This story should begin with Samuel, the Prophet and the Judge, born to Hannah, a long-time barren woman. He was born not because his father made love (which he used to do oftener than he did his to his other wife, but without results), but because God remembered Hannah. So when the boy was weaned, Hannah delivered him to Eli, the priest at the temple of God.
Now Eli, the priest, was good enough, and God, without much foresight (his omniscience notwithstanding) had promised him and his generations the priesthood till eternity. Elis’s sons turned out to be corrupt scoundrels. As “the natural corollary to His commandment No.2(for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,), the consequence of the misdeeds visited on Eli, the priest and his future generations. Eli died, falling backward and breaking his neck for the sins of his sons. Also from the shock that Israelites, his tribe and the favorites of the real God had been routed in war by Philistines, the favorites of a fake God named Dagon. Samuel took over as the judge, Prophet and the leader of Israelites. Prophets, those days, were those to whom God spoke directly. The latest Prophet at the time of this writing is Mr. George W Bush, whom God directly asked to attack Iraq and bring peace to the world.
When the Philistines came to Mapzah to attack his tribe again, Samuel did what nobody but his mother had thought of : sacrificing a suckling lamb to God – partly barbecued (named burnt offering) and partly cut up in pieces- as peace offering. God loved suckling lambs the same way as you love tender chicken. Thoroughly satisfied, He belched a loud thunder which frightened the wicked Philistines and scattered their forces. Emboldened, as any cowering cowards would, the men of Israel came out of their hiding and chased the fleeing Philistines and massacred them. This raised Samuel’s status among the Israelites who came to be known as Jews.
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as leaders of Israel. As it always happens in dynastic politics, the youngsters turned out to be corrupt and unjust. This time, however, Commandment No.2 did not operate; Samuel was not punished by God. So the people went to the safe and sound Samuel and demanded a king to rule over them. Samuel, being the prophet, conveyed this genuine request to God.
God was furious.
“A king? What the f*cks am I here for?” asked God in words to that effect. God was a jealous God, and to make sure that the people realized this well, He had told them that His name was JEALOUS, as well as YHWH without such vowels as a,e,I or u. God had told them that His third name was MAN OF WAR, which tickled the cockles of their hearts. To avoid confusion, they called Him G-d, a name that is used by pious Israelites till this day. Like Voldemort, G-d of the Jews was one not to be named. This writer, though not particularly brave, will take his chances and call G-d God.
God said (when his fury cooled): If you must have a king, I will do the picking. So He picked Saul, the latter’s qualification being that he was a whole head taller than the rest of the Israelites. It would be easier to spot him in a crowd. More importantly, Samuel, the Prophet, liked Saul.
Now among his ten commandments, engraved in stone, delivered twice over because Moses broke the first one (which God didn’t mind), were these two orders: Number 6, Thou shalt not kill. Number ten, Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s wife, neither shall you covet your neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is your neighbour’s.. Killing has been a favorite pastime of God till this day. You will see that God helped David steal all the wealth of nis neighbours and a trader’s wife. God killed the trader. Next time David did the killing of a husband himself and took his wife, God got mad. You will soon see how mad God got.
Samuel – for that matter any Prophet – knew that “thous shalt not kill” was not to be taken seriously, that it only reflected God’s sense of humor. He was a true man after God’s heart. By “thou shalt not kill, God “meant the Israelites to kill all their neighbors – mostly because they were neighbors, but also because they supposedly worshipped other Gods. Animals were not known to worship any God, but they served those who worshiped other Gods, which made them also worthy of murder. To please God, you could kill ox and sheep, lambs (specially suckling lambs) and offer them to God in sacrifice. One couldn’t eat the flesh with blood in it, for the blood was for sprinkling all over the tabernacle, a movable tent made to God’s design using acacia wood and gold. God had stipulated that the male firstborn of every edible animal was to be sacrificed to Him. After he demanded young Isaac’s head and later recanted that order, He rarely asked that a male human baby be sacrificed. Instead you could redeem the baby by butchering an ox. Since God did not eat donkeys, the first born male baby of a donkey, you could redeem it by sacrificing a lamb. If you wanted to spare yourself the cost of a lamb, the merciful Lord said you could simply break the little donkey’s neck. Merciful Lord.
When Saul was anointed king by God, it was a sure sign that he was divinely appointed; he was also made a prophet as Samuel (whom though God loved, but never anointed as king) was.
