Time to Rethink King David

In Ancient Warfare Magazine VIII.I, regular contributor Sidney E. Dean wrote an article titled “David’s Insurgency Against Saul: The Man Who Would be King”, and it’s a challenging read for those who grew up on the Biblical stories of the great King David. History isn’t always easy to swallow, the study of it is supposed to try and find the whole picture, not just half of it, and that’s what makes Dean’s article so uncomfortable, and that’s also what makes it so fascinating. If anything, at the end of the article the hero King David is made that much more interesting, and even if not all suppositions are truth, the saintly image of David becomes more human, more relatable. My point in this summary isn’t to necessarily comment, but to share, so, if you’re not willing for your understanding of who David was to be challenged, if you’re not prepared to be made uncomfortable, stop reading. Because unlike Dean’s article, I didn’t start with harsh vocabulary almost purposefully trying to sift readers before settling into a less emotionally charged and academic argument.

Dean tells us that this emerging interpretation of King David’s life is one that is gaining momentum in the fields of Biblical studies, history, and archaeology and that these conclusions are based more on what the sources don’t tell us than what they do, and that means taking what we do know about David’s rise to power and trying to fill in those gaps based on starting and ending points. The results of this study are that David wasn’t just an innocent victim of King Saul’s jealousy, but was a man purposefully driven to gain power, allegiances, and solidify support for his ultimate goal of kingship by waging insurgent warfare even at the expense of his own people.

The primary source for David’s biography are the Biblical books of 1&2 Samuel and 1 Kings, the books of Samuel offering the bulk of the biography, and Dean points out that Samuel’s writing is similar to that of apologists. Accepting this is one of the keys for getting to know David the man rather than David the victim.  We know that David was a warrior, a man who had no problem hunting down 200 Philistines and cutting-off their foreskins for a dowry (only 100 were asked for), and the Bible remembers David as a musician, a shepherd, a man after God’s heart. Dean only adds to this image: you don’t kill and mutilate 200 men as a dowry and fight on behalf of your enemy and not have greater designs than playing a passive, survival waiting game.

Dean quickly overviews David’s transition from shepherd to a national war hero under King Saul noting that as the youngest of many sons of a wealthy land owner, David would have been well educated but his prospects of inheritance were non-existent meaning his only option for gaining wealth and advancement would be through the military. He gained Saul’s trust becoming part of his inner-circle and soon found himself promoted to leading military missions before being given the prestigious role of commanding Saul’s “men of war” which could refer to the professional portion of the army rather than the levied men each tribe was obligated to provide for campaign season.  David continued to grow in popularity winning the hearts of not only the people, but also Saul’s retinue of courtiers and royal guard, forming a deep bromance with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and eventually marrying Saul’s daughter, Michal. But Saul began to get concerned at the height to which David had risen in his court, and while Samuel writes that Saul had become paranoid, it’s not a stretch to believe that Saul had become nervous about David’s prestige as it wouldn’t be the first, or last time, that a military commander had a mind to usurp a king. It’s even less of a stretch to believe considering Israel’s geo-political division. Israel was divided into two uneven tribal groupings, Israel and Judah. Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin which was in the larger tribe pool of Israel, while David came from the tribe of Judah. Saul was accepted by all but some historians believe that Saul’s powerbase lay with his tribe rather than the nation meaning that Saul might not have been confident of his support from the entire nation should someone attempt a coup. It is not surprising then that Saul eventually began a campaign to assassinate David which forced David to flee the country. However, interestingly, had David only been scared for his life as Samuel says, David could’ve left Saul’s dominion for any number of nearby lands, not all of them hostile. But rather than finding refuge in a friendly country, David sought refuge with Israel’s chief enemy: Philistia.

Going to the Philistine city of Gath, its king wasn’t interested in accepting David so David went back to hide in Judaea and the city of Adullam which was likely a frontier fort rather than the cave the Bible calls it. Here David’s family and their households joined him (David later sending his parents into the nearby country of Moab where they were safe from Saul), and he began attracting everyone whose misfortunes made them vulnerable (the debtors, discontent, and distressed 1 Sam. 22:1-2). Soon, David had collected for himself an army of 400 men plus their families which suggests structure and order, rather than just a random group of untrained vagabonds; hardly the situation of a man who only feared for his life without further design. From Adullam David led his army into the wilderness, a harsh land ideal for guerilla warfare against a larger army where he continued to attract fighters, very likely including non-Jews and Philistines. David worked towards gaining a foothold in the land he occupied by chasing out the Philistine occupiers of the Judean town of Keilah though Samuel writes that Keilah and surrounding area was loyal to Saul. It would seem likely then that they were not overly appreciative of this “liberation”, if not resented it considering the trade of one enemy occupier for another. From the wilderness David led his small army into insurgent fighting against Saul, his own people suffering as he raided and extorted the supplies and funds he and his men needed.

