The Monarchy - King David

The King is Dead

First Samuel ends with the death of Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul was seventy-two years old (1Samuel 13:1) when he and his sons were killed if fierce battle with the Philistines. The death Saul and three of his sons fulfilled two separate prophecies: The first was against his kingdom when he failed to wait for Samuel to make the burnt offering in 1Samuel 13:14, and the second was against the king himself when he failed to destroy the Amalekites in 1Samuel 15:26. The day before his death, the spirit of Samuel appeared to Saul and reminded him of his fate.

David experienced a much different path. As a teenager, he had become famous for killing Goliath and would soon demonstrate his worth as a military leader. His fame provoked Saul's wrath however, and David soon found himself running for his life. Setting out with literally the clothes on his back, God provided for David in a grand way bringing him food, weapons, fighting men, a royal entourage complete with a priest and a prophet. God gave David wives, and even great material wealth when he engaged the Amalekites and got his wives back.

Rise to Power

Chapter 1 - David and his men had returned to their southern Philistine town of Ziklag after crushing the Amalekites and reclaiming their wives and children taken in David's absence. On the third day a man arrived with news of Saul and Jonathan's death. He then tells David that he saw Saul mortally wounded and Saul asked the man to kill him and so he did. The man has with him Saul's crown and arm band as proof. David and his men tore their clothing and wept and fasted until evening when David asked the young man who he was. He answered, "An Amalekite" and David had one of his soldiers strike the young man down for killing the king.

This version of Saul's death conflicts with 1Samuel 31, where Saul falls on his own sword. The conflict between Saul and David was well known and this young Amalekite likely believed he would be rewarded for bringing the news of Saul's death. Because he has the crown and the arm band, he evidently came across Saul before the Philistines found him the next day. The young man miscalculated the respect David had for Saul, despite the hostility between them.

Chapter 2 King of Judah - After a period of mourning, David inquired of the Lord if he should leave the Philistine area and go to a town in Judah; God sends him to Hebron, the town given to Caleb four hundred years earlier. David took everybody in Ziklag with their families and moved them to Hebron, about twenty miles away. David had been anointed in Bethlehem in front of witnesses fifteen years earlier and the men of Judah came to Hebron and anointed David king over Judah.

When David learned that the men of Jabesh Gilead had retrieved and buried Saul's remains, he sent a word of thanks and an indirect invitation to recognize his kingship over all of Israel. The invitation is ignored. In fact David's rise to power over all of Israel is messy and hard to follow. The defeat of Israel by the Philistines had caused turmoil in the region. Not only was Saul dead and the army wrecked, but many Israelites had been displaced and Philistine citizens were living in their towns and houses. Also, Ziklag was over one hundred miles from the fighting and Hebron is about eighty miles away.

Abner, Ish-Bosheth, and Joab

Abner was Saul's general had survived the war and had crossed the Jordan with Saul's son Ish-Bosheth and gone to Mahanaim, five miles north of Jabesh Gilead. Abner made Ish-Bosheth king over all Israel (2Samuel 2:9.) but Judah was following David. Abner and Ish-Bosheth's fighting men traveled to the plains of Gibeon where they would square off against David's men lead by Joab in an attempt to curb David's influence from spreading north. Joab was David's general mentioned briefly in first Samuel. The men sat on either side of the pool of Gibeon. Abner suggested they count off a dozen men each and have them fight each other for sport. Joab agreed, but the soldiers quickly kill each other and then all of the men start fighting.

David's men defeated the men of Israel. Joab's brother Asahel pursued Abner on foot. Abner tried a couple of time to warn him off and finally turned and thrust the butt of his spear through Asahel's stomach, killing him. Joab continues after Abner until they come to some Benjamites who rallied behind Abner. Abner is able to talk Joab down and the fighting stops. David lost nineteen men, Abner lost three hundred and sixty. That night, Abner walked his men back to Mahanaim, thirty miles away; and Joab buried his brother in Bethlehem, ten miles south and walked his men back to Hebron, another fifteen mile. These guys were motivated.

Chapter 3

2Samuel 3:1 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

There is no indication in scripture that Ish-Bosheth wanted to be king but with the death of Saul, there was a power void and Abner needed to fill it to maintain his family and career positions. 2Samuel 2:9 does say Ish-Bosheth was king over all Israel, but it also lists the provinces where this power is recognized. The designation is more of a statement than a reality and Ish-Bosheth was a pawn of Abner. Whatever capacity he held, it would only last two years.

