The World David Knew: Connecting the Vast Ancient World to Israel's Great King

The World David Knew: Connecting the Vast Ancient World to Israel's Great King


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The World David Knew: Connecting the Vast Ancient World to Israel's Great King by Museum of the Bible Books


Shepherd. Warrior. King. Psalmist. Father. Fugitive. Hero. Villain. No single word is sufficient to encompass Israel's King David. The World David Knew offers a snapshot of life during this key period in the nation's history.

The World David Knew provides you with vivid details of life in 1000 BC, including elements of numerous cultures around the world. Hold your breath as some of the biggest political power shifts in history are made. Celebrate along with the people of Israel as they go to weddings and holiday feasts. Understand how nations traded goods, services, and money. What will the future hold for the nation of Israel, and the greater world? 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781945470066
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,195,996
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Leonard Greenspoon, Ph.D., currently holds the Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization at Creighton University, where he is also Professor of Theology and of Classical & Near Eastern Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and specializes in translations of the Bible. Dr. Greenspoon is the author or editor of twenty-eight books, with topics ranging from the Greek text of the biblical book of Joshua to American Jews in popular culture. He has also written nearly 200 hundred journal articles, book chapters, and major encyclopedia entries. Dr. Greenspoon has been married for almost fifty years to his wife, Eliska, and they live in Omaha, Nebraska. They are parents of two daughters and also have twin grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt


The Politics David Knew


The era of 1000 BC was the setting for political power shifts and cultural upheavals whose repercussions were felt for centuries. In China, King Mu ascended to the throne. Mu, the fifth king of the Zhou Dynasty, was one of the most influential — if controversial — monarchs in its nearly 800year reign. He transformed the Chinese government from a hereditary system in which promotion was based on family to a merit system in which advancement was based on skills and knowledge.

King Mu had an unquenchable thirst for expanding his kingdom. Tribes that refused to submit to Zhou rule were conquered by the king's army. His tactics created resentment and discontent that eventually erupted into a full-scale rebellion.

On the subcontinent of India, nomadic cattle herders from Central Asia — known as Aryans — filled the vacuum left by the collapse of the highly developed Indus Valley Civilization. Gradually the Aryans shifted their focus to agriculture. By 1000 BC, they had firmly established their power in the Indus and Ganges Valleys through various military victories. Centuries later, Indian scholars used Aryan teachings as the basis for the Upanishads, the sacred texts of Hinduism.

In Central America, the mysterious Olmec civilization established a power base in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico. Though little is known about the Olmec rulers, archaeological evidence suggests that they solidified their power by building urban centers in strategic locations in order to control trade throughout the region.

In the Western Arctic, the Norton people established their dominance along the Alaskan shore of the Bering Sea.

Elsewhere around the globe, the seeds of three future world powers were being sown in the era of 1000 BC. The Greeks began their colonization of the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. Settlements were established in the region that would become Rome. And on the Iberian Peninsula, the invasion of Celtic tribes from Central Europe in the north and the arrivals of Phoenicians and Greeks on the coasts laid the groundwork for the formation of Spain.

Meanwhile, the kingdom of Israel faced a problem that threatened its very existence: how to wisely replace a well-established leader.

It is with heavy hearts that we gather in this place today." Adonijah, the fourth son of David, paused to let the gravity of his words sink in.

The "we" to which he referred was a group of about two dozen men, soldiers mostly, some seated on the ground and others perched on rocks in a loose semicircle facing Adonijah. Each man was armed with a sword.

"This place" was a small rock formation some four miles north of Jerusalem. In the center of the formation sat a flat-topped boulder, roughly four feet tall and six feet in diameter. The rock was rumored to have been a Canaanite altar used for human sacrifice in the days before Moses and Joshua. Yet as far as any of the men assembled knew, the place had been given no name to mark its notorious past. It was simply one of the hundreds of secluded spots in the Judean countryside where men gathered when they did not want the nature of their gathering known in Jerusalem.

Adonijah placed his hands on the tablelike boulder as he continued. "My father, David — may the king live forever — is advanced in years and will soon rest with his fathers. Even now he grows weaker in his bed."

Murmurs rippled through the assembly.

