In preparation for writing The Solomon Project, I have been reading the story of King David. As David has been selected as a particular favorite of The Lord in spite of his many sins, it’s inappropriate for me to judge him. But reading the story as presented in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, I have been left with more questions than answers. I found some things to be rather intriguing and others disturbing. I firmly believe that The Lord doesn’t intend for us to know the whole story, but that doesn’t prevent curiosity-seekers like myself from attempting to fill in the gaps and to explain the unexplainable. A good bit of the story-both what’s explicitly stated and what’s an underlying or assume meaning, is the inspiration for the plot of The Solomon Project and its sequels.
Saul-an interesting character to say the least! His main character flaws appear to be treachery and a tendency to fly off the handle. He is paranoid (not always unreasonably so), and hypocritical at times. Some scenes that stand out:
- Although he exiled the mediums from his kingdom, he sought one out when The Lord stopped responding to him. If The Lord wasn’t answering him, why wold he think the spirit of Samuel was going to have the answers he needed? Samuel in fact warned him of his impending demise.
- He gave David his daughter Michal in marriage when the latter returned unharmed after a task that Saul was certain would result in his death. Later he gave Michal to another man behind David’s back, without any legal divorce. According to Mosaic law, this makes both Michal and her new husband adulterers. There is no indication that either were penalized legally for their adultery, nor Saul for facilitating the unlawful arrangement. This was after he offered David his older daughter, asking only that he be a brave fighter in return. David rejected this offer, stating that he is not yet worthy to accept a princess as his wife (whether that was his real reason or he had another reason will never be known). He may have offended Saul by rejecting Merab, giving him more of a a reason to make repeated attempts on his life and to give him a difficult task to win Michal (whose love he didn’t seem to return).
- When he asked his son Jonathan why David didn’t accept his dinner invitation, Jonathan recites the pre-arranged story (making both David and Jonathan liars), Saul responds by attempting to kill Jonathan and by calling his mother (Saul’s wife Ahinoam) a whore. I’m assuming the underlying meaning is that anyone who would go against me like that couldn’t have possibly be my son and therefore your mother must have committed adultery. Although probably intended as the worst insult possible (there is no indication he actually accused his wife of adultery), there is no hint that this incident created a rift between the two. Jonathan accompanied his father into his final battle with the Philistines and died with him.
- in spite of the fact that he had fallen out of favor with The Lord, it was still expected that he be given a king’s burial. The Lord did not allow peace in Israel until this was taken care of.
David-a true mystery, indeed. It is not clear precisely why The Lord handpicked him to be king instead of his older brothers or even Saul (except that he was from the tribe of Judah and because he would eventually be ancestor to Joseph, surrogate father of Jesus). He was as sinful as a person could possibly be, but his trust and faith in The Lord is absolute and David accepts His absolute authority without question or objection.
- His life-long best friend was his brother-in-law, Jonathan. Although David had at least seven wives and at least eleven concubines, he said in an elogy to David that Jonathan ‘delighted him more than the love of women’ and in one scene, they are ‘kissing’ and crying together. This has led some to speculate that the two may have been more than friends. While this is probably not true, what is clear is that Jonathan was willing to betray his father to protect David. Some say that there’s evidence that David took Saul’s wife (Jonathan’s mother) as his second wife. Although both women have the same name, this cannot be true for three reasons: (1) to have relations with Saul’s wife while he was alive would have been adultery. Saul was already out for David’s blood; he wasn’t going to pass up a chance to execute him legally. (2). The ‘master’s wives’ comment Nathan made was during his reprimand for his adultery with Bahsheba. Why would adultery with Saul’s wife be any more excusable than adultery with Uriah’s wife, and (3) because David was married to Michal, he couldn’t legally be married to her mother.
