Old Testament Survey - Lesson 16

Reign of King David

Explore the profound significance of David in the scriptural narratives from 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2:12, highlighting his pivotal role and exceptional portrayal compared to other biblical figures. You examine how David, mentioned more frequently than any other human character in the first testament, dominates the biblical landscape not only through the frequency of his mentions but through the substantive content devoted to him. Through the narrative, you learn that David is depicted as the quintessential king, whose life and reign are central to the understanding of Israelite history and tradition. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 16
Watching Now
Reign of King David

I. Introduction to David's Reign

A. Overview of David's Significance

1. David's dominant presence in the biblical narrative compared to other characters

2. Biblical material focusing on David

B. Prefigurations and Prophecies of David's Kingship

1. Promises to Abraham and Jacob about kingship

2. Jacob's promise of the scepter to Judah

3. Prophecies by Balaam and anticipations in Moses' teachings

4. The genealogy in the Book of Ruth highlighting David's lineage

5. Hannah’s prophetic song anticipating Davidic kingship

II. David's Anointment and the Narrative of His Reign

A. Samuel's Revelation to Saul

1. Yahweh's preference for David over Saul as revealed to Samuel

B. Analysis of the Biblical Texts Covering David’s Reign

1. Comparison of the attention given to David versus other kings

2. Discussion on the proportionate focus on the united monarchy versus divided kingdoms

C. David's Portrayal and His Actions

1. David’s consistent selection by Yahweh highlighted in biblical narratives

2. David's role in preparing for the temple construction

III. The Literary and Historical Context of David's Story

A. Comparison of the Books of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles

1. Distinctive perspectives and ideological focuses of each text

2. Detailed coverage of temple-related activities in Chronicles versus Samuel-Kings

B. David's Legacy and Symbolic Role

1. David as a dynastic symbol against which later kings are measured

2. Reflections on David’s eternal covenant and the significance of the temple site

IV. Conclusion: The Impact and Continuation of Davidic Themes

A. David's Enduring Legacy in Biblical Narratives

1. Emphasis on David's anointed status and the temple as a central theme

2. Chronicler's focus on legitimizing the post-exilic community through Davidic connections

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Reign of King David
Lesson Transcript


Witnessing God's grace and glory in the reign of his chosen king, David. Finally, we're there. This will take us from 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings chapter 2, verse 12.

Some introductory comments to begin with. First, David's place in Israelite history and tradition. Judging by the frequency with which David's name is mentioned in the Bible, he is by far the most important human character in the first testament.

The name David appears 1,023 times, which compares with 770 for Moses, 350 for Jacob, and 174 for Abraham. This dominance of David in the biblical landscape, this impression of dominance, is confirmed by the amount of biblical material devoted to him. Now, there's lots of material that involves Moses, but it's not devoted to Moses.

Deuteronomy is Moses' speeches, so there he's the primary character, but in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers, God talks to Moses about Israel. It's not about Moses. He's merely a mediator, but David's place in history and tradition overwhelms all the other main characters.

Prior to the actual narrative of David, beginning in 1 Samuel 16, where he is anointed, his arrival is anticipated in a variety of texts. In Genesis 17.6 and 17.16 and 35.11, Yahweh promised to Abraham and Jacob that they will become a great nation and that kings will come from them. In fact, by definition, agoi, Hebrew word for nation, is by definition a group of people with a king at the top.

Kings will come from them. Second, in Genesis 49.8 to 10, Jacob promised the scepter to the tribe of Judah. We mentioned this in passing in the last session where we talked about Saul the Benjaminite, who is named Israel's first, but we should bracket that illegitimate king.

Third, in Numbers 24.17, the pagan prophet Balaam saw a star and a scepter coming from Jacob, Israel, and crushing the foreheads of the enemy. Four, in Deuteronomy 17.14 to 20, Moses looks forward to the appointment of a king over Israel whom Yahweh will choose. You may set over yourselves a king, but he must be the person whom God chooses.

Five, the genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth, Ruth 4.18 to 22, anticipated the coming of David. In fact, the significance of that entire book lay in the background it provided for David's rise. And then number six, when Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to Yahweh, she burst out in a prophetic song anticipating the universal rule of Yahweh through his king, that is his anointed.

Here are her words. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might does one prevail. Yahweh, his adversary, shall be shattered.

The most high will thunder in heaven. Yahweh will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed, that is, Messiah.

That's the Hebrew word here. He will exalt the power of his anointed one, the Messiah. That's Hannah's poetic outburst and prophetic picture.

