King David, The Priest


David and Goliath makes a great bedtime story to teach children to aspire to bravery, but have you ever heard the adult version?

It all started in the Book of Ruth, where Ruth and her sister – does anyone even remember her name? Orpah – married into the tribe of Judah. Remember, Ruth and Orpah were daughters of the king of Moab , not daughters of Israel.

All three of the men died, Elimelech and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widows. The famine that drove Elimelech and Naomi into Moab subsided, and Naomi decided to return to her husband’s family where she might be able to find support in her old age, and the two Moabite women started the journey with her. Along the way, Naomi urged the two to return to their father’s house, and Orpah did so. The official documents lose track of Orpah at this point, but unofficial documents follow her back to Moab, where she married one of the giants and produced sons by him. Part of their progeny was Goliath and his four brothers. That makes Goliath David’s cousin. It also explains why David knew Goliath’s strong points and his weak points, and knew where to hit him to knock him down, then that he had to cut off his head to keep the wound from healing and Goliath from recovering to fight another day.

But back to Ruth. You will recall, she married Boaz, an older man of the family of Elimelech and had a son by him. Boaz died shortly after the marriage, and Ruth died during child-birth, so Naomi raised the boy who became Jesse’s grandfather. That’s the family relationship between David and the nation of Moab. That came up again later, when David brought his father and mother to the king of Moab for their safety, and the king of Moab slaughtered Jesse in a cruel manner, resulting in David’s revenge on the entire nation.

Jesse progressed in age as all men do, and entered the dangerous age of male change-of-life. This coincided with another event that brought disgrace to him.

The land had been under cultivation for generations by this time, and the land Sabbaths, the seventh-year fallowing (let the land go dormant for a full 12 months, for “city slickers” who don’t know farming terms) had been ignored due to political instability and problems with foreigners coming in and taking whatever they wanted by force. The result was the election of a king, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, over the 12 tribes to drive these thieves out of the land. Israel had no standing army at that time, as it was not part of the overall plan when the nation was established, and when Saul became king, the nation found out why.

The first order of business after conscripting soldiers to serve in the army was feeding them, which Saul did by levying taxes on the people and claiming the first mowing of hay for the military horses. The first mowing is always the most nutritious and the most bountiful, so when that is taken away, the cattle are left with small quantities of inferior feed, the milk and beef production is severely limited, and the grain that is left is of secondary quality, as part of the first mowing edict included the first harvest of the grain to feed the men and horses. This further impoverished the citizens and precluded the land Sabbaths in the face of starvation during that year. The failure to rest the land causes severe degradation of the fertility of the soil, making the situation even worse. The inevitable result was the failure to contribute the first-fruits to the temple, which supported the tribe of Levi and forced the Levites, both priests and other orders, into such poverty that they indentured their children to the people who had land – Levites were prohibited from inheriting more than a few acres of land distributed throughout the 12 tribes so had no means to grow their own food – in order for them to avoid starvation. One of those children indentured was Nahash from the family of the priest, Ahimelech .

Jesse, being under the strong influence of the male change of life, pressured Nahash, and she became pregnant with David. His mother being an indentured servant, David was also born a servant in Jesse’s house. Even though he was born into the priesthood, he was not allowed to enter the temple because of his illegitimate birth, until the legal wife of Jesse, Nazbat, daughter of Adiel, adopted him at approximately age 28 after Samuel anointed him to become king after Saul. That did not deter his priestly relatives from giving him the education and training of a priest, and one of the harps from the temple made from cedar wood that wouldn’t warp in the rains of the sheep pastures, nor did it stop Jesse’s other sons from hating him with great intensity.

There is significant additional evidence that David was of the priestly family as well as the tribe of Judah. When David fled from Saul, he went to Ahimelech to retrieve the sword of Goliath. While there, Ahimelech allowed him to eat the show-bread. There are tight restrictions on how the show-bread is to be handled. The first is that it is forbidden to all but the priests to eat. If David had not been of the priestly line, he would never have been given show-bread to eat, regardless of how famished he was. Second, he arrived there on the Seventh, or Sabbath, because that is the day the show-bread is changed. Also, one of the men of Ahimelech’s family fled with one of the several priestly breastplates that only high priests were trained to use and permitted to wear, and became David’s personal priest and confidant. This would never have happened unless Saul was taking revenge on all of David’s priestly relatives.

Next, he brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem to the City of David and placed it in a tent on his property. Only the priests are permitted to control the location of the Ark, and only the priests had been housing the Ark since the tent at Shiloh fell to pieces due to the poverty of the nation as a whole.

Further, during the transport of the Ark to Jerusalem, David wore a priestly garment. Had he not been of the priestly line, that would have been an offense that would have got him killed by the other priests. No one questioned his right to wear this garment.

But the most telling of all is the Book of Psalms. Had he not been of the priestly family, he would not have known the formulas for writing music for the temple, nor would it have been performed there if they had. How is this connected to the temple? Only the priests were allowed to build any part of the temple. This nearly caused a riot when Herod first proposed rebuilding the temple, and it was only quieted by him allowing the priests to do the labor of building. The fact that first David and then Solomon, his son, built the temple in Jerusalem seals the fact that David was of the priestly family through his mother, combining the offices of king and priest in his person. It also affirms the right of inheritance, thus equality between men and women in ancient Israel.