession with sacrifices, in which he himself figured prominently as a worshiper and celebrant. In memory of its migrations in the wilderness, the Ark was at first placed in a tent. According to II Sam. vii. 1-17, David thought of building a magnificent temple for it at Jerusalem, but was dissuaded by the prophet Nathan.
Concerning David's military and political achievements, there is but meager information: a few isolated facts, however, are known; and the interrelation of these can only be conjectured. David subdued and made tributary to the new Israelitish kingdom the cognate tribes of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, as well as their neighbors on the northern frontier of Israel, the Arameans, who had joined the Ammonites in a war against David and his kingdom. Scanty as is the record of these wars, it indicates that they were not instituted for plunder or conquest; nor can it be proved that David was in a single instance the instigator. The Syrian-Ammonite war, the only conflict of which there is a detailed account, was occasioned by a frivolous provocation, the messengers of David having been wantonly insulted when on an errand of good-will and friendship (II Sam. x.).
David waged his wars vigorously, and did not hesitate to employ stern measures. His punishment of Moab and Edom was especially severe; but his alleged cruelties against the Ammonites rest on a misinterpretation of II Sam. xii. 31.Death of Absalom.
Thus, through David, the people of Israel, who only a generation before had submitted to the insults of the Ammonites (I Sam. xi. 2), became the ruling nation between the Nile and the Euphrates; and it seemed as if their king was to end his days in peace and in the enjoyment of the position he had attained. In the prime of life, however, and at the height of his fame, David sinned; and the inexorable consequences of his transgression plunged him into misery, and threatened even the stability of his kingdom. David's sinful connection with Bath-sheba, whose husband he indirectly assassinated, encouraged his eldest son, Amnon, to deal wickedly with his beautiful stepsister, Tamar; whereupon he was slain by Absalom, her full brother. Absalom had to flee, but was recalled at the intercession of Joab. Stung, however, by the ill-timed severity of his father, Absalom instigated a rebellion in David's former capital, Hebron. David, taken completely by surprise, had to flee across the Jordan; but gaining time through Absalom's fatal delay, he gathered his old, well-tried troops about him, and easily dispersed Absalom's undisciplined bands at Mahanaim. Joab, with his own hand, killed the fleeing Absalom, against the king's express command.
David irritated the Israelites by unwise and onesided negotiations with the Judeans, whose defection had evidently been a heavy blow to him; and this bitterness resulted in a conflict between the Israelites and the Judeans on the return march. This conflict, which took place at the Jordan, became so bitter that the Benjamite Sheba ben Bichri succeeded in urging Israel to a revolt, which Joab, however, immediately quelled. Sheba fled to the city Abel Beth-maachah, on the northern boundary of the kingdom; but the inhabitants seized him, cut off his head, and throw it over the wall to Joab.Concluding Years.
The remaining years of David's life and reign were peaceful. The question of his successor, however, brought up new difficulties. Adonijah, the eldest of David's sons after Absalom's death, was generallyregarded as his heir, and David allowed him to appear officially as crown prince. The ambitious and intriguing Bath-sheba tried to secure the succession for her son Solomon, the youngest of David's children, and David, infirm and completely under Bath-sheba's influence, believed a report—whether true or false—that Adonijah, unable to a wait his father's death, had already proclaimed himself king and had received the oath of allegiance. David, therefore, solemnly presented Solomon to the people as his successor and had him anointed. Soon afterward he died, at the age of seventy, having reigned for seven years and six months at Hebron as tribal King of Judah, and thirty-three years at Jerusalem as the second King of all Israel.
David, the "chosen one of God" (Ab. R. N. xliii.; ed. Schechter, p. 61), belonged to a family that was itself among the elect of Israel. His ancestors were the noblest of the noble, the great men of the most prominent tribe of Israel (Ruth iv. 18-22), and he was a descendant of Miriam, the sister of Moses, although this is not clearly stated in Scripture (Sifre, Num. 78; ed. Friedmann, p. 20b). The judges Ibzan and Othniel were David's relations (B. B. 91a; Sifre, l.c.), and as the "ruler David"(David ha-Melek) continued the honorable traditions of his family, so the "pious David" was the son of a man who died sinless (Shab. 55b). Notwithstanding his piety Jesse's marital life was not untroubled; he intended even to liberate his favorite female slave and marry her, but his wife frustrated this design by disguising herself as the slave, and Jesse unwittingly married her the second time. The result of this union was David, who was passed off as the son of the slave, in order to leave Jesse in his error (Yalḳ., Makiri, ed. Buber, ii. 214; compare also Samuel Laniado's "Kele Yaḳar" to I Sam. xvii.). The supposed son of a slave, David was not educated with Jesse's other sons, but passed his days in the wilderness pasturing sheep (Yalḳ., Makiri, l.c.).
