David II: Comfortable Containment

David II: Comfortable Containment
Type: Oil
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 48/60
Year: 2007

This painting depicts David in midlife; the happiest and most family-conflict free portion of his life. This is a time, after his ambitious climb, when he can sit back on his hard earned throne and proudly say to himself “it’s good to be the King”. David is portrayed in this painting wearing royal garb and crown. His throne is flanked on both sides by two, blue, protecting lions of Judah, his tribal totem. Contrast this to Saul’s throne in “David I” which is flanked by two black wolves, Saul’s Benjamite totem.

David, who was coronated by Israel and Judah in Hebron where he reigned for seven years, now captures Jerusalem from the Yevusi (Jebusite) inhabitants. In particular he captures a fortress called Zion (which is atop a mountain also called Zion), and then renames it the “City of David” which is now the official capital of Israel. He then builds around Zion, and then centripetally builds within it. He commissions Hiram’s (the King of Tyre’s) subcontractors to build him a palace. This is the same Hiram who will later assist his son, Solomon, in building the Temple.

It is quite interesting to note that the names “Jerusalem” and “Zion” which have such powerful and mystical Jewish connotations both seem to be Jebusite in linguistic origin. In a cuneiform letter found in the archive of Mari, Syria, the Jebusites are referred to as “YaVusi’um”. It seems credible and possible that this name was corrupted to later read “YaRusi’um”, and then further corrupted to read “YaRusi’lum”. Thus, the name “Jerusalem” essentially means the city of Jebusites. Likewise this city was populated by Jebusites in Abraham’s time, and was referred to in Genesis as the city of “Salem”. In this painting, the name Jerusalem is written in red ancient Hebrew on the uppermost yellow bricks to the right of David.

Why did David move from Hebron and seek to establish his capital in Jerusalem?

Although the text does not mention a reason, David most likely realized that Jerusalem was strategically located in the relative geographic center of his monarchy, and also appreciated that it came with a pre-existing very well-built fortress which would be difficult and time-consuming to otherwise build.

What is the linguistic Jebusite (a Canaanite tribe) meaning of “Zion”? Let us turn to the idio-pictographic proto-Sinaitic /Canaanite alphabet. There are four letters which spell “Zion”: 1) The first letter Tzaddik (Z) looks very much like the Egyptian hieroglyph for a royal throne ( The name “Tzedek” which means justice/righteous is incidentally the name of the major Jebusite deity), 2) the second letter “Yud” (Y) means “hand” and is drawn as a hand (and arm), 3) the third letter is “Vav” is drawn as a phallus and means “Man”, and 4) the fourth letter is “Nun” (N) and is drawn as a snake, and also means staff (as in Moses’ staff which alternates between being a snake and staff).

Thus, let us read “Zion” in its original idio-pictographic ancient proto-Sinaitic alphabet, and translate it (Refer to these letters /hieroglyphs illustrated from right to left in red on the uppermost yellow palatial stones to the left of David in this painting); Throne (Z), Hand (I), Man (O) , Snake/Staff (N) i.e. Man’s hand grasping a staff who sits on a throne i.e. Zion is the site where the Ruling King (or god) holding the royal staff sits on his throne i.e. Zion is the location of the Kingdom/Monarchy i.e. the Capital. It is possible that the fortress of Zion had a very ancient, Canaanite (Jebusite), well known significance symbolizing royalty /monarchy/divine capital which is why it already had an established fortress, and is most likely why David wanted to physically and symbolically appropriate it for himself and for Israel.

It should also be noted that at least three out of four proto-Sinaitic letters of the word Zion were borrowed from Egyptian Hieroglyphics with the same exact meaning illustrating the influence of Egyptian Hieroglyphics on the formation of the Semitic alphabet as well as its strong cultural significance in the region.

Back to the story: After David builds his palace within the fortress of Zion, he populates it with a lot of people. He takes many more wives and concubines. The text then records that he had many sons and daughters born in Jerusalem, and then names eleven of his sons.

David is depicted in this painting sitting on his throne at the palace’s center which is located in the fortress of Zion, the city of David. To the left and right of him are multiple wives and concubines (not all of them are illustrated, we don’t know the exact number) along with their (and David’s) children; a total of eleven boys as mentioned in the text, and one girl (the child with the dress). Written on the little girl’s yellow belt in red is her Hebrew name “Tamar” (more about her in David III). This family portrait illustrates a very placid and happy slice of David’s family life depicting bouncing little children running around the palace playing with each other; before they grow up unhappily, and jealously begin raping and murdering each other (see David III).

David brings the Ark of the Covenant from a distant suburb to Jerusalem with much pomp and celebration. The first attempt of bringing the Ark is marred by a tragic death; however the second attempt succeeds without complications other than a somewhat nasty spat with his wife Michal. Bringing the Ark, the symbol of God, to Jerusalem consolidates and unifies his monarchy with the symbolic divine presence (unification of proto-temple and state) thus further strengthening David’s leadership by visually emphasizing that the location of his throne (Zion) and God’s throne (the Ark) share the same space, i.e. his and God’s wills are unified in purpose and action. Curiously, by bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, the true Jebusite definition of Zion (see above) is realized for Israel.

The gold-plated Ark which is covered and protected by the winged golden Cherubs is placed in a Jerusalem tent, not a palace. Depicted in this painting is the Ark of the Covenant with its overarching golden Cherubim with their outstretched wings. The Ark is perched on top of a palatial arch on top of David symbolizing that he sits under God, as stated in the text: “And David perceived that God had established him King over Israel and that he exalted his kingdom, for the sake of his nation Israel”.

