How to be “Led in God’s Righteousness:” Spiritual Maturity

Lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes.” I was reading Charles Swindoll’s “Living the Psalms,” when that sentence bought me to a dead halt. I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk like that. I’d say, “Lord guide me;” or “please strengthen me so I don’t become want revenge;” but I’d never think to ask straight up for righteousness.

Righteousness was a good choice. David got straight to the heart of everything he needed by using that word. It’s another example of the exemplary spiritual maturity that he showed from a surprisingly young age. I am well over double the age David was when he dealt with Saul’s attacks in a wise way, and I can’t hold a candle to his example. I would be trying to fight my way out of that situation, rather than maintaining my innocence to stay clean before the Lord. It takes more self-control to do that, than I possess.

Spiritual maturity is hard to quantify: it’s not static. It is not something that is gained which stays at a minimum fixed level; rather it’s a process of becoming holy, balanced and responsible. It affects the totality of how you react, think and feel and you can lose it all, or parts of it. When David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah for convenience, he ignored the moral part of his maturity for a time, even though he was still mature in other areas. That incident is a reminder that we all have to work hard to keep our heads on straight. We never arrive with no danger of backsliding.

Spiritual maturity (and growth) are not accumulatively achieved as a result of ageing. It comes through surviving tough life experiences and hard work. A working definition of spiritual maturity covers an extensive number of areas and behaviours in life, and I see many of them in David. (This definition list is by no means exhaustive.)

– Uncompromising obedience to the Lord;

– God alone becomes your primary resource of strength, wisdom and guidance;

– you act and serve other people in love, not out of obligation, or seeking reward;

– you bring peace rather than create strife or problems, and settle disputes wisely;

– your pride is well on the way to dead; plus you don’t focus on your achievements publicly;

– you respond to your failures and sins with repentance and a desire to please God, picking yourself up off the floor, determined to do better (teachable and humble);

– you desire God’s correction and are willing to make adjustments to your thinking and behaviour;

– regardless of what hits you in life, you push forwards with hope, praising God;

– your attitude and faith are a catalyst which strengthens other people’s faith;

– you don’t treat God as a needs-delivering vending machine, but instead respond to Him with joy, trust and the positive expectation that He is there for you, whether you can feel that or not;

– you build your relationship with the Lord daily, without prompting, or because you’re desperate;

– you have tamed your tongue and are not caught up in appearances;

– you do not act out of vengeance or judgement, but with the fruit of the Spirit;

– you give all credit to God, or other people as appropriate, never yourself;

– you care for the elderly, sick and disadvantaged in the community without doing so because you feel motivated by guilt or duty;

– you’re kind, generous, loyal and dependable;

– you can be trusted to be moderate in dangerous areas, such as in the use of power, alcohol and sex…

… or to put it very succinctly, you have learned that God is in charge, where you stand in Him and you continuously lose your selfishness in order to follow and obey Him.

The rewards of seeking spiritual maturity are greater joy, peace, hope and stability. You cope with the ups and downs of life better, find more fulfilment in the path the Lord is leading you down and have an enriching, dynamic relationship with Him, which will pull you through any havoc that life can throw at you. That makes the process of slowly killing off your selfishness to become mature worth it. It is a long learning curve which is never easy, but the benefits make every moment of sacrifice undeniably worthwhile.


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

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.


When Terrifying Psalms Suddenly Look Quite Tame

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.

Over the last six months I have been studying ancient history from a secular point of view, in order to understand the culture of Isra’el and the forces which shaped her idolatry. It’s been a fascinating time which I have enjoyed, but it has taken me to some pretty dark places!

To understand David and what social mindsets slid into the Psalms, I have looked at a number of pagan hymns, the epic of Gilgamesh and this week, the Code of the Babylonian King, Hammurabi. One thing sure stood out to me: if you thought Psalms such as Psalm 109 were pretty savage, you aint seen nothing yet! Trigger Warning: violent, gory content.

Here is a hit of Babylonian royal ego which will make you think about David’s roughest works in a completely different way. His slant is more towards divine justice than calling down divine revenge. I will leave it to you to mull over the contrast. I am still getting my head around it.

