How Gentle Kings Become Killers

gentle-kings-become-killersIt can be very hard to comprehend how gentle, kind people who love God, can pick up a sword and wipe out opposing nations. This is one of the issues I see people battle with in studying the life of King David. While we are introduced to him in 1 Samuel as a brave young warrior, a mighty man of valour, this image seems to harshly contradict the Psalms and our understanding of him as a God-fearing, righteous ruler. This article will look at why and how David had to act as he did.

As I write this, we live in an age of religious and ethnic tolerance and those values have been perpetuated with the spread of Christianity throughout the world. It is morally imperative that we don’t put people to the sword just because we don’t believe in the same god. So why did David do it and how should we interpret his behaviour?

In David’s time, God’s kingdom of Isra’el did not live in safety. There were constant threats of invasion, being taken as slaves, robbery, rape and murder. God raised up a man after His own heart, David, to lead the people to safety and ensure that they followed Him, the one true God. [Ref. 1 Kings 11:34, 2 Samuel 5:12 and Judges 2:2-3]

For Isra’el to be safe, the surrounding nations had to be bought under control. This was predominantly due to their polytheistic lifestyles, which continually poisoned the spiritual lives of the people of Isra’el. The references which repeatedly advise, implore and demand that the Israelites resist and get rid of these gods are many and include, from Deuteronomy alone: 7:16 and 25-26; 12:2-7 and 29-32; 20:17-18; 28:13-14; 29:16-21. This is not an exhaustive list. Following other gods would lead the people to destruction and the Lord did not want that to happen. Why?

Yahweh is known as a jealous God, but He is so for protective reasons. This is a point in history where religious tolerance just doesn’t apply and if there were religions carrying out these practices today, tolerance would not apply now either. Throughout every culture, if you study standards of morality, there are some practices which are intolerable, regardless of nation, year, race or religious creed. These include murder, prostitution and harming others. Sadly, these neighbouring religions demanded obedience to rituals which involved all those elements.

Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A'abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.

Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A’abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.

Here are the worst offenders:
– Ba’al: a fertility and war god, who demanded self-mutilation, ecstatic shamanistic like dances, ritual sex (which in cults that exist now, is often abusive and non-consentual, which may have been the case then also,) and child sacrifice.
– Asherah: the poles for this goddess are frequently mentioned in the books of Kings. She was considered the consort to Yahweh as Isra’el later dived into a spiritual abyss. Prostitution was a part of her worship.
– Ashtoreth or Astarte: she was an agricultural and fertility goddess who had a close association with Ba’el and again, ritual prostitution was involved in obeying and appeasing her.
– Molech: he was represented as an ox or calf, and he required the sacrifice of live, young children by burning and ritual sex practices.
– Chemosh: he was a war god who delighted in human sacrifice.

Realise that the people conceded to these demands, as they were terrified of the consequences of disobeying their god/goddess.
Would you like people who followed these practices living next to you and having any influence on your children? My guess is that you said no.

In Deuteronomy 31, God told Moses before he died, that Isra’el would eventually break the covenant they had made to obey God and worship Him alone. Moses was given warnings and a song to teach the people, in order to make them realise that God knew what was about to happen: but God wasn’t going to see it happen without a fight.

The warnings are dire and repeated and they needed to be. Psychologists have carried out studies to find out why people don’t meet their goals, and what they need to accomplish tasks to improve their quality of life. The research has found that if you show people the probable pitfalls and their chance of failure, rather than simply pumping them up with “you can do it, you will win” messages, people are more likely to achieve what they want as their outlook is more realistic. If you know you can fail, you don’t slacken off.

Thus the Lord told and told and told Isra’el, and David went to great lengths to ensure the physical and spiritual safety of the nature. After David died, his son Solomon began the path to total spiritual destruction and the exile of Isra’el, by marrying women from these dangerous nations, who worshipped these forbidden gods. In succeeding generations, first born children were sacrificed, the sexual immorality in Isra’el was overwhelming and the city of Jerusalem was so corrupt, the Spirit of God left the temple. [Ref. Ezekiel 10]

But still, even knowing this would happen, the Lord tried repeatedly to save His people. It is an act of a loving God which is incredibly precious and beyond price.

So now that you know why it happened, how can a good man kill to get a job like that done? This applies not only to David, but all the entire army of Isra’el.

When people are seen as a threat, fear kicks in and this motivation will enable people to do what they would otherwise consider unthinkable. When a threat is that close, people kill to survive. Consider Leviticus 6, where the Lord points out the punishment for disobedience. The people knew that they could lose everything. (Please see the footnote below.)

Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons

Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons

There are two other dynamics which will turn a sweet guy into a killer. As a crowd loses it’s individuality in a mass of faces, it becomes easy to dispatch or enslave them. They are not known by name, fame, or family ties and therefore, the guilt that murder and violence causes is significantly reduced for each soldier. It would be diminished even further, as the army acted under the orders of King David and General Joab, son of Zeruiah, David’s sister. If a figure of authority orders an act of violence or immorality, then research has found that people are far more likely to carry it out and they don’t fret about repercussions as much. It is the commander who will get the moral blame, not them. This is termed moral disengagement.

The last point which would affected the behaviour of David and his army is the old rule of ‘an eye for an eye.’ [Ref. Deuteronomy 19:21] In the Old Testament there was no known final judgement of the sinner and the saint. It was believed that for whatever you did wrong, you had to be punished for in life, not the afterlife; therefore rough vengeance was enacted through acts of war like this. It was the standard for the people at that point in history, and this law was common throughout all the ancient world, even up until the successful dominion of Babylon. Through the laws that God handed down through Moses, this was ratified as legally correct behaviour. God had said in Deuteronomy 9:4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.” This verse implies that if David was successful in defeating those nations, it was because God had judged them as wicked and He enabled their defeat. God was acting on His own laws.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
If you would like to read more to further understand David’s actions as a ruler and the intricacies of power in the ancient world, you are welcome to read these articles.

– Was King David a Megalomaniac?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32067
– Does Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupt?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32731
– Law and Disorder in the Life of King David
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32070


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.

Advertisements

Was King David a Megalomaniac or a Psychopathic Killer?

kdbArchaeologists have found tablets in the area where Moab was, which pretty much describe King David as a hated enemy. Even some Biblical scholars consider him to be a megalomaniac who slew nations, took territory and stopped at nothing to make Isra’el a powerful force to be reckoned with. Yes, he did those things, but in many instances those actions were in obedience to the instructions left by Moses in Deuteronomy 7. Also if you look at the diagnostic criteria for megalomania, and compare David to known leaders with that problem, David’s actions and behaviour doesn’t even begin to resemble the condition.

Enemy nations were a threat to God’s chosen people, Isra’el for two reasons:
1. There was always a danger of being taken as slaves again.
2. The influence of surrounding pagan nations, who pulled Isra’el away from the one true God and worshipped their gods using ritual prostitution, child sacrifice, self-mutilation and other atrocities. That influence had to be stopped for everyone’s safety. Religious tolerance would be grossly inappropriate.

So David dealt with them to stop the danger to the nation.

In this day and age, it is only acceptable, under the United Nations, to go to war if the country you are fighting has already assaulted you. King David’s behaviour now would be considered excessively aggressive, intolerant and reprehensible. He wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, which is fair. However, this was three thousand years ago. He was under the Law, not the grace which was later won by his great-grandson, Jesus Christ. It was a totally different world, which I would hate to step back into. It would be alien to me and very hard to cope with.

Today, he would be considered a tyrant, but by the Biblical standards of the time he did the right thing. He made the nation of Isra’el safe from foreign rule and foreign gods and he fulfilled his obligations as a king, to the letter. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” [2 Samuel 8:15]

From Acts 13: “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ “ 1 Kings 11:34 “‘But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees…” That is the final word of the Lord of all. Biblically, David’s name is cleared of wrong doing.

covenantIn terms of mental health, if you compare King David to known megalomaniacs such as Joseph Stalin, Colonel Muammar Gadalfi, Idi Amin Dada and Adolf Hitler, his behaviour is actually a stark contrast to them. The accounts of David in the Bible show a humble man, with compassion for people, a solid adherence to Biblical laws, fair actions and a healthy respect for human life and suffering. These are not the traits of a megalomaniac.

Technically, megalomania is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is characterised by extreme excesses in the areas of violence, controlling behaviours, flouting wealth, extolling accomplishments to an irrational level and being an unstoppable negative force in every way possible.

David made the kingdom of Isra’el safe, then the wars stopped. He did not try to build an extensive empire by conquering other nations such as Assyria, Babylon, the Philistines, or Egypt, which only a megalomaniac would seek to do.  He did not bestow multiple titles upon himself, indulge in building monuments to himself, he only had one palace, neither did he torture, arrest, curse or demean his fellow citizens, even when they directly rebelled against him. No one was threatened into silence or compliant behaviour and David even hated bribes. When he was in trouble, he sought the Lord for deliverance. [Ref: Shimei 2 Samuel 16:5-13]

If you would like to read more to further understand David’s actions as a ruler and the intricacies of power in the ancient world, you are welcome to read the articles below. Watch this video on dictators who were megalomaniacs to make an easy comparison between their behaviour and David’s.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
– How Gentle Kings Become Killers
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32773
– Does Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupt?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32731
– Law and Disorder in the Life of King David
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32070

Psychological Resources of Megalomania / Narcissistic Personality Disorder
– DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder In-Depth | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-in-depth//
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/
– Mental Health.com Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://www.mentalhealth.com/home/dx/narcissisticpersonality.html


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.