Inside the transparent cosmic Ark are the Tablets of the Law. Although it is established later in Tanach during the time of Solomon that two tablets (inscribed with the Ten Commandments) were placed inside the Ark, there is a Medrash which reflects that in addition to these two tablets, the shards of the original two tablets smashed by Moses were also stored in the Ark. Hence, portrayed in this painting are a total of four tablets inside the Ark’s cosmic interior. The two middle tablets are portrayed with oblique cracks. The broken pieces are closely aligned in an attempt to make them whole. The four letters of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) are written on the tablets, one letter per each tablet in fiery, orange ancient Hebrew from right to left in this painting. The two middle cracked tablets symbolize not only the breaking of the original Law (the transient fracture of the Holy Covenant) but also the fissuring of the letters of God’s name i.e. his essence. This has Lurianic Kabalistic allusions to the “Tzimzum” or contracture/fracture of God’s presence allowing space for the creation of the universe and Man.

The Tetragrammaton is also written in Modern Hebrew on the knees of the two Cherubim from right to left. God speaks between the two Cherubim. The fire and intensity of God’s voice is symbolized by the sun behind and between them. The letters “KDS” spelling “Kadosh” or “Holy” is written on the sun in orange Hebrew letters. The flaming letter “Shin” (SH) is written between the Cherubim’s torsos symbolizing the burning speech (like Moses’ bush) of God. The Ark’s Cherubim in this painting are visualized through a triangular tent opening. Images of golden Cherubim are embroidered on the tent curtains just as they were on the desert Tabernacle and future Temple curtains. The color themes of the Cherubim’s wings, and the tent curtains, is a combination of purple, red and blue; the colors of the fabrics which were intertwined to weave the curtains of the Tabernacle. These colors symbolize the colors of the sky i.e. the heavens. This heavenly color scheme is further integrated into this painting on the palatial arch stones above David’s head, and in the color of the clouds surrounding David. The colors of the clouds behind David, the clouds seen through the upper tier palace windows, and the clouds seen through the lower tier palace windows, are purple, red and blue respectively.

David after building his own very large palace is filled with guilt that the Ark which is God’s only physical dwelling is sitting in a paltry tent. Realizing that this might be misconstrued as hubris, he wants to build a palace /Temple for God to dwell in; a fancy abode for the Ark/Cherubim so that God will live in as much dignity as him. The Prophet Nathan after having communed with God in the middle of the night tells David that God says its o.k. His son will build this house. Using Nathan’s voice as a portal, God concludes by saying to David “And your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever. Your throne will be established forever”. In this painting these words are written in green Hebrew from right to left on the second row of red palatial stones.

David continues to wax stronger and stronger, and conquers more and more surrounding nations exacting tribute from them. His continuing great military successes further expand his empire and influence. Depicted at the bottom of this painting are Kings of the six nations that he conquered during this period of his life. They are illustrated humbly bowing down to him, surrendering their weapons. Like David’s family they are substantially smaller than him in physical and metaphorical stature. The names of the Kings’ nations are written in orange Hebrew on their backs from right to left, in the sequence of their capture and subjugation. Their names are: Moab, Tzova, Aram, Ammon, Amalek and Edom. The text then says “and David reigned over all Israel and performed acts of Justice and righteousness for his entire nation”. This is written in green Hebrew from right to left on the top row of red palatial stones.

King David is said to have authored many of the Psalms (Tehillim). In this painting, written on the stones of the palace walls is a sampling of some of these Psalms which capture the serenity of his untroubled satisfying middle years. In these Psalms he thanks God for his hard earned good fortune. There are also references therein to the permanent Temple he yearns to build, but is instructed by Nathan to be patient, and allow his son to perform this sacred duty.

Written in blue Hebrew letters on the upper yellow palatial stones adjacent to the Ark, from right to left are two sentences from Psalm 27: “ To David: God is my light and savior; whom shall I fear? God is the fortress of my life; before whom shall I tremble?...I have asked one thing from God, and that is what I seek; that I dwell in God’s home all the days of my life, to apprehend God’s pleasantness, and to visit him in his sanctuary.”

All of Psalm 23 is written from right to left in orange Hebrew letters on the purple palatial stones, and then continued in purple letters on the orange palatial stones below them: “A Psalm of David; God is my Sheppard, I will not want. He lays me down in green pastures; he leads me to placid waters. He restores my life, for his name’s sake, he guides me on the path of justice. Also, even though I walk in the valley of death’s shadow, I will not fear evil because you are with me; your rod and your staff, they will comfort me. You prepare in front of me a table against my enemies. You anointed my head with oil, my cup is running over. Only goodness and compassion will chase me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in God’s house for the duration of infinite days”.

Illustrated on David’s blue sash is the letter “Vav” (V), the second letter of his name. Written inside the “Vav” from the top down in ancient Hebrew is a blue “Daled” (D), a purple “Vav” (V), and a red “Daled” (D), integrating the color sky theme mentioned above. David’s name is written in ancient Hebrew in the middle row of his crown .The letters of his name are written in infinite repetition- DVDVDVD….. much like the infinite repetition of decimals in the solution for the transcendent irrational number Pi. The Pi theme is picked up by the entire radial composition of this painting.

David’s idyllic life is shattered when hubris consumes him, and he brutally steals a righteous man’s wife to satisfy his personal lust, thereby greatly angering God. Throughout the remainder of his life he must suffer divine retribution (measure for measure, repeatedly) in order to achieve redemption in the eyes of God. This is outlined and illustrated in David III.