Prior to the prophet Samuel becoming the judge of the Children of Israel, the nation was in dire straits. The book of Shoftim, Judges, contains many stories of the Children of Israel violating God’s will by engaging in idolatry and immorality and thus being punished with subjugation to other nations. Though there were great heroes and times of triumph, much of the period of the judges was bleak as the Nation of Israel was often unable to live as a holy and free people in its land. As the Bible transitions to the Book of Shmuel, Samuel, we learn that even the Tabernacle at Shiloh is not free of transgressions. The sons of Eli the High Priest are sinning and thus discouraging the people from making pilgrimages to this holy place. It is against this backdrop that Samuel is born to Elkanah and Hannah. While still barren, Hannah vows at Shiloh that her son would be totally sanctified to God. This miraculous child lives up this vow. He grows up under Eli’s tutelage in Shiloh and later replaces him as Israel’s primary leader.
The Prophet Shmuel faces a daunting task. As Rabbi Shlomo Aviner notes in his work on selected heroes of the Bible, “The Prophet Samuel purified the People of Israel… But he also dealt with the nation’s national and military sides, not only the spiritual.” Thus, in this book we learn of his struggles against the Philistines, the primary enemy of the Israelites, and of his strengthening the Israelites’ service of God. We also learn of his anointing Saul, the first king of Israel. When Saul violates the command to completely eradicate Amalek, it is Samuel who tells him that he has lost the kingdom and who anoints David as his successor. Unlike Saul, David will not be a “king like all the other nations” who will simply lead the nation by maintaining order and commanding the military. Rather, he will be a king who will combine his extraordinary spiritual and physical gifts to lead the nation to new heights in its service of God and its strengthening of the Land of Israel. Young David’s miraculous defeat of the giant Philistine Goliath foreshadows his achievements as king. While it is undoubtedly a military victory, it is also spiritual. David faces an enemy who fights not only against the Children of Israel, but also against God Himself. David recognizes this and intends to save the People of Israel, returning honor to his people and to God.
King David is the epitome of the bright and shining king of Israel. King David represents both physical and spiritual strength. He is a great military figure who vanquishes the enemies of Israel. As king, he first rules in Hebron, unites the entire Nation of Israel and thus succeeds in conquering the holy city of Jerusalem. He is also responsible for bringing the Holy Ark to Jerusalem and for acquiring the future site of the Holy Temple. He is the “sweet singer of Israel” who writes songs of praise to God, including most of the Book of Psalms, and is proud of dancing before God’s Holy Ark. He is also an example of a true master of repentance, who takes responsibility for his sins and atones for them with a broken heart.
By the time King David passes reign of the Kingdom of Israel to his son Solomon in the Book of Kings, he has established the kingdom and the people live as a vibrant, free and holy nation in the entire Land of Israel. The nation is united both physically and spiritually, and is on the cusp of achieving its greatest triumph – the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In addition, they are finally at peace with their enemies. It is not surprising that the kingship of David is eternal. Nor is it surprising that Jewish tradition teaches that the future King Messiah, who will once again unite the Children of Israel in the Land of Israel in peace, will come from David’s descendants. May he come speedily and in our days.