King David

Warrior + yahwist + expansionist + administrator = model king

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By gaining control over international trade routes, the Israelite kingdom became an economic power. David became rich from the spoil and tribute brought to Jerusalem. Even the Phoenician king of Tyre, Hiram, started trading with him, especially after David made Jerusalem his capital. (2 Samuel 5:11-12).

The expansion of David's kingdom altered the status of Jerusalem. From a small declining Canaanite city-state with a territory of a few square miles, it became--probably with little physical change--the capital of the united Israelite and Judahite kingdoms. These kingdoms, after David's victories, extended far and wide. The borders of the united kingdom stretched from Dan to Beersheba, but its many administrative territories and vassal states reached far beyond. David's kingdom may have been a strong chiefdom or a kind of empire at this point, but it was still not well organized with a strong central administration.

King David, the Administrator

At least toward the end of David's reign, there was a kind of cabinet in Jerusalem in which David's general Joab played an important role.

The spoils of war, the levies from administered territories, the tribute of vassal kings--all flowed into David's royal treasury. Further, the produce of the royal lands filled the royal coffers (1 Chronicles 27:25-31). Justice was administered at the local level by the elders of the cities; but appeals could now be taken directly to the king (2 Samuel 14:15).

David planned to build a new Temple in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7) and organized a census, probably as a basis for administrations, taxation and conscription (2 Samuel 24:1-9). Both the Temple project and the census met internal opposition. Even the prophet Gad, one of David's oldest and most loyal companions, opposed the census.

The guiding principles of this united kingdom were organization and centralization. But the process of centralization really only began toward the end of David's reign. It was later applied more broadly by his son and successor, Solomon.

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Andre Lemaire

Andre Lemaire is director d'etudes at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, History and Philology Section, of the Sorbonne, in Paris.