2017 · David's Life · Research · Scripture

The Political Threats to David’s Reign

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-4-41-29-pmKings are more frequently surrounded by those who want power or favours, than genuine friends; and it can hard to find genuine supporters who aren’t in your camp to reap some benefit. David was no exception.

CGP Grey sums up how precarious David’s position was in his video, *“The Rules for Rulers.” In order for any king to maintain power, he must have loyal supporters who he has adequately rewarded, (e.g. financially, in terms of status and by granting property,) otherwise anyone who can offer them a greater reward can amass enough support to overthrow them. This is why the unrighteous Joab, who had murdered Abner, was allowed to lead David’s army after securing Jerusalem for David. He was a key and had to be rewarded rather than discarded, no matter how unsuitable he was. [Ref. 1 Samuel 3 and 1 Chronicles 11] An underpaid and under-appreciated army general could easily look the other way in an organised revolt, if promised a better deal from someone else. In 1 Kings 1, Joab did jump ship when he thought David was near to death, in order to ingratiate himself to the expected new king, Adonijah, and keep his status safe. That proved how shallow his loyalty really was.

There is plenty of evidence of dirty politics going on around David’s palace, even though his court was made up mainly of members of his immediate and extended family in order to quell disputes. Aside from **Absalom’s rebellion, here are some of the key issues which David’s reign faced, which are reflected in the Psalms. (This is not an exhaustive list. There is the revolt of Sheba in 2 Samuel 20 which appears to have been prompted by his favouritism towards his own tribe, which is mentioned in 2 Samuel 19:41-43; hatred shown by Shimei in 2 Samuel 16:5-14 and the problems of a new king who didn’t trust David which led to a war in 2 Samuel 10.)
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Usurp Threats

The Psalms speak repeatedly of David being in danger as his position is coveted by others wanting power. This never stopped throughout his lifetime and had to be part of the reason why David held an illegal census in 2 Samuel 24. Being deeply fearful of being usurped and murdered was one of David’s greatest fears and it was one which always left him extremely stressed. While David was a very strong, capable man, everyone has their achilles heel and this seems to be David’s, which is understandable. If he’d been killed, the perpetrator would also have killed his entire family and many of his supporters, so there was a lot of responsibility on him.

From the time that Saul tried to arrest David in his home, to the time when David handed the throne of Isra’el over to Solomon, the danger never ended. That period covers over fifty years.

“And now, [Lord] in my old age, don’t set me aside.
Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.
For my enemies are whispering against me.
They are plotting together to kill me.
They say, “God has abandoned him.
Let’s go and get him,
for no one will help him now.” Psalm 71:9-11
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Bribery Attempts

“Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from You;
may Your eyes see what is right.
Though You probe my heart,
though You examine me at night and test me,
You will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what Your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to Your paths;
my feet have not stumbled.
I call on You, my God, for You will answer me;
turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of Your great love,
You who save by Your right hand
those who take refuge in You from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.” Psalm 17:1-9

A king who rules under the law of the Lord will fall foul of ungodly men, and this would have been a constant challenge to David. Pulling them into line would put David’s life at risk again, as they would want him removed to save their position and increase their power. There are a number of verses which speak of corruption among Isra’el’s leaders.

“Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?
Do you judge the people fairly?
No! You plot injustice in your hearts.
You spread violence throughout the land.” Psalm 58:1-2
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Image by mharrsch Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/44124324682@N01/2987188106/
Image by mharrsch Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/44124324682@N01/2987188106/

Theft Allegations

“Save me, O God,
for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire;
I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water,
and the floods overwhelm me.
I am exhausted from crying for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping,
waiting for my God to help me.
Those who hate me without cause
outnumber the hairs on my head.
Many enemies try to destroy me with lies,
demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.” Psalm 69:1-4

I have no idea what incident this referred to, but David’s words speak clearly enough. If you want to  replace a king, create a scandal which will discredit him enough to lose his popularity with the people. Think about how much rumour and malice occurs in the short reign of a modern politician. How much more garbage can go down over a forty year reign? There must be far more to David’s story than has been recorded.
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David’s Reactions: The Census

All these factors could have contributed to why David ordered an illegal Census in 1 Chronicles 21, so he knew how many able bodied men could be called into service. The events leading up to the Census aren’t clear. 2 Samuel 24 talk about a drought, and before that, there was the revolt of Sheba which some scholars attribute David’s decision to take a census to. In 1 Chronicles 21 the preceding event is the war with the Ammonites which had been a very hard won victory, but which had appeared back in 2 Samuel 10. The cause may be something which just isn’t mentioned in our Bibles at all.

