David's Victories

The land of Israel was still surrounded by many hostile tribes.

David maintained a standing army consisting of twelve divisions, each one representing one tribe of Israel. Each division numbered twenty-four thousand men. Thus, David's army totaled two hundred and eighty-eight thousand. In peacetime, each division would be called up once a year to serve for one month. But David knew that before there could be real peace for his people, he would have to subdue the neighboring hostile peoples, in order to make them incapable of aggression. He smote and subdued the Philistines and destroyed the independence of their chief town Gath. He invaded Moab, slew the greater part of the soldiers, and imposed upon the people a heavy tribute. Thus, David settled an old score with the Moabites, who had betrayed his confidence during his flight from Saul. In those trying days of exile, David had entrusted his father, mother, and brothers to the care of the King of Moab. But the latter cruelly put them to death. Only one of David's brothers had escaped and found refuge with the King of Ammon, who refused to surrender him to the Moabites.

Then David marched against Hadadezer, king of Zoba in Syria, whose empire extended from the vicinity of Damascus eastward to the borders of the Euphrates. He vanquished his armies, subjected his people, and sent the best of his horses to Jerusalem.

This unparalleled succession of victories not only established David's power, but also spread abroad the glory and the fame of his name. He was regarded as one of the mightiest rulers of the East.

David's Court

David reigned over all Israel with justice and righteousness. He used all his spare time in the study of the Torah, in prayer, and in Divine Service.

David surrounded himself with wise and honest advisers, and he would undertake no important step before first consulting the Sanhedrin.

David never forgot the friendship which Jonathan had shown him. He was now eager to prove his goodwill towards the fallen family of his predecessor Saul, and to discover whether there was anyone left to whom he might show kindness for the sake of Jonathan; so he addressed himself to Ziba, who had formerly been a servant to Saul. From Ziba's lips he heard of the lame son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, now a grown man, who lived with his young son Micha in Lodebar, a little town in Gilead. He sent for Mephibosheth and his son, received them with gladness, and gave them the land that had belonged to Saul. Mephibosheth was invited as a guest for life to the king's table and was treated like one of David's own sons. David soon recognized Mephibosheth's great qualities and statesmanship, and the latter became one of David's most trusted advisers.

The Ammonites Provoke War

About this time died Nachash, the king of Ammon, who, in the days of David's wanderings, had befriended the members of David's family. David sent messengers to Hanun, the son of Nachash, to convey his sympathy. But the new king, listening to the suggestions of his courtiers, who said that the messengers had come as spies, insulted them by shaving off half their beards and cutting their garments. Hanun, now justly afraid of David's vengeance, actively prepared for war and assembled an enormous host. David entrusted the command of his army to his long-tried general Joab, who divided his forces into two parts, retaining one-half for himself to meet the Syrians, who were in league with the Ammonites, and committing the other to his brother Abishai to fight against the Ammonites. "Be firm," he said to him, "and let us be firm for our people and for the cities of our G‑d; and may the L-rd do what seems good to Him." The brothers agreed to come to each other's rescue if the chances of war should render it necessary. The Syrians were now impetuously assailed by Joab; they were completely routed and fled in dismay. The Ammonites, disheartened by this defeat, sought refuge in their towns. But the indomitable Hadadezer assembled a fresh and larger army and prepared for battle at Helam on the eastern side of the Jordan. Now David himself went out to lead his troops. Victory did not forsake him; for in the battle that ensued the enemy's chief general was captured and slain, and the survivors fled in confusion. The Syrians, seeing that their strength was utterly broken, submitted to David and consented to pay tribute.

But Hanun, who had wickedly incited this bloody war, was not to remain unpunished. Joab vowed that his sword should not rest until the country of Ammon was completely subdued and Rabbah, the great city, conquered. The hosts of Israel marched out to undertake this distant campaign, and with them went, as in olden times, the Holy Ark. Joab led the army, passing rapidly through the enemy's country, and commenced the difficult and wearisome siege of Rabbah. David meanwhile remained in Jerusalem.