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(2699 AM - 1061 BCE)
David and Goliath
(2700 AM - 1060 BCE)
Death of Samuel
(2701 AM - 1059 BCE)
Slaughter of Ahimelech and the priests
(2701 AM - 1059 BCE)
Death of King Saul
(2701 AM - 1059 BCE)
Death of Abner
(2703 AM - 1057 BCE)
(2703 AM - 1057 BCE)
End of the Philistine yoke
(2708 AM - 1052 BCE)
(2708 AM - 1052 BCE)
David and Bathsheba
(2718 AM - 1042 BCE)
The rape of Tamar
(2734 AM - 1026 BCE)
The rebellion of Absalom
(2739 AM - 1021 BCE)
Solomon is chosen as heir
(2741 AM - 1019 BCE)
Death of King David
(2741 AM - 1019 BCE)
Samuel the Prophet had two sons, Joel and Abijah, and he named them both as judges in Beer-Sheba, in the south of the land of Canaan.
And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice. --- I Samuel 8:3
The Israelites had huge respect for Samuel as a leader but were worried of his sons. History could just repeat itself after the disaster caused by the two corrupt sons of the High Priest Eli. So they asked the Prophet to elect a king among the people to command over the entire land. After having tried and failed for many generations with 12 judges to bring back the Israelites into His commandments, God accepted their wish and advised Himself the Prophet Samuel upon the choice of the person to be king:
Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valour. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, young and goodly, and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people. --- I Samuel 9:1-2
Samuel anoints Saul (Gustave Doré, 1868)
But Saul only reigned two years over the Israelites (I Samuel 13:1) as he proved to be a disappointment to God and Samuel. So, during all his reign, he never had rest from the arch-enemy, the Philistines (I Samuel 14:52).
God instructed Saul to go and destroy all the Amalekites and all their belongings. But Saul’s greed made him spare the best he could find among these enemies and keep them as spoils. Because of that, the descendants of Amalek will continue to cause huge damage to the Israelites in their History. One example will be Haman in Persia, and even probably Hitler in Germany ! This disobedience caused God to regret having chosen Saul as a king. Samuel passed onto Saul the divine displeasure:
And Saul said unto Samuel: "Yea, I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the devoted things, to sacrifice unto the Lord your God in Gilgal." And Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in hearkening to the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." --- I Samuel 15:20-24
King Saul executes Agag king of Amalek (Gustave Doré, 1868)
From this time, Samuel had no more involvement with Saul. God instructed the Prophet to go and anoint David instead. He was the youngest and 8th son of Jesse, from Beth-Lehem in Judah.
Now he [David] was ruddy, and withal of beautiful eyes, and goodly to look upon. --- I Samuel 16:12
From this secret anointment, God placed an evil spirit in Saul’s mind to terrify him. His servants brought David to play the harp for the king, and appease his mind.
The Philistines were the only Canaanite people left who continued to oppress the Israelites. The Philistines were assembled at the borders of Judah, in the Valley of Elah. From there, a giant Philistine, Goliath from the city of Gath, was provoking during 40 days the Israelite army camped on the opposite hill of Azekah. Similarly for the punishment of the explorers, when God associated one day of their mission for one year of punishment in desert, here again the correspondence of days and years to 40 can be noted. It was finally David, armed with a sling and stones, who managed to kill Goliath from a single stone.