You may stop reading here and protest that blessed David didn’t extort and kill his own people! But read his story closer and consider one incident Samuel records providing us with evidence that this is actually true. On one particular extortion run on wealthy Judean landowners, one tribal chief named Nabal refused to pay David the money he demanded. In immediate response, David took three-quarters of his men to make it clear to Nabal, and others who might get the same idea, that not paying was not an option as he swore to kill everyone in Nabal’s house and estate by the next morning (1Sam. 25:22). This bloodbath was only averted when Nabal’s beautiful wife, Abigail, humbly met David on the road offering him provisions and asking him to “remember his handmaiden”. This plea has made many to think that David made a deal with Abigail as Nabal suspiciously and conveniently died two weeks later, and David swiftly married his widow (dead husband, David takes the beautiful widow, sound familiar…Bathsheba?).  In this roadside meeting, Abigail hailed David as the future king of all Israel, and this is without the Bible accrediting her prophetic gifting. This of course would mean that David’s intention for the throne was known as no divine revelation was given. Even should Abigail have gotten knowledge of the private anointing ceremony Samuel had performed on David years earlier, she declared him king rather than Saul and David didn’t refuse the title. And while more subjective, it is possible that Nabal was a supporter of Saul, and as a tribal chief securing his influence would have been desirable. With Nabal’s wife now in his bed, David could hope to start exerting his own influence and leadership on the tribe. To further support this theory, it was shortly after Nabal’s death that Saul heightened his offensive against David forcing him to again flee back into the Philistine lands- Israel’s enemy, rather than a more peaceful country such as Moab where his parents were.

Coming again to the king of Gath with his army of now 600 seasoned men, the Philistine king accepted David and his company into his service giving him the town of Ziqlag to occupy giving teeth to this buffer zone. From here, David raided Philistia’s and Israel’s enemies even though the latter may have been an ally of Philistia. According to Samuel, David lied to the Philistine King about where he was getting the plunder he was handing over, and to keep his deception, he had a policy of leaving no one alive in a raid so no word of his actions could get back to the king. The truth of how selective David’s raids were have been called into question allowing for the possibility that David was okay with spilling Jewish blood, the example of Nabal giving weight to the possibility.

David served with the Philistine king for sixteen months until Philistia and Israel clashed at Mount Gilboa. Some historians are willing to suggest that David was able to gain influence with Nabal’s clan, the Calebites, and allowed the Philistine king to operate out of these lands giving him a base closer to the Israelites. If David pressed Saul from the south, and the Philistines from the west, Saul would be forced to split his forces. The Philistine king trusted that David had turned his back on his own people and that they had turned their back on him, but the other Philistine nobles were not so convinced, and David was not allowed to join the battle even as he hotly protested this exclusion. Some historians don’t wonder if David actually did stay for the battle to fight on the side of the Philistines. Regardless, the Israelites lost the battle and lost it badly. Saul and his sons died, the army was devastated, and David, though Samuel writes that he mourned Saul, didn’t waste any time in stepping up as the national leader. Saul’s crown, bracelet, and possibly his spear were brought to David giving him the royal insignias, and he gave lavish gifts to over a dozen influential Judean elders guaranteeing their support before leading his small army into the Judean capital of Hebron and occupied it where the elders anointed him king of Judah. The fact that his armed veterans were with him in Hebron should not be overlooked.

While Samuel continually implies that David had no true ambition for the throne outside of the timing of God, David’s continuing actions suggest a man not so calmly waiting for his appointed time. Should the humble and peace seeking David whom Samuel writes of be wholly accurate, then we would expect to see David wanting to work with Saul’s son and heir Ishboshet to organize a joint counter offensive to the Philistine occupiers. But outside of his pact with Jonathan, David had no sympathy for the house of Saul and a bitter war between David and Ishboshet broke out. Ishboshet was forced to relocate the Isrealite capital in face of the advancing Philistines and David continued his campaign of wooing Israelite clans and tribes to his side while also making a political alliance with Geshut (to Israel’s north) by marring the king’s daughter; Ishboshet and Israel were now almost surrounded, north, west, and south. As the war was going in David’s favour, Ishboshet’s commander Abner offered his services to David promising his defection would bring the entire Israelite army as well. David agreed to this, however, David’s own commander, Joab, wasn’t prepared to be a subordinate commander and killed Abner before the deal was done.