2 Samuel 24:1 says, “Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the LORD told him.” and 1 Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.” It seems like God, Satan and David were all unhappy with Israel, but it was David’s choice to resist temptation and do the right thing. This was the only area where he acted like Saul and gave into fear and anger.
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David’s Reactions: The Psalms

As always David turns to his greatest weapon to deal with these problems: prayer and praise. Over time, he seemed to have worked out how to deal with these stresses better. In Psalm 39:1-5 he speaks of learning to hold his tongue and in Psalm 37 he encourages us by saying:

“Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and He will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.” Psalm 37:5-9

yhryhrHe also determined to deliberately stay away from bad influences. Psalm 101:2-7

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a *blameless heart.  (*integrity, perfect)
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.   (evil, wicked, base)
I hate what *faithless people do;  (*those who fall away or turn away  from God)
I will have no part in it. (won’t cleave to)
The *perverse of heart shall be far from me; (*devious, perverted, evil, fraudulent)
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
Whoever slanders their neighbour in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.”

David has the final word on how to handle the chaos in this Psalm:

“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.”  Psalm 62:1-2 (Cross reference Psalm 131:2)
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Notes

*The Rules for Rulers https://youtu.be/rStL7niR7gs  Based on “The Dictators Handbook” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Alastair Smith  “Why Bad Behaviour is Almost Always Good Politics.” The second video in the series Death and Dynasties is also helpful for understanding David’s position. https://youtu.be/ig_qpNfXHIU

**Absalom: 2 Samuel chapters 13-18 recount Absalom’s story. For an explanation of Absalom’s mental status (sociopathic), please read this article: http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32723


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Bible Geek · Research · Video Resources

Bible Geek: Free Online Video Resources for Studying King David

 

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Months ago, I put together a Bibliography of many of the resources I have used to study David so far… that list may be helpful to you, but this one is far easier to work through. This post is a list of the best Youtube videos I’ve watched and found helpful.

Enjoy!
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The Oriental Institute: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCitjN1GDlEVcLz-fAy5VIpg
Including but not limited to:

  • Eric Cline | 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed
  • Irving Finkel | The Ark Before Noah: A Great Adventure
  • Aren Maeir | New Light on the Biblical Philistines: Recent Study on the Frenemies of Ancient Israel
  • Felix Höflmayer | Chronologies of Collapse: Climate Change
  • Ancient Economies Miniseries – Prestige and the Ritual Economy of Chalcolithic Caanan
  • Ancient Economies Miniseries – The Archaeology of Farming and Herding – Gil Stein
  • Ancient Economies – Shopkeepers and the Bazaar Economy – Emmanuel Mayer
  • Death’s Dominion: Chalcolithic Religion and the Ritual Economy of the Southern Levant
  • Exploring the Roots of Mesopotamian Civilization: Excavations at Tell Zeidan, Syria
  • Ancient Economies – Persepolis and the Economy of Achemenid Persia – Matt Stolper

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Professor Corey Auen: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4NhiBRR6IaM6JfeDizolqw/videos?shelf_id=0&view=0&sort=dd

  • Trade and Travel
  • GB 102 Israel’s Western Neighbours: The Canaanites, Philistines and Phoenicians
  • GB 102 Israel’s Eastern Neighbours
  • Early Near Eastern Roots of Western Civilisation

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University of Cambridge: Translations and Literature in Ancient Mesopotamia – Martin Worthington: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8es-Q6dE3E

Yale Lecture 2: The Dark Ages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDNTsdtbKy8

Whitman College: Bronze Age Collapse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cPGBeH8PbY
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University of Chicago: Health Care and Epidemics in Antiquity: The Example of Ancient Mesopotamia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw_4Cghic_w
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Primitive Technology Channel: The Sling and Forge Blower videos. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL3JXZSzSm8AlZyD3nQdBA
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TED Talks:

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Bruce Gore: https://www.youtube.com/user/GoreBruce/videos

  • Egypt and the Israelite Judges
  • Assyrian Empire
  • Hittites and the Era of the Judges

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Michael Levy: music videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ1X6F7lGMEadnNETSzTv8A

 


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Research

Issues I Had to Work Through to Understand David

22300078_sEarlier this year I began to novelise my journey of discovering David through the eyes of a fictional character who was grappling with clinical depression. I got 7000 words in, then life got in the way. ‘Chasing David’ is a project I may get back to at some stage, but just now, there are practical reasons why I have chosen to lay it aside. In the meantime (?), here are the big issues I have been through while studying David’s life. If you are learning about him, but are still scratching your head over some areas, you may find some clues here which will help you get unstuck!

