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The Shepherd Who Became King

The Shepherd Who Became King

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King David passed away on the festival of Shavuot, in the year 2924 (837 BCE).

In Bethlehem in Judea there once lived a noble and respected Jew, whose name was Jesse. He had eight clever, talented sons, the youngest of whom was David. David was a very modest youth, and he looked after his father's flocks.

In his heart burned an ardent love for G‑d and of His people, which he expressed in the Psalms he composed and in playing on the lyre.

He also felt a deep love for his lambs and for every living creature. Whenever he brought out his flocks to pasture, he led the young lambs to graze among the fresh, tender young grasses, for they had not yet any teeth.

When the young lambs had nibbled the delicate tips, he next took there the oldest sheep and cows, whose teeth were old and weak, that they might eat the middle part of the stalks which were soft enough for them. Last of all he used to bring to the field the grown sheep and cattle, whose strong teeth could chew the lowest part of the grass nearest to the roots.

He had great physical courage and was not afraid of any wild animal. Indeed; he feared nothing and no one, except G‑d alone. And whenever a lion or bear attacked his flocks and herds and wished to seize a sheep or a cow, David would rush at the savage beast and chase it away and rescue its prey.

G‑d, therefore, said: "One who can so faithfully tend his animals, each according to its needs, I can safely entrust with the care of My holy lambs, My people."


The prophet Samuel was greatly distressed that King Saul had disappointed his hopes in the war against Amalek and had as a result shown himself unworthy of his crown. But G‑d said to Samuel: "Put an end to your tears! Go to Bethlehem and there anoint one of Jesse's sons as the future king. The Hebrew kingdom will remain with him and his children and children's children forever, for he is truly fitted for it."

The prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem and informed Jesse of G‑d's command. Jesse had his sons brought before the prophet one at a time. Samuel wished to anoint the eldest son, who was handsome and clever and had a noble character. But G‑d said to him: "This is not the one!" 

He therefore wanted to anoint the second, but the oil vanished from the anointing horn, so the prophet Samuel understood that this son, too, was not to be the future king. And so it happened with each one in turn. Samuel found himself in difficulties. He understood that G‑d was punishing him for having exclaimed once: "I am the seer (prophet)" and now he was unable to 'see' who was to be the future king.

"Have you another son?" the prophet Samuel asked Jesse.

"Yes," replied Jesse, "my youngest son, David, is in the field, looking after my flocks..."

Samuel asked that David be immediately brought to him and, as soon as he stood before him, the oil rose in the horn. Samuel then heard G‑d's voice, declaring: "This is the one I have chosen." Thereupon the prophet anointed David as the king who was to succeed Saul, and Samuel returned home.

What effect did this have on David? Did he become proud? Did he dress himself in royal robes? Not at all! He went back to his sheep. But a heavenly spirit surrounded him. His prayers, his Psalms and his music, full of this Divine spirit, traveled and spread across the hills of Judah, and whoever heard them felt as if a new soul had awakened in him. The sad person was filled with joy; the downcast felt his heart revive; he who had lost hope regained his faith and all exclaimed: "Listen! It is David, the son of Jesse, who is singing!"

And when King Saul fell into a mood of despair, he was told that there was a wonderful youth whose playing on the harp and whose singing drove away all evil spirits. From that time David used to play and sing before King Saul, calming and comforting him.

Even later, when King David had ascended the throne, he always kept his harp beside him. Exactly at midnight a slight breeze used to pluck at the strings, and King David would awaken from his sleep, rise from his couch and compose sweet, sacred songs, known to us as the Psalms of David, in praise of G‑d.

King David's fame spread to the neighboring nations. He set himself to the task of establishing peace, and the kings around wished to make peace treaties with him. To the north-west of the land of Israel lay the kingdom of Tyre, famous for its craftsmen, the ruler of which was Hiram. Hiram, king of Tyre, sent his best builders and artists to erect a splendid palace for King David and to build beautiful mansions in David's new capital of Jerusalem.

King David should have been contented, but he was disturbed by the thought, that, while his palace and his capital city were now built with great splendor, the holy Ark of G‑d still lodged in a tent, screened only by curtains.

David knew that Jerusalem was to be the center which was to unite Jews everywhere with the idea of one G‑d, one Torah and one People. David, therefore, determined to build the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple.

