BBC 2 last week screened an interesting documentary. In a series titled “The Bible’s Hidden Secrets” Episode One bore the sub-title “Did King David’s Empire exist?” See David’s obituary in bold above.
This is a key issue with regard to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. It is a key issue for those who see in Jesus Christ, Son of David, a man whom one could love and follow to the end.
Did King David’s Empire exist? King David did reign between BC 1011-971 but did he have an Empire? Here are a few bullet points about him taken from the Jewish national archives (printed in Christian Bibles) –
· David did not set out to be King. Unlike the US President and Jersey’s Chief Minister he did not stand for election. When appointed (through Samuel a major prophetic figures around BC 1000) he was the youngest child in the family and had to be called back to his village from looking after sheep. He himself said that Almighty God raised him on high – not himself.
· King David openly confessed in writing (preserved by the Jews in Psalms 32 and 51) his adultery and his arranging of the murder of the pregnant lady’s soldier-husband in battle. And openly thanked the Lord God who forgave him as soon as he confessed and turned from his sin.
· In his pre-death obituary (see bold above) he wanted to be remembered as the one “who wrote the songs” of Israel - the songs of the love of Almighty God to Israel.
· In that same obituary (see bold above) he wrote that a King who rules justly over human beings and who rules fearing Almighty God is seen by the people as similar (1) to the dawning of a bright and cloudless morning, and (2) to rain that causes grass to spring up from the earth.
How very interesting, then, to see what Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou made of such a King on BBC 2. In the programme she “goes on the trail of the Biblical King David and his fabled empire. A national hero and icon for the Jewish people, and a divine king for Christians, David is best known as the boy-warrior who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. As king, he united the tribes of Israel. But did he really rule over a vast Israelite kingdom? Did he even exist?” (BBC website)
In the programme Dr Francesca much preferred King Omri of Israel (BC 885-874) to King David. Omri was an army officer whom the army appointed as King – much like Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya today, who was appointed leader after a military coup in 1969. Dr Francesca was very impressed by the large fortified city that King Omri left behind near present day Nablus (Samaria) in Palestine. King David, she said, did not leave behind such magnificent and powerful buildings.
Are you surprised that a King like David failed to leave such great monuments to himself? There is only one known stone bearing King David’s name. It’s known as the Tel Dan stele, was found in Samaria in 1993 and was carved by one of the enemies of the house of David. Jehu (around 830 BC) was a successor to King Omri. He recorded his defeat of one of King David’s progeny. Folk still want to do that today.
It fits, doesn’t it? In keeping with his pre-death thoughts about his obituary, King David doesn’t arrange for memorials to himself and his own strength. He arranges for a magnificent Temple to be built to the glory of Almighty God who forgave him and loved him.
And, yes, Jesus Christ was, as the Christmas story recounts, “of the house and lineage of David”. That’s why even today some folk in Jersey want to go in Jesus’ direction and follow the self-effacing Son of Man, Son of the self-effacing God.