First, here is one of David’s Psalms of vengeance, Psalm 58:

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy!”
“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.
These wicked people are born sinners;
even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.
They spit venom like deadly snakes;
they are like cobras that refuse to listen,
ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers,
no matter how skillfully they play.
Break off their fangs, O God!
Smash the jaws of these lions, O LORD!
May they disappear like water into thirsty ground.
Make their weapons useless in their hands.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime,
like a stillborn child who will never see the sun.
God will sweep them away, both young and old,
faster than a pot heats over burning thorns.
The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.
They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then at last everyone will say,
“There truly is a reward for those who live for God;
surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.”

Now for Hammerabi. I have slashed this down to 273 words. There are another 1604 words in the epilogue where Hammurabi takes the time to say how great he is. Plus there is a heap more self exultation in the prologue. The odd names are all referring to pagan gods. I have cut it into paragraphs to make it readable.

A stele picturing Hammurabi. It's also worth noting that David didn't go wild producing pictures of himself.

A stele picturing Hammurabi. It’s also worth noting that David didn’t go wild producing pictures of himself.

“May Zamama, the great warrior, the first-born son of E-Kur, who goeth at my right hand, shatter his weapons on the field of battle, turn day into night for him, and let his foe triumph over him.

May Ishtar, the goddess of fighting and war, who unfetters my weapons, my gracious protecting spirit, who loveth my dominion, curse his kingdom in her angry heart; in her great wrath, change his grace into evil, and shatter his weapons on the place of fighting and war. May she create disorder and sedition for him, strike down his warriors, that the earth may drink their blood, and throw down the piles of corpses of his warriors on the field; may she not grant him a life of mercy, deliver him into the hands of his enemies, and imprison him in the land of his enemies.

May Nergal, the might among the gods, whose contest is irresistible, who grants me victory, in his great might burn up his subjects like a slender reedstalk, cut off his limbs with his mighty weapons, and shatter him like an earthen image.

May Nin-tu, the sublime mistress of the lands, the fruitful mother, deny him a son, vouchsafe him no name, give him no successor among men.

May Nin-karak, the daughter of Anu, who adjudges grace to me, cause to come upon his members in E-kur high fever, severe wounds, that can not be healed, whose nature the physician does not understand, which he can not treat with dressing, which, like the bite of death, can not be removed, until they have sapped away his life.”

If you would like to read more, you can find the full, mind boggling legal code here. Some of it is very fair; some of it makes your head spin. They were hard times to be alive.


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

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.

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.
– How Gentle Kings Become Killers
– Does Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupt?
– Law and Disorder in the Life of King David

Psychological Resources of Megalomania / Narcissistic Personality Disorder
– DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder In-Depth | Psych Central
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central
– Mental Narcissistic Personality Disorder


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

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.

Law and Disorder in the Life of King David

DtoDBookCoverThis is a chapter from the book which has pulled together all the contents of the project. It is available from The Internet Archive and Cate’s Google Drive Account.

CONTENT WARNING: this chapter may distress some readers.

To understand King David’s actions, you need to know several key laws that were handed down by Moses and some of the civil laws which may have been applicable at the time. Without these, incomprehensible holes are left in David’s life and his motivations are easily misunderstood.

In all you read, remember this caveat: “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15

“For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5

“After He had removed him, 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.’ “From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” Acts 13:22-24


Marriage and Adultery

When men went to war, because they could go missing in action, which would leave their wife and children in a terrible position where they couldn’t remarry for financial survival etc., the men obtained a “Get” (sefer k’ritut or divorce) before they left for the battlefield. If they came home, they got remarried. It was a protective custom. [Ref. base of and Jewish TV]

When David secretly sinned with Bathsheba, her husband Uriah was serving at war, so Bathsheba was legally not married at the time. You can imagine the inner rationalisation David may have made, to justify his actions. However, under the law set by Moses, none of his justifications would have legally resulted in anything other than his death.

David warranted the death penalty for both adultery and murder. [Ref: incident 2 Samuel 12; Leviticus 24:17 on murder and Deuteronomy 5:17, the 10 Commandments on murder.] “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” Deuteronomy 22:22 NASB

David fought off the guilt for nearly a year, making himself ill in the process. As for anyone, the thought of the death penalty was more than he was willing to face. The prophet, Nathan, finally bought him to account. [Ref: 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Deuteronomy 22:22-29 covers all possibilities. Cross reference: incident Leviticus 20:10 and on adultery and the 10 Commandments, Deuteronomy 5:18.]