Ishboshet was finally assassinated by his own officers ending the war. Israel had no obvious choice for the kingship so the Israelite leaders petitioned David to become their king effectively uniting Israel’s boarders. Once in power, David took over Saul’s harem, a classic move of dominance, and destroyed the rest of Saul’s house, having Saul’s 5 grandsons killed as well as his two illegitimate sons, and though he took Michal back as his wife, he had no children with her. Jonathan’s son Mephiboshet was spared for Jonathan’s sake and brought into David’s household and a realist would say that David put him under house arrest.

This theory about David isn’t without its holes or its counter arguments but there’s enough here to present plausibility and fullness to an otherwise weighted narrative. If you’re interested in reading more, there’s a shortened reading list from Dean’s article below.

Bonus Fact: When David fled from Saul the first time, he did so so fast that he took no food or weapons with him. David lied to a priest in order to obtain both and the weapon he was given was the giant Goliath’s sword which had been kept at the temple in dedication. The Bible never mentions David returning the sword to the care of the priesthood so its reasonable to assume that David kept and used Goliath’s oversized sword as his own throughout his career . And that’s pretty freakin’ awesome. (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, and the Septuagint tells us that Goliath was 6’9 in height)

 

Select Bibliography

  1. R. Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York, 1999).
  2. G. Greenberg, King David Versus Israel: How a Hebrew Tyrant Hated by the Israelites Became a Biblical Hero (New York 2009).
  3. B. Halpern, David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (Grant Rapids Michigan 2003).
  4. J. Kirsch, King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel (New York 2001).
  5. S. McKenzie, King David: A Biography (Oxford 2002).

Okay, This is Pretty Cool

It’s been over three years ago since I began penning what would become my first complete novel, “The Gift”. Unlike anything I had ever written before, it became what I consider to be my most impacting story and some of the most fun I’ve ever had staring for hours and hours and hours in front of a computer screen. Everything I do with this project is new and a bit scary. The end of the first draft: is this truly the end of the story I want to tell? The daunting task of re-drafting multiple times, releasing it to my beta-readers: will they think it’s as good as I do?,  and now I have secured myself a spot in an editor’s queue. How much will he think needs to change? My baby is going under the keen eye of professionalism, how will it stack up?

While these questions certainly are in the back of my mind, I couldn’t be more excited to announce this amazing news to everyone who has been tracking with me throughout this journey. While this doesn’t give me a certain time for release (still stuck on the dilemma of self-publishing vs. seeking out an agent- it’s a question of cost vs. patience), it does bring me one step closer to realizing something pretty awesome. July 1 is my start date with my editor, a man who has edited for one of my literary heroes New York Time’s Best Selling Ted Dekker, and another favourite, Tosca Lee, so I couldn’t be more excited at this stage of the process and I remain confident that this investment will pay off!

The book is slowly coming, don’t lose faith.

 

 

Helping the Church Overcome Sexism (with grains of salt)

Guys, young men of the Church, I want to talk with you for a few minutes. There’s an issue I feel like the Church has abandoned you on, has left you to your own devices with, and I want to start rectifying that right now. As a woman who’s grown up in the Church I have to attest that this very issue has been so thoroughly taught and expounded on for us, but never you. This is unfair to you growing up in our current world and unfair to the young ladies around you who have to deal with the struggle brought about by the lack of knowledge imparted to you. So young men, I want to encourage you and help build you up, empower you in your walk with Christ. I want to talk about clothes and fashion.

I know your wardrobe wavers between, “whatever Wal-mart has on sale” to, “I’m a fashionisto” but it doesn’t matter where you buy your clothes, it’s how you wear them. Just because you’ve got it doesn’t mean you should flaunt it. By making girls stumble by what you wear doesn’t help bring them closer to God, which is the man’s leadership role in a relationship, it sets up an environment ripe for sin and reflects poorly on your own level of self-respect. Modest is hottest and always remember to dress appropriately, bringing glory to God through your actions and not distracting from that by your choice of clothing.

Here are some do’s and don’t when dressing modestly to help you navigate today’s degrading fashion standards and expectations for the modern man.