David kills Goliath (Gustave Doré, 1868)
The Philistine army was in utter shock and fled away back to their cities. After such exploit, David was accepted in the royal house and befriended Jonathan, one of Saul’s sons. Also, Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David and became his wife. But jealousy rose in Saul’s mind against the rising star:
And there was war again; and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled before him. And an evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand; and David was playing with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the spear; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the spear into the wall; and David fled, and escaped that night. --- I Samuel 19:8-10
Samuel the Prophet died rather young, although the Biblical text seems to mention that he was already old before having anointed Saul:
And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. --- I Samuel 8:1
But the text actually doesn’t imply what has been used by translators, because it doesn’t actually use the normal form to designate the person was old of age, for example for Joshua. In the case of Samuel, the Hebrew sentence כַּאֲשֶׁר זָקֵן שְׁמוּאֵל should have been translated as when Samuel got old. What is the difference? Samuel got old because he aged early, by the cause of his inability to redress his sons, as his predecessor Eli had morally suffered. In both cases, both their sons were corrupt, and this caused sorrow and ageing to their fathers. However Eli did die old: this because he only started to judge after his father, and he was then already 58 years old. But for Samuel, who was selected from birth, the cause of the ageing is directly mentioned in the rest of the same sentence: he made his sons judges, and they became corrupt. Further the text emphasized the matter again when the Elders came to meet Sanuel in Ramah, the city where he lived, and they also connected his ageing with the corruption of his two sons:
And they said unto him: "Behold, you got old, and your sons did not walk in your ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." --- I Samuel 8:5
So, if Samuel did not actually die old, how long did he live? His mother Hannah came to Shiloh and made a vow in the year that Eli became the priest. She gave birth in that same Hebrew year, nine months after the vow (this would be the following year in CE calendar). As Samuel died some short time before Saul, he died at 52 years of age. The text however mentions that he judged Israel all the days of his life. As he was born to be dedicated to God by his mother’s vow, all the days of his life means that he was chosen by God as a judge from birth, as it was the case for the judge Samson.
Samuel was buried in his city of Ramah (I Samuel 28:3). According to tradition, this city was located on a height facing Jerusalem, where a building has been raised as the tomb of Prophet Samuel, Nebi Samwil in Arabic.
Jewish tradition states that Samuel died on the 28th of the month of Iyar. This day is also the day when, during the Six-Day War on the 7th of June 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated from its occupation by the Jordanian Brigade and the Jews were able to pray at the Wailing Wall again.
Tomb of Samuel the Prophet (source: a tourist web site)
It is worth noting the case of father-son issues: Eli was the priest but his two sons deviated from God. And before Eli, Aaron himself lost his two sons when they desobeyed God’s commandment. Samuel was also disappointed in the way that his two sons turned into corruption, despite being nominated as judges by their father. As of David, we will see that his son Absalom rebelled against him. And for King Solomon, the dispute between his two sons would cause the Israelites to divide between two kingdoms.
Saul sought to kill David. The latter went into hiding to avoid Saul’s men sent after him. Before running away, David met with Ahimelech the Priest of Nob who gave him the sword of Goliath that had been kept in the sanctuary. But, among the men present was a foreigner, Doeg the Edomite, who was at the service of Saul. He soon brought to the king the intelligence of this meeting, but lied to Saul about the reason for David’s visit, who had only come to find food:
Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who was set over the servants of Saul, and said: "I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. And he inquired of the Lord for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.'" Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob; and they came all of them to the king. And Saul said: "Hear now, you son of Ahitub." And he answered: "Here I am, my lord." And Saul said unto him: "Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread, and a sword, and have inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?'" Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said: "And who among all your servants is so trusted as David, who is the king's son-in-law, and gives heed unto your bidding, and is honourable in your house? Have I today begun to inquire of God for him? be it far from me; let not the king impute anything unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father; for your servant knows nothing of all this, less or more." And the king said: "You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you, and all your father's house."
And the king said unto the guard that stood about him: "Turn, and slay the priests of the Lord; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me." But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord. And the king said to Doeg: "Turn you, and fall upon the priests." And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and he slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses and sheep, with the edge of the sword.
And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had slain the Lord’s priests. And David said unto Abiathar: "I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul; I have brought about the death of all the persons of your father's house. Abide you with me, fear not; for he that seeks my life seeks your life; for with me you shall be in safeguard." --- I Samuel 22:9-23
Who was Ahimelech? When Eli and his son Phinehas died 13 years earlier, in Hebrew year 2688, the heir for the priesthood was just born on that day. He was called Ichabod by his mother who died when giving birth to him. Since the Ark had been taken by the Philistines, and later was hosted in the city of Kiriath-Jearim, the priests service was passed onto the family branch of Ithamar son of Aaron, who was residing in the city of Nob where they arranged a sanctuary. Ahimelech was the head of that family of Levites. Ichabod, the heir of the branch of Eleazar son of Aaron, was only 12 years old when Ahimelech and his sons were murdered by orders of King Saul.