This pastoral life prepared him for the position he was to occupy. He treated the sheep entrusted to his care lovingly and tenderly, wherefore God said: "He understands how to pasture sheep; therefore he shall become the shepherd of My flock Israel" (Midr. Teh. lxxviii. 70; Ex. R. ii. 2; for a similar Arabic legend see Grünbaum, "Neue Beiträge," p. 193). In the lonely desert David also found opportunity to display his extraordinary strength and courage. Thus, in one day he strangled with his hands four lions and three bears that attacked his flock (Baraita of the Thirty-two Rules, iii.; Midr. Sam. xx.). David was once in great danger when he came upon a gigantic reem asleep. Taking it for a high mountain, he tried to climb it; but the animal awakened suddenly, and David found himself lifted high up into the air on its horns. David now vowed to God to build a temple 100 ells high—as high as the horns of the reem—if He would save him from the beast, and God thereupon sent a lion, which, as "king of the animals" (compare Ḳag. 13b), exacted respect even from this gigantic beast, which fell down before the lion, enabling David safely to alight. Then a deer came, which the lion immediately pursued, so that David escaped both from the reem and the lion (Midr. Teh. xxii. 22). David's pastoral life ended in his twenty-eighth year, when Samuel anointed him king (Yalḳ., Makiri, l.c.; compare also Seder 'Olam R. xiii.).David Anointed as King.
The prophet thought at first that Eliab, David's eldest brother, was destined by God to be king, but it was indicated to him by means of the holy oil that David was the chosen one. When Samuel attempted to pour oil from the vessel upon each of David's brothers in succession, the oil remained in the vessel; but when David's turn came it flowed freely of itself; the drops that fell on his garments changed immediately into diamonds and pearls; and when the anointing was finished the horn was as full as before. David's mother now came and revealed the secret that had been kept for so many years, and his father and brothers learned that he was not the son of a slave (Yalḳ., Makiri, l.c.; Yalḳ. ii. 124 contains only a part of this legend; also Ephraem Syrus in his commentary to I Sam. xvi. 13, ed. Benedictini, p. 365; compare Ginzberg, "Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern," i. 27, 28). Although the anointing was kept secret, its effects became evident in David's remarkable spiritual development, for he received even the gift of prophecy (Josephus, "Ant." vi. 8, § 2; Sanh. 93b). He thereby excited the envy of many, especially of Doeg, who tried to prevent King Saul from calling David to his court (Sanh. l.c.; compare Doeg in Rab. Lit.). Saul became acquainted with David while the latter was still a boy, and grew attached to him, especially because of the cleverness he displayed on the following occasion: A woman who had to leave her home, and was unable to take her money with her, hid the gold pieces in barrels of honey, which she left in the care of a friend. The latter discovered the money, took it, and restored to the woman on her return only the honey. The woman brought the case before Saul, but as she could not prove her assertion the case was dismissed. When David, who was then a little boy playing before the king's house, heard the story, he undertook to convict the thief. At his suggestion the king commanded the barrels of honey to be broken, and two coins which the thief had not noticed were then found on the bottom, the theft being in this way proved (Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 150, 151, and in various "ma'aseh" collections).David and Goliath.