In fact, this I think becomes the theme of the book of 1 Samuel. She announces the imminent arrival of a king, and it's left to us to figure out, hmm, who is that person? And so you've got the first candidate Saul, but it turns out, no, it isn't Saul. He's just a foil for the real deal, and that is David.

Seven, in 1 Samuel 13-14, Samuel announced to Saul that Yahweh had sought out the man after his own heart, which doesn't mean in my interpretation that he has a heart like God's heart, as opposed to Saul. It means that here the word heart is the man he has had in mind from the beginning. I mentioned in one of the earlier lessons that in Hebrew, the word lev, 50 percent of the time it is heart as the seat of passion and emotion and will, but the other 50 percent, it's the time, it's the seat of thought.

It's out of the heart come the bad words we use, or good words too. Out of the heart. No, they come out of the mind.

They're expressions of what's in the mind. This is the person God had in mind from the beginning, and he appointed him ruler over his people Israel. In verse 28, he reiterated, this is 1 Samuel 13-28, he reiterated that Saul's kingdom has been torn from him and given to his neighbor who was preferred over him.

The word here in Hebrew is, who was better than him, and we have to ask in what sense? Is it what he was morally better, or some other sense of the word? But in the plan of God, he was the one that was originally in God's mind. So let's begin then when we get into the discussion of David. Let's talk about David and his reign as described in Samuel Kings.

As we have come to expect from our earlier treatment of Hebrew historiographic narratives, the authors of Samuel and Samuel Kings had a clear agenda. This is the way, this is reflected in the way materials are selected and arranged to reflect the absolute centrality of David. The attention given to different periods in Israelite history is quite unbalanced, as we see in this chart.

Note that the period from 1030 to 930, that's a hundred years, that's the United Monarchy, is covered in 66 chapters for 100 years of history. But then we go from 930 BC to 722 BC, 208 years of the divided kingdoms. This is covered in 28 chapters, and then the last phase where it's only Judah alone, 722 to 586.

This is 136 years. This is covered in eight chapters. This is incredible.

The monarchy, United Monarchy, gets attention out of all proportion. And actually, when you look at the divided kingdoms, we've got two monarchies in play here. And so you really have to double that period from 208 to 416 years of total monarchic history.

This imbalance is even more striking when we isolate the treatment of David, of that United Monarchy. Some is devoted to Saul, some is devoted to Solomon, but 42 chapters, 41% of the text is devoted to David's 40-year period, or 9% of the nation's history. Actually, the time of the middle period should be doubled, as I said, so that 42 chapters out of 102 is double that.

Compare this with one of the last kings of Judah, Manasseh, who ruled himself 55 years, and his reign exceeded David's by 37%, yet this half-century plus is dismissed in 18 verses, II Kings 21, 1 to 18. 12% of the period receives less than 1% of the attention. But when we contemplate or compare David with other Judean kings, Judean kings that is, we notice that Asa, King Asa, ruled for 41 years, probably about the same length as David.

He gets 17 verses. Jehoshaphat ruled 25 years. He gets 51 verses.

Jehosh, 40 years, 22 verses. Uzziah, 52 years. He gets seven verses.

They're all insulted by the lack of attention the narrator devotes to them. And as for the northern kings, Jeroboam II reigned 41 years. The narrator gives him seven verses, and Pekah, who reigned 20 years, has only five verses.

Obviously, the author was fixated on the personality of David. This is reflected in other ways as well. The author stresses that David was the divinely elected king, not Saul.

David was the man after God's own heart, the one he had in mind from the beginning. His dynasty had exclusive and eternal title to the throne of Judah, II Samuel 7, I Kings 2, and I Kings 8. David is held up as the dynastic symbol and model of rule against which all later kings are evaluated. He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, like David his father.

In fact, in several occasions, the narrator explicitly states that Yahweh was gracious to later kings for David's sake. It's all about David. On the other hand, the actual portrayal of David is quite inconsistent.

In the so-called succession narratives, this is II Samuel 11 to I Kings 2, where there's lots of conflict over who is to be king in Israel, David or one of his sons or whatever, all kinds of palace problems. The impression of David is that we receive in this section of text, and it's a large section, II Samuel 11 to I Kings 2, David doesn't always look so good. The narrator does not whitewash David.

Even so, even while he will admit David's faults and flaws, he paused on numerous occasions to point out the exceptional spiritual quality of the man. And for this, we need to look at I Kings 11, 33 to 38, 14, 8, and 15, 3 to 5. The narrator of kings gives only two kings wholesale endorsement to other kings, Hezekiah, II Kings 18, 3 to 6, and Josiah, II Kings 22, 2. In both instances, the point is made that they emulated David in their conduct. David is represented as the king whom the Lord had chosen in Deuteronomy 17, 14 to 20.