Then one day Saul did something terrible: he failed to carry out properly enough an order from God. who had commanded, through Samuel:
‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed them on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack (the treibe of )Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’
Now if Amaleks had ambushed Moses and his people while they were coming out of Egypt, that was some 450 years ago. God’s desire for revenge simmered all those 450 so years till it boiled over when he watched Samuels adeptness at mass murder. ‘his need for vengeance burst forth after ‘those twenty or more generations
Through Samuel, the prophet, he delivered this clear and curt message to Saul: Utterly destroy every damned thing in Amlek country. Spare nothing – neither man, woman, child, infant or animal.
Saul, quite rightly, filtered out the non-Amalekites, as Hitler would with Christians in a Jewish colony, and killed everybody and everything that was despicable and worthless – such as ordinary people, their wives and sisters and mothers, their children and infants and babies in the womb – but spared their king, Agag, who had begged for mercy, and also the best of the sheep, the oxes and the fatlings and all the lambs because he thought they were too good to go to waste,
God had a drone’s view from the sky and was shocked; he realized he had made a mistake in choosing Saul as the king for he was not an obedient enough killer. His omniscience had not anticipated such a disobedience. The trace of kindness Saul showed, albeit selective, was an abomination to God.
When caught in the act of disobedience, Saul lied that he had spared the sheep, oxes, faltlings and lambs for sacrifice to God because burnt offerings and peace offerings were dear to God who loved the aroma of burning flesh and the stench of peace offering with blood flashed all over God’s tabernacle.
Samuel, reflecting the anger of God at what He presumed to be Saul’s rebellion, asked:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
Not trusting Saul, Samuel personally summoned for Agag the rescued king and told him, “just as you made women childless, so shall your mother be childless.”
Thus Samuel, the prophet and the judge, hacked the repenting king Agag to pieces then and there, pleasing God who had once commanded, in a spirit of good humor: “ Thou shalt not kill. “
God immediately ordered that Saul be dethroned and David, a young favorite, be placed on the throne. Sadly, God Almighty’s decree was no more effective than that of a Supreme Court in Africa or South Asia. God, like tone of those supreme courts proposes, but, politicians dispose. Samuel ignored the divine decree and, like African presidents and Indian ministers, clung on to the throne.
Saul stayed put for several more years, making life miserable for David while the omnipotent Lord, helplessly watched David having to run from one secret place to another to save his skin.
However, God never gave up that David was to become the proud savior of the Jewish race, the true representative of God, which was why several hundred years later they called Jesus the Son of David. God’s omnipotence and the power of Prophesy in the Bible shows how the life and death of Jesus (as planned and executed by God to save mankind from all their sins in one single sacrifice) became the cause for misery, genocide and persecution of the Israelites till kingdom come. But that, again, is another story.
Now, given the fraternity prevailing the favored race of God, Samuel became Afraid of Saul, who stayed on his throne. God told Samuel to take a heifer for sacrifice to Jesse, the Bethlehemite. Samuel was received with suspicion, despite his age, but was accepted when it was found that he was looking for a king material. Many were marched before him, but God whispered No, not he in Samuel’s years. There was just one left, the youngest son of Jesse, the ruddy-eyed and handsome teenager, David. God saw much promise in David, and, the next moment, the spirit of God abandoned the disobedient Saul and entered the young man, David.
God’s omnipotence did not work with Saul who continued to reign over all of Israel, with all the generals and minions at his beck and call – all, but the spirit of God. He wanted a musician and, as it happens in a Bollywood film, the one destined to dethrone him was brought in as a young lyre-playing musician – who, but David who landed up with a tender goat, bread and a skin of wine – things that would please any king. Saul was so pleased that he made David his bodyguard, who also played the harp to lift his (godless) spirits.
Isarelites (circumsized) and Philistines (uncircumsized) were at each other as ever before. A champion Philistine, taller than late General de Gaulle and even taller than late Ambassador-economist John Galbraith, and much better built than both, attired in chain-and-plate mail, brass-protected limbs, helmeted head and a heavy weapon in hand, came forward from the side of the Philistines.
“Fight me, any one of you if you dare. If you win, Philistines will be your slaves. If I win, your will be our slaves.” So thundered Goliath.
Nobody among the Israelites had a plan to beat this tall giant who could easily have trounced any WWE fighter . David found out the predicament, and offered to go and fight. Impressed by his boast of tall tales of adventures with lions and bears, or because he didn’t care for the life of a young harp playing bodyguard, or because he had no alternative. Saul, himself fitted David with armoured coats and other parapherelia – but no sword – to fight the battle with the ancient massive version of a gladiator.
