David’s convictions became apparent to his family and friends early in his life. While visiting an Israelite military camp, David was horrified to see the Philistines’ champion, Goliath, arrogantly challenge the Israelites: “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together” (1 Samuel 17:10 1 Samuel 17:10And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
American King James Version×).
No Israelite dared face the giant. This situation infuriated David. “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?” he demanded. “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26 1 Samuel 17:26And David spoke to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
American King James Version×).
The events that immediately followed became a legend.
David’s accomplishments were many. He captured Jerusalem, reunited the nation and controlled an empire.
How did this young man, whose background included herding sheep, writing poetry and playing and singing songs under starry skies, become a fearless, valiant warrior?
Let’s consider how David matured into the most renowned of Israel’s kings.
David’s accomplishments were many. He captured Jerusalem, making it the national capital, and reunited the nation. In a 40-year span he controlled an empire that stretched from Egypt to Mesopotamia. A man of many talents, he was a shepherd, poet, musician, warrior and statesman and an administrator who set a standard for the later kings of Israel and Judah.
As the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, his job was to tend sheep. Shepherding meant lonely vigils as well as opportunities to come to know God in an intimate relationship that developed throughout David’s life.
The story of David’s ascent to the crown began rather unceremoniously. It all started when God sent Samuel to anoint a replacement for King Saul. Saul had disqualified himself to rule; God decided on another man: young David.
Outward appearance secondary
God directed Samuel to go to the abode of Jesse, where he would anoint a king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel did as he was told, then began to take stock of each son. “So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him’ ” (1 Samuel 16:6 1 Samuel 16:6And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.
American King James Version×). Samuel reasoned the way so many of us do: He was certain that Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, with his confident bearing, height and impressive good looks, was the one God would choose.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’ ” (1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
To God the heart-a person’s innermost motivation and attitude-is of prime importance: “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×). Eliab’s regal appearance didn’t qualify him to become Israel’s next king. David’s heart did.
One by one Jesse’s sons came before Samuel to determine who was to be king. It didn’t occur to Jesse to send for young David. Samuel was puzzled as it became evident God had chosen none of the sons brought to him. “Are all the young men here?” he asked (1 Samuel 16:11 1 Samuel 16:11And Samuel said to Jesse, Are here all your children? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, and, behold, he keeps the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come here.
American King James Version×).
Informed that the youngest was out tending sheep, Samuel requested: “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”
“And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:12-13 1 Samuel 16:12-13 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and with of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
American King James Version×).
From these humble beginnings came Israel’s greatest king. David’s early training had taught him to herd sheep; now God would teach him to lead a nation.
After his anointing as king, David returned to his flocks, and it was from there that he visited his brothers on the Philistine battlefield and witnessed Goliath’s challenge.
When David asked what would happen to the man who slew this insufferable braggart, someone reported David’s words to King Saul, and the king sent for him.
David wasn’t intimidated by Israel’s king or the enemy giant. He recounted how he had killed a lion and a bear that had threatened his family’s sheep, “and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God … The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:36 1 Samuel 17:36Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.
American King James Version×).
Fighting in God’s name
Carrying only his staff, David marched forward to meet the giant, stopping only to select five smooth stones from a brook. When Goliath saw how small young David was, he mocked him: “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? … Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” (1 Samuel 17:43-44 1 Samuel 17:43-44 43 And the Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
American King James Version×).
David’s response was fearless: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45-46 1 Samuel 17:45-46 45 Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
46 This day will the LORD deliver you into my hand; and I will smite you, and take your head from you; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day to the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
American King James Version×). The following events quickly found their way into legend.
David rushed toward the giant. “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:49-50 1 Samuel 17:49-50 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took there a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell on his face to the earth.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
American King James Version×).
Saul and the army of Israel were shocked to witness the impossible. An unknown shepherd boy had killed the giant. The stunned Philistines fled; the battle turned into a rout.
A jealous king
After David killed Goliath, King Saul required David to live with him in his palace as a military commander (1 Samuel 18:2-5 1 Samuel 18:2-5 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.
3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
5 And David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
American King James Version×). He proved a loyal and wise leader.