How to Kill Giants: Searching for the Deep Secrets Behind King David’s Success

creation swap 23540_Rooted_-_Grow_Deep._Live_Tall.A friend sent me a link to a sermon on “how to kill giants” and as I watched the sermon on David and Goliath, I thought about how many times I have heard that story preached. We all love David as a hero and want to follow in his footsteps.

There are many aspects to David’s life, but the ones I find mentioned the least often, are those which involve suffering, or spiritual discipline; yet, this is what we need to hear about the most. It’s the hard times and good habits that hold the real secrets to David’s spiritual and earthly success. Unless we, like David, are willing to take the harder paths through life, we will not be able to slay the giants in our lives. There are no shortcuts.

David appears to be a paradoxical figure. He had all the power and wealth of a king, yet was a gentle, kind-hearted, humble man. He didn’t throw his weight around, slaughter every enemy, or put his own welfare as his greatest priority. He cared about the Lord and the people he led. I describe David as an anti-king, as he doesn’t fit our ideas of what royalty is like. He’s both Rambo and St Francis of Assisi combined: the warring hero who wants to be a channel of God’s peace.

It has taken me months to understand how these potentially opposing sides of his character work. I have found there are several threads which bind these two disparate parts together into a healthy, concrete whole.
1. His obedience to the Torah, (God’s laws as handed down through Moses) which explains his warrior motivation;
2. His submission to God through prayer and seeking the Lord’s will, which makes him more like St Francis; (and is is of course, followed by obedience, or he would have been just another failed king.)

David’s passionate devotion to the Lord was his greatest asset. It led him to not simply stick to the law and hope that everything would work out. [Ref. 1 Kings 15:5 and Psalm 40:8] He maintained a God-first, disciplined, active relationship with the Lord. David never tried to achieve the success of the kingdom himself… no matter how great his reputation was. He knew Who had trained him to lead men and Who had built his Kingdom and military success. David had the sense to stick close to his God, no matter how powerful he’d become, also ensuring that Yahweh was given the full glory due, for all of his victories and blessings.*

The only recorded instances of David not seeking God, are when he fled into Philistine territory when pursued by Saul; when he sinned with Bathsheba and should have sought mercy very quickly; and when he called for a census. Those bad decisions were all fuelled by fear. Every other time, he went to the Lord, or to a reliable prophet for advice first. Considering that David’s time as King spanned forty years, that is an impressive success record.

“In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.
The Lord said, “Go up.”
David asked, “Where shall I go?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.
So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.” 2 Samuel 2:1-4

A number of Bible scholars have noted that absolute power is a dangerous thing. When a king doesn’t have to answer to anyone, they frequently become dangerous; but David chose to be readily answerable to the Lord. That saved him for sliding down the same path ego-driven, godless of Solomon and sadly, most of his successors.

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:12-14

This is one of the key secrets to David’s success and a lesson to us all in humility, service and submission. Often we’re guilty of making plans and then expecting God to bless them. If someone with the status of a king sees fit to seek God first, we should certainly be doing the same. David is an outstanding role model in this area.

creation swap davidDavid’s obedience and humility meant that God could not only trust him to rule, but he could also be entrusted to minister to us. Thus we have the legacy of the Psalms to comfort and instruct us, and the legacy of his life to learn from. Aside from Jesus, more passages in the Bible are about David than anyone else. In 2 Samuel 7:9b the Lord told David, “…I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!” Even in secular society, David is well known as an archetypal hero. Archaeology and three major religions recognise David as an inspiring and pivotal figure.

Please pause to consider this: if we adopt David’s habits of seeking the Lord’s will for our lives FIRST, what legacy can we leave behind? What can we be doing that positively changes our world and impacts future generations?

We sing about wanting to be history makers; submission and then obedience is how we achieve that. It is not an easy road. It requires sacrifice and selflessness; yet if we really want to walk closely with the Lord, knowing that we’ve done the very best that we can, then we need to be like David and put ourselves second. Our success will come when we get on our knees first and not take action until we know what God wants for us.

“I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.” Psalm 123:1-2

* Please see The Anti-King: David and Humility for more information http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33025 and visit the project web site to browse the section on the Psychology and Reality of Kingship. http://cateartios.wix.com/kingdavidproject


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

The Trouble with Saul: Mental Illness or Character Flaw?