David's wives and sons are listed in chapter three, verses two through five. There are six sons by six wives. They were born in Hebron; daughters are not listed. One does stand out, Absalom's mother is Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. Geshur was an Aramean city and David's alliance with Talmai would give him an eastern flank to the Naphtali province. This may be an example of him forming political alliances in case he has to go to war with Israel.

Abner had been consolidating his power in the house of Saul. One day, Ish-Bosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with one of Saul's concubines and they have a bitter fight. Abner sends a message to David that if they can come to an agreement, Abner will help David in bringing all of Israel under his rule. David agrees with one condition: Don't show up without Michal. (Saul's daughter, bought with a hundred foreskins.) David then sends a message to Ish-Bosheth demanding Michal's return and the king gave orders for her to be taken away from her husband and sent to David.

At this point Michal and Paltiel (her new husband) would have been together for several years. She had been in love with David and helped him escape her father's wrath, but that was years in the past. There's no indication how she feels about this forced separation, but the bible says Paltiel followed her, weeping all the way to the border of Benjamin (Bahurim) until Abner barked at him and sent him home. It just seems harsh.

Interestingly, as Abner is going to Hebron to meet with David, he confers with the elders of Israel and then with the Benjamites.

2Samuel 3:17-18 17. Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, "For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18. Now do it! For the Lord promised David, 'By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.' "

There is clear indication that the local leaders in Israel wanted to make David their king and knew of the prophecy related to it. Abner meets with David over a feast and they agree that Abner will assemble all of Israel so they can make a covenant with David and he would become their king. Abner and David part in peace.

Abner and Joab

As Abner was leaving, Joab and his men are returning from a highly successful raid. When Joab finds out that Abner has left in peace, he becomes indignant, even going to David and accusing him of letting Abner "get away". Without David knowing, Joab sends messengers to retrieve Abner. Joab called him aside like he wanted to talk, but instead stabbed Abner in the stomach, killing him.

When David hears of this, he declares his household's innocence and Joab's guilt. David has a delicate problem now as the alliance with the northern kingdom is in jeopardy. He cursed the house of Joab and called on God to judge Joab's act of murder (which happens at the beginning of Solomon's reign.) David did not publicly bring Joab to justice, in fact he compelled Joab and his men to join him in mourning Abner in sackcloth and fasting. David sang a lament for Abner. David's motives for this act of open mourning are not clear, but if it was done to keep the peace, it worked.

2Samuel 3:36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them.

Chapter 4 - When news of Abner's death reached Ish-Bosheth, he lost hope. All of Israel became uneasy. One day as Ish-Bosheth was taking a noonday nap, two of his raiding men, Baanah and Recab came into his house and killed him. They cut off his head and took it to David in Hebron. (Ish-Bosheth lived in Mahanaim and Hebron is about fifty miles south-west, a long way to haul a head.) They were a little proud of themselves as they presented the head to David. David recounts to them what became of the young Amalekite that brought him news of Saul's death. David gave his men orders to kill them. They cut off their feet and hands and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. They buried Ish-Bosheth's head in Abner's tomb in Hebron.

King David

Chapter 5 - It almost seems anticlimactic at this point when David is crowned king over all of Israel. All the tribes of Israel sent emissaries to Hebron to acknowledge David as king. They remember his service to Saul and his military success and they recognize him as God's anointed.

2Samuel 5:3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord , and they anointed David king over Israel.

This compact was basically a treaty of submission by the northern tribes giving David rule over them and laying out what was expected of the king and his subjects. A similar compact had been made by Samuel with Israel in Mizpah when Saul became king. The compact (covenant) is what the kingdom split over when Solomon's son Rehoboam came to power. Also, this anointing is the third time David is anointed. The first time was by Samuel, the second when he became king over Judah.

David was thirty when he became king in Judah and he was thirty-seven (and a half) when he became king over all of Israel. He lived to be seventy years old.


The bible doesn't say how old David was when he went against Goliath, but it does say he was too young to be in the army, so he was under twenty. Saul was immediately jealous of David's fame and gave him bigger and bigger military tasks, in the hope David would fail or better yet, be killed. So if we assume David was around eighteen when he killed Goliath and there were a couple of years in Saul's service, David spent most of ten years on the run from Saul. Sad.