"Our nation is beset by enemies on all sides. For forty years, the name of David struck fear in their hearts. Their enmity toward Israel burns, but they remember well the king's triumph in the Valley of Elah. They still taste the bitter defeat of Moab. And do not the dead testify to David's great victory over the Ammonites?" Cheers from the audience grew louder as each battle was recalled.

"Those same enemies watch us now. Their spies tell them, 'David our enemy will soon rest with his fathers,' so they prepare their attacks. They are jackals circling a wounded lion."

The cheers quickly turned to outraged cries of "No!" and "Let it not be so!"

Lamach, a warrior from the tribe of Benjamin, stood and approached the boulder. "Jackals will not attack where lions are plentiful," he began. "Israel's fighting men would not face these enemies alone. Did not the king of Tyre pledge an oath? Did not the king of Hamath swear his allegiance? Does not Israel have allies?" "King David has allies," Adonijah corrected him.

"Hiram king of Tyre and Toi king of Hamath made alliances with my father because they fear him. When that fear is removed, might not those allies become enemies?"

A second tide of murmurs rose, crested, and then ebbed. Adonijah allowed it to subside into silence before he spoke again.

"I learned much at my father's knee," he continued. "I know what it means to be a just and compassionate ruler. But ..." He unsheathed his sword and tapped the broad side of the blade lightly on the boulder. "I will not be a leader who allows fear to depart from our nation's enemies — or from its allies."

Lamach's brother Nadob also rose and approached the boulder. Others followed until the entire group stood at one end of the boulder, facing Adonijah at the other end. "Enemies come from within, as well, Adonijah," Nadob said. "Your father has many sons."

"Who are these sons?" Adonijah asked, gesturing with his sword toward Jerusalem. "Did not Amnon, the king's eldest, the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel, die at the hands of Absalom? Did not Chileab, the secondborn, son of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite, die in his mother's arms? Was not the third son, the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, Absalom himself, also killed? If one of them still lived, he would be the heir to my father's kingdom."

Jasu, a fierce Gizonite warrior, pushed his way to the front of the crowd. A deep-red scar ran from just below his left earlobe to the middle of his throat — the result of a Philistine blade and the last misjudged swing of the Philistine soldier who wielded it.

Jasu held a large rock in his hands. As he neared the flat-topped boulder, he raised the rock above his head. "The line of kingship has passed to the fourth son of David!" he shouted. "Any man who tries to take it from him will face my wrath! I pledge my loyalty to Adonijah!" Jasu slammed the rock on top of the boulder and left it there. The sound echoed across the rock formation.

Six more men, all who had also briefly left the semicircle to pick up rocks, approached the boulder and shouted "Adonijah!" as they slammed their stones down.

The seven rock-bearers stood together, arms folded across their chests, staring at the rest of the men.

Not everyone was moved by their dramatic show of loyalty. "How many of David's other sons would offer a similar oath to Adonijah?" asked someone in the crowd. "How many of Adonijah's brothers will pledge their loyalty to him as king?"

"All who wish to live," Jasu growled.

"We are not yet thirty in number," the man argued. "What if 1,000 men have pledged their loyalty to Shimea? Or 10,000 to Solomon?"

Adonijah, still brandishing his sword, whirled and pointed it in the direction of the questioner. The startled men standing nearest the boulder flinched and stepped backward, even though the tip of the blade was at least three feet away from them.

"I will hear no more about Solomon — or anyone else." Adonijah's voice was calm and steady, but every man gathered around the boulder heard the threat in it. "If you have knowledge of any of David's other sons raising an army or demanding oaths of loyalty, speak now."

No one spoke.

Adonijah lowered his sword. "Will my father's crown pass to one who does not risk much? The one who acts swiftly and with great purpose is the one who will claim the throne of Israel."

Four more men stepped forward and slammed rocks on top of the boulder. "Adonijah," each man said firmly.

Others started to move forward when an aged voice thundered across the rock formation. "Has not the king of Israel already chosen his successor?"

Several of the startled men crouched in a stance of battle readiness. Some dropped the rocks they were holding and drew their swords. The acoustics of the rock formation made it impossible to tell from which direction the voice came. A few of the men glanced at the sky as though they expected the Almighty to descend into their midst at any moment.

