SHEPHERD BOY AND KING
David is a very prominent character in our ceremonies and he is also mentioned in at least one other Order.
This paper has been compiled to present a biography of him.
David was born in 1040 BC, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. Nothing is recorded of his early life, and the first reference to him in the VSL is in 1 Samuel 16.
Because of his behaviour and disobedience of the king, Saul, Samuel was commanded by the Most High to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the future king.
Jesse presented his seven eldest sons in turn to Samuel, who rejected them all.
His youngest son, David, was then summoned from the fields where he was tending his father's sheep.
As soon as Samuel saw him, he was divinely inspired to anoint him in the presence of his brothers.
Soon after this, Saul began to have attacks of madness, and his attendants suggested that if he engaged a harpist to play to him during these attacks it would help to cure him.
One of them recommended David, the son of Jesse, as being suitable in all respects.
David was accordingly summoned to Saul's presence. The King took a liking to David and appointed him his armour-bearer.
Whenever Saul suffered one of his attacks, David played his harp and Saul found relief.
There then occurred the well-known duel between David and Goliath. While David was minding his father's sheep, he would have had to use his sling many times to protect his flock from predators, and no doubt he would have whiled away some of the quiet periods by putting in some target practice.
As a result of this he became extremely proficient in the use of this weapon which, in the hands of a skilled man, could be very accurate and lethal at short range.
Therefore, when he heard Goliath's challenge, David was confident in his ability to defeat him. His confidence was not misplaced. The first stone that he slung hit the giant in the forehead and stunned him.
David at once drew Goliath's sword and beheaded him with it. When the Philistines saw the death of their champion they fled in disorder, hotly pursued by the Israelites who killed many of them.
It was shortly after this that the friendship between David and Jonathan, the King's son, developed and they made a solemn covenant to love the other as dearly as himself.
David was so successful as a soldier that Saul appointed him to a command in the army.
His continued successes in battle made him so popular with the people that Saul became jealous of him and once, in a fit of madness, tried to kill him.
David was promoted in the army and was allowed to marry one of Saul's daughters, Michal, on condition that he continued to pursue the war against the Philistines.
Saul's hope was that David would be killed in battle. This hope was not fulfilled, and David's popularity still further increased.
Saul told all his household, including Jonathan, of his intention to kill David.
Jonathan told David of this and warned him to hide himself.
Jonathan then spoke to Saul and reminded him of David's victory over Goliath and pleaded for his life.
Saul relented and David was able to return. War broke out again and David once more inflicted a severe defeat on the Philistines.
Shortly after this, Saul, in another fit of madness, tried again to kill David with a spear, but missed and David got safely away.
That night, Saul sent servants to watch David's house, intending to kill him in the morning.
However, Michal, David's wife, helped him to escape and he made his way to Samuel at Ramah, and told him how Saul had treated him.
Saul sent some of his soldiers to Ramah to kill David, but once more he escaped and sought out Jonathan. He asked Jonathan why Saul wanted to kill him.
Jonathan was unable to give any reason, and after some discussion they arranged that Jonathan should find out Saul's feelings with regard to David, and let David know the result in the manner with which we are familiar.
It can only be assumed that they adopted this stratagem in case any of Saul's spies were about. As, however, they were alone, they were able to bid farewell to one another.
Jonathan returned to the city and David made his way to the priest Ahimelech at Nob.
David persuaded Ahimelech to give him some of the consecrated bread and Goliath's sword which had been placed in the temple.
Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul's servants, happened to be there, and saw what took place.
David then went away and took refuge in the care of Adullam. He was joined by his family and by men in distress, in debt, or simply with a grievance, until he was leader of a band of some 400 men.
He took his father and mother to the King of Moab, who agreed to take care of them. Being warned by the prophet Gad, David went into Judah.
When news that David and his men had been seen reached Saul, he demanded of his retainers why they had not told him of the compact between David and Jonathan. Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with the servants, reported how Ahimelech had helped David.
Saul at once sent for the priest and his family, who were also priests, and demanded to know why he had helped David.
Ahimelech replied that as far as he knew, David, the king's son-in-law, was an honourable man, holding a high office, and that he did not think he had done wrong in helping him.
Saul ordered his bodyguard to kill Ahimelech, but they were unwilling to raise a hand against the priests of the Lord.
Saul, therefore, ordered Doeg to kill the priests. So Doeg killed the priests and Saul caused every living thing in Nob to be slain; only one son of Ahimelech, named Abiathar, escaped and joined David.
The Philistines were attacking Keilah and plundering it.
David and his band went to the rescue and inflicted another severe defeat on the Philistines.
When Saul heard that David was in Keilah, a walled town, he called out his army to besiege the town and capture David.
David, however, heard of the King's approach and escaped with his band of men, who now numbered about 600.
They wandered about from place to place, well knowing that Saul was searching for them, and while they were in the wilderness of Ziph, Jonathan came to David and encouraged him; the two then made another solemn compact together.