“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:3-5

Both he and Bathsheba should have been put to death for adultery; there was no rape involved. Bathsheba did not scream for help as per the law; this is further evidence that Bathsheba was complicit in the sin and David’s advances were not violent. [Ref: Deut. 22:27] The Bible calls rape, rape; it never hedges on the nature of sin, to make readers more comfortable; and in the instance of rape, David would have been called to account by Nathan. (Yes, I know this is all debatable, but this is the situation in line with the Biblical evidence.)

This war divorce law also probably came into play when David had to escape Saul, then Saul retaliated against David by marrying David’s wife, Michal, off to another man in David’s absence. Saul could have simply lied and said, “he has disappeared, he had a Get.” If old Gets were kept in order that a new one didn’t have to be hand written for each warrior, every time they went to war (I don’t know if that actually happened, but it would be practical), Saul could have obtained an old one and thus his actions appeared legal… and David should technically, have never taken Michal back [Ref. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as an example of defilement by a second man.]


Technicalities On Murder

1. Absalom wanted his brother Amnon dead, after his sister Tamar was raped, he had his servants kill Amnon. They were promised that he would protect them from the death penalty. He did not do that, he fled when Amnon was killed and remained in hiding for three years. In this instance, even though everyone knew Amnon was to blame, the death penalty would have been given to the servants as they had obeyed, whether under duress, promise of protection, or not. As for what should have happened to Absalom, morally and legally King David should have had his son bought to Jerusalem and tried for conspiracy to murder, even if he did not act as Judge himself. [Ref. 2 Samuel 13:24-28 and Deuteronomy 5:17, the 10 Commandments on murder.]

Amnon had a legal responsibility to marry Tamar: “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” He didn’t want to do so, so he should have been punished. [Deuteronomy 22:28-29] It does sound like he should have been given the death penalty, but what father wants to murder his first born son and heir to the throne? This is where David appears to start to waver with justice in regards to his family. The laws seemed to halt at the palace gates. Yet, the Lord abstained from killing David when he was found guilty of his conduct with Bathsheba, so should David not have mercy?

These are God-sized questions, with God-sized answers that I can’t even begin to make a final judgement on; and neither should any of us, as judgement belongs to the Lord. The need for His wisdom is reinforced by Absalom showing the symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder with narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies. He was a sick man. James 2:13 says: “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” King David had the Spirit of the Lord on him. He knew the meaning of grace and mercy. [Ref: 1 Samuel 16:13]

Yet, these crimes are so serious.

With Amnon gone, Absalom became successor to the throne. Could this have been part of his reasoning to have Amnon killed? Was it only about his desire to avenge Tamar’s rape? That was an event that David had wrongly, not addressed. Absalom lost his succession and life fairly, in the next event, so the ultimate justice was done.

12584141_s2. When Joab killed Absalom against David’s orders, should Joab have been put to death? Was Absalom a casualty of war? Was Joab protecting Isra’el’s best interests by enabling King David to reclaim the throne?

“The king charged Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king charged all the commanders concerning Absalom.” 2 Samuel 18:5

“Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” Then Joab said to the man who had told him, “Now behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” The man said to Joab, “Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect for me the young man Absalom!’ “Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men who carried Joab’s armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.” 2 Samuel 18:9-15

Firstly, it was a custom from the time of Saul, that disobeying the orders of the King could incur a death penalty. The Levitical rule regarding the death penalty for murder could have been used. To make matters worse, it was the King’s son, regardless of Absalom’s treason. Joab, as usual, thought like a solider and not like a righteous man, but he is not put to death. Why? He is one of David’s top warriors and commands the army of Isra’el. He may have been too valuable to kill. Plus David knows that what has occurred from the rape of Tamar onwards is the result of his sin with Bathsheba. He may have felt that taking even more blood, for problems he originally caused, was not right.

