Following the death of King Saul the kingdom split. David became king of the Southern Kingdom, or Judah, while Ishbaal reigned over the Northern Kingdom, or Israel. During this time, David’s capital city was Hebron. After seven years of this rule, Ishbaal died and David united the kingdoms. He reigned 33 more years. David was an astute man, and knew that Hebron was not a good location for his governmental headquarters, for it was too far south of the Israelite portion of the kingdom. And yet to choose Saul’s old fortress at Gibeah or Ishbaal's Mahanaim might have been seen as favoritism toward the North. Thus he chose a neutral location, a city hitherto unconquered by Israel. David conquered the city. Near the site of ancient and present day Jerusalem, the King erected The City of David.
Reading Old Testament history we find frequent references to Jerusalem. Its importance to both Judaism and to Christianity, and later to Islam, is clear. But lest we confuse David’s City with modern-day Jerusalem, let us attempt to gain some perspective. The City of David was situated on the prominence between the Kidron Valley and the Tyropoeon Valley. In extent, it measured approximately 600 meters, say 2000 feet running north and south, and about 125 meters, or 400 feet, east and west. A bit of arithmetic gives us the stunning conclusion that the entire city occupied something less than 20 acres of land, modern standards.
I really do not know what the population of this city was during David’s reign. Over the course of the 33 years it varied, given that supporters from outlying villages frequented the city for periods of time, longer or shorter, and too, David evacuated the city with his supporters during Absalom’s uprising. I do know that David got into trouble with God over the issue of enumerating the people, and that would be the kingdom’s population, not the city only. (2 Samuel 24)
We turn from the geopolitical lesson to the spiritual application. I have often wondered why the taking of a census was such an abomination to the Lord. But if one lives long enough, and makes an honest effort to learn, one may gain insights into some puzzling things. This is one such thing in my thinking; and yet it is simplicity itself. David, not unnaturally, wanted to know how many men he had, and given the bellicose nature of the people and the times that is quite understandable. The problem: God had promised to increase the people, to provide the necessary manpower. David’s act of counting was a display of his lack of faith, and moreover, David's heart swelled with pride, as though the increase were his, and not God's, and thus the sin.
How often do we fall into error for failure to believe the promises of God, or for undue pride in accomplishments or possessions?
Solomon found the strictures of the city boundaries much too confining, and thus he extended the city greatly to the north and to the west. Over time, the Tyropoeon Valley has filled in, I am told, and during the historical period between the testaments, probably a century or two before the time of Christ, the powers that be had the hill on which The City of David had been located lowered, so that it would not be higher than the Temple. The site of David’s City lies outside Jerusalem’s current walls.