David could enjoy the peace of court life only for a short time, as Goliath's appearance forced Saul into war. The sick king gladly accepted David's offer to march in his place against the blasphemous heathen (compare Goliath in Rab. Lit.), and when little David put on the great Saul's armor and found it to fit him perfectly, Saul recognized that David was intended for a higher mission. This change in David was due to the "holy oil" with which he was anointed; hence Saul became jealous of him, and David refused for this reason to go to battle in the king's armor (Tan., ed. Buber, iii. 84). Five stones came of themselves to David (Midr. Sam. xxi.), and when he touched them they changed into one stone (Zohar, Deut. 272). With them he intended to slayGoliath, for they symbolized God, the "three fathers" of Israel, and Aaron, whose descendants Hophni and Phineas had been killed shortly before by Goliath (Midr. Sam. l.c.; the Midrash quoted by Ḳimḥi to I Sam. xvii. 40 is somewhat different). As soon as David glanced at the giant the latter was struck with leprosy and rooted to the ground so that he could not move ("Ẓara'at"; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, p. 175; see also Zohar, Num. p. 206, and parallel passages quoted by Buber). When David called out to Goliath "I shall give your flesh to the birds of heaven," Goliath looked up at the word "birds," the movement displacing his head-dress; and at the same moment the stone flung by David struck the giant's exposed forehead (Midrash quoted by ḳimḥi ad loc.; differently in Midr. Teh. lxxviii.). As Goliath was armed cap-a-pie, David was at a loss how to cut off his head. Uriah offered to help David if the latter would give him a Jewess for wife, and when David consented Uriah showed him how the ends of the bands that held the armor together were joined across the soles of Goliath's feet. David gave Bath-sheba to the Philistine, and she became later a source of much trouble to him, because he had had so little regard for the dignity of a Jewess (Midr. quoted by Alshech to I Sam. xvii. 50, and by Samuel Laniado to II Sam. xii.). David's victory over Goliath increased Saul's jealousy, who closely inquired into David's origin through his general Abner, in order to find out whether he really was a descendant of Pharez, for in that case Saul feared to see in David the future king. David's old enemy Doeg tried to prove that David being a descendant of the Moabitess Ruth, could not be regarded as a legitimate member of the Jewish community; the prophet Samuel, however, decided that the Biblical interdiction (Deut. xxiii. 3, 4) referred only to the men and not to the women of that people (Midr. Sam. xxii.; Ruth R. iv, 4; somewhat differently Yeb. 76b, 77a, and Ephraem Syrus, l.c. 379; compare Ginzberg, l.c. pp. 32, 33).David Fleeing Before Saul.
David did not remain long with Saul, being obliged to flee from him shortly after Goliath's death. God did not abandon him, however, and not only saved him from his enemies, but also instructed him how to rule the world justly and wisely. Thus, David once had an opportunity to find out that even lunacy, which he thought served no purpose, had its place in the plan of the universe, for he owed it to his fictitious madness that he was not slain by Goliath's brothers, who formed the body-guard of King Achish (see Achish in Rab. Lit.; Midr. Teh. xxxiv. 1; Yalḳ. ii. 131, with variants; Second Alphabet of Ben Sira, ed. Venice, p. 24). He was compelled to change his mean opinion of the spider in his flight before Saul, when he was hiding in a cave, and his pursuers, seeing a spider's web across the front of the cave, thought it useless to enter; for God had commanded the spider at that moment to give a proof of its usefulness (Ben Sira, l.c.; partly in Targ. to Ps. lvii. 3; compare Levy, "Chal. Wörterb." i. 48). David had a wonderful, and at the same time instructive, escape when he seized the water-flask of Abner (see I Sam. xxvi. 7), and found himself caught between the legs of this giant as between two pillars; for a wasp stung Abner, who mechanically moved his feet, releasing David, who now recognized that even an apparently noxious insect can sometimes render service to man (Ben Sira, l.c.). Other miracles that David experienced in his flight before Saul were: the appearance of the angel informing Saul, who was about to seize David, that the Philistines were coming into the country (I Sam. xxiii. 26), whereupon Saul was obliged to give up the pursuit (Midr. Teh. xviii.); and the heavenly aid sent to David on his expedition against the Amalekites (I Sam. xxx. 17 et seq.), when the night was illuminated by lightning, thus enabling David to end the battle speedily (Lev. R. xxx. 3; Midr. Sam. xviii.).David's Wars as King.