David ultimately found refuge in the south, in the wilderness of Paran, with 600 followers (I Samuel 25:1). It was in the land of the Philistines, where he dwelt for one year and four months. While David in their territory, the Philistines waged another war against King Saul. The battle, at the feet of Mount Gilboa in Southern Galilee, was won by the Philistines.
Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was in great anguish by reason of the archers. Then said Saul to his armour-bearer: "Draw your sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and make a mock of me." But his armour-bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword, and fell upon it. --- I Samuel 31:1-4
Death of King Saul - by Elie Macuse, 1848
(Tel Aviv Museum of Art)
One of Saul’s sons, Ish-Bosheth, was alive and 40 years old at that time. Abner, the chief of Saul’s army, who was a relative of the royal family, proclaimed Ish-Bosheth king of Israel. But, in Judah, the people proclaimed David as their king (II Samuel 2:8-9). A civil war ensued but the house of David grew stronger over time.
The civil war lasted two years, until the death of Abner in Hebron. He came to broker a peace with David, and peace was accepted. But Joab, the army chief of David, deceived Abner to come back to Hebron, without David’s knowing about it, and smote him in revenge for the previous death of Asahel, Joab’s brother (II Samuel 3:30).
Who was Ish-Bosheth? In the Book of Chronicles, he is called Eshbaal (which means the "the Fire of Baal"). Obviously this was a pagan-originated name. Saul's son was later called Ish-Bosheth, which was surely a nickname given by his enemies because it means "man of disgrace/shame".
And Ner begot Kish; and Kish begot Saul; and Saul begot Jonathan, and Malchi-shua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal. --- I Chronicles 8:33
Soon after Abner’s death, Ish-Bosheth, who was a weak man, was assassinated by two of his followers (II Samuel 4:5-6), but the other tribes of Israel would still not accept David as their king who was still confined to the rule over Judah.
Archaeologists have found one inscription on a jar with the name "Eshbaal son of Beda". Obviously it doesn't mean that the jar belonged to Saul's son but it is nonetheless a very interesting find for two main reasons:
1- the inscription is in Proto-Hebrew characters and dating has been assessed to around 1000 BCE, thus contemporary of kings Saul and David; it is one of the rare Hebrew inscriptions dating for that very ancient period, 3000 years ago
2- the name Eshbaal, being derived from pagan culture was rare and never been used again in the course of Biblical history; it was probably a popular name at the time before Saul became king, when the Israelites were influenced by neighbouring Baal-cultic Canaanite cities; in other words, the name on the jar is indeed related to that period, when the first kingdom was established over Israel
The Eshbaal inscription
Eshbaal alias Ish-Bosheth met with a violent end:
And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, as he took his rest at noon. And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him in the groin; and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. Now when they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bed-chamber, they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night. And they brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king: 'Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the Lord has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.' And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them: 'As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of all adversity, when one told me, saying: Behold, Saul is dead, and he was in his own eyes as though he brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, instead of giving a reward for his tidings. How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed, shall I not now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?' And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.--- II Samuel 4:5-12
The yoke of the Philistines continued over the following years against Israel, until the Israelites finally decided to elect David as king over all the tribes. This is when the Philistines decided to stop their wars against Israel, 40 years after having started them as the Biblical stated it (Judges 13:1). Like for the 40 years spent in the desert by the Hebrew ancestors to pay for their sins, it was time again for the Israelites to be relieved from their oppressors.