Michael Angelo shows an uncircumcised David who went to fight in the nude. It’s not clear who – the Bible or Michael – is right. In any case, David had no use for the armor and he had no sword. He stood at a distance from the giant, loaded his catapult with one of the stones he had brought with him in a pouch, aimed and fired. It hit the uncircumcised Philistine who dropped dead without much ado. David then ran to the dead man, picked up the latter’s heavy sword and beheaded him.
Philistines fled when their champion was dead; the brave and circumcised Israelites chased them and killed them with great flourish. Carcasses lay sprawled the way to the éntrance of Gath and the gates of Ekron’. Such a landscape filled pleasure in God’s heart, and he loved David even more.
David presented the king with the Philistine’s head. If Saul was impressed, he didn’t show it. Saul’s son Jonathan was impressed so much that he hero-worshiped David the way Tamils worship film actors. Jonathan presented his own ceremonial wear and fineries to David as a sign of his appreciation.
Saul sent David to many conquests; David returned victorious with much plunder to show. Saul promoted him to a high rank – something like a Brigadier with the brigade of a thousand men. This was fine with all officers and men, not to speak of the population.
Then trouble struck.
When David returned with another massacre of Philistines under his belt, escorted by a retinue of dancing women who clapped hands and kept repeating the refrain that would gladden any heart:
|“ Saul has killed his thousands,
But David killed tens of thousands.”
Now that was an insult no one – from Moses to Netanyahu – would tolerate. To be publicly reviled that he was a lesser killer. Saul, who did not know that God had theoretically unseated him, was now fearful that David would someday grab his throne. He had to find a way to get rid of David for ever.
Saul sent David away with only a brigade of thousand men to several battles in the hope that he would get killed in one of them. Because God was always with the better killer, David returned alive and victorious. If I can’t beat him, I will treat him, schemed Saul.
He offered his elder daughter Merab to David in marriage. David, being cleverer than Saul had thought, declined the plain-looking Merab saying he was too lowly born to marry a princess. His eyes were on Michal, the beautiful younger one who loved him too.
When Saul came to know of David’s desire for his second daughter, he thought that this was another opportunity to get David killed. He demanded a hundred foreskins of Philistines who were not in the habit of mutilating their genitals. David went out with a few of his men and killed two, not one, hundred foreskins of Philistines and gifted it to Saul. Once the bride price was thus paid, Saul had no excuse to giving Michal away in marriage to David.
Jonathan tried hard to convince his father that David had no ambition to dislodge him from his kingship, and Saul appeared convinced. However, God’s holy mischief prevailed. Having failed in his promise to put David on the throne, his alternative move was to put a bad spirit in Saul and set him up against David.
With that evil spirit goading him, Saul continued to try to kill David while also pretending to entertain him. While at it, he tried to Pin David with his spear, but missed him. He sent men to kill him in his daughter Michal’s bed, but Michal let David get away while arranging the bed as though he was asleep in bed. Saul heard that David had joined Samuel and had been prophesying at Naioth at distant Ramah and went to kill David there, but instead of killing David, something came over him; he doffed his clothesand started prophesying. Such were the powers of God.
The king’s determination to kill David did not wane. Unarmed and alone, David went to Ahimelek, the priest of Nob. More out of fear than love, for David had lied that he was on a mission for King Saul, Ahimelek gave him five loafs of consecrated bread and the sword of Goliath (the same sword with which David beheaded the dead Goliath and hence sacred). One of the sons of Ahimelek went and told Saul that David was provisioned by his father. Saul summoned Ahimelek and got him hacked to death along with his of 85 priestly companions – all of whom were wearing the ephod of God. Then he sent his army to destroy men and women, children and babies in the womb, oxen and done town of Keilah. God told David to go to Keilah and defend the town. This David did, carrying off their livestock, but letting the women and children be so as to keep the story moving.
Saul pursued David to Keilah, but God had warned David that Saul would catch and kill him and His Almighty self could do nothing keys and sheep and all that lived in Nob – the land of priests.
God watched the carnage of those who had helped his favorite David, but nothing was more pleasurable to God as the carnage of living beings that he had once created. As luck would have it. Ahimelek’s son Abiathar joined David. Abiathar carried with him the ephod, the decorate breast plate worn by a priest when worshiping God at the altar. (You could never be sure what God would do next; so possibly and ephod could be the first line of defence). In any case, the ephod was a lucky charm for David.
