Beloved. His life divides into four portions: (1) at Bethlehem with the sheep (1 Sam. 16–17); (2) at court (1 Sam. 18:1–19:18) (see Jonathan); (3) as a fugitive (1 Sam. 19:18–31:13; 2 Sam. 1); (4) as king (a) over Judah at Hebron (2 Sam. 2–4), (b) over all Israel (2 Sam. 5–24; 1 Kgs. 1:1–2:11). The long and varied discipline through which he passed in the earlier part of his life fitted him for the duties of the throne. As shepherd he acquired the habit of deep reflection; as courtier he was trained in self-control and chivalrous generosity; as outlaw he acquired knowledge of men and power of government. Each successive phase of experience developed in him the conscious dependence upon God that was the secret of his strength throughout his life. Like Saul he was guilty of grave crimes; but unlike Saul, he was capable of true contrition and was therefore able to find forgiveness, except in the murder of Uriah. As a consequence David is still unforgiven, but he received a promise that the Lord would not leave his soul in hell. He will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium. Because of his transgressions, he has fallen from his exaltation (D&C 132:39).
So long as Abner and Ishbosheth lived, David’s kingdom was restricted to the tribe of Judah. After their deaths he started on a series of conquests, beginning with Jerusalem, and finally extending his dominions as far as the Euphrates. His sin with Bathsheba was followed by a series of misfortunes that marred the last 20 years of his life. The nation as a whole was prosperous, but David himself suffered from the consequences of his own misdeeds. There were constant family feuds, which, in the case of Absalom and Adonijah, ended in open rebellion. These incidents are a fulfillment of the pronouncement of Nathan the prophet upon David, because of his sin (2 Sam. 12:7–13).
In spite of these disasters David’s reign was the most brilliant of Israelite history, for (1) he united the tribes into one nation, (2) he secured undisputed possession of the country, (3) the whole government rested upon a religious basis, and the will of God was the law of Israel. For these reasons it was in later times regarded as the nation’s golden age and the type of the more glorious age to which the nation looked forward when Messiah should come (Isa. 16:5; Jer. 23:5; 30:9; Ezek. 34:23–24; 37:24–28).
A large number of the Psalms ascribed to David were certainly not written by him, but the following seem directly connected with the history of his life. A series consisting of Ps. 101, 15, 68, 24 was probably composed on the occasion of the removal of the Ark to Jerusalem. Ps. 20, 21, 60, 110 belong to the period of David’s foreign wars; while Ps. 18 (2 Sam. 22) marks the highest point of the national prosperity. David’s fall gave occasion to Ps. 51 and 32. The flight from Absalom led to the composition of Ps. 63 (written immediately after he left the city), 3 and 4 (which are morning and evening hymns), 26, 62, 27, and 28. There are others that are possibly of Davidic origin.
David’s life illustrates the need for all persons to endure in righteousness to the end. As a youth he is characterized as being a man after the Lord’s “own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14); as a man he spoke by the Spirit and had many revelations. But he paid, and is paying, a heavy price for his disobedience to the commandments of God.