King David was one of most famous kings in Israel. The Bible portrays him as a righteous and able king who defeated many of the enemies of Israel. He was the youngest son of Jesee and often looked after the sheep of his father. It is while taking care of the sheep that this young man went through various experiences that prepared him to become the King of Israel.
He was able to challenge and kill a bear and a lion while protecting the sheep of his father. Later, Prophet Samuel under the instruction of God anoints David as king over Israel when he still at a tender age. After this, he was able to defeat Goliath, a philistine who had challenged the armies of Israel.
Even though King David had much achievement since he was young, he also had some pitfalls. For instance, he killed Uriah and took his wife to himself. This portrays that he was a lustful man and someone who would shed blood for his benefit. However, the way King David repented before God changes the whole aspect of being lustful and a murderer. This is because even God declares that David was a Man after his own heart. He rose in to kingship at a time when Saul did not please God in his leadership.
Berardi indicates that there was prophesy concerning the kingship and reign of David long before David became king over Israel. In this case, prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah will come from the line of Jesee, who was the father of David. In addition, God had promised the Israelites that he will appoint a king for them who will rule in righteousness and justice. Under this promise, he was referring to King David. David was king over Israel for forty years and reigned in righteousness (1).
Despite this biblical portrayal of King David, various scholars portray this king as a very different man. There are even some scholars who claim that King David did not exist. They deem that there is no archaeological evidence to support that there was such a king like David in Israel.
Others portray him as a very immoral king who is lustful and loves to kill. These scholarly literature claims that the Bible accords King David too much credit that he does not deserve. This paper will analyze the portrayal of King David in the Bible as well as by scholars. The paper will draw a comparison between scholarly portrayal and biblical portrayal of this King and make some conclusions from the discussion.
Story of King David: Biblical portrayal
The Bible introduces King David first during the reign of king Saul and when David was still a young boy looking after the sheep of his father Jesee. During that time, God spoke to Prophet Samuel and instructed him to anoint a king from the house of Jesee. Samuel thought that since Jesee had many grown-up sons, the king would come from one of them.
However, God instructed him not to look at the stature of the person but at the heart. God rejected all the other sons of Jesee, whom Samuel thought were the favorite. When a message was sent to David and he came, God approved him and told Samuel to anoint him. Although he was the youngest, the Bible portrays that God was looking at the heart of David not his age or stature.
The bible also portrays David as a young and very handsome man whom God had favored. After Samuel anointed David, the spirit of God descended upon him from that day onwards. This anointing signified that God was pleased with David and that he was displeased by the reign of Saul.
The Bible also indicates that after Samuel anointed David, God sent an evil spirit to Saul. David went to the palace to sooth the king by playing the harp. David had a talent in music and whenever he played the harp before the king, the evil spirit could leave him (Berardi, 1).
The bible records a very significant occasion that offered David much Credit and honor. This was the killing of Goliath. This is one of the events that made King David to be very famous in Israel and the enemies of Israel feared him. In addition, he received a lot of praise from women who sang for him. Eventually, this angered King Saul that he even sought to kill him.
During the time that this event occurred, the philistines had come together to fight the Israelites. The armies of the two sides camped on opposite sides ready for war. In the philistine army, there was a very huge and masculine man named Goliath.
He would come out every day and challenge the army of Israel, hauling negative words at them. The Bible describes Goliath as a giant who was very arrogant and had full armory ready to devour the Israelites. At the sight of this giant, the whole army of Israel feared and even the king could not try to fight Goliath (Fairchild, 1).
As Goliath challenged the Israelites, he claimed that if any of the Israelites defeat him in battle, then all the philistines would be servants of the Israelites. During that time, David was a brave young man not terrified by the sight of Goliath. He went to the battle ground and enquired on the gift that the king would reward the man who defeats Goliath. His elder brother tried to discourage him but he persisted and got the reply. He learnt that the man who would defeat the giant would receive the daughter of the King for a wife.
Since David was not afraid of Goliath he had trust in God, he volunteered to fight the giant. King Saul also tried to discourage David from trying such a thing. He deemed that Goliath was very huge and would kill David at once.
Despite this discouragement, David persisted and said that he was able to fight the philistine and he eventually convinced Saul. He gave justification that he had once killed a lion and a bear, hence was able to kill even Goliath. He also told Saul that he was very sure of the victorious hand of God to deliver him from the hand of the philistine (Berardi, 2).
