David had a very illustrious life. He was the hero and the villain. He won great fame but also great infamy as his own sons rebelled against him. He was a man after God’s own heart and, at the same time, committed adultery and murder. One web commentator writes, “David was a sinner. When you consider the New Testament passages stating that hating someone in your heart is like murder to God and lusting after a woman in your heart is like adultery, we can see that we are all like David, sinners before God.”[1] It’s difficult at times to see David as the great hero the slew Goliath in his youth after the many failures in his life. 1 Kings is important to you and me because the primary theological lesson in 1 Kings could be, “How is God’s sovereign will enacted with imperfect people and institutions? How does God’s will interface with free will, especially when Israel and her kings choose another course? This is the real tension of Kings. The answer will call attention to Yahweh’s power and grace, for he will remember his promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David and emerge as the sole hero of the story.”[2]

We don’t know precisely how old David was at the beginning of 1 Kings. But we have a pretty good idea. Our opening verse says, “Now King David was old and advanced in years.” According to Moses in Psalm 90:10, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We know that David was 30 years old when he began to rule, according to 2 Samuel 5:4. We also know that David is said to have reigned for 40 years. Assuming these are accurate, David was in his early 70s. This doesn’t sound too old to us today (2022). But According to John Walton, at that point in history, “Even royalty were not expected to live beyond their late forties. Walton says that 70 years was “…much older than the average lifespan in the first millennium b.c.”[3] As I approach my 76th birthday, I’m sure thankful that Moses added that we could make it to 80 if we’re strong. I’m strong! I’m strong!

The first verse continues and tells us that David, at 70, was not strong. It says, “And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.” The clothes they covered him with could easily be translated as “blankets.” Christian Standard Version says they covered him with “bedclothes.” The New Living Translation says, “many blankets.” David’s physical health is all but gone. “Once a great fighter, politician, and lover, his circulation is not sufficient to keep him warm, even with the aid of blankets. With death imminent, it is obvious that a new leader must replace David. Who will this person be? How will he be chosen? What kind of character will he possess?”[4] The impending death of David sets the scene for all that’s to follow in both the books of the Kings and the Chronicles.

[1] https://studyandobey.com/character-studies/david-character-study/

[2] Long, Jesse C. 2002. 1 & 2 Kings. College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub.

[3] Walton, John H. 2009. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] House, Paul R. 1995. 1, 2 Kings. Vol. 8. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.