The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 70: The Reign of David
As soon as David was established on the throne of Israel he
began to seek a more appropriate location for the capital
of his realm. Twenty miles from Hebron a place was selected as
the future metropolis of the kingdom. Before Joshua had led the
armies of Israel over Jordan it had been called Salem. Near this
place Abraham had proved his loyalty to God. Eight hundred
years before the coronation of David it had been the home of
Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. It held a central
and elevated position in the country and was protected by an
environment of hills. Being on the border between Benjamin
and Judah, it was in close proximity to Ephraim and was easy of
access to the other tribes.
In order to secure this location the Hebrews must dispossess
a remnant of the Canaanites, who held a fortified position on the
mountains of Zion and Moriah. This stronghold was called
Jebus, and its inhabitants were known as Jebusites. For centuries
Jebus had been looked upon as impregnable; but it was besieged
and taken by the Hebrews under the command of Joab, who, as
the reward of his valor, was made commander-in-chief of the
armies of Israel. Jebus now became the national capital, and its
heathen name was changed to Jerusalem.
Hiram, king of the wealthy city of Tyre, on the Mediterranean
Sea, now sought an alliance with the king of Israel, and lent his
aid to David in the work of erecting a palace at Jerusalem.
Ambassadors were sent from Tyre, accompanied by architects and
workmen and long trains laden with costly wood, cedar trees, and
other valuable material.
The increasing strength of Israel in its union under David,
the acquisition of the stronghold of Jebus, and the alliance with
Hiram, king of Tyre, excited the hostility of the Philistines, and
they again invaded the country with a strong force, taking up [p. 704] their position in the valley of Rephaim, but a short distance from
Jerusalem. David with his men of war retired to the stronghold
of Zion, to await divine direction. "And David inquired of the
Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver
them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto David, Go up:
for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand."
David advanced upon the enemy at once, defeated and
destroyed them, and took from them the gods which they had
brought with them to ensure their victory. Exasperated by the
humiliation of their defeat, the Philistines gathered a still larger
force, and returned to the conflict. And again they "spread themselves
in the valley of Rephaim." Again David sought the Lord
and the great I Am took the direction of the armies of Israel.
God instructed David, saying, "Thou shalt not go up; but
fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against
the mulberry trees. And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of
a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt
bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite
the host of the Philistines." If David, like Saul, had chosen his
own way, success would not have attended him. But he did as
the Lord had commanded, and he "smote the host of the Philistines
from Gibeon even to Gazer. And the fame of David went
out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all
nations." 1 Chronicles 14:16, 17.
Now that David was firmly established upon the throne and
free from the invasions of foreign foes, he turned to the
accomplishment of a cherished purpose—to bring up the ark of God to
Jerusalem. For many years the ark had remained at Kirjath-jearim,
nine miles distant; but it was fitting that the capital of the
nation should be honored with the token of the divine Presence.
David summoned thirty thousand of the leading men of
Israel, for it was his purpose to make the occasion a scene of
great rejoicing and imposing display. The people responded
gladly to the call. The high priest, with his brethren in sacred
office and the princes and leading men of the tribes, assembled
at Kirjath-jearim. David was aglow with holy zeal. The ark was
brought out from the house of Abinadab and placed upon a
new cart drawn by oxen, while two of the sons of Abinadab
The men of Israel followed with exultant shouts and songs of [p. 705] rejoicing, a multitude of voices joining in melody with the sound
of musical instruments; "David and all the house of Israel played
before the Lord . . . on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels,
and on cornets, and on cymbals." It had been long since Israel
had witnessed such a scene of triumph. With solemn gladness
the vast procession wound its way along the hills and valleys
toward the Holy City.
But "when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put
forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the
oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against
Uzzah, and God smote him there for his rashness; [* marginal reading]
and there he died by the ark of God." A sudden terror fell upon the
rejoicing throng. David was astonished and greatly alarmed, and in his
heart he questioned the justice of God. He had been seeking to
honor the ark as the symbol of the divine presence. Why, then,
had that fearful judgment been sent to turn the season of gladness
into an occasion of grief and mourning? Feeling that it would
be unsafe to have the ark near him, David determined to let it
remain where it was. A place was found for it nearby, at the
house of Obed-edom the Gittite.