Even though it took persistence for Saul to agree on allowing David to face Goliath, David was very sure that he would kill him. Saul recommended that David put on the whole armor so that he be ready to fight the philistine. However, David refused to put on the kings’ armor preferring simple equipments.
He dressed in his simple tunic, carried his shepherd’s staff, slingshot and a pouch full of stones. He then approached Goliath ready to challenge him. When Goliath saw David, he hurled negative words at the young man and cursed him (Fairchild, 3).
However, David was not afraid of the insults hurled at him by Goliath. He told the giant that even though he advances towards him with a spear, he would use the name of the God of Israel, whom Goliath had defiled. The biblical version of this story portrays that David trusted in God very much. It also portrays him as a righteous man since he did not insult Goliath back. In addition, the Bible provides the impression that David revered God by believing that he would deliver Goliath in to his hands (Berardi, 2).
The most fascinating part of this encounter is that David did not use much effort to kill Goliath. As the giant advanced to kill, David removed one stone from the porch swiftly and slung it on the forehead of Goliath. In an instant, Goliath fell down as the stone sunk deep in to his forehead.
David then removed the sword of Goliath and killed him, then cut his head to take to Saul as evidence. The philistines were very afraid when they saw that their leader was dead. They left the battleground and fled as the Israelites pursued them and killed all of them. This was a great victory for the Israelites prompted by the courage of David. In this sense, the Bible portrays King David as a very strong man who would fight for his people (Fairchild, 5).
Following this victory by David, the women praised David as they would sing that Saul has killed only one thousand but David has killed ten thousand. Due to this and because David became a strong warrior, Saul became very jealous and sought to kill David. His major concern was that David was capable of overthrowing him and taking over the kingdom from him.
Saul planned several attempts to kill David but they all failed. He first planned that David would die in war against the philistines but the plan terribly failed since David was a strong and valiant warrior. David continued to grow stronger as the people praised him. Eventually, David became King over Israel after the death of Saul (Berardi, 3).
The Bible portrays another very important occurrence when David was still King over Israel. The King had sent all his army to the war but he remained in the palace. One evening as he was walking along the roof of the palace, he saw a very beautiful woman bathing.
The beauty of this woman moved David and he sent someone to enquire the identity of the woman. When the messenger said that she was Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, David sent some people to collect her. When she came to his house, David slept with Bathsheba and sent her away (Banerjee, 3).
After sometimes following the incidence, Bathsheba sent a message to David saying that she had become pregnant. David was pleased since he wanted an heir to his throne. Since he wanted to cover the sin he had committed before God and men, he ordered Joab to send Uriah at the center of the battle. He wanted Uriah to die in the battle so that he can take Bathsheba as his wife (Berardi, 4).
Not realizing that he was committing a serious sin before God, he was very glad when a message came that Uriah had died in the battle. He praised Joab for following his instructions and ensuring that Uriah died in the battle. When Bathsheba heard that his husband was dead, she lamented and mourned his husband. When the woman was through with the mourning, David summoned her to the palace and took her as his wife (Banerjee, 9).
God was not happy with David for the sins he had committed. Therefore, he sent his prophet Nathan to warn him and pronounce judgment. Nathan condemned the behavior of David and God punished him as well. God said that the child born by David and Bathsheba will surely die.
After the child died, David became sick and mourned for the child. He also acknowledged his sin and repented bitterly before God. God heard his repentance and forgave him. This incidence made God to say that David was a man after his own heart (Berardi, 4).
When Nathan approached David, he narrated the following story, in which he enquired response from David. He narrated that in one city, there were two men, one poor and the other very rich. The poor man had only one lamb that he loved very much while the rich man had many flocks.
A visitor came to the house of the rich man and this man sought to slaughter a lamb for his visitor. Instead of taking one from his flock, he took the only lamb that belonged to the poor man and slaughtered for the visitor. When enquired of the action that should be carried out on the rich man, David was very angry at the man. When Nathan said that David was that rich man because he had taken Uriah’s wife, David acknowledged his sin and lamented before God (Banerjee, 10).
