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David III: Debilitating dťnouement
David III: Debilitating dťnouement
|Type: Oil |
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 48/60
This is the third and last painting of the ďDavid triptychĒ illustrating the entirety of Davidís rich life which is scrupulously detailed in Tanach. This very busy painting portrays the last third of Davidís very busy life which is drenched in family blood and consumed by tragedy largely self-inflicted by his own indulgence and absolute moral blindness.
David is the larger than life figure dressed in a regal red robe at the center of this painting. He has three crowned heads, each attached to his single body, which represent three progressive stages of his life, as he ages before our eyes while we gaze at this painting as it tells/illustrates this story.
Each of the three crowns has a single Hebrew letter of his name which when read from right to left or left to right spells out his Hebrew name ďDVDĒ. There is a large Hebrew yellow letter ďDaledĒ (D), on his sash, the last letter of his name. If you view the entire triptych together , there is a single yellow Hebrew letter on his clothing in each sequential painting (I, II, and III) which when read from right to left (or left to right) spells out his Hebrew name, ďDVDĒ. Inside the letter ďDaledĒ, Davidís name is spelled out in ancient Hebrew, horizontally and vertically within a crossword.
As the story unfolds with the linear progression of time, David is simultaneously aging with each head rotation from right to left. When he turns his head from the extreme right to the central position, his short black /blonde beard becomes grey, and grows longer. When he continues to rotate his head to the extreme left, his beard whitens, and grows even longer. Thus with each rotation of his head, the color and length of his beard change corresponding to the passage of linear time. If David turns his head in the exact opposite direction, time moves backwards.
On top of each of Davidís three heads in the background night time sky, from right to left , respectively are three phases of the moon; full, half and quarter, re-emphasizing the march of time , correlating Davidís aging process with the continuing fading of the moon as it passes through its advancing phases.
This portion of the story begins when David (right head) is standing upon his palatial rooftop and catches sight of a beautiful voluptuous bathing woman, Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. In this painting Bathsheba is the figure on Davidís right with long flowing blue hair. David, burning with lust and desire summons his servants to bring her to him in his palace, whereupon he consummates his passions (and probably hers) leaving Bathsheba with child.
David was not counting on this complication. Her husband is away on the battlefield, and thus when she will give birth, her and Davidís infidelity will be publically exposed insofar as Uriah could not possibly have fathered this child. Davidís political and religious image will be irreparably sullied and his kingship possibly jeopardized.
At first blush, this problem offers an easy solution. Being the King, David has the power to bring Uriah back on furlough, and tell him to go home. Like any deprived soldier, he would of course have relations with his wife, and when Bathsheba gives birth, there would be no question that Uriah is the father. Problem solved.
Unfortunately Davidís best laid plans can not come to fruition because of Uriahís high moral caliber. His name, Uriah, in Hebrew, means light of God i.e. he is righteous with a clear moral vision. He can not, for a single moment, conceive of lying with his wife when his compatriots are battling in the battlefield along side the Ark of the Covenant. He canít imagine this for a split second even after David gets him ridiculously drunk. The contrast between Uriah, the simple soldier with exceptionally high moral character, and David the big King with exceptionally subterranean moral turpitude, could not be more pronounced.
David recognizes Uriah for the righteous national servant that he is, and immediately goes to plan B, which is flawless. He will expeditiously send him back to battle, and ensure his death. He will then marry Bathsheba, and when she gives birth, she will be Davidís lawfully wedded wife. There will be no suspicion of hanky-panky, and his moral image shall remain pristine.
How does David technically accomplish this? He writes a letter to his General, Yoav, instructing him on how to engineer Uriahís death on the battle field. He then gives this letter to Uriah, to hand deliver to Yoav. The letter states ďBring Uriah to the forefront of the fiercest battle, then retreat from him, and allow him to be smitten and dieĒ. The last words of this letter are written in black Hebrew on the scrolled letter which Uriah is grasping in this painting. He is the saddened figure with bowed head on the bottom right of Bathsheba portrayed marching off to war with letter and black spear.
David has absolutely no compunction to have Uriah hand deliver his own death sentence to Yoav. Uriah is either so loyal that he will not open the letter to read it, or he is possibly illiterate. Either way David trusts that Uriah will not or can not read this letter. We know that David has no problem killing innocent people to advance and preserve his personal political agenda (See David I). But his actions here, strike an unimaginable egregious moral low point; executing a loyal valiant soldier fighting for Israel, merely to cover up his very personal actions which could possibly harm him politically.