The fate of Uzzah was a divine judgment upon the violation
of a most explicit command. Through Moses the Lord had given
special instruction concerning the transportation of the ark. None
but the priests, the descendants of Aaron, were to touch it, or
even to look upon it uncovered. The divine direction was, "The
sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch
any holy thing, lest they die." Numbers 4:15. The priests were
to cover the ark, and then the Kohathites must lift it by the
staves, which were placed in rings upon each side of the ark and
were never removed. To the Gershonites and Merarites, who had
in charge the curtains and boards and pillars of the tabernacle,
Moses gave carts and oxen for the transportation of that which
was committed to them. "But unto the sons of Kohath he gave
none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them
was that they should bear upon their shoulders." Numbers 7:9.
Thus in the bringing of the ark from Kirjath-jearim there had
been a direct and inexcusable disregard of the Lord's directions.
David and his people had assembled to perform a sacred
work, and they had engaged in it with glad and willing hearts; [p. 706] but the Lord could not accept the service, because it was not
performed in accordance with His directions. The Philistines,
who had not a knowledge of God's law, had placed the ark upon
a cart when they returned it to Israel, and the Lord accepted the
effort which they made. But the Israelites had in their hands a
plain statement of the will of God in all these matters, and
their neglect of these instructions was dishonoring to God. Upon
Uzzah rested the greater guilt of presumption. Transgression of
God's law had lessened his sense of its sacredness, and with
unconfessed sins upon him he had, in face of the divine prohibition,
presumed to touch the symbol of God's presence. God can
accept no partial obedience, no lax way of treating His commandments.
By the judgment upon Uzzah He designed to impress
upon all Israel the importance of giving strict heed to His
requirements. Thus the death of that one man, by leading the
people to repentance, might prevent the necessity of inflicting
judgments upon thousands.
Feeling that his own heart was not wholly right with God,
David, seeing the stroke upon Uzzah, had feared the ark, lest
some sin on his part should bring judgments upon him. But
Obed-edom, though he rejoiced with trembling, welcomed the
sacred symbol as the pledge of God's favor to the obedient. The
attention of all Israel was now directed to the Gittite and his
household; all watched to see how it would fare with them. "And
the Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household."
Upon David the divine rebuke accomplished its work. He
was led to realize as he had never realized before the sacredness
of the law of God and the necessity of strict obedience. The favor
shown to the house of Obed-edom led David again to hope that
the ark might bring a blessing to him and to his people.
At the end of three months he resolved to make another
attempt to remove the ark, and he now gave earnest heed to
carry out in every particular the directions of the Lord. Again
the chief men of the nation were summoned, and a vast assemblage
gathered about the dwelling place of the Gittite. With
reverent care the ark was now placed upon the shoulders of men
of divine appointment, the multitude fell into line, and with
trembling hearts the vast procession again set forth. After advancing
six paces the trumpet sounded a halt. By David's direction
sacrifices of "oxen and fatlings" were to be offered. Rejoicing
now took the place of trembling and terror. The king had laid [p. 707] aside his royal robes and had attired himself in a plain linen
ephod, such as was worn by the priests. He did not by this act
signify that he assumed priestly functions, for the ephod was
sometimes worn by others besides the priests. But in this holy
service he would take his place as, before God, on an equality
with his subjects. Upon that day Jehovah was to be adored. He
was to be the sole object of reverence.
Again the long train was in motion, and the music of harp
and cornet, trumpet and cymbal, floated heavenward, blended
with the melody of many voices. "And David danced before the
Lord," in his gladness keeping time to the measure of the song.
David's dancing in reverent joy before God has been cited by
pleasure lovers in justification of the fashionable modern dance,
but there is no ground for such an argument. In our day dancing
is associated with folly and midnight reveling. Health and morals
are sacrificed to pleasure. By the frequenters of the ballroom
God is not an object of thought and reverence; prayer or the
song of praise would be felt to be out of place in their assemblies.