Nathan’s prophecy was fulfilled when Absalom defiled David’s ten concubines publicly, which was an act of seizing the king’s power and contravened the law in Deuteronomy 22:30. Absalom had violated his father. [Ref. 2 Samuel 16:21-22] The prophecy stated: “‘Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'” 2 Samuel 12:9-12 NASB

When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he did follow the laws and did not take his wives back as wives, as they had been defiled. It is possible that they could have been killed, had Absalom’s act been taken as adultery. David placed them in seclusion where they lived as widows, rather than taking action would have led to death or poverty (if he’d turned them out onto the streets.) [Ref. 2 Samuel 20:3 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as an example of defilement by a second man.]


Torture or Slavery? How Enemies Were Treated

What a difference a vowel can make. The Old Testament Tenach) was written in Hebrew, thus it was recorded without any vowels being included, which makes some verses of the Tenach difficult to interpret. It also allows room for various translations to soften harsh incidents, which offend modern readers. One instance of this occurs in 2 Samuel 12, when David and his armies capture the Ammonite city of Rabbah and then go on to eliminate the Ammonite threat throughout all the cities and towns. The controversial Scripture is 2 Samuel 12:31.

Here is what the New Living Translation says: “He also made slaves of the people of Rabbah and forced them to labor with saws, iron picks, and iron axes, and to work in the brick kilns. That is how he dealt with the people of all the Ammonite towns. Then David and all the army returned to Jerusalem.”

You need to read the footnotes to hear the alternative version: “He also brought out the people of Rabbah and put them under saws, iron picks, and iron axes, and he made them pass through the brick kilns.”

Yes, that does mean they were killed in horrendous ways, using saws, picks, axes and by being cast into the fires of kilns. The Masoretic Biblical text supports this as the correct version. Why is that plausible? Why wouldn’t it have been slavery?

As we have already seen in regards to murder, the rule is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life. [Ref. Deuteronomy 19:21] The Ammonites killed their prisoners using saws, picks and axes, thus it was done to them. As for the kilns? The Ammonite custom was to worship the pagan god Molech which required the sacrifice of their first born child, by throwing them into the fires of a kiln. The same was done to those who had massacred innocent children in this manner

Don’t forget, in this time period 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. The Bible’s stand on this? As incredulous as it is to us today, the Tenach supports it. The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot, who Moses was told in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 were the enemies of God’s chosen people, as they had turned their backs on them, when God had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt.

In Deuteronomy 7:12-16 the explanation continues, on the basis that opposing nations must be destroyed, as “When the LORD your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them [which is what happened in 2 Samuel], you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you.”

So as abhorrent as this seems, to treat the Ammonites in this manner was to obey the commands given by God, to Moses.


Laws Regarding the Conduct of Kings

This Scripture is self-explanatory, as is where King David fell short of it. [Ref. Deuteronomy 17:14-20]

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, [note that it is never God’s idea or desire to have a king over His people, He later regrets allowing it] ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. “It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”

As the King often judged legal cases, the laws for judges are also applicable. You can find them in Deuteronomy 16 onwards and in Leviticus 24.

36762152_sHow Kings Make and Break Nations

So what if you don’t follow the laws set down by Moses and the Lord? Simply put, obedience leads to prosperity and peace; disobedience leads to complete disaster in every area. How closely a King follows the Laws has consequences for everyone, as the ruler does affect his whole nation. It is advisable for any King to take the approach of Hezekiah and keep the Laws to the letter with a loving, faithful heart, thus avoiding the catastrophes below, which in time, came upon both Judah and Isra’el.

“He [Hezekiah] did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.” [2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29 onwards.]

The blessings for obedience are set out in Leviticus 26:1-12.

‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. ‘Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land.
‘I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble.
I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. ‘But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.
‘So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you,
and I will confirm My covenant with you.
‘You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new.
‘Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. ‘I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.’

The mere start of the curses/consequences of disobedience are below: [Leviticus 26:14-46]

‘I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away;
also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up.
‘I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.
‘If also after these things you do not obey Me, (if you haven’t repented after all that…) then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
‘I will also break down your pride of power;
I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze.
‘Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit.
‘If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, (if you haven’t repented after all that…) I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins.
‘I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle
and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted.
‘Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me,
then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins.
‘Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.
‘I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.
‘I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas.
‘I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it.
‘You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.
That is three levels of sinking into the dust, with another level that I haven’t recorded. The full Scripture that covers all the blessings and curses is here in Leviticus 26. However, they all come with the promise that if the people repent, their relationship with their God will be restored.

