In the beginning

Column: Anointings of David simply ratify God’s choice

by Father Mike Stubbs

As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm.

In Sunday’s first reading, 2 Sm 5:1-3, David is anointed king by the tribes of Israel. But this is the third time that David is anointed king. Earlier, as only a young boy, David had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to replace King Saul (1 Sm 16: 1-13).

Then later, as a grown man, David is anointed king by the people of Judah (2 Sm 2:1-4), the southern tribes. He establishes Hebron as the capital, a city just outside of Jerusalem. Notice, however, that David does not reign over the northern tribes, those of Israel. There, Ishbaal, the son of Saul, is king.
For seven years, David rules over the southern tribes, while Ishbaal rules over the north. There is constant warfare between the two until, finally, Ishbaal is killed. Consequently, the northern tribes of Israel accept David as king, as we see in Sunday’s reading. He is anointed a third time.

Throughout these multiple anointings, David has consolidated power, much as any modern politician might do. His kingship has resulted from a long, hard struggle.

At the same time, he has also managed to unite the country. As a result, Israel will be stronger and better equipped to resist its enemies, such as the Philistines. On a purely political level, when the northern tribes of Israel anoint David as king, we can consider this move as ratifying the earlier anointing by the southern tribes of Judah. But on a religious level, we can view both of those anointings as ratifying God’s choice of David as king, as manifested by the prophet Samuel’s anointing of David. In other words, the decision to make David king was fundamentally God’s decision.

The ceremony of anointing formally installed David as king. We might compare it to the crowning of a king during the Middle Ages in Europe, or the taking of an oath of office for modern government leaders. All those ceremonies establish a bond between the people and their leader.

In Sunday’s reading, the people of Israel express that bond in their words to David: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh.” Those words echo what the first man says to the first woman, Adam to Eve, according to the second creation account Gn 2:23: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

On Sunday, the solemnity of Christ the King, we celebrate the bond between us and our king, Jesus. That bond also has resulted from a long struggle, on Christ’s part. His kingship serves to unite us all as fellow citizens of his kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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