This test should be decisive. Amusements that have a tendency
to weaken the love for sacred things and lessen our joy in the
service of God are not to be sought by Christians. The music and
dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not
the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing.
The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy
name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God
and to dishonor Him.
The triumphal procession approached the capital, following
the sacred symbol of their invisible King. Then a burst of song
demanded of the watchers upon the walls that the gates of the
Holy City should be thrown open:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in."
A band of singers and players answered:
"Who is this King of glory?"
From another company came the response:
"The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle." [p. 708]
Then hundreds of voices, uniting, swelled the triumphal
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in."
Again the joyful interrogation was heard, "Who is this King
of glory?" And the voice of the great multitude, like "the sound
of many waters," was heard in the rapturous reply:
"The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory." Psalm 24:7-10.
Then the gates were opened wide, the procession entered,
and with reverent awe the ark was deposited in the tent that had
been prepared for its reception. Before the sacred enclosure altars
for sacrifice were erected; the smoke of peace offerings and burnt
offerings, and the clouds of incense, with the praises and supplications
of Israel, ascended to heaven. The service ended, the king
himself pronounced a benediction upon his people. Then with
regal bounty he caused gifts of food and wine to be distributed
for their refreshment.
All the tribes had been represented in this service, the
celebration of the most sacred event that had yet marked the reign
of David. The Spirit of divine inspiration had rested upon the
king, and now as the last beams of the setting sun bathed the
tabernacle in a hallowed light, his heart was uplifted in gratitude
to God that the blessed symbol of His presence was now so near
the throne of Israel.
Thus musing, David turned toward his palace, "to bless his
household." But there was one who had witnessed the scene of
rejoicing with a spirit widely different from that which moved
the heart of David. "As the ark of the Lord came into the city of
David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and
saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she
despised him in her heart." In the bitterness of her passion she
could not await David's return to the palace, but went out to
meet him, and to his kindly greeting poured forth a torrent of
bitter words. Keen and cutting was the irony of her speech:
"How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered
himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one
of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!" [p. 711]
David felt that it was the service of God which Michal had
despised and dishonored, and he sternly answered: "It was before
the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his
house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over
Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. And I will yet be
more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of
the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be
had in honor." To David's rebuke was added that of the Lord:
because of her pride and arrogance, Michal "had no child unto
the day of her death."
The solemn ceremonies attending the removal of the ark had
made a lasting impression upon the people of Israel, arousing a
deeper interest in the sanctuary service and kindling anew their
zeal for Jehovah. David endeavored by every means in his power
to deepen these impressions. The service of song was made a
regular part of religious worship, and David composed psalms,
not only for the use of the priests in the sanctuary service, but
also to be sung by the people in their journeys to the national
altar at the annual feasts. The influence thus exerted was
far-reaching, and it resulted in freeing the nation from idolatry. Many
of the surrounding peoples, beholding the prosperity of Israel,
were led to think favorably of Israel's God, who had done such
great things for His people.
The tabernacle built by Moses, with all that appertained to
the sanctuary service, except the ark, was still at Gibeah. It was
David's purpose to make Jerusalem the religious center of the
nation. He had erected a palace for himself, and he felt that it
was not fitting for the ark of God to rest within a tent. He
determined to build for it a temple of such magnificence as
should express Israel's appreciation of the honor granted the
nation in the abiding presence of Jehovah their King. Communicating
his purpose to the prophet Nathan, he received the
encouraging response, "Do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord
is with thee."
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan,
giving him a message for the king. David was to be deprived of
the privilege of building a house for God, but he was granted an
assurance of the divine favor to him, to his posterity, and to the
kingdom of Israel: "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts; I took thee [p. 712] from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over
My people, over Israel; and I was with thee whithersoever thou
wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and
have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great
men that are in the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for
My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a
place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children
of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime."