ďAnd when the mourning for Uriah was over, David sent and took Bathsheba home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. And the thing that David did was very evil in the eyes of GodĒ.
God now sends Nathan the Prophet to chastise David. Nathan presents David with a most moving and poignant parable: There are two men; one very rich, and the other very poor. The rich man has many herds of sheep, and the poor man has but a single baby female lamb. The little lamb grew up with him and his children. She ate from his mouth. She drank from his cup, and rested upon his chest. She was like a daughter to him. The rich man then entertained a traveling guest. He didnít prepare a lamb from his own huge flock; rather he took the poor manís lamb.
David now passionately interjects ďThis man deserves to die. Because he had no pity, he should pay for this lamb four foldĒ. This statement is written in Hebrew on Davidís green belt. Nathan then forcefully replies with an accusatory finger, ďYou are that man!Ē (This is written in Hebrew in a cloud, in front of his second accusatory finger).
Nathan is portrayed in this painting on the upper right, pointing four accusatory fingers at him. Four has extreme significance. David has just authored his own punishment. He must now pay four fold (see below) for his sin. Thus Nathan in this painting is pointing with each of his four arms to each of Davidís four payments (see below). Four also stands for the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, Godís unpronounceable name. Each of the four letters of Godís name is written in yellow Hebrew on each of Nathanís arms , corresponding to Davidís self-prescribed four moral payments i.e. four measure-for-measure family tragedies which are about to serially engulf him until the end of his life (see below).
Portrayed to Davidís right is the beautiful Bathsheba. She is grasping unto David with her right arm, while her left arm rests on Uriahís shoulder mollifying him, signifying her own moral ambivalence. As Uriah marches off into battle, her arm lovingly slips off him, and she will never know his touch again.
Uriah is seen to the right of Bathsheba carrying his death warrant in his hand. His name is written in orange red Hebrew letters on his belt. He is marching off with sad dejection. Heís probably not as stupid as he looks. He most likely figured out the ruse, and will not protest. He is willing to sacrifice his own life and wife for Davidís and Israelís honor. He is so painfully righteous, that God can not bear to watch the fate meted out to him by David.
Nathan continues relaying Godís hurt: ďI gave you everything and I would have kept on giving you even more (paraphrase)! Why did you shame the word of God to do this evil in front of my eyes? Uriah you killed by sword, and his wife you took as a wife, and you killed him with the sword of Ammon. And now for this, the sword will never depart from your house for all eternity, because you despised me and took Uriahís wife as your wife!Ē In this painting many of these words are written in the clouds in blue Hebrew surrounding Nathan the Prophet on the upper right. Nathan is symbolically standing on the same highest roof top where David had stood when he ogled Bathsheba.
Furthermore, God continues, ďI will establish evil in your house. I will take your wives and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of the sun. You did it secretly but I will do it publicly, before Israel, before the sun (in broad daylight). This is in fact what his son Absalom did (see below).
David remorsefully replies, ďI sinned against GodĒ. These words are written in red Hebrew on the two clouds surrounding Davidís middle head in this painting.
Nathan answers; ďGod passed over this sin, you will not die, but the child that is born to you surely willĒ. God is apparently more compassionate and forgiving than David who insisted that the rich man who stole the poor manís lamb should surely die.
Illustrated in this painting beneath Uriahís knee is the dying child that was born to Bathsheba. Written in white Hebrew on the blue Bassinet are Nathanís words: ďAnd the child born to you will dieĒ. Bathsheba is portrayed in this painting with lambís ears because she is likened to the single small female lamb in Nathanís parable. This appellation is written on her dress collar in blue and yellow Hebrew. Likewise her child has lambís ears since he is the progeny of his mother the lamb. A small crown is seen falling down from the babyís head signifying that the kingship which was potentially his is falling away from him. This baby who dies within a week of his birth is the first of four moral payments that David makes as mentioned above. The other three will be outlined below.