Now these Philistines, the tribe of Goliath whose killing you’d remember, were a wily lot. Furthermore, God had not asked David, as was his wont, to destroy Philistines man, woman, children… well, you know the routine all the way to babesin the womb and suckling lambs. Hence Philistines always re-grouped, and became a formidable force. This time they attacked thabout it. So David, who beat the Philistines, but feared Saul, ran from place to place, with Saul on hot pursuit. The priest of God with the ephod was with David, so Saul never caught up. In the meanwhile, words came that Philistines had attacked Saul’s base. Saul gave up the chase while David found a safe place.
Dealing with the Philistines took no time for Saul because there was no command from God who was sulking and no advice from Samuel who lived in fear. The matter was settled quickly and he returned to deal with David. While Saul went for a royal poop in a cave all alone, David crept from behind and cut off a piece from his robe.
David had probably not known that God had denounced Saul, or may be he didn’t care, but despite all the chasing Saul had done, he remained devoted to the king who gave his first break in life. So he went up to Saul and showed the piece of robe. “Killing a king from behind while he poops is the easiest thing to do,” said David in words to that effect. “But Lord, your servant did not do it. Because I’m still devoted to you.”
“You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family,” replied Saul, still not much repentant. David swore what Saul wanted him to swear. Having obtained that oath from David, Samuel went his way while David went another way.
God neither chided nor cursed David for giving such a promise to his enemy, Saul, who had not yet vacated the throne although His omnipotence had commanded his dethroning. Imagine the shame of impotence. However, He knew that when the time came, He’d find a way to destroy Saul’s race without David raising his hands on them and thereby breaking his oath. God, as you by now must know, is a very clever God.
David gets Abigail
David sent his men to a rich landlord called Nabal to get free provisions. Nabal, whose name meant Fool (just as God’s name was Jealous), had never heard of Samuel, nor of a Jesse and his son David. Nabal drove the men away empty handed. Instead of attacking Nabal’s household and destroying by sword men, women…(you know the routine), David sent message to Nabal’s wife who went running to David with far more provisions than David had imagined. She prostrated at David’s feet and promised to do whatever he wanted her to do. The message was loud and clear music to David’s ears.
David waited still not contemplating the men, women, babies and cattle job on Nabal. Though married to Michal, who once saved his life, and Ahinoam of Jezreel, another wife he acquired along the way, David now desired Abigail of Carmel.
When God realized his favorite deovtee’s heart’s desire, He struck Nabal dead after he had had too much to drink in a rich men’s party and convalescing in bed for ten days. After a formal mourning, Abigail went to David and they were married. David a third time, Abigail the second time.
The evil spirit that God sent never abandoned Saul, so he pursued David again with a large army, but David stole Saul’s water jug and spear while he (Saul) was fast asleep in his royal tent. When he discovered what David had done, and yet had not killed Saul in his sleep, Saul said he felt ashamed. He blessed David and went back while David went his own yet aimless way and settled down in Philistine territory; frequentely marauding the neighbors – Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. Wherever he and his army raided, he plundered all that they had in cattle, donkeys and camels and left no man, woman or baby alive. God, who had commanded that thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s property, nor his wife, nor slave and so on, loved the way David went about his deeds and loved David even more. However, to mere humans, who were probably a little more principles than God, David became obnoxious.
Achish, a Philistine chief, who granted asylum and a town for David to live in and plunder from, decided to attack Israel and wanted David to be his bodyguard, which neither shocked nor infuriated God. When Saul learnt that Phislistines were going to attack Israel, he went to a medium to communicate with the dead Samuel. Samuel had no kind words for him, for God’s anger towards him was still aflame.
Other Philistine rulers objected to David being with their army while going to raid Israel. They didn’t trust him, though Achish did. So he was sent back; but when he reached Zicklag, his town, he found that all the women – including David’s two wives Ahinnoam and and Abigail – had been taken captive and taken away. Not of the same God, they had not killed anyone. David went after the raiding party, and with the help of an Egyptian who had been part of the raiders, found them at a place where they were drinking eating and generally having fun. David recaptured all the women, and killed all the raiders – except four hundred young men who got away on camelbacks. David killed all the rest, got back the women who were unharmed and returned. He got so much plunder that he shared it with all the tribes in whose places his men had roamed.
The Philistines, the sworn enemy of Israel and God, beat Saul’s army, wounded Saul and killed his sons. Jonathan (who was once so helpful to David) and his other two sons. Saul committed suicide, which god probably celebrated in his high heavens. The victorious Philistines cut off Saul’s head and presented his armor to their idols. The bodies of Saul and his sons were strung up on the walls. Some faithful Israeilites found the bodies and gave them an honorable funeral.
