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 9th July, 2000

Death and Succession
1 Kings 1:1 - 2:12.

Every Sunday night for the past three months we have studied the person of David, Israel's second and greatest king. David rose to power from humble circumstances and amid many difficulties.

David captured an enemy city, Jerusalem, and established it as his capital, the City of David. It stands today having just celebrated its 3000th anniversary! He would unify the nation and build an empire stretching from Egypt to Mesopotamia during a 40-year reign, from 1010-970 BC. He was a man of many talents: a shepherd, musician, poet, warrior, politician, administrator, but also a murderer and adulterer. He became the standard for all later kings, and a symbol of Jesus Christ, would be "great David's greater son.".

In many ways David was a man of our times. His were the moral and sexual dilemmas of the twenty-first century. The intrigues and entrapment that surround people who would be leaders today, caught up David in his time. As a towering figure for three thousand years, David would be at the one time one of the greatest religious leaders of all time, and one of the weakest men morally that has ever lived. We have seen that he was a poor husband, a poor father to his children because of his inability to take decisive action in disciplining them and leading them. David's failure in the matter of disciplining his son Adonijah as a boy, is seen in the comment: 1 Kings 1:6 "His father had never interfered with him by asking, "Why do you behave as you do?"

One wonders how much of this failure was due to the loss of his own moral credibility because of the Bathsheba affair. Amnon and Absalom behaved immorally as did their father. Yet a man who does not normally attend this service, last Sunday night verbally attacked me, using offensive language and swearing foully because he said I was attacking the Royal House of Israel. I said only what the Bible says: David was a poor husband and a worse father. Apparently my attacker had not read the scriptures. He may imagine a dream king, but the Bible does not.

1. David's Two Contentious Sons

The death of his two eldest sons, Amnon, after his rape of his sister Tamar, and Absalom, after David's refusal to talk with him and his revolt against his father leading to his death in the oak tree, should have been enough. But no! The next son, urged on by his king-makers, caused further discord and death. Two primary factors are involved: (1) David's physical feebleness and lack of attention toward government in his later years, and (2) Adonijah's self-willed ambition to succeed his father as the oldest of David's surviving sons. In this ambition he was supported by some influential members of David's government, despite David's clearly expressed designation of Solomon, the younger son. Adonijah's attempted coup d'etat came to naught despite the support of some powerful kingmakers, including his commander in chief of his forces, Joab. Joab was in the end a turncoat, interested only in his own preservation and like all would-be king-makers, received his just deserts.

Like many king-makers, he tried to be on both sides at once, soothing the old king and sooling on his eldest son. The two-faced kingmaker lost out entirely. The picture of David in old age and feebleness is pathetic. He was seventy years of age, but the shepherd who had killed both lion and bear, and the young man who with sling and stones had killed Goliath, was now confined to bed, 1 Kings 1:1"he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him."

The feeble condition of David prompted Adonijah to claim the throne and claim to be king. 1:5-10 Adonijah's actions prompted Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, his favourite wife, to champion Solomon's cause. Perhaps the presence of Bathsheba brought back memories of that summer's night when he first gazed upon her naked in the bath. For something roused David. From being close to death, he got up, and started giving orders. 1:11-27 David selected Solomon to succeed him and 1:28-37 Solomon was anointed and Adonijah dispossessed along with his political backers and kingmakers.

The plot ended, the participants scattered. Adonijah expected Solomon to execute him as he himself would have done had he been successful in gaining the throne. Solomon was more gracious, however, guaranteeing Adonijah's safety as long as he conducted himself properly.v51 In Solomon, David found a responsive and humble heart. Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, Solomon's three older brothers, were spiritually and morally dead. David had reigned 40 years. 2:10-12 About two years later David died and was buried in his own city, Jerusalem.

2. A Man After God's Own Heart

The biblical picture of David is mostly positive. He accomplished much and was greatly favored despite his flaws. He rose from humble beginnings as a shepherd to the throne of Israel, and established a powerful and unified nation. The image of David portrayed is one of a talented, divinely chosen and favored figure who rises to power in spite of himself. But he subverts much of his own accomplishment through his sin, after which his life is a series of troubles. A clear message here is that David's trust in God is behind his rise to kingship and that God's covenant with David will not be derailed by David's flaws. He is a "flawed but favoured" character.