However, after a campaign in which Israel had again soundly defeated the Philistines, the people of Israel welcomed back Saul, David and the army. When Saul heard the women singing that “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 1 Samuel 18:7And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
American King James Version×), he grew envious.
David served under Saul’s jealous rages. The king tried several times to kill David, but to no avail.
David found himself forced to become a fugitive, an outlaw. However, God used Saul’s persecution of David to forge leadership qualities in him. From the anxieties and turmoil he suffered, David developed faith, resourcefulness and determination.
David first fled to Nob, where he stocked provisions and obtained Goliath’s sword from the priest, Ahimelech. From Nob David fled to Gath, in Philistine territory. There he would be safe from Saul. At Adullam he gathered around him other disaffected members of Israelite society, the nucleus of a formidable fighting force.
When David returned to Judah, Saul heard about Ahimelech’s aid to David. Saul ordered 85 priests from Nob killed for Ahimelech’s presumptuousness in assisting David. Only one of Ahimelech’s sons escaped, and he joined up with David.
David heard that the Philistines were harassing Keilah, a town of Judah. With God’s help he defeated them. Yet the ingrates of Keilah contrived to turn David and his 600 men over to Saul. So David fled into the Wilderness of Ziph.
The opportunistic men of Ziph plotted to betray David to Saul. David fled again, this time to the Wilderness of Maon, just ahead of Saul and his men. When Saul was momentarily diverted by news that the Philistines had raided the land, David descended to the strongholds of En-Gedi, near the Dead Sea.
David twice spares Saul’s life
This is where David’s sterling character shines through.
In his first embarrassing encounter, Saul, leading 3,000 soldiers, hotly pursued David and his little band. When Saul entered a cave to “cover his feet,” or “relieve himself” (as some Bible versions word it)-the very cave in which David was hiding-David’s men urged him to slay his pursuer: “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you’ ” (1 Samuel 24:4 1 Samuel 24:4And the men of David said to him, Behold the day of which the LORD said to you, Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it shall seem good to you. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privately.
American King James Version×). Instead, David restrained his men and crept close enough to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
An unwitting Saul left the cave and rejoined his soldiers outside. David then revealed himself at the mouth of the cave. Showing the corner cut from Saul’s robe, David pleaded with Saul to stop pursuing him: “Therefore let the LORD be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand” (1 Samuel 24:15 1 Samuel 24:15The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and you, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of your hand.
American King James Version×).
Saul was momentarily conscience-stricken. He admitted his depravity in his attempts to murder David and that David had indeed served faithfully and righteously. Saul asked David to swear to him that when he became king he would not destroy Saul’s descendants. David agreed and kept his promises.
Saul’s change of heart did not last. He again tried to hunt down and kill David. While Saul was encamped with 3,000 soldiers, David asked Abishai, brother of Joab, to accompany him on a daring nighttime maneuver that took them to the heart of Saul’s camp.
Together the two crept into the camp and saw Saul lying in a deep sleep. Abishai begged David to let him take Saul’s spear and run him through to the ground, but David refused: “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless? … As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish … But please, take now the spear and the jug of water that are by his head, and let us go” (1 Samuel 26:9-11 1 Samuel 26:9-11 9 And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless?
10 David said furthermore, As the LORD lives, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish.
11 The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the LORD’s anointed: but, I pray you, take you now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.
American King James Version×).
When David and Abishai had traveled a safe distance from the camp, David called back to Saul, revealing how easily the king could have been killed.
Again, Saul was ashamed of his murderous designs toward David. His parting words were prophetic: “May you be blessed, my son David! You shall both do great things and also still prevail” (1 Samuel 26:25 1 Samuel 26:25Then Saul said to David, Blessed be you, my son David: you shall both do great things, and also shall still prevail. So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.
American King James Version×).
David becomes king
David’s own words about Saul that night were also prophetic. Saul did perish in battle, as did his son, Prince Jonathan (1 Samuel 31:2-6 1 Samuel 31:2-6 2 And the Philistines followed hard on Saul and on his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, Saul’s sons.
3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.
4 Then said Saul to his armor bearer, Draw your sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armor bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell on it.
5 And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on his sword, and died with him.
6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor bearer, and all his men, that same day together.