To win David’s favor, a young man brought Saul’s crown and arm band to David. He said he had seen Saul leaning on his spear; when saul saw him, he asked him to kill him, which he did. Knowing Saul’s enemity with David, the man expected to be rewarded, but David, who mourned the death of his erstwhile master, had the man killed. The musician in David sang:
24 “Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
27 “How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”
David then went to Hebron, the town in Judah with his wives and men. There the people of Judah made him as their king. The feud between Saul’s house and David’s house lasted a long time causing much bloodshed but making David progressively stronger. Finally the house of Saul split; The son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, accused his commander Abner of sleeping with Saul’s concubine. This was reason enough for Abner to go over to David’s side, but one of David’s men, Joab, killed Abner by deceit. David cursed Joab, and as is God’s law, that at least one of his future generations with leprosy. Today if you find anyone in Israel with leprosy, you’d know that he is a descendent of Abner.
Now Rekab and Baanah, two smart alecks, killed king Ish-Bosheth, son of Late Saul and now the king from Saul’s house, and took the dead king’s head to David. David answered them in these holy words:
“As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
So whether for the pleasure of killing on any excuse, or out of loyalty for the dead Saul, David put both to death. Their hands and feet were cut off and the limbless bodies were hung up near Hebron’s public pool as a happy sight to God and His people of Israel.
David was still young, a vibrant thirty. The people of Israel requested David to become their king, not only of Hebron, and Saul, Jonathan and Ish-Bosheth conveniently disposed of, David signed a covenant with people and became their king. After so many years of bloodshed and turmoil, doubts and setbacks, murders and plunder, Almight God’s ambition to dislodge Saul and make David the king came true.
When they heard that King David was marching to conquer their Jerusalem, the Jebusites scoffed : Even the lame and the blind can ward off David, they said. David defeated them, and as is his wont, utterly destroyed them, and established his city there. Neighboring kings sent envoys and gifts to David, thereby sparing themselves of death and plunder. Having earned himself some rest, David collected several wives and concubines while God watched with pride and reflected glory. David was the man of His own heart. Several children were born to King David – too many to name and remember. One of the many was to become the famous Solomon.
David was in possession of the ephod, the armour to be worn by the priest, which made him a priest and a prophet – now he needed the Ark of God to complete his divinity. He called for the Ark.
The ark of God contained good tidings for mankind – the two original granite tablets engraved with the latest version of Ten Commandments (re-engraved by God after Moses broke the first ones in anger), a pot of manna (from heaven, a foodstuff meant for the people of Israel when in need) and the rod of the first priest, Aaron. These sacred stuff were packed inside a box made of acacia wood, and covered with gold leaves. Two images of winged cherubs stood guard on the lid of the box, and in between was engraved the name of God (Jealous?). You could put rods through rings to carry it around. The whole affair was meant to bring good tidings to the people of Israel and curse upon its enemies (for instance, Philistines) but any Israelite who looked at it would surely die, that was the law.
Now a man well-intentioned man named Uzzah, who was among those who were guiding the ox cart, held on to the Ark when the cart stumbled on a loose threshing floor. God couldn’t care that Uzzah was trying to protect the Ark, but was furious that he, a common man, held it and possibly looked at it. So God personally struck him down beside the ark. The ark contained the laws for mankind as decreed by God; but anyone who takes a look at those laws in original would be struck down by God. That was how God did things.
This episode frightened David; he did not blame God for the injustice, but the poor Uzzah for tying to protect the holy junk. Lest he too be tempted to look at it, he diverted the Ark to the house of Obed-Edom, a Gittite who lived in Gath, a city in the Philistines. During the three months it was in his house, Obed-Edom flourished. David called for the dangerous gift from God and put it away safely in a tent and celebrated the arrival of the Ark by dancing half-naked. Michal, David’s first wife and Saul’s daughter, made fun of David for what he had done.
Ï will do it again, and even less clothed than the last time,” Said David: even if you find it disgraceful, the slave girls would like it. There is reason to believe that the slave girls he had in mind were to be his concubines, of which he already had many. Neither David nor Michal knew how, three millennia later, Michael Angelo, the great artist-sculptor of the renaissance, would resurrect young David in all his splendid for viewing by all mind – big, handsome, muscular and perfectly nude with uncircumcised genitals of a child’s proportions.