Bathsheba is illustrated pregnant with her second child, Solomon, who is clad in a red regal robe sitting upon his fatherís throne portrayed in ďDavid IIĒ. This intrauterine portrait transports our minds via a time warp into the future allowing us to envision the sweeping trajectory of Davidís family history. Upon Solomonís birth, he is brought to Nathan who names (re-names) him ďYedidyaĒ, a cute diminutive form meaning ďlittle DavidĒ, or ďlittle loved oneĒ signaling that Nathan prophesizes that he will be Davidís successor.
Solomon within the microcosmic womb of his mother is guarded by the same blue lions of Judah which guarded David in ďDavid IIĒ. The temple which Solomon will build appears in Bathshebaís amniotic background. The Cherubim resting upon the Ark are visible behind the purple drapes. At last the Ark has a permanent home made of stone rather than cloth as envisioned by David. Its foundation was set in Bathshebaís womb.
Nathanís words resonate throughout space and time. Earlier on in the story when David was anointed King of Israel and Judea, God promised that his kingdom will last forever. After the Roman expulsion of Judea, and the destruction of Jerusalem along with the defilement of the land, the exiled Jewish people hope and yearn to return and reclaim their ancestral home under a restored united monarchy just like it was at its zenith in the days of old under the ruler ship of David and Solomon. As time and exile drag on in what appears to be perpetuity, the desire for national reclamation, and restoration of the Davidic monarchy, is slowly transformed from a practical and realistic political yearning to a mystical and Messianic longing. In the very distant future, Messianic yearning will once again be transformed back into a practical physical and political realization.
The term ďMessiahĒ (ďMoshiachĒ in Hebrew) is the official Tanach synonym for King, because all Kings are anointed (in Hebrew ďMoshachĒ) with oil. The first human being that this term was applied to was Aaron, the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) who prior to serving in the desert Tabernacle was anointed with oil i.e. consecrated for holy service. Inanimate objects e.g. Tabernacle tables and vessels were also anointed (ďMoshachĒ) with oil, and thus consecrated for holy service. Perhaps oil was used for this purpose because it glistens and reflects light, and can be used to create light, and gives the visual impression of Godís reflected and created light. Saul, the first King, was the first person to be anointed who was not a High Priest. Like the High Priesthood, the Kingship was also a holy position, in that the King serves the people under the rule and guidance of God.
David is constantly using the term Messiah as a synonym for King. Later on in Jewish history when mystical dreaming overwhelms logical reasoning, the term Messiah is transformed from a synonym for a real live ďKingĒ to an abstract notion of a ďSaviorĒ, a human being , a descendent of David, who will one day miraculously ďSaveĒ Israel from the ignominy of perpetual exile.
The scriptural passages in the Book of Samuel alluding to Davidís kingdom lasting forever buttress these theological paradigms, giving way to the romanticized notion that when the Judean dynastic line is restored in the future by the genetic descendant of David, a utopian peace, suspended in time and space, will be ushered in, engulfing the land and the world. This outlook totally ignores and does not square with the passages uttered by Nathan with equal prophetic zeal that God has established evil within Davidís house, and that the sword will never depart his house for all eternity (that includes every descendent of his, long into the future, as long as time exists).
This murderous reality permeates the vast majority of Davidís descendents whose lives are recorded in Kings I and II, beginning with his immediate successor, Solomon, who kills his brother Adoniyahu rather early on in his career. This also implies and confirms that according to Tanach if Davidís genetic descendant at some point in the future were to once again rule Israel and restore the monarchy forever, it will not be a blissful peaceful utopia, which was never prophesied during Davidís reign, but rather a bloody nightmare as foretold by Nathan the Prophet. This is a paradox at worst, and an inconsistency at best which seems to be thoroughly ignored and/ or dismissed by utopian messianic theologians of every stripe and persuasion.
It should also be noted that based on the number of wives, concubines, and married and unmarried consorts with whom David sired countless children, combined with the children sired by Solomonís thousand wives, and even more concubines, the percentage of genetic Davidic descendants that can claim the throne within the Jewish people, assuming the exponential growth of all these descendants over more than 600 generations, would be a minimum of 30%, if not greater. This is based on the statistics of another alpha male Monarch, Genghis Khan. In some of the villages which he had plundered, pillaged and raped his way through, currently roughly 30% of these populations claim direct lineage from Genghis Kahn. He too had many women and children.