However, there came to him the prophet Nathan, sent by G‑d, and said: "Your good intention comes from a pure heart. Nevertheless, the task of building a Sanctuary for G‑d is not to be given to you. The Sanctuary is to be the place of peace. You fought many battles. Your hands have had to shed blood in these wars, the blood of wicked men, it is true, but still human blood. Therefore you cannot build G‑d's Sanctuary of peace. This holy duty will be carried out by your son, Solomon, whose reign will be one of peace (the name, Solomon, "Shlomo," having its origin in the Hebrew word for peace, Shalom). He will put into practice this good intention of yours."

Naturally, King David had to accept G‑d's prophecy, as spoken by the mouth of the prophet Nathan, although he deeply regretted that his eyes would never see the House of G‑d in all its magnificence. But he rejoiced that his son would be considered worthy of the great honor of building the Holy Temple..

In spite of the knowledge that he himself was not to have a hand is this sacred work, David began to collect the materials needed for the building as well as money to pay for it. All the treasures he had assembled during his reign, gold and silver and copper, precious stones and wood, he had placed in the care of a man called Shabuel, a direct descendant of Moses, who was appointed to take charge of this treasury.

Not only were the building materials prepared by King David, but he also arranged, with the help of the Sanhedrin (Rabbinical Supreme Court), who were inspired by the Divine spirit, the order of the service for the Kohanim and the Levites. Thus King Solomon later had before him a complete plan in addition to the materials necessary for the building of the Holy Temple.

David's reign lasted for forty years (2884-2924); the first seven years he reigned in Hebron over the tribe of Judah, and the remaining thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel.

Excerpted from The Complete Story of Shavuot, published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn NY
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glen barrie California June 3, 2014

It seems that King David never had a day of rest, when he was not fighting the enemy nations that bordered Israel, he was battling with his own children who tried to usurp the throne from Solomon. So much heartbreak and tumult, It would seem the happiest days of David, where when he was tending the flocks. Reply

Thabizolo Msimanga South Africa April 14, 2014

How old was David when he was anointed as king and how long did king Saul chase him before he reigned as king when Saul died? Reply

Chabad.org Staff via mychabad.org January 17, 2013

Re King Daviid King David's mother's name was Nitzevet. If you do a search on chabad.org you'll find a fascinating article about her. Reply

RUBYE D Union Springs Alabama January 11, 2013

King David I love the reading on King David. What was King David's mother's name? Reply

Raymond Nigeria November 21, 2012

I really enjoyed reading this write up, thank you all. Reply

tom November 20, 2012

Oil in the horn where do you get your information that the oil in the horn vanished and then rose again? Reply

Anonymous edenvale, soth africa July 25, 2012

question Why did he write psalm 23 - he restores my soul: is it because of all the troubles he faced (Batsheba) or is it because of Absolom? Reply

Anonymous atlanta, ga March 15, 2012

david Is there anymore information about david and his father's relationship... Reply

David Lynchburg, VA June 2, 2011

David's Death Can you tell me how you figured not only the year of David's death, but he actually died on this date. Reply

Mauro Marquez McAllen, TX May 18, 2010

great study Question though....Is there a kabbalistic significance to David's reign in Hebron prior to reining in Israel? Reply

Leah Arlington, TX/USA February 2, 2010

Thank You I enjoyed reading this. Reply

Mark Leuchter, Professor of Bible, Hebrew College Newton, MA June 1, 2006

chronology of David's death Your excerpt on David dates his death to the 830s BCE (towards the last part of the 9th century BCE), but this is not likely. Archaeology secures the incursion of the Pharaoh Shisak to somewhere between 930-925 BCE, and this already happened well after David died. David probably died somewhere around 970 BCE, since the building projects in which his son Solomon engaged are positively dated to the 10th century BCE, not the late 9th.
Respectfully, Reply

Anonymous Berlin/Kiew, Germany/Ukraine May 28, 2006

New insights He had a great love for his lambs and for every living creature...What did he do after being anointed successor of Shaul? - For the time being he went back to his sheep.

...having already ascended the throne he always kept his harp beside him...to praise Him in his songs...

...He was disturbed by the fact that his palace should be build in splendor whereas the Holy Ark still lodged in a tent.

- Even on themes I thought I would be common with, I get new insights...moreover, a transfer of energy, comfort and eternal light from the articles at any "Chabad session". Thank you so much! Reply

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