Life of David

The Life of David Series: A Tale of Two Cities, Part 2 – The City of Peace

As the sun creeps slowly towards its apex above the Judean countryside, a scrawny young boy of about fifteen stands on an outcropping of rock that affords him a commanding view of his surroundings. Despite his tender years his complexion and physical appearance belie a lifetime of living outdoors. As he steps from one rock to another to get a better view his movements are lithe and sure-footed. There is a wary confidence to his bearing: he knows the dangers that might lurk nearby, and he also knows that he has the means to deal with them.

As he scans the horizon, his eyes pause on the a mountain in the distance, at the top of which he can barely make out the silhouette of  the walls of a city.


He can’t explain it, but there is always a quickening of his heartbeat when he lays eyes on that city, even from a distance. Perhaps it is that this city, in a region that had been given by God to the nation of Israel, was still in the hands of the Jebusites. This particular young man is especially sensitive to any hint of a besmirching of the name of Yahweh.

Or maybe it’s the stories he’s heard of how, centuries earlier, Father Abraham paid a tithe to an ancient and mysterious king of that city. A king and a priest…and someone to whom Abraham bows…it’s not the first time this thought has played around in his head.

But now as he surveys the city from afar, another feeling wells up within him. He’s never felt that way before…it’s an unmistakable sense of destiny…as if somehow his fate and that of the distant city are somehow intertwined.

Shaking his head and returning his thoughts to the business at hand, he jumps down from the rock with the intention of leading the nearby flock of sheep to their next watering hole.

“David! Hurry! Your father is calling for you!”

The voice is of a friend from the nearby village of Beit-Lechem. Turning, David sees the boy running up the hill.

“Why? What does he want?” Being called thus from tending the family’s flocks at this hour is strange, to say the least. A little worrying even.

“I don’t know,” the lad replies, stopping to catch his breath. “The whole city is in a turmoil because the prophet Sh’muel showed up last night. He went to your father’s house this morning, and just now they sent me to find you. I’ll care for the sheep while you’re gone.”

After giving his friend some quick instructions David hurries down the hill towards Beit-Lechem…and destiny.


Before we look at the life of David, a look at the historical and biblical significance of the city of Jerusalem is in order. Once we get into the events of the main character of our study, the centrality of Jerusalem will become evident, and the background we lay here will become essential to our understanding.

Melchizedek, King of Peace

As is the case with Bethlehem, the biblical account of Jerusalem begins long before David.

In Genesis 14:18 Abram, the father of the Hebrew nation, has won a battle against the kings of some neighboring cities. As he is meeting with the king of Sodom, one of the beneficiaries of Abram’s rescue operation, they are met by another man, bearing with him bread and wine. The text identifies this man as Melchizedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙), king of Salem (שָׁלֵ֔ם), who was also a priest of the “God most High” (כֹהֵ֖ן לְאֵ֥ל עֶלְיֽוֹן).

The two names are important. Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness” and “Salem” means “Peace”. Also important is what takes place at this meeting. The “King of Righteousness” from the city called “Peace” brings bread and wine, a token of fellowship, to Abram and proffers a blessing on him. Then Abram gives him a tithe, presumably of the spoils of war.

For the people living in David’s time this had to be a very confusing section of the Book of the Law. Who was Melchizedek? Why have we heard nothing about him up until now, and why do we know nothing of his activities after this event? Where does he fit in the genealogies of the peoples who lived at that time?

And then there are the theological issues. How did he get to be a priest? Also, the restriction of the priestly office to the tribe of Levi seems to protect against the possibility of one man holding both priestly and kingly offices. Yet here is a king who was priest. What exactly is going on with Melchizedek?

Leaving these questions unanswered for the time being, let’s move forward to the next time we find the city of Jerusalem in the news.

Adoni-Zedek, King of War

It is over four centuries later, and Melchizedek’s distant successor as king of Salem (now called Jerusalem -יְרוּשָׁלִַ֗ם- City of Peace), one Adoni-Zedek, also goes out to meet the leader of the Hebrews. But there is no fellowship, blessing or tithing. Rather, there is war.

Now it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed it—as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king—and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. Therefore Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, that we may attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.” Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they and all their armies, and camped before Gibeon and made war against it.

And yet, given this essential difference, there are some fascinating parallels between the two events.

Like Abraham, Joshua is coming to the rescue of another city (in this case, the Gibeonites). As in the Genesis account, he finds himself against an alliance of kings, and God gives him the victory.

Yet we can’t help but notice that the previous four hundred years have not been kind to Jerusalem. No longer ruled by a priest-king friendly to God’s people, a new king has taken over who makes war on them (and loses…badly).

However, there is one important aspect that is easy to miss in this text: even though Joshua is victorious over Adoni-Zedek, he does not capture Jerusalem. And this is going to become a bone of contention in the very near future.

Failure and Accommodation

When the children of Israel divided the land amongst the tribes, the city of Jerusalem apparently fell on the border between Judah and Benjamin. Now, if you have read our earlier posts about the relationship between these two tribes, this will come as no surprise. (If you haven’t, you can find them here and here.)

In Joshua 15 we read that the tribe of Judah was unable to drive the Jebusites out, so they came to some sort of accommodation with them.

In Judges 1 things get a little confusing. Apparently at some point in time the tribe of Judah did manage to conquer Jerusalem…but then the city reverted back to Jebusite control. At some later point Benjamin tried its hand at it, and failed. Then they made the same accommodation with the Jebusites that the tribe of Judah had made. And in Judges 19-20 we read of the disastrous consequences of that compromise (which we discuss at length here).

So this brings us to the time of our hero, David. The city of peace, where once there had been worship and fellowship, is now inaccessible to the nation of Israel. What is needed is someone who can come and conquer it…someone chosen and anointed by God.

And that someone is currently running pell-mell over the hills towards the city of Beit-Lechem, wondering what on earth his father could want with him at this hour.

But what does this have to do with me?

One of the overarching themes in Scripture is how sin has separated us from God. Actually, it has more than separated us…it has made us enemies. Where once man walked with God in the cool of the evening, now there are flaming cherubim barring the way. And we have seen the same theme repeated above: where once Abram communed and worshiped, there is now enmity and strife. Like the Garden of Eden, the City of Peace has become inaccessible, despite the best efforts of Judah and Benjamin to take it.

And this reflects the position of humanity today. Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:7-8.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

We desperately need peace with God…a peace we cannot obtain for ourselves. What is necessary is Someone chosen and anointed by God for that purpose, who will conquer that peace for us.

Who will it be?

Stay tuned…because that is what this whole David series is actually about.


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