Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

David and His Royal Writers

Posted by foryourfaith on May 19, 2012


David’s most important contribution to the Bible may not have been the psalms attributed to him, or even his starring role in dramatic stories, such as his mortal combat with the giant Goliath. His biggest contribution may be he started the almost millennium-long process of writing the Bible, by commissioning a history of the emerging nation he led.

No one is sue when the first Israelite put pen to papyrus and started writing down the stories, songs and other genres of Israelite tradition that became the Bible. Moses is the first person the Bible identifies as a writer. After the Israelites repelled an attack, God told Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua” (Exodus 17:14). Joshua may have needed to hear the words because, like most Israelites of the time, he probably could not read or write.

Moses – educated in the Egyptian palace – may also have written many other stories about Israel’s great exodus, though the Bible does not say so. Yet any writing that was done probably was not preserved in a national archive. Instead, the stories and traditions were kept vividly alive in the minds of the Israelites through storytelling. This honored God’s request: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

By about 1000 BC, King David secured Israel’s borders. That done, he probably set out to preserve the nation’s place in history. He must have anticipated a long future for Israel since God had said of David, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13). Among the royal cabinet members David appointed were two writers: “Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the recorder; Sheva was secretary” (2 Samuel 20:24-25).

The Bible does not describe the jobs of these two men, but scholars suggest the officials directed two departments of scribes. The recorder was probably responsible for writing down and circulating the king’s decrees – acting as a royal spokesman who communicated the king’s wishes to the people. The secretary may have been in charge of David’s correspondence with individual Israelites and with rulers of other nations.

David, and later the son who succeeded him, Solomon, also probably assembled a group of scribes to write down and preserve the nation’s well-known stories and laws. Possibly, the scribes who worked with the royal recorder and secretary were part of this scholarly team. The Bible never actually says David and Solomon created such a team of history-preserving scribes. But the bible hints at it, as indicated below.

The book of Judges seems tailored to reveal more than Israel’s chaotic history during the early days in Canaan, before the people had a king. The history was turbulent, with one crisis after another – each resulting in the people repenting their sins and God sending a heroic leader, such as Gideon and Samson. But the final words of the book speak of anarchy and seem to hint that the nation really needed, for a long-term stability, was a king. “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

In the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings, writers carefully preserved stories about Israel’s earliest kings, clearly showing that God chose David to rule the nation. Because it was customary for the king’s oldest surviving son to inherit his father’s throne, many people probably thought the throne of Israel should have passed from Saul, the nation’s first king, to a son of Saul. But events reported in Israel’s early history show that the prophet Samuel told Saul, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

In dramatic stories, which possibly drew form first-person accounts by Samuel and David, the writers tell of Samuel going secretly to young David’s home town in Bethlehem and anointing him as Israel’s first king – an anointing that took place at god’s command. During this anointing, “the spirit of the Lord cam mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).

The stories that follow offer compelling evidence that David was, indeed, blessed by God, since he rose to power and greatly expanded the nation’s boundaries. This carefully preserved record is among the most intriguing and finely crafted writing in the Bible, packed with action, drama and riveting conversation.

Although the stories certainly helped deflect opposition to David’s rule, later stories continue the saga and include some staggering failures of David, most notably his adultery with Bathsheba, followed by the murder of her husband.

This ancient history, initially preserved by word of mouth, eventually prompted Israel to create its own national literature. And later, when the scrolls began to crumble and fade with time and repeated use, scribes made exact copies on new scrolls, so their nation’s history – and the lessons learned from it – would never be lost.


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