ALIVE: Chapter 78, David

A babe was born in Bethlehem destined to be the king of the Jews.  He was the joy of his mother who cherished this child more than all the rest for being the last to suckle her old breasts and to cuddle. For the first seven days of his brand new life the babe was cradled in his loving mother’s  arms and offered the tit at every whimper.

On the eighth day, Jesse and his wife submissively carried their eighth son to the tent of meeting to be marked by circumcision as his personal sign of the covenant between Yahweh and his great-grandfather Abraham who merited it with his extraordinary faith. Imagine trusting God’s promise for a son every day for over fifty years, to finally be granted the heart’s longing at the most unlikely age of one hundred, when the mother was 90. Then, when the love between father and son had fully ripened, to be willing, without hesitation to give the miraculous child back to God upon His request. Imagine that kind of patience, that kind of trust. Now look at how that mustard seed became a gigantic tree. Trillions of sons receiving the mark of that covenant of trust, of affiliation with the awesome God, on their eighth day.

It is written that God created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. The eighth day therefore is the beginning of the world with everything in place and ready to go. The eighth day is the beginning of the world for humankind, the crown of Creation. Circumcision is the discreet mark that links the baby boy with the faith and patience of Abraham. It symbolizes right relationship with God. It is the supreme gift of the parent after life itself, rich with hope and meaning. Circumcision is a sacred rebirth.

The brothers and sisters gathered around the baby boy like a gaggle of geese of different sizes. The babe whaled louder than all his brothers put together thought Jesse, as if the devil itself clung to his tiny foreskin in defiance. When it was over, mama quickly grabbed her babe and nearly suffocated him in her swollen bosom rocking him back and forth trying to drown out his shrieks with louder lullabies until his pain subsided.

The family paraded back to their own home where baby David was gently laid in his cushy wooden cradle fast asleep. That afternoon, it was if all of Bethlehem came to visit the newest member of the tribe and to congratulate the father. The following weeks of mama’s purification were blissful as neighbors continued to bring the family food and help with the chores to allow the mother to devote herself to the newborn.

As the thirty-third day of the period of purification grew near Jesse and his older sons argued about which lamb to select for the burnt offering and which turtle dove for the sin offering. The boys and their father bantered back and forth about the birthday of each lamb to be sure that it was under one year old. There had been two litters that year and they both produced two little lambs.  Mama insisted that they bring her two lambs and two turtledoves so she could make the final selection. Days before the sacrifice was to be held mama had the boys wash and comb the chosen lamb to offer it in its most pure condition.

The eighth son of Jesse radiated a glow that echoed his infant giggles. He beautified his tiny world with his rosy cheeks and big bright eyes. Gay, lovable, and alert, this infant child was the holiest one of his aging mother. Wisdom and experience whispered to her daily that he was indeed special. She knew that perception was a secret between her and God. To Jesse, the eighth son soon became just another mouth to feed, more tasks for an already heavily burdened wife until he could be useful.

Seven older brothers weighed heavily on David. As the sprout grew into a sapling it became increasingly apparent to the beloved child that his mother’s admiration was not shared by his brothers. David took his first wobbly steps toward Eliab who pushed him down and then ran away. He didn’t cry, but instead stood up again and wobbled three more steps before falling down on his own.

Every Friday, as sunset marked the beginning of Shabbat the family gathered at the tent of meeting to witness the offerings. David’s mother surveyed her children trying to lock eyes to read each heart. Invariably toddler David’s were clenched tightly closed. “What is going on in there that this child is searching for?” thought his mother. “Perhaps he is listening for the songs I sing to him before bedtime, or the poems I compose to entertain him.” Surely this mother poured herself into her holy child. Oh mother did you know your baby boy would grow to rule the nations?

Baby David grew into a strong but mischievous child. Life in the village of Bethlehem was typical. The Sabbath was strictly observed as were all the laws of Moses that they could remember. Levite priests travelled from village to village to ensure the preservation of all the laws, and to serve as judges. Hundreds of specific regulations had to be followed and the priests without their own land, at least had their power and income to source their pride. They were the police of their world, the keepers of the covenant,the links between man and a precise and demanding God. 

On his fifth birthday the child was given a lyre to play with to pass his time while mother and father, older sisters and brothers were busy keeping house, tending the sheep, and training for wars from marauding neighbors.

From sunrise to sunset young David played the lyre with focus and determination. At first the sounds were so objectionable that everyone but his patient mother yelled complaints. Mother noticed that the sound, as bad as it was kept the snakes away and she was glad for that. Months later, she was rewarded as something like a melody surprised her with joy. After that, more and more harmony emanated from boy and his lyre to the delight of the entire family.

His mother kept him near as her young minstrel entertained her while she washed clothes, fetched water, and cooked. She would hum along and often compose lyrics that fit the melodies. David’s heart swelled to hear the fears and yearnings of his dear mother put to song. It was as if a Holy Spirit flowed through mother and son blessing the air with sounds of the heart that sewed them to each other and to God. Surely, thought the mother, this child is a gift from God for her old age.