Verse 40: ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me…’

Verse 42: ‘then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well,
and I will remember the land…’

Verse 44: ‘Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.’

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King David’s Approach to Violence and What We Need to Learn from Him

The brochure and my pendant.

In my jewellery box is an Irish warrior’s shield pendant. Sometimes I wonder what King David would have to say about me owning one. Part of me feels a little foolish, in that I am not a warrior, so what am I doing with such a thing? I haven’t earned my stripes in battle, but have certainly overcome my share of obstacles… That must be acceptable, but my concern goes deeper than that.

What am I, as a Christian, doing valuing a symbol of violence? Unlike His great-grandfather, David, Jesus was a man of total peace. He never hit anyone, never killed anyone in Isra’el’s defence. He was like Solomon: a man of peace who built the new temple of God. As I live within the New Testament covenant of grace, I am duty bound to be a person of peace, turning the other cheek. The only sword I am supposed to hold is the sword of the Word of God. I agree, but images of swords and shields make me feel safe.

Today reinforced how much I am not alone in this. My husband and I went to the Queensland Museum’s “Medieval Power: Symbols and Splendour” exhibition, which held an intriguing collection of objects from the British Museum. The exhibit had pottery, religious objects, marvellous jewellery, seals, the most stunning drawings and scenes carved into ivory with the most exquisite craftsmanship… and there were knights. There were knights everywhere; they dominated.

Knights are romantic figures. Cosplayers want to be them, we play video games to become them and in Medieval times, Kings and noblemen who had never seen battle, had their portraits painted wearing a knight’s armour, just to prove how powerful and successful they were. Knights were rich men. One piece was a badge that would be attached to a horse’s bridle, and the explanation told us that a war horse cost four hundred times the salary of a common man: that is that man’s yearly salary. That’s an obscene amount of money, but regardless, people wanted to be a knight! We’re frequently drawn to the hero who vanquishes enemies and wins. Why? Because feeling powerful makes us all feel safe; it’s not just me who wants that shield.

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

The biggest take home message I got from the exhibition was our fascination with violence, which is startlingly as alive now, as it ever was. We no longer have to worry about our houses being raided, in the same way people were forced to in times past. We have police, locks, alarm systems and a sense of security undreamed of in that time; yet still we are drawn to violence. The games we play are Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty Black Ops 3. We watch the Karate Kid movies, Mission Impossible, Navy Seals and many, many crime and punishment style television programs, with violent content. Mankind is drawn towards harming others in many ways.

Here in March 2016, we want world peace, but in November 2015, Activision, who makes Call of Duty, earned $1.04 billion in three months from game sales. For people who don’t want war, what is going on? The answer is simple: it’s sin in action. Our carnal nature takes us where we shouldn’t go and we fill our time with destructive entertainment.

You’d never expect to see Jesus playing these games, but what about David? Would he have played them, being the warrior he was? I don’t believe so.

I do have a basis for that belief. While his not going to war is criticised by theologians in regards to his sin with Bathsheba, when I studied David’s military habits, it was his custom to not run into every battle. [Ref: 2 Samuel 11:1] In this incident with the Ammonites, the head of the army, Joab, took command of the first part, then in verses 10:6,7 when the Ammonites called in more reinforcements, David left for battle with more of his men. David also stays back in Psalm 60 and in 2 Samuel 2:12-17.

Now we don’t know why he did that, but what is crystal clear is his choice not to be obsessed with pursuing violence and the fame that military victory can bring. My article, Yesterday’s Hero, talks about the persecution David underwent as King, when his early victories over Goliath and in Saul’s army were pretty much forgotten. This could have fuelled him to get into the action and concrete his image as an indispensable asset to the nation, but it didn’t. David fought for the safety of Isra’el and in line with the standards in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and that appears to be it. For whatever reason he chose to not become a career soldier-King, he still made that choice. This decision has been highlighted by Joab’s actions. If someone was a threat, Joab killed them without a hint of regret. Joab spent months on the battlefields killing men and his unrighteous love of the sword and strife was a thorn in David’s side. [Ref: 2 Samuel 3:1-30]