Thus the probability of finding a candidate with direct Davidic genetic lineage (diluted to the nth degree) in todayís Jewish population would not be too dissimilar (even assuming significant admixture with other host populations, as well as countless partially successful, attempted genocides), although it would be impossible to know which genetic markers to look for. Based on Nathan the Prophetís predictions, that might not be a bad thing. In this painting, each of the four letters of Godís name are written in yellow Hebrew on each of Nathanís sleeves, and are included in a cross-word with his Hebrew name ďNathan ProphetĒ written in a black/orange crossword on his torso.
The sequential, additional three tragic moral payments that David makes, all involving his children include: 1) The Ahmnon (a)-Tamar (b) affair which leads to Tamarís rape and humiliation, which directly leads to Ahmnonís fratricide by his brother Absalom, 2) Absalomís attempted patricide and usurpation which ultimately leads to his execution, and 3) Adonyahuís attempted usurpation leading to his ultimate fratricide by his brother Solomon.
In this painting these tragedies unfold in a clockwise direction. Moving clockwise from David and Bathshebaís baby who did not survive (the first of four family tragedies), we see Ahmnon dressed in aqua garb hovering over his distraught sister, Tamar, who is clad in a multicolored dress, the uniform of virginal princesses.
Ahmnon agonizingly lusted after his half-sister Tamar, very much like David lusted after Bathsheba. Ahmnon takes the advice of his sly cousin to feign sickness so that David will pay him a visit. When David visits him, Ahmnon asks David to tell his sister to visit him, and bake cakes for him so that she may nurse him back to health. David, the concerned father, agrees to this innocent request doing whatever it takes to nurse him back to health. After Tamar comes and bakes him cakes, he propositions her. She ďjust says noĒ and pleads for him not to do this, that they should approach David so that they may legally marry. Ahmnon has only one thing on his mind. He is deaf to her protestations, and shamelessly rapes her.
As much as he loved (lusted after) her before the rape, he now despises her (because he is filled with self-hatred) after the rape, and has her forcibly expelled from his sight, bolting the door behind her. Even after the rape she pleads with Ahmnon to make it right by marrying her. She deems his refusal to do so even more heinous than the act of rape itself. She sprinkles her forehead with ashes, and tears her clothing, symbolically mourning the loss of her virginity, and any prospects for future marriage. She returns to her brother Absalomís house distraught and destroyed.
This first part of the second of four punishments meted out to David by this abhorrent daughter-son interchange which takes place under his roof ( evil in his own house) is compounded by the fact that upon Ahmnonís Machiavellian request, it was David who personally instructed Tamar to go to Ahmnon, thus putting an onus of extra guilt upon David for what conceivably could be interpreted as something he caused to happen as a direct result of him leading Tamar into the lionís den, despite the fact that it is explicitly Ahmnon who is truly guilty. Furthermore, the tool of subterfuge which David so handily applied throughout his entire life to obtain and maintain his monarchy is now thrown straight back in his face by his own son, leading to his own daughterís rape (Ouch).
Illustrated on the bottom right of Davidís legs is Tamar mourning after her rape. She is dressed in her multicolored dress. She is still holding in her hand one of the cupcakes she baked for Ahmnon. Her dress is torn (both by herself and Ahmnon), and her body bruised by her brother. Ahmnon to her left is pointing to her that she should leave at once, and get lost. With his other hand he is throwing away with disgust the cupcake Tamar baked for him which he had so recently requested. To his left, his crown is falling down to the ground from off his head. He too will not be king.
Absalom who is Tamarís full-blooded brother is irate over Ahmnonís actions, and his sisterís defilement. He simmers for two years biding time plotting his revenge. When there is a sheep sheering ceremony in Baal-Hazor, he invites all the princes (Davidís sons). He then personally invites David and his servants to also come.
David politely refuses because he doesnít want to be a burden to his son. Absalom takes this opening and runs with it. He knows that Davidís refusal could be interpreted as a social slight, and now uses this to manipulate Davidís guilt over his father Ėson obligations, and then asks David to send Ahmnon in his stead. Absalom knows that if David refuses to come, and if he also doesnít allow Ahmnon to come, this would be taken as a stinging insult to Absalom which David surely would not wish to convey.
