King David has long been one of my Biblical heroes—or so I thought. The story of David versus Goliath is a powerful metaphor for facing life’s challenges. The little guy takes on the big and the powerful—and wins.
I always envisioned the great King David as the prototype for who and what the Messiah should be: a powerful leader, admired by all, who would lead the chosen people to achieve the highest standards.
Then I bought the Great Courses DVDs on the Old Testament, which consist of twenty-four thirty-minute lectures by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a Biblical scholar from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
In lecture sixteen, Dr. Levine talked about who King David really was. That lecture was an eye opener—and not a nice one!
For example, according to the original Hebrew version of 2 Samuel 21:19, Goliath was not killed by David but by a soldier named Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim. Why would David take the credit? That’s dishonest. Now David has a credibility issue.
Supposedly, David was renowned for playing his lyre to soothe King Saul’s troubled spirit. With his credibility in question, I now wonder whether David could even play the lyre, let alone play it well. After all, he was a shepherd boy, not a musician.
David married Saul’s daughter Michal (David had lots of wives and concubines), who was very much in love with him at first. But later in their marriage, when Michal saw David leaping and dancing in the street before the ark of the covenant, she publicly scolded him and “despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16). David’s luck with the ladies seemed to be running out!
The story of David and Bathsheba is viewed by many as a love story, but I see it as a nasty case of blatant adultery that would be viewed as a #MeToo story or even rape today.
As I read this story closely, I realized that David was at home committing adultery while his troops were out fighting his wars and dying. A strong leader would have been personally leading his troops out in the battlefield. David’s staying at home was not leadership but cowardice!
When Bathsheba became pregnant, David brought her husband, Uriah, home from the war to sleep with her. However, Uriah refused to enter his house and sleep with his wife while his fellow soldiers were still camping in open fields. To save his own neck, David plotted to have Uriah killed. Isn’t that premeditated murder? David then sent Uriah back to the battlefield and ordered that he be put on the front lines so he’d be killed in battle. It worked. That’s murder!
I suspect that David’s son Absalom saw how lazy and morally depraved his dad was, so he decided to bring new leadership to the kingdom and set himself up as king. A very divisive, uncivil civil war ensued, and eventually Absalom was murdered—by one of his father’s soldiers. Most dads don’t do that.
Dr. Levine has convinced me that King David was not a nice person. He was a louse who belongs on the list of Old Testament leaders who were void of a moral compass.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, what do you think of King David? Was he a hero or a villain?