To continue the narrative from Samuel 1: three days after the death of Saul, a man arrives at Ziklag. He identifies as a Malakite and recounts how he killed Saul, bringing his crown & bracelet to prove it. Very weird, as at the end of Samuel 1 it is clearly stated that Saul killed himself with his sword! Whatever. David has him killed for lifting his hand against a god-anointed king and the men lament over Saul ("How are the mighty fallen"…), glorifying him but forgetting he tried to hunt and kill David for many years. More whatever. David travels to Hebron in Judah and is crowned king, but Abner, the captain of Saul's army, crowns one of Saul's sons, Ish-bosheth, so we've suddenly got two kings (a bit like the old days of the catholic church, where there used to be two, sometimes even three popes at the same time). A long war between both kings ensues, but the house of David is the stronger (plus, he's got divine backup) so at some point, David and Abner make peace. When Abner is murdered by a man whose brother he killed, David gives him a state funeral. Two men kill Ish-bosheth in his sleep & take his head to David for a trophy, but he is angry at their cowardly act & has them executed. The elders of Israel, seeing the state of affairs, wisely come over & ask him to be their king (you don't want god as an adversary!). He agrees, Jerusalem (the "strong hold of Zion") is taken from the Jebusites and he sets up court there, renaming it "city of David". Modest. He also takes more wives & has more children. With some help from god, David smites the Philistines & picks up the ark (one man makes the mistake of touching it and is instantly obliterated by god. Don't touch my stuff!). The ark is taken to Jerusalem & received with music and dancing; even David dances in front of the ark. Michal, by now reinstated as his wife, sees this & admonishes him for his vulgar behaviour. David is pissed & tells her he'll have her handmaidens instead of her - she will remain childless. God tells Nathan, a prophet, that David must build him a "house of cedars" as he has had quite enough of travelling in the ark. David thanks god in a long speech, the sycophant (easy to see he never heard Frank Zappa's scathing remark of "nobody looks good in brown lipstick"). He then expands his kingdom by enslaving the Moabites & Syrians. Then he remembers that Jonathan, Saul's son and his good friend, had a lame son, Mephibosheth, and he gives him all that belonged to Saul & treats him like a son. A delegation is sent to Ammon to commiserate with the death of their king, but the Ammonites mock the party by shaving off half of their beards and cutting their garments in the middle "even to their buttocks". David is affronted, returns with an army and fights the Ammonites, along with the Syrians who came to help them. He easily wins and everybody surrenders.
A peaceful year later, one night David takes a breath of fresh air on the roof of his house and spies a beautiful woman (Bath-sheba, a name we know from Thomas Hardy's magnificent "Far from the madding crowd") washing herself. Messengers are swiftly sent over and he takes her as a concubine (it's good to be king, as Mel Brooks has it… I lost count of how many women he's gathered by now). Uriah, Bath-sheba's father, proves to be a bit of a nuisance, so David sends him to the front line of a battle where he is sure to be killed quickly. After the proscribed period of mourning (4 weeks if I remember correctly), David also takes Uriah's widow for a wife (remember, he already got the daughter). God is displeased for once & sends over Nathan to remonstrate David: the child born from Uriah's widow grows sick and dies. While the child is fainting away, David refuses to eat as he hopes god will change his mind (this has been known to happen), but as soon as the boy dies he cheerfully washes & eats - no good wasting your time over a stiff. Refreshed, he jumps Bath-sheba; the resulting son, Solomon, meets entirely with god's approval.
A propos sleazy family matters, how about this: Amnon, one of David's sons, lusts for his halfsister Tamar, one of David's daughters. He tricks her into his bedroom by pretending to be ill, rapes her, then kicks her out in disgust. Absalom, Tamar's brother, is angry at him; after 2 years, he gets his revenge and kills Amnon, after which he flees the country. Seeing that David is sad about Absalom's departure, after 3 years Joab (the captain of the army) tries to reconcile the two. David consents, Absalom is fetched for and eventually they make peace. But after 40 years, Absalom plans a coup against his father & sets out to proclaim himself king of Hebron - as he is a charming guy, many people follow him. David, afraid for his life, flees the city with a small band of warriors (leaving his women behind, defenseless…) and hides in the desert. Absalom enters Jerusalem and (obviously) takes his father's wives for himself (the sordidness of this book never ceases to amaze me). He then hunts his father with a great army, but David hides and escapes. At some point, the two armies have a bloody confrontation. Joab, faithful to David, kills Absalom, whose ass (donkey…) somehow got entangled in a tree, despite David's command not to hurt him. When David hears of Absalom's death he grieves; Joab remonstrates him for loving his enemies and hating his friends (fair enough). He returns home as king and locks up his 10 wives till their dying days, but opinions are still divided as to whether he should still be king. His main challenger is Sheba, of the tribe of Benjamin (they always were the problematic ones… remember the gang rape of Samson's wife?), who's in hiding in the city of Abel. David's army, commanded by Joab, besieges the city but to avoid bloodshed, a "wise woman" negotiates with him - they only want Sheba, so the Abelites kill him & throw his head over the city wall; the army returns.
A three year famine follows; god helpfully explains to David that this is because Saul tried to kill the Gideonites (another example of fucked up bible logic). David invites the Gideonites and asks them how he can make up for the persecution. They demand 7 prisoners for hanging. Hey, no problem: David takes 2 sons of Saul and the 5 sons of his wife Michal & delivers them - they are duly hanged. Famine averted, so easy. More wars with the Philistines follow (they never get enough of being beaten, it seems); in every war, a son of Goliath the giant is killed. One is even more fearsome than the rest, as he "had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number" - the result of some serious inbreeding, no doubt. David sings a song to thank god for the victories, and as he is old and frail, he throws in a farewell speech as well.
Out of the blue, we are informed that god is once again angry at Israel. He sends over the prophet Gad with three options for David - a sort of game show from hell from everyone's favorite sadist:
1) 7 years of famine
2) being hunted by enemies for 3 months
3) 3 days of pestilence in the land
David chooses option 3 - god kills 70.000 men but "repents" in Jerusalem (that dude's really got a serious problem making up his mind!) and halts the angel of death bringing the pestilence. David wonders why all those innocent people should die for his transgression? An excellent point, one of the most sensible things anyone said so far. Sadly, we don't get an answer from god, but I have a feeling it would have been something like "because I am the LORD", as always. Not very helpful. Anyway, David builds an altar (at the place where the angel stopped killing) to appease god and the pestilence is averted (but then god already… and what about 3 days… David's choice… WTF… @!#$*%^& aaargh).