David's first thought on coming to the throne was to capture the ancient holy city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites. He did not fear the power of these heathen, but he did fear the covenant Abraham had made with their ancestors, the words of which were engraved on bronze figures (Pirḳe R. El. xxxvi.; compare Jebusites in Rab. Lit.). The city was furthermore surrounded by a high wall, and David could enter only after the wall had miraculously lowered itself (Midr. Teh. xviii.; compare Joab in Rab. Lit.). Although the Jebusites could not appeal to the promise given to them by Abraham, because they had attacked the Jews in the time of Joshua, yet David would not seize the holy city without indemnifying them for it (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.). After the capture of Jerusalem David marched against the Philistines in the valley of Rephaim (II Sam. v. 22 et seq.), and God commanded him to attack his enemy only after seeing the tree-tops bend, for God would judge the guardian angel of the heathen before giving the latter into the hands of the pious, and David was notified by the movement of the tree-tops (pseudo-Jerome commentary on II Sam. v. 24; compare Ginzberg, l.c. p. 125). On this occasion the pious king showed his great confidence in God, for there were only four ells between the two armies, and David had to use his utmost authority to make his followers refrain from battle, declaring that he would rather succumb in obeying God than conquer and be disobedient. He had hardly uttered these words when the tree-tops began to move, and he attacked the Philistines victoriously; whereupon God said to the angels: "Behold the great difference between him and Saul!" (compare I Sam. xiv. 19; Midr. Teh. xxvii.). The Philistines thought that David would not war against them, because they possessed a pledge—namely, the bridle of a charger that Isaac had given to Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, as a covenant (Pirḳe R. El. xxxvi.)—and the Arameans thought the same, as they possessed the "maẓẓebot" which Jacob and Laban had erected as covenants. The Sanhedrin, to whom David applied, decided that he was not obliged to keep the covenants of the fathers with the heathen, because the Philistines of David's time were not the descendants of the ancient inhabitants of the country, but a new people that had come from Caphtor (see Amos ix. 7); and the Arameans had lost all right to the covenantbetween Laban and Jacob on account of their attacks on Israel at the time of Moses and Joshua (Midr. Teh. lx.; Pirḳe R. El. l.c.).David as Ruler.
David was not only a warrior, but also a wise and energetic ruler. Shortly after his accession he appointed not less than 90,000 officials, but he made the mistake of omitting the wise Ahithophel, for which both paid dearly later, as it was principally David's curse that brought about Ahithophel's tragic end (Yer. Sanh. x. 29a, end; abbreviated in Suk. 52b, 53a; compare Ahithophel in Rabbinical Literature; Psalms). Although he was king, he yet modestly asked counsel of his teachers Ira of Jair (M. Ḳ. 16b) and Mephiboshet regarding his decisions in ritual questions (Ber. 4a). He devoted so much time to the study of the Torah and to prayer that he was satisfied with "sixty breaths of sleep" (Suk. 26b). As soon as midnight had come the strings of his harp, made from the entrails of the ram that Abraham had sacrificed on Mount Moriah in place of Isaac, vibrated, and at the sound the king awakened and began to study the Torah (Ber. 3b; Yer. ib. i. 2d; Pirḳe R. El. xxi.). David also devoted much time to prayer, the one hundred daily benedictions being his work (Yer. Ber., end; on the ancient reading of this passage, see Ratner, "Ahabat Ẓiyyon we-Yerushalayim," ad loc.). He also collected psalms from the time of Abraham down to his own day (B. B. 14b), and composed new ones. When he had finished he exclaimed: "O Lord of the world, is there any creature in the world that has praised Thee so much?" Whereupon God sent a frog to inform him that this mean little animal sounded the praise of God uninterruptedly from early dawn till late at night (Yalḳ. ii. 889, end of Ps.). David, however, forgot himself so far as to boast only for a moment; generally he was very modest (Soṭah 10b). His coins showed on one side his shepherd's crook and scrip, and on the other David's tower (Gen. R. xxxix.; contra, B. Ḳ. 97b).David's Piety.