- It’s not clear how he obtained his second wife (mother of Amnon, who proved to be a despicable person) but he married Abigail after she interceded on behalf of the household to prevent the men from being slaughtered due to Nabal’s rudeness and refusal to grant hospitality. Abigail warned him that The Lord would punish unnecessary bloodshed. Here is how the conversation may have gone-David: “Sorry, ma’am, but your husband’s a jerk. I tried to be nice and treat him with respect, and all I asked for was a little bread and water. He basically told me to F off. He and every male in the household must die. I hope you don’t have any sons.” (Or put another way “Yo man be disrespectin’ me and my homies. He cain’t give a po’ brotha some grub? I’m gonna pop a cap in they a$$.”-David just sounds so gangster in this episode, sorry). Abigail: My husband’s an idiot. His name even means ‘idiot.’ It ain’t worth it. Here are a few gifts as a token of my sincerest apologies on behalf of The Idiot. He treats everyone that way, so don’t take it personally. But when you become a great king, as I know you will, you won’t have his murder on your conscience. That’s the real revenge; you will be a great king and he’s still going to be a grouchy old geezer. Please just let him live because I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he finds out who he’s screwed with.” David: “Anything for a pretty lady. I’ll see you soon.” Nabal dies shortly thereafter literally from humiliation, and David takes her as a wife.
- After he is established on the throne, he demands that Michal be returned to him. This started as an argument between Abner, Saul’s general, and Ish-Boseth, the son of Saul who was briefly King. The latter had accused the former of sexual relations with Saul’s concubine (and mother of two sons of his who were killed, along with five grandsons, in retaliation for Saul’s actions). It is unclear whether the accusation was justified or not, but Abner was so offended that he immediately set a plan in motion to force Ish-Boseth to abdicate (it’s not surprising that Ish-Boseth didn’t serve in the army along with his father and brothers; he was too passive and cowardly). David agrees to a peace treaty as long as Michal is returned. Michal’s previous infatuation for him having gone stone-cold, she watches as he dances around nearly naked after retrieving the Ark of the Covenant. Michal: Don’t you think it’s just a bit inappropriate to be dancing around like that? Folks are going to lose respect for you. David: Look, woman, just because The Lord chose me over your daddy doesn’t mean you have to get all pissy with me! I’ll dance around butt-naked if I damn well please. In Case you haven’t noticed, I’m king now. And all the the ladies think my dance is sexy. And you know you like it, too.” Michal: “Whatever.” If I had to guess, I would say her infertility wasn’t a punishment for calling David out (seeing as how she never had children with her other husband, either). In fact, it seems to be a way to prevent Saul’s bloodline from continuing except through Jonathan. Saul had one living, legitimate grandson (his other five having been slaughtered at Gibeon) who was disabled, and one great-grandson, whom David provides for because of his friendship with Jonathan. The real question is: why did he even want Michal back? He never seemed to care for her very much. A bag of bloody foreskins doesn’t seem like a great loss. I’m guessing it was a symbolic gesture; he was forcing Ish-Boseth to hand his sister back to the opposing house as a way to firmly establish his authority. Michal is in my opinion the most interesting of David’s wives. She is placed in the impossible situation of choosing between her husband and her father. She did everything she could to protect David from Saul, and David paid her back with ingratitude and disrespect. I’m not at all surprised she eventually ended up hating him. (As a side note, a error in 2 Samuel 21:8 creates some confusion over whether or not Michal had children. The “five sons of Michal” were in fact her nephews; they were the sons of her sister, Merab, who married Adriel after being turned down by David. Michal died childless).
- As much bad blood as there had been between David and Saul, he was furious to hear that a young soldier from the enemy army had killed Saul. Saul had been mortally wounded and requested a mercy killing from the soldier. He was equally displeased to hear that Ish-Boseth (who had given him no further trouble) had been murdered in his sleep. Near the end of his life, he requested that Solomon, his son who would succeed him, execute Joab (his general), for the murder of Abner (Joab murdered Abner in revenge. Abner killed Joab’s brother in self-defense previously) and another high-ranking official, but interestingly enough, not for the murder of his own son, Absalom. Joab violated a direct order that Absalom be returned to him alive, but was never punished for that. That struck me as odd. I think Joab’s assessment of David may have been spot-on: “You love those that hate you, and hate those that love you.” He also instructs Solomon to come up with a reasonable punishment for Shimai, who cursed him (Solomon chooses confinement to Jerusalem, which he violates three year later and is subsequently executed) and commands that Solomon show kindness to those who were loyal to David.