David_playing_the_harp_before_Saul._Engraving_by_W._van_der_Wellcome_L0012090Trying to understand Saul is a task that honestly, I have stalled on for some time. I am more interested in David, as David’s life holds so many keys to how we can forge a closer, more effective walk with the Lord. Saul only conjures up images of a confused, aggressive man, who was alienated from God by his own choice. It’s an unhappy forty-two year story with no happy beginning, or end.

I have read many opinions on what ailed Saul once he had been rejected by the Lord, and demonic torment commenced. There are only two symptoms to go on: aggression and anger. The most conclusive verse is: “Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” That tells us almost nothing. The best clinical definition I can associate with Saul’s state of mind is hyperarousal, which goes with many psychological and medical conditions, and may be a transitory, fight or flight state, which dovetails with his fear. So linking Saul’s demonic oppression to clinical depression, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, epilepsy, or anything else, is a long leap in logic.

The first time Saul was disobedient to God, it was because of fear. This becomes a thread that never leaves his life story. After his second act of public rebellion in 1 Samuel 16:14, when Saul chose greed over obedience, the demonic attacks commenced: “Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorised him.”

In the original Hebrew, you can use the word terrorise, or troubled. Some versions claimed that this included depression, but there is no concrete evidence of that and interestingly, there is also no clinical reason to conclude that the demon caused any kind of mental illness. As the demon came and went, it was not a case of possession either.

So what can we assume? The evidence for what happened is quite solid. It centres around the fear and jealousy that obsessed Saul, knowing he was going to lose his kingdom. Plus if Saul knew the history of the people of Isra’el, it meant only one thing: he was also going to die. When judgement fell on disobedient people, the penalty was *death. [Ref. 1 Samuel 12:14-15 and see base of post for examples.] The demon would have used that to maximum effect and would not need to incite any form of mental illness, to be incredibly successful. Saul’s ego and lack of self-esteem did most of the work. [Self-esteem references: 1 Samuel 10:22-23 and 15:17]

Saul lost the kingdom through the disobedience that comes from not really caring about God. 1 Samuel 13:13-14 gives us the first point where it happened. “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. Had you kept it, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

The damage was done, the next king chosen. So from then, Saul was on the look out for his successor, and it didn’t take long for Saul to find him.

1 Samuel 18:6-12 “When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”
This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

Saul was then afraid of David, for the LORD was with David and had turned away from Saul.”

759px-Smart_Hymn17_PraiseFrom that point on, the situation went around in circles. Saul did everything he could to get rid of David, his probable successor; then when David spared his life, Saul had a brief change of heart, before he allowed his total paranoia to take over again.

In the end, an aged Saul, “frantic with fear,” consults a medium to see if he can win against the Philistine army. At this point he also falls to the ground, paralysed with fear. [Ref. 1 Samuel 28] Fear is the problem. Magnified by a long term (at least twenty years) knowledge that he would die and lose his kingdom, that fear would have damaged Saul’s emotions and psyche on many levels, even without demonic interference.

Saul’s character flaws and unrighteousness showed in many ways. He argued with his son and successor, Jonathan, behaved cruelly to his daughter Michal; and his reign was summed up relatively early on, with this controversial and misleading verse: “Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious.” 1 Samuel 14:47

Victorious is what Saul had always wanted, however, according to the Hebrew word which is used in the place of victorious in the original texts, it should read “and wherever he turned, he acted wickedly,” or “he mistreated.” The Hebrew word is rasha, which in Strongs Concordance numbers is 7561. (Have a look at it in Biblehub.com http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7561.htm and see for yourself.)

Rasha is a sad indictment on Saul’s behaviour and character.

For a comprehensive chart comparing both King Saul and King David’s character and behaviour, please visit the From Despair to Deliverance Facebook page. The chart tells most of the story succinctly and covers many more pivotal issues. Though one part I didn’t have room to put in, was that Saul left the Ark of the Covenant (the centre of worship) where it had been stashed after being returned by the Philistines and gave it no obvious attention. (God’s Presence was on the Ark.) David bought it into Jerusalem, the Capital city of Isra’el and centre of power and worship.

DavidvsSaulintraits


*Torah references regarding losing life due to disobeying God.
– After the golden calf: Exodus 32:27-29
– Strange fire: Leviticus 10:1-7
– Blasphemy: Leviticus 24:10-23
– The generation that rebelled in the wilderness: Numbers 14
– Korah’s rebellion: Numbers 16, specifically verses 20-35 then verse 49
– Moses and Aaron died before they could enter the promised land, because of disobedience:
Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 34
– The men who worshipped Baal of Peor: Numbers 25


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

All images in this post are public domain licensed.