As David had desired to build a house for God, the promise
was given. "The Lord telleth thee that He will make thee a
house. . . . I will set up thy seed after thee. . . . He shall build
a house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom
The reason why David was not to build the temple was
declared: "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great
wars: thou shalt not build a house unto My name. . . . Behold, a
son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will
give him rest from all his enemies: . . . his name shall be Solomon
[peaceable], and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel
in his days. He shall build a house for My name." 1 Chronicles
Though the cherished purpose of his heart had been denied,
David received the message with gratitude. "Who am I, O Lord
God?" he exclaimed, "and what is my house, that Thou hast
brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight,
O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant's house
for a great while to come;" and he then renewed his covenant
David knew that it would be an honor to his name and would
bring glory to his government to perform the work that he had
purposed in his heart to do, but he was ready to submit his will
to the will of God. The grateful resignation thus manifested is
rarely seen, even among Christians. How often do those who
have passed the strength of manhood cling to the hope of
accomplishing some great work upon which their hearts are set, but
which they are unfitted to perform! God's providence may speak
to them, as did His prophet to David, declaring that the work
which they so much desire is not committed to them. It is theirs
to prepare the way for another to accomplish it. But instead of
gratefully submitting to the divine direction, many fall back as [p. 713] if slighted and rejected, feeling that if they cannot do the one
thing which they desire to do, they will do nothing. Many cling
with desperate energy to responsibilities which they are incapable
of bearing, and vainly endeavor to accomplish a work for
which they are insufficient, while that which they might do, lies
neglected. And because of this lack of co-operation on their part
the greater work is hindered or frustrated.
David, in his covenant with Jonathan, had promised that
when he should have rest from his enemies he would show kindness
to the house of Saul. In his prosperity, mindful of this covenant,
the king made inquiry, "Is there yet any that is left of the
house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's
sake?" He was told of a son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, who
had been lame from childhood. At the time of Saul's defeat by
the Philistines at Jezreel, the nurse of this child, attempting to
flee with him, had let him fall, thus making him a lifelong
cripple. David now summoned the young man to court and
received him with great kindness. The private possessions of Saul
were restored to him for the support of his household; but the
son of Jonathan was himself to be the constant guest of the
king, sitting daily at the royal table. Through reports from the
enemies of David, Mephibosheth had been led to cherish a
strong prejudice against him as a usurper; but the monarch's
generous and courteous reception of him and his continued
kindness won the heart of the young man; he became strongly
attached to David, and, like his father Jonathan, he felt that his
interest was one with that of the king whom God had chosen.
After David's establishment upon the throne of Israel the
nation enjoyed a long interval of peace. The surrounding peoples,
seeing the strength and unity of the kingdom, soon thought it
prudent to desist from open hostilities; and David, occupied with
the organization and upbuilding of his kingdom, refrained from
aggressive war. At last, however, he made war upon Israel's old
enemies, the Philistines, and upon the Moabites, and succeeded
in overcoming both and making them tributary.
Then there was formed against the kingdom of David a vast
coalition of the surrounding nations, out of which grew the
greatest wars and victories of his reign and the most extensive
accessions to his power. This hostile alliance, which really sprang
from jealousy of David's increasing power, had been wholly [p. 714] unprovoked by him. The circumstances that led to its rise were
Tidings were received at Jerusalem announcing the death of
Nahash, king of the Ammonites—a monarch who had shown
kindness to David when he was a fugitive from the rage of Saul.
Now, desiring to express his grateful appreciation of the favor
shown him in his distress, David sent ambassadors with a
message of sympathy to Hanun, the son and successor of the
Ammonite king. "Said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the
son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me."
But his courteous act was misinterpreted. The Ammonites
hated the true God and were the bitter enemies of Israel. The
apparent kindness of Nahash to David had been prompted wholly
by hostility to Saul as king of Israel. The message of David was
misconstrued by Hanun's counselors. They "said unto Hanun
their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honor thy father, that
he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent
his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and
to overthrow it?" It was by the advice of his counselors that
Nahash, half a century before, had been led to make the cruel
condition required of the people of Jabesh-gilead, when, besieged
by the Ammonites, they sued for a covenant of peace. Nahash
had demanded the privilege of thrusting out all their right eyes.