David's piety was so great that his prayers were able to bring things from heaven down to earth (Ḥag. 12b). It was one of his dearest wishes to build the Temple. God said, however, that the Temple would be indestructible if built by David, but that it was His design that it should be destroyed as punishment for Israel's sins; hence David could not build it (Pesḳ. R. 2; ed. Friedmann, p. 7). David's thoughts were so entirely directed to good that he was among the few pious ones over whom evil inclinations ("yeẓer ha-ra'") had no power (B. B. 17a), and his sin with Bath-sheba happened only as an example to show the power of repentance ('Ab. Zarah 4b, 5a). Some Talmudic authorities even assert that David did not commit adultery, for at that time all women obtained letters of divorce from their husbands who went to war, to use in case the latter should die on the field. Similarly David must notbe blamed for Uriah's death, since the latter had committed a capital offense in refusing to obey the king's command (II Sam. xl. 8, 9; Shab. 56a; Ḳid. 43a). The episode with Bath-sheba was also a punishment for David's overweening self-confidence, who thought himself equal to the "three fathers," and besought God to subject him to a trial that he might be able to prove the purity of his heart. God thereupon sent to him Satan in the shape of a bird; David threw an arrow at the latter, hitting instead a beehive under which was Bath-sheba, and on beholding her the king was at once violently enamored of her (Sanh. 107a). He spent twenty-two years in repenting this sin (Tanna debe Eliyahu R. ii.); and he also was stricken with leprosy for half a year, during which time he was abandoned not only by his own court, but by the Holy Spirit, in punishment for his sin (Yoma 22b; compare Ginzberg, l.c. pp. 43-46).
The most severe punishment, however, was Absalom's revolt; and it is a proof of David's great confidence in God's goodness that he thanked Him for sending his own son against him rather than a stranger, as the former might have been more inclined to be merciful to him if things had come to the worst (Ber. 7a). In his despair, however, David was about to deny God publicly, in order that the people might not call God unjust for so poorly rewarding David for his piety and justice. His friend Hushai the Archite came in time to show him that his punishment was not unmerited, and would not appear as such to the people, for it may be gathered from Scripture (Deut. xxi. 10 et seq.) that he who follows his passion and marries a captive of war must expect from this marriage a "stubborn and rebellious son." If David had not married Absalom's mother, who was a captive, he would not have had such a son (Sanh. 107a). David's kindness of heart is clearly shown in his behavior toward this wayward son, for he not only tried to save the latter's life, but the sevenfold repetition of Absalom's name in his dirge had the effect of saving him from the seven fires, or divisions, of hell (Soṭah 10b). Still David's sins were not atoned for by all these sufferings, and God one day gave him the choice between having his race destroyed and being taken prisoner by enemies. David chose the latter.The Philistines.
Thereupon it happened that David pursuing a deer (Satan in disguise) was led into the country of the Philistines, where he was seized by Ishbibenob, Goliath's brother, who flung him into a wine-press. David was confronted by a horrible death, when the bottom of the press began to sink miraculously, so that he was saved from being crushed. Then he was rescued from his perilous position by Abishai, who was apprised, also miraculously, that David's life was in danger (see Abishai in Rab. Lit.); these two pious men conquered the giant Ishbi by pronouncing the name of God (Sanh. 95a; Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 140, 141). Among the trials of David was also the famine of three years (II Sam. xxi. 1 et seq.), which he regarded at first as a punishment for the godlessness of the people, and therefore examined the religious and moral conditions of the country for three successive years (Midr. Sam. xxviii. and the parallel passages in Buber ad loc.). When he found everything in good order he applied to God to find out the cause of the famine, and was informed that it was a punishment for not allowing the remains of Saul, "the anointed of God," to rest in holy ground. David thereupon brought the remains of Saul and Jonathan to the spot worthy of them, all the people taking part in the ceremony; and this love that Israel showed to its dead king induced God to take pity on them and end the famine (Pirḳe R. El. xvii.). Another debt of the people had still to be paid; namely, Saul's unmerciful behavior toward the Gibeonites, who now insisted on taking vengeance on his descendants. David tried his best to pacify them, conferring with each, and promising them as much money as they might demand. But when he saw that the Gibeonites possessed so little of the characteristic trait of the Israelites—mercy—he ordered them to be excluded from the Jewish community (Midr. Sam. l.c.). Although David was responsible neither for the famine nor for the execution of the descendants of Saul who were delivered to the Gibeonites, yet he was wrong in not employing for the relief of the sufferers during the famine the treasure that he had accumulated during many years, especially the gifts of gold presented to him by the women of Israel after his victory over Goliath. It would have been better to use them for that purpose than to save them for the building of the Temple, and God said therefore that he should not build it (Midr. Ruth Zuṭa, ed. Buber, p. 51). David is also censured for undertaking the census of the people, and is punished by a plague (II Sam. xxiv. 15) that, though lasting only a few hours (Ber. 62b; compare Ginzberg, l.c. p. 67), demanded many victims, among whom four of his sons, and the elders accompanying him, were slain by the angel; the latter even wiped his bloody sword on David's garments, causing thereby the trembling from which David suffered before his death (Tanna debe Eliyahu R. vii.). This trembling was a punishment for having cut the garment of Saul (I Sam. xxiv. 5); David now found no warmth in the garments that he wore (I Kings i. 1; Ber. 62b; compare Midr. Teh. lvii.).David's Death.