  • The topic areas I have battled with the hardest include:
    Slavery
    Abuse of power: Bathsheba and Census
    Rape allegations
    Lies and escapes to Gath
    Diplomatic manipulation
    Ammonites eye for an eye
    Empire mentality / warrior traits
    Treatment of women: polygamy and equality
    End of life instructions to Solomon
    Favouritism with tribes
    Undisciplined sons
    Allowing Joab to retain power.

I know that is an awful lot of negative drama and when I first stood back and looked at all of that, I walked away from David twice, thinking he was a complete jerk. Yet the Holy Spirit kept pulling me back and sending me to the Psalms. Those reflect David’s heart and life in his own words and are a very different picture of him than the books of Samuel and Chronicles, which are others looking in and only telling us what they think should be remembered.

Within the books of Samuel, 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, there are 46 positive events which denote David as a righteous man, and 20 negative life events, of which only 3 list catastrophic sins (Gath, Bathsheba and the census). So if you get stuck judging David on his behaviour with BathSheba, you are ignoring the 46 times David got life right. That is not a balanced way to judge. I had to learn all this the hard way, and the points below are how I got there.

 

  • To stop treating him as just a legend, or muddied sermon illustration. In short, I needed to learn to respect him as if he was alive now and be as fair to the dead, as the Word expects me to be to the living. That taught me that the Word of God has no bounds and that many of us act as Internet trolls do towards people in the Bible. Faceless judging is not righteous, mature behaviour.

 

  • To realise that he went through a maturing and ageing process which affected his attitudes. It turned out that there is a natural curve, with all the usual setbacks and failures we all commonly experience in life. This strengthened my faith that David was not a man-made figure, and increased my security in the validity and genuine spiritual origins of the Bible.

 

  • l had to research the use and abuse of power in relation to what the Torah taught and what David would have been expected to do as a God-fearing servant of the Lord. I was stunned to find that in relation to many areas where he infringed modern International Law and human rights, for his time, he was just, right and righteous.

 

  • I needed to search through the Old Testament and find the references to the love and character of God, so I could understand Him and where He was coming from through the nasty parts of the Old Testament. I succeeded and came out far richer and more spiritually secure than I was before.

 

  • It was necessary to try and step into the shoes of others, such as Michal, Absalom and Joab, and try and understand why they acted the way they did as people. To do that, I went through a lot of psychology lectures to get my head in the right frame of mind and find the words I wanted to describe their experience.

 

  • I had to learn to read Scripture s.l.o.w.l.y. to take in the masses of details and to never believe anyone’s opinion without double checking it. The world is full of misinformation, and I was shocked at how much of the work written about David was supposition which could be debunked by a proper understanding of history, David’s culture and by stopping to look at the Hebrew behind the verse. It takes a lot of time, but any investment in God’s Word is worth it!

 

  • I needed to get deep into the cultural history of Israel and pre-Israel to understand as much as I could about how that culture became who they were and why they did what they did. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, as I have always loved ancient history; but doing this gave my study a solid base, greater depth and many of the Levitical laws finally made sense! I found the answers to mysteries which I thought would become dead ends. Studying David requires theology, anthropology, psychology, political science, some economics and archaeology. Neither Israel or David can be treated as an island, because they were as affected by and immersed in their world as we are in ours. It is a dramatically divergent world from ours and that time invested bought forth gold. I am so glad I did it.

 

  • I had to come to grips with what humility really means and to not fan girl over anyone. David was a servant, not a superstar and I needed to treat him (and Moses) with respect, rather than bias and favouritism. I discovered just how kind, gentle and non-aggressive David was and that stunned me.