The role of Saul in the narrative was primarily to serve as a foil for David. His was an aborted experiment in kingship. Its failure was almost inevitable from the beginning because it was improperly motivated on the part of the Israelites, and while he was attractive on the outside, he suffered from serious personal character flaws.

The appointment of Saul flew in the face of Deuteronomy 17. David represented the fulfillment of the Mosaic charter for kingship. In fact, Saul was so inconsequential for the movement of the divine program that the author, or should we call them editors, of the book of I Samuel haven't even preserved the length of his reign.

Look at I Samuel 13, 1. There the text is broken, and we don't know actually how long Saul reigned. But it was his reflection on this event that precipitated directly the Lord's disclosure to him of his eternal covenant, II Samuel 7. The last significant event in David's reign involved his purchase of the threshing floor of Araunah, which eventually became the actual site of the temple. As far as Solomon was concerned, almost half the narrative is devoted to his completion of the project so dear to David's heart.

We call it Solomon's temple, but we shouldn't really. It really was David's temple. He is the one who received the blueprint from God.

Read I Chronicles 28. He is the one who gathered the materials. It was his idea.

So from start to finish, this really was David's project. But the Lord said, David, you're not the one to build the temple. We'll talk about this later.

I am leaving that to your successor. The preoccupation of the narrator with Jerusalem continues throughout the narrative, even when they're talking about the northern kingdom. Jeroboam's calves at Bethlehem and Dan were denounced so emphatically because, among other things, they challenged the supremacy of Jerusalem where the temple stood and where David had his throne.

The introduction of cultic innovations into the temple receives special attention. On several occasions, the plundering of the temple is related directly to such events. Ahaz, 2 Kings 16, 2-19, half the material devoted to Ahaz concerns this problem.

And then, of course, Manasseh in 2 Kings 21 and 23-26. He is the one who introduced all sorts of abominations into the temple. So the temple is very important in the David narrative.

The temple was David's idea. He purchased the threshing floor of Araunah, which happens also to have been the place where Abraham sacrificed Isaac on Mount Moriah. This is all the same place.

That temple location is very important to the author of Samuel Kings. And the reforms involving the temple also call for special treatment. Not much else about the reigns of Jehoash or Josiah seemed to matter other than what they were doing in the temple.

And even as David receives all this attention, in the composition we observe distinct literary strategy of crossing. Even as we observe the importance of the temple in the narratives involving David and his successors, in 1 and 2 Samuel, we observe an interesting literary strategy which some have called crossing. Two traditions or two tracts, two developments, two plots intersect.

This phenomenon occurs at several levels. The rise of Samuel coincides with the demise of Eli. The rise of the prophetic institution coincides with or is a response to the decline of the priestly institution.

The rise of the monarchy coincides with the decline of the theocracy. The rise of David coincides with the demise of Saul. And then the rise of Jeroboam and the northern kingdom coincides with the decline of the Davidic house.

Yes, even David's house was in decline, actually very quickly. By the time Solomon's reign is over, we've got the problems on the horizon. Well, all of this concerns the account of David in Samuel and Davidic issues in Kings.

How about the book of Chronicles? The ideology of the chronicler, the author of Chronicles, is quite different from that of the author of Samuel Kings. This book, which was written in the post-exilic Persian period, reflects new concerns of that time. The terminus, our quote, the latest possible, the earliest possible date for the writing of Chronicles is determined by the reference to Cyrus' decree of 538 BC and 2 Chronicles 36, 22 to 23, which tells us that the book of Chronicles could not have been written before Cyrus issues his decree.

It's in the Persian period. A date of 400 BC for the two books of Chronicles is actually reasonable. In the absence of dynastic rule in the post-exilic period, this period was characterized by the rise of a priesthood.

We have no king. We may have a Davidic governor, Zerubbabel, was a Davidide, but he is not king, and the priesthood becomes increasingly powerful. The ideology of the chronicler is quite different from that of the author of Samuel Kings.

It reflects new concerns arising from a new historical situation. In the absence of dynastic rule, he's concerned about the priesthood. It's not surprising, therefore, that priestly concerns such as genealogies in the early chapters, the concern for Jerusalem and the temple, especially the temple cult, its liturgy, its ritual, its music, dominate Chronicles much more than they do Samuel Kings.