When David saw his end approaching he tried to escape death by the following means: God had once revealed to him that he would die on a Sabbath, and David therefore spent every Sabbath in studying the Torah, so that the angel of death could not seize him. But the angel outwitted him by causing a noise in the royal palace; whereupon David interrupted his work for a moment, and went to a stairway. The stairs broke down, and David fell dead (Shab. xxx; Ruth R. i. 17). He died on a Sabbath and feast-day—Pentecost—and as no corpse might be moved on Sabbath, and David's body lay in the sun, Solomon called eagles, who guarded the body with their wings (Ruth R. l.c.). David reached the age of seventy years, which were presented to him by Adam. David had been destined to die immediately after his birth, but when God was showing the future generations to Adam, the latter offered to give seventy years of his life to David (Pirḳe R. El. xix.; Yalḳ. i. 41). Death did not put an end toDavid's greatness and splendor, for he was also among the elect in paradise (Jellinek, "B. H." v. 168; vi. 25, 26), and on the Day of Judgment he will pronounce the blessing over the wine during the great feast (Pes. 119b; compare Cup of Benediction). On the Day of Judgment David will also recite a psalm; the pious in paradise and the impious in hell will loudly say "Amen"; and then God will send an angel to bring even the impious to paradise (Jellinek, "B. H." v. 45, 46).
Nearly all the legends relating to David (or Da'ud, as he is known to the Arabs) are elaborations of the Biblical narratives which were in circulation among the Jews at the time of Mohammed, and most of which may be traced back to the Koran or its commentaries. Other works which speak of him are the "Khaṣim" of Ḥusain ibn Mohammed, the "Ḳiṣṣat al-Anbiya," the "Dhakhirat al-'Ulum wa-Natijat al-Fuhum," and the "Ta'rikh Muntakhab."David and Goliath.
To the Arabs these legends are important, as they form for them a real part of the world's history; and it is interesting to see how they are woven together and connected in a natural sequence. The very stones with which David kills Goliath are historical: one is the stone which Abraham threw at the devil when the latter tried to dissuade him from sacrificing Isaac; another is that which Gabriel pushed out of the ground when he created the spring for Ishmael; another again is the stone with which Jacob fought the angel sent against him by his brother Esau. After killing Goliath, David shares the kingdom with Saul, finally conquers his jealousy through his own generosity, and lives happily with him until Saul's death, when David is unanimously elected king. Baiḍawi remarks that the children of Israel were united for the first time under David.David's Knowledge.
In addition to the kingdom, God grants David wisdom—interpreted to mean prophecy and the Psalms —and teaches him all he wishes to know; viz., the language of birds and stones, and how to make coats of mail. According to the Arabs, David was the inventor of chain armor, which he was enabled to make because the iron became soft in his hands. "It became like wax," says Baiḍawi, "so that he could mold it into any form he chose". It is related that David obtained this gift in the following manner: One day he overheard two angels, in the guise of men, comparing opinions about him. "He would be a perfect king," said one, "did he not take money from the public treasury"; whereupon David begged God to provide him with some means of self-support, and he was granted knowledge of the art of making armor.
At another time David overheard two men disputing as to the comparative merits of himself and Abraham; one of them contending that David had never endured such trials as had Abraham. David thereupon begged God to try his faith, and God sent a marvelous bird, which led David to a lake, on the shore of which he saw a beautiful woman bathing. This was none other than Bath-sheba, called "Saya" by the Arabs. After causing the death of her husband and marrying her, as related in the Bible, David is rebuked by two angels disguised as men, who tell him the story of the one ewe lamb, and demand judgment. In the Koran these angels come upon David on a day when the doors are closed; and on this Baiḍawi remarks that David so divided his time as to spend one day for devotion, one for giving judgment, one for preaching, and one for his own affairs. He also fasted every other day, and spent half the night in prayer. David was so filled with remorse that he wandered for three years in the desert, and shed more tears in that time than all humankind before him. During David's absence Absalom had made himself king, and had to be deposed.David as Judge.
