From his earliest anointing in 1 Samuel 16 until his deathbed discourse in 1 Kings 2, David is surrounded by a remarkable cast of supporting characters—an ensemble whose varying perspectives on him create some of the complexity of this royal character in the biblical narrative. David’s older brother Eliab speaks only once to his younger sibling, but this conversation has significant implications for the larger narrative. The encounter with Ahimelech the priest in 1 Samuel 21–22 in many ways symbolizes the “crossing fates” of David and Saul in the sanctuary at Nob. Abner is the rival general who wants to make a deal, but his actions are difficult to gauge: Does he have his own set of royal ambitions? Joab is preeminently a man of action and a key commander of David’s troops, but this military figure surprisingly turns out to be as well an innovative reader and royal exegete. Nathan the prophet has a tendency to surface at pivotal moments in the story, as a decisive influence on the spiritual and political affairs of the king. Ahithophel is a senior counsellor in the Davidic administration who becomes mysteriously embittered against David in the rebellion of Absalom; in narratives about him there is a confluence of tangled motives and prophetic words. Finally, Solomon is the younger son who accedes to the coveted Davidic throne, and curiously shares traits with his ancestor Jacob and has a swearing problem in 1 Kings 1–2.
Keith Bodner is Professor of Religious Studies, Atlantic Baptist University, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
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