We end our short series on David with his coronation as king over all the tribes of Israel. His reign was the beginning of the golden age for Israel, at a time when there were no significant great powers in the middle east and Israel was able to occupy centre stage. David was the one who brought this golden age into being; ‘the LORD God Almighty was with him’ and gave him victory over all the nations that came against him, so his power extended from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates river. His son Solomon inherited the peace that David had won, and in his reign the nation prospered with great building projects – the most significant for the nation being the building of the temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately Solomon’s son did not inherit his wisdom, and the nation divided into two kingdoms, with David’s line continuing to rule over the southern kingdom of Judah.
At the beginning of David’s reign none of this was foreseeable. He started as king only over Judah, while King Saul’s son ruled over the rest. There was civil war, which ended with the assassination of David’s rival. At that point, it seems, the rest of Israel remembered that David was God’s choice and had been anointed king by Samuel, so they finally accepted him as king over all Israel.
Why did they not acknowledge God’s choice sooner? It was obvious that David was the best military leader available. However, we need to remember that they had all been loyal subjects of King Saul, and Saul had treated David as an enemy, a rebel leader who was trying to take over the kingdom. No doubt Saul would have thought – and taught – that the talk of David as God’s choice was mere propaganda; and since Saul had been chosen by God in an obvious and public way, it would have been easy to assume that God wanted his successor to be his son. Only David’s success would have made them rethink.
David was wise in his choice of a capital city – Jerusalem, which up till then had been ruled by its Jebusite inhabitants and was not attached to any tribe. He united the Israelites by his justice and by his successful military campaigns – he was indeed a charismatic leader who could inspire the most faithful loyalty. He had his failings, as the following chapters make clear; but the most important thing about him was that on the whole he was a man after God’s own heart, and that God was with him.
God gave David remarkable promises – including the one in 2 Samuel 7:16, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me, and your throne shall be established for ever’. 500 years later his dynasty came to an end with the Babylonian exile, and people realized that the promise was about something greater than fallible human kingship. They began to look for a Messiah, descended from David, who would bring in a true and lasting golden age. That Messiah has arrived!
1) How much is success a mark of God’s presence?
2) In what ways was David like Jesus?