We do not know if David danced in the nude again in exhilaration. However, during the excitement and commotion, David felt bad that while he lived in a palatial house with his many wives and even more concubines, God, who continued to live in a movable tent was getting a raw deal. God knew what David meant with this new worry of his and summoned him through Nathan, the prophet. He pointed out that his helping the Israelites was out of love for them, not expecting anything in return. He said:
“ I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies…..When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
Getting back to the story, David concluded the meeting oozing gratitude and these parting words: “Sovereign Lord, you have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
With the covenant of God in his armpit, David attacked, massacred and plundered all the tribes in the Middle East. He destroyed thousands of chariots, ten-thousands of charioteers and hundred-thousands of foot soldiers, plundered all the gold and silver and bronze, and to God’s great delight, dedicated it all to Him. David played cat-and-mouse games with Moabites (descendants of Lot, the dear nephew of dearest-to-God Israelite Abraham, through one of own his own daughters and hence despised by God, although Lot was still loved). David laid down all the Moabites in a straight line, head-to-toe, and killed each alternate one while God and other Israelites watched in glee. Like witch-burning that was to come several centuries later and of gassing of Jews even many more centuries later, these acts of David served as a spectacle sport for the tired people of Israel. David thus became the best of all generations after the great ancestor Abraham, which was why Jesus came to be called Son Of David a few centuries and forty-one generations later. Nobody dared question how, if the Holy Ghost, and not Joseph, had fathered Jesus, how he came to be the descendent (son) of David.
David never forgot his devotion and his promise to Saul not to harm his progeny; so he called for a remaining grandson of Saul, a man who was lame in both legs, and gave him much land that originally belonged to Saul and also let him eat at his table. When a tribe who wanted to take revenge on what Saul had done to them, they requested David that Saul’s remaining descendents – some seven of them – be handed over to them which David did. Thus, while keeping his promise to Saul not to harm his descendants, David ensured that last of Saul’s generations – barring his disabled son Mephibosheth who had no feet and couldn’t be of any harm – was eliminated. David was an honourable man. David gifted all the land that belonged to Saul and his family to Mephilbosheth and his sons. How was the poor invalid to know that David’s favors where like God’s favors – mere shifting sands.
Then one evening in spring while walking on the terrace of his cedar palace, David noticed a woman bathing. The woman, her name Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, a loyal soldier in David’s army. David called for the woman and made love to the woman. Because the woman just had her bath of cleansing after her period, she got pregnant. Perhaps fertility season for women was just after their period in the Biblical days. Uriah sensed what happened and did not want to be called the father of David’s illegitimate child. He did not make love to his wife. So David asked his general, Joab, to “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” Which Joab did, and Uriah fought and died in a battle where many more Israeli soldiers died and the rest flood.
Bathsheba, after the due mourning period, joined the harem of David and gave birth to a son. In all, She bore David five sons, one of whom was to become the great King Solomon who would have a thousand wives and build a permanent (as permanent of God’s promises) temple for God.
God, who had once ensured that Abigail’s husband Nabal died so David could marry Abigail, had a different rule for David’s killing of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. The decision to kill or not to kill a husband of a woman desired by David lay with God; David taking it upon himself amounted to intransigence. God listed all that He had done for David, who was a poor shepherd to begin with and now a king with the heads of most of his neighbor kings in his kitty.
“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” Said God through Samuel. If you could play dirty, God could play dirtier was a clear message.
The raping of his wives was to come in due course. For the time being, God forgave David and punished his illegitimate son born to Bathsheba. The child suffered for seven days and then died. David took the child’s death philosophically. There was no point crying over the dead. Many a fish in the water, many sons in his harem.
In a royal family where so many wives and concubines shared bed-space and children of different wives and concubines played together, this was to happen some day. The son of David from a certain wife, Amnon, developed a desire for the daughter from another wife, Tamar who happened to be the sister of Absalom. Pretending to be ill, he called for the services of Tamar who was a noble virgin. Despite her stiff resistance and pleading, Amnon raped her. A distraught and shamed Tamar emerged from the room having torn her clothes and wailing. That’s how Absalom learnt that his step brother violated his direct sister. Once the job was done, Amnon’s love for Tamar turned into hate.
Absalom gathered all his brothers in a drunken orgy and had Amnon struck down by his henchmen. The other brothers, frightened, fled. Absalom, knowing David’s rage and disregard for human lives, fled in another direction.
David mourned his dead son for a couple of years and then longed to see the living Absalom. At Joab’s persuasion, he allowed Absalom to return; yet pretending to be still mad at his son, David refused to see his face for the next two years.