American King James Version×). The day was infamous in Israel’s history. David’s anguish (2 Samuel 1:17-27 2 Samuel 1:17-27 17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: 18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) 19 The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places: how are the mighty fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 21 You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, on you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. 22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. 23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25 How are the mighty fallen in the middle of the battle! O Jonathan, you were slain in your high places. 26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant have you been to me: your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
American King James Version×) over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan is a model of righteous grief. The words of his lament-“How the mighty have fallen!”-have echoed down through the ages.
David returned to Judah, where, in a public ceremony, he was anointed king over Judah (2 Samuel 2:4 2 Samuel 2:4And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead were they that buried Saul.
American King James Version×). He reigned in Judah for seven and one-half years (verse 11). Israel’s northern tribes did not yet receive him, for Abner-commander of Saul’s army-had Saul’s son Ishbosheth installed as king.
The rivalry between supporters of the two monarchs soon heated up, played out by Abner and Joab, David’s general officer. In a battle between their two armies, Abner killed one of Joab’s brothers. Then Joab retaliated by killing Abner. David mourned the valiant Abner’s death just as he had mourned for Saul and Jonathan. Shortly thereafter, Ishbosheth was murdered. David mourned his death and had the murderers executed. This showed David’s concern for fairness: He would not let unjust deeds go unpunished.
The way was clear for David to assume sole power over Judah and Israel, and he was anointed king over the reunited nation. Shortly thereafter David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (2 Samuel 5:6-10 2 Samuel 5:6-10 6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem to the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spoke to David, saying, Except you take away the blind and the lame, you shall not come in here: thinking, David cannot come in here.
7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
8 And David said on that day, Whoever gets up to the gutter, and smites the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Why they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.
9 So David dwelled in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.
10 And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.
American King James Version×). He reigned over all Israel for 33 years following seven in Judah-a total of 40 years.
The kingdom thrived under David’s rule. Things went well for him militarily, administratively and spiritually. With God’s help, David experienced one military victory after another.
David’s material power was staggering. His kingdom included the Mediterranean on the west, the Sinai desert in the south, much of Transjordan on the east and the Euphrates on the north (2 Samuel 24:5-7 2 Samuel 24:5-7 5 And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lies in the middle of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:
6 Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,
7 And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.
American King James Version×). God was with David; he enjoyed much success in his roles as ruler and warrior.
The troubled court of David
Like all people, however, David was far from perfect. He was prone to stumble, sometimes quite dramatically. God recorded David’s mistakes so we can learn from his example (Romans 15:4 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 10:11 1 Corinthians 10:11Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.
American King James Version×).
From the anxieties and turmoil he suffered, David developed faith, resourcefulness and determination.
His sordid behavior with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-26 2 Samuel 11:1-26 1 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
2 And it came to pass in an evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look on.
3 And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned to her house.
5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
6 And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 And when Uriah was come to him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.
8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to your house, and wash your feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
10 And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down to his house, David said to Uriah, Came you not from your journey? why then did you not go down to your house?
11 And Uriah said to David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.
12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let you depart. So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow.
13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set you Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire you from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew that valiant men were.
17 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war;
19 And charged the messenger, saying, When you have made an end of telling the matters of the war to the king,
20 And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say to you, Why approached you so near to the city when you did fight? knew you not that they would shoot from the wall?
21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went you near the wall? then say you, Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
22 So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for.
23 And the messenger said to David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out to us into the field, and we were on them even to the entering of the gate.
24 And the shooters shot from off the wall on your servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
25 Then David said to the messenger, Thus shall you say to Joab, Let not this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another: make your battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage you him.
26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
American King James Version×) was a turning point in David’s life. God’s subsequent punishment of David for adultery and murder brought dire consequences. David had greatly prospered, but after this watershed incident his troubles markedly increased. Yet David’s repentance, recorded in Psalm 51, has stood as an inspiring example throughout the generations.
The next major episodes in David’s life included his two sons, Amnon and Absalom. Amnon raped his half sister, Tamar. In retaliation, Absalom killed Amnon and fled. Absalom was eventually brought back to David by Joab. Although David allowed Absalom to return, they were not reconciled for two years.