The Tribes of Israel finally decided to elect David as their king:
Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spoke, saying: "Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who did lead out and bring in Israel; and the Lord said to you: 'You shall feed My people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'" So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah. --- II Samuel 5:1-5
The census of armed men in the kingdom at the time of David’s rule over all the tribes was as follows (I Chronicles 12:24-41):
- Judah: 6,800
- Simeon: 7,100
- Levi: 4,600 ; their leader was Jehoiada
- Benjamin: 3,000 ; he tribe had been down to 1,000 armed men after the civil war
- Ephraim: 20,800
- Half of Manasseh: 18,000
- Issachar: 200 leaders (so probably about 7,500 men)
- Zebulun: 50,000
- Naphtali: 1,000 leaders and 37,000 men
- Dan: 28,600
- Asher: 40,000
- East side of the Jordan River (Reuben, Gad, other half Manasseh): 120,000
These numbers represented a total of about 350,000 men of war. But making a census of the Israelites would be considered as bad omen since these days because it is said:
And Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. --- I Chronicles 21:1
It is necessary to explain though that there is no "bad god" called Satan in the Jewish religion: Satan is rather referring to bad feeling, or bad behaviour, etc.
David’s first act was to establish a new capital for the kingdom, instead of reigning over the Judean capital in Hebron. For this purpose he chose a city which didn't belong to any tribe yet, so that no dispute would arise about an act of preference of one tribe over the others. He considered the city of the Jebusites, situated on a hill in what will become the city of Jerusalem, at the border between the territories of Judah and Benjamin, to be the best choice as it would also heal the feud about kingship between the houses of Judah and Benjamin. He took the city of the Jebusites by finding a water tunnel leading to it from the Gihon Spring. He renamed the city as “City of David” (II Samuel 5:8-9).
The second act was to bring the Ark of Covenant in the new city (II Samuel 6:12). Sometime later he expressed to the Prophet Nathan the wish to build a proper building for the Ark, a house of cedar, but God made it clear He didn’t need such thing:
And it came to pass the same night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying: "Go and tell My servant David: Thus says the Lord: 'Shall you build Me a house for Me to dwell in? for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all places wherein I have walked among all the children of Israel, spoke I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people Israel, saying: Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?' --- II Samuel 7:4-7
King David, in a medieval manuscript (British Library)
David also built several military outposts to protect the kingdom's borders and main roads against potential intrusions from enemies. Archaeologists find remains of these sites in Israel today. The main proofs of such activity of outpost are determined by the clay seals (bullae) found of these sites, which prove there was a central power (monarchy), different from scattered tribal societies, at the time of the Iron II, which is David's time around 1000 BCE. 
Later in his reign, David desired a woman called Bathsheba (or Bath-Sheba), married to Uriah the Hittite. He commanded Joab, his army chief, to send Uriah to the frontline to get him killed. And so it happened. Then David took Bath-Sheba as wife, and she begot a first son who died, from divine judgment about David’s sin. But David genuinely loved Bath-Sheba and comforted her about her loss. She begot another son called Solomon. This one found grace in the eyes of God, and lived (II Samuel 12:24).
David and Bathsheba (Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1889, The Atheneum)
Tamar was one of the daughters of King David, from his marriage with Maacah, the daughter of the king of Geshur of the Arameans. She was loved by her half-brother, Amnon, the eldest son of David from his marriage with Ahinoam from Jezreel. As she refused his advance, he raped her, and then misbehaved towards her. This act angered Absalom, Tamar’s sister, who took revenge against Amnon two years later by having him killed. Absalom then fled from David’s anger and found refuge during 3 years to the foreign land of his mother in Geshur, the capital of which was Beth-Saida, a fisherman walled city that was located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Eventually David forgives him and Absalom is allowed back in Jerusalem, but never to show himself to the king. Absalom was praised for his beauty and his long hair.
The last year of David’s reign was soured by the rebellion of his preferred son, Absalom, who declared himself king while his old father was still alive. A civil war threatened to get started but Joab, the army chief, killed Absalom who got caught by a tree because of his long hair. This put an end to the rebellion.