The Ammonites still vividly remembered how the king of Israel
had foiled their cruel design, and had rescued the people whom
they would have humbled and mutilated. The same hatred of
Israel still prompted them. They could have no conception of
the generous spirit that had inspired David's message. When
Satan controls the minds of men he will excite envy and
suspicion which will misconstrue the very best intentions. Listening
to his counselors, Hanun regarded David's messengers as spies,
and loaded them with scorn and insult.
The Ammonites had been permitted to carry out the evil
purposes of their hearts without restraint, that their real character
might be revealed to David. It was not God's will that Israel
should enter into a league with this treacherous heathen people.
In ancient times, as now, the office of ambassador was held
sacred. By the universal law of nations it ensured protection from
personal violence or insult. The ambassador standing as a
representative of his sovereign, any indignity offered to him demanded [p. 715] prompt retaliation. The Ammonites, knowing that the insult
offered to Israel would surely be avenged, made preparation for
war. "When the children of Ammon saw that they had made
themselves odious to David, Hanun and the children of Ammon
sent a thousand talents of silver to hire them chariots and horsemen
out of Mesopotamia, and out of Syria-maachah, and out of
Zobah. So they hired thirty and two thousand chariots. . . . And
the children of Ammon gathered themselves together from their
cities, and came to battle." 1 Chronicles 19:6, 7.
It was indeed a formidable alliance. The inhabitants of the
region lying between the river Euphrates and the Mediterranean
Sea had leagued with the Ammonites. The north and east of
Canaan was encircled with armed foes, banded together to crush
the kingdom of Israel.
The Hebrews did not wait for the invasion of their country.
Their forces, under Joab, crossed the Jordan and advanced toward
the Ammonite capital. As the Hebrew captain led his army to
the field he sought to inspire them for the conflict, saying, "Be
of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our
people, and for the cities of our God: and let the Lord do that
which is good in His sight." 1 Chronicles 19:13. The united
forces of the allies were overcome in the first engagement. But
they were not yet willing to give over the contest, and the next
year renewed the war. The king of Syria gathered his forces,
threatening Israel with an immense army. David, realizing how
much dependent upon the result of this contest, took the field in
person, and by the blessing of God inflicted upon the allies a
defeat so disastrous that the Syrians, from Lebanon to the
Euphrates, not only gave up the war, but became tributary to Israel.
Against the Ammonites David pushed the war with vigor, until
their strongholds fell and the whole region came under the
dominion of Israel.
The dangers which had threatened the nation with utter
destruction proved, through the providence of God, to be the very
means by which it rose to unprecedented greatness. In commemorating
his remarkable deliverances, David sings:
"The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the|
God of my salvation:
Even the God that executeth vengeance for me, and subdueth
peoples under me. [p. 716]
He rescueth me from mine enemies:
Yea, Thou liftest me up above them that rise up against me:
Thou deliverest me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the
And will sing praises unto Thy name.
Great deliverance giveth He to His king;
And sheweth loving-kindness to His anointed,
To David and to his seed, forevermore."
|Psalm 18:46-50, R.V.|
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And throughout the songs of David the thought was
impressed on his people that Jehovah was their strength and
"There is no king saved by the multitude of a host:|
A mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
A horse is a vain thing for safety:
Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength."
Psalm 33:16, 17.
"Thou art my King, O God:
Command deliverances for Jacob.
Through Thee will we push down our enemies:
Through Thy name will we tread them under that rise up
For I will not trust in my bow,
Neither shall my sword save me.
But Thou hast saved us from our enemies,
And hast put them to shame that hated us."
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
But we will remember the name of Jehovah our God."
The kingdom of Israel had now reached in extent the fulfillment
of the promise given to Abraham, and afterward repeated
to Moses: "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of
Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." Genesis 15:18.
Israel had become a mighty nation, respected and feared by
surrounding peoples. In his own realm David's power had become
very great. He commanded, as few sovereigns in any age have
been able to command, the affections and allegiance of his people.
He had honored God, and God was now honoring him.
But in the midst of prosperity lurked danger. In the time of
his greatest outward triumph David was in the greatest peril, and
met his most humiliating defeat.
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"David's Sin and Repentance"