Skinny Jeans: Controversial to many, skinny jeans have shown their staying power and don’t look to be disappearing anytime soon. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t

skinny no

Too tight around the hips showing a bit more than what either wearer would like to be seen or general public would like to see.

Do

skinny yes

Long shirt covering all the immodest bits. Hat is optional.

V-Neck T-Shirts: Who doesn’t like a good v-neck? They’re relaxed and sharp all at the same time but all v-necks are not created equal so beware.

Don’t

v no

The plunging neck line reveals too much of the chest. “Hey, eyes up here!” During the summer be mindful of where you hang your sunglasses. Hanging them off your shirt drags your neckline ever lower and can turn even a modest v-neck into a not-so modest one.

Do

v yes

Notice how the neck-line drops nicely but not too low so as to be distracting or off-putting. The shirt fits comfortably, not too tight, not too loose.

Proper Fit: When buying clothes and trying to decide if the size it too tight or just right, remember the mantra: Too-tight means loose morals. It’s always safer to buy a size bigger. You want to attract godly women, and godly women aren’t attracted to men who wear suggestive clothing.

Don’t

fit no

Even though he’s wearing an appropriate v-neck, see how the shirt leaves nothing to the imagination? See how those jeans fit him maybe just a little bit too right? Dressing like this is going to attract the wrong kind of girls.

Do

fit yes

Layers are your best friend. They allow you to play with different lengths, different colours, (not shown in example), different styles, and best of all they keep you looking great and modest. Every girl loves a well dressed man in a suit!

Bathing Suits: We’re fortunate in North America not to have to deal with the same kind of popular beachwear that much of the rest of the world has to struggle with. When dealing with how to best dress for the water, don’t forget that you want too meet your future wife hiding in God, you don’t want to be digging her eyes out of your abs and pecs.

Don’t

swimwear no

Just say “no” to anything tight and form fitting. What are your motives in wearing this? Look in your heart and search God’s will out when selecting your swimwear. Imagine yourself going to the beach with your mother; would you feel comfortable wearing this in front of her? Would Jesus wear that?

Do

swimwear yes

Board shorts are great, easy to find, and they meet all the criteria for modest swimwear. Adding a loose fitting t-shirt or tank top not only reveals your pure intentions and pure heart but also adds a level of protection against the damaging sun.

Sunglasses: I can hear you protesting this one, or even laughing, but hear me out. It is no secret that accessories can draw attention to certain parts of the body or accentuate the whole packaged deal so they shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed. Because sunglasses take up so much space on your face, the first thing people see when they meet you, sunglasses can make or break all your efforts.

Don’t

sunglasses no

Just stop. This is…I can’t even…I just can’t…I…I…are your motives pure when wearing those aviators? I’m moving on.

Do

Say what you want about the Biebs, but he wins this one. For those who still can’t get over ‘Lil Bieber, I’ve included a less controversial photo. Find sunglasses that fit your face (there are hundreds of good guides on-line, or taking an honest friend shopping with you always works), but make sure they don’t unwrap too much of the gift for the wrong girl.

There certainly are more suggestions and modest fashion tips out there and I hope that in the future the Church starts to pick up on more of these, educating the young men and instilling in them value where the world has robbed them of so much. Feel free to comment below with your “Modest is Hottest: Men” tips!

 

 

A Tale of Two Coins

I love when history is fascinating. Let me revise that- history is almost always fascinating but I love it when the people who take the sometimes less popular parts and break it down into truly interesting, digestible pieces. So it is with this short article on inflation and the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage (aka. Hannibal). It very nicely explains how the massive devaluing of Rome’s currency during the war didn’t affect Rome nearly in the same way, or with nearly the same consequences, as the failing currency of Carthage.  Well worth the read and the 2 minutes it takes to read it.

http://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/pw/ancient-warfare/blog/inflation-and-the-second-punic-war/

And if you love ancient history and have never read Ancient Warfare, it is a must!

Happy Canada Day!

I want to wish everyone out there, Canadian or not, a super happy Canada Day! We`ll celebrate with anyone over our amazing, beautiful, wild and free nation! Even our stereotypes are better to suffer than a lot of other countries’ realities so enjoy today and show how proud you are to be Canadian!!