While David was living in the wilderness of Ziph, some of the local inhabitants betrayed him to Saul, who immediately set out in search of him.
While David and his men were trying desperately to get away, and Saul and his followers were closing in for the capture, a runner informed Saul that the Philistines had invaded again.
Saul called off the pursuit and went to fight the invaders. After he had defeated the Philistines, Saul learnt that David was in the wilderness of Engedi, so he took a large force of soldiers and went in search of him.
One day, when David and his men were hiding at the far end of a cave, Saul went into the same cave to relieve himself.
David's men told him that this was his chance to kill Saul, but David refused to harm the Lord's anointed.
Instead, he stealthily cut off a piece of Saul's cloak. After Saul had left the cave, David called after him, asking the king why he was pursuing him.
He showed Saul the piece of cloak as proof that he could have killed him, and assured the King that he would never harm him.
Saul then repented and acknowledged that David would become king. After making David swear that he would also not harm any of his family, Saul went away.
David, however, did not trust Saul completely and with his men sought refuge among the Philistines, remaining with them for 16 months.
He made many raids against the surrounding tribes, killing the people and bringing back all their belongings.
Because of this, Achish, the chief of the Philistines, thought that David would be unable to return to his own country, but would remain with him all his life.
After David had been with the Philistines for more than a year, they mustered their army for an attack on Israel.
Achish told David that he would have to take part in the attack.
David agreed to do so, hoping that some circumstance would arise to prevent him fighting his own people.
The Philistine army was advancing with David and his men at the rear of the column with Achish.
The Philistine commanders were afraid that David would turn traitor, and demanded that Achish should send him back.
When David and his men reached the Philistine country, they found that the Amalekites had carried out a raid and taken away all the Israelite women and children.
David and his men set off in pursuit, overtook the Amalekites and, after a fierce battle, defeated them.
David rescued unharmed all those who had been taken captive and recovered all the spoils the Amalekites had taken.
Meanwhile the Philistines carried out their attack on the Israelites and routed them. Three of Saul's sons were killed. Saul himself was badly wounded and to avoid the humiliation of being mocked by the Philistines, he committed suicide.
On the third day after Saul's death, a messenger brought to David the news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
Following this, David was anointed King of Judah; this was in 1010 BC. Meanwhile, a surviving son of Saul, named Ishbosheth, was made King of Israel. There followed a long and bitter war between the armies of the two kings, David becoming steadily stronger, while Ishbosheth was becoming weaker.
Finally, in 1003 BC, Ishbosheth was slain by two of his own men, and David was anointed King of Israel.
He was to reign over the combined kingdoms for 33 years. David now assembled all his army and marched them to Baalath-Judah to bring residence there and called it the City of David. Hiram, king of Tyre, sent envoys to David with cedar logs, also carpenters and stonemasons who built a palace for the King.
When the Philistines learnt that David had been anointed King of Israel, they mounted an attack, but were driven off.
They attacked again and were routed by the Israelites.
There followed a long and bitter war between the armies of the two kings, David becoming steadily stronger, while Ishbosheth was becoming weaker. Finally, in 1003 BC, Ishbosheth was slain by two of his own men, and David was anointed king of Israel.
He was to reign over the combined kingdoms for 33 years.
David now assembled all his army and marched them to Baalath-Judah to bring residence there and called it the city of David.
Hiram, king of Tyre, sent envoys to David with cedar logs, also carpenters and stonemasons who built a palace for the King.
When the Philistines learnt that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mounted an attack, but were driven off.
They attacked again and were routed by the Israelites.
David now assembled all his army and marched them to Baalath-Judah to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem.
The entry of the Ark into the city was accompanied by sacrifices and great rejoicing. After the Ark had been deposited in the tent that David had erected for it, he offered up further sacrifices and gave to all the people a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a flagon of wine - the supper of king David.
He organized the worship of God according to the rules that had been laid down in former times.
David enquired if there was any member of Saul's family still alive, to whom he could show kindness. He was informed that a son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, lame in both feet, was alive and living a few miles away. David sent for Mephibosheth, who came before him in great fear, expecting to be killed.
David, however, assured him that because of the great friendship that had existed between him and Jonathan, he was not going to harm Mephibosheth, but on the contrary, he would give him all the land that had belonged to Saul and that in the royal household he would be treated as one of the king's sons.
Some former servants of Saul were delegated to serve Mephibosheth.
When the King had settled in his house, he was minded to build a house for the Ark, considering that it was unworthy for the Ark to be sheltered in a tent, while he lived in a house of cedar.
He informed the prophet Nathan of his plan, but the next day the prophet came to him with the news that God had instructed him to tell the king that he would continue to receive Divine protection and that he would be succeeded by one of his sons who would build a house for the Lord. David was disappointed, but accepted the Divine edict.
David now attacked and defeated the surrounding nations, and expanded his kingdom on all sides. During his career as outlaw and king, he took several wives and concubines, who bore him many children. In spite of this, he had an affair with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite.
