See the short post on David.
In the thirteenth century BC, Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, across the Sinai. He and his successor Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, destroying the Canaanite cities of Ali, Jericho and Hazor.
The tribes of Israel during the period which followed were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin. In parts of the Bible, Ephraim and Manasseh are treated as together constituting the House of Joseph. The Levi had a special religious role and only scattered cities as territory. Either Ephraim and Manasseh were counted as one tribe or Levi was not counted, so that together there were Twelve Tribes.
The Philistines, a non-Semitic “Sea People”, came to Palestine, or the southern coast of Canaan (Palestine derives from Philistine), from the Aegean in the twelfth century BC, soon after the arrival of the Hebrews. They occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. They disappear from history after the Babylonian conquests of the sixth century BC.
The Hebrews were often subject to the Philistines and were ruled by Judges until c 1000 B.C. The prophet Samuel, florebat from c 1050 BC, was the last judge of Israel and the first of the prophets after Moses. His judgeship was dominated by war with the Philistines, who captured Moses’ Ark of the Covenant. In his old age he agreed, at divine request, to the establishment of a king; he thus anointed Saul and remained chief prophet during Saul’s reign. In this role he also anointed David, a shepherd, who was from the tribe of Judah.
Saul was succeeded by David and then by David’s son Solomon. After the expansionist reign of Solomon (c 970-928 BC), the kingdom broke up into two states: Israel, with its capital at Samaria (another city was Shechem), and Judah, under the house of David, with its capital at Jerusalem.
The two kingdoms were later conquered by expanding Mesopotamian states, Israel by Assyria (c 720 BC) and Judah by Babylonia (586 BC). The Babylonians destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem and held the Jews captive in Babylon.
In 539 BC the Persians conquered the Babylonians and in 538 allowed the Jews to return. The Temple was rebuilt (516 BC). Under Persian rule Palestine enjoyed considerable autonomy.
Alexander conquered Palestine in 333 BC. His successors contested for it. The attempt of the Seleucid Antiochus IV (Antiochus Epiphanes) to impose Hellenism brought a Jewish revolt under the Maccabees, who set up a new Jewish state in 142 BC.
Pompey conquered Palestine in 63 BC, but the state survived until 37 BC with a loss of autonomy. From 37 BC to AD 92 the Roman province of Judaea was ruled by puppet kings of the Romans, the Herodian Dynasty, a Jewish dynasty from Idumea.
When the Jews revolted in AD 66, the Romans destroyed the Temple (AD 70). Another revolt between AD 132 and 135 (led by Bar Kokhba) was also suppressed. Jericho and Bethlehem were destroyed, and the Jews were barred from most of Palestine.
Here is Wikipedia’s summary of the story of David and Jonathan. It quotes from the King James Version, except at the end, where it gives the “surpassing” of the New King James Version. I’ve restored “passing” for the sake of consistency and corrected some of the punctuation.
“David, a handsome, ruddy-cheeked youth and the youngest son of Jesse, is brought before Saul, the king of Israel, having slain the giant Philistine warrior Goliath with only a stone and sling (1 Sam. 17:57).
“Jonathan, the eldest son of Saul, is struck with love for David on their first meeting. ‘And it came to pass, when he [David] [brackets in original] had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 18:1). That same day, ‘Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan removes and offers David the rich garments he is wearing, and shares with him his worldly possessions. ‘And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.’ (1 Sam. 18:4).
“The people of Israel openly accept David and sing his praises, so much so that it draws the jealousy of Saul (1 Sam. 18:5-9). Saul tries repeatedly to kill David, but is each time unsuccessful, and David’s reputation only grows with each attempt (1 Sam. 18:24-25). To get rid of David, Saul decides to offer him a daughter in marriage, requesting a hundred enemy foreskins in lieu of a dowry – hoping David will be killed trying. David however returns with a trophy of two hundred foreskins and Saul has to fulfill his end of the bargain.
“Learning of one of Saul’s murder attempts, Jonathan warns David to hide because he ‘delighted much in David’ (1 Sam. 19:1-2). David is forced to flee more of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Sam. 19:1-20:1). In a moment when they find themselves alone together, David says to Jonathan, ‘Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes […]’ (1 Sam. 20:3).
“‘Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee. … [and] Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 20:4, Sam. 20:16-17).
“David agrees to hide, until Jonathan can confront his father and ascertain whether it is safe for David to stay (1 Sam. 20:18-22). Jonathan approaches his father to plead David’s cause: ‘Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?’ (1 Sam. 20:30).