David caught off guard, sensing something not quite right, says to Absalom ďWhy should Ahmnon go? Absalom doesnít answer this question. He merely continues to press his request until David relents, and gives permission for all his sons, including Ahmnon to go. Upon Ahmnonís arrival at the sheep shearing ceremony, Absalom instructs his servants that when Ahmnon gets drunk on wine to ďattack and kill him.Ē When he is attacked all the other princes escape.
In this painting, Absalomís instruction to kill Ahmnon, are written in black Hebrew on Ahmnonís belt. The sheep at the bottom of the painting represent the sheep at the sheering ceremony. The forlorn lost lamb on the bottom right represents the lamb that was stolen by the rich man, Bathsheba, and her baby that died.
Ahmnonís fratricide by Absalom, the second part of Davidís second of four punishments (treating Tamar - Ahmnon as one unifying punishment) is once again compounded by an extra degree of guilt thrown upon Davidís shoulders. Absalom used David to get Ahmnon to go to the sheep shearing ceremony (Just like Ahmnon used David to get to Tamar). Davidís permission allayed any of Ahmnonís fear of reprisal by Absalom, and Absalom knew this. Once again Davidís use of subterfuge, now adopted by a second son, comes back to haunt him. This is only the beginning of Absalomís subterfuge. God painfully uses Absalom as a tool to finesse Davidís punishment, emphasizing his measure Ėfor- measure approach, rubbing in the concept of what goes around comes around. David lied to Uriahís face and sent him to his own death; Ahmnon lied to Davidís face, and as a result David sent his own daughter to be raped; Absalom lied to Davidís face, and as a result David sent his own son Ahmnon to his death (Ouch). David is distraught, and painfully mourns his sonís passing.
Absalom escapes and does not return for years, because now David canít look at his face. Yoav, his General has to talk David into inviting Absalom back from exile. Only then does Absalom eventually makes up with his father, barely.
Absalom it appears is a chip off the old David block, a near clone. He is described as being physically perfect and beautiful, without a blemish from head to toes. He has long flowing hair which he had to periodically cut because it weighed so many shekels. He also inherited Davidís political charisma and cunning.
ďHe stole the hearts of the people of IsraelĒ (This is written on his skirt in this painting). Whereas David was ruthless, his political acumen was sharp enough never to overtly kill his Kingly adversaries, Saul or Ish-boshet. Absalom entirely lacks this political finesse, doesnít have a scintilla of moral fiber, and has absolutely no compunction to kill the King (Messiah) even if he happens to be his father.
David is getting paid back in spades. After Absalom makes up with his father and is allowed back into Jerusalem, he asks permission from him to go to Hebron. He tells David that he wants to pay his vows in Hebron thanking God for Davidís grace in allowing him to return to his bosom. Of course David grants his permission whereupon Absalom announces his Kingship with the blowing of a Shofar, recapitulating Davidís trajectory to the United Monarchy beginning in Hebron.
Again, the wily Absalom pointedly lies to Davidís face, and gets permission from David to mount a coup against him. David can now point his own finger back at himself for sending Absalom to Hebron. David getting wind of this picks up and leaves Jerusalem going into hiding, knowing full well that Absalom is after his blood. David leaves his concubines to guard the castle. Absalom, as predicted by God and Nathan, has his way with each and every one of these concubines in a politically and carefully orchestrated public orgy in the light of day, in front of all Israel, making a statement that he is the new Alpha Dog in town.
Alas, David is down but not out. No one can really out-smart him. One of Davidís long-time shrewd and trusted advisors, Ahithtopel, betrays him and joins forces with Absalom. David now plants an even shrewder and more trusted advisor as a spy in Absalomís camp giving crafty competing guidance to Absalom, which allows David to escape over the Jordan, eluding capture.
In the meantime, Absalom is riding his mule, minding his own business, dreaming of killing his father and becoming King of Israel; when whoops, his beautiful long hair gets trapped in the branches of a tree, leaving him hanging in mid air as his mule rushes off. In this painting Absalom is illustrated on the bottom left of the painting dangling in mid air, hanging from the converging branches of two trees. His trusted mule is illustrated galloping off.
Also illustrated is Absalomís sword falling down from one hand, and his crown falling down from the other. Davidís men spot him, and Yoav, his General, kills him, against Davidís orders. David had sternly warned his troops to treat Absalom gently. In disgust they throw his beautiful corpse into a pit and cover him with a heap of stones so that not a trace of him will be found, and if a breath is left in him, he will never escape.
