Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament is a part of the Holy Bible that shows the history of the Jewish people before coming of Christ. The books of the Old Testament are full of enthralling stories and exciting adventures. The reader comes across many characters on the pages of the Hebrew Bible: prophets and kings, shepherds and warriors, men and women.
The figure who catches my imagination most of all is a truly bright personality who had no equals in his time and throughout the whole history of Israel. I speak of King David, who was a shepherd, a warrior, a musician, a poet, a prophet, and a king. David’s reign started the Age of Israel’s Glory, united Israeli tribes into a single mighty kingdom and made Jerusalem capital of Israel. Finally, he planned the construction of the Temple of God that was of utmost importance for Jews. There were a great number of miracles and heroic deeds in his life, and in spite of some mistakes, he is considered one of the greatest kings of Israel. David’s life is described in two Books of Samuel, in one Book of Kings and one book of Chronicles. Moreover, David wrote 73 Psalms to God. In the first book of Samuel, we see David as a young boy born in Bethlehem in a simple family in Judah’s tribe. Prophet Samuel describes him as “ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to” (King James Bible, 1 Sa. 16.12). David herded his father’s sheep playing the lyre and singing psalms to God. When the prophet Samuel came in search of the future king of Israel, he chose David.
David was a talented musician, with a gift to reach the hearts of the listeners with his lyre. For example, his music could console King Saul in the periods of madness and drive the evil spirit away (1 Sa. 16.12). He was a kind and openhearted person and made great friends with Saul’s son Jonathan (1 Sa. 18.1).
When war with the Philistines started, the enemy warrior Goliath challenged Jews to fight face-to-face in order to decide an outcome of the battle. Goliath was a giant, and his fighting skill was well known. His view and voice paralyzed Jewish soldiers. Young David dared to counter Goliath in the name of the Lord, with a sling alone, and he hit the enemy down with a stone (1 Sa. 17). That was a sign for both armies that God was on the Jews’ side, the Philistines fled in panic, and David’s fame as a great warrior started. The story of David and Goliath is truly inspiring; it shows that we must not be afraid of difficulties if we are right.
After his victory over Goliath, David became very popular with the people of Israel. He led Saul’s army against enemies and always won with God’s help. People sang in admiration, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousand” (1 Sa. 18.7). Being a modest person, he did not attribute those victories to his talent and did not forget to praise the Lord. David’s great popularity stirred up Saul’s envy and suspicion, and the king decided to kill David. Several attempts to kill David failed, but it became clear that he could no longer stay at Saul’s court. Saul’s son Jonathan warned David of the danger and David fled to save his life.
David spent the following years of his life leading a small army of loyal people and seeking peace and refuge. He escaped from one town to another, but Saul persecuted him everywhere. David even had to hide for a while in the Philistine territory simulating madness. Saul treated David unfairly, but David remained loyal to Saul, never waged war, and never joined enemies against him. Two times Saul was in David’s hands and both times David spared Saul’s life, although he could hardly expect any gratitude from the king (1 Sa. 24; 1 Sa. 26). David preserved the strong faith in all troubles, and God always protected him. David was peaceful by nature but had to live in constant danger and encounters: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps. 120.7). His popularity grew even more in those times; he became a hero to the common people as well as found friends and support almost everywhere. Those years were very hard for David, his life was difficult, but he never lost his connection with God. It reminds us that even in the heaviest moments of our life, we should not lose hope. If we trust in God, He will not desert us.
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After the battle with the Philistines, when King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed, David could return from his exile. He went to the city of Hebron and was anointed king over Judah there. From all Israeli tribes, only Judah was loyal to David at that moment, the rest supported Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth. It led to a war between Judah and Israel that lasted until two traitors assassinated Ish-Bosheth. They brought his head to David expecting a reward, but David executed them. He was a fair and honest man and did not use dirty methods.
David’s obedience to God, his charisma, his personal qualities attracted people to him, and finally, all Israeli tribes united under his rule. Some years later, he conquered the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem and transferred his capital there. David commanded to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem. From now on, that would be the place for worshipping God. That was a great plan: a unified nation, one capital, and a single place to pray. David’s greatest aspiration was to build a Temple for God in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, God refused David because the latter had shed too much blood in his life but promised that David’s son would complete the Temple. David could do only the planning part and collect the necessary construction and decoration materials. David led many victorious wars against the Philistines, the Moabites, the Ammonites, Syrians, and King Hadadezer of Zobah. He developed Israel to a powerful state respected and feared of by the neighbors.
David was not always obedient to the Lord. After the years of exile, when he was established as a king of Israel, he fell in love with Bathsheba, the wife of his warrior Uriah the Hittite and committed adultery with her. In order to marry Bathsheba, he sent her husband to war with a secret order to the general to organize Uriah’s death. Therefore, it happened. Such an act was not typical of David and became a heavy burden on his consciousness. Of course, God could not tolerate such a sin, and he punished David severely. Through His prophet Nathan, God told three awful things. First, He said, “Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Sa. 12.10). The second thing was “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun” (2 Sa. 12.11). Finally, God said, “the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2 Sa. 12.14). David repented, and as his repentance was sincere, God forgave him and spared his life. Nevertheless, David had to face the consequences of his deeds, and the prophet’s words came true.
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This story is very important in my eyes, it teaches several important lessons. First, it does not matter, how righteous you are, or how many good deeds you have done: if you commit a sin, it is a sin and nothing else. Second, even if you find peace with the Lord and He forgives you your sin, it will not remove its natural consequences from your life. I think that David missed the times when he was right before God’s eyes very much.
That was the beginning of an extremely tragic period for David. Peace left Israel. According to Nathan’s prophecy, blood was shed on David’s family. One of David’s sons, Absalom, killed his brother. After some years, he conspired against his father and collected a huge army. Even David’s closest counselor joined the plot. The domestic war began, David had to leave Jerusalem, and the capital was taken by Absalom to fulfill the second prophecy of Nathan. In the final battle, Absalom was killed. David’s life was saved, but it did not make him happy. He grieved much for his fallen rebellious son. After Absalom died, the Jews again swore loyalty to David, but already before he could reach Jerusalem, a new internal conflict began.
David was a glorious king, but his reign was not unclouded. Civil disorders, wars, betrayals, famine, and epidemic took place in that period. His great achievements prevail, nevertheless. He managed to unite separated Jewish tribes and laid the foundation for the great nation. The story of David’s life is not only an exciting page of Jewish history; it teaches us some actual lessons. David’s Psalms – his literary heritage – even today touch the heart of the reader.