- How he obtained his seventh (and most famous) wife is, out of everything David did, the one thing that irritated The Lord the most. She spots Bathsheba bathing in a nearby lake and is so overcome with lust that he summons her to the palace. What happens next is unclear. Did she go to bed with him willingly? Was she coerced or even outright raped? In any case, she finds out she’s pregnant and sends the message to David (clearly expecting him to do something about it). Keeping in mind that this was before piss-on-a-stick tests were available, I was left wondering: how far along was Bathsheba went she sent the message to David. Was she showing? Since it’s not clear how long Uriah had been out on his tour of duty, is there any chance at all the child could have been his and not David’s? If so, it would explain why he had to die.How could David and Bathsheba have explained to him that he was the child of another man and could therefore never be heir to the throne? Plus, if he had found out that David committed adultery with his mother and had his father killed to hide the adultery, he may have had another Absalom on us hands. The death of this baby may have been not only a punishment but The Lord’s way of keeping his covenant to David that he would always have a descendent on the throne, in light of what was about to go down with three older sons. A son of Uriah on the throne would have broken the direct genealogical Royal line from Adam to Jesus. Or, could there have been an agreement between David and Bathsheba to give the presumably childless Uriah a son? (Since soldiers were granted a one-year leave after marrying as a honeymoon of sorts, I feel safe in my assumption that Uriah and Bathsheba had been married for at least a year prior to the incident and that he was home during that year. It makes no mention of them having children. Maybe they were frustrated by their inability to conceive). In any case, it states that Bathsheba ‘purified herself from her uncleanness.’ The prescribed punishment for adultery was death by stoning; I’m at a loss as to why a purification ritual would have done any good (except possibly the hygienic aspect). One could argue that as King, David could not be legally executed, and that in his attempt to hide the adulterous act from Uriah, David was trying to prevent Bathsheba’s death penalty. This story also leaves more questions than answers. But as one of The Thirty, it can be assumed that Uriah was not a stupid man. Quite possibly he became suspicious when he was suddenly summoned in the middle of the war to take an unexpected leave and go home. Uriah declines, saying it would be unfair for him to be in the comfort of his home while his troops are in the field. His pointed reference to having marital relations indicates the possibility that Uriah may have been trying to trick the king into confessing. And I’m also interested to know why he would stick to a code of honor that no one would know or care about, yet disobey a direct order from the king himself. David may have thought that by pressing the issue, he would arouse Uriah’s suspicion, a move that backfired; by not insisting on obedience, David’s actions were becoming more suspicious. More proof of this lies in the fact that while he declined to go home for dinner, he accepted David’s invitation for dinner and wine (possibly in the hopes that David would make a drunken confession). Even when drunk, Uriah is rational (it’s clear David’s goal was to get Uriah drunk to make it easier to persuade him to take the leave). That’s what makes me think he was a man of sharp instincts and sound judgment. He’s the most fascinating and mysterious figures in the Bible, and it’s unfortunate so little is known about him. Possibly his suspicions were somehow confirmed. He was staying in the servants’ quarters, and servants gossip. He may have been so heartbroken over the betrayal of the king and possibly his wife that when David gave him the note to pass to Joab, he accepted it without argument and went willingly to his death. Whatever the case may be, I firmly believe that Uriah knew about David’s adultery with his wife before he died.
- With the now-widowed Bathsheba pregnant with his child, David was obligated to take her as his wife. It is not long before Nathan confronts him about his actions, which result in the most severe punishment that The Lord has handed down on any king of Israel. Included in his penalty are the death of the innocent baby, the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon (Tamar’s half-brother), the completely treasonous behavior of Absalom that included killing Amnon, rebelling against David, and having very public sex with ten of David’s concubines. So many people suffered as a result of David’s sin. It seems to me his death wasn’t pleasant, either. I have been wondering why he needed a brand new concubine just to keep him warm in bed. What was wrong with his other wives and concubines? Interestingly, though, the whole episode with Bathsheba seems to have been predestined. Bathsheba was an intelligent woman who was said to have written some of the Psalms. She probably had a lot of political influence on both David and Solomon. David had more children with her (a total of five sons, including the newborn who died) than with any of his other women. (I do, however, am not inclined to believe that Bathsheba conceived only a week or so after giving birth to the ill-fated first baby. She would have still been passing lochia and probably wouldn’t have ovulated for another four to six weeks, at least. Additionally, a pregnancy that soon after giving birth would have likely resulted in pre-eclampsia. The heart and kidneys aren’t designed for that much of a workload with no break in between). One of these sons would be his successor and one who brings about both great peace and great hardship to Isreal.