To help you get into the mood, let’s go back in time a little bit…

 

And then watch this gem because it’s awesome 🙂

Liebster Award

A big thank you to TheLeatherLibrary for nominating me for the Liebster Award, an award given to those with fewer than 200 followers; its the blogging world’s version of the comforting pat on the back, and I gladly accept this comfort food on behalf of my little blog (but let’s make this a short lived award and get all your friends to follow me too :D). TheLeatherLibrary has been a great joy following and I certainly suggest you go and follow him.

Awards aren’t free so here’s the rules I must follow to complete the nomination:

  • Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
  • Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them

Here are my answers to the questions posed to me:

1. Favourite film based on literature- The Middle-Earth epic saga. There’s just no contest here. The love and respect put into the films comes out with singing, and for all the die hard purists out there, be glad we didn’t have a director of lesser conviction get behind the camera!

2. Favourite Literature (any kind)- Suspense. I get super picky about the fantasy I read because some of it is too weird and too “fantasy-ish” for my liking, so for anyone who knows me and think that I answered wrongly, the suspense genre is more likely to have more successes in this umbrella than fantasty.

3. Favourite author- J.R.R. Tolkien. His brilliance at fiction is unparalleled. However, that being said, my two favourite suspense authors are Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti and I often refer back to them while writing my own novel.  Tom Holland and Adrian Goldsworthy are my favourite non-fiction authors.

4. Favourite subject to study on your spare time– Roman history, the 2nd century BC through the 1st century AD, specifically its politics and politicians and how that affected their wars, their internal struggles and interactions with other cultures.

5. Your favourite philosophy and philosopher– I really don’t have a favourite philosophy or philosopher. I took one class on Sophocles/Plato and walked back out through that door of interest once I passed in my final paper. There’s some interesting stuff to be said in philosophy but I’ll just get the Wikipedia version of it should the need ever move me.

6. Favourite ancient civilization, and why– Obviously Ancient Rome. If you ask a man why he loves his woman you will get everything from the simple to the long winded, but all the answer you really need is that secret smile of love and the statement that I just couldn’t live without her.

7. Favourite book Saga (if not than favourite film saga)Lord of the Rings for the win again. I do, however, have to give a nod to Game of Thrones for its very detailed world of people and its ability to use most of those people to weave a web of story that has so many legs to propel itself forward that you wonder if ever again you will believe the theory that you are ever powerless in this world.

8. Favourite tv series, why– I am Sher-locked. I hold Sherlock up at a different level of television, the kind that the world was barely ready for. It has employed story telling techniques and editing rarely, if ever seen before, wit, intelligence, crafty suspense, above par acting and script writing and cleverness that inspires people to use their brain. When the Chinese write asking British PM David Cameron to ask the BBC to hurry up production, and when the same man asks the producers to put more episodes into each season, I think there is something to be said for the show.

9. Favourite historical movie (doesnt have to be historically accurate)Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven (Extended Edition for the later otherwise it can be hard to fully follow the first time around).

10. why do you blog? What/Who inspired you to begin you blog– I began this blog to allow my friends and family to keep up with the adventures I had while studying in Rome. I kept this blog because I wanted to challenge myself to focus on my writing and sharing it with the world. The world doesn’t need *another* writer, but maybe someone somewhere could find a different perspective refreshing and adventurous.

Ten other bloggers in nomination for the Liebster Award: (please excuse me if you do actually have more than 200 followers, I mean no insult, you don’t have to accept. I may have just missed your follower count 🙂 )

  1. BuildingTheClockroom Before you freak out saying “AH! This is a tumblr account, not a *blog* site and not even a WordPress, this is a progress blog of a good friend of mine for an epic story he has begun.
  2. BooknVolumne
  3. ATolkienist’sPerspective
  4. FaithandFantasyAlliance
  5. MusingsFromAWardrobe
  6. Kuppajodotcom
  7. TimeMaps
  8. InteractiveAncients
  9. SleepingWithTheCat
  10. ALocalWanderer’sMusings

 

My ten questions for the nominees to answer:

  1.  The most unforgettable fictional character and what makes them so unforgettable
  2.  The most unforgettable historical figure and why
  3.  If you could create your perfect country made up of pieces of other lands (fictional or real) what would it look like?
  4.  The one country you have no real desire to visit
  5.  Are you a baker or a cooker?
  6.  How DO they get the caramilk into the Caramilk bar????
  7.  What does the fox say?
  8.  The one sport you will stay up (or get up for) to watch at the Sochi Olympics
  9.  What is your guilty pleasure go-to music?
  10.  The one question you were kinda hoping I’d ask you….then the answer to it!