David upon hearing of Absalomsís death is exceptionally distressed. He breaks down and cries and cries out ďOh Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, I would have died for you Absalom my sonĒ. In this painting, the central David is illustrated crying with extended arms, pleading for the sake of his beautiful misguided, fratricidal, patricidal son, and beseeching God for his own death rather than Absalomís. The clouds above him are inscribed with his words in Hebrew. The pain and suffering of this third punishment meted out to David is unbearable. He empathizes greatly with his son, because they are so much alike. With Absalomís death, David now feels dead and numb.
Yoav, his General, is irate with this behavior. He scolds David, telling him that if he truly got his wish and Absalom lived, and then not only David, but all his supporters who pledged their lives to him would be slaughtered. If David did not go out now to the people and thank them, Yoav promised that what Absalom would have wrought upon David, would be childís play compared to the future, if he does not publicly reverse these feelings. He tells David to set it right with the people, and he does.
David now has to start from scratch in order to rebuild and reconstitute his monarchy. His first step is to sweet talk the Southern Kingdom of Judah, his own brethren, to re-invite him back, and they do. He returns to his home in Jerusalem, and places his defiled concubines in eternal captivity punishing them for their debasement by Absalom which was probably against their wills, and no fault of their own.
The Northern Kingdom consisting of the other ten tribes is a different matter altogether. This whole Absalom coup was orchestrated with the support of the majority of Israelites. It opened up old wounds, rekindling buried passions and competitions, which particularly stemmed from the Benjamiteís never ending resentment of Davidís usurpation of the originally ordained monarchy from their leader, Saul.
Simeon Ben- Bichri, a Benjamite blows the Shofar, refusing to allow his tribe to once again fall in step with David. He mounts a fresh challenge, and all of Israel is diverted from David to him. As soon as he does so, Davidís men, led by Yoav, go after him, and donít leave the town where he is holed up until his decapitated head is hurled over the cityís wall, thereby extinguishing the threat of a revived divided monarchy. His flying head is illustrated on the bottom left of this painting. His name is written on his neck in red Hebrew. Davidís back and heís at the top of his game.
Subsequently there is a three year famine which plagues Israel. When David discusses this matter with God, it is relayed to him that the root cause for this misfortune is the mistreatment of the Gibeonites by Saul, quite some while back. David, never lacking for a solution knows just how to handle it. He asks the Gibeonites what their hearts desire is, so that God may lift this plague.
Not surprisingly they would just love to hang seven of Saulís direct descendants. Seeing how this converges with Davidís desire to preserve an undivided monarchy for himself and his fractured family, he graciously accepts their demand, and agrees to hand over to the Gibeonites seven of Saulís descendants (every viable one), who while alive are direct threats to his throne.
Conveniently five of these sacrifices are Michalís children who under their resentful motherís influence are top candidates to undertake future usurpations and coup díťtats. If Davidís own flesh and blood is endlessly plotting to overthrow him, how much more so would be the threat from Michalís, Saul the Benjamiteís daughterís, children?
The fact that it was Michal that allowed David to get his foot into the door to become King by marrying him, and the fact that she saved his life earlier on, will have to take a back seat to any kind of potential personal political threat. But David is not without mercy. He spares the life of Jonathanís son, Mephiboshet, who is disabled, and weak, and is thoroughly incapable of mounting a political threat. After the seven Benjamiteís are hung, the famine is lifted. David then gathers the bones of Saul and Jonathan, and all their descendents giving them a proper burial in Benjamite land, and manages to get brownie points for paying homage to his adversaries.
These seven individuals are illustrated hanging in this painting. Four of them are hanging from the green threads of Davidís belt, and the other three (hard to see) are hanging from the same tree branches that Absalom is caught in. Written on the seven hanging corpses from right to left in red Hebrew are the words ďsons of SaulĒ.
The text continues to record several other battles that take place against the Philistines which are successful. David grows tired during one of these battles, and his troops insist that for his own safety sake, he must retire from the battlefield.