Solomon-he has been the source of legends, many of them greatly exaggerated. He is an enigma and a contradiction. On one hand, he is wise and prudent; on the other, he is impressionable and easily led astray. He was hand-selected by his father specifically because he wasn’t obnoxiously flamboyant like Adonijah or perverse like Amnon or Absalom (though one does have to wonder why Daniel, et. Al. Were never in line for the throne. Maybe they died young of natural causes, they didn’t have the aptitude or the fortitude for the throne, or they requested to be taken out of the lineup. Solomon was David’s seventh living son). The fact that only one of his many wives is odd. I think the thousand women thing is exaggerated; he probably did take on a lot of foreign wives, partially to keep peace with neighboring kingdoms. Unlike his father, he was not inclined to go to war. He preferred learning, teaching, and culture, and never performed an execution himself. But no man could possibly keep 1,000 women sexually satisfied.
- Solomon was, if nothing else, a man of his word, and noticeably less violent and and more merciful than David. He only had Joab executed because he had been explicitly ordered to do so by his father. He never personally performed an execution; Benaiah served as his executioner. Furthermore, he would have probably never actually cut a living baby in half. He had a manipulative streak and used it to his advantage when he thought it would serve a purpose.
- His construction of the temple, completed following precise, pre planned instructions laid out by David, was one of the most culturally significant events in Hebrew history. There is no Biblical basis for this and it’s just a theory of mine, but I think Solomon may have been planning to use the temple in part as a learning center which included a library and classrooms. He seemed to take pride in his role as teacher. He taught natural sciences and wrote poetry. The Queen of Sheba visited him for that reason; she wanted to learn, and in the absence of libraries or the Internet, she went to the best teacher on the planet. And on that note, there is no Biblical evidence that he had a child with the Queen of Sheba.
- It’s unclear why Solomon only married foreign women, unless he just had a fetish for them. Since only two of his wives are identified, there’s no way to know if he had a wife of his own faith in his harem. What is clear is that the mother of his only known son was a foreigner. Otherwise, his only other two known children were two unnamed daughters who married district Governors. I was a little surprised that a man who allegedly had so many wives had so few children. He may have been sub fertile, or he may have requested that his family members’ names, except those clearly needed for record-keeping purposes, not be included in any official documents (for privacy or for safety).
- Three books of the Bible are attributed to him. The Book of Proverbs (if the ‘my son’ he was addressing was in fact Rehoboam, Solomon could have saved his breath because it didn’t appear his son listened to a single word of it), Ecclesiastes ( which is notably more nilistic than Proverbs. I wonder if it was recorded near the end of his life, when he’d fallen out of favor with The Lord. There is no recorded attempt on Solomon’s part to repent or reconcile with The Lord), and Song of Songs (what was so special about Mrs. Shummamite that she got her very own book? Granted, it was probably she who wrote it, but why was she getting so much more attention than the other 999?)
Rehoboam-talk about the Devil and the deep blue sea! Rehoboam comes across as utterly incompetent and doesn’t appear interested in the duties as King. However, as his father’s only son (we assume), the throne was his whether he wanted it or not. He has to deal with all the aggravation brought on because dear old Dad had a weakness for foreign girls.
- He asks for the advice of the elders but completely ignores it. Why did he even bother? Because he wanted to be a big shot tough guy, he lost all but two tribes to Jeroboam, his lifelong adversary. (Which would update have happened anyway. It had already been decreed by The Lord) Rehoboam only got to keep Judah (and later Benjamin. Because the connection with Saul was still fresh in people’s minds, maybe?) Not only that, what was left of his tribe was ransacked by Egypt. His reign was an utter failure, and there was nothing he could do about it because it had already been pre-ordained.
- The splitting of Israel is the only significant event that took place during his seventeen years on the throne. He did nothing to stop the worship of foreign gods (and may have even participated himself), but to his eternal credit, he did listen to The Lord’s instructions not to engage Israel in warfare.
- Rehoboam too is an interesting figure whom we know little about. The fact that he died at a relatively young age (56, as opposed to around 80 like David and Solomon), suggests that the constant stress may have worn his health down.