February 08, 2024

#08-834: Israel Gets a King

The shepherd boy David plays the harp for troubled King Saul (Wikimedia)

Note: No one in the history of Israel made a bigger splash than King David. Here is the story of his unlikely rise to power.

Get Ready: Do you think a country needs a monarch (king or queen), president, etc.? Or is a military leader good enough?

The ancient Hebrew people had no king. They were ruled by a series of men--and at least one woman, Deborah--called "judges" They were not judges like we have today, but military leaders who made shrewd decisions--"judgements"--in leading the people, and were seen as prophets of the Hebrew God.

The last of these was Samuel. The people came to him asking that he appoint a king, like the nations around them had. At first Samuel refused, saying God alone was their king. But they insisted, and at last Samuel selected a man named Saul.

But King Saul was not a stable ruler. He was given to fits of depression, and in time became insane.

Meanwhile, Samuel reviewed the sons of a man named Jesse as possible replacements to Saul. Dissatisfied with the first seven, he asked Jesse, "Are these all your sons?"

And Jesse said, "No, I have one more. My youngest, David, is out taking care of my sheep." Samuel asked Jesse to bring him, and recognized in him the king he was looking for.

When King Saul was afflicted by "an evil spirit"--that is, when his mood was low--he asked his attendants to find someone who could play the harp. By coincidence, they brought him the shepherd boy David, who would play for the king and then go back to tending his sheep.

Later, the nation of Israel went to war against the Philistines. This was the setting for the famous story of "David and Goliath." A three-meter-tall champion of the Philistines, Goliath, challenged any Israelite to single combat. Young David, who was bringing bread to his eldest brothers in the army, accepted the challenge and slew the giant. (This is the subject of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, holding a sling over his shoulder.)

Saul then gave David command over the entire army, and gave his daughter Michal to David in marriage (requiring David first to kill 100 Philistines). David also became close friends with Jonathan, King Saul's son and likely heir to the throne. But later the paranoid Saul came to suspect David of plotting against him, and tried to have him killed, causing David to hide out.

Nevertheless, when Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David became king. He made Jerusalem his capital, and his son Solomon succeeded him.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. afflicted by
  2. depression
  3. dissatisfied
  4. heir to the throne
  5. insane
  6. paranoid
  7. prophets
  8. shrewd
  9. slew
  10. sling
  1. the next king
  2. distrustful
  3. crazy
  4. clever; insightful
  5. suffering from
  6. despair; sadness
  7. not pleased
  8. representatives of God
  9. a long strip of leather or cloth for throwing stones
  10. killed

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 8, 2024

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