Instead, a slightly hunched figure with snow-white hair and a thinning beard emerged from a crevice in the rocks just to Adonijah's right. Though he leaned heavily on the staff he carried, his steps were sure as he made his way down the sloping terrain.

The warriors quickly sheathed their swords and relaxed their stance. Awed whispers of "Eliel" rippled through the crowd.

"The mighty man of David honors us with his presence," Adonijah announced. His tone was respectful, but he yielded no ground to the old man.

"Has not the king of Israel already chosen his successor?" Eliel asked again. "Because if he has, this"— he waved his staff at the assembled group —"is treason." He let the word hang in the air for a moment before offering a chuckle. "I should know. Treason has been my path since I was a young man."

Adonijah's smile broke the tension in the air.

Eliel continued. "I threw in my lot with one who had no family claim to the crown. I rejected the wishes of King Saul and vowed to protect his sworn enemy, David. I was certain that my choice was just. Yet I made myself an outcast in the land of my birth. I spent the choicest years of my life running from Saul and his army. The wilderness became my home, and the caves of Judea became my bed. So I ask all of you gathered here today: Are you prepared to endure such hardship for months and perhaps years?"

A second voice thundered from the rocks directly behind the men. "My lord, some men said those days in the wilderness were the sweetest of their lives."

The assembly turned to see a man standing on the rise behind them. No one drew his sword, but the tense atmosphere returned. Only Adonijah seemed unsurprised by the man's appearance.

The newcomer continued. "Some men talked with great pride, even when they were old, about the many raiding parties in Philistia. Some men swore that you and the other courageous fighters who followed David maintained your loyalty to Saul even as you hid from him."

Eliel lifted a hand to his brow and squinted at the lone figure silhouetted against the afternoon sun. "The voice is that of my old companion Obed," Eliel called out, his voice pitched somewhere between confusion and amusement. "But the body is of one much younger." He smiled. "Thaniel, is it?"

"It is." The younger man clambered down the slope, made his way past the soldiers who eyed him with suspicion, and embraced Eliel.

Eliel held the younger man at arm's length and looked him over carefully. He studied Thaniel's arms, hands, weapon, and finally his eyes. Thaniel met the old man's gaze and did not look away. "A warrior just like your father," Eliel declared. He seemed to search for something in the young man's eyes. "Have you offered your sword to this rebellion?"

"I asked him to come," Adonijah explained, "just as I asked you. Indeed, Thaniel's skill in battle is said to be equal to that of even David's mighty men. His wise counsel is also of great value. Did he not find favor among my father's advisers? I tell you that no man in Israel is more steadfast in his love and dedication."

"I do not question Thaniel's skills — as a warrior or an adviser or an Israelite." The old man directed his words to Adonijah, but his eyes never left Thaniel. "But you, Adonijah, have told us that your brother Amnon was killed by Absalom. You have told us that your brother Chileab died when he was young. But you have not told us the story of how your brother Absalom died."

"Does not every man in Israel know how Absalom died?" Impatience, not anger, marked the tone of Adonijah's reply. "Was Absalom's name not on every tongue?"

Eliel finally turned his gaze to Adonijah. "Your brother Absalom planned his rebellion even as he hid from your father after he killed the firstborn, Amnon. Absalom gathered soldiers to himself and said, 'The throne of Israel is mine; I will rise up and take it.' In exile, he devised his plots and schemes. And even when he was welcomed again into the king's embrace, Absalom's anger still burned against his father. He used words of flattery to win the hearts of the people and turn them away from David."

"He promised justice to those who were treated unfairly in David's court," someone called out.

"Justice was not all they sought," Eliel continued. "When Absalom sounded the trumpet at Hebron, multitudes flocked to his call to battle. And David, who had long reigned over Israel, fled Jerusalem. The one who would not run from a bear or a lion or the giant of Gath or even the entire Philistine army retreated to his wilderness fortresses. He fled from his own son."

"But he did not stay there," Thaniel interjected.

Eliel smiled. "No, even when the end seemed certain, David returned to claim what was his, along with those who remained loyal to him." He turned to the group. "How many of you fought in the forest of Ephraim that day?" After a moment's hesitation, six men stepped forward. Jasu was among them.

"Do not be afraid," Eliel reassured them. "I will not ask where your loyalties lay or how many soldiers you struck down in battle. Every warrior must follow his own conscience."