Davidís military retirement gives him pause allowing him the opportunity to review afresh the peaks and troughs of his entire life while expressing deep gratitude to God for his unlikely lifelong preservation. He poetically and beautifully conveys his theophany using blatant anthropomorphic terminology. He sees God as a separate physical being residing high in the sky in his heavenly abode. Whenever David is in distress and calls out to him for assistance, God hears his calls then flies down to earth riding on a winged cherub, surfing and navigating the wind. He arrives and snatches David out of troubled waters. Smoke billows out of his nostrils and clouds coalesce beneath his feet. His body is fiery and he shoots out arrows and thunder. The waters part, the foundations of the earth are laid bare, and he takes care of Davidís enemies.
Davidís image of God is illustrated on the upper left of the painting. God is illustrated riding a cherub. Seen on the left upper roof below his feet, is the Ark of the Covenant with only one cherub. The other cherub who has just ascended to retrieve God, is illustrated now descending, transporting God upon his shoulders, and is about to land on his dedicated airport landing spot, upon the surface of the Ark of the Covenant. Upon Godís touchdown to earth, he will take his place in-between the two cherubs where he will communicate with his chosen people.
This vision offers us great insight into Davidís and probably Israelís theological views during that time period.
It appears that God is conceived of as a discrete transcendent physical entity who has two homes; one in the heavens and one on earth. Being all powerful, he certainly has the ability to ascend and descend without assistance. But because no earthly king travels without a royal retinue which usually includes chariots, God, who is King of Kings , must surely have a chauffeur and royal accompaniment, garnishing at least as much respect as meager earthly Kings.
Upon Godís earthly arrival, he will nestle betwixt the cherubs and hover above the tablets of the law which he carved in stone with his own finger, now stored in the Ark of the Covenant, Godís earthly footstool, and cherubic launching/landing pad.
Thus when David and Israel look at the cherubs, they do not see static silent winged golden creatures. They imagine them fully alive, capable of flight, especially when no one is looking. This is not at all too dissimilar from how other peoples look at sculpted divine images, including the Hindus and many other peoples of today. They do not see static wood and stone. They imagine vital moving spirits.
This is simply how the human mind apprehended (and still apprehends) the divine. This gives some credence to the debatable hypothesis, that at the time, the Israelites may have engaged in monolatry rather than monotheism.
Paradoxically, even though Moses prohibited sculpted representations of the Divine, the cherubim somehow escaped this prohibition. To guarantee that not too many people looked at them, they were stored in the Holy of Holies, and were viewed only once a year on Yom Kippur by the High Priest. David most likely had continuous and open access.
The divine imagery employed by David is not all that dissimilar from that employed at Sinai as recorded in the Torah, when God descends in order to give Israel the Ten Commandments. There too, upon his arrival, the mountain smokes with Godís fire, like an oven; thunder rumbles and lightning strikes.
Likewise, this imagery is also not too dissimilar from other Biblical theophanies envisioned by Ezekiel and Habbabuk, to name but two. In these prophetsí imaginations God is transported from his heavenly abode within a chariot with magical eye-wheels, and he is accompanied by either four, four Ėfaced holy animals, or four horses. In all these visual descriptions, God is likened to a super-duper- transcendent version of earthly kings whose bodily form can barely be apprehended, and his face always remains hidden. This represents their greatest capacity for apprehending God based on their visual experiences of seeing and experiencing the wrath of earthly kings. Their God, King of Kings must have the greatest amplified power imaginable. This power is harnessed for the annihilation of enemies when prayed for, and released based on Godís munificence and judgment.
The last days of David are now approaching; ďAnd King David grew old, advanced in years, and they covered him with clothes, and still, he was not warmĒ i.e. he is now physically impotent. All the clothing in the world can not return his warmth i.e. restore his potency. What to do? His servants search high and low for the prettiest young virgin in the land who will surely light his fire. They find Avishag the Shunammite. In this painting she is portrayed on old Davidís left. Her name is written in Hebrew on her dress collar. They hand deliver Avishag to David just like they delivered Batsheva to him, not that long ago. ďAnd the King did not know herĒ; surely for no lack of trying. For David, however, hope springs eternal, and chances are that he never gave up trying. She continues to minister unto him until the day of his death.