The election of David is closely associated with God's choice of Jerusalem. The detailed descriptions of the administration of the temple, the listing of the personnel provide information found nowhere else. Throughout, the chronicler seems concerned to demonstrate that the new commonwealth, the new community of returned Judeans primarily, and Levites, and a few stragglers from the other tribes, it's actually an extension of the pre-exilic theocracy.

The chronicler's interests are reflected when the relative amounts of space devoted to the respective rulers are compared as in this diagram. Now we can compare this with what we had earlier in Kings. With respect to the united monarchy, 100 years, the chronicler has 29 chapters.

We had 66 in Samuel Kings. For the divided kingdom, 208 years, the chronicler has 19 chapters. We had 28 in Samuel Kings.

With respect to the period after the fall of Samaria when only Judah is left, 136 years, you have only eight chapters, so that 444 years of history are dealt with in a total of 56 chapters. But the distinctive perspective of the chronicler becomes most apparent when his narratives are placed alongside the what we call Deuteronomistic history, Samuel. In Chronicles, Samuel is left out of the picture almost entirely.

There's one reference in 1 Chronicles 11.4. From the career of Saul, Chronicles mentions only his death, 1 Chronicles 10.1 to 14, and that is simply to provide the background for the rise of David. While not a word is said about David's struggles for the throne and his problems with his children, his divine right to rule like his title to the entire rulership over the entire nation is completely stressed. This is the anchor.

This is the center of gravity. There isn't a word about David. There isn't a negative word about David in Chronicles, which means that the Bathsheba affair, the long struggle for the throne with Absalom and Amnon and others, they're entirely omitted without a whisper.

On the other hand, statistical and administrative data found elsewhere, not found elsewhere, are preserved as we have it in chapter 27 of 1 Chronicles. David's role in the construction of the temple is highlighted. He was not only the initiator of the project.

He received the blueprint directly from God. He made all the preparations, and he organized the temple personnel. Read this in 1 Chronicles 27 and 28.

The only task for Solomon was to put it all together. In regard to the construction of the temple, David's role is comparable to that of Moses for the tabernacle, while Solomon's role is comparable to that of Bezalel, who is the skilled craftsman. What else can we say about Solomon in Chronicles? Well, Solomon is completely whitewashed.

He was the sole and natural heir to the throne. None of his spiritual or administrative failures are mentioned. He is idealized completely.

The Chronicler is even more anti-Ephraimite and anti-Northern Kingdom than the Deuteronomistic historian had been. In fact, the Northerners are rejected outrightly by Yahweh, 2 Chronicles 25 verse 7. The true remnant of Israel from the Northern Kingdom had departed at the time of the schism as we read in 2 Chronicles 11, 13 to 17. So the truly godly people, when Jeroboam takes over the kingship of the North and Rehoboam has the South, the truly godly people of the North have all left.

They've headed to the South, which means the North was even more pagan than it had been before, and much more pagan early on than Judah. Though in the end, of course, we have to admit that Judah ended in exactly the same position a hundred and some years later. All the narratives in Kings dealing with Northern rulers are deleted.

The kings of Israel are mentioned only when their affairs touch those of Judah. In fact, the designation Israel usually means Judah rather than the Northern Kingdom. The Chronicler's pronounced pro-Davidic stance is evidence also in the way Southern rulers are portrayed.

Not only is the eternal promise to David highlighted in 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, but Judean kings who extended their political and religious tentacles reach into Northern regions after the fall of Samaria. They receive special attention. We have this in 2 Chronicles 13, 1 to 20.

But the temple, it represents the house of worship for all Israel, not just Judah. We may highlight the special interest in the temple by comparing the amounts of discussion devoted to the temple at David project in some of the king's reigns, as you see it here in this chart. In Chronicles, the number of verses on David is 535.

Of these 535, 265 are concerned with temple liturgies and religious matters. Notice that compares with only 31 in Samuel Kings. Of Solomon's reign, there are 201 verses on Solomon.

135, 67 percent are about the temple and liturgical matters. Of Joash, 27 verses on this king, 19 are on liturgical matters. Hezekiah, 117 verses, 84, 72 percent are about the liturgy, temple worship.

And Josiah, 60 verses on Josiah, 50 or 83 percent are concerned with temple worship or temple personnel or the ritual itself. This is a dramatic set of figures if you're trying to figure out the significance of these features that become so important in the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah in the chapters in Samuel and Kings. By the way, those of you who are listening in or watching this lesson, if you hear any thundering noise in the background, it's because God has connected the resources of heaven with the needs of earth by sending rain in the northwest of the U.S. of A. Thanks be to God for every gift of grace.