 

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My Personal Journey

  • Chasing David CoverI learned that I had to take breaks, especially when researching grief and abnormal psychology, (such as Absalom,) because confronting that level of suffering in real lives is emotionally draining. I have also found that balance enables me to come back refreshed. I am a creative person and to just study and write is frustrating. I need to be able to turn to other projects, and when I have, I come back to learning with a fresh joy and clearer perspective. I also learned to not set deadlines, but allow as much time as was needed and adopt a long-term, open-ended approach.

 

  • I had to learn to set aside writing and publicity approaches, attitudes and ideas that didn’t work (King David Tweets and Chasing David), or stall them for a better time. In any project, sometimes great article ideas don’t come together so well once you get into them, or you realise your limitations and have to stop or reschedule. I haven’t fully abandoned any ideas, as one day, a new approach to an old dead end may appear and be fruitful.

 

  • I had to learn to not lose my temper with secular theologians who critically molest the Word of God as an intellectual pursuit (etc.,) and with misinformed Christians who need patience and empathy. Mastering that will be a long-term struggle. I have had to learn to be careful who I listen to and again, double check every opinion no matter how highly qualified they are, how much I like them or how big their achievements are. I also have to be willing to be told I am wrong by someone who knows more than I do. (That last part I am OK with.)

 

  • Being patient with myself was essential as I have often have to go back and change things I have written after I’d discovered a new key piece of information further down the track. I had to take the stance that this is a learning process and it’s OK to say, “I’m wrong,” and be excited about finding something new out, rather than berating myself for not knowing everything instantly. I also had to give the Holy Spirit time to correct me before I published anything.

 

  • Because I have become very fond of David, I have had a personal need to delve into his areas of sin and properly understand why he did what he did, as the negatives irritate me. I prefer the perfect, squeaky clean hero, but a David like that would be impossible to relate to and would lose his value. I do call sin a sin, however, there is always room for empathy, and as I found with Bathsheba, a lot of room to realise I don’t know the whole story and should hold my tongue/pen/keyboard…

 

  • It was a conscious decision to focus on and write more about the more positive parts of David’s story, as there are plenty of others focussed on judging him. I get greater benefit from studying David’s life by focussing on the areas which build my faith, improve my personal habits and inspire me.

 


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Research · Study Resources

Bible Charts.org: A Brilliant Resource for Study

donniebarnesphotoI came across this web site when I was looking for a simple, easy to understand chart, outlining the Hebrew sacrificial system. I then cheerfully spent the next hour raiding it for all the goodies! This generous legacy site is highly recommended and put together by Donnie S.Barnes, a Pastor who has a Doctorate in Theology (and is now home with the Lord.)

http://www.biblecharts.org/index.html

“BIBLECHARTS.ORG is a [copyright free ]  web site containing Bible Charts for preaching and teaching, church bulletin charts, sermons, Bible Study materials, and a variety of Church-related materials designed for God’s glory and for the teaching of truth. Surveys of Bible Books, Bible History, Bible Chronology as well materials regarding the life and work of the apostle Paul are presented in great volume.

These bible charts cover numerous subjects including, the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Church, the Godhead, the Cross of Christ, Personal Work, Spiritual Growth, and Marriage and the Christian Home. Notes about places in the Bible Lands are included as well.”

REBLOGS WELCOMED

2017 · Psalms · Research · What's Happening

Poetry Month: The Poetic Structure of the Psalms

adf592fa-b632-459a-93dd-24b3a13f85aaI’ve recently begun to learn about the structural nature of the Psalms and how complex it can get! David sure didn’t just dash down whatever came to mind, he often used complex poetic structures which were traditional for his part of the world, some of which can also be seen in Ugaritic poetry.

I found a set of articles on Bible Gateway which are helpful and serve as a basic introduction to the structure of the Psalms. More information will be available online. You can read the full articles I refer to here: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Hebrew-Poetry

This is a technical area which I struggle to get my head around at times, and to be honest, I do wonder if the structure of the Psalms is being over-analysed; but if nothing else, it’s lovely to be able to appreciate how much skill was involved in writing these beautiful poetic songs.
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Features of the Psalms:

1. Acrostic: (each verse starts with a letter of the alphabet in order “A to Z,” (aleph to tau.)

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2. Parallelism: (various forms) which creates balanced repetition.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1-2

There are several forms of parallelism: synonymous, contrasting, comparative, incomplete (which is why I wonder whether or not we are simply over-analysing, thanks to critical schools of theological thought,) and formal. Please read this excellent article on parallelism which explains it simply.