We know that David was a kind-hearted man, who looked to the Lord for protection and ruled with wisdom. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15 His vision of the world was broader than any sword, it was based on spiritual principles and his love of God, and that made him a far greater success than any military prowess he had. “For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5 and “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My Own Heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “ Acts 13:22

There’s the key: knowing God’s heart. That heart is One that protects when necessary, but doesn’t honour or need the adrenaline rush of violence to thrive. God’s heart is the One which chooses a change in character; it’s the One which heals and delivers and it’s the One David looked to for protection. Read Psalm 11; it starts: “I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!” Then goes on to say, “The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.” David knew where the boundaries were and he stopped before he reached them.

It’s no new revelation that we should reject the things of this world, and that includes any participation in violent entertainment in any form; but when you look at that same value from a successful warrior’s point of view, that message hits home so much harder. We need to copy David’s example and put our imaginary swords away.


– Yesterday’s Hero: Ancient Politics or, How to Keep a King Humble
– How to Kill Giants: Searching for the Deep Secrets Behind King David’s Success
– Good King or Nasty Sinner? How Negativity Bias Affects How We Interpret the Life of King David

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How We Can Use Goliath’s Sword

7076543_m“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts. Perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” John Steinbeck

It is easier to rule by intimidation and violence, than by humility and faith. Yet, despite many threats to David’s life and kingship, he never turned into an aggression-driven tyrant. David’s attitude was this:
“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.
So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.” Psalm 62:1-3a

However, this lesson in trust was not learned early. It only became a life choice of David’s after Saul’s initial attempts to kill him. Like all of us, David resorted to fleshly methods of coping first, then developed a greater faith the hard way.

When Saul fully gave full vent to his jealousy and paranoia about David, David fled first to the prophet Samuel, seeking refuge and guidance. Word of David’s location reached Saul, and after miraculous deliverance, David had to run again. He sought out Jonathan for answers and when Jonathan confirmed Saul’s determination to see David dead, he again fled and did something that an older David would find unpalatable. [Full story refs: 1 Samuel 19-21]

Firstly, he lied to the high priest who looked after the Tabernacle. David obtained holy bread which he had no right to touch. Secondly, he headed straight for a weapon: he demanded the return of Goliath’s sword from the priest. “There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!” [Ref: 1 Samuel 21:9b] That is a very emphatic request. There is nothing faith-reliant, or humble about it, and I suspect that the main reason that David went to the Tabernacle, is neither for bread or spiritual guidance, (he’d already met with Samuel), but to get that sword. (See an in-depth analysis in the footnotes.)

That doesn’t sound like David. What happened to:
“But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
I praise God for what He has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4/11

It wasn’t built into him yet.

David should have been in trouble with the Lord for taking the bread and possibly, also for taking the sword, however, the grace of God intervenes in this part of his story. The Lord uses this awful incident to help David survive to become King. God allowed David both the bread and the sword without penalty, as he and his men had to eat, and David would have to defend himself from many threats in the wilderness, he’d face in the years to come. As the sword and bread was God’s, it was also His to give and use as He desired. [Ref: 1 Samuel 21]

I am basing this on Jesus’ own discussion of this issue in Mark 2:25-26 “He [Jesus] answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (The Law helps people, people aren’t to be enslaved by it.)

God provided, regardless of His Law.

So now we have a terrified David. He runs for safety to Gath, a *large Philistine city, close to the borders of Judah, where Saul and his men won’t follow; but he is recognised and has to retreat yet again. To run to an enemy you have repeatedly fought against is an incredibly desperate, fear-fuelled act. It says a great deal about David’s frame of mind.

To escape the wrath of Saul, David’s family also has had to abandon their property and livelihood, and join David in hiding. He gets his ageing parents to safety through the family’s **ties in Moab, and he is left in mortal danger, with only a group of fellow renegades, his brothers and… Goliath’s sword.

Put yourself in David’s shoes. Everything has blown up out of control and rectifying it is far beyond his control. David probably knew why Saul had turned on him and feels acutely persecuted. He has never tried to seize power from Saul and is blameless, homeless and grieving his separation from his wife, Michal, (who he must have been worried about, knowing Saul’s temper, and because she’d risked her life to save him.) A significant number of innocent people are dead or suffering, and it’s all because of him. All David has is his faith and that sword. Symbolically, what would this sword have meant to David?