"Then why do you tell us a story we know so well?" Lamach asked. "The day is growing long."

"You know the story well," Eliel replied. "But did you see with your own eyes the panic that caused Absalom to flee when his father's vengeance came down upon him? You have heard that Absalom's hair became tangled in the branches of the great oak and that his mule rode on without him. But did you see the terror and regret in his eyes as he hung suspended between heaven and earth?" "My lord, why do you gather in our midst, if not to encourage us?" Nadob asked.

It was Thaniel who replied. "You point your eyes in the wrong direction. You ask about Adonijah's brothers. You concern yourself with the armies of Shimei and Solomon. Why do you speak of cubs while the lion yet draws breath?"

"Absalom pleaded for his life," Eliel recalled. "He pledged solemn vows never to return to Jerusalem. Still no one came to his aid. Would David's general, Joab, have pierced Absalom's heart with three javelins without the king's blessing? Would Joab have killed the king's son unless he knew it was David's will? Absalom's lifeless body hung from that great oak as a warning for anyone who would conspire against the king."

"How much more will David punish those who dare to oppose him who are not his favored son?" Thaniel added. He did not look in Adonijah's direction, but the rest of the men did.

Adonijah did not flinch. "Everything you say is the truth," he allowed. "But my father is no longer the same man who pursued Absalom. I have come from his bedside. His strength fails him more every day. He speaks as if in a fever. He sees his wives, concubines, and children as strangers to him."

Several men bowed their heads as Adonijah described the condition of their king.

"Yet still he draws breath," Eliel pressed.

"And he may yet draw breath for years to come, as the Lord God of Israel wills," Adonijah replied. An edge crept into his voice that suggested the time for Eliel's reminisces, warnings, and objections had passed. "I do not grasp at the crown as Absalom did. What I do, I do for the good of the nation."

Five more men, undeterred by Eliel's warnings, stepped forward and placed rocks on the boulder. Each pledged their allegiance with a single word: "Adonijah."

Adonijah gave them a nod as he continued. "My father still draws breath, but his spirit fails him. You have heard the panicked cries throughout Israel of how the heavens close and the rains dry up. Have we not heard from the days of our youth, 'As the king goes, so goes the nation'? Israel's land is barren because our king has lost his fertility."

"Adonijah speaks the truth," Nadob said. "In Ramoth-Gilead, the soil that yielded a plentiful harvest a year ago now crumbles to dust in our hands."

"In Hazor, the ravens grow fat on the seeds we plant," someone else in the crowd added. "Soon there will be no grain to eat."

Adonijah pointed to the two men who had spoken. "This is why I risk Absalom's fate. Are not my wives and sons the blessings of the Lord God of Israel? Will he not bless me with ten times more all the days of my life? Will he not open heaven's floodgates and restore Israel's fortunes when I am king, just as he did when my father was a young man?"

His words were enough to stir the hearts of those who still held their rocks. A final group approached the boulder and placed their stones on top of it. "Adonijah," they chimed.

Thaniel glanced at Eliel and then stepped forward to address Adonijah. "Who told you the king's virility has departed from him?" he asked.


Excerpted from "The World David Knew"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Museum Of The Bible, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About This Book,
Setting the Scene,
Chapter 1 The Politics David Knew Political Power Shifts in 1000 BC,
Chapter 2 The Women David Knew The Role of Women in 1000 BC,
Chapter 3 The Economy David Knew Trade and Commerce in 1000 BC,
Chapter 4 The Land David Knew The Geography of Israel in 1000 BC,
Chapter 5 The Lifestyle David Knew The Life of a King in 1000 BC,
Chapter 6 The Ceremonies David Knew Religious Practices in 1000 BC,
Chapter 7 The Influence David Knew A King's Impact on Culture in 1000 BC,
Chapter 8 The Death Rituals David Knew Burying and Commemorating the Dead in 1000 BC,
Chapter 9 The Concubines David Knew The Practice of Concubinage in 1000 BC,
Chapter 10 The Rebellions David Knew Uprisings and Conflicts in 1000 BC,
Chapter 11 The Legal Power David Knew Capital Punishment in 1000 BC,
Chapter 12 The Successor David Knew The Future of Israel in 1000 BC,

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