Almost half the Psalms are attributed to him. Fourteen of these tie their psalms with incidents in David's life. In the New Testament, David is significant as the ancestor of Jesus, who is called the "son of David". Why did such an able and good man make so many moral lapses and errors of judgement? Because David was a man and a man's a mixture of good and bad, unless he is fully dedicated to God. The Bible picture is truthful, "worts and all".

3. Archaeology Authenticates David

The recent discovery in 1993 of the tablet bearing the description, "house of David, King of Israel" made front page news all round the world. This foot high piece of carved basalt was erected by an enemy of David to boast a short-lived military victory. The land was soon recaptured and the stone broken.

David's reign encompassed the golden age of Israel's life and culture. It represented a resurgence of building activities and political expansion. David initiated several building projects in Jerusalem. 2 Sam 5:9,11 Archaeologists have unearthed walls and a tower and a few miscellaneous loose objects, such as ceramic chalices and a portion of a cultic stand.

Some impressive building projects, particularly at Megiddo and Beersheba, may have come from that time. The time of David was one in which the major empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt were relatively quiet. Thus, David was able to extend the borders and influence of Israel as far as he did. He established marriage alliances with several small kingdoms. His grave in Jerusalem may have recently been identified. "Biblical Archaeologial Review" Feb 1995.

4. An Assessment Of David.

At the very least it can be said that this was an extraordinary individual to have stimulated as much historical and theological reflection as he did. David was ideally suited to the tasks of kingship that came to him. His popular following, his victories over the Philistines and others, and his establishment of a powerful kingdom show him to have been a shrewd military strategist and motivator. His successful forging of a united Israel that retained its identity for close to 80 years, showed his political skills; and his descendants were able to retain their position on the throne in Jerusalem for centuries afterward. Administratively, he established military, civil, and religious bureaucracies that lasted centuries.

David's skills as a poet, musician, and sponsor of music were renowned as well. His compositions in 2 Samuel and his Psalms demonstrate poetic genius. His sponsored religious celebrations in connection with the Ark Of The Covenant show his musical talents. We read of "musical instruments of David", flutes and pipes that he invented. 2 Chr 29:26; Neh 12:36.

David's relationship with God, his concern for others' welfare, his ready repentance when confronted with his sin, and his concerns for the religious matters pertaining to the temple were outstanding. He was an extraordinary writer of religious songs. If he wrote nothing else but the twenty third psalm, his name would still live forever. It is the most popular, most used and remembered and sung religious song in all human history.

David's legacy to Solomon was more than a great kingdom with secure borders, tributary nations, and considerable wealth and prestige. He instilled in Solomon a love for God and his Word. He gave to Solomon a proper orientation to life and leadership. David was a role model, despite his failures, of a man whose heart truly beat for God. Ultimately David's significance lay in his position as God's chosen king for Israel and as the father of the royal dynasty that God chose to bless. He occupied a midpoint between his great ancestor Abraham and his great descendant Jesus. The promises made to David stood in continuity with those to Abraham. They pointed to a messianic ideal of great promise for the world, an ideal that found its expression in Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem "royal David's city" and was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, "the City of David." Jesus was a physical descendant of King David, of his royal family. The heading on Matthew's Gospel is "The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David." The most common title given to Jesus was "Son of David." For the Jews, King David, was their greatest leader. When they wrote about the coming of another golden era, it would have to be a King of David's line. God would one day deliver His people with a son of David. As the crowd once said of Jesus: "Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem where David lived?" John 7:42

Gradually the idea opened that this Son of David would have to be more than just a human king. He would in fact be the Messiah, the Son of God. The Romans regarded this so seriously, that in 70 AD and in 90 AD, they gave orders for any person descended from King David to be killed, lest he become a centre of popular uprising. But they had already killed the Son of David who was the Messiah, on a Cross, outside the City of David in 33 AD.

Jesus was the son of David by physical descent, and by being the fulfillment of the Messianic hope. The new golden era came in Jesus. He opened for us the portals of heaven. Through His blood shed upon the cross, He enabled our sins to be forgiven. By His resurrection He gave to us the answer to death and the way to life eternal. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we join David's descendents.

  The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) Freedman, David Noel, ed., 1997, 1992.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

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