“Jonathan is so grieved that he does not eat for days (1 Sam. 20:34). He goes to David at his hiding place to tell him that it is unsafe for him and he must leave. ‘David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.’ (1 Sam. 20:41-42).
“Saul continues to pursue David (1 Sam. 21-23:14); David and Jonathan renew their covenant together (1 Sam. 23:15-18); and eventually Saul and David are reconciled (1 Sam. 24:16-22). When Jonathan is slain on Mt. Gilboa by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:2), David laments his death saying, ‘I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.’ (2 Sam. 1:26).”
Saul also dies at Mount Gilboa. The summary does not quote the phrase “How are the mighty fallen!” in relation to his and Jonathan’s deaths.
In the Goliath story, the Philistines, having amassed an army on a hillside opposite the Israelite forces, suggest that it would be better, to save effort and lives on both sides, to have a proxy combat between their champion from Gath, named Goliath, and someone of Saul’s choosing. David, a shepherd, is delivering food to his three older brothers, who are in the Israelite army, at the time the challenge is made. Talking to soldiers, he mocks the Philistines, and is told off by his brothers for doing so. His speech is reported to Saul, who does not know David, but summons him, and appoints him his champion in the duel.
David was a musician, and by tradition the author of the Psalms. Another story tells us that while David was playing the harp in front of the troubled Saul, Saul threw a spear at him, but missed.
During David’s period in the wilderness, and before his reconciliation with Saul, he made an alliance with the Philistines (Achish of Gath), which emboldened them to attack Israel. When Saul is told by Samuel’s ghost that he will be killed in the battle of Mount Gilboa, he either kills himself or is killed at his request by an Amalekite after his own armour bearer refuses. The Amalekites were aboriginal people of Canaan and the Sinai peninsula. They waged constant warfare against the Hebrews until dispersed by Saul.
In Islam David is called Dawood. The Psalms are the Zabur. Muslims reject the portrayal of David (in his association with Uriah) as adulterer and murderer.
What are the dynamics of the Saul-Jonathan-David triangle? What was Samuel’s role? Was Saul a Claggart to David’s Billy Budd? What does “until David exceeded” mean? Was David implicated in Saul’s death?
The formal post-Solomonic split into Israel and Judah came out of an existing division. David’s relationship with Jonathan is seen by some as a representation of two nations, Saul representing Israel, David Judah. Jonathan may represent the Hebrews, whom the Book of Samuel appears to treat as distinct from Israel and Judah. Jonathan’s association with David would then reflect an alliance between the Hebrews and Judah, which became more important than the alliance between the Hebrews and Israel.The Hebrews are also identified with David’s band of pro-Philistine outlaws after his rift with Saul. The narrative of David’s flight and subsequent reconciliation with Saul becomes one of a rebellion by Judah with Philistine support, which became an uneasy truce.
Some Biblical “minimalists” have claimed that the “United Kingdom” was merely an invention intended to back up the subsequent claims of Judah to Israel.
The capital of David’s Judah had been Hebron. Saul’s United Kingdom had had capitals at Gibeah and Shiloh. Saul’s successor Ish-boseth had a capital at Mahanaim.
After the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David, thirty years old, goes up to Hebron, where he is anointed King of Judah. In the north, Saul’s son Ish-boseth succeeds him in Israel, but David eventually triumphs. He conquers a fortress, Jerusalem, which had belonged to a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites, and makes it his capital. He overcomes weaker states such as Philisia, Moab, Edom and Ammon. The Aramean city-states of Aram-Zobah and Aram-Damascus become vassals.
The Phoenician king of Tyre, to the north, Hiram, pays him homage and sends carpenters and masons, bringing cedar wood, to build David a house. David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, intending to build a temple. God, speaking to the prophet Nathan, forbids it, saying that the temple must wait for a future generation. But God makes a covenant with David, promising that he will establish the house of David eternally.
David lies with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David causes Uriah to die on the battlefield in order to cover up his adultery. Nathan condemns him. Bathsheba’s child dies, but David’s second son by Bathsheba was his son Solomon.
David (who had eight wives) deals with a rebellion by his son Absalom. David reigned “seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem”. He died in his bed at the age of seventy.
When the “eternal” Davidic dynasty failed after four centuries, it formed the basis for the Jewish belief in the Messiah.
Generations of scholars have tried to understand the traditions embodied in often self-contradictory Biblical passages, the layers of propaganda in the original texts and the implications of different translations. Archaeology often upsets even their most tentative conclusions.