This occasion indicated that even though David was a valiant warrior and a respected King, he too had human weaknesses. The Bible portrays that it is possible for every human to have some weaknesses inherent in the system of a human being regardless of their status in the society. However, the event also implies that though David sinned against God, he finally acknowledged his guilt and repented. This displays David as a righteous King for he could own up his mistakes.
The reign of King David lasted for forty years and he helped Israelites conqure many of their enemies. In addition, the Bible portrays David as a psalmist, who wrote most psalms while he was hiding from Saul. The Bible also portrays him as a man who was very vigilant in seeking the will of God when he was the King.
In reality, many Kings would rely on their own knowledge and discretion but David was very special as he enquired from God before doing anything. God also made a covenant with him that the messiah would come from his family line. When David died, his Son Solomon took over the throne and became the king of Israel (Berardi, 4).
How Scholars Portray King David
Contrary to how the Bible portrays King David, most scholars especially in the twentieth century typify David in one of two opposing ways. The traditional version portrays David as a devout shepherd who later becomes the king of Israel. On the other hand, the critical version portrays David as a schemer, who manipulates his ways to gain kingship that he does not deserve.
In this case, some scholars assert that King David was an opportunistic, a murderer as well as a very promiscuous King. The first portrayal of David arises from the biblical story, where some biblical scholars analyze the events recorded in the Bible. The second characterization arises from a hermeneutic of suspicion reading, which happens to be against the biblical aspect (Bosworth, 191).
During the biblical times, Christians portrayed David as the mightiest king of Israel. David began his career in playing the lute in King Saul’s court but he later proved to be a talented person in battles. Due to this, Saul became jealous of David since he became famous. Samuel, who was a prophet, sided with David.
He was the one who anointed Saul to be a King. Samuel then anointed David as a God chosen king. Most scholars happen to be against the statement that David was a God chosen King. They argue that David took advantage of his power by committing crimes. These scholars also claim that it was due to favoritism that David became the king (Cline, 1).
In the Middle East, archeologists have excavated many documents from different sites in the past two centuries. These documents provided data concerning history, religion, politics, customs, laws and every aspect of life in the modern world. However, most of these documents came from Egypt and Iraq.
These two nations were in the process of re-enactment in 1000 B.C.E. According to the bible’s chronology, this was the time king David was in power. This means that these nations would not contact with other countries, as the communications networks were not superior. These archaeological studies reveal that there are no records of King David in Israel. Some scholars therefore deem that King David was not even there (McKenzie, 6).
In the biblical perspective, David was born in Bethlehem and was from the tribe of Judah. When David became the King, he chose a neutral city to be his new capital city, which was Jerusalem. Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusite and for David to acquire it; he had to fight against them.
He was successful and he was even capable of fending off the retaliatory assaults from the Philistines. According to scholars, this is an instance where David took advantage of his power to acquire what he wanted. In addition, such scholars claim that this aspect of King David portray him as a cruel king who ruled Israel with much injustice. They mostly refute the biblical portrayal of David as a just and righteous King (Cline, 2).
Over the past decades, different scholars have come up with different theories that explain the inconsistency in the biblical aspect of David and Goliath. One theory states that King David and Elhanan killed Goliath, who was formerly a giant from Gath and who carried a heavy and wide spear.
Another theory suggests that in the first place David did not kill Goliath (40). They claim that an admirer of David added the story of the mighty and pious young shepherd who conquered the giant. He did this in order to present the King as a powerful man. This shows that the scholars aspect of King David is negative compared to the aspect of the Bible. The Bible portrays David as a powerful and successful man and a God fearing person while the scholars portray David as a man who used his power in the wrong way (Slavicek, 41).
Most Scholars assert that from the Christian literature, Jesus was a descendant of David apart from the gospel of Mark. Because of this aspect, Christians romanticize David as leader but only happens at the expense of the text.
The episode of King David is clear and states that he was imperfect and did many immoral things. For instance, David killed Uriah and took his wife, slept wit her and thus he committed adultery and murder. The scholars therefore claim that David happens to be an interesting character but not a paragon of virtue (Cline, 5).
The modern interpreters and contemporary scholars have highly opposed the presentation of David as a hero. A crucial assessment of David has become standard in the field. However, these criticisms have made people to believe that David was an oppressor. This depends on the biblical aspect where David killed Uriah. Even though the biblical scholars view the Biblical episode of King David in a positive aspect, they claim that his murderous acts portray David as a different man from the devout literally figures (Bosworth, 192).