This treasure had to be a symbol of hope and encouragement. It would represent:
1. God’s proven intention to deliver Isra’el from her enemies, and maybe David from his;
2. it was a sign of God’s favour and honour on David’s life;
3. it was a promise of Kingship to come, as it was a king’s grade weapon; and
4. it was a means of violent defence.

With David’s full history in mind, Goliath’s sword teaches me two lessons that I can apply to my own life.

4114180_s1. Remember what God has done in our lives.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9

This is a traditional approach set down first by Moses, then repeated by the Psalmist, Asaph, as he reminds the people of his era to remember God’s deeds in Psalm 78. David does this also, in obedience to Moses, in Psalms such as Psalm 66. A publicly sung Psalm would enable the goodness of God to become a testimony and source of empowerment to everyone who heard it.

“Come and see what our God has done,
what awesome miracles He performs for people!
He made a dry path through the Red Sea,
and His people went across on foot.
There we rejoiced in Him.
For by His great power He rules forever.
He watches every movement of the nations;
let no rebel rise in defiance.” Psalm 66:5-7

Whatever the Lord has done in your life, keep it by your side, like a sword, as a reminder of God’s provision and love for you. Write it down, or keep a souvenir, so you remember that testimony. It will help you in the future.

2. When desperate or hurting, never let your actions be tinged with regret
David’s visit to the priests at Nob had catastrophic consequences. They were killed by Saul for helping, which devastated David. As long as he carried Goliath’s sword, as useful and encouraging as that symbol would have been, he would also be carrying a reminder of those deaths, his lies and his lack of faith. It is possible that this tragedy is part of what taught David to look for the Lord for deliverance, rather than first reaching for a weapon to defend himself with.

In all things, no matter how stressed we are, it’s far better to act in the best character we can muster, so we don’t look back with regret, or weep over the bridges we have burnt behind us. Don’t become aggressive when you’re backed into corners; whether that’s through words you will later regret, bitterness, or any action that is unrighteous.

It’s easy to grasp any tool to make yourself feel safer in a time of desperation, just slow down and try and ensure that you’re reaching for the right one.



Please see “By Heart or By Sword” for further explanation on David not using violence for deliverance.

* This is based on recent archaeological findings. Gath is thought to have been around eight times larger than David’s Jerusalem, and would have been a logical hiding place.

** David’s family ties were via his grandmother, Ruth, from the book of Ruth.
To understand this part of David’s story properly, you need to understand the circumstances surrounding the sword. For example, why wasn’t it with David in the first place? As part of the spoils of war, Goliath’s sword was rightfully David’s and Saul did not take it as his own. Goliath’s sword was a huge, heavy piece of iron, in days when apart from King Saul and his Crown Prince, Jonathan, no one throughout Isra’el had iron weapons at all. [Ref: 1 Samuel 13:19-22 ] Even though David had headed Saul’s army, maybe he wasn’t entitled to carry a weapon of such a high calibre? That privilege may only have belonged to the King, and David was a humble servant, who would not have kept a better weapon for himself, than the King had.

As the sword was located in a sacred place, behind the ephod in the Tabernacle where God was worshipped, I wonder if David had surrendered it to the Lord as an offering? It was his first victory and it appears that he knew where the sword was. The location of the sword would not have kept it safe from raiding Philistines, so if it was an offering, did David have the right to take it back? Especially as at the same time, David was also given the holy bread that had sat in the Tabernacle as an offering to the Lord, and was strictly only for the priests consumption, under the Laws God gave the people through Moses. The bread was to help feed the priests. Taking that bread, was like taking part of someone’s wages and should not have happened. This is complex and I don’t have all the answers. I have studied and debated this long and hard and this is the best I can figure out. I could be completely off track. What do you think?


The Spiritually Mature David’s Attitude to Deliverance:

“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 37:7-9

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honour come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8 (Cross reference Psalm 131:2)

“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land You have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!” Psalm 16:5-8

Article source for these Scriptures: The Anti-King: David and Humility

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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.