Now Absalom was a handsome man, the best in all David’s vast empire, fit to be the king. The highlight of his physical attributes was his huge crop of hair, which he would cut every year-end and weigh the discarded hair – it weighed 200 shekels! With all that hair and handsome looks, Absalom was an unhappy young man. There was no sign of David abdicating, and Absalom was impatient as any young aspirant would be under the circumstance. He went to Hebron, collected a lot of able men into his army, grew popular with the populace and declared himself the king of Hebron.
When David heard the news that his son had declared himself the king, paranoia set in; he fled, leaving the Ark of God in the city. “If God my Lord desires that I return, then I will return to His Ark,” he said, thus tantalizing God to give him victory against his rebellious son.
God was indeed tantalized, but had not forgotten the dirty trick He had reserved for David.
David went, weeping, to Mount olives, but arranged for spies to be stationed in Absalom’s house.
You’d recall that the lame man without both his feet, Mephibosheth, grandson of Saul, whom David invited to share his dinner table, was awarded all the land that belonged to Saul. Deep in his heart, he had believed that what David owed him the entire kingdom of Israel. So he rejoiced when David ran away like a coward for fear of his own son. Mephibosheth’s steward Ziba decided this was his opportunity; he reached the fleeing David with a string of donkeys, “saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.”
This is what David needed; so he re-allotted all that he had given to Mephibosheth to Ziba. The steward now became the boss; it’s not clear how the dictum of a fleeing king was implemented.
Now Ahithophel, the sagacious counsellor of David, in his great wisdom decided that David was a spent force. He went to the aspiring king Absalom and glorified him. To Absalom, who was badly in need of acceptance, wanted to know how he could make himself opular among the Israelites. Ahithophel gave him a sound advice. Ahithophel’s advice used to be considered as an advice that came from God.
According to this sound advice, and also in keeping with a curse by God, Absalom took all the nine concubines of David ( God had said it would be the wives, but concubines in bed were the same as wives) and raped them in public. This strategy worked; The noble Israelites loved and admired the king who raped his step mothers.
Ahithophel, the true man of God, further suggested that Absalom pursue his father, for the latter was by now weak and exhausted as were his men; it was the best time to kill him. Once David was done away with, all the men would follow the new king back to Israel, and his authority over Israel would be full and final.
That was a sound advice, but thwarted by Hushai, a man secretly sent by David to counter the harm he expected Ahithophel would do. This is not the time to attack David, he said, because David is a great fighter, and your men would be slaughtered – a great slaughter that would be. So wait for your time, he advised. If you must know the truth, God had had the revenge He had planned with David – it was now restoration time.
Not attacking David when he was weak and tired was a great folly, and Ahithophel, the man considered as knowledgeable as God, knew what would happen to Absalom and to himself after David recovered his kingdom. He went home, set his domestic things in order, and then killed himself. His death, say experts, was a record, for it was the first suicide in history.
Absalom began to pursue David rather late in the day – for the latter was no longer weak and tired. David collected three divisions of men under three of his able generals (one of them being Joab, the favorite). Being a loving father, David instructed his officers that Absalom must not be killed.
Don’t forget that Absalom had a huge crop of hair, which was not yet due for a hair cut in that year. As he went along in pursuit atop his mule, the hair got caught up in the thick branches of an oak tree. Unmindful, the mule trotted on, leaving Absalom hanging from the tree. General Joab and his bodyguards finished him off with their javelins. Thus God dealt with the man who did his bidding by making his curse come true.The pillar that Absalom had erected in anticipation of his death stands in modern Israel till this day. It is hoped that Netanayahu will find it some day.
David duly mourned the death of his son and wept bitterly. Like any father would, he wished he had died in Absalom’s place. He then put all his ten concubines who had been raped b Absalom in a house and made provisions for their survival. He never slept with them again; they lived widows’ lives till they died.
God ordered David to take a census of all Israel and Judah, which David did. His men traveled all over the country and took census. The hard work took more than nine months. Joab counted the number of men in both countries capable of handling a sword. For whatever reason, David felt guilty at what he had done and begged God for forgiveness. The merciful Lord gave him three options: 1. Three years of famine in his kingdom. 2. Three months of pursuit of David by his enemies. 3. Three days of plague in the land.