The tomb of Absalom in Jerusalem (A. Sargent, 1890)
Towards the end of his reign, David had ordered Joab to number the Israelites in the age of war. Joab showed reluctance to do so, and came back with the figures of 800,000 men for Israel and 500,000 for Judah (II Samuel 24:9). He had missed to count some people in the census and this displeased David. In a later period, God will forbid to carry out censuses of the "children of Israel":
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered. --- Hosea 2:1
After the death of Absalom, Adonijah, the next heir in David’s lineage, started to act as if he would be king. He was supported by Joab, and also by Abiathar, the Priest from Ithamar branch who had escaped the slaughter of his father Ahimelech and the destruction of the sanctuary of Nob on Saul’s orders. But Zadok the Priest from Eleazar branch and Nathan the Prophet both sided with Solomon, the son David had with Bathsheba..
And King David said: 'Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.' And they came before the king. And the king said unto them: 'Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel; and blow you with the horn, and say: Long live king Solomon. Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead; and I have appointed him to be prince over Israel and over Judah.' --- I Kings 1:32-35
David started to reign at the age of 30 after the death of King Saul. He first reigned over Judah for 7 years, and then over all Israel for 33 years. In total, he reigned for 40 years.
Now these are the last words of David: The saying of David the son of Jesse, and the saying of the man rose on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet singer of Israel: The spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was upon my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: 'Ruler over men shall be the righteous, even he that rules in the fear of God, and as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds; when through clear shining after rain, the tender grass springs out of the earth.' For is not my house established with God? For an everlasting covenant He has made with me, ordered in all things, and sure; for all my salvation, and all my desire, will he not make it to grow? But the ungodly, they are as thorns thrust away, all of them, for they cannot be taken with the hand; but the man that touches them must be armed with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place. --- II Samuel 23:1-7
When he got old, David had a last conversation with God:
David said before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Lord, make me to know my end.’ ‘It is a decree before Me,’ replied He, ‘that the end of a mortal is not made known.’ ‘And the measure of my days, what it is’-’it is a decree before Me that a person's span [of life] is not made known.’ ‘Let me know how frail I am.’ [Psalms 39:5] Said He to him. ‘You will die on the Sabbath.’ ‘Let me die on the first day of the week!’ ‘The reign of your son Solomon shall already have become due, and one reign may not overlap another even by a hairbreadth.’ ‘Then let me die on the eve of the Sabbath!’ Said He, ‘For a day in your courts is better than a thousand’: better is to Me the one day that you sit and engage in learning than the thousand burnt-offerings which your son Solomon is destined to sacrifice before Me on the altar.’ --- Talmud, Shabbat, 30a
This tells us about the power of studying the Scriptures. It is also said:
Said Rabbi Joseph: A commandment protects and rescues while one is engaged upon it; but when one is no longer engaged upon it, it protects but does not rescue. As for [study of] Torah, whether while one is engaged upon it or not, it protects and rescues. --- Talmud, Sotah, 21a
Before he died, David gave his last recommendations to his Son Solomon, to walk in God’s path.
And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. --- I Kings, 2:10
 He was six cubits and a span high, so about 3 meter high (I Samuel 17:4); this height may seem exaggerated but, although unusual, Herodotus also mentioned warriors of 5 cubits in height in his times (The History, vol.4, section 83)
 Doeg the Edomite applied to the city of Nob the punishment that God had asked Saul to do to the Amalekites, killing all people and even animals from their city
 An earthquake however changed the topography of the area (north-east of the Sea of Galilee) since these times, pulling the waters further south and creating marshes instead of the sea, thus destroying the fishing activity of Beth-Saida.
The north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee,
showing (in blue) the possible limit of the ancient shore when Beth-Saida was a city of fishermen
 Examples of these sites are Tel Arad in the border with Moab, Tel Quyeifa to control the valley accessing the Judean Hills, or more recently Tell El-Hesy (to read about the latter, click here)
Clay seal from Tell El-Hesy
 To read the complete article, click here
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