He wanted to marry her, so he ordered Uriah to be sent to the place where the fighting was fiercest so that he might be killed by the enemy. David's hopes were fulfilled and after the normal period of mourning was over, he married Bathsheba.
Nathan the prophet warned him that his behaviour had so displeased God that the first son that Bathsheba should bear would die.
This duly happened and David was heartbroken for a time. However, Bathsheba bore him another son whom she named Solomon, but David told Nathan that the boy's name should be Jedidiah, meaning "Beloved of the Lord".
Serious family trouble now occurred. Amnon, one of David's sons, raped his half-sister, Tamar. Absolom, Tamar's brother, took her into his house; he refused to speak to Amnon, whom he now hated.
David was very angry, but would not harm Amnon, because he was his son.
Two years later, Absolom gave a party to which Amnon was invited, and gave his servants instructions to kill Amnon when they had the opportunity.
When David was told of the death of his son, he was deeply distressed. Absolom fled and remained in exile for three years, after which David was persuaded to let him return, though he would have his own quarters and would not be allowed to enter the king's palace.
By all accounts Absolom was extremely handsome and his hair was long and flowing. Absolom now provided himself with a large personal bodyguard and made strenuous efforts to undermine the king's authority.
After four years Absolom gained David's permission to go to Hebron. He took 200 men with him, and, having arrived there, proclaimed himself king. The conspiracy gathered strength and Absolom's supporters increased in number.
When David heard of this he left Jerusalem with several hundred followers and Absolom moved into the city. There followed a period of plot and counter-plot.
Eventually both armies crossed the river Jordan and David organized his army in preparation for the forthcoming battle, giving orders that Absolom himself was not to be harmed.
David's men defeated those of Absolom and put them to flight. A few of the victorious army came upon Absolom; he had been riding a mule and in his flight his head was caught in the branches of a large oak tree, while the mule went on, leaving him hanging in the air.
After a short discussion, David's men killed him, buried him in a pit in the forest and raised a cairn of stones over his grave.
When the news of Absolom's death was broken to David he was greatly moved, but was persuaded to hide his grief to encourage his followers.
The followers of Absolom scattered to their homes in various parts of the country and David returned to Jerusalem where he received an enthusiastic welcome. Some of the Israelites staged a rebellion which collapsed when its leader was killed.
Once again war broke out between the Israelites and the Philistines. David was leading his men and had a narrow escape from death, but was saved by Abishai.
David's officers then swore that they would never again let him go with them to war. In the remaining successful wars against the Philistines and some other surrounding tribes, David remained behind.
During David's reign there was famine that lasted three years. David consulted the Lord who told him that it was a punishment for Saul's slaughter of the Gibeonites.
David, therefore, summoned the Gibeonites and asked them what he could do to compensate them, so that they would bless the Lord's chosen people.
The Gibeonites replied that no amount of silver or gold would suffice, and demanded that David should hand over to them seven of Saul's dependants whom they would execute.
David agreed to this, but he spared Mephibosheth, a grandson of Saul, because of his promise he had made to Jonathan, the father of Mephibosheth.
Later, David again incurred the wrath of the Lord by sending his officers to count all the people in the land, which was contrary to Divine ordinance.
The census took over nine months and after it was completed, David felt pangs of conscience and he deeply regretted what he had done. The prophet Gad came to David and informed him that the Lord gave him the choice of three possible punishments, namely, three years of famine in the land, three months of flight from a pursuing enemy, or three days of pestilence in the land.
David chose the pestilence and many of his people died from it. The prophet Gad again came to him and told him to set up an altar to the Lord on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah offered to give him the threshing-floor together with oxen to sacrifice and wooden farm implements to use as fuel.
David, however, insisted on paying for them; he would not offer to the Lord something that had cost him nothing. After he had built the altar and offered the sacrifices, the plague stopped.
Towards the end of his seventy-year life, when David was becoming feeble, one of his sons, Adonijah, boasted in public that he was to become king.
When Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, heard of this, she went to David and reminded him of a promise that he had made, that Solomon should succeed him as king.
At the same time, Nathan the prophet came to the king and told him of Adonijah's actions. David summoned Zadok the priest and with his officers had Solomon escorted to Gihon. Zadok anointed Solomon king and he was proclaimed and escorted home with much noisy rejoicing.
David had reigned for forty years. As well as being a great warrior and ruler, David was a poet of no mean ability. No less than 73 of the 150 psalms are attributed to him, and the 22nd chapter of the second book of Samuel is a long poem, praising God and giving thanks for all his help in delivering David from the hands of his enemies.
Also, the first seven verses of the next chapter entitled "The last words of David” are a short poem in which David professes his faith in God's promises.
When David felt that his death was approaching, he sent for Solomon and charged him to do his duty to God and to obey all the statutes and commandments as they were written in the Law of Moses. Shortly after this his eventful life came to a peaceful end and Solomon reigned in his stead.
(Supplied by Most Worthy Brother Ian Wylde, P G S R from various sources.)