How did King David succeeded the throne?

In general, King David is recognised as the second king of Israel, who succeeded the throne of King Saul, the first king, who was anointed by Samuel, the last Judge. However, according to the Old Testament, the anointment of David for becoming the king of Israel actually took place for three times and there was another candidate for the succession. Following is a summary of how these anointments and the succession took place.

The story surrounding the first anointment of David rather belongs to a background story of his early life. According to the Old Testaments, David was ‘the youngest of the eight sons of Isai, or Jesse… a small proprietor, of the tribe of Juda, dwelling at Bethlehem, where David was born’ (Knight, 2009). In his young years, David worked as a shepherd helping his father while Saul was ruling the country as the anointed King of Israel. One day, however, ‘Samuel, the Prophet and last of the judges, had been sent to anoint him in place of Saul, whom God had rejected for disobedience’ (ibid). Although this first anointment had either religious and political significance due to the fact that it was performed by Samuel, the same person who had anointed the current king, nobody around him did ‘seem to have recognized the significance of this unction’ (ibid) and David simply went back to his work.

There is a long and complicated story between the first and second anointments. However, to cut a long story short, it can be summarised to following events: (1) David was first brought to the court, when King Saul was suffering from an illness, ‘to soothe the king by playing on the harp’ (ibid). (2) David gained his fame as a warrior too when he volunteered to fight a single combat against a giant called Goliath and managed to slay him, as a part of Saul’s war against the Philistines. (3) His ‘victory over Goliath won for him the tender friendship of Jonathan, the son of Saul’ (ibid) and he was also offered to marry Saul’s daughters; Merob and Michol. (4) However, David’s ‘great popularity and the imprudent songs of the women excited the jealousy of the king’ (ibid) and eventually, this situation forced David to flee from the court. (5) While David was in the state of exile, the battle on Mount Gilboa took place, where Saul and his three sons including Jonathan were all slain by the Philistines.

The death of Saul meant that there arose a vacancy in the throne of Israel. Although David was already anointed by Samuel the judge, as its significance was not recognised, it must have been natural for Abner, the late Saul’s highest military commander, to establish Ish-bosheth (Ishbosheth / Isboseth), the sole surviving son of Saul, as the successor of his father’s throne. In the mean time, ‘David, who was now thirty years old, went up to Hebron to claim the kingly power. The men of Juda accepted him as king, and he was again anointed, solemnly and publicly’ (ibid). Although it is described that  David’s claim was done by ‘God’s command’ (ibid), it was only the tribe of Judah (Juda) that acknowledged David’s claim while other eleven tribes all remained faithful to the legitimacy of Ish-bosheth.

Opposing to David’s claim and his second anointment, Ish-Bosheth ‘resided in fortified Mahanaim, east of the Jordan, that place being secure against the Philistines’ (Hirsch and Seligsohn, 2002). It is also argued that it was largely depended on Abner’s political skill and influence that enabled ‘securing for Ish-bosheth the allegiance of all the tribes west of the Jordan with the exception of that of Judah’ (ibid). This unstable state of nation lasted for about two years before the civil war broke out between the two contestants for the throne.

In the early phase of the civil war, ‘Abner killed… a brother of… one of David’s military officers…in self- defense’ (, 2011) but eventually he was defeated by the David’s force at Gabaon. Subsequently, ‘David gradually but surely extended his authority’ (Hirsch and Seligsohn, 2002) so that he could even father six sons in Hebron. Meanwhile, Ish-bosheth accused Abner of his relationship with one of Saul’s concubines that seemed like ‘plotting to take over the kingship’ (, 2011). This quarrel led Abner to change his side to David and he ‘persuaded all the tribes to follow David’s leadership’ (ibid).

It was a huge blow for Ish-bosheth to lose Abner’s support so that he ‘dared not refuse David’s demand for the return of Michal’ (Hirsch and Seligsohn, 2002), a daughter of Saul, when the demand was made aiming at emphasizing David’s claim to the throne. After that, Abner was killed by one of David’s commanders ‘in an act of vengeance’ (, 2011). To this incident, David reprimanded his commander in question and ‘had Abner buried with full honors’ (ibid). Consequently, the death of Abner ‘prompted two of his captains, Baanah and Rechab, to slay Ish-bosheth’ (Hirsch and Seligsohn, 2002) and when they ‘carried the head of the unfortunate king’ (ibid) to David, expecting to be rewarded, on the contrary, David ‘put them to an ignominious death’ (ibid).

Thus, through such a long and winding way, finally David was ‘accepted by all Israel and anointed king’ (Knight, 2009).

Finally, there are some extra information about the names above and chronological issue that can be found within the referred websites. Following is a summary of them:

l        Something about the names

  1. ‘The name Abner means “the father is a lamp”’ (, 2011).
  2. Ish-bosheth’s ‘original name was Esh-baal’ ((Hirsch and Seligsohn, 2002), which means ‘man of ba’al’ (ibid).
  3. ‘In the Bible the name David is borne only by the second king of Israel’ (Knight, 2009).

l        Chronology

‘According to the usual chronology, David was born in 1085 and reigned from 1055 to 1015 B.C. Recent writers have been induced by the Assyrian inscriptions to date his reign from 30 to 50 years later’ (Knight, 2009).

Reference: (2011), Abner, People in the Bible (electrically accessed 25/08/2011)

Hirsch, Emil G. and M. Seligsohn (2002), Ish-Bosheth, Jewish (electrically accessed 25/08/2011)

Knight, Kevin (2009), King David, Catholic Encyclopedia (electrically accessed 29/08/2011)

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