David attained one diplomatic victory after another against all Israel’s neighbors, which is according to the Bible. This permitted David to start a small empire where the Jews felt safe. The fact that Palestine was on a bridge between Africa, Asia, and Europe made David to believe that there was no little achievement.
For the first and the last time, Israel became a powerful empire, aided by David and his son Solomon. This shows that David took advantage of his position as a King and he did what he felt was good according to scholars (Cline, 3). Other scholars point out that David was initially born as Elhanan but he adopted the name David when he took the throne. This offers the continuity of the assertion that there was no King in Israel called King David (Slavicek, 41).
Comparison between the Bible Version and the Scholar version of King David
The Biblical episode reveals some of the David’s personal virtues. The Biblical aspects portray David as a brave young man, who defended his fathers’ sheep from lions and bears. In addition, the Bible portrays his skills with a sling when he killed Goliath. David became famous due to his courageous and brave actions.
Regardless of these positive characters, David happens to be a man prone to excessive lust, violence and deception. These humanistic characters portrayed in the Bible illustrate David as a rounded, full, and vibrant character with human fragility as well as greatness. Their occurrence in the biblical text has some reason different from the royal misinformation generated by most scholars (Bosworth, 206).
The scholar version however portrays King David in a different way. For instance scholars portray David as an opportunist, who maneuvered his was to become King in Israel. They also assert that David used his bravery, courage and strength to humiliate and exploit other people.
In addition, he used his power as King to get whatever he wanted. The scholar version also portrays David as a very promiscuous man, not worthy to be a King. In addition, scholars deem that the high accordance offered to David is not justifiable since he was not a just King.
It is evident that even though the Bible shows that King David was a just and righteous King, it also portrays some of his weaknesses. A closer scrutiny of the Bible reveals that occasions where David displayed his weakness and injustice occurred for a reason.
For instance, when King David Killed Uriah and took his wife, the Bible portrays King David as a repentant King despite his position. On the contrary, scholars portray David as a promiscuous King and a murder. According to scholars, the issue of killing Uriah to take his wife shows a high level of oppression and lust.
In my own view, the Biblical portrayal of King David should override the scholarly portrayal. This is because even the scholars, who oppose the biblical aspect of King David as a just King, retrieve their evidence from the Bible. In addition, it is evident that every aspect of the life of King David occurred with a reason.
Closer interpretation of the Bible reveals that King David was a righteous, brave and considerate King who did not oppress his subjects. This is also evident because his subjects did not complain of his leadership. However, this issue can be very contentious as different people interpret the Bible differently. This means that the premise I have provided does not justify that the biblical portrayal is the most perfect.
The biblical and scholarly portrayals of King David are two conflicting aspects. On the one hand, the Biblical portrayal of King David shows him as a righteous, brave and just king. On the other hand, most scholars portray King David a promiscuous, unjust King who also happens to be a murderer.
They deem that he oppressed his subjects to attain what he wanted and that he did not deserve to be the King over Israel. Even though these two portrayals are conflicting, the biblical aspect overrides the scholarly portrayal in many ways including lack of sufficient evidence for the scholar portrayal. This however does not mean that the biblical portrayal of King David is far much superior compared to the scholarly portrayal.
Banerjee, Bhaskar. Biblical Story of David and Bathsheba. 2008. Web. http://ezinearticles.com/?Biblical-Story-of-David-and-Bath-Sheba-%28David-Saw-Bath-Sheba-Taking-a-Bath%29&id=1358703
Berardi, Pete. Important Figures of the Bible: King David. 2006. Web. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/32265/important_figures_of_the_bible_king.html?cat=38
Bosworth, David. “Evaluating King David: Old Problems and Recent Scholarship”. Journal of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68 (2006): 191-210. Print.
Cline, Austin. Profile and Biography of David, Old Testament King. 2011. Web. http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeopleoldtestament/p/David.htm
Fairchild, Mary. David and Goliath: Bible Story Summary. 2011. Web. http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/p/davidandgoliath.htm
McKenzie, Steven. King David: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Slavicek, Louise Chipley. King David: Ancient World Leaders. New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2008. Print.