Afterward Absalom began an active campaign of subversion against his father (2 Samuel 15:1-37 2 Samuel 15:1-37 1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called to him, and said, Of what city are you? And he said, Your servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.
3 And Absalom said to him, See, your matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear you.
4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!
5 And it was so, that when any man came near to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said to the king, I pray you, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the LORD, in Hebron.
8 For your servant vowed a vow while I stayed at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.
9 And the king said to him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.
10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, Absalom reigns in Hebron.
11 And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.
12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
13 And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.
14 And David said to all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil on us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
15 And the king’s servants said to the king, Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king shall appoint.
16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.
17 And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off.
18 And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Why go you also with us? return to your place, and abide with the king: for you are a stranger, and also an exile.
20 Whereas you came but yesterday, should I this day make you go up and down with us? seeing I go where I may, return you, and take back your brothers: mercy and truth be with you.
21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will your servant be.
22 And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.
23 And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.
24 And see Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.
25 And the king said to Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation:
26 But if he thus say, I have no delight in you; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seems good to him.
27 The king said also to Zadok the priest, Are not you a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.
28 See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.
29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
30 And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
31 And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray you, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
32 And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth on his head:
33 To whom David said, If you pass on with me, then you shall be a burden to me:
34 But if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant till now, so will I now also be your servant: then may you for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.
35 And have you not there with you Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever you shall hear out of the king’s house, you shall tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.
36 Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send to me every thing that you can hear.
37 So Hushai David’s friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
American King James Version×). Flattering and promising the citizens everything they had ever wanted, Absalom eventually won them over. His father, David, once again had to flee for his life.
The stage was set for a final confrontation between Absalom’s forces and David’s army. Absalom’s soldiers, under Amasa, were no match for David’s seasoned warriors. The slaughter was unbridled, and Absalom fled for his life. As he absconded, his hair got caught in the boughs of a tree. The mule he was riding left him dangling from the tree. While he struggled to free himself, his pursuers caught and killed him.
After Absalom’s death came a power vacuum. It took some time for David again to be accepted by the people of Judah, and even longer before Israel accepted him. It wasn’t until Joab killed Amasa (2 Samuel 20:1-26 2 Samuel 20:1-26 1 And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel.
2 So every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri: but the men of Judah joined to their king, from Jordan even to Jerusalem.
3 And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.
4 Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days, and be you here present.
5 So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him.
6 And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take you your lord’s servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us.
7 And there went out after him Joab’s men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men: and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.
8 When they were at the great stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa went before them. And Joab’s garment that he had put on was girded to him, and on it a girdle with a sword fastened on his loins in the sheath thereof; and as he went forth it fell out.
9 And Joab said to Amasa, Are you in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him.
10 But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.
11 And one of Joab’s men stood by him, and said, He that favors Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab.
12 And Amasa wallowed in blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa out of the highway into the field, and cast a cloth on him, when he saw that every one that came by him stood still.
13 When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.
14 And he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, and to Bethmaachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.
15 And they came and besieged him in Abel of Bethmaachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down.
16 Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, to Joab, Come near here, that I may speak with you.
17 And when he was come near to her, the woman said, Are you Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said to him, Hear the words of your handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.
18 Then she spoke, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.
19 I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: you seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why will you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?
20 And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.
21 The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said to Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.
22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.
23 Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:
24 And Adoram was over the tribute: and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder:
25 And Sheva was scribe: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:
26 And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler about David.
American King James Version×) that Judah and Israel were again joined under David’s leadership.
A man after God’s own heart
Considering such problems, some might wonder why God thought so highly of David. Part of the answer is that, in spite of his lapses, David usually wholeheartedly sought God’s will. He didn’t withdraw from the responsibilities of life. The biblical record shows that, the more conditions around David deteriorated, the more he grew in character.
David remained faithful to God throughout his life. His loyalty to His Creator was beyond question. Read about his reliance on God in the psalms of David. He was “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1 2 Samuel 23:1Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
American King James Version×).
Luke writes in the book of Acts the assessment of the apostle Paul, that David was a man after God’s own heart. God, wrote Paul, “raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will’ ” (Acts 13:22 Acts 13:22And when he had removed him, he raised up to them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.
American King James Version×). What a tribute to the former shepherd boy who became king!