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3. Alliteration: using words which have similar sounds.

From Bible Gateway: “Assonance is the use of a series of words with the same or similar internal sounds (versus the initial sounds). The “r” (resh) line, v. 19, of the acrostic in Psalm 34 ombines these three devices (acrostic, alliteration, assonance): rabbôṯ rā’ôṯ ṩaddîq, “A righteous man may have many troubles. . . .”

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4. Chiasm: “arranges elements in an “x” or inverted pattern: abc//c’b’a’.”

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5. Inclusio: beginning and ending a section, or whole Psalm, with identical or nearly identical words.

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6. Numerical Progression, such as Psalm 62 where numbers used in the text count upwards.

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7. Repetition/Refrain: repetition is used to mark out units in the Psalm, e.g. Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5. These Psalms appear to be a set in actuality, not two separate Psalms, despite how they are separated in modern Bibles.

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istock_000009732076xsmall8. Rhyme can be used, and (in Hebrew) is found in Psalm 23:2.

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9. Meter: according to Bible Gateway, “Hebraists (Hebrew scholars) recognise that classical Hebrew poetry probably had some system of meter. What that system was remains hotly contested for lack of clear evidence, with some scholars actually denying that Hebrew poetry contains such a system. Some conclude that line length, perhaps counted in syllables, was the basis of Hebrew “metrics.” Others think Hebrew meter was counted in word or word-group units (“feet”), with some corresponding balance in line length naturally arising as a result. Whether an actual system of accent or stress was involved we do not know.

The law of—the Lord—is perfect, reviving—the soul.    (3 + 2)
The ordinances of—the Lord—are sure and righteous—altogether.   (3 + 2)
They are more precious—than gold, than pure gold—much;   (2 + 2)
they are sweeter—than honey, than honey from—the comb.   (2 + 2)
Your servant—is warned—by them; in keeping them—is reward—great.    (3 + 3)

Whether or not such designations correspond to the ancients’ understandings of their art, they serve well to indicate the relative length of lines whose balance in length (and with it one might surmise some sort of rhythm) and use of length for artistic and rhetorical purposes can scarcely have been accidental.”

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For more information on National Poetry Month, visit poets.org

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kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Psalms · Research

David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.
The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
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Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Research

How David Compares to Other Near Eastern Kings

Sumerian King List
Sumerian King List

God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will. Last year I began to dig back through ancient history to find out what the kings in David’s era and part of the world were like. I wanted to know where the corruption that comes with royalty stemmed from. The search took me back far further than I had anticipated and I was stunned to know so much of the culture was still relevant and active in David’s lifetime.

The roots of kingship go back to the first city states which sprung up in Mesopotamia, where people decided to group together and organise to make survival easier: and of course, someone grabbed power. We don’t know who the first “king” was. They could have been a reputed warrior, a respected priest or someone who was simply savvy enough to take the opportunity to be the guy in charge. You know the deal. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of years have gone past, (estimated to be six thousand by historians,) it’s still a man in a fancier hat with a better house, servants and loads more money than everyone else. Kingship has been synonymous with excess and abuses of power since the beginning not because people tend to be a little jealous, but because that is the way things really are.

When kings first came in society changed. The power stopped being in the hands of the people, or a democratic committee of people. Women started to be treated as lesser beings and the class system was “invented” where some had more and some had less, rather than everyone working towards survival. God gave His people a command from the beginning of time: “go forth and multiply.”[Ref. Genesis 9:7] We were never meant to be clustered together in unhealthy cities with a class and sexist divide which shoves God out of the picture. For the sake of an easier life, our ancestors gave that up and nothing has really changed. We are still suspicious of the number 13, we still exalt people into insane positions of wealth and power, and humanity leans away from the freedom that God wanted for us, creating social problems, mental illness and all manner of physical sickness.

By the time I got to David, three thousand years later, I was mortified to see the same system being maintained and concerned at the similarities between paganism and How Israel functioned. For example, the kings were always placed in power by their deity, the altars had horns, and the priests needs were catered for the same way. There were a lot of parallels where the base culture that had produced Abraham had stuck in people’s minds and had gone through very little modification; the gods were basically the same; no one had grown. The whole structure of society was essentially a corruption of what God had intended.