At this stage of Davidís old life, he is deemed weak and powerless. It is a perfect opportunity for another son, Adonyahu to rebel and bloodlessly usurp the kingship form David. Unlike Absalom, Adonyahu doesnít have to kill his father because it looks like, very shortly, he will be dying a natural death any way. Adonyahu enlists the help of Yoav, Davidís strongest, longest and most trusted General. Most likely it is Yoav who is the prime mover of this affair. He is keen to the inner workings of the palace and its power structure, and now sees an opportunity to fill the power vacuum created by Davidís perceived aging weakness (mostly signified by him not knowing Avishag).
His best bet is to take the reigns of power by using Adonyahu as a puppet King. This is identical to the situation of Saulís son, Ish-Boshet, who was used as a puppet King by Saulís General. This is Davidís fourth and last punishment meted out by God, and it is particularly hurtful to be betrayed by yet a third son, and a loyal lifelong friend. David is so emotionally distant from Adonyahu, that not a single conversation between the two of them is recorded.
When this plot becomes public, Bathsheba approaches David with the help of Nathanís skillful oratory, and they remind him that David promised her that her son Solomon is the rightful heir to his throne. David obliges. He arranges for Solomonís public anointment with rowdy Shofar blasts, and arranges for him to publicly ride through town on his private mule. David also publicizes his affirmation and approval of Solomonís succession. He proclaims, ďBlessed is the God of Israel, who has given one (my son) to sit on my throne while my eyes can still seeĒ.
Adonyahu knows his goose is cooked, and that his life is now in jeopardy. He therefore runs and grabs unto the horns of the temple altar, symbolically raising the white flag of surrender. Solomon is gracious for now, and grants him his life.
Before David dies he has a heart to heart with Solomon wanting to ensure that his Monarchy will continue on beyond his death. Therefore David instructs him to make sure he does not allow that sniveling disloyal General of his, Yoav, to go peacefully to his grave. As long as he is alive, he will probably find yet another puppet to challenge Solomonís authority.
Furthermore, there is a Benjamite by the name of Shimi Ben-Gayra who when David was escaping from Absalom, threw rocks at him, cursing him, and exulting in Davidís impending doom. Shimi saw those events as revenge for Davidís usurping Saulís Kingdom. At the time David was consumed with escaping Absalom. When his soldiers asked David if they could shut up Shimi, and decapitate him, David graciously spared his life (only because he wasnít a threat at the time). Now, on the contrary, while he is alive, he too is a clear and present danger, and could spark a Benjamite rebellion after Davidís death. David is confident that Solomon is smart enough to know what to do, and how to take care of this business.
Also, most importantly for Solomonís political survival, David instructs him to never forget a favor, and always repay it. He should remember to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite who saved Davidís life when he was on the run from Absalom providing him with much needed food and sustenance. By showing grace Solomon will buy loyalty.
Furthermore, he also reminded Solomon that his political survival is very much based on keeping the Torah, and projecting moral leadership. Immediately after dispensing this advice to Solomon, David departs this earth, and sleeps with his fathers. He is buried in his eponymous city, also known as Jerusalem.
Shortly after Davidís death Adonyahu sneakily attempts a power play by asking Bathsheba to ask Solomonís permission to marry Avishag the Shunammite, which is an obvious announcement for usurpation. Solomon in his first Davidic act does away with his brother Adonyahu. His second Davidic act, taking his fatherís advice is tracking down and killing Yoav, who is an even stronger threat. After this little bit of house cleaning, Solomon secures his monarchy and proves that he has his fatherís fortitude and political acumen, and is indeed a worthy successor. In this painting Solomon is portrayed, as mentioned above, comfortably ensconced on his throne in his mommyís womb. The big hand of this paintingís clockwise rotation now rests where it began.
So great was Davidís charisma that it still shines out brightly throughout space and time remaining undimmed after many millennia. During his lifetime every woman wanted to marry him, and every man wanted to be him. Thousands of years later many monarchs around the world want to claim descent from him, and every aspiring Messiah in the past, present and probable future insist mightily that they are directly related to him.
David is illustrated in this painting with roots growing out of his feet branching out deeply in all directions firmly entrenching his spirit into the depths of the earth. Millennia later, he remains as towering and influential a figure today as he was then. He is a larger than life giant of a character in literature, history, art, and religion. His piercing ambitious beautiful eyes continue to hauntingly peer out at us, challenging us all to explore history and faith, politics and psychology, fable and lore, and of course, fate and destiny.
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