After this experience, David never had confidence in his own judgment; and God therefore gave him a miraculous bell, which rang to show the guilty party. As on one occasion he lost confidence in this also, it was taken away from him; and David called the boy Solomon to his aid in matters of justice. Wonderful tales are told showing the sagacity of this lad, then scarcely in his teens.
As David grew old he had only one more desire; namely, to see his future companion in paradise. This request is also granted; and after long wanderings David finds him on the summit of a mountain, on a verdant spot moist with his tears. This companion dies, and is buried by David, who on returning home finds the angel of death waiting for him also.
- Koran, suras ii. 250-252;
- iv. 161;
- v. 82;
- vi. 84;
- xvii. 57;
- xxi. 79;
- xxvii. 15, 16;
- xxxiv. 10, 12;
- xxxviii. 16, 21;
- commentaries to the Koran by Baiḍawi and Tabari;
- D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale;
- Weil, Biblische Legenden der Muselmänner;
- Max Grünbaum, Sprachund Sagenkund, pp. 511et seq.
The salient features of the life and reign of David as outlined from I Sam. xvi. to I Kings ii. have been given above; and the most incisive criticism has been unable to modify any essential point of the narrative, which rests upon a strictly historic foundation. A far different impression of David is given in I Chronicles. Everything doubtful and offensive in regard to David and his house is here passed by, and he himself appears primarily as being preoccupied with the organization of the Temple service. He is said to have gathered together all the material for the building of the Temple, and to have planned every detail, so that Solomon merely had to carry out the work. He also arranged every part of the ritual, and distributed the various offices. The priests he divided into twenty-four families, who performed the service in the sanctuary according to lot. From among the Levites were chosen: (1) the Temple musicians, also divided into twenty-four classes; (2) the functionaries designated for subordinate service in the Temple, as door-keepers and overseers of supplies, chosen by lot according to their families; (3) judges and officials over Israel. The chronicler also mentions ordinances of David pertaining to military matters and to the royal domains.David and the Psalter.
Subsequently David came to be regarded as thefounder of Israel's religious poetry. For since seventy-three of the Psalms have special superscriptions assigning their authorship to him, it became more and more the custom to ascribe the whole Psalter to him. Modern criticism has raised well-founded objections to this assumption. Indeed, the only generally recognized authentic specimen of the king's poetic activity is the splendid dirge on the deaths of Saul and Jonathan (II Sam. i. 19-27).His Historic Importance.
David's historic importance can not be rated too high, as even those critics must admit who belittle his personal merits by ascribing his successes to a series of extraordinarily fortunate circumstances. Few men in the world's history have achieved as much as David. The molding of Israel into a nation is exclusively his work, for he was the first to unify what until then had been merely a conglomerate of clans and tribes; and Israel remained one nation even after the division of David's single kingdom. Saul had earnestly endeavored to give political unity to Israel; but he had been unequal to the task, and achieved nothing permanent. With Saul's death everything was lost, and the condition of the people was as hopeless as ever. David, in whom prudence and courage were most happily combined, and who was as careful and circumspect in the preparation of his plans as he was daring and energetic in their execution, followed up his successes with a definite end in view; and while aiming only at the attainable, did not rest until he had reached his goal. In view of the immense difficulties he had to overcome and of the crude and complex conditions which he was called upon to meet, the secret of David's success must be sought in his personality. He made himself the living center of his people and of his kingdom. A born ruler of men, and possessed of a royal nature that attracted and led all that came within his influence, he awakened the national enthusiasm, and thereby overcame every obstacle. For David not only made Israel a nation, but also elevated it at once to the pinnacle of glory. Israel itself has felt this; and therefore the return of a David has become the dream of its future and the object of its most ardent hopes.
David's character has often been criticized unfavorably because his critics have not taken the trouble to consider him in relation to his time. It is undeniable that he was the idol of his contemporaries, and that the power of his magnetic personality was irresistible. He was not a saintly character; and the Biblical accounts, with a nice regard for truth, have neither suppressed nor palliated his faults and weaknesses. Still, only blind prejudice will deny that his nature, in its essence, was noble and that he was animated and guided by true piety and a childlike faith in God. Even in modern times it is easy to understand how his contemporaries saw in him "the king after the heart of God."