As I said above, God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will and He did that with David. Saul bought straight into the culturally accepted, corrupt mode of kingship, and David did follow that to a significant degree, but he was different. David had been bought up strong in the faith and he doggedly stayed on that path, despite being exiled from fellowship and access to Israel’s worship practices by Saul. [Ref. 1 Samuel 26:19-20] He followed the laws in the Torah which God had handed down through Moses, and this made him distinct from any other king. He was so distinct that it’s given historians a reason to doubt he ever existed, as he didn’t leave the usual marks of kingship behind for us to find.

The biggest thing a king did in the ancient Near East was build a temple. Now David did that, but not in the same way. Normally when a Near Eastern king came into power, they set up their own capital city regardless of what already existed (he did that); named it after them (he didn’t do that); then build yet another temple to their god to show what a devout, god-chosen leader they were. No temple existed in Israel until David decided that his living large while God dwelled in a tent was just not right. Why? Saul was not a man of religious fervour, to put it mildly. It is doubtful he would have weighed up the difference between his home and God’s and decided to put the situation right. God had asked Moses to build the tabernacle, which was a nice tent situation, so that would do. It takes a different heart to choose not to live in greater splendour than the One to whom you owe you life, your success and your future. David had that humble heart that cared about His creator.

David’s humility also kept him from following in some of the other time-worn customs of kings. Yes, he did accumulate wives like other kings, which was against the law and had consequences which he regretted deeply. He did grab the King of Rabbah’s elaborate crown for himself… but he did not sing his own praises from the palace roof. Yes, of course he would have succumbed to ego on occasion. When even your wives bow and scrape before you, the human brain is going to go places it should not venture, and you’ll have a tough time staying humble. But David was undeniably modest compared to a typical king. [Ref. Rabbah 2 Samuel 12:29-30]

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald's wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey
Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald’s wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Other kings had elaborate stele (victory memorials), and/or commemorative orthostats (carved scenes on the walls) in their palace, telling everyone who visited how they had won wars, taken slaves and been the best of the best: a powerful man that you don’t mess with. David did none of this. Stele’s nearly always had their god carved into the picture in close proximity to the king to reinforce the idea that the king was chosen, blessed and victorious because of their god. It is the kind of idol imagery which is forbidden in the ten commandments and that may have been one reason why David didn’t do it. He recorded his life events through Psalms, some of which are like victory steles, others which are cries for help, but nothing else has been discovered. We have ancient Babylonian and Assyrian statues and orthostats which pre-date David, but nothing has been found of his as it appears, it just wasn’t his thing. Yes, it could have been destroyed when Jerusalem was sacked by Babylon; but there is no Biblical account of any such objects being made, even though we know which of his great-grandsons thought it would be fashionable to paint the palace walls red.

Read the Psalms: “I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b and “I will exalt You Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30 David never takes the glory for himself, he always gives it to God. It would be completely incongruent to his character to build memorials to himself for what God had done.

David was also humble in the empire department. When kings traditionally went on campaign each spring to expand their control, we find David staying at home in Jerusalem while Joab gets on with the security-related tasks. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11:1, Joab was dealing with the aftermath of 2 Samuel 10.] He dealt with the enemies of Israel, but he didn’t get ambitious beyond that. It was common for kings to start expanding their territory just because they could. David didn’t. It’s that simple. The Lord had said, “I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.” 2 Samuel 12:8  It looks like David simply did not ask God for me. He was satisfied with a secure nation and the blessing he had. Psalm 34:14 …. says “seek peace and work to maintain it.” Taking this general attitude and his habit of not joining Joab on the battlefield unless it was absolutely necessary, it appears David was simply not a war-mongering conquerer.

He didn’t give himself a grandiose title or nickname either. King Lugal-zaggisi of Sumer claimed that he ruled the four quarters of the world, even though he was only the ruler of the neighbouring regions of Sumer and Akkad. Etana, King of Kish, called himself “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries.” En-me-barage-si, also of Kish, referred to himself as the one: “who made the land of Elam submit,” and Kubaba, the only female king, called herself: “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” David once referred to himself as the “sweet singer of Israel,” but it was it.

I have often called David the anti-king because of his humility, but the glory doesn’t even go to him for achieving that. While it was his choice to be open to the leading and correction of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day, it was God’s work in David which turned him into the awesome man he became. As many have said, David was the start of an era and the end of that era… and that era was planned and put into place by his God, YHWH, who did this not just for David, He did it for all of His people. God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will.


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.