Yesterday morning our family read 1 Kings 1, a chapter that tells about the end of the reign of David, the great king of Israel. At the age of 70, David was a sad shell of the mighty man that he had been. He was reduced to needing a nurse to lie in bed with him to keep him warm, and his control of the kingdom of Israel was slipping away. Yet David’s effect on the kingdom was to continue for many generations after his death. So what was David’s legacy and what can we learn from it?
David, the youngest son of Jesse, was anointed to be king at an early age (1 Samuel 16:11-13) and described by God as a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God had compared Saul with David and chosen David to replace Saul as king.
It was not until more than ten years later that David became king, but once he became king he led his nation in a way that no other king of Israel or Judah ever could after him. In fact, he became the yardstick by which God measured later kings, starting with his son Solomon:
Unfortunately, Solomon followed his many wives in serving other gods, which is summed up as follows:
God sent a prophet to tell Solomon that the kingdom would be torn away from him because of his unfaithfulness, but God also made two extra heart-warming points. Because of God’s love for David, he would modify the deserved punishment in two ways:
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king. Immediately afterwards, the 12 tribes of Israel split into two: a kingdom of 10 tribes in the north called Israel, and one of two tribes in the south called Judah, with Rehoboam as its king.
Descendants of David continued to rule over Judah for another 350 years. It is quite amazing that God’s love for this one man, David, could allow the kingdom of Judah and David’s dynasty to continue for so long. This was David’s legacy.
Some of David’s descendants were good kings while others were not. Often, their performance is measured against that of David, but the worst of the kings are not compared in this way: maybe it was so obvious that they didn’t measure up that it wasn’t necessary to mention it. Of the 20 rulers of Judah, the nine who are compared with David are listed below:
|King||Bible Reference||Assessment / comments|
|Rehoboam||2 Chronicles 11:17||Priests and Levites helped Rehoboam to stay on the right path for 3 years|
|Abijah/Abijam||1 Kings 15:3||Bad|
|Asa||1 Kings 15:11-14||Mixed praise|
|Jehoshaphat||2 Chronicles 17:3||Good|
|Jehoram||2 Chronicles 21:12||Bad. Mostly compares with Jehoshaphat and Asa but also mentions the “God of David your father”.|
|Amaziah||2 Kings 14:3-4||Mixed praise|
|Ahaz||2 Kings 16:2-4;
2 Chronicles 28:1
|Hezekiah||2 Kings 18:3-6;
2 Chronicles 29:2
|Josiah||2 Kings 22:2;
2 Chronicles 34:2-7
So part of David’s legacy was in leaving his descendants an example of how a king should reign!
This consistent use of David as a benchmark would have been important enough, but David had an even greater impact on the nation in his long-term effects as time went on.
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam replaced him as king and the kingdom of Israel split into two parts as God had threatened. For three years, Rehoboam was encouraged to walk in God’s paths by the dedicated priests and Levites who had sought refuge in Judah when the kingdom of Israel began to worship Jeroboam’s golden calves. However, Rehoboam was not a good king and in the fifth year of his reign, God sent Pharaoh to punish Judah. Much of the wealth that had been accumulated in the reigns of David and Solomon was taken away.
The peak of Israel’s importance in the world had passed, and the newly divided kingdom would never achieve such greatness again.
Why had Israel been so great? Because of King David’s godliness. It wasn’t because he was a great administrator, a brilliant strategist, an amazing warrior or even a stunning musician. Instead, God made it clear to him that it was his attitude to God’s leadership that would show whether he was a good or bad king. David’s report of God’s words is beautifully expressed:
“The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
‘When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.’ ”
2 Samuel 23:3-4
And David did rule justly in the fear of God, so he stood out amongst the kings of Judah and Israel as the brightest ray of sunlight in the history of the kingdom.
After Rehoboam died, his son Abijah (also called Abijam) reigned. Although he was not a wholly good king, we are told that God let him reign because of David (1 Kings 15:3-5). The expression “for David’s sake” is used to explain God’s actions, and it is an inspiring lesson for us. David was still having an impact on the nation more than 50 years after his death because of his godliness. Will you have an effect like that in your family or your society?
Fast-forward another three generations and the king of Judah was Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat. He was an evil king, married to the daughter of an evil king, but God said that he was not willing to destroy Judah for the sake of David (2 Kings 8:18-19; 2 Chronicles 21:6-7).
Another seven generations takes us to the time of Hezekiah, a good king, yet it was not his character alone that saved Jerusalem when the city was threatened by the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:32-34; 20:6; Isaiah 37:35). Instead, God said that he would spare the city for his own sake and the sake of David. Wouldn’t it be amazing for God to link his name to yours as part of the reason for saving your city about 250 years after you had died!
That really would be leaving a valuable legacy to your descendants, wouldn’t it? Will your legacy be as valuable as David’s legacy?
God’s promises to David (2 Samuel 7:1-17, 1 Chronicles 17:1-15; Psalm 89:3-4, 20-37) meant that God did not destroy David’s dynasty, although he did punish David’s descendants.
In the end, God’s love for David delayed the punishment of Judah by more than 350 years. Yet, eventually, the accumulated weight of evil from generations of kings who did not live up to David’s example outweighed the effects of David’s godliness (Isaiah 7:13; Jeremiah 22:1-5; Psalm 89). The nation was defeated by Babylon and Jerusalem destroyed by fire. A sad end to a glorious kingdom.
However, the story still wasn’t over. God’s promises to David had included a king reigning forever who would also be God’s son (2 Samuel 7:12-14; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Psalm 89:26-27, 35-36). After several hundred more years, the next stage of the saga began. Jesus was born: the descendant of David who is to reign as king forever (Luke 1:32-33; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 5:5; 11:15; 22:16).
Several places in the Old Testament speak of the future king who is to reign over Israel as “David”, but these passages probably refer to Jesus. For example: Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25 and Hosea 3:5.
David was a great king. The Old Testament mentions his name more than 1,000 times: more than any other person.
But his fame didn’t end there, either. Of all the Old Testament characters named in the New Testament, only Moses and Abraham are mentioned more often than David.
David really does stand out in the Bible as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22-23). The kings who followed him were measured against his example and the kingdom of Judah was maintained for hundreds of years for his sake.
This was David’s legacy.