Epic Fail: When Compassion and Fairness Seem Beyond Me

I always use this image to represent Joab. It's a negative bias, I know it.

I always use this image to represent Joab. It’s a negative bias, I know it. Plus the era is wrong…

I am an obvious King David fan – yes, I own it. However, I try and be fair. I spend a lot of my time debunking myths about his life and working to represent him in a balanced, positive manner, but I am aware that too much of that borders on favouritism. After writing about polygamy, my head is stuck solidly in the mode of “favouritism is bad.”

So I did something which has been on my heart to do for months, I wrote about Michal and what led her to become the bitter woman she is depicted as. Then the Lord challenged me. If I wanted to treat everyone as fairly as David, then what about Joab?

Joab – the villain – the heartless murderer – the bad guy – the one even David felt defeated by. [Ref. 2 Samuel 3:6 and especially verse 39] I needed to be fair to him?

OK, if God challenges, He challenges. Game on!

As I said in the article about Michal: “One of the biggest problems we have with understanding people in the Bible, is that we often only receive a quick, isolated snapshot of their lives. We are not presented with a well rounded image of their personality, spiritual views or life experience. Thus it becomes very easy to label people as entirely good or bad, based on what we see and without taking into account, possible reasons why they came to be at the place and attitude they have reached. If one of these snapshots is negative and it’s the first one we see, then that person is branded.”

So I tried to un-brand Joab. I looked at the fact that he had three brothers, all of who had joined David in the wilderness at a young age. They were all excessively aggressive perhaps they had been abused as kids? Maybe their father had died when they were too young to lose him? Somehow, something is obviously wrong there, my social worker instincts are screaming at me that this must be so. I have no Scriptural evidence, but for three kids to be that far off the rails, something has gone wrong.

So there is room for compassion there, right?

This is the point where I admit failure. I have struggled with this for weeks, talked to Christian friends and the take home message is, I just can’t feel sorry for Joab. Michal was kicked around like an old potato sack, and as a woman, I can feel bad for her, but Joab? He didn’t have a mental illness. If David had fired him, he would have created a serious enemy; and to kill him at the wrong time, would have made David an equally unrighteous criminal. It’s a sticky, nasty situation.

Joab was an uncontrollable, but sadly, useful menace. When harsh action had to be taken and fast, he was the right man for the job and Isra’el’s security did benefit from his presence. However, there is no excuse for an adult who committed the inappropriate murders, and acted in the unrighteous manner that he did. Joab’s life path was not beyond his control. He had a choice and at the point of realising that, my compassion began to walk away.

Actually, that is the root of Joab’s whole problem: a need for control. He wasn’t a man of faith, he just played the game. Joab had no respect for David’s position at all and could not comprehend David’s reliance on the Lord.

He would not even smother his dislike of David’s approach by saluting the rank, if not the man. “But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety. Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!” [2 Samuel 3:22-25]

Joab was a man of action, who leaned on his sword and his wits to get him through. I just can’t find something to feel empathy towards.

So I feel like I failed. I can write up an article about the problems with poor parenting at the developmental stages of a child’s life, but at the end of the day, I am relying on instinct, not the Word of God, so I don’t feel I can do that. I can only write an article on aggression and how it motivated Joab and that doesn’t feel like enough. It hasn’t produced mercy, just judgement and I am supposed to be laying very, very light on the judgement!

All I can do is say, “Lord, sorry, but this is an epic fail on my part.” I know that whatever there is to be compassionate about with Joab, the Lord knows what it is and He would have judged Joab in complete fairness. But I can’t.

This is like understanding BathSheba for me: I don’t know either her or Joab, so I can’t be either objective or righteously subjective. If I could sit down with them to talk, and hear their view and what they feel, I would definitely see them completely differently but this is impossible.

So that is my final word on Joab: I don’t have enough information. I wish I had more, but I don’t. I won’t make up facts when I have no proof and I have to accept that sometimes it’s fine just to say,”I don’t have the answers and it’s OK not to know everything.”Just as long as I don’t harden my heart against the possibility that he was a hurting, misled person, that is the best I can give. It is the best I can give anybody. I hope that one day I find a way to give more.

What would you do, in my place?

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