David, being a benevolent king who loved his people decided that three years of famine or three days of plague for his people was preferable to three months of pursuits by his enemies. The merciful Lord sent his merciful angel to spread plague all through the land. When seventy thousands had died, and the angel, in his killing spree, was on his way to destroy Jerusalem, David appealed to God and God stopped the plague-angel’s run on the land. Thereupon David built an altar for God and sacrificed many oxen which he had bought for a generous sum of fifty shekels of silver.
There was a minor rebellion by a man named Sheba, son of Bikri. Joab killed Amasa, by stealth. He suspected Amasa of being with Sheba and rebelling against David. Joab then pursued Sheba, who hid in a fortified part of the city. When Joab and his men came up to the wall and had begun to kill, a wise woman persuaded those inside the fortification to cut off Sheba’s head and threw it to JOab. Thus was the rebellion quelled. The people of Such was the devotion of Joab in David.
For no evident reason, God sentenced Israel to three successive years. After the third year, God explained to David that he and his countrymen were being punished for what Saul had done – he had put Gibeonites to death. This was fair and square, God had punished David for not putting Agag to death; now he was punishing him again because Saul, his sworn enemy, had put Gibeonites ( not sure how many) to death. The obedient David, though he had promised Saul that he would protect his descendants, handed over the last seven of male descendants of Saul (except the lame man) to Gibeonites who gleefully hung up the innocent men in proof of how God punishes the children of a sinner up to three or four generations. Thus did David keep his promise to Saul, the man who gave him a place in history.
God had promised to plant David and his family in a secure home where they would no longer be disturbed. As is the rule with God’s promises, this was not to be. The Philistines, whom God fail to annihilate men, women, children and babies in the womb and all the cattle, continued to pester David all through his life. Many of them were killed – including a man who was so powerful that he had six fingers on both his hands and feet whom David’s brother killed.
Yet David was happy. When battles were not raging, he would play on his harp and sing:
….. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the Lord, but he did not answer.
I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
They all lose heart;
they come trembling[j] from their strongholds.
David was growing old, and his men decided that the best way to keep him in good spirits was to have a beautiful virgin by his side. Abishag, the most beautiful of them all and a virgin (which was important) was found and placed at the king’s service. The girl served David faithfully and, possibly due to erectile dysfunction or as a matter of principle, refrained from screwing her. We know the fate of his ten concubines, but not the fate of six of his wives. His last wife, whose acquisition made God angry enough to kill her first child, prowled around and waiting for her chance. For David had promised her that her son would be made the king.
Adonijah, the one next in line after the usurper son Absalom, decided it was his time to take over the kingdom. Joab, the General who had till then be faithful to David joined Adonijah who had invited all but David’s favorite prophet Nathan and his favorite son, Solomon. Adonijah sacrificed a huge number of cattle which obviously pleased God. Hence God did not alert David although both were obviously on talking terms.
Nathan, in revenge, went to Bathsheba – the woman for whose sake David had got her husband killed and himself suffered the humiliation of his wives being violated by his own son – and reminded her that the king had promised her to make a son of hers the next king. David took this oath to Bathsheba : ““As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”
David had his son Solomon anointed as king by his prophet Nathan and a few other trusted men. An obedient people rejoiced and played on their pipes. The noise was so tremendous that it reached the ears of Adonijah who was holding a feast with his men.
Adonijah, weak-kneed and not much of a king material, sent word to king Solomon that he would surrender if he would be allowed to live.” “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die,” answered Solomon, who was to become famous throughout the world for his sense of justice. Adonijah went home.
Before he died, David gave his last king’s counsel to his successor : a list of several men, including Joab, who had once fought for him, but had either rebelled in secret or did a killing that was not right in the king’s eyes. Accordingly, Solomon the Just had them all put to the sword.
Adonijah, restless at the loss of the kingdom, went to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon with a request : please make Abishag, the beautiful virgin wife of David my father. Bathsheba, not averse to such exchanges herself, conveyed this request to Solomon.
“Mother, I will surely do your bidding,” said Solomon, and had one of his men strike down Adonijah by the sword.
David finally found peace and Solomon the Great began his rule with the wisdom imparted by him.
While reading this story of God’s love for mankind, one mustn’t forget that God promised the Israelite rest from all his enemies, but not from his own offspring. Evidently God was a man of great sardonic humor when he promised to plant them in a home of their own where they would no longer be disturbed. In the event, they were to roam all over the world and find no peace anywhere except in the West Coast of India; they were to be persecuted, humiliated, stabbed, shot, written about and gassed amass till, more with a view to get rid of them than to help them, the British (in particular) planted them in a small piece of land in the middle of alleged descendants of Abraham’s concubine and to never live in peace again.