David’s high view of the position
David: Transition from Shepherd Boy to King
The biblical account presents numerous episodes in the life of David, some of which have been identified as legendary by critical scholarship. While specific stories would have developed their individual literary structures and later be woven into the larger account preserved in the canon of Scripture, there is no reason to doubt that the general storyline is based on actual events. The accounts can be verified reasonably by correlating them with archeological data and anthropological theory. With the death of Saul and his sons, various issues emerged regarding the stability of the new Israelite polity. Out of this complex period, David emerges and builds up the kingdom of Israel into the greatest kingdom that Israel had ever known. During the vacuum created by the weakness of the world powers of the age, smaller powers were vying for control of the southern Levant (e.g., Edom, Moab, Aram, Philistia, Israel). Although Saul was actually the first king of the united monarchy, he never fully unified the tribes internally but only as a loose tribal confederation, principally held together by the Philistine threat, which kept the tribes united against a common enemy.
It was one thing to be a military leader under Saul’s hegemony; it was another for David to become the political leader of this confederacy. The short- and long-term goals of David can be summed up in one word: control. David needed to control the people and control the land. These two factors have a symbiotic relationship. If you control the land (e.g., trade and communication routes, agriculture/herding lands), you control the population; if you control the population (e.g., they submit to your leadership), you control the land. The highest priorities for David involved the establishment of his kingship, his reputation, and his support. He then had to formulate both a domestic and a foreign policy. David was quickly able to learn from Saul’s mistakes and to identify the best way to control the population. One of the main things that David established was a new concept for the tribes: a high view of kingship. Each tribe had given allegiance to its tribal chief and patriarch, but now their loyalty was to the crown. The Israelite monarchy was new, and there was still an underlying tension of tribal authority. Now the authority was being placed in the king (monarchy) and not the tribal structure. David held that Yahweh established David’s kingship; the king was God’s anointed. He maintained this view within the political arena since he had a high view of the position, regardless of Saul’s actions toward him. David would not kill Saul (1 Sam. 24:1–7; 26:1–12), but he did kill those who harmed God’s anointed (2 Sam. 1:1–15). He publicly mourned for Saul (1:11–12, 17–27).